Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C‑29, an act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation. This council will monitor progress being made towards reconciliation across all sectors of Canada and support the sustainable implementation of measures to foster long-term reconciliation. I believe these elements are important, particularly in the context of the ruling that has been handed down, which somewhat neglects the long-term aspect.
There is no question that the current government has adopted a reckless strategy. One could argue that it has gotten off to a rocky start. Bill C‑29 still suffers from a serious flaw: The national reconciliation council is woefully lacking in representation. In its current form, three seats are reserved for national organizations, and this Liberal government collaborates with them almost exclusively on indigenous issues. That is not enough. Other voices, notably those of urban and disadvantaged populations, are being left out. Reconciliation cannot move forward if we continue to divide and exclude certain groups of people. The government should not play the role of judge and jury in deciding who is indigenous and who is not. The Supreme Court already ruled on that issue in the 2016 Daniels decision.
This government, which claims to be committed to a reconciliation process, only recognizes persons affiliated with the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami or the Métis National Council as indigenous. By placing indigenous peoples in an order of priority, the Canadian government is openly pursuing a divide and conquer strategy. It is fuelling internal discord by favouring some groups over others. This deplorable approach stands in stark contrast to the spirit of reconciliation and mutual respect that we aspire to achieve as a society. When most murdered and missing women come from urban centres, why is the government relegating crucial entities like the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples to the back burner?
As we know, members of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples were prevented from participating in the summit. They had to fight for it. I joined them in the same room yesterday so that they could attend via Zoom. Both the summit and the Zoom meeting took place in the same building, the Shaw Centre. People went there to mourn, yet had the doors to an event organized by the federal department shut on them. Where are the voices that should be representing the full scope of Métis and indigenous interests?
Of course, funding is always an important issue. However, when it comes to Bill C‑29 in particular, it is clear that this is about more than just money. It is about representing all women and giving them a voice, especially those who are marginalized and experience violence in urban centres. They deserve not only to be heard, but also to have justice served. The same goes for young people, seniors and two-spirit people. It is ironic to talk about reconciliation while actively excluding certain individuals. This approach reinforces the hierarchy of groups that is not only unfair, but also profoundly destructive to our social fabric. As observers of this situation, it is our duty to denounce these practices and to promote a true spirit of justice and reconciliation. We must remain vigilant and never lose sight of our common goal, which is to create a society in which every individual is respected and included.
As I was saying earlier, there was unanimity on Bill C‑29 when it was passed. Again, there should be consensus on what the Senate brought to it. I am having a hard time figuring out the Conservatives' position. They have become very critical of the government regarding a bill that they supported roughly a year ago. The amendment, which was adopted in the Senate by a vote of 36 to 32, with six abstentions, provides that Bill C‑29, as amended, be amended again in the preamble, at page 1, by replacing lines 2 and 3 with the following: “Whereas, since time immemorial, Indigenous peoples—and, post-contact, the Métis Nation—have thrived on...their Indigenous lands”. The text continues unchanged from its previous version.
Essentially, this amendment modifies the preamble by setting out the timeline of when the Métis nation appeared, which was later than the first nations and Inuit in America. This amendment has no legislative impact in itself. However, it is interesting to see that it is important for certain first nations who seem to want to emphasize the fact that they were here first, as though the Métis are a little less legitimate. That said, it is still a form of inclusion, and the Bloc Québécois will be voting in favour of this amendment.
I want to reiterate the principles behind our support for Bill C‑29. The Bloc Québécois is a strong advocate of a nation-to-nation relationship between Quebec, Ottawa and indigenous nations. Giving indigenous peoples an additional voice in the reconciliation process is entirely consistent with the Bloc's position. The Bloc Québécois works with indigenous nations on the federal level to strengthen and guarantee their inherent rights. The Bloc Québécois is committed to ensuring that the federal government fully implements the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in areas of federal responsibility.
The Bloc Québécois has also come out in support of indigenous nations receiving their due, and we will continue to put pressure on the federal government to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. On June 21, 2021, the Bloc Québécois 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 that regard. The Bloc Québécois also announced that we want to ensure that there will be predictable and sustainable funding for programs to help residential school survivors heal, such as the health support program that was specially designed for that purpose. This bill would establish a council to provide ongoing follow-up for this file. Since the bill proposes the creation of a council that can only make recommendations, there is nothing binding in this bill. Supporting this bill only confirms our position as an ally with the indigenous nations of Quebec and Canada.
As far as matters regarding truth and reconciliation are concerned, I want to note that there are different groups that are interested in those, including back home in Abitibi‑Témiscamingue. A committee made up primarily of university researchers and people from civil society was formed to independently document the implementation of these calls to action. The committee specifically focused on the Viens commission, which was held in Quebec because a discussion was needed in order to understand what had happened. There have been several defining events, including what happened to Ms. Echaquan.
That committee is based at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, and I applaud the university's leadership. Not only is it our very own university, but it is one of the first in the world to adopt a decolonial vision of relations with indigenous peoples. I think this very forward-thinking approach is definitely part of the solution in the context of reconciliation.
Yes, I have only recently taken on this responsibility, but I contacted my university to make sure I understood all the nuances and subtleties well enough to play this role. I feel this is also about being a facilitator or intermediary. Our role as elected members of the House of Commons is important, especially when it comes to relations with indigenous peoples. Right now, reconciliation is an issue that should matter to us all, regardless of where we are or where we come from. I commend the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue for its leadership.
I am sure there will be recommendations we will have to take into account. For this bill, we will support the government on this amendment and its inclusion. However, I urge the government to be open about its next steps so we can all be as inclusive as possible within our own territory while respecting the jurisdiction of the governments of Quebec, the provinces and Canada, as well as the indigenous communities themselves, which aspire to greater autonomy within their territory.