House of Commons Hansard #286 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was apology.


Opposition Motion—Papal Apology on Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect that if you were to canvass the House, you would find unanimous consent to call it 5:30 p.m. at this point in time so we can begin private members' hour.

Opposition Motion—Papal Apology on Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is it the pleasure of the House to see the clock at 5:30 p.m.?

Opposition Motion—Papal Apology on Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion—Papal Apology on Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.


Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

moved that Bill C-391, an act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank my seconder today, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre, and my assistant Joel Henderson, who worked so hard to develop and draft this bill, and to make so many contacts in Canada and around the world.

This is an act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property.

For me, the story started at the Millbrook First Nation near Truro, Nova Scotia. I was at the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre, admiring a beautiful robe in a glass case. I was fascinated by the workmanship, the detail, and everything about the robe.

The curator of the facility, Heather Stevens, came over to me and said, "It is a beautiful robe, isn't it?” I said, “Yes, it is.” She said, “It's too bad it is not the original one.” I asked her what she meant. She said that the original one was in a museum in Melbourne, Australia. It was taken there in 1852 and it has resided in Australia for 166 years.

It means so much to the Millbrook First Nation to have this robe there, even if it is a copy. However, to have the original repatriated would mean so much to the youth in the community, because the youth want to know about their culture and their roots. They want to know where they came from. They want to know everything they can find out about their culture from hundreds of years ago. The best way to do that is to be able to see the workmanship, the details, and the artifacts that people produced in those times.

The purpose of this bill is just to ensure that a small indigenous community, a Métis, Inuit, or first nations community, has another voice with it when it seeks to repatriate an artifact that has become available. It is not about taking artifacts away from people, or out of museums that have collected them and that appreciate their collection.

When an artifact becomes available, there should be a process in place where a small community or an indigenous community can approach a government agency or a government body, sit around a table, and discuss the challenges of getting the artifact back. It might be transportation, restoration, the display process, money, or negotiations, but in many cases the indigenous communities need another voice, and that is what this is about. It is about adding another voice to the efforts to repatriate first nations, Inuit, and Métis artifacts.

We are asking the government to establish a process that people can go to, not only indigenous people, but people who have artifacts. It is amazing that since we first tabled this bill, Bill C-391, we have had two organizations come to our office to tell us that they have indigenous artifacts that they would like to return to their proper owners, but they do not know where to return them. Such a facility and such a process would have in place the ability to receive information about artifacts that are available, ensure that they go to the right place, and provide the proper transportation, protection, restoration, and so on.

This is not about taking artifacts out of other places against people's will or preference. This is about taking advantage of an opportunity when it arises.

The robe I am talking about is fascinating. It is in Melbourne, Australia. It was purchased in 1843 by a gentleman from Prince Edward Island. I do not think he was from Malpeque, but he was from Prince Edward Island. He moved to Australia in 1852. When he passed away, he bequeathed the robe to the museum, which has taken really good care of it ever since. It is not on display, but the museum curators in Melbourne are taking good care of it. We have had communications back and forth about the robe, and we appreciate the care they have taken of it. Maybe some day the robe could come back to the indigenous community where it was made, to be part of the culture and part of the spirit of the community.

Originally, my goal was really quite simple: to make sure that there was a process to bring back artifacts. However, it has taken on a whole new direction for me. It has been much more meaningful, with much more depth to it.

I went to an indigenous tourism meeting the other night. It had nothing to do with this, but the president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada talked about the repatriation of artifacts as part of their culture and their ability to increase tourism and economic development.

He said that it was too bad there is not legislation. Well, this is the legislation Keith Henry was talking about and it will serve the purpose that he was talking about, so there is an economic development element to it as well as a cultural element.

Yesterday I met with an indigenous senator, Mary Jane McCallum. It is interesting that we just talked about residential schools here, because she was in a residential school from the age of five until she was a teenager. Then she sought a career in dentistry, of all things.

It was an amazing discussion that I had with Senator Mary Jane McCallum. She talked about the residential schools, but she tried to give me a hint of what artifacts mean to aboriginal and indigenous peoples, more than I could have thought. She talked about the spirit involved with every artifact and told me about how that robe that is down in Australia carries with it the spirit of all the people who had anything to do with it. She talked about the people who made the robe, looked after it, and cared for it, and that their spirit is with that robe in Australia. I kind of got the impression that she thought those spirits wanted to come home, and I agree with her.

Then, amazingly enough, we had a chance to talk to the secretary-general of the Commonwealth Association of Museums, Catherine Cole. She deals with 53 countries that have museums. She told us about how repatriation of aboriginal artifacts is very important to them. It is one of their main goals. Some countries even have virtual museums; when they cannot bring the artifacts back, they take pictures of them, record them, and have them in a virtual museum with the hope that someday they will be repatriated.

I had a visit this week from the High Commissioner of Australia, Her Excellency Natasha Smith. She came to talk about the museum in Melbourne, but she also came to tell us that repatriation of indigenous artifacts is very important to Australia. They have a major focus on repatriation of remains and artifacts of their indigenous peoples. It is very important. She went on to tell me that they feel it is a responsibility under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that under that declaration, we have an obligation to make sure indigenous peoples have access to their artifacts, history, and culture for education and ceremonies. They feel it is very much a part of that, and they support that view of the declaration, as does Canada.

Then today I had a visit from a young Inuit man. He was so excited about this legislation that it inspired me. He grew up in a northern Labrador community, and his words were that “repatriation is the root of reconciliation”. He said it several times. I was most impressed. He told me that in one of the communities in the north, they have actually created an award for organizations that have repatriated artifacts from cultural finds. One of the first to get the award was the University of Chicago, which worked with the community to repatriate 22 remains that had been taken from a graveyard in the north, I think around 1911 or 1912. They were returned, and the community awarded the University of Chicago this award for cultural repatriation.

I have heard so many voices about this issue. What started out to be a small exercise with a good purpose has turned out to be not only cultural but economic, and it is not only economic but spiritual. It is not only spiritual but very meaningful to all of these communities. I am so pleased that we have been able to do this.

We have contacted a wide range of people in indigenous communities all over Canada and the U.S. We have compared legislation. This proposed legislation is not as strong as some legislation, but it is stronger than others. The U.S. has legislation that requires facilities to turn over artifacts to indigenous peoples, and if they receive any money from the federal government at all, they are required to turn it over. Our legislation would not require that. It puts in place a process that aboriginal and indigenous communities can use if they identify an artifact that becomes available. We tried to come up with a middle road on this legislation. We have done a lot of work on it to try to make sure that it would suit everybody but at the same time not offend anybody.

The whole journey has been amazing, just to see how it has blossomed into other things, other than just a simple return of artifacts. It has impressed on me, and moved me, how meaningful it is to the indigenous people to have this in place. Already, even though we have only had first reading, and now the first hour of second reading, two organizations have called my office to say they have indigenous artifacts and are not sure what to do with them. They want to make sure they get into the right hands.

We are going to reach out to these organizations and make sure those artifacts get to the right people, to the right organizations, in the right communities. If this bill is successful, then it will include a process where people with indigenous artifacts can come in and say, “I have these artifacts. I want to make sure they get into the hands of the proper people. I understand how important they are. I understand that they part of the spirit of the community.”

We hope that this will be a receptacle for indigenous artifacts, as well as a way to handle them when they do arrive or are made available. I hope that receptacle will be part of that bill.

In the meantime, as an indigenous person suggested to me yesterday, I should say that if anyone has artifacts that are at risk of being discarded or finding their way to an inappropriate place, I urge them to call my office in Amherst or Truro, Nova Scotia, or Ottawa, or go to my website at We will make sure that they are connected with the right people, and these artifacts will be protected and saved.

That winds up my remarks, but I do want to refer to the United Nations declaration which states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs.

We agree with this. I agree with it. It continues:

This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.

That is artifacts like the robe I am talking about. It goes on to say:

...cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.

States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects...

That is exactly what this bill calls for. It calls to establish a process to make sure we do not let any aboriginal, indigenous, Métis, first nations artifact slip through our fingers. We want to make sure they get back to the proper communities, so they can appreciate them and understand their incredible cultures, and also share them with non-indigenous peoples.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

April 26th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member indicated the legislation is only intended to apply if artifacts are available, if their owners no longer wish to have those artifacts, not to facilitate the removal of artifacts from people who have them. However, that is not reflected in the actual drafting of the bill which speaks to “a comprehensive national strategy to promote and support the return of Aboriginal cultural property, wherever situated.” It also speaks to “a mechanism by which any First Nation...may acquire or reacquire Aboriginal cultural property to which it has a strong attachment.”

Since there is no reference at all in the bill to the notion of it only applying to property that an individual does not want or a museum is willing to deacquisition or deaccession, is he prepared to entertain an amendment that would clarify that it only applies to such artifacts as he described in his speech, only those that people are not interested in maintaining or that museums are willing to surrender?

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, the intent of the bill is absolutely not to force anybody to give up their artifacts, but it does call for the development of “a comprehensive national strategy to promote and support the return of Aboriginal cultural property”.

The intent is not to force anyone to give up any artifacts. It also opens the door, if there are artifacts in storage or not on display, to encourage the owners to have them on display, either at their facility or lend them to some other facility. That would be part of the process.

There are thousands and thousands of aboriginal, indigenous artifacts not on display now, which serves no purpose for the cultural composure of our country.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to follow on the comments of my colleague. The experience in Alberta has been that many indigenous people are trying to repatriate items that were taken from them. Certainly in the period of colonialism, many artifacts were stolen. We just have to go to the Museum of Anthropology at the university in Vancouver to see all those artifacts that are stored away. Is the member not willing to include in his bill that surely the most important thing is to have measures to assist indigenous peoples of Canada who wish to repatriate artifacts that were taken from them, as opposed to people who have them trying to find a way to give them up? Does the member's bill deal with that? Is he willing to have measures such as that? Has he spoken with indigenous Canadians on how that might be incorporated into his bill?

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

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.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I was wondering if we could just quickly comment on the idea that in fact the Millbrook First Nation collection was saved by a gentleman back in the 1850s. I believe his name was Samuel Huyghue. He bought a lot of the collection and brought it around the world. Museums are actually an important source for saving many of these collections and many museums are spending a lot of time trying to share this resource back with many first nations as well.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I am glad the member brought that up. That gentleman, who was from Prince Edward Island originally, took the artifacts and took great care of them. He was extremely interested in indigenous history. He loved these artifacts and took very good care of them. When he passed away, he bequeathed them to a museum, which has also taken very good care of them. We have had some discussions and we are discussing possibilities.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, the bill before us, proposing a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property, is a well-intentioned but flawed piece of legislation. The Conservative Party will support it at second reading, but we will be seeking amendments to correct some of its flaws, which we have already seen highlighted through the questions and the speeches so far.

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. Naturally, the culture, artifacts, and art that bear witness to its past have an especially powerful meaning for aboriginal people. An ideal outcome will be one that not just balances competing interests in the property of cultural artifacts, but rather one that builds on common interests to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. While some may see gain in stoking grievances and differences of interest, the sensible Canadian way is that which looks to build on mutual interests.

The question of how museums should deal with aboriginal cultural property is not new. In fact, well before any politician sought to make this an issue, the Canadian Museums Association and the Assembly of First Nations established a joint task force, which conducted consultations for a year. They arrived at sensible and practical conclusions on how museums should work in collaboration with first nations. They jointly recommended a process based on moral and ethical grounds for the use and presentation of cultural objects, and for resolving disputes. Museums across Canada have developed and implemented policies based on this joint Assembly of First Nations and Canadian Museums Association report, and all of it happened without Parliament imposing legislation. The parties involved are to be commended and recognized for their efforts in working together. It is in that context that we must view this bill.

“Aboriginal cultural property” is defined in this bill as “objects of historical, social, ceremonial or cultural importance to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada”. This could include thousands of everyday artifacts, ceremonial and sacred objects, ancestral skeletal remains and funerary objects, as well as artwork, sculptures, jewellery, or literature produced by Canada's aboriginal peoples.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many of these aboriginal cultural artifacts were gathered, purchased, and occasionally appropriated, by missionaries, government agents, anthropologists, and amateur and professional collectors. This occurred in a period when aboriginal culture was believed to be dying out, and the acquisition, preservation, and display of these artifacts was seen as a means to enable future generations of anthropologists and students to study traditional aboriginal cultures. Of course, aboriginal culture did not die out and instead now forms an important part of Canada's cultural landscape, while Canada's aboriginal people continue to make strong and significant contributions to our country.

The Conservative Party will be proposing three amendments, perhaps four, I might now suggest, constituting additional criteria for evaluating the measures to be included in a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property.

The display and interpretation of aboriginal cultural artifacts is broadly in the public interest. Current and subsequent generations of Canadians benefit from developing an appreciation and understanding of aboriginal history and culture, something that is a direct result of seeing and learning about aboriginal culture, often through artifacts and their interpretation in museums. It is not a coincidence that the appreciation of aboriginal culture, and public support to correct historical wrongs, have risen in parallel. This bill does not reflect that reality. For that reason, our first amendment will propose that measures “ensure that consideration be given to the public interest in artifacts being available to Canadians in a way that enhances knowledge and appreciation of Aboriginal culture”. The continued public display of aboriginal cultural artifacts will play an important part in helping future generations learn about and appreciate our first nations' traditions. This is a desirable outcome for all.

Another concern is that artifacts are often fragile and require special care. It will be a loss to all Canadians, including aboriginal communities, if artifacts are ultimately lost or degraded due to a lack of appropriate curatorial care. For that reason, we propose a second amendment. Any repatriation strategy should include measures that ensure that consideration is given to how best to adequately preserve and protect the quality and integrity of aboriginal cultural property. The current bill lacks this important consideration.

Finally, because of the sweeping definition of aboriginal cultural property in the bill as “objects of historical, social, ceremonial, or cultural importance to the aboriginal peoples of Canada”, the bill runs the risk of putting in jeopardy Canada's vibrant aboriginal art sector. This sector is a significant element to the economy of many remote aboriginal communities, and the revenues generated by the works produced support aboriginal families across Canada.

In any well-intentioned policy proposal, the greatest danger lies in unintended consequences. One need only look at the generally benevolent motivation behind the establishment of residential schools for aboriginal children and the subsequent suffering and hardship that often took place in those institutions to know the importance of looking beyond lofty ambitions to ensure that our actions actually make a positive difference.

In the case of the bill, there is a risk of placing a cloud over the entire aboriginal art and design community. If prospective purchasers, be they museums, galleries, or private collectors, fear that the repatriation of their newly acquired property is a future possibility, they will think twice about making such acquisitions or price in a discount for that risk.

Such an effort will harm aboriginal creators, communities, and economies. For that reason, we will be proposing an amendment to ensure that such a strategy does not have the effect of harming or discouraging the important commercial trade by aboriginal artists in the creation and sale of art, design, and fashion.

Of course, a fourth amendment reflecting what we heard the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester express in his speech—that this repatriation policy should only apply to artifacts that individuals are no longer interested in possessing or that museums are going to deaccession—would be a further constructive amendment to help ensure a positive, constructive path forward on a repatriation strategy.

With these four amendments we would be proposing, an aboriginal cultural property repatriation strategy will have the potential to focus on the mutual benefits and opportunities that grow the place for aboriginal culture in the Canadian identity for the benefit of generations to come.

I believe there is a deep well of good faith and existing collaboration between Canadian museums and our first nation communities. All across Canada, aboriginal communities have been engaged and made positive contributions as museums have stepped up their game in enhancing their presentation and interpretation of our aboriginal culture, art, and history. Let us work to ensure that this positive environment continues to grow, something that will benefit all Canadians in the future.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to rise on such an important issue for indigenous people, that of cultural property.

First, I would like to remind members that this government already committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

One would therefore expect that all legislation introduced by the government would be in keeping with the declaration, particularly when it comes to indigenous rights or issues. Sadly, that does not seem to be the case with the bill we have before us today.

I think it is important to point out that we will support this bill at second reading so that we can work with members to improve some of its aspects.

The cultural items that are currently held in museum archives, universities, and private homes were handmade from teachings and techniques passed down for generations among indigenous peoples. They are are necessary part of our self-identity, guaranteed by our inherent treaty rights, constitutional rights, and international human rights.

These are not artifacts belonging to some culture in pre-history. These bones are our ancestors, genetically proven. The clothing was worn by our cousins, the masks were carved by our uncles, the hunting tools were made with our fathers. The makasinan were sewn and beaded by our mothers.

I usually wear a sample, handmade pair of makasinan. The shoes are handcrafted of thick, brain-tanned moose hide, still smelling of the smoke that guarantees the leather stays soft, the same technique that has been used for thousands of years.

The financial considerations of indigenous communities regarding repatriation are not explicitly resolved in Bill C-391. I would like to know from the member what the bill proposes to do. For example, I know recently that in British Columbia, the government has allocated $2 million to help with repatriation efforts for indigenous peoples.

Imagine walking through a museum and coming across a bag made with one's mother, which was taken away at residential school and is now under glass. This has happened to indigenous peoples again and again. Imagine the loss when one cannot even keep a bag after having learned to bead as a small child.

There are cultural teachings about beadwork: leave a bead in the wrong place to reflect life's imperfections and keep us humble, a crucial value for many indigenous peoples around the world.

The makasinan are well-known, well worn, and have been to ceremonies, hunting camps, and visiting communities in many territories. The security guards, cafeteria staff, visitors, and my colleagues ask me why I wear slippers to work. These makasinan have meaning to me in a way slippers bought at a store will never have. They connect me to a time and a place, and remind me of what I have been taught to hold true.

I invite all members to come to my riding this summer. In my riding there is the Cree cultural centre called Aanischaaukamikw. For many years Cree elders have spoken of the need for a central place for the protection of our ways. They remind us that Cree culture must be captured, maintained, shared, celebrated, and practised. Aanischaaukamikw is the realization of that very vision.

The museum allows us to preserve and share the stories, legends, music, pictures, and physical objects that show the youth the Cree people's reverence for the land we have walked on for thousands of years.

This museum is an example of what is possible when we have our personal belongings returned to us and when we have the resources to properly restore and protect our heritage, share it with our children, and share it with others.

However, not all communities have the capacity right now to store or care for their objects. Some have developed arrangements to leave precious objects in museums for proper storage and care. Others have chosen a shared arrangement that allows objects to rotate between the community and the museum, which takes them back to conservation.

The current requirement on indigenous peoples to prove ownership and connection is onerous. Research costs, often paid by loans, can prevent communities from achieving successful repatriation claims. Indigenous peoples should not be blocked by financial constraints. That is contrary to the inherent rights to cultural identity and cultural connection.

The heart of the matter when we are talking about the importance of repatriation of cultural heritage is self-determination. In fact, cultural heritage is considered so important to national identity, self-determination, and international cultural diversity that many states—Pakistan, India, the U.S., and Bolivia, for example—have MOUs and agreements that regulate the exportation of cultural objects.

It is also part of the agenda of the Summit of the Americas, where governments in the western hemisphere pledged to enhance appreciation of indigenous cultures and cultural artifacts through various collaborative means.

The language in Bill C-391 is weak and leaves many of the bill's provisions unenforceable. “To promote and support the return”, for instance, “encourage owners”, and other similarly drafted wording leaves most of the bill as optional.

Since the protection of cultural property touches on so many different areas, responsibility for various aspects of policy development and enforcement involves multiple ministries and government agencies, raising the risk of inconsistent and even contradictory actions being taken if a coordinated mechanism is not in place.

I would like to see a strong mechanism contained within Bill C-391 for Canadian-nation-to-indigenous-nation agreements.

The language used in this bill must also reflect already accepted national and international definitions of cultural property. I am not currently satisfied that it does. Definitions can be found in the Quebec cultural property act, the Canadian cultural property export control list, UNESCO conventions, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I refer members to article 31, for instance, under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to article 12, paragraph 2, of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

There is a lot of potential for the bill to provide closure to many people around the world and in this country in particular. Ancestors can be reburied with respect. Stolen items can be returned to their owners. Cultural teachings and practices can be revived. I look forward to working with the member on the bill.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-391, which deals with the repatriation of indigenous cultural property. I want to begin by thanking the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester for bringing this very important issue before Parliament. As a non-status adopted Cree and as a member of the indigenous caucus on the government side, it is my honour to second this private member's bill.

I am inspired and moved by the passion and commitment of the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester. The tabling of Bill C-391 allows us to reflect a very important aspect of reconciliation with indigenous communities in Canada.

The government is firmly committed to reconciliation. In its Speech from the Throne opening the 2015 parliamentary session, the government committed to establishing a renewed nation-to-nation relationship between Canada and indigenous people, a relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.

This commitment was reinforced in budget 2018 through a broad series of investments, including $23.9 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, to the Parks Canada Agency. This investment will allow the agency to integrate indigenous views, history, and heritage into Canada's national parks, marine conservation areas, and historic sites managed by the agency.

The decision to provide those funds responds to call to action 79 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. It calls for historical commemoration activities, and for recognition and acknowledgement of the contributions that indigenous peoples have made to Canada's history.

That raises an important question. Where should we turn for guidance on the approach Bill C-391 should take and on how the bill will address repatriation as part of reconciliation?

I think there are two very important documents that we should refer to in order to inform our decisions on repatriation and this bill. They are the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The government committed to implementing each of the commission's 94 calls to action. With the introduction of Bill C-391, I was curious about exactly what those calls to action said about the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property, so I took a look and did not see it mentioned anywhere. However, two major calls to action are directly related to it.

For one, call to action 67 calls on the federal government to provide funding to the Canadian Museums Association to undertake, in collaboration with aboriginal peoples, a national review of museum policies and best practices to determine the extent to which those policies and practices comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The review will lead to recommendations, probably for various stakeholders, which could include museums, indigenous communities, and governments.

The first thing that struck me about the review is its perspective on how Canadian museums carry out their work in accordance with policies and best practices. Looking at this issue from an indigenous perspective, it seems clear to me that the call to action is about policies and practices relating to the repatriation of cultural property and human remains. We know that Canada's museum community has been involved in this type of activity for quite some time.

The fact that this call to action requires the review be undertaken in collaboration with indigenous peoples is a very important principle. I note that the same principle is reflected in Bill C-391. It says that development of a national strategy on repatriation would have to be done in co-operation with representatives of first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples of Canada.

The final aspect of call to action 67 that caught my attention is that the review of museum policies and best practices is to determine how consistent those policies and practices are with the UN declaration. I will speak more about that declaration shortly. However, before I do, I would like to note that the government, through the Department of Canadian Heritage, is already working closely with the Canadian Museums Association on bringing forward the national review. A first meeting of an advisory committee that includes representatives from museums and indigenous communities recently took place at the association's annual conference in Vancouver.

I am sure that as this project proceeds, it will have some very important things to say about the repatriation of indigenous cultural property.

This brings me to the other call to action that is relevant for our consideration of Bill C-391 and repatriation. I am referring to call to action 43, which calls upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations declaration as a framework for reconciliation. As hon. members will recall, the government has already endorsed the UN declaration without qualification and is committed to its full implementation.

I will turn to what the UN declaration can tell us about repatriation to provide us with context for our consideration of Bill C-391. There are two articles in the declaration that will be useful in guiding our reflection on the bill, and they are articles 11 and 12.

I will begin with article 11, which says:

Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures.

It goes on to say that states should provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution of, among other things, cultural property taken without the consent of indigenous peoples or in violation of their laws, traditions, and customs. It says that those mechanisms are to be developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples.

We have heard on both sides of the aisle this evening about the effect this has on indigenous peoples, and has had in the past when their cultural property was forcibly taken from them. I see parallels between this and Bill C-391.

Moving on to article 12, among the rights discussed is the right of indigenous peoples to use and control their ceremonial objects and the right to the repatriation of human remains. It goes on to say, “States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession”, and ends by stating that this should be through “fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples”. Not surprisingly, the development of plans and actions in collaboration with indigenous communities seems to be a common thread.

When we look at article 12, there are obvious parallels with Bill C-391, but its scope is more limited to certain kinds of indigenous cultural objects, and only those that are in the state's possession. It also, unlike Bill C-391, makes explicit reference to human remains. We know that can be of significant concern for indigenous communities when it comes to repatriation.

With respect to objects and human remains in the state's possession, I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the existing policies and practices of the two main federal repositories for this type of material. I am referring specifically to the Canadian Museum of History and Parks Canada Agency. Both already undertake repatriation with indigenous communities within and outside the treaty process and have done so for many years.

In summary, we know that repatriation is a significant aspect of reconciliation, and we know that our government is committed to reconciliation. The calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples both give us some useful points to consider to support Bill C-391.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his leadership and care in consulting with the government indigenous caucus, and more broadly with caucus members on the government side and members in this House, and for his commitment in helping indigenous artifacts and all of their related spirits to come back home.

I look forward to hearing the views of other hon. members on this bill.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak in support of Bill C-391. I will also offer my congratulations to my colleague, the member for Cumberland—Colchester, for bringing this important bill forward.

It is not often in the House that we have a chance to bring a private member's bill forward. It is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Canadians and where we are going as a country.

If passed, the bill would call for the Minister of Canadian Heritage to co-operate with the first nations, Inuit, and Métis people of Canada to develop and evaluate a national strategy on aboriginal cultural property repatriation. As my colleague stated earlier, the intent of the bill is very important, but I think it deserves a few amendments, which I will speak to in a little while.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, indigenous cultural property was gathered, purchased, or confiscated by missionaries, government officials, collectors, and anthropologists. This was often done without the direct involvement or consent of the indigenous peoples.

I come from British Columbia, and we often hear about the potlatch, which was an elaborate ceremonial feast held by first nations up and down the Pacific coast of British Columbia. When the Canadian government banned the potlatch ceremony in 1885, it arrested those who defied the ban. The potlatch artifacts were seized and many found their way around the country and overseas and into museums.

In 1978, the Canadian Museum of Civilization returned confiscated potlatch items to the Kwakwaka'wakw communities of Alert Bay and Cape Mudge. The federal government financed the construction of two new museums to house that.

We have heard over the last number of years that there is a strong desire of indigenous people in Canada to have those culturally sensitive artifacts returned to the communities where they originated. They certainly are artifacts that have a lot of meaning for indigenous peoples.

Repatriation of cultural property is a positive opportunity to connect indigenous communities with meaningful artifacts within their original context. We also heard how this is consistent with some of the articles in the UN declaration and in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.

Again, I do agree with the principle of the bill, but I will also agree with the member for York—Simcoe who identified some areas that he thought could be improved upon. I also understand from the speech by the originator of the bill that he sounded more than willing to listen to some of the ways in which the bill could be improved.

The Canadian Museums Association represents over 2,000 institutions and museums. It has stated that we have a moral imperative to amicably pursue the repatriation of cultural property with aboriginal communities regardless of any legal imperative, and it will continue to encourage this practice with its members. It has also expressed concern with the vague language in the bill which could be interpreted in terms of how it will actually impact the museums and the burden that it might create. Certainly that is an important voice to listen to.

While the bill suggests that museums and similar organizations will be encouraged and supported in the repatriation process, it does not specify the degree to which museums would be obligated to participate or how these organizations would be consulted or involved in the development of the national strategy or the execution on the bill's passage.

It is necessary to have that conversation up front with museums and involve them in the strategy because their expertise is absolutely phenomenal. I have witnessed how well they do.

We will be proposing three amendments, and possibly a fourth, constituting additional criteria for evaluating the measures to be included in a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property.

The first proposed amendment is to ensure that consideration be given to the public interest in artifacts being available to Canadians in a way that enhances knowledge and appreciation of aboriginal culture. We only have to go over to the Canadian Museum of History to look at the phenomenal opportunity that not only Canadians from across the country but people from across the world get to enjoy the rich heritage.

The second proposed amendment is to ensure that consideration is given to how best to adequately preserve and protect the quality and integrity of aboriginal cultural property.

The third proposed amendment is to ensure that such a strategy doe snot have the effect of harming or discouraging the important commercial trade by aboriginal artists in the creation and sale of art, design, and fashion.

Repatriation of cultural property is very important, and it is a significant step toward reconciliation. We should remember the roles that museums and cultural institutions play in our society by fostering education and appreciation of aboriginal culture and history through the exhibition of artifacts.

If this bill goes to committee and has some amendments, ultimately, it will be very important for the minister to work in consultation with all the stakeholders to ensure that the value of repatriation and the value of teaching our society about the indigenous cultures and the past are upheld.

I want to give an example of a very meaningful story, reported in a 2006 CBC article. It reads:

Many cultural artifacts have also wound up outside Canada, as Canadian aboriginal artifacts are highly prized by foreign collectors. The Cultural Property Export and Import Act has been of some help in repatriating a few of these artifacts.

In the summer of 2006, a 135-year-old Haisla totem pole will finally return home to a community 600 kilometres northwest of Vancouver. The pole has been in a Swedish museum since 1929. Out of gratitude for Sweden's decision to voluntarily send it back, the Haisla sent four carvers to Sweden in 2005 to carve a replica they would leave behind.

What are hearing about the good will to repatriate the artifacts and to move forward in what is perhaps a win-win for everyone.

This is just one of several examples of successful repatriation of cultural property. It is possible and it is significant.

Last summer I had the opportunity to go to the Secwepemc Museum. I witnessed an excellent local example of how it had taken its artifacts and had presented their history. It is a tourist attraction. Again, it is the small town Tk'emlups that sits right beside the city of Kamloops. They work in partnership with local museums. We have a Kamloops Museum and we have the Secwepemc Museum. The partnership they have with respect to celebrating both local indigenous culture and local history of the Kamloops area has been very significant. Both organizations recognize the challenges of the work that has to be done in protecting these very important artifacts for the future.

This private member's bill presents a great opportunity. We look forward to seeing it in committee and having some thoughtful conversations around how we can suggest amendments to make it a little stronger and a little more positive.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and support my colleague's initiative and commend him on the outstanding work that he has done with respect to raising the profile of the importance of artifacts and the important role of museums, no matter where they may be in the world, in recognizing where those artifacts belong and attempting to work toward repatriation.

In listening to the debate, I heard colleagues across the way asking “what about this?” or “what about that?” That is the nice thing about the standing committee process, as I suspect my friend and colleague will get the support necessary to be able to see this private member's bill passed, just based on the comments I have heard here this afternoon. Therefore, I congratulate the member and those individuals involved in assisting and motivating him to bring forward the legislation that we have before us.

I come from Winnipeg, where we have a natural tourist spot today. Hundreds if not thousands of years ago, it was a major attraction for settlers and for indigenous people, The Forks in Winnipeg where the Red River meets the Assiniboine River. It is the heart of Winnipeg, and there is great interest in the development of that area, where we continue to look at ways in which we can enhance tourism.

Often we underestimate the value of our heritage, in particular indigenous heritage, by not demonstrating appreciation and putting it out and displaying it, but we also underestimate the potential interest both from an educational point of view and from a tourism point of view. More and more, those complement each other. That is what I would like to see in terms of direction. We could identify many of these artifacts and bring them to a place where there is a greater educational component. I do not think that we appreciate the heritage that we have to date, and the first nations are the founders of where we are today. They have enriched who we are and have given us our identity.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member will have seven minutes the next time this matter is before the House.

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

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, last December I rose in this House to ask the government to take immediate action to reject any proposal from the Calgary Olympic bid committee to host ski events at Lake Louise in Banff National Park during the 2026 Olympic Games. As recently as last week, a retired Banff park warden who lives in my riding asked me to do all I can to stop this bad idea from happening.

Last December, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change said that the government had not received a formal proposal and that no decisions had been made, but now we know that a proposal has been made. In March, the Minister of Sport announced that the federal government will provide financial support for an Olympic bid corporation. Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee confirmed that Calgary is one of seven cities still pursuing a bid for the 2026 Winter Games. Just last week, Calgary City Council voted to keep the Olympic bid process alive. Therefore, it is confirmed. A bid for Calgary to host the 2026 Olympic Games is happening. Now the question remains as to whether the government will firmly reject any proposal to host Olympic events at Lake Louise before discussions go any further.

Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park, and one of our most cherished places. However, according to Parks Canada's most recent state of the parks report, Banff's ecosystems are only in fair condition. The suggestion from the Olympic bid committee that events be held at Lake Louise drew swift criticism from environmentalists.

Harvey Locke, a well-known expert on national parks, wilderness and wildlife, called the Lake Louise proposal a “bad idea” and said, “The problem we have in Banff park is that we already have a park that's bursting at the seams. We need to be moving [in] the other direction, taking pressure off Banff park.”

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society agrees. According to the southern Alberta chapter president Anne-Marie Syslak, “We need to be conscious of putting any more stress on that ecosystem.... We know it is an incredibly valuable and rich area for wildlife. We do not want to see massive infrastructure and commercial development in areas already maxed out....”

Allowing further development and the hosting of Olympic events at Lake Louise Ski Resort could result in irreparable long-term harm to Banff National Park.

It is also worth noting that there are other options to host the ski events. The Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis Country was the site of alpine events during the 1988 Calgary Winter Games. It has already been slated to host six Olympic events should Calgary host those games in 2026. The head of the Calgary Olympic bid committee, Kyle Ripley, told reporters back in January, “If we determine that it is not [appropriate to host events at Lake Louise], we have an alternate opportunity to host these same events at Nakiska.”

Whistler, B.C., the site of ski events during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, has also been suggested as an alternative. Mr. Ripley also said that we need to engage in a “philosophical conversation” about whether Olympic events should be allowed in one of our national parks. The answer to that is quite easy. The Minister of Environment needs to follow the law. The Canada National Parks Act states, “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity...shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.”

Furthermore, the minister's mandate letter from the Prime Minister was clear on this issue. It stated that the minister should “Protect our National Parks by limiting development within them....”

Putting together an Olympic bid is a massive undertaking, and it is unfair to the bid committee to waste its time and resources going down a road that is actually not open. The law is clear on this matter. The minister's mandate letter is clear. Therefore, I will ask again: Will the minister reject outright any proposal to host Olympic events in Banff National Park?

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Kanata—Carleton Ontario


Karen McCrimmon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, first and foremost, Parks Canada places belong to all Canadians. The government is committed to expanding the system of protected areas, preserving our national parks, and contributing to the recovery of species at risk.

At the same time, we must continue to develop new and innovative programs and services to enable more Canadians, including youth and newcomers, to experience the outdoors and learn about our environment. By building connections to these places, we can foster the stewards of tomorrow, people who know and care about these irreplaceable treasures.

In managing national parks, Parks Canada is mandated to maintain or restore ecological integrity, and provides Canadians with opportunities to discover and enjoy them. Parks Canada is a recognized world leader in conservation and has been successfully balancing this integrated mandate.

The government recently announced support for the establishment of a bid corporation for the Calgary 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic games. Important next steps include further developing hosting plans and budgets, which will inform government decisions on hosting.

Parks Canada has not received a formal proposal or request detailing any possible use of Lake Louise or any other venues within our national parks for the 2026 Winter Games. As a result, the government is not in a position to make any judgements regarding the use of Parks Canada places or facilities as part of any future 2026 Winter Games bid.

If we do receive a formal query or proposal, we will consider it based on a thorough review in the context of policy and legislation. Strict development limits are in place and planning is informed by science. Parks Canada has a rigorous development review and environmental assessment process that ensures all development proposals comply with the limits and that the park's ecological integrity is maintained. In addition, any development in national parks is managed through consultation with the public, indigenous groups, and stakeholders.

Parks Canada takes its mandate to maintain ecological integrity very seriously. Canada's national parks integrate environmental protection with visitor experiences. The agency has been successfully managing this balance and will continue to do so.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I was the manager of provincial parks for southeastern British Columbia for many years, so I have a lot of respect for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and her parliamentary secretary. They deal with a lot of very difficult issues, and those are growing in their complexity going forward.

However, this one is really quite easy. We have a bid committee looking at its options potentially. Putting together a bid is a very complex matter. It is expensive and time consuming. Parks Canada would be doing not only itself and the people who care about national parks a favour, but also the Olympic bid committee, by making it very clear that the law is clear on this matter, that ecological integrity must come first. The minister's mandate letter is very clear on this matter.

It is so simple to make the decision right now, upfront and say no to development in Lake Louise and Banff National Park. Let the committee know and let it get on with its work without considering Lake Louise.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Karen McCrimmon Liberal Kanata—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, through its broad network of national parks, marine conservation areas, and national historic sites, Parks Canada connects Canadians with their heritage. In managing national parks, Parks Canada maintains and restores ecological integrity and provides Canadians with opportunities to discover and enjoy them. Parks Canada is a recognized world leader in conservation and has been successfully balancing this integrated mandate.

Canada's national parks are gateways to nature, adventure, and discovery. They represent the very best of what Canada has to offer and tell stories of who we are, including the history, cultures, and contribution of indigenous peoples.

Parks Canada takes its mandate to maintain ecological integrity very seriously. Canada's national parks integrate environmental protection with visitor experiences. The agency has successfully been managing this balance and will continue to do so.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, on December 6, 2017, I rose in the House during question period to ask the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans about the Liberals' promise to protect communities from climate change with investments in green infrastructure. I specifically alluded to the state of the Cowichan River in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I wanted the minister to specifically commit to making sure that federal funds were there to raise a critical piece of infrastructure, the Cowichan weir.

I want to back up a bit and explain what is going on. Every summer, around the end of August and into September, the Cowichan River gets down to critically low flow rates because of the effects of climate change. We are not having the lake retain as much water. The snow pack is lowering, and as a result, we are dealing with flow rates that can sometimes go as low as four cubic metres per second.

This is an iconic river. It is a heritage river, and when that river is flowing at only four cubic metres per second, we can barely see the water move. It looks like a still and placid lake. What that does is that the temperature starts rising. We start losing access to tributaries, and it poses a very real threat to fish and fish habitat.

I also want to acknowledge the important work that is being done in the Cowichan Valley, both through Cowichan Tribes and the Cowichan Valley Regional District. They have come together to form the Cowichan Watershed Board. We also have a number of stakeholders that have come together to form the Cowichan Stewardship Roundtable, including Catalyst Paper, which owns the weir. All of these organizations have come together in a 100% consensus and have agreed that the solution to the long-term problem of the Cowichan River is to build a new weir so we can hold back more water in the lake. By holding back more lake supply water, we will be more successful at controlling the flow rate to make sure that an adequate flow of water is running down that river in the dry summer months so that fish and fish habitat can be saved.

During the minister's response to my question, he acknowledged that the government is proceeding with Bill C-68. We support that legislation, and we are glad to see that some of those changes from the 2012 amendments to the Fisheries Act are being repealed. However, one of the criticisms we had of Bill C-68 during second reading, before we sent it to committee for further study, was that in the definition of fish habitat, there was not any explicit legal protection for environmental flows, which really means the amount and type of water that is needed for fish and aquatic ecosystems to flourish. This is a big oversight, because by controlling flow rates and making sure they are adequate, they actually work.

I will give the example of the Jordan River, also in my riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. The Jordan River has suffered from a copper mine and from B.C. Hydro dams. It has had a lot of work done to it over the years. They found recently, in 2008, when they increased the flow rates in the Jordan River, that, surprise, fish and fish habitat started returning and becoming a lot more healthy.

I want to specifically ask the parliamentary secretary if he will honour the Liberal promise to build this green infrastructure. Will he commit the necessary federal funds to ensure that the Lake Cowichan weir can be raised?

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Burnaby North—Seymour B.C.


Terry Beech LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the question in relation to the Cowichan Lake weir. I would also like to state that in addition to asking this question of the minister, the member has brought up this issue with me as well.

The Cowichan River is a British Columbia heritage river with significant cultural and historical importance, and it supports significant populations of salmon, as was mentioned by the member opposite. As an islander, I spent significant time during my childhood camping and exploring areas around Cowichan Lake and Cowichan River.

Healthy fish and fish habitat play a critical role in the Canadian economy and are a strong measure of our environmental health. That is why it is so important that we safeguard the health of our fish as well as the habitat in which they live, feed, reproduce, and migrate.

The continued well-being of Pacific salmon and their habitats is a high priority for the residents of Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Cowichan Tribes, the Lake Cowichan First Nation, and, frankly, all British Columbians and all Canadians. Our government is deeply committed to ensuring that these iconic species are protected for future generations.

As a result of climate change and other factors, we know that inflows from Cowichan Lake have been reduced. We also understand that the weir constructed in 1957 at the outflow of the lake is no longer adequate to ensure sufficient storage in drought conditions, which have been occurring more frequently in the past 20 years.

However, the problem at the Cowichan Lake weir is complex, and a long-term solution needs appropriate planning and consultation. It will require the involvement of a number of partners and significant funding to be implemented. That is why Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been working with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Cowichan Tribes, the Lake Cowichan First Nation, other federal departments, the Province of British Columbia, and industry to discuss a proposal to increase the height to the weir and to examine potential funding mechanisms. We are committed to this ongoing dialogue and to finding a long-term solution to resolve the issues of the Cowichan watershed.

Departmental officials are engaged in the Cowichan water use planning process, which works with all local stakeholders to address long-term water needs for fish and local residents. However, while the work to consider the Cowichan Lake weir proposal is under way, this government is also taking action and is concurrently making investments in habitat restoration and salmon stock assessment projects on the Cowichan River.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada currently has two active projects on the Cowichan system that will deliver mainstem riparian rehabilitation projects on the lower Cowichan River over a three-year period and is working with resource professionals, youth, volunteers, private landowners, and the community at large to restore lake and river shoreline properties.

The oceans protection plan is a historic $1.5 billion investment that will make our oceans safer, healthier, and cleaner for generations to come, and it includes support for the restoration of the Pacific salmon habitat. As salmon are a migratory species, the benefits from our government's investments in coastal restoration projects will therefore extend beyond the boundaries of the river system itself into the Georgia Strait ecosystem and also benefit species such as the endangered southern resident killer whales, which rely on salmon as their primary food source.

In addition, amendments to the Fisheries Act that we have introduced in Bill C-68 are intended to incorporate modern safeguards and restore protections lost as a result of changes that were made to the act by the previous government. These amendments were mentioned by the member opposite, who is also supportive. These changes will provide additional protections to fish and fish habitat across Canada, including habitat in the very important Cowichan River.

I can assure the member that Fisheries and Oceans Canada is committed to the ongoing conservation and protection of Cowichan River salmon and their habitat. We continue to invest in restoration projects that will benefit chinook salmon within the system, and we will continue to work with our partners to evaluate potential solutions and funding options for work at the Cowichan Lake weir.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his comments. I am encouraged, and I do know that officials from DFO have been working closely with a lot of local stakeholders.

It is indeed true that there are a lot of moving parts to this project, but I want to have the assurance that when the Cowichan Tribes, the CVRD, and Catalyst are putting all of this effort to come together with a comprehensive scientific study and eventually come up with a number describing the rate at which the Cowichan River has to flow in order to maintain a healthy fish population, when all of that local work has been done, the federal government will be there to play its part and live up to its statutory duty to protect fish and fish habitat in the Cowichan River.