Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-5, an act that would amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code to add a new statutory holiday, a national day for truth and reconciliation.
I want to begin by acknowledging that I am speaking from the largest Mi'kmaq community in the world in my home community, which is also the unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq.
Today, we are discussing an important step forward on the path of reconciliation and healing for first nations, Inuit and Métis people. It is a step forward in publicly honouring survivors, their families and communities by implementing calls to action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to establish a statutory holiday, a national day for truth and reconciliation.
Before my time as an MP, I was a professor at Cape Breton University. I taught Mi'kmaq history and about the Indian residential schools. I was also the treaty education lead for Nova Scotia, which meant that I would do presentations for schools, businesses, industry and all those who asked about the truth and reconciliation and the Indian residential schools. People would ask me why they were never taught this before, why they were just learning this for this first time.
The Indian residential schools operated in my home province of Nova Scotia between 1929 and 1967 in Shubenacadie. In my home province, for more than 40 years, children were forcefully removed from their homes. They were forcefully removed from all they ever knew, taken from loving Mi'kmaq families.
I will share two startling facts that I always shared in those presentations.
The first comes from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The odds of dying for a soldier in World War II was one in 26. The odds of dying for children in the Indian residential schools was one in 25. Let that sink in. These were not soldiers with guns and helmets. These were children wearing their Sunday-best clothes, Sunday dresses, and they never came home. That is why we call them survivors, like my Aunt Eleanor Mitchell, my Uncle Fudd Lewis and the brave author from Sipekne'katik, Isabelle Knockwood. When I was a young student at that same university, I read her book and realized the horrible legacy of the residential schools and the horrible treatment of these children.
When we talk of truth and reconciliation, we speak of the children. However, I want members to think about their children at home. For all who are listening and for all in the House right now, imagine all the joy children bring into our lives, the birthdays, Christmas. Imagine all the things we do with our children that brings utter joy into our lives. Now imagine a community without those children, without that joy—