Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mount Royal.
I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered here on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
The motion before us today addresses a pressing issue impacting communities across the country. The current situation is difficult for everyone: indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, impacted communities, businesses, workers and travellers. I believe there remains time for all parties to engage in open and respectful dialogue to ensure the situation is resolved peacefully.
For more than 150 years, indigenous peoples in Canada have faced systemic discrimination in every aspect of their lives. Canada has prevented a true equal partnership from developing with indigenous peoples, imposing instead a relationship based on colonial ways of thinking and doing, paternalism and control.
The relationship of the past has provided us with a legacy of devastation, pain and suffering. For decades, indigenous peoples have been calling on the Canadian government to respect their right to jurisdiction over their own affairs and to have control and agency over their land, housing, education, and child and family services.
This history and growing awareness was the genesis of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which enshrines the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination. Its 46 articles cover collective and individual rights on everything from cultural identity and education to language and health rights. It is a universal framework for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous people all over the world.
I am very proud this was endorsed by Canada without qualification in 2016 and I am proud our government has committed to developing legislation to fully and effectively implement this framework by the end of this year.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's calls to action describe the declaration as the framework for reconciliation. That is because the declaration, fundamentally, is about advancing self-determination and rebalancing the relationship between states and indigenous peoples.
This is just one step on the long path toward reconciliation our government is taking. We are working to build a new relationship with indigenous peoples grounded in the affirmation of these rights, in respect, in co-operation, in partnership and in the aim for a new legacy built on a solid foundation of self-determination that we can be proud of.
As the Minister of Indigenous Services stated, it is clear that self-determination is the right path to take. We are making progress from coast to coast to coast. We are doing the work.
Indigenous self-government is important. Self-governing indigenous peoples have better socio-economic outcomes. More of their children finish high school. Fewer of their people are unemployed and health outcomes are better.
Self-determination improves the health, well-being and prosperity of indigenous communities, and it benefits all Canadians. Conversations about self-determination and self-governance have never been more urgent, and steps are being taken to bring our country toward a future where indigenous peoples are the drivers of their own destinies and where the federal government is there to support them in any way they see fit.
It is a privilege to represent a riding that encompasses the territories of three first nations. We know that indigenizing our education systems empowers first nations, which is why the Ts'zil Learning Centre was the right step to help Lil'wat Nation thrive. Their learning philosophy is based in Lil'wat cultural renewal, holistic learning and personal growth. The learning centre is a potent example of what indigenous self-government looks like in education.
On the Sunshine Coast, the shíshálh Nation is leading the way. In 1986 they became the first band in Canada to achieve self-governance after a dialogue and partnership with the government that resulted in legislation being passed. They now hold elections, have control over their lands, administer services and share their culture with the community. They are excited to be embarking on a new, affordable housing project for their people. They also recently had their first election after making their election process even more inclusive.
There are mechanisms within our power in order to help first nations partners. We are taking steps in the right direction. One of these mechanisms is to have regular meetings between the Prime Minister, key cabinet ministers and first nations, Inuit and Métis nations. These meetings are to identify each community's distinct priorities and help the government and indigenous peoples work together to develop solutions.
These permanent bilateral mechanisms were created to better serve indigenous peoples engaged in the important work of advancing greater self-determination. They also enable Crown-indigenous co-operation in identifying priorities and developing policies. This important national work will reflect the diversity and unique priorities of first nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada.
Another vehicle for advancing self-determination is through the negotiation of new treaties, self-government and other constructive arrangements. In the last four years, the government has created 90 new negotiation tables, including with the Wet'suwet'en, and there are now more than 150 active negotiation tables across the country to advance the relationship with indigenous peoples and support the spirit of self-determination.
We have taken steps to ensure that indigenous partners can fully participate in these discussions and advance conversations that promote the rebuilding of their nations.
We are also making changes to how we support indigenous participation in these negotiations. For example, we stopped requiring groups to take loans to sit down with us, and we are in the process of forgiving and reimbursing about $1.4 billion of comprehensive land claim loan debt. More than $100 million is provided annually to support indigenous participation in negotiations and to enhance capacity.
Progress is being made at these tables.
I have spoken of a number of successes in self-determination and self-governance. What many of these successes have in common is that they were achieved through co-operation. They are based on listening to indigenous partners as they led us to discuss and codevelop solutions to the issues that are most important to their communities.
We can learn from that and to do so we need to understand that recognizing and affirming rights is a first step in finding a way forward. We need to support our indigenous partners to identify our challenges, and then we need to rise to them. We need to recognize that the most important actions that we can take are to listen to the hard truths, embrace change and welcome creative ideas.
We have all seen what happens when we do not come together to get the conversation going. It results in mistrust and confusion, which can be the root of conflicts. It is a barrier to moving forward together. We have seen that in the past. We must learn from those mistakes and make sure it does not happen again.
The Prime Minister noted that the issues we are facing were not created overnight. They were not created because we embarked upon a path of reconciliation recently in our history. It is because for too long and for too many years we failed to take this path. After all this time, finding a solution will not be simple.
It is up to the rights holders to determine who speaks on their behalf regarding their aboriginal rights and title. Our government is committed to dedicating effort to continue those conversations.
We here in the House do not speak for our indigenous partners, but I hope we can take part in speaking with them. Standing up for the empowerment of first nations peoples and for their freedom of speech and self-governance is a vital role of the government in this instance. Acknowledging all of these challenges, the hard work ahead of us is worth the effort.
It is worth it for the youth of the next generation and for the ones after that, who will grow up seeing the crown and indigenous peoples putting in the hard work, together, to invest in their future, improve their quality of life and heal.
It will take determination, persistence, patience and truth-telling. It will mean listening to and learning from indigenous partners, communities and youth, and acting decisively on what we have heard, building trust and healing. It will mean doing everything we can to support the inherent right to self-determination of indigenous peoples.
We are at a critical juncture in Canada. Canadians want to see indigenous rights honoured, and they are impatient for meaningful progress. They are counting on us to engage with indigenous leaders, communities and peoples to achieve lasting, long-term results. This is what our government is committed to.
We can, and we will, build a better Canada together, one in which healthy, prosperous, self-determining and self-governing indigenous nations are key partners.