Uqaqtittiji, I thank my constituents in Nunavut who continue to reach out and give me encouragement in this work. The faith they give me drives my work and continued commitment to ensure that their voices are amplified in this place.
I speak passionately as an Inuk, and I am guided by the voices shared with me by first nations and Métis. I thank the many indigenous peoples in Canada to whom I dedicate this speech.
Inuit and first nations thrived on these lands we now call Canada for generations before the arrival of settlers. Métis have thrived in Canada. Much to the chagrin of settlers, Inuit, first nations and Métis still use our cultures, languages and practices.
Unfortunately, there are still far too many indigenous peoples whose experiences show the constant disparity between Canadians and indigenous peoples. In support of the need to pass Bill C-29, I share some of these disparities and some basic words that have such disparate treatments between most Canadians and indigenous peoples in Canada.
On reproductive care, most Canadian women get proper guidance, they easily talk about birth control and do not have to worry about their pregnancies. Indigenous women still experience unconsented sterilization, do not get proper birth control guidance and must worry about nutrition due to a lack of accessible nutritious food.
Most Canadian women give birth in places with which they are completely familiar, with doctors and nurses they recognize, and the comfort in knowing that the system will be ready for any urgent issue that may arise while giving birth. Some indigenous women must leave their home communities and travel thousands of kilometres to give birth a month in advance. The doctors and nurses are not indigenous, may not necessarily speak their language and they may worry that their newborn baby may be taken by social services.
Love for most Canadians can be unconditional. The love between generations provides the financial stability, educational goals and freedom to choose to transfer a property from one generation to the next. For too many indigenous peoples, love is short lived, tainted by intergenerational trauma and little to no guarantees about the financial security needed for the next generation.
Education for most Canadians is having one teacher preside over many children and youth. It is a system rooted in colonial history, with Canada's successes. While there have been improvements, it is still largely without the history of how indigenous peoples were treated by assimilationist policies, which are still plaguing indigenous peoples. For indigenous peoples, it was a process of genocide and indoctrination. Indigenous children were emotionally, physically and sexually abused by so-called teachers. Some children never returned to their indigenous parents. Instead, they were buried next to the school that was supposed to take the Indian out of the child.
The RCMP for most Canadians is an institution whose members they can recognize and call upon to be protected. For indigenous peoples, it is a current and ongoing enforcer of systemic racism. It is still very fresh in my mind when RCMP officers, who were equipped with assault weapons, helicopters, dogs and a chainsaw, were breaking down the doors of indigenous women who were seeking to defend their lands against the unconsented project to cross their ancestral lands. There is also a lack of presence in other places where gang violence and squatters are allowed on indigenous lands.
Violence, for most Canadians. are the things they watch on TV screens, in movie theatres or some far away social media. For most indigenous peoples, it is a common experience. From childhood to the dying days of elders, violence is surrounding our lives.
Justice, for most Canadians, occurs quite quickly. For indigenous peoples, it takes generations, if any. Justice has tests to meet to determine if it is justifiably infringed. Justice for indigenous peoples will continue in jails and in gravesites.
Missing and murdered, for most Canadians, are terms they hear in the media about indigenous women. For indigenous families, it is a far too common experience. Reports after reports are not making the systemic changes to stop this genocide. There are far too many basic emotions to express all the heartache experienced by indigenous peoples.
Crisis is another word we hear all too often in the House. First nations, Métis and Inuit have been experiencing crisis for generations. Let us choose to be more careful when we use the word crisis in the House.
Suicide is something that has been a reality for far too long in Canada. For most Canadians, it is a debate on legislation that allows people who are suffering medical conditions to choose. Suicide, for indigenous communities, is something chosen by youth because they have no hope left. I am still hurt, and it is still very fresh in my mind, about the young pregnant woman who committed suicide because she was given the news that she would not have a home.
Reconciliation, for most Canadians, is a term on which the federal government needs to act. There is no sense of obligation for regular Canadians. It is a term used by politicians to make promises during campaigns. It is a term that costs too much, so the piecemeal approach is often taken.
I have not even mentioned the environment, housing, culture, languages and so much more. These disparities demand that the national council for reconciliation finally be established. I thank the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which heard and voiced such important calls to action. The national council on reconciliation must take a rights-based approach to monitoring the work of the government, whose side of reconciliation has failed for generations to date.
I conclude by sharing names of some indigenous role models who have proven indigenous peoples are vibrant, strong and vital to the continued success of indigenous peoples. These people are leaders and voices we must continue to amplify as they are the ones who have advanced reconciliation, whether they tried to or not.
This is an incomplete list and I challenge members to name more: Governor General Mary Simon, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Okalik Eegeesiak, Dalee Sambo Dorough, Cindy Blackstock, the member for Winnipeg Centre, Justice Murray Sinclair, John Amagoalik, Tagak Curley, former member of Parliament Romeo Saganash, John Borrows, Tracey Lindberg, Duncan McCue, Pam Palmeter and James Eetoolook. I know this is not an exhaustive list in any way.
We must all do what we can to ensure the national council on reconciliation is established. Through the great work of the interim board, we will see the advancement of indigenous peoples' rights, the advancement of self-determination and the expectation that the federal government does better to support the work of indigenous peoples in Canada.