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

Sponsor

Marco Mendicino  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

Dec. 10, 2020 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94)

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 3rd, 2021 / 3:30 p.m.
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Honoré-Mercier Québec

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to join my colleagues in congratulating you and thanking you for all that you have done. The fact that you have been there for so long attests to your sense of ethics, professionalism and collegiality, among other things. Thank you once again, and congratulations for all that you have done.

In response to my esteemed colleague's question, this afternoon, we will continue the debate on the NDP's opposition motion. This evening, at the expiry of the time provided for Private Members' Business, we will have a series of speeches and then proceed to the passage of Bill C-8, an act to amend the Citizenship Act regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94, at third reading.

Tomorrow morning, we will begin with the second reading of Bill C-21, an act to amend certain acts and to make certain consequential amendments regarding firearms, and then, in the afternoon, we will move on to third reading of Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding conversion therapy.

As for next week, on Monday, we will resume second reading of Bill C-21. Tuesday will be an allotted day. Wednesday, we will proceed with Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 19, 2021 and other measures. Debate on that bill will continue on Thursday and Friday.

Congratulations once again, Mr. Speaker, and I thank my colleague for her question.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2021 / 6:40 p.m.
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Vaudreuil—Soulanges Québec

Liberal

Peter Schiefke LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am addressing the House today from my riding of Vaudreuil—Soulanges, situated on land that has a shared history among the Huron-Wendat nation, the Mohawk, the Anishinabe Nation and the Six Nations. I feel it is also important and essential to acknowledge the long-standing heritage of the Métis in my community of Vaudreuil—Soulanges.

I have the privilege today of speaking to Bill C-8, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94).

If this bill is passed, it would change Canada's oath of citizenship to put the presence of indigenous people on this land at the heart of the solemn oath taken by newcomers when they become part of the Canadian family.

June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a time for all Canadians to learn about the history of indigenous peoples in Canada, to recognize and acknowledge past mistakes, and to move towards reconciliation.

However, this month our hearts are heavier than they normally are. Locating the remains of 215 children near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School is a painful reminder of a dark and shameful chapter of our country's recent history. Our hearts are with the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, as well as with all indigenous communities across the country.

It is our collective responsibility to acknowledge the legacy of residential schools and the devastating effects they have had, and continue to have, on indigenous peoples and their communities. As Canadians, we must commit to understanding the atrocities of residential schools and what we can do to address their legacy, and continue to move towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples in Canada.

The government is committed to fighting all forms of systemic racism. We have started a dialogue with racialized communities and indigenous people to hear their stories. We recognize that these conversations must inspire laws, policies and collaborative solutions to protect indigenous languages, traditions and institutions.

It is in this spirit that we put forward this bill to help new Canadians at the culmination of their journey to citizenship understand the fundamental, historical truths of their new country, beginning not with Confederation, but with the presence of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Bill C-8 is one part of the government's comprehensive and ongoing commitment to implement all of the recommendations and calls to action contained in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which marked it sixth anniversary yesterday.

Bill C-8 is a direct response to call to action 94, a call to amend the oath of citizenship. While there is so much more to be done, we hope that Bill C-8 can serve as a unanimous gesture of reconciliation by virtue of an all-party agreement to implement the proposed changes to the oath of citizenship.

While the changes proposed to the oath of citizenship may only amount to a small fragment of text, that text is enormously potent and rich in meaning. If adopted, the new oath of citizenship would read as follows:

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

This wording reflects the input received from national indigenous organizations including the Assembly of First Nations, ITK and the Métis National Council. I want to thank them sincerely on behalf of the House for their contributions.

Thanks to the major contributions of these organizations, we have worked together to ensure that the proposed new oath of citizenship is even more inclusive and represents the rich history of indigenous, Inuit and Métis peoples across Canada.

Thanks to their important contributions, the government believes that the wording put forth in the bill is inclusive of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples' input and experiences. It is, we believe, an authentic response to call to action 94.

The wording proposed in Bill C-8 invites new Canadians to faithfully observe the laws of Canada including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

This is a very important change because it emphasizes the fact that ancestral rights are collective rights that are protected by the Constitution under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. These rights are based on indigenous people's historic occupation and use of the lands now known as Canada.

Furthermore, this reference informs newcomers that these rights predate the Constitution and are reinforced and upheld by the highest law in the land. Henceforth a new Canadian's life as a citizen begins with affirming the principle of reconciliation with Canada's most ancient residents.

While the pandemic has temporarily put a stop to in-person ceremonies, we continue to hold ceremonies virtually. It is truly moving and joyful to know that virtual ceremonies can now be witnessed by families and friends outside of Canada. This means an even wider audience learning about the history of Canada, while putting a spotlight on the important history of indigenous peoples in Canada on the global stage.

Furthermore, the participation of indigenous elders enriches these ceremonies. It is truly remarkable to see the coming together of this land's oldest and newest communities celebrating what it means to live together in equality and harmony. At the very centre of that occasion is indeed the oath of citizenship, a pledge to uphold the values for which we strive as a nation: equality, diversity and respect within an open and free society. This bill ensures that new Canadians now embrace and affirm the rights and treaties of indigenous peoples and know that they are an integral part of Canada's history and future.

While we are also working in partnership with first nations, Inuit and Métis nations on many other components of the calls to action, we are also working on call to action 93, which is a new citizenship guide and supporting educational tools that will include more information on indigenous history, something that has been called for now for quite some time.

Once completed, the revised citizenship study guide, the new citizenship test and the oath will be mutually supportive of these lessons. Furthermore, educational resources will be provided to classrooms across Canada so all students can learn these lessons. I hope all members will join us in these steps on the path to reconciliation. We call on all parties to support the historic and symbolic meaning of the new oath of citizenship.

I want to take a moment to thank all parties for agreeing to move this forward as quickly as possible and ensure that we are able to deliver on yet another call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations.

It is one more step toward transforming a relationship between the Crown and indigenous peoples, one of many more important steps to come. We must continue in steadfast determination to move forward in mutual respect and co-operation. This means listening to and learning from indigenous partners, communities and youth, and acting decisively on what we have heard to continue building trust and bring about healing.

I look forward to working with all members in support of this bill.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2021 / 6:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Madam Speaker, 13 years ago next week, the chamber of the House of Commons was filled with tears and a lot of raw emotion. Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the apology for the treatment that residential school survivors experienced at federally funded schools across the country. It marked a milestone in the healing and reconciliation process for former students.

One of those former students is Bill Sunday, a member of Akwesasne, which is in my riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. At that time, the grand chief of the council, Chief Tim Thompson, brought seven survivors from the community of Akwesasne to hear the words of the Government of Canada that day. I am thinking of Bill tonight and the number of residents of Akwesasne who, over the course of numerous generations, have faced hardship and discrimination.

What came of the apology at that time was the idea of establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. As alluded to in other speeches, its report came out with tangible calls to action back in 2015. To give context, that is six years ago, or 2,100 days that our federal government has had to respond to and enact the change that has been called for.

We are here today with nowhere near the pace and volume of completion and tangible progress that Canadians want us to have. A few more than a handful of calls to action have been marked as completed; others are under way. However, if we were to speak to indigenous Canadians, first nations leadership and any Canadian, they would agree that the pace of change and of enacting reconciliation has not moved in the past six years as fast as it needs to.

On Monday, our leader, the leader of the official opposition, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, and over the course of the last couple of days, after the advancement of Bill C-5 regarding a day for truth and reconciliation, which is positive, all parties have worked together to advance that legislation. It was one of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Our leader also wrote in that letter that the legislation we are debating here tonight should come back up, be moved forward, as it will be tonight, and eventually be passed. It will pass with support from our caucus and I believe from all of Parliament.

This is an important measure; do not get me wrong. However, and I say this respectfully, when we look at all the measures we need to do, the tangible, real, meaningful reconciliation is yet to come. There are a lot of big items that we as a Parliament and we as a country need to confront and address in a timely manner.

I want to acknowledge the discussions of another piece of legislation, Bill C-15, which has had many hours of debate here and in committee and is now over in the Senate. I had the honour and privilege of speaking to it, and with my perspective as a young Canadian; as somebody who has a first nations community, Akwesasne, in his riding; and as part of our Conservative caucus, I took a look at the details of the legislation. I want to speak about the opposition to Bill C-15, not because of a lack of support for reconciliation, but to illustrate to Canadians that our work as parliamentarians is far from done and we know that. What I took note of today, as we talked about the motion, is that the work we do here needs to be better.

Let us consider Bill C-15, and a lot of the words and descriptions in it, such as the description of free, prior and informed consent and its definition, or lack thereof. The NDP's opposition day motion today is an important one that I am proud to support. The first few parts of the motion speak to ending litigation in courts, where the government, first nations communities and residential school survivors are spending years and years and millions and millions of dollars, with more and more emotion going from there. That has been exacerbated because we are not taking the time for consultation and the details.

I completely support the idea of UNDRIP and the principles behind it. The details matter on that. I think it is important for Canadians, as the NDP motion said today, as Parliament will be calling on when that vote comes up in the coming days, that we see real, meaningful changes in this country, not more lawsuits, more delays, motions and millions of dollars being spent on lawyers, but rather on frontline differences to first nations communities and indigenous Canadians in every part of this country.

I want to focus some of my time tonight on the fact that we are expediting this legislation with all-party co-operation to move forward, because there are other parts of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that need to move forward now, urgently, and Canadians are saying that.

Thinking of the news that every single Canadian has had to take in over the course of the last week, of the discovery of 215 children in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school, I look, from a personal perspective, at my life and my lived experience. I am 33 years old. I have an amazing, loving family that helped raise me. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I received in public education: the teachers, staff and students at Inkerman Public School, Nationview Public School and North Dundas District High School. My family and my experience in public education helped make me who I am today.

I could not imagine being a child torn away from my parents never to see them again, going to a school hundreds of kilometres away and receiving horrific treatment. We have an example that was laid bare before us last week. Children ended up buried in unmarked graves, only recognized recently. These children did not have the opportunities that so many of us were fortunate to have, surrounded by loving and caring parents in an education system and experience that were second to none. To have them deprived of that, to have that ending, is completely unacceptable.

In the letter I referenced, we talk about the work we need to do as a Parliament. We need to address this specific, dark part of our history. I was rightfully corrected after one of my social media posts where I was struggling to come up with the proper thing to say about this news. Somebody said that it is not all history, that there are still residential school survivors here today living the experience each and every day. It is not history to them. It is lived experience that they have to deal with and struggle with each and every day.

I think parliamentarians from all parties in every part of this country will hear that, yes, we need to move forward on Bill C-5. We need to move forward on this piece of legislation and on Bill C-8. We need to fund the investigation of all former residential schools in Canada where unmarked graves may exist, including where the 215 children were already discovered in Kamloops. We need to ensure that proper resources are allocated for reinterment, commemoration and the honour of any individuals discovered at any of those sites, according to the wishes of their family. We also need to develop a detailed, urgent and meaningful way of educating Canadians on the real and lived experiences of those there.

I am going to wrap up my comments tonight by bringing them back to my community in eastern Ontario. As I wrap up, I think of Leona Cook, an elder from Akwesasne. She actually lives on the American side of Akwesasne, but her story goes a long way. She was sent from Massena to western New York in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area to a residential school. This tragedy goes even beyond borders. They took her shoes away when she went to school. Her brothers also went there, but they were placed on a different side of the campus, and she rarely, if ever, saw them.

I watched a video earlier today as I was preparing my remarks, and Leona was in it. She said, “I don't want their apology. I don't want anything from them. I would hope that they learn to treat people better than they treated us. You can't make people be somebody they don't want to be.”

We can take the lessons and the words of Leona Cook, embody them in our work and move forward on major sections of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will matter to Canadians.

I look forward to the questions and comments and supporting the legislation before us.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2021 / 7:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Madam Speaker, to my Bloc colleague, I think it was a summary of what I had illustrated. It has been 2,100 days since the TRC report was released, and it has been 2,100 days of dealing with Bill C-8: call to action 94. As I mentioned, and as the member alluded to, the discovery last week was a wake-up call for millions of Canadians. The families of those impacted are looking for closure and answers.

As Canadians, we are looking for urgent action. We have been calling for exactly his point: In the next couple of weeks, not months or years, let us move forward in making sure that we search every site, and provide closure for every child in this country in an unmarked grave who was mistreated at a residential school and had a terrible ending. Let us provide closure sooner rather than later. Urgency is what Canadians want. We need to do that.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2021 / 7:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I was saying that I felt sad and bitter about this bill, which we, the Bloc Québécois members, will soon be voting against. We were going to support it, but we are forced to oppose it. Even today, we are forced to vote against it although we did try to amend it so we could support it.

Why is the Bloc Québécois opposed to this bill, whose commendable intent should be self-evident? What happened to bring us to this point? These are questions that I feel compelled to answer, not only for my colleagues in the House, but also for indigenous peoples across the country and for the sake of history, which I call on today as my witness.

The first thing I would like to say to all first nations in Quebec and Canada and to the Métis and the Inuit peoples is that the Bloc Québécois firmly believes that call to action 94, as well as all the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, must be implemented without delay.

However, we cannot support Bill C-8 as it stands now, for two reasons. Reason one is that the bill seems to disregard the fact that the rights of indigenous peoples are not blessings to be bestowed on them by white people. On the contrary, these are inherent rights connected to their very existence as indigenous peoples. The second reason has to do with Quebec's and Canada's turbulent constitutional history.

Too little has been said about the first reason why my party did not support the bill. That reason has to do with the essence of indigenous rights. The Bloc Québécois believes that indigenous peoples have rights that are inherent to their very existence. These rights were not created by a charter, a royal proclamation, an international agreement or a constitutional act. On the contrary, these documents serve only to recognize and confirm these rights.

The ancestral rights predate the arrival of the Europeans and are connected to the activities of indigenous peoples before colonization. These are sui generis rights, in the sense that they are inherent and not granted by the Crown. These ancestral rights were first recognized in the 1973 decision in Calder, and then defined in the Van der Peet decision in 1996.

However, the Crown recognized indigenous land rights in the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grant explicit constitutional recognition of ancestral rights, but do not create the rights themselves. For us, putting that much emphasis on the Canadian Constitution means ignoring the inherent nature of the rights of indigenous peoples.

The second reason is well known, but I want to reiterate it. As it now stands, the bill explicitly refers to the Constitution in the oath of citizenship. I do not think one needs a PhD in history to know how big of a disgrace Quebeckers felt the patriation of the Constitution was. Despite all the successive federalist premiers since 1982, Quebec has never signed the Constitution. Obviously, the Liberals will bring out their old argument about separatists stirring up quarrels of the past to break up our beautiful country. However, are modern-day problems not just problems that went unresolved in the past?

That is why it is worth remembering that, when the Constitution was repatriated in 1982, an event that federalist parties dearly love to celebrate, the draft included an explicit reference to the rights of indigenous peoples. However, during the infamous “night of the long knives”, the federal government and the other nine provinces that abandoned Quebec agreed not only to stab René Lévesque in the back but also to edit out recognition and affirmation of the inherent rights of indigenous peoples. Ottawa was a party to that. That too is part of the history of the Constitution, a living tree whose sap is sometimes poisonous.

As it happened, indigenous militancy and concern that Westminster might reject the proposed Constitution resulted in what is now section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being put back in. However, constitutional malaise is still very real for Quebec. Members of other parties know that because we have told them.

Despite all this, we tried to amend Bill C-8 to bring it closer to the original citizenship oath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, because we wanted to support it.

I should point out that the oath proposed in call to action 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made no reference to the Constitution. The study of the bill in committee was not able to convince us that this addition was made at the request of indigenous peoples. On two occasions, when I asked the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship if the addition of the word “Constitution” was an explicit request of first nations, he replied that it was a result of the general process. In short, he never did tell me if this came from the government or from the first nations.

When we questioned witnesses in committee, they all told us that adding a reference to the Constitution was not at all essential to them. To the Bloc Québécois this addition is not only unnecessary, since it departs from the oath proposed by the Commission, but it is insulting, disrespectful and a provocative act toward the Quebec nation. It is a show of bad faith by the Liberal government and the uncontrollable desire of the federalist parties to pursue a process of building a national identity that endlessly repeats this fable of a Canada of rights and freedoms founded on a millennium-old Constitution.

The sudden haste with which the Liberal government rushed to bring Bill C-8 back to the House this week is rather troubling. Let us not forget that this bill was stuck in limbo since February. We are now June. Last week there was the tragic discovery that pained us all. Suddenly the government woke up to study Bill C-8. Sometimes I get the impression that governments simply wait for the right time to impose their will instead of negotiating, a bit like the Prime Minister's father did so well one day in November 1981. On that, I must say that the unanimity of the federalist parties against the Bloc Québécois's proposals was striking. Sometimes when you win, you lose.

Canadians can carry on building their country in their own image, without worrying about Quebec. We ourselves continue to do so, without Canadians, as we see fit. Perhaps it is because we sense that one day our paths will finally separate.

As a final point, even though our suggestions will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears, since that is the government's way, I would still like to propose a solution for a possible path forward that could suit everyone. Why not simply introduce a new bill with language that all parties can agree on? We could then pass that legislation with a simple unanimous consent motion and send it to the other chamber in one fell swoop, as we do here from time to time.

I am making the suggestion, even though I know it will probably fall on deaf ears. At least we tried.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2021 / 7:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I will give a two-part answer, as that was a two-part question.

With respect to the first part, obstructing legislation seems to be a much more automatic response for the Liberals than it is for the Bloc Québécois.

That said, with respect to including recognition of the Constitution, we agree that it does exist and we are aware of that. My colleague rightly said that everyone follows the law. Then where is the obligation to include it in the citizenship oath, especially since first nations did not ask for that?

I mentioned at committee that by making that amendment, we would achieve a far greater goal, which is to have the unanimous consent of all parties to pass Bill C-8. I even said in February that it might have made it possible to pass the bill much more quickly. The Bloc Québécois held out this possibility, but no one seized it.

Citizenship ActRoyal Assent

June 3rd, 2021 / 7:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am dismayed that, despite it being six years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action had been tabled, the Liberal government has been exceedingly slow at implementing even the simplest of the calls to action.

According the CBC Beyond 94 tracker, it remains that there are still only 10 out of 94 TRC recommendations completed as of June 1, 2021. Bill C-8 is emblematic of the pace at which the Liberal government has been moving with reconciliation. The concerning rate at which the government has been addressing the calls to action leads me to question the government’s timeline and commitment to fully implement all the calls to action.

During the five-year anniversary on December 15, 2020, the commissioners of the TRC report issued a joint statement to indicate that the government’s process has been too slow. Former TRC commissioner Ms. Marie Wilson highlighted that revising the citizenship guidebook and updating the oath of citizenship to reflect a more inclusive history of indigenous peoples and recognition of their rights was low-hanging fruit among the TRC recommendations.

Yet, this is the third time it has been introduced. In the years that led up to it, of the official list of organizations consulted provided by IRCC, only four were indigenous organizations and the others were six organizations focusing on immigration, including a couple of Catholic organizations, demonstrating that the imprint of colonialism persists to this day.

While the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs heard from a number of witnesses that the wording could have been improved, they were ultimately in favour of passing it so that we could move on to focusing on some of the more major calls to action. Indeed, the Liberals and Conservatives voted down NDP amendments that would address the concerns raised by adding a recognition of inherent rights of first nations as well as aboriginal title rights in the citizenship oath. This is shameful.

The government cannot say it supports the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which explicitly speaks to free, prior and informed consent. Article 10 states:

Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.

Yet we continue to see ongoing violations of this very article. This is a clear example of the ongoing colonialism that persists today.

Let us look at what is happening with the Mi’kmaq fishers. DFO has decided that they cannot fish now even though this is a clear violation of their treaty rights to earn a moderate livelihood. UNDRIP stipulates that indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination, which is what indigenous fishers are trying to do, earn a living, feed their families and, in some cases, work their way out of poverty.

Now, as a result of the failures of the government to live up to its obligations, they are even afraid of violence from non-indigenous fishers. Their property has been burned, they have been threatened and assaulted, and the government has offered no plan to ensure their safety. This is not reconciliation. In fact, this is what systemic racism and discrimination looks like.

Why is the government not doing everything it can to protect the rights and safety of indigenous fishers? Former TRC commissioner Marie Wilson also pointed out that calls to action 53 and 56 call for the creation of a national council for reconciliation. One of its core functions would be to provide oversight and hold the government accountable to the progress on implementing other TRC calls to action.

The fact that these TRC recommendations are missing in action and have not been among the first that were implemented shows a lack of interest by the government in actually implementing these calls to action. It also does not want to be held accountable in an independent, transparent way.

On the five-year anniversary of the TRC report, Murray Sinclair was critical of the slow pace the government has been moving and said:

It is very concerning that the federal government still does not have a tangible plan for how they will work towards implementing the Calls to Action.

This is how the Liberals treat what they say is their most important relationship. The Liberals are abusing the goodwill of indigenous peoples. As they say with a straight face how much they respect indigenous rights, and cry crocodile tears about what indigenous people have always known in light of the findings of the mass grave of indigenous children at the Kamloops residential school site, they continue to take indigenous children to court.

The Liberals cannot claim to honour the spirits of children who died in residential schools while they continue to take indigenous kids to court. The Liberals cannot claim to take their role in reconciliation seriously when they force survivors of residential schools to wage legal battles for recognition and compensation. I am calling for real action, real justice and real reconciliation, not just more words and symbolic gestures. I am calling on the federal government to stop its legal battles against indigenous kids and survivors of residential schools: battles that have cost millions of taxpayer dollars.

In 2020, Dr. Cindy Blackstock stated that the government had spent at least $9 million fighting against first nations children at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. These children do not get a second childhood. As we are sitting here, the government is still fighting survivors of St. Anne's residential school. This cannot be acceptable to anyone who says they want to honour the lives of indigenous children who were ripped away from their loved ones and were subjected to untold abuse and horror. Too many died alone, too many went missing and too many are still suffering from the effects of colonization.

Make no mistake: Genocide was committed against indigenous peoples, and successive Liberal and Conservative governments have continued a genocide against first nations, Métis and Inuit across the country. These are crimes against humanity and it is time for Canada to take full responsibility. I am calling on the Liberals to end their court challenges, to work with survivors, and to ensure that all resources needed are made available to survivors and their communities.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found Canada's discrimination to be “wilful and reckless” and “a worst-case scenario” resulting in unnecessary family separations for thousands of children, and serious harm and even death for other children. These are facts that the government must accept. In addition, the federal government must work with first nations to fund further investigation into the deaths and disappearances of children at residential schools.

The Harper Conservatives denied the TRC the $1.5 million it requested to get an accurate representation of how many unmarked graves there are. The TRC heard from countless witnesses of their existence, but no national effort was made to identify them. This must be addressed.

As stated by Murray Sinclair, retired senator and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:

We know there are lots of sites similar to Kamloops that are going to come to light in the future. We need to begin to prepare ourselves for that. Those that are survivors and intergenerational survivors need to understand that this information is important for all of Canada to understand the magnitude of the truth of this experience.

I am also calling for full funding of the healing resources that survivors need. The federal government must accelerate its progress to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and announce a timeline and an independent, publicly accountable mechanism for the fulfillment of the calls to action. We cannot continue to say that we support reconciliation without doing real, meaningful work.

To close, the NDP wants to see the TRC recommendation realized. We want to see this bill come to reality, but we also want to see the new citizenship guidebook, which has been in the making for five years, and we have no information of when it will be available. We want the guidebook to also incorporate that history, and clearly outline that genocide has been committed against indigenous peoples and continues to be. Every newcomer needs to know this history and take it to heart. As indicated, this is not an aboriginal issue: It is an issue for all of Canada. It is a Canadian issue and we need to own up to it. We need to—

Citizenship ActRoyal Assent

June 3rd, 2021 / 7:40 p.m.
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Green

Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, it is important for me today to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-8 from the unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik.

What is a nation, and what does it mean to be a Canadian citizen? Bill C-8 is an act to amend the Citizenship Act. The bill would change the oath of citizenship for newcomers to Canada to include recognition and affirmation of the treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people.

As I have proudly mentioned many times in this House, before I joined federal politics I was a teacher. When I think about this bill and the oath of citizenship, I think about what it teaches us about who we are and who we want to be.

In my time at Fredericton High School as a cultural transition coordinator for indigenous youth, I helped to run a native education centre. My role was to ensure that students were welcomed, supported, empowered and that they had access to the materials and resources they needed for success, often a tall order in a large institution.

I had the pleasure of working closely with the English as a second language department for newcomer students, who were in the same wing. My goal was to facilitate learning about indigenous culture and heritage with my students, but also with the wider school population and staff. I would create bulletin boards with information; spotlight incredible indigenous leaders, actors, artists, language keepers; visit classes or host professional development seminars.

It was not long before the ESL department requested that I come in and speak with their students, who were very curious about my role. I noticed that the “welcome to Canada” curriculum that the ESL teachers had been given represented indigenous peoples with a totem pole, a teepee and an inukshuk. Beyond these superficial symbolic images, there was no substance, no discussion of rights, of the peace and friendship treaties in our territory, of the different Wabanaki nations on the east coast, no highlight of the 15 communities in New Brunswick, nine Mi’kmaq and six Wolastoqiyik.

We started to hold group potlucks with traditional foods, sometimes in our space and sometimes in theirs. Beyond the cultural exchange, I noticed the bonds that the youth were making with one another and I noticed the pride in being a part of Canada's mosaic. We are strengthened by our diversity and it was beautiful to witness an exercise in community building. These students had more in common than they first believed. Many were subjected to prejudice, discrimination and racism. I also noticed that newcomer students began to open up more about their homelands or refugee experiences. They identified with the history of colonialism they were learning and they were excited by the indigenous cultural resurgence happening in local nations because of the hope it offered.

It is a rare opportunity to connect our desire to welcome newcomers with honesty about the sovereignty of indigenous nations. This is important work that we are undertaking.

We cannot ignore the reason why we are here tonight. It is to discuss Bill C-8 and to expedite its passage into Canadian law. However, this urgency comes from the horrific discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops residential school. It should not have taken this latest revelation of wrongdoing to prompt action. We have known the impact of residential schools in this country for decades, at least those of us who bothered to listen. The children have pushed the truth to the surface. No one can say they did not know. Newcomers to Canada will have to come to terms with these realizations as well, out of respect to the original inhabitants of this land, the ones who are still here and the ones who never came home.

The oath in call to action 94 is as follows:

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

Upholding this oath requires a further in-depth conversation about colonialism, the British Crown and its role in the atrocities of residential schools and ongoing oppression, about monies and Crown lands held in trust by Her Majesty the Queen on behalf of indigenous peoples.

As for the faithful observation of laws in Canada, including treaties, we have much work to do. Canadians have very little understanding of our treaty relationship. This became painfully obvious during the Mi’kmaq fishery dispute.

While we stand here today to hopefully unanimously pass Bill C-8, implementing call to action 94 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, call to action 93 has been stalled since June 2018, when the federal government said changes to the information kit for newcomers were close to completion. Can we have an update on this? Can we have a status report on all calls to action? This is what the survivors, those who are descendants of settlers, and certainly newcomers need from the government.

The Liberal government has completed an average of only two TRC calls to action per year since 2015. At this rate, it will take until 2062 to complete all 94. My children will likely have their own children by then. These are steps in the right direction, but I would like to share the reflections of a person from my riding.

This is what they said: “I'm hopeful that people will finally read the recommendations. Maybe finding more human bodies will wake people up to the notion that each of these recommendations addresses a specific concern. The onus should be on our government to explain why they are not adopting specific recommendations versus our current system of applauding them when they pick and choose off the list like it is.”

I appreciate this wisdom. The calls to action represent a package of reforms that create a road map for reconciliation. We must walk that road step by step, recommendation by recommendation. Rather than applause for hand-selecting the 11th and 12th recommendations to enshrine over a six-year period, we need to be seeing status reports on the implementation, demanding more accountability from the government when it falls short, when we all fall short.

I would like to read recommendations 71 to 76 today, as they relate so directly to the lost children in Kamloops and those across the nation who remain invisible. Under “Missing Children and Burial Information”, the calls to action are as follows:

71. We call upon all chief coroners and provincial vital statistics agencies that have not provided to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada their records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities to make these documents available to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

72. We call upon the federal government to allocate sufficient resources to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to allow it to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

73. We call upon the federal government to work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.

74. We call upon the federal government to work with the churches and Aboriginal community leaders to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child’s burial location, and to respond to families’ wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.

75. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.

76. We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles:

i. The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies.

ii. Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies.

iii. Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site.

We also need to provide the space to grieve. There was a collective sadness being felt across this country. This is the truth that comes before the reconciliation. We had to come to this point of reckoning to wake up those who were still sleeping. Now that we know, we cannot unknow. Enshrining acknowledgement of indigenous peoples into the newcomer citizenship oath asks us to never forget.

I support Bill C-8 and ask my colleagues in the Senate to agree. Let us get this done.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2020 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Philip Lawrence Conservative Northumberland—Peterborough South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and a bit of a surprise to virtually stand in the House of Commons to continue my speech on Bill C-8, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94).

I want to reiterate that despite the fact that Canada is one of a few countries in the world where indigenous rights and treaties are entrenched in the constitution, our relationship with indigenous people is far from perfect. It represents, unfortunately, a very dark chapter of Canadian history, which has left a damaging impact on the lives of indigenous peoples across our country today.

In the first half of my speech, I talked about the damaging history of residential schools and the impact they have had on indigenous people to this day. This terrible act committed by the Canadian government saw thousands of children ripped away from their families and forced to assimilate with what it perceived as Canadian values, which could not be any more un-Canadian.

In a 100-plus year period, over 150,000 indigenous children were removed from their families and forced to live in terrible conditions. Their rich culture and history was stripped away from them. The abuse endured by these children had an everlasting impact and an adverse effect on indigenous cultures for generations to come.

I really cannot imagine what it would be like, as a father of a five-year-old and a seven-year-old, to have my children taken away from me, along with everything that I hold dear: my personal values, family values and religion. I cannot imagine my children being put into a foreign environment where they are unable to connect with the generations before. I find it deeply troubling that it ever occurred in Canada.

The history of abuse represents a shameful portion of Canadian history and reminds us of the importance of respect and dignity that should be afforded indigenous peoples across Canada. I look forward to a better day when we see the process of reconciliation moving forward and everyone walking strongly together, building a better Canada for everyone, indigenous and non-indigenous. In this modern day and age, however, indigenous people across Canada continue to face many important issues and we, as a country, have a lot of important work ahead of us on the path to true and meaningful reconciliation.

I have been shocked and, quite frankly, disgusted by some of the recent news articles that outline the ways our indigenous people are still being treated to this very day. There are still many indigenous communities that do not have access to clean drinking water. While the government has committed to ending long-term drinking water advisories for all first nations communities, there are still 61 indigenous communities that do not have access to clean drinking water.

As the member of Parliament for Northumberland—Peterborough South, I am honoured to be the representative of the Alderville First Nation and Hiawatha First Nation. Both of these first nations are extremely well led by Chief Carr and Chief Mowat, and I have been honoured to have conversations with both.

While Alderville First Nation was connected to clean drinking water in 2017 and Hiawatha First Nation is in the process of this, the fact that both of these great powerful nations have had to endure going without clean drinking water in the 20th and 21st centuries is incredible to me. It is something that should never have happened in Canada. I find this appalling.

Beyond that, indigenous people across Canada are facing a mental health crisis. With a lack of access to mental health services, Statistics Canada found that overall, indigenous people in Canada die by suicide at a rate nearly three times as high as non-indigenous Canadians. There is no doubt that this must be related to the troublesome history indigenous people have had in our country, and we need to do better. We need to make sure indigenous people are not committing suicide, and certainly not at three times the rate of non-indigenous peoples in Canada.

Another huge issue is missing and murdered indigenous women. Between 1980 and 2012, despite the fact that indigenous women make up 4% of the female population, indigenous women and girls represented 16% of all female homicides in Canada. This is shocking.

Bill C-8, which would expand the Canadian oath of citizenship to include recognition of the treaty rights of the first nations, Inuit and Métis people, is an important step toward true and meaningful reconciliation. By including this historic amendment, Canada is taking steps to educate newcomers of Canada and recognize our dark history.

I am proud to support the bill to create a new oath of citizenship, one that would elevate and promote the inherent dignity of indigenous people and their rights, including treaty rights, to new Canadians. It is important that we recognize the first people who called this great land home. .

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2020 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are discussing Bill C-8.

I must say that when we first looked at the bill, we found it interesting. The government wanted to reach out to indigenous nations, which is good, considering all the harms inflicted on them in the past.

We are obviously not particularly attached to any oath for new Canadian citizens, given that we want to be independent and have our own oath for Quebec citizenship.

However, after examining the bill more closely, we realized that it contained a poison pill. On the one hand, the government wants to reach out to indigenous peoples, but on the other hand, Quebec gets a slap in the face. In fact, new citizens would have to swear an oath on the Canadian Constitution, which Quebec never signed. It was forced upon us; we never voted on it, either.

I would like to hear my Conservative colleague's thoughts on the fact that the government is trying to surreptitiously slip something past us that is actually quite insulting to Quebec.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2020 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure and honour for me to participate in this debate.

The bill before us, Bill C-8, is essentially about the respect and consideration that we here in the House always owe to first nations. This applies as much to Canadian citizens as it does to those who will one day join our country as citizens. When these new citizens come forward, they will have to swear this oath of allegiance, which, thanks to Bill C-8, now recognizes first nations. This is therefore an important issue, one that calls for reconciliation and consideration and, above all, respect.

We all know that the first nations have been living on the land known as Canada for a very long time. We all know that when the Europeans arrived in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the first nations were overcome in the events that unfolded. We must, however, always acknowledge their indelible presence on this land and their tremendous contribution to building this great country known as Canada.

This process was not a seamless one. Unfortunately, there was a litany of sad, unfortunate and unjust events that led to what is currently going on in this country. We cannot erase 400 years of difficult relations with the stroke of a pen, but we can learn from our mistakes and never repeat them. We can take a different approach, a different attitude, to see the future from a better perspective, while showing the patience necessary to acknowledge that mistakes were made in the past and to establish trust and reconciliation.

It is an honour and a privilege to have the community of Wendake, previously known as the Huron Village, in my riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent. I was born in Loretteville, right next to Wendake, in 1964, so I grew up very close to the Wendat people. I still have some very dear and very close childhood friends from that community. I am lucky, because I have been around first nations peoples my whole life, which may help me better understand some concerns. Still, who am I to talk about their experience? All I can say is that the Wendat people have made exceptional and extraordinary contributions to the community and in particular to Quebec City.

The Wendat people have lived on this land since the dawn of time, but in a more sedentary way. After being threatened with outright extinction through wars and battles, they went from Île d'Orléans to Sillery to what is now known as L'Ancienne-Lorette, before ultimately settling at the foot of the Kabir-Kouba Falls in 1696.

Of course I have nothing but good to say about them because I know them very well. I have been their neighbour for 56 years. It is a privilege and an honour to represent them in the House of Commons, as it was to represent them some time ago in the National Assembly of Quebec. I have to say that I am the one who is privileged in Canada, and I say it with all due respect. I am tempted to say that it is the best nation in Canada, but other nations might dispute that.

Instead I will say that Wendake and the Wendat people are an inspiration for all Canadians with respect to collaboration and living together harmoniously, and we should look to the Wendat people's relationship with non-indigenous people in the Quebec City area and follow their example everywhere in Canada. They are an inspiration.

The Wendat community I represent is made up of proud, positive and constructive people. They are also business people. In Wendake, in my riding, there are dozens of businesses that hire indigenous and non-indigenous workers. Nearly 400 non-indigenous people work in these businesses located in Wendake territory.

Just recently I had the pleasure of visiting a factory that makes snowshoes. Raquettes GV was established in Wendake in 1959 and employs dozens of people. It sells its products throughout Quebec and Canada and around the world. Naturally, I am very proud of these people, and that is why I am so pleased to represent them in the House of Commons. They are hardworking people who can look to the future while being extraordinarily attached to the heritage of their ancestors and proudly representing it.

Sadly, we were recently called to pay tribute to Max Gros-Louis, who, as hon. members know, was a high-ranking indigenous leader. For more than 50 years, he was committed to defending his nation and the first nations. He did so with the fighting spirit of a proud Huron-Wendat, but also with respect for the people he was dealing with. That is why, when Grand Chief Gros-Louis passed away, everyone unanimously spoke of his extraordinary contribution to the good relationship we need to have.

There was an election in Wendake roughly a month ago. A young man by the name of Rémy Vincent was elected. I congratulate him. He succeeded Konrad Sioui, who held that position for 12 years. I worked with him during the 12 years of his mandate since his term began about a month and a half before I started mine at the provincial level. We always collaborated with respect. We had differing opinions. I could recognize certain things that he could not and vice versa. That is what living together is all about. We can have different points of view and agree to disagree. We must work together to improve the things we do not agree on, and we must work together when we have common views. I know that is the approach that the new chief, Rémy Vincent, is taking as he begins the mandate that his nation has just given him.

I do not claim to be better than anyone else, but it so happens that I have the great privilege of knowing the first nations well, especially the Huron-Wendat people, having grown up alongside them from my earliest days. As I said in my introduction, we have a responsibility to recognize that relations between indigenous and non-indigenous people have been particularly difficult and rocky. I will have the opportunity to talk about a few aspects of that.

On the other hand, we have the responsibility to recognize that some steps have been taken that have had such an important impact on how we live today. Let me remind members that it was the Right Hon. John George Diefenbaker who recognized the fact that first nations should have the right to vote.

We must also recognize that on June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered the Canadian government's formal apology to the first nations for the residential school tragedy. For an entire century, residential schools were opened by successive governments, from Sir John A. Macdonald to the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, forcing over 140,000 first nations children to renounce and deny their most precious heritage, the legacy of their ancestors. It is arguably the greatest tragedy in Canadian history.

It took courage and honour to recognize this tragedy. I am proud to know that the Right Honourable Stephen Harper is the one who offered this formal apology to the first nations on the recommendation of the late Jack Layton of the NDP. Yes, we must acknowledge our mistakes, but we must also build on the good things we have done and look to the future.

We salute the government for placing a lot of emphasis on reconciliation with first nations in its statements. We hope that this reconciliation will be based on concrete, positive action that focuses on the future of relations between first nations and non-indigenous peoples. We noted, as did everyone, that the current government made a commitment to first nations that they would have clean drinking water, which seems obvious to those of us who do not have this problem. Unfortunately, the government has failed. We salute the minister for having the honour and dignity to admit it, but we hope that he will redouble his reconciliation efforts and that it will not be just talk.

From our perspective, the fact that the recognition of first nations is included in the oath that will be taken by new Canadians is important, even essential, and it must be perpetuated by this reality.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2020 / 11:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent for his very interesting speech. I could support most of what he had to say, but there was one thing that disappointed me.

It is important to reach out to indigenous nations and make up for the mistakes made in the past in some small way, even if it is only a very small way, since we are talking about putting a few words in an oath of citizenship. I do not think that is going to solve all the problems. However, there is a negative element in what is proposed in Bill C-8, and yet I did not hear my colleague talk about it. Quebec did not sign the Canadian Constitution, but now new citizens are being asked to take an oath on the Canadian Constitution. There is something wrong with that. It is a disgrace.

Unless I am mistaken, Mr. Mulroney, the former leader of the Conservatives, recognized this at the time. He said that he wanted to bring Quebeckers back in with honour and enthusiasm. Once again, that was a failure in terms of closing the rest of Canada to Quebec.

I would like to know what my colleague, as a member from Quebec, thinks about that. Does he still intend to vote in favour of Bill C-8, or does he intend to support amendments that could be made to it?

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2020 / 12:05 p.m.
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Green

Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour and privilege to speak today on Bill C-8 from the traditional unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw people. I want to acknowledge that the riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith lies within the territories of the Snuneymuxw, the Snaw-naw-as, the Stz'uminus and the Lyackson first nations.

Huy’chka siem.

I would like the thank the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria for sharing this time with me today so that I could speak to this important bill.

Bill C-8 is an act to amend the Citizenship Act. The bill would change the oath of citizenship so that newcomers to Canada, in addition to pledging allegiance to the Queen, will also faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the aboriginal treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis people.

The Snuneymuxw people, whose territory I am from speaking today, signed a treaty in 1854. This was the 14th and the last of the so-called Douglas treaties, and it was ignored for over 100 years. It was not until the landmark White and Bob Supreme Court case in 1965 that this treaty was finally recognized by the Government of Canada. This historic case marked the beginning of the modern era of treaty and aboriginal rights and title, advocacy and activism across Canada.

I learned about this treaty while working on a film about the Nanaimo River, entitled Voices of the River. In my interviews with Snuneymuxw elder Ellen White and with her grandson Doug White, who was the chief of Snuneymuxw First Nation at the time, they both emphasized the importance of this treaty and the rights and title that it enshrines. Most residents of Nanaimo would have no knowledge of this treaty and what it means. It is a constant struggle for the Snuneymuxw people to have their treaty rights recognized.

This is true for first nations across Canada, as we have seen with the Mi'kmaq fishery in Nova Scotia and the Haudenosaunee dispute in Caledonia, Ontario. We are all treaty people in Canada. We have historical treaties that need to be respected, and for those first nations that have never signed treaties, it is incumbent upon the government to go through the modern-day treaty process in a respectful way.

It is important for newcomers to Canada to understand the indigenous and first nations rights enshrined in the Canadian Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All Canadians, including new Canadians, need to understand these legal documents. They should understand that if they are not in a region that is covered by a treaty, then they are in a region that has never surrendered and is still legally indigenous territory.

The bill would complete number 94 of the 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. That does not mean that the current Parliament has finally gotten to the end of the list and has implemented the previous 93 calls to action, far from it. We have a very poor record of implementing these calls to action. Earlier this year my colleague, the hon. member for Fredericton, presented a scorecard in her speech on this issue. Out of the 52 broader reconciliation recommendations, seven have been completed. Under justice, it is one out of 18; language and culture, one out of five; health, zero; education, zero; and child welfare, zero.

In the first year, five recommendations were completed, and just four since 2016. At the current rate, it will take approximately 38 more years before all of the calls to action are implemented. This is not reconciliation in action.

Call to action number 94 is important, but there are far more urgent calls to action that we need to turn our attention to. Call to action number one calls upon federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of aboriginal children in care. Right now there are more indigenous children in the child welfare system in this country than there were children in the residential schools at the height of the residential school system. This is an ongoing abuse of human rights and a violation of fundamental social justice.

When I talk to local leaders from first nations and urban indigenous communities in my riding, they tell me the same thing: Children are being apprehended by provincial child welfare agencies, and it is not because the parents have neglected to provide their children with love, care or attention. The majority of child welfare apprehensions are a direct result of poverty and inadequate housing. The Government of Canada could deal with this immediately with a poverty reduction strategy and rapid housing program for first nations and urban indigenous populations.

The missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry recommendations called for a guaranteed livable income to ensure no Canadian needs to live in poverty. A guaranteed livable income would remove the bias inherent in our social welfare programs and would be a step toward ending systemic racism in this country. Indigenous people are overrepresented in our prison system and in our homeless population. This is also a direct result of poverty and the disproportionate number of children pulled from their families and communities by the child welfare system.

We have a long way to go toward true reconciliation with indigenous people in Canada. Under the reconciliation section of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action, the first call to action, number 43, calls upon federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. This is important and we need to get this done right away. Why are we not debating this right now?

It is a national shame indigenous communities have boil water advisories that go on for years and even decades, that indigenous communities deal with serious and persistent poverty, that indigenous people are overrepresented in our criminal justice system and in our homeless population, that we have such high levels of suicide among indigenous youth and that health outcomes for indigenous people are comparable to those of residents of low-income countries.

It is an international black eye for Canadians that we have encroaching developments and industrial projects forced upon indigenous communities after sham consultations and then have those developments and projects rammed through with enforcement actions by highly armed militarized police forces.

We need economic reconciliation to improve the conditions for economic development and economic sovereignty for first nations. The connection to land is key to the culture of indigenous people in Canada, but as colonizers we have broken that link. The reserve system forced indigenous people off the land and took away those key connections to their culture. Industrialization has destroyed many traditional territories with resource extraction, including excessive logging, mining and oil and gas production, destroying biodiversity and leaving behind toxic messes.

In my riding of Nanaimo Ladysmith, the traditional lands of the Hul'qumi’num-speaking people were stolen out from under them with the E&N land grant 150 years ago. Coal baron and B.C. cabinet minister Robert Dunsmuir was given 8,000 square kilometres of land, or 20% of Vancouver Island, to build the E&N railway from Esquimalt to Nanaimo as part of the deal for B.C. to join Confederation. This corrupt deal and historic wrong need to be corrected. We cannot celebrate 150 years of B.C. joining Confederation next year without reparation for this theft. Reconciliation must be more than words, it must include reparation for historic wrongs.

There is a long list of things we need to do to make things right in our relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis people in this country. If this is indeed our most important relationship, as the Prime Minister has often repeated, then let us get on with it.

I have had the honour and privilege of working with many newcomers to Canada and I know they are keen to be good citizens and become part of our communities. Many of the newcomers arrive from difficult situations and have faced war, poverty, environmental degradation and human rights abuses. Once they learn about our history and fully understand the circumstances many indigenous people live with in Canada, these newcomers are shocked.

Bill C-8 is an acknowledgement of the responsibilities of all Canadians, including new Canadians. It is an important piece of legislation. The Green Party supports this legislation. We support all the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we support the recommendations of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry and we support the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I hope to debate much more legislation implementing urgent calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation report soon. I hope this happens in the very near future.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2020 / 12:20 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, to pick up on that, when we talk about how important that United Nations resolution is, we recognize that it was actually brought to the floor of the House a number of years ago from a member of the New Democratic Party. The Government of Canada did in fact support that piece of legislation and it passed through the House of Commons. It would have become law and received royal assent had it gone through the Senate, but it did not get through the Senate.

Since the last federal election a number of things have occurred, including, stating the most obvious, the coronavirus. The government's first priority was to deal with the negative impacts of the coronavirus. That does not mean that the government was not acting on all of the different fronts it needed to act on while it focused its attention on the coronavirus. When we hit that reset, we have often been criticized by the Conservatives about the throne speech. Why did we have to bring in another throne speech? In previous speeches that I have delivered on the floor here, I have addressed that issue.

Within the throne speech we find another commitment to bring forward the same legislation that the member from the Green Party just referenced. What I have found is that time passes pretty quickly here in Ottawa. The years go by pretty quickly. Here, once again, we are having to deal with legislation because of things that, in good part, were beyond our control. There was a commitment in the throne speech to deal with that particular call for action regarding the United Nations resolution. I am very confident that it is coming. Hopefully, we will be able to pass it through, just like we had government legislation that was brought in for the education of judges, with respect to sexual assaults. There was other legislation that passed in the previous Parliament, but because it did not pass the Senate, it was never given royal assent.

It is the same thing now where we have brought forward a piece of legislation as a part of the government agenda. We are going to have to deal once again with that other piece of legislation and are very hopeful.

When we take a look there are 94 calls for action. This particular piece of legislation we are dealing with today, Bill C-8 is making change to the oath. I will get to the actual oath and ceremonies at some point, but this is dealing with the last call for action. I have a handy booklet here with all 94 calls for action, something that I always keep at my desk, which highlights the importance of it to me personally. Just as it is so important to me, I know how important it is to our Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, virtually from day one, has talked about the relationship between government and indigenous people and how we need to change that relationship and work hard on that relationship.

What does bill C-8 do? It responds to the 94th call for action and states that we call upon the Government of Canada to replace the oath of citizenship with the following:

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

While it might not be word for word, a great deal of effort was put into that. That call to action and what the department has done to come up with today's wording has included a great deal of consultation with indigenous communities and others.

I constantly hear from members on all sides of the House about the importance of supporting the calls to action in general, maybe not 100% of them. However, we have made that commitment to work toward 100% of those or at least encouraging support for them. This is one of those calls. It as a very positive and fairly straightforward call. It would be nice to see it passed by the House of Commons, sooner as opposed to later. In good part now, it will be in the opposition court. It will determine how long it will be before it gets out of the House of Commons.

As I pointed out, there are 94 calls to action, 76 of which are linked to the federal government responsibilities. Many of those calls incorporate Ottawa working with others to fulfill the commitment. An example of that is the first. Today we are talking about call to action 94. Let us look at the first call to action. I referred to that call to action in my question to the member of the Green Party. It is a fairly length call to action, but it is a very important one. It deals with child welfare.

The significance to the debate on that is to recognize there are different types of calls to action. Today, we are really talking about Ottawa and our responsibility to change the oath. That needs to be done through legislation. This is why the bill is before us. However, not all calls to action are like that.

The first call states:

We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by.

Then it states a number of things we could do.

The significance of this is that unlike this bill, it is not like the federal government could bring in legislation to say that call one is done. It does not work that way for all of the calls to action.

This one is going to require input from indigenous leaders, provincial governments and agencies and even beyond that. When we talk about the child welfare system, as cited in the debate today, I am very much aware of the situation. All one needs to do is look at my riding when we talk about children. If we look at the number of apprehended children, or children who are in the care foster parents, on a per capita basis, I would be surprised if Winnipeg North was not one of the highest, if not the very highest, in our country.

For many years, whether a parliamentarian in Ottawa or a member in the Manitoba legislature, we have had to deal with that. For my New Democratic friends, I would like to let them know that the worst provincial entity I can think of is the 15 years of governance by the provincial NDP in the Province of Manitoba. The problem actually peaked during that time.

As much as the NDP would like to blame the Liberals for not doing enough, there is a great deal of room for improvement within the New Democratic Party in Manitoba. It was one of the last issues I dealt with prior to leaving the Manitoba legislature. I talked about the child advocate, saying that Manitoba was in crisis because of the children in care. The NDP premier was more concerned with where the information came from and that it had been released rather than the facts.

When we talk about these calls for action, we need to get the support and consultations in place and work together with the different stakeholders. When my colleagues and friends from the Green Party or the New Democratic Party in particular say that there are 94 calls and only eight or nine have been dealt with, I do not believe that is the case.

For many of the different calls to action, certain actions have taken more time than others. However, we can be encouraged by the fact that unlike some of the previous reports that came forward, these recommendations are not sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Ministers and members of Parliament from our caucus consistently raise the importance of reconciliation in the calls for action on the floor of the House, or in our caucus or in our communities.

Earlier I cited the little booklet given to me by one of my former colleagues, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, the previous member for Winnipeg Centre. We all remember Robert's personality and miss him dearly. Hopefully, he will return. However, when we look at the 94 calls for action, some of them we can deal with in a timely fashion, where Ottawa gets to play the lead. This is one of them.

When I think about citizenship, one experiences many different feelings. I suspect virtually all members of Parliament have participated in citizenship court ceremonies. What a wonderful opportunity it is to do so. I have been doing it for many years, both as a member of Parliament and as a member of the Manitoba legislative assembly. I have wonderful memories of what I witnessed. They would be held inside the Manitoba legislature in the so-called Manitoba Room, which faces Broadway, with its huge beautiful chandeliers. It was such a wonderful feeling to walk into that room, see the chairs lined up, with a judge standing at the front, and individuals, who were receiving their citizenship, smiling from ear to ear. Seeing them in that beautiful room, in that democratic institution speaks volumes about freedom and democracy.

I remember going to what was the NorWest health centre in the community of Winnipeg North. A room had been set up with many chairs and a judge was present. People were receiving their citizenship. One of the most touching parts of that ceremony was a young woman of Filipino heritage who had taken her oath. When it came time to sing the national anthem, she pulled out a big Canadian flag and wrapped it around herself. We could see tears as we started singing the national anthem. It is a very special moment in time when people receive their citizenship. I have attended many different swearing-in ceremonies to reaffirm my citizenship, because we do live in a great nation, the best country in the world from my perspective.

To recognize the importance of indigenous people is of the utmost importance. For the life of me, I cannot remember his last name, but Winston is a resident of Winnipeg North. I believe he lives on Arrow Street, to be more specific. He is of indigenous background. I attended a special citizenship event in an armoury in Winnipeg. What was nice is that he brought forward a greeting and a blessing. New citizens heard first-hand the words he spoke. It was a rather strong and powerful message on how Canada is open for all.

At these citizenship courts, there has to be a judge, but we will also see an RCMP officer. In recent years, we have also seen someone representing the Canadian Forces. I have been to a couple where an indigenous elder attended. I would encourage indigenous elders to continue to attend to tell story of Canada. It is an important aspect.

In every citizenship ceremony I have had the privilege to attend, I have always walked away feeling very proud to be a Canadian, because people from around the world have chosen Canada to call home. Indigenous people are not getting the recognition they deserve for being there, opening doors and opportunities. A willingness to share is so important, to understand treaties and their relationship. That is why reconciliation is so important. That is why the Prime Minister consistently talks about the relationship between indigenous people and the government and why it is so important for all of us.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission came up with excellent calls to action. Today is all about call to action 94 and I encourage all members to support it.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2020 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Markham—Unionville.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the bill, and I would also like to thank my colleague, the shadow minister on this file, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, for her hard work in the chamber and in committee on this issue. She has a very important job to do in holding the government to account when we begin to reopen the country and welcome immigrants back who will eventually become part of our Canadian family.

I rise today to speak on Bill C-8, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94.

I want to start by saying that I will be voting for the bill. Most of the public know what it is designed to do, which is to change the oath of citizenship. I believe that this is a very important piece of legislation that would put us one step closer to reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people.

Just to be clear, the current oath of citizenship is:

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

The version proposed in the bill would change the ending to:

...and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.

It is is worth acknowledging that Canada is a nation of immigrants who have come, and continue to come, for better lives. We are also a nation that stands on the traditional territories of, and shoulder to shoulder with, first nations, Inuit and Métis people.

I think we should be proud that Canada is one of only a few countries in the world where indigenous and treaty rights are entrenched in our Constitution. By recognizing and affirming the aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis in the oath of citizenship, we are also educating Canadians, especially new Canadians, about these rights.

Our Constitution is one of our most important documents, if not the most important document, and being aware and understanding some of the resolved and unresolved treaty rights in different parts of the country is something we should share with new Canadians. Educating new Canadians on the relationship with indigenous peoples is a key part of the path to reconciliation that is critical to our nation's future.

I am confident my colleagues would agree that a top priority for all of us in this chamber should be to work towards reconciliation with our indigenous peoples. For those at home watching, I was in the House of Commons in Centre Block at the time when Prime Minister Harper offered a full apology on behalf of Canadians for the residential school system. It was a historical moment, and one I will never forget. The treatment of children in Indian residential schools was a sad chapter in our history, and it had to be acknowledged. The government had to apologize for it, and rightfully did so. It was also the previous Conservative government, under Prime Minister Harper, that established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or the TRC, to facilitate reconciliation among former residential school students, their families, communities and all Canadians.

Between 2007 and 2015, the government provided about $72 million to support the commission's work. The TRC spent six years travelling to all parts of Canada and heard more than 6,500 witnesses. It also hosted seven national events across Canada to engage the Canadian public, educate people about the history and legacy of the residential school system and share and honour the experiences of former students and their families.

The TRC created a critical historical record of the residential school system and, as part of the process, the Government of Canada provided over five million records to the TRC. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba houses all the documents collected by the TRC.

Given the incredible work done by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, many of us in the House are concerned that the government has been slow to respond to the report's calls to action. In fact, a new analysis reveals that “dreadful progress” with disappointing results has been made on the TRC's 94 calls to action. The Prime Minister embraced the calls to action at the 2015 unveiling, describing them all as a blueprint to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. However, it is clear that things are not what they need to be, and the sole reaction to the TRC's calls to action is not the only broken promise from this government.

We also have the promise on boil-water advisories. The Prime Minister recently appeared to walk back his government's promise to end all boil-water advisories in first nation communities by March 2021. He would not commit to meeting the 2021 deadline, and said that the federal government was working to lift the remaining drinking water advisory “as soon as possible”.

When is “as soon as possible”? Is it months from now, years from now or perhaps longer?

Let us take the Neskantaga First Nation as an example, which has been under a boil water advisory for more than 25 years. Officials shut off its water after an oily sheen was found in the water reserve. Tests later showed the water was contaminated with hydrocarbon. Over 200 residents have now been evacuated to Thunder Bay, where they are being housed in hotels.

The Neskantaga chief said that elders, children, infants and people with chronic health conditions were flown out of the community after the water shutdown, which closed the schools and nursing station. With no running water, the remaining residents have had to use buckets to collect water from the lake in freezing temperatures.

The chief said, “I've never had access to clean drinking water and I’m 50 years old. You hate to see your relatives, your children, your future, living in this condition.” The chief goes on to say, “Right now we are being offered band-aid solutions.”

The government originally stated in December 2015 that the community would get a new treatment plant up and running by the spring of 2018. It is November 2020 and it seems like the government has broken its promise.

Also, let us not forget winter is coming. The Prime Minister said his government has lifted many drinking water advisories since 2015, but the Indigenous Services Canada website shows that 61 first nation reserves are still living under long-term drinking water advisories.

Let us also not forget first nations people are going through a housing crisis that the government has not handled very well. Last year, the Cat Lake first nation declared a state of emergency over excessive mould, leaky roofs and other poor housing conditions. Things became worse when a Cat Lake resident died from respiratory issues. Her family was clear the death was caused by extensive mould problems in her home. There is evidence that almost half of the homes on Canadian reserves have enough mould to cause serious respiratory problems and other illnesses.

With respect to Cat Lake, I do have to say the government did provide portable homes and construction material to build new ones. However, everything it does on this file seems to be reactionary. It has to see a major crisis first, and then it acts.

The government should not be complacent. This housing crisis in first nations communities should not be costing people their lives. Indigenous leaders say that an epidemic of mould, undrinkable water and overcrowding in first nations homes remains a nationwide problem that has been largely ignored.

We have another issue in Nova Scotia, where tensions are very high over a long-standing fishery dispute. There has been violence and a lot of heated rhetoric. There have been years of concern about the issue. It is not like the government found out about it when it recently flared up. Once again, the government is being reactionary. There has been years of talks but there has been no solution.

The government has now been in place for five years and little has been done. It needs to do better, and Conservatives are more than willing to help. All this to say that indigenous people deserve government attention and reconciliation should be a top priority for all of all of us in this place. Although more can and should be done, this bill is a step in the right direction for indigenous people, and therefore, I will be supporting it.

It is not often I agree with my colleague the parliamentary secretary, but I cannot have a conversation about an oath of citizenship without talking about the extreme honour of being involved. He was bang on when he talked about what an honour it is, as members of Parliament, to be involved.

In my 16 years, certainly one of the highlights of my job is having the opportunity to attend the citizenship ceremonies. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and I have attended them on July 1, which is absolutely a particularly important and special day. I have also done them in schools, legion halls and all across Niagara.

It is quite an honour to do that, so I want to recognize what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the government in the House of Commons said. As members of Parliament, we have a pretty unique role. Just having the opportunity to hear people's stories of getting to our great country, as well as some of the hardships they have had to endure is completely inspiring.

It has been an honour to talk on this particular bill, Bill C-8. As I mentioned before, one of the amazing privileges we have as members of Parliament is having an opportunity on a fairly regular basis to attend citizenship swearing-in ceremonies, where we have the opportunity to hear great stories from people coming from all around this great world to become citizens of this great country.