Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this House to speak and to represent the people of Fredericton.
Today we debate Bill C-6, a bill to amend the citizenship oath. I wish to provide context for my words today with some of my background. Before being elected in this House, I was a teacher and an advocate for indigenous youth in our public schools. I worked to remove barriers in the New Brunswick education system for indigenous children. I worked to educate the broader population on the true history of Canada and the implications for ignoring it. I remember learning about residential schools on my own time and not as part of my formal education. It took two years to comb through testimonials, letters, documents and photo evidence. It was a roller coaster of emotions as I confronted my identity as a non-indigenous person, and my role and responsibility in repairing the damage that had been done. Understanding that responsibility led to my passion for teaching and it led me into this House where I stand today.
The 94 calls to action that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada were designed to be a road map to reconciliation, covering a variety of aspects of life, including business, education, health, youth, women, justice and more. Canadians might be asking where this road has gotten us, and how many calls to action have been completed. In the Prime Minister's words, he made a commitment, in partnership with indigenous communities, the provinces, territories and other vital partners, to fully implement the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That was in 2015.
CBC's Ian Mosby has been tracking the TRC's progress. He commented, “One thing that the calls to action that have been completed have in common, is that they are very simple to complete, or they are calls for things that were already happening to continue.”
Dr. Cindy Blackstock said, “In 2020, it is time to stop feeding the government’s insatiable appetite to be thanked for its inadequate measures and to demand a complete end to the inequality”.
Particularly poignant are the observations of the Yellowhead Institute on assessing progress. It writes:
We have also operated from the assumption that completing any particular Call to Action cannot be solely determined by gestures of process, budgetary promises, or otherwise “recognition of concerns” on the part of Crown-Indigenous Relations (CIR). Rather, we have judged their status based on whether or not specific actions have been taken that are capable of producing the kinds of clear, meaningful, structural changes necessary to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples throughout Canada.
Let us review the scorecard. Out of the 52 broader reconciliation recommendations, seven have been completed; under justice, one out of 18; language and culture, one out of five; health, zero; education, zero; child welfare, zero. Five were completed in the first year, and just four since 2016. At the current rate, it will take approximately 38 more years before all of the calls to action are implemented. We will see reconciliation in the year 2057, just in time for zero emissions.
In the 2019 mandate letters, the Prime Minister reiterated, “No relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous People”. I think it is time to call in the marriage counsellor. Take, for example, Canada's ongoing legal challenges to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's September 2019 ruling that “the Federal government was wilfully and recklessly discriminating against First Nation children in ways that contributed to child deaths and a multitude of unnecessary family separations.” For a government so concerned with appearances, this does not look good.
With no reminder needed, let us look to the current and ongoing Wet'suwet'en crisis in Canada, testing the Prime Minister and his government's commitment to this mandate of reconciliation, as well as the public interest. This could have been a slam dunk, setting the tone for positive, peaceful relationships for years to come. However, due to what I believe to be a catastrophic mishandling of the situation, we are seeing effects like the explicit, overt racism breeding in online comment sections and spilling into the streets and schoolyards.
This is the true barrier to the calls to action, to reconciliation and to the hope of a better tomorrow for indigenous peoples in Canada. We have heard a lot of rhetoric over the last couple of weeks. We had the opposition leader attempt to educate us on privilege. Mind you, he is a white, affluent man who was standing in front of the grand doors of the House of Commons. He should know privilege well, yet somehow he missed the mark.
We have heard a lot of platitudes, punch lines and patriarchy. We have heard promises made and, three days later, promises broken as well as a gross overstating of the role of dialogue.
The exhaustive TRC, the previous Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry were the hard work of dialogue and set a course of action for Canada to take. Dialogue is a conversation among parties, but Canada does not seem to be listening.
In closing, I will change my tone. I will of course support this effort to fulfill one of the 94 recommendations, but I wish to note the timing of this effort as well as question the actual impact in today's Canadian political climate.
Things have changed. We have failed in the bridge building, in the healing that is required of this work, which is embedded in each of the 94 recommendations. Today we address one call to action, the 94th, with 84 incomplete before it. We will potentially move this request to committee stage and in time perhaps we will see our newcomers repeat an oath that acknowledges something the majority of settler Canadians have not.
Having said all this, this change will have a positive impact on the immigration experience in Canada, despite falling flat as a call to action for indigenous peoples so long after it was originally recorded.