Mr. Speaker, it is my absolute honour to rise today in support of Bill C-369.
It is also my honour to recognize that we are gathering today on the unceded territories of the Algonquin peoples.
This bill has been tabled by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. I wish to share here that I witnessed how powerful it was for her to finally deliver her first speech on another bill in her Dene language, a language shared by many in her riding and across our northern communities. Having travelled with her in her northern Saskatchewan riding last summer, I can attest to how important it is that she can now finally speak in this place in one of the indigenous languages spoken by her constituents back home. What a joy it was to experience her in her community with her fellow community members, speaking their indigenous languages.
The intention of this bill is to create a statutory holiday on September 30 each year, starting this year. This delivers on call to action 80, issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The title of the report, “Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future”, conveys the depth of the tragedy and the need for action.
It may be noted that the Prime Minister, early in his mandate, publicly committed to deliver on all 94 calls to action. Therefore, we need to be grateful that my colleague has brought forward the opportunity to deliver on at least one of them.
I want to read call to action 80. It states:
We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
It is my understanding and my hope that there is now multiple-party support by members in this place for this bill. I noted that my colleague, in speaking to her bill yesterday, reminded us that we are all responsible for becoming actively engaged in reconciliation.
The intent of the bill is therefore twofold: first, to recognize the continuing need for support for healing for survivors of the residential school system in recognition of the continued impacts down through generations, and to recognize it as a cultural genocide; and second, to directly inform and engage Canadians in knowledge of the residential school system and the harm it caused.
I wish to honour the dedication of the commissioners, Justice Murray Sinclair, Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson, in undertaking the momentous process of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is important to honour the many residential school survivors and their families who came forward to share their experiences.
The report conveys the principle that reconciliation is a relationship. I would like to share what the report says. It states:
For many Survivors and their families, this commitment is foremost about healing themselves, their communities, and nations, in ways that revitalize individuals as well as Indigenous cultures, languages, spirituality, laws, and governance systems. For governments, building a respectful relationship involves dismantling a centuries-old political and bureaucratic culture in which, all too often, policies and programs are still based on failed notions of assimilation.
My hon. colleague spoke to this when she spoke to this bill previously, and we were very close to the place where the residential school was unfortunately created.
It also states:
Schools must teach history in ways that foster mutual respect, empathy, and engagement. All Canadian children and youth deserve to know Canada’s honest history, including what happened in the residential schools, and to appreciate the rich history and knowledge of Indigenous nations who continue to make such a strong contribution to Canada, including our very name and collective identity as a country. For Canadians from all walks of life, reconciliation offers a new way of living together.
Canada already celebrates our first nations, Métis and Inuit cultures and languages every year on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, which is during the summer solstice. My understanding is that initially, my colleague proposed that it be that day. However, she has very graciously agreed to change her bill, so we are going to have a day of celebration in June during the solstice, and then we would have a day of recognition and learning at the end of September each year.
I have had the delight of attending many of the events on June 21 in my riding, joining in the round dances and attempting a jig. Who can resist another bannock burger? It is wonderful to see all the schoolchildren joining in those activities.
The day proposed by Bill C-369 would be a more solemn day, however, to learn about the sufferings of those who were torn from their families, forced to travel far from their families and stripped of their language, beliefs and cultures. For far too many, this was for their entire childhood.
As was pointed out by my colleague, it will be necessary that the government commit well in advance of September 20 this year the necessary funds to ensure that the intents are achieved and that there are clear plans for the day. It is absolutely important that this be in direct consultation with the first nation, Métis and Inuit peoples, in particular in the communities where the activities would occur, which I hope will be every community across this country. The intention is to honour the suffering and provide opportunities for teaching.
My colleague has asked that this day also be recognized as a time for reconciliation for those children torn from their language and culture during the sixties scoop and those from the day schools and boarding schools not yet recognized.
I have been inspired by the initiative of many indigenous people to engage us in the process of reconciliation. My dear friends Hunter and Jacquelyn Cardinal, children of my friend Lewis Cardinal, have founded the Edmonton company Naheyawin, which is reaching out through theatre, through the arts and through round tables to teach people about the treaties. It is a very important action that has not been done across this country. It is so important to my province, where we are the land of the historic treaties and there have been constant calls by first nations leaders for recognition of those treaties.
As Jacquelyn has shared, she wants people to move past feelings of guilt from past wrongs and focus on a better future. She wants people to get past the guilt many feel for the past and look forward to making things better. She hopes the round tables will be based on the Cree word tatawaw, which means, “There is room for you. Welcome.”
I am also very grateful that the famous Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival last year featured and honoured indigenous culture and incorporated many ceremonies to honour first nations, Métis and Inuit throughout the festival.
I am very grateful to my colleague, and I wish to thank her.