An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation)

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.



This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

This enactment amends certain Acts to add a new holiday, namely, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which is observed on September 30.


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


Nov. 2, 2020 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation)

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2021 / 12:40 p.m.
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Laurier—Sainte-Marie Québec


Steven Guilbeault LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

moved that Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation), be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are all, whether physically or virtually, present today on the ancestral lands of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

This is not just something we say. The land acknowledgement speaks to the context we are living today, and to the new relationship that we are trying to build through our everyday actions. Like many, I am still in shock about the horrors that have been uncovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C. Having the remains of 215 children be at the residential school is horrifying.

The residential school system caused harm to generations of indigenous children and communities. For that, the government has apologized, first in 2008 to former students of residential schools, and in 2017 to former students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools, for example. As we are all acutely aware, Canadians continue to witness tragedies perpetuated against indigenous peoples. Racism in Canada is an undeniable reality and reconciliation must be more than apologies.

Reconciliation must be about big legislative actions and smaller gestures. It must be about both everyday actions and bold moves. Reconciliation is a long-term commitment that requires the engagement of all. It is made up of many actions, apologies, commissions, family conversations, school assemblies, community collaborations, conversations with colleagues, friendships, distinction-based policy changes, infrastructure support and commemorations.

There are many opportunities that could be seized for real change. We must act now.

In budget 2019, our government invested $7 million over two years to help non-governmental and community organizations recognize and commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools.

Thanks to this investment, over 200 communities and organizations across the country are receiving funds this year for projects to raise awareness and educate Canadians about this dark chapter of Canada's history.

Budget 2021 also proposes to provide $13.4 million over five years, with $2.4 million ongoing, to Canadian Heritage for events to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools and to honour survivors, their families and communities, as well as to support celebrations and commemoration events during the proposed national day for truth and reconciliation.

These numbers show that despite the pandemic, the need and interest of communities to be able to honour and commemorate as they see fit are high. People want to tell their stories and they want to stand witness so new stories can be told. They want to honour the survivors. They need to heal and they want to learn so they can act for change.

This kind of groundswell of interest shows that indigenous and non-indigenous people alike recognize the importance of commemorating this history.

This commemoration funding and the creation of a national day for truth and reconciliation reflect the recognition that all histories and cultures are important. These actions speak to our capacity to expose the wrongs of the past so we can face this history and commit to do better.

I think we can all agree that it is important to recognize the profound impact residential schools had on first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

In fact, the Indian Act legislated government control over almost every aspect of indigenous peoples' lives, including mandatory attendance at residential schools. Governments throughout Canada's history continued to uphold legislation and follow policies that perpetuated systemic racism in our society.

With the social upheaval occurring globally, we must harness the generational potential to reduce racism in our world. Residential schools targeted the children. We can turn that on its head and aim to educate the next generation to uphold inclusive values and to prioritize respect above all in communities, in schools, in families and in digital spaces.

The words from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report bear repeating:

All Canadian children and youth deserve to know Canada's honest history, including what happened in the residential schools, and to appreciate the rich history and knowledge of Indigenous nations who continue to make such a strong contribution to Canada, including our very name and collective identity as a country. For Canadians from all walks of life, reconciliation offers a new way of living together.

This statutory holiday helps to build that new way of living together, particularly in the global context of calls for social justice. This day is part of how we build back stronger together. People might ask how one day will make a difference. How will one day that establishes a statutory holiday for a limited number of people make a difference? It is telling that people do not ask these questions about Remembrance Day. Recognizing the selfless sacrifices that veterans made to a global effort against oppression is appropriate and right. Shining a light on a dark history of oppression of our own making is also right. It is uncomfortable, but perhaps it is because it is uncomfortable that we should commit to it.

Dr. Marie Wilson, one of the three commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, spoke to the importance of a national statutory holiday. She said that reconciliation is “very tied to issues of law and public policy”. That signals the importance of reconciliation to those who work on these issues, and that it is valuable.

As we have said before, a national day reveals our priorities. It says that this issue is important and we should be paying attention to it not just on this day, but throughout the year. Just as Remembrance Day is not only for veterans, a national day for truth and reconciliation is not only for first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Just as we honour veterans and highlight our values as a nation on Remembrance Day, we would honour survivors and those lost on the national day for truth and reconciliation, but also reflect on our path as a nation, on our values, on how our values have shifted and on how we can chart a new path for Canada: one that includes everyone who calls these lands home.

In so many ways, our lives and our world have witnessed loss and our realities have been forever changed. There is no doubt that these are complex, difficult times right now, but Canadians do not shy away from the tough issues. Reconciliation is tough, but we can make progress on a just journey together with first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The establishment of a national day for truth and reconciliation fulfills call to action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report. It is an important action to take, and we must act immediately so that this day becomes part of our reality this year.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2021 / 12:50 p.m.
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Steven Guilbeault Liberal Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, in my view, and I think in the view of most member, reconciliation is a path and journey that we are taking with first nations, Inuit and Métis people.

There are a number of things that we as government, as the Crown, need to do on that path to reconciliation. This includes things like the adoption of the bill on UNDRIP and the implementation of the Indigenous Languages Act, for which I have the honour and privilege of being responsible.

Speaking of indigenous languages in our country, I would like to remind the House that when our government came into power in 2015, the federal government invested $5 million for indigenous languages across the country. This year, it will be more than $100 million, and I do not think that is enough. We need to do more. We are working with our indigenous partners to see what the adequate and long-term level of funding would be for indigenous languages.

There are many things we must do on this path to reconciliation, but moving forward with Bill C-5

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2021 / 12:50 p.m.
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Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-5, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code, a the national day for truth and reconciliation.

Before I begin, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to speak to the very horrible discovery made yesterday afternoon in Kamloops. The news yesterday of the remains of 215 children found buried at a former residential school in Kamloops is tragic beyond words. We, on all sides of the House, wish to express our deepest sympathies to the residents of that first nation and surrounding indigenous communities who are sharing in this trauma.

We also want to acknowledge the deep sorrow and mourning that all indigenous peoples and survivors of residential schools are experiencing at this time. While communities and families grapple with this unthinkable revelation, we must come together in support and provide whatever assistance is necessary to aid in the healing process and to provide whatever resources are needed to protect, honour and identify those children.

Residential schools are a national shame that has had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on indigenous culture, heritage and language. In the words of former prime minister Stephen Harper:

The Government of Canada built an educational system in which very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes, often taken far from their communities. Many were inadequately fed, clothed and housed. All were deprived of the care and nurturing of their parents, grandparents and communities. First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools. Tragically, some of these children died while attending residential schools and others never returned home.

We have been reminded that more work needs to be done to address the devastating and hurtful effects that residential schools had and still have on many survivors today. I want to echo the words heard earlier this morning in the House, that those who love those children should know the whole of Canada mourns with them and that their loss will never be forgotten.

With that in mind, I would like to turn our attention to the matter at hand, Bill C-5.

This legislation would establish a national day for truth and reconciliation for federally regulated private sector and federal public sector workers that would be observed as a statutory holiday on September 30. Call to action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls upon the federal government, in collaboration with indigenous peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a national day for truth and reconciliation.

The choice of September 30 builds on the grassroots momentum of Orange Shirt Day, which is already known as a day to remember the legacy of residential schools and move forward with reconciliation. The Conservatives proudly observe National Indigenous Peoples Day every year and encourage Canadians to participate in local gatherings.

Canada is one of only a few countries in the world where indigenous and treaty rights are entrenched in our constitution. Educating Canadians about their rights is an important part of the path to reconciliation. Unfortunately, at times, the Liberals seem to have no plan to develop a reconciliation education strategy to provide Canadians with learning opportunities about indigenous Canadians and the horrific dark chapter in Canada's history of residential schools. We hope that will be quickly remedied.

Other federal holidays, like Remembrance Day, commemorate through educational campaigns. While this bill does not include such a plan, we hope that one will be forthcoming very soon, and I offer my sincere assistance to the minister in helping get that done.

While the Conservative Party supports and has promoted National Indigenous Peoples Day, we believe more needs to be done to advance the rights of first nations, Métis and Inuit people. Encouraging indigenous businesses, building strong economies in indigenous communities, developing indigenous supply chains and giving indigenous kids hope for a brighter future are essential to the future of Canada.

The Conservative Party supports treaty rights and the process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples living in Canada. As mentioned earlier, in 2008, then prime minister Stephen Harper delivered a historic apology to former residential school students, their families and communities for Canada's role in the operation of the schools.

Our former Conservative government also created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which recognized that the Indian residential school system had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on indigenous culture, language and heritage.

The commission's report reflected the hard work and dedication to building public awareness about resident schools and fostering reconciliation, understanding and respect. The final report of the TRC helped to explain this dark chapter in Canadian history and the calls to action addressed the legacy of the residential schools and advanced the process of reconciliation.

As mentioned, more needs to be done to address the outstanding recommendations in that report. They need to be addressed and addressed quickly so we can get on to doing the hard work of tackling issues that will actually improve the lives of indigenous peoples right across Canada.

There is a lot of support for the bill.

Carlon Big Snake and his wife Lisa, descendants and survivors of the residential school system from Siksika Nation and former member of its chief in council, spoke in support, stating:

We were raised with negative impacts of history... adopting the bill would show the government’s sincerity and commitment of the federal governments to address truth and reconciliation for Indigenous people. “Together we can begin to heal the past and look forward to a united, prosperous future.”

Stacy Allison-Cassin, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and chair at the Canadian Federation of Library Associations, Indigenous Matters Committee, also spoke in favour of the bill, stating:

Creating a national day of truth and reconciliation will create further weight and impetus for a day of remembering and learning for all Canadians.

My colleague, the member for Cariboo—Prince George, reminded us in his speech at second reading that:

While we say every child matters, we need to remember that all children matter even if they are now adults. We have so many people who are still locked in that time when they were in that program.

On a tragic day when we are reminded of the horrific, shameful history of the resident school system, on a day when we must honour and do what we can to make amends to those children whose lives were tragically cut short, we must also remember that there are many survivors of that system who are now still with us today. We must honour their memories and ensure that the racist, colonial practices of the past are never, ever repeated again.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2021 / 1:05 p.m.
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Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from British Columbia and offer my sympathies to the people of his riding, British Columbia and all across Canada as we learn the details regarding the news from Kamloops, which is so tragic and horrific that words cannot explain.

With respect to his question, as he will see very shortly, Conservatives will be continuing to support Bill C-5. We obviously had a few questions during the committee process that we were able to discuss, including concerns about when the government will be ending some of these boil water advisories, when a lot of these paths to reconciliation will be implemented and what the agenda is on how to get there. Those questions need to be answered through the committee phase. Some questions are still there, but overall I think we are ready to support the bill and move it through the process.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2021 / 1:20 p.m.
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Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am speaking today from the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.

Today is a dark, dark day and the dark clouds that hang in the air as we learn of the news in B.C. at the Kamloops residential school just shake us to the core. I cannot imagine what the families and friends of the children must be going through.

We can say we mourn with them, and we send our strength and support as they are confronted with this horrific news and forced to relive the trauma of colonization and the egregious impact of residential schools. These are, of course, words and they are not our family members who have lost loved ones.

However, I do want to say with all my heart, I know that I and all my colleagues, the New Democrats, the Liberals, the Conservatives, the Bloc members and the Greens, stand with them. We share their mourning and we take in deeply what this means.

The finding is a reminder that the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has estimated that more than 150,000 indigenous children attended residential school. The centre also estimates that 4,100 children died at the schools. They are identified in death records, some by name and some not. Let us just imagine, for one minute, if that were our child. The exact number of children who died is not known, as many were taken to residential schools and many never returned.

We must remember this and never forget the generational impact of Canada's shameful history. For us to say these words, we must then redouble our efforts in every single action we do to address this shameful history. Reconciliation cannot just be words. It must be action.

We must also never forget that this is not an indigenous people's problem. It is a Canadian problem. I ask members to remember these words each and every day. That is what I ask for all members of the House. I also ask all Canadians to remember those words and act on those words.

Today, we are speaking to Bill C-5, a bill that would honour indigenous people and set the national day for truth and reconciliation as a statutory holiday. It is a recognition of the call to action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report states, “Reconciliation is not an [indigenous] problem; it is a Canadian one. Virtually all aspects of Canadian society may need to be reconsidered.”

We, as non-indigenous peoples, must carry these profound words with us each and every day in everything that we do, and, as mentioned, this is particularly significant with the news of what has happened at the Kamloops residential school.

What does it mean for us? There is no question that we need to get this bill passed. I want to honour former MP Georgina Jolibois, who brought forward her own private member's bill in the last Parliament. It went through all three stages in the House, and then, when it went to the Senate, the Senate blocked it. The unelected Senate blocked it and it never became law.

I hope that this does not happen again. I call on the government, the Conservatives and all members of the House to do everything they can to ensure that Bill C-5 becomes law. The NDP is in full support of seeing this expedited through the House of Commons so we can honour indigenous peoples, their history and their culture, and remember the trauma and generational impact of colonization.

However, it is equally important that we truly honour and celebrate them, make a statutory holiday not as a day off, but as a day to learn about indigenous peoples, their culture and their history, and take to heart what it means to show the respect they deserve and that was robbed of them so many years ago.

The call for collective action across Canada in recognition of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and the history of their rights, cultures and languages must be at the heart of our work. They are the first peoples of this land and we must never forget that, whether we are talking about the conflicts going on now, Land Back or issues around rights. We must remember this not only in the face of news about the Kamloops residential school, but as a guide in the work that we do. When we talk about the voices of indigenous peoples, we cannot just say that we consult with them. It must be in the context of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and honouring their inherited rights, acknowledging these and acting on them.

This bill does not address socio-economic challenges faced by indigenous communities, but it is a reflection on colonial history and its current effects on the rights of first nations, Métis and Inuit communities across the country, and that is an important step. Equally important, though, is the question I asked the minister: Why on earth is the Canadian government taking indigenous children to court? His answer was that this was a complex issue. I say that it is not that complex. The government should step up, own up and stop taking indigenous children to court, period. This is something the Canadian government can and must do. That is how to show reconciliation in action and not just in words.

We talk about water safety. Water is sacred. Our lives depend on it, so why are we still dealing with water advisories? The government will say we are making progress. How about that? We are making progress. How is it acceptable that people do not have access to clean, safe drinking water? How is it acceptable that this is happening to indigenous people? How is it acceptable that we are taking this incremental approach to get there?

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2021 / 1:35 p.m.
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Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I wish to acknowledge the unceded Wolastoqiyik territory from which I speak today and the immense privilege I carry as a settler in this land.

I would like to begin by extending my deepest condolences, and to send strength, to all who will be retraumatized by this new and devastating information regarding the realities of Indian residential schools in Canada. The remains of 215 children have been found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., using ground-penetrating radar, confirming what families and communities have known but could not substantiate until now. This new knowledge is truth. We need to confront our past and our present with truth before we can build reconciliation.

I remember when I was first introduced to the concept of residential schools. It was during my post-secondary studies, largely on my own and in conversations with family and friends. It was not taught to me in school. We only learned that Canada was a land of peacekeepers and apologetic people whose brave pioneer ancestors defied the odds in a barren land to build the country we have today.

We have worked very hard to erase the history and culture of indigenous peoples. We have also worked very hard to erase the people themselves, as well as the evidence of these crimes.

Prime Minister Harper's historic apology was largely in response to mounting potential litigation as rumours and horror stories became all too real, with well-documented acts of genocide bubbling to the surface. Yes, genocide: not simply cultural genocide, preventing language and tradition from flourishing, but the United Nations' definition of genocide.

From the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, article II, of the United Nations:

...genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

"(a) Killing members of the group,” like throwing a child down a flight of stairs or out a third-storey window, as outlined in Isabelle Knockwood's incredible novel Out of the Depths.

“(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,” like separating children from their parents and communities, like threatening those who witnessed abuse with the same fate, like force-feeding expired food, shaving sacred hair and stripping children of their given names and mother tongue, as so many experiences across the country have documented.

“(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” like deliberately exposing children to fatal diseases and being proud enough, or brazen enough, to take photos and share them in textbooks for years to come in celebration of the efforts undertaken to address the Indian problem. The problem of course in Canada was their existence.

“(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group,” like forced sterilizations, forced abortions and infanticide targeting specific family bloodlines, like those of hereditary chiefs or strong leaders.

“(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Sadly, we are seeing this continue, with more indigenous children in care today than were enrolled in residential schools at the height of their operation in Canada.

There were schools in almost every province and territory in Canada. New Brunswick likes to gloss over this fact, but we too had institutions where children were treated like animals or worse, and parents were stripped of their rights right here in our backyard. It was simply before Confederation, so Canada washed its hands of accountability.

In doing my own research, I studied survivor testimonials, historic news articles and official records. It took me two years to pore through the information. I wept. I was angry, and ridden with guilt and frustration.

I particularly remember watching the film We Were Children with my high school students, as their cultural teacher. I was six months pregnant with my second child: an indigenous child who would be born with the same beautiful brown skin his father has. I could not contain my emotion, as I cannot right now. My baby seemed more and more like a miracle, the descendant of survivors.

My sons have never met their great-grandparents. They died too young. We call them survivors because they came from Shubenacadie alive when so many did not. However, the nightmare of their experiences would follow them. It would continue to eat away at their souls. It would be present in their parenting styles, in their substance abuse, in their domestic violence, in their internalized racism and in their pain.

The discovery of the remains of 215 innocent children is beyond devastating. For Canada, apologies, payouts and even days of recognition will never be enough. There are 215 families who were given no answers about their babies, some as young as three years old, which is the same age as my youngest child.

When senators, leaders of political parties and everyday Canadians suggest these schools had good intentions, were not all bad or were a product of the times, I say how dare they.

Systemic murder, often in front of other children, followed with threats and intimidation and a disgusting cover-up of the use of mass graves, forged records and death certificates, this is not an isolated incident for the school. One child's death and erasure are criminal, despicable. There are 215. With the potential of more gravesites across Canada to be found now more likely than ever is genocide.

We are so quick to step on our pedestal and wave our fingers at other countries for their transgressions when our stool may well sit on the graves of indigenous children killed by church and state right here in Canada, shame, shame. There is no apology in the world that will take this pain away.

There has been a lot of talk of reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Canada, but truth must come first, and the truth is that most Canadians have no idea of the full impact of residential schools, the residual effects and the intergenerational trauma.

Bill C-5 is a necessary step to fulfill the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to bring much-needed awareness to the horrors of the past as well as those that continue.

Make no mistake: Missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and two-spirt peoples is part of this legacy. Joyce Echaquan's death is part of this legacy. Chantel Moore's death is part of this legacy. A national day of reconciliation is only as good as the space it creates for truth, truth about what has been and truth about what is.

I fully support Bill C-5 and I stand with my colleagues in the House today to see that it becomes law. It is long overdue. It is reactive rather than proactive, however. For those children and their families, please, we must do better.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 25th, 2020 / 3:15 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage concerning the main estimates, 2020-21, as well as its second report concerning the supplementary estimates (B), 2020-21. The committee has considered the estimates referred by the House and reports the same.

In addition, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in relation to Bill C-5, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code regarding a national day for truth and reconciliation. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2020 / 4:20 p.m.
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Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues. I am sure my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou will be pleased to be able to speak.

Today, I will be speaking to Bill C-8. Although part of my speech will focus on the substance of the bill, I would also like to talk a little bit about how the bill was introduced and debated, both during this Parliament and the previous one.

To begin, I will give a bit of not so ancient history about the government's desire to modify the oath of citizenship. This is not the first time that this bill has come before the House.

The changes to the citizenship oath, as set out in Bill C-8, were first introduced in Bill C-99 during the previous Parliament, the 42nd Parliament. That bill was introduced on May 28, 2019, shortly before the House closed down. Since Parliament was not set to come back until after the October 2019 election, it was reasonable to expect the bill to die on the Order Paper, which is exactly what happened.

Subsequently, a second version was introduced as Bill C-6 in the first session of the 43rd Parliament. Since the bill was being tabled at the start of the session this time, there was hope that it would not die on the Order Paper. As the ways of the House of Commons and the government are as impenetrable as prorogation is apparently inevitable, Bill C-6 died a premature death.

However, Bill C-6 did get one hour of debate. To ensure that it did not die in vain, I will provide a summary of the key points of said debate.

First, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship stated that in preparing the bill, his department had consulted the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council and the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, an organization that represents indigenous parties in Canada that are signatories to the 24 modern treaties. These consultations had begun in 2016.

Second, to justify the fact that the wording of the oath in the bill was different from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, the minister said that the parties consulted did not agree on wording. The department therefore chose to go with wording that better reflected the experience of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

Lastly, the minister clearly stated the intent of the bill, saying:

The purpose of this 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.

Based on how the bill has been managed over time, I do not think the government is in much of a rush to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The consultations with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples began in 2016, so it is a little surprising that the government did not introduce the first version of this bill for first reading until May 2019 and that it chose to do so at the end of the Parliament.

Although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's report was tabled in June 2015, little has been done so far. Just 10 of the 94 calls to action have been implemented. It makes us wonder how willing the government is to take action on this matter. To ensure that the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's report is not just a cosmetic exercise, we must remember that even though every call to action is necessary, each individual call is not enough if it is implemented on its own.

If this is not due to a lack of haste and willingness on the government's part, we at least have to question the government's efficiency. For instance, why not graft the amendment of the oath of allegiance onto Bill C-5 regarding a national day for truth and reconciliation, the bill we just debated and passed at second reading earlier today?

Why did the government not propose amending the oath of allegiance in the 42nd Parliament, as part of Bill C-6, which also amended the Citizenship Act?

If a separate bill is required to implement each of the remaining calls to action, then we have a long way to go. We have every right to ask ourselves the following question: By addressing each call to action through a separate piece of legislation, in addition to rehashing them, is that also the government's way of trying to cover up the fact that its legislative agenda is pretty meagre, to say the least?

In short, either the government is not being very convincing when it says that first nations issues are a priority, or it is being not terribly effective or deliberately ineffective in order to hide another defect, that is, its legislative laziness.

That concludes the editorial part of my speech, and I will now turn to the substance of the bill.

It should come as no surprise that the Bloc plans to vote in favour of the bill. The Bloc Québécois has already made it very clear that we want to be an ally to first nations. In that regard, it is only natural that we support the implementation of one of the recommendations from the report of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

As I already mentioned, even though each individual call is not enough when implemented on its own, every call to action is necessary, and I intend to vote in favour of a bill to implement this one.

Amending the oath of citizenship to include a promise to recognize the rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples is a step in the right direction toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples. First nations peoples are absolutely right to ask for a reference to indigenous rights in the oath.

Obviously, the Bloc Québécois supports a nation-to-nation approach. That is the approach that Quebec will take when it declares independence. Indigenous peoples will be equal founding peoples with us when we create the new country of Quebec.

In the meantime, we hope that this new version of the oath will raise newcomers' awareness of the reality of first nations and their history, but also their new country's shameful treatment of first nations in the past. This is an opportunity to open a dialogue between newcomers and first nations. They will be able to speak to each other as equal citizens so newcomers can learn more about not only the history of first nations, but also their contribution to society.

To prevent history from repeating itself, as it sometimes tends to do, we hope this knowledge of the past will better prepare us for the future.

I personally hope the government will ramp up its reconciliation efforts. If it does, it can count on the Bloc Québécois' steadfast support.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2020 / 6:30 p.m.
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Michael McLeod Liberal Northwest Territories, NT

Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that I am speaking from the traditional homeland of the Dene, Métis and Inuvialuit of the Northwest Territories.

I am of Métis descent. I am a member of the Dehcho First Nations. We are known as the “big river” people. I believe I am the only sitting member who attended the residential school program, or the hostel program as we knew it.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in support of the government’s bill that would revise the oath of citizenship. It continues our government’s important work to walk the shared path of reconciliation and the implementation of the TRC's calls to action.

I would like to point to a number of key legislative initiatives that address calls to action and advance reconciliation.

Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, received royal assent in June 2019. This act supports the Government of Canada’s efforts to reclaim, revitalize, strengthen and maintain indigenous languages in Canada. The act was developed to address calls to action numbers 13, 14 and 15; elements of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP; and the Government of Canada’s commitment to a renewed relationship with indigenous people based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.

That same month, in June 2019, royal assent was given to Bill C-92, an act respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. It came into force on January 1, 2020. This act was codeveloped as part of Canada’s efforts to reform indigenous child and family services, which included implementing call to action number 4. It affirms the rights of first nations, Inuit, and Métis to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services and establishes national principles such as the best interests of the child, cultural continuity and substantive equality, which help guide the provision of indigenous child and family services.

The act was the result of extensive engagement with first nations, Inuit and Métis, treaty nations, self-governing first nations, provincial and territorial governments, and those with lived experience, including elders, youth and women. It reaffirms the government’s commitment to advancing self-determination and eliminating existing disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous children and youth.

The act also lays out flexible pathways for indigenous governing bodies to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services at a pace they choose. Through the act’s legislative framework, they can move forward with their own service delivery models and laws and choose their own solutions for their children and families. It ensures indigenous children are cared for in the right way, with connections to their communities, cultures and languages. Furthermore, since January 1, 2020, every service provider, province or territory delivering child and family services to indigenous children and families will need to follow the minimum standards found in the act.

Bill C-5, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code regarding a national day for truth and reconciliation, was introduced by the Minister of Canadian Heritage on September 29, 2020. If passed, this bill will be an important step in responding to call to action number 80 by establishing the national day for truth and reconciliation on September 30 as a statutory holiday for federally regulated workers. This national day would honour survivors, their families and communities. It would also remind the public of the tragic and painful history and legacy of residential schools that remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The Government of Canada continues to work closely with partners to address the remaining calls to action.

In June 2019, the government received the final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, entitled “Reclaiming Power and Place”. It responded to call to action number 41, which called for the launch of a public inquiry into the disproportionate victimization of indigenous women and girls.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada is committed to gender equality and reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and has eliminated all the remaining sex-based inequalities in the Indian Act registration provisions, which go back to its inception 150 years ago. We committed to eliminating all sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act registration, and we delivered on that promise.

Bringing Bill S-3 into force also responds to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls calls to justice and provides justice to women and their descendants, who fought for these changes for decades. We will continue with partners and other levels of government to respond to the findings of the national inquiry and to this national tragedy.

In closing, I reiterate that the government is determined to address the historical, colonial racism and injustice of yesterday, just as we are determined to root out and expose the racism of today. As Canadians have seen all too clearly during this difficult time, racism, both systemic and social, continues to be all too prevalent in our country. It must not and cannot be tolerated, for that, too, is part of the healing process, just as this bill is part of the healing process.

This bill represents progress on the shared path to healing and reconciliation. It responds to concerns expressed in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It points the way to a more inclusive Canada. Moreover, by amending the oath of citizenship, it represents greater awareness and answers call to action 94.

I am pleased to offer my full support of the bill before us.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2020 / 10 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


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, virtually since the leader of the Liberal Party became the leader of the Liberal Party, one of the strongest senses of commitment that I have seen in the leader, who is now Prime Minister, is his sense of commitment toward indigenous peoples and wanting to establish that nation-to-nation relationship.

If we take a look at what we have been able to accomplish as a government over the last number of years, we can all share in recognizing the valuable contributions as legislators that members on all sides of the House have made on this very important issue. Members would be very familiar with the calls to action in regard to reconciliation. There are 94 calls to action asking for governments and other agencies to do what they can to move towards reconciliation.

The bill we are debating today, and have debated for a couple of days, is just that. It is one of the calls for reconciliation. I would encourage all members to seriously consider supporting this legislation.

I have had the opportunity and am very proud to represent Winnipeg North. Winnipeg North has an interesting, diverse makeup of people. One of the largest and growing communities is the indigenous community in Winnipeg North. I estimate it is probably somewhere in the area of 18% to 22%, with some areas of the riding having a higher percentage than others. I like to think that, going forward as a community, Winnipeg North wants and should push for and encourage, wherever we can, reconciliation, by taking the actions necessary to ensure that there is more harmony within our society.

We have such a wonderful, diverse community. For me personally, I think the bill we are debating today will go a long way in being helpful. It does not matter which member of Parliament or which area of the country we represent, the community of Canada will in fact benefit from the recognition of this statutory holiday.

I have taken the initiative, and it is not too often I do this, to quote something from constituents in regard to this specific bill. I have two quotes I would like to share with members. These are from constituents with indigenous backgrounds. I indicated that I would be debating Bill C-5, the need for a statutory holiday, and I asked for their thoughts. I would like to share a couple of the comments I received.

This comes from one of my constituents, who says, “As a parent, we teach our children about the tooth fairy and Santa, and as children, they eventually outgrow these make-believe images and beliefs. Contrasted to racism and some Canadians' lack of understanding of residential schools, Indian-based schools and treaties negotiated with my peoples, which are the cornerstone of our nation's legal foundation, many Canadian children are growing up with a false or make-believe history, which contributes to the latter intolerance we see in hospital beds in Quebec and at the fishermen's wharf in Nova Scotia. Education is the only solution and is needed to create understanding. Understanding is the sunlight where racism and falsehoods die. September 30 should be a day when all Canadian people reflect on our true history and the hardships that first peoples continue to face, in a day focused on culture, language, history, understanding, truth and the united path of reconciliation.”

Another constituent, in this case a mother of indigenous background, sent me this. She says, “As stated in the TRC report, reconciliation must inspire indigenous and non-indigenous peoples to transform Canadian society so that our children and grandchildren can live together in dignity, peace and prosperity on these lands we now share. Imagine the opportunities for families, individuals and businesses to grow their understanding and make progress towards reconciliation, to pass this down from one generation to the next. Imagine the events that would be hosted in communities from coast to coast to coast. Reconciliation is every Canadian's responsibility. It is not enough to leave this to certain sectors like education in school. As a government, as individuals, as Canadians, we need to honour the spirit and intent of the call to action number 80 and establish a statutory holiday and enact a day of truth and reconciliation in partnership with indigenous people.

I have a very short quote from her 12-year old daughter who, by the way, had a grandmother who actually went to a residential school. She said, “It would be so much better if everyone could participate instead of just having Orange Shirt Day at school.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada conducted an extensive public review in terms of what we needed to do during this era of Canada's history where it is really important for us to try to make amends. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission came up with 94 recommendations. If we look at all 94 recommendations, 76 of those fall, at least in part, under federal responsibility. What we have seen over the last number of years is a government, with support from other parties, dealing with issues such as language and child welfare. We have seen budgetary measures to support the principles of reconciliation in different forms.

The call to action we are talking about today is number 80. Allow me to quote from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

Whether it is my constituents or the calls to action, these are good reasons for members to recognize the value. We have seen that in different forms. It was not that long ago that I was talking about recognizing Filipino Heritage Month in June, or standing in the chamber calling for members of Parliament to recognize a Sikh Heritage Month in April. On many occasions I have stood in my place and talked about the importance of heritage and the designation of days, weeks or months.

We are saying here that we need to have a statutory holiday to recognize the true value of what has taken place in order for us to move forward and be part of reconciliation in a positive way, to reflect on the many speeches in which we talk about Canada's great diversity, and to understand and appreciate the value of what Bill C-5 is offering all of us. Today is an opportunity to send a strong, powerful message to our indigenous peoples.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2020 / 10:15 a.m.
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Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Bill C-5 is really exciting and interesting. As we know, it resonates with many Quebeckers because they have always been close to indigenous peoples and they want to maintain that closeness.

When we talk about the right to redress in the bill, we are talking about the right of victims to get redress for the harm that was done to them. This finds its expression in the duty that the state has to satisfy the victims by restoring their past status, fairly compensating them for the harm done or offering them the opportunity for rehabilitation.

What does the government have to say about the Bloc Québécois motion? That is exactly what we are asking for, redress and an apology from the federal government.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2020 / 10:15 a.m.
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Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be here today to speak in support of Bill C-5. I wish to honour the important work of sister Georgina Jolibois that initiated the development of the bill, and to commend the government's effort to ensure that this legislation is realized. This is a critical piece of legislation: a small piece of justice as we begin to move forward learning about the true history of Canada. These are stories I also possess as somebody who has had to work through her own intergenerational impacts.

My mother was from Wood Mountain Lakota First Nation in Treaty 4 territory in the province of Saskatchewan. She was a street kid who ended up in child welfare after my grandmother abandoned her and her younger brother in a motel room in Moose Jaw when she was five years of age. Due to the fact she was the eldest child, my grandmother left her in charge of her younger brother with specific instructions to ration a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and jam for the five days she had to leave them in search of money.

There were no supports for indigenous women in the 1930s. There were no social safety nets. There were no human rights. Sexism was rampant and racism was fierce. My grandmother had no one to turn to, especially as an indigenous single mother, so she left her children. I remember my mother telling me how she, along with my uncle, gleefully ate the loaf of bread, resulting in a complete depletion of their food ration in only one day. Hungry, scared and alone, my mother decided to contact the Children's Aid Society. At five years old, my mother had become street savvy and, having no other relatives to turn to at the time, contacted the Children's Aid Society. My mother and her brother needed to eat. They were hungry.

It is beyond most people's imaginations, especially those persons who have been privileged with human rights, how a mother could leave her young children in a motel room. It is beyond the minds of many privileged persons to genuinely appreciate what events in my mother's life led her, at five years of age, to understand how to deal with her and her brother's hunger. My mother knew who to call, and how to work with the bureaucratic child welfare system, to get fed. She had learned to survive just like my grandmother, who had absolutely no resources or supports to assist her. I am sure my grandmother's struggle rang so loudly that she could not hear the musical and healing reverberations of the jingle dress. The jingles were too faint and muzzled to hear above the noise of the struggle she faced every day. There was no time for healing or inner reflection. She was hungry and alone while the Canadian government wilfully perpetrated acts of genocide, making it impossible for her to survive.

My grandmother's choice to leave her young children in a room did not stem from a lack of love. My grandmother started living on the streets as a child and eventually became an alcoholic in adult life as a way to deal with the violent genocide she experienced as an indigenous child and then woman. Dislocated from her family for reasons directly impacted by the Indian Act of 1876 and the institutional disruptions to my family, including residential schools and the child welfare system, she did not have anyone or anywhere she could turn to. She was not even considered a human being by the Canadian government under the 1876 Indian Act, which defined a person as any individual other than an Indian. This violent colonial history has often been invisible to settler populations, due to the masterful way governments have hidden their dirty little secrets of genocide. This has supported a level of cognitive dissonance in Canada that has paved the way forward for ongoing human rights violations against indigenous peoples.

It is not surprising that many indigenous people suffer from unresolved colonial trauma today, and continue to suffer as a result of the wilful human rights violations perpetrated by governments. One only has to look at the number of indigenous children currently in care, more now than at the height of residential schools, to see the long-term impacts that violating indigenous people's fundamental indigenous human rights has had on indigenous nations.

The contemporary child welfare system, or what I like to refer to as the dumping ground of society, is there so that no one has to see the legacy of cultural, social and family disruption that has resulted from colonization.

Understanding the impacts of colonialism in Canada is imperative if we are going to move forward in a manner that honours all persons. Going back in our shared history and reflecting on historical disruptions to better understand why things are the way they are today is imperative. For Canada, it is about exposing truth and working through all the cognitive dissonance that keeps it sick. For families and communities that have experienced genocide, it is about relearning how to be together as families, communities and nations. This is the journey I have had to follow while trying to understand my grandmother's reasons for causing such pain towards my mother, whom I love dearly. This has been a very difficult journey for me.

As a result of my family history, for most of my younger years, I grew up without extended family. In fact, we were so devoid of family connections that my parents asked a close friend if we could call him “Uncle” Larry. He was not a biological uncle; however, they wanted us to experience having family outside of our own immediate unit. I remember how excited I was to meet Uncle Larry. It was my first time ever being able to call somebody “uncle”, and I remember talking about my Uncle Larry to my friends. Finally, I was able to participate in playground conversations about weekend family engagements with extended family members. I was not close to Larry. In fact, if I saw him today, I would not even know what he looked like. I do not even remember his last name, but our relationship made me feel normal.

I was pretty much without extended relations until my mother's side of the family had a reunion when I was 13 years old, and I was reunited with my aunts, uncles and cousins who had been separated by child welfare. It felt like I had known my relatives my whole life. Our instant closeness flowed through our blood members' shared stories of resistance, struggle, survival, hope and pride in our ancestors.

We are the descendants of Sitting Bull: one of the most revered leaders in North America. Our nation's history, in fact, has become a Hollywood story, often romanticized in movies like Dances with Wolves, which chose a Caucasian woman to star as the leading Lakota lady. Painted in brown theatrical makeup, she was swept off her feet by the white soldier who was part of the U.S. army. They fell in love, and she willingly chose to leave her family to build a new life with this heroic, white settler. I vividly remember that, for at least two years after Dances with Wolves was released, any time I mentioned I was Lakota, I would frequently hear, “Wow, Dances with Wolves.” That comment would make me nauseous, because it epitomized the myth of the kind white settler who lived side by side with indigenous peoples resulting in a respectful, lasting and loving relationship: the great colonial lie.

This myth makes a mockery of the violent colonial attacks against the Lakota Nation, and contradicts historical accounts passed down orally by my ancestors who settled in Wood Mountain after the Battle of Little Bighorn. This battle between the U.S. army and indigenous nations, including the Cheyenne Nation, occurred as an act of resistance to the wrongful dispossession of our ancestral lands. Led by Chief Sitting Bull, indigenous people bravely fought to defend our lands from the U.S. army. Under the barbaric racism and violent leadership of General George Custer, white settlers attempted to encroach on our territory.

Although I often hear about the sad death of Custer during this battle in history books, rarely do I hear any discussion about the many women and children who were violently murdered while the army attempted to attack one of our camps. To me, Custer symbolizes the greedy white settler with a compromised moral character who stole our lands.

Our story was not of great white saviours, but of a massacre led by the racist American army under the leadership of the violent and savage General George Custer. Canada has now celebrated over 150 years as a nation on stolen indigenous lands and talk about reconciliation with indigenous peoples seems to be the new trend.

However, there is no reconciliation in the absence of justice and it is becoming clearer that the present Liberal government is unwilling to move beyond mere rhetoric. I have become increasingly annoyed each day watching the news, seeing my indigenous brothers and sisters fighting for justice without action by current governments. Who really needs to reconcile?

In the case of the Lakota nation, our only goal was to stay on our lands, maintain our families and our culture. We did what any community members would do if a group of people came onto their land, forcing them to move without cause. Of course, their first action would be to defend their lands. Moreover, if the same party continued to violate their human rights, tensions would continue to rise, resulting in a need to take action. That is exactly what we did.

The experience of my beautiful Lakota nation was violent, exploitive and marked by grotesque violence against our women and girls by our colonizers. Great leaders such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, our women and girls, children, grandmothers and grandfathers were murdered or forced to flee our ancestral land to make room for the settlers. We were forced off the very lands we had lived on since time immemorial. Our beautiful way of life was disrupted by violent colonialism, and it is not over.

In Canada, governments continue to violate our ways of life with wilful and violent acts with almost a complete disregard for our fundamental indigenous human rights. That was the kind of violent colonialism my grandmother experienced throughout her lifetime. She was born into colonial violence and as a result never lived a life where she was honoured as a life-giver and a human being. Unlike the main character of Dances with Wolves, she could not wash the brown off her skin and enjoy all the privileges that one's pigment can offer. She had to endure the violent racism that was perpetrated against her every day. In spite of all her barriers, she survived. It may not have been a story of My Fair Lady, but she survived. That does not speak of her weakness, but to her resilience as an indigenous woman finding her way through daily human rights violations.

My grandmother was a human being, deserving to be loved and to experience joy. This was made impossible through the insidious violence and racism enacted by the Indian Act of 1876. She did not have many choices. When people are stripped of the basic necessities they require to have joy such as housing, food and safety, growing into a whole person becomes difficult. That was also true for my grandmother, whose life journey was defined by the systemic impoverishment of indigenous people that began with the dispossession of our lands. Based on justifications rooted in the doctrine of discovery, they deny our right to self-determination and continued to wilfully violate our fundamental indigenous human rights. It is exactly that belief, enforced through colonial policies and legislation, that left my grandmother homeless.

I only met my grandmother twice. The last time was when my mother welcomed her to stay in our home prior to a lung operation that would end her life. My mother, in spite of being abandoned in a hotel room, took her mother home. She shared love, compassion, laughter and care with my grandmother in her final days, in spite of her own struggles that resulted from her being a child in care. My mother's kindness came from a place of non-judgment, a place of love and a place of compassion.

I remember asking my mom how she could take my grandmother into her home when she had abandoned my mother as a child. She responded by saying her mother was pretty much on her own when she was 12. She was completely alone in the world. She had no rights and no way to support herself. There were no social safety nets at the time and she did the very best she could with the tools she had.

That was the most powerful teaching of forgiveness that I have ever heard in my life. As I sit here and think of my grandmother, the very thought of the isolation she must have felt brings me to tears. How sad that due to racist, paternalistic and misogynistic policies, my grandmother was never given an equal chance to have joy. Instead, her life consisted of finding ways to survive the obstacles of human rights violations that continue to be enforced under the Indian Act and within Canadian policies.

My mother deeply understood the realities that my grandmother faced and instead of becoming resentful, she focused on the love her mother demonstrated while she was pregnant with her. Although my grandmother was an alcoholic, she sacrificed her addiction to alcohol to support a healthy pregnancy with my mom. I remember my mom saying that in spite of the fact that my grandmother was an alcoholic, “she abstained from alcohol while she was pregnant with me, gifting me with all the physical tools I needed in life to succeed and it was for that reason that I would always love her”. My mother understood that as a result of colonizations, relationships became messy and that ethical decisions extended beyond an individual's choices because injustice left individuals without choices.

I often wonder if people could physically see what a heart looks like when it has been broken or wounded. Maybe it would encourage them to be a little kinder, a little more gentle, a little less judgmental, a little more loving and a little less hurtful. Unfortunately, the life of my grandmother reminds me that when we completely dehumanize a person, we can begin to justify unthinkable acts and are able to turn a blind eye to human suffering.

I think I carry some of her pain and sorrow in my blood memory. It is the kind of intergenerational trauma that brings on feelings of being unlovable and unworthy of joy. These are the words we learned in Canadian institutions that tried to assimilate us. I still hear those voices in my mind and heart at times, but I have found ways to overpower those voices. It is the resiliency I inherited from my ancestors, the kind of resiliency that was emulated through my mother's spirit.

Unlike the trauma that overtook my grandmother's life, my mother managed to overcome great obstacles. She became a statistical miracle and because of that, I was afforded the good life. Can anyone imagine living through the trials and tribulations that my mother did and making it out sane? This was in spite of the genocide and the gross human rights violations she experienced early on in life. She was one of the first indigenous psychiatric nurses in Saskatchewan, an awarding-winning researcher, a scholar and a social justice warrior who assisted in changing child welfare legislation to support former children in care and rights for persons experiencing mental health issues. My mother was a woman of beauty and grace.

I honour my mother and grandmother today. It is a day, one day of remembrance, one day to honour. We need that day, as do thousands and thousands of Canadians who are open to learning about Canada's true and consistently evolving history in our relationship with indigenous peoples. There is no reconciliation in the absence of justice, so I am here to state loudly that we need to honour this little piece of justice.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2020 / 12:15 p.m.
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Mount Royal Québec


Anthony Housefather LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in support of Bill C-5 to amend certain acts to add a new holiday, namely national day for truth and reconciliation.

Bill C-5 addresses a very important issue that every member of the House takes very seriously. The residential school system is a national tragedy, a stain of colonialism upheld by systemic racism. It is important to never forget this tragic part of our history and the legacy of residential schools. For that we must acknowledge the past and tell Canadians about the experiences indigenous children had in these schools.

As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented the experience of survivors, families, communities and those personally affected by residential schools. The commission presented a final report in 2015 with 94 calls to action to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation.

I want to read call to action 80. It states, “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”

Although Bill C-5 seeks to address call to action 80, the Government of Canada remains committed to fully implementing the 76 calls to action that fall under federal responsibility.

As part of that commitment, the Government of Canada took an important step toward responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 80 by introducing a bill to create a national day for truth and reconciliation that, for federally regulated workers, will be observed as a statutory holiday on September 30.

September 30 was chosen because it is also Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day is about commemorating the legacy of residential schools and promoting reconciliation.

When it comes to such an important issue, creating a day for truth and reconciliation seems like a small gesture, but I would suggest it is an important one. It is important because there are too many people and too many communities in this country that continue to suffer from the injustice and stigma of racism.

During the current pandemic, we have seen the disproportionate impact of this crisis on racialized people, indigenous people, immigrant communities and other vulnerable Canadians.

Recently, we have seen racial injustice right before our eyes across the border. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police shocked many of us. We also saw the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Daniel Prude in Rochester, and we cannot forget what happened a few years ago to Eric Garner in New York. Those brutal killings of Black people by police have shocked our consciousness.

Canadians cannot say that everything is fine in Canada. In my own province of Quebec in the Joliette hospital, we saw the death of Joyce Echaquan, an indigenous woman who livestreamed racist slurs, neglect and abuse while she was in the care of nurses and the staff of the hospital. This was in my own province.

This is a tragic example of the racism and intolerance indigenous peoples continue to face in Canada. It was heartbreaking and beyond unconscionable. If anyone dares to say that systemic racism does not exist in Canada, they should be ashamed.

How can we create a climate of trust, respect and mutual understanding?

We need to take time to acknowledge the oppression and discrimination that indigenous peoples experienced in Canada for centuries and to reflect on the challenges faced by indigenous communities.

The national day for truth and reconciliation will provide federally regulated workers with the opportunity to reflect on this issue and participate in educational and commemorative activities.

In 2018-19, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage studied private member's Bill C-369, by our former colleague, Georgina Jolibois, which sought to make a national indigenous peoples statutory holiday. Witnesses from indigenous organizations were in favour of the creation of a statutory holiday to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools.

Now let me address the legislation itself, which would amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and part 3 of the Canada Labour Code. Part 3 of the Canada Labour Code would be amended to establish the national day for truth and reconciliation as a holiday. It would provide federally regulated private sector employees with a paid holiday. It is on this portion of the bill that I focus.

Part 3 of the code covers approximately 955,000 employees and 18,500 employers. It contains provisions setting out minimum labour standards for workplaces in the federally regulated private sector and in most federal crown corporations. It includes important industries such as interprovincial and international transportation, banking, telecommunications and broadcasting, as well as some government activities on first nation reserves.

Part 3 does not apply to the federal public service, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or parliamentary employees, but due to existing provisions in all federal public service collective agreements, as well as past practices to extend similar terms of employment to the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces, employees in the federal public sector would also be entitled to the new federal holiday.

Of course, as we all know, the Government of Canada does not have the constitutional authority to impose a statutory holiday for those employees who fall within the authority of provincial governments. That said, I would like to say a few words about the implementation of this new holiday.

A national day for truth and reconciliation would give over 955,000 federally regulated private sector employees an opportunity to participate in educational and commemorative activities related to residential schools and reconciliation. The day would also focus on the experiences of first nations, Inuit and Métis men and women, including those who work in federally regulated private sector organizations and in the federal public service.

The Government of Canada remains committed to reconciliation and to fully implementing the 76 calls to action that fall under federal responsibility.

Reconciliation remains a priority for us and the introduction of Bill C-5 is a step forward in the healing process for survivors who were harmed under the federally operated residential school system. Let us work together toward a renewed partnership built on respect, dialogue and recognition of rights.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2020 / 12:30 p.m.
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Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Joliette.

Today, I want to begin my speech by extending heartfelt greetings to the Innu and Naskapi communities in Nitassinan on the North shore, which is in my riding.

Essipit, Pessamit, Uashat Mak Mani-utenam, Ekuanitshit, Nutashkuan, Unamen Shipu, Pakua Shipi, Matimekosh, Kawawashikamach: It is for them and for all indigenous communities that I rise today in the House to talk about Orange Shirt Day and Bill C-5, which would create a holiday of commemoration and celebration of indigenous first nations and their culture.

I would like to speak to them in their language, Innu.

[Member spoke in Innu]

When we think about the residential schools, it is impossible to really understand or experience what these first nations peoples went through and, I would add, what they are still going through.

What we can do, and what we should humbly do, is to listen, to try to understand and to work toward reconciliation. I listened with respect, friendship and trust and I felt and still feel sick. I understood and I am still listening to what the first nations have to say and what they want for our common good.

Canada's efforts to wipe out indigenous peoples would not succeed, but the first nations paid dearly for it. Children were abused and kidnapped. Children disappeared to never be seen again. Children were stripped of everything: their language, culture, land, family and future.

We must not mince words. Canada's objective in the past was to eliminate indigenous peoples. Today, in the chamber where members voted on the Indian Act, we are taking the time to speak in an attempt to repair the horrors of the past, the effects of which are still felt to this day.

We must certainly learn from the past, but it is important to put into practice what we have learned about the Indian Act, residential schools and missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Orange Shirt Day is a step in the right direction, but everyone agrees that we need to do much more.

It is much easier to understand when we take the time to listen. Today I decided to give a great woman and constituent of mine, Marjolaine Tshernish, an opportunity to speak. She is the executive director of the Institut Tshakapesh, which advocates for Inuit culture and identity. Here is what she has to say:

Let us remember in order to draw closer together. On September 30 of every year, Canadians across the country participate in Orange Shirt Day. The Innu nation in particular, most of whom live on the North Shore, commemorate Orange Shirt Day to show support for every individual whose life was and may still be affected by residential schools.

It is a day to reaffirm to survivors and all those affected by residential schools that they are important and that their experiences are respectfully acknowledged.

Every child counts, even if they are now an adult. We recognize and honour all residential school survivors and all those who never came home.

There are as many stories as there are children who were sent to residential schools, children who were taken away from their families, their communities and their culture, people who are still in search of their lost identity and pride. Imagine, as a parent, having your child taken away from you. Imagine, as a child, being forced to learn a language and live in a culture different from one's own, finding oneself in a whole other world. Imagine if they had resisted.

Some families never saw their children again, do not even know what became of them and cannot find them. They do not know how they died. There is no greater pain than the loss of a child. Imagine.

Need I remind the House that it has been proven that having one or more parent who attended Indian residential school increases one's likelihood of experiencing childhood trauma or spousal abuse?

Intergenerational transmission has also been well documented. Imagine the repercussions: having to reclaim your past; living your present while constantly struggling; having difficulty envisioning your future because everything has been taken away from you; having to defend your own identity; fighting prejudice; being subjected to looks, comments, actions or inactions; suffering violence; and being asked to be content with resilience and patience.

We must remember in order to understand not why it happened, but rather the needs that exist and why there has been so much suffering since. We must remember in order to share the story and the need to become oneself and have a common future that respects everyone. We must remember to respect everyone's desire to live fully and to understand. We must remember to support the right of all children and all individuals to have a dignified and serene life and to look to the future with as much optimism as possible. We must remember to share and to come together. That is the way it should be.

I stand in solidarity with all the families and friends of the Innu nation. I hope we will all have the privilege of remembering, learning and making connections, one day and one opportunity at a time, and especially to add all sorts of colours in our lives.

[Member spoke in Innu]

I wish to thank Ms. Tshernich whose message I am conveying in my own words. I would like to say that, when it comes to respecting first nations and working with them in their best interest, the Bloc Québécois will naturally be an ally.

My Innu and Naskapi friends, I respect and admire you. Know that I will always be by your side to march from history to truth, from truth to reconciliation, and reconciliation to the vitality of first nations. We must never forget. We owe it to our children, to our nations, to humanity.

[Member spoke in Innu]

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2020 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to be speaking virtually from Toronto, but in the House of Commons, on Bill C-5. This is an important piece of legislation on the path to reconciliation, which I firmly believe will help in shaping a better future.

I want to note, first of all, that when I speak from my riding of Parkdale—High Park, I am located on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Huron-Wendat, the Anishinabe and, most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit. I would also like to say meegwetch, which means “thank you” in Algonquin, for giving me the chance to speak before the chamber on this important topic, acknowledging that the parliamentary precinct where you are, Madam Speaker, is on unceded Algonquin territory.

Before beginning, I also want to acknowledge the important work done on this initiative by former NDP member of Parliament, Georgina Jolibois, who presented this bill in the 42nd Parliament. At that time, during debate, she said:

This bill will not solve the housing crisis indigenous people live through and it will not fix the overrepresentation of indigenous children in foster care and it will not close the education gap that leaves indigenous children behind.

However, it will give Canadians the opportunity to fully understand why those problems exist.

That is a very succinct and sound analysis of the situation and also of the importance of the bill. I thank her for her advocacy during the 42nd Parliament.

We have heard during debate on this bill about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the TRC. We know it released its final report in 2015 and that the Liberal government under the Prime Minister accepted the conclusions of the TRC. This in-depth study of Canada's history was mainly looking at the legacy of the residential school system. There were 94 calls to action, of which we have heard about many. Bill C-5 will address, in particular, call to action number 80, which states:

Bill C-5 will address, in particular, call to action number 80, which states:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The relationship with indigenous peoples is a critical one and the implementation of this call to action is one step forward toward that reconciliation. Clearly, there is a long way to go, and we have heard about that from many speakers on this bill today and last week. Canada, indeed, has a poor history and track record when it comes to its relationship with indigenous persons. In a debate like the one we are having today, it is important to acknowledge mistakes from the past in order to build forward better.

We are all now well aware of the atrocities that happened in residential schools and their consequences, and I will touch on the point of education a little later. We are aware generally of the intergenerational impacts on survivors and their families. We are also aware of the consequences of the sixties scoop that took so many indigenous kids away from their families. Finally, we are aware of the ongoing systemic racism and discrimination that is still happening in Canada. We saw the heartbreaking video published by Joyce Echaquan during the last minutes of her life, mentioned by the previous speakers of the Bloc Québécois.

We know about the systemic racism being faced by Mi'kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia as we speak, fishers who dared to exercise their treaty right to fish for a moderate livelihood, as upheld in two Supreme Court decisions in the Marshall case 21 years earlier. The violence we have seen in Nova Scotia is never acceptable, and the systemic racism we have witnessed in Nova Scotia must be eliminated via leadership on the part of all parties, including law enforcement in Nova Scotia. That is why we need to move forward with all of the calls to action from the TRC. However, I want to focus now on call to action 80 and urge my colleagues to support this piece of legislation.

This piece of legislation talks about September 30 and we have heard about this in the context of Orange Shirt Day, the current moniker for September 30. Established in 2013, Orange Shirt Day helps raise awareness about the long-lasting impacts of residential schools and honours the resilience and courage of survivors, while focusing on the experiences of students at residential schools and, indeed, those who did not survive.

This day is based on the heartbreaking story of Phyllis Webstad, which remained, unfortunately, unknown to many Canadians. For those who are not aware of it, Phyllis was sent to the Mission school out west in 1973. Even though her family did not have a lot of money, her grandmother bought her a brand new outfit before she had to leave for her first day of school. Part of that outfit was a shiny new orange shirt. Her joy at attending school at the tender age of six did not last very long. When she arrived at the school, the authorities took away all of her possessions, including her clothes, and that brand new orange shirt was never returned.

I had the opportunity to meet Phyllis Webstad in the government lobby during the last Parliament and she talked to me about her story.

She also provided me with a copy of her book and inscribed it for my children, who at the time were about three and seven. They are now nine and six. What I have done since that time is read my kids that story periodically and educate them about this very basic concept. During this pandemic I can say that the anticipation my children had of returning to school was very high, but the notion of them being prevented from wearing something that I or my wife might have purchased for them really hit home as a visceral example of the injustice and unfairness of the residential school system.

I am glad my kids are learning about this, but the point is not just about Phyllis's book or my children. It is about all children and all of us, as Canadians, learning about this important story. We know that Phyllis, at the age of 27, started a healing journey. Since then she has been able to share her story, but that story needs to be shared widely. We also have to think about the unshared stories of those who did not come out of that Mission school, who never returned from residential school, or who never found their voice or had the courage to tell it the way Phyllis has. That is why this is such an important initiative.

I want to acknowledge that there are those who push the envelope on the part of reconciliation and indigenous awareness all the time. I am proud to call many of those my constituents in Parkdale—High Park. There are many people who are actively engaged at a local level, community by community, around this country with reconciliation. People speak to me about the pace of reconciliation and how it needs to be hastened. People in my riding speak to me about the legacy of residential schools. I have been heartened by the fact children at a very tender age in my riding are already learning about this in their classrooms. This is critical, because it is not learning I ever received in the 1970s or 1980s as a young student here in Toronto.

I am also heartened by the fact that people are aware of the territory we are on, here in Toronto; of the naming of streets, and how that was occasioned in places in and around High Park; of blanket exercises, and even of such things as the magnificent indigenous murals and art that decorate parts of my riding, including the beautiful mural by Philip Cote at the corner of Roncesvalles Avenue and Garden Avenue. While there are those who are aware in my community, throughout the city and throughout this country, there are still far too many people who are unaware. That is what this bill clearly seeks to address.

Let me talk a bit about education at this point.

To move forward on the path to reconciliation, it is imperative that we continue to educate our society on the issues facing first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. As a government, we have a duty to ensure that Canadians are aware of the difficult history of indigenous peoples and the consequences of the trauma they have experienced. Statistics show that around half of Canadians have little to no knowledge of the residential schools and their impact.

That is why it is so important to create a national day for truth and reconciliation. By creating this day, we will help increase general knowledge about the first peoples and their history. These conversations need to take place, at home, among friends and among colleagues, to raise awareness about reconciliation.

I want to talk about my own education. I alluded to my own experience at elementary school as a young boy here in Toronto. I practised law prior to becoming a parliamentarian and did so for 15 years. I practised constitutional law. Obviously, that means I was at law school and then was engaged in practice.

While at law school I learned very little, almost nothing, about the residential school system. During my practice, I did not touch this area of law. It was generally understood at the time that aboriginal law, as it was then known, was quite complicated, complex and usually quite desperate in terms of leaving one feeling despondent that nothing was going to improve.

Upon entering life as a parliamentarian in 2017, I had the occasion of serving as the parliamentary secretary to the then minister of heritage, who at the time was charged with working with first nations, Inuit and Métis individuals to co-develop language protection legislation. She turned to me and asked if I would help her in this work. Originally, I was puzzled as to why the ask was put in and what I could contribute, but that ask has been quite pivotal to my understanding of this issue, my understanding of the broader cause of reconciliation, and my maturation as a parliamentarian.

What I learned as I led those consultations around the country, from coast to coast to coast, meeting with teachers, elders, academics, leaders, pupils and chiefs from first nations, Inuit and Métis communities, is how critical language is as a feature of reconciliation, and how critical it is to work on initiatives like this in a co-development model.

One study resonated with me, and I will repeat it now. We learned in British Columbia that those groups who have knowledge of their mother tongue, their own indigenous language, have a suicide rate six times lower than the provincial average. When the language was removed, it removed people's connection to their people, to their culture and their community. Suicide rates elevated sixfold, far outstripping the provincial average for non-indigenous people. That told me there is a clear link between restoring people's language and people's connection to their culture, their sense of self-esteem, their confidence and, indeed, suicidality rates. It is not far-fetched or hyperbole to say that these are literally life-and-death matters for indigenous people. This bill is more symbolic in nature, but it touches upon the same concept that we need to learn about history in the context of language. Residential schools contributed to erasing that language.

I raise the issue because the question has come up, in the context of this debate, of whether enough work is being done. Clearly, more work needs to be done, but I would say that passing the Indigenous Languages Act, passing child welfare legislation and eliminating over 80 boil water advisories are steps in the right direction.

Does more need to be done? Absolutely: not one of the 338 members of the House would dispute that. However, it is unfair to say that work has not been done since 2015.

I will say that Bill C-5, talks about call to action no. 80. In this bill, we recognize that indigenous people continue to face ongoing discrimination, as I mentioned at the very outset. Systemic racism continues to be a reality. We know that, in the past, indigenous communities have gone out on the streets to express their frustration and their desire for change. I am glad to see now that the rest of society is catching up: slowly, but it is catching up. We see solidarity with indigenous people voicing concerns about the Mi'kmaq and solidarity with indigenous persons voicing concerns about Joyce Echaquan. Non-indigenous people are awakening, and that is a good sign. The fact that parliamentarians are awakening is a critical sign and a necessary one. That solidarity is what this bill endeavours not just to capture but also to promote.

Bill C-5 is in line with some of our government's previous actions, such as an announcement in budget 2019 to provide $7 million, over two years, to communities across the country to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools. By taking this step forward, we keep raising awareness across Canada of the trauma indigenous people have undergone and the intergenerational impacts of such trauma.

It is important that we recognize that it is not just about learning this history on one day, on September 30, but each and every day: that we think about it in terms of the practical work that we do as parliamentarians and, indeed, how we live our lives day to day as Canadians.

It is a common responsibility and a duty to remember this dark chapter in Canadian history and to ensure a better future for all people in this country. We owe it to indigenous peoples on this land. We owe it to the survivors of the residential school system. We owe it to those who never returned from the residential school system. We owe it to the parents from whom children were taken. We owe it also to the generations to come.

Having an open conversation about residential schools and the legacy of racism and colonialism, and the hardship and pain and violence that were endured, is difficult. It is painful. It is uncomfortable. However, we recognize that this is nothing compared with the actual experiences lived by indigenous people who went through these schools.

We are committed to doing what is right with respect to Bill C-5, even though that is not an easy path. I hope all members, in a strong spirit of non-partisanship, will support this bill and recognize its importance, so that September 30, 2021, can be the first national day for truth and reconciliation in Canada. Learning our history and moving forward should never be an issue that divides on party lines.