Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that Canada's Parliament is located on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
As we gather to debate Bill , I think that it is important to take a moment to explain the approach that the government took when developing this proposed legislation.
There is a saying, “Nothing about us without us”. The government has tried to fulfill the true meaning of those words as we rebuild a relationship with indigenous people across the country. This is why we used a collaborative approach to develop Bill . Engagement with indigenous leaders and communities was integral to the process every step along the way.
I am going to take a few moments to outline the engagement process we used throughout the development of the bill. The first and foremost has been the incredible indigenous leadership provided by the interim board and the transitional committee. Both independent bodies were made up of first nations, Inuit and Métis, with all providing their best advice and taking into account a wide range of diverse voices and perspectives.
I also want to acknowledge the monumental work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was the foundation for this bill. The TRC held a series of national and community-focused sessions across the country as part of its work to lay bare the truth and story of this country. The commission has set forth a pathway of reconciliation to begin the healing necessary in relation to the trauma and ongoing impacts caused by the residential school system.
The extensive and historic work of the TRC was pivotal in laying the groundwork for this proposed legislation. By amplifying the voices of survivors, the commissioners included the idea of the national council for reconciliation in calls to action 53 and 54.
In developing the final report, they took an inclusive and indigenous-led approach, and the approach was to listen to the voices of the indigenous people. They heard from survivors of residential schools, as well as their families, and they used the stories not only to tell Canadians the truth about what happened but also as a basis on which to build the calls to action. The government has strived to honour that approach by inviting and supporting indigenous leadership throughout the whole process with the culmination being the development of proposed legislation.
We were inspired and led by the TRC commissioners, the residential school survivors and the indigenous people who participated in the TRC process. This included everyone who envisioned an independent, indigenous-led national oversight body.
The commission envisioned a national council that would prepare an annual report on the state of reconciliation, to which the Government of Canada would respond publicly, outlining its plans to advance reconciliation. In developing this bill, the government has aimed to listen to these diverse voices.
Indigenous leaders and community members had the courage to step forward, to tell the country about their experiences and how this has affected them and their families throughout their lives. More than this, these voices have been guiding the way to help their communities on a journey toward healing.
I would like to speak a little about the interim board. After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had fulfilled its mandate, the federal government responded to the calls to establish a national council for reconciliation by creating an interim board to help transition to the next step by making recommendations on the scope of the mandate of the council. The federal government appointed the interim board of directors in 2018, comprising six indigenous leaders representing first nations, Inuit and Métis, including a former truth and reconciliation commissioner.
This independent board was responsible for providing advice to the on establishing a national council for reconciliation. The interim board held an engagement event in April 2018. It met with various indigenous organizations and non-indigenous stakeholders to seek their views on the mandate of the council, the legislation, the scope of the council and, more broadly, on long-term reconciliation.
The interim board carefully considered all that it had heard from the engagements with various indigenous and non-indigenous peoples and organizations, as well as engagement events in Ottawa, and developed a final report.
This process included a diverse group of people, community members, academics, business, arts and health professionals and other interested parties. Each member of the interim board reached out to the additional individuals to ask for their views on the establishment of the national council for reconciliation.
The government also reached out to non-indigenous Canadians for their thoughts about creating a council. An online platform was created to capture Canadians' views on the subject. People could share their thoughts on the mandate, on the future of the national council for reconciliation and on what its first steps should be. The responses were positive. They showed that Canadians supported the establishment of a national council for reconciliation.
Another important step was the engagement that took place directly with national indigenous organizations. The interim board reached out to the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council to seek their input on the mandate of the national council for reconciliation. Including this step in the process meant that indigenous community members, as well as political leaders, had the opportunity to express their perspectives about creating the council.
At every step of the way, establishing an indigenous-led approach was integral to the process. Only after the interim board had heard a wide spectrum of indigenous voices did it prepare its final report incorporating what it had heard.
In June 2018, the interim board presented its final report, which contained recommendations relating to the vision, mission, mandate, structure, membership, funding, reporting and legislation of the national council for reconciliation.
Notably, it echoed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, saying that a council should be established through legislation and that it should address calls to action 53 to 56. It also said that it should be independent, permanent and non-political, and that it should also be a catalyst for innovative thought, dialogue and action.
The interim board also made recommendations about how the government should implement those recommendations. The interim board said the government should create a transitional committee to support next steps. When the government drafted legislation, it should co-draft the legislation with advice and leadership from the transitional committee membership.
Finally, the interim board recommended more outreach and engagement. Building on the work of the interim board, the Department of Justice prepared a draft legislative framework for consultative purposes.
I think it is important to make special note of that fact. The legislative framework was based directly on the work of the interim board, and the interim board based its work on the feedback that it received from indigenous voices across the country. We can really see that indigenous communities are at the very heart of this proposed legislation.
The next step after the interim board was the transitional committee, which was established and launched in December 2021. The members were appointed by the . The committee reviewed the draft legislative framework and considered ways to improve it to ensure a strong and effective council.
Transitional committee engagement was part of this. Building on the interim board's engagement activities in 2018, the transitional committee carried out even more engagement. The committee members met with indigenous and non-indigenous experts, including lawyers, data specialists, and financial and reconciliation experts in March 2022.
The members gathered feedback and advice in areas such as reconciliation, law, data, organizational finances, information sharing, governance and accountability. The committee used this feedback as part of its recommendations.
This brings us to March 2022, when the transitional committee presented its final report. This contained recommendations about the legislation of the national council for reconciliation.
The transitional committee made recommendations on how to strengthen the draft legislative framework while maintaining the vision, purpose and mandate of the council as expressed in the vision put forth by the interim board. It worked to ensure, to the extent possible, that the legislation would address calls to action 53 to 56.
In March 2022, the transitional committee expressed strongly that it preferred this proposed legislation to be brought forward using an expedited approach. It spoke passionately about survivors who see this bill as a cornerstone for reconciliation and want to ensure that it becomes a reality before too long.
Following the recommendation, the introduced Bill on June 22. Over the past few months, through second reading, at the INAN committee's dedicated study of the bill and today in the House, we have worked together diversely, but I am confident—
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to join the debate today on Bill the truth and reconciliation council. It has been an honour for me as the member for Kenora representing northwestern Ontario, which includes 42 first nations across three treaty territories as well as the Métis homeland, to work on this bill throughout the committee process.
I am pleased that the vast majority of the amendments brought forward by the Conservative Party have been adopted and implemented into Bill . As well, other parties have been able to improve this legislation, so far, moving forward. Generally, we have been working together quite well at committee, notwithstanding a couple of hiccups. I will speak a bit more to those towards the end of my comments.
I first want to take a step back and look at the need for the truth and reconciliation council. I believe it is important that we are turning from nice words of reconciliation to action. I think we have a government that has said, more or less, all the right things over the last seven years that it has been in power, but that there has not always been the proper follow-up to ensure true reconciliation is being met and is moving forward.
I believe this council could serve as an accountability mechanism for that, to ensure there is that oversight, so to speak, on government, and to ensure that not just this government but future governments would live up to the rhetoric, so to speak, when it comes to advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
This is important because we are in a situation where we have a government that, I would say, very clearly measures its success based on how many dollars it can spend. If we ask a question about almost anything in the chamber, the government tells us how many dollars it spent to address it. It says, “Look at us. We spent more money than anybody else. Clearly we care the most and we are doing the most. Therefore, that is the right approach.”
However, on this side of the House, we believe we should be measuring outcomes. We should be measuring the results those dollars are actually achieving. That is where there is a major gap. That is where I believe we need to take more action to ensure that we are actually following through.
I want to look to a report from May of this year, from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It indicated that since 2015 there has been a significant increase in funding to Indigenous Services Canada. I believe there was an over 100% increase. However, the highlights of the Parliamentary Budget Officer report said:
This increase in expenditure did not result in a commensurate increase in the ability of the organizations to achieve the targets that they had set for themselves.
The government is spending more to achieve worse results. The Parliamentary Budget Officer also said that Indigenous Services is having trouble actually matching what it is spending with its own performance targets, essentially throwing money out the window in many cases.
I want to turn to another quote from Ken Coates in The Globe and Mail. He said, “Put bluntly, Canada is not getting what it is paying for—and what's worse, the massive spending is not improving lives in Indigenous communities.” That is a great cause for concern. I think that should concern everybody in the chamber and everyone across the country.
We have a system where, in many ways, the Liberal government is creating this appearance of progress by announcing all the funds they are funnelling through Indigenous Services, but the lives of indigenous peoples are not actually improving.
We see that across the north as well when it comes to nutrition north Canada. That is, of course, the government's flagship program to address food security across the north, particularly in the territories but also in the northern parts of the provinces, including in my riding of Kenora, where there are many communities that fall within the jurisdiction of nutrition north Canada.
Every single year the government has increased the spending on this program. It has increased the subsidy. It has put more resources towards it, but every single year it has been in office, the rates of food insecurity across the north have risen. The government is literally spending more, again, to get worse results. We see that especially across the north where in places like Nunavut over half of the population is food insecure. We have heard those concerns from many members on all sides of the House for a number of years now. It cannot just be addressed by more money.
We know that dollars in government investment are often necessary and are often an important part of the solution, but time and again we have seen these reports that show that more money is not going to solve the problem. We need to actually have a structural overhaul to Indigenous Services Canada to ensure we are getting value for those dollars and that indigenous people are seeing that value.
I want to speak a bit about the boil water advisories as well because that is another area where the government has made some progress. I have said that before and I will say it again. The Liberals have made some progress. We have seen in my riding some communities that have had water advisories lifted, that are moving forward and are having much success with that, but that is not universal. There are many other communities where the government, in large part, is getting in the way.
Neskantaga in my riding has been under a boil water advisory for many years. Just a couple of years ago, it actually had to evacuate because the water plant malfunctioned altogether. The government has put $25 million toward supporting a new water treatment plant in Neskantaga. It is not for lack of money being allocated. Indigenous Services Canada is putting up barriers and making it difficult for those funds to actually reach the community. That is why, in part, we are seeing the boil water advisory persisting to this date. Those are the structural issues I am talking about.
The Auditor General as well has previously stated that there are systemic issues in the Indigenous Services bureaucracy; that longer wait times are leading to higher costs of projects, for example; and that Indigenous Services often tries to dictate to communities how those dollars should be spent, when the communities know best where the dollars should go. One of the most troubling things is that Indigenous Services Canada is not allowing indigenous communities across the country to guide their own destinies. The department is dictating to them and oftentimes getting it wrong.
That brings me to the overarching point of why I was sharing these concerns. Of course these are concerns that would be addressed in part through Bill , which is why I am speaking positively about the legislation. I do think Bill C-29 is necessary and this council would help us achieve better goals for indigenous people. However, I want to talk about the reasons why I feel that is necessary. That is why I was sharing those structural concerns, and it comes back to what the Conservative Party is standing on.
We have currently a Liberal government in office that is, as the reports frequently allude to, spending more and getting less. It is the government itself, through the silos it has created in Indigenous Services with the lack of flexibility to allocate funding where communities see best, that is actually continuing to perpetuate challenges across the north. We are seeing it in northwestern Ontario and across northern Ontario. That is why I want to talk about what the Conservative Party would do.
The Conservative Party would respect the rights of indigenous communities to guide their own destinies. We would empower communities to have self-determination, to have more freedom and to make those decisions for themselves. We stand here ready as a partner and ally to move forward on prosperity, on projects, on infrastructure and on social supports that are necessary to see these communities thrive. For too long, we have had a government that is getting in the way, that is bloating the bureaucracy and that is not meaningfully addressing the needs that will advance reconciliation. Those are the thoughts I wanted to leave on a final note.
I wrap it up with the fact that Bill , this council for reconciliation, should serve as an accountability mechanism for the government to ensure it is not throwing money into the wind but that it is actually getting meaningful results with the dollars it is spending.
Madam Speaker, it is always a privilege to take the floor in the House and, today, I am doing so at the report stage of Bill .
As we all know, the adoption of this bill will allow for the establishment of an apolitical and permanent indigenous-led national council for reconciliation to advance reconciliation with indigenous peoples in response to calls to action 53 to 56 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs studied Bill C‑29 and produced a report that includes the amendments made to the bill. These do not change the spirit and intent of the bill.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle underlying Bill , and will support its adoption in its current form, since, as I said in a speech here in the House last week, the Bloc Québécois is a vocal advocate for nation-to-nation relations between Quebec, Canada and first nations.
Giving indigenous peoples a stronger voice and allowing them to be heard in the reconciliation process is entirely in line with our position. As members know, the Bloc Québécois has always worked with indigenous nations at the federal level to strengthen and guarantee their inherent rights. It is also working to ensure that the federal government applies the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in its entirety in its own jurisdictions.
The Bloc Québécois has also come out in support of indigenous nations receiving their due, and we will continue to apply pressure on the federal government to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
Lastly, let us not forget that, on June 21, 2021, the Bloc secured the unanimous passage of a motion to ensure that indigenous communities have all the resources needed to lift the veil on the historical reality of residential schools and to force the churches to open their archives. This bill is a step forward in this regard.
As I mentioned earlier, this bill follows up on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action 53 to 56. As members will recall, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established through a legal agreement between residential school survivors, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit representatives and those responsible for creating and running the schools, in other words, the federal government and church authorities.
It is important for us, here, to remember these calls to action, and that is why I am taking the liberty of reading them, as they are the reason for Bill . Call to action 53 reads:
We call upon the Parliament of Canada, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal Peoples, to enact legislation to establish a National Council for Reconciliation.
Call to action 54 reads:
We call upon the Government of Canada to provide multi-year funding for the National Council for Reconciliation to ensure that it has the financial, human, and technical resources required to conduct its work, including the endowment of a National Reconciliation Trust to advance the cause of reconciliation.
Call to action 55 reads:
We call upon all levels of government to provide annual reports or any current data requested by the National Council for Reconciliation so that it can report on the progress towards reconciliation....
Call to action 56 reads:
We call upon the Prime Minister of Canada to formally respond to the report of the National Council for Reconciliation by issuing an annual “State of Aboriginal Peoples” report, which would outline the government’s plans for advancing the cause of reconciliation.
Naturally, the Bloc Québécois is fully and firmly in favour of these calls to action, which is why we support this bill. We also support Bill because of its major components, including the positive goal to establish a national council for reconciliation to advance efforts towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Members will note one thing that keeps coming up in this bill, specifically all the entities that the national council for reconciliation will monitor and on which it will make recommendations.
We can see that the council's current purpose is to monitor the progress being made towards reconciliation in all sectors of Canadian society and by all governments in Canada and to recommend measures to promote, prioritize and coordinate efforts for reconciliation in all sectors of Canadian society and by all governments in Canada.
First, we need to understand what “all sectors of Canadian society” means.
I assume that all Canadian Crown corporations will be under the council's scrutiny, but that raises questions. Will the council also monitor and investigate federally regulated private businesses? Would an independent airline be included in the mandate to monitor and make recommendations?
The very broad scope the bill allows the council appears to give it great latitude in its activities, but that could also make it less effective when it could be focusing on government corporations and bodies rather than on private businesses. The government must set an example, so it is important to pay special attention to its entities.
The other element to look at is the monitoring of “all governments in Canada”. The intention is to monitor provincial and territorial governments. Although indigenous affairs fall under federal jurisdiction, first nations issues also relate to many areas of provincial jurisdiction, such as health and education. There seems to be a desire to disregard jurisdiction and allow the council to monitor all government activities in Canada.
I would remind members that the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec, known as the Viens commission, was set up to determine the underlying causes of all forms of violence, discrimination and differential treatment towards Indigenous women and men in the delivery of certain public services in Quebec.
In his report, the commissioner issued 135 recommendations to the Government of Quebec. These calls to action apply to all of the services the government delivers to indigenous peoples, such as justice, correctional services, law enforcement, health, social services and youth protection.
In the interest of independent and impartial monitoring, the Quebec ombudsman was mandated to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations made by the Viens commission. The ombudsman has established an advisory committee comprising first nations and Inuit members to foster collaboration and ensure that the Viens commission’s calls to action are translated into measures that meet the needs of first nations and Inuit representatives.
Another committee, made up mainly of university researchers and representatives of civil society, was also set up to independently document the implementation of these calls to action. The committee, which was based out of the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, released its first report in 2021.
The national council for reconciliation is another body tasked with monitoring progress and making recommendations, in addition to the two similar bodies already at work in Quebec. It is worth asking whether there will again be overlap between their mandates or whether the council will focus on federal issues in Quebec, analyzing only issues that fall under federal jurisdiction. I certainly hope there will be no overlap.
Lastly, we know that the national council for reconciliation will have to conduct investigations, since its mandate is to monitor and make recommendations. That means it will need investigators and analysts. I would be curious to see the current forecasts concerning the number of employees the council will need in order to carry out its mission properly.
, I thank my constituents in Nunavut who continue to reach out and give me encouragement in this work. The faith they give me drives my work and continued commitment to ensure that their voices are amplified in this place.
I speak passionately as an Inuk, and I am guided by the voices shared with me by first nations and Métis. I thank the many indigenous peoples in Canada to whom I dedicate this speech.
Inuit and first nations thrived on these lands we now call Canada for generations before the arrival of settlers. Métis have thrived in Canada. Much to the chagrin of settlers, Inuit, first nations and Métis still use our cultures, languages and practices.
Unfortunately, there are still far too many indigenous peoples whose experiences show the constant disparity between Canadians and indigenous peoples. In support of the need to pass Bill , I share some of these disparities and some basic words that have such disparate treatments between most Canadians and indigenous peoples in Canada.
On reproductive care, most Canadian women get proper guidance, they easily talk about birth control and do not have to worry about their pregnancies. Indigenous women still experience unconsented sterilization, do not get proper birth control guidance and must worry about nutrition due to a lack of accessible nutritious food.
Most Canadian women give birth in places with which they are completely familiar, with doctors and nurses they recognize, and the comfort in knowing that the system will be ready for any urgent issue that may arise while giving birth. Some indigenous women must leave their home communities and travel thousands of kilometres to give birth a month in advance. The doctors and nurses are not indigenous, may not necessarily speak their language and they may worry that their newborn baby may be taken by social services.
Love for most Canadians can be unconditional. The love between generations provides the financial stability, educational goals and freedom to choose to transfer a property from one generation to the next. For too many indigenous peoples, love is short lived, tainted by intergenerational trauma and little to no guarantees about the financial security needed for the next generation.
Education for most Canadians is having one teacher preside over many children and youth. It is a system rooted in colonial history, with Canada's successes. While there have been improvements, it is still largely without the history of how indigenous peoples were treated by assimilationist policies, which are still plaguing indigenous peoples. For indigenous peoples, it was a process of genocide and indoctrination. Indigenous children were emotionally, physically and sexually abused by so-called teachers. Some children never returned to their indigenous parents. Instead, they were buried next to the school that was supposed to take the Indian out of the child.
The RCMP for most Canadians is an institution whose members they can recognize and call upon to be protected. For indigenous peoples, it is a current and ongoing enforcer of systemic racism. It is still very fresh in my mind when RCMP officers, who were equipped with assault weapons, helicopters, dogs and a chainsaw, were breaking down the doors of indigenous women who were seeking to defend their lands against the unconsented project to cross their ancestral lands. There is also a lack of presence in other places where gang violence and squatters are allowed on indigenous lands.
Violence, for most Canadians. are the things they watch on TV screens, in movie theatres or some far away social media. For most indigenous peoples, it is a common experience. From childhood to the dying days of elders, violence is surrounding our lives.
Justice, for most Canadians, occurs quite quickly. For indigenous peoples, it takes generations, if any. Justice has tests to meet to determine if it is justifiably infringed. Justice for indigenous peoples will continue in jails and in gravesites.
Missing and murdered, for most Canadians, are terms they hear in the media about indigenous women. For indigenous families, it is a far too common experience. Reports after reports are not making the systemic changes to stop this genocide. There are far too many basic emotions to express all the heartache experienced by indigenous peoples.
Crisis is another word we hear all too often in the House. First nations, Métis and Inuit have been experiencing crisis for generations. Let us choose to be more careful when we use the word crisis in the House.
Suicide is something that has been a reality for far too long in Canada. For most Canadians, it is a debate on legislation that allows people who are suffering medical conditions to choose. Suicide, for indigenous communities, is something chosen by youth because they have no hope left. I am still hurt, and it is still very fresh in my mind, about the young pregnant woman who committed suicide because she was given the news that she would not have a home.
Reconciliation, for most Canadians, is a term on which the federal government needs to act. There is no sense of obligation for regular Canadians. It is a term used by politicians to make promises during campaigns. It is a term that costs too much, so the piecemeal approach is often taken.
I have not even mentioned the environment, housing, culture, languages and so much more. These disparities demand that the national council for reconciliation finally be established. I thank the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which heard and voiced such important calls to action. The national council on reconciliation must take a rights-based approach to monitoring the work of the government, whose side of reconciliation has failed for generations to date.
I conclude by sharing names of some indigenous role models who have proven indigenous peoples are vibrant, strong and vital to the continued success of indigenous peoples. These people are leaders and voices we must continue to amplify as they are the ones who have advanced reconciliation, whether they tried to or not.
This is an incomplete list and I challenge members to name more: Governor General Mary Simon, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Okalik Eegeesiak, Dalee Sambo Dorough, Cindy Blackstock, the member for , Justice Murray Sinclair, John Amagoalik, Tagak Curley, former member of Parliament Romeo Saganash, John Borrows, Tracey Lindberg, Duncan McCue, Pam Palmeter and James Eetoolook. I know this is not an exhaustive list in any way.
We must all do what we can to ensure the national council on reconciliation is established. Through the great work of the interim board, we will see the advancement of indigenous peoples' rights, the advancement of self-determination and the expectation that the federal government does better to support the work of indigenous peoples in Canada.
Madam Speaker, I would like to add a couple thoughts. When the member makes reference to names, I think of individuals such as Diane Redsky, Sharon Redsky, Cindy Woodhouse and Amy Chartrand.
These individuals have committed so much of their lives and efforts toward indigenous people on the issue of reconciliation in a real way. There are obviously many others. I am referring just to Winnipeg North, and it is a relatively small number of individuals that I could recognize.
I would like to pay a compliment to the on how effective he has been as an indigenous caucus chair. He has provided advice to the and to members of Parliament, such as myself. He has provided us very valuable information to ensure we continue to be on the right track.
Back in 2015, when the was the leader of the Liberal Party in third-party status, the 94 calls to action were tabled here. The then leader of the Liberal Party made a solemn commitment to indigenous people from coast to coast to coast, and beyond, to implement and work toward getting all 94 calls to action moving in a positive direction.
Upon the election results later that year, we made it very clear that our priority was indigenous reconciliation. That was something that was not optional. If one were to check the mandate letters provided to ministers, they would see a very clear indication on indigenous people. This is something that is of a strong personal nature for our . It has been a priority for our entire caucus, with the guidance of individuals like our .
If we look at budgetary measures or legislative measures, virtually from day one to today, we will see calls to action being responded to in a tangible way. We hear some members of Parliament say we are spending too much, implying there is too much waste. Others will say we are not spending enough.
What is clear is that we have never before seen a government invest so much in financial resources, and other resources, to deal with truth and reconciliation and justice for indigenous people in Canada. There should be no doubt about that.
When I was in opposition, I on occasion made reference to the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls from indigenous communities. That is an issue I recall asking for a public inquiry on. That was before the calls to action.
I would like to read call to action 41. It states:
We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls. The inquiry’s mandate would include:
(i) Investigation into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls
(ii) Links to the intergenerational legacy of residential schools.
I raise that because one of the very first actions of this government was to call for the public inquiry. We have many actions being requested of the government that have come out of that public inquiry.
Fast-forward to today, and we are talking about Bill . If we look at what Bill C-29 is all about, let there be no doubt that it is specifically in response to calls to action 53, 54, 55 and 56. Call to action 53 states:
We call upon the Parliament of Canada, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal Peoples, to enact legislation to establish a National Council for Reconciliation. The legislation would establish the council as an independent, national, oversight body with membership jointly appointed by the Government of Canada and national Aboriginal organizations, and consisting of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members. Its mandate would include, but not be limited to, the following....
Call to action 53 then goes on to list five points.
Call to action 54 states:
We call upon the Government of Canada to provide multi-year funding for the National Council for Reconciliation to ensure that it has the financial, human, and technical resources required to conduct its work, including the endowment of a National Reconciliation Trust to advance the cause of reconciliation.
Call to action 55 states, in part:
We call upon all levels of government to provide annual reports or any current data requested by the National Council for Reconciliation so that it can report on the progress towards reconciliation. The reports or data would include, but not be limited to....
It then lists two items.
Finally, call to action 56 states:
We call upon the prime minister of Canada to formally respond to the report of the National Council for Reconciliation by issuing an annual “State of Aboriginal Peoples” report, which would outline the government’s plans for advancing the cause of reconciliation.
Those four calls to action are in this legislation, in the amendments that were brought forward. I highlighted call to action 41, which we took action on immediately after we became government back in 2015, and today we are debating those four calls to action.
It is not only budgetary and legislative measures that the government makes on a daily basis. If we focus our attention strictly on truth and reconciliation, we can talk about not millions, but billions of dollars that the government has allocated in working in partnership with indigenous people, whether it is on issues such as systemic racism, health care, housing and so much more.
In terms of legislation, we can talk about enactments to support indigenous child welfare. We can talk about legislation to support indigenous language. We can talk about Bill , the UNDRIP legislation that was brought forward. What about the statutory holiday that was brought forward in legislation? There is legislation dealing with the oath of citizenship. When we hear that every child matters, calls to action 72 to 76 are ongoing. We can talk about the lobbying that took place and call to action 58, which was the formal apology from the Pope here in Canada.
If we look at the 94 calls to action in total, well over 80% of them have been acted on in one form or another, and many of them have been completed. It is important to recognize that, as a national government, where we have responsibility, we act on it. That is a commitment that the and Liberal Party made before we formed government, and now that we have the reins of government, we are implementing these calls to action because it is the right thing to do.
I recognize there is a lot more that needs to be done. I suspect if we were to check with the , cabinet or any individual member of the Liberal caucus, we would find the same sentiment.
Madam Speaker, obviously this is a very important debate that we are having today as we see the in-the-chamber debates taking place.
It is truly an honour to stand here and speak to Bill , an act to establish a national council for reconciliation, at third reading. I would really like to thank the committee that worked on this and adopted many amendments to ensure that we have a good piece of legislation, although we know we can still do more.
In the preamble of this legislation, the goals are very clear. I want to start, for anyone watching today, with what the goals of this reconciliation council are and why we need to have it.
I quote from the preamble:
[T]he Government of Canada recognizes the need for the establishment of an independent, non-political, permanent and Indigenous-led organization to monitor, evaluate, conduct research and report on the progress being made towards reconciliation, including in relation to respect for and the protection and promotion of the rights of Indigenous peoples, in all sectors of Canadian society and by all governments in Canada, in order to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Call to Action number 53
Like many parliamentarians, we are talking about reconciliation and we are all working toward it. I can say that from going to the second annual truth and reconciliation day in Elgin—Middlesex—London, Canadians, indigenous communities and indigenous people are coming together because we recognize that work must be done, and reconciliation is part of that.
However, I want to quote my friend Chris Patriquin. Chris is a member of the St. Thomas Chamber of Commerce, has a great business and does tons of work. He is a leader in our community. Coming from the Oneida Nation, he said to me, “There cannot be reconciliation unless we have clean water. To me, that is very important.”
He says that because on the reserve of Oneida, just 20 kilometres from the city of London, there has been a boil water advisory for over two years. This community is probably about 50 metres from a water line. There are so many options, and I know it takes all levels of government, including indigenous people and communities, municipalities, provinces and territories, to work together. That is why I am saying we must work together if we are actually looking for reconciliation. These solutions occur when everybody is onside.
When we look at this piece of legislation, I recognize that there must be good governance; there must be accountability and there must be transparency, but most of all there must be trust. This trust has not been broken; it was never there. Therefore, it is important that we recognize that when government comes with its hands wide open, we have to understand why there is push-back and that everybody needs to be part of that. It is why this reconciliation council is very important. If the government is truly committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we need to ensure that indigenous peoples and indigenous communities are at the table. Reconciliation is about collective efforts from all people from all generations.
Today, there was an amendment tabled during this third reading, removing the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, known as CAP. Its seat would be removed from the board of directors by this amendment. I am sorry to hear that we have one of the other opposition parties now choosing to side with the government on this, but it concerns me, because I am looking at the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. When we are talking about inclusion and talking about representation of different ideas, different ideas need to be at that table. Removing this for reasons unknown, and I do not know why they would want to remove this, would take a voice away from that table. This is a voice that represents thousands of indigenous people living in urban and rural centres. Therefore, I would ask the Liberal government and the NDP why they would change this, why they are accepting this amendment today and why we would take CAP off the table. Our mandate is to improve the socio-economic conditions of our constituents, and that is exactly what having CAP at this table would do. It is another organization.
It is really interesting, because I sit on the status of women committee and I am bringing the work I do on that committee here. On the subject of missing and murdered indigenous women, we have finished and are putting forward a report that we should be very proud of, in which we talk about calls for justice 13.1 and 13.5 from the national inquiry. We got this work done, and I am going to be very excited when we can table it. It is when we bring different voices and different opinions together, when we can actually work together and are able to get a report done, that very strong recommendations are brought forward about safety for women.
That is why it is important that we have everybody at the table. We have four political parties at the status of women committee and we must work together if we are trying to move an amendment, option or recommendation. However, when people are not at the table, it makes it much easier if we do not want chaos. Once again, I question why the government is not only removing CAP, but not allowing other groups. I am talking about the indigenous economic national organization, for example.
When we are talking about reconciliation, we also need to talk about economic reconciliation. If we are trying to create vibrant communities where there is safety and opportunities for indigenous people, that also comes with economic engines. That is why it is very important that we have organizations representing different views at the table. Perhaps that would have been the indigenous economic national organization, but unfortunately we will never know.
I would like to quote Karen Restoule, who was at the committee. She stated:
Adequate funding and support for education, child welfare programs and health investments is at the core of how we are going to be able to succeed to achieve what I've just referenced...in terms of robust challenges and objectives for ourselves.
She also stated:
Economic reconciliation is the vehicle forward in terms of setting our peoples or communities back on a path to prosperity—not only our nation, but the country as a whole. It really does lead to a strong social fabric.
When I arrived here in 2015, and probably like every other member who arrived here, I received two books of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Yes, these two books are massive, but they have really good and insightful information in them. I would like know why it has taken the government seven years to finally start taking action on some of these very simple things. To me, this is a very simple process of what we can do. The government started some processes back in 2018-19, but it is now 2022 and we are finally about to appoint our first council, and that is a concern.
I also look at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was established in 2008, and it is really important. I came here as a new parliamentarian with very little knowledge of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I have sat in Parliament and listened to other parliamentarians, to people with lived experience and to my colleagues who have represented northern and indigenous communities. We need to be working on this. If we are looking for a journey of truth and healing, we need to create these relationships on a basis of inclusion, understanding and respect.
I would like to quote also from the final report. As a parent, this really knocks me off my feet. As any parent would recognize, it would be so hard. This is a quote from the very first page of the summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report. It states:
It can start with a knock on the door one morning. It is the local Indian agent, or the parish priest, or, perhaps, a Mounted Police officer. The bus for residential school leaves that morning. It is a day the parents have long been dreading. Even if the children have been warned in advance, the morning’s events are still a shock. The officials have arrived and the children must go.
This is the truth, and we have to recognize this truth, of indigenous people who have gone through this for many decades. Let us move together, let us work together and let us ensure we have a council that it is appropriately appointed, not by the , not by the minister but by organizations that will be working together. There needs to be proper oversight, but if we are putting in an appointed council that is going to be representing the wants and needs of the and the minister, that is not appropriate. We need to ensure that all are at the table, that it is inclusionary, because the path, the journey, is the truth.
Madam Speaker, kwe, kwe
. Hello. Bonjour
I would like to begin by acknowledging that our Parliament, this very building, is located on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples.
We are on a collective journey that is framed by what we believe very fervently we need to accomplish, and the debate is all about how we do that. We have to acknowledge and understand at the beginning the devastating impacts of colonization on first nations, Inuit and Métis communities, and we know there is a lot to do.
Since the first identification of unmarked graves in May 2021, communities have been leading the work to locate and commemorate the children who died at residential schools. The residential school system and colonization has had an impact on every indigenous community, from health to culture and tradition, self-sufficiency, displacement, housing, land, environment and more. These are truths that we have to remember and we have to carry them forward. We cannot undo the past, but we can use what we know of the truth to do better.
As my hon. colleagues have shared so far, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action represents a pathway forward. The calls to action are a road map for all levels of government, education, health, religious institutions, civil society and the private sector to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the progression of Canadian reconciliation. In this sense, living up to the calls to action presents Canada with one of the greatest challenges and opportunities in our country's history, and that is what makes Bill so significant.
This proposed legislation is a concrete step toward implementing the calls to action. It will contribute to societal changes through education, dialogue and other functions that the council will lead. It will keep all levels of government accountable for progress on reconciliation.
Over the course of the past two months, we have taken important steps to strengthen this bill, and we have heard many recommendations from many indigenous groups and individuals and, indeed, from the House. We have worked collaboratively with all members of the House through the INAN committee. Through this collaborative process, we have implemented their feedback in the amendments to the proposed legislation.
Let me be clear that the version of the bill that is before Parliament today was developed in a truly collaborative fashion and strengthened by the feedback we received.
I would like to share the bill's proposed next steps for establishing the national council for reconciliation. How it is chosen and its composition has already been the focus of some debate here.
Following royal assent, the first step would be to establish the council's first board of directors. The and the transitional committee for the national council for reconciliation would jointly select its first board of directors. Inclusion of the transitional committee in the process supports the independence of the council as a foundational principle.
Having a diverse and inclusive board is critically important, and there may be various opinions and ideas on how that is to be achieved.
The Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council and the Native Women's Association of Canada would each have an opportunity to nominate one board member. Through the amendment process, and on the advisement of partners, we are also ensuring we include additional voices on the board, such as the directors from the territories as well as representatives of survivors or their descendants, elders and indigenous peoples who speak French.
The council's board would also include first nations, Inuit, Métis, indigenous organizations, youth, women, men and gender-diverse persons representing various regions of Canada, including urban, rural and remote areas. The board will contribute its expertise and knowledge to drive the council's work.
Through the board's establishment and subsequent work, the protection and promotion of indigenous languages will be a crucial part of the process. This means supporting board members in their usage of traditional languages.
The board will take steps to incorporate the national council for reconciliation under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act for not-for-profit status. Doing this is essential as it would give the council legal status. This would allow it, for example, to enter into contracts and have bank accounts under its own name.
Bill would also establish that the council be recognized as a qualified donee that can accept donations and issue official donation receipts.
Once incorporated, the board would then set up the council through steps that include developing bylaws, hiring an executive director and other staff, making financial and banking arrangements and developing operational and strategic plans.
Moreover, budget 2019 provided a total of $126.5 million to support the establishment of the council. This includes $1.5 million to support the council's first year of operations and, importantly, a $125-million endowment for the council's initial operating capital.
A key responsibility of the council would be to monitor and report on the progress. In this respect, the council would have to, within three months after the end of each financial year, submit to the an annual report on the state of reconciliation and the council's recommendations.
Within 60 days of the release of this report, the would be required, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to respond to the report by publishing an annual report on the state of indigenous peoples that outlines the Government of Canada's plans for advancing reconciliation.
These timelines would ensure that the momentum on reconciliation could continue. All of these steps would position the council as a non-political body, and that is the objective, led by strong indigenous leadership. It would require that the council be an independent voice that promotes and monitors progress toward reconciliation, including Canada's implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
Together, the council's mandate would be to monitor, evaluate, conduct research and report on the progress being made toward reconciliation, including in relation to, and respect for, the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples in all sectors of Canadian society and by all governments in Canada.
There would be an opportunity for different representatives to sit on the council. The expertise and experience they bring would contribute to the council's priorities and goals. Their voices would come from many diverse groups across Canada, to ensure that the council would reflect the lived realities of indigenous peoples.
I know these voices may share some pretty hard truths with us. That would be part of their mandate. As we have heard already, some of their feedback is constructive and informed. It is highly valued. We know this because we need a council that will be truly able to make a difference. We need all levels of government, including our own, to be held to account.
The hon. former senator Murray Sinclair once said that “if we agree on the objective of reconciliation, and agree to work together, the work we do today will immeasurably strengthen the social fabric of Canada tomorrow.”
I think we can all agree that we need to act swiftly and decisively to achieve the goal. It is clear that we have worked together, in a true partnership, to develop this proposed legislation to achieve that goal.
I encourage all hon. members to support the bill and the objective.
As we all know, reconciliation is not an indigenous issue. It is a Canadian one. Every Canadian has a part to play in renewing the relationship with indigenous peoples and bringing about the transformative changes needed to ensure inclusive growth for indigenous peoples.
If not now, when? If not us, who?
Today, we have the opportunity to make good on our promise of reconciliation. Let us get to work and pass this bill without delay.
Meegwetch. Qujannamiik. Marsi.
Madam Speaker, guess who said to get the gatekeepers out of the way and put first nations in charge of their own destinies. Who said that? It was our very own who said that this November in Kitimat, B.C. I was there.
We spoke with local leaders like Ellis Ross, a former Haisla chief and current MLA, and the current Haisla chief, Cris Smith. They are asking for economic reconciliation. That is what the speech was about. It was about economic reconciliation. We thought it was important it be included in the bill.
The title of Bill , as many members have already heard, is an act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation.
We heard many witnesses at the indigenous and northern affairs committee. I was surprised that we heard about economic reconciliation over and over again. With a bill that deals with reconciliation, we would think it would be an easy inclusion, especially if witness testimony said we really need to include it.
I am going to read some leader testimony in committee. I thought Manny Jules, chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission, did a great job of explaining what economic reconciliation is. He said:
I believe it will help you understand why there can be no real reconciliation without economic reconciliation.
When I say economic reconciliation, I am talking about two fundamental components. One is that first nation governments must have jurisdictions and unassailable revenue authorities that help fund the exercise of those jurisdictions. The second is that first nations need to implement their jurisdiction and fiscal powers in a way that attracts investment from their members, and others, to participate in the economy on equal terms with everyone else.
He continued by saying, “I recommend that Bill C-29 be amended so that the council's first board of directors also includes a member of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act institutions to ensure economic reconciliation is addressed as a foundation for reconciliation.” It does not get more clear than that. Prosperity is the foundation of what Manny was requesting for first nation peoples.
I will refer to another quote too. I already mentioned the current MLA for Skeena, Ellis Ross, former Haisla chief. Here is some of his testimony from the indigenous and northern affairs committee.
A number of aboriginal leaders feel strongly that economic reconciliation not only lifts up first nations but also obviously lifts up the provinces and the country. The proof is out there.
In my community, for example, the economic reconciliation that we participated in not only made us one of the wealthiest bands in B.C., but it also, for some reason, got rid of [other ills in the community].
I will continue the quote where he says, “we have young aboriginals getting mortgages in their own right without depending on Indian Affairs or their band council. They're going on vacation. They're planning futures for their children.”
I have another quote from another indigenous leader, Karla Buffalo, chief executive officer of Athabasca Tribal Council:
In our traditional territory in Treaty No. 8, the first nations are leaders in the advancement of economic reconciliation at a remarkable pace. Our focus is not just on fiscal sovereignty, but also on cultural revitalization and fostering strong and thriving communities and indigenous peoples.
I have more quotes, but we would think that, with all these quotes of indigenous leaders saying they want economic reconciliation, it would be obvious to see this amendment pass.
I will back up a bit. In hearing that testimony, the member for put forward the following amendment under representativeness, “That Bill C-29, in clause 12, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 5 the following: 'Indigenous organizations that focus on economic reconciliation and prosperity as the path to self-determination.'”
That was pretty clear. Members across the way in committee were all listening to the testimony like I was. We would think that amendment would pass with overwhelming support, but sadly, it did not.
When we put the amendment forward, among the other parties, one NDP member, one Bloc member and four out of five Liberals voted down the amendment to give an indigenous economic national organization a seat on the board of directors. I would compliment one of the Liberal members for voting for this amendment, and we had other support for it as well.
This gets down to the whole purpose of why we are even seeking economic reconciliation. It is really so that indigenous people can thrive and prosper in our country. That is what we were asked to do and that is what reconciliation seeks to re-establish. It is meant to re-establish a relationship, and if we can do that with this legislation, complementing it with economic reconciliation as a key component, it would be a far better piece of legislation. There is still hope that the government will fix it, but it does not look like that will be the case, which is sad to say.
I want to read a quote by Chief Willie Sellars of the Williams Lake First Nation. He stated:
I look at economics through reconciliation and our aspirations to get to be a self-governing community. That has been through the treaty process, but we've also taken these incremental steps to self-government. We are under the first nations land management regime. We are governing over our reserve lands. We have a financial administration law, so these sectoral forms of self-government have allowed us to move at the speed of business and become this machine that works efficiently and is able to make decisions, because the capacity that we have on board helps us negotiate these deals and these agreements and start these other businesses that we've been able to see a lot of success and prosperity with.
In this place, sometimes we say what we heard in testimony in committee, so I have a couple of examples.
Theresa Tait Day is a good friend and is a former hereditary chief of the Wet'suwet'en. I met her at a natural resource forum in Prince George, where all around, people were asking where the support was for developing our resources. One would have sworn by the media coverage of the Wet'suwet'en situation and the blockades that no Wet'suwet'en person would want to develop resources. She said it was quite the opposite. She informed me that 80% to 85% of the Wet'suwet'en wanted a project to go through because they would benefit and prosper from it. She said the first nation has jobs and the economic prosperity that comes from that, so they see the benefit of it.
I was intrigued by her response, and then she said it was not just her I could talk to. I talked to the elected leaders of the Wet'suwet'en, who all said they supported the particular natural resource project that was so contentious a couple of years ago. I thought it was interesting that often the public from coast to coast to coast did not hear the true story of the first nations that really wanted to develop it.
The 80% to 85% number has become key to me. I have gone around the Northwest Territories and elsewhere in the north, whether it be Nunavut or other northern communities, and the 80% to 85% number is consistent. I was recently in Nunavut and asked a minister about a particular project in natural resource development. I asked how many people the minister thought supported this particular project in the community and he said it was easily 80% to 85%.
What I am getting to is that economic reconciliation is such an important part of reconciliation to indigenous people. They are our friends, neighbours and fellow Canadians, and we want to work together to see reconciliation occur and be realized. The of my party said we should get gatekeepers out the way and put first nations in charge of their own destinies, and I could not agree more.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill , an act to provide for the establishment of a national council for truth and reconciliation. I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin peoples.
At the outset, I want to acknowledge the incredible work of many of my colleagues from different parties, including the member for , who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the member for , the member for , the member for , the member for and others, who, over the many years we have been here, have been inspirational in their work and advocacy as we make sure that as a government, we move forward on reconciliation.
Reconciliation is multi-layered, is often complex and is an issue that will take generations to achieve in Canada. Canada has gone through 154 years of colonialism and deeply rooted legislation that often disempowered and displaced first nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada. We have gone from having over 90 indigenous languages to only a handful being spoken today. We have seen the horrific results of residential schools and the intergenerational trauma they have created, and the lasting effects of the hurt and loss. We saw this with the unmarked graves, starting last year, and I suspect we will see it again and again as we unpack this deeply hurtful issue over the next few years. Parliament recently acknowledged what happened with residential schools as genocide, and that, too, is a very important aspect of moving forward and speaking truth to power.
As we look at establishing the national council for reconciliation, it is important to look at history. In 2015, when we took office, the commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presented their findings, with 94 calls to action. That was in December 2015. They outlined the bare minimum that needs to be done in order for our path to reconciliation to move forward.
Since then, we have seen a number of different initiatives, including the report of the MMIWG, the missing and murdered women and girls report, and the calls to justice, as well as several other very important findings, including the unmarked graves. These things put additional responsibilities on the government and on all Canadians to address.
The 94 calls to action are an all-encompassing set of guidelines for the federal government, provincial governments and in some cases municipal governments, as well as organizations, particularly national indigenous organizations, and all Canadians. It is important to recognize that reconciliation is not a journey that can just be undertaken by Canada as a government. It needs to be an all-of-Canada effort that includes all stakeholders.
When we talk about reconciliation, oftentimes we talk about what Canada is prepared to do, but it really comes down to how much trust and confidence indigenous people can have in this process. What we have seen in the last seven years is that while we have moved ahead on a number of very important initiatives, we have often seen this relationship be two steps forward and one step back because there is a lot of unpacking to do. As we approach and encounter these issues, it is important that as a government we double down and recommit to working harder to ensure we move forward on this process.
It is an imperfect process. It is an imperfect set of ideas that often may need reflection, and in that I am pleased to share with the House some of my experiences over the past seven years working across party lines with the members opposite.
I do want to start off with our work on Bill , which was a private member's bill brought forward by my friend Romeo Saganash. It essentially called for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and I was fortunate to work with Mr. Saganash over the couple of years he was actively advocating for Bill . We travelled a fair bit in our committee work and spoke to many individuals: young people, elders, band councils and indigenous organization members. The enormous support the bill had across Canada with indigenous people was remarkable. However, we saw that the same level of commitment was not here in Parliament.
Over time, sadly, Bill C-262 did not pass, but we were able to get Bill through Parliament in 2021, and basically it is calls to action 43 and 44, and it was able to pass. The second part of UNDRIP is the implementation of a national action plan, and our department is working very hard with indigenous partners and national indigenous organizations, as well as rights holders and many others, to make sure we have an action plan that can really address a review of laws and move us forward on this path.
One of the things that has really humbled me is the work we have done on indigenous languages. There is an act, Bill , which was passed in 2019, and it was a critical moment in Canada because, when we talk about language, it is so fundamental to all of us. Often, I look at the passion with which my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois address the issue of bilingualism and language, and the passion with which many of my colleagues on this side speak to the need to protect the French language.
I think it is so critical to ensure that linguistic minorities are protected across Canada, but often missing in that conversation is the need to protect and save the many indigenous languages that existed prior to Confederation. In many ways, those languages are in their last stages. Medically speaking, they are on life support because we have so many languages that are at a point of being lost permanently.
I know the member for spoke about Oneida Nation on the Thames, and that is one of the groups we met during the development of Bill . It was devastating to see that only a handful of people were able to speak that language, which shows how important it is that Bill C-91 is there. As well, we, along with the support of the New Democratic Party, repealed mandatory minimum penalties just last week, and we implemented the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
These are some measures that speak to the work that has been done, but there is a lot more to do, and I believe the national council would be a very important tool for us to measure objectively what work we need to do. It would measure and report back to the House, as well as to Canadians, on the need to fill in the gaps and to make sure we fulfill all the commitments in the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
I look forward to questions and comments from my friends, and I thank them for this opportunity to speak.
Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the people of Red Deer—Mountain View. I am rising today to speak to the government's bill, Bill , an act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation.
I believe that truth and reconciliation should be viewed as a partnership, a journey to reach a successful destination. Rebuilding relationships is not easy, particularly when there has been a history of distrust. It is necessary for us to view this legislation through that lens of distrust as we review Bill and that we use that lens to focus on building bridges and consensus.
Bill is an attempt to address calls to actions 53 to 56 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by establishing a mechanism of accountability on the progress of reconciliation across Canada.
As previous members of my caucus have stated, our party supports accountability. I had the honour to sit at the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee many years ago when we established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I will say that up until these latest amendments were introduced, I was supportive of Bill , thanks to the strong work of my Conservative colleagues at committee who pushed to have common-sense amendments passed, which ultimately made this bill stronger. The Liberal amendments now cloud the issue. No matter what, there are still other areas of concern, and I would like to focus my comments on those now.
First, I have an issue with the appointment process of the board of directors of the national council for reconciliation, of its transparency and its independence. To address this, we need to reflect on the realities of the government's actions. The announced in December of 2017 that he would start the process of establishing a national council for reconciliation by putting in place an interim board of directors. In June 2018, that interim board of directors presented its final report with 20 specific recommendations. However, it took three and half years for the to then get around to appointing the new board members of this national council or to prepare for that reality.
The , in my view, needs to be accountable and transparent in the House when addressing the concerns Canadians have about the selection process, particularly to indigenous peoples. Why did it take so long for the government and the minister to complete the appointments? Who is responsible for analyzing the process, and why was it acceptable for it to take over three years?
As a former math teacher, I truly appreciate the importance of metrics and tracking. I speak about this a lot at the environment and natural resources committees, which leads me to my next concern. Bill has nothing in it to measure outcomes. If we do not know what we have and where we are going, how will we ever know when we get there? We need that data to understand if what we are doing aligns with our desired goals. No one can see into the future and no one can speak for indigenous people better than they can themselves. Having data that we can measure can help everyone ensure that the outcomes we all want are actually achieved.
I understand that quantifying reconciliation is hard, but call to action 55 shows us there are several items we can measure. For example, the comparative number of indigenous children to non-indigenous children in care and the reasons for that care. We can measure and track that. I am sure that such data would be extremely helpful in policy development for this very important cause.
Another example to help us develop youth justice policy and social supports would be to track the progress made on eliminating overrepresentation of indigenous children in youth custody, as well as progress made in reducing the rate of criminal victimization in homicide, family violence and other crimes. I am sure these metrics would also be an asset to the policy development process. To measure accountability, we first must set targets to determine success from failure. We understand that the government has a poor track record with meeting targets and measuring accountability.
The PBO released a report in May 2022 in response to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs' request to conduct research and comparative analysis on the main estimates of the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and the Department of Indigenous Services Canada.
The PBO was critical of the departments of Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. He noted that over the 2015-16 and 2022-23 periods there was a significant increase in the amount of financial resources allocated to providing indigenous services.
Then he added that this increase in expenditures “did not result in a commensurate [increase] in the ability of these organizations to achieve the goals that they had set for themselves.”
He further stated, “Based on the qualitative review the ability [of the organizations] to achieve the targets [that they have] specified has declined.”
Increases in budgets without any improvements to outcomes are never a good thing. Whether we are spending money or implementing policy, we need to be accountable to taxpayers and Canadians, and I feel that our Liberal colleagues have forgotten that principle.
When the bill appeared at second reading, I was concerned about the unacceptable timelines we saw in bringing the bill to the House for debate. I still remained concerned about the issues surrounding transparency as well as the independence of the appointment process of the board of directors. I am also concerned about the lack of measurable outcomes in the bill as well as barriers that governments erect to curb indigenous economic power.
Mr. Calvin Helin is a seven-time, best-selling, multi-award winning author, the son of a hereditary chief, the current CEO of Eagle Group of Companies and the previous president of the Native Investment and Trade Association. He recently appeared at the natural resources committee and talked about the need for indigenous peoples to have access to capital and markets. He spoke about the need to develop resources on their land and the issues indigenous peoples are having with the government in order to do that.
In Mr. Helin's book, Dances with Dependency, which I read when I first came here in 2008 and make sure that everyone who works for me also reads it, he addressed the reality of eco-colonialists. I fully agree with him that departments and governments are in the way of resource development for indigenous peoples, particularly at a time when the world needs Canada's ethical resources. It would be a real shame to see that these assets are stranded and to see our indigenous people further struggle for economic freedom because of the roadblocks the current government puts up around our oil and gas sector or, for that matter, many of our resource extraction activities.
At committee, a proposed amendment was defeated that would have given the national indigenous economic organization a seat on the board of directors. This contradicts multiple witnesses who testified on the importance of having a strong voice on economic reconciliation at the table. My Conservative colleagues at committee made strong arguments that economic reconciliation is the solution to eradicating poverty, solving the social issues that poverty creates and ultimately creating a pathway to self-determination for indigenous people.
It has been said that if one cannot be part of a solution, there is still money to be made prolonging the problem. Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada, along with their ministers, seem content in prolonging the problem with our indigenous people.
We have seen this over the past seven years with the Liberal government, especially on indigenous issues. It makes big announcements, and it holds press conferences and photo ops only to ignore and rag the puck in order to avoid the hard work needed to help our indigenous peoples.
Seventeen of the 19 proposed amendments that were brought forward to committee were brought forward by my Conservative colleagues. Those 17 amendments all passed with the support of the other parties, and I want to thank them for their co-operation. Sadly, today we see a backtracking on some of these initiatives.
In closing, I will go back to where this discussion started with our former Conservative government, which formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We advocated for more transparency on reserve for indigenous peoples. My former colleague, Rob Clarke, passed the Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, which received royal assent in December 2014. It is sad that no real action has been seen on this initiative.
Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that Canada's Parliament is located on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
It is a privilege to participate in the third reading debate on . I would like to acknowledge all of my colleagues in the House who have spoken so eloquently as to the importance of this bill.
In the past year and a half, reconciliation and relations between Canada and the first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have altered considerably. The discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools was a turning point. Survivors and indigenous people across the country spoke out. The discovery opened up new conversations about the hard truths surrounding the residential schools and our country's colonial past, the meaning of reconciliation and how we can all move forward together.
We need to know where we are making real progress and, more importantly, where we are failing and why, so that we can do better. We need a way to measure our progress as we move forward, so that the federal government and the entire country are held accountable for our promises to indigenous peoples.
As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission pointed out in its final report, “[p]rogress on reconciliation at all...levels of government and civil society organizations also needs vigilant attention and measurement to determine improvements”.
However, as many indigenous partners and organizations pointed out, the government cannot evaluate itself in the reconciliation process. We need help. That is why, in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the Parliament of Canada to establish a national council for reconciliation, hence the bill before us.
If passed, Bill would do exactly what was requested. It would establish the national council for reconciliation as an indigenous-led, independent, permanent and non-political body. The council would monitor long-term progress on reconciliation in this country, and it would evaluate and report on the implementation of the 94 calls to action.
This aligns directly with what many indigenous leaders have been calling for over many years and that is greater accountability, greater transparency and a way to hold the government and Canada responsible for our role in reconciliation.
For the last number of years, the government has used the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action as a way to measure our progress on reconciliation. Establishing this national council for reconciliation would be a vital milestone along our path to implementing all of the calls to action. More specifically, it would also ensure the full implementation of calls to action 53 to 56.
If passed, this bill would allow for the creation of a national reconciliation council to immediately respond to call to action 53. It would also respond to calls to action 54, 55 and 56, which elaborate on the roles, responsibilities and expectations for the council and the various levels of government and their involvement.
Let me briefly explain by providing an overview of some of the key elements of the bill. The proposed bill defines a process for establishing the council, including selecting the first board of directors, and that has been a topic of much discussion this morning.
The bill states that at least two-thirds of the board must be indigenous. More specifically, the council must include, over time, the voices of first nations, Inuit and Métis as well as non-indigenous peoples in Canada. Indigenous organizations would also be included, with a nominee each from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council as well as the Native Women's Association of Canada. It would include youth, women, men and gender-diverse peoples, elders and survivors, and people from various regions of our vast country, including the territories, urban, rural and remote regions.
Indigenous peoples are holding us to account. The board of directors will be composed of nine to 13 directors, in total. The bill states that the minister responsible will work jointly with the transitional committee to appoint the first board of directors. The council will subsequently establish the election process for future directors.
Our government will establish a protocol respecting the disclosure of information by the Government of Canada to the national council for reconciliation within six months of its creation. We released documents about residential schools to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and it is imperative that we ensure that the national council for reconciliation has the information it needs to do its work.
I also want to point out that the national council for reconciliation will be completely independent of the government and will operate as a not-for-profit organization. Therefore it will have no ties to the federal government or the Crown. We will have no control over this council. The Government of Canada will provide an endowment fund and initial funding, but it will be an indigenous-led organization.
Even though it will be set up as a non-profit organization, the council will be required to report annually on the progress being made towards reconciliation in Canada and to make recommendations to advance the work. That means that the council will have to provide annual and financial reports to which the government must respond. These reports will help the federal government set objectives and make plans to advance reconciliation based on those recommendations.
The reporting-back mechanism that is laid out in the bill ensures transparency and accountability, and it will ensure that we make further progress on the calls to action.
I will just point out a final aspect of the bill, which outlines the purpose and functions of the council. This is the most vital part of the legislation in my view. In short, the mission of the council would be to hold the Government of Canada and all levels of government to account on reconciliation and on the calls to action. The council would be responsible for developing and implementing a multi-year national action plan to advance efforts towards reconciliation.
To get an accurate picture of what is happening on the ground, the council will conduct research and discuss with partners the progress being made towards reconciliation in all sectors of Canadian society and by all governments. That will include following up on efforts to implement the calls to action.
It will also include monitoring government policies and programs and federal laws that affect indigenous people, and producing reports on their progress.
Based on this research, the council will also be responsible for recommending measures to promote, prioritize and coordinate reconciliation.
While the council will certainly chart its own path, part of its role would be to make connections and harmonize the work being done in all sectors of Canadian society, including all levels of government.
To sum up, the purpose and functions of the council would be multifold. Not only would it be there to react and report on Canada's progress, but it would also be leading the action we take as a country on reconciliation.
I just want to emphasize a final important point. This legislation should absolutely pass without further delay. With each passing moment, survivors, elders, knowledge-keepers and families grow older. This is urgent. Many survivors have already passed away without having seen the full scope of our efforts to advance reconciliation. That is why I ask members here today to press forward to support establishing this council as quickly as possible. We owe it to survivors, to indigenous people and to all Canadians.
I would like to acknowledge and thank residential school survivors for sharing their truths and experiences. Without them, we would not be here today discussing the importance of our history. Meegwetch.
Madam Speaker, kwe
, hello, bonjour
. I would like to acknowledge before I begin that Canada's Parliament is located on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
I am proud today to stand and participate in the third reading debate on Bill , an act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation. First, I want to thank my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Crown-indigenous relations and the member for . For the many years I have known him, his information, his experience, his knowledge and everything I have learned from him have really enriched me and made me a better representative of the people, so I want to thank him for that.
In September we marked the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and I recognize there is still a lot of work to do and that Canadians rightfully want to see more tangible progress.
For example, a few weeks ago, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation participated in the raising of the survivors' flag on Parliament Hill. The flag pays tribute to the survivors and those affected by residential schools, and it represents our responsibility and commitment to reconciliation.
During the ceremony, the right hon. reminded us that reconciliation is something in which all Canadians, including all levels of government, can and must participate. Reconciliation is not just something that affects indigenous peoples or the government. It affects all of us, including all the members here today.
We need to know where we are making important progress on reconciliation and, more importantly, where we are failing and why, so that we can do better.
These conversations are not easy, but progress is being made, and indigenous communities, families and survivors are guiding that progress.
I would like to take some time to reflect on the genesis of this legislation. The road to get here required collaboration and a lot of work. Bill has been many years in the making, and as I just mentioned, the original idea for the national council was laid out in 2015 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Since then we have been working from the foundation set by the TRC commissioners to advance and establish this council.
In 2018, an interim board made up of six eminent indigenous leaders—including one of the commissioners from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—made recommendations based on its extensive research and consultations regarding the council's mandate, governance and operations, which served as a basis for a draft legislative framework for consultation. The interim board also recommended the creation of a transitional committee to move the initiative forward.
Last December, our government announced the creation of the transitional committee. The committee members examined the draft legislative framework, consulted indigenous and non-indigenous technical experts and provided their recommendations. That led to the bill that is before us today.
As we heard from the members of the transitional Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, it is clear the bill is the culmination of a substantial amount of work, including many years of advocacy by indigenous people and leaders. The council's mandate would be to advance reconciliation in Canada, including monitoring and evaluating the government's progress on all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. This means the council would have access to relevant information about how governments are delivering on their commitments.
I also want to emphasize that the national council for reconciliation would be completely independent of the government and operate as a not-for-profit organization. As such, it will answer neither to Canada nor to the Crown.
We will have no control over this council. the Government of Canada will provide an endowment fund and initial funding, but I can guarantee that it will be run by indigenous individuals.
After coming so far, it would be unwise to let the opportunity to accelerate the legislation slip through our hands.
Creating the national council for reconciliation is one of the best tools we have available to achieve true reconciliation in this country.
While there is much work to be done on reconciliation, there is innovative work happening across the country. Part of the council's mandate would be to conduct research on new and promising practices to advance efforts on reconciliation.
In addition to its monitoring and reporting work on the progress of reconciliation, the council would be a strong and respected authority in the area of reconciliation. It would not only be there for oversight, it would also be there to set an example. The council would play a role in promoting reconciliation in its own way. This means communicating the realities and stories of indigenous peoples to the public and fostering dialogue, reflection and action leading to reconciliation.
This research could be based on segments of Canadian society that are already contributing to reconciliation work. The interim board and the transitional committee have clearly indicated that these positive examples also need to be highlighted. We can and must learn from the successes that have already taken place.
In addition to research, education and monitoring, the council could determine additional priorities as it moves forward in its work. This bill is not exhaustive, but rather is intended to be a flexible framework for the council. We must give the council the authority to pursue other measures it deems important and necessary to achieve its purpose.
To get to this point, many indigenous voices were included in developing the bill that we are debating. The interim board engaged with various indigenous and non-indigenous people and organizations on options to establish the council. Board members helped define the scope and scale of the council's mandate.
The indigenous process will not end with the passage of the bill. In fact, the bill itself contains provisions to ensure that the voices of indigenous people and communities will remain at the centre of the national council for reconciliation's work moving forward.
I would like to thank all those who helped design this bill. I am very grateful for the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada commissioners, members of the interim board of directors, members of the transitional committee, survivors, families and all indigenous and non-indigenous people who are campaigning for the government to be held accountable for its promises of reconciliation.
Together, we are advancing this difficult but important work. This bill goes far beyond the creation of a national council for reconciliation. It is about making a new commitment to reconciliation in this country. It is about finding common ground to move forward together.
I call upon my colleagues to advance Bill and pass the proposed legislation without delay. We must work with purpose and action to fulfill the calls to action and establish the council as quickly as we can.
Madam Speaker, as always, it is an honour and a privilege to stand in the House of Commons to represent my community of Peterborough—Kawartha.
Today I rise to speak to the report stage of Bill , an act that would provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation. If we are to show leadership, accountability and transparency in the House, there must be proper follow through on what has been promised.
After six and a half years under the Liberal government, Bill is the Liberals' attempt to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action 53 through 56. I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage all Canadians, if they have not, to read the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There are 94 of them.
Calls to action 53 to 56 are: 53, the establishment of a national council for reconciliation; 54, providing multi-year funding for the national council for reconciliation to ensure it has the financial, human and technical resources required to conduct its work; 55, provide annual reports to show progress on reconciliation; and, finally, 56, the issuance of an annual “state of aboriginal peoples” report to outline the government's plans for advancing reconciliation.
If we are to work toward meaningful reconciliation with indigenous peoples, a robust and inclusive response to calls to action 53 to 56 is needed. We are the leaders in our country and it is important we do what we say we are going to do.
I had the privilege to debate this bill at second reading, when I outlined some of the issues Conservatives had with the bill. Specifically, we are concerned with the hand-picking the board members who are to hold the same minister to account. Another concern is a lack of accountability for the expenditure of the $126.5 million in allocated funds. Most glaring is the lack of representation on the national council, ensuring that the voices of urban indigenous, advocates for women and girls, children, aboriginal business associations and native development offices have a seat at the table when it comes to meaningful reconciliation.
After meaningful consultation from community members and those most affected by Bill , the Conservatives brought forward 19 amendments to the areas with the most issues. Our amendments included: strengthening the wording to add transparency, accountability and independence to the board of director appointment process; three amendments that would give the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and an indigenous economic national organization a seat at the table; and ensuring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 56 would be honoured. In particular, we asked the , not the , to respond to the national council for reconciliation's annual report. We further asked that concrete, measurable targets be included in its annual report, to strengthen government accountability. Measurable targets are critical.
There were significant concerns after the second reading of this bill. Of the 19 amendments brought forth by the Conservatives in committee, 17 were adopted and passed with the support of the other parties in the House, but we have not reached consensus yet, hence we are here today.
The Liberals love to say, and I hear often in the committees I represent, which are the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, “nothing about us without us”, yet this morning, the Liberals repealed a key amendment brought forward by the Conservatives that would contradict their philosophy of including those most impacted by their decisions and policy.
The Conservatives know it is imperative to include CAP, or Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, on the board to support the voices of Métis, status and non-status Indians and southern Inuit indigenous people living off-reserve in Canada. The goal of CAP is to improve the socio-economic conditions in urban and rural communities.
I do not understand why the Liberals do not support having the voices of off-reserve indigenous people. One does not suddenly become non-indigenous when one moves off reserve. Why do the Liberals believe Métis, status and non-status Indians and southern Inuit indigenous people living off-reserve do not deserve a voice of their own at the table? Its shameful.
One of the biggest concerns that need to be addressed is the Liberals' refusal to acknowledge the critical role economic reconciliation plays in truth and reconciliation. This voice must be represented at the table. The Conservatives proposed an amendment that was put forward because of testimony heard during consultation that economic reconciliation is the solution to eradicating poverty, solving the social issues that poverty causes and ultimately being the path to self-determination for indigenous people.
Those who follow politics, primarily my mom and dad, as they watch CPAC a lot, know how imperative committee business is to democracy. It is a crucial process for listening to witnesses, and as elected officials in the House of Commons, it is our job to listen to Canadians and make the decisions that best serve them.
During consultation on the bill, committee members were heard loud and clear and listened to the importance of economic reconciliation. Karen Restoule stated, “Economic reconciliation is the vehicle forward in terms of setting our peoples or communities back on a path to prosperity—not only our nation, but the country as a whole. It really does lead to a strong social fabric.”
Manny Jules stated, “I recommend that Bill be amended so that the council's first board of directors also includes a member of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act institutions to ensure economic reconciliation is addressed as a foundation for reconciliation.” Ellis Ross said, “A number of aboriginal leaders feel strongly that economic reconciliation not only lifts up first nations but also obviously lifts up the provinces and the country. The proof is out there.” However, only the Conservatives felt it was important to give an indigenous economic national organization a seat at the table. Why?
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the current work happening in my community on economic reconciliation. Curve Lake First Nation is on a path toward self-sufficiency and economic autonomy with the construction of a 45,000 square foot facility on its reserve that will be home to both a fish farm and a greenhouse. About 19,000 square feet of the facility will be dedicated to fish production. Curve Lake First Nation plans to sell homegrown fish and vegetables at local farmers' markets and is in talks to form partnerships with grocery chains, with seafood markets also expressing interest.
The facility will bring 15 jobs to the reserve, with the project being a business owned and operated by Curve Lake First Nation that provides a revenue source for the community, alongside employment and educational opportunities. The development of the facility was born out of a common desire from community members and leaders to foster self-sustainability. Members of the House should be fostering more of these ideas and supporting their establishment as we look toward meaningful reconciliation.
As I mentioned earlier, economic prosperity of indigenous peoples is a key solution to eradicating poverty, solving the social issues that poverty causes and ultimately providing the path to self-determination for indigenous people. I look forward to a Conservative government that recognizes this work and advances it further.
Today, I would ask the Liberals to support our amendments and take meaningful action toward truth and reconciliation. They are only words if there is no action to follow.
Madam Speaker, before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that Canada's Parliament is located on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
It is a pleasure to begin report stage debate on Bill , an act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation.
We have concluded an in-depth, detailed study on Bill at the INAN committee. Over the past month, a total of 32 witnesses gave their testimony during seven meetings on Bill C-29. Witnesses included representatives from national indigenous organizations and indigenous groups. The members of the transitional committee were also invited as witnesses. We worked together in a collaborative spirit and listened to the many witnesses with open minds.
During clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, 41 amendments were proposed and 26 were adopted to strengthen the bill in terms of diversity, representation, transparency and accountability. These amendments respect the council as an independent indigenous-led organization. The vision of the council was set forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the interim board, and the transitional committee has been strengthened, not changed.
I would like to highlight some of the key amendments that were made by the committee to this bill.
Many of the amendments that have been adopted focused on strengthening the composition and representation of the board of directors of this council. The original bill outlined that the board should include first nations, Inuit and Métis, as well as other people here in this great nation; other indigenous organizations; youth, women, men and gender-diverse people; and people from various regions of Canada, including urban, rural and remote regions. Amendments have been adopted that include two directors from the territories to ensure representation of the north.
All parties submitted amendments to have the Native Women's Association of Canada nominate a director to the board in recognition of the need to respect women's voices, contributions to policy and research, and, more broadly, to respect reconciliation. This includes the implementation of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls calls for justice.
There was also broad consensus that the committee must include representation of elders and survivors of residential schools and their descendants, in recognition of the knowledge they carry and the origins of the National Council for Reconciliation, in the TRC calls to action. We know that elders are central figures in indigenous cultures and, equally as important, individual communities. Survivors and their descendants are important voices in the advancement of reconciliation.
Finally, the committee added representation for indigenous persons with French as their first or second language learned.
These amendments ensure that the board of directors is representative of the diversity and plurality of indigenous peoples.
The bill has also been updated to recognize that the revitalization and celebration of indigenous languages is part of reconciliation and, more importantly, the resurgence of reconciliation. The functions of the council now include protecting indigenous language rights. This includes supporting the participation of indigenous peoples in the work of the council through translation and interpretation services.
As members will recall, the House passed the Indigenous Languages Act to preserve, promote and revitalize indigenous languages throughout this great country. Ronald E. Ignace was appointed as the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages. These amendments align with our government's commitment to implementing the Indigenous Languages Act in order to reclaim and strengthen indigenous languages.
It would be the national council's work to monitor, to evaluate, to conduct research and to report on the progress being made toward reconciliation. To do so, it would need to access information from all levels of government as outlined in call to action number 55. The original bill included the development of an information-sharing protocol that would obligate the government to share with the council information that would be relevant to its purpose.
Establishing this protocol through legislation is an innovative tool to hold the Government of Canada accountable for supporting the council's needs to efficiently as well as effectively implement its mandate, while also preserving its independence from government. It would be developed within six months of incorporation of the council.
Another amendment has been adopted, which requires the government to provide the council with the information identified in the Truth and Reconciliation call to action 55, such as the number of indigenous children in care compared with non-indigenous children and data on comparative funding for education, health indicators and the overrepresentation of indigenous people in the justice and the correctional systems. Like other amendments adopted at INAN, this respects the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
As I noted at the beginning of my remarks, the legislation would obligate the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to table the council's annual report in both Houses of Parliament and, as amended, the Prime Minister to formally respond to the council's report. This responds to call to action 56, which calls on the Prime Minister to formally respond to the report of the national council for reconciliation by issuing an annual state of aboriginal peoples report, which would outline the government's plans for advancing the cause of reconciliation.
It is important that the council's report leads to action. The Government of Canada is committed to reconciliation, but recognizes the important role of other levels of government and sectors in supporting this work.
Finally, I would like to discuss the amendment that was introduced today. As I previously mentioned, the bill now includes a provision to ensure inclusion of indigenous persons whose first or second language is French. The government is proposing revised wording to the amendment in clause 12 to remove the term “mother tongue” as it is a gendered term. This would ensure that the wording is clear so the council would know how to interpret and implement it.
Before I conclude, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and to express my sincere appreciation to the residential school survivors once again for sharing the truths of their experiences. Without them, we would not be where we are today.
I would encourage each and every member of this Parliament and our colleagues who worked together to bring this forward to move quickly to pass this important legislation and to move forward once again with reconciliation.
Madam Speaker, I am very honoured today to rise on behalf of survivors, community members and elders who had to unfortunately live through the traumatic experience of Canada's horrific residential schools.
Today we are talking about an issue that is living in the hearts of children, their parents and their grandparents. Today throughout this debate we heard from the government about the importance of finally tabling this much awaited legislation, legislation for which survivors and their families have been calling for years now.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission travelled across our country, spoke to survivors and families about the importance of finally building an independent body that would be tasked with seeking justice on behalf of indigenous families that are still with us today.
That is the need and goal of the call to action we are speaking of today.
We also heard from the Conservatives. We heard about the need for economic reconciliation. Although much of what they are advocating for ignores the reality and plight of survivors, I do recognize the need to see true economic opportunities for indigenous people, but they must go beyond resource extraction. They must truly need indigenous people and their values, and truly lead to a better outcome for indigenous people led by them through self-determination processes.
This work is real. Right now, people across the country are deciding in their families, with their kids, in public schools and even in churches. They are having discussions with regular everyday folks about what it means when we say “reconciliation”. When I say “reconciliation”, it is important that we understand where I am coming from and where members from indigenous communities are coming from when we use that language. Reconciliation implies there was at some point some kind of conciliation that took place in Canada. It is important to recognize that indigenous people have often found themselves in the back seat of government decision-making.
Something we must avoid at all costs in legislation is the prescriptive use of government control to insist who sits at the table to guide, and maybe in some ways influence, the nature of the independent purpose of the legislation.
Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 is new for some Canadians, but not all Canadians. Some might remember what happened in the late seventies and early eighties as indigenous people across the country organized. They built new organizations. They fought for their voice. They brought their voice into this place to demand justice, that the rights of indigenous people, their inherent and treaty rights, would be protected. We are not far from that moment in our history. Canada is a very young country, but what is needed is truly concrete action rather than words.
This is not only indigenous people saying this, it is Canada's top Auditor General. She stated just last week, “In 2011, at the end of her mandate as auditor general of Canada, Sheila Fraser summed up her impressions of the government's actions after 10 years of audits and related recommendations on First Nations issues with the word 'unacceptable'.” Five years later her predecessor, Michael Ferguson, used the words "beyond unacceptable".
She further said, “We are now into decades of audits of programs and government commitments that have repeatedly failed to effectively serve Canada's Indigenous peoples... It is clear to me that strong words are not driving change.” She has said, “Concrete actions are needed to address these long-standing issues, and government needs to be held accountable.”
Those are not the words of the New Democrats. Those are the words of Canada's Auditor General, by which I stand firmly.
The age of accountability is upon us. Indigenous people are done waiting. Indigenous people are done asking. Indigenous people are now demanding that the government take seriously and earnestly the words of its own Auditor General in echoing the facts of the failures of the government almost 10 years ago. Those words are still being echoed by the Auditor General today. We must do better.
By better, I point to some jarring statistics. Before I do that, I want to mention that when we use numbers in this place, it has to be founded with the earnest understanding that those numbers represent people, real children, people in each and every one of our communities. There is not one MP in the House who does not and is not affected by the policies of this place, in particular the policies directed at indigenous people and, most important, children. Canada's history in the prosecution of children continues still today.
Statistics Canada said that a 2021 census showed that indigenous children accounted for 53.8% of all children in foster care. This has gone up since the 2016 census, which found that 52.2% of children in care under the age of 14 were indigenous.
If I asked the government this question, which I have today, it will simply deflect and say that the provincial governments are responsible. However, that does not stop the advocates, the strong members like former Chief Norma Kassi, who said, “The doors are closed at the Residential Schools but the foster homes are still existing and our children are still being taken away.”
These are real truths, truths that may not be spoken in this place but are spoken across the country every single day, including in the courtrooms. The very honourable Cindy Blackstock, a champion and true warrior for indigenous people, fighting for the most vulnerable children, said:
...the last residential schools closed in 1997. That trauma echoed forward and then these First Nations children and families had fewer public resources to be able to deal with it. But they were often judged by Canadian public who didn’t know any better...And that perpetuated the cycle of racism and the cycle of trauma.
What she is telling us is that members of Parliament must listen earnestly to the fact that if we do not act now, this will continue generation after generation. That is how deep these wounds truly are.
We can think about the mistreatment of indigenous children, not just the residential school period but also in the sixties scoop, of which I am an intergenerational survivor. The sixties scoop was not all that long ago, and it affects families every day. Some family members we never meet. I have never met all my family members. This is not a rare story. This is a common story of many people from coast to coast to coast.
It gets even worse. Many face mistreatment, even now as we speak, such as physical, sexual and spiritual abuse. There are at least 14,100 maltreatment incident investigations for indigenous children, according to the Canadian child welfare research portal's most recent statistics. If we are not talking about the basic principles of justice in this place for the most vulnerable people in our society, what are we truly doing here? There are 14,000 children who are malnourished in Canada and we are talking about who gets to sit on a national board for reconciliation.
I challenge the government to go far beyond rhetoric, far beyond tabling legislation, but I agree with the fact that I need to use this opportunity to echo that more must be done. This is barely the first step to ensuring the government truly does what must be done.
We know these children will continue to need our support. They will continue to need indigenous people. They will continue to need their language. They will continue to need access to land. That is critical to our people's rebuilding.
I want to thank my hon. colleagues for debating this very serious topic. I hope we can unite the House, not just for the principles of fairness found within this legislation but toward justice for indigenous people, not just today but every single day in the House. That is my hope.