House of Commons Hansard #251 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was historic.


Historic Sites and Monuments ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cloverdale—Langley City. Under private members' business it states there is a constitutional requirement that bills proposing the expenditure of public funds must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Has the hon. member followed through on that?

Historic Sites and Monuments ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


John Aldag Liberal Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are discussions with the government about ways we can add members to the board. The ruling on royal recommendation is not required until after the committee stage. There are some possibilities to deal with this specific issue at the committee stage. Discussions are ongoing, and I am hopeful to find a resolution to allow this to proceed because it is a very important step in the move toward reconciliation.

Historic Sites and Monuments ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in support of Bill C-374, put forward by my colleague from Cloverdale—Langley City. This piece of legislation seeks to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act. The bill addresses call to action No. 79 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report, which reads:

Commemoration 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.

There are two further recommendations under the commemoration heading of the commission, but these are not discussed in this legislation.

Prior to being assigned to the indigenous and northern affairs committee, I was a member of the heritage committee for a year and a half. While the majority of the heritage committee meetings were dedicated to a media study on the impact of digital technology on print media and other media in this country, including indigenous publications and broadcasting, there were also four very interesting meetings concerning the state of Canadian museums.

My experience on the indigenous and northern affairs committee has been limited to land claims and the response of indigenous communities, including those in Saskatchewan, to the wildfires this past year. Nonetheless, it has also given me some insight into how the communities work. I believe my experiences on both the heritage and indigenous affairs committees have served me well in addressing the merits of the bill before us.

The mandate of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada is to advise the Government of Canada, through the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on the commemoration of nationally significant aspects of Canada's history.

Following a thorough evaluation process and recommendation by the board, the minister declares the site, the event, or person of national historic significance.

In addition to handling designations of national significance, the board provides advice on the other related laws and programs.

The board comprises a representative from each province and territory, with appointments of up to five years and the possibility of additional terms. There is also the librarian and archivist of Canada, an officer of the Canadian Museum of History, and the vice-president of Parks Canada's heritage conservation and commemoration directorate, who acts as the board's secretary. Presently, quorum sits at 10.

My home province of Saskatchewan has many national historic sites, some of which are in my own backyard. A very good example is the Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon. I have walked the land of Wanuskewin many times. It is 240 hectares and there are 19 sites that represent the active and historical society of the northern plains peoples. Six thousand years ago indigenous peoples from across the northern plains gathered there to hunt bison and gather food and herbs and to escape the winter winds.

The story of Wanuskewin is just beginning to be uncovered. Along the Trail of Discovery one will find the University of Saskatchewan hard at work at excavation sites. These sites provide clues to the daily existence of early peoples. The park also provides unique experiences such as tipi camping.

Always looking forward, the management board of the Wanuskewin park has launched a $40 million fundraising campaign called “Thundering Ahead”. In a very short time it has nearly reached its goal. I am so proud of the people on the board of the Wanuskewin Heritage Park in my city.

The renewal plan includes reintroducing interactive exhibit galleries, improving educational offerings, expanding and renovating the facility, and introducing a herd of plains bison.

All this is being done with a view to it becoming a UNESCO world heritage site. We do not have any in Saskatchewan. This would be the very first. It is a lofty goal, but it is very exciting to see a bison herd back on these plains. None of this would be happening if the Historic Sites and Monuments Board had not proclaimed Wanuskewin a national historic site.

Another national historic site in my province is our legislative building in the capital city of Regina. According to the Parks Canada directory of heritage designations website, key elements that express the heritage value of this site include the cultural landscape of the legislative building within its grounds and centred on Wascana Lake; its fine exterior masonry of Tyndall sandstone; the high quality of the materials, including stone, marble, and wood, all carved with great skill by craftsmen brought in for their expertise; the stone carving within the facades of shields; the stone carvings of allegorical figures of settlers and aboriginal people, wheat sheaves, and garlands; and its original layout and public spaces, such as the grand staircase, the skylit rotunda under the dome, and the library, galleries, and legislative chamber, with their fine finishes featuring marble, oak, and carved limestone detailing.

If any of the description bears a passing resemblance to where we sit today, it is because both the House of Commons, after the fire of 1916, and the Saskatchewan legislature were built by the same Montreal company, Peter Lyall and Sons Construction Co., and the fine craftsmen he employed both here in Ottawa and in Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan. If members have not been there, the Saskatchewan legislative building is truly a beautiful building, and I would encourage anyone to take a tour of it when in our provincial capital of Regina.

Now on to the matters at hand. There is a wonderful resource available to our members of Parliament. It is called House of Commons Procedure and Practice. I have used it many times, especially when I sponsored my own private member's bill, Bill C-241, which, sadly, was unsuccessful.

I mentioned here before that under the heading “Private Members' Business”, it states:

There is a constitutional requirement that bills proposing the expenditure of public funds must be accompanied by a Royal Recommendation, which can only be obtained from the Government and presented by a Minister. A private Member may introduce a public bill containing provisions requiring the expenditure of public funds, provided that a Royal Recommendation is obtained by a Minister before the bill is read a third time and passed.

Because Bill C-374 would require additional expenditures for the Historic Sites and Monuments Board to cover the expenses of three additional members, I wonder how this could be achieved, even for a member of the governing party. Is there a plan in place to acquire the royal recommendation before third reading? I will leave that to my colleague, the member for Cloverdale—Langley City, to answer during the question and answer period.

I would like to suggest an alternative plan, without the need for a royal recommendation, a trip to the committee, and a trip to the Senate, all of which take a great deal of time, as we know in this House. The alternative would simply mean an amendment to the composition of the board membership by including the requirement that three of the 13 provincial and territorial members be first nations, Inuit, and Métis. This could be done in relatively short order. In fact, there are two vacancies on the board right now, one in the province of Quebec and one in Yukon. I believe a third will become vacant next month, in January. I do not know if the author of Bill C-374 has given this alternative any thought.

I see that my time is up. I want to wish you, Mr. Speaker, your family, and all those in the House a merry Christmas as we take a break heading into this month and January.

Historic Sites and Monuments ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my friend from Cloverdale—Langley City for bringing the legislation to the House of Commons. The member and I both sat on the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. For the past three months we studied heritage issues. Our final report from that committee was recently tabled in the House.

The committee found many concerns, including a lack of attention paid to Canada's archeological sites, limited support for the owners of heritage buildings, inconsistencies with how the federal government protected the heritage buildings it owned, and critically, there was currently no federal legislation to protect UNESCO World Heritage sites in Canada.

Of all the witness testimony we heard, perhaps the most surprising and certainly the most moving came from representatives of indigenous groups.

Mr. Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, told the committee about the neglected legacy of Canada's residential school system. He told us we did not have a program for preserving the residential schools. Nor had we considered how to commemorate the schools that still stood or the ones that had been torn down.

In my riding of Kootenay—Columbia, the St. Eugene Mission School in Cranbrook was transformed by the Ktunaxa Nation into a successful hotel, casino, and golf course resort. However, it also contains photos from its days as a residential school, and Ktunaxa guides provide tours to keep the history alive. As Mr. Moran told the committee, St. Eugene was a rare exception. In fact, while the federal government offered funding to tear down residential schools, it offered nothing to commemorate them.

Mr. Moran also told us about the residential schools graveyards. As we know, thousands of the children forced into the schools never returned home, and their whereabouts are unknown to this day. The schools buried many of those children, and there are at least 400 cemetery locations across the country. Many of them are forgotten and neglected.

It may surprise members in the House to learn that when I was a young child, my brother Greg and I attended a residential school in Chesterfield Inlet, about 500 kilometres north of Churchill on Hudson's Bay. The residential school and the Hudson's Bay store were located on one side of the inlet and our home was located on the other. We were able to go home every night, but my classmates, as young as five years old, did not. They were allowed to go home at Christmas and in the summertime. Even as a young child, I knew that not being able to go home when one was only five years old was wrong.

My sympathy for those kids back then extends to my heartfelt feelings today. We must commemorate the residential schools so we never forget a past that must never be repeated.

The committee also heard from two representatives of the Indigenous Heritage Circle, Ms. Karen Aird, the president; and Ms. Madeleine Redfern, a director. They pointed out something of which I do not believe the committee members were aware. Many of us consider heritage to refer to things like buildings and sites, but indigenous heritage may include intangibles, like laws, stories, and oral histories. It may mean a sacred place, or certain artifacts.

When we met with one of the chiefs in Jasper, he said something that really stayed with me. He said that the good Lord did not give them the written language, so their story was written on the land and that they could still find it today.

Ms. Aird said:

We feel that in this time, this time of reconciliation, this time when we see a new change in government, there's a need for people to start thinking differently about heritage, and moving it beyond built heritage, and thinking about how indigenous people perceive it and how we want to protect it. We do have our own mechanisms. We do have our own methods and approaches to protecting and interpreting heritage, and we feel it's really time now for indigenous people to have a voice in this.

Canadians saw an example of the lack of understanding of indigenous heritage and spirituality recently when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Jumbo Glacier in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia would not be protected from the development of a large ski resort. Jumbo Glacier is also known as Qat'muk and it is a sacred place to the Ktunaxa Nation, which knows it as the home to the Grizzly Bear Spirit. The Court ruled that a specific site or “object of beliefs" could not be protected. As a result, this important spiritual place, where the Grizzly Bear Spirit has been honoured for hundreds or even thousands of years by the Ktunaxa, is now at risk of being destroyed.

How can we solve these issues? What changes must we make, both to our thinking and to our procedures?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission offered some solutions in its calls to action.

Mr. Moran said:

Central within those calls to action are a number of calls related directly to commemoration. Those commemoration calls relate directly to the creation or establishment of a “national memory” and our ongoing need as a country to make sure we continue to shine light into the darkest corners of our history.

Call to action 79 states:

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.

This is exactly what is accomplished by Bill C-374. It goes on to state:

ii. Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.

iii. Developing and implementing a national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, the history and legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history.

Bill C-374 responds directly to call to action 79.i. The bill would increase the number of members of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, and it would provide dedicated spaces for first nations, Inuit, and Métis representatives on the board. It would also provide the necessary financial accommodation for the additional members.

We know the bill does not address all of the sections of call to action 79, but it begins in the right place, which is ensuring there is representation on the board, so that decisions about indigenous heritage include indigenous decision-makers.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission first released its report in June 2015, the NDP leader at the time said, “Today, our country is trying to turn the page on the many dark years and to move forward toward a better future for all peoples.” We have the opportunity to take one step forward toward honouring the actions listed by the commission, and in doing so, we honour the past and those who suffered under this terrible past called the residential school system.

I am proud to support Bill C-374,, and have the NDP members in the House joining me in that support.

I would also like to take the opportunity to wish a merry Christmas to all those in the House who celebrate, as well as those back home in Kootenay—Columbia and across Canada.

Best wishes to all for a happy holiday season.

Historic Sites and Monuments ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-374, an act to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act. Before I begin, it is important to acknowledge that we are gathered on traditional Algonquin territory.

As my hon. colleagues are aware, acknowledging the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples represents a small but significant step in reconciliation with Canada's first peoples.

My remarks today address another opportunity to advance reconciliation by ensuring indigenous peoples contribute meaningfully and openly to decisions about the designation of historic places, persons, and events.

Bill C-374 proposes to add dedicated first nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

There is no doubt that indigenous peoples have played a key role in the history of our country. Indigenous peoples have forged important economic, cultural, and political relationships by opening up a large number of the routes on land and on navigable waters that we continue to use today.

In 1536, Jacques Cartier's crew would have died of scurvy if not for the remedy administered by the Huron people. The alliance of indigenous peoples led by Tecumseh made it possible for Great Britain to drive back the American invaders in the War of 1812.

Some of Canada's designated historic events, persons, and sites are directly linked to indigenous peoples, but we know that we can do more to recognize the full depth and the full breadth of indigenous history and the significant contributions of indigenous peoples.

While relatively few Canadians may be familiar with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, almost all Canadians are familiar with at least one event, one person, or one site that carries a national historic significance. Since 1919, the board has served as an expert advisory body to the Government of Canada on historical matters. The board considers whether a person, event, or place has had a nationally significant impact on, or illustrates an important aspect of, Canadian history. Its recommendations have inspired the Government of Canada to formally recognize nearly 1,000 sites, 650 persons, and 400 events. The board's recommendations help to shape our national identity.

National historic designations are of profound importance to Canadians. They enable us to connect with our past and with the people, places, and events that helped shape our country. They encourage us to appreciate and understand our rich and diverse heritage. They tell their own unique history, contributing a sense of time, identity, and place to our understanding of who we are and how we came to be Canada. They are necessary to the greater story of our great country and to our understanding of Canada as a whole.

The sad truth is that indigenous people have left an indelible mark on our culture and our identity, but their contributions are not fully recognized.

Many Canadians canoe and kayak, for example. In winter, we snowshoe and toboggan down hills. Those are indigenous inventions. Many popular sports in Canada, such as lacrosse, hockey, luge, and bobsleigh have indigenous roots.

It is time to truly celebrate the many contributions of indigenous peoples to our heritage. We must recognize the full extent of the history of indigenous peoples who have lived on our land since time immemorial. Our understanding of Canada is linked to our ability to openly discuss the deep historic roots of the peoples who have lived here forever. Inviting indigenous peoples to participate directly in decisions about historic designations would allow us to enrich our collective knowledge of course, but also to foster reconciliation.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada stated this plainly in its report, “What we have learned: Principles of truth and reconciliation”. The report states:

Too many Canadians still do not know the history of Aboriginal peoples’ contributions to Canada, or understand that by virtue of the historical and modern Treaties negotiated by our government, we are all Treaty people. History plays an important role in reconciliation; to build for the future, Canadians must look to, and learn from, the past.

Bill C-374 responds directly to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action report. The report called on Canada to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to include first nations, to include Inuit, and to include Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

The board works closely with Parks Canada, and Parks Canada already prioritizes reconciliation with indigenous people through a number of strategies. The agency incorporates indigenous knowledge in its conservation and restoration programs, and promotes events and experiences involving indigenous people and cultures across national parks and national historic sites. Through this work, Parks Canada provides Canadians and visitors alike with opportunities to appreciate the role that indigenous peoples have played in our history.

The truth is that indigenous histories and cultures go far beyond canoes and herbal medicines. It is time for Canadians to open their hearts and minds to learn more about the history of this great land. The voices of indigenous peoples must be heard. Canadians take great pride in our heritage programs. They are cornerstones in the promotion of our collective national identity. Furthermore, Canadians are determined to continue on the journey toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Surely it is time that indigenous peoples played a more direct and meaningful role in the decisions about historical designations.

Historic Sites and Monuments ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

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.

Historic Sites and Monuments ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, just before I start, this being the end of the session, before the holidays, I too would like to add my best wishes to everyone for a wonderful Christmas and new year, and thank all Canadians for their generosity. Everyone at some time in their life faces difficult situations, and Canadians are very generous, and have been this season, in helping to increase that magic so that everyone, even those in need, experience it. I encourage all Canadians not to stop now. There is still lots of need before Christmas and Hanukkah, etc.

I want to talk about this wonderful bill. It is an excellent example of the reconciliation that everyone in this House wants to promote. I want to talk about two things. One is why it is so important to have indigenous people on the historic sites board. We might miss things without them.

The first thing I want to talk about is materials, including, for example, when Europeans came a few hundred years ago. I would also like to talk about the frequency of the sites. There are far more opportunities for sites, because the indigenous people have been here more than 10,000 years longer than Europeans. There were all those years to create historic sites. They have vastly more sites and, of course, we would want to make sure they have good representation, government-to-government representation, a specific spot on the board to ensure their presence, over and above other spots that could also be indigenous.

An example is that in the northern part of Yukon, we can see driftwood lying around. It could look like driftwood to any of us, but these are historic cariboo fences that were set up to guide the cariboo to spots where they could be hunted. The Europeans used materials that would last, cement, etc., not natural materials. The first nations people, indigenous people, use the land, natural materials, which are not as easy to distinguish.

Fish traps could perhaps be made out of willow. People would not necessarily know what these were, or bush camps that they used to live in, even at 40 below zero. Non-indigenous people on the board would not necessarily know what these are. They are much harder to detect because they are a part of nature. They always were part of nature.

There are a number of battle sites that, once again, non-indigenous people would have no idea where these might be. People would have to go to these sites to even be able to identify them.

There are far more frequent indigenous historical sites possible because of the 10,000-plus years of people living here. In my area alone, just one of the ridings in the country, there are six indigenous languages: Kutchin, Southern Tutchone, Northern Tutchone, Gwich'in, Kaska, and Hän, and maybe a few more.

It shows how bountiful the people were who lived on this land. There is a map in this month's National Geographic that shows all of the first nations and indigenous languages of Canada. It is so dense right across the country, we can imagine how many historic sites they must have. What people might not think of as indigenous sites in fact are. In my riding, for instance, we just had the 75th anniversary of the Alaska Highway. It was first nations' guides who followed their trails and showed the army where to build the highway. There were also Tlingit traders. When the gold rush came, people might think that was the first gold rush, but of course people had lived there for thousands of years, indeed 10,000 years ago, in the Bluefish Caves in Yukon, for instance.

The Tlingit from the coast had what they called the grease trail, the eulachon trail, to bring eulachon oil into the centre of Yukon. Non-indigenous historians would think that the Chilkoot Trail and the White Pass trail that gold rushers came in on were the start, but these were the first nations' trails from time immemorial, where they traded into the interior and had interactions, both positive and conflictual, with other indigenous people, and with the whole trading system, the whole economic system in the interior.

Another item that people would not necessarily know about was a volcano, roughly 1,100 years ago. If people dig beneath the surface in most of Yukon, they will see a layer of white ash. A whole new culture started in Yukon at that time. It changed from atlatl weapons to a bow and arrow. These are all things that only the indigenous people might draw us to.

Other aspects of indigenous history in Yukon are tar sites, where there was caribou dung piled on a hill. People might not know what that was if they did not have the appropriate education. These were discovered only a few years ago, actually. In the summer, the caribou have to get away from the bugs and go on ice patches in the mountains, which last all summer. For thousands of years people hunted the caribou on those sites, and now historical weapons are being found where those patches existed.

There is such a prevalence of aboriginal sites all across Canada, hundreds of different first nations. If they come from Europe, people might think they are all the same, but, as I said, there are 14 separate first nations just in my area, one riding of the country. We can imagine how many first nations there are across Canada, how much history, and how many historic sites, for which we need the interpretation and wisdom of the elders.

Fortunately, they had an oral history, and these records are in the minds of the people. We all agree that this oral history is an important part of the historic record of Canada. That is why it is so important that this bill creates spots for Inuit, Métis, and first nations people on the board, so that far more of these sites will be recognized and recorded for the very important history of our nation.

Historic Sites and Monuments ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Yukon will have two and a half minutes remaining in his speech when the House next delves into this subject.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired.

The order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, one would think we would have a chance to skip adjournment proceedings, but I am actually glad we get to be here for this last moment, this last chance to again revisit a question I raised. On November 24, I raised two questions, and did not get a satisfactory answer. I am hoping today will be different. I am hoping that on this last day, there will a Christmas miracle, and I will get answers to my questions.

At the time, I posed a riddle to you, Mr. Speaker, which I will read again, because it seems to have been quite popular with members of the press gallery:

We're exempt from tax hikes of the everyday sort. You won't find us in a parliamentary disclosure report. What are we?

Why, we're the finance minister's private holdings, of course.

At the time, I did not get a satisfactory answer. I got evasion, a pretty standard response that I am used to in the House at this point, especially from that particular minister. It is still a continuing question on the personal finances of the minister, and not a personal attack on him.

Are the decisions the finance minister is taking in the best interests of all Canadians? Do they make sense? Are they in the long-term interests of future Canadians who will come to this House some day, perhaps as newly-minted members of Parliament, the seats we are stewarding on their behalf? It is one of those questions.

I ask this because we also have a record of attacks on small business that we saw a partial retreat on today. We have workforce participation numbers. Statistics Canada keeps reporting that workforce participation is falling year after year. Starting in 2015, it has actually accelerated a little. Half of the reduction in the unemployment rate is not due to new jobs being created by the private sector; it is due to people dropping out of the workforce.

We have a $20 billion deficit in this fiscal year, compounded by nearly a $30 billion deficit in the previous year, and we expect it to climb to $113 billion in the next four years, or so. Therefore, in its first mandate, the government will have added an immense amount of debt.

How is the finance minister is making decisions? Are they actually in the best interests of Canadians, or perhaps a smaller, more elite group of Canadians he has specifically selected.

I will ask the parliamentary secretary of the government's choosing. What is actually in the private holdings of the Minister of Finance? Will he reveal it? Will he let the House be the judge of whether he has been making decisions truly for the benefit of Canadians?

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question, even though it is not very factual. It is important to recognize that the Minister of Finance, like every other member of this chamber, we assume, has been very transparent with our commissioner. All assets were provided to the commissioner. At the end of the day, what we have seen is an attack of character, a character assassination of sorts, coming from joint opposition parties. The opposition has spoken out against anything and everything the Minister of Finance has done over the last couple of years.

Even in the question that the member was putting forward to me today, he made reference to a number of issues. For example, he talked about numbers and jobs. He tried to give a false impression that the job numbers are not healthy when, in fact, in the last two years, we have seen the creation of a net increase of 400,000-plus jobs. I would compare those numbers to the Harper government any day. I believe Canadians understand and appreciate the value of the good decisions that this Minister of Finance has put in place, whether it is the middle-class tax break, the Canada child benefit enhancement, or the guaranteed income supplement enhancement. The member across the way talked about small businesses. Does he not realize that very soon we are going to see 100% of small businesses in every region getting a tax decrease?

These things are happening. No matter how the Conservative Party attempts to put its spin on the issues, our Minister of Finance has done an outstanding job. Like all other members, the Minister of Finance has been reporting all his assets to the Ethics Commissioner. That is expected of all members.

We need to have confidence in Mary Dawson, the Ethics Commissioner, and the fine work she has done. She leads a truly independent office. As opposed to Canadians listening to what the opposition parties have to say, I would highly recommend we let the office of the Ethics Commissioner do the job it is supposed to be doing and has been doing. At the end of the day, I believe we will all be better off.

Earlier today, one interviewer indicated that it is not just one side of the House that the commissioner looks at. We will find there are members on both sides, even New Democrats and Conservatives, who Mary Dawson has looked into. It is not just Liberals, but members on both sides of the House. As an independent agent of this Parliament, we respect that the work she does is of great contribution to Canada as a whole.

We continue to move forward today for Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it, as well as taking actions necessary to give strength to and expand our economy in all different regions of Canada, whether through tax reductions, investments in infrastructure, and so on.

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member brought up the Ethics Commissioner, who has actually fined the Minister of Finance $200, a nominal amount, for a transgression of his.

A Yiddish proverb states, “Every answer can result in a new question.” This is my second question now, and I want to preface with a quote from Anthony Furey, something he tweeted, which says:

Don't be fooled. [The Minister of Finance] still claims here that he followed all the rules. But the Conflict of Interest Act says you either divest or use a blind trust. The option he employed—a numbered company—is not one of those two.

Obviously, questions come from that. The answer we received from the other side is not satisfactory. They imply and say all the time that every question we ask is automatically character assassination. That seems to be the default position of the Liberal government. It is simply not. This is a place of accountability. Every question we ask in this House is to find out more from the government on what it is doing.

My question to the parliamentary secretaries, any of them, is basically this. What is in the private holdings of the Minister of Finance?

EthicsAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, given that these will likely be my last comments of 2017, I would first like to offer season's greetings to each and every member. I would like to emphasize the fine work our Hansard people do. They do not have any choice but to listen to the things we say, and at times, I do say quite a bit.

I say to my colleagues across the way that the Minister of Finance has done an outstanding job in the short two years we have been in government, and he is in full compliance in working with and meeting with Mary Dawson, the Ethics Commissioner. He has made himself available to meet with her to discuss different issues.

To try to give the impression that the minister is somehow doing something outside the law is to give a false impression. The Minister of Finance, much like members on both sides of the House, does due diligence and fine work in representing his constituents.

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, as we adjourn for the holidays, the Phoenix pay system has become the grinch who stole Christmas for far too many of our public servants.

It is a basic expectation of any employer to pay his or her employees correctly and on time. Not only has the Phoenix pay system created huge problems for the payment of federal employees, but those payment problems have also created tax problems, and that is something to contemplate as we near the end of this year.

Difficulties with record-keeping have also deprived many federal public servants of benefits to which they should be entitled, and the nervousness about making any kind of change to payroll deductions has deterred many from enrolling for charitable contributions from their pay. Therefore, we see that Phoenix has had a negative effect not only on the pay of public servants but on many other people and groups as well.

In recognition of the severity of this crisis, in yesterday's question period, no fewer than eight New Democratic MPs rose to ask questions about Phoenix. We are making this issue a priority.

We also saw the Phoenix pay system come up in today's question period in an exchange in which the Prime Minister was trying to blame the former Conservative government for Phoenix, and the Leader of the Opposition was trying to blame the Liberal government. At one level, I appreciated that this was almost the closest to a debate I have perhaps seen during question period since being elected, so I enjoyed the back and forth, but ultimately, the Liberals and the Conservatives trying to blame each other is not a solution to the problem.

What are the solutions to the Phoenix pay system? Fundamentally, we need to rebuild and re-establish a publicly administered payroll system. In the meantime, I have suggested that the government should empower members of Parliament with tools to help constituents who come to our constituency offices with Phoenix problems. One of the great frustrations members of all parties have is that there is very little we can do for constituents who come forward with these types of difficulties.

If someone comes in with a problem to do with immigration or employment insurance benefits, there are hotlines our staff can call to get answers and information about that individual's case. There is no such hotline for the Phoenix pay system. About eight months ago, I suggested establishing one, and at that time, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement seemed to feel that it was a good and constructive idea. More recently, when I followed up on this suggestion in a previous adjournment debate, the response was that there is already a triage system and that we would not want to allow people to jump the queue by going to their MP's office.

Of course, that is not the logic we would apply to immigration or to employment insurance. In those areas, we accept that MPs have a responsibility to serve our constituents and that constituency offices serve as 338 points of contact across the country to improve the delivery of public services.

I want to again ask the parliamentary secretary about the possibility of establishing a Phoenix hotline so that members of Parliament have some tools in 2018 to help our constituents with Phoenix problems.

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Gatineau Québec


Steven MacKinnon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, as it is my last occasion in 2017, I wish you and your family as well as all of the staff in the House of Commons, those who serve all members so well and dedicate themselves so entirely to the good functioning of this place, a happy holiday. I also wish a happy holiday to my hon. colleague with whom I have had the pleasure of exchanging many constructive comments with respect to the Phoenix pay system.

We make no bones about the fact that the Phoenix pay system is a major public administration challenge. We make no bones about the fact that we have had to essentially rebuild a capacity that was yanked from the Government of Canada by our predecessor. There were 700 specialists, people who had spent careers learning about collective agreements, pay rules, and the administration of compensation in the public service. These people were no longer available to us and no longer available to implement the new system, breaking almost every rule of business transformation and IT transformation that exists.

What we have had to do with absolute single-mindedness since the beginning of our mandate is rebuild this capacity, and I think our track record demonstrates this. The former member for Burin—Trinity and the former minister of public services and procurement initially opened satellite pay centres to ensure that capacity remained close to where public servants worked. These have continued to grow and develop across the country. Miramichi has seen major investments of human and technological resources and will see the opening, probably before we meet again in the House of Commons, of a brand new pay centre early in the new year. We have made major investments, and we are rebuilding the capability to execute public servants' pay.

Our public service labour partners, such as the public service unions, have made the point continuously that we need to rebuild capacity of all kinds inside the public service, whether it be technological, compensation, or others. I think we have a demonstrated track record.

I do not think for a minute that my friend believes that there is any difference between his, mine, or any public employee's motivation to solve the problems with respect to the Phoenix pay system.

As the year comes to a close, I want to assure my constituents in Gatineau, as well as all Canadians, that we are on the job, we are working hard, and we are allocating all possible resources. Knowing that we are testing the patience of our public servants, we are providing the officials in charge with every tool in the toolbox. We are fully motivated to fix the problems associated with the Phoenix pay system. I am confident that we will see continuous improvement in the new year.

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary concluded by looking to the new year. Indeed, as we look to 2018, I want to briefly ask him about another aspect of the public services and procurement portfolio.

The Liberal government was elected promising to restore door-to-door mail service. So far, mail delivery has not been restored in communities that lost it under the former Conservative government. Indeed, Canadians have observed community mailboxes cropping up in neighbourhoods that currently have door-to-door delivery.

When the Minister of Public Services and Procurement appeared before the government operations committee on November 28, I asked her whether the government would respond to our committee's report on the future of Canada Post before Parliament rose for Christmas. She said that, yes, the government would respond before now.

Parliament has just adjourned for the holidays, and the government has still not responded to our report on the future of Canada Post. Therefore, I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary is in a position to provide that response in his final minute or can at least tell us when that response will be forthcoming.

Public Services and ProcurementAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Steven MacKinnon Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we take very seriously our role and our responsibility to provide Canadians with answers regarding Canada Post's key strategic directions. We are very aware of the commitments we made and the commitments we have fulfilled with respect to mail service across the country.

Canadians want this service, and they are telling us that it is important. Before the end of the year, the minister will be able to provide a response and a strategy for Canada Post's key directions, while fully respecting and acknowledging our election commitments.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

December 13th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 2, I rose in the House to ask a question about problems with employment insurance. During the election campaign, the Liberals made many promises in that regard. Solving the spring gap problem was one of them. After two years, however, the problem has still not been resolved. Despite the promises, many seasonal workers will again have no income next spring.

Although urgent action is needed, the Liberal government still cannot find a real solution to help families who are in a precarious situation because of its failure to act. More than 16,000 seasonal workers are grappling with the spring gap, and almost 40% of them are Quebeckers. The majority of these seasonal workers will once again run out of EI benefits up to four months before they are to return to work. These people are not just numbers, they are people who are suffering a great deal of stress and are afraid that they will not be able to feed their families at the end of winter.

What makes this even harder to understand is that we saw this crisis coming. When the unemployment rate goes down in some regions, it has an impact on eligibility for EI. The new calculation can shorten the benefit period for workers, making the spring gap even longer. For example, in the Restigouche-Albert region of New Brunswick, where the unemployment rate has gone down, workers now have to accumulate 490 hours of work to be eligible for 23 weeks of benefits, whereas they previously had to work 420 hours for 30 weeks of benefits. Workers now have to go even longer without an income, even though the work resumes on the same date the following spring. Imagine going almost 21 weeks with no benefits and no income. It is impossible.

The worst thing about this is that the Liberals continue to blame the Conservatives, when in reality, the extended spring gap is a direct consequence of a mechanism put in place by the Liberals in 1995. Since then, the regional unemployment rate has been an integral part of the EI eligibility criteria. Today, the government insists that the solution is to wait for the unemployment rate to go up. What a joke. A lower unemployment rate should be good news, but in this case it spells bad news for seasonal workers.

That is not the only promise the Liberals have broken with regard to EI. In December 2016, the Prime Minister himself promised to take swift action to extend EI sickness benefits. A year later, guess what, we are still waiting. More than a third of recipients need far more than the 15 weeks set out in the program. It makes no sense.

Fifteen weeks of sick leave is not enough, especially for someone struggling with serious health problems. We cannot expect people who are sick to get better when they are under a tremendous financial strain. EI is important for everyone, including people who are ill and seasonal workers.

When will the government finally do whatever it takes to fix all the problems associated with EI, so that all Canadians receive the benefits they are entitled to?

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario


Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for her remarks.

Since taking office in 2015, our government has faced two overarching challenges. First, we have been working very hard to implement our own agenda of real change to help middle-class Canadians and those working very hard to join the middle class to attain the jobs and status they need to be able to provide for their families and themselves. At the same time, we have faced a second challenge, which is to reverse and fix the disastrous changes put in place by the previous government. While we see these two challenges playing out across the whole of government, I feel that the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has highlighted an area where we have been working especially hard to meet the needs of Canadians who need help the most.

While our employment insurance system has long been one of the core pillars of our social safety net for all communities, the fact is that under the previous government, long overdue and long required changes were left undone. Rather than ensuring that EI gave Canadians the flexibility they needed during challenging times, the previous government generally ignored the system and just hoped for the best.

That is why, since taking office, we have been working hard to make sure that EI meets Canadians' needs by providing equitable benefits across the country.

We have reduced the waiting period from two weeks to one, easing the financial burden on EI recipients at the beginning of their benefit period.

That change means Canadians are receiving an extra $650 million per year.

We rescinded the 2012 changes that specified what kind of jobs unemployed workers were supposed to look for and accept. We improved access to the program by getting rid of certain eligibility criteria for workers who are new entrants or re-entrants to the labour force.

I apologize for my French. I played hockey last year against the Conservatives and had my teeth knocked out, and proper pronunciation is still evading me at times. However, I will struggle on.

We introduced a more flexible working while on claim pilot project that helps certain claimants stay connected with the labour market and to earn extra income while they are on the claim between work sessions. Just a few weeks ago, we introduced new, more flexible EI benefits that help new mothers and parents spend more time with their families and other Canadians to take care of their loved ones during difficult times.

In her question, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot talked about seasonal workers and EI in the great province of New Brunswick. The reality of course is that this challenge goes beyond simply a single province and encompasses some very important sectors of the Canadian economy from coast to coast to coast, including agriculture, forestry, fishing, construction, all of which are essential components of our labour market and all of them reliant to various degrees on seasonal labour.

As the member knows, EI is designed to respond automatically to changes in an EI economic region's unemployment rate. That way, people residing in similar labour markets are treated fairly and similarly, with the amount of assistance provided adjusted according to the changing needs of regions and communities.

Our government is reviewing and seized with these issues. While we are very proud of what we have achieved so far, particularly considering the state of the system when we took it over, we will continue to work hard to provide more EI improvements to more Canadians who need it most all across the country. The issues that have been raised about the gap are significantly important, and we are working with employers, workers and unions, as well as provinces and local municipalities to try to find a way to resolve these issues as quickly as we can. Meanwhile, we continue to move forward with reforms that we think are important to EI.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answers are always the same. It is time that the Liberals kept their promises and took meaningful action to tackle all the problems with EI.

Groups like MASSE, the Mouvement autonome et solidaire des sans-emploi, and CNC, the Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses, are waiting for the government to finally keep the promises it made about the the spring gap problem.

I would also like to take this opportunity to commend Action-Chômage Côte-Nord and their partners for their courageous initiative in organizing a large rally on November 24 to denounce this crisis. On that day, groups representing the unemployed joined forces with unions, mayors, reeves, and politicians to issue a unanimous appeal for help. It is time for the government to react and bring in an emergency measure to avert the calamity facing 16,000 workers and their families.

I will ask my question again. When will this government finally take the necessary steps to fix all the problems with EI?

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure my colleague that our government has been and remains committed to supporting Canadians right across the country when they need it. This issue is front of mind for the minister as we head toward the new year.

We understand that EI provides financial security to families and workers across the country during a period of unemployment.

We know important sectors of our economy rely on seasonal labour. Contributing to the well-being of the seasonal workers that are employed in those sectors, including through the EI program, is important.

We are challenged with success because of the high employment numbers, because of the extraordinary job this government has done to get people back to work. One of the challenges we face are the regional issues where employment statistics are on the rise, but certain sectors are not been attended to as properly as they could be. We understand the need to talk to unions, to employers, and to talk to the communities affected to find a permanent solution to this.

I assure the member that it is front of mind for the minister as we head toward the new year.

As I end, I would like to say Joyeux Noël to my colleague, the opposition, to the House, and to the staff. I thank them very much, and wish them a great new year. Have a happy Christmas and happy Hanukkah as well.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I would like to add my thanks to everyone working for the Parliament of Canada in the House of Commons. I wish everyone, all Canadians, a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Joyeuses Fêtes.

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Pursuant to order made earlier today, the House stands adjourned until Monday, January 29, 2018, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:30 p.m.)