Madam Speaker, it is truly a pleasure and indeed an honour to speak in support of Bill . For me, Bill C-23 has really important personal connections. Part of this connection arises from the more than 30 years I spent prior to politics working with Parks Canada. I worked in and managed many well-known and well-loved national parks, such as Pacific Rim National Park Reserve; Yoho, Kootenay and Banff National Parks; Wood Buffalo National Park; and Riding Mountain National Park. I also worked in and supported national historic sites, such as the Dawson Historical Complex, the Chilkoot Trail, HMCS Haida
, Fort Langley, Fort Walsh, Fort George, Fort Malden and Woodside, among others.
Along with my extensive career with Parks Canada, I also carried Bill through the House in the 42nd Parliament, where the bill, which would have advanced reconciliation through the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 79(i), received unanimous support. Unfortunately, the bill did not make it to completion and died in the Senate with the dissolution of Parliament at the end of the 42nd Parliament. I am truly honoured to be back and now seeing my private member's bill and much-needed changes in support of protecting Canada's national treasures covered in Bill C-23 and being debated in the chamber today.
Before digging into the importance of this bill, I must respectfully acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples. I also respectfully acknowledge that the lands, waters and ice where we live, work and play all across Canada are the ancestral and traditional territories and homelands of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The Government of Canada honours their connections, stories and histories.
I am aware that such an acknowledgement is perhaps a small step along the path of reconciliation, but it is not without meaning. Acknowledgements such as this are a gesture of respect and awareness, a recognition of the original stewards of this land now known as Canada and a recognition that the history of this land did not begin with the arrival of Europeans. It is also aligned with the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As my fellow members know, Canada has committed to its full and effective implementation. It is for this reason that Parliament adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in June 2021. In that sense, the bill we are debating today represents another important step along the path of reconciliation.
Let me explain. Bill has two main goals: advance reconciliation and promote inclusion through better heritage designations; and create stronger protection for federal historic places. The bill was developed with the principles of inclusion, transparency and sustainability in mind.
With respect to improving federal heritage designations, Bill would enable the government to advance its commitments to implement all the relevant calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I refer specifically to call to action 79, which calls on the Government of Canada to collaborate with survivors, indigenous organizations and the arts community to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. The commission stated that this should include, at a minimum, the following three items:
i. Amending the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and its Secretariat.
ii. Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.
iii. Developing and implementing a national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, the history and legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history.
This first point was the content of my private member's bill, and I am honoured to see this item and the entirety of call to action 79 back before the House.
I am pleased to say that the government has made significant progress toward the implementation of these important actions. In budget 2018, for example, the government committed close to $24 million over five years to recognize and integrate indigenous peoples' histories, voices and perspectives at heritage places administered by Parks Canada. In budget 2022, the government committed to providing Parks Canada with $25 million over three years to support the commemoration and memorialization of former residential school sites.
In terms of policy, in 2019, Parks Canada released its new system plan, entitled “Framework for History and Commemoration”. Based on extensive public consultation, including with indigenous groups and communities, the new framework describes how the agency will address four strategic priorities, including the history of indigenous peoples and diversity.
The history of indigenous peoples includes the whole of indigenous experiences since time immemorial, such as indigenous histories, indigenous connections to the land and the complexity and diversity of indigenous cultures, as well as the legacy of colonialism and its impact on indigenous peoples. The commemoration of residential school sites, as well as the history and far-reaching legacy and impact of residential schools on generations of indigenous peoples, is integral to this effort.
By way of context, I would remind members that the designation of persons, events and places of national historic significance is based almost entirely on nominations from the public. Anyone and everyone can make a recommendation for designation.
Individuals or organizations may submit nominations to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which in turn makes recommendations for designation to the minister. The board is supported in this work by Parks Canada, which provides professional and administrative services, including the historical and archaeological research needed to enable proper evaluation of nominations.
In September 2020, following its nomination by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the Government of Canada designated the residential school system, a tragic and defining event in Canadian history, as an event of national historic significance. Coinciding with this designation, two former residential schools were designated as national historic sites: the former Portage La Prairie Indian Residential School in Manitoba and the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia.
The process leading to these designations exemplifies the Government of Canada’s commitment to working with indigenous peoples and communities to share the experiences of indigenous children in these schools to ensure that this history is never forgotten.
The former Portage La Prairie residential school is located on the reserve lands of the Long Plain First Nation. It was nominated for designation by the first nation. Following the nomination, Parks Canada and the Long Plain First Nation worked collaboratively to identify the historic values of this former residential school and co-authored the report submitted to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
The designation of the site of the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School followed a similar collaborative process. The site was nominated by the Tripartite Culture and Heritage Working Committee of the Mi'kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum. Parks Canada and the committee collaborated in identifying the historic values of the former school and co-authored the submission to the board.
Since these initial designations, Parks Canada has also worked with the Muskowekwan First Nation for the designation of the former Muscowequan Indian Residential School in Lestock, Saskatchewan, and with the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association for the designation of the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Parks Canada continues to collaborate with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its network of residential school survivors, with indigenous cultural heritage advisers, with federal colleagues and with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to consider other former schools for designation and determine the most appropriate ways to commemorate the history and legacy of the residential school system in Canada.
With these recent residential school site designations in mind, let us pause to reflect on the importance of non-federal owners of national historic sites for the overall system. Not all national historic sites are owned by the Government of Canada. In fact, the vast majority of national historic sites are owned by other governments, not-for-profit organizations and individual private property owners.
Under Bill , all existing national historic site designations would be retained, no matter who owns the site. The cultural heritage conservation programming, such as the national cost-share program offered by Parks Canada to non-federal owners of national historic sites, would continue to be available.
National historic site designations reflect 100 years of work by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in collaboration with the public. Bill builds on this century of work. It would maintain the essential role played by the public in proposing new designations. It would respect the board but with expanded membership. Let me also point out that there are no plans to change the names of these iconic national historic sites, which are, I stress, located in communities across Canada.
In addition to recommending new designations, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada also has a mandate to review designations that have been made in the past. This is necessary to ensure they reflect present-day knowledge and scholarship.
We have seen a number of examples of national historic persons whose legacies are now controversial because they are known to have held racist or anti-Semitic views or to have proposed and carried out colonial policies and actions against indigenous peoples. I hope we can all recognize in today’s thinking that certain designations are outdated, such as the discovery of the Mackenzie River, the discovery of Prince Edward Island and designations of fur trade posts without acknowledging the original peoples with whom these places of commerce conducted their trade, as we see at Fort Langley National Historic Site.
As part of the implementation of its new framework for history and commemoration, Parks Canada is collaborating with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and other partners to review designations of national historic sites, persons and events made by the Government of Canada since 1919. The review includes examining the content that appears on the bronze plaques associated with these designations and installed as part of the commemorative process.
I am certain all members will agree that indigenous voices must be an integral part of this review, as well as in consideration of future nominations for designation. Bill would address this important consideration by expanding the current membership of the board to include representation by first nations, Inuit and Métis as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These representatives would be appointed by the Governor in Council following consultations with indigenous groups.
I would remind the House that this change is consistent with Bill , my former private member's bill. Many will recall that this was passed unanimously by the House of Commons in 2018, but subsequently died in the Senate. In fact, the bill before us would strengthen that initiative by requiring that the work of the board be informed by indigenous knowledge, and that indigenous knowledge be considered on an equal footing with other sources of information.
Indigenous peoples continue to suffer the impacts of colonialism while slowly healing from the legacy of the residential schools system. The time is now to proceed with this bill. It would help to ensure nationally significant historic persons, places and events would be truly representative of Canada’s history and meaningful for all Canadians, including indigenous peoples, youth and members of diverse groups across the country.
In 2019, the Environics Institute’s “Canadian Youth Reconciliation Barometer” found that 89% of indigenous youth and 87% of non-indigenous youth thought it was important “for all non-Indigenous Canadians to understand the true history of how Indigenous Peoples have been treated by governments and society in this country.” Bill would help make this vision a reality. We are committed to presenting our history in a manner that is both representative and meaningful.
We are also committed to ensuring that the historic places that inform and inspire us today are preserved for generations to come. This is history that we can see and touch. Historic places help to tell the stories of Canada while delivering social, economic and environmental benefits to communities of all sizes in every province and territory. Indeed, national historic sites administered by Parks Canada alone contribute over $600 million a year to Canada’s GDP. Directly and indirectly, they support more than 6,000 jobs across the country, including in rural, remote and indigenous communities.
It would probably come as no surprise to many Canadians that the vast majority of the more than 300 federally owned historic places, including the Parliament buildings, have no legal protection. Canada is the only country in the G7 without comprehensive legislation for the protection of historic places. The federal government is also behind the provinces and territories in this area, all of which have heritage legislation in place to protect and conserve historic places under their respective jurisdictions.
In the federal realm, this has been pointed out by sources ranging from the Auditor General to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, which is a committee that I was part of in the 42nd Parliament and that studied this issue for the first time. There is no coherent framework for the protection of heritage assets entrusted to the care of the Government of Canada. Instead, they are protected or not protected through a range of legal and policy obligations adopted over the years.
As a result, current federal heritage designations do not necessarily lead to protection nor conservation unless the site is also designated as a heritage railway station or a heritage lighthouse. Both of these have specific protection under separate legislation arising from private members' bills. Heritage railway stations and heritage lighthouses are the only federal designations that automatically include legal protection. Rectifying this situation is essential and urgent.
In its 2017 report, “Preserving Canada’s Heritage”, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development noted that many of our heritage places are disappearing or are under threat. It issued a stark warning: Once the heritage value of a historic place is lost, the damage cannot be undone. It is lost forever.
The Auditor General echoed these concerns. In the fall 2018 report, “Conserving Federal Heritage Properties”, the Auditor General noted the deterioration of a number of federal heritage buildings. Just as concerning is that it found the custodians of these historic places, which were the federal authorities that own these buildings, had incomplete and inaccurate information about their holdings.
Complete and current information matters. It allows Canadians and parliamentarians to fully appreciate, understand and discuss the condition of heritage properties, as well as the potential consequences of not conserving them.
While the organizations that were audited, including Parks Canada, have undertaken to address the issues identified by the Auditor General, it is clear that a more comprehensive legislative approach to protect and conserve these irreplaceable places is needed. That is what Bill would provide transparently and sustainably. In direct response to the recommendations of the Auditor General, it would introduce a legal obligation for Parks Canada to establish and maintain a public register listing all previous and new designations made by the .
To further enhance transparency, departments would be required to report the condition of historic places for which they are responsible. This type of disclosure would provide an incentive for departments to be proactive in maintaining the heritage value of historic places under their care. There would be clear direction to departments on how to carry out modifications to historic places properly and in a financially responsible manner while respecting greening and accessibility requirements.
The bill would provide a common and mandatory benchmark of respected, flexible and sustainable guidance on these matters. There would also be a requirement for departments to consult with Parks Canada specialists prior to making any changes to a historic place that could impact its heritage value.
This would be Canada’s first act dedicated to the designation and protection of federally owned historic places. It would result in transparent decision-making, the sharing of accurate and meaningful information with Canadians and parliamentarians, and the sustainable protection of federally owned historic places.
Bill would be inclusive. In addition to the new representatives for indigenous peoples, Bill C-23 would provide clear authority and direction to revise and, when needed, to revoke designations that no longer reflect current understandings of the complexity of Canadian history.
Bill is the product of extensive engagement and input from indigenous partners and groups; federal departments; representatives of the provinces, territories and municipalities; and other key stakeholders, including national heritage organizations.
The bill would represent concrete action for reconciliation. It would reflect the Government of Canada’s commitment to identify, protect and conserve historic places in Canada through collaboration and engagement with indigenous partners; provincial, territorial and municipal governments; and heritage stakeholders.
If adopted, it would replace the current incomplete legislation and policies with a strong legislative framework to help guide the management of treasured places across Canada, and it would ensure they can be enjoyed for generations to come.
I can personally speak to the operational and management challenges of overseeing contiguous national historic sites, such as Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse, which were designated under different federal acts. Both sites occasionally experience vandalism.
In the case of Fort Rodd Hill, Parks Canada’s law enforcement service could enforce the legislation, while at the adjacent Fisgard Lighthouse, the local police of jurisdiction needed to be called. Imagine the challenges and frustrations I and my colleagues experienced while awaiting the arrival of the local police to deal with pot diggers who were ruining ancient indigenous resources.
These local law enforcement agencies were often dealing with other municipal policing priorities. This left me, as a manager, knowing that I was entrusted by Canadians to ensure the protection of these resources, but powerless and without the tools to offer these protections. These types of legal and administrative roadblocks would be addressed through Bill .
I offer that Bill would not address the issues faced by national historic sites not owned by the federal government, but this legislation would be an important step and a significant step forward in ensuring that federally owned national historic sites are protected. This would be an important first step to ensure that Canada could meet its international obligations to safeguard our heritage.
Future work must consider whether the current national cost-share program is the primary level of support for privately owned and federally designated sites and if this enough. However, that is a debate for another day. Together, we can give our past a future and ensure the stewardship of historic places in Canada, inclusively, transparently and sustainably. I urge all members to join me today in supporting this bill.
Madam Speaker, as always, it is an honour to be able to enter into debate and discussion regarding the important matters facing Canadians and to participate in the debate on Bill , the historic places of Canada act.
Many Canadians would consider our national parks and our national historic sites to be truly jewels of our country. When we speak to folks from around the world, often when they are asked what comes to mind when they think of Canada, there are many things, from freedom to our history. However, certainly associated in those first few remarks, I have so often heard the conversation go to things like our national parks, some of our national historic sites and even the green roofs of our Parliament buildings, although they are not necessarily so green, given that they were replaced more recently and the copper housing has not quite gotten there yet.
So often, it is about the history, the places, the events, the locations, the buildings and the monuments, whether that be a monument that has been built to remember something or one of those more intangible monuments, which I will get into closer to the end of my speech. There are many examples that exist across my constituency of those monuments that speak to our nation's history.
As we enter into the specifics of what Bill is about, it updates and modifies the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to ensure that something very important happens. That is to fulfill call to action 79 in the truth and reconciliation report, to include indigenous representation in the national historic sites conversation, not just the board itself, but more importantly the entire conversation surrounding what this means.
We have heard references to this already this morning and, I am sure, we will over the course of the debate. I am hopeful, as this bill works its way through Parliament, that there is going to be a whole host of conversations that include the broad width of what Canadian history is. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly, to ensure that we have those honest conversations.
It is not about erasing history. I want to make that very clear. It is not about erasing parts of our past. It is not even about tearing down statues. It is about ensuring that we have a holistic and realistic conversation about what our history is.
We see numerous examples of where we have things in our country's past, both post-Confederation and pre-Confederation, where there is a lot that we can be very proud of as Canadians. Then there are things that we should pause and reflect on, serious mistakes that have been made. My hope is, as we talk about the conversation around national monuments, around historic places and the designations, specifically when it comes to those owned by the federal government, as is set out in the bill, that we can have that realistic and holistic conversation about what that looks like.
When it gets into some of the specifics of what this bill is about, I would emphasize that we have to get it right. One of the concerns, certainly, that I have highlighted before in this place, and one that I suspect will be expanded on in further debate, is that this bill would give expansive powers to the executive branch of government, specifically the minister. I hope members will forgive me for being a little hesitant to grant powers, and wide-reaching and expansive powers, to the minister, in this case the , who has not necessarily demonstrated that he can be trusted to ensure that those powers will be respect over the course of his mandate.
The reason I bring this up, as it is very important and I hope the members opposite will note this importance, is that we live in a democracy. The reality of a democracy is that, when a bill is passed, it not only applies to the current government, but it also applies to how future governments operate.
My encouragement to the members opposite would be, as we look through some of the dynamics associated with the quite broad powers that are not clearly defined in this bill, and as we look to amendments to the bill at committee, to make sure we tighten those up and we get it right. We need to do what is required so that we get the reconciliation question right. We need to ensure that, when it comes to the powers, if any, granted to the executive branch of government, there are the appropriate limitations on that power.
I will pose a question somewhat rhetorically at this point, although I am sure it will be asked more specifically as the debate goes on. I hope it is not a long time until there is a Conservative government that sits on the government side of this place. My encouragement to Liberal members would be make sure that, when they grant far-reaching powers to a minister of the Crown without appropriate safeguards and checks on that power, to acknowledge that one day they will not be in power. One day there will be a minister in power whom they may have ideological, political and other disagreements with.
As we look at the powers we are granting to a minister of the Crown, the executive branch of government, we need to ensure that we get it right and that there are appropriate safeguards. As was brought up in a question earlier, we need to look at the fact that there are broad-sweeping powers in terms of search, seizure and sale. This is specifically limited to, as outlined in the bill currently, the areas that are owned by the federal government in terms of national parks and historic places. However, it gets very grey as we have hundreds of thousands of Canadians who live in national parks over the breadth of our country.
Further, there is the possibility that, without our getting those definitions and frameworks absolutely correct, we could see these powers expanded. The last thing we want to do in this place is to erode the rights and freedoms of Canadians. Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of trust that the government will ensure those powers are only exercised in a manner that respects Canadians.
I would like to highlight something when it comes to enforcement. Enforcement, of course, is the other side of powers being given. There has to be an enforcement mechanism. Specifically, we are seeing, in this bill, that park wardens and the associated administration structures within parks, like game wardens, local police or whomever, could have significant authority to enforce aspects of this act.
I would specifically note one element that is somewhat problematic. I bring this up because the has shown an ideologically driven force to reshape the economy of Canada. The last thing I would want in a bill related to an important issue, like reconciliation, would be for Canada's national parks and historic sites to all of a sudden become a pawn to the whims of an activist who holds an office.
The reason I bring that up is that the made it very clear in his political life, before and after being elected, that he is very intent on reshaping a significant aspect of Canada's economy, which is specifically shutting down oil and gas. This bill has specific mechanisms that would give the minister wide-sweeping powers related to navigable waters and to the ability for mooring to take place.
I would urge caution, and I think I have made it very clear that I do not have a lot of trust in the . However, I would encourage members opposite to look in the mirror and ask whether they would trust a government with a different political persuasion with those powers.
I believe that would provide the context required to ensure that we narrow the scope and get the definitions right to ensure that when this bill comes out of committee, hopefully the appropriate context would be given when any new powers are offered. The Conservatives will certainly be hard at work being collaborative in every way possible to get those definitions and guardrails right.
As we debate the context surrounding this, I could not help but think, as I was planning my speech, that there are a few important aspects that I would like to bring closer to home, if the Speaker will indulge me.
It has been interesting. I would suggest that we do not always do a great job of teaching Canadian history and the full breadth of what that history is. I am most of the way through a book called “The Cowboy Cavalry: The Story of the Rocky Mountain Rangers”. Colter Wall is the son of a friend of mine, a friend who, I will note, recently had his portrait hung up in the Saskatchewan legislation. He is former premier Brad Wall, a great Canadian patriot and leader in the province of Saskatchewan. His son, Colter Wall, is a country and western singer who published a song a couple of years ago about the Rocky Mountain Rangers.
As westerns have re-emerged in popularity in Hollywood, it is incredible, as we look through much of our nation's history, specifically that of the Prairies, that we have so much rich history. Not all of it is positive, but there are so many stories about the lives of people. I think of John Ware, the Black cowboy. I ask members to imagine the context of a Black cowboy 140 years ago in the Prairies, when he would have been likely one of the only people of colour in those communities. There are the the stories, and in some cases the legends, and there have been some incredible legends about the story of John Ware in our western heritage.
I think about the Neutral Hills, which are just north in my own constituency. In fact, I can see it from my deck, and they have significant indigenous history. This is neither a federally owned historic site, nor a national park, and it is something that most folks in this place have probably never even heard of. However, according to legend, Neutral Hills is a place where many indigenous tribes, when they were warring about different hunting grounds and whatnot, listened to the great spirit Manitou, and from the infinite wisdom they heard, they acknowledged that there needed to be a place of peace, so about six or eight miles north of where I live there is what is referred to as the Neutral Hills. It is a beautiful Prairie landscape where we can still find teepee rooms and burial sites. If we look hard enough we can find arrowheads and other pieces of our indigenous history there, but that is the richness that exists.
If we drive across the Prairies and take some back roads we will see cairns that mark some indigenous settlements past of our nation's history. In many cases, we cannot even find any further details on the Internet, other than that brass plaque and concrete cairn.
I think of the legend of Blood Indian Creek. When the band of the Saulteaux first nation had come west from the Lake of the Woods in about 1840, and there was a raiding party of Blackfeet. Some wars and battles followed, and they came to what is now a municipal park, Blood Indian Park.
Some significant history and some indigenous history and wars that played a significant role in forming our nation's history are significantly impacted.
We can think about some of the settlers and explorers that we often hear about. For example, there is Anthony Henday. We have so much of that rich history, with many elements of what that looks like and how formative it was. Now, I am speaking from the expertise of a westerner, and my colleague from the Liberal Party who spoke earlier referenced his expertise in the Lower Mainland.
I have visited the Fort Langley National Historic Site and saw some of the incredible history that is remembered there, and there are other places in the country as well. There are highways now named after Anthony Henday, but few Canadians know about the expedition that took place and the stories associated with his role in the Hudson Bay Company.
There was the Palliser expedition, and I have mentioned that I live in the north part of Palliser's triangle. There was an expedition to see, as the buffalo population declined on the plains, that it was prepared for settlement. There is a complicated history associated with that, and we see the impacts of aspects of that history there today.
I would further acknowledge the Viking rib stones, which has a sign on the side of the highway that most people in my constituency drive by, probably not paying too much attention. Interestingly, it has become an important local place for the advancement of reconciliation.
Also, the Royal Alberta Museum worked very hard to bring back the Iron Creek meteorite. It is a meteorite made of iron that sits on top of a hill, which has historical and spiritual significance for local indigenous peoples. It is called “Manitou Asinîy”.
I also represent the Drumheller Valley, and we have a national historic site there in the Atlas Coal Mine, as well as other indigenous history. I have spoken with those who have had tremendous success in highlighting some of those things, many of which are not places on a map necessarily. They are not defined as something that would be as well known as a fort location or a national park. However, there are significant historic places and events that have shaped our nation's history.
If I were to canvas this place on Drumheller, they would think of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Joseph Burr Tyrrell's namesake, as well as the discovery of many dinosaurs. However, although Drumheller is often associated with ancient and prehistoric history, it is also full of indigenous history. For example, many folks who have driven on the highway through central Alberta would likely have stopped to see the hoodoos, and there is indigenous significance associated with them.
To conclude, we have to get these things right with Bill , which is the reason I highlighted some of the local, historically significant things I am proud to represent. I would also mention Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park as another example of some of that rich indigenous history. The conversation around history is so very important, which is why I implore every member of the House to get it right. The legislation before us could not only have an impact on historic sites in this country and the ability for reconciliation to go forward, but also set a precedent in the possibility of wide-sweeping powers.
I encourage all members of this place work diligently to make sure that we strike the right balance, pursue that path of reconciliation, and have the honest conversations about Canadian history that are so very essential to ensure that we do not forget about the past and the lessons that were learned and that we can continue building a country we can be proud of.