An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94)

Sponsor

Marco Mendicino  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of Feb. 24, 2020

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Citizenship Act to include, in the Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship, a solemn promise to respect the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, in order to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action number 94.

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.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 24th, 2020 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalMinister of Immigration

moved that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I begin by acknowledging that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.

Today, I have the privilege of speaking to Bill C-6, which is an act to amend the Citizenship Act. When passed into law, this legislation will amend the oath of citizenship to ensure indigenous peoples have their right place within the solemn declaration made by newcomers as they are welcomed to the Canadian family.

The purpose of this bill is to continue to fulfill our government's commitment to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, specifically call to action number 94. As members will know, identical legislation was tabled in the last Parliament; however, we were not able to advance it before dissolution.

I want to explain why I think it is important to highlight this. The government proposed this amendment some time ago, almost a year ago, in fact, as part of our overall efforts to significantly advance reconciliation.

This is hard work. The renewal of the relationship with indigenous peoples must be based on a recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. We have wed ourselves to these principles to foster collaboration in the creation of new laws and policies that will, among other things, protect indigenous languages, traditions and institutions.

Do these advancements mean our work is done? Of course not. Recent events illustrate that the issues that remain to be resolved are both complex and urgent. Equally, we cannot allow ourselves to go backward.

I hope we will use this moment as an opportunity to have a constructive debate on this bill, starting with an all-party agreement that the amendments it proposes to the Citizenship Act are one more vital step towards reconciliation.

Before discussing the substance of the legislation, I believe it is important to provide the historical context that gave rise to call to action number 94.

As was said at the time of the initial publication of the TRC report, too many Canadians know too little or nothing at all about the tragedy of the residential schools. This deficit of public awareness regarding the systemic way in which indigenous children were forcibly torn from their families has had serious consequences. Previously shamed into silence, thousands of survivors painfully shared their residential school experiences with the commission. This helped to start an important dialogue about what is necessary to heal.

We, as Canadians, have much to learn from listening to their voices. It is in this spirit of sharing, knowledge and learning that we put forward this bill to ensure that new Canadians begin to understand the history of indigenous peoples as a part of our country's fabric at their inception as citizens. The stories of first nations, Inuit and Métis are the story of Canada itself.

That is why the approach we are taking with this new oath is so important. The action we are proposing today is one more step towards rebuilding a once harmonious relationship.

As Senator Murray Sinclair said:

Actions speak louder than words. The reality is that we're...looking for action that shows leadership, that causes people to sit up and take notice and recognize that there is an important process under way here that they have to be part of.

With this bill, we are taking a step to respond to Senator Sinclair's exhortation by modifying the oath of citizenship to be more inclusive, and to help fundamentally transform the nature of our relationship with indigenous peoples.

For hundreds of years, even before the residential schools, indigenous peoples faced discrimination in every aspect of their lives. Our government firmly believes that we must acknowledge the injustices of the past and envision a new relationship based on the inherent rights of indigenous peoples. The bill we have put forward today helps to lay the foundation for that journey.

Once adopted, the new oath of citizenship will read as follows:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

In arriving at this language, I would note that the government engaged indigenous leaders, including the national indigenous organizations. My department began consultations in 2016 with the Assembly of Fist Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council. In addition, we also engaged with members of the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, an organization that represents indigenous modern treaty organizations and governments in Canada.

While all three organizations generally support the intent behind the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action, it was clear that further efforts were needed to make the oath as precise and inclusive as possible.

In summarizing our consultation, there were diverse views with regard to language. However, it is our sincere belief that the wording put forth in this bill reflects our best efforts to be inclusive of first nations, Inuit and Métis experiences, responding not only to call to action number 94 but to the substance of what my department heard throughout our consultations. In so doing, we put forward to the House today a proposed oath of citizenship that introduces and instills the principle of reconciliation among our new citizens.

Canada has been shaped by the contributions of immigrants over many generations. Travelling this country far and wide, one would be hard pressed to find a family whose journey did not start abroad. For many, becoming a citizen is a significant milestone on this journey. Indeed, nearly 85% of newcomers become citizens. Over the last decade, Canada has welcomed nearly 1.7 million new citizens. In my short time as minister, I have already had a number of opportunities to participate in citizenship ceremonies right across Canada, and I can tell members that is among the most emotional, moving and special functions I get to engage in.

I get to see the pride on the faces of new citizens and how this oath represents a major commitment as part of their journey to settle in a new country.

The oath is a very public declaration and an integral part of the citizenship process. It consecrates a commitment to equality, diversity and respect within an open and free society. In addition, by taking the oath, new citizens inherit the legacy of those who have come before them and the values that have defined the character of Canada. When a newcomer becomes Canadian, our history becomes their history and their history becomes part of ours. Now, that shared history will also ensure that newcomers recognize and affirm the rights and treaties of indigenous peoples. The histories of indigenous peoples in Canada are diverse and an integral part of Canada's past, present and future.

It has been a long road, and we still have a lot of work to do. The purpose of bill is twofold. First, our goal is to ensure that new Canadians recognize indigenous peoples' significant contributions to Canada. The government is also reaffirming its commitment to reconciliation and a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples.

We must keep moving forward together.

We have listened and learned. We are working together to take concrete measures to build a better future and a new relationship, and that includes recognizing indigenous peoples in the citizenship oath.

Our goal is to achieve a fundamental and profound shift in the relationship with indigenous peoples. However, this transformation will take mutual respect, determination and patience.

It will mean listening to and learning from indigenous partners, communities and youth, and acting decisively on what we have heard, which is to build trust and healing. It will also mean doing everything we can to support the inherent right to self-determination of indigenous peoples that will lead us all to a better future.

We can and will build a better Canada together, but we can only do this in full, honest partnership with indigenous peoples who truly know best when it comes to their own communities.

I want to end by acknowledging that this has been a challenging time. However, this legislation represents a significant opportunity to find a better way forward.

I look forward to working with all members of the House. It is my sincere hope that we will find a common cause to support this legislation, which represents an important and modest step forward on the path to reconciliation.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 24th, 2020 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, it is very difficult to approach the business of the House today after weekend events that demonstrated so disastrously, yet again, the Liberal government's inability to provide peace, order and good government.

Teck Resources Limited withdrew from a $20-billion project that had passed a succession of environmental reviews; had the enthusiastic support of indigenous communities that would have shared significant economic benefits and 7,000 jobs in construction and 2,500 jobs in operation; and had the support of provincial governments, business and industry, given the $70 billion in economic stimulus it would have provided to the national economy. This took place because the Liberal government could not resolve its contradictory environmental and resource-development policies and provide certainty that the project would not be threatened by further lawlessness. This is a devastating blow to the Alberta economy, the national economy and to the concept of peace, order and good government.

With that, I will proceed to the legislation at hand.

It is an honour to rise today to speak to the importance, indeed the sanctity, of the oath sworn by all new citizens of our great country, Canada. The current oath of citizenship is a relatively short, compact and simple, but profound, promise of new citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada, all of the laws of Canada. It is an affirmation of patriotism and loyalty.

As we consider Bill C-6 today, I believe a few moments of historical reflection are in order.

Canada may be 152 years old, but Canada only became largely independent of the United Kingdom in 1931, under the Conservative government of Prime Minister R. B. Bennett. Even after 1931, citizens of this country remained British subjects. Anyone coming to Canada from anywhere else in the Commonwealth was not required to take the oath of allegiance. However, by 1946, the Canadian Parliament, the MPs sitting in Centre Block, now under renovation next door, moved to enact the Canadian Citizenship Act.

I arrived in Canada at Pier 21 in Halifax with my mother, a Canadian army nurse, aboard a Red Cross hospital ship in convoy, the Lady Nelson toward the end of the Second World War, a couple of years before the Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect in 1947. My parents were both Canadian: My father was a captain in the Canadian army and my mother was a nursing sister lieutenant assigned to the army medical corps plastic surgery team. I was born in a Canadian army hospital in Bramshott, Sussex.

With all of this combined, I grew through childhood and into my twenties believing that I was a Canadian citizen. I was sworn into the Royal Canadian Navy, only briefly, to my lifelong regret, and then into the Royal Canadian Army Reserve, taking the oath of loyalty to Queen and Canada each time, and I voted in two Canadian elections. I only discovered in 1966, when I applied for my first passport to travel to Vietnam as a freelance journalist, that I did not qualify to carry a Canadian passport: Because I arrived in Canada before 1947, I was not a Canadian citizen.

Fortunately in the 1960s, naturalization of this sort could be accomplished in very short order, and very quickly I was able to finally officially swear the oath of allegiance, officially becoming a Canadian citizen. I received a passport and was able to begin getting on with my life.

The actual Canadian citizenship oath only became law with amendments to the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1977. For the first time, Queen Elizabeth was cited as the Queen of Canada, consistent with Canada's status as a constitutional monarchy.

I assure you, Madam Speaker, I am moving steadily toward the proposed amendment to the oath before us today, changes that have been proposed a number of times since 1977 by Liberal governments. These proposed changes, in their time, were controversial and were either abandoned or died on the Order Paper.

In the mid-1990s, the Liberal citizenship and immigration minister, Sergio Marchi, commissioned a group of Canadian writers to compose a new oath that would have, outrageously, dropped all reference to Queen Elizabeth, our constitutional monarch. Fortunately, the Liberal prime minister, Chrétien, in a moment of exceptional clarity, told minister Marchi to park that proposed change and it was abandoned.

However, as members know, Liberals love tinkering with legislation, and a few years later another Liberal minister, Lucienne Robillard, tried to get rid of not the Queen this time but allegiance to her heirs and successors, which suggested to many that Canada's constitutional monarchy could end with her death. That bill, Bill C-63, died on the Senate Order Paper when an election was called. Two similar follow-on bills, Bill C-16 and Bill C-18, failed as well. As a matter of fact, Bill C-18 never made it past second reading in the House.

That brings us to Bill C-6, the proposal before us today to amend the Citizenship Act again.

The minister's mandate letter has directed him to achieve 12 specific tasks. Among these tasks are a number that stumped his two predecessors through the past Parliament.

The minister has been directed to effectively address the continuing flow of illegal migrants across Canada's southern border, more than 16,000 last year, and to engage the United States in closing loopholes in the safe third country agreement. As the backlog of asylum claimants, most of whom are likely to be rejected, approaches 90,000 and is still rising, the minister has been directed to reduce processing times. As well, the minister has been directed by the Prime Minister to advance reforms in the capacity of the asylum system and introduce a dedicated refugee stream to provide safe haven for human rights advocates, journalists and humanitarian workers at risk. As provinces, communities, chambers of commerce, and business and industry across Canada appeal for more timely, more efficient processing of permanent immigrants, the minister has been directed to assist there as well.

There are other directions in the minister's mandate letter, but the first legislation brought to the House by the minister is far down the mandate-letter list. Bill C-6 is, for all intents and purposes, the same proposed legislation as Bill C-69, thrown into the legislative process in the final days of the last Parliament, in June. There was no time to debate it then or for a committee study. It had absolutely no chance of passing in that Parliament. It was simply a pre-election promise.

Now we have Bill C-6. The oath as it is today, and as I have heard it many times over the years attending citizenship ceremonies as a journalist and as a member of Parliament, is this:

I swear...that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

It is, as I suggested in my opening remarks, a relatively short, compact, simple but profound promise of all new citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada, all of the laws of Canada.

The oath, with amendments proposed by the minister, would be:

I swear...that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

The government tells us that these additional 19 words are a fulfilment of a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In fact, the commission only recommended that four words be added to the oath, which were “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples”. Whether four or 19 words are added to the oath, let us look at who would be speaking these words, the future new Canadians who would be swearing or affirming this proposed longer oath.

Let me suggest to colleagues in the House to close their eyes for a moment, if I have not already led them to a somnolent state. I am sure they can visualize a familiar scene. In a council chamber, a courtroom or an event room in a historic building, or at a site or national park, there is a group of 40 or 60 men, women and children, along with as many or more friends and family.

A citizenship judge enters, often accompanied by a Mountie or two, a handful of politicians and, in recent years, very often an indigenous representative of the region or province. Canada's national anthem is sung with perhaps a bit more enthusiasm than in other circumstances. A few tears of anticipatory joy may be shed.

A smudging ceremony may be conducted, in which sage, cedar, tobacco or other plants are burned to cleanse and purify the event. Inspirational words will be offered by the presiding citizenship judge and other notables present. They will speak to the importance of the event, our country's history, perhaps their own personal experiences, and the words they are about to speak together.

Visualize again for a moment the expectant faces among the audience, faces from races, religions, cultures, communities and countries near and far who have come to Canada under a variety of circumstances. They may have come as economic migrants or refugees to join family members who came before, or as temporary foreign workers, or as international students who fell in love with this country and decided to stay and build their future lives here as citizens.

This ceremony is not a one-hour or a one-day event. One does not become a citizen overnight. This ceremony is the culmination of years of preparation, including accumulating the required residency years, learning one or both of Canada's official languages, and studying the many documents and data contained in the Discover Canada handbook or on the audio files connected to it and on the website.

This handbook is an abundant repository of Canadian history, citizen responsibilities and obligations, rights entrenched in the Constitution and the importance of the rule of law. This handbook is essential reading for new citizens, not only for the historic content, but also for the study questions provided to help them prepare for the citizenship test.

The handbook offers solid detail of Canada's first nations. As the section on aboriginal peoples explains, first nations' ancestors are “believed to have migrated from Asia many thousands of years ago.” It explains that aboriginal people were well established in Canada “long before explorers from Europe first came to North America. Diverse, vibrant First Nations cultures were rooted in religious beliefs about their relationship to the Creator, the natural environment and each other.”

The handbook also lays out in easily consumed detail the following:

Aboriginal and treaty rights are in the Canadian Constitution. Territorial rights were first guaranteed through the Royal Proclamation of 1763 by King George III, and established the basis for negotiating treaties with the newcomers—treaties that were not always fully respected.

The handbook addresses the impact of European diseases on the native culture and how traders, missionaries, soldiers and colonists changed native lives forever.

In preparation, future citizens learn of Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Loyalist military and political leader during the American Revolution; of Tecumseh and the Shawnees he led in support of British forces in the War of 1812; and of Louis Riel's fight for Métis rights as well as his trial and execution in 1885.

The handbook describes almost two centuries of injustice and abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools, physical abuse and cultural oppression. The handbook reminds readers that in 2008 in Ottawa the federal government under Conservative Prime Minister Harper formally apologized to former students. As well, the handbook defines the three distinct groups that compose Canada's aboriginal peoples.

The Conservative Party fully supports treaty rights and the process of reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people. Conservatives support real action to address reconciliation with Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis people. Conservatives support action on clean water, safe housing, education, health and economic opportunity, and the Indian Act, which blocks many first nations from charting their own future.

The Conservative Party fully respects treaties, which are already among Canada's body of laws. The Conservative Party supports the resolution of unfulfilled treaty obligations in the process of reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people.

In the week since these proposed changes were reintroduced by the government, I have received messages from constituents, and from far beyond, which contend that this amendment amounts to typical Liberal tokenism and virtue signalling, pandering and should be opposed.

I cannot speak to the Liberal government's motivation here, because when it comes to public policy, inconsistency and contradiction are the hallmarks of legislative process and decision-making. However, I can say that I have spoken often in this House against proposals, very often from the Liberal government, to burden various sections of clearly written sections of law, of the Criminal Code, with unneeded specificities.

In this debate, I must be clear that I believe the existing oath of citizenship does not need to be burdened with 19 new words that I believe are redundant. If we are to add first nations specificity, why not official bilingualism, why not privacy, why not national security, why not anti-Semitism?

Therefore, I propose the following amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94), since the existing Oath of Citizenship already includes the profound promise of citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada and the bill does nothing to support real action to address reconciliation with Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.”

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 24th, 2020 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, for generations, Canada has welcomed newcomers from around the globe looking to arrive here and contribute to this great place we call home. Canada has openly welcomed people fleeing political, economic and social hardships as well as those looking for opportunities to better themselves and their families.

The multicultural mosaic of Canadian society has been shaped by people from all walks of life, who have chosen to live freely together to ensure peace and respect for all. In welcoming them to our beloved country, we look to continue and strengthen that tradition of diversity and inclusion for all who wish to call Canada home.

As we begin debate on Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act with reference to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, we need to acknowledge Canada's colonial history. Embedded in that history are many chapters of how Canada legislated against and discriminated against the ethnic minority community.

The Chinese people who came before me helped Canada build the railway to connect this country from coast to coast. They went through hell to earn me the right to stand here today. They sacrificed everything, and some paid with their blood. They took on the most dangerous work to help build the railway and they fought for Canada, even though they were deemed “aliens”. They were discriminated against and mistreated in ways that make us hang our heads in shame.

I have learned from elders and heard stories of how it was indigenous peoples, who themselves were experiencing discrimination, who came forward to support the Chinese people. They helped them, housed them, fed them, clothed them, gave them medicine, offered a sense of belonging and treated them with humanity. In practice, they have shown the world again and again that the most important life lesson is humanity. This came from the very people who were experiencing colonization, people who suffered extreme hardships and discrimination themselves.

All of this is to say how very grateful I am to the indigenous peoples for their teachings, their kindness and their humanity. What a privilege it is for me to learn from them, to stand with them, to thank them, to appreciate them for the teachings that they have given to all of us. These are the teachings of lifting each other up, of being land defenders, the teachings that water is life and that mother earth is sacred. These are teachings of being united with one heart.

As a non-indigenous person, I stand as an ally. That is why the bill before us is so important. We, as settlers, must learn and understand Canada's colonial history.

The bill would change the text of the citizenship oath taken by new citizens of Canada to align with call to action 94 of the TRC and includes a reference to treaties with indigenous peoples.

The revised citizenship oath would read as follows:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

I am proud to stand in this House in support of Bill C-6.

Taking the citizenship oath is a significant moment in a newcomer's journey to Canada. With that privilege comes responsibility. It is absolutely essential that new Canadians understand and respect the constitutional rights of all indigenous peoples, and in fact I would say it is every Canadian's responsibility to be educated about the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples.

For far too long, successive governments have made aspirational statement after aspirational statement about how they would build a new nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, about how they would take reconciliation seriously, but as we know, broken promises and shameful disappointments always followed.

We have all heard that the current Liberal government would be different. We all wanted to believe that would be true. However, even the bill before us, which is a simple but important change, has been five years in the making, despite being cited as a top priority by the government. In the last Parliament, on May 3, 2016, I tabled an amendment at committee to make this change in another immigration bill that was also called Bill C-6. Unfortunately, the committee deemed my amendment out of scope, so it did not pass.

In the last Parliament, former MP Romeo Saganash wrote to the former minister of immigration in April 2017 to offer support and assistance from the NDP to realize this measure. This offer of collaboration was ignored. Even though this change was outlined in a mandate letter to the former immigration minister, no action was taken until the dying days of Parliament before the election. Bill C-99 did not even make it to second reading.

In that not-so-subtle way, it was clear the Liberals were merely trying to set the stage to say they did try to make this change for the upcoming election. If it takes the Liberals this long to add a line in the citizenship oath, is it any wonder they are failing so miserably on their new nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples?

To date, there are only nine completed calls to action out of 94, and10 with this bill. For someone who claims this is his most important relationship, it sure as heck is moving at a snail's pace. That is 2.25 calls to action per year. At this rate, it will take approximately 38 years before all of the calls to action are implemented. That would mean reconciliation in 2057.

Eva Jewell and Ian Mosby, academics at the Yellowhead Institute, called the Liberals' track record on the TRC calls to action “dreadful progress.”

Canadians are coming to terms with our colonial history and want a Canada where the rights of indigenous peoples are recognized and respected. The Liberal government is continuing to deliberately disadvantage indigenous peoples, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast are noticing. In our country, a shocking 25% of indigenous people are living in poverty, despite making up only 5% of Canada's population. This figure is even worse for indigenous children, with 47% living in poverty, and this figure rises to 53% for children on reserves.

We continue to see indigenous peoples getting poisoned because they do not have access to clean drinking water. What is a necessity for every other Canadian is not afforded to some indigenous communities. What is a basic human right is being trampled on for indigenous peoples.

It is disgusting that indigenous children are being brought to court by the Liberal government. There have been nine non-compliance orders, yet 13 years later the Liberal government continues to appeal a Human Rights Tribunal ruling that it has “wilfully and recklessly” discriminated against indigenous kids. First nations children have been harmed by the severe underfunding of the on-reserve child welfare system and are now being punished by continued government neglect. Instead of providing funding to support indigenous peoples, the government has spent almost $10 million on legal fees in the war to deny rights to indigenous kids. If the nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples is the Liberals' most important relationship, then why will the Prime Minister not honour the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and stop taking indigenous kids to court?

At the forefront of our nation, we continue to see this colonial approach by the government in addressing the Wet'suwet'en protests. The Prime Minister's comments on Friday were reckless and irresponsible. He said, “Every attempt at dialogue has been made.” What a joke. Right from the beginning, he was trying to avoid any accountability.

He refused to meet with the hereditary chiefs when they made the request to him weeks ago. Up until February 18, he did not even recognize the dispute as a nation-to-nation one. Now he has the nerve to say that patience has run out. Never mind the fact that indigenous peoples have waited 150 years for justice.

This is a failure of leadership. It is a failure of reconciliation. It is time for the Prime Minister to realize that every attempt at dialogue has not even been close to being made. A comprehensive, credible plan for de-escalation and dialogue is required in order for meaningful dialogue toward a resolution to take place.

The hereditary chiefs have said they will not negotiate with a gun to their head. They want the RCMP to stand down and the project to halt.

Given that Coastal GasLinks' final technical data report has been rejected by the B.C. environmental assessment office, this is an opportunity for all levels of government to de-escalate. The government should seize this opportunity. The Prime Minister said that the onus is on the hereditary chiefs. I say the onus is on him.

His irresponsible words on Friday only served to inhibit progress for a peaceful resolution. He should check himself. He should heed the words that are being added to the citizenship oath for newcomers and take to heart Canada's obligation to the rights of indigenous people under section 35 of the Constitution, which clearly states that “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

The Prime Minister should also know that section 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly upholds the principle of free, prior and informed consent. Based on Canada's highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada, the landmark Delgamuukw decision has reaffirmed the rights of indigenous peoples.

When people throw the words “rule of law” around, they need to consider all laws. Canada needs to stop using the rule of law as a weapon against indigenous peoples. Canada needs the Prime Minister to warrior up, and show some real leadership.

I will also remind everyone that Canada refused to acknowledge indigenous titles some 40 years ago under Pierre Elliott Trudeau's government.

Former justice Thomas Berger was appointed by then Indian affairs minister Jean Chrétien to lead a public inquiry into the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline. Thomas Berger said, “In my judgment, we must settle native claims before we build a...pipeline.“

Canada is at a critical time in our history.

Remember the Liberal election campaign? “Choose forward” they said. Is this going forward? At a time when it is most critical for the government to firmly reinforce its commitment to indigenous reconciliation, the Liberals are going to delay the introduction of UNDRIP. Delaying the introduction of UNDRIP in the House at this time sends a clear message of what the Prime Minister is all about. Time and again, when it comes right down to it, indigenous rights are always put on the back burner. Justice for indigenous peoples can wait. That is the message from the Prime Minister.

To further add fuel to the fire, we are hearing language from the Conservatives that has not been helpful. The more they denounce indigenous protesters as lawbreakers and radicals, the more they serve to inflame the situation.

Recent comments by Peter MacKay, a leadership hopeful for the Conservative Party, promoting vigilante action by congratulating far-right groups that have associations with yellow vest protesters, were highly irresponsible. Congratulating these far-right groups that have outright called for acts of violence against protesters will only contribute to worsen the situation. It is so disappointing to hear a leading Conservative leadership candidate take this approach.

In addition to that, the current Conservative leader, who advocates that enforced violence is the best solution, has the audacity to tell indigenous protesters to “check their privilege”.

A reply from Molly Wickham, a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en camp of Wet'suwet'en members, may have put it best, when she said, "All of Canada is subsidized by Indigenous people. All Canadian industries and transportation infrastructure rely on the theft of Indigenous land for their existence...Calling Indigenous land defenders 'privileged' when so many of our communities are denied basic human rights and services is racist and absurd."

We see time and again everyone citing the rule of law, but whose version of the rule of law are we following? The government cannot pick and choose which laws to follow and which laws to ignore. Will the rule of law continue to be only used as the government's self-serving cause or will it finally acknowledge Canada's colonial history, the precedent-setting landmark decisions that defended indigenous rights such as Delgamuukw?

This is about the perpetuated discrimination and mistreatment to which indigenous peoples have been subjected for over 150 years.

Look around at what is happening. This past weekend in Toronto, thousands of people stood in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people. In my riding of Vancouver East, we had countless rallies as well. We had a rally at Vancouver City Hall organized by Dakota Bear and his family, where scores of people gathered to stand in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en peoples.

The message is loud and clear. The time has come for Canada to be on the right side of history. UNDRIP has to be entrenched in the path forward for Canada in action. To quote statements made by Grand Chief Stewart Phillip to the media:

The challenge here is to move beyond public platitudes and eloquent rhetoric about the intention of implementing the United Nations Declaration, both federally and provincially. It has to be followed through with the work of legislative reform, policy development and rules and regulations that stipulate very clearly how the entire population — both hereditary and elected band council — are able to participate in an exercise to register their support or disapproval of large-scale resource development projects.

We're not there yet. And again, corporations and governments attempt to take the shortcut and we find ourselves in the courtrooms, we find ourselves on the land, upholding and defending Indigenous law.

He further stated that:

...reconciliation cannot be achieved at gunpoint. And we cannot achieve reconciliation by throwing matriarchs and elders and children in jail. We cannot achieve reconciliation by choppering in paramilitary RCMP forces in full battle gear, surrounding encampments....

I can tell you, if choppers start landing in your backyard and teams of heavily-armed police start running through your front yard and dragging you out of your home, you'd be a little upset.

This is Canada's history. This is colonialism. This is a history that newcomers must learn. This is a history that all Canadians must take to heart. This is a pivotal time for the Canadian government to prove its commitment to indigenous people, to prove that it takes reconciliation seriously, and to prove once and for all that it will honour the rights of indigenous peoples and work with them in equal footing in the new nation-to-nation relationship.

Again, quoting Grand Chief Stewart Phillip:

The law clearly states that not only must there be substantial and thorough consultation, but there must also be consent. It must involve both parties, both elected and traditional.

This is a test of the government's will make to good on its promises. I call on the Prime Minister to seize this opportunity of not just committing to Bill C-6, but committing to a truly reimagined nation-to-nation relationship where indigenous children are not taken to court, where UNDRIP is finally implemented and carried out in action as promised, and where he takes personal action in accountability to engage with the Wet'suwet'en people. We are all waiting for the government to do the right thing by honouring indigenous rights, respecting sovereignty and treating all peoples, including indigenous peoples, with basic human rights. The time to act is now, and the world is watching. Let us not just say to new Canadians what it means to honour the rights of indigenous people; it is time for the government to take those words to heart and act accordingly.

The NDP supports Bill C-6 and we consistently call for the full implementation of all of the TRC's calls to action. The NDP honours the work of Justice Murray Sinclair, Dr. Cindy Blackstock and my former colleague, MP Romeo Saganash. In the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, “The road we travel is equal in importance to the destination we seek. There are no shortcuts. When it comes to truth and reconciliation, we are forced to go the distance.”

It is time for all levels of government to go the distance.

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February 24th, 2020 / 12:10 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I am glad New Democrats are going to be supporting Bill C-6. It is a pretty straightforward piece of legislation. It does respond to the Truth and Reconciliation call to action number 94. That is encouraging. What is discouraging is that a good portion of the member's speech is completely inaccurate. When we look at what this government has been able to accomplish, I would challenge the member to demonstrate clearly what any other federal government has done in the previous 20 years.

While she is reflecting on that statement, we could talk about the hundreds of millions of additional dollars that have been invested. We could talk about legislation that has been brought forward. We could talk about several calls to action that have been acted upon to date.

Maybe she can reflect in terms of NDP governments, the Government of British Columbia, for example, and its role in the Wet'suwet'en situation. We could talk about the horrific regime where we saw 15 years of NDP government in the province of Manitoba and what the indigenous children had to endure.

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February 24th, 2020 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, the bill we are debating today, Bill C-6, is essentially a reiteration of the 42nd Parliament's Bill C-99, which was never passed.

Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act with regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, proposes a change to the oath of citizenship set out in the schedule to the Citizenship Act under section 24. Clause 1 proposes amending the text of the schedule, or, in other words, it proposes new wording for the citizenship oath, including the solemn affirmation.

To quickly give a bit of context, I want to start by saying that Bill C-6 is based on consultations with immigrants and indigenous partners.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the TRC, presented its six-volume final report, which contains 94 calls to action. For six years, the TRC heard from nearly 6,500 witnesses from across Quebec and Canada in order to shed light on the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation between indigenous peoples and other Canadians.

In response to the publication of that report, the federal government committed to implementing all calls to action within its jurisdiction. As I have already indicated, the amendment proposed in Bill C-6 addresses call to action number 94 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The wording in the commission's report is as follows:

We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

In 2017, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada led discussion groups with well-established new immigrants about the wording of the oath of citizenship being proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in its calls to action. The response of the discussion groups seemed positive overall, but some participants indicated that the amended version of the oath should be accompanied by adequate training for newcomers on indigenous peoples and treaties. Others expressed concern about the change because it might set a precedent for other groups that may want to be mentioned in the oath.

In collaboration with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, IRCC also held consultations with the Assembly of First nations, the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. It should be noted that the proposed oath in the calls to action also raised some concerns in the media. Some wonder whether citizens are able to faithfully observe the treaties concluded with the indigenous peoples. Others object to the fact that the oath makes no mention of the thousands of indigenous citizens who belong to non-treaty nations.

On May 28, 2019, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship introduced in the House of Commons Bill C-99, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, to amend the oath of citizenship and solemn affirmation, which requires that the Citizenship Act be amended. No changes have been made to the oath of citizenship in more than 40 years. It is important to know that the oath of citizenship is a solemn declaration whereby the candidate swears or pledges allegiance to the Queen of Canada. It is the last legal requirement to be fulfilled to obtain Canadian citizenship.

The wording of the oath of citizenship currently found in the schedule to the Citizenship Act is as follows:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

When the bill we are debating today is passed, the new wording of the oath of citizenship will be as follows:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

It is important to note that the proposed wording in Bill C-6 and in the old Bill C-99 differs from the recommended wording suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, in that it refers not to treaties with indigenous peoples, but rather to the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Aboriginal rights are intrinsic collective rights held by indigenous peoples because they were historically the first to occupy this land. They can include aboriginal title to land, the right to self-government, the right to occupy a territory, the right to resources or socio-cultural rights. In contrast, treaty rights refer to rights set out in historical or modern treaties negotiated between the Crown and specific indigenous groups.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes the legitimacy and importance of incorporating a reference to indigenous rights into the citizenship oath. We also recognize indigenous nations for what they are: nations. The Bloc advocates a comprehensive approach to government relations, focusing on negotiating nation-to-nation agreements. Recognition should be the starting point for any commitment to reconciliation.

However, although section 35 of the Canadian Constitution recognizes existing aboriginal and treaty rights, it does not define the federation as a free association of equal nations. Unlike Canada's plan, Quebec's plan for independence, promoted by the Bloc Québécois, proposes that indigenous nations be counted among the founding peoples of a sovereign Quebec, which would be founded on a true association based on mutual respect and equality.

If Canada positioned itself as an association of free and equal peoples, it would be easier to ask newcomers taking their oath of citizenship to commit to respecting the fundamental rights of all founding peoples. Since Canada instead chose, without Quebec's consent, to position itself as a multicultural majority nation in which national cultures are reduced to regional folklore, the federal government's efforts to respect indigenous peoples are still somewhat awkward.

The Bloc Québécois does not oppose including the recognition of aboriginal and treaty rights in the oath of citizenship. We even commend the principle and sincere desire behind this act, but we want to point out that this addition constitutes a detour that would not be necessary if Canada was a state that recognized the nations that make it up in its fundamental legislation right from the start.

It is therefore only natural to wonder, with all due respect for the recognition of first nations, Inuit and Métis, what consideration the Liberal government is showing for Quebeckers when it proposes asking newcomers to commit to respecting the rights of the nations that together form their host society.

In closing, since the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-6, we will be supporting it.

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February 24th, 2020 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, we come together today to discuss Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act.

This bill implements the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action number 94, proposing a change to the citizenship oath as it is drafted in the schedule to section 24 the Citizenship Act. First, clause 1 of the bill amends the text in the schedule. In other words, it changes the wording of the oath or affirmation of citizenship.

As we have heard, the new oath proposed by the Liberal government would read as follows:

I swear...that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

The solemn affirmation is also similarly amended.

As my colleague indicated, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-6. We recognize the legitimacy and the importance of incorporating a reference to indigenous rights in the citizenship oath.

However, I want to be clear that there is some contradiction here in the Liberal government's rhetoric.

Why the piecemeal approach to recognizing Canada's different nations instead of recognizing the entirety of these nations and affirming their political equality?

If Canada positioned itself as an association of free and equal peoples, it would be easier to ask newcomers taking their oath of citizenship to commit to respecting the fundamental rights of all founding peoples. As the spokesperson on communal harmony, I believe we should use inclusive language.

I would also like to point out that the government did not use the wording suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It seemed very clear and well-worded to me. I think that wording is of critical importance when drafting an oath of citizenship, especially considering its solemn and symbolic nature and how meaningful this final step to citizenship is to a new citizen.

Why did the government not use the wording proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

If the wording needed to be changed to include aboriginal rights, would there not be a wording that does not suggest, as the current wording does, that the Constitution is a law among so many others?

I would like to have some answers to those questions.

I would also like to quote the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship:

The oath is a solemn declaration that all newcomers recite during the citizenship ceremony. With this amendment, we will take an important step towards reconciliation by encouraging new Canadians to fully appreciate and respect the significant role of indigenous peoples in forming Canada's fabric and identity.

Far be it from me to pit Canada's different nations against one another, on the contrary. I support their true recognition and the equality of peoples. I am just saying that it would be easier for newcomers to understand the history of Canada if we invited them to appreciate the contributions of all founding nations.

The French fact, the British fact and the history of the first nations, Inuit and Métis people are all deserving of recognition.

The hon. Senator Murray Sinclair, who was co-chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, contradicted the minister. He said, “Reconciliation requires that a new vision, based on a commitment to mutual respect, be developed.” The senator is clearly open and receptive to recognizing all of the nations within Canada. I commend him for that.

Since Canada has chosen to position itself as a multicultural majority nation in which national cultures are reduced to regional folklore, the federal government's efforts to respect indigenous peoples are still somewhat awkward. I am not saying that these efforts are wrongheaded. I am saying that they would come more naturally if Canadian federalism were an asymmetrical federalism based on the equality of peoples.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes indigenous nations for what they are: nations. The Bloc advocates a comprehensive approach to government relations, focusing on negotiating nation-to-nation agreements. Recognition should be the starting point for any commitment to reconciliation.

However, although section 35 of the Canadian Constitution recognizes aboriginal and treaty rights, it does not define the federation as a free association of equal nations.

Unlike Canada's plan, Quebec's plan for independence, promoted by the Bloc Québécois, proposes that indigenous nations be counted among the founding peoples of a sovereign Quebec, which would be founded on a true association based on mutual respect and equality.

Because I agree with the government, I urge my colleagues to vote in favour of the bill. The Bloc Québécois supports efforts to recognize indigenous treaty rights. Canada has a long way to go to reconcile with indigenous nations, and the Bloc Québécois wants to be an ally and support that cause.

However, we know that Quebec will take a different approach, because we are not afraid to propose fundamental changes and challenge the very foundations of our public institutions. In any case, once Quebec is sovereign, we will have to draft our own citizenship oath. Obviously, our oath will be free from any references to the monarchy and the Crown. It will affirm that all public powers rest with the people. It will do justice to the first nations, the Inuit and the Métis, as well as the British and French cultures.

I commend the government for its willingness to implement the recommendations set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report. I truly hope that Canada will succeed in moving this process forward.

I believe that Quebec's independence should be an opportunity for Quebeckers to engage in its own reconciliation efforts with indigenous nations and I think it will be crucial that those nations sit down with us at the table when we write our constitution. I intend to be at that table and to participate in opening a new chapter in our history. I will do everything in my power to ensure that this new, future chapter be free of the injustices of the past.

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February 24th, 2020 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I am not sure I understood the question.

I would like to tell my colleague what people tell us when we talk about Bill C-6. Regardless of where they are from, be it British Columbia or Quebec, people tell us that recognizing aboriginal rights is essential, but we also have the British fact and the French fact to think about. Unfortunately, people tell us they feel left out. That is what I meant when I talked about remaining vigilant. If we start naming individual groups, we absolutely have to name all of them.

Today's Bill C-6 is about recognition, but what we need is comprehensive recognition.

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February 24th, 2020 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Randeep Sarai Liberal Surrey Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.

The story of indigenous peoples in Canada has a history that stretches far into the past, well before the arrival of European newcomers to Canada.

Indigenous people have a fundamental role in Canada's past and are a strong pillar of our society. These are words people will hear at many citizenship ceremonies across Canada. Taking the oath of citizenship is a vital step in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen. It is recited as the final step to becoming a Canadian citizen. During the ceremony, participants accept the rights and responsibilities of citizenship by taking the oath of citizenship, after which they become a Canadian citizen and receive a certificate of citizenship.

I have had the privilege of attending many citizenship ceremonies in Surrey and welcoming new groups of Canadians to this great land. This bill is particularly important in Surrey where the largest urban indigenous population in British Columbia lives and welcomes new Canadian neighbours who have made their home in the city. It is important for both new Canadians and those who are born here to learn about indigenous peoples and their history.

Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, proposes to change Canada's oath of citizenship to include clear reference to the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people.

The proposed amendment to the oath reflects the Government of Canada's commitment to reconciliation and a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. The proposed amendment is part of the government's ongoing response to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The changes are an important and necessary step in advancing Canada's broader agenda for reconciliation and strengthening the country's valued relationship with indigenous peoples in Canada.

The government's proposed amendment of the citizenship oath would allow new Canadians to fully appreciate and respect how indigenous peoples are an important part of Canada's history and identity. The new citizenship oath would also reflect our expectations that new Canadians demonstrate an understanding of indigenous peoples and their constitutional rights.

There is no relationship that is more important to the Government of Canada than the one with indigenous peoples. Together, Canada and indigenous peoples are continuing to forge a renewed relationship based on the recognition of rights, trust, respect and a true spirit of co-operation. That is why across the country Canada and indigenous peoples are working together to close the quality-of-life gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Important progress has been made. The last three budgets have provided $16.8 billion in new funding for indigenous peoples, an increase in planned spending in 2020-21 of 34% over 2015, but there is still much work to do. Budget 2019 represents the next step in the ongoing path towards reconciliation and a better future for indigenous peoples and everyone.

This bill is especially important to me as I sat on CIMM, the citizenship and immigration committee, for four years, and in this Parliament, I currently sit on the international trade committee. For the first time in any of Canada's free trade agreements, a general exception was incorporated to ensure the government is able to fulfill its legal obligations to indigenous peoples in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and other self-government agreements.

Consultation with indigenous communities during the CUSMA negotiations was one of Canada's top priorities. To make sure that indigenous people's trade interests would be protected, the CUSMA includes language that recognizes the importance of more engagement with indigenous peoples.

The CUSMA preserves Canada's traditional reservations, exceptions and exclusions in multiple areas, including cross-border trade in services and investments, natural resources, the environment, and state-owned enterprises. By promoting indigenous entrepreneurship and business, the government will help first nations, Inuit and Métis people fully contribute to and share in Canada's economic success. This is a critical part of advancing reconciliation and self-determination.

All children in Canada deserve a real, fair chance to reach their full potential no matter where they live. By continuing to work collaboratively with first nations and Inuit partners, the government is working to eliminate barriers to accessing quality health care and culturally relevant social supports that children need to succeed. Distinctions-based funding for post-secondary education will also help first nation, Inuit and Métis students better access post-secondary education and succeed during their studies.

The government is also taking action to help communities reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen indigenous languages and sustain important cultural traditions and histories. This includes the passing of Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, last year, which protects 90 living indigenous languages spoken in Canada.

While the path to reconciliation is long, the government will continue to walk with first nations, Inuit and Métis people in its actions and interactions. As I mentioned, the proposed changes to the oath we are talking about today are an important and necessary step in advancing Canada's broader agenda for reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Canada. It demonstrates to new Canadians, and in fact to all Canadians, deep respect for indigenous peoples and recognizes that the histories of first nations, Inuit and Métis people are a vital part of Canada's fabric and identity.

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February 24th, 2020 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to join the debate on Bill C-6. It is short and straightforward legislation, but at the same time one that invites our consideration of a vast array of issues of the way in which we welcome newcomers, the process for citizenship and how we move forward with reconciliation with indigenous peoples. There are many different points to raise in the context of that discussion.

Just to set the stage a bit, we have a substantial number of recommendations coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process, a process that followed an apology that was issued by form prime minister Stephen Harper, working with other parties.

My colleagues across the floor were shouting about what might not have happened in the past, but of course they should remember that process was a shared process. It was something on which all parties worked together, but it was a process that happened and was initiated under the leadership of Stephen Harper.

When we talk about reconciliation with indigenous peoples, we have this list of recommendations coming out of that. Some of these speak to very large, substantive, challenging issues around justice and health or around a clear policy reorientation. Some of them speak to issues of naming and symbolism. I would very much agree that those symbolic steps and discussions are important. We should not dismiss them entirely. The way in which we recognize certain things verbally, like the citizenship oath and elsewhere, these symbolic aspects, is not irrelevant.

However, symbolic recognition should be a step or a part of a process moving toward more substantive change, more substantive connection and reconciliation. It is unfortunate we see with the government this springing exclusively for these symbolic things, the smaller symbolic pieces of it, rather than actually moving forward with substantive action.

In addition to talking about the bill, I want to zero in on what some of that substantive action needs to look like with respect to moving forward in a reconciliation agenda.

For those just joining the conversation, the bill would do one simple thing. It would change the oath that new Canadians would take when they become Canadian citizens. The current oath simply says:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

It is a general oath. It identifies our Queen and a sense of adherence to law and duty. It is clear, beautiful and simplistic, yet it is not overly descriptive in what some of those laws might be. The amendment proposes to include one such element of specificity into the oath. The new oath would read:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

There are many aspects of Canada's history and identity and this brings in one very important aspect; the treaty commitments that all of us are a part of in our relationship with indigenous peoples.

This has a relationship to, but it does not directly follow, recommendation 94 from the TRC process. It says:

We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.

Recommendation 94 does marshal in the same direction, but it is much simpler and clearer. It is not as long and it does not name all the different indigenous groups: first nations, Inuit and Métis. It says, “indigenous”.

Therefore, we effectively have these three options for possible consideration in the context of this conversation: the existing oath, the government's proposed oath and the oath proposed by the TRC process. Beyond that, there is a range of other options.

We might say that we should add the recognition of our linguistic duality, our multicultural identity or of the importance of freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We can imagine all kinds of different things that could be added as well, things that really are very important to who and what we are as country and what we have become.

However, we have a process, which is not the oath itself, through which newcomers to Canada read and learn about aspects of the Canadian identify. We have a citizenship guide. TRC recommendation 93 speaks specifically to revising the information to newcomers, looking at that citizenship guide to strengthen the reflection in it of the history of Canada's “diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.”

That certainly is important. There is no need for a great emphasis on brevity and simplicity in a citizenship guide. One can be longer and more explanatory in that context, and there would be value in action on that specific item. I think there would be consensus on that point at least among all members of the House.

We have the government choosing to focus in on one more symbolic proposal, not implementing it exactly but proposing a change to the citizenship oath.

What are we to make of this?

First, the principle of telling the full story of our history as a people in Canada is very important. The original framing of our national story was as the coming together of two nations, of French and English. That was part of the dynamic in Confederation, but many other peoples were incorporated into Canada and not really through their consent.

There were indigenous peoples, whose status as distinct nations were not recognized at the time of Confederation. There was also this dynamic that some people have spoken about recently, in which much of what is western Canada today did not negotiate its way into Confederation. Rather, it was purchased and then boundaries were drawn within it and retention of certain what were otherwise provincial powers were maintained by the federal government.

As a western Canadian who tries to be attentive to the concerns of indigenous peoples as well, there are a few different aspects in which we can see how this bicultural story, this coming together of two nations, misses the full breadth and diversity of the Canadian experience.

Is it important that this be reflected in the information we share through education, in different formats and certainly with newcomers? Absolutely. All of us in the House have an interest in seeing newcomers to Canada learn all this important information about what Canada's history and identity mean. They are learning from our successes and our historic mistakes and they are incorporating that in their sense of what it means to be a Canadian.

Our founders were right to see us a multicultural nation, but at the same time a common civic nation. We must have a common civic identity that is rooted in certain common values in an understanding of our history. Part of that history is the important relationship between all of us and indigenous peoples who live in Canada. Therefore, that recognition and appreciation are very important.

I know sometimes we hear discussion on the process of citizenship.

In an interview that the Prime Minister gave a few years ago to The New York Times, he described Canada as a post-national state, as lacking a mainstream, as lacking a core identity. I disagree with that. Certainly we lack a common ethnic or religious identity, but we do have a common civic identity.

Those who highlight the importance of discussing the role of injustices towards indigenous peoples as part of the process of welcoming newcomers are putting forward the important idea that Canada has a common civic identity, which has to involve an understanding of our past, both the successes and the failures, and how we move forward. One thing to assert as part of this debate is that this proposal does speak to the idea of a common civic identity, and that is important.

My biggest frustration with where we find ourselves here is that we really need action from the government. It needs to move forward substantively to improve economic conditions and the many things that flow from it for indigenous Canadians. We have had a lot of debate about precisely this issue over the last week.

We have natural resource projects in remote areas that have the overwhelming support of indigenous communities. Without getting into a debate about specific blockades or specific policies, there is obviously a lot of frustration in my riding and my province about what has happened with the Teck Frontier project.

The principle behind this is whether we believe we have to be the kind of country where indigenous peoples have the right to develop, have the right to say yes to projects, have the right to sign on to agreements with companies, and then those projects, when they have the support of local indigenous peoples, should be able to move forward. There has been a lot of discussion, and rightly so, about the rights of indigenous peoples. We need to include in that discussion a recognition of the right to develop, a recognition of the right to say yes to projects.

We should have learned things from our past history, a time of colonial mentalities when people were told they could not speak for themselves, that others would speak for them.

We have a colonial mentality today from those who claim to speak for indigenous peoples but do not actually know what indigenous peoples want or know their interests. Protesters and activists in other parts of the country, for example, claim to be in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en people in their opposition to development projects, when in fact those people are overwhelmingly expressing, through their elected representatives, their support for those development projects.

People claiming to speak for another group that is contradicting what that group wants is not solidarity. That is colonialism. We have to know the difference. Solidarity is when people are magnifying the voice of people who are themselves speaking about their own issues of concern. It is not solidarity when people contradict and oppose the things that those communities want. That is a form of colonialism. We have managed to get into a lot of trouble in the past when our leaders and activists and people in other parts of the country have failed to know the difference between those things. A well-intentioned paternalistic, colonial mentality that dismisses pro-development voices as being just bought off for the money is no less paternalistic just because it might be well intentioned. We should have learned in the area of the relationship between the government and indigenous peoples that good intentions are not enough.

We need to stand up for the right of indigenous Canadians to develop, to move forward with projects that they support and therefore to have jobs and opportunities within their own communities. Without those jobs and opportunities, people are forced to a standard of living that is much lower than it is for Canadians elsewhere, or they are forced to choose between that low standard of living and moving to an urban centre, moving away from their home community.

These are the real, substantive and, may I say, difficult issues involved in reconciliation. How do we have meaningful consultation with the elected representatives of indigenous people that recognizes that while we cannot have unanimity, when there is overwhelming consent, the people need to be able to move forward?

I notice members of the government and my friends in the NDP have been speaking about the issue of UNDRIP. Conservatives are supportive in principle of the aspirational objectives that are in much of the document, but we have a lot of concern about the legal frameworks that have been proposed around it. Their effect in saying that every community must have free, prior and informed consent in the effective application of the legal frameworks that have been proposed before the House in the past has amounted to providing a veto for every single community.

I would make the case that if a project has overwhelming support and the vast majority of communities and individuals are saying yes to it, they should have the right in a democratic country to pursue the wishes of the majority. Of course, we defend minority rights when someone's personal situation is infringed, but on questions about economic policy and development, there is a sense that develop rights for indigenous communities should include the right for the majority to express their desire and to move forward.

This is a concern with the framework of UNDRIP that has been proposed, and this is why I opposed a private member's bill on this in the last Parliament. We need to work these issues out. If the majority of indigenous communities or a majority of indigenous people are saying no to a particular project in their area, then consultation means listening to them and respecting their wishes. However, if the majority say yes, listening requires us to respect that will and to move forward.

These are some of the substantive issues that are essential to this conversation, but we do not see the government showing leadership on it. We are becoming a country in which it is very difficult to build anything, a country where projects are being pulled back for fear of a small number of protesters shutting down the ability to move forward. Projects that are good for our economy, that are good for the environment and have the support of indigenous peoples just are not moving forward. Therefore, companies will choose to make investments elsewhere, and the real victims will be those vulnerable Canadians. Each of these projects may be the difference between having a job and not having a job, between providing for an education for their children and not providing for an education for their children.

These very serious talks are serious for our economy, serious for the environment and serious for our relationship with indigenous people. I implore the House to zero in and focus on these substantive issues so that we show leadership and set up frameworks that allow indigenous communities the right to develop, to move forward and access the economic prosperity that comes from their resources.

As we develop this, we need to continue working to build an inclusive society in which newcomers understand the history and traditions of indigenous peoples and in which all of us who were born here in Canada take the opportunity to learn more and understand more of the substance of our history.

I do not feel that changing a line in the citizenship oath, especially in a way that is not aligned with what was in th TRC recommendations, is going to move us forward on those substantive issues. As I said at the beginning, as much as the symbolic discussions have a place, the urgency of where we are at now, the lack of government action, the lack of a plan to move forward, is hurting a lot of indigenous people across this country, people who depend on natural resource development, people who depend on our railways.

We have to be a country that can build things. We have to be a country that can move forward together. It would be tragic if we found that the country that once built a transcontinental railway was now not capable of getting to yes on almost any major project in the national interest, especially when those have the overwhelming support of indigenous Canadians.

These are urgent issues that we must move forward on as quickly as possible.

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February 24th, 2020 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I will acknowledge that there is a very wide spectrum of indigenous viewpoints on resource development. What is needed in the Wet'suwet'en case is the time, space and resources to allow them to come to a decision. Over the last 150 years, we have so destroyed their traditional governance model that we see these divisions coming forth.

I want to centre my comments and my question on the bill before us, Bill C-6. I understand the Conservatives may have problems with call to action number 94. What I wonder is whether there are other calls to action that the Conservatives have a problem with in the TRC.

If the problem is on the specificity of the wording of the oath, why then is the member's party trying to kill this bill here at second reading instead of sending it to committee, where perhaps we could hear from witnesses and maybe hash out some of the linguistic differences in that important committee work?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

February 24th, 2020 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, before I start my intervention, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the member for Don Valley East.

I would also like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak at second reading of Bill C-6, a bill that proposes amendments to the citizenship oath to include an acknowledgement of the important role of indigenous people in our country.

These amendments have four key components of much significance. First, they appreciate and respect that indigenous people are an important part of Canada's history and identity. Second, they reflect our government's commitment to the path of reconciliation. Third, they remind all Canadians who take the oath of citizenship that the recognition of aboriginal and treaty rights is a responsibility enshrined in our Constitution. Fourth, they ensure that all Canadians move toward reconciliation in unity.

In order to become a citizen of this great nation of ours, all newcomers 14 years and older who have been granted citizenship must take the oath of citizenship. Upon reciting the oath, new citizens agree to obey Canadian laws and fulfill their duties as Canadians. The citizenship oath may only consist of a few words, but its significance is profound. Indeed, the citizenship oath is an important symbol of the values we share as citizens of Canada.

When newcomers take the citizenship oath, they make a solemn promise to their fellow Canadians. It is a public declaration that they are joining the Canadian family and are committed to Canadian values and traditions.

Immigration has shaped Canada, which currently includes citizens of over 200 ethnic groups. Thirteen of those ethnic groups have Canadian populations of over one million people. Today, more than one-fifth of Canadians were born outside of Canada. These individuals chose to immigrate to Canada. The fact that Canada has one of the highest naturalization rates in the world underscores the value of our citizenship. Over the last 10 years, Canada has welcomed nearly 1.7 million new Canadians.

Canada values the important contributions that indigenous people have made throughout our history. First nation, Inuit and Métis people all played a role in building a stronger Canada. Indigenous people will continue to play a crucial role in our shared future.

The government's proposed amendments to the citizenship oath would allow new Canadians to fully appreciate and respect that indigenous people are an important part of Canada's history and identity. The new citizenship oath would also reflect our expectations that new Canadians demonstrate an understanding of indigenous people and their constitutional rights. In addition to fostering a better appreciation and recognition among new citizens of the important contributions of indigenous people, the proposed new citizenship oath reflects our government's commitment to reconciliation, hence my second point.

The government is committed to a renewed relationship with indigenous people based on respect, rights, co-operation and partnership. The proposed new citizenship oath responds to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and is the result of consultations with national indigenous organizations. The revised text also reminds all Canadians that recognition of aboriginal and treaty rights is not a political or administrative gesture, but a responsibility enshrined in our Constitution, hence my third point.

While Canada's Constitution recognizes and affirms the rights of indigenous people, the government believes that all Canadians should have a deeper appreciation of the role of indigenous people in the history and culture of Canada. Whether we were born here or chose to become a citizen, as Canadians we respect fundamental rights and freedoms, share values of equality and celebrate our diverse culture, traditions and languages. These traditions and cultures include those of indigenous people.

The process of reconciliation is one in which all Canadians can and should participate. This includes the participation of our newest citizens, hence my fourth point. It is essential that all Canadians move forward together on the road to reconciliation so we can leave a proper legacy for future generations.

With these changes to the citizenship oath, let us take this opportunity to acknowledge our country's past and move toward a renewed relationship with indigenous people based on inherent rights, respect and partnership. The government is proudly introducing historic changes to the oath of citizenship so that new Canadians can also promise to faithfully observe the law of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people. With strong indigenous institutions, we will contribute to the important work of closing the socio-economic gap and fostering strong indigenous communities for future generations.

I urge hon. members to join me in supporting this crucial piece of legislation at second reading.

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February 24th, 2020 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.

I am happy to speak on Bill C-6, where the government has introduced changes to the oath of citizenship. These changes are necessary. New Canadians need to recognize and affirm the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people and understand the major contribution to our collective successes as a country.

One of the strongest pillars for successful integration into Canadian life is achieving Canadian citizenship, and we have one of the highest naturalization rates in the world. Some 85% of newcomers become citizens. Over the last decade, Canada has welcomed nearly 1.7 million new Canadians.

Citizenship ceremonies are the end of a long process of immigration, settlement and integration for a newcomer to Canada. Ceremonies are a moving and emotional celebration, as well as a necessary legal step to citizenship. The oath of citizenship is a solemn declaration that the citizen applicant promises to obey Canadian laws while fulfilling his or her duties as Canadian citizens. Taking the oath of citizenship is an integral part of the citizenship process, and the act reflects the Canadian values of social cohesion, openness and transparency.

The proposed changes include clear reference to the rights of indigenous peoples. They are aimed at advancing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action within the broader reconciliation framework.

The bill would modify the words of the oath of citizenship as follows:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

Indigenous peoples have played a fundamental role in Canada's past and are a strong pillar of our society. Our government believes that it is important for all Canadians, including new Canadians, to understand and appreciate the importance of indigenous peoples to our heritage.

The bill we are proposing is consistent with the values and practices that exist in Canada today. The revised text of the oath uses wording that reflects a broad range of rights held by diverse indigenous peoples.

The government encourages all immigrants to take the path to full membership and permanent belonging in Canadian society. Canada's diversity is among its greatest strengths. We are a strong and united country because of, not in spite of, our differences. Canada's commitment to diversity and inclusion is an essential approach to making this country and this world a better, safer place.

My riding of Don Valley East is one of the most diverse ridings in Canada, comprising immigrants and Canadians whose backgrounds are from all over the world. This change to the wording of the oath of citizenship is important to my constituents and to all Canadians. It reflects the fact that we are all immigrants, regardless of how far back we track our ancestry. It is important to recognize first nations, Inuit and Métis people as the first peoples of this land.

The Government of Canada is focused on building an inclusive society with a sense of belonging and a common set of values shared throughout our country, while valuing the diversity that people of all origins bring to Canada.

Canada welcomes immigrants and helps them to settle, integrate and succeed here in Canada. This is both our history and our present. The success of immigrants is our success as a strong and united country. Taking the oath of citizenship at a citizenship ceremony is a requirement to become a Canadian citizen, but the oath is much more than just words. As I mentioned previously, taking the oath demonstrates that a new Canadian embraces the values of social cohesion, openness and transparency in an open, free, democratic and diverse Canada.

As I meet with many people, young and old, it is amazing how few know the history of the indigenous people, what they have contributed and what they have done to ensure that we, the newcomers, have a good life in Canada. If it were not for the hospitality of the indigenous people, none of us would be here. It is sad that their history is not taught in schools. The change in the oath is but a first step, and that is what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report states:

Precisely because “we are all Treaty people,” Canada’s Oath of Citizenship must include a solemn promise to respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

In closing, I would note that the aim of this change to the oath of citizenship is to raise newcomers' awareness, and emphasize the importance, of aboriginal and treaty rights. Beyond the introduction of this bill, we must keep moving forward together on many fronts. Continued progress will require a new level of commitment, determination and partnership. It will also require a great deal of patience and perseverance. Above all, we must continue to build trust through stronger, more collaborative and respectful relationships, and by working on the issues that matter most to Canada's indigenous communities.

Canada's ethos of pluralism is a model for the world, and it is a constant work in progress. Diversity and inclusiveness, through the fabric of all its peoples, make Canada stronger. This is part of our government's ongoing commitment to meet the goals of reconciliation with the first nations, and serves as an important and necessary step toward reconciliation.

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February 24th, 2020 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to centre my comments and questions on call to action number 94 and Bill C-6.

The Conservatives have put forward an amendment to this bill to effectively kill it at second reading, and I understand there are some concerns over the language and call to action no. 94.

Is there a version of this oath that would be acceptable to the member? If so, why is his party trying to kill the bill at this stage, rather than send it to committee, where we could get feedback from witnesses and maybe try to find something that is acceptable to all parties in this House?

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February 24th, 2020 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Kenny Chiu Conservative Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to my constituents in Steveston—Richmond East, British Columbia, for having placed their trust in me by electing me as their representative in Parliament. I also want to thank my colleague from Dufferin—Caledon for sharing his time with me. I am honoured to serve my constituents in this Parliament.

I am here today to debate Bill C-6, an act to implement a change in the oath of citizenship in response to recommendation 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is an amendment to the Citizenship Act to include the promise to respect the treaty rights of first nation, Inuit and Métis people.

I found there is no logic in placing support behind this bill when it is so glaringly exclusionary of the many Métis, Inuit and B.C. first nations who are not under treaty rights. They do not have effective treaties in their respective areas. What purpose would the proposed changes serve for these individuals?

Our nation is a nation of immigrants who stand on the traditional territories of, and shoulder to shoulder with, first nations, Inuit and Métis people. Canada is one of the few countries in the world where indigenous rights and treaty rights are entrenched in our Constitution.

I believe that educating Canadians about these rights is an important part of the path to reconciliation. However, this education is already in effect. New citizens, having completed their residency requirements and having studied the handbook of history, responsibility and obligations, are expected to be aware of the rights entrenched within the Constitution. This gives them at least a general view of the spectrum of resolved and unresolved treaty rights in different parts of the country. In doing so, they develop respect for what is among Canada's existing body of laws and can appreciate the need to fulfill the remaining unfulfilled treaty obligations within the process of reconciliation.

Apparently the Liberal government believes Canadians to be so unsophisticated that they would find this task accomplished merely by adding 19 words in the oath of citizenship.

Over 30 years ago I came to Canada as an immigrant. I have taken the oath of citizenship to our great country. Other members in this House have done the same. I will now read the oath, which has stood unchanged since 1977. It states, “I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

The oath is simple. It represents the final step of the journey from initial entry to planting roots and eventually becoming a Canadian family member and citizen. The oath of citizenship need not be and should not be complicated, nor a thorough examination of the rights and obligations of what it is to be a Canadian. It is merely an affirmation of loyalty to the Queen of Canada, who is the head of state of our constitutional monarchy, and it is an affirmation to obey our laws and obligations as a Canadian.

Let me reiterate: The existing oath of citizenship already includes the promise of citizens to faithfully observe the laws of Canada. These laws include the Constitution, and the Constitution recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people. To accept the proposed legislation is therefore unnecessarily redundant.

Therefore, I ask again: What is the purpose of this bill? As I have mentioned, along the way of becoming a citizen, a new immigrant must read materials relating to the origins of Canada, including materials relating to Canadian indigenous peoples. I believe Canada's indigenous peoples would be better served by emphasizing recommendation 93 and not 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action, thus strengthening this education.

I will now read out recommendation 93 of the TRC report:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.

My alternative to Bill C-6 is just this. Implementing recommendation 93 would go further to educating new Canadians about our history with first nations and the obligations the Crown has to them. Such content can also discuss part 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 35, which states, “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

It is because of the lack of forethought by the Liberal government that my initial reaction to this legislation was the same as when the government introduced it shortly before the election as Bill C-99, a mere three weeks before Parliament was to end.

That reaction was that this was yet another virtual signal by the Liberal government to talk big but not deliver. The bill is a half-hearted effort by the Liberals to distract from something real. The Prime Minister has recently fumbled a crisis of his own making and is desperate to take attention away from his own failings when it comes to Canada's indigenous.

Instead of empowering indigenous communities to act in their economic interests with Canada's vast natural resources, he waited until it was too late to respond, effectively siding with those who would keep our first nations impoverished to suit their own agenda.

Instead of getting on with the program and allowing the Coastal GasLink pipeline to proceed with construction, a pipeline that has signed agreements with all the elected band councils along the planned route, the Prime Minister instead spent significant time actively promoting the obstruction.

Like Albertans, our first nations people want to work. They want to do what is best for their generation and their future generations, and they both have had opportunities denied under the Prime Minister.

Instead of creating jobs, jobs have been lost. Because of indecisiveness on the blockades, Canada has lost the opportunity and the economic advantages provided by the Teck Frontier oil sands mine. This is not good for our country or those in the indigenous communities who actively want to see construction on resource projects proceed. Nor is it good for Canada.

Canada has a long and complicated relationship with its indigenous peoples. I readily agree that further steps are necessary to strengthen our relationship. Changing the oath of citizenship does not accomplish this task.

The leadership of the government has promised so many more sunny ways than it has delivered in any substantial form. Canadians deserve better than another empty promise made by politicians wishing to cater sympathetic favour and reduce proud citizens of this nation to tokens cynically used to curry political favour.

Bill C-6 is another example of more Liberal false and, dare I say, empty compassion, something of which I believe Canadians are getting very tired.

As a Conservative member of Parliament, I stand for the improvement of Canada. My party stands for the improvement of Canada. We represent the many Canadians who want better than a government that consistently fails in its mandate by changing the rules and not providing urgent or transparent actions to address the concerns of Canadians.

Simply put, the Liberal government does not act in the interests of making life for Canadians better. It merely pretends to do so.

In these last few weeks, the Prime Minister has been absent and indecisive as Canada has faced a unity crisis in dealing with the blockades. No matter the gravity of the issue facing Canada or the concerns of its indigenous inhabitants, the House has been served an appealing word salad in his responses. Similarly, the bill is but another response devoid of any substance.

I would like to know when the Liberal government will begin to take action to help Canadian indigenous peoples beyond its typical tokenism and pandering.

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February 24th, 2020 / 4:20 p.m.
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Hochelaga Québec

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by acknowledging that we are gathered today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation. As my colleagues have pointed out, indigenous people have played a fundamental role in Canadian history and continue to do so today.

A few years ago, we began a significant process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, recognizing that Canada has failed in its duties towards those communities. Our government also offered an apology, as a first step. However, a number of other measures must be implemented to ensure the success of that first step. In order for reconciliation to succeed, we all need to be active participants, since the process will not happen on its own and it is far from over.

Advancing reconciliation is a Canadian imperative, and we will need partners at all levels to make real progress. We know that much more needs to be done and that we must continue to work together. To achieve it, we need to take meaningful action. Canada is firmly committed to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.

Our government is working very hard to implement these calls to action, and the proposed amendments to the citizenship oath are evidence of that commitment. This bill would renew the relationship between the Crown and indigenous peoples in order to move forward together as true partners. One of the most important ways we can show support is by highlighting these relationships in the citizenship ceremonies that are held across the country.

The citizenship oath is a meaningful commitment. The proposed new oath is more representative of our shared history. Recognizing the role that indigenous peoples have played in this country is a fundamental aspect of each citizenship ceremony.

In addition, the judges and those presiding over these ceremonies systematically acknowledge the indigenous territory on which each ceremony is taking place and also allude to the history of indigenous peoples in Canada in their welcome speech to new Canadians. The history of the first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples is a fundamental part of Canadian history, and indigenous peoples continue to play an important role in the development and future of this country.

The citizenship oath is a public declaration that a person is joining the Canadian family and is committed to Canadian values and traditions. Participants who swear the oath during citizenship ceremonies accept the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Swearing the oath is an important part of an immigrant's journey. I know this first-hand because I was with my mother when she swore the oath. It is a solemn moment, a commitment, a recognition of the history of one's new homeland. It is the final step to becoming Canadian. The oath is not something to be taken lightly, and I am proud that our government wants to change it to reflect all our country's values.

Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act with regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, acts on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action about changing the oath of citizenship to include a clear reference to the aboriginal rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis.

The proposed amendments to the oath demonstrate the government's commitment to implementing the commission's calls to action. They also signal a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on a recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. Reconciliation is important not only to indigenous peoples but also to all Canadians.

The proposed changes to the oath are a step toward advancing Canada's broader agenda for reconciliation with indigenous peoples and strengthening its relationship with them. The proposed new oath reflects our history and our identity.