House of Commons Hansard #360 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was yazidi.


Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

(Motion agreed to)

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker Mrs. Carol Hughes

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, it is an extreme pleasure for me to rise again and talk about my private member's bill, now entitled “Indigenous Human Remains and Cultural Property Repatriation Act”.

I want to thank the seconder, the very distinguished member for St. John's East, who has not only helped me to ensure the bill gets through in the appropriate time, but who will also speak to it again tonight.

This private member's bill has taken me down a road I did not expect to go down when it was first adopted.

Just a few days ago, I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my first election, but I still marvel at what can happen in this place. It is an amazing place that can do amazing things.

Although I did not realize how important my private member's bill was when we first drafted it, it has turned out to be very meaningful to a lot of people, and I think it will have a positive effect.

I started it as a result of a visit I made to the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre, a first nations museum in my riding. I was admiring a beautiful robe in a glass case. While doing so, the curator told me that it was not the real robe, that the real robe is in Australia. She said that it was purchased legally and legitimately by a person in the 1800s and it was taken there in 1852. Now it is residing in a museum in Australia. When I asked if we had tried to get it back, she said that some efforts had been made, but there was no ability to get it back.

At that time, I thought perhaps we could draw up a private member's bill to ask the government to establish a structure so small first nations bands, like Millbrook band near Truro, Nova Scotia, could have somebody to turn to to get help if it wanted to get back one of its original artifacts. Therefore, we drafted Bill C-391, thinking it would be a little innocuous bill that might help first nations get their artifacts back if they became available.

When I tabled the bill, I spoke for two minutes and 37 seconds if I am not mistaken. However, I did not know the Australian ambassador heard about it somehow. She took action. We did not ask her to do this and we did not expect her to it. That was not my intention.

At that time, Her Excellency Natasha Smith took it upon herself to contact the museum in Australia to see if it could begin negotiations to get the robe back to Millbrook. I could not believe that happened. She came to see me a few weeks later and told me what steps she had taken. I will be forever in her debt for doing that.

Her Excellency Natasha Smith and Brittany Noakes worked hard on this. They made a connection with the Melbourne Museum, where the robe resides. In the end, it turned out that the young aboriginal woman from the first nation in my riding, Heather Stevens, was negotiating with a young first nations person in Melbourne, Australia. That was so meaningful. It was not Canada to Australia. It was first nation to first nation, 15,000 kilometres apart. Negotiations are under way and hopefully some day the robe will come back.

Heather Stephens, the manager and curator of the Millbrook Heritage Centre, is dealing with Genevieve Grieves, the manager of first people's department in the museum in Melbourne. To me, that is part of the magic of this whole process, that those two people have connected and are negotiating and discussing how this can all happen.

I want to thank all the people who have been involved in this, all the people who have helped and all the people in the first nations right across the country who have contributed ideas and thoughts. They really made me understand how important artifacts were to their people.

It is more than just an artifact. It is their history, it is their people, it is the spirit of their people. I do not pretend to be able to capture the entire meaning that artifacts have to first nations peoples, but I know it is so important for them to have them back. I am so pleased to be a part of a process that will help them achieve the goal of getting artifacts back to their proper homes.

I want to thank the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, especially the chair, the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, who helped to get the bill through the committee in the proper way and in a timely fashion. Thoughtful amendments were made to the legislation that improved and strengthened it.

Also, through this process, those of us who really do not have a lot to do with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have a better understanding of it. This bill complies with that declaration and I think it will be an important part of Canada's process to move ahead on the United Nations declaration.

The other thing that has amazed me is that we have had responses from all over the world on this. It is just a private member's bill. I had no idea where it was going to go. However, it was pointed out to me that it was written up in the Netherlands. The article was all in Dutch, but I know it is right because my name was spelled right. That was the only way I could tell. It includes a picture of the artifact from Millbrook. There was also an article written in China. It was the same thing, my name was spelled right again, and the picture of the artifact and Millbrook was in it.

We have been contacted by the commonwealth museum in Britain about the importance of the bill and how it might be used as a model down the road in other countries. There are so many countries that want their artifacts back. I noticed last week, I think, that France decided it would repatriate some incredible artifacts back to countries in Africa.

We are part of a worldwide effort to repatriate artifacts to indigenous peoples. I am certainly pleased and proud to be a part of it. I hope my bill does go through. I think we have support from all the parties, and I appreciate that very much.

I so much appreciate the support from my caucus and my House leader, who helped ensure we got this in, in a timely fashion. I will work with members if there are amendments, or they want changes or need interpretations. I appreciate it going through report stage the way it has. I am now pleased to have it at third reading.

I want to thank everybody who has been involved with this. It has been an incredible journey. It has taught me a lot. It has taught me a lot about indigenous peoples and the values they have, which I have come to really appreciate more than I did in the past. However, it is all through talking with indigenous peoples and museums about indigenous artifacts.

One indigenous lady said that this was not just a robe in Australia, that this robe represented the spirit of all the indigenous peoples who made it, all the people who handled it and all the people who cared for it until it changed hands and went into European hands and then to Australia, where it has been ever since. I will never forget that conversation. It was certainly meaningful and meant a lot to me.

Again, I thank everyone who has supported it and has helped get it to where it is.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member not only for his recent remarks, but for seeing an opportunity to bring this bill forward to the House. It can have a positive impact on the lives, the memories and the cultural heritage of the indigenous groups in his riding. I think it will have a similar fate in my province.

Does the member have plans with respect to how he will to procedurally get this bill, if it is passed in this chamber, through the next stages? Also, what is the importance of having this heard tonight rather than in the winter so we can get the bill passed?

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member because he helped us move this forward. I have beseeched our House leader, who has been very co-operative and helpful. I know she will be really helpful going forward and help us get this through. It is important that we get it through in time for it to go through the Senate, through the process and be there for the whole world to see.

One of the amazing things are the articles that have been written around the world about this private member's bill. I am so proud of that. However, I did not realize when we started how meaningful this issue was to indigenous people. If we can help, it will not only help in Canada but it will help in many other areas.

The secretary-general of the Commonwealth Association of Museums contacted us to asked if it could be used as a model for legislation in other countries. It represents 52 countries, so perhaps it will go many places and benefit many indigenous peoples.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, we were really happy earlier this year when the member and the Liberal Party voted in favour of Bill C-262, which was brought forward by the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. It essentially seeks to ensure that all of Canada's laws are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Of course, a big part of that is returning cultural property.

Does the member have any thoughts to share with the House on how his private member's bill can work with Bill C-262 and really advance the cause toward reconciliation?

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, the thing I have learned through this process is that repatriation of artifacts is reconciliation. That is reconciliation in its most tangible, meaningful form. It is reconciliation for young indigenous people who can see what their ancestors did, the talents and abilities they had, the ways they made these artifacts. It is reconciliation for seniors who remember some of these artifacts and the people who made them. It is the ultimate step in reconciliation in a very tangible way, and I am proud to be part of that.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-391. I thank the hon. member for bringing his private member's bill to the House for us to consider.

I have a keen interest in the subject matter of the bill. I have great respect for the history, and I greatly enjoyed learning more about it, as we studied it through the committee.

The bill is well-intentioned, and I will be supporting it. However, I believe there were some issues that could have been addressed that would have made the bill even better.

I have great respect for the important role artifacts play in fostering appreciation for history. They are a tangible and irreplaceable link to our past. It is one thing to read about history in a book, but it is another to see the historical objects created by another person living in a different era. Historical objects bring history to life. They provide a window into how things were and how people lived. They remind us that the historical figures we read about really existed in flesh and blood.

If we want future generations to truly understand how their present is linked to our country's past, we need to ensure these objects are not lost. They are not just an invaluable means through which to remember the past; they are the way we can learn to live how they lived. They are also a key to understanding the present. I strongly believe that their protection and preservation should be a priority of any government.

The bill seeks to establish a framework through which aboriginal peoples can reacquire these invaluable links to their proud histories. It would implement a mechanism through which any first nation, Inuit or Métis community could acquire or reacquire aboriginal cultural property to which they would have a strong attachment. It would also implement a means through which they could reacquire human remains. This was an important part of the study that we found was missing to begin with and the significance it had to aboriginal people. It would encourage owners, custodians or trustees of aboriginal cultural property to return such property to aboriginal peoples and support them in the process. This is a laudable goal.

In my riding of Bow River, we have Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. I was very happy that its representative, Clement Doore, was able to join us at committee and offer valuable testimony. Blackfoot Crossing maintains a collection of many incredible historical objects. It provides a great educational service to its community. It also provides an economic benefit by attracting visitors and promoting tourism in the region. I was fortunate enough to visit and receive a guided tour last year. I was greatly impressed by the wealth of history and knowledge on display. I believe it is an example of a success story that deserves to be emulated more broadly in our country.

Despite being well-intentioned, I strongly believe that parts of the legislation should have been clarified and could have been improved. The government members rejected our amendment that would have ensured that the public interest would be considered in the repatriation strategy. The intent was to ensure that artifacts would be available to Canadians in a way that would enhance knowledge and appreciation of aboriginal culture. Including this language explicitly in the bill would have strengthened it considerably. Access to history is always in the public interest. As I noted, we cannot comprehend the present without understanding the past.

I again point to Blackfoot Crossing in my riding as a great success in this regard. It is located on a historic site of great significance to the Blackfoot confederacy, where thousands gathered for the signing of Treaty No. 7. It is available to the general public, and I can assure anyone interested in visiting that it offers a fantastic educational experience.

The bill should have also included language noting how important it was that the strategy adequately preserve and protect the quality and integrity of aboriginal property. The heritage committee heard about the challenges the museum industry faced in attracting staff. For a variety of reasons, there are not enough professional curatorial staff in Canada.

Many artifacts are fragile and require a good deal of expertise to preserve. Operating costs related to the preservation of historical objects can also be a real challenge for smaller museums. We heard in committee that the Haida museum, for example, had some difficulties due to its remote location. This bill should have been amended to reflect this reality.

I was lucky to have been able to visit the Haida nation and see some of its historical treasures. It is isolated and far removed from most of the Canadian population, but it is significant and most people should be able to see it and travel there. However, it is remote.

We need some manner of safeguard in place to ensure that these tangible links to history are not lost to future generations. We need to help with the cost to preserve and maintain these aboriginal artifacts. It was a mistake not to include this explicitly in the bill.

We also failed to ensure the legislation did not have unintended consequences for aboriginal artists and creators. I own several pieces of tremendous artwork produced by Siksika artists who live in my riding. This industry yields great economic benefits in many indigenous communities and helps foster appreciation for their cultures. It should not be jeopardized in any way.

The bill must not dampen enthusiasm for the incredible work produced by aboriginal artists by suggesting one's purchase might someday be repatriated. That would be a very unfortunate, unintended consequence. Again, the Liberals rejected our amendment to the legislation that would have guarded against any such unintended consequences. I am not sure why they rejected it.

I was very disappointed to learn that the Canadian Museums Association was not consulted during the drafting of the bill. Perhaps some of these issues could have been highlighted at an earlier stage in the process had consultation taken place. We did eventually receive a written brief from the CMA in committee. We attempted to include some of its counsel in the bill through amendments, but again the government rejected them.

The CMA has done great work and has a great working relationship with first nations. Its input was valuable and should not have been disregarded in this way.

We want to continue to ensure that Canadians understand and appreciate the first peoples of Canada, while respecting property and the great significance of these historical objects to aboriginal peoples.

As I noted, I will be supporting the legislation, but I remain deeply disappointed that amendments were rejected that could have made it much stronger and better.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and join in the debate on Bill C-391, brought in by the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester. I appreciate the initiative and the thought behind the bill. It is an issue that needs to be talked about and brought into force with some measure of the law.

I am very honoured to come from a region of the country that has a very deep and rich first nations heritage, which is still ongoing, as do many parts of Canada. It is a vast land. When we are talking about first nations, Métis and Inuit, their cultures are as diverse as any we would find around the world. We cannot speak about them just as one set of peoples. They have a lot of diversity and a lot of different cultural practices. When I look at the Cowichan Valley and the Cowichan people, who are the largest first nation band in British Columbia, I am very honoured to have some long-standing relationships with many members, including the chief.

I look at some of the well-known archaeological sites. They abound in the Cowichan Valley and in many of the islands that form the southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the Mainland.

One in particular is the Ye'yumnuts village near Duncan, which is about to become a living indigenous history lesson. It is a 2.4 hectare meadow, which, in collaboration with Cowichan tribes, will be used as an open air classroom. They have found a lot of different tools. The site is more than 2,000 years old and it is estimated that the Cowichan people lived there for about 600 years and then used the area as a burial ground for another 600 years. They have found tools that originate from the Fraser Valley and even jade tools that come from the Fraser Canyon and sharp cutting rocks that originate from as far away as Oregon, which speaks to the flourishing trade routes that existed among all the different nations in the Pacific Northwest.

We can go out near Salt Spring Island to Grace Islet. We had some controversy there about three to four years ago when someone was trying to build a house on the island, even though there was knowledge that there were at least 15 different individual burial sites marked by cairns there. It was only through intervention by the Government of B.C. that the construction on that island was stopped. It is now under the protection of the Nature Conservancy, which is working with local first nations to preserve the area and to bring it back to its natural state.

I look at Galiano Island, specifically the campground at Montague Harbour, that is sitting on an old midden heap, where for thousands of years all of the clamshells were deposited. We are talking about hundreds of years of clamshells being deposited in one area and all of the various tools that were used to harvest them.

I have a friend who is an archaeologist by profession. I remember one year, when we were camping at Montague Harbour, being able to walk down the beach. Pretty much every couple of minutes, she was pointing out different stone tools. Once we got an eye for them, we could see them everywhere. They were pieces of rock that had been hit upon with different instruments to make them into different cutting surfaces, and they are everywhere.

We derive a lot of education from museums around the world. We would not know about some of the long lost civilizations such as the Sumerians, ancient Babylonia and the ancient pharaohs in Egypt if it were not for museums. They serve a purpose. The main difference, when we are talking about first nations cultural pieces and tools, is that they are not gone. They are still with us. In fact, I attended the elders gathering, which the Cowichan hosted in British Columbia this year, and the main theme was “We are still here”.

We know that most indigenous ethnology collections found in Canadian and foreign museums in universities today were taken by missionaries, government agents, amateur and professional collectors and anthropologists and that that was done without the informed or prior consent of the people. It was theft, and in many cases the stealing of these tools and ceremonial devices was a way to crush their culture, to try to take away their traditions and try to subsume those nations into the white person's culture, as we have tried to do so many times in this country. That is the main difference.

I am really happy that the member has brought forward this bill. If I could offer some constructive criticism, I would point out that when we look at the language in the bill, we still see words like “encourage”, “support” and “provide”. We could have used more forceful language to bring this bill into harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

That said, it is good to see that the minister will have to report to Parliament because of clause 4. It remains to be seen how well the government provide funding as a result of legislation, but I certainly hope, if this bill does make it to royal assent and becomes one of the statutes of Canada, the government would see fit to take this issue with the seriousness it deserves.

I mentioned the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is important to highlight that because the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou has spent a large part of his life working on this particular issue. Everyone in the House can take great pride in Bill C-262, which seeks to bring the laws of Canada into harmony with the United Nations declaration. The fact that government members and a majority of members in the House voted for the bill and sent it off to the other place represents a very historic moment. If Parliament, both the House of Commons and the Senate, and later the Crown represented by the Governor General, assent to this particular piece of legislation, a key article of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, article 12, reads as follows:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.

2. States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned.

Bill C-262 was certainly the very important first step. If we agree to that bill as a whole, then we would be agreeing to article 12 as well. Bill C-391 would establish the framework for exactly how this is to be done.

There is always room for improvement in legislation, but I will commend the member for Cumberland—Colchester for his private member's bill reaching third reading stage. That is a rare feat. I appreciate the thought behind the bill and I will be voting to send it to the other place. I hope the hon. senators will give it their due consideration.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, thank you.

I will only speak very briefly. I really want to rise in support of Bill C-391, an act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of indigenous cultural property, mainly to explain why I handed my spot to the member for Cumberland—Colchester so this could pass quickly through this place and go to the next place before the next election.

For those who follow the Order Paper closely, they may have noticed that my motion, Motion No. 196, was meant to be heard tonight. It is important to people in my community and deals with cultural diversity in the online world. However, I do understand that to get things through this place and on to the other place takes some time, especially when we come up against an election.

The reason it is so important to people in my riding is that Beothuk remains are still held by the National Museum of Scotland. Newfoundland and Labrador have made attempts to have those remains repatriated. The Government of Canada had to step in to fulfill an obligation under European and Scottish law to make a national request for the return of those remains. That was done less than a year ago, and we would so love to have the additional support of the House and Senate to allow the Beothuk remains to be returned and to reside, most likely, at The Rooms, which is a museum in my riding of St. John's—East.

I would be very interested to hear the comments of any other members in this place.

That includes the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, if he wishes to take the floor. If he agrees to speak for just a few minutes, we might be able to get this bill to the other place before the Christmas break.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to this bill on the repatriation of indigenous cultural property. I had the opportunity to sit on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage with my colleagues. We wanted to better understand the bill and improve it.

That is why this evening I would like to rise to speak to Bill C-391, an act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of indigenous human remains and cultural property.

The Conservative Party had amendments for this bill. We tabled five amendments that we felt would have improved the bill. We were assured at committee by the member for Cumberland—Colchester, the sponsor of this bill, that the bill would not interfere with private property rights. As long as the Liberals are true to their word on that, we plan to support this bill even though, unfortunately, at committee the Liberals demonstrated that they were being closed-minded. For example, they rejected the suggestions of the Canadian Museum of History before even reading them.

We felt that the amendments we brought forward at committee were substantive and would have significantly improved and better defined the scope of the bill. While we do not believe this is a perfect bill, what I gathered from the testimony we heard from experts and, importantly, aboriginal Canadians, leads me to believe that this is desired by our indigenous people. Indeed, the repatriation of indigenous human remains and cultural property is one of the many steps we must take toward reconciliation, as mentioned earlier today in the House.

Before going any further, I want to note that the repatriation of indigenous cultural property is part of a broader movement. I would like to point out to the House that France has committed to a similar process for the restitution of African heritage. French historian Bénédicte Savoy and Senegalese writer Felwine Sarr have studied the conditions under which works held in French museums could eventually be repatriated to Africa.

Obviously, this has to be done in an orderly fashion, and that is why, when we were debating the bill in order to improve it, we had concerns. Unfortunately, those concerns were not taken into consideration by the Liberal government. We believe that these improvements would have helped clarify the intent of the bill's sponsor. As I mentioned earlier, the intent is not to interfere with private property rights, which are a fundamental right.

Before going to the positive reasons why I support this bill, it is important to consider the concerns and debate around this bill. Even with regard to something we ultimately support, it is important to consider all sides. On one hand, 1 am pleased that the sponsor of the bill verbally reassured the House that the intent of the bill is not to tamper with private property, or to force anyone to give us legally acquired artifacts.

During the first round of debate on this bill, the member for Cumberland—Colchester said:

Madam Speaker, we have done wide-ranging consultations. Our focus is on having a system that can help a small community like Millbrook First Nation in my riding deal with the issues of transportation, restoration, storage, display, and so on. Right now there is no process. Communities are on their own if they identify an artifact. They have done that but they have no help and there is no place to turn to.

Certainly, I am open to anything that will make the bill better, to deal with these issues that we have both brought up, but the intent is not to force anybody to give up legally acquired artifacts.

We can see that the intent of the bill's author is clear. Unfortunately, we do not find this clarification in the bill, because the amendment we were willing to support were rejected by the Liberals.

While the bill does not mention the protection of private property, 1 have been assured that the bill ultimately will not make any changes to private property rights in Canada.

Some stakeholders did signal their concern about these rights, and the Liberal government was not very open toward the amendments proposed by stakeholders, such as museums. Members know the key role that they played in this process and in what is happening in France. On this topic, while I do not believe that the bill infringes on private property in any way, I hope that once it comes into effect, there will be none of the unintended consequences that we see all too often, and that we can continue to keep private property, one of the most sacred rights in a democracy, in mind.

There was also some concerns regarding the scope and jurisdiction of the bill.

A representative from the Canadian Museum of History told the committee that he and his colleagues wondered whether the bill is supposed to apply to national requests, international requests or possibly both.

There are two questions here, namely whether the property in question is public or private property, and whether it is located in Canada or outside Canada. We would have liked to clarify these elements in the bill, based on the recommendation of museum experts. Unfortunately, once again, the Liberals ignored these important clarifications and rejected our amendments.

The wording in the bill before us today, which will eventually be examined by the other chamber, whose members sometimes examine bills for flaws, does not clearly specify whether the bill applies to national or international requests or, as I mentioned, whether it applies to property held in public or private institutions. We had some suggestions regarding these options, but the government did not consider them.

The experts from the Canadian Museum of History said that they had proposed some options for these two cases, along with their observations. They hoped that the observations would be helpful to the committee members, but once again, the Liberals did not even consider these recommendations. In fact, they did not even read them. In my opinion, when we are discussing a piece of legislation, it is important to listen to the witnesses and, above all, to consider the undesirable effects of bills.

We recognize that over centuries, museums, collectors and churches have taken objects during ceremonies. However, this needs to be done in an orderly fashion, and unfortunately, that is not the case. This is what we heard from a member of the indigenous community of northern Alberta:

Working together collectively to have these items repatriated is an empowering mechanism that will be a vital component to build the journey toward reconciliation so that our future generations can have the dignity and pride that our ancestors and grandparents had taken away from them.

This shows the importance of all the collections that are held in museums but are not necessarily accessible.

Preserving culture is important. We support the spirit of the bill, but unfortunately, since the Liberals rejected the amendments, the bill remains vague, which means we are not sending the Senate a polished gem, but merely an intention that needs to be clarified. That said, given that I agree with the principle, I will be supporting this bill.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise tonight in the House of Commons and contribute my voice to the debate on Bill C-391, an act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property.

I will begin by thanking the sponsor of the bill, the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester. In his comments this evening, he noted that he recently celebrated 30 years since he was first elected as a parliamentarian in this place. Currently, he is a member of the government party, and he has been a member of the governing party a few different times throughout the years. Some of those governing parties went by different names over the years, including the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1988 to 1993, and then its legacy party, the Conservative Party of Canada, for a time as well. I believe he also sat as an independent, which makes it a quadfecta in terms of sitting as a member of various parties within this place. I want to thank him for bringing forward this piece of legislation and for bringing it to third reading here tonight.

I also want to thank some of the previous speakers, particularly the member for Bow River. He is also a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I thought his comments were particularly insightful. He brought about some of the concerns he had with the legislation. While he supports the bill, he still expressed the concerns he has and some of the unintended consequences that often come to be with this type of bill. His thoughtful commentary and the constructive criticism of his concerns on the bill were worthwhile, and I thank the member for bringing those forward in this debate.

When we talk about the preservation of artifacts and human remains, my mind is drawn to many of the great cultural institutions in our ridings and across the country that have, at their core, the effort of preserving and enhancing the memories that we have of our history. In my riding of Perth—Wellington, I am always delighted to attend events at the two significant museums in my ridings, those being the Stratford Perth Museum located just outside of Stratford, Ontario, officially in Perth south, as well as the Wellington County Museum, which is officially just outside of my riding but nonetheless covers the Wellington portion of my riding.

Both of those institutions have made a distinct and concerted effort over the past number of years to ensure the preservation of the indigenous history that has spanned our country. In some cases, it has touched on the local geographic area that is now known as Perth and Wellington counties as well as the communities within them. They appropriately preserve and are respectful of the important indigenous cultures that have been in Canada over many millennia. That history is enhanced and preserved, not just for our generation, but for the generations that come after ours as well.

The bill has at its heart a few measures that would be included in a potential strategy. The bill calls for the implementation of a strategy to preserve these artifacts and provide that they could be repatriated to the appropriate location within Canada, within the appropriate first nations, Inuit or Métis community.

What the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester came across when he was in his riding, an indigenous artifact that had found itself in Australia, and the connections that were made to try to return that artifact to its rightful home in the indigenous community, is a great example. The measures contained in the bill, and there are five, would help to facilitate the production of such a national strategy.

The first measure would implement a mechanism by which any first nation, Inuit or Métis community or organization may acquire or reacquire aboriginal cultural property to which it has a strong attachment. I would suggest there is some ambiguity in this measure, particularly in the phraseology of “strong attachment”, which could be open to interpretation. I would suggest that as the strategy is developed and as the departmental and governmental officials undertake the construction of this national strategy, they bear this in mind and ensure there are strong indicators for the strong attachment that an indigenous community or organization may have to a particular artifact so there is not too much of a grey zone when analyzing these measures.

The second measure would encourage owners, custodians or trustees of aboriginal cultural property to return such property to aboriginal peoples and to support them in the process. I think this is a worthwhile measure and a worthwhile conversation as well. One of the things that we as non-indigenous Canadians often find is that we may not necessarily understand the significance of a particular artifact or the significance of a particular piece of aboriginal or indigenous history. Having this measure included within the strategy would spark that conversation, that discussion and dialogue on the significance of a particular artifact that ought to be at least considered to be returned to a more appropriate venue such as an indigenous community, a first nations, Métis or Inuit community.

The third measure would support the recognition that preservation of aboriginal cultural property and access to that property for educational and ceremonial purposes as principles of equal importance. Talking about the educational and the ceremonial purposes is extremely important because we are still learning. Unfortunately, we have had terrible examples in our history, such as the Indian residential schools. It is indeed a dark mark on our history, but having the ability to learn from those mistakes, learn from where we as a country have not treated aboriginal people with the care and respect they deserve, and the absolute tragedy of that aspect of our history is one that we as Canadians cannot forget. The focus on the recognition of preservation in the light of educational and ceremonial purposes is very important as we debate the bill and as the national strategy is eventually created.

The fourth measure is to encourage the consideration of traditional ways of knowing rather than relying on strict documentary evidence in relation to the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property. This goes to some of the traditional cultural ways in which indigenous communities operate. There may not be written evidence of the ownership of a particular artifact. Nonetheless, there is traditional knowledge within indigenous communities that an artifact or a piece of history does have that connection. I would hope that the national strategy, when it is developed down the road, would be able to take into account that traditional way of knowing as is referenced in the bill.

The fifth aspect is to provide a forum for the resolution of conflicting claims that is respectful of aboriginal traditional processes and forms of ownership and where claimants are self-represented. This is important because there will be disagreements among individuals and perhaps among indigenous communities themselves as to whether or not there are significant connections. Having a forum to help to adjudicate, but also help to resolve in a non-confrontational way would be exceptionally important in terms of the development of this national strategy. There would be some concern, in my view, about whether or not that particular aspect would require a royal recommendation, but that would be an aspect for down the road after the national strategy is created and is developed.

At committee, as referenced by the member for Bow River, amendments were suggested by the official opposition. Unfortunately, those were not accepted. Those recommendations and amendments would have improved the bill, but we as the official opposition will nonetheless be supportive of the bill at third reading and sending it to the other place for further debate. The Senate is its own independent body and senators may wish to consider the amendments that were proposed by our official opposition at committee stage. That is their right and their prerogative as an equal legislative body to do so.

I will conclude with an important quotation from the former shadow minister for Canadian Heritage, the Hon. Peter Van Loan, who stated:

The aboriginal communities of Canada are truly our first peoples. As such, aboriginal culture is important to all Canadians for its role in informing us who we are, what our roots are, and how that has contributed to making Canada the extraordinary country we are today.

I recognize that my time is at an end. Once again, I want to thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester for bringing forward Bill C-391 and for the opportunity to participate in this important debate.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on this important private member's bill. Like my colleagues who have also spoken to it today, and other colleagues from the Liberals, I am not sure if the NDP has spoken on this, we will be supporting this bill.

This bill, Bill C-391, the aboriginal cultural property repatriation act, introduced by our colleague from Cumberland—Colchester just recently, talks about aboriginal culture being repatriated to museums and other proper owners here in Canada.

In what I call my past life, before I joined this wonderful place, I used to be in the hotel business. One of my activities was as a supporter and a member of the board of directors of the Alberta Aviation Museum. Therefore, of course I appreciate the member bringing forward an important bill that would strengthen our ties to our past through the repatriation of some aboriginal artwork or artifacts and also give Canadians better access to enjoy the artwork.

The Alberta Aviation Museum is located in part of downtown Edmonton in the very last surviving dual hangar left over from the British Commonwealth training program. I bring that up because they were scattered across Canada, from Victoria all the way out to Newfoundland. There is a new-found interest among first nations in aviation, to the point where there is a school in Ontario called the Tyendinaga Aerodrome. It is the First Peoples' Aviation Technology. There is almost a rush to join the First Peoples' Aviation Technology to learn to fly. What is interesting about this is that the aerodrome is based at one of the very last surviving single hangars left over from the air training program. I thought I would tie them together. It is interesting to see the first nations getting into the high-demand aviation industry.

We were fortunate at the aviation museum in Alberta to have a wonderful collection. We had an F-86 Canadair Sabre. What is interesting about that Sabre is it was the first plane in Canada to break the sound barrier. We also had a Mosquito, which was interesting. The reason I tie it into the repatriation is because Canada does not allow Canadian-owned or Canadian-built planes to be sold out of the country.

Unfortunately, I am down to my last minute. Therefore, I will skip the story of the Mosquito unfortunately and talk about why we support this bill. It would “implement a mechanism by which any First Nation, Inuit or Métis community or organization may acquire or reacquire” aboriginal cultural property that has a strong attachment. This is part of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission brought about by the previous Conservative government and also supported in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well, in articles 11 and 12. There are a lot of great things about this bill.

I apologize to my colleague for not being able speak for the full 10 minutes on it. I think I am out of time. However, I want to thank him for bringing it forward. There is a lot of good that would come from this bill. I look forward to it passing at committee, passing in this House, and all the wonderful things that the bill would do.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Edmonton West will have six minutes remaining in his time when the House next gets back to debate on the question that is before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from November 7 consideration of the motion.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Strathcona.

Let me begin by acknowledging that the House formally acknowledged the genocide against the Yazidis in October of 2016. The Yazidis are an ethnic group of over 700,000 people, mostly in northern Iraq, who were targeted and persecuted by ISIS for their beliefs and practices, displacing more than 200,000 people from their homes, both in Iraq and to other places around the region.

I want to acknowledge that one of the reasons we know of the horrors of the treatment of the Yazidi people was the work of the 2018 Nobel prize winner, Nadia Murad. Nadia Murad used her own ordeal as a survivor of sexual slavery as, what she called, her best weapon to make the world aware of the plight of Yazidi women and children. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to her, appropriately, on the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1820, which condemned the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and stipulated that rape and other forms of sexual violence constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and may even constitute acts of genocide.

Nadia Murad's tireless advocacy, along with that of former Conservative leader, Rona Ambrose, the MP for Calgary Nose Hill, the MP for Vancouver East and others in the House, did finally move Canada to act in October of 2016, to announce that we would resettle the most vulnerable and take in more than 1,000 Yazidis, who now reside in Canada. Though slow to act and slow to deliver on our promise, we did do the right thing when it came to the most vulnerable of the Yazidis.

The report we are dealing with today deals with pretty much what the title says: “Road to Recovery: Resettlement Issues of Yazidi Women and Children in Canada”.

Before addressing the report directly, I want to stop for a moment and address some of the most popular and stubborn misconceptions about refugees. The first of those is that refugees are somehow a burden to Canada. I will acknowledge that government-sponsored refugees in their first year require and receive government assistance, and no, it is not more than Canadian seniors receive in government assistance. However, an even larger group of refugees in their first year are privately sponsored refugees, and they are just that, privately sponsored.

Rather than being a burden on Canada, ordinary Canadians come together to support those refugee individuals and families in their first year. I want to cite an example from my riding, the Gorge Tillicum Refugee Sponsorship Group. This is a group of a dozen plus families and individuals who simply call themselves friends and neighbours. They have set themselves a goal of raising $91,000, which will be required to sponsor a Somali refugee family of eight who have been stuck in a refugee camp in Kenya for 28 years as a result of civil war in Somalia. This family from Somalia cannot be identified for security reasons, but they do have two adult children who came to Canada as refugees and now reside in Victoria. With private sponsorship and with two family members already in Victoria, this family has an enormously high chance of success in resettlement and reintegration in Canada. What they have now in the refugee camp in Kenya is no prospect. They will not be a burden to Canada.

In fact, when we look at refugees who come to Canada and compare their economic performance with the rest of Canadians, looking at immigration and tax records, studies have found that after 25 years, refugees have incomes more than 12% higher than other Canadians. Why is that the case? Why would refugees be more successful than other Canadians? One of those things is that we have effective settlement programs, which give them the assistance they need to integrate in Canada. Often, it is the case that those who are able to escape violence and persecution at home and access the Canadian refugee system are those who already have skills and resources. The poorest of the poor are often trapped in those civil wars and in those cases of violent persecution and are not able to access refugee systems abroad.

The most important thing about the refugees I have known, and I have been a friend of refugees in my community for the past 40 years, is the drive to succeed so they can help their family, because not all family members get to Canada at the same time.

Therefore, most refugee families spend a lot of what they achieve in Canada supporting their families back home.

The second myth I want to address is the concern about “hundreds of thousands of refugees” streaming into Canada. I received correspondence in my office just this week referring to hundreds of thousands of refugees and being concerned about the burden that I just talked about. The number of refugees arriving in Canada is somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 or about 12% of total newcomers to Canada in any given year. Therefore, those who talk about hundreds of thousands of refugees are confusing refugees and other immigrants to Canada, those who choose to immigrate to Canada. When we talk about the effort we are making for Yazidis, only 1,000 Yazidis came to Canada through the refugee system, so we can certainly afford to offer government assistance, as we are doing for most of those Yazidi refugees.

The third myth is that somehow refugees skip the queue, displacing skilled immigrants and family reunification programs in our immigration system. These are completely separate programs. Refugees do not displace those who are waiting to have their applications for family reunification or economic immigration adjudicated. The delays for those people are not from refugees getting ahead of them. The delays are caused by the underfunding of our immigration system. It began with cuts by the Conservatives in 2012 and I am sad to say that adequate funding to deal with immigration has never been restored by the Liberals in their three years in power.

The fourth myth is that making a refugee claim in Canada is sometimes illegal. Under both Canadian and international law, that is never the case. Even those crossing the border irregularly from the United States—and the accurate term is “irregular” rather than “illegal” crossings—are not making an illegal claim here. I will admit that there is a chance that the underfunding of our refugee system, which causes delays in adjudication of those claims, could seem to be a draw for irregular crossers of our border, but it is important to remember that of those irregular border crossers whose claims have been heard, nearly 60% have been found to be legitimate refugees, meaning that if they had stayed in the United States, they faced being sent back to certain persecution and, in many cases, certain death back in their home countries.

Coming back to the report and its recommendations, which I am happy to support tonight, Yazidi refugees, we have to remember, were selected on a criteria of being the most vulnerable and that means that making their success at resettlement in Canada is perhaps more challenging than that of refugees in general. That is what this report of the immigration committee looked at.

When Canada was bringing Yazidis to Canada, the cases were prioritized on the basis of the following: first, women and girls at risk; second, accompanied children and dependants; third, LGBTI individuals, single women, single parents, the elderly, and persons with disabilities and medical needs; and finally, cases with family in Canada.

This report comes with 12 recommendations. I know my time is short tonight, but let me see how far I can get with these. Recommendation one, increasing our refugee targets, is obviously something that I support. As I mentioned earlier, they are a small portion of our total immigration system. Recommendation two asks Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada to work to facilitate private sponsorships. That is why I talked about the example in my riding. I believe that Canadians are prepared to step up, sponsor refugees and help them resettle in Canada. It is a very important recommendation that we encourage Canadians to do.

Recommendation eight is to improve mental health supports for all refugees. Refugees who escaped the Yazidi genocide include many women and children who were survivors of sexual violence. This gives them mental health challenges and needs that are very specific. I believe once again the recommendation about improving those supports will get a response from Canadians. I am going to give another example from my riding.

There is a group of trauma-trained counsellors in greater Victoria who came together about four years ago to offer volunteer services to refugees who had been subject to sexual violence and to children who had witnessed horrific violence. They have now come together and formed a society, and even they admit its name is a mouthful, the Vancouver Island Counselling Centre for Immigrants and Refugees. I want to salute them for the work they are doing.

In conclusion, I am happy to rise to support this report and all the work that is being done, not just by the government but by private citizens in Canada, to help support the Yazidi women and children who have been resettled in Canada.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Matt DeCourcey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I know it was not my colleague's intention to do so, but just to clarify for those paying attention, we are talking about two totally different things when we talk about those people who come to Canada as asylum seekers and are subject to adjudication through the Immigration and Refugee Board and those people who are resettled through our partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other organizations. That is how we undertook the Yazidi and survivors of Daesh resettlement. Our government was successful in resettling 1,400 survivors of Daesh, an overwhelming majority of whom were Yazidi women and girls, in Canada.

While they have many challenges, including significant mental health challenges, we know that in the communities where they are being resettled and are settling, they are generally doing well, because they have access to the mental health supports needed. That is largely because they are beneficiaries of the interim federal health program that was so callously cut by the previous government, which our immigration minister reinstituted in 2016. That is an important note to make. Under our government, not only have we seen these vulnerable persons resettled but they are receiving the supports they need, and we will continue to walk with them.

I would hope that the hon. member would acknowledge that a lot of work has been done to ensure that when we resettle refugees through these streams, we provide them with the proper wraparound support services in the communities where they come to live in Canada.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for pointing out something I did not intend to do, which was confuse those who are resettled with refugees. However, I still think those two are a category as opposed to economic migrants and family reunification cases.

His comments I will receive with a grain of salt. That is what this report is about. This report is about ensuring that those who are resettled and those, in particular, who suffered from sexual violence get the services they need so that their resettlement can be successful. There is no doubt, as I said, that the government has made a good start on this. However, many of these recommendations point to additional things that need to be done and additional services that need to be provided.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was just looking through the list of recommendations. Recommendation 7 comes under the title “Ensuring Proximity to Services and Housing which is Affordable”. I wonder if my colleague, and neighbour, could look at the example of his own riding of Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, and the greater Victoria area generally, and the experiences of refugees in his area, underlining what kind of crisis we are facing with housing right now and how important it is that we address that crisis with the importance it deserves right here and now.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the points I did not have time to get to this evening, but certainly one of the biggest challenges for all refugees, is affordable housing, whether they are refugee claimants or resettled.

One of the strong points of what the government has done is that it has identified some centres for relocation for Yazidis so that services that are appropriate can be grouped together. One of the challenges is that some of those centres, like Toronto, are some of the most expensive housing markets in the country. Therefore, there is more work that needs to be done to make sure that there is access to affordable housing.

Again, it raises the spectre that when there is a housing shortage, those who need housing will point to each other as the problem, and those who are waiting for housing will say they are being displaced by another group. That is why it is so important that the government, with its wonderful housing strategy that promises billions of dollars over hundreds of years, actually gets down to the short term and starts delivering non-market housing for those who need it most in our society.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I would like to thank the members of both of the committees, in 2016 and 2018, which did incredible work in reviewing what needed to be done to help the Yazidis. Then again, this year did we go far enough, and what additional work needs to be done? I hope to concentrate on the work of those two committees.

To reiterate, in August 2014, four years ago, Daesh launched attacks on the Yazidi people in Sinjar, in northern Iraq, removing and murdering the men, forcing the women and girls into sexual slavery, and forcing the young boys into child soldier roles with Daesh fighting groups. This was a targeted group, in particular, as I recall, for religious persecution purposes. They were intent on essentially creating genocide.

To the credit of this place, some years back it clearly recognized that this was a genocide of the Yazidi people. As my colleague and others have mentioned, in 2016, the House of Commons passed a motion brought forward by a Conservative member to provide asylum to women and girls considered the most vulnerable victims of these attacks.

I think it is important for us to know what that motion said, because there was recognition way back then of the significance of the problems being faced by this particular group of people. That motion said:

That the House (a) recognize that ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidi people; (b) acknowledge that many Yazidi women and girls are still being held captive by ISIS as sexual slaves; (c) recognize that the government has neglected to provide this House with an appropriate plan and the corresponding action required to respond to this crisis; (d) support recommendations found in the…report issued by United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria entitled, “They came to destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”; and, (e) call on the government to (i) take immediate action upon all the recommendations found in section 210, 212, and 213 of the said report, (ii) use its full authority to provide asylum to Yazidi women and girls within 30 days.

Following the passage in this place of that motion, the member for Vancouver East brought forward a motion to the immigration committee. That motion said:

Pursuant to Standing 108(2) and in light of the House of Commons unanimously voting in favour of the motion for the Canadian government to use its full authority to provide asylum to Yazidi women and girls who are escaping genocide within 120 days, the Committee undertake a study....

I will not go into the details of the study, but the committee then set about looking at all the details of what these women and children were facing and what actions Canada could possibly take. Passing that motion, with the committee agreeing to review, eventually spurred the government to actually host Yazidi women and children. I think it is important to recognize that there were Yazidi women in Canada who worked with the members in this place, and that is what really spurred action. It was a very emotional reaction.

In response to the emotion of the crisis Yazidi women and children were facing, Parliament responded. The government then moved to host and eventually bring some Yazidi women and children to Canada. My understanding is that a thousand Yazidi have since resettled in Canada, and half of those are children.

In October 2017, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and lmmigration requested an update from the government on what was happening with the Yazidi in Canada and how well they were resettling here and what the situation was overseas for the Yazidi who had not yet come. The committee was well briefed by the government, settlement agencies, refugee sponsors and newly arrived Yazidi women and children.

As a result of that review, the committee as a whole made a good number of recommendations. I think it is important to recognize that, yes, good action was taken to support Yazidi women and children, but the committee, all parties on the committee, made some very strong recommendations to the government to go further. Most of that went to giving greater support for two things. First was to ensure that we provide fulsome support for the resettlement of the Yazidi families in Canada, and second was to take action to enable more Yazidis to seek refuge in Canada.

One of the recommendations was to increase Canada's refugee settlement targets generally. Within that, we would also give greater support to the Yazidi families.

Another recommendation was to work with stakeholders to facilitate private sponsorship. As my colleague mentioned tonight, there are many in my riding as well who desperately want the government to let them step forward and sponsor more refugees. Most want to support more Syrian families. However, there certainly are families that have stepped forward and said they are willing to also help Yazidi women and children. The call from the committee was to facilitate more private sponsorship beyond the sponsorship agreement holder allocations from the government.

Third was to work with multilateral partners to help internally displaced Yazidis return to their region, should they choose and if it is deemed safe for them to go back. Normally speaking, refugees come from an area of strife. That is where they would like to return, but obviously, we do not want to help them return if we do not think they can return safely.

Other recommendations included offering greater information and support to new arrivals, offering greater support to settlement services and ensuring access to affordable housing and services. Two of my colleagues spoke to that earlier. We have a crisis with the cost of housing, particularly in British Columbia and Toronto. If a lot of the Yazidis are moving there, we have double the crisis. We have to figure out a way to put these families in places that are affordable and safe.

The committee also recommended providing mental health supports, providing professional interpretation services and language training to Yazidi families, and supporting family reunification for survivors by extending indefinitely the one-year window of opportunity.

My colleague, the member for Vancouver East, who is a member of the committee, went a little further at committee and added supplemental recommendations. Those recommendations included that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada lift the cap on privately sponsored refugees. That has been a bone of contention for those trying to support bringing in Yazidi families. We need to be letting families who want to step forward support them.

The second recommendation was that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada expand the definition of “family”, under the family reunification program and the one-year window of opportunity sponsorship program for refugee claimants, to include siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. I have faced this in my own riding. There is a wonderful Congolese man who has settled in Canada, and he had nieces stranded in one of the refugee camps out of the Congo. However, he was having trouble sponsoring those children, because they were not his own children. When we look at the situation in a place of war and strife and genocide, we need to be rethinking the category of persons we should let people sponsor. The third recommendation was that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada engage in a follow-up measure to resettle 5,000 Yazidi refugees in Canada.

Other recommendations included increased humanitarian aid levels targeted toward populations of internally displaced people; that the government work with the provinces and territories to ensure that interpretation is available to those with language barriers in accessing public services; and that the government provide greater funding through resettlement services to provide conversational English-French programs to ensure that vulnerable refugees, especially women, do not experience isolation, language training for children, and child care services.