Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by advising the House that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg North.
I am joining the House from my riding of Scarborough—Rouge Park on the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabe, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples.
I am honoured to speak here today on the national day for truth and reconciliation. It is a day marked by September 30, traditionally Orange Shirt Day. I want to thank the many survivors and family members who have taught me so much about residential schools over the years. I am particularly honoured to work with colleagues, such as the member for Northwest Territories, who himself is a survivor; former member of Parliament Romeo Saganash; and former member of Parliament Georgina Jolibois, who was the initial sponsor of this bill.
I am also inspired by the work of so many of my colleagues here, including the member for Winnipeg Centre and my good friend the member for Sydney—Victoria. I am also inspired by the words of the member for Fredericton and the member for North Island—Powell River, members representing many different parties within our House.
Let us be clear, this day is to respect, honour and reflect on the enormous number of lives lost in the generations of first nations, Inuit and Métis, and those whose lives have been forever changed. It is equally to recognize the enormous resilience of the survivors and their families. It is about education, as many have said, but it is not about indigenous people educating non-indigenous people about what has happened with residential schools and the many other oppressive things that have happened in this country since 1867. It is about Canadians learning and taking the initiative to understand what this day marks.
This is not about revictimizing those who have enormous pain, enormous struggles to overcome and intergenerational trauma that cannot be erased overnight. When I speak about reconciliation, I often qualify this term, because I know it is a term that is used quite regularly. It is used by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 94 calls to action, and it is a term that our government uses quite regularly.
As someone who has worked on the issue of reconciliation, it is not one where those who are affected, those who are victimized need to reconcile. It is about those who perpetrated these atrocities who need to come forward, and make sure the conditions are there for reconciliation.
As long as we have a survivor, as long as we have a child of a survivor who is directly impacted by residential schools, it will be very difficult to reconcile. As long as those lives continue, in terms of every socio-economic measure, to not be at par with non-indigenous people, the conditions will not be there for reconciliation to take shape.
As much as we mark this day, as much as this day is important and significant, it is a day for Canadians to recommit and double down on the need for reconciliation to take place, the need for all the social determinants of health to be rectified and to ensure that we have a proper plan and path forward to ensure that true equality can take shape in Canada.
A number of questions were posed about the Indian Act itself. I can categorically say that it is a deeply flawed and deeply racist act that continues to subjugate first nations people from coast to coast to coast in a very colonial setting. I do not know how else to say it, but it is a deeply racist piece of legislation.
Sadly, it is one of those pieces of legislation that cannot just be undone; it took generations to put together.
In many ways, to be able to address some of the issues within first nations communities, it is important that we are working toward nation-to-nation relationships. This would allow first nations communities, nations and peoples to actually negotiate and establish their own governance and self-determination over both very basic and very complex things, including land, resources, language, justice and culture.
Until we do that, it would be too simplistic of a solution to say we are going to eliminate the Indian Act altogether. It is one of those acts, as the member for Sydney—Victoria said quite well, that is unfortunately not ready to be taken down yet, but that is where we need to end up.
Let me speak more on this day itself as the parliamentary secretary who was working on this file. We heard from so many different people on the need for this day. There was a lot of discussion. The TRC call to action number 80 did not specify September 30, but it definitely called for a day that would mark this important recognition of residential schools. In fact, September 30 became the natural fit, and that was the consensus we received from many individuals, survivors, leaders, communities and indigenous people from all walks of life. That consensus allowed us to move forward with this date.
It is also something that will not mark the end. In fact, it will be the beginning. Someone mentioned that we could establish this day and then go away. No, this is in fact the beginning of a longer journey, a longer discussion and a more elaborate conversation as to how this should be marked in each and every community.
In Scarborough—Rouge Park, in places like the GTA, there are very few resources available. Even though we have very large populations of urban indigenous people, we have very few resources for education. This is where our school boards and provinces need to come in. It would be similar to Remembrance Day, when there are actual events in schools. In Ontario, at least, it is not a provincial holiday. This should be a day where people are able to mark it locally and speak about it. Young people will be able to understand and learn from each other and from their teachers on this.
I began going to school in Canada in grade four, and I can tell members I did not learn about this until well into my university years. Even then, I would say it was insufficient. That learning and education needs to take place on a day like this. It would not be a holiday in many provinces, until they bring legislation, but it would allow schools to mark the day and be able to observe it in a very poignant manner. This statutory holiday will ensure that public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
Throughout the witness testimony for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, commissioners heard from many organizations and groups that highlighted the importance and value of a day to commemorate. They talked about the need to have a date to reflect on the harm that has been historically inflicted upon first nations, Inuit and Métis people. I hope this House is able to adopt this.
I want to note that there are many calls to action, and almost 80% of the calls to action under the sole responsibility of the federal government and shared responsibility of the provinces have been completed or are well under way. This is one of them. I also want to note that call to action number 50, which calls on the Pope to apologize on behalf of the actions of the Catholic Church, may gain traction given the developments from the Pope this week on same-sex marriage.
I am hoping that we will be able to work together as faith groups, as governments and as indigenous people to advance reconciliation in Canada. I hope to see this legislation pass as soon as possible.