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View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for her comments and for her personal passion for this legislation.
From what I understand, when the Senate replied to the bill, it made two additional notes, and I would appreciate the minister's comment on them. One was a concern that funding could still go to projects that did not have complete accessibility as part of them. It encouraged us and the government to be vigilant on this point. I wonder if the minister could comment on that. Is it something that should have been addressed in the legislation, or does it maybe require separate action? The other issue was the importance of training in preparation for the full implementation of and engagement with this framework.
I wonder if the minister could offer some comments on those points and on how the government can ensure that the concerns of the Senate in this respect are incorporated in our practices going forward.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I find the reaction and heckles by some members of the government very surprising. We know they do not like listening to opposition perspectives. We have seen multiple efforts by them to shut down debate on different issues. Yes, I am criticizing their failure to respond properly to proposals put forward by Conservative members and agreed to by members of other parties to strengthen the legislation.
Government members do not want to hear that perspective. They want this to be a day when we all agree on every detail. I said right at the beginning, very clearly, that we agree on the principle and that moving this legislation forward would be an improvement on the status quo. However, part of the purpose of the parliamentary conversation is to identify aspects of legislation that need to be improved.
The members across the way may not want to hear these criticisms. They may not want to hear about the fact that this legislation provides a possible exception, whereby a company like SNC-Lavalin might lobby the government for an exception. However, we need to talk about those things. We need to talk about how we strengthen this legislation and about some of the missed opportunities.
Members can be assured that this legislation will pass this session. However, these are criticisms that the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader would benefit from listening to rather than heckling. In any event, it is an important part of the argument we are making. The fact that this legislation does not “require” the minister, but only “invites” the minister to take certain action, and the fact of the exceptions that exist are issues that need to be identified and discussed.
There is also the issue of the administrative complexity that I was talking about before the point of order was raised, and the rejection of an amendment that would have designated CASDO as the only body to develop accessibility standards, and the rejection of another amendment that would have designated the accessibility commissioner as the one body to handle compliance with accessibility standards and the adjudication of complaints. The fact that these amendments were rejected increases the relative complexity that people will face when they are engaging with these issues in the legislation.
Part of our job as the opposition is to reflect the feedback we have heard from stakeholders and to say, yes, the government needs to do better. It can do better. It should have done better. We support this legislation going forward, but we are asking for more for Canadians with disabilities, to facilitate the realization of a full vision of shared community, one in which we go beyond the minimum and do as much as possible together.
We proposed amendments, as well, to ensure that the process for making complaints and reviews by the accessibility commissioner would be fair. We proposed amendments specifically to clauses 117 and 142 to say that this would not allow organizations to be exempted from producing and publishing accessibility plans, feedback processes and progress reports. We proposed amendments to include stronger provisions for reviewing the accessible Canada act and monitoring the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As well, one amendment that was adopted and showed up in the Senate version eventually concerned sign language. It is important to note that we are glad to see this adopted through a Senate amendment, but it had been proposed at the House level as well.
One particular concern we raised about the coming into force of this legislation is that if clause 207 were left in, it would lead, according to the Statutes Repeal Act, to the act being automatically repealed within 10 years of receiving royal assent. That was perhaps a technicality, but one with important consequences that we sought to address.
In the course of proposing 60 amendments at committee, the government only adopted three, and they were not of the substantive variety we had hoped for. They supported two amendments to make reviews fair and accessible, which were improvements, and one amendment to the preamble that changed “Canadians” to “persons in Canada”. Essentially, it was a fairly technical linguistic change in the preamble, which was an important change in language, but the substantive concerns about the legislation we had highlighted were not fully addressed.
The Senate committee study provided some important perspective, and on the issue of the structure of this legislation, I want to read from testimony at the standing committee that studied this bill, in particular the testimony of David Lepofsky, the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. He is a real champion on these issues. He has done extensive work representing and reflecting the concerns of the community. I want to identify what he said about this bill. He stated:
Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions, but palpably weak on implementation. It's called an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, but it does not require a single barrier anywhere in Canada, ever, to be removed.
I will read that again as it is fundamental to the criticisms that I and others have made. He stated:
It's called an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, but it does not require a single barrier anywhere in Canada, ever, to be removed. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.
Bill C-81, at its core and its heart, is driven by the commendable notion that the federal government will enact enforceable regulations called accessibility standards that will tell federally regulated organizations what they have got to do. But it doesn't require any federal accessibility standards to ever be enacted as enforceable regulations. People with disabilities need and deserve better.
Let me be clear: The regulations that the bill requires to be enacted within two years are on procedural things, not substantive accessibility standards. The federal government could meet that deadline merely by prescribing the forms that people with disabilities shall use if they want to give feedback to Air Canada or Bell Canada. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.
This legislation splinters its enforcement and the setting of enforceable regulations among multiple federal agencies. From the minister's defence of her practice, she conceded that if she was starting from scratch, that isn't necessarily how she would do it. But her explanation of why she did it gives triumphant ascendancy to federal bureaucracy over disability equality.
Now the question is: What do we do about it? The question is not: Are you going to pass this bill, senators? You're going to pass this bill, so let's take that off the table. We all know it. We all understand it. That's the starting point.
That was the starting point for my remarks as well. I said that the Conservatives are supporting this bill, but that there are issues. There are issues the community has raised, and in terms of how we see the issue, and with the substantive aspects of the provisions of this legislation. Our support and the community's support to pass this legislation is clear, but there are big gaps.
I will go back to the testimony, which states:
The question before this committee is: Are you going to amend it first? What we say is that you must. The reality is this bill needs a lot of amendments not to make it perfect, that's a red herring, but to get this bill from the status of weak to one that is closer to what people with disabilities need and deserve.
In the House, there were a couple hundred pages of amendments. Hard work over the past weekend has led us to distill it down to a series of amendments before you that we proposed and you have received e-mails from some witnesses who support them, which fill a grand total of 3.5 pages and cover a few core themes.
I am only going to address a couple of them, but let me be clear, there is time to do this. You are going to vote in committee on May 2. I understand you will do third reading by May 16. We are working and approaching the federal parties to urge that, once amendments are passed if they are that the house consider them quickly, so the issue of swift passage of this bill, whether amended or not, is now, procedurally, not a bar to your being able to do what we need you to do.
Again, we will see this legislation pass, but there are issues that we need to address.
The testimony continues:
So what should you do?
Well, let me just focus on a couple, but I invite questions on all of what we proposed. Lets just turn to the headlines. Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-billion-dollar plan for new subways in Toronto, but only if other levels of government, including the federal government, add billions to the allocation the province is committing to. Thats not unusual. But we need the federal government to be required, before it spends our money on a project like that, to say a ground rule of getting our federal money is you have to meet certain federal accessibility requirements.
Now, the minister came before you a week ago and said, We cant do that. We dont have constitutional authority to do that. Respectfully, the minister is wrong. Its called the federal spending power. Have you heard of the Canada Health Act? The Canada Health Act says that if provinces get federal money for provincial health programs, they must meet federal accessibility requirements. Not disability accessibility, but their financial accessibility.
If what the minister told you is right, then the Canada Health Act has been unconstitutional for over three decades since it was enacted. I would be staggered to believe that is the position of the current federal government. If they can do it there, they can at least attach strings when they give money, if they agree to, to local projects and not just federal buildings. You might look at me and say, Oh, come on, in 2019 we wouldnt use public money to build inaccessible public transit. Senators, go to YouTube, search on AODA Alliance and public transit. You will see a video we released during last springs provincial election that has thousands of views and media coverage where we document serious accessibility problems in brand new subway stations in Toronto that just opened within the past year-and-a-half.
This isnt about perfect, folks. This is about basic equality, so we ask for an amendment that would at least require federal ministers or their ministries, if they are agreeing to give our federal money to a province, a municipality, a college or university for a project like that, to put, as a term of the agreement, an enforceable term, just like the Canada Health Act, that accessibility requirements are required. Why should the federal government ever allow federal money to be used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing ones?
I will note, just as an aside, that this specific issue that he spoke about here, the issue of federal money funding infrastructure that may not meet a certain accessible standard, is one that the Senate flagged for our consideration, but it is not reflected in the amended provisions of this legislation. This is an area that requires, I think, more discussion and exploration by government on how we should ensure that the accessibility standards we expect are met, especially in new construction and infrastructure, so that we have taken the basic steps required to ensure that it is accessible to people. That is something that should be fairly obvious. However, if we do not put in place processes and mechanisms to ensure that the obvious happens, sometimes it does not.
According to Mr. Lepofsky, in fact, there was a claim made that it would somehow be unconstitutional to put these conditions in place. It is interesting, because we see a federal government that, in general, in so many different areas, is very heavy handed with what it tries to impose on the provinces, even trying to use federal spending to compel them to implement particular policies in provincial areas of jurisdiction. It is interesting how that separation is selectively invoked in some cases but not in others, which seems to be an excuse for inaction in this case.
The testimony continues:
Let me give you one other core amendment. My colleague from the CNIB said the minister last week had agreed to amend the bill to ensure that it does not curtail in any way the human rights code and the duty to accommodate. I hope the minister does that, but I dont hear her as having said that. I hear her as having said that she, as a former human rights lawyer, has ensured that this bill doesnt interfere with the duty to accommodate. But senators, it threatens to.
Clause 172 of the bill perpetuates a provision in the Canada transportation legislation that would let the CTA enact a regulation, and once it does so, to set standards for accessible transit, no matter how low that standard may be and no matter how deficient from a human rights standard it may be. As a traveller with a disability or others in my coalition or anyone in Canada, we are barred from asking anymore under the legislation's guarantee against undue barriers.
With that provision in the act, our position is: Please don't ever enact any standards under the CTA because they threaten to take away our rights. A simple amendment would repeal that provision from the act.
I will note that, in this case, this testimony led to an amendment. Of course, we are pleased to see that the amendment was made on that provision. That was one issue from this testimony that was, in fact, addressed, which is why we were pleased to see that change in the Senate amendments. The version of this bill that was originally proposed, and that the government appeared, initially at committee in the House, not to see any problem with, was, in fact, a version whereby the CTA could enact regulations that would be below the human rights standards and that would have the potential impact of lowering the standards that are in place for the protection of the rights of Canadians with disabilities. This indicates the importance of the Senate amendment process and the benefit of the fact that in this case, the government, although not responsive as much to House amendments, did come around in response to proposals on the Senate side.
The testimony from Mr. Lepofsky states:
Let me conclude by inviting questions on the other areas that we've raised. I'm telling you that we are not just about saying what's wrong. We are about proposing constructive suggestions for what's right, and the amendments we've placed before you are designed for a Senate that has a limited time frame to act, a commitment to respect policy decisions made in the House of Commons and an eagerness to ensure that these amendments can be considered by the house quickly and easily, with a realistic chance of them being taken seriously. They are designed to be tailored both to our needs and to what the minister said to you last week. So we ask you to take them all seriously. They are all substantive, and they all bear on the needs of all people with disabilities.
I conclude by saying this: I'm speaking for my coalition, but as an individual, I first came before Parliament 39 years ago as a much younger individual—my wife said I had hair back then when she saw the video—to appear before the standing committee considering the Charter of Rights. At that time, the Charter proposed to guarantee equality but not to people with disabilities. I and a number of other folks argued and succeeded in getting the Charter amended to include that right.
I leave you with two thoughts. First, the amendments we seek are aimed at making that right become a reality, not just as a matter of good intention but as effective implementation.
The government members who do not like hearing arguments against their bill may be encouraged by the fact that I am now coming to the conclusion of my remarks.
These were all important points to make. Here is a brief summary of the key elements I have highlighted in this bill.
The bill is about requiring regulated entities to make accessibility plans. It is a positive step, but it would not have the force and the pressure on the government in terms of compelling government action that many people within the disability community want to see. We tried to reflect those concerns in the context of a debate that happened here in the House the first time around and at committee. Unfortunately, all the more substantive changes were rejected in the House. The Senate put forward a number of amendments that were positive, but they would not fix the bill in every respect, certainly from the perspective of our caucus and those in the community.
Therefore, while we are pleased to support these amendments and this legislation, we will continue to call on the government to do better and to give reality to the promise that “better is possible”. That is what we are asking in the context of this legislation. The Senate amendments make improvements, but they do not go all the way in terms of the improvements people are asking for.
I talked a bit about who this legislation is for. It is important to recognize that the steps we take to facilitate an accessible, barrier-free society benefit people with disabilities, but they benefit all of us, because they give all of us an opportunity to live together in meaningful community and to learn from each other.
There are things that are not in the bill. In some cases, they are things that could not be addressed by a bill, and in some cases, they are things the government should have addressed but did not.
Legislation can ultimately only go so far toward addressing people's attitudes and culture. Building a barrier-free Canada is not just a political decision; it has to be a social commitment. It has to be something we all commit to leading on and acting on together as parliamentarians and as citizens. We call on business leaders and people from all walks of life to see what they can do to build and facilitate meaningful commitment, goodwill, friendship and love among people, regardless of ability or disability.
Those kinds of social and cultural changes are important. Legislation without that kind of social commitment is not enough to create a truly barrier-free Canada.
I want to again say that the work done by my colleague, the member for Carleton, on trying to ensure that disabled Canadians are able to access paid work, was very important. It was disappointing to see that bill voted down by the government. I hope that in a subsequent Parliament, we will be able to see progress on the initiative he put forward.
Not everyone is able to work, but there are many people who have a disability who are ready, willing and able to participate in paid work. They benefit our economy by doing so, but they also benefit from the community associated with work. They benefit from a sense of purpose and meaning that comes to many people from being able to go to work every day.
More needs to be done to support the kinds of initiatives we saw in that private member's bill. Maybe it will come back in a future Parliament. Maybe we will see other kinds of action that will seek to specifically address the issue of barriers that exist for disabled Canadians seeking employment.
With that, I will conclude my remarks. I am supportive of the bill. I am supportive of the amendments. I am hopeful that we will be able to see more action, and in the future, that we will be able to challenge the government. Rather than rejecting amendments in the House and sending them to the Senate and then accepting them at that point, maybe a novel idea would be to have some of these amendments adopted in the House in the first instance, which would skip the step of bringing the bill back to the House afterward.
There are some areas that could be better, but there are positive steps here. People can be assured that we will support the bill and support these actions. Going forward, we will continue to hold the government's feet to the fire. In the areas where it says it may regulate, we will apply the pressure necessary. We were not able to get from “may” to “must” in the legislation, but we will work to create a political imperative so that the government does not fail to act.
Those in the community who are following us today can be assured of our commitment to always hold the government accountable on these issues and to ensure, with the high-minded discussion around Bill C-81, that the objectives that were laid out are fully realized.
View Mike Lake Profile
View Mike Lake Profile
2019-05-28 20:53 [p.28187]
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to continue the speech I was making earlier. It is a little strange to continue after seven hours. I feel like I need to reiterate what I said before, but I will not tell all of the stories I told before.
It is very important to reiterate for people just tuning in to the debate on Bill C-81 that this is a rare situation in the House of Commons, in that the government has put forward legislation and all of the parties are supporting it. We have a great opportunity. As we are having the debate and as we are discussing the pros and cons of the legislation before us, stakeholders know that this bill will in fact pass. What we are doing right now is an important part of the process. It is an opportunity to have a conversation about it in the House of Commons and to bring up some of the concerns that stakeholders might have.
We are dealing with a bit of an odd situation this time around in that the purpose of the debate is to bring forward concerns and have the opportunity to talk about what we have heard from stakeholders. Most times we have the opportunity to actually ask the government questions in the process of the debate. However, what we have noticed over the last couple of hours of this debate, and anticipate tonight in the debate, is that the Liberal members of Parliament are not going to speak. They did not speak earlier.
There is an interesting consequence of that. I am being heckled by the government House leader right now saying that they want the bill to pass. However, everybody in the House knows that the bill is is going to pass. What we have before us now is an opportunity to debate the merits of the bill as amended, to talk about the benefits of it, to maybe talk about some of the challenges that have been brought up by stakeholders and have the opportunity to ask each other questions.
We would hope there would be Liberal members of Parliament willing to stand up to speak to the merits of the bill and then to take questions from the opposition members, from both the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party, who have valid concerns that we have heard from stakeholders. These concerns will not be a surprise to the government, because the government has heard those concerns at committee.
The bill has been before committee. Stakeholders have reached out to members of all parties, presumably, to make their views known. There are still some concerns that remain. I will speak to a couple of those concerns. Most of the concerns revolve around the question of whether the bill, as supported by all parties, will create real action, meaningful action and have a meaningful impact for Canadians with disabilities.
While everybody agrees that the bill should be passed now so that we have something before the election, that this is indeed a step forward and everybody in the House agrees that this is a step forward, many of the stakeholders expressed concerns that the bill in fact could have been better.
This is an important part of the conversation, to have this discussion in the House of Commons and be able to go back and forth, talking about how we, as parliamentarians, might make life better for Canadians with disabilities, even moving beyond this bill. Some of us will be here in the next Parliament and will have further opportunities to improve the lives of Canadians with disabilities. This debate is an important part of the process. However, we do not have the opportunity, interestingly, in this debate to actually ask the government questions, because the government is not putting up any speakers in this conversation. That seems rather odd, given that everybody in the House knows that this bill is going to pass.
I would point out one of the questions from stakeholders. I will not even put it in my own words. I am going to refer to a brief from ARCH Disability Law Centre, which was posted after the Senate committee passed its amendments. In this brief, while the ARCH Disability Law Centre urged parliamentarians to pass the bill and, again, all of us are in favour of doing that, it stated:
A number of weaknesses remain in Bill C-81. One such weakness is the use of permissive language “may” rather than directive language “shall” or “must”. This language gives government and other bodies power to make and enforce accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers. For example, the Bill allows the Government of Canada to make new accessibility regulations but does not require them to do so. Therefore, there is no assurance that such regulations, a cornerstone for advancing accessibility, will ever be made.
It goes on to state:
In addition to the amendments, the Senate Committee reported 2 observations to Bill C-81. The first addresses the concern expressed by many in the disability community that federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that perpetuate barriers. The observation encourages the federal government to ensure that any federal public money should not be used to create or perpetuate disability related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided. The second observation emphasizes the importance of training in achieving a barrier-free Canada. It encourages the government to create standardized, effective training to ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.
The brief from the ARCH Disability Law Centre goes on to say, “ARCH is pleased that in response to submissions by disability communities across Canada, the Senate made a number of important amendments to strengthen Bill C-81.”
Members from all sides of the House who have spoken to this have commended the Senate committee for making those amendments and the Senate for passing them.
Of course, at that time, the Senate had not passed the legislation, but the brief from the ARCH Disability Law Centre urges the Senate and the House of Commons to act quickly to allow enough time for the bill to finish it journey through the legislative process, before the fall federal election is called.
That journey through the legislative process includes debate in the House. The bill was amended, it has come back before the House and we have an opportunity to debate it.
Again, the government is in full control of the House agenda. The government has used closure dozens of times to limit debate in the House and to force votes. It can certainly do that in this case if it chooses to do so. However, there is absolutely no question that the bill will be passed within the next couple of weeks for sure. It could be passed this week if the government so chooses to ensure it does get passed this week. However, there is absolutely no question and no debate that I have heard among parties, at least the parties that have official standing in the House, that the bill will pass. The bill has unanimous support in the House and it will absolutely pass and become the law of Canada.
It has taken three and a half years and four different appointments to the disability file, with respect to ministers in charge of this file, by the government. It is unfortunate that it has come down to the last month the House is sitting to get the bill passed. In fact, it is unbelievable. It is also unbelievable that after all that time, we are sitting in the House of Commons and we are being denied, as an opposition, the chance to question government members of Parliament on important views and important questions that stakeholders have with regard to the bill.
I am sure government members will have questions of me, and I am glad to take those questions. I would really like to have that opportunity. I cannot refer to the presence of government members in the House, but earlier today there had to be a quorum call to get the right number of members in the House to continue the debate.
My hope is that over the course of the next three hours, given that we are staying here later to discuss and debate legislation on the government agenda, government members will stand, debate the legislation, speak to the merits of it and then take questions from members of the opposition on it.
It is really important to me to reiterate the fact that when the legislation was before the House, we supported it then. We supported it at each reading. At committee, the Conservative members moved more than 60 amendments, amendments that had been brought forward by stakeholders and the Liberal government accepted three of the over 60 amendments.
I am getting corrected. Apparently, a Liberal member is now correcting me, saying it is actually 70 amendments. I do not know who is heckling me over there. It is hard to tell.
The fact is that we moved over 60 amendments and three of them were accepted. Those amendments were put forward by stakeholders. It is an important part of the debate to have the opportunity.
If the hon. government House leader wants to speak, Madam Speaker, perhaps she could get up at some point in this debate and defend her government's legislation and answer some questions from members of the opposition. She is heckling across the floor.
Hon. Bardish Chagger: I've been told to shut up by your colleague.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2019-05-27 14:18 [p.28049]
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's decision to appoint Unifor on his panel to determine eligibility for a half a billion dollar media bailout package has destroyed the credibility of this process.
Unifor is a highly partisan group with very aggressive and partisan goals. It has made it clear that its objective is to help Liberals win the next election, and yet the Prime Minister has decided to appoint this group to the panel.
Will the Prime Minister just openly admit that he is stacking the deck in his favour?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2019-05-27 14:19 [p.28049]
Mr. Speaker, none of the challenges facing the news industry justifies putting an openly partisan group on the panel to determine who gets funding.
Unifor has published tweets, calling itself the resistance to Conservatives. It is bankrolling partisan attack ads put out by third party groups run by high-level Liberal operatives.
Journalists who are actual members of this union agree that the government's actions have destroyed the credibility of this process and threatens to undermine the independence of the press.
Will the Prime Minister remove Unifor from this panel?
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2019-05-27 14:46 [p.28055]
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister changed the Elections Act for his own personal gain. He decided on the debate format without any consultation. Now, we have learned that he appointed partisan groups to determine which media outlets will receive over a half a billion dollars in subsidies.
When will the Prime Minister admit that he is trying to rig the election?
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2019-05-27 14:47 [p.28055]
Mr. Speaker, instead of safeguarding the upcoming election against foreign interference and protecting the privacy of Canadians and their data, the Prime Minister was too busy trying to rig the election for his own personal gain.
Now he wants us to believe that his partisan panel will fairly distribute funds to media outlets when its membership has clearly expressed its intention to campaign against the Conservatives in the next election.
Why does the Prime Minister not just admit that he is trying to stack the deck to win the next election?
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2019-05-10 13:12 [p.27645]
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be joining the debate on Bill C-55 to contribute a couple of thoughts.
My colleague from North Okanagan—Shuswap gave an excellent overview of the contents of the bill and the substance of the amendments being proposed by the Senate. It has proposed a couple of measures that would improve accountability.
There is a series of common-sense ideas. They are very technical in nature. When I went through them, they gave me pause. I though about the implications for the minister of the requirement to consult and how to consult? I thought about how the government would deal with applying some of the other measures in the real world.
A lot of what we do in Ottawa is put theory into legal practice and provide the wording for what we want departmental officials to do on the ground. However, there is also an entire portion related to the application of the legislation and regulations. We want to know how it will work in the field. How will the ideas in this chamber, brought forward by the government through legislation and by government members and opposition members through amendments, actually work out in the real world?
It is not enough to have good intent. It is also what happens on the ground. The reality on the ground is extremely important in whether the legislation will achieve those goals. Intent is fine. I think intent is laudable. We talk a lot about that as politicians. However, it is the results on the ground that count the most. Did we achieve the goals we set out? Do we have a metric to measure how the legislation is working?
The member from North Okanagan—Shuswap gave an excellent overview of the work both parties on the opposition side have done in proposing amendments and improvements to the bill at various stages, going back to when the bill was before the House of Commons committee. Between 25 and 30 amendments were proposed at that time to try to improve the legislation.
I have been on different committees, and often I have seen government legislation that has technical flaws in it. Some of the flaws are inadvertent. They are simply copied and pasted from other pieces of legislation. Perhaps they had a good intent at one time, but when we sit down with officials and stakeholder groups, we quickly realize that they would have several unintended consequences. I will get to one of the unintended consequences of the MPA processes.
When sections of bills are being changed, or improved, as the government would say, I have seen members try to amend them at committee. I have done this myself. I have proposed amendments to government legislation that I thought would improve a bill and fix it in a substantive way, perhaps by amending a definition, as I tried to do on the medical assistance in dying bill, to provide a more technical definition.
With respect to Bill C-55, we are talking about Senate amendments that, as I mentioned, would improve the accountability of the minister to both Parliament and Canadians. They are common-sense ideas. Whether the amendments and the ideas therein are properly executed deserves further investigation and deliberation.
Bill C-55 would maximize the minister's powers. I have mentioned several times in this chamber, on other pieces of legislation proposed by the government, how opposed I am to maximizing ministerial discretion, especially on things like MPAs, which have an immense economic impact on the livelihoods of people in smaller communities, people who depend on fisheries for their livelihood.
It is incumbent upon any government and any member of Parliament to ensure that ministers are reined in and do not have free rein to do as they wish. Too much of the legislation that has passed in the House leaves it up to cabinet, through orders in council, to decide what the details will be.
I will draw the attention of the House to the cannabis bill, which decriminalized or legalized the sale and distribution of cannabis in Canada, and to the impaired driving bill. These bills created a litany of regulations that were basically to be written by a minister and then approved by cabinet at some point.
Some of them were very basic concepts, like definitions that should simply be taken out of a dictionary. We have the same situation here, where the minister's discretion and ability to intervene and interfere in a local area's decision-making process is very broad.
That is a deficiency in any government legislation, because often when we then ask those ministers to return to committees and provide a summary, provide some type of semblance of what was done with the powers, in almost every situation that I have experienced so far, I have been disappointed when ministers returned to committee to explain how they used the powers. They either went way overboard in their application or fell far short and actually did not pass a regulation that met the requirements of Parliament, thus being unable to achieve the goals that the legislation set out.
Just yesterday, at the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, where eventually the regulations that Bill C-55 would enable will make their way for gazetting and review and approval, I saw another instance of a government regulation being used by two previous governments, both Liberal and Conservative, whereby the officials in the department had collected information they were not legally allowed to collect.
Then an amendment to a piece of legislation was passed in 2012, and at that point, that collection of information was legalized. The logical question that all parliamentarians asked, including members in the government caucus and members of the Conservative caucus and members of the NDP caucus, was that if this collection of information was legalized in 2012, was it illegal before that? That was what the legal counsel for the committee was telling members of Parliament was in fact the case—that the government officials had improperly collected a whole suite of very sensitive, proprietary, corporate economic information.
My worry with Bill C-55 is again the broad discretion being given to the minister during the consultation process and the set-up of the MPA.
I want to quote Jim McIsaac of the BC Commercial Fishing Caucus, who said:
Right now on the west coast we have 10 or 12 different MPA processes. It's impossible for the fishing industry to engage in all of these in a kind of comprehensive way. We need a place where we can sit down and set some of these overarching objectives. If we don't do that, it's just going to disintegrate into a mess. It won't be durable going on. We need a way to bring all available knowledge into these.
That speaks to some of that consultation overload. Consultation is a great thing. I participate in government consultations when they post them on the website. I will mention one right after this, on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, just as an illustration of where I think the problem with this consultation on the MPAs exists.
Having 10 or 12 MPA consultation processes at the same time overwhelms one particular industry. It is too much in one area for one group, one sector, one group of workers in an economy to be able to answer to when we want in-depth, valuable information to be provided. We do not just want boxes checked.
The government has indicated that it does not agree with the Senate amendments and did not agree with many of the Conservative amendments at the House of Commons committee when the bill found itself there, and in this legislation what the government is trying to do is outsmart everybody. I think that is the greatest folly. It is a Yiddish proverb. It is one that has been used many times. We as parliamentarians should know, and the government should know, that it is impossible to know everything.
That is what consultation is supposed to be about. It is the process of discovering what we do not know; it is not supposed to be about affirming what we think we know. It is about discovering what we do not know.
In this case, my thought is that if we do 10 to 12 different consultations, again as with these MPA processes, it will overwhelm a particular industry. I am much more familiar with energy site consultations on indigenous communities at the Alberta provincial level. In a prior life, I worked for the Alberta finance minister at the time and the minister of sustainable resource development at the time. Our sustainable resources in Alberta do not happen to be fisheries. Unfortunately, fisheries are not a major sector in the Alberta economy, but they are a major sector in the British Columbia economy, and we should be worried by what we hear.
We should be worried when groups are telling us that the proposal in the legislation may overwhelm their ability to provide in-depth valuable information, whether it is traditional knowledge or qualitative or quantitative data that their industry collects just as part of doing business and part of proposing what they think. Again, the consultation angle here is that there could be an overwhelming number of them and that would make it very difficult for them to meet it.
I want to provide another quote for the chamber's consideration from Christina Burridge, the executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance. She states:
Closing large areas to fishing off the west coast does little for biodiversity, little for conservation, little for the men and women up and down the coast who work in our sector and who are middle class or aspire to the middle class, and little for the health of Canadians, who deserve access to local, sustainable seafood.
Again, that is valuable input from another organization that feels these proposed MPAs might have a fine purpose in mind, but the difference being the intent and impact on the ground, the reality of what will be done.
Several members have mentioned during debate on the legislation that they are concerned that the minister will have simply too broad a series of powers to do as he or she wants, such as to declare a certain area, cut out a certain border for the MPA first and then consult after the fact. However, the economic impact is immediate. People in the area who depend on this type of fishery or it is a significant part of what they do on a daily basis will not be able to continue to do so. They will have to consult with the minister as part of an organization or individually.
There is always the possibility that the government will of course listen to a particular stakeholder group and will defer. It will move boundaries. It will change them to meet the demands. However, the impact will have already happened. There will be already investors, perhaps or individuals who will have changed their behaviour, either their purchasing behaviour or the fishing practices they had. In the meantime, people still have to make an income at the end of the day. They still have to make ends meet. They still have to pay their one's taxes, because the government will never let up on that. They still has to attain some type of middle-class lifestyle. People cannot just lay down their tools and wait for the government to finish its consultation process. They cannot wait for the minister to be satisfied that they have met the requirements of the law.
Some of the defects and shortcomings in the bill could be addressed by some of the proposals in a Senate amendment. We can look back, as the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap mentioned, to some of the amendments proposed on the Conservative side at committee about improving the way the consultation would be done to protect the workers out there. Part of the amendments proposed here also touch upon some of the announcements made by the government.
The government made an announcement that it intended to spend about $1.5 billion on ocean protection off the west coast. It was part of its goal to reach some of its international targets and it was part of the process toward attaining and ensuring the construction of the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline, so meeting some of the public concerns that individuals had. I have a couple of issues in how this legislation and those dollar announcements matter.
We heard from the previous auditor general, who passed away tragically from cancer. He filed a report late last year, saying that the government was more interested in big dollar announcements in its news releases. He went in-depth in attacking the government's means of testing how it was achieving its goals. He said that it rated its success according to how much money had been shovelled out the door, not the actual impacts on the ground. He had a more broader critique on how the government had managed its operations.
Bill C-55 operationalizes MPAs in a lot of ways. It is much meatier legislation than people might realize. Many people realize that the consultation processes and the conservation of these broad maritime ecosystems and the termination of economic activity in many of these areas for certain types of fisheries or the potential of certain types of fisheries is a big operational part of government.
Time and time again, in different parts of the government, we have seen their inability to meet their own department plans, which every minister tables in the House. There are many shortcomings on that side, such as loading up departments with more work while cutting back on the total FTE count of employees in the department.
The government seems to rate its success simply by how much money has gone out the door, or sometimes, if the money has not even moved, by the quality of the news release being put out and the dollar figure. If there is “billion” in the number, the government will say that it is a job well done, that the mission was successful and that it has achieved its goals.
I will go back to the TMX pipeline for a moment, because I am a member who represents a Calgary riding and I am an Albertan. The TMX pipeline is a perfect example. The government created an investment environment, or a public policy situation, where a company felt obliged to give public notice to its shareholders after a board meeting that it was thinking of backing out of the pipeline expansion. It was not going to meet its goals. The government had created that environment, and it felt obliged to expropriate the pipeline from Kinder Morgan and purchase it for $4.5 billion.
Here comes the operationalizing component. My worry about Bill C-55 is whether the government will be able to operationalize all of this and whether it is overwhelming communities with too much consultation. The government has not been able to build a single inch of pipe to twin the TMX line to the west coast, despite the fact that it promised legislation, despite the fact that it promised, over 300 days ago, that it would get the pipeline built, and despite the fact that almost two construction seasons have been thrown away.
I hear a member on the government caucus side from Toronto heckling me. I remind him that the previous government approved four pipelines. I remind him that the previous government had a record of actually building pipelines. I also remind him that under his government's watch, the government he defends, over 7,000 kilometres of pipe has been cancelled in this country.
The LNG Canada project on the west coast is a $40-billion project that was approved by the regulator in 2012 and approved by the previous Stephen Harper government. They approved it. It took six years before the company felt that the business environment was good enough. For three years, from 2015 to 2018, the project was on the cusp of being cancelled. The only thing that saved the project was that the government exempted it from the carbon tax. That is the only reason the company went ahead with a $40-billion project. As well, under the government's watch, 78 billion dollars' worth of LNG projects have been cancelled.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, it might sound like a bit of a quibble, but I am not convinced that language is at the core of culture. Often values are at the core of culture, but language is an important mechanism by which those things are passed on. It is an important distinction I wanted to make.
To the member's comment about funding, cost obviously has to be considered, and it is important for a government to be engaged in supporting these processes. We can look at two different ways in which these types of important programs and activities can be supported. One is the engagement of government, which is definitely an element, and another is the way in which we can allow and support economic development to take place within these communities. This would give them the resources to invest in projects around language and other areas.
I am not saying it is one or the other, but it is both. Supporting economic development is a key part of the picture. There are certainly many indigenous communities in my province that have been able to benefit from a natural resource development, and that has given them greater resources and greater capacity to undertake cultural preservation activities.
View Linda Duncan Profile
View Linda Duncan Profile
2019-05-09 12:24 [p.27567]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on a question my colleague put to the hon. member. He raised the fact the TRC in a call to action specified that the government must finance the revitalization and protection of indigenous languages. The member responded that the law required that funding. However, the only place in the bill where there is anything about a provision of adequate sustainable funding is in the purposes.
A purposes provision is not a duty or an obligation. Therefore, the only part of the bill that provides anything of any substance is the establishment of the commissioner. That is the only place where I can see there is an entity created and there are certain duties of the commissioner. However, what about a duty to directly provide support to indigenous peoples themselves for the revitalization of, establishment of and ability to speak their languages?
View Martin Shields Profile
View Martin Shields Profile
2019-05-09 13:20 [p.27574]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with my hon. colleague from Lakeland.
It has been a very interesting morning listening to the speeches, and I am happy to rise to discuss Bill C-91, an act respecting indigenous languages. I have had the opportunity to study the bill as a member of the heritage committee. I participated for many hours on that committee. I learned a lot from witnesses, and we heard some very thoughtful, insightful commentary on the bill's successes. We also heard about some possible shortcomings. I appreciate my colleague across the way referring to having the opportunity to speak to some of those challenges.
Before I do that, I need to talk about a play put on by the Siksika at Strathmore High School called New Blood Dance Show, a story of reconciliation. This is a phenomenal production that relates specifically to this topic.
It was in 2014 that the director of this play was inspired when she went camping with her sister at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. While she was there, she saw writings that are sacred to the Blackfoot people. They are recordings of their stories. She was sad to learn that when the Blackfoot people were moved onto the reservation in the late 1800s, they were not allowed to visit their writings and learn of their heritage. For 70 years, three generations were unable to learn their stories, and the translations were lost. The show is about learning these stories.
The director met with the chief of the Siksika at the time, Chief Vincent Old Woman, and he told her many stories about going to a residential school, the loss of language and the loss of heritage. From visiting those writings, she developed a play called New Blood. This is a phenomenal play put on by high school students, the majority of them Siksika. The play has been performed many times in southern Alberta and in British Columbia.
What they would really like to do, though, is come to Ottawa to put on that play. It is a play people need to see, and hopefully, if they keep applying for grants, they will be able to achieve that goal. I hope people here are able to see that production.
I believe that there has been some discussion about the rushed nature of this piece of legislation. The Liberals brought this forward at the end of three and half years, although they said years earlier that this was a critically important piece of legislation. Not only did they rush it to the point of just getting it through to start the process in the House, we were asked to do a pre-study before it was sent to committee.
We met daily, sometimes for many hours. The rushed nature of this legislation is probably the reason for the amendments and the ongoing challenges. It was problematic in the sense that members on the committee identified specific words that were going to create problems. When I first suggested that some of these words would be problematic, there were snickers on the other side.
When constitutional lawyers showed up as witnesses and started pointing out these same words as problematic, saying that this could end up in court, it became much more interesting to see the reaction. What was then problematic was that just minutes before we started clause-by-clause, the Liberals dropped many amendments on the table that were the exact concerns I had brought up. When I brought them up, they were snickered at, but when a constitutional lawyer brought them up, the Liberals paid attention, because they could see that this could cause problems and be tied up in court.
The Liberals referred to many amendments by the opposition being accepted. They were not our amendments. I do not remember, sitting on that committee hour after hour going through clause-by-clause, the amendments from the opposition being accepted. It has been said many times that they were accepted by the opposition. I do not remember that happening.
The Liberals have a piece of legislation, which we agree with and support, but we do not agree with the rushed nature of it. They talked about the extensive consultations they had. When we asked questions about the consultations, first they talked about doing them for six months. Then they said there was a three-month window. When it came down to it, they did consultations for just weeks. In committee, they said that it was down to weeks.
When we thought of the 600 different indigenous groups and sub-groups, such as the Métis and all the varieties of people out there, we began to understand that this consultation process was flawed. When we started to hear from witnesses that they had missed critical groups of people to talk to, we began to understand why the legislation was flawed. We began to understand why the legislation has problems and why witnesses were saying that the Liberals missed the mark.
We agree to support the legislation. The government said two years or three years ago that it was going to do it, but it should have started sooner and developed legislation that could have circumvented some of those flaws. Witnesses appeared who said that the bill had nothing to do with the Inuit. They were left out and not consulted. There are constitutional lawyers who are still concerned that the language, even as amended, could become tied up in court. That is the wrong place for legislation to go. If the government wants to get something done, it has to make the legislation better before it is passed. Although we agree with having it, the process left a lot to be desired.
I think of the people I have met from the Siksika Nation, the people who work in the education system. I see the immersion programs starting in Siksika. When I visit the schools or speak at their graduations, I hear how important their language is, but I hear that they are concerned that those who are younger than the elders but older than the youth are going to miss out. Immersion programs are starting in schools, but when the students go home, who are they going to speak to, because their parents do not know the language? The educators view this as a huge problem. They were never consulted on how to deal with that.
The school systems working with this are dedicated. They want it to work. Those school systems for Michif believe that the money is headed into bureaucracies. They believe it will not come down to where it is needed at the grassroots level. They do not believe that they were recognized as key components of this particular legislation. I agree with that. From my education background, I know of many types of government legislation that has been announced that at the school level has trickled down as pennies. The dollars went into bureaucracy.
Witnesses said that they believe that the money will go into national organizations. They do not believe that it will reach the schools, where it should be, because they were not consulted. There are many instances of people talking about languages disappearing or being at risk. If this money disappears into bureaucracy, it will not save those languages. That was a concern of the witnesses.
We will support this. However, we believe it was too rushed. There are challenges with it, and we wonder if it will get where it needs to.
View Georgina Jolibois Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by recognizing my community for the support they gave me, my parents, my siblings and my cousins, Dean, Debra, Desi and Dallas. I especially want to recognize my late cousin, Danielle Herman, also known as Superstar.
I rise today in a somewhat surprised and spontaneous way to speak once again to Bill C-91, an act respecting the languages of first nations, Métis and Inuit people. As a Dene language speaker and someone who grew up on a trapline, speaking Dene and learning from the land, I know how important this legislation is and how important it is to get it right.
Let me begin by saying that I only found out about 15 hours ago that this bill would be debated this morning. I only found out last night that we would be doing third reading of this bill, well outside the 48-hour time frame that it would take to get a Dene interpreter into the House so that I could speak my language.
When I am speaking with constituents back home, I try as often as I can to speak our language, because it is as much an act of resistance as it is of community. When we speak our language, we share our experience, our histories and our stories. When we speak our language, whether it is Dene or Cree or Michif, we remind ourselves that we survived residential schools and that we keep speaking, even though Canada did not want us to.
To speak here today in a language that I learned for the benefit of others, without enough opportunity to get an interpreter so that a large portion of my constituents can follow a debate on a bill that directly affects the future of their own language, to speak without interpretation is incredibly disappointing and is evidence that, once again, first nations people are expected to do business only on the terms of their colonizers. The government describes this bill as an act of reconciliation, but the actions that go on behind the scenes are the farthest thing from reconciliation.
Throughout the first two readings of this bill and the long committee meetings, I and my fellow members of Parliament repeatedly heard two things about this bill. First, we heard that the bill is not perfect. The Minister of Heritage told us this. The leaders of indigenous organizations told us this. ITK repeatedly said that this bill is not good enough for the unique needs of the Inuit. Language speakers and educators told us that they do not understand what this bill would mean for them. Rather than offering a meaningful response to the very real objections that indigenous language advocates and the NDP put forward, the government has consistently given the second response we heard repeatedly. The answer has been that despite its imperfections, Bill C-91 is an important first step toward the much bigger project that is the protection and restoration of indigenous languages.
We have been told that it is crucial for the government to fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action 13, 14 and 15. We have been told that while the government acknowledges there is much more work that needs to be done, this bill points the government in the right direction.
Let me be clear. We cannot claim victory for only taking the first steps toward good legislation on indigenous languages, just as we cannot say that we are bilingual for being able to count to 10 in a new language and we cannot say that we completed a marathon after only the first kilometre. As an indigenous person who has repeatedly been told that the government is turning the page on indigenous issues, or starting fresh, or taking a new step, or going in a new direction, or whichever euphemism the government is using this week, I think I speak for the vast majority of indigenous people who will not settle for beginning again. We do not want the promise of a better tomorrow if it is not followed by concrete action and funding. We do not want the promise of better legislation tomorrow, because we have no guarantee of a willing partner.
When the Minister of Heritage appeared before committee to present the bill, he told us that he would be open to amendments. Many of the elders, organizations and language educators who consulted on this bill told us that there were conversations had and recommendations that they made that were not reflected or included in the final draft of this bill.
Many of those same elders, organizations and language educators came to committee to share their stories, advice and recommendations. In good faith, and knowing it was the will of those who know better than us, the NDP, the Green Party, the Conservatives and the member of Parliament for Nunavut proposed a number of amendments to improve the bill at committee. They were virtually all rejected.
I want to take some time now to tell this House why the amendments we proposed on behalf of others were so very important. On a number of occasions, the NDP and the member for Nunavut tried to include language that recognized the distinct language needs of the Inuit, based on the recommendations the committee heard from the ITK and its president, Natan Obed. One of the most startling facts we heard was that Nunavut actually has more English-speaking teachers than it does English-speaking students and that the English and French languages receive more funding than Inuit language education programs.
Inuit people wanted a bill that worked for them, and the ITK made a number of thoughtful and balanced amendments, but they were rejected entirely by the government.
The member for Nunavut, with his community in mind, put forward an amendment that would have allowed the government to enter into agreements with provincial and indigenous governments, in regionally specific cases, to further the language needs of those regions. His thoughtful amendment would have opened the door for federal services to be offered in indigenous languages based on a nation-to-nation understanding of what communities need.
In a territory where the large majority of people speak Inuktitut, it is a crucial act of decolonization to have access to government services in the language the people speak. Instead, services are available in French or English, and too many people do not have access. The government, by rejecting this amendment, has failed to meet the needs of the Inuit people.
This amendment was part of an ongoing conversation we have been having about the status of indigenous languages in Canada. As the House well knows by now, decades of oppression by the Canadian government and residential, boarding and day schools have told our language speakers that they and their languages have no place in Canada.
What we are seeing now is a resurgence of our languages, one where we are free to speak them in our homes and communities. We are seeing more and more young people engage with their traditions, learn the languages their elders and parents speak and practise their languages in their schools and on the land. We are seeing our elders step forward to teach their languages, many no longer afraid of what might happen if they are seen sharing their knowledge. We are seeing language speakers start camps and summer programs to teach their language. Along the way, language speakers are told by the government that they are doing good work for their people.
However, governments, both provincially and federally, are not supporting the work of language educators and youth with funding or resources to grow our languages or preserve them on our own terms. In Saskatchewan, for example, the province just announced that high school students will now be able to take classes in Dene and Cree, which sounds like a really good initiative. Unfortunately, language educators know too well that language education needs to be funded throughout childhood. Language education needs to begin in kindergarten. Meaningful education takes place in every grade, in every lesson and throughout one's life.
What we are not seeing is the recognition of the status of our languages. Without the status of our languages, we will not see the right investments made in education. We will not see the right investments made in preservation. We will not see the right investments moving forward.
I understand that there are practical concerns about status the government is concerned about, but to seriously consider those concerns is a profound act of reconciliation and decolonization the government did not want to consider, because claiming success for small steps is easier than being courageous and taking big ones.
I dream of the day when indigenous people in Canada can walk into government services buildings in their own communities and have the ability to speak their language, but that day is yet to come.
One of the other big concerns I have heard from my constituents is about the role of the indigenous languages commissioner. I understand that overseeing the funding, restoration and preservation of indigenous languages requires some bureaucracy, and this legislation would create that bureaucracy, but language educators and indigenous organizations do not know what the language commissioner's powers would be, how they would affect their day-to-day operations or how funding models would be established. All we know so far is that language educators would presumably need to go through an extra layer of government through yet another new application process to get funding.
What we also know is that elders and language educators know what is best for their own communities. The creation of another level of government that educators would have to go through is troublesome for two reasons. First is the more principled reason that the government should be funding language programs directly instead of accepting the high overhead costs of a new government agency. Second is that educators would now be under the direction of a languages commissioner, who may have the ability to say if certain ways of learning and preservation are not good enough, without knowing a particular language or cultural group and its needs.
If we value the input of educators on the ground, we need legislation that would keep the people at the front of the legislation. As it is written, it is unclear to me and to educators what the act respecting indigenous languages would actually do for indigenous language.
Furthermore, we proposed an amendment at the heritage committee that would ensure that the indigenous languages commissioner and the directors of that office would be first nations, Métis or Inuit people. It is so important that the languages commissioner be indigenous. It is only through having the lived experience of an indigenous person, knowing what our communities deal with, the history of our people, the resistance we have put up against the Canadian government and the daily experience of what it is like to live in this country that the indigenous languages commissioner could operate.
We wanted to enshrine that minimum lived experience and understanding in this position, knowing how important it would be. What we were told at committee was that asking as much was unconstitutional but that the government would do everything possible to make sure that an indigenous person would hold the position of commissioner. What I hear from the Liberal government is that it wants to protect the Constitution but act in a way that goes against it. The government wants to uphold a colonial document but use words to say that it is on our side despite it.
My big concern, and the concern I have been hearing from so many of my constituents, is that the position of languages commissioner may become a political appointment for someone who means well but does not fully understand our experiences.
At virtually every committee meeting with the Department of Canadian Heritage, Indigenous Services or Crown-Indigenous Relations, these branches of government are represented by non-indigenous people. While these ministers and professionals are educated and well meaning, there will always be a barrier to full understanding of our communities and what our communities need, because their experiences in life are so profoundly different. We had an opportunity with Bill C-91 to make sure that the barrier would be lifted and that the languages commissioner would be an indigenous person and would have a better understanding of our unique needs, but that opportunity was shut down for a mix of political and colonial reasons.
Last, there is the question of funding. A lot has been said publicly about how this legislation would just be one phase of the Liberal government's plan for indigenous languages and that funding would come later. However, there is a direct correlation between the mandate of an organization, which would be created by this bill, and the funding of an organization, which was noticeably left out.
It is unclear how the government would assist with education funding, and it is on this basis that language educators are confused by the bill. Would funding be given through a projects-based approach? How would that funding work, and on what basis would funding be given? Would existing educators be supported, or would they have to start over? Would priority be given to innovative teaching styles through apps and the Internet, or would our known ways of learning on the land and in small groups be the priority? How would sign languages be included in this funding model? How would this funding work for children who attend public and private schools across the country?
Would the languages commissioner work with provinces to fund educational initiatives from kindergarten to high school graduation? How would that work for communities that have more than one language group, such as in northern Saskatchewan, where Michif, Dene and a few dialects of Cree are all spoken in one community? Would students be forced to choose which language to learn, or would the opportunity exist to learn all languages available to them?
What about residential school survivors, survivors of the 60s scoop and the thousands of survivors and their descendants who have lost their languages at the hands of the government? We tried to include these specific groups through amendments to the preamble of the bill, but they too were rejected. How will their right to their languages be recognized, supported and taught? How will we empower survivors to regain what was taken from them and their families?
If it is not clear at this point, the bill creates a lot more questions than answers. It would be nice, if not expected, to at least know some of those answers before the bill passed through the House so that we could let indigenous people and indigenous language speakers determine for themselves if the bill would be a success.
There is a lot of pressure to support the bill. The government is running out of time to complete its mandate before the election this fall. I know that indigenous leaders are doing their best to make sure that the bill has the support it needs, because it is, at the end of the day, a step forward. However, there is exponentially more pressure to make sure that the bill, which would affect such a large aspect of our way of life, is done correctly.
While the bill would be a step forward, to what goal and to what end are we walking toward? Is the goal one of half measures that would marginally improve indigenous language education in Canada, or is the end goal one of fundamental change to Canadian society that fully respects the needs of indigenous languages, recognizes their place in our culture and creates a generation of indigenous youth who speak the same languages that generations of people before them spoke?
When I think of the bill before us, I do not think about how it will affect the outcome of the next election. I think about people like Marsha Ireland, Kevin Lewis, Graham Andrews, Cheryl Herman, Vince Ahenakew, Cameron Adams, Julius Park and so many others who have worked so hard to teach and ensure their language in northern Saskatchewan.
To conclude, it is the people and culture we have to keep in mind when we think about the bill. When I think about the future of all indigenous languages across Canada, we have to do what is right and not just what is politically convenient.
View Martin Shields Profile
View Martin Shields Profile
2019-05-02 13:45 [p.27291]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech given by my colleague. Just as a preface, since 2014, there is a new play called New Blood, which is a phenomenal high school student production that I wish could come to Ottawa. It has been in southern Alberta. I think it goes to the heart of what this indigenous languages piece is about.
Having been on the committee, there were many witnesses who talked about grassroots things they were working with on languages. Indigenous people had severe concerns and fears that the money would not get to the education level that it is needed. On the Siksika reserve, for example, they are doing immersion but they expressed concern that this money is being directed to major organizations. They are very concerned that the government money that would come from this would not do what it is intended.
What would my colleague's response be to the concern of indigenous people in the education system?
View Arnold Viersen Profile
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2019-05-02 13:46 [p.27291]
Mr. Speaker, I go back to the opening of my speech where I said that the most dangerous words in Canadian society are “We are the government and we are here to help.” That is always the problem when the government gets involved. Getting the money to where it really will make an impact is always a challenge. That is why I am much more free market about it. It will allow people to make money so that they can support their communities, so that they can support their culture and so that they can support their language. If we get the fundamentals right, their languages will survive. As the French language in northern Alberta has survived and as the German language in northern Alberta has survived, so too the Cree language will survive in northern Alberta.
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
Lib. (AB)
View Amarjeet Sohi Profile
2019-04-11 15:00 [p.27009]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for her hard work.
It is clear that the best solutions for combatting climate change in rural and remote indigenous communities come from the people who live there. That is why our government is investing more than $3.5 million in two indigenous projects owned and operated by the Gwich’in Development Corporation. Investments like these create jobs, cut energy costs and protect the environment.
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