Mr. Speaker, we come together today to discuss Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act.
This bill implements the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action number 94, proposing a change to the citizenship oath as it is drafted in the schedule to section 24 the Citizenship Act. First, clause 1 of the bill amends the text in the schedule. In other words, it changes the wording of the oath or affirmation of citizenship.
As we have heard, the new oath proposed by the Liberal government would read as follows:
I swear...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 fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
The solemn affirmation is also similarly amended.
As my colleague indicated, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-6. We recognize the legitimacy and the importance of incorporating a reference to indigenous rights in the citizenship oath.
However, I want to be clear that there is some contradiction here in the Liberal government's rhetoric.
Why the piecemeal approach to recognizing Canada's different nations instead of recognizing the entirety of these nations and affirming their political equality?
If Canada positioned itself as an association of free and equal peoples, it would be easier to ask newcomers taking their oath of citizenship to commit to respecting the fundamental rights of all founding peoples. As the spokesperson on communal harmony, I believe we should use inclusive language.
I would also like to point out that the government did not use the wording suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It seemed very clear and well-worded to me. I think that wording is of critical importance when drafting an oath of citizenship, especially considering its solemn and symbolic nature and how meaningful this final step to citizenship is to a new citizen.
Why did the government not use the wording proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
If the wording needed to be changed to include aboriginal rights, would there not be a wording that does not suggest, as the current wording does, that the Constitution is a law among so many others?
I would like to have some answers to those questions.
I would also like to quote the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship:
The oath is a solemn declaration that all newcomers recite during the citizenship ceremony. With this amendment, we will take an important step towards reconciliation by encouraging new Canadians to fully appreciate and respect the significant role of indigenous peoples in forming Canada's fabric and identity.
Far be it from me to pit Canada's different nations against one another, on the contrary. I support their true recognition and the equality of peoples. I am just saying that it would be easier for newcomers to understand the history of Canada if we invited them to appreciate the contributions of all founding nations.
The French fact, the British fact and the history of the first nations, Inuit and Métis people are all deserving of recognition.
The hon. Senator Murray Sinclair, who was co-chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, contradicted the minister. He said, “Reconciliation requires that a new vision, based on a commitment to mutual respect, be developed.” The senator is clearly open and receptive to recognizing all of the nations within Canada. I commend him for that.
Since Canada has chosen to position itself as a multicultural majority nation in which national cultures are reduced to regional folklore, the federal government's efforts to respect indigenous peoples are still somewhat awkward. I am not saying that these efforts are wrongheaded. I am saying that they would come more naturally if Canadian federalism were an asymmetrical federalism based on the equality of peoples.
The Bloc Québécois recognizes indigenous nations for what they are: nations. The Bloc advocates a comprehensive approach to government relations, focusing on negotiating nation-to-nation agreements. Recognition should be the starting point for any commitment to reconciliation.
However, although section 35 of the Canadian Constitution recognizes aboriginal and treaty rights, it does not define the federation as a free association of equal nations.
Unlike Canada's plan, Quebec's plan for independence, promoted by the Bloc Québécois, proposes that indigenous nations be counted among the founding peoples of a sovereign Quebec, which would be founded on a true association based on mutual respect and equality.
Because I agree with the government, I urge my colleagues to vote in favour of the bill. The Bloc Québécois supports efforts to recognize indigenous treaty rights. Canada has a long way to go to reconcile with indigenous nations, and the Bloc Québécois wants to be an ally and support that cause.
However, we know that Quebec will take a different approach, because we are not afraid to propose fundamental changes and challenge the very foundations of our public institutions. In any case, once Quebec is sovereign, we will have to draft our own citizenship oath. Obviously, our oath will be free from any references to the monarchy and the Crown. It will affirm that all public powers rest with the people. It will do justice to the first nations, the Inuit and the Métis, as well as the British and French cultures.
I commend the government for its willingness to implement the recommendations set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report. I truly hope that Canada will succeed in moving this process forward.
I believe that Quebec's independence should be an opportunity for Quebeckers to engage in its own reconciliation efforts with indigenous nations and I think it will be crucial that those nations sit down with us at the table when we write our constitution. I intend to be at that table and to participate in opening a new chapter in our history. I will do everything in my power to ensure that this new, future chapter be free of the injustices of the past.