House of Commons Hansard #304 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pipeline.

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Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am divided right now talking about this important bill. I want to thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester for bringing it forward. This bill would create a national strategy on aboriginal cultural property repatriation.

I appreciate the intent of the bill, and I will be supporting it. However, I am also very concerned about the weakness of the language in the bill. It says things such as “to promote and support the return” and “encourage owners”, which would leave this bill as an option for people.

There is an important conversation that needs to happen in this country about what it means to be looking at reconciliation and the history of Canada. We know that the protection of cultural property touches many aspects of policy development, and this raises the risk that inconsistencies may happen and even that contradictory actions may potentially be taken if there is no coordinating mechanism. That is one of the biggest concerns I have. There is nothing here that is actually going to deal with this very important issue.

I had a wise person in my riding once tell me that for him, one of the best things about being indigenous was that the history of the culture was that they did not leave much behind. There were things like totem poles, but the actual impact on the environment was very balanced and limited.

I know that in indigenous communities across the country, their cultures are alive and active, and some communities are working very hard to bring back culture in their communities.

The history of this country is such that the human rights of indigenous people have been violated and often continue to be violated. Cultural heritage has been disturbed, stolen, excavated, exchanged, and taken under duress, and this is important when we talk about this bill. It is important to recognize that indigenous people were studied and bodies were exhumed and moved out of their territories and Canada without free, prior, and informed consent. That is the important thing we are speaking of today, as we saw with the passing of Bill C-262. In this day and age of reconciliation, it must be a key part of the conversation. How are we looking at what it means for indigenous communities to have free, prior, and informed consent? How are we are looking at the history of Canada and what has happened, and how are we making things change?

The University of Winnipeg, for example, currently has the remains of 145 indigenous people stored on its campus. It is concerning that the remnants of the first people of this country are left in places where they are not taken care of in a proper way.

In the riding I represent, North Island—Powell River, whenever remains are found, there is a working process with the indigenous community to make sure that those remains are treated respectfully. When we look at this bill, we have to be looking at that as well.

It makes me think of a community in my riding, the Klahoose First Nation, which is currently undertaking to find ancestors across the world. Recently, an ancestor was located in a Lower Mainland institution. The community came together and worked very hard. They wrote:

When it came time to transfer the ancestor from a cardboard box to the cedar box prepared by the Klahoose Nation we were guided into a private room. This is an incredibly spiritual and honourable undertaking: a precious moment as we handle the remains, bless them, brush and cradle them with cedar and tobacco, and then pray for peace to surround them on the journey to their final resting place.

However, when they walked into the room, what they saw was a cardboard box, which was home to their ancestor for more than 50 years. It had a single word written on it: “skull”.

One of the things this bill does not really look at is how to move forward in a respectful way to make sure that the remains of loved ones are returned home to their communities and that when that process happens, it is in the most thoughtful way possible.

The sad reality is that the history of Canada is steeped in colonialism. In the region I represent, many communities participate in the potlatch system to this day. The potlatch system was a way of redistributing wealth. It was a way of making sure that people were looked after. It was a very sacred process, and it was one of governance. That is really important. It was not a celebration. It was a way of governing. It was a way of making sure that there was fairness and that no one was left behind. People were respected for their generosity.

We know that in 1885, when the ceremony was made illegal, authorities took items away, including totem poles, regalia, and sacred family items. It is hard to explain the impact on the communities. These were the ways they governed themselves. These were the ways they dealt with conflict. These were the ways they acknowledged when people were moving from one phase of life to another. Therefore, it had a huge impact having all of those things gone.

I want to talk about the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre in my riding, which has done a lot of work repatriating artifacts to their community. One of its main objectives is “to recover from other institutions and individuals, artifacts and records of cultural, artistic and historical value to the Kwakwaka’wakw people.” This cultural centre has activities for schools to educate young people about the history of the area. It has a carving and education centre where they continue to train people in methods that have been passed down from generation to generation. It works hard on language preservation. There is also archival footage in the lower gallery theatre, where people can see some of the recordings that were taken so long ago.

In 1975, the hereditary and elected chiefs founded the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre so they could begin negotiating the return of their potlatch artifacts and regalia. In 1979, the society had things finally returned home and several months later, opened the doors and allowed the community to come in and engage with those things. It also encouraged the public to come and learn more about their history. It is important that they continue to do that work and find things all over the world that are from their cultural territory.

There are challenges trying to get those things back. The capacity of many indigenous communities to store and care for objects is extremely limited. Some museums work very hard with communities to make sure that they have access to these items.

Recently, a community in my riding, Homalco, took elders and young people to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, where they saw masks from the late 1800s that are now stored there. They also saw baskets and other pieces of regalia. It was a really meaningful moment for those young people to see how long their history was, to see what the masks looked like, and to interact with the elders to learn the stories of the things that have been passed down. It is good to see those relationships happening, but there is so much more that can be done.

Professor Jack Lohman, chief executive officer of the Royal British Columbia Museum, said the following:

My last issue concerns the slow progress being made toward reconciliation. Our museum displays are still riddled with stereotypical display information, displays of indigenous life emphasizing and privileging white history over indigenous history. Repatriation is inadequately funded. Our museum culture is still predominantly white.

I understand the intention of this bill, and I appreciate it. It is important work. I think it is time in this country of Canada that we start to focus more on the impact than the intention, that we talk with indigenous communities and make sure we recognize the vibrancy in those communities, the history, and what it means when a person has things from their ancestors, their parents' parents' parents, and loved ones sitting in a box somewhere far away and there is no pressure to have those things returned. What does it mean to communities when they get those things back home? This is something we have to look at.

I look forward to supporting this bill. I wish I saw a little more emphasis on money. I understand that in a private member's bill, we cannot talk about money, but I want to make sure that this plan actually has a discussion about that. I saw nothing in there that said there would be a plan that comes forward from this national strategy that would include some of the heavy financial commitments that would have to be made to do this and do this right.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I am very proud to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-391. I want to begin by sincerely thanking the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester for bringing this very important issue before Parliament. I would also like to thank him for being so open about the prospect of amendments to this bill. That and the comments so far by other hon. members of this House from different parties show that we are all here to work together.

We believe that the government has an important leadership role to play in support of the repatriation of indigenous cultural property, which is critical to our work overall to promote reconciliation. We are supporting this bill, because it is a critical step in the right direction, in the direction of empowering indigenous persons; in the direction of ensuring a renewed relationship with all indigenous persons—first nations, Inuit, and Métis people; in the direction of respect; and, most important, in the direction of autonomy.

A new national strategy on the repatriation of indigenous cultural property is something I have heard about locally from advocates for reconciliation in my riding of Parkdale—High Park, but it is also something we have heard about nationally when consulting with indigenous leaders, literally from coast to coast to coast.

This is an idea whose time has clearly arrived, but we also believe that there are a number of ways in which this bill can and should be strengthened. I would pause to reflect on the comments made by members of the two opposition parties who just spoke to this bill. The government will indeed be seeking some amendments to this bill.

First, we have heard others refer to the importance of the repatriation of indigenous human remains, including in the comments by the member opposite. Indigenous communities themselves have shown that this is often the highest priority for them. It seems that some consider human remains to be part of what the bill calls “Aboriginal cultural property”, but that aspect is not clear. We feel that the bill should be explicit in stating that the proposed national strategy will focus on both cultural property and human remains.

Second, we have heard other hon. members voice concerns about the definition of aboriginal cultural property in the bill. Definitions are always tricky. We know that as parliamentarians. We do not believe this term should actually be defined in the legislation itself. It does not appear to be defined elsewhere in law, and it is not even defined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It would be much more appropriate, in our view, if the scope of the strategy and any necessary definitions were developed as part of the strategy itself, in co-operation with indigenous communities and the holders of collections. We should not define the term in legislation itself, because we may end up with something either too vague or too narrow, and we may inadvertently exclude something we may regret after the fact.

Third, and to the same point, the bill refers to cultural property where there is “a strong attachment”. By whom or how should this strong attachment be judged? In our view, this concept and the scope of the proposed mechanism are best left to be determined in consultation with all stakeholders during the development of the strategy Bill C-391 contemplates. The point is that we need to be very careful that the bill does not go too far in determining the details of the strategy in advance. To do so would restrict the ability of the government and all those who work with it, most importantly indigenous persons themselves, to come up with the best possible result.

Fourth, speaking of the development of the national strategy in co-operation with stakeholders, Bill C-391 makes reference to the role to be played by the provinces, but there is no mention of the territories, and that certainly is something that should be added.

One of the really innovative aspects of the bill is that it proposes the creation of a forum for the resolution of conflicting claims. We are assuming that this is meant to be a forum where, if more than one indigenous community or organization is claiming the same item, indigenous people would get together and decide whose claim should go forward. That is very important and should be highlighted. Sorting out something of this nature should not be the role of a museum facing competing claims, and it should not be the role of the government. It should be up to indigenous people themselves. That is the point of reconciliation. It is about ending the patterns and habits of colonialism, where too often, governments have told indigenous persons about policies that affect them, rather than working with indigenous persons to co-develop those policies in a respectful nation-to-nation or Inuit-crown or government-to-government relationship, in the context of the Métis.

Co-development is the method we are pursuing in tabling Canada's first-ever indigenous languages act, a project I have been privileged to work on as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. That spirit of moving away from the old colonial ways of thinking to ensuring that decisions on competing claims to the same indigenous item rest with indigenous people is something that needs to be emphasized more clearly in this bill.

It also should not be a forum where the government adjudicates the claims between indigenous communities and holders of collections. I cannot stress enough that success in repatriation depends on direct dialogue between indigenous peoples and institutions. The government should not be trying to insert itself into the middle of that dialogue, but clearly has a role to play in facilitating that dialogue. It is also important to acknowledge that a single forum may not be appropriate. Separate forums may be needed for first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We need to take what we call a “distinctions-based approach” and acknowledge the unique circumstances of each of these three groups.

There are two more amendments I would like to raise.

Fifth, given everything we have heard and everything that has been said here, it is clear that developing a national strategy will be neither simple nor easy. Two years is not enough time to do all this work, hold all the consultations, and make all the decisions that need to be made. If the minister has to come back before Parliament with a strategy within just two years, we worry that it will not be the best possible strategy.

The government will be seeking an amendment to extend the period for developing the strategy to three years. We agree with the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester that a deadline is important to ensure that this repatriation work, which will support the reconciliation process, goes quickly.

Before I close, my sixth point relates to the report that the minister would provide after the first two years of the strategy's implementation. As the bill is drafted, that section of the report seems to suggest that success can only be measured by the number of objects returned. As parliamentarians, we know that is not the only form of positive outcomes of negotiations. We also know there would be some information, particularly on negotiations still under way, that would simply be too sensitive to be included in a report that becomes public. Therefore, some adjustment to how the report is described is needed, in our view. We fully support the need for a report and the accountability and transparency it would bring with respect to delivering on the national strategy.

None of the potential amendments I have mentioned would weaken Bill C-391, or change its fundamental objective of enabling more progress on repatriation, the honourable goal of the member for Cumberland—Colchester. We support what he is working to do. We want that progress to take place, and that is why our party and our government is supporting the bill.

We look forward to working on amendments that would increase the chance of successfully implementing a national strategy for the repatriation of indigenous cultural property.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-391, an act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property. While this bill has very good intentions, aspects of it could lead to unforeseen consequences and it is consequently in need of much amendment.

As we all know, first nation communities play a critical role throughout this great country, contributing to our great cultural diversity and history. The cultural artifacts of first nation peoples provide all Canadians with opportunities to learn lessons from the past, understand the present, and view the future with greater awareness and clarity. To ensure that the cultural artifacts of first nations continue to educate, inform, and inspire Canadians across this country, significant dialogue took place way back in 1994 between the Canadian Museums Association and the Assembly of First Nations with the goal of ensuring that the common interest of Canadians would be met by these important cultural artifacts. They developed a joint recommendation through many consultations, which advocated that there be moral and ethical frameworks for the display and interpretation of first nation cultural artifacts and for resolving disputes. The report of the Canadian Museum Association and the Assembly of First Nations found that museum collections do recognize the importance of cultural objects. These objects represent cultural history and values, and are therefore sources of learning, pride, and self-esteem.

The primary concern of first peoples is the importance of the cultural collections within their own communities. Nonetheless, there is a general recognition of these collections and that the institutions that care for them serve a wider function and can contribute to greater public education and awareness of the significant cultural contributions made by first peoples in this country. Clearly, we all want to ensure that as many Canadians as possible are able to learn about first nation cultures and to discover from these artifacts the rich cultural heritage of first nation peoples. It is in the common interest of all Canadians that we continue to educate and inform them about the amazing contributions that have been made by first nation people throughout history, right up to the present day.

Disconcertingly, the Canadian Museums Association was not consulted prior to the introduction of this bill. That is troubling. It is unfortunate, considering the vast body of work that has been done by this marvellous organization, along with numerous first nations, in the field of first nations' cultural artifacts, and how best to promote mutual interest.

One of the principles brought forward by the joint recommendation of the Canadian Museums Association and the Assembly of First Nations is that museums and first peoples should work together to correct the inequities that characterized their relationship in the past. In particular, the desire and authority of first peoples to speak for themselves should definitely be recognized and affirmed by museums. However, given that the Canadian Museums Association was not consulted prior to the introduction of this bill, the partnership highlighted by this principle from the joint recommendations seems to have been forgotten during the drafting of the bill. That is unfortunate, because the relationship between the AFN and the Canadian Museums Association goes back to 1984 with respect to the artifacts we are discussing today.

In recognition that the presentation and interpretation of first nations' cultural artifacts represents a significant public good for this country in terms of the wealth of knowledge, perspective, and understanding that they provide Canadians across this country, and in keeping with the recommendations resulting from the excellent work by the Canadian Museums Association and the AFN, we will propose an amendment that would 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.

Furthermore, we will propose that steps be taken to ensure that first nations cultural artifacts are preserved in a way that they will be available to instruct and inspire all future generations of Canadians, who will only benefit from this cultural property and heritage.

Our amendment will seek to ensure that consideration is given to how best to adequately preserve and protect the quality and integrity of aboriginal cultural property. No common interest is served when cultural artifacts are damaged or even destroyed, and we should be taking every precaution possible to ensure that these cultural artifacts survive for the benefit of all Canadians. Such a consideration is currently absent within Bill C-391 in its present state, and we believe that this amendment would better serve the intentions of the bill by removing unforeseen consequences.

Additionally, we note with some trepidation that the bill includes a very broad definition of aboriginal cultural property. This is defined in the bill as “objects of historical, social, ceremonial, or cultural importance to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.”

One outcome that we want to avoid in the bill is a chilling effect on the thriving first nation arts sector, in which our first nation artisans and craftspeople produce many stunning works that are then bought by people around the world. The income these artists generate through this sector is very important for many families. I saw that firsthand when I had an opportunity to go to Nunavut in January. When the plane lands in a community, the artists come out and are really thrilled to show off their work to those new to the community.

We definitely want to protect their work. We want to make sure that people are not discouraged from purchasing the works of art produced by these talented first nation artisans for fear that this work may be repatriated in the future. That is why we will propose an amendment that would ensure that such a strategy does not have the effect of harming or discouraging the importance of commercial trade by aboriginal artists in the creation and sale of art, design, and fashion.

Finally, as my colleague from York—Simcoe noted, we will propose an amendment that would ensure that the proposed repatriation policy would only affect artifacts that individuals or museums are no longer interested in possessing. This is in the spirit of the remarks made by the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester across the aisle, who said that the intent is not to force anyone to give up any artifacts. It also opens the door or encourages owners to display artifacts that are in storage or currently not on display, either at their own facility or at other facilities across this great nation by lending them out.

First nations culture is incredibly important for Canada. It serves to broaden the perspectives, knowledge, and understanding of all Canadians. We need to make sure that we are doing everything to ensure that first nations cultural artifacts continue to teach and inspire all of us both now and in the generations to come.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

[Member spoke in Cree]

[English]

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be here to speak to this private member's bill.

It is important that we consider what story is told, who tells that story, and how it is told. We often hear the phrase that history is the story of the victorious, those who have won the battle, but Canada, we know, is perhaps a different country that is unusual and special in the history of man, for we have created a very pluralistic society for many Canadians. As Steve Heinrichs, a friend of mine, said, “It's all about relationships. It's all about how we relate to each other.”

I am very proud of the work of the member for Cumberland—Colchester, who put forward Bill C-391, an act respecting a national strategy for the repatriation of aboriginal cultural property. The bill seeks to provide for the development and implementation of a national strategy to enable the return of aboriginal cultural property to the aboriginal peoples of Canada.

I believe the government must work to ensure the protection of important aspects of Canada's heritage. The Government of Canada must facilitate the repatriation of indigenous cultural property through financial support, and it must do so in a timely way. The government must continue to examine the bill and find ways to ensure that it is implemented with indigenous peoples.

This bill, in my estimation, is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is consistent with articles 11 and 12 of UNDRIP, which we have just approved today in the House at third reading.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended the implementation of UNDRIP and a national review of museum policies and practices to determine their compliance with UNDRIP.

I would like to quote article 11:

Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revive their cultures and tradition.

Governments will work with indigenous peoples to ensure indigenous property rights to their cultures, knowledge, spiritual and religious traditions are respected, and to address cases where these have been used without free, prior and informed consent.

Article 12, on the right to spiritual and religious traditions and customs, says:

Indigenous peoples have the right to practice their spiritual and religious traditions. Governments will, with indigenous peoples, ensure that indigenous peoples are free to practice, protect and revive and keep alive their cultures, spiritual, religious and knowledge traditions.

These are very noble objectives.

I have a friend whom I have not had a chance to talk to in a number of years, but when I was at the University of Manitoba, we had excellent and very profound conversations over the role of museums and how museums shape our history. We know there was a great debate in this Parliament when the Museum of Civilization's title was changed to the Museum of Canadian History. We know that how we tell these stories is very important.

Ruth B. Phillips, who wrote Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums, writes, “Critical writing on museums during the past two decades has produced a widely accepted understanding of the ways in which nation-states have historically used these institutions”—museums—“to educate their public to desired forms of social behaviour and citizenship.”

This is a long history, and we have been talking about indigenization of cultural artifacts for a very long period of time.

In 1988, during the Calgary Winter Olympics, the Glenbow Museum had a wonderful display on indigenous peoples, but it was not without controversy.

Most writers on this topic know that The Spirit Sings: Artistic Traditions of Canada's First Peoples was a point of departure and change within the Canadian state about how museums work with indigenous peoples. For instance, Bernard Ominayak, chief of the Lubicon First Nation said in 1986, “The irony of using a display of North American Indian artifacts to attract people to the Winter Olympics being organized by interests who are still actively seeking to destroy the Indian people seems painfully obvious.”

In response, Duncan Cameron, director of the Glenbow Museum, wrote, “I believe that it is this Olympic connection which will draw attention to the real concerns of Canadian Native peoples, as it is in the context of the exhibition that the richness and depth of Canada's Native culture will be emphasized.”

Stuart Hall later wrote—in 2005, because sometimes these debates go on for very many decades in academia—“The exhibiting of “other cultures”—often performed with the best of Liberal intentions—has proved controversial. The questions 'Who should control the power to represent?' and 'Who has the authority to re-present the culture of others?' have resounded through the museum corridors of the world, provoking a crisis of authority.

It is important that this crisis of authority continue. It is not simply about indigenous people taking back and never sharing; it is about how we build relationships together and how we work together. I do not believe there is any indigenous nation or people who would say, 'We don't want to work with museums around Canada and around the world', but “nothing without us” is an important phrase.

This work has been going on even in Winnipeg. I was at the University of Winnipeg for a funding announcement on indigenous knowledge on a research project for Dr. Reimer. It was called the Six Seasons of the Asiniskow Ithiniwak.

In 1993, the remains of a 25-year-old Cree woman were found. She had lived 350 years ago near the South Indian Lake. The community-led archaeological research resulted in Elder William Dumas writing an award-winning book, Pisim Finds Her Miskanow. This also led to working with Dr. Reimer from the University of Winnipeg to create a research project with the goal of reclaiming the Rocky Cree language, history, and culture. We eventually did an interview in which we talked about it, and it can be found on Facebook if people are interested.

This was about a community taking charge of its own knowledge, its own story, to ensure that what the community needed was put first and foremost. It was not about the Museum of History in Ottawa and Gatineau taking charge or, in the case the member for Cumberland—Colchester talked about, a museum in Victoria in Australia taking charge, but about truly indigenous communities saying, “This is how we believe the story should be told.” Who better to tell a story than the person who has lived it?

Ruth Phillips, who wrote that book, said:

Since the late nineteenth century, one of the most important collections of Mi'kmaq and Huron-Wendat art from what are now New Brunswick and Quebec has lain largely unregarded in a large urban museum on the opposite side of the globe from its communities of origin. Consummate examples of Native North American textile and sculptural art, the clothing, textiles, wampums, and carved pipes in the collection accompanied the aspiring young writer and amateur ethnologist Samuel Douglass Smith Huyghue in 1852 when he emigrated to Australia to take up work as a government clerk in the Ballarat gold mines.

He had gone to New Brunswick and bought a number of artifacts and objects and essentially gave them to a museum in Australia. This Mi'kmaq community would like some of these artifacts repatriated so that they can be displayed and bring pride to the indigenous Mi'kmaq community in New Brunswick.

This is important, because this bill would enable us to develop a strategy. Australia, incredibly enough, actually already has a strategy on this, and they should have been repatriated many years ago.

I talked about the work that was going on at the University of Winnipeg. These remains were eventually re-buried, but if we had continued to follow old practice from the 19th century, the bones of this 25-year-old indigenous woman would have remained in storage, disturbing her spirit and the peace of the community.

I support this bill, I believe many Canadians support this bill, and I hope other members support the bill. I understand there is a bit of controversy, but as with The Spirit Sings exhibit at the Calgary Olympics in 1988, controversy sometimes can help move us forward, because it increases the amount of debate. It makes sure that everyone understands that people hear about this issue and we come to some form of conclusion and consensus about the way forward.

Thank you very much.

[Member spoke in Cree]

[English]

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before resuming debate, I will let the hon. member for Saint Boniface—Saint Vital know that there are about eight minutes remaining in order to reserve some time for the sponsor of the bill and his right of reply.

The hon. member for Saint Boniface—Saint Vital.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I rise today in support of Bill C-391, which concerns the development of a national strategy on 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. I am happy to have seconded the bill that supports ongoing efforts for reconciliation. I was happy to second this bill because of its relevance to my home province and community.

In Manitoba last year, the federal government and the RCMP agreed to transfer Métis artifacts that belonged to Louis Riel to the Manitoba Metis Federation. These items were of deep cultural importance to the community, and the symbolism of the RCMP displaying items belonging to Riel, whom they imprisoned, was very striking. In transferring these items, the government made it very clear that it understood the artifacts belonged to the Métis community, and therefore it was only appropriate for them to be returned.

One cannot speak to this bill without referencing the importance this bill has for the path of reconciliation our government has embarked upon. It is the spirit of reconciliation that inspired this bill, and again I commend the member for using his opportunity to present legislation in the House to present such a bill.

The member for Cumberland—Colchester recalled, in his first speech concerning this bill, the events that inspired its creation. The situation he described is one that is repeated in many communities throughout Canada. Many communities have lost artifacts through various circumstances, and thus have had to resort to showing a picture of their own heritage in place of the actual item.

Bill C-391 would require the government to develop and implement a national strategy on repatriation of indigenous cultural property and to report to Parliament on this strategy within a set number of years. What is of note to me is that the development and implementation of this national strategy would be done in consultation with indigenous peoples. It is the communities that will tell us what a relevant cultural property is, and how best to engage on a strategy to return the items can only come from them.

I have discussed this bill with the member on many occasions, and I was pleased to see that he realized the importance of a distinctions-based approach. What works for one community may not suit another, and the national strategy must meet the needs of a wide variety of communities. That is why the strategy should not be developed from the top down. The strategy needs to be developed organically, with an emphasis on collaboration with the affected communities. A one-size-fits-all solution does not work in a country like Canada, whose indigenous communities are very diverse.

With the remaining time I have, let me speak briefly to the importance of this bill to my own community.

As I indicated earlier, the Manitoba Metis Federation was told last year that artifacts that belonged to Louis Riel would be returned. They are currently housed in the RCMP Heritage Centre. This transfer is an example of reconciliation in action.

By facilitating the return of these artifacts to the Métis nation, we are supporting the vitality of Métis culture and heritage. I am thrilled about the Métis National Heritage Centre that will be opening soon in Upper Fort Garry. This centre will give all Canadians a chance to learn about Métis heritage. It will also give the Manitoba Metis Federation the space and resources it needs to properly store and display cultural heritage artifacts.

While this example of repatriation was facilitated by our own government, there are many situations in which repatriation is not quite as simple. Often indigenous artifacts were sent across the world, and they are now displayed in museums as far away as Australia. It is not easy for indigenous communities to engage in discussions with museums in foreign countries, and this strategy should try to make this process easier on communities. Continuing and facilitating international conversations will take time, but having a concrete strategy will make conversations easier and less adversarial for all parties involved.

We must also respect the existing relationships that have developed between cultural institutions and indigenous communities. Sometimes the appropriate solution will not be repatriation. However, this can be explored through the development of a strategy, and ultimately be the decision of the individual community involved. For example, broadly, a community may seek ownership but allow the museum to maintain it is display. In this situation all Canadians benefit as they will be able to see and learn about the communities culture.

It is important that these relationships evolve. We cannot allow colonialism and colonialist-thought to continue to shape our conversations and policies surrounding indigenous culture. We must recognize the power imbalance that led to many of these items being displayed. When a museum displays a cultural property, it should respect the terminology, knowledge, and understanding of the community when describing and promoting indigenous heritage.

I am happy to have heard from the parliamentary secretary for heritage, who outlined the amendments our government intended to propose. I truly feel that these amendments will strengthen the bill, rendering it ultimately more effective. I look forward to the work of my colleagues on the heritage committee, from all parties, to collaborate to make the bill possible.

It is clear that our government is committed to ensuring the preservation and promotion of indigenous heritage and culture. This bill is an extension of this commitment. I am proud to support the bill and our government has indicated its support as well.

Meegwetch.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to table the government's response to Order Paper Questions Nos. 1,629 to 1,646.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

May 30th, 2018 / 6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all members who have spoken to the bill. I underestimated its impact when we drafted it. It was a very basic, simple bill for us, but we had no idea of the impact it would have on so many indigenous peoples who have contacted us. Just to hear the stories from the members and experiences they have had in their museums, heritage, and cultural sites is very gratifying.

I was sitting here thinking that I am almost an artifact myself. I will celebrate my 30th anniversary of my first election in November. However, I have been thrown out, recycled, and changed cars a few times. I was sent home for health reasons. Fortunately, I came back in the last election and was able to do this. It is just as exciting and interesting to me today as it was 30 years ago, and it is because of things like this where we can help change the lives of people and do things that will help and be meaningful to them. We are very fortunate we can do this and help people recognize their history and culture. It is an honour for me.

Somebody referred to me as the sponsor of the bill. I am the sponsor, but the bill belongs to the indigenous peoples. Everything about it is for them. I welcome every amendment that anybody wants to make. Any ideas that anybody has to add to the bill to make it more meaningful for indigenous people, I will welcome and support. Everybody has been very supportive. They may have their own little twists and turns on it, but they are supportive, and I appreciate that.

When I wrote the bill, the point was to help small communities. For instance, Millbrook First Nation in my riding had a case where it had discovered an artifact that might be available, but it needed a hand. My idea was to add another voice to small communities like Millbrook First Nation in Nova Scotia so it would not be alone in its effort to try to repatriate this article.

The second part came up after we tabled the bill. People who had artifacts were contacting us but they did not know where to take them. They wanted to repatriate them, but they did not know what to do with them. Therefore, another part of my vision of this strategy is that we have a place for people to go, if they have artifacts, to ensure they go back to the original community that had the artifacts and have a close relationship to them.

I am grateful to all the people we consulted on this. My executive assistant, Joel Henderson, was so helpful. As well, some of the people we dealt with were the Millbrook First Nation, the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq, indigenous members of Parliament, and indigenous members of the Senate, who were very interested and had many meaningful stories. We were approached by foreign governments. The Commonwealth Association of Museums, which represents museums in 53 countries, looked at the bill as perhaps a model for something it might do. The Canadian Archeological Association, the Canadian Museum of History, academics and authors have offered us help and ideas. We have been in touch with the Assembly of First Nations, the Cree Cultural Institute, the Royal British Columbia Museum, and the Victoria Museum in Melbourne, Australia.

I want to thank Mr. Mark O'Neill, the president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History, and John McAvity of the Canadian Museum Association, who we met in our office to discuss the direction we should go in and the it could play to help. Dr. Sarah Pash from the Cree Cultural Institute was so interesting.

I had a visit from Her Excellency Natasha Smith from the Embassy of Australia. She offered to help open up a dialogue between Millbrook First Nation and a museum in Australia. To my amazement, I now have a young first nation Canadian woman dealing with a young first nation Canadian woman in Australia, and they are negotiating about artifacts. That is symbolic of the intent of this bill, first nation to first nation. It is so gratifying.

I have a lot of things I would like to say, but this bill has been a journey of enlightenment for me. I started to very much appreciate the culture and meaning of the artifacts of indigenous people, which I did not appreciate when we first started this. However, it has been very meaningful to me and I have met so many wonderful people. The one thing I learned is that we have a lot to learn.

I want to thank all members of Parliament who spoke on this, and those members who have amendments and proposals to add to the bill to make it more meaningful for the indigenous peoples who I hope it serves.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Aboriginal Cultural Property Repatriation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to an order made on Tuesday, May 29 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 6, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

moved:

That in relation to Bill C-47, An Act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code (amendments permitting the accession to the Arms Trade Treaty and other amendments), not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said bill; and

That, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at report stage and fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government orders on the day allotted to the third reading stage of the said bIll, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period.

I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places so the Chair will have some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in the question period. Based on what I see, I will ask hon. members to keep their interventions to around one minute. That will be in regard to those who have put the questions and also to the minister who responds.

I will also remind hon. members that during the course of the 30 minutes, most of the questions are reserved for opposition members, although some will be permitted from members of the government party.

The hon. member for Durham.

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, here we go again with time allocation for yet another bill. I think we are now up to 36 or 37 uses of time allocation by a party that suggested in the last Parliament that such procedural motions were an “assault on democracy”. That is the quote of the parliamentary secretary, who is now one of the minions in charge of executing this policy. The hubris involved in that is unbelievable.

My question on Bill C-47 comes down to the reasonableness of the request of anglers, hunters, and first nation hunters who lawfully use firearms. All they wanted to see from the government was a basic recognition in the bill that lawful uses, such cultural use and sport hunting, would be exempt from the UN treaty. They were led to believe that would come, yet here we are. There is no such direct provision in the legislation, and the government is rushing through debate on Bill C-47, alongside its companion piece of legislation, Bill C-71.

My question is simple. Why not have a reasonable exemption for lawful use?

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to the response, I would just caution hon. members to avoid characterizations of other hon. members that are not particularly honourable.

The hon. Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Québec Québec

Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos LiberalMinister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have this opportunity to say how proud we are of the hard work done by the parliamentary committee. It had five different meetings with 16 different witnesses. We had 40 different speeches on this very important issue, 20 of them by the official opposition, which had the opportunity to demonstrate that it was also interested in the value and opportunity of bringing this bill to completion. We are very appreciative, and we would like to congratulate the parliamentary committee on its work. We are delighted that we can now move to the next step, which is to demonstrate to all Canadians, and indeed to all the world, that Canada is back on the international stage for peace, security, and development.

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development is the one answering questions this evening, seeing as the arms we sell to other countries often destroy families and kill children. That is why this is such an important topic.

The committee did indeed study this issue, and the experts told the committee that the government's bill conflicts with both the letter and the spirit of the treaty. A few minor adjustments were made, but this is like me going to a restaurant, ordering a tomato, lettuce, and mayo sandwich, and being served just a little dish of mayonnaise because I said I wanted mayonnaise. What happened to the tomato, the lettuce, and the bread? I am not alone in wanting the rest of the sandwich. The experts and many Canadians want it too. Specifically, we want the loophole with the United States closed. I have a petition about that here. This petition was launched on Friday, and it has almost 30,000 signatures already. We did not initiate this petition.

Will the government listen to Canadians and the experts once and for all?

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos Liberal Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear my colleague make the important link between the well-being of our families, our children, the well-being of Canadians, and Canada's role on the international stage. I have a quotation that I would like to read because it is important, and I think it will reassure my colleague regarding the importance of this bill. I will quote Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada:

The news that the key criteria with respect to human rights, peace and security and gender-based violence will be brought into Canada's Arms Trade Treaty legislation, and not left to regulation, is a welcome development; particularly the specific attention to gender-based violence. Equally, the adoption of a clear legal obligation that would require the Minister to turn down—with no discretion to the contrary—arms deals that contravene those criteria is a significant advance.

What we are seeing here, with concurrence in the committee report, is that not only are we about to prove that Canada cares about the role of children, families, peace, and security around the globe, but also that Canada is back on the international stage and is demonstrating its commitment to supporting so many other countries around the world.

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I came to this place, I had the great honour of teaching some university courses at King's University College. One of the courses I taught was POLI 1020: Introduction to Political Science. I had some great students who worked hard all semester, but there was the odd student who partied a little too hard and waited until the last minute to do the assignments and hand them in. There was usually a 3 a.m. email asking for an extension. Those students really did not do the work throughout the semester.

That is exactly what we see right now with the Liberals. They have had a little too much fun all year. They first tabled this bill on April 13, 2017, and now, at the last minute, after only one day of debate at report stage, they brought in time allocation. After bringing in time allocation and closure three times yesterday, here we have a fourth one within 48 hours.

I want to ask the Minister of Families, who for some reason is answering on Bill C-47, why the government has squandered more than a year of parliamentary time when it could have been debating this issue, and then all of a sudden, when time is limited right before the summer recess, it decides to ram all these bills down Parliament's throat at the last minute.

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos Liberal Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the key word here is “leadership”. We announced and promised this during the campaign, as was clearly understood by many Canadians.

Anna Macdonald, director of the Control Arms Secretariat, said:

Canada's absence from the ATT [the Arms Trade Treaty] was a strange exception over the last few years, and we are greatly encouraged by the current government's commitment to accede to the treaty in the near future. This presents a tremendous opportunity for a return to the leadership in disarmament and peace issues for which Canada was once renowned, for example, through the leadership which led to the Ottawa convention and subsequent mine ban treaty signed in Ottawa in 1997.

It is exactly that: leadership at home, and leadership in the world.

Bill C-47—Time Allocation MotionExport and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very frustrating to see that we are here again debating time allocation on a bill. This is the fourth time we have had time allocation or closure in the last two days. In the last little bit, I think we were up to 36 or 37 time allocation motions proposed by the government.

I remember that back in the day, when the Liberals were in opposition, they bemoaned and complained about time allocation used by the Conservative government. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister promised to do things differently. Now we see that the Liberals are not doing that. They are eliminating debate. They are making it difficult for a lot of MPs in this place to be a strong voice for their constituents. When we come to the House, we are a voice to represent the concerns of our constituents.

What has changed? Why are the Liberals doing time allocation again and again? They promised not to do as the Conservatives did, but here we are, with a fourth time allocation or closure in two days.