House of Commons Hansard #389 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-77.


National Defence ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Yvonne Jones Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Lib.

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-77 and the important changes to the National Defence Act that our government is proposing.

Bill C-77 proposes changes to the act that we feel modernize it and are long overdue. At the heart of these changes are our people and those in service to Canada.

This is the most important piece, as I see it. I come from a family of people who have had long-term service in the Canadian military. I am extremely proud not just of them and the work they have done but of all those who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.

My sister is now a veteran of the military and continues to work with the Department of National Defence. I also have three other family members in service for this country. I have come to understand the tremendous sacrifices they and their families have made for our country each and every day.

We owe all the women and men in the Canadian Armed Forces a lot. We owe them our deep gratitude for their service to our country.

We also owe them fairness, openness and transparency within that service. This includes a military justice system that ensures that victims receive the support they need and deserve, a system that promotes a culture of leadership, respect and honour.

Canadian Armed Forces members are held to a higher standard of conduct, as we all know. Whether they are stationed in Canada or deployed around the world, we ask a lot of them each and every day. We have a responsibility to ensure that the rules that guide their conduct are transparent, equitable and fair.

Much of what is within Bill C-77 is an extension of the work our government is already doing to ensure a more victim-centred approach to justice; to build on Bill C-65, our government's legislation against workplace harassment; to strengthen truth and reconciliation with indigenous people; and to change military culture, through Operation Honour, in order to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces provides a respectful workplace of choice for every Canadian.

I would like to take a moment to expand on the importance of Operation Honour. As many members in the room know, Operation Honour aims to eliminate sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. We have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct of any kind in our Canadian Armed Forces and in any entity within the country.

Through Operation Honour, we have introduced a new victim response centre that provides better training for the Canadian Armed Forces personnel and an easier reporting system.

I would also like to acknowledge the important work of the Sexual Misconduct Resource Centre, which recently released its annual report. We thank the centre for continuing to support Canadian Armed Forces members affected by sexual misconduct.

I am also pleased to note that the SMRC is looking at providing caseworkers to victims of inappropriate sexual behaviour to ensure they have continuous support from when they first report an incident to when their case concludes.

The work of the Sexual Misconduct Resource Centre has been exceptional. I know that victims are being well supported as a result of its efforts.

Its origins come from former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps, who recommended it in her 2015 report. As a government, we acted to put in place a sexual misconduct response centre to provide support to those affected by inappropriate sexual behaviour.

We have extended the hours so that staff at the centre are there to listen and provide support to members of the Canadian Armed Forces calling in 24 hours a day, seven days a week, no matter where they are in the world. Last October's annual report of the centre demonstrates the important work that they have done and continue to do to enhance victim support for members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

I would now like to turn to the legislation at hand and to highlight how Bill C-77 will give victims a voice and change our National Defence Act in four important ways.

First, like the civilian criminal justice system, it will enshrine important rights for victims. Second, it will seek harsher penalties for crimes motivated by bias, prejudice or hate toward gender identity or expression. Third, it will ensure that the specific circumstances of indigenous offenders are taken into account in the sentencing process. Fourth, it will reform the manner in which the chain of command administers summary trials.

Bill C-77 proposes the inclusion of a declaration of victims rights in the National Defence Act. The declaration mirrors the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which strengthens and guides how we support victims in the civilian criminal justice system.

Specifically, the bill would legislate four new victim rights within the military justice system. They are the right to information, the right to protection, the right to participation and the right to restitution.

In order to ensure that victims would be able to exercise these rights, they would be entitled to the support of a victim liaison officer, should they require it. These liaison officers will be able to explain how service offences are charged, dealt with and tried under the code of service discipline. They will help victims access information to which they are entitled, and they will remain available to assist the victim throughout their interaction with the military justice system. This would ensure that victims understand each stage of the process and how they can engage meaningfully throughout the process. The support that the victim liaison officer would offer will be comprehensive. It will be fair and it will always be offered in the spirit of preserving victims' dignity.

Bill C-77 also specifically addresses issues of gender-based prejudice and hatred in military service offences and infractions. The bill proposes harsher sentences and sanctions for service offences and infractions that are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate toward gender expression or identity.

Our men and women in uniform, and those who work and live alongside them, must feel welcomed and respected at all times. The Canadian Armed Forces has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. This amendment will better align the military justice system with that principle.

On that note, through programs such as the positive space initiative, the defence team has been working hard to help create inclusive work environments for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. I commend them for their work on this initiative, which provides training to ambassadors in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited community members who work with us every day.

The next change that I would like to focus on is how we propose to update the military justice system to better reflect the realities of historic injustices inflicted upon indigenous peoples.

In the civilian criminal justice system, the Criminal Code mandates that judges must carefully consider circumstances during sentencing. Specifically, for all offenders they must consider all available sanctions. This principle is to be applied with particular attention to the circumstances of indigenous offenders.

This particular bill is one that I am proud to support. As a member who represents a region with a military base and every day sees those who serve in uniform, I really believe that this legislation is helping to modernize and bring more transparency to the Canadian Armed Forces in Canada.

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is the House ready for the question?

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

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5:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I suspect if you were to canvass the House, you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.

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5:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is that agreed?

National Defence ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed Bill C-57, an act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

Royal AssentGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received, as follows:

Rideau Hall


February 28, 2019

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 28th day of February, 2019, at 1632.

Yours sincerely,

Assunta Di Lorenzo

Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor

The schedule indicates the bill assented to were Bill C-64, An Act respecting wrecks, abandoned, dilapidated or hazardous vessels and salvage operations—Chapter 1, 2019; and Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act—Chapter 2, 2019.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 26 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 Day for Truth and Reconciliation), be read the third time and passed.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-369, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code, regarding national indigenous peoples day.

As we spoke about this and had several witnesses come to the committee, it became evident that there was no consensus on this issue. There were a lot of differences of opinion and a lot of different ideas expressed. Not being able to reach consensus, one of the amendments I proposed was to just withdraw one of our national holidays as it is named and replace it with this particular one. That was not accepted and had to be withdrawn. However, let me say why I would suggest that.

The goal of the legislation is absolutely laudable for reconciliation with indigenous peoples as a national objective, but I am not sure that adding a different national holiday, as described in this process, makes sense because of the variety of opinions and reasons we heard discussed at the committee.

The residential schools were a dark chapter in Canada's history. We understand that. In 2008, Prime Minister Harper delivered a historic apology to former students, their families and communities for Canada's role in the operation of the schools.

Our former Conservative government also created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the 2007 Indian residential schools settlement agreement. That agreement recognized that the residential school system had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on indigenous culture, heritage and language. I know there are several members in the House who had connections to those residential schools. I can only speak from the opportunity I have had to visit those residential schools in recent times.

My mother was a teacher who taught in a former residential school, after it had been changed from a residential school to a band-controlled school, so it was a different building at that time. I have had the opportunity to walk through residential schools with elders and listen to the stories they tell about the disastrous, horrendous things that happened to them as children in these particular schools. I have had that experience. Although that is nothing comparable, I have had a little insight.

We must remember this dark chapter in our history and do our best to achieve reconciliation. However, the government must also keep its promises to improve the lives of indigenous peoples. I sat in the committee for the last number of days, hour after hour, listening to great indigenous people talk about indigenous languages and what they need to do to deal with those languages, because it is such an integral part of their lives, their communities and their nations.

I think about the historic challenges we have with that piece of legislation as proposed, and we have had all sorts of members in the House bring up issues about clean drinking water for reserves, improved education and improved housing. When I think about a national holiday, we have to look at the cost of this if all federal employees were on a paid holiday. What does that do for reconciliation if those people have a paid holiday?

What if we were to take those hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some people would say hundreds of billions of dollars, up to a bigger number, and put that directly into the indigenous languages program? We do not have the funding in there now. Other than this term “adequate” and three commissioners, there is no funding and most of our witnesses talked about the issue of funding for indigenous languages.

If we were instead to take the money that would have given federal employees a holiday and put it into the indigenous languages program, which is so critical to the foundation of these particular bands, indigenous cultures, Métis and Inuit settlements and put that money into reconciliation, into something that would work for them, that would be a benefit for their culture because it would bring their languages more to life.

We could also talk about drinking water. If we took those hundreds of millions of dollars and put it directly into drinking water, that would also be a good move.

There have been many issues brought up and addressed with housing and the horrendous conditions of housing. If we took that money and instead of giving it as a holiday for federal employees, put it into housing, it would make much more sense. I suggested an amendment that we take one of our national holidays now and substitute this one in. Some indigenous groups came to see us. I understand totally that June 21, the solstice, the first day of summer, is an incredible day, one that is celebrated. Many heritage activities take place. Many schools are involved in it.

In many parts of the country there are many Remembrance Day activities that occur without a national holiday. Many of the witnesses at committee talked about the importance of June 21 as a celebration, a solstice, as the beginning of summer. We would all like to have it warm up a little here and spring to come soon, but the significance of June 21 was important to many of our witnesses.

The other important one is Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day is specifically for reconciliation for the residential schools. Many of our witnesses talked about the importance of recognizing Orange Shirt Day and many of the stories we heard from witnesses were about residential schools, the challenges and the horrendous things that happened and why Orange Shirt Day was important.

Again, there was a difference of opinion. Some of them would say we should have recognition on June 21 and other people wanted Orange Shirt Day as recognition. I proposed removing one of the statutory holidays we have now because there was no agreement between either date. Some would say if we cannot agree on one or the other, just do both. That is not quite what the witnesses wanted either.

It occurred to me that we had a very short time period trying to make a decision for other people again. When we talked to witnesses, the consultation was too short. It did not give them the time to look at this issue and discuss whether it was June 21, Orange Shirt Day or another day that could be used. They did not have the time to consult across the country and bring a voice back to us to say this is what they want. We have a piece of legislation telling them what they should do. Let us do more of what we thought we should have done in the first place. This is a very important issue, but if we set it out and say this is what they should do, we have not consulted on this in the right way.

Orange Shirt Day is a critical piece of reconciliation. June 21, the solstice, is celebrated now in many parts of the country. It is a learning experience in schools and in communities with indigenous people, but we should not be dictating the day for them. We should take the time to consult, work with it and get the answer from them that they would like, rather than passing legislation saying that this is what they should do.

We should not give a paid holiday to government employees when we could take that money and do something about indigenous languages, housing and water. Let us not waste it. Let us get something appropriate done.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will begin my remarks by recognizing that we meet today on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. I hope that one day we will begin all of our daily proceedings in this place with this acknowledgement. I also wish to acknowledge the land on which my riding is situated. It is Treaty 6 territory and the ancestral homeland of the Métis people.

I am extremely proud to rise in support of my colleague from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. I wish to recognize her connectedness to community, her hard work, her humbleness and her humility, which are all qualities of a true leader. It is these qualities that have helped the House to soon realize the passing of her private member's bill, a bill that signals a step, one among many, that we must take. It is one important step on our collective and individual journeys towards reconciliation with indigenous people. The bill provides the House with an opportunity to acknowledge and, most importantly, own its settler history.

What is this history? In the summary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, members will find these introductory words, which is a reminder of why we are where we are today as a country and why our support of the efforts and leadership of my hon. colleague are so important:

For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.”

We are in an era where politicians talk about how important it is that the rights of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples are recognized, protected and most importantly enshrined explicitly into Canadian law. Some of us are actually acting on that talk. I speak of the work of my colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law with his bill, Bill C-262, and the work of my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona who tried so hard to insert into Canadian environmental law the rights of indigenous peoples as stated in Bill C-262. Today, I am able to add my colleague's efforts to this list of efforts in the House for reconciliation and justice for indigenous peoples in Canada.

The bill before us today is amended from the original bill tabled by my hon. colleague. The original bill was to make June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, a statutory holiday. Both in the House and in my community, my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, articulated the many reasons for the proposal to designate June 21 a national statutory holiday. She spoke of her work as the mayor of La Loche on this issue. She listed the history of indigenous organizations calling for June 21 to be recognized as a national holiday. She told us of the spiritual significance of June 21, the summer solstice, for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, and she acknowledged the history for many communities of celebrations and special commemorative ceremonies on June 21.

My community of Saskatoon is one of those communities that has focused its efforts on June 21. In recent years, Saskatoon has grown, the community has expanded and we acknowledge reconciliation and the TRC's calls to action on this day.

For over 20 years, the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre has hosted National Aboriginal Day, now National Indigenous Peoples Day, on Treaty 6 territory, the homeland of the Métis people, and in my riding of Saskatoon West. Every year, thousands gather in my community, joined by indigenous leaders, elders, non-indigenous leaders, survivors of residential schools, provincial schools and day schools, survivors of the sixties scoop, and indigenous veterans, for activities and ceremonies to mark the day.

In recent years, the city of Saskatoon has marked the day with important ceremonies and commemorations honouring indigenous peoples.

Last year, the new name for the north commuter Parkway Bridge was announced at the Indigenous Peoples' Day event in Saskatoon. The new name, Chief Mistawasis Bridge, honours Chief Mistawasis, also known as Pierre Belanger, who was the head of the Prairie Tribe and signed Treaty 6 in 1876.

At the unveiling, Mistiawasis Nêhiyawak Chief Daryl Watson said:

Today is a very momentous occasion for my nation. It's part of the whole process of reconciliation. Chief Mistawasis, 140 years ago, began that process when he acknowledged the territory by welcoming newcomers to share the land. Reconciliation began for us when treaty was signed.

In 2016, one of the national closing events of the TRC was held in Saskatoon on June 21. This event galvanized community members and indigenous and non-indigenous community leaders in Saskatoon to begin to formalize our reconciliation efforts and to respond to the TRC's calls to action as a community. Reconciliation Saskatoon, with organizational support from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, is that community-wide response.

Reconciliation Saskatoon is a community of over 98 organizations, non-profits, businesses, faith communities and partners. They have come together to initiate a city-wide conversation about reconciliation and to provide opportunities for everyone to engage in calls to action.

The path to reconciliation in my riding, in my community, has embraced June 21 National Indigenous Peoples' Day as the day. We worked hard to make that day inclusive of all peoples, a day where we work, celebrate and remember and in so doing, help to build relationships and ultimately to build a better community for all.

Three years ago, we added a new event, a walk in my riding, called “Rock your Roots for Reconciliation”, spearheaded by Reconciliation Saskatoon. Last year, over 4,000 people participated in that walk.

Today, the bill before us has a different day, September 30, to be designated as a statutory holiday, a day that honours the survivors of residential schools. This day is also observed in my community. I acknowledge creating a national day to honour residential school survivors is call to action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Although this legislation started in a different place, it is here today after a parliamentary process that built support across political parties, and so it is a good day.

We are here today in this good way of co-operation because of the work of a Dene woman leader who kept us focused on something much bigger than partisan politics: a goal to build a better Canada for future generations. Today, I am very proud to be her colleague, to belong to a party and to sit in a caucus that backs words with action. As a caucus, we must work every day to honour her voice and leadership, a Dene woman from Northern Saskatchewan, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

Today, I remind all my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House that we all have to work together. We all have work to do to truly honour and respect the authentic voices of indigenous women in the House and in our communities.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Dan Vandal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today on behalf of the people of Saint Boniface—Saint Vital to talk about this bill, which is extremely important for our country.

It is a great honour to rise to speak to Bill C-369, a bill very close to my heart. It seeks to create a new federal statutory holiday for truth and reconciliation.

First, it is imperative that we acknowledge and thank the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for bringing the bill to the floor of the House for debate, but, more important, for being an extremely strong advocate for indigenous rights and advocating for indigenous people not only in her riding but across Canada.

I have had the honour to speak in the House many times about our country's path toward reconciliation. It is quite clear to me that reconciliation does not belong to a single political party or an individual. Instead, it is a shared path for all Canadians. The pathway toward reconciliation is one that we must walk together, and this bill exemplifies the journey. It was honour to work with my colleagues from all political parties on the legislation.

I had the privilege to sit in on testimony at the Standing Committee for Heritage, which studied the bill. It was this testimony that we heard that ultimately shaped my views on the bill and solidified my belief on the importance of passing it into law.

In the greater conversation about reconciliation, it would be too easy to dismiss the bill and neglect to see its importance.

First, we must recognize that the act of creating a new statutory holiday is not minor in itself. In fact, this day will be the first new holiday created at the federal level in over 60 years. It joins in ranks of importance with Canada Day and Labour Day, highlighting the significance and importance of this day.

Second, we must consider the importance that this day will have personally for indigenous people. Throughout the witness testimony, we heard from many organizations and groups that highlighted the significance of a day of commemoration, the important need to have a day to reflect on the harm that had been historically inflicted on first nations, Inuit and Métis people. The importance is reflected by its inclusion as a call to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I was disappointed to hear my hon. colleague from the Conservative Party, in the House last Tuesday, say that the party would not be supporting the bill. The hon. member argued that rather than creating a new holiday, an existing holiday should be appropriated and transformed. Of course, I disagree with that.

The question would become this. Which other day should be appropriated? Would it be Labour Day, a day to celebrate the hard-won fights of the labour movement in Canada? Would it be Canada Day, a day meant to unite all Canadians in pride of this great nation? Would it be Remembrance Day, when we solemnly commemorate the sacrifices of our veterans, including our honoured first Nations, Inuit and Métis veterans? Which holiday would the Conservatives prefer to see reimagined?

Moreover, none of the existing holidays have any significance to the indigenous community relating to the legacy of residential schools. It is my belief that it is the survivors who should have the ultimate authority over which day should be chosen.

September 30 was a date chosen deliberately for its significance to indigenous people. Currently September 30 is the date of a grassroots movement, started by the formidable Phyllis Webstad, called Orange Shirt Day. lt was named for the orange shirt that Ms. Webstad painstakingly selected for her first day of residential school only to have it ripped away from her upon her entrance into the school. Her orange shirt is symbolic of the culture, language and childhoods that were ripped away from the students of residential schools.

We heard at committee that September was a painful time for many indigenous people, as it was the month that their children were taken, year after year, to return to school, leaving their loved ones and communities behind.

It is appropriate to mark this pain with a solemn day of reflection and reconciliation in action. This bill represents that.

It has always been my belief that one of the pillars of reconciliation is education. The creation of a national day for truth and reconciliation is emblematic of education in action. Students still return to school each year in September. Beyond the great symbolic importance of this new date, it would also provide a magnificent opportunity for learning and education within our school systems.

I envisage a day when schools across the country mark the holiday with ceremonies and a day of learning. lt is my hope that schools will invite elders to come into classrooms to teach both indigenous and non-indigenous children about the painful history of indigenous people across the country, but also about the hope all indigenous people have for the future.

I think of the way schools across the country use Remembrance Day as a learning tool for children of all ages to learn about the horrors and conflicts Canada has been involved in, and believe this new day for truth and reconciliation would be a perfect opportunity to be a learning tool for another important part of Canada's history.

Unfortunately only half of Canadians are familiar with the residential school system and its long-term effects on the indigenous population. This, frankly, is a devastating and unacceptable statistic. The key, in my opinion, is to fix this statistic through education.

I must emphasize the continued great work of our party and government on reconciliation and the advancement of indigenous rights.

ln my home province of Manitoba, I am extremely proud to celebrate with the community of Shoal Lake 40 on the progress of Freedom Road. After many years, it was our government that stepped up and pledged the necessary funding to ensure this community was finally connected to the mainland, after the construction of Winnipeg's aqueduct in 1919 turned Shoal Lake into an island. The completion of Freedom Road will allow the community to build its own water treatment plant.

On the topic of access to clean water, our government has committed to ending all long-term boil water advisories by 2021, a task previous governments have neglected. Our government recognizes and affirms the right of communities to access clean and safe drinking water. I am proud to say we have been able to lift 80 long-term drinking water advisories since 2015.

lt is my honour to serve as the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Indigenous Services. Today, we tabled important legislation on the welfare of first nations, Métis and Inuit children in care. There is an ongoing crisis in indigenous communities. Too many children are being removed from their homes and communities. This crisis is particularly staggering in Manitoba. This legislation would reaffirm the inherent right of indigenous people over their own children. I look forward to the upcoming debate in the House on this very important legislation.

I have had the privilege to again attend meetings of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage as it undertakes a study on an act respecting indigenous languages, which also seeks to implement several important calls to action. My own indigenous language, Michif, is at risk of extinction. The bill would allow for its preservation, but also for more Métis across the country to learn and revitalize it.

There is much more work to be done, but we can be proud of what we have accomplished together in the last three years of government. I look forward to further advancing these files and continuing to work hard for indigenous people across our great country.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my absolute honour to rise today in support of Bill C-369.

It is also my honour to recognize that we are gathering today on the unceded territories of the Algonquin peoples.

This bill has been tabled by my colleague, the member of Parliament for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. I wish to share here that I witnessed how powerful it was for her to finally deliver her first speech on another bill in her Dene language, a language shared by many in her riding and across our northern communities. Having travelled with her in her northern Saskatchewan riding last summer, I can attest to how important it is that she can now finally speak in this place in one of the indigenous languages spoken by her constituents back home. What a joy it was to experience her in her community with her fellow community members, speaking their indigenous languages.

The intention of this bill is to create a statutory holiday on September 30 each year, starting this year. This delivers on call to action 80, issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The title of the report, “Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future”, conveys the depth of the tragedy and the need for action.

It may be noted that the Prime Minister, early in his mandate, publicly committed to deliver on all 94 calls to action. Therefore, we need to be grateful that my colleague has brought forward the opportunity to deliver on at least one of them.

I want to read call to action 80. It 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.

It is my understanding and my hope that there is now multiple-party support by members in this place for this bill. I noted that my colleague, in speaking to her bill yesterday, reminded us that we are all responsible for becoming actively engaged in reconciliation.

The intent of the bill is therefore twofold: first, to recognize the continuing need for support for healing for survivors of the residential school system in recognition of the continued impacts down through generations, and to recognize it as a cultural genocide; and second, to directly inform and engage Canadians in knowledge of the residential school system and the harm it caused.

I wish to honour the dedication of the commissioners, Justice Murray Sinclair, Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson, in undertaking the momentous process of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is important to honour the many residential school survivors and their families who came forward to share their experiences.

The report conveys the principle that reconciliation is a relationship. I would like to share what the report says. It states:

For many Survivors and their families, this commitment is foremost about healing themselves, their communities, and nations, in ways that revitalize individuals as well as Indigenous cultures, languages, spirituality, laws, and governance systems. For governments, building a respectful relationship involves dismantling a centuries-old political and bureaucratic culture in which, all too often, policies and programs are still based on failed notions of assimilation.

My hon. colleague spoke to this when she spoke to this bill previously, and we were very close to the place where the residential school was unfortunately created.

It also states:

Schools must teach history in ways that foster mutual respect, empathy, and engagement. All Canadian children and youth deserve to know Canada’s honest history, including what happened in the residential schools, and to appreciate the rich history and knowledge of Indigenous nations who continue to make such a strong contribution to Canada, including our very name and collective identity as a country. For Canadians from all walks of life, reconciliation offers a new way of living together.

Canada already celebrates our first nations, Métis and Inuit cultures and languages every year on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, which is during the summer solstice. My understanding is that initially, my colleague proposed that it be that day. However, she has very graciously agreed to change her bill, so we are going to have a day of celebration in June during the solstice, and then we would have a day of recognition and learning at the end of September each year.

I have had the delight of attending many of the events on June 21 in my riding, joining in the round dances and attempting a jig. Who can resist another bannock burger? It is wonderful to see all the schoolchildren joining in those activities.

The day proposed by Bill C-369 would be a more solemn day, however, to learn about the sufferings of those who were torn from their families, forced to travel far from their families and stripped of their language, beliefs and cultures. For far too many, this was for their entire childhood.

As was pointed out by my colleague, it will be necessary that the government commit well in advance of September 20 this year the necessary funds to ensure that the intents are achieved and that there are clear plans for the day. It is absolutely important that this be in direct consultation with the first nation, Métis and Inuit peoples, in particular in the communities where the activities would occur, which I hope will be every community across this country. The intention is to honour the suffering and provide opportunities for teaching.

My colleague has asked that this day also be recognized as a time for reconciliation for those children torn from their language and culture during the sixties scoop and those from the day schools and boarding schools not yet recognized.

I have been inspired by the initiative of many indigenous people to engage us in the process of reconciliation. My dear friends Hunter and Jacquelyn Cardinal, children of my friend Lewis Cardinal, have founded the Edmonton company Naheyawin, which is reaching out through theatre, through the arts and through round tables to teach people about the treaties. It is a very important action that has not been done across this country. It is so important to my province, where we are the land of the historic treaties and there have been constant calls by first nations leaders for recognition of those treaties.

As Jacquelyn has shared, she wants people to move past feelings of guilt from past wrongs and focus on a better future. She wants people to get past the guilt many feel for the past and look forward to making things better. She hopes the round tables will be based on the Cree word tatawaw, which means, “There is room for you. Welcome.”

I am also very grateful that the famous Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival last year featured and honoured indigenous culture and incorporated many ceremonies to honour first nations, Métis and Inuit throughout the festival.

I am very grateful to my colleague, and I wish to thank her.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the unceded lands of the Algonquin people and to give my thanks, first, to the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for bringing forward this private member's motion, and second, to the heritage committee, which worked very hard over the past several months to consult and discuss with many indigenous organizations as well as individuals who came forward to give their testimony. I also want to acknowledge the hard work of the committee members, including the chair, who is the member for Toronto—Danforth.

This bill would not be here today if not for the work of the members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They worked very hard, and it is very timely that we have one of the commissioners, Grand Chief Willie Littlechild, in Ottawa today. He made an enormous contribution, as did the other commissioners. I am so honoured that he is here.

He spoke earlier at committee, and you could have heard a pin drop in the silence when he spoke, because he brings a lifetime of wisdom to issues of indigenous rights, both in the international context and with his work as a commissioner of the TRC. As well as being a jurist, he has played many other leadership roles within the legal community, in sports, and in many other aspects of life. It is very fortunate that he is in Ottawa today.

Today is, in fact, quite an important day. Earlier today our Minister of Indigenous Services tabled legislation, Bill C-92, on child welfare issues for indigenous peoples. I believe it is a transformational piece of legislation, one that responds in many ways both to the issues that are faced within communities and to many of the complaints before the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Thus, it is a very important step forward by our government, as is the indigenous languages legislation, which was introduced by the minister of Canadian heritage several weeks ago. In fact, the committee completed a study today, and hopefully it will advance to the other place in the next few weeks. We are very excited to have two pieces of legislation moving along that can be linked to individual calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

With respect to this particular day, the national day for truth and reconciliation is a direct response to call to action 80. Over many years, the commissioners spoke with thousands and thousands of survivors of residential schools and came up with specific recommendations for governments to follow.

There has been quite a bit of discussion, as the previous speaker mentioned, with respect to this particular day. Initially, June 21 was recommended as a celebratory day for indigenous peoples. While a lot of people agreed with that date, the general consensus leaned toward September 30, to keep in the spirit of the TRC calls to action, as well as to recognize that there are other injustices that took place relating to indigenous children. The sixties scoop is one of them. Another is the movement of individual communities in the north. There were a number of different harms that were caused by the Government of Canada in the name of the Crown.

Sadly, it is a legacy of the last 152 years that has put indigenous people in Canada in a very difficult and precarious situation, given the many social challenges we see, whether it be housing, education or water.

Fundamentally, however, with the leadership of our Prime Minister, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and the Minister of Indigenous Services, we are moving toward a path to redefine this relationship.

First and foremost is redefining the relationship based on the notion of inherent rights and self-determination. That is what our Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations is undertaking. I believe there over 70 round tables where discussions are taking place to draw up specific rights.

Concurrently, we recognize that many of the challenges we speak of, whether related to water or otherwise, need to be addressed. As a government, we have invested close to $16.8 billion over the last three years to address some of those issues.

Having said that, there is a long way to go. It is very important that we accept the 94 calls to action identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This would be an initial step toward fulfilling our obligations, and I think it is a very important step.

What does this proposal mean? It means that September 30 of each year will be a national statutory holiday. We expect that it will mirror Orange Shirt Day. Nationwide, many school boards and institutions have marked Orange Shirt Day and have started the process of education to let people know of the challenges, difficulties and pain faced by residential school survivors.

That is a starting point. However, it is important that over the years, we elaborate on and develop more educational programs and more support that will allow this day to be marked in a solemn way that will make every Canadian reflect. My good friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, stated earlier that only 50% of Canadians know about residential schools. It is important that this national holiday be used as a tool to educate people. It would not be a day off for people. It would be for every community.

As members of Parliament, we have a presence in every part of this country. It is incumbent on us to take the lead and put on events and programs in our local communities to mark this day and make sure that the spirit of the TRC's call to action 80 is adhered to.

I have a couple of items to note before I conclude.

First, I understand that a private member's bill for a national day of truth and reconciliation was brought forward by the member for Victoria. Sadly, he announced today that he will not be seeking re-election. I want to acknowledge the work he has done and his extraordinary leadership and friendship. He is well regarded in the House.

Second, I want to thank all the witnesses, both individuals and communities, who came forward and supported this legislation.

As a government, we are very proud and very pleased to support this and commit to the full implementation of all 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I thank the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for bringing this forward.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Marc Miller Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour I rise today to speak about this significant piece of legislation. We can all agree on the importance of acknowledging the impact of Indian residential schools on first nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Bill C-369, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation), calls for a day of commemoration, but an essential part of this day would be about educating Canadians.

I represent an area of Montreal that is traditional indigenous territory. It does not have a reserve on it, but it has many indigenous people and was a meeting place for indigenous peoples well before my people arrived.

The challenges we face as non-indigenous people in understanding what has gone on in the past are great. Before the word “reconciliation” comes the word “truth”, and that is perhaps the biggest challenge we face not only in this House but across Canada. What we still do not know is the truth. Often the truth is exceedingly painful.

I have had the privilege of starting on a very long path of learning an indigenous language, and not surprisingly, it has come with some surprises. As someone who was taught English and French, and has taken them both for granted, my conception of language is kind of a string on two soup cans between the people talking. It just vibrates, and that is what language is.

Naively, I embarked on this attempt to learn Kanyen'kéha, or Mohawk, thinking, like an idiot, “How hard could it be?" It is exceedingly hard. Having put perhaps an hour a day into it, I come out of these learning sessions, whether I am doing passive listening or working in my workbooks, with my brain completely fried.

One would think of it as if I were embarking on learning another Indo-European language that had some similarities with English and French. It is quite the contrary. It is a process of learning root words and piecing together ideas and images that are then conveyed onto other people. In this, one gains a very small glimpse into a window—

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I am sorry to interrupt. I am having a hard time hearing, as there is a discussion going on. I am sure it is a very important discussion, but I would just ask hon. members to whisper rather than speak so loudly. While I am up, I will point out that we will cut the parliamentary secretary off in about four minutes.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Lib.

Marc Miller

Mr. Speaker, this has allowed me to have a small window into what it means to understand certain concepts that were completely foreign to me, whether we are talking about creation stories or the connection of language to the land. This is something I would have entirely taken for granted two years ago had I not attempted to learn the language, however bad I am now.

When I talk to non-indigenous people about my learning experience, and I have received emails and phone calls, I have found that it pulls a deep emotional chord on people's heart strings, which I never realized at the outset.

In Quebec, we struggled with French in a sea of English. What it does for people is entrench the deep emotional importance of who one is as a person. It is a core element of identity. It is why this government and the entire House supports the indigenous languages act.

My point is that as we recognize a day for truth and reconciliation, we have to come face to face with the truth before we can perfect reconciliation. That comes with a lot of emotional wounds and scars that will be reopened. We see that as we engage and go deeper in our engagement with indigenous peoples. This is not something that can be embodied in one day. However, that day would support a time of reflection for non-indigenous people.

When I speak to constituents who do not have any indigenous heritage, they tell me that they are very eager to learn, but the sources are not there. This would be a very small element in beginning to understand what indigenous people have gone through in this country, both the good and the bad.

There is a tendency, and it is an unfortunate tendency, whether one is an advocate for indigenous issues or not, to always draw to the fore the bad things, and that has the perverse effect of re-stigmatizing. There are some good things going on in this country. I had the opportunity to have the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations over to my house to speak to some very powerful indigenous voices from Colombia.They were shocked that she used the word “self-determination”, because that is not something they hear from officials in their country.

As we take a step back and recognize what this government has achieved, there is a lot to be proud of. However, there is a lot to ask forgiveness for continuously to move forward, not for the sake of forgiveness itself.

This would be a symbolic day. My hope is that non-indigenous Canadians will seize this as a moment of reflection to better perfect the relationship we need to have with indigenous people to move on as a country and to look at ourselves as we imagine ourselves to be but are not yet.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Georgina Jolibois NDP Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, there are elder teachings, and many elders teach throughout Canada. I am going to make a comment to reflect this very moment.

To not love is to be fearful, to not be humble is to be self-centred, to not be honest is to be dishonest, to not be courageous is to be cowardly. In my line of work, historically and until now, when I am in the circles with indigenous people in communities, elders are very significant. The use of a circle, the teachings and learning to be humble are very significant.

I want to thank all hon. colleagues in the House of Commons for their time and for sharing their thoughts on Bill C-369. How we will fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action requires an active, all-party effort from everyone, and I appreciate that we saw that effort for call to action no. 80.

We still have a little time before all members gather here to vote on my bill, and I want to take a moment to respond to some of the points of debate that came up.

First, as I said a few nights ago, I welcome the amendments to my bill that came from a multipartisan effort to make sure this holiday was done in consultation with survivors of residential schools, with elders, with regional chiefs and with the major national indigenous organizations. The committee was thorough and well-meaning and ultimately came to the correct decision.

June 21 will remain National Indigenous Peoples Day and be celebrated by all Canadians, including first nations, Métis and Inuit people from coast to coast to coast. September 30 will be known as the national day for truth and reconciliation and will serve as an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the history of residential schools and how the impact of our national shame continues to live on in Canada.

I have expressed my concerns about how the government will be honouring this holiday. Yes, a holiday will be created, but it is only meaningful if the resources are provided for Canadians to truly understand what that holiday means. That means a comprehensive engagement process with federal government employees to understand how their offices can meaningfully work with first nations, Métis and Inuit people. That means providing funding for cross-country memorial ceremonies done in partnership with survivors and first nations, Métis and Inuit organizations. That means creating culturally appropriate learning materials for education systems across the country, so that generations of Canadians will never forget what happened to indigenous people in this country. We are still waiting for answers to all of these questions.

Second, there has been some conversation about replacing other holidays that already exist. That is a fair question, but a debate that should happen at a different time. Generations of indigenous people have been told time and time again that they are in the way, that their concerns are secondary to everything else going on in Canada. For generations, indigenous people have been left out of political processes, left out of decisions that affect their ways of life, left out of decisions that say what languages they can speak and what gods they can pray to. If members of this House want to discuss the number of holidays in Canada, that debate should not be associated with the importance of this bill. The loss of a colonial holiday should not come at the expense of survivors and indigenous people gaining a holiday. I refuse to believe that this holiday will bear the weight of inconvenience to a colonial system.

As a final thought, I want to return to the positives of this bill, because far too many of our conversations rely on reliving trauma and discussing the problems in our first nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

This bill will not solve the housing crisis indigenous people live through and it will not fix the overrepresentation of indigenous children in foster care and it will not close the education gap that leaves indigenous children behind.

However, it will give Canadians the opportunity to fully understand why those problems exist. It would give space and time for the government to reflect on its failures and remind itself why it so important to work for and with indigenous people every other day of the year.

Progress will take time, but through my bill, we are taking the time to make progress and are moving forward.

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It being 6:29 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

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

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members



Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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

Bills of Exchange ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members