Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting day listening to speeches. I worked last night on this intervention. It is challenging, in the sense of my background and culture.
It takes me back to the heritage committee when we dealt with this topic, and my understanding and knowledge were lacking. We depended on the witnesses to inform, explain and educate us. Were they all on the same page? No, there were differences of opinion about which day, indigenous day, orange shirt day. We heard opinions about more important things that should be done. It was interesting to listen as they brought it to us at that committee.
By the way, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Fredericton.
The bill has now been returned to the House. The goal of this legislation is extremely important, with the reconciliation with indigenous people as the national objective. The residential school is a dark chapter in Canadian history. I did not live it. My family did not live it, but I have visited Siksika Nation, which is in my riding. It is the second largest nation in the country. On that nation there were two residential schools run by two different Christian faiths. One school is gone. The other school is still there. I visited those places with elders. Where the school is gone, there is what they believe to be an unmarked graveyard with no recognition but memories of who went there and never came home.
The other one that is still standing is now called Old Sun Community College. The building has been refitted, changed and provides programs that suit the times that are needed now. As I walked through that building with an elder, there were parts of that building she would go through and parts she would not. She remembered some horrific things in that building, like the day her sister fell three storeys and landed at her feet and it killed her. That should not have happened, but it did. I cannot remember that because it is not part of my background, but I could listen to an elder tell me that story. The story of when she was six years old and would go to school and escape and go home. Her parents would be horrified that she was there, because they knew the Indian agent would soon arrive at the door threatening to take away anything that they had unless she was returned to school. That is not part of my memory, but it is part of my learning.
The bill is important and we are putting the onus on 5% of the population to teach us. Is that the way to do it? We have adults in this country who do not have this education or the opportunity. The town of Strathmore has done phenomenal work with the Siksika Nation. Many students from both communities, Siksika and Strathmore, go to that school. The drama teacher in that school wrote a phenomenal play called New Blood. It is put on by high school students from Strathmore and Siksika. It needs to be seen far and wide because it would educate adults.
I have visited our National Arts Centre, which now has two indigenous employees, but it has no money. I want the play to come to Ottawa. We need adults educated. As mentioned many times in the House, education is a critical piece. However, it is not just for students, it is for adults as well. I have watched that play and seen what the adults learned from it. It is put on by indigenous and non-indigenous students working together to produce a fantastic story of reconciliation with history in it.
Today, as I look at the notes I had and listen to the members, I look at the structure of, for example, Siksika.
Members can look at what the federal governments, provincial governments and municipal governments are responsible for, but do they understand what a municipal government, supposedly, at the band level does? Siksika Nation's council takes care of the roads and the sewer and the water, when it works, if it works, if it is there, but they are also responsible for education in their nation and they are responsible for health. There is a whole broad range of things they are responsible for, and we, as an adult country, do not understand the challenges that level of government has and the responsibilities it has. We do not know that unless we take the time to learn.
How are we going to learn it? Are we putting the onus of this bill on 5% of the population, without resources, to teach the rest of us? That is not going to work.
We have a piece of legislation that should be approved. I totally agree that it should be approved. However, where is the backup, in the sense of what the responsibility is to get the education for this to the population? I am not talking about schoolchildren; I am talking about the adult population. Where is it? We are now putting a heavy debt back on the indigenous people to educate the rest of us by saying, “You've got a day”.
I totally agree with the day. On Siksika reserve, one of the councillors led a walk from those unmarked graves at the school, which is gone, across the nation to the other school. That is an education those people understand. They are walking those footpaths. They are walking the footpaths that their elders walked when they went back and forth. We were not there. We do not know that path. We have to learn it, or this just becomes another holiday, which is wrong. We cannot let this slip into another holiday, yet we are putting the onus on the indigenous people to do it. We are naming it. I am a person who is not of that culture. It is not my history.
I remember when we passed the indigenous languages bill, Bill C-91, at the heritage committee. We had many witnesses come, and the ones I liked the best were the ones who said, “How is the money going to get to our school kids so we can keep our heritage and our culture with our language?”
I made amendments at that committee, and they did not pass. I wanted the money to go directly to the school level, just like the federal government does with the gas tax, which goes directly to the municipality. We bypass the other people and it gets done. I wanted the money to go to the indigenous communities and their schools. That is not where it went. It went to the three major organizations in this country. The leadership of Siksika Nation asked me about this legislation and the money. I said to ask the government and to ask their indigenous organizations where it is. Where is it? They are not preserving their language; they are not getting the money.
We have to work at the grassroots level, just like the indigenous people understand they need to do with their language. They need to get into their schools and teach their own children their languages to keep their cultures. It is an oral culture. They have passed many things on orally. It is a story culture, from elders to generation to generation, but they are not getting the money.
My fear is that we will pass this and we will have a day of recognition. They will be proud to have it, but will the 95% of the rest of Canadians have a clue? That is my fear.