Uqaqtittiji, it has been interesting to participate in the debate on Bill C-29, an act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation.
We have heard from all parties their positions and questions regarding the disparities, they say, of indigenous peoples. While the New Democrats have focused on highlighting the ongoing violations of indigenous peoples' rights, others have chosen to focus on the potential composition of the national council for reconciliation.
In my final speech on this matter, I will clarify the position stated by the New Democrats. This party has been guided by advocacy from indigenous peoples in making its position, and we stand by it.
First, on clauses 9 and 10 of Bill C-29, about the composition and nominating bodies, clause 9 states the board would consist of nine to 13 directors and clause 10 only names four nominating bodies. This creates opportunities for five to nine directors who could come from other indigenous groups. I think it is important that there is representation from many nations across Canada with the independence that is necessary for this council.
I remind all indigenous peoples and groups that, if they feel the bill does not ensure their voices would be heard through the composition of the board, there would be opportunities to be heard, be it through nominating to the board through the nomination process, providing advice through advisory councils or, as outlined in the bill, reaching out to the council directly.
I thank key witnesses who spoke at committee. Zebedee Nungak spoke passionately about how decolonization needs to be the end goal of this process. Okalik Eegeesiak emphasized, “Reconciliation must come from a balanced approach, mindset and foundation, with mutual respect and equitable resources.” Karen Restoule highlighted the importance of revitalizing indigenous laws and the importance of upholding indigenous rights.
The Native Women's Association of Canada plays an important role to advise and support indigenous women across the country. Indigenous women continue to fight for their rights, and with high rates of violence toward them, reconciliation should address the multiple concerns these communities have.
An amendment the New Democrats made was to ensure the inclusion of important advice to be drawn from survivors, elders and indigenous legal professionals. We have heard in this debate that it is important to ensure that survivors and elders are the centre of this work. The amendments by the New Democrats assure this. Currently, across the nation the rights of indigenous persons are violated, infringed upon and attacked. Often indigenous peoples are deprived of their rights, including basic rights such as housing.
We saw recently, in the Auditor General's report on the government's responses to emergency preparedness, that indigenous families in the Peguis first nations have been evacuees for 10 years after a flood.
Indigenous peoples are often deprived of the right to self-determination, accessible housing, educational opportunities and access to their own lands. This council will lead the conversation on what nations want to see and need from the government to move reconciliation forward. For the council to do its job effectively, it will need access to information on both a provincial and federal level. It is important that it is granted access within the legal limits to report on what is happening to indigenous communities. It will be important to see the council work to consistently protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples with its recommendations.
It is because of the New Democratic Party's recommendations and amendments that the council will use a rights-based approach to its work on advancing reconciliation.
It is important we do not lose sight of what this legislation has the potential to do. First nations, Métis and Inuit have voiced for years and advocated for years for solutions that can work in indigenous communities.
The work of this national council for reconciliation will be important as it will ensure a non-partisan approach to hearing what the issues are and the work that needs to be done as it will monitor government programs and policies. It is vital that reconciliation be on the minds of all Canadians.
I remind all indigenous peoples and groups that hope to be heard that those opportunities remain. The work has started to ensure that indigenous peoples lead the way in reconciliation through the creation of this council. There has been great work already completed and more great work that needs to continue.
As a country, we have a lot to learn regarding reconciliation. I have spoken to members of Parliament from New Zealand who visited us in Canada. One member of Parliament asked how we will know when reconciliation is complete. My response to that question is reconciliation will only be complete when indigenous peoples say it is complete. This is not something that should be determined by governments.
Indigenous communities need to see action from the government that shows it is listening to what communities are saying. Governments must follow the lead of indigenous peoples, especially on matters related to reconciliation, decolonization and to the indigenization of laws, policies and programs that are to impact indigenous peoples.
In conclusion, Bill C-29 leaves me with a sense of hope that it will lead to measurable outcomes. While this bill is not the only solution to addressing the injustices experienced by indigenous peoples, it will ensure the advancement of reconciliation needed for all Canadians.