Mr. Speaker, I am certainly honoured to stand in this place today to speak to Bill C-374, an act to amend the Historic Sites and Monuments Act. I know that the bill has its inspiration in a very practical call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is from recommendation 79, which reads:
We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage in commemoration. This would include, but not be limited to: i. Amending the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and its Secretariat.
Currently the board consists of one representative from each of our provinces and territories but no formal representation from indigenous peoples or organizations. This would add three more seats to the table: one for first nations, one for Métis, and one for Inuit.
I know from my colleague on the opposite side of the House that this issue is very near and dear to his heart. We all bring our life experiences to our work in this chamber in making decisions on behalf of our constituents and all Canadians. For him, it is over 30 years at Parks Canada, including the last 10 with historic sites. He saw the need to increase the voices of Canadians in making, frankly, very important and challenging decisions about which places to protect, which individuals to promote, and which stories to preserve for future generations.
I agree that this is a significant, practical step toward long-term reconciliation. That is why I am looking forward to supporting my colleague's private member's bill. I want to congratulate him and his team for bringing it before us today.
l will take a moment to talk about a project I undertook over the past year. I wanted to find an appropriate way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation in my riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. I know that for many indigenous peoples, it was something they were somewhat hesitant to celebrate, but we wanted to make sure that we had an inclusive conversation.
With my team, we decided that we wanted to recognize 50 people, 50 places, and 50 events across our communities. Among these, I explored the trails near the ice caves on Bridge Lake, known to local first nations as the entrance to the bear world. I will not try to pronounce the indigenous word, because it is not up to the standard that would be expected.
I watched the unveiling of stunning totem poles carved by local artist Jerome Boyce. I visited the Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park. This is situated along the South Thompson River in a building that was once the Kamloops Indian Residential School, where first nations children were taken after they were removed from their homes, their families, and their culture. I welcome my colleagues to visit that area with me when they are in Kamloops.
For me, the Secwepemc site symbolizes that not all Canadians have had the opportunity for their history to be celebrated, and this is a key area where the Historic Sites and Monuments Board could do good work.
We are at a pivotal time. Communities across the country are struggling with challenging questions of what to do with the awkward, messy, painful parts of our history. They are looking at statues, at plaques, and at other memorials that have for many years been at the centre of our communities. There are serious questions. How do we commemorate the accomplishments of men and women while learning from their failures? How do we recognize that Canada's history, and its very creation, was shaped by imperfect people?
One hundred and fifty years of Canadian history have passed, and now is the opportunity to chart a path forward for the next 150 years. Part of that, I believe, is ensuring that there are more voices at the table to make these vital decisions. There is definitely reason for hope.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board has evolved several times since its genesis in 1919. I would like to point out that there are currently, I believe, six female members of the board, but for the last 30 years, it typically consisted of white men of European descent, as was typical for that period. It certainly could be argued that the merits of national commemoration of individuals and locations came from that vantage point.
We have come a long way since then, and now we are looking to add voices specifically from indigenous peoples, voices that could help provide a more complete picture of the journey Canada has taken: the moments to celebrate and the failures from which to learn. Commemorating and recognizing the history of Canada's indigenous peoples is a key step along the road of reconciliation, and that is why the TRC made it part of its calls to action.
I was very proud to be a member of the former Conservative government when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created. I stood in the room and listened to former prime minister Stephen Harper's powerful apology on behalf of the government. Actually, I was not quite elected yet, but I certainly watched. I did not stand in this room, but I was certainly profoundly impacted, like so many others.
I heard, too, the apology for Canada's relocation of Inuit families to the high Arctic and the honouring of all Métis veterans at Juno Beach. As I said in this place on February 14, “The contributions and challenges of Canada's indigenous peoples were, and must continue to be, recognized and addressed.”
This is just a small step. Much more work will need to be done. We firmly believe that economic reconciliation must be part of this journey. Governments at all levels and private businesses can empower indigenous communities to share in the wealth Canada is so capable of creating for its citizens. Conservatives can and will urge the government in its consultations to consider what impediments exist to the financial success of indigenous communities and how they can be removed. That would ensure long-term prosperity rather than continued reliance on short-term solutions. It is in this way that the horrific poverty so pervasive in this country can be reduced.
We know that there were a number of calls to action put forward as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We have made a good journey toward many of them. I know that the government indicated that it was going to implement all 94 calls to action. One of my concerns is that the Liberals have never really come out with a costed plan that indicates what the implementation will be and what the impacts will be. I still wait for a more comprehensive look at how they have analyzed those 94 calls to action and what the impacts will be, what laws will have to change, and what the financial implications will be. Certainly there are many of them that we, as Conservatives, on this side of the House are very pleased to support. The private member's bill that has been put forward is a welcome and good step in the right direction, and I would again like to congratulate the member.