Indigenous Languages Act

An Act respecting Indigenous languages

Status

In committee (House), as of Feb. 20, 2019

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-91.

Summary

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

This enactment provides, among other things, that

(a) the Government of Canada recognizes that the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 include rights related to Indigenous languages;

(b) the Minister of Canadian Heritage may enter into different types of agreements or arrangements in respect of Indigenous languages with Indigenous governments or other Indigenous governing bodies or Indigenous organizations, taking into account the unique circumstances and needs of Indigenous groups, communities and peoples; and

(c) federal institutions may cause documents to be translated into an Indigenous language or provide interpretation services to facilitate the use of an Indigenous language.

The enactment also establishes the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages and sets out its composition. The Office’s mandate and powers, duties and functions include

(a) supporting the efforts of Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen Indigenous languages;

(b) promoting public awareness of, among other things, the richness and diversity of Indigenous languages;

(c) undertaking research or studies in respect of the provision of funding for the purposes of supporting Indigenous languages and in respect of the use of Indigenous languages in Canada;

(d) providing services, including mediation or other culturally appropriate services, to facilitate the resolution of disputes; and

(e) submitting to the Minister of Canadian Heritage an annual report on, among other things, the use and vitality of Indigenous languages in Canada and the adequacy of funding provided by the Government of Canada for initiatives related to Indigenous languages.

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

Feb. 20, 2019 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages
Feb. 20, 2019 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 3:50 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-91, an act respecting indigenous languages, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the bill; and

That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successfully, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are deeply disappointed to hear that the government will not be giving all members a chance to speak on this important bill. We agree with the principle of the bill, and we support that part. There are over 100 members who represent indigenous communities, and we all have something to say on behalf of our constituents.

For the past three years, I have been proud to represent the community of Wendake here in the House of Commons. I also represented it for seven years in Quebec's National Assembly. The residents of this community are proud people who are reviving their language, which sadly died out during the last century.

Debates give each of us a chance to share our experiences. The member for Yellowhead told us that during his days as an RCMP officer, he came into contact with indigenous communities. Once contact was made, he would start learning their heritage and their language. The member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, our indigenous affairs critic, told us how much she learned from first nations when she worked with them as a young nurse.

There have been some amazing moments here in the House. The member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou spoke in his language, and a government member from the Montreal area spoke in Cree.

This bill enables MPs to showcase the wealth of indigenous languages. Unfortunately, the government wants to cut short a debate that everyone is happy to engage in and that enriches the House of Commons.

Why is the government doing that?

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 3:55 p.m.
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Pablo Rodriguez

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.

To our understanding, all parties support this important bill. This bill was drafted together with key first nations, Métis, and Inuit stakeholders. We held consultations across the country. The government has been working with and consulting indigenous communities on this for nearly two years.

Indigenous groups were consulted not only on the bill, but also on what the joint drafting and consultation processes should look like. We went much further than simply discussing the provisions of the bill. We asked them how these discussions should unfold so we could work on co-developing a bill.

We met with indigenous communities in every province and territory because this is a priority to me, to the Prime Minister, to the government and to all indigenous peoples across Canada.

Some indigenous languages have disappeared and others continue to disappear at an alarming rate. We must act swiftly.

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to echo the comments of my colleague on this side of the House about the irony, in some ways, of time allocation being put on a bill about language, a bill about speaking.

I understand what the minister is saying. The government has consulted with Canadians and indigenous groups, but debate in the House is about parliamentarians being able to talk about what is important to their constituents.

Although we have signalled our support for the bill, we have also outlined a number of areas in which the bill needs to be amended. We need to get the bill right. The government needs to hear us. The other side needs to hear what those things are. We need to hear from the government if it is sincerely open to amendments to the bill. To understand how to make the bill better, we need to have the debate here in the House. I am very disappointed.

I have to reiterate the irony of closing down debate on a bill that talks about giving people back the right to speak their language. I want to reiterate how disappointed I am that the government has moved time allocation on such an important bill. We really need to get it right. Parliamentarians need to have the ability to help the government get the bill to where it needs to be.

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4 p.m.
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Pablo Rodriguez

Mr. Speaker, we said from day one that we are open to discussions with different parties. We are open to considering amendments. Those amendments happen at committee, so if they have suggestions they can bring them to the committee.

I had the opportunity yesterday to appear in front of the committee. We had very frank and open discussions with members from all parties. However, this bill is absolutely fundamental. It is important for all indigenous people across the country, for the Métis, first nations and Inuit, because so many languages have already been lost and are being lost at an alarming rate.

We have been consulting for almost two years with different groups: with indigenous leaders, with elders, with people from across the country. Everyone around the table was very sincere, open and frank in all discussions, because we share the same objective, which is to make a difference, to make sure that it stops. Enough languages have been lost.

We have to act now, but in order to act we need a bill. The bill in front of us responds to three calls to action: numbers 13, 14 and 15. It advances the objectives of UNDRIP. It states that there will be stable and long-term funding. This is absolutely key for all first nations, Inuit and Métis across the country. We hope everyone will support it and make sure it goes quickly to committee, so we can continue debating it.

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Leona Alleslev Conservative Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two very important things to ask of the minister in this scenario. First, he has reiterated repeatedly that this is a very important bill, so if this is an important bill then why does it not justify the full debate and conversation that the House is meant to deliver?

Second, this also represents a pattern of behaviour, because we are finding that on many very important bills we are seeing time allocation. Therefore, either there is a structural flaw in the way we have structured our process around debating bills in the House, or the government is fundamentally undermining the democracy by circumventing the very structural processes that we have put in place to ensure we have the opportunity to discuss these very important bills.

My question for the minister is this. If this is in fact an important bill, and he has already commented on that, then how does he argue that we do not rate the time to have the debate, and how is cutting the debate not undermining the very structure of our democracy?

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I had an opportunity to appear at the committee. I still have some questions. I am seeking clarification. Yes, I am very supportive of the bill because of indigenous languages for first nations, Métis and Inuit across Canada coast to coast to coast. I still have questions regarding access for all first nations, Métis and Inuit people who live not only on reserves but across in urban centres and other places. I will continue to seek clarification on who will qualify for language funding when it is made available. I want to make sure that school divisions, municipalities and other organizations can access the funding to teach youth their cultural language, while also including elders.

That is where my questions are coming from. It is not that I do not support the bill.

Minister, are you still open to making some revisions?

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4:05 p.m.
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Pablo Rodriguez

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very important, sincere work on this topic. We also had good conversations yesterday at committee.

As I mentioned earlier, this bill is for all indigenous people across the country: on reserves, in cities, everywhere. This is why we are open to discussion with everybody, and we keep discussing with different groups.

Also, the bill, in clause 9, provides the opportunity further down the road to negotiate agreements with different groups, provincial governments, indigenous governments, community groups and cities, so we can agree and sign those agreements so that these services are provided everywhere. Languages have to be saved everywhere, wherever the people are.

As I said, this has been going on for too long. Successive governments throughout history made sure that indigenous people would stop speaking their language and lose their culture, and that is a shame. It is unacceptable. Now we have to make sure that we reverse that and give a chance to all indigenous people in this country.

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for the minister. Why this attempt to muzzle parliamentarians? As my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent mentioned, why limit constructive discussion?

Need I remind the minister, who was at committee yesterday, that the committee's pre-study has already begun? As the minister said, it is an important project that began with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was initiated by the Conservative government in 2007 and reported its findings in 2015. We are now 2019.

Why did the government wait so long? Why is it cutting off debate on such an important bill? Why is it preventing parliamentarians from expressing themselves when this in no way would interfere with the progress of this bill, which is going to be studied anyway? As the minister knows, there will even be special meetings.

The opposition parties have agreed, given the importance of this bill, to extend the hours of debate at committee to ensure that we can hear from all the witnesses. Why is the minister muzzling parliamentarians? Why is the government showing such contempt for the elected representatives of the people?

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4:05 p.m.
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Pablo Rodriguez

Mr. Speaker, despite my colleague's somewhat harsh words, I would like to thank him for his collaboration during yesterday's committee meeting. It is my understanding that his party, and all other parties in the House, will also collaborate to ensure that this bill, which will go to committee shortly, gets passed.

All parties will have a chance to make suggestions and propose amendments, and of course we will be open to that. This bill is not for me or for anyone else in the House. It is for indigenous peoples, be they Métis, Inuit or first nations, across the country.

This bill is designed to achieve the key goals we all agreed to during the co-development process. My colleague asked why it took so long, and the short answer is that it is because drafting the bill was a collaborative process.

My predecessor or I could have worked with a small team and drafted the bill ourselves, but we did not. We consulted indigenous peoples across the country to come up with the best possible bill, and that is what we have before us today.

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4:05 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to pursue something that another hon. colleague raised.

I gave my word some time ago to one of those leaders within the indigenous communities who has worked hard on this bill and who has been consulted. I recognize that what the minister said is the case, and there has been a lot of consultation. I gave my word to Kukpi7 Ron Ignace, chief of the Skeetchestn Band within the Shuswap Nation, to support the bill, but I am very concerned, because I hear the Inuit voices saying that they have not been properly consulted and that the bill does not reflect their concerns.

I would vote for time allocation to get the bill passed before an election if I had the minister's word that amendments would be forthcoming to address the concerns of those Inuit, other indigenous first nations and Métis peoples who are not yet satisfied. If I had that word of commitment from the minister, I would vote for time allocation.

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4:10 p.m.
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Pablo Rodriguez

Mr. Speaker, the codevelopment process from day one has involved everybody, meaning the Inuit, the Métis and the first nations. The four groups, including the government, all agreed that 12 principles are the basis of this project. We agreed that we have to respond to calls to action 13, 14 and 15, which this bill does. We all agreed that we need stable and long-term funding, which this bill provides, and this bill has the support of the Assembly of First Nations and of the Métis.

With regard to our Inuit friends, they would like this bill to contain other segments. We have discussing this with them and are continuing this discussion. As I mentioned to them in one discussion when we were sitting together in New York a couple of weeks ago, my door is always open. They know that.

We will keep discussing. If there are things we can agree on, we will definitely be able to integrate them into the bill. However, to be able to modify something, we have to have something on the table. This bill is that something. It is something that is extremely important, something that responds to many of the concerns and the priorities of indigenous peoples across the country, and I am very proud of the work that we have done together.

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring us all back in time. I feel that we have to do this before we move any further. I want to bring us back to, I think, day 10 of the previous election in 2015, when the Prime Minister, then the member for Papineau, said in his campaign promise to Canadians that he was going to do things differently. He said he represented real change. One of the things that he was going to do was to let debate reign, and he was not going to use parliamentary tricks such as time allocation to pass legislation. However, I would hazard a guess that this is about the fiftieth time that the government has actually used time allocation to pass legislation.

I will also offer this. This is an important piece of legislation. The Liberals have the support from our caucus on this side of the House, the opposition, but I will offer this because I feel it is necessary to say this at all times when they do these types of tricks: This House does not belong to them. It does not belong to you, Mr. Speaker. It does not belong to me. It belongs to the electors, those electors who elected the 338 members of Parliament to be their voice here in this House.

For those who are listening in, what is happened with this piece of legislation is that the government has basically said, “We have had enough debate. This is going to committee.”

At committees we do good work, but for the most part it is essentially like speed dating. Consultation happens when witnesses from all over Canada come to speak to legislation. I do not know how many meetings there will be, but I can speak to my experience at the fisheries committee. Sometimes we will have three or four guests over maybe three or four days. Each witness gets seven to 10 minutes to give their thoughts and their views on such legislation. It is only through full debate that we can move legislation as important as this.

Now I am going to bring this to the personal side. I have mentioned in this House a number of times that my wife and children are first nations people. They do not know their language. They are not familiar with their culture. This is an important piece of legislation, and any member of Parliament who may not be able to have a constituent or a person from a first nation come here deserves to be able to come before the committee to bring their stories and their voices here to this floor.

It is shameful that on this bill we are again seeing time allocation.

The beautiful thing about this House is that sounds travel. On one of the earlier questions, one of the members across the way had shouted out, perhaps thinking that it would not be heard on this side, that the reason this is being pushed through so quickly, as it was mentioned on the other side, is that an election is coming this way.

We have to do whatever we can to make sure that the voices of Canadians and of indigenous peoples are heard about the meaning and importance of indigenous languages. Bill C-91 is another one of those bills that the Liberals place such great importance on that they place their hands on their chests, and yet they ram them through with little to no consultation.

The hon. minister likes to say that the government has done a year and a half of consultation. I can tell my hon. colleagues that in my neck of the woods, in Cariboo—Prince George, not many of our first nations have been consulted on this bill, and they would like to have their say.

I would urge our hon. colleague, the minister, to rethink this. Why does he feel the need to once again break a campaign promise and force time allocation on this legislation?

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4:15 p.m.
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Pablo Rodriguez

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague started his comments by saying that the Prime Minister, in his campaign promise, said that we would do things differently. That is exactly what we did.

We have been consulting for almost two years with the Inuit, with the Métis, with first nations, with modern treaty bands, with self-governing nations. We have been consulting across the country, and we are discussing this here. We will be going to committee, where we can discuss and evaluate the possibility of amendments, but as we speak, languages are being lost across the country.

My colleague said very eloquently that we have to do something, and he is right. What we are doing here is extremely important. If my colleague does not believe me, maybe he will believe National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who said that this bill “is landmark legislation.” He said, “Today, there is hope” and “This work is good for all Canadians.”

Clément Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, who is a well known and respected leader, said “...this is reconciliation in action.” He salutes the Prime Minister for acting on this priority.

Clara Morin Dal Col, president of Métis Nation British Columbia, said “The bill marks a giant first step” and “It's a historic moment for our people and for our nation.” These comments come from very respected people. They are the ones saying this, not me, and of course I agree with them.

The fundamental thing about this is that we are starting with something strong, something extremely strong. We are advancing the objective of UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are responding to three calls to action: number 13, number 14 and number 15. We will provide stable and long-term funding. We are recognizing for the first time that language rights are based on section 35 of our own Constitution. This is huge.

Is it an answer to everything? No. Can we do more? Of course, and we will always try to do more. However, this is fundamental. We are starting on a very solid basis, and we will do it for all indigenous people in the country.

Bill C-91—Time Allocation MotionIndigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2019 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel the minister is being sincere about this bill, and I am happy to see that.

Indeed, the work has begun, and a significant effort is required from all committee members. There are several relevant topics that could be raised at committee.

I heard the question asked by my colleague from the Green Party, and I want to make sure my friend properly understood her request. She is calling on the government to listen to amendments that may be forthcoming—not just those brought forward by the three main parties, with whom the Liberals have negotiated carefully and well, believe me, and explored the possibilities.

I say this honestly and without cynicism: reach out to experts in this Parliament from the other parties. To be frank, I must say that, in the scandal involving SNC-Lavalin, you wanted to deal with it very quickly and, in the end, that has put a lot of jobs at risk when those in jeopardy should be the white-collar criminals. Of course, it was not you, but everyone knows that your government moved very quickly to add a provision in an omnibus bill, and now we are in this mess.