Mr. Cyril Keeper (Winnipeg North Centre):
Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed that the Minister did not stand up to respond to the very pointed and good questions of the Hon. Member as to why aboriginal and native languages are not included by way of direct reference in this legislation. I saw that the Minister was hinting that he might get up. 1 hope he intends to get up to say that he will include such a provision. I hope that that is his intention. 1 must say that while it is against the rules of the House to mention the presence or absence of particular Members, 1 am glad that the Minister is here in order to hear this debate today.
I think this is a matter upon which he can move to make changes now. 1 am sorry I do not have unlimited time in which to speak. If I did I would stay on my feet until the Minister made the change. It is a simple and ordinary change. It is abysmal, shameful and dreadful that this legislation on heritage languages should have been dealt with before the committee to the exclusion of aboriginal people. There was no opportunity for groups to say how they felt about it. I am sure that was as a result of inadvertence on the part of the Government. It was because of the headlong rush toward an election that this happened. However, the Minister can still correct the oversight.
1 must say that I am glad as an aboriginal person, as a native person, that I have the opportunity to express my point of view with regard to this matter. It is shameful that the elected representatives of aboriginal people across the country did not have a chance to comment on the Bill. I want to comment briefly on it since I have but a little bit of time here.
The legislation simply states that the purpose of the institute is to facilitate throughout Canada the acquisition, retention and use of languages other than the official languages of Canada that contribute to the country's multicultural heritage.
I must say that we are all Canadians. There is only one Canada. It is because we are confident in our citizenship that we are able to tolerate the cultural differences that exist in our country and, in fact, that we are able to celebrate them. Therefore we are able to recognize as this Bill does that multicultural heritage. We can also recognize the official languages. But this Bill fails to recognize the existence of aboriginal people in Canada. That is what the amendment seeks to change. The amendment seeks to include in the wording of the clause the words "native and aboriginal languages".
The fundamental point is that the legislation here is going to create an institute that will make resources available for the preservation of languages. That is important. It is important that aboriginal people have a part of those resources. But it is not enough to be able to stand up and say: "Okay, under this legislation we could make the money available anyway".
Why do half a job? Why have half a loaf when a specific reference can be made? Aboriginal people do not fit under official languages. Cree is not an official language of Canada. It does not fit there. Aboriginal languages do not fit under multicultural heritage. Native people are aboriginal people. They are the first people of this land. They do not fit under an ethnic group. They do not fit under multicultural.
Canadian Heritage Languages Institute Act
The Bill should be drafted so as to fit the social, the political and economic reality of the country. It can be done. It will not hurt to accept the amendment which my colleague has put before the House. The Government should agree to the amendment. The Bill will be the better for it. There may be other amendments on which the Minister might want to reflect more in depth before he accepts them, or perhaps he might feel that they would have to go to committee for study. Perhaps that will be the case. However, this amendment is a simple one. What it does is recognize the reality of Canada. It recognizes the fact that aboriginal people are a part of the country. At the same time that official languages are recognized multicultural heritage is recognized. What is unacceptable is recognizing the multicultural nature of the country and the official languages of the country while ignoring the aboriginal people.
Mr. Minister, the time for that is gone. The time in which aboriginal people will silently be ignored is passed. I must conclude that the Bill came before the House in this form out of a sense of haste because of the results of the polls that came out this morning. The Reid poll indicates that the Conservatives are ahead and that the NDP are hot on their tail with the Liberals lagging behind. Of course, the Reid poll tends to favour the Conservative Party I must say more than does the Gallup poll. Given the results of that poll, the Conservatives are in a big rush to go to an election and in so rushing forget to do a decent job on legislation.
Let us slow down. Let us take a deep breath. Read the amendment and accept it.
The Government should listen to groups and reflect upon the reality of the country. The time is long past when native people will accept half measures. It is time to recognize that aboriginal people and native people are a legitimate and fundamental part of the country. Just saying that they can be fitted in under the umbrella of multicultural heritage is not going to be well received in native communities across the country. Native people are aboriginal people. They certainly do not fit under official languages.
I ask the Minister to accept the amendment rather than trying to skate around with some sort of explanation.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CANADIAN HERITAGE LANGUAGES INSTITUTE ACT