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

Bill C-92—Time Allocation MotionAn Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2019 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, I recall that just before Christmas, the former Indigenous Services minister, along with the current minister, had a grandiose news conference, with all three parties, in the old House of Commons. That was before Christmas. Here we are three or four months later, and the government is finally doing what it should have done months ago.

The bill is flawed. We need to talk about it here in the House of Commons. It is flawed because of a lack of consultation. It is flawed because of hurried consultation, especially in my province. I have heard loud and clear from the FSIN. It was forced to make recommendations within a two-week period. Here we are now with time allocation.

I am very disappointed by the government's lack of foresight. Here we are on Bill C-92. We are weeks away from rising, and now we cannot even debate probably the most important bill in Indigenous Services.

Bill C-92—Time Allocation MotionAn Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2019 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is a very appropriate quote, “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.” Perhaps we should say that the government's lack of planning should not constitute time allocation every time it is in a rush.

Whether it was Bill S-3, which had major flaws, or the indigenous children's language bill, for which the government had to table drop 20 amendments at clause-by-clause, Bill C-92 is another bill that will not get proper debate. The government is rushing it through the system because it just could not get it done.

Why is the government not willing to provide the appropriate time for us to identify what I am sure will be significant and major flaws in this legislation?

Second ReadingMackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

April 9th, 2019 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak to a broader issue. The government has consistently talked about what its priority bills are in terms of moving forward, but our time is getting very short.

The Liberals have accused the Conservatives of stalling on Bill C-91, the indigenous languages legislation, and on Bill C-92, the child welfare bill. They have said that it is absolutely critical that we move forward and get them done. They like to lay the blame for their lack of House management on the Conservatives.

We fully anticipated that we would be talking to the important child welfare legislation. I wonder if my colleague could comment on the fact that his government seems to have priority legislation but does not seem to be able to get things through the House in a timely way. The government ends up cutting off debate on every single piece of legislation that comes along due to its poor House management. This is just another example.

I thought we would be talking about Bill C-92, but we are talking about a bill the government introduced six months ago and that has been on the floor for only a short time, and suddenly we have time allocation.

April 4th, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I very much apologize for this, Arlen. I enjoyed meeting you when we were in Manitoba, and you have been here before. Unfortunately, because of the timing of an upcoming bill, there's a motion that I wanted to move. I deeply apologize that I will be taking my time to do that.

As everyone knows, I have a motion that I put forward the other day. We are going to be distributing that motion right now. It is similar to what was passed the other day, except it takes into consideration some of the concerns that other members had about the motion.

In point number four, I will be changing “the committee hear from witnesses for four meetings, and that these meetings be extended” from 8:30 to 1:30. It said “at the discretion of the chair”, but I think it's important that we put in there for emphasis that it will be from 8:30 to 1:30, which would mean a total of 20 hours of witness testimony for Bill C-92 when it comes to committee.

To address some of the concerns the clerk expressed the other day, we've added to number 6—which read, that “the committee proceed with clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill no later than Tuesday, May 28, 2019—the words “subject to the Bill being referred to the committee”. This will try to ensure once again that we're not trying to leapfrog the process and that the bill needs to be referred to committee before it can go through clause-by-clause.

Recognizing there could be further concerns around points six and seven, we could either add to them “subject to the bill being referred to the committee” or make them 5 a) and 5 b), depending upon what the legislative clerk feels is the best way to address that.

With that, I will look forward to any other questions that people might have about this.

Bill C-92—Notice of time allocation motionAn Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and FamiliesGovernment Orders

April 2nd, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-92, an act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.

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

March 19th, 2019 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise and speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay, particularly today, a historic day, when we are dealing with the need to reform the badly broken child welfare system and Bill C-92, an act respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families.

I will say at the outset that we have waited a long time for this legislation. However, it has to be done right, because Canada has not earned the trust to have the right to make decisions about indigenous children. If we are going to move forward, we need to see a firm legislative commitment from the government that it will live up to its obligations, because we are talking about the lives of children.

I want to begin by mentioning some of these children who have died in the last two years. Tammy Keeash was taken from her home, where she was poor and indigenous, by a state that said it would keep her safe. She was found dead in the McIntyre Floodway in Thunder Bay. She was 14 years old. There was Chantel Fox; Kanina Sue Turtle; Jolynn Winter; Jenera Roundsky; Azraya Kokopenace; Courtney Scott, from Fort Albany; and Tina Fontaine.

I have met the Kokopenace family in Grassy Narrows. It is a family that has been poisoned by the corporate crimes in Grassy Narrows, where 80% of the children are suffering from contamination and poison. Little Azraya was taken from her family to be made safe, and she was found dead on the streets of Kenora.

Courtney Scott was taken from Fort Albany and died thousands of kilometres from home. I heard her younger sister speak. What she said of the treatment of indigenous children today, in 2019, in the child welfare system, will shock Canadians. They have to understand that what happened with the abuse in the residential schools is going on today.

Our nation has been very moved by the story of Chanie Wenjack. We all thought how amazing was this moment of Canada coming together to hear the story of that little boy trying to get home to Marten Falls. However, there are 165,000 children like Chanie Wenjack who are trying to find their way home.

If we do one thing in this Parliament, we are going to make sure that the legislation is done right. We are not going to do what has been done year in, year out, decade after decade, which is nice words, positive talk and all the oversight from the Auditor General, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and all the great committees that have looked into the abuse and neglect of indigenous children. Children are still dying to this day and are continuing to die.

We will begin by talking about Tina Fontaine. I urge my colleagues to read the report on how the system failed little Tina. She was taken from her home by the white state. People promised that they would keep her safe. They put her up in a hotel and left her on the streets of Manitoba. The Manitoba government does not even track the number of children they leave in hotels. In her final days, when she was listed as a missing person, she had contact with paramedics, police and child welfare services, and not one of them came to her aid, even though it was known that she was being preyed upon by a 62-year-old meth addict. When she tried to get help, she was told to ride her bike to a shelter.

It was the state's obligation to protect this child, and she was found murdered in the Red River. I always think of the powerful words of Sergeant O’Donovan, who found her body. He said that if it had been a litter of puppies, Canadians would be outraged. However, it was just another little indigenous girl.

This is what we here today to talk about fixing. There are many elements in this bill that I think are very reassuring in terms of the language of indigenous control of indigenous communities. The right of indigenous families and communities to decide the future of their own children has to be the beginning of the end of colonialism, because colonialism was constructed on the destruction of the Indian family.

However, unless we see the legislative elements that actually force the federal government to live up to its obligations, we will not be all that much further ahead, because Canada as a nation has used great and beautiful words for a long time and has failed indigenous children. It has simply not earned the right to be trusted on this.

This bill today comes to us after five non-compliance orders by a human rights tribunal that has forced the government into compliance with its legal obligations. The previous government spent nearly $6 million fighting Cindy Blackstock.

Michael Wernick, who is now retired, was the deputy minister who was involved in spying on Cindy Blackstock, because the government saw a woman who was speaking up for children as a threat to the Government of Canada.

It did not start today and it did not start with the current government or the previous government or the government before that. It goes all the way back to the decision that was made in the taking of the land and the breaking of the treaties. The fundamental principle was to take the Indian children away from their families and to destroy who they were as a people, which meets one of the key international tests of genocide.

Duncan Campbell Scott did not invent the residential school system, but he certainly perfected it. When he was faced with the appalling deaths of children in the residential schools from the chronic, systemic, deliberate underfunding by the federal government, he said:

It is readily acknowledged that Indian Children lose their natural resistance to illness by habituating so closely in the residential schools and that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this does not justify a change in the policy of this department which is geared toward a final solution of our Indian problem.

The term “final solution” was a homemade Canadian concept, and it was based on the destruction of the Indian people.

Why do we have to talk about history? It is one thing I have learned as a white guy. People say, “Why are we always talking about what happened back then?” We cannot go into any indigenous community without knowing how we got here. If we do not know how we got here, we do not know how we are going to go forward. It was the residential schools.

By the 1950s, the federal government realized that residential schools had been an abject failure, not for the abuse, the torture and the rape of the children, and not for the horrific low results of education. The government decided that it was a failure because it failed in its fundamental job of assimilation, so it decided to use the child welfare system. There was nothing accidental about the sixties scoop. The sixties scoop was a deliberate federal policy to take children far way from their identity and to basically turn them into white children.

In the book on residential schools by John Milloy, he writes:

Fostering was seen as a most effective method of breaking through the welfare bottleneck and ultimately, in tandem with integration, of closing [the residential] schools.... It had...the added allure of financial reward.... Children in foster homes could “be cared for less expensively since the maintenance costs are on the average less than for residential school placement”....

This was always the principle. It was about the destruction of identity while saving the taxpayers money. That is the fundamental principle that has led to the chronic underfunding of indigenous schools. It is the principle that has led to so much suffering and suicide in my own region, where we have had over 600 suicide deaths, almost entirely of youth, since the 1980s.

Governments in and governments out make all kinds of promises, but nothing changes. This was the fundamental principle Cindy Blackstock started to fight over 12 years ago with the federal government, that there was not anything accidental about what was happening in the child welfare system; it was a deliberate federal government policy of chronic underfunding by up to 40%.

At a certain point in the 1970s and 1980s, the government began to talk about indigenous control of child welfare, but the indigenous people were only allowed to control a broken, underfunded system. It is ironic that one of the only times the department of Indian affairs will agree to spend more money on children is when they are being taken from their families. That has been the policy. The sixties scoop has been called the millennial scoop. It is the 2018 and the 2019 scoop. There are more children in the control of the state now than there were at the height of the residential schools. The policies are still there.

When I see Bill C-92 and I hear talk about how we are going to move towards indigenous control and the indigenous right to develop their own family structures that are protected, where children are put into safe and culturally appropriate environments, I feel that is a great moment. However, if we do not see the legal statutory obligation of the federal government to close the funding gap, it is just a carry-on.

The ruling that the federal government was found guilty of systemic human rights abuse against indigenous children, in 2016, was a landmark moment, and I was very proud when the Prime Minister said that the government would not fight that ruling, but he did fight that ruling.

He fought that ruling to the tune of $1 million. He fought it through five non-compliance orders and each time the Human Rights Tribunal found that the federal government was choosing its own financial interests over the interests of children. In the third non-compliance order, the tribunal found “the definition of Jordan’s Principle adopted by Canada was a calculated, analyzed and informed policy choice based on financial impacts and potential risks rather than on the needs or the best interests of First Nations children, which Jordan’s Principle is meant to protect and should be the goal of Canada’s programming”.

In that third non-compliance order the tribunal found Canada culpable in the deaths of Jenna Roundsky, Chantel Fox and Jolynn Winter because it knew that these children in Wapekeka were at risk. There was a suicide cluster and the government opted not to help those children because it said the funding request came at an awkward time. The government insisted that the lives of those children had to fit within the priorities of the Department of Indian Affairs, not that the Department of Indian Affairs was obligated to those children.

The Human Rights Tribunal found the government culpable in the deaths of these children. These were beautiful young children and they were loved. The failure of the government to respond in Wapekeka kicked off a horrific suicide crisis and we are still picking up the pieces.

I was in Thunder Bay with my good friend Sol Mamakwa, where we met with the family of a young suicide victim. How do we talk to a family in a community that has lost so many children? That child was taken from her family by the policies of this state and the Liberal government because it will not fund high schools in her community, so she was living in a boarding house at age 14 in Thunder Bay.

These are the ongoing deaths and suffering and abuse that result from this underfunding.

The fourth Human Rights Tribunal ruling found Canada's continued reliance on the incremental approach to equality fosters the same discrimination that spurred the initial complaint.

When Parliament ordered the Liberal government to end the shortfall in child welfare of $158 million, the government said if it was forced to spend that money it would be like throwing confetti around. The government had been found guilty of systemic underfunding, but it felt that if it was forced to end the systemic underfunding it would be a waste of money. The Liberals tell us that incremental change is the path forward and that things take time.

I think of Dr. Martin Luther King's incredible statement from a Birmingham jail that asked how we tell people who have been denied rights for 100 and some years to wait and change will come one day. The change has to come today.

Quite simply, we have to start from the principle that Canada has not earned and Canada has never had the credibility or the right to be trusted with the lives of indigenous children.

If the government comes forward with a recognition of its culpability, a recognition of humility, a recognition that we begin the transformation of our fundamental relationship by saying that the future lies with the children, that the rights of the children will be protected, that the basic family units and the cultural units of indigenous communities will no longer be targeted and undermined and destroyed through the chronic systems of the broken child welfare system, the broken education system and the failed housing system and mould crisis, that the lives of children will become the most valuable thing that we cherish in this country, we will be the nation we were meant to be.

When I look at this legislation I see good language, but we need to have it written into law. Jordan's principle has to be written into law because it was the government's continued interpretation of Jordan's principle that was found discriminatory. The statutory obligations to equity have to be written into law because the government cannot be trusted.

When I hear the indigenous services minister say that the government will sign the agreements band by band, nation by nation, community by community, and to trust him, there is no reason to trust. I respect the new indigenous services minister but in my many years here I have seen good Indian affairs ministers, I have seen bad Indian affairs ministers, I have seen lazy Indian affairs ministers and I have seen racist Indian affairs ministers.

The only thing I ever saw change in those 15 years was the concerted, unrelenting legal pressure to force the department to live up to its obligations. Whether we have a good Indian affairs minister or a bad one or an indifferent one, it does not make a difference. These are the legislative responsibilities.

What is it that we want out of this? We want to have clearly written into law the obligations of the federal government to recognize the jurisdiction of indigenous nations and organizations, and we support that. We want it written into law that they will respect and clarify what the best interests of the child are so that it is not vague, so that we will have strong national standards for ensuring equitable treatment with equitable funding. Without equitable funding we cannot move forward.

We want accountability measures for Canada that hold the government to account. We can see what has happened in Manitoba with the Tina Fontaine ruling, where the Conservative government said that with the Tina Fontaine tragedy there were no lessons to be learned. It is a travesty when so many children are on the streets of Winnipeg because of the broken system in Manitoba. In Ontario, the Doug Ford government cancelled the child advocate's office, the one voice for the most marginalized children, speaking up for children who had been sexually or physically abused, children who had died in the system. If we do not have those mechanisms to protect children, the system will continue to destroy lives and we will continue to see the loss of children.

We want to work with the government. We want to do whatever it takes to move the legislation forward but we will not go along with just more words, not after the deaths of so many, not after the Human Rights Tribunal, not after the work of young Cree leaders like Shannen Koostachin, who called out the government for its systemic failure to support the children.

We have to put the lives and the rights of children as a top priority. I have to say that it is going to cost a lot of money to meet those 150 years of broken promises, but I can tell colleagues that there is not a single greater investment that can be made in this nation than in the lives of the indigenous children who are on the reserves, on the streets and in the communities across our country. This is a young generation who are not sitting back, a young generation who are not going to be told what to do, a young generation that understands that hope is made real when it is given the opportunity to make change.

That is when reconciliation will be made real. Without that commitment by the federal government we are just continuing the long broken pattern.

I call on my colleagues in the government. We will do whatever it takes on our side to move this legislation through. However, this legislation has to work in the interests of children because Canada has not earned the right to be trusted with the rights and the lives of indigenous children.

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

March 19th, 2019 / 3:20 p.m.
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Dan Vandal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I must say I am cautiously optimistic about the potential support from official opposition members for this legislation.

I am glad the member mentioned the co-development process. As the member perhaps mentioned in her speech, this bill has been in the works for approximately a year. There have been unprecedented consultations with the indigenous community. I believe there were upwards of 70 meetings with thousands of individuals who were consulted on the legislation. In fact, Senator Murray Sinclair, former chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has said that the consultations that were done for Bill C-92 are a model for implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action in a meaningful and direct way.

That encourages me, as do the comments that were made. I am wondering if the member could comment on the importance of the consultation for this bill.

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.

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

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

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.

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.

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 / 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 / 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.