Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that Canada's Parliament is located on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
As we gather to debate Bill C-29, I think that it is important to take a moment to explain the approach that the government took when developing this proposed legislation.
There is a saying, “Nothing about us without us”. The government has tried to fulfill the true meaning of those words as we rebuild a relationship with indigenous people across the country. This is why we used a collaborative approach to develop Bill C-29. Engagement with indigenous leaders and communities was integral to the process every step along the way.
I am going to take a few moments to outline the engagement process we used throughout the development of the bill. The first and foremost has been the incredible indigenous leadership provided by the interim board and the transitional committee. Both independent bodies were made up of first nations, Inuit and Métis, with all providing their best advice and taking into account a wide range of diverse voices and perspectives.
I also want to acknowledge the monumental work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was the foundation for this bill. The TRC held a series of national and community-focused sessions across the country as part of its work to lay bare the truth and story of this country. The commission has set forth a pathway of reconciliation to begin the healing necessary in relation to the trauma and ongoing impacts caused by the residential school system.
The extensive and historic work of the TRC was pivotal in laying the groundwork for this proposed legislation. By amplifying the voices of survivors, the commissioners included the idea of the national council for reconciliation in calls to action 53 and 54.
In developing the final report, they took an inclusive and indigenous-led approach, and the approach was to listen to the voices of the indigenous people. They heard from survivors of residential schools, as well as their families, and they used the stories not only to tell Canadians the truth about what happened but also as a basis on which to build the calls to action. The government has strived to honour that approach by inviting and supporting indigenous leadership throughout the whole process with the culmination being the development of proposed legislation.
We were inspired and led by the TRC commissioners, the residential school survivors and the indigenous people who participated in the TRC process. This included everyone who envisioned an independent, indigenous-led national oversight body.
The commission envisioned a national council that would prepare an annual report on the state of reconciliation, to which the Government of Canada would respond publicly, outlining its plans to advance reconciliation. In developing this bill, the government has aimed to listen to these diverse voices.
Indigenous leaders and community members had the courage to step forward, to tell the country about their experiences and how this has affected them and their families throughout their lives. More than this, these voices have been guiding the way to help their communities on a journey toward healing.
I would like to speak a little about the interim board. After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had fulfilled its mandate, the federal government responded to the calls to establish a national council for reconciliation by creating an interim board to help transition to the next step by making recommendations on the scope of the mandate of the council. The federal government appointed the interim board of directors in 2018, comprising six indigenous leaders representing first nations, Inuit and Métis, including a former truth and reconciliation commissioner.
This independent board was responsible for providing advice to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations on establishing a national council for reconciliation. The interim board held an engagement event in April 2018. It met with various indigenous organizations and non-indigenous stakeholders to seek their views on the mandate of the council, the legislation, the scope of the council and, more broadly, on long-term reconciliation.
The interim board carefully considered all that it had heard from the engagements with various indigenous and non-indigenous peoples and organizations, as well as engagement events in Ottawa, and developed a final report.
This process included a diverse group of people, community members, academics, business, arts and health professionals and other interested parties. Each member of the interim board reached out to the additional individuals to ask for their views on the establishment of the national council for reconciliation.
The government also reached out to non-indigenous Canadians for their thoughts about creating a council. An online platform was created to capture Canadians' views on the subject. People could share their thoughts on the mandate, on the future of the national council for reconciliation and on what its first steps should be. The responses were positive. They showed that Canadians supported the establishment of a national council for reconciliation.
Another important step was the engagement that took place directly with national indigenous organizations. The interim board reached out to the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council to seek their input on the mandate of the national council for reconciliation. Including this step in the process meant that indigenous community members, as well as political leaders, had the opportunity to express their perspectives about creating the council.
At every step of the way, establishing an indigenous-led approach was integral to the process. Only after the interim board had heard a wide spectrum of indigenous voices did it prepare its final report incorporating what it had heard.
In June 2018, the interim board presented its final report, which contained recommendations relating to the vision, mission, mandate, structure, membership, funding, reporting and legislation of the national council for reconciliation.
Notably, it echoed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, saying that a council should be established through legislation and that it should address calls to action 53 to 56. It also said that it should be independent, permanent and non-political, and that it should also be a catalyst for innovative thought, dialogue and action.
The interim board also made recommendations about how the government should implement those recommendations. The interim board said the government should create a transitional committee to support next steps. When the government drafted legislation, it should co-draft the legislation with advice and leadership from the transitional committee membership.
Finally, the interim board recommended more outreach and engagement. Building on the work of the interim board, the Department of Justice prepared a draft legislative framework for consultative purposes.
I think it is important to make special note of that fact. The legislative framework was based directly on the work of the interim board, and the interim board based its work on the feedback that it received from indigenous voices across the country. We can really see that indigenous communities are at the very heart of this proposed legislation.
The next step after the interim board was the transitional committee, which was established and launched in December 2021. The members were appointed by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. The committee reviewed the draft legislative framework and considered ways to improve it to ensure a strong and effective council.
Transitional committee engagement was part of this. Building on the interim board's engagement activities in 2018, the transitional committee carried out even more engagement. The committee members met with indigenous and non-indigenous experts, including lawyers, data specialists, and financial and reconciliation experts in March 2022.
The members gathered feedback and advice in areas such as reconciliation, law, data, organizational finances, information sharing, governance and accountability. The committee used this feedback as part of its recommendations.
This brings us to March 2022, when the transitional committee presented its final report. This contained recommendations about the legislation of the national council for reconciliation.
The transitional committee made recommendations on how to strengthen the draft legislative framework while maintaining the vision, purpose and mandate of the council as expressed in the vision put forth by the interim board. It worked to ensure, to the extent possible, that the legislation would address calls to action 53 to 56.
In March 2022, the transitional committee expressed strongly that it preferred this proposed legislation to be brought forward using an expedited approach. It spoke passionately about survivors who see this bill as a cornerstone for reconciliation and want to ensure that it becomes a reality before too long.
Following the recommendation, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations introduced Bill C-29 on June 22. Over the past few months, through second reading, at the INAN committee's dedicated study of the bill and today in the House, we have worked together diversely, but I am confident—