Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement Act

An Act to give effect to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Carolyn Bennett  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

This enactment gives effect to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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Toronto—St. Paul's Ontario


Carolyn Bennett LiberalMinister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

moved that Bill C-61, An Act to give effect to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-61, and I do so here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. This bill will implement an agreement that creates the Anishinabek education system, designed by Anishinabek first nations for Anishinabek students.

I would like to note that Grand Council Chief Madahbee and a large delegation of chiefs and community members from participating Anishinabek communities are here on Parliament Hill to witness the passage of this historic legislation.

This summer, I had the great honour of travelling to the Chippewas of Rama First Nation to sign the momentous agreement that led to this bill.

It was a beautiful ceremony.

There was a large circle of chiefs and youth representatives in their regalia. Proudly looking on were the education directors. Beautifully carved signing trays were circulated around the circle, and we signed this agreement in the circle.

The day had begun with a sunrise ceremony, the sacred fire by the water, watching the beautiful sunrise from the east, and the elder speaking in his language, Anishinabemowin.

As we came out of the darkness into the light, I spotted two Anishinabek youth on the opposite side of the circle wearing black sweatshirts with a medicine wheel and the words “Proud to be Anishinabek”. On one arm it said “Stand Strong”; on the other arm it said “Walk Tall”. It was so poignant. Only one generation ago young people were made to feel ashamed of speaking their own language at school, ashamed to be indigenous.

That was completely unacceptable, and it was also destructive.

We know that when young people have a secure personal cultural identity, they have better health, education, and economic outcomes. For these young people, being proud to be Anishinabek is the most powerful antidote that we have to racism and ignorance in this country.

Everything that we are speaking about today is ultimately about the young people, their education, their opportunities, their future, but also our future. It is about righting the wrongs of the past, ensuring that children can once again learn in a culturally safe way, with first nations-led educators in first nations-led schools and in first nations-led education systems.

I would like to take a moment to thank all of those who have brought us to this point today. It is especially fitting to acknowledge the late Merle Pegahmagabow, who led this important negotiation for many years. Merle has gone to the spirit world, and as with the other Anishinabek ancestors, we know he is here with us, guiding our work. I also want to acknowledge the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body, and acknowledge the hard work of the negotiating teams for Canada and the Anishinabek Nation.

This negotiated agreement is the first of its kind in Ontario. It is the largest education agreement and largest self-government agreement in Canada. Of course, it is also an agreement that can and will expand as other communities opt in, if and when they so choose to.

The Anishinabek Nation education agreement is a concrete step toward self-government.

It is a tangible example of a renewed relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. Today we get to demonstrate what a true partnership looks like. This is the path forward for Canada, Ontario, as well as first nations governments.

The agreement supports the vision of the participating first nations of a quality Anishinabek education system that will promote Anishinabek culture and language, and improve educational outcomes for Anishinabek students. Most importantly, the decision-making power on education will rest exactly where it belongs, in the hands of first nations.

It was 20 years ago that the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia decided to take over their education system. Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny has said that it was on that day he decided to become a teacher. At that time, their secondary school graduation rate was at 30%. Today, the Mi'kmaq education system in Nova Scotia has a secondary school graduation rate of about 90%, a higher rate than the non-indigenous population in Canada. The evidence is clear: first nations-led and first nations-governed education systems achieve better results for first nations students.

Already, at Siksika First Nation in Alberta, children from Calgary are being bused from the town to the Crowfoot School on the reserve for a better education, one that is culturally safe and taught by a faculty, of whom more than 80% are members of the Siksika Nation.

Today, we are enabling and accelerating a self-determination agreement, not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it simply produces better results for indigenous people and the whole country.

From coast to coast to coast, there is a consensus that indigenous youth want to be rooted in their language and their culture.

They want to be competent on the land and on the water. They want to learn from elders. They are questioning industrial-era agricultural school days from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and a school year in which the students are off all summer, yet are marked absent during goose and moose season when they go on the land with their families. They recognize that the indigenous pedagogy of learning by doing is the way they learn best. Senator Murray Sinclair has said that it was education that got us into this mess, and it will be education that gets us out of this mess.

Therefore, today, together in partnership, we chart this way forward and together we can make Canada a better place for indigenous children. Chi-miigwech to Grand Council Chief Madahbee and Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare and the 23 Anishinabek communities for their leadership and persistence in arriving at this historic education self-government agreement. Today is an inspiration for ReconciliAction for all of Canada.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too will be speaking in support of this particular agreement. I did go through its many components, the master agreement and the fiscal transfer relationship.

In this day of technological opportunities, if a community has a budding scientist, for example, is there anything in the agreement to ensure the availability of broadband connections in every community? To me that is an important component of providing additional opportunities for students. Was that talked about and did the federal government commit to it?

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is hugely important and more important in other regions, but, unfortunately, there are still parts of Ontario where broadband is not sufficient.

Although this agreement does not include infrastructure investment, it comes with a commitment by our government that between the Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, we recognize the need for infrastructure and building new schools, and have a real commitment to broadband connectivity. As the member said so correctly, it really does speak to having brilliant students connected with scientists, and to inexperienced teachers being backed up by experienced teachers and knowledge keepers around the country who use of Internet. This is going to be hugely important as we go forward in a modern education system.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the groundwork for this agreement was laid 22 years ago in 1995. Given the work the minister has done on this agreement, I would like to know whether she now has a plan to finalize such agreements faster and to ensure that other communities have access to an approach that enables them to achieve self-government faster and more efficiently.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.
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Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the evidence is now unbelievably clear that when young people grow up as proud indigenous people, when they are competent on the land and the water, and have their language and access to the knowledge keepers and elders, they do better. Regardless of the social determinants of health, people make healthier choices when they are proud of who they are. That is their self esteem, their resilience, their sense of control over their lives. We have good evidence coast to coast to coast that this is imperative in getting better outcomes, as in the example I gave of the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia.

That is why this is so exciting and why we want the Anishinabek kids and all indigenous kids to want to grow up to be teachers, so they have great role models. We know that begets good outcomes. That is the vision we have.

Unfortunately, still only 10% of the children in this community are able to go to school in their own communities. Almost 90% have to go to town. This agreement is also with Ontario, to make sure that the kids who are still going to town have an example and a way of changing those schools, even if they are in town, because of our agreement with Minister Hunter in the Province of Ontario.

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December 6th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak in support of this historic bill, Bill C-61, Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement Act. It is a momentous occasion, and I want to offer my sincere congratulations to all those who have given so much time and energy in seeing this through.

As was mentioned, negotiations began in 1993 and concluded in 2015, at the end of the Conservative government's last term. The agreement was signed August 16, 2017. It truly has been created through a bipartisan process.

However, it is important to note that it has taken much too long. As we move to other agreements in the future, whether it be education or health, I hope we have a much more nimble process to get us to a final conclusion. The people who are here in the gallery listening today would agree that 20 years is much too long for this kind of important agreement to move forward.

We all recognize the importance of education. I want to share some of Roberta Jamieson's words:

Indigenous peoples are the fastest-growing demographic group in Canada. They have the potential to make a strong contribution to Canada's economic well-being. But if that is to happen, we must deal with the gap between the well-being of indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada. That requires understanding the role education plays in closing that gap—and the action required to make that happen. The economic advantages of “closing the gap” far outweigh the costs.

As Matthew Calver of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards notes:

The benefits of education extend far beyond labour market performance...[It] is also associated with better health, reduced crime, political engagement and better financial decisions.

Ms. Jamieson went on to say:

We must build awareness that education is more than just the ABCs—it is the means of restoring cultural loss by strengthening identity, language, culture, and indigenous peoples' history. Our children require an education that recognizes and respects our values and our science, and is intended to contribute to the rebuilding of nations. When our youth realize they have reason for a strong affirming sense of identity, when they believe they are persons of value, knowing they are part of a positive change being woven into the history of Canada, they will respond by realizing that they have talent, potential, intelligence, and something special to offer the world.

As the minister described the signing agreement, and seeing the two youths with the sweatshirts, that just speaks to those words so clearly.

Hopefully, this agreement is going to do all that for these communities. As has been mentioned, 23 of the 39 Anishinabek First Nations have signed on, and of course the remaining communities have an option to sign on in the future if they want to. It recognizes the control over education on reserve from junior kindergarten to grade 12 in the 23 participating first nations.

It is an enormous agreement. There are over 25,000 students, of which approximately 2,000 currently attend band-operated schools. The 39 first nations in Anishinabek Nation are spread across much of Ontario, from Thunder Bay to Pembroke to Sarnia. For those of us who come from different provinces, it is important to really understand the scope of the massive area this is going to include. As has been mentioned, this is the first self-government agreement in Ontario.

The agreement comes with a number of pieces. It has an education fiscal transfer agreement, which is going to be updated and renewed every five fiscal years, the first of which the previous Conservative government signed on July 8, 2015. It provides stable, predictable, and flexible funding to ensure the school board can deliver quality education to the same standards as the province of Ontario.

It is important to note we are moving in the right direction. We still have a long way to go. The 2016 census revealed some positive steps forward in terms of completion rates. I do not think that we have caught up to where we need to be, but there was a movement, very importantly, in the right direction, and agreements such as this will further close the gap.

The minister will not be surprised to hear that I am pleased to see there is clear language around the financial transparency of each first nation and the school board, which will be fully accountable to the band members for the spending to ensure the money will go where it is needed most. Having that financial transparency and accountability in these communities will be a very important measurement. It will include audited statements, which will be made available to the membership.

My children were raised in a small rural community with a small high school. At the time, rural broadband was not available. I remember looking at options, but they just were not available. However, now with broadband being widely available, there is an ability for our budding doctors to take physics, or someone who wants to be an engineer to take calculus, which are typically opportunities that are not available in small rural communities and some of our first nation communities.

Hopefully, in the future, when we have signed agreements, they will include a component where we commit to bring into these communities high-speed broadband, which will allow even greater opportunity for the students to have flexibility and an expanded scope.

The minister also talked about how many of the students could not stay in their communities and had to move on in terms of high school. Again, this would allow greater flexibility in terms of choices, and students could spend more time in their home communities and get a full and robust education. If we are looking at agreements, this should be something that requires a significant discussion.

In closing, this is a monumental achievement. My sincerest congratulations go to the people who have worked so hard on it. Jurisdiction over their primary, elementary, and secondary education will be very important, as well as the ability to deliver a culturally-relevant curriculum every day. Ultimately, as these schools learn by doing and succeed, perhaps we will have lessons that we can learn from for some of our more traditional schools in larger centres.

I remember visiting a day care in T’it’q’et, a small community, that welcomed members from the nearby off-reserve community to attend. I remember how enriching it was for the children that lived in Lillooet to go to that particular day care. They also benefited from the cultural programming that was part of this particular day care. Therefore, I see that there is going to be opportunity in the future for everyone to be a little better.

Again, I am pleased to support the bill and congratulations to all.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour for me to rise and speak to this bill, because I was born in Anishinabek territory, I grew up there, and I am now raising my children there. It is part of my life.

Too often, we forget that indigenous territories do not match up with the borders that we drew. The territories were not established based on the borders. They were established based on waterways and means of communication. Many nations share an ancestral territory that often spans two Canadian provinces. We cannot lose sight of this.

This is why we need to recognize the history of Anishinabek communities and of all indigenous communities.

The bill we have in front of us was a long time in coming. In 1995 the Anishinabek Nation chiefs, in assembly, mandated the restoration of educational jurisdiction with the Union of Ontario Indians to lead the self-government negotiations with Canada to restore jurisdiction over education.

The Anishinabek people have been working on this issue for more than 20 years, day after day, to gain control of their education system. It has involved about 90 members of the community since the negotiations began. It was supported by many elders, many of whom will not see the agreement put in place. This agreement reflected the vision of a number of Anishinabek members that pushed forward to regain control over the education of young children and teenagers.

It is important to remember what the bill is designed for. Chief Shining Turtle of Whitefish River First Nation explained:

The AES is designed by Anishinabek for Anishinabek and strives to ensure a quality of life based on the highest standards of Anishinaabe intellectual and holistic knowledge that supports the preservation and on-going development of the Anishinaabe. The AES will make positive advances in the development of culturally relevant curriculum and educational programs that support the Anishinabek student success and well-being.

The Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement (AES) is a concrete step on the path to self-determination and self-governance. Our hope is that your government will continue making foundational changes to laws, policies, and operational practices based on the recognition of rights to advance self-determination and self-government.

The AES sets the stage for the Participating First Nations to develop culturally relevant and community-tailored education programs for the benefit of the Anishinabek students today, tomorrow, and for generations to come. We need to set the stage and realize our vision of the AES.

This is important because at times we do not realize how broad education is. We often think of language as the first thing to be implemented. However, I am sure that the language of the Anishinabek is not taught in school. We must realize that this language is threatened and disappearing daily. There are a number of people in Anishinabek communities who are fighting to keep it alive, and striving to educate children and youth in their own language. It is an important part of education.

Language is so important. It makes a community come alive. This bill will certainly help the language be passed on. However, education is a much broader issue. It affects many other subjects, including the arts. Young people will have the opportunity to learn traditional arts, indigenous art, and Anishinabek art in their schools, which they could not do if we still had school boards that were not run by the communities. They would become responsible for education.

The young kids would learn art, but maybe they would also be able to learn music, the drums, and the traditional music of Anishinabek Nation. Instead of just teaching music as usual in the schools, they would able to really show their kids what music means for this nation. I think that is really great.

We would also be able to teach geography in a different way. The kids would be able to learn which nation was on which land, instead of just learning the geography that we learn after colonization.

There are a number of things that, by just giving back the power to the Anishinabek of their own education, would be improved in our schools. The way of thinking in school would be much different. I had the chance to go to an opening of a school in my riding of an Anishinabek first nation, the Long Point First Nation. Just the way the school was built is totally different from what we have seen before, because we gave the power back to those communities to think about what they want, and what they want to see in terms of education.

There are a number of other things that could be different. There are a number of other notions that I think Anishinabek kids want to learn. They want to learn about traditional plants, when we are talking about ecology, and what they can eat, and what nature can give to them. There is knowledge that is traditional, that the elders have, and they would be able to pass that on to those little kids.

With this agreement, I think it would achieve good experiences. Those experiences would be able to translate to other schools, for example, to Anishinabek schools in the province of Quebec. A lot of them are in my riding. Those experiences would be able to expand to other Anishinabek nations that are not in the agreement.

That is why we have to consider that with that agreement, every Anishinabek community would win something although they are not all part of the agreement, because they are not situated in Ontario, I think they would win something from this agreement. This agreement is supposed to take place, if everything is going well in the House, on April 1. Next school year, this would be ready. The kids would have control of their education, with the elders and the other members of their communities.

It would be those communities that would empower themselves, and that would be there for the children. We have to remember how difficult it is for kids on the reservation. A number of kids drop out of school. It is really difficult. There is a high rate of teen pregnancy. It is not easy.

Having an agreement like this, there is a good chance that more and more kids would finish school and graduate from high school, because the school would have something for them. There is also a good chance that young girls would find a way to manage their pregnancies and becoming mothers, while continuing their studies.

First nations control of first nations education is basic. It is a way of reconciliation. It is a way of self-determination for people who were here a long time before us.

Through this path of reconciliation, I hope that every kid will be able to learn about his past, how the Anishinabek Nation has evolved over time. They will be able to learn what was sad in their history, but also what makes them a great nation, a strong nation that has resisted a number of threats for many years. They will learn that they can be proud.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc québécois to speak to Bill C-61 because we strongly encourage these types of initiatives.

With Bill C-61 we will be able to help implement the agreement enabling the Anishinabek Nation to create and oversee its own education system by partnering with the federal government and the Ontario government.

After more than 20 years of negotiations, 23 communities will now be united under their own education system, a system they will be able to shape according to their culture and their priorities. This means that Anishinabek communities in Ontario will be able to develop programs that promote their language and pass on their history. It is also an opportunity to develop educational environments that allow children to adjust to their schools more easily and to feel at home.

The Bloc québécois recognizes indigenous peoples as distinct peoples who are entitled to their cultures, languages, customs and traditions, and to the right to decide how to develop their own identity.

It goes without saying that nation-to-nation relationships begin with recognition of the different nations and their right to self-determination. We welcome these types of agreements, which give first nations more autonomy, an initiative that follows perfectly on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is essential that first nations have full control over their children's education.

In a context where indigenous languages are often on the brink of extinction and children's academic success is jeopardized by education systems that do not correspond to the cultures of the first peoples, gaining control over education means taking charge of the future.

Quebec has already signed agreements with nations that took this direction, such as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, which led to the peace of the braves. We would never go back to the old way. We are sure that the Anishinabek people will not regret it either, but the federal government will have to become a real partner and meet its funding responsibilities.

Ottawa has been almost perpetually lax when it comes to funding for first nations education. One year ago today, the parliamentary budget officer criticized the Canadian government for underfunding indigenous schools. He found that Ottawa invests just half of what the provinces invest per child in education. What the numbers tell us is that the federal government considers indigenous children to be worth only half as much as non-indigenous children. Former prime minister Paul Martin has also harshly criticized this imbalance on many occasions since leaving politics.

Although funding is already massively deficient, federal spending on on-reserve education is increasing at a slower rate than indigenous populations themselves. These young and fast-growing populations are not being properly served by Ottawa's usual grand plans, in part because Ottawa is too far from these communities to know what people need.

In fact, the parliamentary budget officer criticized the rigidity of the federal funding model, which fails to account for a wide range of factors, including geographic location, school size, language and culture, percentage of students whose mother tongue is neither French nor English, specific socioeconomic conditions, climate, and percentage of students with special needs.

The parliamentary budget officer must have had a sense of déjà vu, because in 2009, his predecessor came to the same sad conclusion that, at best, Ottawa was underestimating actual school infrastructure needs by more than half. Perhaps he got wind of the work that had been done in 2007 by the Quebec National Assembly's committee on education, which is in an ideal position to observe the differences between the treaty education systems and the work of the federal government. At that time, the committee members found significant differences between band schools and those of treaty first nations. They added:

At first glance, the funding formula of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development seems to put band schools at a disadvantage as compared to treaty first nation schools.

The committee ended its report by calling on the Government of Quebec to pressure the federal government to release the necessary resources so that indigenous communities in Quebec could offer education services comparable to those offered by the province.

The committee also criticized Ottawa's lack of flexibility with regard to funding. It indicated that federal funding failed to keep pace whenever changes were made to the programs and services offered by Quebec schools, and schools on reserves were unable to keep up with the advances that other Quebec students were entitled to, or were only able to make such advances after long delays. Simply put, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Bloc Québécois salutes the Anishinabek communities and fully believes that they will benefit immensely from this promising agreement. It should be clear by now that although it is unusual for the Bloc Québécois to speak on bills that do not involve Quebec, we have no hesitation about supporting Bill C-61.

The Prime Minister made a commitment on his very first day in Parliament. He said:

We will keep our diverse communities strong and will renew Canada’s nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples.

He added that this would include:

...working in collaboration so that every first nations child receives a quality education.

We are taking him at his word. The government must take the initiative to ensure there are more agreements like the one we are implementing by voting for Bill C-61.

The government will have to be both a partner and a leader in its negotiations with first nations.

It took the Anishinabek people 20 years of hard work to get to this point. That is too long. A whole generation of children missed out on having an education system that was tailored to their specific cultural needs and well equipped to help them achieve their highest aspirations.

Make no mistake, first nations face many obstacles on their road to academic success. These will take some time to overcome, but one thing is clear: the future lies in self-government and a nation-to-nation relationship.

The future does not lie in non-indigenous governments imposing their own priorities. When it comes to decisions about education, the further away the federal government stays, the better off everyone will be.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will make two statements. First and foremost, I want to recognize the fine work done by all of the different stakeholders and individuals who worked with the minister. A very important part of society as a whole is the great value in education. Second, in Winnipeg North, there is the Children of the Earth High School and the graduation ceremonies are very touching. When indigenous people provide spiritual and academic leadership, there are huge success stories.

I wanted to recognize and acknowledge the fine work of so many individuals who made today possible and to say how important it is for indigenous people and Canada to continue to move forward. My colleague across the way can comment on what I just said or conclude any other thoughts she might have.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, the Bloc Québécois is proud to support Bill C-61. Continuing in the same vein, and my colleague opposite pointed this out, it is important for the international community that the rights of first nations be recognized. I also believe that they must take control of their education.

In my riding of Manicouagan, more than 12% of the population is Innu or Naskapi. They have their own educational programs that help young people feel more engaged in what they are learning, which means that they are more likely to succeed. I have experienced this as a college teacher. I taught literature for the most part. I saw how Innu texts from their community, their culture, and in their language could have a positive effect on these young people. I am not talking about a temporary, fleeting effect, but of a long-lasting benefit to their development, be it personal or educational.

For them to have a better future, it is essential that indigenous peoples have access to education based around their own culture and language.

I salute the people working in Tshakapesh, in my riding, for example. I also salute all the people currently working on building a school system in order to establish their own curriculum.

Of course I support the proposal set out in Bill C-61, but I believe that it must apply to all indigenous communities, whether they are remote or not-so-remote. Adequate funding is required not only to address the inequality between non-native and indigenous children, but also for communities to organize their school system. After all, these communities are not starting from the same point as all the others.

Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2017 / 4:55 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as other speakers have, I acknowledge we are standing on traditional territory of the Algonquin nations, and thank them in their language, meegwetch.

I can speak, briefly, in the language of the place where I come from. The Speaker recognizes me as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. Saanich is an anglicized SENCOTEN word of the W_SÁNEC Nation. It is the nation of indigenous peoples that straddles both sides of the artificial border that separates the Coast Salish people, the territory of the Salish Sea, which is not observed by our southern resident killer whale population, or a division noticed by the wild salmon that inhabit our territories. It is the language of the people where I am honoured to live on their territory. I raise my hands to this place in the gesture of honour, respect, greeting, and gratitude, and say, “Hych’ka Siam”.

As we look at Bill C-61, it is a moment for gratitude. It is a moment to acknowledge hard work. As all the other members who have risen in this place today have noted, I was particularly touched by the personal reflections of the minister as she described the scene on that day when the agreement was signed. The signing of the agreement by the hon. minister on August 16, 2017 is a historic occasion. Having a bill like Bill C-61 universally supported in the House, to recognize the rights of self-determination as they relate to education of indigenous children, is an important step.

Certainly, Grand Chief Patrick Madahbee said it very clearly:

These 23 communities will be in the driver’s seat in creating a great future for their children. The impacts of colonialism in particular around the world with Indigenous people, they kept us uneducated and in poverty. And I think education is the key to our future, where we build capacity and we take over and run our own lives.

These sentiments were also reiterated in a letter that was sent to all of us as members of Parliament, urging us to pass the legislation, from Chief Shining Turtle of the White Fish River First Nation, in which he told us that the hon. minister had joined with his community for the historic signing, which he described as:

...the historic signing of the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement, a self-government agreement that recognizes Anishinabek law-making powers and authority of education for approximately over 8,000 students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 on and off-reserve.

This is an important step for the Anishinabek Nation, but it is an important step for Canada. Other members have already noted, as did the minister, that perhaps this is a template, that the next set of agreements for self-government over education need not take decades to arrive at an agreement, to arrive at transparent financing, to arrive at the rules by which we at long last will say to indigenous children to hang on to their language, and be very proud of who they are.

I want to quote briefly from the recommendations in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission discussing cultural genocide. It said:

Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. [Essential life services such as education, housing, clean water, medical care are restricted and substandard.] In its dealing with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these thing.

If we look at this agreement, it is a very significant step on the path of reconciliation.

We know as settler culture people, the burden of reconciliation is mostly on us. Yesterday, I had the honour of putting questions to the soon to be, we hope, new Supreme Court justice, Madam Justice Sheilah Martin. She said that the most significant work she had done in her life was working with former Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory, at the request of Phil Fontaine, former first nations grand chief, to work on a settlement relating to the residential school issue. She felt that every survivor of residential schools was deserving of payment regardless of whether the individual could prove he or she suffered or not. The system was one of imposed state enforced bureaucratic cruelty and was an instrument of cultural genocide. As close as possible, I want to quote what she said, that first we needed to find the truth, then reconciliation.

For settler culture Canadians, we need to know the truth, the truth of the residential schools, the truth of more than a century of efforts to eradicate everything that makes indigenous people truly indigenous to their own cultures, spiritual values, and identity. Nothing is closer to identity than the language we dream in, the language we think in, the language we speak with our children.

This concrete step in Bill C-61 is an important one on that journey to real reconciliation. As we take more steps, I am conscious all the time of how we ensure the will of Canadians from coast to coast to coast stays consistent with the difficult job we have to do in reconciliation with first nations, Métis, and Inuit people, and we spread this work on education and right to self-govern on education.

I spoke earlier in some of the only words in SENCOTEN that I know, but it certainly is inspiring to me that on the Tsartlip First Nation, near Brentwood Bay in my riding, is a tribal school in the name of what we call anglicized Mount Newton. In SENCOTEN it would mean the place of refuge. The Tsartlip Nation tribal school, which is available for the children of the first nation communities in the Saanich Peninsula, has emersion in SENCOTEN.

Children are now playing again, speaking their own language. What is really important is that the kids who are learning SENCOTEN are proud and they know they are cool. They play in SENCOTEN, they sing in SENCOTEN. As each year in this school progresses, and they base this on educational programs for immersion in indigenous language that was picked up from Hawaii, another grade is added so more and more children in this area, on the territory where I live, which is a SENCOTEN word, W_SÁNEC, meaning the people rising, who are non-indigenous know more W_SÁNEC words, more SENCOTEN words.

As one of my colleagues said earlier, it changes our sense of where we live in our own geography because we are not living in a place. The Green Party has officially repealed as a matter of policy the doctrine of discovery. We did not come to an empty place and claim it as our own. We came as a colonial occupying power and took land from others in a culture that pre-existed us by thousands of years. In every corner of our great country this happened. We need the truth and then we need to move to reconciliation.

My great hope is that with Bill C-61 and other measures like it, which I thank the minister from the bottom of my heart for her hard work and to the hard work of the Anishinabek Nation that took this to a referendum and passed it community by community, nation by nation, that we take concrete steps to really understand. In that understanding, we are achieving justice with indigenous peoples. More than that, we are enriching our society.

It allows us to know that in my territory of Saanich Gulf Islands, those gulf islands were created when a creator reached down and picked up several smooth dark rocks, scattered them out to the waters and told the people gathered, that those islands were the people's relatives.

In SENCOTEN, there are the human people, whales are the whale people, salmon are the salmon people and they are our relatives. Our world view will be vastly improved and inspired on the path of reconciliation, and first nation languages for first nation children is an essential first step.