An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families

Sponsor

Seamus O'Regan  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of March 19, 2019

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-92.

Summary

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

This enactment affirms the rights and jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples in relation to child and family services and sets out principles applicable, on a national level, to the provision of child and family services in relation to Indigenous children, such as the best interests of the child, cultural continuity and substantive equality.

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

April 11, 2019 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:05 p.m.
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Marco Mendicino Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the opposition motion to concur in the report submitted by the Auditor General with respect to the Champlain Bridge, which is an important infrastructure project that dates back some years.

I wish I could say that I am pleased to do so. However, the timing of this Conservative motion is interesting and curious, given the government's business of the day, which includes important historic legislation with respect to indigenous youth and children as well as the Minister of Finance's budget for this fiscal year, 2019, which Canadians depend on us to put forward so that we can continue to deliver results.

There has been a lot of commentary recently about how we do politics in this country and in the House. I think Canadians will judge the opposition, which says today that it is holding the government to account. I question Conservatives on that assertion, because it is really just the opposition doing more of the same.

This attempt to disguise as legitimate the debate about concurrence in a report—a report that was itself the subject of debate before the transportation committee some time ago—is actually just a naked and transparent effort to obstruct and disrupt the business of Canadians, the business of the government. Our government has been singularly focused on providing results with respect to the economy, trade, the environment, reconciliation, and criminal justice reform, all areas in which I believe we have made significant progress over the course of the last three and a half years. Along with my colleagues on this side of the aisle, I look forward with great enthusiasm to taking that record to the Canadian people this fall in the hope of earning the privilege to continue to govern on their behalf.

With respect to the concurrence report that the Conservatives have put back on the table, I begin by noting that it was a scathing indictment of the last Conservative government's handling and bungling of the award and procurement process to allow private developers to take the Champlain Bridge into the 21st century and beyond. There was a lethargy, a slowness, a lack of transparency in the way the Conservative government handled the procurement that cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars. The Conservatives' mishandling of this infrastructure project continues to cost Canadians.

Liberals have put it back on track under the leadership of successive ministers of infrastructure. I have the honour of serving with our current Minister of Infrastructure, who is from Quebec. He feels very strongly about this project. He has gone to visit the workers, employees and hopefully one day the pensioners, who are ensuring that people in Quebec, and indeed all Canadians, can traverse this bridge knowing that they will be safe and secure and that they can get to and from their destinations over the course of the year, whether for work or with families, in a way that is fast and efficient. This is a result of the work on the government side.

I will speak at greater length about the concurrence report later in my remarks, but I want to begin by pointing out that the cost of the Conservatives' efforts to delay the government's business is very significant. Why?

We are in the course of debating Bill C-92, which, as I said earlier, is historic legislation that would help move forward the endeavour of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. It would ensure that we recognize their inherent right to self-government and self-determination on a matter that is so important and that disproportionately touches so many young indigenous children's lives. This has resulted from the barriers that have been erected within our system, consciously in the earliest days of this federation and less consciously and more systemically and subconsciously over time, but no less requiring significant action.

How will Bill C-92 allow us to move forward in a way that is positive and constructive?

Well, first it is important to point out that this is a piece of legislation that was co-developed with indigenous peoples, first nations organizations and stakeholders in a spirit of good faith and in a manner that would recognize the cardinal principle that indigenous peoples have the right to self-determine their own journey and path to success in this country. Without recognizing that, without understanding and appreciating that principle, all efforts will be undermined.

This legislation, then, was not simply the creation of a government that was insular and refused to reach out—quite the contrary. There were sincere efforts to co-develop and co-design this legislation, and this was a historic turning point for a matter that touches the lives of many indigenous children. To shed some light on the kinds of numbers we are talking about here, the overrepresentation of first nations, Inuit and Métis children in the child and family services system is not insignificant. That group represents 7.7% of the overall population in Canada but accounts for 52.2% of children in foster care in private homes.

That is a breathtaking number, a tragic number, and the objective of this legislation is to reduce that number as much as we possibly can.

How will we do so? It will be by ensuring that the best interests of indigenous children and youth are—

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:15 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Marco Mendicino

Mr. Speaker, of course I know that the hon. colleague who just posed the question would have heard a number of remarks I made at the outset of my commentary today and would know that I would be returning to the report. I would dispute my colleague's contention of the opportunity lost today to discuss the other government business, which is indeed of great importance to Canadians, including Bill C-92 and including the budget, which we are all very keen to hear about. Even some of her colleagues, in earlier exchanges within the context of the concurrence debate, which has been put forward by the Conservatives, accepted that it is of great significance that we get to debating the budget.

Let me round out my comments with regard to Bill C-92 with something that the hon. colleague who just posed the question is familiar with.

I was speaking about the importance of enshrining as a principle the best interests of indigenous children in the child and family services system. This legislation would help do that. It would also ensure that we are living up to our commitments under UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I note that it was something that the hon. colleague who just posed the question voted against, as did all of her Conservative colleagues. That was indeed regrettable, because we must ensure that Canada is making the strides that are necessary to achieve meaningful reconciliation, including responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, which again the Conservatives have found it quite difficult to come to grips with. There was also their reticence under the last administration to call for an inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women and children.

Those are concrete examples of how the Conservatives have seemingly found it difficult to make it right with indigenous peoples.

Conversely, on this side of the House, we understand that in order to make the progress that is necessary to make it right with indigenous peoples, we have to embrace those very principles and those initiatives, which we are doing, including with Bill C-92.

We also would not be able to move forward, if the Conservatives were to have their druthers and their way, with the budget. I am not going to pre-empt the Minister of Finance; certainly we do look forward to hearing from him at some point today on the next concrete steps that we will take to ensure that Canada is on a strong economic footing. However, it is worth pointing out just how strong this government's record has been with regard to the economy.

In 2015 we asked Canadians to trust us with the stewardship of the economy so that we could ensure that Canadians could have every conceivable opportunity to achieve success. How did we start delivering? The very first thing is that we provided for a tax cut for approximately nine million middle-class Canadians, and by doing so we put more money in their pockets. How much more? Later this year, an average family of four will have approximately $2,000 more in their pockets, money that they can spend on school supplies, on camps, on recreation, on clothing, on all of life's necessities. That is as a result of both the middle-class tax cut and the Canada child benefit plan, which has put more disposable income into the households of nine out of 10 families, something that we should be very proud of.

We have also reduced taxes for small businesses. I know that the Conservatives like to brand themselves as the great captains of enterprise and like to pitch that they support small business, but this government actually walks the walk when it comes to important policy decisions. We were very happy to see that the CFIB, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, came out as very supportive of reducing the small business tax rate to 9%, beginning on the first day of 2019.

We also have a serious plan when it comes to climate change. On the Conservative benches I can hear some of my friends chortling and heckling and I know it is all in good spirit and good humour, at least for the most part, but the reality is that within their own ranks they still have a hard time admitting that climate change is real, notwithstanding the fact that there is nearly unanimous evidence and science to back up that claim.

I think that explains why they are so reluctant to put forward any plan, let alone a serious one, that would do the kinds of concrete things that are required to protect the environment, while at the same time ensuring economic prosperity.

For our part, in addition to taking serious action to protect our marine habitat and our coastlines to the tune of nearly $2 billion, we have also introduced historic legislation that would ensure there would be environmental protections and assessments in place. That was again backed by evidence. We worked with scientists and experts in the area. I know the Conservatives do not seem to like to refer to or give any acknowledgement to scholars. That seems to be quite difficult for them.

However, we worked with scientists and experts because we knew that by listening to them and by respecting their work, we were in a far better position to introduce legislation that is principled, like Bill C-69, which will ensure that there are environmental processes and assessments in place.

We are also putting a price on pollution. Once more, I would point out that there is nearly unanimous consensus that this is a smart way to go to reduce the amount of pollution in our environment. We will not hear any of that coming from the Conservatives. That again is a demonstration of how difficult it is for them to move forward with protecting our environment and acknowledging that climate change is real.

On trade, we are the only G7 country to have a fair trade approach with every other G7 country. That is something to be quite pleased with. Our work in renegotiating NAFTA and our work in implementing CETA in Europe has all been to the good in enhancing and increasing consumer choice and expanding jobs.

On that point, and with respect to the budget, close to one million new jobs have been created since we took the reins of the government in 2015. That is far better than what Canadians were under the last Conservative government, which had the worst record for economic growth since the Great Depression. It is an ignominious record, which demonstrates how we are focused on actually producing results while they falter.

All of the examples I have put forward are a demonstration as to why the Conservatives do not want to talk about the budget and do not want to talk about Bill C-92. They do not want to talk about anything that reflects on the positive work. It is about obstructing and it is about obstructing the work of Canadians.

On the concurrence report, I know my Conservative colleagues are quite keen to talk about this matter today as opposed to what was the subject of debate and discussion at the parliamentary committee for transportation and, if I am not mistaken, already agreed to by the Conservatives, notwithstanding the fact that the Auditor General was very critical of the Conservative government's handling of the Champlain Bridge.

By way of background, the Champlain Bridge was less than 50 years old, but it had deteriorated very badly. At this point, I will quote from from the Auditor General's report. It stated:

Heavy investments were required to repair and maintain it. If a structural problem forced the bridge to close, the four other river crossings in the area could not accommodate the displaced traffic without significant congestion. Even partial closures for brief periods or load restrictions could significantly affect the flow of people and goods through the region, and also affect the economy.

With respect to the procurement, I want to read from section 4.5 of the report and I will move on from there to conclude my remarks. This is with regard to the Conservatives' handling of the procurement of a private partner to do the work that was necessary to improve the Champlain Bridge. It states, “The government”, and that is the Conservative government, “ signed a contract, dated 16 June 2015, with Signature on the Saint Lawrence Group” or SSL as it is referred to. It went on to say:

The private partner undertook to deliver the project for just under $4 billion, excluding the government’s project management and land acquisition costs...The contract called for the new bridge to be ready for use by 1 December 2018. It included a 42-month construction period and a 30-year operation and maintenance period.

It goes on to state:

To manage the project, an integrated team of officials was drawn from five federal organizations:

From 2011 to 2014, Transport Canada was responsible for planning for the replacement of the bridge.

Infrastructure Canada took over in 2014.

Public Services and Procurement was the federal contracting authority for the project.

What did the Auditor General conclude with regard to the Conservatives' handling of the project? The Auditor General found that the Government of Canada, the Conservative government of the day, was slow in making the decision to invest in the new bridge instead of maintaining the existing one. This finding matters because the delay in decision-making entailed avoidable expenditures of more than $500 million.

It is rather curious that the Conservatives seemingly now want to draw attention to the fact that they slow-played the procurement process as a means of slow-playing the budget that we want to deliver, which will ensure there are more jobs, more opportunities and more prosperity for Canadians. What irony. What a demonstration that Conservatives have not taken any of the lessons that were handed to them in 2015.

It is regrettable and it is disappointing. I do hope we can move on from the debate of this concurrence report, so we can get back to Bill C-92 and budget 2019. That is what Canadians want us to do.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to what was a tangential reflection of what this debate is about. However, I noted the member talked about Bill C-92. Are the Liberals avoiding debating the bill because they are worried there are so many flaws in it, like in Bill C-91? It was unheard of that the government actually had to table over 30 amendments at clause by clause.

Are Liberals trying to avoid discussing Bill C-92 because they are worried they have again created legislation with so many flaws in it that they will be truly embarrassed when we have witnesses at committee pointing out all those important flaws in that legislation?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Marco Mendicino

Mr. Speaker, we actually tabled Bill C-92 yesterday.

It is the height of irony that during my remarks, when I began to talk about Bill C-92, that member across the way was admonishing me for raising Bill C-92 instead of talking about the concurrence report with regard to the procurement of a private developer on the Champlain Bridge, for which, the government of the day was heavily criticized by the Auditor General. Now the member is coming back to me, asking me why I did not speak more about Bill C-92. The member just interrupted me, and now wants me to return to the very matter which she wanted me to move on from.

Having said that, I am happy to talk about Bill C-92. This is historic legislation. It is historic because we co-developed it with indigenous peoples, because we reached out in good faith to organizations like the AFN and to local leaders, as well as local chiefs, to ensure that their voices were heard in the best interests of indigenous young children and youth, who are disproportionately overrepresented in our child and family services justice system. That is the work they need us to do, and we desperately want to do it.

I wish my hon. colleague would get her messages straight.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, that answer makes no sense. That is at least the third Liberal speech I have heard where they say they want to talk about another bill. Then why do they keep making speeches? Why do they not use the tools they have at their disposal starting at the next intervention to move on to consideration of Bill C-92 if it is so important?

I have a hard time believing that the Liberals truly want to talk about Bill C-92 when it took them so long to introduce it in the House of Commons. The Liberals are doing nothing right now to move on to consideration of Bill C-92.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:30 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the New Democrats have finally followed the debate from yesterday and now have recognized the Conservatives' intent to prevent us from debating Bill C-92. I hope the NDP will be consistent in ensuring we can make progress on Bill C-92 and other important government legislation.

It has become clear that the Conservatives only desire is to be as disruptive as possible on all government initiatives because they do not want to talk about the good, progressive policy initiatives in legislation or even in a budget to be presented later today.

With the official opposition in its own wonderland, trying to ramp up some sort of rhetoric on an issue that is not relevant in the minds of Canadians, could my colleague provide his thoughts on why it is so important we as government continue to remain focused on Canadians?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:35 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Lib.

Marco Mendicino

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of deviation by the member in terms of the subject matter she wants to question me about. First it was the concurrence report, then Bill C-92 and now the subject matter that is before the justice committee. Talk about being all over the map. This is another attempt to obstruct and disrupt, which is what we see from the Conservatives.

With regard to the work of the justice committee, it is operating independently. I am proud of the work that the Liberal members of Parliament have done on the committee. Indeed, they partnered in many meaningful ways with their Conservative and NDP colleagues with regard to the material witnesses who would be called. Canadians are better off knowing more about what occurred over the last number of months with regard to the SNC affair. That is a good thing. There is also the Ethics Commissioner's inquiry in which, again, witnesses will have every opportunity to provide evidence.

However, the Conservatives' efforts to deviate from the work of this government, which is singularly focused on Canadians, will not succeed, because we have the best team, the best ideas and the best leader. That is what Canadians can count on going forward.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will come back to what I said earlier, which speaks to the core of both Bill C-92, for our colleagues across the way, as well as the motion that we have before us. It is about trust and the lack of trust that Canadians have with the Prime Minister and indeed his team.

We are at a crisis of confidence right now. I am fairly young, but I remember a show called “I Dream of Jeannie”. It is like the Liberals are trying to change the channel with a click and they are trying to change the narrative. Every time they try to do that it is because they don't want Canadians hearing the message that we have to say, because it is the truth.

Our colleague for Saanich—Gulf Islands does not often stand up in defence of the official opposition, the Conservatives, but we heard that earlier today when she asked how we had arrived at where we are today. It is because of the heavy-handed efforts and tactics that the Liberals and the government have used on the justice committee by not allowing testimony. All they need to do is to let her speak. Let the former attorney general speak.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the final six minutes I have, I will tie this back to the debate. If only our colleagues across the way could just have trust that I am going to do that.

I want to bring up a comment that our colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence said in his intervention. He noted that today is a day when Canadians expect Liberals to deliver. Do Canadians not expect the Liberals to deliver every day? Sadly, we have not seen it. They want to change the channel.

I am going to bring the House back to the early days of the government, when it introduced its Motion No. 6 to try to change the Standing Orders and our procedures. At that time, a minister was found guilty of using a limousine as a preferred choice of transportation and billing the taxpayers for that. We also found out that the finance minister had a French villa and he was found guilty. The Prime Minister was the first prime minister in the history of our country to be found guilty of ethics violations. I also have to mention the clam scam, which involved a former fisheries minister. They were all found guilty.

Now I will get to where we are today. Why do we find it challenging to believe what the Liberals say they are going to do? It is because they have not done it.

I would like now to talk about Bill C-92, which is what our colleagues across the way want. My comments are relevant, as it has been entered into the debate a few times.

I want to remind Canadians that it was the former Conservative government that signed a bilateral agreement with B.C., my home province, in 2012-13 to reimburse B.C. for child welfare services provided to 72 first nations communities. In our record as a Conservative team, we actually took into account the child welfare challenges.

I also want to bring our colleagues across the way back to—

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:55 p.m.
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Dan Vandal

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As parliamentary secretary to indigenous services, I note that we were here at 10 a.m. to discuss this important bill, Bill C-92, which is about indigenous child welfare. Those on the other side did not want to discuss it. They wanted to discuss the Champlain Bridge. Now the member opposite wants to talk about Bill C-92.

This is completely inappropriate. We should have been talking about Bill C-92 as of 10 a.m., but the Conservatives did not want to do this. The member opposite does not get the opportunity now to discuss Bill C-92, when we have not introduced it.

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, for anybody watching this debate, I am sure it is not with great amusement.

The Liberals object to opposition members not talking about the Champlain Bridge, but they are definitely not talking about the Champlain Bridge when they stand to speak on this matter. They are talking about everything from Islamophobia to who knows what. The incredible thing is that the government has asserted its powers over and over again at committee and in this place to cut off debate. Liberals have the power to move a motion to adjourn the debate and go to the orders of the day. In this particular instance, they claim their priority is to talk about Bill C-92, yet they have sat there for how many hours now, choosing not to assert those powers for what they claim is a top priority: the rights and interests of indigenous children in Canada.

The big question I would put to my colleague is this. Why do the Liberals not want to talk about the Champlain Bridge and if they do not want to talk about the Champlain Bridge, why are they not asserting their powers in this instance instead of asserting their powers to shut down discussion about SNC-Lavalin at committee?

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 1 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, members on the other side of the House really need to give their heads a shake. Think about it. For the last two days, the Minister of Indigenous Services and Liberal members have wanted to talk about Bill C-92, but the opposition continues to frustrate the debate by filibustering, by putting forward motions like the one today to talk about the Champlain Bridge. That is today; yesterday it was something else. They do not want to debate substantive legislation.

On one hand, opposition members say the Liberal government always uses tools to prevent them from speaking and, on the other hand, they ask why the Liberals are not using those tools. They are challenging us to do something they do not want us—

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 19th, 2019 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I tried talking about the topic the Liberals wanted us to talk about early on, but there were five points of order. They did not want Canadians to hear the message we had regarding Bill C-92, apparently.

My hon. colleague across the way likes to scream and yell and perhaps Canadians will believe him a little more by doing that, but Canadians can see through this veil of the Liberals protesting far too much. They are not telling the truth and Canadians deserve the truth. All they need to do is to allow the former attorney general to speak.

An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2019 / 1:15 p.m.
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Seamus O'Regan Minister of Indigenous Services, Lib.

moved that Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to open second reading debate on Bill C-92, an act respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. Before I go any further, it is important to recognize that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

My remarks today will focus on three key areas: first, how Bill C-92 aligns with this government's commitment to renewal of the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples; second, the importance of child welfare generally and the necessity of cultural protections in child welfare regimes; and third, how implementation of this bill would allow for greater protection of vulnerable children, youth and families while recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.

I cannot in good conscience stand in this House today without recognizing the important work done by the member for Markham—Stouffville. The member got us started on this road, and we cannot forget her accomplishments as Canada's first minister of indigenous services. We are very grateful for what she did during her time.

While we are providing credit where it is due, I must acknowledge the role of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations in bringing the bill forward. Her commitment to renewing the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples is clear and it is unflagging. It is my pleasure to stand and recognize her contributions to the co-development of this important legislation.

Earlier I mentioned how Bill C-92 aligns with the government's progress on renewing Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. Canadians are increasingly aware that indigenous issues are Canadian issues, that indigenous issues are critical to this country and that indigenous issues must be addressed. This government continues its strong commitment to these issues, because Canadians want it, because this country needs it and because, fundamentally, it is the right thing to do.

We have made historic investments to build and repair thousands of new and safe housing units in indigenous communities, like those I witnessed recently in Cat Lake. More importantly, we are delivering those investments through a new distinctions-based approach. There is no more one-size-fits-all approach that is supposed to work from southwestern B.C. to the far reaches of the Arctic to the tip of coastal Labrador. We have partnered with indigenous people to create a first nations-led housing strategy, the Inuit Nunangat housing strategy, and the Métis Nation's housing strategy.

All Canadians should have access to safe, clean drinking water. We are committed to delivering on that, and we are on track to be able to lift long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems on reserve by the end of March 2021, as planned.

We continue to invest in infrastructure in indigenous communities, including roads, schools, recreation centres and aerodromes, to name just a few. We are doing so because we realize that efficient infrastructure helps communities prosper. Thriving communities lead to activities, initiatives and growth that create economic development opportunities.

We know that the long shadow cast by decades of neglect will not be erased overnight. It will be difficult to reverse, but it is possible. It is essential that we take these steps now and in partnership, not with paternalism.

This government and this Prime Minister have committed, since the beginning, to a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. This bill is a wonderful example of this, and it is my hope, through this debate and with the support of members on all sides of this House, and in the other place, that with it ultimately passing, this bill could serve as an example of the type of work we need to continue doing.

Before getting into the minutiae of the bill before the House today, I think there may be some value in pulling back a little and speaking generally about child welfare and the emerging recognition of the importance of cultural stability being provided to children who are in care.

Interestingly enough, March is National Social Work Month in Canada. I say that because I think it is important for us to take a moment during this debate to acknowledge and appreciate the professional duties executed by social workers day in and day out right across this country. They are often placed in settings that most Canadians do not even know exist, and they are often forced to make difficult choices across stark options. They work within systems, and the decisions they make are often mandated by those systems. I want to be clear that when we talk about the need to address systemic faults, we do so without unduly criticizing those who work within those systems.

All that is to say that there is increasing acknowledgement in both the academic and operational worlds that current child welfare systems are failing indigenous youth.

Consider that less than 8% of this country's population is indigenous, but indigenous children make up 52% of children in care. That statistic is horrifying. That statistic is appalling. However, that is only part of the story. Far too frequently, non-indigenous social workers come into communities that are not theirs, apply an artificial standard without any context for the communities they are in, and take children away from their mothers, grandmothers and aunties. They take them away from their cousins and their classmates and bring them to another place where they are supposedly safe. They are safe, but alone; safe, but isolated from their culture; safe, but ultimately terrified. This happens because a child protection system built on a western and urban model has no place in indigenous communities.

Let us use my home province as an example. In Newfoundland and Labrador, once the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development has made the determination that a child is in need of protective intervention, it assesses the availability of placement options. It is a four-level continuum that starts with family-based placements, then moves to non-family-based foster homes, then eventually moves to staffed residential placements. The issue, of course, is that in small isolated communities like Nain or Natuashish, the availability of placement options is exceptionally limited. That holds true whether or not a small community is an indigenous community. The smaller the town, the fewer the options.

What ends up happening, of course, is that kids who need protective intervention generally have to move away from their towns and into larger areas. If children are taken away from their families and placed with strangers, that has an incredibly traumatic impact on them as children. If children are taken away from their families and placed in a town where no one looks like them or sounds like them and no one understands where they are from, well, members get the picture.

Existing systems too often place a priority on an urban definition of “safety” while ignoring the developmental necessity of culture, of community, of language and of a sense of belonging. No good comes from stripping away children from everything and everyone they know. Sometimes it may be necessary, but it should not be the standard course of action. Unless we change how we operate child welfare for indigenous communities, we will continue to cause serious harm to individuals and communities.

This is beyond unacceptable. This is a humanitarian crisis. We must act. With the proposed bill in place, we would have a path forward with which we could achieve the fundamental reform required.

Let me turn our attention to how implementation of this bill would allow for greater protection of vulnerable indigenous children, youth, and families while recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.

First and foremost, Bill C-92 would help to ensure that indigenous child and family services would be based firmly on putting the child first, not on the convenience of the system; that they would be fully aligned with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; a that we would provide clear affirmation of the inherent right of first nations, Inuit and Métis to exercise their jurisdiction in relation to child and family services, enabling communities to not only administer prevention and protection programs and services that reflect their customs, practices and traditions but to also enact laws in this area if they decided to do so.

The proposed process would not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Indigenous peoples could exercise partial or full jurisdiction over child and family services at their own pace. This would enable indigenous people to tailor the exercise of their jurisdiction to their needs.

In this legislation, we are setting out principles applicable, on a national level, to the provision of child and family services in relation to indigenous children and families. These principles would help ensure that indigenous children and their families would be treated with dignity and that their rights would be preserved. Some of these principles, for example, would help to ensure that indigenous children were not taken into care based on socioeconomic conditions alone, as is happening right now. If children were apprehended, it would be in their best interest, and they would be placed with a family member or within the immediate community.

Rather than a system designed to respond to crises, we must enable a system focused on prevention. This legislation emphasizes the need for the system to shift from apprehension to prevention, with priority given to services that promote preventative care to support families. It gives priority to services like pre-natal care and support for parents. We know, academics know and front-line professionals know that preventative care is a leading indicator of child success and positive development.

The provisions in the bill respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families mark the beginning of a 180-degree turn, a turn away from a system that allowed residential schools to happen.

Bill C-92 also demonstrates the importance of a collaborative approach when looking at how legislation impacting indigenous peoples is developed. This legislation flows from an intensive period of engagement with first nations, Inuit and Métis leaders, communities and individuals, including the provinces and territories. This engagement would continue in the development and implementation of a new child and family services system, which the bill would enable.

Indigenous families and communities are being torn apart. Indigenous children are being taken from their families and communities and deprived of their language and culture. Their rights as members of indigenous communities, as children and as human beings have been trampled on for too long.

This bill is in line with our government's commitment to a renewed relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples.

The bill recognizes the current systemic issues in child protection generally and reinforces the necessity of cultural protections in child welfare systems.

The bill would allow for greater promotion of vulnerable children, youth and families while recognizing and affirming the inherent right of indigenous peoples to self-determination.

Where capacity exists to build safe spaces for children and youth, where aunties, uncles, cousins and friends can come together in mutual support, and where communities want to end a cycle of child removal that creates lasting and widespread trauma, no children should be removed to spend their formative years in isolation, away from the supports they need to get the best start in life, away from the places where they belong. For children to go out and make their way in the world, they must know their place in the world. They must know where they are from. They must know where they belong. They must know who they are.

Time is of the essence. We must work collaboratively and effectively. We must maintain this momentum. We must see this through. An entire generation of indigenous children and youth are counting on us to get this right, and we cannot let them down.

There can be no greater measure of a society than how we treat our most vulnerable, how we treat our children. Today we can stand a little taller, because today we are moving to make it right. We are working to make it right.

I urge all members to join me in moving toward an end to this crisis with their support for Bill C-92.

An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

March 19th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too am very pleased to rise in the debate on Bill C-92 today. I note there is concern that the the bill is arriving so late in this parliamentary agenda. There are only 10 weeks left. This was promised a number of months ago, and it finally was tabled just recently.

Having said that, we intend to be productive and proactive in supporting this, at least in principle, and seeing where we can go. Again, the government has a history of having important principles, but those principles have not always translated into legislation.

We all know the tragedy and the genesis for that, based in the residential school system, based in the sixties scoop, and it predates many of those issues. Again, I always like to reflect on my own experiences.

In the 1980s, as a nurse moving into a community, I was told that social and child welfare workers were not welcomed on reserve because they took their kids and so they could not come onto the reserve. In actual fact, the social workers of the provinces did not go onto the band lands at that time.

I look at where British Columbia, as an example, has come since that time, from a place where it was a very tense, taut relationship that could have ended in violence had people entered band lands. It ended up in a better place. Every province is a bit different in where people have ended up.

In the riding I represent in Kamloops, Secwépemc Child & Family Services now provides services both on and off reserve for its community members. For those people, this bill would be another step forward in the evolution of what the service is doing and how it is doing it. Certainly I want to congratulate the communities for coming such a long way from the 1980s to where we are in the 2000s. Things are not where they need to be, but they are certainly much better than they were.

I want to also make a contrast. We do not know the whole story, but many of us saw the video at Christmas time, showing the removal of a newborn baby from her mother and her family. Again, we do not know the back story, but we all looked to that and felt grief and wondered what had happened and what needed to be done to make it better.

The minister talked about the social workers and held them up with respect to working under the structures of the day, for which the government needs to be responsible. I also want to acknowledge adoptive parents across the country who opened up their hearts and their homes. Maybe they could not have a family of their own and they wanted one to love. They wanted to do the right thing. I want to hold them up because many families adopted children and many fostered children. In the community I represent, many of these families tried their best to ensure the children remained connected with their culture and kept the ties.

As we move forward, this is not about not respecting the work that social workers have done and not about not respecting the families that have adopted children. It is about knowing we can do better, that there are ways we can focus on prevention and do better for the children. Keeping them and supporting them connected to their culture and community is absolutely critical.

The Minister of Indigenous Services acknowledged the work of the former minister. In January 2018, an emergency meeting was held with Indigenous Services, the federal and provincial counterparts.

At that time, they all recognized that they needed to shift the programming focus to prevention, early intervention, supporting communities to draw down the jurisdiction and exploring the potential for co-developed child legislation, which is, of course, what we are here to talk about today.

Before I talk specifically about some of the technical details in the proposed legislation, I think it is important to reflect on the past government's record in this area. The Liberals like to portray themselves as the only people who have ever cared about this issue, the only group that has actually moved forward, recognizing that this is an important issue. It has been an evolution. I explained how it was in the 1980s. However, I will look at what the record was in terms of the evolution of the former government.

We signed a bilateral agreement with B.C. in 2012-13 to reimburse B.C. for the child welfare services that it provided to the 72 first nations. The funding streams were similar to what first nations and child and family services agencies received under directive 20-1, which goes way back. It provided a lot more flexibility with respect to the funding arrangement and the increased amount of funding that was available.

We also started what we called the enhanced prevention focused approach, which was launched in 2007 in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia; Quebec and P.E.I. in 2009; and Manitoba in 2019. This EPF approach was intended to provide a more flexible funding model and refocus child welfare to a family-centred practice with child-centred outcomes. It relied on a more intensive involvement of social workers to provide support before families reached a crisis. It was intended to reduce the need for placement of children, but where placement was necessary, it also explicitly favoured kinship and community placement over foster care and institutional care. It also started tracking meaningful performance indicators.

Members can see that we had taken some principles that had been evolving over time. Again, some provinces are certainly more advanced in working in partnership with their first nations communities and the federal government. However, we put it into legislation. Moving those principles into legislation and reaffirming the jurisdiction cleared up a whole lot of confusion that might have been there in the past.

Again, there was talk about the funding. The funding did change significantly over that time. Of course, it needed more enhancement, but there was a 50% increase in funding. However, more important is that there were some results. We saw the percentage of children who were placed in foster care decrease. I would find it very valuable to get from the minister the trend line to see if it is still heading in the right direction. The percentage of children in kinship care increased and, again, we saw some changes in the proper direction. My point is that we are talking about what has been too slow an evolution, but certainly, hopefully, an evolution in the appropriate direction.

What would the bill before us actually do? This is where I think there is going to be a lot scrutiny, not only in the House at second reading debate but, importantly, in committee where we get those experts to come and share with us what is good about the bill and where it has not been crafted in a way that would do the job.

The bill would affirm the jurisdiction of indigenous peoples in relation to child and family services, which has always been a very difficult grey area because the provinces have said that, under the Constitution, we need to be responsible and the federal government has been inconsistent in its role. Sometimes the government says it provides services on reserve but does not have responsibility off reserve, so it is very confusing. The bill needs to affirm the jurisdiction and to get rid of the confusion between the provinces and the federal government.

The bill sets out really important principles, such as the best interests of the child, cultural continuity and substantive equality, which is applicable on a national level to the provision of child and family services in relation to indigenous children.

The key elements of the bill that we have talked about are that it would affirm the jurisdiction of indigenous peoples to make laws in relation to child and family services, along with the authority to administer and enforce these laws consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would commit to not interfering with existing rights in self-government agreements enacted by indigenous governing bodies regarding child and family services. That is an area we need to delve into. If relationships have already been established, we need to make sure it does not erode things that are working well and moving forward.

The area that Conservatives are concerned about is that it be binding on the provinces and territories. I do not think there are any challenges in terms of communities on reserve taking care of their memberships off reserve where they have drawn down services, but I hope the Liberal majority will allow constitutional experts and the provincial ministers to talk about the constitutionality of that particular issue. When a province provides services, is there agreement with all of the provinces in terms of the bill and is it constitutional to impose it on them when they have the jurisdiction for delivering services? I am not a legal expert, but it is a question I have about the bill and a legitimate question to ask. We need clarity. We need to make sure we are being consistent.

The bill includes a rule of precedence, which would stipulate that where indigenous governing bodies have made laws with respect to child and family services, they would have precedence over other laws relating to child and family services where conflicts arise. This is among the key elements.

Again, I am disappointed. I am disappointed that it has taken so long to table the bill. There is an agreement in the House that when a bill is tabled on a Thursday, my caucus gets to look at that bill on Wednesday so that all of my caucus members have the benefit of understanding what the bill looks like before it is debated in the House. That agreement is pretty fundamental to the proper functioning of the House and the Liberal government violated that agreement with this legislation. It was tabled on a Thursday and there has been no caucus meeting since. There was a commitment that we would discuss the bill after we had caucus meetings.

This is following a pattern. Because the Liberals have not been able to manage their House time, it does not constitute an emergency on our part and they should be respectful. If they want co-operation, they need to respect these basic elements and provide us an opportunity. For many years, members have respected the Wednesday rule and Liberals regularly violate it.

My other concern I talked about before. When Bill S-3 was introduced, it was great. The bill was a response to gender inequity in some legislation and the Liberals guaranteed us there would be technical briefings. In the House, they guaranteed they had fixed the problem. What happened? When we went into committee, we started to identify flaw after flaw after flaw.

The indigenous languages legislation was tabled in the House. The Liberals said it was co-developed and everything was great. We started to hear witnesses at committee, and there was flaw after flaw after flaw. There were 30 amendments, and I have said this a number of times today. It is unheard of for a government to have to make 30 fixes to its own legislation, and those 30 fixes were tabled late. It did not even meet the deadline. They have to table it in committee on the day we are heading into clause-by-clause. It is unheard of incompetence.

We support the principle. We want the legislation to move forward. We want to see things improve. However, we are a little leery of the ability and the competence of the government to get it right.