That's perfect. Thank you.
Madam Chair, honourable colleagues, and distinguished panellists, it's great to be here today to introduce Bill C-374.
There is a bit of background information that I'd like to give to this. I think that many on this committee can tell as well as I can—it arises very much from my personal background and my career prior to politics, in which I spent more than three decades working for Parks Canada. Over that very privileged career, I was able to travel, move around the country, and work in a number of very diverse national parks and national historic sites.
I had the great opportunity, which very few Canadians have, to live and work with indigenous communities in a variety of settings and it really helped inform my opinions about the need to do things differently with indigenous communities. When I was elected, I came across the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There's a section on commemorations and it really spoke quite personally to me about the need in the commemorations field to do things differently.
I'd like to give a couple of examples.
In the last decade of my career, I was on the national historic sites program and I dealt fairly extensively with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. I saw great examples of commemorations that had been done respectfully and that incorporated indigenous histories and then there were some examples that were maybe not as well done. One that comes to mind is a plaque that I'm sure is still sitting in the garage at the Fort Langley National Historic Site. It was for a commemoration at Stanley Park National Historic Site that was commemorated in the 1980s. We were never able to put that plaque up because the commemoration was very much a Eurocentric colonial construct in celebration of what parks mean. However, it didn't recognize that there were indigenous peoples from the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish nations who had lived in what is now Stanley Park, who were evicted from their properties, whose dwellings were burned down, and whose generational presence on that land was not recognized and not celebrated in commemoration. The plaque is still sitting there in a garage because it failed to really recognize the importance of indigenous history in that context. That's an example of the kind of issue that we're trying to get to with Bill C-374, to make sure that the commemorations that come forward are respectful of indigenous history.
There are also great examples that I've come across. One of them was an early commemoration of the history of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada out at Friendly Cove, located at the end of Nootka Sound on the west end of Vancouver Island. It's a couple of hours boat ride from Gold River. Friendly Cove is the birth place of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, who are a whaling nation. They were there from the beginning of time, yet there was a commemoration that was done in the early 1920s that recognized that point as the place of discovery of North America. It was the first time Europeans had been to that part of our west coast. Again, there was no recognition of indigenous people. It's kind of like that Columbus story of discovering the new world, where the new world had been inhabited since the beginning of time. In that case, dealing with the Mowachaht and Muchalaht Nations, we were able to come up with a new commemoration that is now celebrated as Yuquot. It's very much about the first point of contact between indigenous peoples and Europeans. I think that's a real celebration and that's the end point that this bill would try to get us to in a commemorations program.
I'll just take you back to the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action. Specifically, Bill C-374 is intended to implement call to action 79(i), and I'll just read that, to give you the context of what this is framed on. In the call to action, it says,
We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. This would include, but not be limited to—
and this is the section that is covered in Bill C-374,
(i) amending the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to include First Nations, Inuit and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and its Secretariat.
That's the starting piece for this.
The chair, in her opening comments, referred to the study that this committee did, “Preserving Canada's Heritage: The Foundation for Tomorrow”, a report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
We heard from witnesses, including Ry Moran from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission based at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Based on the excellent witnesses, the excellent testimony, and frankly the excellent report that this committee reached, recommendation 17 includes four points. The first one states:
The Committee recommends that, in support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action 79 and 81, and in consultation with Indigenous groups:
The federal government introduce legislation amending the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to add First Nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and its Secretariat.
Again, Bill C-374 is the direct implementation of that.
I will turn to the bill that everybody should have and I'll walk you through it.
The original Historic Sites and Monuments Act was most recently updated in 1985. It is four pages in its entirety. There are a few sections here that I'm looking to amend.
The first one, and the most important, is that implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendation 79.i. The first is simply changing the composition of the board from its 16 members. I had called originally for it to go to 19 members, because the 16 existing would have three indigenous representatives added to it.
As a bit of historical context, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board, for a number of years, had 18 representatives. There were two members for Ontario and two for Quebec. That was amended by the previous government down to 16. Ontario and Quebec were given just one seat. Over historical levels, that is an increase of one member, but from where we're at right now in legislation, it's an increase of three. The specific wording was going to be to add the three indigenous representatives.
I had consultations with indigenous caucuses, indigenous organizations, and others, and there were some concerns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's wording, for instance, if you have somebody representing, could it be a Caucasian representing those three indigenous groups? How do you get the right wording to make sure that it meets the intent of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
The wording I put forward in the bill is what's there, and there are some amendments that I will get to when we get to clause-by-clause to clarify the wording. For now, the idea was simply to add those three indigenous members to the existing board.
There are two subsections in Bill C-374 that are updating language. Proposed subsections 5(1) and 5(2) refer to “Chairman”, and this makes it gender neutral, to “Chair”.
With regard to the quorum—I believe it's in proposed subsection 5(4)—I think the original bill had it at eight. This is moving it to 10, recognizing that there will be an increased number of board members.
The final piece was a bit of an opportunity to update some of the language. Boards generally receive some sort of compensation for their work, and so the last part of Bill C-374 is updating the language to current Government of Canada terminology to make sure board appointees are compensated in the way that all board appointees are compensated. The travel and living expenses are repackaged.
Finally, the original bill allowed for clerical and stenographic assistance of $75 per year for the chairman and $35 for members of the board. This is very outdated language. I'm sure there are members of Parliament who don't even know what stenographic services are, and having a dollar amount embedded in the legislation is a bit odd. It's to try to give the Governor in Council a bit more flexibility in how they can compensate for those types of support functions for board appointees. That's the final piece. Again, it's just changing that piece of the legislation to update it.
That's my context. As I said, I have some amendments. Since introducing Bill C-374 into the House, I have had further discussions with the minister's team and legislative staff. There are some cleanups, and I would like to address those when we move to clause-by-clause today.