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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
I call the meeting to order.
Thank you for being here today.
This is, of course, a very special day as we welcome legislation that has successfully gone through second reading in the House of Commons .
This is, of course, a hearing about Bill C-5, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code. Bill C-5 is also known as the bill for a national day for truth and reconciliation.
Just as a quick note regarding organization, we're going to have two separate hours of witnesses to discuss this bill with our MPs.
For the sake of our witnesses, we have representation from the Liberal party, which is the governing party; the opposition party, which is the Conservatives; the Bloc Québécois; and the NDP.
Most of us are doing this remotely. I just want to say to our witnesses that if there's a conversation that you wish to comment on or in which perhaps you want to correct something, try to get the questioner's attention by just waving your hand, rather than trying to get my attention.
By the same token, MPs, I'd like to ask you to please direct your questions by starting with the name of the person you would like to answer the question. That makes things a lot easier.
That said, we will now proceed.
We have three witnesses on the first panel. Carlon Big Snake is a small-business owner. We also have, from the Canadian Federation of Library Associations, Stacy Allison-Cassin, assistant professor, University of Toronto. As well, from Federally Regulated Employers — Transportation and Communications, we have Derrick Hynes, who is the president and CEO.
The way we do this is that you give your opening statements for up to five minutes. You don't have to use all five minutes, but you have up to five. If you go beyond five, I'm somewhat flexible, but of course for the sake of our timing, we have to keep moving.
We're going to start with Carlon Big Snake, and I hope the connection is solid enough.
Please give us your introductory remarks for five minutes.
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Carlon Big Snake
View Carlon Big Snake Profile
Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 12:38
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Thank you. First of all, I would like to say okya.
My name is Carlon Big Snake. I'm a proud Blackfoot member from the Siksika Nation in Treaty No. 7 territory.
Today I am very honoured to represent and witness a promising historical event for indigenous people and Canadians in making a positive change to Canada's modern society. Not only for ourselves but to look to [Technical difficulty—Editor] these opportunities or to allow an equitable quality of life. Unfortunately, today's society is apportioned, which in turn causes hate and racism.
The acceptance of the TRC call for action number 80 to support Bill C-5's changes will show the sincerity and commitment of the federal government. This action will show a promising future for Canada and indigenous peoples across the nation.
The proposed bill, Bill C-5, will also enhance the education system. It will be prudent to assist Canada's educational institutions for a better understanding of our forgotten history.
My wife Lisa and I are descendants and survivors of the residential school system. We were raised with negative impacts of history. However, we felt it is our responsibility to take that mentality and use our hardship for strength for our future.
We decided to advocate in a positive manner to give hope to our families and communities. We also used those negative impacts to strengthen and create a future for our future generations.
Recently, my wife and I acquired two white buffalo. They are held with honour and respect among the people. In the past, the buffalo provided food, shelter and medicine.
However, when a white buffalo is born, it is a sign of strength and hope that we will see change soon for our people, which I see now. With the proposed acceptance of call to action number 80 through Bill C-5, we as caregivers hope that not only our people but everyone will receive blessings.
It is our way of allowing Canadians to visit first nation territory and see that we, as individuals, have pride in who we are today and to create a united society.
In closing, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to address the matter, and I have faith that the decision will be made to accept and have September 30 as a national day of truth and reconciliation.
Together we can begin to heal the past and look forward to a united prosperous future.
Kiit’aah’mut’tsin. Again, thank you.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you. We appreciate that. Thank you very much.
We are now going to go to Stacy Allison-Cassin, assistant professor, University of Toronto.
Are you with us?
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
View Stacy Allison-Cassin Profile
Stacy Allison-Cassin
2020-11-20 12:42
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I am.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Ah, there you are.
Okay, you have up to five minutes. Please proceed.
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
View Stacy Allison-Cassin Profile
Stacy Allison-Cassin
2020-11-20 12:42
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Good afternoon, members of the committee and fellow witnesses. I guess maybe it's good morning for some of you.
I'm Stacy Allison-Cassin, assistant professor, teaching stream, at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, and I'm chair of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations' Indigenous Matters Committee. I am appearing today on behalf of the CFLA.
I'm a citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario, and I am speaking from Oakville, Ontario, which is the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinabe. I also acknowledge the current treaty holders, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
I want to thank the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for the opportunity to speak on Bill C-5 on the proposed national day for truth and reconciliation.
I want to start off with a brief story. Like many families right now, we are working and learning from home. My youngest daughter is in grade 3, and she currently does her schooling from the kitchen table. On September 30, as in recent past years, we wore our orange shirts. As I came in and out of the kitchen on that day, I was continually struck—being sort of able to listen in on a day of grade 3—by the lessons and discussions that were taking place on the topic of residential schools. The teacher read them Phyllis Webstad's story of her orange shirt, and the children in the class were invited to reflect on the story in different ways, really reflecting on it as children listening to a story about another child.
I found it particularly moving. Throughout the day, they watched videos and did orange shirt-themed artwork, and the teacher led the group of seven- to nine-year-olds through some very difficult conversations.
After school that day, we had further conversations within our own family about residential schools and Canada's role. My child had a one-word question that I think many parents are familiar with: Why?
Although I've not had a family member who has experienced residential school—as far as I know, at this point—I have had to talk to my children about why my grandmother hid her identity and why she did not teach my dad her language. I'm hopeful and encouraged that my children and their classmates are learning about residential schools and indigenous peoples in Canada. I know that we have more work to do, and I am really so grateful for all of those and for Phyllis for sharing their stories to bring us to this point.
As a librarian, a parent and an indigenous person, I was struck by a great number of things that day. Among them are the following. Stories are important for truth and understanding and conversations. Facts are important. Creating deliberate space—time apart from the contours of work and school and our busy days in the lives that we all lead—is really vital to ensuring learning, awareness and remembrance of residential schools and the ongoing impacts of colonization, as well as learning about the vibrancy of indigenous peoples and cultures.
September 30—what is now known as Orange Shirt Day—has in many schools, libraries and other sites become an important day of learning and remembering. Creating a national day of truth and reconciliation will create further weight and impetus for a day of remembering and learning for all Canadians.
This is important because, as we know, the first step of reconciliation is the truth part, which includes learning facts, hearing stories and understanding the ongoing impacts of colonization. That will ultimately lead to reconciliation.
As a librarian and educator, I recognize the importance of access to materials, as well as the importance of infrastructure in the delivery of such materials and learning. As we know, access to online materials is particularly important right now in the pandemic. This includes access to the Internet, to materials that are both age-appropriate and culturally appropriate, and to materials in an appropriate language.
As a parent, I have found myself seeking books and guides to help me have conversations with my children and sharing these with other parents.
Libraries exist in schools, communities, hospitals and higher education, making them key hubs for accessing information, programming and technology across the spectrum of age, location and social position. They enable learning outside the bounds of formal education.
Libraries play an important role in ensuring that people have the ability to learn about not only the residential school system, the Indian Act and treaties, but also about indigenous art, literature, language and culture and the experiences of indigenous people in Canada.
Creating a national day for truth and reconciliation would encourage and support the development of programming and the collection of materials, and it would bring greater learning and awareness to all people in Canada.
In 2017 the Canadian Federation of Library Associations' working group on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report that set out detailed actions for libraries to take to implement the calls to action. Since the release of the CFLA's TRC report, the Indigenous Matters Committee has formed a major component of the work of the CFLA. Numerous calls to action relate to education, language, and programming, and speak to the availability of reports and documentation. Furthermore, calls to action numbers 69 and 70 highlight the importance of compliance with UNDRIP regarding indigenous peoples' rights to know the truth of what happened and to access information regarding human rights violations. It is thus vitally important that infrastructure be present to support both control of and access to documentation.
To return to the story I told at the beginning of these remarks, it's my hope that with a national day of truth and reconciliation, learning and discussion will be amplified across Canada. In this, libraries are able to act as a key component to help ensure that we will not have another generation that will not know the truth and that we will acknowledge and honour the survivors and remember those who have died.
Thank you.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you, Ms. Allison-Cassin.
Is it “Ms.” or “Dr.”?
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
View Stacy Allison-Cassin Profile
Stacy Allison-Cassin
2020-11-20 12:48
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It's Dr. Allison-Cassin.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
It's Dr. Allison-Cassin. Good for you.
I want to now go to Federally Regulated Employers — Transportation and Communications, and Derrick Hynes, who is the president and CEO.
Go ahead, Mr. Hynes.
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Derrick Hynes
View Derrick Hynes Profile
Derrick Hynes
2020-11-20 12:49
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Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
Mr. Chair, I need to start with a quick shout-out to my mom, who happens to be one of your constituents. I'm sure she's watching you and me today.
Thank you for inviting me today as a witness.
In my five minutes, I have some general comments. I'm happy to take questions and discuss these important issues with you after that point.
First let me tell you a little bit about FETCO, the organization for which I work. We are an association of private sector federally regulated employers. Our membership includes major airlines, courier companies, railways, telecom firms, etc., as well as others. Our members are businesses that carry out 24-7 continuous operations almost exclusively. They run businesses that essentially never stop. They connect the domestic and global supply chains and provide critical services to Canadians on a daily basis.
Let me start by saying that FETCO and its members fully support and endorse truth and reconciliation. Our members have a tremendous commitment to diversity and inclusion within their organizations, and this fits perfectly within that broad framework. Our members have no opposition to this proposed holiday. They appreciate the significance of setting aside a day of reflection. They agree it's a positive step in the direction of reconciliation, and frankly, they'd like to be partners in this important journey.
In the broader context, what I'd like to talk to you briefly about today is basically the concept of what a paid statutory holiday means within the context of the federal private sector to provide you with, I hope, some insights around what this looks like in practical terms. What I'm not going to do, and I don't want to do, is in any way disrespect this important dialogue by somehow implying that we should put a price on reconciliation. That would be wrong. That's not my intention. However, I think it's important that we all understand what a paid holiday means.
My colleagues at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business conducted some research a couple of years ago and concluded that a paid statutory holiday across the entire country basically costs the economy, in effect, $3.6 billion. That's assuming all jurisdictions participate in the holiday.
Within the federal private sector, where my members reside, we've done some back-of-the-envelope analysis. It's pretty crude. It looks as if it's probably about a $600-million cost for a one-day paid holiday.
I spoke with some of my members about this specifically. I spoke with a member who employs about 5,000 Canadians in a 24-7 continuous operation. They, in their operation, estimate that a paid holiday costs about $1.4 million for them specifically.
It's important to note that the federal private sector is unique in Canada. As I noted earlier, these businesses don't stop during a holiday. These are not your typical nine-to-five desk jobs. These are businesses that continue to run whether there's a holiday or not. They don't shut down and take the day off.
What happens in practical terms is that those who work typically receive extra compensation, and we all know the expression about receiving overtime at time and a half, for example. What happens, building on that perspective, is that those who receive that time and a half will often take it off later on as time off, and then those who are brought in to replace them for that day are again paid overtime at time and a half, so there's a bit of a compounding effect of what a paid statutory holiday means in the context of continuous operations. Really, in essence, it becomes a cost item, for all intents and purposes.
It's also important to note that a change like this one doesn't occur in isolation. Last year, for example, the government introduced three new paid days to the Canada Labour Code. They're called “personal leave” days. Employees are entitled to them for a multitude of reasons, and the reasons for which they can be taken are quite flexible. Five are guaranteed, three of which must be paid to the employees.
Today we're talking about Bill C-5, which will potentially add one more. Minister Tassi, the Minister of Labour, is planning to soon add another—it's in her mandate letter—under the title of “family day”. This means that over about a two-year period, the government will be adding five days of paid time off in a very condensed time frame.
With all this said, if the government does proceed in this manner, we do have a few recommendations that we hope you will consider in your deliberations.
First, one option is to consider declaring a national truth and reconciliation day without necessarily making it a paid holiday within the federal private sector.
I've looked at the witness testimony you heard earlier in the week. I'm not sure that there's necessarily a huge push from advocates asking that this be a paid day off. Some of your witnesses talked about the fact that this is not meant to be a day for people to put their feet up and watch TV.
If we did it this way and it was not necessarily a paid day off, employers could be actively engaged with indigenous leaders to ensure that the day is commemorated properly and respectfully.
However, if the truth and reconciliation day does proceed as a paid holiday, our second recommendation is that it actually be made effective as a paid holiday in 2022. The 2021 budgeting in most major corporations is done. That financial planning is already complete, and it would be quite disruptive to the process to start that process all over again to accommodate this change.
Our final request, if we do add a paid day for truth and reconciliation, is that the government reconsider its commitment to adding the family day as well. Adding both in the federal sector at this time would mean that the federal jurisdiction would have the highest number of paid statutory holidays within all the Canadian jurisdictions. What ultimately will result from that is a bit of an unfair asymmetry between organizations that operate in the federal sector versus the many—the vast majority—that actually operate across the provincial sector.
That's all I have to add. I'd be happy to take your questions and talk about this. We do believe that this is a critically important issue, and we want to be supportive.
Thank you.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you, Mr. Hynes, and give my regards to your mom as well.
Now we go to our questions.
Just to remind our witnesses, there are several rounds.
I believe Mr. Waugh is up first.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2020-11-20 12:56
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
That's for six minutes, please.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2020-11-20 12:56
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Thank you.
I want to say thank you to Mr. Big Snake, Mr. Hynes and Dr. Allison-Cassin for their comments. I'll start first with the doctor.
As a former school board trustee in the province of Saskatchewan, I totally agree with you on materials, the Internet and the language. I think this day needs an education component to it all over Canada. Is your organization, the Canadian Federation of Library Associations, at the point now, with new materials and such, that if this does become a day of recognition on September 30, your library association will be putting out materials that all of us could have access to?
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
View Stacy Allison-Cassin Profile
Stacy Allison-Cassin
2020-11-20 12:57
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Thank you for your question.
I think an important thing to know about the Canadian Federation of Library Associations is that we're a federation of associations. We represent the provincial associations as well as specialized associations, such as, for example, the Canadian law associations or health associations, and we really act as a mechanism for bringing together conversations that are then mobilized within our individual jurisdictions. Numerous library associations have been working on this issue for several years, but we don't develop curriculum specifically through the CFLA. We have a detailed report, which I mentioned, that lays out actions that can and could be taken in the context of individual libraries or individual associations.
I do know that the library association in Saskatchewan is quite active in developing all kinds of programming. For example, I know that they have a program on right now to look at specialized subject headings, which is an important part of accessing materials. Subject headings that have been used in many libraries have actually been in racist terminology or in older terminology that's problematic. There is a considerable effort going on across many library associations and professional groups to change those so that we are no longer accessing materials with inappropriate language and names for nations that are not the names the nations use themselves. That kind of work is ongoing.
I cannot speak for all of the associations down to the individual libraries, but I know that active and considerable effort is being put into these programs across Canada, so I would think so.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2020-11-20 12:59
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Good. Thank you for your presentation.
I'll move now to Mr. Hynes.
I used to work with Bell Canada. We did not recognize Remembrance Day as a federal holiday. That was changed.
You brought out several good points, one from Stephen Kakfwi, the former premier of Northwest Territories, whom you quoted on the definition of a holiday.
You had a good point about federal holidays versus provincial holidays. That can be a contentious issue. When I was in the television business, for example, Remembrance Day was a holiday provincially, but under the CRTC it was not. Can you expand on that? Provincial versus federal jurisdiction will be a contentious issue in this country.
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Derrick Hynes
View Derrick Hynes Profile
Derrick Hynes
2020-11-20 13:00
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Thanks for the question.
One of the many challenges that emerges within this complex federation in which we all live is that the rules of the workplace, for example, are determined by the jurisdiction in which it operates. The federal sector covers about 10% of all employees within the country. The rest are covered under the relevant provincial jurisdictions wherever the organization might operate. Of course, I don't need to tell most of you on this call that it is determined by the Constitution which powers reside where.
Most of the members I represent are what were believed to be, at the time of the writing of the Constitution, those large federal undertakings—transportation firms, communications firms, banking, etc. The challenge that exists is that when we add paid holidays to the Canada Labour Code, they only affect those organizations that are federally regulated. If we add two, which is now what is largely under consideration, the private federal sector in this country will have the largest number of paid holidays.
If you're an organization whose competitor, for example, might be provincially regulated, you are now at a cost disadvantage against that competitor. It would be our hope that we would do as much as we could to create harmonization when it comes to paid statutory holidays, as well as on many other issues that we talk to the government about, such as occupational health and safety. There are lots of other issues for which harmonization just makes life a whole lot easier and removes any unnecessary competitive imbalance that could be brought into force.
This in no way takes away from our members' support and belief in setting aside a day for national truth and reconciliation. I could go on ad nauseum about how committed they are to that. These are not mutually exclusive concepts. We can do one and not necessarily make it a paid holiday.
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View Kevin Waugh Profile
CPC (SK)
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2020-11-20 13:02
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I think my time's up, Mr. Chair. I stopped it at 5:48.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Yes, I was being rather generous to you, sir. I will be generous to others across the board as well.
I will take this time to welcome the two MPs who have joined us. Madame Desbiens is with us, I believe. She's from the Bloc.
Also, I mentioned to our witnesses earlier about the party representation. I mentioned the four parties. We also have a rule within the committee that both the independents and the unrecognized parties—unrecognized from a House perspective—also have access to our committee, so I want to welcome Mr. Paul Manly, who's from the Green Party.
Mr. Manly, thank you for joining us.
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View Paul Manly Profile
GP (BC)
View Paul Manly Profile
2020-11-20 13:03
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Thank you. Thank you for having me here.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Housefather, you have six minutes, please.
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-11-20 13:03
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you so much to all of the witnesses.
Mr. Hynes, it's great to see you again. I'm going to come to you next.
Mr. Big Snake, thank you so much for your very moving story, both about your family and the buffalo. I really appreciated it.
Dr. Allison-Cassin, I'm a huge fan of libraries. When I was mayor of Côte Saint-Luc, our library was open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 365 days a year. I think the library is the essence of a community. My first question is to you.
You talked a little bit about how libraries would help to instruct schoolchildren in the history of residential schools in Canada and the purpose of the national day for truth and reconciliation. Could you talk to me a little bit about how libraries might also help employers do the same thing? What could you do for adults as well as you could do for kids?
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
View Stacy Allison-Cassin Profile
Stacy Allison-Cassin
2020-11-20 13:04
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Well, I would like to think that many adults use the library as well, as much as kids do.
Speaking to programs for adults, I was talking earlier about my role as a parent. That is certainly a vital role in understanding how to facilitate conversations with children, but I would also say that for adults, there's lots of learning. I did not learn about residential schools when I was a child. That learning primarily had to take place as an adult.
Of course, while I read picture books to my children and learn from them, I'm going to perhaps read other kinds of material or engage with other kinds of material. When we look to adult learners across the spectrum, there are things like book clubs. We know that many public libraries have book clubs.
As I said, there are also many different kinds of libraries. There are public libraries, but libraries exist in other kinds of spaces. There are libraries in hospitals. There are research libraries, which is another area that is really important in conducting research around indigenous matters. When we look at the fundamental role of access to materials and information and data and reports, it really goes across the spectrum. Libraries absolutely serve to not only provide history but also access to information and research about the ongoing impacts, for example, of the residential school system on families in all kinds of ways. There are absolutely roles for libraries in multiple kinds of contexts, and in particular, as I said, in thinking about how we provide access to those materials.
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-11-20 13:06
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Thanks so much. I do think libraries will play a central role in this holiday. I really do.
To Mr. Hynes, first of all, I want to thank FETCO for its commitment to truth and reconciliation and its understanding of the importance of this day. I think you spoke very sensitively to that while balancing it with the needs of the people you represent. I want to thank you for that. I will convey to Minister Tassi the concern that you expressed about adding another day in terms of family day in addition to this holiday.
One of the points you raised intrigued me a little bit. This was in terms of your subsidiary request that if we do go ahead and make this a paid holiday, it come into force in 2022, because budgets for 2021 have already been done. Can you speak a little bit more to how you would propose the government do that?
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Derrick Hynes
View Derrick Hynes Profile
Derrick Hynes
2020-11-20 13:07
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Sure. Thanks for the question, and also thank you for your kind comments. We do make great efforts within our organization to be a collaborative participant in any consultation that's happening under Minister Tassi's mandate. You and I have had a lot of interaction in these early days as a result.
When I reached out to members about this issue, I have to say that the response was quick and it was very positive. This issue around financial planning was one of the issues that was raised. Much of the budgeting and planning that gets done for an organization—everything down to the fine detail of shift scheduling for the year ahead and determining human resources needs, particularly in operational environments—gets done well in advance. I heard from some of our members that this planning is complete for 2021, as a result, and we're not far away from January 1. It would be somewhat disruptive to have to unfold all of that and then layer in a paid holiday at this point, so I think it would be appreciated among our member community if at least the paid portion of this holiday were delayed to 2022.
That's not to say that the national day could not be set aside in 2021. We will do all we can to be supportive of it, but if the portion of it that actually kicks in the paid part and makes it a paid statutory holiday could be extended to 2022, that would make our lives a lot easier and would certainly be appreciated.
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-11-20 13:09
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I appreciate that information. Thank you.
Mr. Chair, do I have any time left or am I done?
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
You have 39 seconds. Make the most of it.
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View Anthony Housefather Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Anthony Housefather Profile
2020-11-20 13:09
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I think in 39 seconds I won't achieve much.
Thank you to all of our witnesses.
I will yield the floor to my colleague from the Bloc Québécois.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Champoux, you have the floor for six minutes.
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View Martin Champoux Profile
BQ (QC)
View Martin Champoux Profile
2020-11-20 13:09
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to the witnesses for joining us today. Their testimony is very enlightening.
I will turn first to Ms. Allison-Cassin.
You brought up the issue of indigenous languages. Clearly, for the Bloc Québécois, the issue of language is very important. We are talking a lot about it these days.
We know that a number of indigenous languages are under threat and that some have probably already disappeared or are spoken very little. A group of young people in the country is trying to revive the indigenous language that their grandparents spoke, but that they have almost never spoken. I find that to be an extraordinary initiative. It's a lovely story. It's a great way to value indigenous culture and make it better known.
Does your federation have the means to assist an initiative like that? Do you feel that it's an initiative that can be spread more widely in the country to save indigenous languages, which are very powerful cultural tools?
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
View Stacy Allison-Cassin Profile
Stacy Allison-Cassin
2020-11-20 13:10
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Thank you for your question and for picking up on the importance of indigenous language.
Again, I will say that the Federation of Library Associations is an advocacy group in terms of supporting our member associations and their work. Certainly for the indigenous matters group, raising awareness around the need to support indigenous languages in libraries and other spaces is part of the work we do in raising that awareness.
I was mentioning earlier the issue of subject headings. This is one of the chief ways we access materials. We access not only materials in the language, but we need to access materials through platforms and subject headings.
We know it is important for people to be able to navigate to materials in their language, not just through English. That is one area where we are advocating that sites like public libraries or academic libraries consider ways of implementing systems that will support not only language revitalization but that language usage as well.
That is certainly something we seek to support library or member associations in doing, because, as we know, part of.... As I mentioned in my story, my own grandmother did not teach the language to her children. My father could never speak to his grandparents, who spoke a mixture of French and Anishinaabemowin. He could never speak to them because they did not speak the same language, so for me it is also personally important.
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View Martin Champoux Profile
BQ (QC)
View Martin Champoux Profile
2020-11-20 13:12
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Thank you.
If initiatives are already underway in academic institutions, I imagine that you will begin initiatives in elementary schools, for example, in order to make the children more aware of that culture from their early years in school.
Do you have initiatives along those lines? If so, what are they?
Generally speaking, how open are the teachers and educators across the country?
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
View Stacy Allison-Cassin Profile
Stacy Allison-Cassin
2020-11-20 13:13
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I would have to get back to you on specific issues around public schools. My personal experience is more at the academic level, but I have been working on a project to look at the subject heading front and to look at implementing systems to access materials through indigenous languages, so we're supporting multilingual systems.
We know software often doesn't come out of the box all the time as multilingual, so it's important, too, to advocate for software.
Also, I will say that it's also important to connect, through our member associations, with other initiatives at the international level that are supporting indigenous knowledge and languages as well.
Part of it is supporting the availability of materials and the purchase of materials in indigenous languages, but it's also making them accessible through the means of the language. There are numerous projects. I would be happy to connect you with some of those resources.
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View Martin Champoux Profile
BQ (QC)
View Martin Champoux Profile
2020-11-20 13:14
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My question goes to Mr. Big Snake.
You said that your wife and yourself are, in a way, the descendants of indigenous residential schools.
What obstacles did you have to overcome in order to heal the consequences of what you experienced in the residential schools?
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Carlon Big Snake
View Carlon Big Snake Profile
Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 13:15
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Thank you to the witnesses for their comments.
Through our experience I felt.... I was pretty well raised by my grandparents. I'll step back a bit here to let you know that both my parents spoke fluent Blackfoot. I'm the only boy in my family out of five, and my four sisters also speak fluent Blackfoot. One of the impacts is that I did stay the majority of time with my grandparents, and they as well spoke fluent Blackfoot. However, both my grandparents did tell me at that time that I had to learn how to speak English as much as I could. I could not speak the Blackfoot language. Unfortunately, I never did ask why. What was the reason I could not speak my language?
That's no blame to my grandparents. They wanted good for me, but that has an impact. Today I feel that I do my best. I do comprehend and understand the Blackfoot language. Speaking it is a challenge for me. That's one of the impacts I have due to the fact that my grandparents wanted to see the best for me. However, they were told that we needed to do away with our Blackfoot language. It was an omen.
With that system, my wife's mother was pregnant while she was in residential school. The only way for her mother to escape the residential school system was to get pregnant. She was a single parent. The day my wife was born in 1967 [Technical difficulty—Editor] she was taken from the [Technical difficulty] due to the fact that her mom could not care for her. Those two scenarios had an impact on her—
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Big Snake, I'm sorry. Please finish your thought. I'm going to have to go to the next questioner, but go ahead.
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Carlon Big Snake
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Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 13:17
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Those are the experiences. It has an impact and it has affected our children. They want to speak their language, and both of us.... Actually, my wife is Cree. We'd like to teach my children how to speak the language, and not only them but our grandchildren.
Thank you.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you very much.
Ms. McPherson, you have six minutes, please.
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View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank all our witnesses for being here and sharing with us today.
Of course, I have some questions for a number of you, but I think I'll start with Mr. Big Snake.
Mr. Big Snake, I'm also from Alberta. You can probably recognize the snow behind me.
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Carlon Big Snake
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Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 13:19
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Yes. Hi, there.
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View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
It's what we're dealing with here. We know a little more about this than other parts of the country.
Thank you for your comments on residential schools and sharing what you have gone through.
As you know, in Alberta right now we have a provincial government that is bringing forward a curriculum that is looking at removing any reference to residential schools from our provincial curriculum, which is of course extremely disturbing for me and I'm sure for you.
Do you think having a day for truth and reconciliation, even when provincial governments don't take their responsibility to educate children across the country on residential schools, will give us a better opportunity to do so? Also, what are the impacts of that? Could you speak to that a little bit, please?
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Carlon Big Snake
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Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 13:19
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Thank you.
I agree. I think that's very sad. I totally disagree with the position the Province of Alberta is taking regarding this situation, but I believe that the impact here.... As you know, there are certain incidents that are occurring in Alberta based on racism. Our fellow people have witnessed a lot of that in what's happening in Alberta, particularly. As you know, in Red Deer a Black Lives Matter protest, with the help of aboriginal organizations, was interrupted. Particularly, the RCMP took one side.
My comment today is that I feel that indigenous people in Alberta are separated from anything that we do, whether it's being an entrepreneur...and that has an impact. I think that at this point in time, considering the national holiday is a start. It sends a message. There is nothing across Canada to recognize anything for first nations or indigenous people. Should this happen, I think it will have a big impact.
There are 94 calls to action. I think there are only seven that have been recommended now. This is a good start. We need to send that message, particularly to the provinces as well. It's all about us.
Thank you.
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View Heather McPherson Profile
NDP (AB)
Thank you very much.
My next question is for Dr. Cassin. You spoke a little bit about how your children or your family are doing education at the kitchen table, as so many Canadians are across the country, and how it had such meaning to see how Orange Shirt Day was being done.
I also have children. They also spent a lot of the last nine months at our kitchen table doing their schooling.
One thing I was reflecting on when you were talking about that was how important Remembrance Day has become in our national identity, and how children learn so much because we have that day set aside. It's not necessarily recognized as a holiday both federally and provincially, but it is an almost universally acknowledged important day of memory to recognize what people have endured, what people have sacrificed. I think having that day is so important in making that a reality.
Could you talk a little bit about how you would see the truth and reconciliation day, the day on September 30, and the lessons we could learn from Remembrance Day, and how libraries could use that day to continue to bring forward these ideas of information and education?
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
2020-11-20 13:22
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I was reflecting as I was preparing for today that I had witnessed my children doing Remembrance Day, which has just passed, remotely. They even had remote Remembrance Day assemblies. Again, I'm so grateful to Phyllis Webstad and the way that Orange Shirt Day has now become, even just in the past two or three years, something that is happening at schools. I know that three years ago, when my children were a bit younger, it was not necessarily marked in the same way.
Like Remembrance Day, a day such as this would allow, for example, school libraries to pull together materials in a display, or for children to be able to begin to prepare. We know with the number of other ways that we mark days in Canada—Canada Day, for example—that it isn't just the day, that there is preparation beforehand, and teaching of why we hold this day important. It's not just that there is a holiday on this day, but there is a reason for the holiday.
We have all of those preparations. Now we have Christmas starting up, I suppose, and we prepare well ahead of time. We see that they allow for numerous kinds of preparations, not only for schoolchildren but, as I was mentioning, for adults as well. Why not have ways of reading about the TRC, book club ideas, or reading different kinds of materials and allowing for displays, exhibits, lesson plans, all of those ways that we can think about? Again, when we go into our public spaces and we see Remembrance Day or Canada Day displays go up, we would see the same thing for a national day of truth and reconciliation.
I think that has impact because, again, it's about demonstrating that it is important, like in Remembrance Day, that we do not forget. We remember those experiences. Even as we have fewer and fewer veterans left from the Second World War, we still remember. I think in the same way it allows for that gathering and that learning beforehand.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you very much.
We'll now move to our second round.
Mr. Shields, you have five minutes.
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View Martin Shields Profile
CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2020-11-20 13:25
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Right. Thank you.
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CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2020-11-20 13:25
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I agree with Mr. Housefather about the critical role. I was vice-president of the Alberta Library Trustees' Association for many years. Here's the problem for libraries: They don't have money. They don't have money. Unless we're willing to direct money to libraries, which I would advocate, they don't have the money or the resources to do this. I believe in what you said, but we need to give them the money to do it.
Mr. Hynes, your consideration of a 2022 implementation due to cost—that's an interesting one.
Mr. Big Snake, I've had the occasion to be at events with you and have listened to you. You are very intelligent and passionate. You talked in your comments about people coming to your nation. You have a residential school that's still being used. You have the world-class Blackfoot Crossing. How would you envision bringing people to learn about this on this day and more?
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Carlon Big Snake
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Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 13:26
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My background is in economic development. I think the impact here, to go back to my earlier comments, is in the education system. We need to educate a lot of people out there. We're still not sending the message.
Our facilities here, particularly the interpretive centre, can provide that. It invites people right across, worldwide, and it's there for a purpose. I don't know if any of you have been there. When you enter the building, you see a lot of history about residential schools. I've seen a lot of people, non-indigenous people, come out of there crying. They want to learn more. We have provided that information to them to understand what the livelihoods were. I think having an indigenous national day will help a lot of people come out to first nation lands and understand that. That will create economic activity, not only for first nations but on and off reserves. I feel that now it's time to do that, to take those opportunities and expand them, working with first nations.
Yes, we do have our old residential school standing up, but as I said in my comments, we have to take something that's negative and make it positive. We converted that old residential school into a community college, where our people are taking their education to the next level. The facility, I'm proud to say, as a former leader, [Technical difficulty—Editor] that we have doctors, lawyers, dentists, nurses, teachers—you name it. We have a lot of professional people, and I'm proud of that.
Again, I invite the world to Siksika. I believe other first nations would like to do the same on this day.
Thank you, Martin. It's good to see you.
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View Martin Shields Profile
CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2020-11-20 13:28
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You bet. You too. I hope more and more people get to see Blackfoot Crossing. It is a phenomenal exhibit and a phenomenal place that people need to see.
That, I guess, is what we're saying: that from your point of view, people need to come to your nation. They need to walk in those footsteps.
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Carlon Big Snake
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Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 13:29
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Exactly. They'll have a good opportunity to see what happened in history, to see the past. I think that's really important. They need to visualize it. That's where you can see the visualization of what really happened.
It's a touching story. I cannot.... I keep saying to people, “Come out to Siksika. See for yourself.”
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View Martin Shields Profile
CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2020-11-20 13:29
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Possibly they can take the opportunity to visit with you and your significant contribution in terms of the white buffalo. What you've acquired is a phenomenal story as well.
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Carlon Big Snake
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Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 13:29
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Yes. My wife and I feel that we're really blessed in acquiring these buffalo. I've never done a count, but I would say that since September, when we acquired them, probably about a couple of hundred people have visited.
There's one visitor who everybody keeps commenting about on Facebook or Snap or whatever you call it. That's former prime minister Stephen Harper. He was a visitor here. He mentioned that he wanted to be here for 20 minutes to half an hour due to his schedule, but I have to say that he was here for two hours. He was curious about the significance of the white buffalo. We gave him the story, and I really appreciated that.
That's a start there, as it is with gentlemen such as you, Martin. The education is going to start here.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you very much.
Folks, the clock shows that the hour is done. However, we did have a late start, so I'm going to allow one more question.
Mrs. Bessette, the floor is yours for five minutes.
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View Lyne Bessette Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Lyne Bessette Profile
2020-11-20 13:31
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Thank you very much for your generosity, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to all the witnesses for joining us today and for taking the time to come to talk to us about this topic, difficult though it may be.
My first question goes to Mr. Big Snake.
Thank you for your personal testimony.
Can you tell us a little more about why you find this bill necessary?
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Carlon Big Snake
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Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 13:31
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As I said earlier, does any other holiday represent first nations? There's Family Day, Christmas Day. Christmas Day doesn't reflect our culture. It's about Jesus and so forth. We weren't part of Jesus. We don't call it God. We call it the Creator, and we believe in that.
I think we need to balance this. I think it's really important. I keep emphasizing the educational part. This holiday is a start. If it starts in 2022, that's fine, but I feel it's a message that's going to be sent. We need to start implementing these 94 calls to action, and I believe that's a positive start.
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View Lyne Bessette Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Lyne Bessette Profile
2020-11-20 13:32
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Thank you very much.
I was obviously touched by the testimony. I was speaking with colleagues who were struck by the testimonies of indigenous and non-indigenous children who thought Orange Shirt Day was just a day when you put on an orange shirt. They need to know why. We have to go to the heart of this issue. We have to have a day on our calendar that says we have to pause and think about this.
I don't buy the money argument. People are going to get paid anyway. I think, let everybody pause. It's $11 million. Is it worth spending $11 million to commemorate this part of our history? Yes, absolutely.
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Carlon Big Snake
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Carlon Big Snake
2020-11-20 13:33
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Yes, I agree. I would rather take [Technical difficulty—Editor]. I don't know if it's spending. Call it an investment. That investment is going to create a lot of opportunity, and I truly believe that. Whether it be....
I don't know what to say here, but if we recognize that, I feel that all the people who were hurt through the history of what's happened to us have to come to the forefront. We have to quit hiding it and denying it.
It says “truth and reconciliation”. The lady, the doctor, mentioned it and said, “Yes, we need to talk about the truth.” Then we can reconcile after that. That's important to me.
Whether it's Orange Day or Orange Shirt Day, there's a lot of mishappenings to first nations. I think everybody needs to know that. I think we need to utilize that day to send that message out in a positive manner. I need to use what happened in the past, and the negativity about that, and turn that around and make it a positive for everyone. I truly believe that.
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View Lyne Bessette Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Lyne Bessette Profile
2020-11-20 13:35
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Thank you very much.
My second question would be for Dr. Allison-Cassin
It will be in French, I am sorry.
You mentioned that the first stage in the process of truth and reconciliation is the “truth” part, and that we have to have difficult conversations so that we never forget the consequences of the past and so that history never repeats itself.
In your experience, what is the best way to have those difficult conversations with young people?
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
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Stacy Allison-Cassin
2020-11-20 13:35
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Thank you for your question.
It's one of those “it depends” answers on how one carries out those conversations. I will say that I think it's important to have those conversations with small children as much as it is to have them with older people. Obviously, my story was about my daughter in grade 3. I know we have been talking about this in my family for some time. This is why I think education is important, but it's also important to educate the educators and to help those participating in education, whether it's teachers, librarians or other people in other areas—parents even—understand that even though these topics are hard, and it is hard to talk about....
I will say that when children are taught in school, as I think mine have been, that Canada is the best and Canada has all these wonderful things and you say, well, yes, but there are these parts of Canada that require work.... So it's allowing people to learn how to have hard conversations and not to not have them because they're uncomfortable or because you don't feel equipped to have them. I do think that is particularly important in thinking about ways that.... As Mr. Big Snake said, coming out to the territory, to the land, and seeing those places is also vitally important for having an understanding of what happened.
Again, it depends, but I think the biggest part is not not having them. That for me is one of the biggest things I would say. Having a national day does speak to the importance, to say, no, we can't not have these conversations.
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View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
I'm sorry. I have to end it there. We're over time right now.
Thank you, Mrs. Bessette.
I want to say a special thank you to our three witnesses here.
Mr. Big Snake, I want to thank you. I think I speak on behalf of many when I say that you've widened our interest in white buffalo. That's really something. It's quite a story.
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