Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-369, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Indigenous People Day), introduced by the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.
The bill proposes to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code to modify the definition of holidays within each of these acts to include National Indigenous Peoples Day as part of these definitions. As a result, it would establish National Indigenous Peoples Day as a paid non-working holiday for approximately 904,000 employees working in the federally regulated private sector. This represents about 6% of Canada's workforce.
National Indigenous Peoples Day has been celebrated across Canada for 21 years. In 1996, the Government of Canada, in co-operation with national indigenous organizations, designated June 21, the summer solstice, as a day to recognize indigenous peoples in Canada. This day was designated National Aboriginal Day by way of a proclamation signed by the Right Hon. Roméo LeBlanc, the then Governor General of Canada, on the advice of the Queen's Privy Council. In 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the government intended to rename June 21 National Indigenous Peoples Day.
This day aims to highlight the unique and significant heritage, cultures, and contributions of first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day fosters greater knowledge and understanding of our history and of the traditions and customs that played a key role in shaping the country we know today as Canada. It provides the perfect opportunity to learn about the people, places, and events that are a part of the history of our land and it permits us to realize the importance that diversity plays in our great country.
National Indigenous Peoples Day is one of the four celebrate Canada days. This suite of special days starts on June 21 with National Indigenous Peoples Day and includes Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day on June 24, Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27, and Canada Day on July 1. The celebrate Canada days put a spotlight on Canada's diverse cultures. They help us honour the heritage and backgrounds of those who came before us and those who continue to strive for a Canada that is reflective of all its citizens, a Canada that is truly inclusive.
Celebrations in 2017 were an opportunity for a greater number of Canadians to participate in activities in all parts of the country. Indeed, as we marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation, more Canadians than ever took part in community events and celebrations on National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Through its celebrate Canada program, the Government of Canada made such investments so as to provide funding for over 1,700 community celebrations in 2017. Events were held in each province and territory. Additionally, high impact events marking the day were held in eight cities across Canada and were broadcast through a partnership with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and through social media. An unprecedented 1.2 million Canadians had the chance to take in these celebrations.
Every year, there is a wide range of activities on offer, including ceremonies, cultural displays, and stage performances. These activities highlight the traditions and contemporary vision of indigenous peoples. They give children and families a chance to taste foods, listen to stories, and marvel at the art and artistry of the descendants of the first inhabitants of this land.
From traditional smudging ceremonies to concerts, National Indigenous Peoples Day showcases a broad spectrum of indigenous culture and proves that it is alive and important.
The legacy of residential schools is a stain on our past and we must seize every chance we get to rebuild relationships between indigenous communities and the rest of Canada. As the Prime Minister has stated, no relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with indigenous peoples.
In 2015, the truth and reconciliation commission presented a report that included 94 calls to action to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation. The Government of Canada committed to implementing these recommendations, including call to action 80 that urges the federal government, in collaboration with aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a national day for truth and reconciliation to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure the public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
To that end, the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has introduced a bill to make National Indigenous Peoples Day a paid statutory holiday for some of Canada's workforce, namely federally regulated private-sector employees.
Under the Canadian constitutional framework, this is the first step in establishing a new statutory holiday. It is important to note that in order for us to designate this day as a paid holiday for all Canadians, federal public service collective agreements have to be amended, and the provinces and territories have to amend their respective laws if they have not done so already.
I should note that June 21 has been a paid statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories since 2001 and in Yukon since 2017.
I am pleased to contribute to today's debate and to call upon the House to carefully consider all the implications of the bill before us. I think we can aspire to an outcome that is aligned with the commitment to renew the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, and co-operation in the same way the designation of National Indigenous Peoples Day 21 years ago was the result of a process that engaged and co-operated with the community.