Mr. Vance Badawey (Niagara Centre, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-369, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code, national day for truth and reconciliation. This was introduced by the member representing Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.
This bill proposes to amend the relevant legislation in order to establish a paid non-working holiday for all employees under federal jurisdiction. The goal of the bill is to create a statutory holiday that would become a day for truth and reconciliation in order that all Canadians might have some time to reflect on the history and the legacy of Indian residential schools and the deep wounds that have been created in our past and that persist today.
Renewing the relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis is a priority for Canada and all Canadians. As members know, the Prime Minister has said that there is no relationship more important to this great nation than the one with indigenous peoples. I am confident that we can chart a path to a better, more inclusive future that acknowledges our past and looks forward to building a stronger Canada that we can all reside in together, in a manner that is not only conducive but inclusive to all Canadians.
The work that was done by Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has provided us with a way forward to address indigenous issues in a Canadian society. The commission's final report sets aside a series of 94 calls to action that address a number of important issues, including call to action 80, which states:
We call upon 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 that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
The government remains committed to implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as partners in reconciliation and, most important, resurgence.
While it is easy to support the commission's recommendations in principle, the more difficult work comes in taking concrete action, but we are intent on walking the path toward reconciliation together.
Over the past three months, the Standing Commission on Canadian Heritage heard from survivors, leaders of national indigenous organizations and other key stakeholders during the review of the bill. Survivors shared very moving and difficult testimony regarding the history and impact of Indian residential schools. There was also discussion of the importance of giving Canadians opportunities to move together on the journey of reconciliation. It is extremely important that we move together, nation to nation, shoulder to shoulder.
Education, reflection and remembrance are essential components of the reconciliation process. Creating a national day for truth and reconciliation on September 30 will set aside a special day for commemoration and for honouring those whose lives were affected by residential schools. As well, it would also create a space for all Canadians to have important conversations about the dark chapters in our history and to acknowledge that reconciliation is a process that we all do together. As well, it would acknowledge the harm done to first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
With just over half of Canadians familiar with residential schools and their lasting impacts, a national day for truth and reconciliation would, in my opinion, improve Canadians' understanding of this legacy of loss.
I applaud the initiative put forward in the bill by the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. I would also like to recognize the work of those in the community and throughout this great nation who have taken steps to rebuild relationships and further reconciliation. I applaud those who at the grassroots level have shared their stories and helped teach us about our past.
We should all be moved by people like Phyllis (Jack) Webstad and the story of her orange shirt. Her story is remarkable but it is not unique. On her first day of school, Phyllis arrived proudly dressed in her new orange shirt. They made her change out of her clothes. Her orange shirt was taken from her and she never saw it again. That orange shirt is now a symbol of the stripping away of culture, of freedom and of self-esteem that was experienced by indigenous children over generations.
During its mandate, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission engaged extensively with the community. It was guided by principles that ensured broad representation. The commission was advised by a committee of Indian residential school survivors and it travelled to all parts of this great nation to hear from thousands of indigenous peoples who were affected by residential schools, to document their experiences and also to gather ideas that would help to move the reconciliation process. The 94 calls to action are a result of this process.
There have been over the past months a number of petitions expressing support for the creation of a day highlighting reconciliation. We hope that the bill will be a first step toward establishing a holiday that encourages all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, to take time to reflect on our journey of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, to gather together to honour survivors of residential schools, their families and their communities, and to encourage public commemoration and promotion of the shared values of inclusion and of mutual respect.
Let us make sure that the spirit of reconciliation is part of nation building and our national values. In this way, I believe we can aspire to an outcome that is aligned with the commitment to renew the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples, based on recognition, based on rights, based on respect and based on co-operation.
It is obvious that for too long, first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have had to fight for rights and recognition. We know that we must make this recognition the basis for all relations with indigenous peoples. The bill represents an ideal way to commemorate and recognize their experience. I am therefore pleased to contribute to today's debate and to call upon the House to support the bill. This support is a part of the work that helps us build a Canada that includes every one of us.
Topic: Private Members' Business