Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak in support of Bill C-374, which seeks to update and amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act. Specifically, it is a direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 79, which calls on the government to include first nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has been mandated to provide advice to the Canadian government on the designation of places, persons, and events that have marked and shaped Canada. Every year, new subjects are added to the list of designations, which the board considers.
National historic sites are organized according to five broad themes: peopling the land, governing Canada, developing economies, building social and community life, and expressing intellectual and cultural life. These sites represent significant stages in the development of Canada, symbolize cultural traditions, and recognize meaningful people and locations of national historic significance.
As of 2018, there are 171 national historic sites administered by Parks Canada. The remainder are administered or owned by other levels of government or private entities. The sites are located across all 10 provinces and three territories. There are even two sites located in France, the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial and the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
I have been very fortunate to have visited nearly half of Canada's historic sites, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and north to the Arctic Ocean. It is one of the pleasures in life that I treasure, and I hope to work toward the other half in my lifetime.
I had the pleasure of serving with the member for Cloverdale—Langley City on the environment and sustainable development committee for a year and a half. During that time, we heard from indigenous people from across the country on issues relating to the environment, sustainable development, and the use of their land. They have been on these lands for thousands of years, and they have a lot of knowledge and history to share with us.
In my own riding, I have a number of historic sites, almost all of which are related to the exploration of western Canada. These sites include the Rocky Mountain House, Jasper House, Yellowhead Pass, and Athabasca Pass.
In September, I attended the plaque unveiling of the Maligne Lake Chalet and Guest House in Jasper National Park. This is one of Canada's newest historic sites. Also in attendance was a representative of the Big Horn Stoney Nation, as well as the great-niece of explorer Fred Brewster. In 1908, members of the Stoney Nation drew a map by hand for explorer Mary Schaffer that led her to Maligne Lake in the Rocky Mountains near Jasper. Later, Fred Brewster built a chalet to lodge travellers who wanted to experience the great beauty the region has to offer. The site represents a century of shared history between explorers and the indigenous people in the region. In fact, the majority of national historic sites in Alberta, and many more across Canada, have their roots in the interaction between explorers and indigenous peoples. Indigenous involvement is an important component in the management and development of establishing historic sites and monuments in Canada.
When I lived in Fort St. James, British Columbia, I was privy to watching the opening of the new interpretive centre at Fort St. James National Historic Site, a former Hudson's Bay Company fur trading post. The site was recognized as a historic site while Hudson's Bay Company still operated it as a fur trading centre, up until 1952. In the wisdom of Parks Canada, it now rents out the old Hudson's Bay Company manager's home as a bed and breakfast. What a great way for Canadians to experience what it was like to live in the past. The site is located right next door to the Nak'azdli First Nation reserve, where I have many friends.
That is why I support the bill, which would ensure that first nations, Métis, and Inuit communities are represented on the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board.
I do have a concern with the bill that I know has been shared by my colleagues. Adding three members to the board would require additional government expenditures. This is something that cannot be done by a private member's bill without a royal recommendation. Mr. Speaker, I understand that you also expressed concern over this issue on November 22.
As far as I am aware, the member for Cloverdale-Langley City has not requested a royal recommendation. According to his comments on December 13, he is hoping to deal with this specific issue at the committee stage. In recognition of this, I want to support the suggestion from the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood to amend the bill to keep the number of members on the board the same and require that three of those members be first nations, Inuit, and Métis. This would eliminate the need to increase expenditures, and therefore eliminate the need to obtain a royal recommendation, while ensuring that there is representation from indigenous Canadians on the board. This could be done relatively easily.
We all know that this year, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, and Ontario will all have vacant seats. All these vacancies are opportunities to appoint indigenous Canadians to the board and fulfill call to action 79 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The final report of the TRC helped to explain this dark chapter in Canadian history, and the calls to action advance the process of reconciliation.
In the wake of the commission's work, it is important that the Government of Canada continue to work toward meaningful reconciliation. This bill is a step in that direction.
I want to thank the member for Cloverdale-Langley City for bringing this bill forward. I look forward to hearing how he plans on resolving some of the concerns that have been raised today.
I see I have a couple of minutes.
I had the great privilege, as the mayor of Fort St. John, to build an international monument on the side of the Alaska Highway near Charlie Lake. We built that monument when we heard the sad and very tragic story of 12 United States soldiers who lost their lives in 1942. There were 17 of them on a barge going across Charlie Lake, a lake just outside of the city of Fort St. John, and bad weather overcame them. The barge was swamped and went down with all 17 people. A local trapper, who lived on the shores of the lake at that time, saw the tragedy happen. He rowed out there and managed to save five of them. Some drowned as he was trying to get them back to shore, as they were hanging onto his boat in the cold, freezing water in April.
We contacted the U.S. government, and a bunch of us from the community of Fort St. John got together and built a monument to recognize those 12 heroes who lost their lives trying to build a highway to protect Canada and the United States. The monument sits at the edge of the lake. When one looks through a window in the monument it is possible to see where the boat went down on the horizon.
It is important to recognize historic events in Canada. I am glad the hon. member brought this bill forward.