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

Sponsor

Status

Report stage (House), as of Nov. 25, 2020

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Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

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)

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 25th, 2020 / 3:15 p.m.
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Liberal

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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Bloc

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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Liberal

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

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, 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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Bloc

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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NDP

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

Liberal

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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Bloc

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.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

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.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2020 / 10:05 a.m.
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Laurier—Sainte-Marie Québec

Liberal

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 second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging that the House sits on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe.

It is a great honour to rise today and speak to Bill C-5, an important bill that seeks to create a new federal statutory holiday, a national day for truth and reconciliation. It is important that we recognize and thank Georgina Jolibois for bringing this bill forward in the last Parliament, but more importantly for being a strong advocate for indigenous rights and a voice for indigenous peoples not only in her riding, but across all of Canada. I also want to thank and acknowledge the hon. member for Burnaby South for supporting this important piece of legislation.

I have had the honour to speak in the House on our country's path toward reconciliation, and I know that reconciliation does not belong to a single political party or single individual. It is a shared responsibility for each and every one of us.

This bill is an important step on the journey that we are taking together. I am proud to work with members of all political parties on this legislative measure.

Some members of the House may have had the privilege of hearing the testimony given before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage when it examined Georgina Jolibois's bill in the previous Parliament. The testimony we heard strengthened our conviction that it is important to pass this bill.

Much of that moving and powerful testimony focused on the potential benefits of a national day for truth and reconciliation. For example, National Chief Robert Bertrand of the Congress for Aboriginal Peoples said:

A statutory holiday will be an important opportunity to reflect upon the diverse heritage and culture of our people, which remain so vitally important to the social fabric of this country. In doing so, each and every one of us will be working towards the reality of true reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

Similarly, Mrs. Theresa Brown, the chair of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation's Survivors Circle, spoke powerfully about the importance of a national day of reflection for residential school survivors. She said:

A special, separate day when our grandchildren could go out and lay a wreath, lay tobacco, pray and remember is important to me and other survivors. It is also a time for this country to remember and say “never again”. We want to know that when we are gone, our spirit of truth and reconciliation will live on in our future generations.

Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, testified as follows:

...the creation of a statutory holiday provides a greater weight and allows for more education and a bigger platform for us. If you think about holidays, statutory holidays, and how they've been allocated over time, they have been colonial in nature and they have thought about the founding of this country, not necessarily about indigenous peoples within Canada. This would be a marked departure from that legacy.

He went on to say the following:

This holiday can go a long way to making sure that from a very early age, all Canadians have a positive association with first nations, Inuit and Métis.

Mr. Obed's first point speaks to the importance and status of national holidays in Canada, and I would like to remind this chamber that the act of creating a new statutory holiday is, in itself, quite significant. Right now there are nine federally legislated statutory holidays in Canada. A national day for truth and reconciliation would join in rank of importance with holidays like Labour Day and Remembrance Day, highlighting the significance and scope of this day.

During the testimony we heard, many groups expressed points of view similar to those I just quoted about the meaning and impact of a day of commemoration.

The residential school system was indeed a national tragedy. Over the span of 130 years, more than 150,000 first nations, Inuit and Métis children were placed in residential schools. These children were forcibly separated from their parents, their homes, their culture, their language, their land, their relations and their communities.

This day is important. It is an opportunity to reflect on the harm inflicted on first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples throughout our history and to this day by the legacy of residential schools. We are working to repair that harm by responding the the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's calls to action.

Call to action number 80 calls upon our government 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.

Today, we want to answer that call to action.

After careful consultations and respectful consideration, September 30 was the date chosen deliberately for its significance. Currently, September 30 is the date of the grassroots movement called Orange Shirt Day, started by the formidable Phyllis Webstad. It was named after the orange shirt that Mrs. Webstad was given by her grandmother on her first day of residential school, only to have it forcibly taken away from her upon her arrival. Her orange shirt is symbolic of the vibrant cultures, languages, traditions, identities and childhoods that were repressed within the residential school system. It is also a symbol of survivors like Phyllis and the monumental efforts by first nations, Inuit and Métis in protecting and revitalizing their cultures and languages for future generations.

From testimony in committee we learned that September is a symbolically painful time for indigenous families and communities. Every year during the month of September children were separated from their loved ones and their community to go back to school. It is important to acknowledge this pain with a solemn day to remember the past, reflect on it and learn together to gain a better knowledge of the history and legacy of residential schools.

It has always been my belief that one of the pillars of reconciliation is education. Establishing a national day for truth and reconciliation is education in action. For all those living in Canada, this would be a day of commemoration, but also a day to learn about a dark chapter of our past. It would serve as a reminder to never forget and never veer from the path toward reconciliation.

Students still go back to school every year in September. The proposed date, September 30, for a national day of truth and reconciliation not only has symbolic importance, but it also provides an opportunity for learning within our schools about our journey toward reconciliation. Teachers across the country will be able to build on discussions about residential schools that are already under way in many schools. Families will have a reason to talk about reconciliation at home. Canadians will have a day to reflect on our history and our values as a society.

I like to think about the day when schools across the country will mark this holiday with ceremonies, as a day of learning. I hope they will invite elders or survivors, indigenous knowledge holders and educators to come into classrooms to talk with the children.

I think of the way that schools across the country use Remembrance Day as an educational tool for children of all ages to learn about the historic conflicts that Canada has been involved in, to understand the horrors of war and, above all, to honour the women and men who have sacrificed so much in serving this country. I believe that a new day for truth and reconciliation is an excellent learning opportunity for this equally important part of Canada's history.

Unfortunately, only half of Canadians know the history of the Indian residential school system and its long-term effects on indigenous peoples.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada states that too many Canadians know little or nothing about the the deep historical roots of these conflicts. This lack of historical knowledge has serious consequences for first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and for Canada as a whole. Setting aside a special day each year to take the time to acknowledge this painful history will help everyone learn and understand more about the realities of the residential school era. This is a positive step on our path toward reconciliation. This type of commemoration is a collective, public act of recognition.

This will also be a day of listening and healing for the entire country. Together we can continue our conversation on social justice.

As Dr. Marie Wilson, former commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, noted in her testimony to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage:

It makes it everybody's call to attention, call to remembrance, and call to respect, and hopefully...there is ongoing education about it. We don't just talk about wars; we talk about peace in the context of talking about wars. In the context of residential schools, we can talk about mistakes of the past and what we are trying to do to address things going forward.

Mr. Tim Argetsinger, political advisor to the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, agreed. He said:

I think there's a way of achieving that balance where the focus of a day could be a focus on the past human rights abuses that indigenous peoples have experienced and have worked to overcome. At the same time, it could be the day to focus on the agency that we all have to take positive actions to address some of the challenges that flow from those past experiences.

I want to underscore that reconciliation and advancing indigenous rights remain a constant priority for our government. Some people will say that a single day will not resolve the horrors of the past and will do nothing to improve the unacceptable living conditions that still exist in some communities to this day. I believe, however, that remembering the past is an effective way to ensure that history is not repeated.

Systemic racism and overt racism exist in Canada. They are not and will never be acceptable. Recently, we were reminded of the horrific consequences they can have. The events that preceded the death of Joyce Echaquan shocked us all. They outraged us, but should not surprise us. They are not isolated events.

Addressing systemic racism in all our institutions requires active listening, strong public policy and making more equitable representation at all levels of society. Honouring the victims of institutional racism, whatever form it may have taken throughout history, is a first step. Making sure that these atrocities against indigenous peoples cease completely is our everyday priority.

This national day for truth and reconciliation will be an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on and question their own individual biases and assumptions. Working on them will require a continuous and collective endeavour beyond September 30.

I implore members of the House to listen carefully to the testimony of the survivors and indigenous leaders who are telling us how a national day of recognition would help heal the wounds of the past, honour survivors and move forward together towards reconciliation.

We must also continue to work tirelessly to quickly resolve the many problems faced by indigenous communities today. Access to drinking water, for example, is vital.

Our government is committed to eliminating all boil water advisories, in the long term, in first nations communities living on reserve. We recognize and affirm the right of communities to have access to safe drinking water. As a result of this commitment, 95 boil water advisories have been lifted since 2015.

In the preceding parliament, we passed an important law to reform child and family services with the goal of reducing the number of indigenous children in care. The law also allows first nations, the Inuit and the Métis to have full authority over child services so they can make the decisions that will ensure the well-being of their children, families and communities. There is a crisis in indigenous communities. Too many children are taken away from their homes and communities.

We are also committed to the reclamation, revitalization and strengthening of indigenous languages. A historic piece of legislation, the Indigenous Languages Act, received royal assent on June 21, 2019. This legislation was developed in collaboration with indigenous peoples. It recognizes the language rights of indigenous peoples and sets out how we will support these languages.

Canadian Heritage is working collaboratively with indigenous partners to implement the Indigenous Languages Act. The department is consulting with indigenous governments, governing bodies and a variety of organizations on the appointment of a commissioner and three directors of indigenous languages, as well as the development of an indigenous languages funding model. These are important successes, yet we can all agree that there is so much more we need to do.

I look forward to continuing to work hard with indigenous peoples across the country to make further progress on these and other crucial issues.

Canada has embarked upon a path to reconciliation. With each step, Canadians are able to better understand the lives, challenges and points of view of indigenous peoples from the past and present.

In introducing this bill to create a national day for truth and reconciliation, the Government of Canada is hoping to encourage people across the country to learn about indigenous history, come together and get involved to support these efforts and help their communities move forward on the path to reconciliation.

Although we all have different journeys and experiences, every Canadian has a unique and essential role to play as we walk together on this path toward reconciliation and a stronger, more resilient Canada.

I think it fitting to close with the words of Ms. Georgina Jolibois, who said, “People in Canada are capable of mourning the past while also celebrating the present and looking toward the future.” I urge all members to support this legislation so that our country can honour survivors and mark the history of residential schools with a day for recognition, reflection, commemoration, education and engagement.

We must recognize that others have come before us to chart this path. The commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gave so much of themselves to ensure that the voices of others were heard. Those who testified, leaders and indigenous communities across Canada, as well as current and former parliamentarians, including Georgina Jolibois, called for a national day, as is set out in this bill. I thank them all.

Meegwetch, marsi.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2020 / 12:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Caroline Desbiens Bloc Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the 1973-74 school year, when she was six years old and went to St. Joseph Mission residential school for the first time, a young Phyllis wore a beautiful orange shirt her grandmother had just bought her.

Just imagine being five or six years old and getting a present from your grandmother, and think about what a special gift that would be.

As soon as she got to the residential school, officials there stripped off her clothes and took away her orange shirt, and she never saw it again.

That should be enough to spur us to action to try to repair the damage caused, as is our ultimate duty. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of stories like that of young Phyllis. Thousands of children like Phyllis had everything taken away from them—the light that was inside them, the peace and love they had once enjoyed, the great and noble values of their nation that already defined who they were, the comfort provided by their families.

That is what hurts the most: when everything that comforts us and defines us is lost. These victims and their families endured immense, terrible grief. This huge void will remain if we do not find a way to help heal the memories of first nations peoples,

Often the best way to fill such a void is to draw on the teachings of our elders. From my grandfather, I have kept the memory of an expression that has always stayed with me and, believe it or not, is directly related to Bill C-5.

On this particular Friday, where there seems to be unanimity, I will share the origin of this expression. My grandfather Bouchard had his rituals. A 90-year old proud retired seaman and farmer, he spent his afternoons sitting on his rocking chair on the porch of his home on Chemin des Coudriers. Every day after his midday prayers he would be joined by his old friend and best audience who was nicknamed, and I am not joking, “Canada”. Grand-papa would tell legendary stories of treacherous winter crossings in an ice canoe, his anecdotes about horses chomping at the bit and his tall tales of the water's edge. He had an endless supply of these stories to the great delight of tourists who would greet him with, “Hello. Your stories are great. We do not often hear stories told that way these days. Can we record you?”

So many people would gather around the porch that sometimes there would be a bottleneck in the street. One day a tall, tanned man, with very dark eyes and hair, stopped, listened for a long time and took a great interest in the way my grandfather spoke, in the accent typical of Île-aux-Coudres. The indigenous man approached him and said, “Memory is a treasure that allows us to build a future of peace. It is most important that you tend to it, sir.”

My grandfather repeated this phrase every day until he died. He was not ill and, as he liked to say, he died from living. His indigenous friend's phrase were his last words to us: “Memory is a treasure that allows us to build a future of peace.”

There is a good chance that the memory we are referencing today in the House and that bears the heavy burden of the past is the most valued tool that will help us take another step, and then another, and then others towards this reconciliation that is often mentioned but too infrequently made.

There were 3,200 children who died in residential schools and who were abused in every sense of the word. Their bodies, their hearts and their spirits were abused. What about the families and parents who had their children snatched from their arms? What about all the wounds of the past, but also those of today, that are very real, absurd and so sad?

Our memories harbour a thousand and one reasons, and it is up to us to make the present better.

Bill C-5 is a small step, compared to everything that needs to be acknowledged, reconciled and repaired, but it is a meaningful one. We hope to see many more steps, but this is at least something.

The idea of voting in favour of a national day for truth and reconciliation will be met with arguments about the economic costs of legislating another statutory holiday. However, how can we put a price on the more than 150,000 children and families who were torn apart and stripped of the very nature of their existence?

I want to address all of the parents here today. How much are our children's lives worth? What price would we put on their mental and physical health, their laughter, their joy, and their hearts? How much is that worth? Let us think about it. How much will this legislation cost? We can compare.

Let us get back to what really matters. I want to read an excerpt from the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada:

The federal government's policy of assimilation sought to break the chain of memory that connected the hearts, minds, and spirits of Aboriginal children to their families, communities, and nations.

Survivors shared their memories with Canada and the world so that the truth could no longer be denied. Survivors also remembered so that other Canadians could learn from these hard lessons of the past. They want Canadians [and Quebeckers] to know, to remember, to care, and [most importantly] to change.

In order for us to know, to remember, and to care about what can be done to bring about deep and lasting change, we must designate this day dedicated to truth and reconciliation. The Bloc Québécois has repeatedly pledged to be an ally of first nations peoples. That is why we will vote for this bill in principle, because it is part of the process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. It responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations because it will keep the memory of the tragedy experienced by residential school survivors alive and foster an ongoing public dialogue about our national history.

As part of its work, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada refined its definition of reconciliation, and that, in and of itself, is an important sign of progress and a willingness to act. These principles, which can guide us toward reconciliation, are based on and supported by four pillars. They are the right to know, the right to justice, the right to reparation, and the guarantee of non-recurrence, which is the ultimate goal of this process.

This day should be an impetus for us to carry out our individual duty on the other 364 days of the year by carefully assessing the importance of our own actions in fulfilling our obligation to wholeheartedly, honestly and diligently participate in the advancement and improvement of the quality of life of first nations and peace and harmony between our respective nations. That is what it means to take care of something, and caring heals.

In closing, I invite everyone to take out their cellphones, open the “Notes” app and type in this precious memento from my grandfather Bouchard: “Memory is a treasure that allows us to build a future of peace.”

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2020 / 12:40 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, on September 29, the Minister of Canadian Heritage introduced 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), 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 purpose of this bill is to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 80 by creating a holiday called the national day for truth and reconciliation, which seeks to honour first nations, Inuit and Métis survivors and their families and communities and to ensure that public commemoration of their history and the legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

If passed, the bill would add a new holiday, namely, national day for truth and reconciliation, which would be observed every year on September 30.

The Bloc Québécois has repeatedly pledged to be an ally of first nations people. That is why we will vote for this bill in principle, because it is part of the process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations, and will keep the memory of the tragedy experienced by residential school survivors alive and foster an ongoing public dialogue about our national history.

There is no denying that residential schools are a real blot on Canada's history. Between 1874 and 1996, there were 130 residential schools in Canada attended by over 150,000 indigenous children. The living conditions in those schools were poor. One of the direct causes of the sickness and deaths that occurred was the grossly inadequate funding from the government, which meant the food was of low quality, quantity and variety. The children in most residential schools had to cope with loneliness, a lack of contact with parents and family, frustration with not being allowed to speak their mother tongue, poor quality teaching, hunger, institutionalization, overwork, strict rules, brutality, and the fact that there was no one they could trust.

When they arrived at the residential schools, the children were stripped of their personal belongings and traditional clothing. They had their hair cut off and their names changed, and they were assigned a number. They were given new clothing, white people's clothing, which differed depending on what age group they were in. The children were punished if they spoke their mother tongue. These schools left them scarred and deeply traumatized. Most residential school survivors tell stories of loneliness, strict discipline, and physical, sexual, pedophilic and psychological abuse. Being separated from their parents and families was just the first trauma they endured. The children had to deal with a new culture, a new language and a new disciplinary system imposed on them by white people. Taking these children out of their communities, uprooting them, stripping them of their culture and destabilizing communities that had been shunted onto reserves resulted in deep trauma and social upheaval.

Every year, since September 30, 2013, we have been encouraged to wear orange in honour of the indigenous children who were sent to residential schools. Orange Shirt Day has become an opportunity to keep the discussion on all aspects of residential schools happening. The date was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for anti-racist and anti-bullying policies for the coming school year. It is also an opportunity for first nations, local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.

Phyllis Webstad started Orange Shirt Day to teach Canadians about the residential school system and to honour the survivors and their families. This day was inspired by Phyllis's own experience. On her first day at a residential school in British Columbia in 1973, her new orange shirt, a gift from her grandmother, was confiscated. She never got it back. This story is a sad example of how the residential school system sought to assimilate and colonialize indigenous children.

From a more technical point of view, the bill we are debating today amends three acts to bring about a single change: establishing September 30 as the national day for truth and reconciliation and making it a statutory holiday. The three acts in question are the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code.

Clause 1 of the bill clearly situates its purpose within the context of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Clause 2 of the bill amends subparagraph 42(a)(i) of the Bills of Exchange Act to add the new national day for truth and reconciliation to the list of statutory holidays covered by the act. In practical terms, what this means is that, if Bill C-5 is passed, September 30 will no longer count in the calculation of deadlines shorter than three days as set out in the Bills of Exchange Act. Consequently, a bill of exchange or cheque payable by September 30 will be payable on the next business day.

Clause 3 of the bill amends the portion of the definition of “holiday” in paragraph (a) of subsection 35(1) of the Interpretation Act to include the new national day for truth and reconciliation. The act guides the courts in interpreting federal legislation. The new statutory holiday would therefore be enshrined in federal legislation.

Clause 4 of the bill amends section 166 of part III of the Canada Labour Code to include the proposed new day in the definition of “general holiday”.

Clause 5 of the bill amends subsection 193(2) of the Canada Labour Code to entitle employees to a holiday with pay on the working day immediately preceding or following the general holiday if the holiday falls on the weekend.

Clause 6 provides that the bill will come into force two months after it receives royal assent on the day with the same calendar number as the day on which it receives royal assent or the last day of that second month. For example, if the bill receives royal assent on December 30, 2020, it would come into force on February 28, 2021. It it receives royal assent on January 1, 2021 it would come into force on March 1, 2021.

As you know, the riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, which I represent here in the House, has several families who survived residential schools. It is therefore important to me that this bill is passed out of respect for them and in the interest of remembrance.

In the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, two quotes caught my attention.

The first is, “Survivors shared their memories with Canada and the world so that the truth could no longer be denied. Survivors also remembered so that other Canadians could learn from these hard lessons of the past. They want Canadians to know, to remember, to care, and to change.”

All those who attended residential school suffered terribly from being separated from their parents, their brothers and sisters and their culture.

This is the second quotation: “The federal government's policy of assimilation sought to break the chain of memory that connected the hearts, minds, and spirits of Aboriginal children to their families, communities, and nations.”

Imagine for a moment being taken from your family, denied your culture, your nation and your language, having to wear different clothing than what you are used to, and living entirely differently. We would be damaged for the rest of our lives.

In closing, commemoration requires more than just the declaration of a special day as proposed in Bill C-5. It needs to happen through ceremonies and activities that will spark dialogue on the history of Indian residential schools. However, these measures must not relieve society of its responsibility for past mistakes.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2020 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be here today to speak to 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.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the MP who brought this bill forward initially, Georgina Jolibois. I am continuously inspired by her work and by her amazing representation of indigenous communities across Canada.

We are here today for many reasons. This bill is really about the reality that on September 30 we celebrate Orange Shirt Day, a national day to recognize truth and reconciliation. We want to take that day and make it into a statutory holiday, one where all members of Canada are committed to being a part of recognizing this part of our history: the stealing of children from their families; the many deaths of indigenous children during these terrible, long, dark times; and the trauma and torture they and their families experienced.

An elder from my riding named Alberta Billy once told me to imagine what would happen to myself and my community if every child from the age of four to 16 were suddenly removed. No one knew who they were with and who was caring for them. That always hits me hard. I cannot imagine any of us thinking about all our precious children, however we know them, being removed from our communities, and the silence and sadness that would hit all of us as we looked around and did not see their beautiful faces.

This day should be a day where Canadians understand the incredible resilience of indigenous communities, because they are still here in the face of such adversity.

Today, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize my husband, Darren Blaney, who is a survivor of residential school. When he was in residential school, his number was 97. When I think about a soul, a human being, identified by a number and losing so much more of their identity, I am absolutely heartbroken.

Many members in this House have spoken about the importance of education in this bill. I want to let people know that as of March 31, 2019, the government had only spent $4.5 million over its four years on education initiatives around indigenous history and residential school. This is simply not sufficient and not strategic, but is another piecemeal approach to this complex and dire situation the country needs to understand more fulsomely.

I want this day to be treated in the future with the sacred solemness it deserves. That means resources so all Canadians can take the moment and the time to remember these beautiful souls and the reality they and their communities are faced with. We want people to remember the story of Phyllis Jack, whose beautiful and sad story gives us Orange Shirt Day. She was six when she went to residential school. Her grandmother bought her a beautiful orange shirt to wear.

Who does not have a memory attached to those first days of school? It is a moment where, as kids, we felt proud, a piece of clothing that tells a child they are loved. As a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or loved one, we sometimes buy a special piece of clothing for the first day of school knowing that in that act, we are sending that child into something new and sometimes scary, with a little bit of love.

In residential school, imagine how much more important this was. Not only were we buying a beautiful piece of clothing for a beloved child. We also knew that child would be leaving their family. They would leave and not understand how long it would be until they got to see their family again.

Imagine being a grandmother and feeling the utter hopelessness and fear of being forced to send a beloved grandchild to residential school, knowing all that grandmother can do is buy a shirt to somehow comfort that small body who will soon be longing for family and home. All too often in the history of Canada and today in Canada, indigenous people, communities and children are dehumanized.

Today there are still just too many children being taken from their homes into care through apprehension. These numbers are even higher than the numbers of children taken from their families to be put in residential schools. This is something that we all must be accountable for as Canadians. We must all understand that we have an obligation. Every time the government does not fulfill the compliance orders that are asked of it, it shows again that the dehumanization of indigenous children is continuing and it is not okay. We must always speak against it, not just in platitudes but in action and in resources so that those communities can begin to rebuild in a more profound and sustainable way.

We know that there are still too many suicides in indigenous communities across Canada. One chief in my riding told me not too long ago, “I am working so hard to build up an economic base of strength for my community so that we can have a future that is positive and something hopeful for our young people, but when I have young people hanging themselves in our community, it is so hard to continue to push and to build. These are the everyday lived experiences of indigenous communities across this country. We cannot pretend that it is not directly linked to colonialism and to the residential school history that this country holds and still does not disclose in a more profound way so that we can all carry this burden, not just indigenous communities.”

We continue to work in our indigenous communities across Canada because of generations of residential school. That is important to recognize. This is generations of residential school, generations of communities that were suddenly empty of every child between the ages of four and 16. What does that do to a people and a community, and how do they rebuild after generations and generations? They only rebuild by resiliency, which indigenous communities have displayed again and again, but they also need the resources to be able to do that.

Parents are still learning how to parent. Traditions are still coming back to our communities and those communities need to be supported to allow parents the time to learn how to parent, build those capacities. A lot of communities across my riding have been asking for support. They want to see things get better in their communities. They see those beautiful pearls of resilience and growth and strength, but they need the resources to invest in them.

When I hear people say again and again, sadly, that it is over, that those days are over, the history is over and indigenous people need to get over it, I am both devastated and angry. It is not over. We are seeing that today in situations in indigenous communities across this country. We are seeing that today with the RCMP not responding appropriately when they should, because they do not know how to do it. We need to do better than that and Canada needs to do better than that. The impacts of residential schools and colonialism are not over; they are resounding through this country every single day.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report stated, “Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one. Virtually all aspects of Canadian society may need to be reconsidered.”

The bill is a small step, but it is a step toward all of Canadian society reconsidering, reviewing and looking at things differently. One of the things that I know to be true is that impact and intent can totally be separated. When we look at systemic racism and we look at racism, some people know an intent that they may have, but they do not understand the impact. We must be responsible for our impact, not only our intent.

Today, as we go through the reality, we know that systemic racism continues to be a huge issue and all Canadians have to be responsible for addressing it.

I want to talk about systemic racism because I have people tell me that they do not understand what systemic racism means. We are seeing it right now in the Mi'Kmaq community. The reality is no one should be surprised that this has been the outcome. The fact is that the federal government did not take leadership, did not create a plan and did not create space for this disconnect; it created a space for discontent and violence and for it to continue to grow.

Reconciliation is a Canadian problem, and one that has a long history.

We need a government that will actually pay attention and create a plan so that we do not get to these places where people are incredibly unsafe, where the disruption in the community is profound and the wounds will take a long time to heal. It is unfair that the federal government does not take leadership and instead allows small indigenous communities to face these challenges with few or no resources to address them. That is systemic racism. Not having a plan is systemic racism.

Systemic racism can also look like other things, and this brings me back to the intention and the impact. My son, when he was in grade 5, went to school one day. When he was in class, the teacher brought them to the library and sat the classroom down. The librarian showed a picture of a class of children at a residential school and asked them, “What do you see in this picture?” The indigenous children, all with their hair severely cut, looked very sad. They were all wearing uniforms.

A lot of the children had things to say, like, “Maybe they didn't get their hot lunch” or “Maybe they were planning to go on a trip but they didn't get to, and that is why they are so sad.”

My son talked about sitting in that room, listening to a lot of non-indigenous young people give their ideas. He talked about his pain and frustration as he looked at that picture were because he knew immediately what that was. As he listened to the other children not knowing what it was, it made him realize how alone he was, how so few people understand the history of this country, and how much pressure he felt to have to educate and disclose the reality.

Finally, it burst out of him. He said, “Maybe it is because they are indigenous children in residential school and all they want is to go home to their parents.”

I do not think this teacher had any bad intention. I believe her complete intention was to educate and to show the kids in the class the history of Canada, but she did not think about the impact.

This is so important. I have had a lot of young people talk to me and their parents about Orange Shirt Day, and how that day actually scares them. As indigenous children, as they learn this history, they become fearful that they may be taken from their families. The impact can often be unintended. That is why it is so important, when we address systemic racism, that we begin to ask questions, that we be curious about these issues, and that we stop putting the burden of educating on indigenous families, children and communities.

Years later, when my son moved up to middle school, he was actually able to work with his father on a piece of art for his school to recognize the history of indigenous residential school. This piece of art is still hanging in Southgate Middle School. It was a transformation mask that talked about the intention of residential school to take the Indian out of the child. On the front of it, there is a white face that opens up and shows an indigenous face. My son was very proud when they brought it to the school. It gave him the ability to talk about the history that was a reality for him every day in his life.

It is important, as this bill says, to dedicate a day to recognize the amazing power and resilience of the first people of this land. I want to make sure that this is really recognized as a part of this day. My granny went to Lejac Residential School in British Columbia for the majority of her childhood.

She was a fierce woman who I admired greatly and was slightly terrified of. I never once in my life saw her in a pair of pants. Even in the coldest parts of winter, she was always done up, wearing a dress, her hair and face made up, and often wearing a fabulous hairpiece, which she was known for.

She used to tell me, frequently, “No complaining, Rachel, we are still here. If you don't like it, work on fixing it.” It took me years to understand that she was teaching me the power of indigenous people across country, We are still here, and the guilt of non-indigenous people and what they feel is really not helpful.

In the face of colonial history, including initial contact, there has been smallpox, residential school, racism, systemic racism, child apprehension and constant interference, at all levels of government, in indigenous communities and their ability to create economic development. In the continuous face of all these challenges, generation after generation, indigenous people are still here, still fighting and still finding a way to hold on to their traditions and their history. They are still here.

When I think of Orange Shirt Day, I think of my granny who survived tremendous challenges, and of my dad and my aunties and uncles who have worked so hard to reclaim our culture and our history and make sure that her grandchildren have had that connection.

This bill would help acknowledge, for one day, the history of this country and the current reality of this history. There is so much work to be done. I hope that all members in the House and all Canadians understand that we must all be part of working toward that. This is one step. It is not enough, but it is a step, and in all the steps that we take we continue to move forward. This bill moved through the House before, in the last Parliament, and it died in the Senate. I certainly hope that does not happen again.

In closing, there have been conversations among the parties and if you seek it, I hope you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of the House, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders this day or when no members rise to speak, whichever comes first, 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, shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole; deemed considered in committee of the whole; deemed reported, without amendment; deemed concurred in at report stage; and deemed read a third time and passed.

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2020 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-5, an act that would amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code to add a new statutory holiday, a national day for truth and reconciliation.

I want to begin by acknowledging that I am speaking from the largest Mi'kmaq community in the world in my home community, which is also the unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq.

Today, we are discussing an important step forward on the path of reconciliation and healing for first nations, Inuit and Métis people. It is a step forward in publicly honouring survivors, their families and communities by implementing calls to action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to establish a statutory holiday, a national day for truth and reconciliation.

Before my time as an MP, I was a professor at Cape Breton University. I taught Mi'kmaq history and about the Indian residential schools. I was also the treaty education lead for Nova Scotia, which meant that I would do presentations for schools, businesses, industry and all those who asked about the truth and reconciliation and the Indian residential schools. People would ask me why they were never taught this before, why they were just learning this for this first time.

The Indian residential schools operated in my home province of Nova Scotia between 1929 and 1967 in Shubenacadie. In my home province, for more than 40 years, children were forcefully removed from their homes. They were forcefully removed from all they ever knew, taken from loving Mi'kmaq families.

I will share two startling facts that I always shared in those presentations.

The first comes from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The odds of dying for a soldier in World War II was one in 26. The odds of dying for children in the Indian residential schools was one in 25. Let that sink in. These were not soldiers with guns and helmets. These were children wearing their Sunday-best clothes, Sunday dresses, and they never came home. That is why we call them survivors, like my Aunt Eleanor Mitchell, my Uncle Fudd Lewis and the brave author from Sipekne'katik, Isabelle Knockwood. When I was a young student at that same university, I read her book and realized the horrible legacy of the residential schools and the horrible treatment of these children.

When we talk of truth and reconciliation, we speak of the children. However, I want members to think about their children at home. For all who are listening and for all in the House right now, imagine all the joy children bring into our lives, the birthdays, Christmas. Imagine all the things we do with our children that brings utter joy into our lives. Now imagine a community without those children, without that joy—

Bills of Exchange ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2020 / 1:35 p.m.
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Oakville North—Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Pam Damoff LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by acknowledging that I am on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

I think we can all agree on the importance of acknowledging the history and legacy of residential schools and their tragic impact on first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. It is my hope that Bill C-5 will receive the support of all members of the House.

The last residential school closed its doors in 1996, just 24 years ago. This is not ancient history. The number of survivors is great, the victims and their families greater. The healing process will take time, and this bill is a step toward righting the wrongs inflicted throughout our colonial past.

September is a painful time for many indigenous peoples. It was the month that their children were taken back to school year after year and forced to leave their loved ones and communities behind. It is appropriate to mark this pain experienced by generations of indigenous children, parents, families and communities, a pain that continues to be passed on today in the form of intergenerational trauma, with a solemn day of reflection, remembrance and action toward reconciliation. It is a day to honour residential school survivors and their families and to learn about their stories.

On September 29, the Minister of Canadian Heritage announced a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action number 80, which seeks to establish, as a federal statutory holiday, a national day for truth and reconciliation. This day will honour survivors, their families and their communities while ensuring that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

This bill seeks to establish a national day for truth and reconciliation that will be observed on September 30. As members may know, this is a particularly significantly date for indigenous peoples. It is the date of a grassroots movement called Orange Shirt Day, started by Phyllis Webstad, named for the orange shirt that she and her grandmother chose for her first day of residential school, only to have it stolen away when she arrived. Her orange shirt has become a symbol for the cultures, languages and childhoods that were ripped away from the more than 150,000 students of residential schools.

Every year on Orange Shirt Day, we encourage Canadians to take time to listen to the stories of survivors, learn about residential schools and come together to give hope to every child of current and future generations. This day would further spread these stories of pain and hope.

This year, on September 30, I walked by a school in my riding during lunch hour and on the playground I saw a sea of orange. Students had all come to school wearing orange shirts and, more importantly, were learning the legacy of residential schools. This is something that did not happen when I was their age or even when my son was in school.

The work of preserving these stories and educating Canadians about the horrors perpetrated at residential schools is extremely difficult and painful. That is why I would like to praise the work done by the amazing people at the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ontario. Opened in 1972, the centre aims to preserve, present, create and educate people on the history, art, language and culture of the Haudenosaunee people of the Eastern Woodlands. It was established at the site of the Mohawk Institute residential school, the oldest residential school in Canada, which was operated from 1829 through 1970. It was nicknamed the Mush Hole by its students, as the children were fed only oatmeal three times a day, every day.

With its museum, art galleries, library and language centre, I encourage anyone able to visit the Woodland Cultural Centre for a unique and sobering learning experience to do so. It will be offering a virtual public tour on November 18 at 7 p.m. More information can be found at woodlandculturalcentre.ca.

Earlier this year, I attended a performance of The Mush Hole at The Burlington Performing Arts Centre. Telling the terrible story of what happened at the Mohawk Institute through dance and theatre, The Mush Hole is based on interviews and writings by residential school survivors. It explores not only what happened at the Mush Hole, but the intergenerational trauma experienced by the survivors and their families.

To further preserve and spread the history of residential schools, the Portage la Prairie residential school in Manitoba and the Shubenacadie residential school in Nova Scotia are being declared national historic sites this year. It is my hope that the Woodland Cultural Centre will also be declared a national historic site.

The residential school system is a national tragedy, a stain of colonialism upheld by systemic racism. Acknowledging its past and educating Canadians about the experience of indigenous children in these schools will ensure that this history is never forgotten and never repeated. It is a step toward righting past wrongs.

The introduction of Bill C-5 is a step forward in the healing process of survivors and their families who were harmed under this federally operated system. Once this bill has passed, the residential school system would be designated as an event of national historic significance, helping Canadians understand our history and its consequences.

While the government has taken important steps toward reconciliation, much more needs to be done. Canadians' understanding of the painful legacy of residential schools is vital to truth-telling, reconciliation and the recognition of past injustices. It will inform our future actions with the full knowledge of what has been done to indigenous people across this land.

A few years ago, in my riding, I held a screening of the documentary We Were Children. It tells the story of two children who were taken from their homes and placed in residential schools where they suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Afterward, an 80-year-old former MP said he learned more in that night than he had in his entire life. New Canadians in attendance asked why they had never learned about this when they came to Canada. This all speaks to the importance of educating Canadians about our colonial past and the impact on generations of indigenous peoples.

In 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Pelican Falls First Nations High School in Sioux Lookout, a former residential school that is now run by the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council. While there, I had the honour to meet executive director Norma Kejick, an incredible woman whose good work was highlighted in the book Seven Fallen Feathers. Norma gave us a tour which included the surrounding forest, where many students died while trying to find their way home when it was a residential school.

When I left the school, I broke down in tears. How could a country treat innocent children in such a horrific way? How could we strip them from their families, the love of their parents and their broader community? How could we try to erase their culture and language? It is unimaginable to me that we could treat other humans this way, and yet we did it in the not so distant past.

A national day for truth and reconciliation would give us the opportunity to listen to all indigenous voices, reflect on past wrongs, learn from our mistakes and take action to advance meaningful reconciliation. On Orange Shirt Day, every child matters, and ever indigenous child deserves to be cared for, feel the full sense of their worth and feel hopeful for their future. Every single person in Canada shares the burden and shame of our reality.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, I know how important reconciliation is to our government, but I also know there is much more work to be done. Designating September 30 as the national day for truth and reconciliation would represent a national acknowledgement of our country's history and a way to honour survivors of residential schools.