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.