Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge, before I begin, that we are speaking here today on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
As we begin the second reading debate on Bill C-29, an act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation, I think it is important to highlight that since locating unmarked graves at former residential schools a year and a half ago, Canada's relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis has evolved and often in a painful way. Survivors, their families, communities and all indigenous peoples across the country were heard as they shared the violent truth of residential schools.
It is our moral obligation as a country and as people to honour survivors and pursue the truth. It is also our responsibility to support all of those suffering from intergenerational trauma in their search for truth and closure. Addressing these ongoing impacts is at the heart of reconciliation and at the core of truth-seeking and the renewal of the relationship with indigenous people, particularly those who attended these horrible institutions.
This summer, after years of advocacy by first nations, Inuit and Métis, His Holiness Pope Francis visited Canada and offered a formal apology for the Roman Catholic Church's role in the abuse of indigenous children at residential schools. Although this apology was seen as a step in the right direction by many people, it is important to recognize the systemic nature of this harmful legacy and the ongoing impacts of the trauma at residential schools that was both instigated and perpetuated by the Government of Canada and religious institutions.
A few weeks ago, I joined the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to raise the survivors' flag on Parliament Hill. This flag honours the survivors and those affected by residential schools. It represents our individual and collective responsibility and also our commitment to advancing reconciliation.
At the flag-raising ceremony, the Prime Minister reminded us that reconciliation is something for every person in Canada and all levels of government to participate in, and that includes every member present in the House today.
We are coming up on the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which is observed on September 30 pursuant to the passage of Bill C-5 last year, and I recognize that there is still much work to be done. Canadians understandably want to see more tangible progress. In particular, we must respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. The national day responds to call to action 80.
As we move forward, we need to be able to measure our progress so that the government and Canada are held accountable for our commitments to indigenous peoples. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wrote in its final report, progress on reconciliation at all levels of government and civil society organizations needs vigilant attention and measurement to determine improvements.
However, as many partners, particularly indigenous organizations, have pointed out, the government cannot evaluate and grade itself when it comes to reconciliation. Independent oversight is necessary and appropriate. That is why, in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked the Parliament of Canada to create a national council for reconciliation, which is exactly what Bill C-29 will do if it is passed. It will establish a national council for reconciliation as an independent, non-political, permanent and indigenous-led organization. The council would monitor the long-term progress being made toward reconciliation here in Canada and evaluate and report on the implementation of the 94 calls to action set out in the commission's report. That is in keeping with what many indigenous leaders have been calling for for many years: greater accountability, greater transparency and a way of holding the Government of Canada to account for the role it plays in reconciliation and the search for the truth.
If passed, this bill will enable the creation of the national council for reconciliation, immediately fulfilling call to action 53. It would also respond to calls to action 54, 55 and 56, which expand on the funding, responsibilities and expectations of transparency for the council and the federal government. The bill would ensure that Canada responds formally to the council's annual report.
I would like to take some time to reflect on the genesis of this legislation. The road to get here required collaboration and a lot of work. Bill C-29 has been in the making for many years.
In 2019, an interim board composed of six notable indigenous leaders, including Dr. Wilton Littlechild, one of the commissioners from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, made recommendations based on their extensive research and public engagement on the council's mandate, governance and operations, which were the basis for a consultation legislative framework. They also recommended the appointment of a transitional committee to advance this initiative.
Last December, I was pleased to announce and support the establishment of this transitional committee. The committee members reviewed the draft framework, engaged with indigenous and non-indigenous technical experts and provided our government with further recommendations that led to the bill we see before us today.
The bill is a culmination of substantial work and many years of advocacy by indigenous leaders, experts and communities in particular. Therefore, establishing the national council for reconciliation is one of the best opportunities to guide us in achieving truth and reconciliation in this country.
The proposed bill defines the process for establishing the council of nine to 13 individuals and sets out parameters to ensure that a diverse range of people are appointed to the first board of directors. The bill states that at least two-thirds of the board must be indigenous and must include the voices of first nations, Inuit and Métis; indigenous organizations, including a nominee each from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council; youth, women, men and gender-diverse people; and people from all regions of Canada, including urban, rural and remote regions.
The council will be tasked with advancing efforts for reconciliation in Canada, including by monitoring and evaluating the government's progress on all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
This means that the council must have access to the relevant information on how governments are fulfilling their own commitments. Our government will have to develop a protocol for disclosing Government of Canada information, not unlike the disclosure of documents regarding residential schools to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in order to hold the government accountable and better understand the legacy of residential schools. I will be responsible for ensuring that the council has the information it needs to do its job. That is imperative.
I also want to point out that the council will be fully independent from the government and will be managed similar to a not-for-profit organization. This means that it will not have any ties to the government or the Crown. The Government of Canada will provide an endowment and initial funding in accordance with call to action 54.
If it is set up as a not-for-profit organization, the council will be required to report annually to Parliament on the progress made on reconciliation in Canada and to make recommendations for advancing reconciliation efforts. It will have to provide annual reports and financial reports to which the government will have to respond. The government will have to respond to the report every year. These reports would help the government set objectives and develop plans to advance reconciliation based on the council's recommendations. This reporting mechanism set out in Bill C‑22 will ensure transparency and accountability as we make progress on the calls to action.
Finally, the bill outlines the purpose and functions of the council. The mission of the council would be to hold the government accountable on reconciliation and the calls to action. The council would be responsible for developing and implementing a multi-year national action plan to advance efforts on reconciliation. The council would also conduct research and engage with partners on the progress being made toward reconciliation in all sectors of Canadian society and, crucially, by all governments. This includes monitoring efforts to implement the calls to action.
The bill is not exhaustive; rather, it is intended to be a flexible framework. The council would have the authority to pursue other measures it deems important and necessary to achieve its purpose.
In closing, I want to emphasize one last important point: We must pass this bill as soon as possible. It has been seven years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its final report and its calls to action. It has been 16 months since the first unmarked graves were discovered in Kamloops. It has been three months since Bill C‑29 was introduced in the House.
With each passing moment, survivors, elders, knowledge-keepers and families are getting older. Many survivors have already passed away without having seen the full scope of our efforts to advance reconciliation. I ask hon. members here today to press forward and support the establishment of the council as quickly as possible. We owe it to the survivors, indigenous peoples and all Canadians.
Finally, I want to thank all residential school survivors, once again, for sharing their truths and their experiences, and I honour those who continue to suffer in silence. Without them, we would not be here today. We see them. We hear them. We believe them.