The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in support of Bill to amend certain acts to add a new holiday, namely national day for truth and reconciliation.
Bill C-5 addresses a very important issue that every member of the House takes very seriously. The residential school system is a national tragedy, a stain of colonialism upheld by systemic racism. It is important to never forget this tragic part of our history and the legacy of residential schools. For that we must acknowledge the past and tell Canadians about the experiences indigenous children had in these schools.
As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented the experience of survivors, families, communities and those personally affected by residential schools. The commission presented a final report in 2015 with 94 calls to action to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation.
I want to read call to action 80. It states, “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
Although Bill seeks to address call to action 80, the Government of Canada remains committed to fully implementing the 76 calls to action that fall under federal responsibility.
As part of that commitment, the Government of Canada took an important step toward responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 80 by introducing a bill to create a national day for truth and reconciliation that, for federally regulated workers, will be observed as a statutory holiday on September 30.
September 30 was chosen because it is also Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day is about commemorating the legacy of residential schools and promoting reconciliation.
When it comes to such an important issue, creating a day for truth and reconciliation seems like a small gesture, but I would suggest it is an important one. It is important because there are too many people and too many communities in this country that continue to suffer from the injustice and stigma of racism.
During the current pandemic, we have seen the disproportionate impact of this crisis on racialized people, indigenous people, immigrant communities and other vulnerable Canadians.
Recently, we have seen racial injustice right before our eyes across the border. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police shocked many of us. We also saw the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Daniel Prude in Rochester, and we cannot forget what happened a few years ago to Eric Garner in New York. Those brutal killings of Black people by police have shocked our consciousness.
Canadians cannot say that everything is fine in Canada. In my own province of Quebec in the Joliette hospital, we saw the death of Joyce Echaquan, an indigenous woman who livestreamed racist slurs, neglect and abuse while she was in the care of nurses and the staff of the hospital. This was in my own province.
This is a tragic example of the racism and intolerance indigenous peoples continue to face in Canada. It was heartbreaking and beyond unconscionable. If anyone dares to say that systemic racism does not exist in Canada, they should be ashamed.
How can we create a climate of trust, respect and mutual understanding?
We need to take time to acknowledge the oppression and discrimination that indigenous peoples experienced in Canada for centuries and to reflect on the challenges faced by indigenous communities.
The national day for truth and reconciliation will provide federally regulated workers with the opportunity to reflect on this issue and participate in educational and commemorative activities.
In 2018-19, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage studied private member's Bill , by our former colleague, Georgina Jolibois, which sought to make a national indigenous peoples statutory holiday. Witnesses from indigenous organizations were in favour of the creation of a statutory holiday to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools.
Now let me address the legislation itself, which would amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and part 3 of the Canada Labour Code. Part 3 of the Canada Labour Code would be amended to establish the national day for truth and reconciliation as a holiday. It would provide federally regulated private sector employees with a paid holiday. It is on this portion of the bill that I focus.
Part 3 of the code covers approximately 955,000 employees and 18,500 employers. It contains provisions setting out minimum labour standards for workplaces in the federally regulated private sector and in most federal crown corporations. It includes important industries such as interprovincial and international transportation, banking, telecommunications and broadcasting, as well as some government activities on first nation reserves.
Part 3 does not apply to the federal public service, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or parliamentary employees, but due to existing provisions in all federal public service collective agreements, as well as past practices to extend similar terms of employment to the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces, employees in the federal public sector would also be entitled to the new federal holiday.
Of course, as we all know, the Government of Canada does not have the constitutional authority to impose a statutory holiday for those employees who fall within the authority of provincial governments. That said, I would like to say a few words about the implementation of this new holiday.
A national day for truth and reconciliation would give over 955,000 federally regulated private sector employees an opportunity to participate in educational and commemorative activities related to residential schools and reconciliation. The day would also focus on the experiences of first nations, Inuit and Métis men and women, including those who work in federally regulated private sector organizations and in the federal public service.
The Government of Canada remains committed to reconciliation and to fully implementing the 76 calls to action that fall under federal responsibility.
Reconciliation remains a priority for us and the introduction of Bill is a step forward in the healing process for survivors who were harmed under the federally operated residential school system. Let us work together toward a renewed partnership built on respect, dialogue and recognition of rights.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Joliette.
I would like to speak in Innu, the language of the Innu and Naskapi communities in my riding.
[Member spoke in Innu as follows:]
E tshitshipanian anutshish tshetshi patshitiniman aimun, nui mishta-atamishkuauat innuat nete innu-assit kie Nashkapiunnuat nete tshiuetinit.
Essipiunnuat, pessamiunnuat, uashaunnuat, ekuanitshiunnuat, nutashkuanniunnuat, unaman-shipiunnuat, pakut-shipiunnuat, Matamekushiunnuat. Tshinuau ut aimian, nete kassinu innu-assia ut, ute meshta-utshimau-aiminnanut tshishe-utshimautshuapit tshetshi uitaman meshinataikanitume tshishiku ne kaishkuteusht kashipissipaniukup.
[Innu text translated as follows:]
Today, I want to begin my speech by extending heartfelt greetings to the Innu and Naskapi communities in Nitassinan on the North shore, which is in my riding.
Essipit, Pessamit, Uashat Mak Mani-utenam, Ekuanitshit, Nutashkuan, Unamen Shipu, Pakua Shipi, Matimekosh, Kawawashikamach: It is for them and for all indigenous communities that I rise today in the House to talk about Orange Shirt Day and Bill , which would create a holiday of commemoration and celebration of indigenous first nations and their culture.
When we think about the residential schools, it is impossible to really understand or experience what these first nations peoples went through and, I would add, what they are still going through.
What we can do, and what we should humbly do, is to listen, to try to understand and to work toward reconciliation. I listened with respect, friendship and trust and I felt and still feel sick. I understood and I am still listening to what the first nations have to say and what they want for our common good.
Canada's efforts to wipe out indigenous peoples would not succeed, but the first nations paid dearly for it. Children were abused and kidnapped. Children disappeared to never be seen again. Children were stripped of everything: their language, culture, land, family and future.
We must not mince words. Canada's objective in the past was to eliminate indigenous peoples. Today, in the chamber where members voted on the Indian Act, we are taking the time to speak in an attempt to repair the horrors of the past, the effects of which are still felt to this day.
We must certainly learn from the past, but it is important to put into practice what we have learned about the Indian Act, residential schools and missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Orange Shirt Day is a step in the right direction, but everyone agrees that we need to do much more.
It is much easier to understand when we take the time to listen. Today I decided to give a great woman and constituent of mine, Marjolaine Tshernish, an opportunity to speak. She is the executive director of the Institut Tshakapesh, which advocates for Inuit culture and identity. Here is what she has to say:
Let us remember in order to draw closer together. On September 30 of every year, Canadians across the country participate in Orange Shirt Day. The Innu nation in particular, most of whom live on the North Shore, commemorate Orange Shirt Day to show support for every individual whose life was and may still be affected by residential schools.
It is a day to reaffirm to survivors and all those affected by residential schools that they are important and that their experiences are respectfully acknowledged.
Every child counts, even if they are now an adult. We recognize and honour all residential school survivors and all those who never came home.
There are as many stories as there are children who were sent to residential schools, children who were taken away from their families, their communities and their culture, people who are still in search of their lost identity and pride. Imagine, as a parent, having your child taken away from you. Imagine, as a child, being forced to learn a language and live in a culture different from one's own, finding oneself in a whole other world. Imagine if they had resisted.
Some families never saw their children again, do not even know what became of them and cannot find them. They do not know how they died. There is no greater pain than the loss of a child. Imagine.
Need I remind the House that it has been proven that having one or more parent who attended Indian residential school increases one's likelihood of experiencing childhood trauma or spousal abuse?
Intergenerational transmission has also been well documented. Imagine the repercussions: having to reclaim your past; living your present while constantly struggling; having difficulty envisioning your future because everything has been taken away from you; having to defend your own identity; fighting prejudice; being subjected to looks, comments, actions or inactions; suffering violence; and being asked to be content with resilience and patience.
We must remember in order to understand not why it happened, but rather the needs that exist and why there has been so much suffering since. We must remember in order to share the story and the need to become oneself and have a common future that respects everyone. We must remember to respect everyone's desire to live fully and to understand. We must remember to support the right of all children and all individuals to have a dignified and serene life and to look to the future with as much optimism as possible. We must remember to share and to come together. That is the way it should be.
I stand in solidarity with all the families and friends of the Innu nation. I hope we will all have the privilege of remembering, learning and making connections, one day and one opportunity at a time, and especially to add all sorts of colours in our lives.
I wish to thank Ms. Tshernich whose message I am conveying in my own words. I would like to say that, when it comes to respecting first nations and working with them in their best interest, the Bloc Québécois will naturally be an ally.
My Innu and Naskapi friends, I respect and admire you. Know that I will always be by your side to march from history to truth, from truth to reconciliation, and reconciliation to the vitality of first nations. We must never forget. We owe it to our children, to our nations, to humanity.
[Member spoke in Innu as follows:]
Nuitsheuakanat innuat tshitishpitenimitinau kietshinapeutshenimitinau. Nanitam nika titan anite etaieku tshetshi shutshiteieshkatikut e kashinimatunanut. Eka nita uni-tshissitutetaui, tshetshi ashu-minakut tshitauassiminanat kie kassinu innuat. Tshinashkumitinan!
[Innu text translated as follows:]
My Innu friends, I respect and admire you. Know that I will always be by your side to march towards reconciliation. We must never forget, we owe it to our children, to our nations, to humanity. Thanks!
Madam Speaker, since being elected, I have discovered that the standard of living gap between the Atikamekw people and white people in my riding is vast. Unfortunately, although the poverty level throughout my riding is high, I would not hesitate to say that there are two classes of citizens even though the federal government is responsible for providing first nations peoples with a comparable quality of life. Its failure to fulfill that responsibility over the years has been epic.
The residential school saga traumatized the Manawan Atikamekw community, so I applaud this bill as a strong symbol for first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We applaud that.
However, much more needs to be done. It is time to revise the Indian Act, an outdated, obsolete and racist piece of legislation. Even its name is racist. Obviously, before beginning that process, the government must provide guarantees to first nations groups and place them at the heart of the process.
We are still reeling from the shock of Joyce Echaquan's tragic death. Our thoughts are with her family and the Atikamekw community. Ms. Echaquan died in conditions that are more than suspicious. The last words she heard were hateful, odious, degrading, unacceptable and racist. Once again, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois and all my colleagues in the House, I wish to offer my most sincere condolences to the Dubé Echaquan family and the entire community.
Unfortunately, this was not the first time racist comments and acts were made at the Joliette hospital with respect to the Atikamekw community. The difference in this case is that we have video evidence of the despicable events.
The Viens commission, which released its report one year ago, heard similar testimony when it held hearings in Joliette. People knew, and things have to change. Federal rules require that the people of Manawan receive care at this hospital. If they want to go elsewhere, they must pay out of pocket. Other citizens do not live with such constraints. This must change.
Manawan is facing a range of challenges related to issues such as housing, health care, education, transportation and the economy. Living conditions there are well below our society's standards. For example, there are often more than 10 people living in each housing unit. These are not big units. We are talking about two- or three-bedroom apartments.
I also want to point out that the community and elected officials are working to make changes, and they are succeeding. One such example is the emerging tourism industry. There is a beautiful inn right on the edge of town and a campground on an island in Kempt Lake. I invite all of my colleagues to visit. Efforts are also being made to promote Atikamekw culture and heritage, and the community is investing in partnerships with the forestry and mining industries, for example in Saint-Michel-des-Saints.
Manawan's remote location remains an obstacle to the economic and social development of the Atikamekw of Manawan First Nation. The community is located just over 90 kilometres north of Saint-Michel-des-Saints and has 2,400 residents. Its population is growing rapidly.
The 90-kilometre road that leads to the community is actually a logging road built on unstable terrain. Entire sections of it are frequently closed. It takes first-hand experience to realize what a problem this is. An announcement was made regarding road upgrades, but there have been many delays. This leaves the community more isolated and forces residents to spend most of their budget buying pick-up trucks that end up having an extremely short lifespan, believe me.
Obviously, cellphone coverage in the area is non-existent, and power outages are a common occurrence. That poses a daily challenge, particularly for the Masko-Siwin medical clinic, which nevertheless manages to work real miracles.
The Atikamekw people have to negotiate with Indigenous Services Canada and Health Canada for the delivery of services. The process is cumbersome and inflexible and leaves very little room for autonomy, despite the community's desire to assume responsibility for itself.
For example, federal rules forced the community to build a housing development on a wetland. The houses deteriorated quickly, and after just a decade, mould problems set in. There is a housing shortage in the community, but they are being told to go build on a swamp, which causes all kinds of problems.
The elementary school is struggling to accommodate too many children, but it gets proportionally less funding than our schools.
A tour of the school reveals that child care and the library are located in windowless storage spaces in the basement. Social workers' offices are overburdened, which makes it hard for them to do their work. The burgeoning population is making matters worse.
The community's mother tongue is Atikamekw. French-language education is underfunded because French is not recognized as their second language, even though it is.
The community wants to self-govern, but it has to justify every one of its decisions to federal authorities, which can approve or reject the proposal based on arbitrary criteria. For example, Health Canada refused to cover travel expenses for a vehicle used to transport patients to the hospital in Joliette. Transportation by ambulance, which is much more expensive, would have been covered. That is the day-to-day reality for people who are not self-governing and who are subject to arbitrary criteria.
According to available statistics, the community of Manawan is grossly underfunded compared to other communities. Funding rules are based on an historical approach that does not incorporate the baby boom or the remoteness of the community. The community is very hard to access. One of the criteria specifies that the distance must be at least 90 kilometres, so under the federal government's definition, it is not a remote community. That is absurd, and it has to change. The government does not want to reopen the funding agreement and is threatening to cut the current funding envelope if the council ever insists on a review. These methods are completely antiquated or are meant to instill fear.
Despite everything, the community still manages to innovate. As I said earlier, the Centre de santé Masko-Siwin Manawan has established a truly impressive telemedicine system, which allows women to have their pregnancies monitored from home rather than having to go to Joliette.
For seniors with diabetes who require dialysis several times a week, the situation is dire. Power outages mean they have to leave their community to go and live in Joliette, near the hospital. People can probably guess how the tragedy this fall affected the community. After they spend a few months outside their community, Ottawa regards them as no longer living in their community and therefore cuts off all support. This causes an incredible amount of stress.
The fact that they have to depend on Ottawa for services normally provided by the Quebec government creates a host of other such problems and people in need often find themselves without any support. Governments pass the buck back and forth, and people fall through the cracks and are neglected. It is not right.
Historically, the people of Manawan have experienced a number of traumas as a result of colonial policies. Of course they were not spared the horrors of Indian residential schools, the tragedy of children being removed from their families, some children disappearing forever, and so on.
Not so long ago, the superintendent of the community was generally a retired soldier who created a climate of terror. For example, an Atikamekw man refused to allow an American forestry company to cut down trees on his family land without compensation. The superintendent told him he had tuberculosis and a plane would be available the next day to take him to a sanatorium. If he refused, the superintendent would call the RCMP to force him to go. When he returned to the community two years later, his land had been cleared and he had contracted tuberculosis at the sanatorium. That is the reality. So much trauma leaves scars and continues to breed mistrust to this day.
In closing, I want hon. members to know how dynamic and smart the Atikamekw nation is and what invaluable knowledge and culture they have. It is worth taking the time to meet them and get to know them.
Hopefully the tragedy experienced by Joyce Echaquan, her husband, their seven children and their entire community will raise awareness in order to contribute to changing views and laws and give the Atikamekw and first nations equal opportunities for growth.
Madam Speaker, it is my honour to be speaking virtually from Toronto, but in the House of Commons, on Bill . This is an important piece of legislation on the path to reconciliation, which I firmly believe will help in shaping a better future.
I want to note, first of all, that when I speak from my riding of Parkdale—High Park, I am located on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Huron-Wendat, the Anishinabe and, most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit. I would also like to say meegwetch, which means “thank you” in Algonquin, for giving me the chance to speak before the chamber on this important topic, acknowledging that the parliamentary precinct where you are, Madam Speaker, is on unceded Algonquin territory.
Before beginning, I also want to acknowledge the important work done on this initiative by former NDP member of Parliament, Georgina Jolibois, who presented this bill in the 42nd Parliament. At that time, during debate, she said:
This bill will not solve the housing crisis indigenous people live through and it will not fix the overrepresentation of indigenous children in foster care and it will not close the education gap that leaves indigenous children behind.
However, it will give Canadians the opportunity to fully understand why those problems exist.
That is a very succinct and sound analysis of the situation and also of the importance of the bill. I thank her for her advocacy during the 42nd Parliament.
We have heard during debate on this bill about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the TRC. We know it released its final report in 2015 and that the Liberal government under the accepted the conclusions of the TRC. This in-depth study of Canada's history was mainly looking at the legacy of the residential school system. There were 94 calls to action, of which we have heard about many. Bill will address, in particular, call to action number 80, which states:
We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
The relationship with indigenous peoples is a critical one and the implementation of this call to action is one step forward toward that reconciliation. Clearly, there is a long way to go, and we have heard about that from many speakers on this bill today and last week. Canada, indeed, has a poor history and track record when it comes to its relationship with indigenous persons. In a debate like the one we are having today, it is important to acknowledge mistakes from the past in order to build forward better.
We are all now well aware of the atrocities that happened in residential schools and their consequences, and I will touch on the point of education a little later. We are aware generally of the intergenerational impacts on survivors and their families. We are also aware of the consequences of the sixties scoop that took so many indigenous kids away from their families. Finally, we are aware of the ongoing systemic racism and discrimination that is still happening in Canada. We saw the heartbreaking video published by Joyce Echaquan during the last minutes of her life, mentioned by the previous speakers of the Bloc Québécois.
We know about the systemic racism being faced by Mi'kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia as we speak, fishers who dared to exercise their treaty right to fish for a moderate livelihood, as upheld in two Supreme Court decisions in the Marshall case 21 years earlier. The violence we have seen in Nova Scotia is never acceptable, and the systemic racism we have witnessed in Nova Scotia must be eliminated via leadership on the part of all parties, including law enforcement in Nova Scotia. That is why we need to move forward with all of the calls to action from the TRC. However, I want to focus now on call to action 80 and urge my colleagues to support this piece of legislation.
This piece of legislation talks about September 30 and we have heard about this in the context of Orange Shirt Day, the current moniker for September 30. Established in 2013, Orange Shirt Day helps raise awareness about the long-lasting impacts of residential schools and honours the resilience and courage of survivors, while focusing on the experiences of students at residential schools and, indeed, those who did not survive.
This day is based on the heartbreaking story of Phyllis Webstad, which remained, unfortunately, unknown to many Canadians. For those who are not aware of it, Phyllis was sent to the Mission school out west in 1973. Even though her family did not have a lot of money, her grandmother bought her a brand new outfit before she had to leave for her first day of school. Part of that outfit was a shiny new orange shirt. Her joy at attending school at the tender age of six did not last very long. When she arrived at the school, the authorities took away all of her possessions, including her clothes, and that brand new orange shirt was never returned.
I had the opportunity to meet Phyllis Webstad in the government lobby during the last Parliament and she talked to me about her story.
She also provided me with a copy of her book and inscribed it for my children, who at the time were about three and seven. They are now nine and six. What I have done since that time is read my kids that story periodically and educate them about this very basic concept. During this pandemic I can say that the anticipation my children had of returning to school was very high, but the notion of them being prevented from wearing something that I or my wife might have purchased for them really hit home as a visceral example of the injustice and unfairness of the residential school system.
I am glad my kids are learning about this, but the point is not just about Phyllis's book or my children. It is about all children and all of us, as Canadians, learning about this important story. We know that Phyllis, at the age of 27, started a healing journey. Since then she has been able to share her story, but that story needs to be shared widely. We also have to think about the unshared stories of those who did not come out of that Mission school, who never returned from residential school, or who never found their voice or had the courage to tell it the way Phyllis has. That is why this is such an important initiative.
I want to acknowledge that there are those who push the envelope on the part of reconciliation and indigenous awareness all the time. I am proud to call many of those my constituents in Parkdale—High Park. There are many people who are actively engaged at a local level, community by community, around this country with reconciliation. People speak to me about the pace of reconciliation and how it needs to be hastened. People in my riding speak to me about the legacy of residential schools. I have been heartened by the fact children at a very tender age in my riding are already learning about this in their classrooms. This is critical, because it is not learning I ever received in the 1970s or 1980s as a young student here in Toronto.
I am also heartened by the fact that people are aware of the territory we are on, here in Toronto; of the naming of streets, and how that was occasioned in places in and around High Park; of blanket exercises, and even of such things as the magnificent indigenous murals and art that decorate parts of my riding, including the beautiful mural by Philip Cote at the corner of Roncesvalles Avenue and Garden Avenue. While there are those who are aware in my community, throughout the city and throughout this country, there are still far too many people who are unaware. That is what this bill clearly seeks to address.
Let me talk a bit about education at this point.
To move forward on the path to reconciliation, it is imperative that we continue to educate our society on the issues facing first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. As a government, we have a duty to ensure that Canadians are aware of the difficult history of indigenous peoples and the consequences of the trauma they have experienced. Statistics show that around half of Canadians have little to no knowledge of the residential schools and their impact.
That is why it is so important to create a national day for truth and reconciliation. By creating this day, we will help increase general knowledge about the first peoples and their history. These conversations need to take place, at home, among friends and among colleagues, to raise awareness about reconciliation.
I want to talk about my own education. I alluded to my own experience at elementary school as a young boy here in Toronto. I practised law prior to becoming a parliamentarian and did so for 15 years. I practised constitutional law. Obviously, that means I was at law school and then was engaged in practice.
While at law school I learned very little, almost nothing, about the residential school system. During my practice, I did not touch this area of law. It was generally understood at the time that aboriginal law, as it was then known, was quite complicated, complex and usually quite desperate in terms of leaving one feeling despondent that nothing was going to improve.
Upon entering life as a parliamentarian in 2017, I had the occasion of serving as the parliamentary secretary to the then minister of heritage, who at the time was charged with working with first nations, Inuit and Métis individuals to co-develop language protection legislation. She turned to me and asked if I would help her in this work. Originally, I was puzzled as to why the ask was put in and what I could contribute, but that ask has been quite pivotal to my understanding of this issue, my understanding of the broader cause of reconciliation, and my maturation as a parliamentarian.
What I learned as I led those consultations around the country, from coast to coast to coast, meeting with teachers, elders, academics, leaders, pupils and chiefs from first nations, Inuit and Métis communities, is how critical language is as a feature of reconciliation, and how critical it is to work on initiatives like this in a co-development model.
One study resonated with me, and I will repeat it now. We learned in British Columbia that those groups who have knowledge of their mother tongue, their own indigenous language, have a suicide rate six times lower than the provincial average. When the language was removed, it removed people's connection to their people, to their culture and their community. Suicide rates elevated sixfold, far outstripping the provincial average for non-indigenous people. That told me there is a clear link between restoring people's language and people's connection to their culture, their sense of self-esteem, their confidence and, indeed, suicidality rates. It is not far-fetched or hyperbole to say that these are literally life-and-death matters for indigenous people. This bill is more symbolic in nature, but it touches upon the same concept that we need to learn about history in the context of language. Residential schools contributed to erasing that language.
I raise the issue because the question has come up, in the context of this debate, of whether enough work is being done. Clearly, more work needs to be done, but I would say that passing the Indigenous Languages Act, passing child welfare legislation and eliminating over 80 boil water advisories are steps in the right direction.
Does more need to be done? Absolutely: not one of the 338 members of the House would dispute that. However, it is unfair to say that work has not been done since 2015.
I will say that Bill , talks about call to action no. 80. In this bill, we recognize that indigenous people continue to face ongoing discrimination, as I mentioned at the very outset. Systemic racism continues to be a reality. We know that, in the past, indigenous communities have gone out on the streets to express their frustration and their desire for change. I am glad to see now that the rest of society is catching up: slowly, but it is catching up. We see solidarity with indigenous people voicing concerns about the Mi'kmaq and solidarity with indigenous persons voicing concerns about Joyce Echaquan. Non-indigenous people are awakening, and that is a good sign. The fact that parliamentarians are awakening is a critical sign and a necessary one. That solidarity is what this bill endeavours not just to capture but also to promote.
Bill is in line with some of our government's previous actions, such as an announcement in budget 2019 to provide $7 million, over two years, to communities across the country to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools. By taking this step forward, we keep raising awareness across Canada of the trauma indigenous people have undergone and the intergenerational impacts of such trauma.
It is important that we recognize that it is not just about learning this history on one day, on September 30, but each and every day: that we think about it in terms of the practical work that we do as parliamentarians and, indeed, how we live our lives day to day as Canadians.
It is a common responsibility and a duty to remember this dark chapter in Canadian history and to ensure a better future for all people in this country. We owe it to indigenous peoples on this land. We owe it to the survivors of the residential school system. We owe it to those who never returned from the residential school system. We owe it to the parents from whom children were taken. We owe it also to the generations to come.
Having an open conversation about residential schools and the legacy of racism and colonialism, and the hardship and pain and violence that were endured, is difficult. It is painful. It is uncomfortable. However, we recognize that this is nothing compared with the actual experiences lived by indigenous people who went through these schools.
We are committed to doing what is right with respect to Bill , even though that is not an easy path. I hope all members, in a strong spirit of non-partisanship, will support this bill and recognize its importance, so that September 30, 2021, can be the first national day for truth and reconciliation in Canada. Learning our history and moving forward should never be an issue that divides on party lines.