moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, today is indeed a good day. Today I am proud to rise on behalf of my constituents in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River to present my private member's bill for one last time in the House of Commons.
This was a journey that began what feels like ages ago, and there is a sense of comfort as this stage of our work together on this comes to an end.
It is not lost on me, and it should not be lost on all our hon. colleagues in Parliament, that it was not too far from here that Canada's system of residential schools was created. It was in these halls that political leaders from across Canada decided that the cultures of first nations, Métis and Inuit people had no place in Canada. It was in the chambers not too far from here that leaders spoke for hours about how first nations, Métis and Inuit people were not deserving enough to speak their own languages. Not too far from here a Canadian prime minister stood with the backing of his party and decided that first nations, Métis and Inuit people needed to be silenced, separated and struck down.
Today I stand here with a small amount of pride and a great amount of humility knowing that history is back on the course of justice. Today is the result of countless hours of consultation with my elders, with my constituents and with the history of our people. Today is another step toward our multipartisan effort to fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action number 80. Today's bill is the product of a multi-party effort to best honour the legacy of residential schools, to honour survivors and to think about how to do right by indigenous people in Canada for generations to come.
I want to thank the members of the Canadian heritage committee for the thoughtful consideration and time they put in to making my bill happen. No single individual or political party can claim ownership of how we proceed on our path toward true reconciliation. Reconciliation is a goal that we all have an obligation to work toward and reflect on. This includes not only us as members of Parliament, but also our staff and everyone who works for the Government of Canada.
My bill will affect those of us in the federal service, because it was this government that decided to persecute and oppress the first nations, Métis and Inuit people across Canada. It is a tragedy that we all must atone for, and we must all work together toward fixing the systemic racism that is so commonly found in Canada's colonial government.
I do not want to give the impression that today is the end of our journey toward reconciliation. In the grand scheme of things, we have achieved very little on our journey. Everyone will shake hands and pat each other's backs after today, just as they did after the heritage committee, and claim victory in the name of political points. However, working on reconciliation is not a political platform. It is a moral obligation to do the right thing.
It is also worth noting that our work on the national day of truth and reconciliation is far from over. When I first proposed my bill, it was clear to me after my consultations that June 21 should be a statutory holiday. June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, is a day that has been chosen by first nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada because there is spiritual significance for many related to the summer solstice.
Knowing this, the Government of Canada funds nationwide celebrations from coast to coast to coast. The government provides the funding for first nations, Métis and Inuit people to publicly celebrate who they are, where they come from and where they will be tomorrow. These celebrations would take place anyway, but that the government has a system for non-indigenous people to participate in our celebrations is well thought out and welcome.
However, such a funding system is not currently in place for the national day of truth and reconciliation. The government has made a public commitment that this holiday will be taking place this year, but we have yet to see any action on what the government plans to do on this new holiday. This is particularly important because our intention was never to just give federal employees another day off work; it was intended to be a day for federal employees to engage with the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities that surround them so they could better understand the system of oppression that still exists.
An empty commitment from the government is not acceptable. Without clear guidance from the government, done with the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people, this holiday will mean nothing if federal employees are not engaged in a meaningful way with the history and legacy of residential schools. I, along with my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, call on all members of Parliament to put the work in and make sure that this holiday is meaningful.
There is also concern, and I have heard this from a number of my constituents, that limiting this holiday to just employees of the federal government is not a comprehensive response to call to action number 80. I fully recognize the limits of the federal government. We do not have the ability to legislate for the provinces in this matter, but I believe that we should do everything within our power to talk to our friends within the provincial governments to take up this call to action themselves.
It was not just the federal government that carried out the harm against first nations, Métis and Inuit children in residential schools. Provincial education boards and employees were directly responsible for much of the harm that has been caused. Everyone who has a seat in this chamber has an obligation to reflect on this holiday but also an obligation to have difficult conversations with their friends, families and their own elected representatives so that all people across Canada will have the time to appropriately think about the impact of residential schools that continues to be felt. We owe that to survivors. We owe that to victims. We owe that to Canada.
My last concern is likely the most important concern I have, and it has to do with the scope of the holiday. I first proposed June 21 as the date of this holiday, because National Indigenous Peoples Day is inclusive of the overwhelming majority of first nations, Métis and Inuit people from across Canada. Changing the holiday to September 30 and renaming it the national day of truth and reconciliation would not be harmful on its own, but it does make me wonder about those indigenous people who have had their culture taken from them by the federal government outside of residential schools.
In particular, I think about the survivors of boarding schools and day schools who are still waiting for the government to listen to their stories. I think about all the children who were taken from their families as part of the sixties scoop, forever taken from their families, their cultures, and their languages. Yes, this day of reconciliation would be good, but would it be inclusive of their truth and stories? I very much look forward to continuing to have these discussions with people across northern Saskatchewan, and I invite all members of Parliament to open their hearts and their ears and invite these stories to come into their lives.
I have expressed these concerns in the past to committee members, and they have provided me with assurances that these are conversations the government wants to have. It is with great honour that I accept my job as the member of Parliament for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River to hold the government to account and make sure that it meets the full intention of what this holiday would work so hard to achieve. It is not a small task, and it must be taken seriously and with the highest amount of respect. I will be watching, indigenous people will be watching and all of Canada will be watching.
At this point, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the amendments to the bill and speak to why the bill should pass through this chamber and head over to the other place.
When I introduced my bill here a few years ago, I proposed that June 21 be the statutory holiday, for reasons I outlined previously in my comments today. At that time, the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress for Aboriginal Peoples, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and many other prominent indigenous organizations and people across this country all called for the creation of June 21 as a statutory holiday recognizing National Indigenous Peoples Day.
I do not view amending this bill to make September 30 a national day of truth and reconciliation as a bad thing, so long as the government adequately addresses the concerns I raised earlier in my comments. What I was hoping to achieve with my bill was to begin a national conversation about a holiday honouring survivors and the legacy of residential schools, and today's debate shows that this is something we have achieved together.
I am very happy to see that the democratic process worked and that we had a public conversation, through the committee process, about this holiday. As the Minister of Heritage himself has said, imperfect bills are presented and amended through the committees of this House. That is how our democracy is supposed to work, and with regard to this bill, it has worked.
At committee, we heard from elders, national indigenous organizations, indigenous women's organizations, labour unions, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and a number of chiefs from across Canada. The overwhelming response from them was that September 30 should be a day of truth and reconciliation.
There are a number of people across Canada who may be upset that this bill has been changed, and with them I empathize. I put forward the best case I could for June 21 and National Indigenous Peoples Day, but after a lot of thinking and a lot of consultation, we have, in my opinion, really and truly identified an appropriate date for this holiday to take place. My door is always open to continue having this conversation, because it is far from over. It is my commitment to my constituents to always be there to listen.
One of the best lessons I have taken away from this consultation process is the idea that there is a difference between days of celebration and days of mourning. June 21 as an established day of celebration has its place. A day of truth and reconciliation cannot be included within existing celebrations. For this reason, I welcome the amendments to the bill.
As I have said before, September 30 has become more and more recognized across the country as a day to reconcile with our history. In both northern Saskatchewan and here in Ottawa, I was very encouraged to see so many people in orange shirts saying to the world that what happened to first nations, Metis, and Inuit children and families was unacceptable. I am so encouraged by the work of others to improve the lives of indigenous children across Canada. I am inspired by people like Dr. Cindy Blackstock, who has dedicated so much of her life to working towards child welfare in Canada. I also think often about the work that elders, friendship centres, indigenous culture camps and educators do across the country to bring young people back into the culture of their family. I think about Kevin Lewis, who runs a program like this in northern Saskatchewan.
I also think about the indigenous activists in Canada who have fought so hard to make sure that indigenous voices are heard by this government. I think of the indigenous women who refused to stay idle when the government threatened their land and indigenous sovereignty. I think of the stolen sisters, who remind us every day of generations of indigenous women who continue to live on in our hearts. I think of people like Colleen Hele-Cardinal, who worked almost single-handedly to make sure that survivors of the sixties scoop see the justice they are owed.
I say all this to remind the members of this House of the context in which our debate today takes place. First nations, Métis and Inuit people have been fighting so hard for so long for their people. To establish this day of truth and reconciliation is not to pat ourselves on the back. It is to give ourselves the opportunity to learn more about their work and how we can incorporate their ideas so that indigenous people can have justice and tell survivors of residential schools that what we have done to them will never happen again.
The calls to action put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are not a checklist of things to be achieved. Completing just one call to action is not a step towards progress. Until the day all calls to action are completed, we have very little to celebrate. Today we feel good, but tomorrow we must work harder. Today we look toward a brighter future, but tomorrow we must work harder to make life better for first nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada.
On September 30, we will remember and honour the past and future, but on every other day of the year we must fight to reverse the injustices committed against the indigenous people in Canada.