Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House and express our party's support for the Bloc opposition day motion before us today.
The motion asks for the House to issue an official apology to the people whose properties were expropriated to create Forillon Park for the unconscionable manner in which they were treated. As well, it asks that the Speaker of the House send their representatives and descendants an official copy of the Journals of the House of Commons indicating the adoption of this motion.
Given the speeches here today, it is clear of what happened to the people who used to live where Forillon Park is today. They went through a very traumatic event. It was truly a tragedy. It is unconscionable that the people in the communities that were impacted were not consulted, their views were not heard and their wishes regarding their land were not respected, the land being one of the most fundamental connections to their roots. Unfortunately, this is a pattern we have seen time and time again in Canadian history, a history marred by forced relocations, a failure to consult and work with people and communities and to listen to what they have to say regarding how they want to live and contribute to their communities and to our country.
It is critical for me to support this motion, not just because of what the people in the region of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine have gone through, but also what it means in terms of setting a precedent for other peoples who have been forcibly relocated, as well as others whose voices have been silenced by the present government and preceding governments, such as Liberal governments of the past.
I have the honour of representing Churchill riding in northern Manitoba. Northern Manitoba has a very tragic history regarding the federal government's treatment of First Nations people. Unfortunately, there is also a history of forced relocations as well as relocations which, in many ways, while not said to be forced, if we look at the patterns that had taken place was in fact forced.
While some of that history has been recognized, there still remains a denial for other historical claims put forth by people who had been most adversely affected. One of those peoples are the Sayisi Dene who today live in Tadoule Lake, which is one of the most northern communities in the constituency I represent. It close to the border of north of 60.
Tadoule Lake is a Dene community and the people have shared their stories with Canada for some decades now. They spoke of a forced relocation from a nomadic lifestyle in northern Manitoba where they followed the caribou herds and lived and thrived off the land. Because of a decision made by officials of the Government of Canada, a decision that was approved by the political leaders of the day, the Dene people were forced into some of the most egregious living conditions in what is Churchill today. They were forced into a life of poverty and a life to which they were not accustomed. They had depended on the hunting and trapping seasons and being able to move and fend for themselves. Those patterns were crushed by the Government of Canada when it refused to listen to the cries for help from the Sayisi Dene people. Even when the lifestyle in which they were forced brought about alcoholism, drug addiction and the kinds of abuse that many Canadians cannot even imagine, they still were not heard. It took decades for them to fight for access to reserve land on which they could relocate to, which is now called Tadoule Lake.
The Sayisi Dene people of Tadoule Lake have said that they want true recognition from the Government of Canada when it comes to the tragedy that they faced. It was a tragedy in whose path they still live with some of the highest suicide rates and addiction rates and a real sense of trauma exacerbated by the fact that the Government of Canada is continuing to fail to recognize their wishes, which is not just an apology but also compensation for what they have lost.
When we look at monetary figures, it is impossible to put down in numbers the cost of the lives that have been lost, the cost of the futures that have been lost and the continued impact on future generations. However, the Sayisi Dene people have said that this relocation needs to be recognized, and not just in terms of monetary compensation, but a commitment to healing on behalf of the Government of Canada.
Still, in the year 2011, they have been denied that wish. There have been movements on the part of the government that have been seen as very positive from the community but the continued failure to deal with the relocation and bring closure to the community's wishes is something we are still waiting for.
We do not need to keep living with this kind of history. We need to respect the wishes of the people who have gone through this trauma. It is not the government, it is the people on the ground, the communities that make up our country. That is why we should be looking at today's motion and supporting it unanimously. We should be listening to the wishes of the people whose history and wishes has been ignored.
I find it interesting that the motion asks for something as fundamental as an apology from the House. It certainly speaks to a recognition that we all ought to have regarding this issue. It is also very much in line with Canada's increased consideration of the method of apologizing as a way of moving forward.
One of the moments I will never forget in my life was the historic apology made toward residential school survivors by the Government of Canada and supported by the House. It was an honour to share in that moment with so many survivors in my home community of Thompson, Manitoba. It was powerful to hear the government, the House of Commons, apologize to people whose lives were so negatively impacted and whose lives were destroyed during of a shameful part of our history.
However, in that moment of apology, people saw hope that would allow them to move forward, to heal and to work with communities and say, “They have heard us and they know what this has meant to us. Now we can begin to move forward”.
In light of that apology, there was also hope that we would not stop there, that we would continue in the spirit of that apology and move forward with tangible pieces that would contribute to the well-being of survivors and their communities. I believe that a critical consideration for us as members of Parliament and representatives of the Canadian people is to hear those voices.
In the context of our debate here today, we in the NDP hope that the wishes of the people of the Gaspé region, with which many of us across Canada re familiar , will be heard, and not just today in this House but that moving forward, they, their families and the people who will come later will know that we care and that we are sorry for what was done to them.