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Results: 1 - 15 of 21
View Georgina Jolibois Profile
Mr. Speaker, the Denesuline of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba were supposed to sign an agreement with the government after 18 years of negotiating for their land, harvesting and resource rights. A week ago, the minister backed away and now refuses to meet with them. She broke her promise and betrayed the Dene.
Meaningful reconciliation is about working with indigenous people and meeting in good faith. Will the minister meet with the Dene while they are in Ottawa and explain why she broke her promise, face to face?
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2019-06-11 23:07 [p.28975]
Mr. Speaker, briefly, the member is a real champion of rural Canada. His constituents are very lucky. He is always standing up for the rural small communities. How does he think small communities felt when the Conservatives overrode something they had constitutional protection for and that they had negotiated over the years?
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2019-06-11 23:26 [p.28977]
Mr. Speaker, first I want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
I have a speech, but I think I will start by trying to answer questions and concerns that have been brought up. If I do that, then members could vote unanimously for this bill.
The first thing members have been asking is why there are only five more hours to debate this bill. For a lot of bills, that would be a valid question, but at this particular time we have had Conservative after Conservative getting up and not talking about the bill. We heard a lot about Bill C-48, Bill S-6, a letter from premiers not related to this bill, Bill C-15 and a northern moratorium.
I have been here awhile, and last night I witnessed an amazing situation. One of the Conservative speakers, in a 10-minute slot to speak on this bill, spent nine and a half minutes talking before they got to the bill, and then answering three questions by not referring to anything in the bill.
If the public wonders why Parliament has decided to call time allocation on this bill, it is obviously because the Conservatives have nothing more to say. We have heard the same arguments over and over again, and they are not valid. I will go through them one by one right now.
I am not sure why a party would want to stretch out a debate on a terrible injustice that it has caused, and it has done this a number of times. It is strange. Why would they want to put that in the light? Why would they not want to fix that injustice by supporting this bill? One of the members mentioned that he was not here at the time that it happened, so in good justice, he could support the bill.
People have asked what we have been doing for the last four years and why we did not debate this bill earlier. Some of the people in the House now have actually asked this question. This Liberal government has passed something like 85 bills. I think some members' constituents would like to ask them where they have been while these very important 85 bills were being discussed and debated.
One bill in particular was in the exact same situation as this one. It was Bill C-17. Again, the previous government had unlawfully, either technically or in spirit, abrogated a modern treaty, a constitutionally protected treaty, and tried to pass a law that got around it. That was certainly disrespectful.
Some may ask why Liberals did not get more things done, and a good example was what happened when Bill C-17, related to the treaty, was ready to pass. There was a grand chief, chiefs and aboriginal people here in the galleries. It cost thousands of dollars for them to get here from the Yukon. What did the Conservatives do at that time? They called a dilatory motion that the next speaker be allowed to speak, and then the bill could not be done. Some members ask why things are not done, yet they continue to do tricks like that.
This particular bill broke a constitutionally protected treaty, as I said earlier, a land claim. The members opposite have asked—and it is a good question for the ones who were not here before—why Liberals voted for that bill. This question has been brought up a number of times. The reason is that the part of the bill in which the law was broken in spirit or in technicality was snuck in in a much larger devolution bill.
The devolution bill transferred the remaining federal powers to the territorial government. That was a tremendous move, and that is why the party supported that initiative. Unfortunately, even though the people affected by this wanted this taken out and some parliamentarians tried to get it out, the Conservatives pushed ahead with the bill, and that is why the other parties voted for it.
Another concern the Conservatives have noted a number of times is that there are two parts to the bill. I think the member for Northwest Territories corrected them and said there are three parts. Nevertheless, they said there is part 1 and part 2, and there was no consultation regarding part 2. That is not true at all. When we consulted, we consulted with all the local governments involved regarding the entire bill, both part 1 and part 2. Shortly, I will read to members some of the things they said, because the opposition has suggested they did not support both parts of the bill.
The bill concerns the Sahtu, the Gwich’in and the Tlicho. When the Tlicho signed its constitutionally protected land claim and its self-government agreement, I was parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs. At that time, unfortunately, we had to fight against the Conservatives to get that agreement signed. At least the Conservatives can now make peace with that wrongdoing of the past and support the bill.
I will read some comments of support, because the Conservatives have said that indigenous groups did not support part 2 or the bill.
Grand Chief George Mackenzie, from the Tlicho Government, said, “We urge the community to move swiftly and decisively to ensure that Bill C-88 comes into force during the current session of Parliament.”
David Wright is legal counsel to the Gwich'in Tribal Council. I say to David, drin gwiinzih shalakat. He said the following at the INAN committee:
If Bill C-88 is not passed, not only will Canada not have fulfilled its commitment to Northwest Territories indigenous communities, but these communities will be forced back into time-consuming, expensive, acrimonious litigation, all adversely affecting that treaty relationship and the broader reconciliation project. Further, this would generate regulatory uncertainty that benefits no one....
I know the Conservatives have spoken against uncertainty in the past, so that is another reason for them to support the bill.
Premier McLeod and Grand Chief George Mackenzie, in a joint letter, said:
[W]e are hopeful that Bill C-88 will proceed expeditiously through the legislative process and receive Royal Assent [in this Parliament].... The negative implications of the status quo are significant.
Mervin Gruben was also quoted as supporting the bill, as well as Duane Smith from Inuvialuit. It was suggested he was not allowed to come to committee, but he was actually invited. He did provide a written submission, and it was nice to have that information added to the record.
A Conservative member talked about not listening to indigenous people and indigenous voices. The member said that not listening to the people of the north is arrogance. I just read that the four governments involved, the Sahtu, the Gwich’in, the Tlicho and the GNWT, all support the bill. Conservatives are right; we should listen to those people. They should listen to those people as well, along with the rest of the parties supporting the bill, and support the bill.
Another thing the Conservatives have talked about a lot is support for resource development. I am sure all other parties agree with sustainable development. It is another reason the Conservatives should vote for the bill. I will read some comments about how the bill promotes and ensures this.
Chief Alfonz Nitsiza, from the Tlicho Government, said:
[F]ailure to resolve this matter co-operatively would damage our treaty relationship and undermine the process of reconciliation as directed by the courts. Long-term regulatory uncertainty for any reason will damage the economy of the Northwest Territories, including within the Tlicho community. This is all avoidable with the passage of Bill C-88.
David Wright, legal counsel to the Gwich'in Tribal Council, said, “Bill C-88 is a step toward certainty in the Mackenzie Valley, and that is a step that should be taken at this time”.
Finally, Premier McLeod said:
The proposed amendments to the MVRMA in Bill C-88 would increase certainty around responsible resource development in the Northwest Territories. That certainty is something our territory needs as we continue to work with the indigenous governments in the territory to attract responsible resource development.
Conservatives, to be true to the values they so eloquently put forward on resource development, can support those values by supporting this bill.
I support Bill C-88, an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. Although the debate so far has focused on the content of the proposed act, I want to talk about what is not in Bill C-88 and why it would be a mistake to make major amendments at this stage.
Amending Bill C-88 at this stage of the process would defeat its overall purpose, which is to resolve a court challenge arising from the previous government's decision to merge the land and water boards without holding appropriate consultations.
The Northwest Territories Devolution Act, Bill C-15, was assented to in March 2014. The act transferred the administration and control of public lands and waters to the Government of the Northwest Territories and amended the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. The act includes provisions restructuring the Mackenzie Valley land and water boards.
The Tlicho government and Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated challenged the changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act that would have dissolved their regional land and water boards. They argued that theses changes violated their land claims agreements and infringed on the honour of the Crown. They added that the consultations had been inadequate. On February 27, 2015, the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories granted an injunction that suspended the proposed board restructuring, along with the coming into force of other regulatory amendments.
I would like to point out that those regulatory amendments, which included the addition of a regulation-making authority for cost recovery, administrative monetary penalties, development certificates and other provisions related to regional studies, all passed through the parliamentary process in 2014. Those same provisions are being presented today. However, they were rewritten to ensure that they could apply under the existing four-board structure. They were not part of the court challenge. Bill C-88 responds to the court challenge by reversing the provisions to merge the boards and re-introducing some regulatory elements that are applicable under the existing four-board structure.
On September 23, 2016, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations sent a letter to indigenous governments, organizations and stakeholders to launch the consultation process on Bill C-88.
Consultations were held with indigenous governments and organizations in the Mackenzie Valley, transboundary indigenous governments and organizations, resource co-management boards, organizations from the mining, oil and gas sectors, and the territorial government. To ensure that the indigenous governments and organizations were able to fully participate in the process, the Government of Canada provided funding to these groups and to the resource co-management boards that took part in the consultations.
Representatives from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, or CIRNAC, held a teleconference with stakeholders to consider next steps and to discuss the consultation plan. A legislative proposal to repeal the board restructuring provisions was drafted and submitted to the groups for review. During the review period, the groups had the opportunity to meet with CIRNAC representatives in Yellowknife to talk about the content of the proposal and to ask questions. This was also an opportunity for CIRNAC representatives to determine whether any part of the proposal was unclear or could be improved, based on the feedback they received.
I will not have time to finish, but I do not want to miss this particular point. The only other questions someone could ask that I have not already answered are whether the consultation that was done was serious and, although they were in agreement at the end, whether any changes were made. The answer is yes. I will give an example of two of the changes that were made.
The first was that because of the consultations with the people involved, a court jurisdiction related to a judicial review of administrative monetary penalties, AMPs, was modified in order to ensure consistency with the exclusive jurisdiction of the Northwest Territories Supreme Court under section 32 of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
A second change was that consultation obligations related to the AMPs were added to the bill to ensure consistency with the comprehensive land claim agreements.
The only other thing I think someone might ask is related to the position of national interest and whether this is the only case of that. The answer is no; it is a clause, an idea, that comes up in different legislation. I will give members some examples from the north: the Mackenzie Valley Resource Act, Statutes of Canada 1998, chapter 25, section 130, and the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, Statutes of Canada 2013, chapter 14, section 2.
Section 94 of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act provides for the federal minister to refer a proposed project to the Minister of Environment for the purpose of a joint review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act if it is in the national interest to do so.
The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act also provides for the responsible minister to reject a board decision or to reject or vary recommended terms or conditions if it is in the national interest to do so.
A few close references can also be found in section 51 of the Yukon Act, Statutes of Canada 2002, chapter 7, and in section 57 of the Northwest Territories Act, Statutes of Canada 2014, chapter 2, section 2.
To boil it all down, basically an act was passed that abrogated the land claim and went against a constitutionally protected law of Canada, which we cannot change by just doing another law. Of course, the court found that out and would not let it go ahead. All this bill would do is to put into law what the court had ordered.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2019-05-09 11:57 [p.27563]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate all members who spoke in an indigenous language to this historic legislation in this very exciting debate, which is taking place on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe.
To set the scene and give a bit of background on the bill before I get into the bill itself, I note that now members can speak their languages here. Today the first speech was in Cree, and it had simultaneous interpretation.
The procedure and House affairs committee, which I chair, did a study earlier this year about having aboriginal languages in the House. It brought recommendations to the House, and all members in the House agreed to them, which was very exciting. For the first time in history, MPs who can speak an aboriginal language have the right to speak it in the House and at committee, with simultaneous interpretation.
We can imagine indigenous youths sitting at home in an urban area, in a village or on a reserve seeing that they can use their language in the highest democratic institution in the land. We can imagine how much strength it gives them, how much hope it gives them and how much support it gives them for their languages.
That is a very exciting achievement of this particular Parliament. It was initiated by the actions of the member for Winnipeg Centre, who spoke first in the debate today. He spoke totally in Cree, as did some other members.
I want to tell members a story. We put a lot of emphasis on youth. As members know, the Prime Minister has a youth council, and many MPs have youth councils. I was at a youth meeting, which I think was convened by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. A young indigenous woman from the Yukon, who I think has spoken before the United Nations, made the point that people always say that if people get jobs, make good progress in their lives and get strong, they can bring forward their culture and language and that it will benefit all of us to see that creative, exciting diversity. She made the point that this is all wrong. It puts the cart before the horse. She said that what we need first is the language and culture and confidence in the language and culture, because that is what gives people the strength to succeed in school and in life. When they have confidence in themselves, they know where they come from and are very proud of themselves through their language. Of course, language is the basis of culture.
As was mentioned in the debate earlier, language is more than just translating a word, because languages express how we live. For instance, in Inuktut, there are a number of different words for snow, whereas in English, there are not very many. Language portrays a culture, so it is very important to one's way of life.
Statistics show that indigenous people around the world who have pride in themselves, understand their language and have pride in their culture are more successful than those who do not.
This is a great move today in the House of Commons and there is a lot of support here. It is very exciting what the House of Commons is doing.
This is a great step in reconciliation, partly to fix a wrong that we were a big part of creating. Not only did foreigners coming to Canada overwhelm in numbers the first peoples here, but sadly, we took steps to diminish their languages through residential schools, the sixties scoop and relocation.
That is why Bill C-91, an act respecting indigenous languages, is so exciting. First, it would ensure the language rights included under the rights referred to in section 35 of the Constitution, such as the right of indigenous people to develop and preserve their languages. Second, the bill would ensure adequate, stable funding for languages. I will talk about that in more detail later, because funding has been brought up before. Third is the revitalization and strengthening of indigenous languages. To ensure that all these things are implemented, a commissioner would be established.
As a number of members have mentioned at various stages of this debate, it is critical to move quickly on this bill, because indigenous languages are disappearing. Thank goodness many indigenous leaders and elders in my area and other areas have taken to recording their languages so that they will always be there and can be revitalized and renewed by the youth. In my area, I think I saw the passing of the last elder who spoke fluently in Tagish. If he was not the last, there are not many left, so this is critical.
When Europeans first came to North America, there were over 90 indigenous languages. There are still over 70, but some have very few speakers, as the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs found out when we were studying this. It is very important that this bill be implemented as soon as possible to make sure that we halt the diminishment of these languages, promote and restore them and build them up among the youth. This bill would also fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action 13, 14 and 15 and would set the stage for articles 11 to 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
This legislation was co-developed with first nations, which is why a number of the clauses and principles were very thoughtfully created.
I want to mention a bit about funding. To implement, preserve and restore languages requires funding. This government has made sure that this is taken care of. In the last budget, $330 million over five years was allocated for this, with $117 million after that. Before the bill even comes into effect, all sorts of projects are happening across the country. There have been large increases in funding. Back in 2017, there might have been $5 million, so there has been a huge increase in the funding necessary to move ahead.
This government has taken care of funding for the next five years. However, that does not preclude the possibility of a future government wanting to stop funding this. Therefore, included in this bill, in paragraph 5(d), is a statutory requirement that all future governments would have to fund the required activities, which I am sure the commissioner would monitor. It does not happen very often that there is such a clause in a bill, but we have put one in this one.
Paragraph 5(d) reads:
establish measures to facilitate the provision of adequate, sustainable and long-term funding for the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance and strengthening of Indigenous languages;
That preserves the funding. As I said, we have provided it now, but that preserves it into the future, regardless of what political party happens to be in power.
This is such a unique endeavour. It has been a great education for MPs, who have been hearing indigenous MPs and other MPs provide us with information related to their particular areas. I also want to provide some interesting facts about my particular area.
My riding covers the whole of Yukon and the traditional territories of 14 first nations therein. Some Europeans think that any one indigenous person in North America is the same as another—that they speak the same language, have the same culture, dance the same dances. That of course is not true.
My particular area makes up one one-thousandth of Canada's population, but there are eight language groups: the Gwich’in, the Northern Tutchone, there is a bit of Upper Tanana, Southern Tutchone, Tagish combined with Tlingit, a tiny bit of Tahltan and Kaska. Each of these groups has a different culture and a different history. Their languages are different. To the north of us there are a few Inuvialuit people as well.
I am going to describe the eight first nations in Yukon so that people will have some information about these language groups that they would not otherwise have.
Traditional knowledge is very important. It is a unique type of knowledge passed down orally, generation after generation. According to oral tradition, Yukon first nation peoples have lived in this land since Crow, a mythological creature of the time, made the world and set it in order. Archeologists calculate that the first humans inhabited the Yukon more than 10,000 years ago, crossing the Bering land bridge from Asia or travelling the waters alongside.
Today, first nations people belong to the Athapaskan or Tlingit language groups. I will briefly talk about what the eight specific groups within them are like.
Let me deal with Gwich'in first. The Gwich'in people are our most northerly group in the Yukon. They inhabit a huge area of land in which there are four different dialects. Most familiar to Yukoners are the Vuntut Gwitchin, who reside in Old Crow. Then there are the Tetlit Gwich'in in the Northwest Territories, the Tukudh Gwich'in in the Blackstone area, and the Alaska Gwich'in.
The Vuntut Gwitchin first nation is the modern-day political organization of the Yukon Gwich'in. The Vuntut Gwitchin signed its Yukon first nation final agreement in May 1993. The people live along the Porcupine River and follow annual cycles of subsistence. Right at the centre of their life is the Porcupine caribou herd.
I will digress for a moment to mention the critical struggle going on to protect the Porcupine caribou herd. If that herd becomes extinct, it will result in cultural genocide for the Gwich'in people of Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, because their whole life revolves around that herd. Their clothes—including vests similar to what I am wearing today—and their food are dependent on the caribou herd. When I have been there, I have seen them eat caribou three times a day. The caribou is really the heart of their culture. It is absolutely fundamental that this herd not be diminished.
Mr. Trump and the Republicans have passed legislation to allow drilling on the caribou calving grounds. Calving, of course, is a very sensitive part of the caribou life cycle, and this drilling could endanger the herd, which currently numbers roughly 130,000. The Gwich'in people have fought for decades to protect that area, along with the Canadian embassy in Washington. I have been involved for a couple of decades in fighting against any drilling in the Arctic national wildlife refuge area. Canada has a responsibility to do this. We have an agreement with the United States to protect the Porcupine caribou herd.
The second group of people I will talk about is the Hän people. The Hän people live where the Yukon and Klondike Rivers merge. They lived through the greatest impact of change when the Klondike gold rush marked their lives with great social upheaval and displacement.
The chief at that time, Chief Isaac, was very forward-thinking and took their songs and their dances to a community in Alaska, where he asked that they be preserved. He did not want to lose them with the massive influx of people. Dawson City was the biggest city west of Chicago or Winnipeg at the time of the gold rush.
They took their songs away, with a dance stick, and entrusted them to them. The dance stick was called a gänhäk. Then they brought them back, and now they are revitalizing their culture.
The next group is Upper Tanana. There are just a few people on the Yukon side; most are in Alaska. That is near Beaver Creek. A lot of the first nations moved around, depending on the time of year and where game could be found, so they were not on the existing locations where the Alaska Highway is. The effect of that highway on these first nations is an entire speech in itself, and I will not get into it at this time.
I am going through these groups faster than I would like, but I still do not have enough time to give more details.
The next large group is Northern Tutchone. They inhabit the central part of Yukon, often referred to as the heart of Yukon. There are three first nations there, within the Northern Tutchone Tribal Council: the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, the Selkirk First Nation and the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation. The small villages of Fort Selkirk and Minto were home to the people of this area prior to the building of the Klondike Highway, or as we old-timers call it, the Mayo Road.
The next group, the fifth, is the Southern Tutchone, as we have done Gwich'In, Hän, Upper Tanana, Northern Tutchone.
The Southern Tutchone occupy areas of southwest Yukon. Many traditional areas and village sites were once the centres of trading activity for these nomadic people. While many of these locations were gradually abandoned with the building of the Alaska Highway, they are still regarded with reverence as the homelands of the Southern Tutchone people.
The school there is where my 10-year-old daughter has her favourite class, and it is also where my six-year-old son had his highest mark. That is probably a tribute to the great Southern Tutchone teachers they have. It is also a French immersion school.
The Kluane First Nation, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council and the Kwanlin Dun are also in that area. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nation have started maybe the first immersion day care in Canada. The immersion is in the Southern Tutchone language.
It was at the Calgary Olympics that a Yukon first nation person sang the national anthem in Tutchone.
The next group, as I mentioned earlier, may be functionally extinct. If not, there are not many speakers at the moment. I am referring to the Tagish language. The point about the Tagish people near the Carcross area is that this first nation people had great co-operation with the people in the gold rush, unlike what happened in some areas in North America. They helped people come in and were guides for them. They came in from the ocean over what were called “grease trails” because of the eulachon fish grease that indigenous people had carried on them for trade over the years.
Kate Carmack, whose brother was the famous Skookum Jim, recently received the great honour of being the first indigenous woman to be put in the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame for her role in the discovery that led to the greatest gold rush in the world.
As I said, there was great co-operation from the Tagish, and the inland Tlingit people as well, who traded over these grease trails. A number of generations ago, some of them moved inland from the coast to the Teslin and Carcross and Atlin areas.
The Kaska people are found in the southwest corner of Yukon, which they share with Ross River Dena Council and Liard First Nation and a number of people in northern B.C. and other communities. They have friends in the Dene people in NWT.
[Member spoke in Gwich’in as follows:]
[Gwich'in text translated as follows:]
Thank you very much for your comments.
View Georgina Jolibois Profile
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and his office are spending their time on the Prime Minister's most important relationship, but sadly, it is not with indigenous people. He continues to prioritize helping Liberals get ahead, while indigenous people struggle with the government's broken promises. Communities in my riding are struggling with access to safe and affordable housing, to well-paying local jobs and to quality medical care near home. When will the Prime Minister be true to his word and act to help first nation communities?
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 Georgina Jolibois Profile
Mr. Speaker, this is very important legislation that affects all indigenous people across Canada. It affects first nations, Métis and Inuit from coast to coast to coast.
We have been told by elders, language educators, leaders and others that it is important for the government to act now. We have done enough talking. We talk, research is done on indigenous people and then more research is done. Recommendations may come forward, but we wait 10 more years.
The government is very good at saying one thing, but when it comes to real action that makes changes to indigenous people's lives, it is playing games, just as it did with respect to this debate. I was not given the chance to have an interpreter here when delivering my speech because I was not given enough time to ask for one. I have the right to use one, but the bureaucracy and the government prevented me from doing so.
View Sheri Benson Profile
View Sheri Benson Profile
2019-05-02 12:51 [p.27284]
Mr. Speaker, that the member was unable to deliver her speech in Dene is unfortunate. I have to underline the irony of talking about legislation on indigenous languages and not allowing indigenous speakers to speak their indigenous languages.
Yesterday, we saw a House that could co-operate, that could set partisanship aside, that allowed me to table a bill on indigenous languages among procedural happenings in the House. We saw the sides come together. I was able to table legislation that included some very important amendments that were brought forward and were not passed by the government.
I wanted to make that point and allow my colleague to comment on those amendments and on the opportunity we have today to not just take a small step, but actually make a difference in the lives of people.
View Georgina Jolibois Profile
Mr. Speaker, language is identity. That is who we are as indigenous people and the government is playing with that. Shame on the Liberals for doing that.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2019-05-02 13:17 [p.27288]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once more to speak to Bill C-91, the indigenous languages act. I will share my time today with the member for Peace River—Westlock.
Indigenous languages across Canada are certainly diverse, unique and richly intertwined with our cultural mosaic, which makes our country such an amazing place to call home. The promotion of indigenous languages, and indigenous history and culture more broadly, is something we should all seek to promote as part of our national character.
As I mentioned during my speech at second reading of the bill, support for the promotion and teaching of indigenous languages has rapidly grown in my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood and in particular in my city of Saskatoon.
During my nine and a half years as a school board trustee in the city of Saskatoon, the teaching of indigenous languages to new generations of young people was a priority that was taken very seriously by everyone around our board table. I was very proud to take part in the expansion of the indigenous language training program in the Saskatoon Board of Education, which gave more young people the opportunity to study indigenous languages and connect with the rich and vibrant cultures attached to those languages.
The teaching of indigenous languages enriches our education systems and it gives students a valuable and unique learning experience. As I have previously noted, instruction of indigenous languages is growing in my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood and in our city of Saskatoon. The expansion of teaching of indigenous languages is certainly enriching the learning experience of more and more young people in our city.
Confederation Park Community School offers language instruction in Cree for about 280 students from pre-K, all the way up to grade 8. They are involved in this learning process. The students benefit from the Nehiyawiwin Cree language and culture program and are able to immerse themselves in the study of the indigenous language as part of their education background.
Additionally, Westmount Community School provides a Metis cultural program that includes Michif language instruction for students there, again from pre-K all the way up to grade 8.
Charles Red Hawk Elementary School offers Cree language instruction from pre-K all the way up to grade 4.
Mount Royal Collegiate, Princess Alexandra School and King George School provide Cree language instruction in our school system.
Saskatoon public schools offer instruction in three indigenous languages: Cree, Michif and Dakota. Furthermore, Dakota language and culture lessons are part of Chief Whitecap School and Charles Red Hawk School.
St. Frances Cree Bilingual School offers Cree education to over 440 students in pre-K to grade 5 and another 150 students in grades 6 to 8. This school has seen tremendous growth in our education system since the launch of its Cree language program, way back in 2009, when, by the way, there was only 133 students enrolled in the program. Look how it has grown since then.
The demand for education in indigenous languages has proved to be incredibly popular. Hundreds more students are now being taught indigenous languages in our schools as a result.
More and more people in Saskatoon are seeking the benefits of indigenous language education and, as a result, St. Frances Cree Bilingual School is now serving students in two different locations, on McPherson Avenue, where they have pre-K all the way up to grade 5, and at Bateman Crescent, where they have grades 6 to 8.
Instruction of indigenous languages is continuing to become available for even greater numbers of students who know the inherent value of indigenous languages for both their learning and for their communities.
At Oskayak High School in my neighbour riding, Cree language instruction is offered in grades 9 to 12, where approximately 70 students are taking Cree language instruction.
Moreover, the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools division offers core Cree language instruction for some 348 students from pre-K all the way up to grade 8 at St. Mary's Wellness and Education Centre.
These statistics bear repeating, because they show just how important indigenous languages are within our current education system.
Young people and their families recognize that the promotion and the revitalization of indigenous languages is something that is incredibly valuable as a cornerstone of indigenous culture and a vital piece of Canada's multicultural mosaic.
We support Bill C-91. The legislation represents a pragmatic, reasonable and necessary approach toward strengthening and supporting indigenous languages across the country.
The bill responds to three of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action. The promotion and revitalization of indigenous languages is one step in the long path that we all must take toward reconciliation, as we move forward from a dark past.
A former Conservative government created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the 2007 Indian residential school settlement agreement. We recognized the devastation and the terrible harm that was inflicted upon the indigenous peoples of this country. We recognized the profound intergenerational damage that the indigenous language and the cultures suffered as a result of the residential school system. From the dark past, we must grow together in the spirit of reconciliation. The Conservatives know that the preservation of indigenous language and culture is part of the way forward.
On another matter, last night I had the great privilege to see the screening of the movie The Grizzlies. This movie has been talked about in Canada for the last month since it was produced.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity a couple of years ago to travel up north to Nunavut. However, for those Canadians who do not have opportunity, this movie will give them a snapshot of what life is like for those living in the north and the wonder of the northern landscape.
The movie explores the challenges faced by youth who live in the north. They are straddling the traditional way of life with the modern while dealing with the fallout of colonialism and residential schools. It is an uplifting film about a difficult and sometimes very tragic experience for indigenous communities up north.
Through this film, we experienced how facial expressions, for example, and gestures, traditional storytelling, music, singing and drumming were all vital to traditional language and culture. We are educated by witnessing traditional language and culture in the everyday lives of the characters and we can understand why language and culture are so critical and must be honoured and protected.
I hope each and every MP will take in The Grizzlies. It was shot in Nunavut. It is a story about suicides in Nunavut, which is the highest area of suicides in the country. Sport brought the community together.
However, more than ever, this movie depicts a number of things, such as song and singing. There was an instance where an older brother was singing to a younger brother in their language, putting him to sleep. It is a movie that all Canadians must see. It deals with not only the issue of suicide but language and culture.
A lot of us do not get the opportunity to go to Nunavut. This movie is one that all Canadians should see. It is very moving. I certainly would recommend it.
The movie talks about what we are talking about today: language and about culture. We often do not get a chance to talk about Nunavut in the House, because a lot of us do not have the opportunity to go up there. It is an emotional film. Many members from ITK were in the theatre last night. There was a lot of crying, but at the same time, it brought a great culture to our country, the music and the language.
I am happy to support Bill C-91.
View Georgina Jolibois Profile
Mr. Speaker, survivors of the Île-à-la-Crosse and Timber Bay boarding schools are seeking justice from the government. When they were in opposition, the Liberals wanted justice for Métis survivors from northern Saskatchewan, but they have done nothing to provide compensation or justice since they formed government.
Métis people and survivors of boarding schools do not want to wait for another election to get justice. Will the Liberals commit today to do the right thing for survivors of the Île-à-la-Crosse and Timber Bay boarding schools?
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2019-04-09 15:44 [p.26892]
[Member spoke in Dene as follows:]
Naya dak gwandii
[Dene text translated as follows:]
Madam Speaker, I stand today on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people to express my support for Bill C-88, which proposes to modernize the regulatory regime governing resource development projects in the north.
Before I start, one of the last Conservative speakers said the decision should be made in the north. The northern governments—the Sahtu, the Gwich'in, the Tlicho, the Government of the Northwest Territories—are all in agreement with this legislation. I assume that unless they are going to contradict their own speaker, the Conservatives will be supporting this bill, which leaves the decisions in the north as they were negotiated in the constitutionally protected land claims.
The key reason I support the legislation now before us has to do with the proposed enforcement system. As my colleagues know, the effectiveness of any regulatory regime depends largely on the quality of its enforcement system. As it stands today, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act lacks an effective enforcement system when it comes to assessments of environmental impacts.
While the amendments to the Northwest Territories Devolution Act did create an enforcement system, the court challenges initiated by northern indigenous groups on the decimation of their boards effectively eliminated it. Bill C-88 would amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to establish an enforcement system based on development certificates.
A development certificate is a form of authorization, a permission slip of sorts. For a project to proceed, an environmental assessment body must first issue a development certificate to the proponent. The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act follows a similar approach.
Under such a system, that environmental assessment body can include specific mitigation measures in the development certificate. The proponent might be authorized to drive heavy vehicles only on frozen winter roads, for instance, or be banned from designated areas during the time of year when caribou typically birth and nurse their calves, which I wish the Trump administration would do in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Under Bill C-88, the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board would be authorized to issue development certificates listing mitigation measures within the jurisdiction of the responsible ministers. After completing an environmental assessment or environmental impact review, the board would issue a certificate to the proponent.
Under the enforcement system envisioned in Bill C-88, it would be a violation to proceed with a project without a valid certificate or to contravene the conditions of a certificate. These and other violations could lead to an administrative monetary penalty, or AMP. An AMP is a fine imposed by an inspector. It is a civil sanction imposed through an administrative process, rather than a criminal sentence imposed by a court.
Bill C-88 would amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to provide all the necessary and appropriate authorities for AMPs and associated regulations. The regulations would specify penalty amounts, as well as the method of calculating penalties for each type of violation. The amendments also specify the maximum fine would be $25,000 for individuals and $100,000 for organizations. A violation that continues for multiple days would be subject to a separate AMP for each day. I am convinced that the threat of such potentially large fines would promote compliance with the proposed legislation.
There are many advantages to an enforcement system based on development certificates. The threat of a hefty fine removes the potential financial benefit of non-compliance, for instance. By imposing particular restrictions on a project through a development certificate, the system helps regulators to achieve particular goals, such as environmental protection. Civil sanctions such as AMPs tend to be more efficient than criminal prosecutions, which can be lengthy and expensive undertakings.
The enforcement system proposed in Bill C-88 is consistent with those authorized in other federal legislation, including the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, the National Energy Board Act and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
Another worthwhile feature of the proposed enforcement system is that it features many effective checks and balances. Development certificates, for example, could not include measures within the jurisdiction of a designated regulatory agency, such as the National Energy Board or the Tlicho government. Anyone issued an AMP could seek to have the notice investigated by an official review body. The review would determine whether the penalty was issued in accordance with the regulations, whether the person committed the violation, or both.
For violations related to part 5 of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which pertains to environmental assessment, the federal minister would be empowered to act as a review body. For violations related to part 3 of the act, which deals with land and water management, the board that issued the original authorization would serve as the review body. If a violation was related to an activity that did not involve an authorization, the board responsible for the region where the violation occurred would serve as the review body.
The enforcement system would also include a reconsideration process. A proponent could request an adjustment to a development certificate to address changing circumstances, ineffective or unclear project conditions or new technologies. Reconsideration would be limited to the area of change and to any effects the change may have had on the project. The proponent would not be required to complete another full environmental assessment, and the original decision to authorize the project could not be challenged under reconsideration.
Inspection is another important aspect of the proposed enforcement system. Qualified persons, such as federal or territorial officers, would be authorized under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to inspect projects for compliance with the conditions of development certificates. The inspectors would have broad authority to enter and examine premises. They could also prohibit or limit access to premises. If an inspection uncovered evidence of an activity that contravened part 5 of the act, the inspector could issue an order to cease the activity and to mitigate the effects of the activity.
To deter proponents from interfering with the work of inspectors, this part of the enforcement system would include more stringent measures. Rather than civil sanctions, violators would be subject to criminal prosecution. It would be a criminal offence to obstruct inspectors, for instance, or to knowingly provide them with false or misleading information. It would be an offence to carry out development without the proper authority or to contravene an order to cease an activity.
Offenders would face stiff penalties. Conviction for a first offence, for example, could lead to a fine of up to $250,000 and a one-year prison sentence. The maximum fine for subsequent offences would rise to $500,000. This part of the enforcement system would also feature important checks and balances. For instance, an action could not be subject to both an AMP and a criminal sanction.
As my hon. colleagues can now appreciate, the legislation before us envisions an effective enforcement system. Proponents would be required to abide by specific conditions set out in development certificates. To promote compliance, the system would include sanctions corresponding to the seriousness of a violation or offence. As well, the system would incorporate a series of checks and balances to prevent potential abuses of process.
I am convinced that such an enforcement system would enable northerners to maximize the potential benefits of resource development and to minimize the potential environmental impacts. I will vote in favour of Bill C-88 at second reading, and I urge my hon. colleagues to do the same.
The years involved in negotiating these settlements, land claims and self-government settlements are a remarkable testament to parliamentarians and to Canada. These agreements are working very well. As I said previously, one of my greatest moments in Parliament was to get the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement through Parliament.
We have to maintain the honour of the Crown, maintain respect for those constitutionally protected agreements and make sure that we do not pass legislation that would infringe on those agreements.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2019-04-09 16:07 [p.26896]
Madam Speaker, I expected the member to talk about the relationship with first nations and the importance of the honour of Crown and having a trusted relationship. He has good relationships in his riding, and I know that has been assisted by the fact that all parliamentarians have agreed to having indigenous languages spoken in the House of Commons and at committee. The indigenous languages act would increase the trust and reconciliation.
Could the member give us any experiences from his riding of how important this trust and these relationships are with first nations and their governments?
View Sheri Benson Profile
View Sheri Benson Profile
2019-02-28 17:39 [p.25950]
Mr. Speaker, I will begin my remarks by recognizing that we meet today on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. I hope that one day we will begin all of our daily proceedings in this place with this acknowledgement. I also wish to acknowledge the land on which my riding is situated. It is Treaty 6 territory and the ancestral homeland of the Métis people.
I am extremely proud to rise in support of my colleague from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. I wish to recognize her connectedness to community, her hard work, her humbleness and her humility, which are all qualities of a true leader. It is these qualities that have helped the House to soon realize the passing of her private member's bill, a bill that signals a step, one among many, that we must take. It is one important step on our collective and individual journeys towards reconciliation with indigenous people. The bill provides the House with an opportunity to acknowledge and, most importantly, own its settler history.
What is this history? In the summary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, members will find these introductory words, which is a reminder of why we are where we are today as a country and why our support of the efforts and leadership of my hon. colleague are so important:
For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.”
We are in an era where politicians talk about how important it is that the rights of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples are recognized, protected and most importantly enshrined explicitly into Canadian law. Some of us are actually acting on that talk. I speak of the work of my colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law with his bill, Bill C-262, and the work of my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona who tried so hard to insert into Canadian environmental law the rights of indigenous peoples as stated in Bill C-262. Today, I am able to add my colleague's efforts to this list of efforts in the House for reconciliation and justice for indigenous peoples in Canada.
The bill before us today is amended from the original bill tabled by my hon. colleague. The original bill was to make June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, a statutory holiday. Both in the House and in my community, my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, articulated the many reasons for the proposal to designate June 21 a national statutory holiday. She spoke of her work as the mayor of La Loche on this issue. She listed the history of indigenous organizations calling for June 21 to be recognized as a national holiday. She told us of the spiritual significance of June 21, the summer solstice, for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, and she acknowledged the history for many communities of celebrations and special commemorative ceremonies on June 21.
My community of Saskatoon is one of those communities that has focused its efforts on June 21. In recent years, Saskatoon has grown, the community has expanded and we acknowledge reconciliation and the TRC's calls to action on this day.
For over 20 years, the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre has hosted National Aboriginal Day, now National Indigenous Peoples Day, on Treaty 6 territory, the homeland of the Métis people, and in my riding of Saskatoon West. Every year, thousands gather in my community, joined by indigenous leaders, elders, non-indigenous leaders, survivors of residential schools, provincial schools and day schools, survivors of the sixties scoop, and indigenous veterans, for activities and ceremonies to mark the day.
In recent years, the city of Saskatoon has marked the day with important ceremonies and commemorations honouring indigenous peoples.
Last year, the new name for the north commuter Parkway Bridge was announced at the Indigenous Peoples' Day event in Saskatoon. The new name, Chief Mistawasis Bridge, honours Chief Mistawasis, also known as Pierre Belanger, who was the head of the Prairie Tribe and signed Treaty 6 in 1876.
At the unveiling, Mistiawasis Nêhiyawak Chief Daryl Watson said:
Today is a very momentous occasion for my nation. It's part of the whole process of reconciliation. Chief Mistawasis, 140 years ago, began that process when he acknowledged the territory by welcoming newcomers to share the land. Reconciliation began for us when treaty was signed.
In 2016, one of the national closing events of the TRC was held in Saskatoon on June 21. This event galvanized community members and indigenous and non-indigenous community leaders in Saskatoon to begin to formalize our reconciliation efforts and to respond to the TRC's calls to action as a community. Reconciliation Saskatoon, with organizational support from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, is that community-wide response.
Reconciliation Saskatoon is a community of over 98 organizations, non-profits, businesses, faith communities and partners. They have come together to initiate a city-wide conversation about reconciliation and to provide opportunities for everyone to engage in calls to action.
The path to reconciliation in my riding, in my community, has embraced June 21 National Indigenous Peoples' Day as the day. We worked hard to make that day inclusive of all peoples, a day where we work, celebrate and remember and in so doing, help to build relationships and ultimately to build a better community for all.
Three years ago, we added a new event, a walk in my riding, called “Rock your Roots for Reconciliation”, spearheaded by Reconciliation Saskatoon. Last year, over 4,000 people participated in that walk.
Today, the bill before us has a different day, September 30, to be designated as a statutory holiday, a day that honours the survivors of residential schools. This day is also observed in my community. I acknowledge creating a national day to honour residential school survivors is call to action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Although this legislation started in a different place, it is here today after a parliamentary process that built support across political parties, and so it is a good day.
We are here today in this good way of co-operation because of the work of a Dene woman leader who kept us focused on something much bigger than partisan politics: a goal to build a better Canada for future generations. Today, I am very proud to be her colleague, to belong to a party and to sit in a caucus that backs words with action. As a caucus, we must work every day to honour her voice and leadership, a Dene woman from Northern Saskatchewan, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.
Today, I remind all my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House that we all have to work together. We all have work to do to truly honour and respect the authentic voices of indigenous women in the House and in our communities.
View Georgina Jolibois Profile
moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
She said: Mr. Speaker, today is indeed a good day. Today I am proud to rise on behalf of my constituents in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River to present my private member's bill for one last time in the House of Commons.
This was a journey that began what feels like ages ago, and there is a sense of comfort as this stage of our work together on this comes to an end.
It is not lost on me, and it should not be lost on all our hon. colleagues in Parliament, that it was not too far from here that Canada's system of residential schools was created. It was in these halls that political leaders from across Canada decided that the cultures of first nations, Métis and Inuit people had no place in Canada. It was in the chambers not too far from here that leaders spoke for hours about how first nations, Métis and Inuit people were not deserving enough to speak their own languages. Not too far from here a Canadian prime minister stood with the backing of his party and decided that first nations, Métis and Inuit people needed to be silenced, separated and struck down.
Today I stand here with a small amount of pride and a great amount of humility knowing that history is back on the course of justice. Today is the result of countless hours of consultation with my elders, with my constituents and with the history of our people. Today is another step toward our multipartisan effort to fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action number 80. Today's bill is the product of a multi-party effort to best honour the legacy of residential schools, to honour survivors and to think about how to do right by indigenous people in Canada for generations to come.
I want to thank the members of the Canadian heritage committee for the thoughtful consideration and time they put in to making my bill happen. No single individual or political party can claim ownership of how we proceed on our path toward true reconciliation. Reconciliation is a goal that we all have an obligation to work toward and reflect on. This includes not only us as members of Parliament, but also our staff and everyone who works for the Government of Canada.
My bill will affect those of us in the federal service, because it was this government that decided to persecute and oppress the first nations, Métis and Inuit people across Canada. It is a tragedy that we all must atone for, and we must all work together toward fixing the systemic racism that is so commonly found in Canada's colonial government.
I do not want to give the impression that today is the end of our journey toward reconciliation. In the grand scheme of things, we have achieved very little on our journey. Everyone will shake hands and pat each other's backs after today, just as they did after the heritage committee, and claim victory in the name of political points. However, working on reconciliation is not a political platform. It is a moral obligation to do the right thing.
It is also worth noting that our work on the national day of truth and reconciliation is far from over. When I first proposed my bill, it was clear to me after my consultations that June 21 should be a statutory holiday. June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, is a day that has been chosen by first nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada because there is spiritual significance for many related to the summer solstice.
Knowing this, the Government of Canada funds nationwide celebrations from coast to coast to coast. The government provides the funding for first nations, Métis and Inuit people to publicly celebrate who they are, where they come from and where they will be tomorrow. These celebrations would take place anyway, but that the government has a system for non-indigenous people to participate in our celebrations is well thought out and welcome.
However, such a funding system is not currently in place for the national day of truth and reconciliation. The government has made a public commitment that this holiday will be taking place this year, but we have yet to see any action on what the government plans to do on this new holiday. This is particularly important because our intention was never to just give federal employees another day off work; it was intended to be a day for federal employees to engage with the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities that surround them so they could better understand the system of oppression that still exists.
An empty commitment from the government is not acceptable. Without clear guidance from the government, done with the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people, this holiday will mean nothing if federal employees are not engaged in a meaningful way with the history and legacy of residential schools. I, along with my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, call on all members of Parliament to put the work in and make sure that this holiday is meaningful.
There is also concern, and I have heard this from a number of my constituents, that limiting this holiday to just employees of the federal government is not a comprehensive response to call to action number 80. I fully recognize the limits of the federal government. We do not have the ability to legislate for the provinces in this matter, but I believe that we should do everything within our power to talk to our friends within the provincial governments to take up this call to action themselves.
It was not just the federal government that carried out the harm against first nations, Métis and Inuit children in residential schools. Provincial education boards and employees were directly responsible for much of the harm that has been caused. Everyone who has a seat in this chamber has an obligation to reflect on this holiday but also an obligation to have difficult conversations with their friends, families and their own elected representatives so that all people across Canada will have the time to appropriately think about the impact of residential schools that continues to be felt. We owe that to survivors. We owe that to victims. We owe that to Canada.
My last concern is likely the most important concern I have, and it has to do with the scope of the holiday. I first proposed June 21 as the date of this holiday, because National Indigenous Peoples Day is inclusive of the overwhelming majority of first nations, Métis and Inuit people from across Canada. Changing the holiday to September 30 and renaming it the national day of truth and reconciliation would not be harmful on its own, but it does make me wonder about those indigenous people who have had their culture taken from them by the federal government outside of residential schools.
In particular, I think about the survivors of boarding schools and day schools who are still waiting for the government to listen to their stories. I think about all the children who were taken from their families as part of the sixties scoop, forever taken from their families, their cultures, and their languages. Yes, this day of reconciliation would be good, but would it be inclusive of their truth and stories? I very much look forward to continuing to have these discussions with people across northern Saskatchewan, and I invite all members of Parliament to open their hearts and their ears and invite these stories to come into their lives.
I have expressed these concerns in the past to committee members, and they have provided me with assurances that these are conversations the government wants to have. It is with great honour that I accept my job as the member of Parliament for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River to hold the government to account and make sure that it meets the full intention of what this holiday would work so hard to achieve. It is not a small task, and it must be taken seriously and with the highest amount of respect. I will be watching, indigenous people will be watching and all of Canada will be watching.
At this point, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the amendments to the bill and speak to why the bill should pass through this chamber and head over to the other place.
When I introduced my bill here a few years ago, I proposed that June 21 be the statutory holiday, for reasons I outlined previously in my comments today. At that time, the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress for Aboriginal Peoples, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and many other prominent indigenous organizations and people across this country all called for the creation of June 21 as a statutory holiday recognizing National Indigenous Peoples Day.
I do not view amending this bill to make September 30 a national day of truth and reconciliation as a bad thing, so long as the government adequately addresses the concerns I raised earlier in my comments. What I was hoping to achieve with my bill was to begin a national conversation about a holiday honouring survivors and the legacy of residential schools, and today's debate shows that this is something we have achieved together.
I am very happy to see that the democratic process worked and that we had a public conversation, through the committee process, about this holiday. As the Minister of Heritage himself has said, imperfect bills are presented and amended through the committees of this House. That is how our democracy is supposed to work, and with regard to this bill, it has worked.
At committee, we heard from elders, national indigenous organizations, indigenous women's organizations, labour unions, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and a number of chiefs from across Canada. The overwhelming response from them was that September 30 should be a day of truth and reconciliation.
There are a number of people across Canada who may be upset that this bill has been changed, and with them I empathize. I put forward the best case I could for June 21 and National Indigenous Peoples Day, but after a lot of thinking and a lot of consultation, we have, in my opinion, really and truly identified an appropriate date for this holiday to take place. My door is always open to continue having this conversation, because it is far from over. It is my commitment to my constituents to always be there to listen.
One of the best lessons I have taken away from this consultation process is the idea that there is a difference between days of celebration and days of mourning. June 21 as an established day of celebration has its place. A day of truth and reconciliation cannot be included within existing celebrations. For this reason, I welcome the amendments to the bill.
As I have said before, September 30 has become more and more recognized across the country as a day to reconcile with our history. In both northern Saskatchewan and here in Ottawa, I was very encouraged to see so many people in orange shirts saying to the world that what happened to first nations, Metis, and Inuit children and families was unacceptable. I am so encouraged by the work of others to improve the lives of indigenous children across Canada. I am inspired by people like Dr. Cindy Blackstock, who has dedicated so much of her life to working towards child welfare in Canada. I also think often about the work that elders, friendship centres, indigenous culture camps and educators do across the country to bring young people back into the culture of their family. I think about Kevin Lewis, who runs a program like this in northern Saskatchewan.
I also think about the indigenous activists in Canada who have fought so hard to make sure that indigenous voices are heard by this government. I think of the indigenous women who refused to stay idle when the government threatened their land and indigenous sovereignty. I think of the stolen sisters, who remind us every day of generations of indigenous women who continue to live on in our hearts. I think of people like Colleen Hele-Cardinal, who worked almost single-handedly to make sure that survivors of the sixties scoop see the justice they are owed.
I say all this to remind the members of this House of the context in which our debate today takes place. First nations, Métis and Inuit people have been fighting so hard for so long for their people. To establish this day of truth and reconciliation is not to pat ourselves on the back. It is to give ourselves the opportunity to learn more about their work and how we can incorporate their ideas so that indigenous people can have justice and tell survivors of residential schools that what we have done to them will never happen again.
The calls to action put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are not a checklist of things to be achieved. Completing just one call to action is not a step towards progress. Until the day all calls to action are completed, we have very little to celebrate. Today we feel good, but tomorrow we must work harder. Today we look toward a brighter future, but tomorrow we must work harder to make life better for first nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada.
On September 30, we will remember and honour the past and future, but on every other day of the year we must fight to reverse the injustices committed against the indigenous people in Canada.
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