Honourable colleagues, thank you for the opportunity to speak today on Bill S-236, an act to recognize Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation. I was pleased to hear the second reading speeches in the House of Commons. It was a wonderful opportunity for the House to debate the historical role of both Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island in the Confederation story.
Bill S-236 gives us, as parliamentarians, a collective opportunity to reflect on and also to educate Canadians about our shared history as we celebrate Canada 150 and look toward our nation's future.
Let me be clear. Although I am deemed the sponsor, Bill S-236 is not my bill. It is a vision that has been expressed by Islanders to solidify in law the formative event that led to the creation of the Dominion of Canada.
At the federal level, this vision has seen many forms. In the 41st Parliament, its name was Bill C-659, and it was sponsored by the member of Parliament for Charlottetown, who is now the parliamentary secretary for Canadian heritage. In the 42nd Parliament, it is Bill C-253, introduced by the member for Malpeque, who is with us today by video conference. However, due to Bill C-253's high draw order, it was clear that the bill would not be debated during Canada's 150th year. Therefore, I introduced Bill S-236 in the Senate to ensure that Parliament would have the opportunity to debate and reflect on the role Charlottetown had in leading to Confederation. I guess you could say I am the johnny-come-lately to this whole discussion.
This bill, when enacted, will be an appropriate complement to a bill passed by the Prince Edward Island legislature in 2014 called the Birthplace of Confederation Act. It builds on the 1996 proclamation by the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien recognizing the role of Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation and affirming this as an integral part of our Canadian heritage.
For context, when this went to the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee, four amendments were made to the bill. One amendment corrected a drafting error in the French version, and two clarified Charlottetown's role by indicating that it was the start of a process that led to the Quebec and London conferences, which ultimately resulted in Confederation and the creation of the Dominion of Canada. The last amendment to the bill stated that the recognition of Charlottetown as the birthplace of Confederation does not confer any specific, such as financial, benefit under the Parks Canada Agency Act.
To avoid confusion, Bill S-236 is not about the colony of Prince Edward Island joining the Confederation in 1873. This bill is about the city of Charlottetown hosting the conference that gave birth to the idea of Confederation in 1864.
With respect to consultation and involvement of first nations in the development of this bill, and the larger element of the Charlottetown Conference, Parks Canada worked with representatives of the Mi'kmaq Confederacy to develop interpretive videos of the Confederation story that explain the history of the Mi'kmaq peoples and highlight the lack of any role at the Charlottetown conference. I might add that women didn't have any role there either.
Although Bill S-236 does not trigger a legal duty to consult, I asked the chiefs of the Mi'kmaq Confederacy for their views of Bill S-236 and of Confederation in general. I am now going to read into the record their statement, to ensure that it forms part of the House of Commons' deliberations.
While the chiefs are generally supportive of the concept of Charlottetown being recognized as the birthplace of Confederation, they note that Prince Edward Island has been the home of the Mi'kmaq people for over 12,000 years, yet they were not invited to the Charlottetown Conference. In creating this legislative recognition, the chiefs believe that moving forward, the Government of Canada must include the indigenous peoples of this land on a nation-to-nation basis in all matters. This would also involve honouring the historic peace and friendship treaties with the Mi'kmaq.
I appreciate that there was debate on how the Government of Canada should celebrate and commemorate our 150th year of Confederation. This bill provides all of us, as parliamentarians, an opportunity to participate in a legislative event to celebrate and recognize the watershed moment in Canadian history that happened in Charlottetown.
I'm optimistic that this bill has sufficient support to be passed prior to the end of the 150th year of the creation of the Dominion of Canada.