United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act

An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Sponsor

Romeo Saganash  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of May 31, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-262.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Government of Canada to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 30, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Feb. 7, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

April 26th, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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François Dufresne President, Forest Stewardship Council of Canada

Thank you, Madam Chair.

My name is François Dufresne. I am the President and CEO of the Forest Stewardship Council or FSC Canada.

I would to first acknowledge that we are gathered on the unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples. FSC Canada has been welcomed onto this territory many times since our creation in 1996, and we have been honoured with their support for our work on sustainable forest management.

FSC Canada would like to recognize Mr. Saganash for introducing Bill C-262 to the Canadian public for review and debate. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been a guidepost for our work on establishing new standards for forest certification in Canada and around the world. We would like to thank this committee for including FSC in the lineup of distinguished guests to speak on the topic of indigenous rights; free, prior, and informed consent; and UNDRIP.

I will provide a brief introduction to FSC and then I will turn the microphone over to Pamela Perreault, our coordinator of aboriginal initiatives within FSC Canada, to provide an overview of our work on indigenous rights.

FSC is a global organization that is present in more than 80 countries with 200 million hectares of certified forests around the globe. It was created in 1993 after the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit as a voluntary forest certification system. Based on a consensus obtained with social, indigenous, environmental, and economic stakeholders, we set strict standards to ensure that FSC-certified forest products are issued from responsibly managed forests. The wood fibre from certified forests is tracked to retail stores through the FSC chain of custody system. FSC-certified wood, paper, and other forest products are then sold with the FSC label by certified companies in the marketplace. With 55 million hectares, Canada has the largest area of FSC-certified forests in the world. Sixteen per cent of Canada's forests are FSC-certified, and six of the 10 largest FSC-certified forests in the world are located here in Canada.

Pamela will now explain how FSC has worked within the UNDRIP framework to craft a standard that recognizes and upholds the rights of indigenous peoples.

April 26th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Susanna Cluff-Clyburne Director, Parliamentary Affairs, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Great. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I'm used to presenting for five minutes, so I'll be fast, and I'll give my co-panellists the remainder of my time.

First of all, thank you very much for the invitation to be here this afternoon. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce deeply appreciates it. I'm Susanna Cluff-Clyburne, obviously, and amongst my files at the Canadian chamber is the indigenous affairs file. I too wish to acknowledge, as I'm sure has been done previously this afternoon, the fact that we're meeting on unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

The Canadian chamber is not a newcomer to the examination of relationships between business and indigenous peoples. I've had the opportunity to meet several of the members of this committee to talk about our work in the past and in the present as well. Our members know that indigenous peoples, the youngest and fastest-growing segment of Canada's population, hold the promise of being a social and economic powerhouse if they have the same opportunities available to them as all Canadians do.

Over the past several years, Canadian chamber members have given us the mandate and resources to examine public policy tools and business practices that would improve indigenous peoples' participation in, and increase their benefits from, our economy. Indigenous peoples in what is now Canada once enjoyed strong, nation-to-nation, social, military, and commercial alliances with European colonists. Had it not been for the co-operation of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples—for example, during the War of 1812—Canada might not exist, and that was before the Indian Act, residential schools, and a spate of policies and programs aimed at assimilating indigenous peoples.

It wasn't just government policies that caused harm. Canada's businesses have often fallen short on seeking respectful relationships with indigenous peoples. Governments, businesses, and all Canadians need to do the hard work necessary to restore these nation-to-nation, partner-to-partner relationships throughout Canada. They're critical to the well-being of each and every one of us.

In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon Canadian businesses to adopt the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for their relationships. Many of our members are doing so and had respectful, mutually beneficial relationships prior to the declaration's existence. Our members support Bill C-262. It's time that indigenous rights took their proper place in Canadian laws and regulations.

Our members also support the objectives of the approach being taken by the government, first, with its review of the laws and policies affecting indigenous peoples, and more recently, with the process to recognize and implement indigenous rights.

However—and unfortunately, there is a however—our members are frustrated with the lack of a formal process to allow for their perspectives to be heard as the government moves forward. The environment has become extremely complex on the issue of reconciliation, and our repeated requests to be part of the reconciliation conversation have, to date, fallen on deaf ears.

Last year, we were encouraged when it was indicated that the government's review of laws and policies would include a formal process to seek the input of stakeholders, including business. The government's engagement process for the recognition and implementation of indigenous rights does not have the rigour we had expected and hoped for, for such an important issue. Those stakeholders not invited to face-to-face round tables can provide their perspectives through an email address or a Canada Post address. However, the engagement guide is still not available online—that's as of this morning—and the deadline for providing input is not clear. I was able to obtain the guide by contacting an ADM at Indigenous and Northern Affairs. That's the only way I could get it.

Canada's businesses and other stakeholders, as well as indigenous rights holders, need a principles-based, reliable, consistent framework for the governance of their relationships. Until then, we will all continue to rely on a project-by-project approach, based on what we can negotiate and not necessarily on the correct principles. Too often, as it is today, the ultimate outcome will be determined by the courts, and this is not in anyone's interests.

Improving indigenous peoples' engagement in our economy is in every Canadian's interest. Companies that have worked hard to establish and now enjoy strong relationships with indigenous communities are the most vocal on the benefits of doing so.

It's not clear to Canada's businesses and those who invest in them what the government's commitments to reconciliation with indigenous peoples mean for them. A clear, rigorous stakeholder engagement process would greatly assist. The sooner it's clear what the government's commitments mean for Canada's businesses, the better positioned they will be to deliver on sustainable economic reconciliation and the quality-of-life benefits that often accompany it.

Thanks again for the opportunity to be here this afternoon.

April 26th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

TJ Harvey Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

My question is based around that premise. Having had numerous conversations with Chief Paul, and Chief Ross and Chief Candice Paul and others, there are differing opinions on that issue, but those would be the three communities that would be the closest to Sisson. I recognize the differentiation between the Maliseet and the Mi'kmaq in New Brunswick and how that's traditionally been separated. But the federal process concluded that one group would be adversely affected and one group would not be adversely affected. How do you feel Bill C-262 would have changed the outcome of that?

I can also put that over to you, Mr. Simon.

April 26th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

TJ Harvey Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Yes, Chief Ross, as well as Chief Candice Paul. I think that we work collaboratively despite some differences of opinion on multiple subjects. I think that we overall work very collaboratively together, and in the spirit of collaboration we're certainly putting our best foot forward. You referenced the Sisson project, energy east, and fracking as three specific instances where we've had trouble in New Brunswick. I want to get your opinion on how you felt Bill C-262 could have played a more positive role in the development of any of those projects or how you feel that those projects were adversely affected by its lack.

April 26th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Maybe to both lawyers, do you think that Bill C-262 adds clarity to everything? I remember the discussions we had back in the days of the early 1980s, when the Constitution Act, 1982, came into effect and the whole concept of aboriginal rights wasn't very clear to me. Do you think Bill C-262 improves on that clarity?

April 26th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you.

Chief Knockwood, you're right that Bill C-262 refers to laws strictly, which have to be consistent with the UN declaration in this country. You suggested that we add policies to that. I agree.

The Prime Minister has talked in a speech about adding another element to laws and policies, namely operational practices, which have to be consistent with the UN declaration. An operational practice is, for example, when the Minister of Justice decides to appeal decisions that are in favour of indigenous peoples. That's an operational practice.

Do you agree that we should also add operational practices to the bill?

April 26th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to our presenters, and welcome. Thanks for the support for the UN declaration as well as for Bill C-262. It's very much appreciated. Having travelled throughout the country promoting Bill C-262, I know this is also the desire of all indigenous and non-indigenous communities across the country, so you're perfectly in sync with the rest of the country on this one.

I want to start with you, Chief Leween. I want to understand more in detail how your organization arrived at the position of using the UN declaration as the basis or framework for the work that you do on behalf of your members.

I took note of all the expressions that he used about UNDRIP: that your work is inspired by UNDRIP; that it matters for indigenous peoples; that It's the new future; that UNDRIP is about working together, about collaboration and partnership, and so on and so forth.

Were there difficulties or challenges in arriving at that position about using UNDRIP as a framework for the work you do on behalf of the coalition?

April 26th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

That's still leaving me with—which I think we frankly expressed upfront—some discomfort with proceeding forward until we.... I mean, as legislators, to not understand the implications to passing something....

I think we all recognize UNDRIP as important, so what we're talking about is Bill C-262.

How does the Daniels decision overlay into Bill C-262? Perhaps that is a question for the lawyers here.

April 26th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Amos and I are on the environment committee and right now we're studying Bill C-69, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This, of course, is a key discussion as part of that act, what amendments need to occur to bring about that meaningful participation, that collaborative consent type of approach, and how we can put that within the act so it recognizes UNDRIP, and starts to work toward a rights framework.

In going forward with Bill C- 262, I would assume you would agree that we need to ensure that, as we are going through these other acts, we develop a consistent approach across legislation so we can arrive at the place you're discussing right now.

April 26th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Do you think this is a potential flaw within Bill C-262, that there should be a definition of what FPIC is, or should we...?

There's this argument we've heard here about the legalistic defined approach and then the nation-to-nation relationship approach—you know, the black letter of the law versus political will. Some say that you can't really have one without the other, and others say that it can happen concurrently; it doesn't have to be stated right up front; the black letter of the law does not have to come first, before we enter into UNDRIP and the nation-to-nation relationship that will ensue, in developing a rights framework and toward conciliation.

What would be your view of that?

April 26th, 2018 / 3:40 p.m.
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Chief Rebecca Knockwood Fort Folly First Nation, Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn Inc.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

My name is Chief Rebecca Knockwood and I am the Chief of Fort Folly First Nation, and the Co-Chair of Mi'gmawe'I Tplu'taqnn, MTI, representing the Mi'kmaq residing in the province of New Brunswick. Beside me, I have Derek Simon, Legal Counsel for MTI.

I would first like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples. I wish to thank the Algonquin Nation for the opportunity to be on their territory.

I would also like to thank the Creator for providing us with the ability to be here today to discuss this most important issue facing our indigenous peoples and facing Canada as a whole.

The Mi'kmaq are the indigenous people of what is currently known as the Atlantic provinces, parts of Quebec, and parts of New England. We are signatories to peace and friendship treaties with the British crown, to which Canada is now a beneficiary. We have never ceded title to our territory.

First, the Mi'kmaq of New Brunswick adamantly support Bill C-262, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples act. We are most thankful to the Honourable Romeo Saganash for submitting this private member's bill in furthering the realization of indigenous rights in Canada.

In considering this bill, we would bring the committee's attention to the following most important issues.

The first is free, prior, and informed consent, which I will refer to as FPIC. Since Canada withdrew its objector status to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP, in 2016, there has been much concern regarding Canada's adoption of UNDRIP. Specifically, articles 19 and 32 identify the necessity of free, prior, and informed consent and say that Canada must consult with its indigenous people to obtain FPIC where they wish to adopt and implement legislation that will affect them or where Canada wishes to approve any project that will affect indigenous lands or resources.

There have been concerns raised by many that, if Canada is to adopt UNDRIP, then these specific provisions would provide indigenous people with a veto over legislation and project development.

FPIC is not a veto. FPIC means that the government must consult with indigenous peoples with the goal of obtaining our consent to use our lands. Where they cannot obtain the consent of the indigenous groups, government must justify its conduct following a framework set down by the court. This is consistent with what the Supreme Court of Canada has said on this issue numerous times, most recently in the Tsilhqot'in decision in 2014. FPIC also means that indigenous people have a right to say no to projects or legislation that affect our rights or our lands.

This approach is consistent with our rights of self-determination, and UNDRIP's identification of FPIC provides a strong framework for reconciling indigenous rights within the larger context of Canadian society.

Under article 46 of UNDRIP, Canada has the ability to limit the rights set out in UNDRIP where such limitation is "necessary...for...meeting the just and most compelling requirements of a democratic society.” This is the justification test that is similar to what government currently operates within with respect to the section 35 constitutional rights of indigenous peoples. As has been identified by the Supreme Court of Canada, section 35 aboriginal rights can be infringed upon, so long as Canada can justify the limitation based upon various things, including a legislative objective, conservation, safety, etc.

Thus, it is clear that there is no veto power for indigenous people contained in UNDRIP, but rather an approach that is consistent with the existing section 35 constitutional framework. That approach is also consistent with our peace and friendship treaties, which require Mi'kmaq consent for use and occupation of our lands.

What UNDRIP does is clarify Canada's existing legal obligations to indigenous peoples, including making clear the circumstances in which consent is required and the nature of that consent.

This is important, because while the courts have made the legal requirements clear, legislation and policy have not necessarily kept pace. Environmental laws and regulatory processes often treat indigenous peoples like stakeholders rather than rights holders, and government does not always approach the consultation process with the goal of obtaining consent, leading to costly disputes and litigation with indigenous peoples. We have seen this in our territory, with protests over fracking, disputes over the Sisson Brook mine, and the derailment of the energy east review process. If government had approached these projects with the goal of obtaining Mi'kmaq consent for these activities, rather than simply going through the motions of consultation, outcomes might have been different.

Bill C-262 creates a legal requirement and a process for Canada to ensure its laws are in compliance with UNDRIP. However, since policies often influence how government conducts its day-to-day business, we would recommend that the words “and policies” be added after “laws” in clause 4, and that policies be included in the national action plan required by clause 5.

Another important aspect of UNDRIP is its recognition of our rights to our lands, territories, and resources, and our right to readdress those rights. They have been lost. While these rights have already been recognized by the courts, articles 26 and 28 affirm these rights, and article 27 requires Canada to develop “a fair, independent, impartial, open, and transparent process”, having regard to our laws, customs and systems, to recognize and adjudicate our rights pertaining to our lands, territories, and resources.

Although the federal government has long recognized that its comprehensive claims and self-government policies do not adequately address the needs, aspirations, and realities of the Mi'kmaq as signatories to the peace and friendship treaties, we have struggled for some time to come up with an effective alternative to address the implementation of our aboriginal and treaty rights and the recognition of our aboriginal title.

Recently, the Mi'kmaq of New Brunswick, like our brothers and sisters in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island, have been working with the Government of Canada and the province to develop an effective process for implementing our aboriginal and treaty rights. This is called the rights implementation approach to negotiation. Much work still needs to be done, particularly on finding a way to achieve due recognition of our title. We would prefer not to have to resort to lengthy court battles in order for our title to be recognized, but we still lack effective mechanisms for addressing this outside of the courts.

The adoption of the UNDRIP bill is helpful as it creates a legal framework to ensure that our right to an effective process is grounded in law, and not just in policies, which can change from government to government. Beyond adopting this bill, we have suggested a number of specific actions the government can and should take to more effectively address our rights in our submission on the government's proposed rights recognition and implementation framework as well. We will provide the committee with a copy of that submission.

Wela'lioq for listening to me today.

I welcome any questions you may have.

April 26th, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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Chief Corrina Leween Vice-Chair, First Nations Major Projects Coalition

First of all, thank you, Madam Chair.

I am Corrina Leween. I am the Chief of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation. Our territory is situated in a semi-remote location in the north-central interior of British Columbia. Since 2015, I have served as Vice-Chair of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, which is the point of view I will be speaking from today. Before I begin, I also want to acknowledge our presence today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.

With me today are two members of the coalition's technical support team; Niilo Edwards, who is our Executive Director; and Aaron Bruce, who is our Legal Adviser and also a member of the Squamish Nation in British Columbia. Mr. Edwards and Mr. Bruce are able to respond to questions the committee may have about the coalition's technical work.

I want to begin by thanking the committee for this opportunity to provide comments on the consideration of Bill C-262. In particular, I want to thank Mr. Saganash for his efforts to bring this proposed legislation forward. I also want to recognize Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and the Government of Canada for indicating their support for the consideration of this bill.

Today I see a historic opportunity for indigenous groups and communities to collaborate with other orders of government to create a better and shared future. Bill C-262 represents an important break with the past and a bold step into the future. UNDRIP is a tool of empowerment and a means of taking control of our destiny as the original owners of our traditional lands. This was not always the case. Our past is what has brought us here today, but it is our actions today and in the weeks, months, and years ahead that will give us a chance to set a new path, a path of our choosing.

I will start by outlining the work and the structure of the major projects coalition, which our nations established to convert our legal and constitutional rights into financial well-being and independence. Established in 2015, the coalition is a first-nations-led response to addressing community-level business capacity gaps. What started as a group of 11 first nations looking for equity ownership in major projects has grown into a first-nations-led organization of 40 elected and hereditary first nations. We have developed a comprehensive suite of economic and environmental technical models that can be used to benefit our communities.

Our mandate is non-political and business-focused. The coalition is a project-agnostic body that provides access to technical services and capacity support to our members upon request. The coalition's structure makes it possible to provide technical services to a large number of first nations dispersed over a wide geographic area. Services designed to support informed decision-making are provided to coalition members free of charge due to the funding received from the governments of Canada and British Columbia.

Our structure as a nation-based and community-driven organization has attracted the interest of first nations in other parts of Canada. We are building towards becoming a national initiative. At our March annual general meeting, members of the coalition moved to create an extra-provincial caucus, enabling first nations in other parts of Canada to join the coalition. The coalition and its services are, by design, inspired by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have submitted a technical brief to your committee that compares key pieces of the coalition's work with articles of that declaration.

While much has been said at this committee about the political and legal considerations concerning Bill C-262, we are here to speak to issues that highlight its practical application at the community level. I believe discussions of this nature are needed to shape the implementation of this legislation.

The coalition's work gives examples of how the government can structure its interactions with indigenous governments to live up to the principles of the declaration. These interactions should, and rightfully so, challenge the status quo and bring about dramatic and substantial change. The presence of the coalition shows that UNDRIP matters in the lives of indigenous people.

The prospects for significant change also generate fear of the unknown. Consider the principles of free, prior, and informed consent. The coalition explores the principles in the context of major project development. It provides a foundation for shared decision-making processes between indigenous governments, other orders of government, and proponents backing development within traditional territories.

We often hear the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet say that the environment and the economy can be balanced. We can get to that balance by working together, but it is the approach to working together that matters the most.

Our tools and models ensure that the traditional and the cultural interests of our members can also be balanced with our commercial requirements. We can use financial prosperity to support our self-determination and self-reliance. This work is organized by the coalition through three cornerstone process documents: one, a model ownership tool kit; two, an environmental stewardship framework and project assessment standards document; three, project identification and capacity support criteria document containing project-scoring criteria, which is in essence a first nations definition of what a major project is to our members.

Government and project proponents need to understand that this work is currently under way. We are undertaking some of the work necessary to administer our own affairs and advance our own futures.

The Government of Canada is making comparable efforts through such measures as the rights and reconciliation framework and the sunsetting of the Department of Indigenous Services. That requires the indigenous groups and communities to develop the sustained capacity to fully develop their own decision-making processes. Our nations have and they are ready to act.

We also have to inform government about our needs and provide them with a road map to developing these collective skills. Likewise, governments can assist the process by engaging groups like the coalition in the technical discussions. These often take place at the political level.

We need to move these partnerships at the operational level within departments and central agencies. This openness to collaborate must become commonplace across government departments and central agencies, particularly as Bill C-262 is implemented.

In closing, we need to exercise tolerance and understanding. There will be missteps along the way by our nations and by other governments, but if we believe in UNDRIP, we will accept occasional errors, provided the spirit of collaboration remains strong. UNDRIP changes everything. It provides, finally, our communities with the opportunity to move forward at lightspeed. We call on governments to support our efforts to capitalize on the new reality. We ask them to collaborate with us to build on UNDRIP's potential: a new future, one based on indigenous rights, autonomy, and prosperity. It's within our grasp.

We want to see UNDRIP synchronized with Canadian laws and legislation. Our communities want control of their future. Bill C-262 is a major step in the right direction.

I thank you for listening to me, and I look forward to your questions. Mahsi cho. Awitza.

April 26th, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We are here at the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs at the Parliament of Canada, and we are talking about Bill C-262, an act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As we sit here today and we're talking about some of the truths and we're in a process of reconciliation, it's important to recognize that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people and that this is a live process that we're still working our way through.

We have two groups for the first panel. You'll get up to 10 minutes. However you want to split it up is up to you. I'll give you signals before your time is up. Then we'll go into rounds of questioning.

We're going to start with the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, Chief Corrina Leween.

Welcome. Please go ahead.

Opposition Motion--Papal Apology on Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the unceded lands of the Algonquin people.

I am very pleased to speak today on such an important topic. There are three issues that are outlined in the opposition motion brought to us by the NDP. I will focus on the one that relates to the apology from the Pope and the Catholic Church. Before I address that, I want to outline why this is important to me.

As a practising Hindu, I believe it is important that I acknowledge that I was raised in many ways in the Catholic school system. My first four years of schooling, both in Sri Lanka and Ireland, were in the Catholic school system. That is very important to me, because that faith taught me a great deal about life, about values, and about important rights and wrongs. I have nothing but good things to say about my education.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case in the history of Canada. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives us the right to believe what we believe in and the right not to believe. As such, I think it is important to say that the conversation today is really to focus on the issue of residential schools and to look at how we, as a country, can move forward with the issue of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is very difficult to talk about. It has been attempted by many countries. South Africa stands as one example, and I know other countries in Africa have undertaken it. Canada has also undertaken this process, and I think the Truth and Reconciliation Commission serves as a foundation for that discussion, that journey, as my friend said earlier.

That journey begins on a number of fronts. There are calls to action that require governments and different institutions to do their part in addressing and advancing the issue of reconciliation. I think we have made a number of different achievements on that front, one of them obviously being the current discussion and debate we had with respect to UNDRIP, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Bill C-262, the private member's bill that was brought forward by the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. That is also very important to the concept of reconciliation.

With respect to institutions, there are a number that play a very important role, most notably the Catholic Church. Before I talk about what is being asked of the church, when I was preparing for this debate, I really took to heart that I have two young girls who are seven and nine. We live in a home where we speak Tamil, or broken Tamil to some extent because my kids and my wife are not fluent. However, we try to impart a sense of language, culture, and faith to our children. It is fundamental to me, my family, and my children. It is what grounds me on a day-to-day basis.

I really thought about what happened with the residential schools. Oftentimes, at the age my children are, or maybe even younger than that, the kids were taken away, placed in a residential school setting, and were prevented from speaking their language. As we know, language is so important to us. Our mother tongue is essential to us. Tamil people in my community lost over 100,000 lives defending their language, the right to speak their language, and the right to advocate and go to school in their language. It is very important. When those children went into the residential schools, they lost their mother tongue.

Then we have culture. Again, this valuable, important thing defines each and everyone of us. All of us in the chamber come from different backgrounds, many from very different backgrounds. That really takes away from our practices, our understanding of the world, the baseline concepts we take for granted because we are grounded in that culture. When kids are taken away, when that culture is taken away from them, it really does take away the heart of that child.

All religions, all indigenous communities have very rich traditions of spirituality that are so important. We try to do it oftentimes in a symbolic way. We try to do it in Parliament. We try to do it when we have events in our ridings or national events. We try to incorporate some of the spiritual practices of religions, but it is in many ways symbolism. We have lost the core of that spirituality, and young people who went into residential schools lost that.

I do not want to talk about the abuse, but imagine bringing that child back into the community eight to 12 years later. See if that child can have a relationship with their parents, their grandparents or their community or they with that child. It is disturbing and fundamentally wrong to do that, yet we did it with government sanction, with government-run programs to support residential schools. This did not happen because of a choice. It happened because of decisions that were made in the House and religious institutions were tasked to carry out those duties.

We now see 150,000 people who have gone through this and many generations of indigenous people have been affected by it, have been broken by it. We are here today to correct that.

A number of institutions have been involved and implicated in this, most notably the churches. I want to point out that a number of different churches have addressed this issue over the past several years. For example, in 1993, the Anglican Church made that apology. The Presbyterian Church made that apology in 1994. The United Church made two apologies, one in 1986 and one in 1998. The Missionary Oblates apologized in 2001. In 2008, the Government of Canada formally apologized.

In the indigenous affairs committee one of the studies that made me understand the effects of residential schools was the study on suicide, which was tabled in here about a year ago. That study essentially looked at some of the contributing factors. Well over 100 people talked about the effects of residential schools on their lives and on their relationship with families and communities.

Today we are here because all of these have contributed to the socio-economic factors about which we often talk, about the continuance of colonialism in our society. Standing here I always look at my friend across, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, someone who I have the utmost respect for and look at as a teacher more than as a colleague. We have travelled together on a couple of occasions. At times, he would share his experiences, the effects on him, his family, and community. It always comes back to that.

Today, I would respectfully ask the church and the Pope to do the right thing. I hope the Pope visits Canada soon. At that time, I hope he gets to meet a number of the people who have been affected by this directly, including my friend from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. To me, the Catholic faith is about doing the right thing. I have no doubt this will happen. I call upon them, as do my colleagues across the way, to do the right thing.

April 25th, 2018 / 6 p.m.
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Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Meegwetch for allowing us to have these meetings on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people. It is so important for us to have you present here today to share your words and your thoughts and your concerns with us on this important bill.

Will and I sit on the indigenous affairs committee and are studying Bill C-262 on UNDRIP. I understand from what you're saying that the rights and recognition framework, the tables, and FPIC should be recognized and embedded within this bill. Would you agree with that?