moved that Bill C-374, An Act to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act (composition of the Board), be read the third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-374, an act to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act, composition of the Board.
I would like to begin by recognizing that we are gathered here today on the traditional land of the Algonquin people. This recognition is a small but important way in which to advance reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Bill C-374 shares the same objective of advancing reconciliation and to ensuring that the perspectives of indigenous peoples are incorporated in our decision making processes federally. I am extremely privileged to have Bill C-374 make it to third reading in the House and thankful for cross-partisan support of this legislation.
Bill C-374 seeks to include a much-needed indigenous representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The board, which is responsible for advising the Government of Canada through the Minister of Environment on the designation of people, places, and events of national historic significance, currently lacks formal statutorily mandated representation of indigenous peoples on its board.
The fact is that we cannot hope to accurately commemorate issues of historical significance if we do not fully include the perspectives of the first peoples of this land.
My personal motivation to put forward Bill C-374 is rooted in a career spanning more than three decades with Parks Canada. I had the opportunity to live and work with indigenous communities in a variety of settings and it helped inform my opinions about the need to do things differently with indigenous communities. When I was elected, I came across the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In the TRC's Summary of Final Report, there is a section on commemorations which spoke quite personally to me about the need in the commemorations field to do things differently. Drawn out of this section were calls to action to change and improve upon the ways in which we commemorate our past.
Bill C-374 is specifically intended to implement call to action 79(i), which states, “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. This would include, but not be limited to”, and this is the section that is covered in Bill C-374, “Amending the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and its Secretariat.”
The implementation of call to action 79 was also put forward by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. In our report, “Preserving Canada's Heritage: the Foundation for Tomorrow”, the committee recommended the implementation of several of the TRC calls to action, including 79, as reflected in our committee's 17th recommendation of the report.
Our government has made clear our support for the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action. Implementation of over two-thirds of the calls to action under federal responsibility is ongoing, and Bill C-374 continues in this spirit.
We have endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, without qualification, and committed to its full implementation. This includes support for Bill C-262.
In February, the Prime Minister announced in this place the creation of a recognition and implementation of indigenous rights framework. This will ensure that the recognition and implementation of rights is the basis for all relations between indigenous peoples and the federal government going forward. To ensure the protection, preservation, and revitalization of indigenous languages in the country, we are working with first nations, Métis, and Inuit communities to co-develop an indigenous languages act.
In this spirit of indigenous language preservation, I have also worked with Senator Jaffer on a bill to designate February 21 as international mother language day. The bill has been tabled in the Senate and debate has already started on it, another small step toward reconciliation.
This week, we witnessed all-party support for a motion respecting TRC call to action 58, calling for a formal papal apology for the role of the Catholic Church in the establishment, operation, and abuses of residential schools.
These are important steps forward, but the work does not end here. Reconciliation is a complex and difficult journey that grapples with the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. The TRC summary of the final report discussed this complexity:
To some people, reconciliation is the re-establishment of a conciliatory state. However, this is a state that many Aboriginal people assert never has existed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. To others, reconciliation, in the context of Indian residential schools, is similar to dealing with a situation of family violence. It's about coming to terms with events of the past in a manner that overcomes conflict and establishes a respectful and healthy relationship among people, going forward. It is in the latter context that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has approached the question of reconciliation.
To the Commission, reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.
The report goes on, and this is important in the context of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and the changes that Bill C-374 would make. It states:
Too many Canadians know little or nothing about the the deep historical roots of these conflicts. This lack of historical knowledge has serious consequences for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, and for Canada as a whole. In government circles, it makes for poor public policy decisions. In the public realm, it reinforces racist attitudes and fuels civic distrust between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians.
Too many Canadians still do not know the history of Aboriginal peoples' contributions to Canada, or understand that by virtue of the historical and modern Treaties negotiated by our government, we are all Treaty people. History plays an important role in reconciliation; to build for the future, Canadians must look to, and learn from, the past.
Bill C-374 would ensure that indigenous perspectives are fully incorporated into our commemorations process federally. Indigenous peoples' participation in our commemorations decision-making process will help us move beyond the colonialist and paternalistic approaches of the past and allow us to engage in a more frank and authentic manner.
This bill is not a criticism of the work of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board over the past 100 years of their existence but shows that there is a need to evolve by creating structural inclusion for indigenous perspectives in how we commemorate the persons, places, and events that are of national significance.
Our history is as messy and complex as the process of reconciliation itself. The legacy of our residential school system is a stark and tragic reminder of this. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission explored this complexity:
For Survivors who came forward at the TRC's National Events and Community Hearings, remembering their childhood often meant reliving horrific memories of abuse, hunger, and neglect. It meant dredging up painful feelings of loneliness, abandonment, and shame. Many still struggle to heal deep wounds of the past. Words fail to do justice to their courage in standing up and speaking out.
There were other memories too: of resilience; of lifetime friendships forged with classmates and teachers; of taking pride in art, music, or sports accomplishments; of becoming leaders in their communities and in the life of the nation. Survivors shared their memories with Canada and the world so that the truth could no longer be denied.Survivors also remembered so that other Canadians could learn from these hard lessons of the past. They want Canadians to know, to remember, to care, and to change.
During our heritage study at the environment committee, we heard the powerful testimony of Mr. Ry Moran, the director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, who discussed the intricate and delicate nature of commemorating residential schools. Our report stated:
Mr. Moran is particularly concerned about the state of conservation of the 17 remaining residential schools if nothing is done to preserve them. He explained to the Committee that some Indigenous communities want to preserve these residential schools as evidence of history. However, he said it is easier to obtain funding to demolish these schools. Mr. Moran noted that Indigenous communities wanted to be able to choose whether they preserve or demolish these buildings. Moreover, he emphasized the need to commemorate the places where demolished residential schools once stood, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended
That includes the burial locations of the missing children.
The committee heard that the inclusion of indigenous people was a priority and a necessity for the heritage community; that today's heritage organizations, departments, and agencies were ill-equipped to protect and preserve indigenous heritage; that indigenous people must be involved in defining, designating, commemorating, and preserving their heritage; and that indigenous communities, governments, and organizations wanted to have a voice and a place for their people to have a voice in heritage conservation.
During my 32-year career with Parks Canada working with heritage spaces, I similarly encountered the often difficult nature of commemorations. I witnessed both successful and unsuccessful approaches to commemorating people, places, and events of historical significance.
I have spoken about those in the House, including the great success of retelling the story of the place of Yuquot, originally commemorated as Friendly Cove and celebrated as the first point of European contact. That location was actually the birthplace of the Nuu-chah-nulth people. The repackaging and rethinking of that designation showed it as a place of welcome by the indigenous people, who had lived there since the beginning of time, and a place of welcome to the Europeans when they arrived in Canada. It was the indigenous people's voice that helped with the retelling and reframing of that story.
I am proud that Bill C-374 has made it to third reading with unanimous support at report stage. This is a proud reflection of the non-partisan nature of reconciliation. Reconciliation is not an indigenous issue. It is truly a Canadian issue.
The success of Bill C-374 and this opportunity to advance reconciliation would not have been possible without the support of the government and a royal recommendation to deal with remuneration provisions in the bill. I am grateful to the government for supporting Bill C-374 and for granting it a royal recommendation, which is the third of its kind since 1994, to the best of my knowledge. This support reflects our government's commitment to a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on a recognition of rights, mutual respect, co-operation, and partnership.
The road to reconciliation is a long and difficult one, but with Bill C-374 we have the opportunity to advance this objective by improving upon the ways in which we commemorate our past. I am hopeful that all members will join me in supporting this important legislation.
Bill C-374 is poised to move to the Senate, where I am proud to have the support of Senator Murray Sinclair, who has agreed to sponsor the bill in the Senate. Members will no doubt know that Senator Sinclair has a distinguished 25-year career in the justice system and served as the chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I hope members of the other place will recognize the importance of this legislation and work, as we have in this place, to continue advancing reconciliation.
I would like to thank all members for their consideration of this bill and ask for their support at third reading so this important piece of legislation can move one step closer to becoming law.