Madam Speaker, it is always a privilege to take the floor in the House and, today, I am doing so at the report stage of Bill C‑29.
As we all know, the adoption of this bill will allow for the establishment of an apolitical and permanent indigenous-led national council for reconciliation to advance reconciliation with indigenous peoples in response to calls to action 53 to 56 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs studied Bill C‑29 and produced a report that includes the amendments made to the bill. These do not change the spirit and intent of the bill.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle underlying Bill C‑29, and will support its adoption in its current form, since, as I said in a speech here in the House last week, the Bloc Québécois is a vocal advocate for nation-to-nation relations between Quebec, Canada and first nations.
Giving indigenous peoples a stronger voice and allowing them to be heard in the reconciliation process is entirely in line with our position. As members know, the Bloc Québécois has always worked with indigenous nations at the federal level to strengthen and guarantee their inherent rights. It is also working to ensure that the federal government applies the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in its entirety in its own jurisdictions.
The Bloc Québécois has also come out in support of indigenous nations receiving their due, and we will continue to apply pressure on the federal government to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
Lastly, let us not forget that, on June 21, 2021, the Bloc secured the unanimous passage of a motion to ensure that indigenous communities have all the resources needed to lift the veil on the historical reality of residential schools and to force the churches to open their archives. This bill is a step forward in this regard.
As I mentioned earlier, this bill follows up on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action 53 to 56. As members will recall, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established through a legal agreement between residential school survivors, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit representatives and those responsible for creating and running the schools, in other words, the federal government and church authorities.
It is important for us, here, to remember these calls to action, and that is why I am taking the liberty of reading them, as they are the reason for Bill C‑29. Call to action 53 reads:
We call upon the Parliament of Canada, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal Peoples, to enact legislation to establish a National Council for Reconciliation.
Call to action 54 reads:
We call upon the Government of Canada to provide multi-year funding for the National Council for Reconciliation to ensure that it has the financial, human, and technical resources required to conduct its work, including the endowment of a National Reconciliation Trust to advance the cause of reconciliation.
Call to action 55 reads:
We call upon all levels of government to provide annual reports or any current data requested by the National Council for Reconciliation so that it can report on the progress towards reconciliation....
Call to action 56 reads:
We call upon the Prime Minister of Canada to formally respond to the report of the National Council for Reconciliation by issuing an annual “State of Aboriginal Peoples” report, which would outline the government’s plans for advancing the cause of reconciliation.
Naturally, the Bloc Québécois is fully and firmly in favour of these calls to action, which is why we support this bill. We also support Bill C‑29 because of its major components, including the positive goal to establish a national council for reconciliation to advance efforts towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
Members will note one thing that keeps coming up in this bill, specifically all the entities that the national council for reconciliation will monitor and on which it will make recommendations.
We can see that the council's current purpose is to monitor the progress being made towards reconciliation in all sectors of Canadian society and by all governments in Canada and to recommend measures to promote, prioritize and coordinate efforts for reconciliation in all sectors of Canadian society and by all governments in Canada.
First, we need to understand what “all sectors of Canadian society” means.
I assume that all Canadian Crown corporations will be under the council's scrutiny, but that raises questions. Will the council also monitor and investigate federally regulated private businesses? Would an independent airline be included in the mandate to monitor and make recommendations?
The very broad scope the bill allows the council appears to give it great latitude in its activities, but that could also make it less effective when it could be focusing on government corporations and bodies rather than on private businesses. The government must set an example, so it is important to pay special attention to its entities.
The other element to look at is the monitoring of “all governments in Canada”. The intention is to monitor provincial and territorial governments. Although indigenous affairs fall under federal jurisdiction, first nations issues also relate to many areas of provincial jurisdiction, such as health and education. There seems to be a desire to disregard jurisdiction and allow the council to monitor all government activities in Canada.
I would remind members that the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec, known as the Viens commission, was set up to determine the underlying causes of all forms of violence, discrimination and differential treatment towards Indigenous women and men in the delivery of certain public services in Quebec.
In his report, the commissioner issued 135 recommendations to the Government of Quebec. These calls to action apply to all of the services the government delivers to indigenous peoples, such as justice, correctional services, law enforcement, health, social services and youth protection.
In the interest of independent and impartial monitoring, the Quebec ombudsman was mandated to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations made by the Viens commission. The ombudsman has established an advisory committee comprising first nations and Inuit members to foster collaboration and ensure that the Viens commission’s calls to action are translated into measures that meet the needs of first nations and Inuit representatives.
Another committee, made up mainly of university researchers and representatives of civil society, was also set up to independently document the implementation of these calls to action. The committee, which was based out of the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, released its first report in 2021.
The national council for reconciliation is another body tasked with monitoring progress and making recommendations, in addition to the two similar bodies already at work in Quebec. It is worth asking whether there will again be overlap between their mandates or whether the council will focus on federal issues in Quebec, analyzing only issues that fall under federal jurisdiction. I certainly hope there will be no overlap.
Lastly, we know that the national council for reconciliation will have to conduct investigations, since its mandate is to monitor and make recommendations. That means it will need investigators and analysts. I would be curious to see the current forecasts concerning the number of employees the council will need in order to carry out its mission properly.