Mr. Speaker, I dedicate this speech to the thousands of survivors who spoke out during public consultations as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and during hearings for the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. They have initiated this necessary dialogue. We are inspired by their strength, and we have much to learn from them.
I rise today, particularly aware of my duty as a parliamentarian, and with humility and respect, to speak in favour of Bill C-374, an act to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act. This bill would increase the number of members of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to provide for first nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the board. This bill directly addresses the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 79. It states:
79. 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:
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.
The political, social, and cultural engagement of first nations, the Inuit, and the Métis is a crucial component of the management and development of historic sites and monuments. Every government should ensure that each community has a chance to improve and contribute to the country without facing any barriers or discrimination, and this measure is a step in the right direction. We can no longer determine what is historic without considering the views and opinions of the founding nations of our country.
The introduction of this bill coincides with the first Quebec hearings of the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, which began several days ago in Maliotenam. About 50 families courageously testified. We must respond with equal courage.
The reconciliation process will take time. It will take form through concrete actions, such as the one discussed today, and through our sincere willingness to listen. We need to both hear and listen. Greater awareness will lead to greater understanding. That is how we will build a reciprocal and meaningful relationship between our peoples and our nations.
We need to begin the reconciliation process for future generations. We need to correct mistakes, rebuild bridges, and be candid about what happened. In 2007, Stephen Harper, former prime minister of Canada, recognized that the residential school system had profound and lasting effects on aboriginal cultures, heritages, and languages. As a result, the Conservative government of the time created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
From 1870 to 1996, approximately 150,000 aboriginal children were taken away from their families and sent to denominational schools as a result of a shameful policy designed to civilize first nations. Quebec had 12 federally funded residential schools. According to the Missing Children Project report, at least 3,000 aboriginal children died while attending a residential school and 30,000 of them were physically or sexually abused.
By acting as it did, the federal government of the time diminished the capacity of many former students to raise their own children properly and sealed the fate of future generations. Since then, thousands of people have testified to the cultural genocide experienced by first nations, Inuit, and Métis. Now, we are hearing testimony on the ongoing tragedy of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.
Indigenous women are three times more likely to experience violence than other Canadian women, and they account for a disproportionate number of missing and murdered women in this country. In 2015, one-quarter of the women murdered in Canada were indigenous. Michèle Audette, a commissioner for the national inquiry, said that missing and murdered women are more than statistics. They are women who had dreams, dreams that were shattered by a society that turned a blind eye.
Now that the truth is out, the next step is reconciliation. Once all of the abuse is brought to light, we will have to rebuild bridges, make reparations, and take meaningful action. The healing process will be long and ongoing. Today we are taking one more step along that path. From now on, we will no longer speak of our national historic sites and monuments without acknowledging the words and opinions of the first inhabitants, first nations, Inuit, and Métis, who are an integral part of our country.
We are also doing this for future generations. We have a duty to educate each other. What we know about others influences how we act toward them. The abuse stems from attitudes and assumptions that fuel the impression that the other can be treated differently. It is by gaining a deeper knowledge of the roots of conflicts and their impact that we begin to understand the repercussions of the public policy decisions that we make here in Parliament. Only then do we shed our false beliefs, prejudices, and lack of education, setting up future generations to be more aware of the consequences of the mistrustful and colonial attitudes of the past. This change of mentality is necessary for reconciliation.
It is also time to begin a new chapter in the history of our beautiful and great country, Canada. It is time to prove that Canada is a prosperous and just democracy. In starting this new chapter, we must strive to build a reciprocal relationship, a rich and meaningful relationship, with the indigenous peoples.
This will take an ongoing commitment and the necessary material resources. If promises are not followed by action, we risk jeopardizing the entire reconciliation process that is being undertaken. Let us not forget that.
We have an opportunity to commit to a fresh start and to leave a legacy of new, healthy, flourishing relationships for our children and grandchildren. Let us not squander this opportunity. The challenge is great, but we must honour all those who agreed to publicly share their painful memories, those that might otherwise have been buried in the past.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the privilege of speaking to such an important issue, a privilege that I want to share with all those who were affected in the past.