Updates on Key Legislation pertaining to First Nations
Please note: LEGISinfo, a website maintained by the Library of Parliament, provides comprehensive information on all legislation: http://www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/Home.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&ParliamentSession=41-2
Bill C-32: Canadian Victims Bill of Rights Act
- Passed 3rd reading in the Senate on April 22, 2015, Received Royal Assent on April 23, 2015.
- The Bill creates a Victims Bill of Rights that outlines specific rights for victims of crime, including accessing information about the criminal justice system and programs and services, information about the status of investigations and criminal proceedings, protection from intimidation and retaliation, right to have views considered, the right to present a victim impact statement and to make a restitution order.
- The Bill amends sentencing principles in the Criminal Code, including s. 718.2(e) that directs consideration to the unique circumstances of Aboriginal offenders. There is concern that this proposed amendment would be confusing and would interfere with the intention of flexibility in sentencing for Aboriginal offenders particularly coupled with recent introduction of mandatory minimums.
Bill C-33: First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act
- Passed 2nd reading on May 5, 2014. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development announced that the bill will be held pending clarification of the position of First Nations. The pre-study initiated by the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has also been put on hold.
Bill C-46: Pipelines Safety Act
- Completed review by the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources and is currently at 3rd reading in the Senate. Regional Chief Cameron Alexis presented to the Committee on June 2, 2015. Transcripts and AFN’s submission are attached.
- The Bill introduces absolute liability for all NEB-regulated pipelines, meaning that companies will be liable for costs and damages irrespective of fault — up to $1 billion for major oil pipelines; companies continue to have unlimited liability when at fault or negligent; provides the NEB authority to order reimbursement of any cleanup costs incurred by governments, communities or individuals; and provides the NEB authority and resources to assume control of incident response if a company is unable or unwilling to do so (i.e., in exceptional circumstances).
Bill C-51: Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015
- Currently at 3rd reading in the Senate.
- Small amendments at the House of Commons committee included removing the word “lawful” from the greater certainty clause under the Definitions in Part 1, which now reads: For greater certainty, it does not include advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.
- National Chief Bellegarde presented to the committee on March 12, 2015 and a written submission has been provided to the House of Commons and Senate committees. These are available on www.afn.ca.
- Under Part 1 of the ATA 2015, an “activity that undermines the security of Canada” includes: (a) interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada; (b) changing or unduly influencing a government in Canada by force or unlawful means; (d) terrorism; (f) interference with critical infrastructure. This definition could be problematic for First Nations who have marched across or set up blockades at the border of the United States and Canada, First Nations who have called for action on a specific file by setting up a blockade along a major highway, or who block access to a road or railway.
- There is also a concern that that Bill C-51 would criminalize speech and intent, not just action; lower the requirement to detain people without due process; and allow security agencies unrestricted access to Canadians’ tax records, online communication, and travel plans.
Bill C-59: Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1
- Omnibus bill to implement provisions of Budget 2015; currently at Report Stage in the House of Commons.
- Division 16 amends the First Nations Fiscal Management Act – many of these amendments have been proposed by the First Nations Financial Management Board, the First Nations Tax Commission and the First Nations Finance Authority. An assessment of the impacts of these changes is under way.
Bill S-6: Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act.
- Currently at 3rd Reading in the House of Commons; scheduled for vote on June 10, 2015.
- Amends the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act to provide that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 does not apply in Yukon, to allow for the coordination of reviews of transboundary projects, to establish time limits for environmental assessments and to establish a cost recovery regime.
- Yukon First Nations have assessed that the Bill infringes their Treaty rights and has been imposed without Crown consultation and accommodation.
Private Member Bills
Bill C-628: An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the National Energy Board Act (oil transportation and pipeline certificate)
- Defeated at 2nd reading in the House of Commons on April 1, 2015.
- Would amend the National Energy Board Act to ensure that consultations must take place between the Government of Canada and First Nations whose lands or waters will be affected by a pipeline.
Bill C-639: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of critical infrastructures)
- Introduced December 3, 2014 by Wai Young (Vancouver South)
- Act would create an offence of damaging any part of critical infrastructure, with a minimum fine of $3,000 and maximum imprisonment of 10 years. If such damage is deemed to cause a danger to life, it could result in life imprisonment.
- Critical infrastructure is very broadly defined as: “privately owned facility, network, service or asset that provides or distributes services for the benefit of the public, including services relating to energy, telecommunications, finance, health care, food, water, transportation, public safety, government and manufacturing, the disruption of which could produce serious adverse economic effects or endanger the health or safety of Canadians.”
- This Act could be used to target First Nations engaging in civil disobedience, lawful protest or blockades.
Bill C-641: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act
- Defeated at 2nd reading in the House of Commons on May 6, 2015.
- Would require the Government of Canada to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and for the Government to table a report on its progress between 2016 – 2036.
- Requires the Government of Canada to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs must prepare an annual report to Parliament for the next four years reviewing progress in implementing this law.
Highlights in the House of Commons
June 1, 2015
Mr. Speaker, the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on the Indian residential school system will be released tomorrow.
The testimony of more than 7,000 people was heard. There are thousands of stories about children being taken from their families and forced to deny their culture and language. Many of them were physically and sexually abused. This is a veritable tragedy and a blot on Canada’s history.
Will the Prime Minister seize this opportunity and finally answer the call of our first nations?
Mr. Speaker, the record will show that in 2008, on behalf of all Canadians, the Prime Minister apologized to all survivors, their families and the communities affected by this dark chapter in Canadian history.
We know that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is finishing its work this week, and it is important for all Canadians to continue supporting reconciliation.
Mr. Speaker, Commissioner Murray Sinclair was clear: “…it takes more than words. In addition to the apology, there has to be atonement and there has to be action”.
First nations have been dismayed by the government’s failure to embrace reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had to go to court to get key documents released. Victims have been denied compensation or treated with suspicion and hostility.
Will the government change its attitude and work with first nations to achieve reconciliation?
Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister made an historic apology on behalf of all Canadians in 2008, the government recognized that the Indian residential schools caused great harm and had no place in Canada.
While we cannot undo the past, we can learn from it, and we are taking steps necessary to bring closure to the legacy of the Indian residential schools.
We encourage all Canadians to continue promoting reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, the reality is that since the 2008 apology, little has changed for indigenous people. The legacy of residential schools is still present today in high rates of poverty and unemployment, in the high number of children in foster care, and the unacceptably high number of missing and murdered indigenous women.
If the government is serious about reconciliation, it will have to do a lot more to show it.
Will the government commit to honouring the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
Mr. Speaker, we welcome the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and we thank the commissioners for their hard work in uncovering and documenting the truth about residential schools in Canada.
We look forward to receiving a full report to be able to fully understand and respond to the recommendations.
Mr. Speaker, the government’s record following the apology does not give a lot of hope. According to National Chief Bellegarde, “The relationship has not improved to the point where we can say reconciliation has started”.
Last year, the government spent hundreds of millions of dollars fighting aboriginal and treaty rights. That is not how to build a relationship.
Will the government work with aboriginal peoples to build a new relationship that is founded on respect and reconciliation?
Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, our government remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools.
As acknowledged by the Prime Minister on behalf of all Canadians in 2008, there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential school system to ever prevail again.
While this is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s closing event, the work to heal the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians needs to continue. The government will continue to fulfill its obligations as set out in the agreement.
Mr. Speaker, the government must take this opportunity to take a serious look at its chronic failure to act.
Some 20 years after the last residential school closed, education programs for first nations children are receiving less money than those for other children. The same goes for health care and social services. There can be no reconciliation when we are constantly being treated as second-class citizens.
Will the government ever do something to ensure that every child has the same chance for success?
Mr. Speaker, I believe that the report will show that we have made a significant effort to improve the situation for first nations members and aboriginal people across Canada.
In fact, not so long ago, in the budget before this one, we proposed a major investment to ensure that first nations children had the same degree of education and services as other Canadians.
Unfortunately, for reasons beyond our control, we were unable to move forward with this initiative, but we are continuing to work with first nations on improving the situation.
Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will release the long-anticipated report of its important work. Canadians will learn a great deal about the truth of this dark chapter in Canadian history. However, essential work lies ahead in order to achieve genuine reconciliation.
Would the government commit to following up on the symbolism of the apology with concrete actions to facilitate real healing for the survivors and their families, and to engaging all Canadians in the real work of reconciliation?
Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, we welcome the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We thank the commissioners and the survivors who came forward to tell their stories because it was time that all Canadians know the truth about that sad legacy of Canada.
The government remains committed to working with first nations, all aboriginal peoples across Canada, to address the challenges that we all inherited as a people living in Canada on account of that history. What is important is working in partnership in the future. That is what we are committed to do.
Mr. Speaker, the lack of resources for health care is a blatant example of the Conservatives’ disastrous record with the first nations.
The Auditor General has pointed out that the government does not have any tools to measure the quality of health care services provided to the first nations. The clinics are not even all inspected, and those that have serious problems are left to fend for themselves.
Will the government finally provide adequate health care to our first nations?
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to the health and safety of all Canadians.
I think it is important to note that we provide over $2.5 billion every year toward programs and services for aboriginal health. This includes access to essential nursing services, home and community care, and $34.5 million to improve the quality of health services.
Again, I think we are making many important measures in terms of the health of our aboriginal communities.
Mr. Speaker, what we have seen over and over again from the government is total incompetence to manage even the most basic components of health care for first nations, like making sure they have functioning clinics with the necessary equipment.
I will just give one example. Portable ultrasound machines have finally been ordered for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, but instead of delivering them to communities where they are needed the most, the government has left them stranded in a Sioux Lookout depot.
When will the government actually deliver the scanners to the communities that urgently need them?
Mr. Speaker, in partnership with our aboriginal communities, we continue to support many important measures in terms of the quality of the capital and the equipment that is needed.
Again, I would like to point out the very important partnership that we do have. I look to British Columbia as a great example, where the First Nations Health Authority is actually assuming some of the responsibility for the equipment and pieces for care.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand before you to reaffirm our government’s commitment to advancing reconciliation with aboriginal people who suffered from the residential school system.
This week marks the closing event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This event marks a significant milestone in the successful implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and in meeting the goal of moving towards healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of the residential school system in Canada.
Today, to all former students who have come forward to speak about their experiences, to all who have shown extraordinary courage and resilience, to their families, and to everyone who has suffered from the impacts of this very dark chapter in our history, I would like to offer a statement of reconciliation.
The strength, determination, and resilience they and many former students I have met shared in discussing their experiences and in talking about the legacy of the Indian residential schools is admirable. These qualities are necessary to ensure that Canadians have a greater understanding of the long-standing harms caused by the Indian residential school system for aboriginal people across Canada.
On June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada, and all Canadians, for the forcible removal of aboriginal children from their homes and communities to attend Indian residential schools.
In this historic apology, the Prime Minister recognized that there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential school system to ever prevail again.
The apology affirmed Canada’s commitment to joining aboriginal peoples on a journey of healing towards reconciliation.
The commission was mandated with a unique opportunity to educate all Canadians on the Indian residential schools to forge a new relationship between aboriginal peoples and other Canadians. While this is the commission’s closing event, the work to heal the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians must continue.
On this day, let us commit to taking one more step together to rebuild the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. This renewed relationship requires sharing the truth.
Compiled through the work of the commission, the historical record of Indian residential schools made possible by the thousands of individuals who courageously came forward to tell their stories is an achievement of national significance. This profound and lasting record will help Canadians toward renewed relationships based on understanding and respect.
Reconciliation is a goal that will take the commitment of multiple generations, and the Government of Canada understands the importance of transforming how it works with aboriginal people and shifting attitudes and perceptions among all Canadians.
Reconciliation is an active process that requires ongoing engagement. The government looks forward to continuing dialogue with all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, about advancing reconciliation.
To that end, Canada is committed to working toward reconciliation, building on the Prime Minister‘s historic 2008 apology to former students of Indian residential schools, their families and communities. This will be achieved by acknowledging, learning from and addressing past wrongs, being responsive to aboriginal peoples’ expressed needs and priorities, actively engaging Canadians in reconciliation efforts, and commemorating the significant contributions of aboriginal peoples and cultures to Canadian society.
The stained glass window installed in the Centre Block of Parliament is a poignant reminder of the true meaning of reconciliation, not only for the members of Parliament who enter through the door above which it sits, but for all Canadians.
I am confident that we will be able to continue healing as a nation, building on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is in this spirit that Canada pledges that it will continue its efforts to advance reconciliation.
To that end, Canada is committed to working towards reconciliation.
Mr. Speaker, meegwetch. As I always do when I rise in this House, in this august place, I want to first acknowledge that this House sits on unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin territory of the Anishnabeg. In fact, in the spirit of true reconciliation, we should consider making that acknowledgement the norm whenever we rise in this House.
Allow me to thank the minister for his statement today and, with equal importance, express my gratitude to the minister for his participation in the Walk for Reconciliation yesterday afternoon, meegwetch.
As a survivor of the residential school system, I especially want to acknowledge and welcome to Ottawa the many fellow survivors who will be in town this week along with their families and friends. I pay homage to my fellow survivors. Very few Canadians realize that since our days in residential school, the TRC events for many of us are the only moments we get together again or the only moments we see one another again to share our stories, to say something that many members may take for granted: we are still here; we made it.
Members will have guessed that as a survivor it is with great anticipation that I await the release of the commission’s report tomorrow, and I want to take this opportunity to thank Justice Sinclair, Commissioner Wilson and Commissioner Littlechild for their hard work and commitment to this cause.
After the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples almost 20 years ago, our common history will provide us with yet another moment to restore harmony among the peoples of this land that we now call Canada. Tomorrow is that moment. Let us pause for a moment tomorrow and reflect on the way forward. History will have given us yet another occasion. Canadians want change. Canadians want us to seize the moment. Change and reconciliation go together.
As a survivor, I can appreciate the fundamental importance of the moment we are about to experience tomorrow. Let us all collectively seize it, and collectively commit to genuine change in our relations with the first peoples of this country. Let us set out to do what 148 years of successive governments have not managed to achieve, and that is reconciliation.
Reconciliation is about healing relationships, building trust and working out our differences. It is about redress and respect for the rights of all. Reconciliation means a meaningful commitment to change, to honesty, and engaging and reconceptualizing relationships to create a future of peace, a future of justice and a future of renewed hope for all of us. I suggest that it is not possible to conceive of reconciliation in the absence of justice. Many segments of Canadian society have been honestly willing to engage in a dialogue to obtain truth, dignity and, above all, reconciliation.
Today, and into our shared future, we must continue the difficult work of building honourable relations, a fair society and a real dialogue to which the justice and the commissioners have invited us.
The adoption of the TRC report, important though it is, would not in itself change the everyday lives of women, men and children whose experiences it honours and gives witness to. No. For this, we need the political and constitutional commitment of not only the governments but the support and goodwill of the public, of all Canadians, to create and implement substantial and meaningful changes in co-operation, in partnership, with indigenous peoples themselves. We are all in this together.
Change is what Canadians want, and it happens that, along with my colleagues, I have come here to do exactly that: to bring that change.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for his reminder that we must always acknowledge when we speak in the House that we are speaking on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin people.
It is an honour to speak here on the eve of the release of the much-anticipated report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is important to reflect upon the broader intent of the apology which created it, to create healing and reconciliation and build a renewed relationship on a foundation of trust and partnership. These aspirations were reflected in the words of the apology, but have sadly found no expression in the ongoing paternalistic policies of the government.
After the Prime Minister stood in the House in 2008 and delivered the residential school apology on behalf of all Canadians, there was a groundswell of goodwill from aboriginal people from coast to coast to coast. On that day, the Prime Minister did the right thing and should be credited for that important step toward reconciliation. However, there was a disappointing lack of follow-up after that seminal milestone but still a great deal of optimism when he promised to reset the relationship during the 2012 Crown-First Nations Gathering.
Unfortunately, and sadly, his actions and those of his government since that important symbolic gesture have failed to live up to the hopeful spirit of the apology. In fact, far from supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its important work, it was disappointing that the government withheld crucial documents and actually fought the commission in court to obstruct its progress. Further, I am saddened that the antagonistic approach of the government toward aboriginal people, and its refusal to deal with appalling gaps in outcomes and deplorable living conditions for far too many, has further eroded the already fragile trust of aboriginal people.
Put simply, the government has damaged the honour of the Crown and squandered the tremendous opportunity of apology to foster more positive relationships with first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. Canada needs a new nation-to-nation relationship with aboriginal communities based on the spirit of partnership, respect, and co-operation for mutual benefit. These were the principles at the core of our original relationship, reflected in documents like the Royal Proclamation of 1763.
It will be essential to educate and work with all Canadians to understand the truth about the historic and ongoing pain, achieve true reconciliation, and move toward a future based upon the realization of the original, respectful, and collaborative nation-to-nation partnership with all aboriginal communities. Honouring and reinforcing the spirit and intent of that original relationship, while recognizing and implementing the rights that flow from it, are not only the responsibility of elected politicians but of every Canadian.
The apology means nothing if Canadians do not understand why it was necessary and do not understand the devastating multi-generational impacts that colonization and specifically the residential school system have had on aboriginal peoples. Tomorrow, the TRC report will be an important step in establishing the truth of what happened, but we must all commit to carrying on the important work of reconciliation going forward.
We thank Commissioners Sinclair, Wilson, and Littlechild for their painstaking and heart-wrenching work. The release of this report will represent another seminal opportunity for the Government of Canada to honour both the words and the spirit of the apology. Meaningful reconciliation will not come until we live up to our past promises and ensure the equality of opportunity necessary to create a prosperous shared future.
It is time to rebuild our relationship with first nations, Inuit, and Métis in Canada on a foundation of inherent and treaty rights. It is important that we ensure we have the healing for the survivors and their families and begin that process of reconciliation as a responsibility of all Canadians. It is rooted in the principles of the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The minister mentioned the stained glass window installed in the Centre Block as a poignant reminder of the true meaning of reconciliation, not only for members of Parliament but for all Canadians. I believe that will not be enough. May all MPs, as they enter this building under artist Christi Belcourt’s beautiful stained glass window commemorating the 2008 apology, be reminded every day of each of our responsibilities. May they be reminded of our responsibilities to engage all Canadians in the essential work of reconciliation so that indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada can go forward in a good way, in the words of the commission, “For the child taken, for the parent left behind”.
In closing, I would like to thank the minister for walking with us yesterday in the Walk for Reconciliation, and for being there at the opening of the commission hearings this morning. However, I have to ask the minister why he has chosen to make a statement of reconciliation before the commission report is released.
Canadians expect the Prime Minister of Canada to respond in a timely manner to the recommendations in that report with concrete action.
June 2, 2015
Mr. Speaker, today’s release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations is the culmination of a six-year journey of healing, but that journey must not end today.
We now know the truth about a dark chapter in our history. It is time for all governments, civil society, and every Canadian to commit to carrying on the important work of reconciliation going forward.
As Justice Sinclair said, this morning, meaningful reconciliation will require, “deliberate, thoughtful and sustained action”.
I urge the federal government to initiate this sustained action by making a commitment to implement all of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
It is time to fundamentally restructure Canada’s relationship with aboriginal peoples, in the spirit of respect, trust, and partnership, and rooted in the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As Gitxsan chief Ray Jones said to me this morning:
[Member spoke in Gitxsanimaax and provided the following translation:]
The canoe must be uprighted.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today representing the riding of Parkdale—High Park, the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. My riding also includes the ancient first nations’ site of the Toronto Carrying Place Trail, a portage route connecting Lake Simcoe and Lake Ontario along the east bank of the Humber River. The trail was used for nearly a thousand years as an important trade route for first nations. In 1615, 400 years ago, the first French settlers travelled that same route.
Today is a historic day, with the release of the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We thank all those whose emotional testimony made this report possible. We need to respond with a serious commitment to reconciliation. On this 400th anniversary, it is a chance to build a renewed relationship based on respect and equality.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that we are on an unceded Algonquin territory.
Today, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Canada’s Indian residential schools issued its final report. The documentation is of a tragedy, a cultural policy of assimilation carried out by the Canadian government and institutions that stole children and childhoods, devastated communities and destroyed lives. Over 6,000 students died while in residential schools.
More than 150,000 aboriginal children were sent to residential schools, and the intergenerational traumas persist: poverty, health problems and addiction.
It is time for the government to be part of the solution.
As Commissioner Sinclair said, “Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem — it is a Canadian problem”.
This is a tragedy that spans generations. We must honour it through action. It is time for true reconciliation.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that we are on unceded Algonquin territory.
My colleague, the member of Parliament for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, presented a bill to fully implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a United Nations document that my colleague actually helped draft. The Prime Minister and all Conservatives voted against it.
In light of today’s report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is the Prime Minister willing to vote to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
Mr. Speaker, I would point out that Canada is one of the very few countries in the world where aboriginal treaty rights are fully recognized in our Constitution. That is one of the reasons why the government accepted the UN declaration as an aspirational document.
We have taken specific actions to enhance the rights of aboriginal people, particularly women living on reserves and generally all aboriginal people, under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Sadly, the NDP and the opposition parties voted against it. I hope they will reconsider some of those positions.
“Aspirational”, Mr. Speaker.
Seven years ago, the Prime Minister officially apologized to Indian residential school survivors and first nations. He promised reconciliation.
To that end, will he acknowledge that aboriginal peoples are entitled to a nation-to-nation relationship with the Government of Canada, as our laws have stated for over 250 years?
Mr. Speaker, our government signed the residential schools agreement and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Our government has implemented many initiatives to improve the lives of first nations in this country, and our government will keep working with aboriginal communities and individuals to improve the lives of aboriginal people.
Mr. Speaker, intentions are not enough. An apology is only meaningful if it is accompanied by real action.
There were 150,000 children taken from their homes and from their parents in Canada. They were mistreated and horribly abused. As many as 6,000 of them died. That is 6,000 children dead in Canada.
Does the Prime Minister agree with Justice Sinclair and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the residential school program was nothing short of cultural genocide?
Mr. Speaker, I addressed these issues some seven years ago in the House of Commons when I spoke about the devastation caused by a policy of Indian residential schools. This was a policy of forced assimilation that not only destroyed the lives of individuals but of entire families and societies, and it has had long-lasting implications on entire communities in our country.
That is why we have moved forward with the apology and why this government has taken multiple actions over the years to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians. We continue to do so. These are concrete steps that are taken. The NDP members have voted against every single one of them. I would encourage them to start to do something positive on this.
Mr. Speaker, a good way to move forward, a good concrete action, would be to recognize that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is right, that this was an attempt at cultural genocide.
It affected 150,000 children. They were subjected to horrible and depraved physical and sexual abuse, and 6,000 of them died.
Residential schools left their mark on seven generations of aboriginal children, but to this day, aboriginal children receive 30% less than other Canadian children.
Would the Prime Minister accept such a thing for his own children?
Mr. Speaker, our government has taken action on many fronts to improve the lives of aboriginal people.
I would just mention that in the most recent budget we put in place funding for training first nations people for available jobs, and new opportunities for economic development through the first nations land management regime. Vast amounts of money are being made available for further progress and reform on first nations education, including more post-secondary scholarships and opportunities. There are also some health investments, particularly in mental health, on reserves. These are concrete things.
I would encourage the NDP, rather than opposing them all, to actually support some of these initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, all Canadian children deserve an equal opportunity in life.
The House voted unanimously to close the funding gap for first nations schools. Why will the Prime Minister and his government not fulfill that promise?
Mr. Speaker, this government arrived at an historic agreement with the Assembly of First Nations to do just that, to make investments to modernize the education system so first nations children would have all the same opportunities, accountabilities and curriculum of other Canadians. The NDP fought that tooth and nail.
We will continue to move forward with investments and continue to move forward with willing partners, because it is important that first nations children have those opportunities.
Mr. Speaker, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asks for meaningful actions to address residential schools’ legacy of cultural genocide and the ongoing impacts on first nations, on the Métis nation and on Inuit communities. Canada has not yet taken these actions, and so reconciliation remains elusive.
Will the Prime Minister match the sincere apology he made seven years ago with a commitment to real action, nation to nation, on reconciliation?
Mr. Speaker, once again, it was this government that for the first time in Canadian history recognized the full extent of the damage done by residential schools, not just the destruction of communities and families, and the abuse but also the loss of life in many cases.
That is why we issued the historic apology. That is why we signed the settlement and moved forward with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and have moved forward with various initiatives in every single budget, every single year, on a series of things to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians.
I encourage the Liberal Party to actually support some of those rather than just give us rhetoric.
Mr. Speaker, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has clearly said that we can no longer simply talk about reconciliation; the time has come to act. The commission has made 94 recommendations for beginning the process of reconciliation and rebuilding our relationship with first nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.
The Liberal Party of Canada accepts these 94 recommendations and commits today to implementing them. Will the Prime Minister do the same?
Mr. Speaker, the government will begin by examining the report and the commission’s recommendations before deciding what the next steps should be.
We have been following through on specific measures in this area for quite some time. In the most recent budget, we addressed employment, economic development, education and health. Every time, the Liberal Party votes against our specific initiatives to help aboriginal people. I encourage the Liberals to change tactics.
Mr. Speaker, the commission issued 94 recommendations to advance the process to close the quality of life gaps that exist, to revitalize indigenous languages and cultures, and to restore the original respectful relationship with first nations, Métis nation and Inuit peoples.
The Liberal Party, today, accepts and commits to implement these recommendations. Will the Prime Minister stand in this place and do the same?
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure there ever was an original relationship that, quite frankly, was as satisfactory as the hon. leader of the Liberal Party would like to say.
What I would say is that obviously the commission has spent a long time on this report, a commission established by this government. It has issued a large number of recommendations. We are still awaiting the full report. The government will examine all of these and, obviously, read them before deciding what the appropriate next steps are.
Mr. Speaker, today we heard a clear message from survivors and from the commission. Reconciliation is more than just words; it is also meaningful action. We need to start fresh, nation to nation, with a new approach.
It is in this spirit that I want to reach out to the members across the aisle and I ask the Prime Minister whether he will implement the principles set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Mr. Speaker, we thank the commission for its work. As was said, Canada is one of the only countries in the world where aboriginal and treaty rights are entrenched in the Constitution. We have endorsed the United Nations declaration as an aspirational document and as a significant step forward in strengthening relations with aboriginal peoples.
We will continue to take concrete measures to improve the living conditions of aboriginal peoples.
Mr. Speaker, National Chief Bellegarde was pretty clear on this. He said:
It’s hard to talk about reconciliation when you have 120 First Nations communities with boil water advisories.
We will not have reconciliation as long as first nations live in poverty and there are kids who do not have schools and safe drinking water.
For years the Liberal and Conservative governments have underfunded first nations, compared to other Canadians. Will the government right this injustice and close the funding gap?
Mr. Speaker, our government remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian residential schools. As acknowledged in the Prime Minister‘s historic apology on behalf of all Canadians in 2008, there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential school system to ever prevail again.
We continue to make significant investments in aboriginal education. Economic action plan 2015 committed substantial funding for education on reserve and built upon a $500-million investment announced by the Prime Minister. We will continue to work with first nations parents, teachers, and schools to improve the quality of education on reserve.
Mr. Speaker, today we heard the testaments of survivors who want the commission’s final report to finally be a step towards reconciliation and towards healing. Concrete recommendations have been made, and one of them calls for a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women. However, the minister prefers to sit back and do nothing.
My question is therefore for the Prime Minister: will he show some leadership and call a national inquiry?
Mr. Speaker, these were terrible crimes against innocent people. The RCMP said in its own study that the vast majority of these cases are addressed and are solved through police investigations.
We do not need yet another study, as I have mentioned before, as some 40 studies have already been done. What we need is a place to catch those responsible and ensure that they are punished. What we need now is action, action like what our government has taken on matrimonial property rights, the creation of safety plans, or making sure that there are shelters available for women on reserves.
We are taking action. We encourage the opposition to follow our lead.
Mr. Speaker, reconciliation, as we heard today, includes an national inquiry into missing and murdered women.
Let us move to housing. One third of first nations in Manitoba live in inadequate housing conditions. I have seen them first hand in our north: families in overcrowded houses, houses in deep need of repair, homes infected with black mould.
As national Chief Bellegarde said, how can we expect reconciliation when people live in these conditions? Will the government finally listen to first nations and act on addressing the deplorable housing conditions in first nations in the spirit of reconciliation?
Mr. Speaker, our government has taken concrete steps to support first nations and in providing safe housing. Since 2006, our government’s investments for on-reserve housing have resulted in the construction of close to 12,000 new homes and the renovation of nearly 22,000 existing homes in first nations communities.
While we continue to work in collaboration to improve first nations’ quality of life and infrastructure on reserve, the opposition has voted against all of our aboriginal housing investments, all of our infrastructure investments on reserve, and everything we have done to improve the lives of people living on first nations reserves.
Mr. Speaker, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called on the government to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Justice Murray Sinclair has described it as “the starting point for reconciliation”, but the Conservative government has steadfastly refused to implement the declaration, has voted against our bill, and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars fighting aboriginal rights in court.
Will the government listen to the commission, and will it finally implement the United Nations declaration?
Mr. Speaker, as has already been said, Canada is one of the only countries in the world where aboriginal rights are protected under the Constitution. We have endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an aspirational document in strengthening the relationship between aboriginal Canadians and the government.
We will continue to take concrete measures, and we would ask that the opposition support our concrete measures to bring things like the same rights for women living on reserve, to bring the same water and waste water standards that other Canadians expect, and to bring the Canadian Human Rights Act on reserve. All of these things we have done, the opposition has opposed. It should get on board.
Mr. Speaker, for too long first nations waited for redress for the injustices they suffered at Canada’s residential schools. Students were forced to live in inhumane conditions, and many experienced abuse. Tragically, thousands never returned home. Today, survivors face social, psychological, and health barriers to overcoming the trauma. Yet too many first nation communities do not have access to quality health care.
Will the government finally close the gap in first nations’ health outcomes and guarantee that survivors can access the medical care they require and so desperately need?
Mr. Speaker, our government is very proud of the relationship Health Canada has with first nations. It has provided over $2.5 billion a year in health care on first nations reserves. In fact, we support $200-million worth of mental health services on reserve, and I am very proud to see in the latest budget a new investment in mental health task crisis teams that can go onto first nation reserves to support them at crisis times.
Mr. Speaker, we need to bring the sad residential school legacy to an end. Far too many children were subject to heinous acts of abuse. More than 6,000 of them did not survive. Today, the survivors still suffer the effects of a stolen childhood. They suffer from health problems that also affect their families. They need help and support.
We have a moral obligation to provide that. Will the government take action and provide proper funding for aboriginal healing centres?
Again, Mr. Speaker, we are providing primary care, and most importantly, I think, mental health services on first nation reserves for families and children who require it. We have 24/7 access to essential nursing services in almost 80 remote communities across Canada, and we have home and community care in almost 500 first nation communities across Canada.
As I said, we have a very good relationship with first nations, especially when it comes to mental health services.
Mr. Speaker, this is the legacy of the residential schools: more than 150,000 children forced to abandon their culture and their language; thousands of cases of abuse, humiliation and heinous acts; mothers and fathers who never saw their children again after they were taken from their arms; more than 6,000 children dead—a mortality rate similar to that of the Second World War; and intergenerational trauma that is still present today.
We have a moral obligation to take action. Will the government finally show some leadership and support the first nations?
Mr. Speaker, we certainly thank the residential school survivors for their strength and courage in sharing their stories with the commission and with all Canadians. Our government remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools.
As acknowledged in the Prime Minister‘s historic apology on behalf of all Canadians in 2008, there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential school system to ever prevail again. Our government will continue to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation and to take concrete measures to improve the living conditions of aboriginal people.
Mr. Speaker, the House apologized to the generation of the residential school survivors, but who will make it right for this generation? We have schools that are crippled by the 2% funding cap, children scooped from their families into a broken child welfare system, a minister who refuses to provide support to fight youth suicide and then blamed their parents.
Children have only one childhood. It is a resource too precious to be squandered. The government broke its commitment to close the education funding gap. In the spirit of reconciliation, will it address the education crisis today and make it right for this generation of indigenous children?
Mr. Speaker, I reject much of the premise of that question.
Our government remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools, and as acknowledged in the Prime Minister‘s historic apology on behalf of all Canadians in 2008, there is no place for the attitudes that led to the Indian residential school system. We will continue to make significant investments in aboriginal education. In the last budget, $200 million more was committed to aboriginal education. The Prime Minister committed $500 million to first nations’ schooling infrastructure, and we will continue to work with first nation parents, teachers, schools, and leaders to improve the quality of education on reserve.
Mr. Speaker, after six years of work, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its report and recommendations this morning. The report contains 94 recommendations, some of which the government can implement immediately.
When will the government recognize and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and when will it work with aboriginal groups to develop and implement a first nations education funding plan, as outlined in the Bloc Québécois’s Bill C-599 in 2010?
Mr. Speaker, again, we would like to thank the residential school survivors for sharing their stories, and the commission for its work to bring this to the attention of all Canadians.
As acknowledged in the Prime Minister‘s historic apology in 2008, the attitude that gave rise to the Indian residential schools was unacceptable and has no place in Canada. We will continue to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation, and take concrete measures to improve the lives of aboriginal people.
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-683, An Act to establish a National Institutional Abuse Awareness Day.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to table a private member’s bill calling on the Government of Canada to establish a national day of awareness for people who have been abused by clergy, lay officials, and institutions in Canada.
A national day of awareness would be a step on the path towards healing. By shining a light on the abuse, promoting awareness and education, decreasing stigma, and addressing the harm that has occurred through clergy, lay officials, and institutions as a whole, we can start to move forward.
This bill proposes that June 1 be set aside as the national day of awareness, because it is the beginning of the National Aboriginal History Month in Canada and the day the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador closed Mount Cashel orphanage for good.
By setting aside a national day, Canadians can engage in their communities to work together to ensure that this never happens again.
I call on all members of the House to support this bill.
June 3, 2015
Mr. Speaker, I was astounded by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s report on residential schools. That dark time in history during which entire generations of aboriginal children were uprooted from their families and communities is a gaping wound in our relationship with aboriginal peoples.
Now that the report has put a fine point on what happened, clearly stating that it was cultural genocide, we have a duty to fundamentally alter our relationship with aboriginal peoples to help heal the wound.
Let us put an end to the federal government’s paternalistic attitude. Let us put an end to its condescension toward first nations, Inuit and Métis people. Let us get rid of the Indian Act, an archaic law that upholds a regime that inspired others to create apartheid.
Let us give aboriginal peoples the tools they need to keep their languages and cultures alive and ensure the economic, social and environmental development of their communities. That is the least we can do.
Mr. Speaker, it is important for us to acknowledge that we are on unceded Algonquin territory.
Yesterday, on this territory, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report.
The testimony was clear: we need to put an end to previous governments’ inaction in order to move toward reconciliation and healing. Too many aboriginal children are still suffering today as a result of chronic underfunding of education and a lack of access to quality health care, clean drinking water and housing.
In 2015, it is high time we put an end to this cycle of poverty starting right now. That is what an NDP government will do. We will not forget the testimony given by the thousands of survivors. We will not forget the 6,000 or more children who never came home.
In the words of the commissioners, “Collective efforts from all peoples are necessary to revitalize the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and Canadian society – reconciliation is the goal”.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, we heard a clear message from the survivors and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: words are not enough. There also needs to be concrete action.
However, the Prime Minister is once again refusing to implement key recommendations, such as the recommendation to apply the principles set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Why is he refusing to take this opportunity to move toward reconciliation?
Mr. Speaker, we again thank the TRC for its work. We thank the former residential school students for the courage and strength they showed in sharing their stories with Canadians.
Canada is one of the only countries in the world where aboriginal and treaty rights are entrenched in its Constitution. We have endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an aspirational document, and a significant step forward in improving our relationship with aboriginal peoples.
We will continue to take concrete measures to improve the living conditions of aboriginal peoples.
Mr. Speaker, it is too bad the government lacks the courage and strength to act.
It said no to an inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women. It passed legislation affecting aboriginal rights without any consultation. It voted against implementing the UN declaration. It has underfunded first nations education and social services. It has spent hundreds of millions of dollars fighting aboriginal and treaty rights.
As Justice Murray Sinclair has said, “Words are not enough”.
Will the Prime Minister commit to real change and real reconciliation?
Mr. Speaker, it was our government that signed the residential schools agreement, made the apology on behalf of all Canadians, and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
It was this Prime Minister who made the historic apology to former students of Indian residential schools, their families and their communities. Our government has implemented many initiatives to improve the lives of first nations living in this country.
Our government will keep working with aboriginal communities and individuals to improve their lives. We would like the opposition to actually get on board and support those concrete measures that we have taken to improve the lives of aboriginal peoples.
Mr. Speaker, reconciliation is not just about what happened in the past, it is about what is still happening today.
Twenty years after the last residential school closed, the state of first nations education in Canada is a disgrace. There are too many first nations children who do not have a safe, quality school to attend in their local community. First nations students still receive an average of $8,000 less than students in the rest of Canada.
Will the government act now to close the gap before another generation suffers from these discriminatory education policies?
Mr. Speaker, our government remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools.
As acknowledged by the Prime Minister‘s historic apology on behalf of all Canadians in 2008, there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired Indian residential schools to ever prevail again.
We continue to make significant investments in aboriginal education. Our recent budget committed substantial funding for education on reserve, and builds upon an investment of $500 million that was announced last year by the Prime Minister for first nations education infrastructure.
We will continue to work with first nations, parents, teachers, schools and leaders to improve the quality of first nations education on reserve.
Mr. Speaker, more words are not needed; action is needed.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was clear that in order to achieve reconciliation, we need a new relationship based on mutual respect, a nation-to-nation relationship.
However, despite the many moving stories Canadians heard yesterday, the Prime Minister is still insisting that he will not implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In the spirit of reconciliation, I ask the Conservatives again, will they listen to the commission and implement the UN declaration?
Mr. Speaker, as I said, Canada is one of the only countries in the world where aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized in its Constitution. We have endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We have also done more than that. We have extended the rights on reserve to women. Women living on reserve were given the same rights as women living off reserve. We brought the Canadian Human Rights Act to bear on reserve. When we do that, the opposition always votes against it.
Mr. Speaker, reconciliation is about more than just words. It is also about taking concrete action. We need to start fresh, in a nation-to-nation relationship, and that is what the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would allow us to do. However, the Prime Minister is still caught up in his ideology.
Why is he refusing to protect the fundamental rights of aboriginal peoples? Why?
Mr. Speaker, actions do speak louder than words. Every time we take action to improve the lives of first nation people, the NDP votes against it.
We have brought in matrimonial property rights for women living on reserve. We have brought in water and waste water standards, like all other Canadians expect, for Canadians living on reserve. We have brought in the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect people living on reserve. The NDP always votes against aboriginal Canadians whenever it is presented with the chance in the House.
Mr. Speaker, the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada shows how much work we need to do to repair the harm suffered by first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
This government appointed Justice Sinclair, who made 94 recommendations to really close this sad chapter in our history, which has been described as cultural genocide.
The Liberal Party immediately accepted those 94 recommendations. Will this government do the same?
Mr. Speaker, we do thank the truth and reconciliation commission and the commissioners for their work and salute the former residential school students who shared their stories with Canadians. We appreciate that being documented for all Canadians.
We will take the time to consider the recommendations in the light of the full report, which will be released at the end of this year, so we can carefully consider those. Unlike the Liberal Party, we believe that we need to take a close look at those recommendations and consider them in the light of the full report.
Mr. Speaker, the chair of the truth and reconciliation commission, Justice Sinclair, says the abhorrent system of residential schools was an exercise in cultural genocide. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada agrees, as do previous prime ministers, and Canadians more generally.
However, judging by comments made by Judge Sinclair yesterday, after his meeting with the Prime Minister, the government is not yet on the same page.
Would the government explicitly acknowledge the cultural genocide that has taken place and will it agree with the TRC’s recommendations?
Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister made the historic apology on behalf of all Canadians in 2008, the government recognized that the Indian residential schools caused great harms to individuals, to communities and to an entire society, and that the attitudes that gave way to that policy had no place in Canada.
While we cannot undo the past, we can learn from it. We have taken the steps necessary to bring closure to the legacy of Indian residential schools. We will continue to promote reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians, and we will consider the recommendations of the report in the context of the full report, which will be released later this year.
June 4, 2015
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, entitled “Promising Practices to Prevent Violence Against Women”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP, I stand to present the dissenting opinion on this report, calling on the government for a national action plan to end violence against women and for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women,
Witnesses strongly urge the government to take action to address the root causes of violence against women and the systemic inequality that perpetuates it.
New Democrats recognize that the causes of violence are complex and the solution needs to be comprehensive. Unfortunately, this report presented by the committee fails to address the urgent situation.
Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has failed northerners when it comes to nutrition north. It has failed to provide affordable, nutritious food to northern remote families. The Auditor General clearly reported that the minister and his department failed to ensure that food subsidies were being passed along to northern residents who needed it.
Why have the Conservatives taken no steps to fix this crisis and why is food security in the north not a priority for Conservatives?
Mr. Speaker, we have taken action. We have invested additional funds into nutrition north Canada. We have accepted the Auditor General’s recommendations.
However, we have changed the program from the old food mail program under the Liberal Party. We believe that nutritious, perishable foods that improve the health of northerners should be what we subsidize. Liberal members believe in subsidizing snowmobile parts, tires, cans of Coke and chips. We are focusing on healthy foods for the north and we are getting the job done.
June 5, 2015
Mr. Speaker, as the national chief said, we cannot move toward reconciliation when far too many aboriginal communities are living in desperate conditions.
Despite that, now we have learned that the Conservatives preferred to leave $1 billion just sitting there in the coffers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs instead of funding essential services like education and access to clean water and housing.
How can the government justify this gross negligence?
Of course, Mr. Speaker, that member knows that is not true. Lapsed funding is not lost funding, and in the last five years, over 97% of what was marked as lapsed funding in the public accounts has been carried forward to future years and spent on a wide range of programs, programs that member and that party voted against.
The delay in spending of these funds is not uncommon, because actually spending this money often involves negotiations with other parties or community votes from first nations memberships.
We will continue to make concrete investments in aboriginal peoples, and we would like the opposition to actually get on board and support that.
Mr. Speaker, the question is this. How can these Conservatives look at themselves in the mirror every day when indigenous peoples live in this country in third world conditions, in mouldy homes and in schools that are falling apart, and without safe drinking water? We find out that the Conservatives have lapsed $1.1 billion returned to their coffers, money that was allocated to them. How can they stand in this House and justify to indigenous peoples in this country this gross negligence?
Mr. Speaker, of course that member knows that is not true. She knows that 97% of those lapsed funds were spent on aboriginal programming in the following year. She knows that it takes time to negotiate and get community votes for first nations spending. She also knows that she voted against water treatment plants in first nations reserves. She voted against matrimonial property rights for women on reserves. She voted against the Canadian human rights being brought onto reserve.
The New Democrats always vote against aboriginal people when they have the chance here in the House of Commons.
Mr. Speaker, every year, the Conservative government intentionally underspends in excess of $200 million. This is now five years in a row that has taken place.
Every member of this chamber, I am sure, is aware of the many reserves that rely on boiling their water in order to have drinking water. Many reserves are on an advisory. Every member is aware of the deficiencies in education within the reserves.
How does the Conservative government justify stealing over $200 million a year in the past five years when the needs are so great in Canada’s first nations—
Order. I remind all members that they have 35 seconds to ask their questions and not a minute.
The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
Mr. Speaker, of course, that member does know that lapsed funding is not money that has disappeared. In fact, 97% of that funding was carried forward to future years and spent on a wide range of programs.
Every time we spend money on aboriginal programming or aboriginal infrastructure in this House, whether it is for waste water treatment, water treatment, education, or to give women on reserve the same rights as women living off reserve, we can count on the Liberal Party to vote against it.
Highlights from the Senate
June 2, 2015
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, this week the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is holding its final public event in Ottawa. Since 2010, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has heard testimony from about 7,000 survivors across the country about their horrific experiences in residential schools.
Some 150,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their parents and were placed in residential schools to “kill the Indian in the child.” Many experienced brutal physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Children were abused, beaten, subjected to unethical scientific experiments and even tortured with homemade electric chairs. It is estimated that about 6,000 children died and many were buried in unmarked graves.
From the 1880s until 1996, when the last residential school closed in Saskatchewan, Aboriginal children were taught that they were inferior and punished for speaking their own native languages. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, has called this “cultural genocide”. This morning, Justice Sinclair said it was nothing short of “cultural genocide.”
Honourable senators, my mother, Eva McNab Quan, from the Gordon First Nation, attended residential schools. She never talked about it. With all the work that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has done, we now understand why Mum was so ashamed of being Indian, why she pretended to be Scottish and why she told us to pretend that we were just Chinese. Residential school had taught her to be deeply ashamed of being an Indian. That shame was passed on to us and was reinforced by actions and attitudes of people around us. I express my deep gratitude to the late Elders Laura Wasacase and Emma Sand, who showed me how to be proud of my Cree Indian heritage.
Honourable senators, the effects of past government policies to kill the Indian in the child are still being seen today. The intergenerational legacy of residential schools is manifested by the high rates of family violence and addictions, the huge numbers of Aboriginal children in foster care, the over-representation of Aboriginals in jails and the hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. All of these can be traced back to the damage done by residential schools.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released the summary of its final report this morning. The truth and reconciliation final report may illuminate a dark and deeply disturbing past, but it will show us the way forward through the 94 recommendations, such as fully implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and initiating a national commission of inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Thank God for that.
My heartfelt thanks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair, Justice Murray Sinclair, and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson for their dedication and leadership in their groundbreaking work on Indian residential schools. Their speeches this morning were inspiring and stirred a lot of emotions. I felt deep sadness and also a great sense of relief. No one can deny the long lasting detrimental legacy of Indian residential schools on Aboriginal peoples. The truth can no longer be denied or ignored. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
June 3, 2015
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report—Government’s Response
Hon. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
As you know, the Prime Minister initially refused to offer an apology to First Nations. After much pressure, he offered an apology that took place in 2008. The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has 94 recommendations. Will the government honour the 94 recommendations from the report, in particular the inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women that was mentioned?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Our government recognizes that there have been dark chapters in the story of the Government of Canada’s relationship with First Nations. Unfortunately, we cannot erase the past, but we can learn from it and ensure that these things never happen again.
As Prime Minister Harper said during the historic apology he made on behalf of all Canadians in 2008, there is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever prevail again.
As for the recommendations, we will examine the report and the commission’s recommendations in order to decide what the next steps should be.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Does the government accept that this was a history of cultural genocide against the First Nations people of Canada?
Senator Carignan: Senator, we can’t erase the past. History has been marked by some dark chapters, and it is important to ensure that these kinds of extremely tragic events never happen again. That is why Prime Minister Harper made a historic apology to Canada’s Aboriginal peoples in 2008.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Will the government ensure that the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission be made available to all Canadians and, in particular, distributed to all Aboriginal schools and, in fact, all schools across Canada at the expense of the government?
Senator Carignan: Senator, the government will examine the commission’s recommendations and pay particular attention to what the next steps should be. I invite you to consult the Prime Minister’s website, which just posted, a few minutes ago, a press release on the closing ceremony of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, in which he thanks the commissioners for their hard work. You can have a look at the Prime Minister’s remarks in that regard.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: On the contrary, I was hurt and disappointed that not all Aboriginal senators were invited to the closing of this historic ceremony.
Senator Cordy: Shame.
Senator Carignan: I’m a little surprised by what you are saying. I was watching the ceremony earlier and I saw that Senator Dyck and Senator Watt were there. Senators who represent First Nations communities were also there. I am not aware of any reason why you weren’t invited to attend, which is what I understood from your remark. However, as I was watching the ceremony on television, live from Rideau Hall, I saw Senator Dyck and Senator Watt. In fact, they were seated next to their Liberal Leader, Justin Trudeau.
Senator Lovelace Nicholas: Yes, this is all fine and good, but I didn’t get an invitation. I don’t know how they got in there. Senator Sibbeston did not get an invitation, either, and I think that’s a shame.
Senator Carignan: Listen, I don’t know how they got in either, if that was your question. One thing is certain: They were there. With regard to the report, it is public and can be consulted.
Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women and Girls
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I was very touched by the way the Leader of the Government talked about the history, and that we are all responsible for the history and that we all have to work to make things better.
The issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women is not history. I come from British Columbia and, sadly, this is a continuing issue. If we can learn anything from history, it’s that this pain is continuing. We have to stop it. Will the government now appoint a national inquiry?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Over 40 studies have been conducted on this particular issue. As I have said numerous times in this chamber, I believe that it is time to take action because people need concrete action, such as we are taking right now.
Senator Jaffer: I have a supplementary question. Leader, I agree things have to be done. I would appreciate knowing what the government is going to do to stop the murder and disappearance of Aboriginal women, especially in my province.
Senator Carignan: Senator, as I already said, we have taken strong and significant action on this issue. We introduced the Action Plan to Address Family Violence and Violent Crimes Against Aboriginal Women and Girls and the Family Violence Prevention Program.
Since coming to power, our government has passed 30 new criminal justice and public safety measures to protect Canadians, including tougher sentences for murder, sexual assault and kidnapping and mandatory prison sentences for the most serious crimes. We also passed historic legislation that gives Aboriginal women living on First Nations reserves the same matrimonial rights enjoyed by other Canadian women, including access to emergency protection orders in violent situations. We eliminated a legislative gap that had existed for 30 years by ensuring that hundreds of thousands of people living on First Nations reserves would have the same human rights protections enjoyed by other Canadians.
Senator, I believe that our government has taken concrete action and that it will continue to take measures to combat violence against Aboriginal women and girls.