Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga—Erin Mills.
I would like to start by acknowledging that we stand on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in support of our government's bill that would revise the oath or affirmation of citizenship. I am also extremely happy that Karina Scali has been shadowing me today, on a day when I am speaking on such an important bill.
As we know, the bill responds to call to action number 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report. It is important for newcomers to Canada to take on the responsibility of citizenship, and in doing so, with the passage of the bill, newcomers would state their commitment to respect the rights and treaties of indigenous peoples and recognize the significant contributions the Inuit, Métis and first nations have made to Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report lists 94 calls to action, with number 94 calling on the government to amend the oath of citizenship to specifically add a reference to the phrase “observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples”.
In 2017 a few things happened that highlighted the need for the bill. In my riding, I hosted a screening of We Were Children, a film about residential school survivors. The profound impact of the residential school system is seen through the eyes of two children in this movie. It is a profound and disturbing film.
Following the screening, we had a panel discussion with three indigenous residents of Halton. There were two new Canadians in attendance who asked why they had never learned this part of Canada's history when they became Canadian citizens. Even those of us born in Canada have had a lack of education about the impact and trauma caused by the Canadian government's residential school system. It really hit home that we can do better.
That same year, during the summer, I had a young woman working in my Ottawa office as an intern. She decided she wanted to do an e-petition on this very issue. Working with Steven Paquette, an indigenous knowledge-keeper in Oakville, she developed e-petition 1228, which called on the government to continue its consultation with indigenous peoples across our country. It also asked the government to modify the study guide to acknowledge treaty rights. The petition received almost 650 signatures and a response from the government. I am extremely proud of Mariam Manaa, who developed this petition. She made sure it was not developed in a way that came from her knowledge about the past. Rather, she worked with someone from our community who is indigenous and could guide her on the right way to move forward on that petition.
Mariam's petition highlighted the importance of consultation. The government has been conducting full and thoughtful consultation in order to bring the bill here today. It has also been conducting thorough consultation to update the citizenship guide, which should be forthcoming in the coming weeks.
There are those in the official opposition who have called the changes suggested by the bill a token gesture. Given the experience in my riding at the film screening and the conversations I had because I sponsored Mariam's e-petition, I would argue that this change is far from token or a waste of time. It is extremely important as we move along the path to reconciliation.
I have also heard during debate members of the Conservative party talk about the need to do more in indigenous communities. I would like to highlight that the government has made significant new investments of $21 billion through four budgets, which has resulted in the building or renovating of 62 new schools, the completion of 265 water and waste-water infrastructure projects and the approval of more than 508,000 requests for products, services and supports under Jordan's principle. There is also a new funding formula for K-to-12 education, which resulted in regional funding increases of almost 40%. The number of first nation schools offering full-day elementary kindergarten programs has increased from 30% to 59%.
Those are just a few examples of the steps we are taking and the investments we are making in indigenous peoples across the country. There is certainly a need to do more, but we are taking this seriously. We are making the necessary investments and making a commitment to reconciliation, something that is included in the bill.
Only by educating new Canadians and Canadians who have been on this land for generations about treaty rights, indigenous history and the trauma caused by policies like residential schools can we actually make progress on reconciliation. Unlike the Ford Conservative government, which immediately upon election cut mandatory indigenous curriculum from the Ontario high school education system, we firmly believe that education is an important component of reconciliation.
The proposed changes to the oath are the result of the government's consultation with national indigenous organizations on the precise wording of the oath of citizenship. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada included the following organizations in these consultations: the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, the ITK, and members of the Land Claims Agreement Coalition, which represents indigenous modern treaty organizations in governments in Canada.
There was support for the intent of the call to action, but through engagement, the need for a more precise and inclusive oath also became clear.
A key point that came up was that the term “indigenous” does not reflect all preferences of self-identification. I understand this point deeply through many conversations held over the years. I know that many people identify by their home community, homeland or territory, and that there are many ways to identify. The oath of citizenship and all Crown-indigenous relations need to be based on an understanding and respect for self-identity preferences, and at a broader level, reflect many experiences and histories.
Another example is the call to specifically include treaties in the oath of citizenship, which is deeply important. Treaties are foundational to the creation and future of Canada, and through consultations it became clear that this reference needed to be expanded. “Treaties with indigenous peoples” was not relevant to all indigenous peoples and therefore not inclusive of all indigenous experiences. For example, Inuit peoples generally are not party to existing pre-1975 treaties or their agreements with the Crown are not characterized as such.
As a result of these consultations, as well as our pre-existing understanding and commitment to respectful relationships, the new oath will read:
I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.
I am proud to support this bill for the revised oath of citizenship. This oath is much more than just words. It is a public declaration of joining the Canadian family and a commitment to Canadian values and traditions.
On Canada Day, I host a citizenship reaffirmation ceremony. It is my sincere hope that when we affirm aboriginal and treaty rights in the oath of citizenship this year, it will be an important reminder to all Canadians and will also serve to open conversations in my riding and across the country. The changes to the oath are also an important step in advancing reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people, continuing to build Crown-indigenous relations, and fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
This bill is another step forward towards full implementation of call to action 94, and I am pleased to speak in support of it today. As members listen to the speeches and make their own decisions on whether or not to support this bill, I hope they recognize that sometimes it can be small actions that make a big difference in the lives of indigenous peoples, of new Canadians and, in fact, all of us here in Canada.