[Member spoke in Cree as follows:]
[Cree text translated as follows:]
Mr. Speaker, to all my relations, I say hello. I am very proud to be here.
I am Robert Gauthier. I am from Red Pheasant First Nation.
Mr. Speaker, I am from Red Pheasant First Nation, which is a Cree community in Saskatchewan, and I am very proud of that.
I remember when I first rose in the House on December 8, 2015, for my maiden speech. I talked about child and family services because it was such an important issue to the people of Manitoba and especially the people of Winnipeg Centre. They were so upset with what was occurring in our province and in our city.
Imagine if 90,000 children in Quebec or 130,000 children in Ontario had been placed in foster care. There would have been an uprising and rioting in the streets. It would have been a huge deal if it had happened in other provinces.
This bill is perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation that I believe we are going to pass, not only because it is about children and the best interests of children but also because it is about jurisdiction and giving indigenous communities control. It is important for a number of reasons. One is repairing our colonial past of residential schools, when we took away children and forcibly assimilated them into the Canadian body politic, and when we took away their languages.
I said in my maiden speech, “I think of our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, God bless his soul, who imprisoned indigenous peoples, stole our children, and stole our languages.” I was talking about the history of this nation. That history of residential schools continued on into the 1960s, when instead of placing kids in large institutions around the country far from major urban centres, we placed them in adoption centres and sent them around the world. I meet young men and women my age who have come home to Canada who were adopted out into France or the United States. This was often called the sixties scoop.
We still have foster families today, and in Manitoba there are 11,000 kids in care, which is where the number of 90,000 comes from. If we had the same number of kids in care today as there are in Manitoba, per capita there would be 90,000 in Quebec and 130,000 in Ontario.
The child welfare system has a significant impact on real people. For example, let us look at Dwayne Gladu, who is from my riding, and his daughter Lisa.
Dwayne was placed in a foster family as a child. So was his daughter, but his daughter was placed in a foster family because her father had a mark in his file that said that he had been in foster care, which meant that he was not going to be a good parent. He was indigenous, so he was going to have problems, even though Dwayne is a man who follows what we call the “red road”. He is a good man, whom I have met many times on the powwow trail. While he may be poor, by nature he is a very good and kind person.
Lisa, Dwayne's daughter, also had a birth alert against her, and when she gave birth only a few years ago, her child was seized immediately, without giving her the opportunity of proving that she would be a good parent. She fell into despair. She no longer had access to her child. She had to prove that she would be a good parent and take parenting classes when no one else had to do that. Her only crime was having been in a foster family herself.
In her despair, she became depressed. She fell in with the wrong crowd because she was poor and living in downtown Winnipeg. She started using drugs, and eventually she died from an overdose on the streets of Winnipeg.
Dwayne still goes to visit his grandson at every opportunity. Every week he is there with his grandson, enjoying their time together. He is trying to be a good grandfather and pass along his culture.
I think about Lisa because today is also when the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its report.
I am wearing a jacket that was given to me by the women of Winnipeg Centre. I am not sure if the cameras can come closer for a close-up of this jacket, but two women have been beaded onto the lapel. It was given to me to remind me why I am here. It is to remind me of Lisa, to never forget her name, to never forget her hopes and dreams and her desire to hold her child in her arms every day when she wakes up and to put that child to sleep. She never had that opportunity. It was taken from her by this system. That is what this legislation is supposed to change. That is what this legislation is about. That is why it is so important.
When I gave my maiden speech in this House, over 300,000 people viewed that speech by a backbencher on Facebook. That says that people were hungry for something different.
I am very proud of the work everyone on that committee did, whether it was the Conservatives, the NDP, or even the Green Party and the independents. They came together on the committee to study this legislation, because it will make a significant difference in the future. We will be able to look back at this moment in 30 or 40 years and say that this was perhaps the finest piece of legislation in this chamber. Even though it is coming at the end of this session, it does not reduce its importance or its significance.
There is also the question of jurisdiction. The Indian Act from 1876 granulated indigenous peoples and their nations into small component parts. It took what were large groupings of people from Treaty 1 territory, Treaty 3 territory and Treaty 7 territory, where hundreds of indigenous groups, tribes and nations were living in a communal way and coming together at certain times of the year, and granulated them down into these small communities that were isolated from each other. They had no agency in their lives. This is about allowing those indigenous nations to reform themselves and in one area have full supremacy. Their laws would take precedence over federal or provincial law. That is significant.
The member for Saint Boniface—Saint Vital is applauding right now, because he knows how important this is in Manitoba.
I recently spoke, in a few of the questions and comments periods, about how governments cannot legislate love. Governments can never legislate love. A government cannot love people. Sir John A. Macdonald and his ghost will never be able to love our children. People, Canadians, have to do that.
Another member in this debate said that our children are a resource. Unfortunately, yes, they are a resource in the sense that we receive funds to look after them. It is easier to pay someone else to look after the children than to help a family become successful and ensure that the children remain with their parents, where they have a connection to the culture and who they are and a connection to family members and those who love them most dearly. Maybe they are going to have an imperfect love, but it will be a strong love nonetheless.
I am very proud of the work that each and every one of us has done. I see the House leader. I do not mean to mention that she is here, but I hope that when we pass this legislation and it receives royal assent, it will be done in a way that includes a ceremony with the Governor General and that indigenous people will be included. Even though Parliament is supreme in its matters, its decisions and how it legislates, we can also decide to include others. It is very important to include the indigenous world view in this legislation and to make sure that the indigenous world view is paramount.
I am now ready for questions. I would like to thank each and every member. I am so proud of all the work we have done. I will be able to look my children in the eyes and look at myself in the mirror when I go to bed at night. No matter the outcome of this election, no matter who will be in office, members can rest assured that indigenous people and all Canadians will fight for proper financing, the administration of child welfare and allowing indigenous people to do it on their own without others telling them what to do.