Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to my constituents in Steveston—Richmond East, British Columbia, for having placed their trust in me by electing me as their representative in Parliament. I also want to thank my colleague from Dufferin—Caledon for sharing his time with me. I am honoured to serve my constituents in this Parliament.
I am here today to debate Bill C-6, an act to implement a change in the oath of citizenship in response to recommendation 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is an amendment to the Citizenship Act to include the promise to respect the treaty rights of first nation, Inuit and Métis people.
I found there is no logic in placing support behind this bill when it is so glaringly exclusionary of the many Métis, Inuit and B.C. first nations who are not under treaty rights. They do not have effective treaties in their respective areas. What purpose would the proposed changes serve for these individuals?
Our nation is a nation of immigrants who stand on the traditional territories of, and shoulder to shoulder with, first nations, Inuit and Métis people. Canada is one of the few countries in the world where indigenous rights and treaty rights are entrenched in our Constitution.
I believe that educating Canadians about these rights is an important part of the path to reconciliation. However, this education is already in effect. New citizens, having completed their residency requirements and having studied the handbook of history, responsibility and obligations, are expected to be aware of the rights entrenched within the Constitution. This gives them at least a general view of the spectrum of resolved and unresolved treaty rights in different parts of the country. In doing so, they develop respect for what is among Canada's existing body of laws and can appreciate the need to fulfill the remaining unfulfilled treaty obligations within the process of reconciliation.
Apparently the Liberal government believes Canadians to be so unsophisticated that they would find this task accomplished merely by adding 19 words in the oath of citizenship.
Over 30 years ago I came to Canada as an immigrant. I have taken the oath of citizenship to our great country. Other members in this House have done the same. I will now read the oath, which has stood unchanged since 1977. It states, “I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
The oath is simple. It represents the final step of the journey from initial entry to planting roots and eventually becoming a Canadian family member and citizen. The oath of citizenship need not be and should not be complicated, nor a thorough examination of the rights and obligations of what it is to be a Canadian. It is merely an affirmation of loyalty to the Queen of Canada, who is the head of state of our constitutional monarchy, and it is an affirmation to obey our laws and obligations as a Canadian.
Let me reiterate: The existing oath of citizenship already includes the promise of citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada. These laws include the Constitution, and the Constitution recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people. To accept the proposed legislation is therefore unnecessarily redundant.
Therefore, I ask again: What is the purpose of this bill? As I have mentioned, along the way of becoming a citizen, a new immigrant must read materials relating to the origins of Canada, including materials relating to Canadian indigenous peoples. I believe Canada's indigenous peoples would be better served by emphasizing recommendation 93 and not 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action, thus strengthening this education.
I will now read out recommendation 93 of the TRC report:
We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.
My alternative to Bill C-6 is just this. Implementing recommendation 93 would go further to educating new Canadians about our history with first nations and the obligations the Crown has to them. Such content can also discuss part 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 35, which states, “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”
It is because of the lack of forethought by the Liberal government that my initial reaction to this legislation was the same as when the government introduced it shortly before the election as Bill C-99, a mere three weeks before Parliament was to end.
That reaction was that this was yet another virtual signal by the Liberal government to talk big but not deliver. The bill is a half-hearted effort by the Liberals to distract from something real. The Prime Minister has recently fumbled a crisis of his own making and is desperate to take attention away from his own failings when it comes to Canada's indigenous.
Instead of empowering indigenous communities to act in their economic interests with Canada's vast natural resources, he waited until it was too late to respond, effectively siding with those who would keep our first nations impoverished to suit their own agenda.
Instead of getting on with the program and allowing the Coastal GasLink pipeline to proceed with construction, a pipeline that has signed agreements with all the elected band councils along the planned route, the Prime Minister instead spent significant time actively promoting the obstruction.
Like Albertans, our first nations people want to work. They want to do what is best for their generation and their future generations, and they both have had opportunities denied under the Prime Minister.
Instead of creating jobs, jobs have been lost. Because of indecisiveness on the blockades, Canada has lost the opportunity and the economic advantages provided by the Teck Frontier oil sands mine. This is not good for our country or those in the indigenous communities who actively want to see construction on resource projects proceed. Nor is it good for Canada.
Canada has a long and complicated relationship with its indigenous peoples. I readily agree that further steps are necessary to strengthen our relationship. Changing the oath of citizenship does not accomplish this task.
The leadership of the government has promised so many more sunny ways than it has delivered in any substantial form. Canadians deserve better than another empty promise made by politicians wishing to cater sympathetic favour and reduce proud citizens of this nation to tokens cynically used to curry political favour.
Bill C-6 is another example of more Liberal false and, dare I say, empty compassion, something of which I believe Canadians are getting very tired.
As a Conservative member of Parliament, I stand for the improvement of Canada. My party stands for the improvement of Canada. We represent the many Canadians who want better than a government that consistently fails in its mandate by changing the rules and not providing urgent or transparent actions to address the concerns of Canadians.
Simply put, the Liberal government does not act in the interests of making life for Canadians better. It merely pretends to do so.
In these last few weeks, the Prime Minister has been absent and indecisive as Canada has faced a unity crisis in dealing with the blockades. No matter the gravity of the issue facing Canada or the concerns of its indigenous inhabitants, the House has been served an appealing word salad in his responses. Similarly, the bill is but another response devoid of any substance.
I would like to know when the Liberal government will begin to take action to help Canadian indigenous peoples beyond its typical tokenism and pandering.