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.