Madam Speaker, I stand today to express the support of our government for Bill C-374,, an act to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act, composition of the Board.
I begin by acknowledging that our debate today takes place on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. As my hon. colleagues recognize, acknowledging the traditional territories of indigenous peoples represents a small but significant step in our journey towards reconciliation.
The legislation now before us proposes to take another step in this journey by improving the way that Canada commemorates the persons, places, and events that have shaped Canada's history since time immemorial. I commend my colleague, the hon. member for Cloverdale—Langley City, for bringing this private member's bill forward. I believe this is only the third time ever that a private member's bill has received royal recommendation, and it is a testament to my colleague's hard work that the bill received unanimous support from this chamber in the report stage vote.
For my colleagues to fully appreciate the context of Bill C-374, it is important to note that the Historic Sites and Monuments Act was first proposed in a Speech from the Throne in November 1952 to give a statutory basis to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which had been established in 1919. The act was put forward in response to recommendations in the Massey Commission report of 1951. The bill received royal assent in 1953.
The mandate of the minister responsible for Parks Canada includes deciding which sites, events, or persons are commemorated for their national historic significance. To help make these decisions, the minister relies on the recommendations of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
The current board includes a representative from each province and territory and one representative from Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian Museum of History, and Parks Canada.
Under the proposed legislation, the composition of the board will now include one representative each for first nations, Inuit, and Métis. To appreciate the impact of this change, it is important to have an understanding of how the board operates.
The board's main role is to receive and analyze nominations for historic designations. Each year, the board receives about two dozen nominations from members of the public, community groups, and other organizations. The vast majority of official designations originate with nominations sent in by the public, which reflects the interest of Canadians in the history of this land.
The board meets about twice a year to review nominations and make recommendations to the minister as to whether a subject merits designation. In making their recommendations, the board considers whether a person, place, or event has had a nationally significant impact on Canada's history, or illustrates a nationally significant aspect of our history. In virtually all cases, my predecessors and I have accepted the board's recommendations.
Once an official national historic designation is bestowed, Parks Canada organizes a ceremony, and installs and maintains the bronze plaque, which is the usual form of commemoration. This process serves Canadians well.
Today, our country's network of heritage designations includes nearly 1,000 sites, 700 persons, and 500 events. Canadians and visitors to our country appreciate these designations because each one represents one part of the larger stories of Canada. They honour our roots and accomplishments. They reckon with darker chapters of our history. They also describe our aspirations: how we have seen ourselves in the past, how we see ourselves in the present, and how we want to be seen in the future.
In this way, they link past, present, and future. This idea is particularly relevant at a time when so many Canadians are re-thinking the country's relationship with indigenous peoples. For millennia, indigenous peoples thrived in communities across the landscape we now call Canada.
Since the arrival of Europeans a few centuries ago, much of this history has been either ignored or downplayed. There can be no doubt that indigenous peoples have made and continue to make important contributions to the country, yet if one were to travel across the country and visit every historical plaque or historic site, I am confident that person would get an extremely limited sense of the history and contributions of indigenous peoples in the country.
The simple truth, of course, is that Canada's network of historic designations reflects a rather narrow view of the past, a view rooted in our colonial history. In recent years, however, Canadians have begun to take a more critical view of our history. Many now recognize that indigenous peoples have long been prevented from participating equally in and contributing fully to this country's prosperity. We must change this sad reality to unlock Canada's full potential. Through reconciliation, I am confident we can achieve this goal.
Our government is committed to achieving reconciliation with indigenous people based on the recognition of rights and through mutual respect, co-operation, and partnership. Reconciliation involves a multi-faceted, deliberate, and ongoing process—a journey. That is why our government is committed to implementing the 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission helped to educate Canadians about Indian residential schools and to raise awareness of how past policies continue to harm this country today.
Budget 2018 proposes to provide $23.9 million over five years, starting this fiscal year, to implement call to action 79, regarding the commemoration of heritage in Canada. The funding will support the integration of indigenous views, history, and heritage in the heritage places and programs managed by Parks Canada.
The legislation now before us is an essential step in the journey to implement call to action 79 by establishing ongoing first nation, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Along the way, we must acknowledge the wrongs of the past, learn more from our history, and work together to implement indigenous rights. Bill C-374 is a step in that direction in the area of historical commemoration.
The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development reviewed Bill C-374 and endorsed the proposed legislation with a series of technical amendments. The amendments clarify a few points about expenses incurred by board members and the expertise of board candidates. I am convinced that these amendments would strengthen the bill and serve the best interests of Canadians.
I expect that every person here today supports reconciliation with indigenous peoples, but I am convinced that we will make little progress toward this goal until we critically re-examine our history and take stock of the stories we have told and those we have not.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plays an essential role in the commemoration of our history. The inclusion of indigenous peoples and indigenous representation on the board would help us bring greater perspective to the telling of the stories of Canada and foster reconciliation with indigenous peoples across this land. For these reasons, I urge all members of the House to endorse Bill C-374 at third reading.