Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.
I would just like to take the time to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Surrey Centre.
I stand here today to discuss the amendments to Canada's citizenship oath that our government is proposing. The citizenship oath is sworn by each and every immigrant as they become Canadian citizens. The oath defines the responsibilities, duties and loyalties that each of them acknowledges as a proud new Canadian.
How many new Canadians are aware that our country was built upon the mutual friendship, respect and obligations created by treaties? My ancestors, and others' ancestors, signed these treaties as a basis for shared understanding of how we could coexist. In Canada, that means that we are all treaty people, and we are all in this together.
In the famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.”
On Cape Breton Island, where I am from and whose communities I represent, immigration to Canada is not an abstract national statistic. It is fundamental for our future. My constituents rely on immigration for a strong local economy, which is facing the mounting twin pressures of an aging workforce and an exodus of young Cape Bretoners. Put simply, my riding needs immigration to thrive, to keep local businesses selling goods, to fill local businesses' workforces and to generate a tax base to fund local services. In fact, for every 1,000 new immigrant families choosing to settle in Cape Breton, our communities will directly generate 73 million dollars' worth of new expenditures. This is important money being spent in Cape Breton.
In 2019, Cape Breton University had the third highest number of international students among all universities in Atlantic Canada. When these students were polled, 88% of respondents were planning on applying for post-graduate work visas, and 35% of these respondents would like to open their own business in Cape Breton. These are new Canadians, drawn to Cape Breton, who want to continue to live, work and put down roots on our island. I welcome them.
I welcome new Canadians just as 400 years ago, on the south shores of Nova Scotia, our Mi'kmaq Grand Chief Henri Membertou welcomed French newcomers to Port Royal. Our grand chief took the French settlers under his wing and showed them how to survive and thrive in their new surroundings. Many other indigenous leaders across Canada created alliances with newcomers all across this great land we call Canada today.
It is important to create awareness of our shared history and how indigenous peoples helped shape our great country. Within the Canadian Constitution, we recognize three distinct groups: first nations, Inuit and Métis. Reconciliation with indigenous peoples remains a central priority for the government, and we will continue to move forward as a committed partner.
It is time to acknowledge the contributions that indigenous people have made in building a strong, inclusive Canada. It is time that we create awareness of our shared history in Canada, and the fact that our country was based on principles of harmony and co-existence, and that we are stronger when we work together.
The Truth and Reconciliation calls to action are important to guiding Canadians along the journey of reconciliation. With 94 calls to action in mind, we strive to create more awareness and a stronger, more united Canada.
This brings us to the changes that the government has proposed to the current wording of the oath of citizenship. With this bill, our government is addressing one of the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action that pertains to immigration, refugees and citizenship candidates' mandate.
Call to action number 94 calls on the Government of Canada to amend the oath of citizenship, to add reference to including treaties with indigenous peoples. Our consultations with national indigenous organizations clearly indicate that the phrase “treaties with indigenous peoples”, as recommended by the commission, can be expanded to be respectful and inclusive of all indigenous peoples.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has consulted with other government departments and national indigenous organizations on the wording of the oath of citizenship. Therefore, to address the commission's call to action, as well as commitments made in the 2019 Speech from the Throne, and the hon. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship's mandate letter, the bill would modify the wording of the oath of citizenship as follows:
I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
The revised text of the oath uses wording that recognizes a broad range of rights held by indigenous people. Any changes to the oath of citizenship require amendments to the Citizenship Act, and are subject to the parliamentary process.
As mentioned in the minister's mandate letter from the Prime Minister, the government is committed to completing legislative work on changes that reflect the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. A great deal of work has been done by the commission, from coast to coast to coast, with thousands of indigenous Canadians. The TRC calls to action are an important blueprint for reconciliation in Canada. This is the fundamental reason why we propose these changes today.
Let me close with these thoughts for my hon. colleagues to consider.
The histories of indigenous people in Canada are rich and diverse. Since time immemorial, meaning since before oral or written history, indigenous people have welcomed new Canadians. The story of Canada is the story of first nations, the story of Inuit and the story of Métis.
Indigenous people helped create the Canada we know and love today and will have an important part in the role of Canada in the future.
I would impress upon my hon. colleagues that we need to take this opportunity to both acknowledge our country's past and move toward a future of renewed relationships with indigenous people based on the TRC calls to action. The changes to the citizenship oath would be an important step in this pursuit.
Through this and other actions, all Canadians can continue to move forward together on this journey of reconciliation so we can leave a proper legacy for future generations.