Mr. Speaker, because of that motion, I have to cut my speech down by 10 minutes and share my time with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, which I do with great pleasure. I will highlight some of what I originally intended to talk about.
Today is a particularly important day and I truly am glad we came to an agreement to move this forward.
Having been at the ceremony for the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and knowing how much the child welfare system played a role in some very tragic outcomes for many of the people we have heard about today, to pass this child welfare legislation on to the Senate is absolutely significant and very appropriate. It also shows significant good will in the House.
We have always expressed concern about how late in the day we received the legislation. The Senate has only about two and a half weeks. However, on the House side, there is a recognition and good will to get the legislation passed.
When we think about the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and the child welfare legislation, many cases come to people's minds. However, the tragedy of Tina Fontaine stands out in all our minds. Her body was found in the river on October 17, 2014, wrapped in a duvet. No one was ever convicted. The authorities had someone whom they questioned, but no one has ever been convicted.
Tina Fontaine represents so many things that have gone wrong, that have been wrong for too many years and that we all need to work together to address: colonialism, intergenerational trauma, the sixties scoop and the residential schools.
In honour of Tina's memory and the significance of the day, I want to share a few details from the report that was done on Tina Fontaine. This is a bit of the executive summary and some other parts of the report. It says:
Tina Fontaine might always be known for the tragic way in which she died, but it is her life that is an important story worth knowing. It was on August 17, 2014, when most people would learn her name, but Tina's story began long before that day. It began even before Tina was born on New Year's Day in 1999. To know Tina's story, to really understand how she came to symbolize a churning anger of a nation enraged, each of us can look as far back as the arrival of European settlers, and as close to home as the depth of our own involvement or indifference in the lives and experiences of indigenous youth.
It is a certain challenge to conduct a child death investigation. To gather files and evidence, to sort through boxes of information, to speak with an ever-growing list of people who knew the child, and then to create an accurate and thoughtful story about the life of that child. This is a process of honouring legacy and uncovering truths. To understand the complexities of any child and to truly understand their life within the broader context of a family...
It goes on to say:
Tina's story was her own, and yet, it mirrors the stories of many others. The losses she experienced, the fracturing of her family, the inability to access necessary support, the promises of services that were never delivered, these are the echoes of so many other children and their families. These barriers that are experienced much more often and pervasively by Indigenous families is the story of Tina and the one that we have the opportunity to change.
One of the things the report talks about is the areas on which we need to reflect:
What were Tina's needs and those of her family?
What interventions and supports were offered and when?
What is the family perspective on the services they received?
What needs to be improved?
What do the experts say needs to happen?
What do the Elders say we need to remember?
What do youth say they need to feel supported? And,
How can tragedies like Tina's death be prevented in the future?
This morning, the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its report, which is 1,200 pages with 231 recommendations. I do not think anyone has had the opportunity to really digest that report and the different recommendations. As I read through them, certainly there are some that jump out right away and make a lot of sense, around policing and our processes around protocols. Then there are other recommendations that one questions and wonders how they will work.
However, it is incumbent upon us all to have a look at that report, look at the recommendations and consider what we need to do. The recommendations are for all levels of government. It is federal, provincial and municipal, but also indigenous levels of government, as well as indigenous and non-indigenous communities. There is a role for everyone to play.
I will go back to the report:
While I know that the child and family services (CFS) system has long been blamed for Tina’s death, this is short-sighted and serves only to reinforce the existing structures and beliefs. In fact, Tina did not spend much time inside the CFS system.... While she was in care for a few short periods when she was very young, Tina had a family who were a significant protective force—especially her grandma and grandpa—who loved her and raised her from the time she was five years old....
It is a long story, but it is a very compelling and important one to read. Some relatives of Tina's decided that they had to do something, and I understand the Bear Clan evolved from the legacy of Tina. Her uncle was part of getting that initiative going. There are hundreds of people who volunteer and travel the streets, and they are really making a difference in that community. Out of a tragedy, there is a reflection, changes in the community and the inquiry.
In terms of Bill C-92, we had very interesting testimony from many leaders. The most compelling testimony was from the youth in care. There were three youth who came to us and shared their experiences. They talked about who they were, what they were and what the challenges were in terms of the system: how it either helped them or, in too many cases, let them down. We all owe them a great gratitude for their ability to come and share their stories so that when we looked at Bill C-92, we did not look at it as a lot of words on a piece of paper; we looked at it and reflected on their stories and how that legislation needed to change their stories.
One thing that is not in the legislation, and perhaps there needs to be better discussion about it sometime, is the whole issue of youth aging out of care. I do not know how many parents would send their children at 18 or 19 years of age out the door, wish them the best of luck and say that they have done what they needed to do. There was discussion that we would not do that to our own children. The province, the first nation community or the federal government is the parent of a child in care, and we need to think about how we can support them better. These days, someone who is 18 or 19 years old truly is not ready.
On that note, I give a big shout-out to Kamloops and the White Buffalo society. It has a home for youth aging out of care. They are bringing elders who need affordable housing into their structure, and they are going to have youth aging out of care. It is a really positive cultural experience.
My final shout-out is that Bill C-92 is a step. It is not a perfect step, and we have many other things we need to think about.