House of Commons Hansard #324 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-81.


11 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order. Colleagues, the devastating tornadoes of last Friday have taken an enormous toll on the citizens of Ottawa-Gatineau. Many have sustained damage to their homes. Some have even lost everything and must now rebuild their lives, including some employees of the House of Commons. Therefore, I would like to take a moment to thank those who have made it possible for us to fulfill our responsibilities as members of Parliament today, the employees who worked over the weekend to ensure that the parliamentary precinct could function safely and effectively, and the dedicated hydro workers and first responders who have accomplished miracles in restoring power and maintaining order throughout the affected region.

I would also like to express my admiration and appreciation for the national capital region MPs, who have been working non-stop to help their constituents.

Many residents of Ottawa and Gatineau were hit hard by Friday's tornadoes. I encourage all those who can lend their neighbours a hand to do so.

It being 11:05 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from March 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-369, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Indigenous Peoples Day), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Gary Anandasangaree Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism (Multiculturalism), Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I too share and echo your sentiments vis-à-vis the people of Ottawa-Gatineau, as well as the first responders and all those who were involved in assisting the families who were deeply affected by the events of last Friday.

I am honoured to contribute to this debate. I am pleased to acknowledge that I do so on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

I thank the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for introducing this bill. I also thank her for her ongoing work to achieve reconciliation.

The idea behind this bill is to establish a national holiday that will allow Canadians to reflect upon and understand the long and painful history relating to indigenous people. The road to reconciliation between Canada and indigenous peoples requires all Canadians to understand our shared history and acknowledge past wrongs while creating a path forward. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action provide all Canadians with this renewed path forward for Canada's journey of healing and reconciliation.

This bill is inspired by call to action 80, which states:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

That is why when the calls to action were released in June 2015, the Prime Minister, who was then the leader of the Liberal Party in opposition, immediately affirmed the unwavering support of the Liberal Party of Canada and our parliamentary caucus for all the TRC's recommendations and called on the Government of Canada to take immediate action to implement them. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report in December 2015, the Prime Minister then committed the Government of Canada to working “ partnership with Indigenous communities, the provinces, territories, and other vital partners, we will fully implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

This past June, our government supported and passed Bill C-262, an act to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, also known as UNDRIP. In February, our government established a recognition of rights framework, which is a fundamental shift in approach between Canada and indigenous peoples. Today, there are over 60 rights recognition tables around the country that seek to advance the process of this recognition and ultimately self-determination.

Our Prime Minister noted earlier this year that reconciliation calls upon all of us to confront our past and commit to charting a brighter, more inclusive future. We must acknowledge that centuries of colonial practices have denied the inherent rights of indigenous peoples. The recognition and implementation of indigenous rights will chart a new way forward for our government to work with first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to undo decades of mistrust, poverty, broken promises and injustices.

We have listened and learned, and we will work together to take concrete action to build a better future and a new relationship. Over the past three budgets, the government has invested significantly to advance the implementation of the calls to action and to support the crucial work with our indigenous partners to identify and address joint priorities. In fact, progress has already been made on over 80% of the calls to action under federal and/or shared responsibility. However, we know that more must be done and that we need to be held accountable for advancing this crucial work.

The National Council for Reconciliation's interim board of directors presented its final report to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations on June 12. According to the final report, setting up a national council for long-term reconciliation with adequate funding and enabling legislation is important for indigenous peoples, Canadians and the government. The council will have to report periodically to ensure ongoing oversight and accountability on implementing the Truth and Reconciliation's calls to action.

The National Council for Reconciliation's mandate will be to advance reconciliation efforts through the development and implementation of a multi-year national action plan for reconciliation.

The conclusion of the final report makes the following poignant observation:

We believe that hope is the first step in reconciliation. We believe hope is the basic building block upon which reconciliation must lay its foundation. We must plant and nurture seeds of hope in Indigenous communities and in the greater Canadian public. Hope gives us the belief that all action matters, no matter how small and no matter by whom. With trust, Canadians and Indigenous peoples can work together on building a new future, a better future. It all begins with hope.

We also need all Canadians to know what progress is being made.

The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has opened the eyes of many Canadians to the horrific truths of residential schools.

The Indian residential school system was a systematic plan to remove indigenous children from their homes, families and cultures to facilitate the stated policy of “killing the Indian in the child.”

During my tenure on the indigenous affairs committee, we heard from so many survivors of the residential school system. The member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou has shared his experience with all of us and has educated all of us in the House of his time in residential schools. Survivors like him continue to educate all Canadians of our past but equally, inspire us to do better.

All Canadians have a responsibility to educate themselves about this dark chapter of our shared history and work toward repairing the intergenerational damage caused by this appalling policy.

This is why our government is unequivocally committed to the implementation of the TRC calls to action and will be supporting sending this legislation to committee for further study.

"Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one." These are words from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report and words that the member from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River quoted in her speech when she introduced the bill that we are debating today. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment.

Healing the damage of residential schools will require the sustained action of not only involved governments, but other institutions and all Canadians.

The need to achieve reconciliation is a fundamental truth and is beyond partisan politics. That is why I am so pleased that the recent motion put forward by the member for Timmins—James Bay calling on the Pope to implement call to action 58 and issue an apology on behalf of the Catholic Church to residential school survivors, their families and communities passed with the overwhelming support of the House.

We look forward to working across party lines to ensure that this legislation fulfills call to action 80 and reflects the “collaboration with aboriginal peoples” contained in its text.

Together, we will chart a path forward that advances reconciliation and builds a stronger future for indigenous peoples and Canadians alike.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-369, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Indigenous Peoples Day).

This bill would make National Indigenous Peoples Day a statutory holiday. As a result, about 6% of the labour force would be impacted by this change. This bill would grant a holiday for employees of the federal government and federally regulated businesses only. It would not affect employees who are not subject to the Canada Labour Code.

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been proudly supported and celebrated by Conservatives, both while in government and as the official opposition. Indigenous peoples form an integral part of our country and their histories, cultures and traditions should be recognized and celebrated by all Canadians.

Every year our party encourages Canadians to take part in the local National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations so that we can all learn more about the rich history and traditions of indigenous peoples throughout this country, as well as the tremendous contributions which indigenous peoples have made to this country to make it what it is today, a better place to live.

In my city of Saskatoon, National Indigenous Peoples Day events are always something to look forward to. They are celebrations that help bring the whole community together in the spirit of diversity, understanding and, of course, learning. Every year in June, National Indigenous Peoples Day is one of the major events in my city of Saskatoon. The event is held in Victoria Park where the celebrations begin in the morning with a pipe ceremony. The event this year was followed by Rock Your Roots and a walk for reconciliation which was very well attended. Hundreds of people lined the streets of Saskatoon on this walk. It is an excellent opportunity for everyone to come together in the spirit of reconciliation. I was very proud to see the display of unity in my city.

The celebrations offered a very important opportunity for children and youth to learn about the rich and diverse cultural heritage of first nations and Métis peoples within my province of Saskatchewan. Additionally, the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre hosted numerous activities this year, which allowed young people to both observe and participate in a first nations dance, along with songs and teachings. I think this is particularly important for the young people of our province. These celebrations are very successful and they are important to the entire community.

When we discuss the impact of the addition of a new statutory holiday, we need to really think about whether we have gathered all the right information to make an informed decision. As my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo has stated before in the House, we need to know the economic impact related to the implementation of this new statutory holiday. If we do not have this information available to us, it is hard for us to know what kind of effects the addition of a new statutory holiday would have on Canada's economy. It is important to note that in discussing whether to add a new statutory holiday to Canada's Labour Code, we are not considering at all whether we should re-examine any of the existing statutory holidays. Specifically, we are not looking at whether we should remove some of the existing holidays going forward.

These factors are very crucial to our understanding of the economic impact associated with this bill, which in turn informs our decision-making. We must also consider whether statutory holidays have the desired effect on increasing the learning and awareness of these events and traditions which they are meant to honour and celebrate.

Currently, National Indigenous Peoples Day ceremonies and celebrations across the country enjoy a wide attendance by people from all walks of life. In June, here in the national capital region, I was happy to attend this year's ceremony near the Canadian Museum of History. A number of people attended the morning ceremony. Traditional sunrise ceremonies are enjoyed by all as they mark the beginning of a day filled with diverse cultural celebrations across the country.

We need to be concerned about the impact a statutory holiday might have on all of these celebrations and cultural festivities. Similar concerns have been raised by officials. We have had a debate in the House about whether Remembrance Day should be a statutory holiday. Different regulations exist throughout the country concerning the status of Remembrance Day in terms of whether it is a statutory holiday or not. Keep in mind that since 1970, the Royal Canadian Legion has come out against the resolution to make the day a statutory holiday. One official from the Royal Canadian Legion, Bill Maxwell, highlighted his concerns with making Remembrance Day a statutory holiday and stated that by institutionalizing it as a statutory holiday, the impression is that people would stay at home and would not make an effort to attend a ceremony downtown on November 11.

Last Thursday afternoon, I sat in on a meeting of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, echoed those same sentiments. He said that we do not really need a statutory holiday for Remembrance Day and he wonders if we even need one for National Indigenous Peoples Day. With a day as important as National Indigenous Peoples Day, we need to take great care to ensure that it does not risk becoming a holiday that is robbed of its significance by being viewed by employees as simply a day away from work.

Reconciliation with our first nations, Métis and Inuit communities is a process that all Canadians should be committed to and should support. We must make every effort to guarantee that indigenous peoples across the country receive fair and equitable access to education, economic development and employment and training opportunities. These are all fundamental aspects of reconciliation and they are vital issues which the Liberal government is failing to address.

In 2016, a report by the C.D. Howe Institute found that only four in 10 young adults living on reserve across Canada have completed high school compared to graduation rates of seven in 10 for indigenous peoples living off reserve, and nine in 10 for non-indigenous Canadians. These statistics are totally unacceptable and clearly show the vast difference in the kinds of education opportunities that are available to communities on reserve compared to everywhere else in the country. These differences act as a barrier to reconciliation, yet the Liberals have broken their promise to close the education gap between on reserve and off reserve. The consequences of this broken promise for the on-reserve communities are numerous and severe. The same 2016 report highlighted that these low graduation rates had many negative repercussions on reserve, which include unemployment, poverty and limited social and economic opportunities.

While we need to make sure we know what the impact of the designation of National Indigenous Peoples Day as a statutory holiday would be, the empirical data on the question is lacking. As a result, we cannot be clear at all in our discussions on the matter because we are missing key personnel information. The intentions of the bill may be well meaning, but we must also think about whether a statutory holiday is in fact the best way to preserve the meaning of National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House today to support not just Bill C-369 but the tireless efforts and tremendous work of my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

The member is a Dene woman from Saskatchewan, who served her community as mayor of La Loche for 12 years and worked with the RCMP's aboriginal advisory committee for almost a decade to help build safer communities in the north. She is a role model for all Canadians, especially for young indigenous women across this country. As a passionate advocate, she continues to demand action from government so that the people in her community are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. As an indigenous woman, her consistent and persistent advocacy aims to ensure that the voices of the first peoples are heard.

On this note, the member has brought before us Bill C-369. This bill would make June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, a statutory holiday in Canada. This bill would also fulfill recommendation 80 in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. While I was relieved to hear over the summer that, after months of silence, the Liberal government was ready to support the member's bill, I was truly disappointed that it made a partisan effort to undermine the work of my colleague. In going forward with this approach, the government did not even pause to stop to consult with my colleague on a bill which she brought forward. Throughout our society and history, successive governments have actively sidelined the role and voice of indigenous peoples, particularly indigenous women, and it was very disappointing to see the government continue to do this even while attempting to engage in acts of reconciliation.

I believe it is of utmost importance to continually reflect on the words of the TRC, when it stated, “Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one. Virtually all aspects of Canadian society may need to be reconsidered.” This calls for collective actions across communities, across levels of government, across party lines and across Canada for reconciliation and the recognition of the history, rights, cultures and languages of first nations, Métis and Inuit people throughout our country. It is a reminder that reconciliation falls on settler society, not on indigenous people.

Passing Bill C-369 would not tackle all the socio-economic challenges met by indigenous communities, but it would provide a time and space for reflection on Canada's colonial history and its current effects on the rights of first nations, Métis and Inuit communities across the country.

The government has signalled that there are two dates being considered for a statutory holiday and also that changing the name to the national day of truth and reconciliation is being considered. June 21 is a date significant to first nations, Métis and Inuit people and is already established as National Indigenous Peoples Day. It is already marked by celebrations across Canada. It falls on the summer solstice, a date that historically has marked a celebration of indigenous culture and heritage. It is my understanding that the government is thinking about changing the date to September 30, Orange Shirt Day.

While Orange Shirt Day is an important one, a day that first nations, local communities, local governments and schools come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come, I share the concerns of my colleague that by co-opting and renaming National Indigenous Peoples Day as Orange Shirt Day as a day of truth and reconciliation would be harmful to the ongoing project of reconciliation. It would be an act of taking a day of celebration and changing it to a day of recognizing settler violence and apologies. In effect, it would be shifting the focus away from indigenous people and toward settler society. This would undermine the valuable and difficult work under way from coast to coast to coast of indigenous activists in communities, which are tirelessly working to build up and restore indigenous lifeways in Canada.

By extension, recognizing September 30 as a statutory holiday would also further the narrative of violence experienced by indigenous people in Canada. Without doubt, settler societies' understanding of the legacy of residential schools is critical and important. However, continuing to limit the national experience of most Canadians to that of recognizing a day of violence toward indigenous people would do little to empower indigenous communities and to foster an environment in which first nations, Métis and Inuit life ways could grow and flourish.

My riding of Vancouver East is home to the Vancouver Aboriginal Child & Family Services Society and the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society, to name just two of the many important indigenous organizations in my riding. Last year, Freida Gladue of the Family Services Society and Susan Tatoosh of the Friendship Centre Society were interviewed by the Vancouver Sun about making National Indigenous Peoples Day a statutory holiday. Ms. Gladue noted the importance of providing Canadians from all walks of life the opportunity to learn about, experience and participate in the celebrations of indigenous people. She stated, “It should be a stat holiday for everyone. A lot of my friends are calling to say they can't come because they have to work today.”

As most of us may recall, this year the House was sitting on June 21, so like far too many Canadians, I was unable to attend the celebrations in my community because I was here in the House of Commons. Ms. Tatoosh described the importance of the day, stating that it is “a day where we get to promote our pride, our culture and our status as citizens of Canada. We share our culture, our achievements, our culture and dances and through this outreach, we support the concept of reconciliation.”

I do not want to diminish the critical work of reconciliation through the recognition of generations of injustice, mistreatment, discrimination and the further generational impacts of the events that continue to this day. However, that work should not erase the need to acknowledge the beauty of Canada's indigenous peoples, their cultures and languages by honouring and celebrating them.

Promoting and sharing the depth of first peoples' culture and teachings through events that celebrate them helps build bridges between communities. Through this effort, we are moving the goalposts from the notion of tolerance to appreciation, and from appreciation to respect, and from respect to celebration. In doing so, we are working together to change the necessity of preserving indigenous culture from an act of defiance to an act of appreciation, from an act of tightly holding on to one's identity to an act of sharing with others who you are, with open arms. It means creating the space for indigenous cultures in Canada not only to survive, but also to thrive. That in my opinion is what true reconciliation entails.

Establishing June 21 as a statutory holiday across Canada would help provide that space. It is far overdue, and I hope that all members will stand united in taking this step toward reconciliation and support my colleague's bill.

Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to this significant moment in our history, a moment to move forward to celebrate and acknowledge our first peoples and the gift they have given to all of us as immigrants, namely, a place to call home and a place to belong. It is absolutely time for us to ensure that the first peoples are equal partners at the table and for all Canadians to understand the importance of first peoples in Canadian history.

Once again, I call on all members to support this bill.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging that the lands on which we are gathered to discuss the important legislation introduced by my colleague from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River are part of the unceded traditional territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin people.

From a reconciliation perspective, since that is precisely the focus of my argument, I think it is especially important to emphasize that point so that everyone here in the House is well aware of the context surrounding our debate on this bill.

I would also like to take this opportunity to salute the Mashteuiatsh Innu first nation and the Saguenay Native Friendship Centre, which are located in my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.

It is time to make National Indigenous Peoples Day a statutory holiday in Canada. There are currently no federal statutory holidays dedicated to indigenous peoples. National Indigenous Peoples Day exists and is recognized, but it is not a statutory holiday. We do have precedents, however, as other jurisdictions in this country have enacted legislation to make June 21 a statutory holiday. Bill C-369 calls on the federal government to do the same, to show some leadership and set an example for the provincial and territorial governments that have not yet created this statutory holiday.

In its report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made it clear that reconciliation is not an indigenous issue; it is a Canadian issue. To achieve true reconciliation, we may be called upon to re-examine all aspects of Canadian society. This is indeed a call to action, to concerted action on the part of all governments in Canada and all communities in the interest of reconciliation with first nations, Métis and Inuit. Merely recognizing these peoples is not enough. We must also recognize their history, their rights, their cultures and their languages.

By passing Bill C-369, the House of Commons would be sending a clear message about its intention to create space for reconciliation. Once established, this national holiday will serve as a reminder to us all of what it really means to have a treaty-based nation-to-nation relationship. It will also be an expression of respect for the historic and cultural importance of first nations, Métis and Inuit.

Obviously this bill is not necessarily going to resolve all the socio-economic problems that indigenous peoples face, problems that my party raises in the House all the time, but it will provide a time and place for reflecting on our colonial history and its lasting effects on the rights of the first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples across the country.

For example, a statutory holiday could become an opportunity to organize events to commemorate and raise awareness about victims of residential schools and Canada's colonial system, the effects of which still weigh heavily on indigenous peoples today.

It is rather obvious that my colleague's bill is not a new idea. In 1982, the National Indian Brotherhood, now known as the Assembly of First Nations, launched a campaign to have National Aboriginal Day recognized as a national holiday. It was not until 1996 that June 21 was proclaimed National Aboriginal Day by then Governor General of Canada Roméo LeBlanc.

That date was chosen following consultation with indigenous peoples and statements of support from numerous indigenous groups. Some of these groups wanted the summer solstice, a day that holds a special significance to indigenous peoples in Canada, to become National Aboriginal Day.

As I mentioned before, other governments have made National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday.

These include the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, which made it a holiday in May 2017. In June 2017, my colleague from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River introduced the bill we are debating today to get the federal government on board. In September 2017, provincial MPP Michael Mantha, a New Democrat, introduced a bill in the the Ontario legislature entitled An Act to proclaim Indigenous Day and make it a holiday.

The Liberals have stated many times that the relationship with indigenous peoples is the one the government values as most important. The government also committed to follow through on the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a spirit of reconciliation and healing. Elected officials of other administrations have understood it, and this bill is a new opportunity for the government to move from words to action. Inspired by the call to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this bill would give hope to indigenous peoples and Canada mainly by fostering an awareness of the consequences of residential schools and by paying tribute to the survivors and the victims of foster family abuse, to their families and to their community.

A statutory holiday would give Canadians an opportunity to better understand our shared history and ensure that they would acknowledge this history, which is a crucial component of reconciliation. This bill gives the Liberal government, as well as the House of Commons, a chance to participate in the reconciliation process by granting a day to reflect on our dark colonial past and to pay tribute to the contributions, heritage, cultures and languages of indigenous peoples.

New Democrats are not the only ones who support making National Indigenous Peoples Day a statutory holiday. The Assembly of First Nations has been calling for this for years. At its 2016 annual general assembly, members adopted a resolution calling on the government to institute a statutory holiday on June 21. Bobby Cameron, the chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, expressed support for this bill in June 2017. In addition, Robert Bertrand, the national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, attended the press conference as a public show of support when this bill was announced.

I would also add that we are not the only ones here in the House calling for the creation of this holiday. The Liberal member for Winnipeg Centre circulated a petition asking that National Indigenous Peoples Day be made a statutory holiday. We know that he is not the only one in the Liberal caucus who supports our initiative. That is why we are hoping that everyone here in the House of Commons, regardless of party, will support my colleague's bill.

Like the member who spoke before me, I too was unable to attend the National Indigenous Peoples Day events organized by the native friendship centre in my community on June 21. It was a beautiful day, and the centre had invited me to participate in the activities it organized at Place du citoyen. Unfortunately, I had work to do here in the House. The House was in session, and we were here very late voting. We did not get much sleep last spring. My thoughts were with them on June 21. However, I think that supporting my colleague's bill will make all the difference. I am asking the House to vote in favour of this bill.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak for a couple of minutes to the legislation because it is an important piece of reconciliation. The Prime Minister has been very clear, and was even before he became Prime Minister, about that important relationship between Canada and its indigenous peoples. He has stated on many occasions just how important that relationship is. I believe there is widespread support, from ministers, cabinet, to my caucus colleagues, in fact beyond the Liberals benches to the New Democratic benches and to many from within the Conservative Party, recognizing the importance of reconciliation.

It is important for us to recognize, and it has already been referenced, the TRC calls to action. Call to action 80 urges:

[T]he federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The TRC did a great service to Canada by providing these very tangible recommendations. The Prime Minister has been on the record on numerous occasions, endorsing the report brought forward by the TRC. We understand that the responsibility of the minister, and even within the call to action, is the obligation to continue that consultation as we work toward it. We recognize the importance of this issue.

I believe that during Jean Chrétien's era, there was a proclamation with respect to National Aboriginal Day in June. Last year, it was renamed to National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I am going to interject because I have just been advised that the hon. parliamentary secretary has already spoken to this and therefore is not able to speak to this again. I am so sorry.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to speak in support of my colleague, the Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, and her Bill C-369, a bill that would create a national indigenous peoples day.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the traditional lands of the Algonquin people. I thank them for sharing this beautiful land with all of us.

I live in the traditional lands of the Syilx people, the Okanagan nation. Most large public gatherings in the Okanagan are opened with a traditional prayer and the signing of the Okanagan song. The part of that song that I have taken to heart is, “We are beautiful. We are beautiful because our land is beautiful.” Those words emphasize the relationship between all of us and the land that sustains us, that we are nothing if we treat our land without respect. They are powerful words.

I grew up on the boundary of the Penticton Indian Reserve and I still live in the house in which I grew up. I like to tell my friends from the Penticton Indian Band that I grew up on the res. However, I did not grow up on it like those people. As I grew up, I knew nothing of the struggles of the kids I went to school with from the reserve. We did not talk much. I knew nothing of the struggles of them and their families, of the residential schools situation. I did not really know anything about their culture, heritage, or language. I did not even know there were still people speaking a traditional language there.

In 1978, I was out on the Chilcotin Plateau and went into a café. I realized soon that everyone in the café was speaking Chilcotin. I had never heard an indigenous language spoken before. I realized how little I knew of the cultures of the people who were here first, the first peoples of Canada.

In 1981, I met Jeannette Armstrong, someone whom I have come to know and respect a great deal. She grew up a couple of kilometres from me in Penticton. My father knew her mother and yet I never had met her before. She spoke of her family's struggle to retain the culture and language. She spoke fluent nsyilxcen, the language of the Okanagan people. I was totally blown away. I had no idea there were still speakers of that language, that the culture was still retained and so rich.

Since that time, I have learned a lot from my colleagues in the first nations communities of the Okanagan about that culture and what they have been doing to retain it and make their people proud of it and get their kids learning the language again.

Recently, I had the honour and very humbling experience of sitting in on an immersion class in Penticton that taught nsyilxcen. It was humbling to sit there for a day, hearing people speak a language that I knew very few words of, a language that was formed in my home valley. It was literally the language of my land and yet I knew nothing of it.

I still know very few words in nsyilxcen. I know a few of the plants and animals as I am a biologist. Probably the only word I knew as a kid, because my father would call bitterroot, was “speetlum”. Speetlum is one of the four food groups of the Okanagan people. It is the root that gave them sustenance through the year. I know the word for Saskatoon berries, “seeya”, again one of the important foods of the Okanagan people.

However, it was not until I moved back to the Okanagan in the 1990s and started working a lot with people in the local first nations communities on the conservation of their lands, as they were very concerned about conserving the environment of their lands, that I got to hear more of their personal stories. People who were working with me, very dedicated workers, had real personal struggles, such as families torn apart, addictions, life in residential schools, which had sent them to Alberta and northern British Columbia as kids, yet they had come back to work to rebuild their communities.

At the same time, my wife Margaret was working for the Osoyoos Indian Band, building the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre, one of the most magnificent interpretive centres in the country. If people are ever in the Okanagan, I urge them to visit it. It is a real celebration of the Syilx culture and is very well presented. Through her, I met other people who knew their culture and their language. It was such a rich experience, learning all of this from my neighbours. As Canadians, we do not have that opportunity very often.

Some of the projects I worked with brought kids together, kids from the first nations community and non-indigenous kids, to do habitat rehabilitation, plant trees and shrubs. At the same time, they were planting seeds of reconciliation in our communities.

I have seen such a change over the last 20 or 30 years in the Okanagan Valley with respect to the building of reconciliation. People are feeling a lot better about the relations between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. When I first went there in the 1990s, it was very touchy. However, that has really changed, as people are now taking the time to learn about each other's cultures.

Many of us celebrate July 1 every year as our national day. As well, many of us celebrate June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day. Although it is not a holiday, I attend the events in my community when I can. I know a lot of people do. In those events, we learn about indigenous cultures, their heritage and their languages. However, it would mean so much more if it were a national holiday.

Therefore, I really want to support my colleague's initiative to create a national statutory holiday. Yukon and the Northwest Territories have set a precedent by making June 21 a holiday in those territories to ensure that people have the time and the mindset to really set aside a day to learn about these important issues, and to take important steps toward reconciliation.


Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking my colleagues in the House for the dutiful consideration of my bill and for sharing their thoughts on making National Indigenous Peoples Day a statutory holiday.

I am very much looking forward to continuing our discussions in the near future as we work together to do what is right for indigenous people across Canada. The discussion we have heard today is part of a centuries-old conversation about how we make time for first nations, Métis and Inuit people in our country. Historically, we know that the federal government's position has been that there is no time for first nations, Métis or Inuit people. For governments in the past, indigenous people were to be civilized, educated or eliminated. History has proven past governments wrong. Indigenous people have become stronger.

Our recent conversations about the time for indigenous people have focused on reconciliation and how we commemorate the leaders who committed genocide. Apologies were made. Canadians have heard the stories of survivors. Canadians have heard apologies from prime ministers. They have heard the lack of apologies from religious leaders, and they have heard the promise of a government saying that it would do right by indigenous people now.

Reconciliation is the government's word. Reconciliation is the government's promise. Reconciliation is the burden of government and the burden of settlers. While the government should be having that conversation about reconciling Canada's past, indigenous people are thinking about their future in Canada. We are asking different questions. We are slowly moving away from asking how we will survive and instead are asking how we will thrive.

What we are seeing now is a renaissance of indigenous culture, indigenous arts and indigenous languages. Indigenous leaders and movements from the past are being taught in history classes. Indigenous people are thriving in business, science, technology, justice and health. I have seen with my own eyes how our cultures and languages are growing in our communities and how our families and youth find strength in our traditions. There is still so much work the government needs to do for indigenous people who are suffering, but first nations, Métis and Inuit people have done so much for a society that has and continues to try to ignore them.

To be clear, my bill does not ask to give indigenous people the time to perform their trauma. I am not asking to give indigenous people the time to accept our apologies while we atone for our actions. I am not asking to appropriate an established indigenous holiday so settlers will have another day off work. I am asking if we, as the Government of Canada, will give up part of our own time so that indigenous people across this country can celebrate what makes them truly unique.

It was in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action that I proposed my bill. I believe people in Canada are capable of mourning the legacy of residential schools while also thinking optimistically about the future. That is, after all, what we do every year on Remembrance Day. It is vital that we remember those we lost in residential schools, that we honour the survivors, and that we never forget how the Canadian government tried so hard to get rid of first nations, Métis and Inuit people. However, the stories indigenous people are telling now are far more optimistic and think so far into the future that they refuse to be defined by the impact of residential schools. Let us not limit the future of first nations, Métis and Inuit people to only a settler narrative of past injustice. Let us put an end to the government's practice of defining indigenous people by the things settlers have done to indigenous people. Let us listen to the generations of indigenous people who stand up every year on June 21 and continue to survive and continue to celebrate who they are and who they will become.

If we are truly committed to reconciliation, it is our duty to think about the time of celebration indigenous people have created for themselves. Indigenous people have told us for decades that June 21, the summer solstice, is their day of celebration. I hope that when members of this House vote on this bill, they will show that they are listening.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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

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Some hon. members



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The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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

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Some hon. members


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The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 26, 2018, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed from September 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders



Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time this morning with the member for Parkdale—High Park.

For decades, we have seen concerted efforts made to try to remove barriers to accessibility across Canada, but pervasive barriers still exist all around us. These barriers exist in our physical environment. They exist in the way information and communications technologies are developed, in how employment practices are established, in the way procurement policies are created by the government, in how government serves Canadians and in how our federal transportation networks are structured. These barriers stop millions of Canadians from participating in everyday activities that many people take for granted.

There was a time in Canadian history when the needs of people living with disabilities were not even part of the conversation. That is still too often the case, but thanks to the advocacy of leaders in disability and accessibility issues in Canada, we are more aware of the issues of those living with disabilities. We are increasingly aware of the challenges and injustices faced every day. Legislation alone will not be enough to address the issue; we need a change in the way we as Canadians think.

In Ontario, legislation will ensure that a sports complex has accessible parking spots, wide doors and washrooms. However, if people in wheelchairs are relegated to the second floor because no accessible seating is provided, or where accessible seating is provided, people stand up and block their view for the most exciting part of the game, the goals, that is hardly inclusive.

This is an issue I have been deeply committed to throughout my tenure as a member of Parliament and before I was elected. In the spring of 2017, I held a round table on employment for people living with disabilities in my riding of Oakville North—Burlington. The round table brought together organizations such as Community Living, experts on accessible employment and people with lived experience.

I continue to advocate for this issue in the community, in the House and with my colleagues in Parliament. We need to recognize the contribution people living with disabilities make to employers. It is not about doing what is right, although it is. It also makes economic sense. Just ask employers such as Mark Wafer, former MPP Pete Kevin Flynn, and Phillipa Durbin, who talk about the benefits to their businesses because they have hired those living with disabilities. Ask employees such as my staffers, Steven Muir and Karina Scali, or people like Robin, Andrew or James, who are outstanding employees who make significant contributions to their work.

Madam Speaker, you are aware that our government is a strong proponent of promoting inclusion and fairness to grow the middle class. Our government has committed to measures to make Canada a more equitable place, such as improving income security for seniors and helping families through improvements to the Canada child benefit.

Accessibility is a right in this country, not a privilege. That is why we are putting accessibility at the heart of our actions for greater social justice. That is why our government has brought forward Bill C-81, the accessible Canada act, to uphold that right in areas under federal jurisdiction. This involves Parliament and all that we do here. It involves the Government of Canada, crown corporations and the federally regulated private sector. It includes organizations in the federal transportation network, the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors and the banking and financial sectors.

Federally regulated sectors represent a large component of the Canadian economy. They employ about 900,000 people and are essential to economic, civil and social participation in society.

I believe that our government and our partners in the federally regulated sectors can be true leaders in accessibility. By changing the status quo in these areas, I am confident that a change in standards will follow in the private sector. However, our ambition is greater than that. Our ambition is that this legislation will lead to a more consistent experience of accessibility across Canada.

With this in mind, our government's actions on accessibility are focused on priority areas that Canadians living with disabilities have told us have an impact on their daily lives. They include public buildings and spaces, service delivery, employment, transportation, information and communications technologies and procurement of goods and services.

The core of Bill C-81 is the development and implementation of new accessibility standards in these priority areas. Through Bill C-81, our government is proposing the creation of a new organization called the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. This innovative organization would govern and oversee the process of creating new accessibility standards in partnership with key stakeholders.

I am proud that this organization will be led by a majority of persons living with disabilities on the board of directors. This is key to ensuring that those with lived experience are part of the decision-making process. This has been an issue in the past and continues to be an issue in our country, when those developing policies do not include those living with a disability.

This organization will be the first of its kind in Canada and one of the few in the world that is dedicated to developing only accessibility standards. The organization will work in partnership with persons living with disabilities, technical experts, industry leaders and representatives from organizations that are obligated to comply with the law and its regulations.

The standards created by the organization will then be considered by the government for application to the federal jurisdiction through regulation. Provinces and territories will also be invited to participate in the standards development process. By bringing together perspectives and knowledge about accessibility issues into one place, our government envisions that the Canadian accessibility standards organization will become a global centre of technical knowledge and expertise on accessibility.

We believe that this organization can serve as a national and international model for action on accessibility by putting the principle of “nothing about us without us” at the heart of its operation, letting people living with disabilities lead the way.

Over time, these standards will lead to measurable improvements to accessibility and have a real impact on the lives of Canadians living with disabilities and functional limitations.

In closing, I would like to reflect on the spirit of this legislation. Our government is committed to backing Bill C-81, with focused investment across the Government of Canada. This includes the development of the Canadians accessibility standards development organization.

As a government, we want to make accessibility a reality as we hire people, make our facilities easier to access and purchase goods from private sector suppliers. It is the sum of all these efforts, including new accessibility standards, that will allow people living with disabilities to be included in a way that many of us take for granted.

This legislation is the start of building not just an accessible Canada, but an inclusive Canada. We need to recognize that accessibility is a start, but it is not enough. We need to be leaders and effect real cultural change. This is how we will provide everyone in this country with the chance to realize their full potential. This is how we will make sure that everybody can contribute to the Canada of the future.

Our country will be stronger and all Canadians will benefit when we include everyone in the conversation, when we ensure that each and every Canadian can reach their full potential and when we build a truly inclusive country.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, the member and I see eye to eye on many points she has raised.

One thing I want to bring to her attention is that some people are concerned that the bill is not perfect. I understand that happens sometimes. Bills come forward, and of course the committee work is there to make them even better and, perhaps, to identify things that might be missing.

I know that people have raised with me that they are very concerned that the bill lacks timelines. There is some concern that we could be going on for quite a long time before we actually see some of the changes on the ground.

I am not sure if the member is on the committee, but does she understand the need to be open to additions or amendments to the bill in committee?

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12:10 p.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, at this point I am not on the committee, although I did sit on the committee when it reviewed Bill C-65.

My experience on committee has been that there is really good work that happens there. Bill C-65 would be a prime example, where really important amendments were brought forward.

In my opinion, it is critical that this bill be implemented. I know the minister has made a commitment to see that this is legislation that will impact people's lives and not years from now, but in the near term.

I look forward to the deliberations that happen at committee and to hearing from witnesses. If there are improvements to be made, the committee will benefit from the expertise that will be provided at the committee meetings.

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12:10 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, I wanted to mention that one of the areas that has been brought to my attention as missing in the bill is the American sign language and Quebec sign language. The bill does not speak to including them in the Official Languages Act.

Across Canada, on the weekend, there were community demonstrations in over nine legislative buildings, asking that this be an important addition or amendment to the bill.

Would my hon. colleague like to comment on that omission in the bill?

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12:10 p.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I should have said this last time, but I want to thank the hon. member for her advocacy, as well as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who has been a vocal advocate on that side of the House for people living with disabilities.

I have spoken up at events where sign language interpretation is provided but the interpreter is standing in the dark. There is not much use having interpreters standing in the dark who cannot be seen by the people who need to see them. I am not familiar with the reasons why that was not included in the bill. I am sure it is something that will come up at committee hearings. Those individuals who wish to be heard will certainly be given the opportunity to speak at committee.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments that were made by the member opposite.

However, going through the summary of the bill, I know that there is a lot of talk about how there are going to be some changes and help as far as how individuals are concerned. The reality is all we are looking at is a bunch of bureaucracy. We are looking at an accessible Canada act and we are dealing with a Canadian accessibility standards development organization. We are looking at a commissioner associated with that, the chief accessibility officer. It seems as though what we are building, instead of continuing to talk to people who have done so much work in the past, is just another set of bureaucratic stumbling blocks that we will have to deal with.

It has been two and a half years or three years since this was first introduced. I am wondering how people can have assurances that there is actually going to be some action taken from all this bureaucratic information that we have in front of us.

Accessible Canada ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I know from speaking to advocates in my community and beyond that this is legislation that they have been calling for. I applaud the minister for her due diligence in meeting with organizations all across the country, as well as meeting with individuals who have done work on best practices in other countries. The minister sat down with Inclusion International to see what best practices would be. I have heard incredibly positive comments about the legislation.

We need a starting point and this is it. It is a really good one and I am very proud of the work of the minister and our government in bringing this forward. I think it is going to make a huge change for people in our country living with disabilities.