[Member spoke in Cree]
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by honouring the memory of the late Colten Boushie, because this tragedy, which I have lost sleep over since it happened, is an equally tragic reminder of where things are in this country they call Canada. The underlying discrimination, the denial of rights, and the impoverishment are pervasive in this country for indigenous peoples, as they are for indigenous peoples all over the world. The discrimination and other human rights violations indigenous peoples face or encounter throughout Canada are at crisis levels. It is as simple as that. Indigenous peoples, families, youth, women, and children are all impacted, with ongoing, devastating effects.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be the framework for reconciliation to ensure that present and future generations of indigenous peoples and individuals will be treated as equal to other peoples, while recognizing our right to be different, and respected as such.
Self-determination is not just a word. Self-determination is the most basic human right, for indigenous peoples as well, without which other human rights cannot be fully enjoyed.
There is hope in the words of the Prime Minister, and I thanked him in Cree for those words. While I appreciate the Prime Minister's words today, we need to make sure that this time it is for real. One of the most unacceptable things politicians can do is to quash the hope of the most vulnerable in our society by breaking yet another promise. That cannot happen. I will not let that happen again. We have known that for 150 years. We have faced broken promises for 150 years. Guess what. We will not let that happen again for the next 150 years.
Everyone's friend internationally, Desmond Tutu, once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
The “rising tide of anger” are the words of the Prime Minister. The rising tide of anger we feel in this country at the moment will reach further heights if he does not deliver on his commitments today, because we all know that there is another case coming down for a ruling: Tina Fontaine. I am frightened by the prospect of another negative outcome for indigenous peoples. I am frightened about that moment coming up.
We need to make sure that we deliver on our promises. We need to go from words to action now. I heard the same words from the mouth of the Prime Minister during the last federal election campaign. I heard the same words from the Prime Minister after his election. I heard the same words from the Prime Minister when he spoke in December 2015, after his election, to the Assembly of First Nations. He talked about the United Nations declaration. He talked about delivering on that promise. Let us make sure that it happens for real this time.
There are many files and issues we can fix right now that we could not fix two years ago when the Liberals were elected. They were elected on those promises, yet indigenous peoples in this country continue to face discrimination and injustice. We cannot claim that we are upholding the honour of the crown if we continue to not respect the human rights of indigenous peoples in this country. The denial of the rights of indigenous peoples continues under the current government, despite its promise of real change. I remember those promises. I was in that campaign as well.
We would like to remind members of the resistance of the government to the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It took four compliance orders following the ruling. To give another example, there is a lack of access to the fishing rights of my brothers and sisters in the Nuu-chah-nulth territory on the west coast of British Columbia, despite the fact that they won their court case 10 years ago. Governments have spent millions of dollars fighting this case over the years.
Indigenous women and girls continue to go missing or are murdered. Our youth continue to take their own lives. Free, prior, and informed consent is not being used in major projects, such as Site C, Kinder Morgan, and Muskrat Falls. In fact, we are even threatened by the Minister of Natural Resources if we dare to oppose these projects.
I could go on with the list of things we could fix right away. It is possible. The frameworks are there. Let us start going beyond the MOUs, the framework agreements, the engagement sessions, and the litany of expressions the Liberals have been using. I have negotiated for 30 years with governments and third parties. In our jargon, we call that delay tactics. We call that a policy of “we will do it, eventually.”
I believe in reconciliation. I believe in justice for indigenous peoples. I think we all can agree with those concepts in this country now, since the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There were major recommendations contained in that report we should all endorse right now.
When I say that there are already frameworks in this country, I am talking about the section 35 aboriginal and treaty rights. I am talking about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I am also talking about our treaties. I am talking about our international obligations as a member state of the United Nations. We are signatories to major conventions in that regard. The two international human rights covenants speak to the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples. That is another framework.
Before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established, the Supreme Court of this country, the highest court of this land, talked about reconciliation. In doing so, the Supreme Court said, in the 2004 Haida Nation case, that the objective is “to reconcile pre-existing Aboriginal sovereignty with assumed Crown sovereignty”. “Assumed” is not my word. It is the Supreme Court's.
In the spirit of reconciliation, and also in the spirit of collaboration with the government, I want to propose a couple of suggestions for the work ahead of us. I have always offered my support in collaboration with any party in power, and I continue to do so to this day, especially with regard to the human rights of the first peoples of this country.
The framework should contain several key elements.
The first element is that indigenous peoples' rights are human rights. Let us start using that language in this place and in this country. The human rights of indigenous peoples have been treated as human rights for three decades within the United Nations system. I think we should start doing that today in this country.
The second element is that international human rights standards need to be followed, and not just those contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The third element is that we need special measures. In view of the ongoing impacts of colonization, which we cannot deny, discrimination, land and resource dispossession, and marginalization, the vulnerability and disadvantages of indigenous peoples are exacerbated. Let us recognize that as well. Therefore, special measures are required for a wide range of matters. These would include safeguarding the cultures, languages, and land and resource rights of indigenous peoples.
The fourth element is equality and non-discrimination, as affirmed in the preamble of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such
That is a direct quote from the preamble of the UN declaration.
The Prime Minister has often said that cultural diversity in this country is important to him. There is yet another opportunity to maintain, protect, and promote the indigenous languages in this country, and we need to do that collaboratively. Again, as a Cree language speaker, I can assist the Prime Minister in this endeavour.
The fifth element is repudiation of the doctrine of superiority. Both the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the UN declaration condemn these doctrines as invalid and scientifically false.
The sixth element is consultation and co-operation, and the Prime Minister mentioned that.
The seventh element is that the free, prior, and informed consent concept needs to be acknowledged, endorsed, and embraced in our country. In many cases, after full and fair consideration of the rights of all those involved, the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples must prevail.
The eighth element is environment and development, which is important. In order to achieve sustainable and equitable development from an indigenous perspective, environmental protection must constitute an integral part of the development process. It cannot considered in isolation from it.
The ninth element is legislative and other measures. Again, the Prime Minister talked about that today, and I thank him for that. We need to do that in order to move forward as a nation.
The 10th element is a human rights-based approach. The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues underlined that at the international, regional, and national levels, the human rights of indigenous peoples were always relevant if such rights were at risk of being undermined. Let us recall that again.
The 11th element is that there needs to be some form of restitution of lands and territories. That is also in the UN declaration. It is also says that when it is not possible, just, fair, and equitable compensation needs to happen for indigenous peoples.
Finally, is the revitalization of indigenous languages and cultures. The UN declaration articles 11 to 14 affirm that indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize their languages and cultures, and states have obligations to take effective measures in this regard. Such actions serve to reinforce indigenous peoples' rights to live in peace and security as distinct peoples. All peoples, including indigenous peoples, contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures around the world.
[Member speaks in Cree]
Very briefly, those concluding remarks were words of thanks and gratitude for me to be able to stand in this place, as a person who was born literally on the land under a tent some 50-more years ago, and to speak in the House and with the Prime Minister. I am very grateful for that. It has been a long journey.
I offer my collaboration to the government to achieve those commitments expressed by the Prime Minister. One of the most beautiful words in Cree is NaweeDjawaagan, which means he or she who walks by my side. I offer my friendship to all of us.