National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

I want to give a shout out to the work of a Dene woman leader who has kept MP's focused on something bigger than partisan politics--a goal to build a better Canada for future generations.

Mr. Speaker, I will begin my remarks by recognizing that we meet today on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people. I hope that one day we will begin all of our daily proceedings in this place with this acknowledgement. I also wish to acknowledge the land on which my riding is situated. It is Treaty 6 territory and the ancestral homeland of the Métis people.
 
I am extremely proud to rise in support of my colleague from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. I wish to recognize her connectedness to community, her hard work, her humbleness and her humility, which are all qualities of a true leader. It is these qualities that have helped the House to soon realize the passing of her private member's bill, a bill that signals a step, one among many, that we must take. It is one important step on our collective and individual journeys towards reconciliation with indigenous people. The bill provides the House with an opportunity to acknowledge and, most importantly, own its settler history.
 
What is this history? In the summary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, members will find these introductory words, which is a reminder of why we are where we are today as a country and why our support of the efforts and leadership of my hon. colleague are so important: 
 
"For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.”
 
We are in an era where politicians talk about how important it is that the rights of first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples are recognized, protected and most importantly enshrined explicitly into Canadian law. Some of us are actually acting on that talk. I speak of the work of my colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law with his bill, Bill C-262, and the work of my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona who tried so hard to insert into Canadian environmental law the rights of indigenous peoples as stated in Bill C-262. Today, I am able to add my colleague's efforts to this list of efforts in the House for reconciliation and justice for indigenous peoples in Canada.
 
The bill before us today is amended from the original bill tabled by my hon. colleague. The original bill was to make June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, a statutory holiday. Both in the House and in my community, my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, articulated the many reasons for the proposal to designate June 21 a national statutory holiday. She spoke of her work as the mayor of La Loche on this issue. She listed the history of indigenous organizations calling for June 21 to be recognized as a national holiday. She told us of the spiritual significance of June 21, the summer solstice, for first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, and she acknowledged the history for many communities of celebrations and special commemorative ceremonies on June 21.
 
My community of Saskatoon is one of those communities that has focused its efforts on June 21. In recent years, Saskatoon has grown, the community has expanded and we acknowledge reconciliation and the TRC's calls to action on this day.
 
For over 20 years, the Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre has hosted National Aboriginal Day, now National Indigenous Peoples Day, on Treaty 6 territory, the homeland of the Métis people, and in my riding of Saskatoon West. Every year, thousands gather in my community, joined by indigenous leaders, elders, non-indigenous leaders, survivors of residential schools, provincial schools and day schools, survivors of the sixties scoop, and indigenous veterans, for activities and ceremonies to mark the day.
 
In recent years, the city of Saskatoon has marked the day with important ceremonies and commemorations honouring indigenous peoples.
 
Last year, the new name for the north commuter Parkway Bridge was announced at the Indigenous Peoples' Day event in Saskatoon. The new name, Chief Mistawasis Bridge, honours Chief Mistawasis, also known as Pierre Belanger, who was the head of the Prairie Tribe and signed Treaty 6 in 1876.
 
At the unveiling, Mistiawasis Nêhiyawak Chief Daryl Watson said: 
 
"Today is a very momentous occasion for my nation. It's part of the whole process of reconciliation. Chief Mistawasis, 140 years ago, began that process when he acknowledged the territory by welcoming newcomers to share the land. Reconciliation began for us when treaty was signed."
 
In 2016, one of the national closing events of the TRC was held in Saskatoon on June 21. This event galvanized community members and indigenous and non-indigenous community leaders in Saskatoon to begin to formalize our reconciliation efforts and to respond to the TRC's calls to action as a community. Reconciliation Saskatoon, with organizational support from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, is that community-wide response.
 
Reconciliation Saskatoon is a community of over 98 organizations, non-profits, businesses, faith communities and partners. They have come together to initiate a city-wide conversation about reconciliation and to provide opportunities for everyone to engage in calls to action.
 
The path to reconciliation in my riding, in my community, has embraced June 21 National Indigenous Peoples' Day as the day. We worked hard to make that day inclusive of all peoples, a day where we work, celebrate and remember and in so doing, help to build relationships and ultimately to build a better community for all.
 
Three years ago, we added a new event, a walk in my riding, called “Rock your Roots for Reconciliation”, spearheaded by Reconciliation Saskatoon. Last year, over 4,000 people participated in that walk.
 
Today, the bill before us has a different day, September 30, to be designated as a statutory holiday, a day that honours the survivors of residential schools. This day is also observed in my community. I acknowledge creating a national day to honour residential school survivors is call to action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
 
Although this legislation started in a different place, it is here today after a parliamentary process that built support across political parties, and so it is a good day.
 
We are here today in this good way of co-operation because of the work of a Dene woman leader who kept us focused on something much bigger than partisan politics: a goal to build a better Canada for future generations. Today, I am very proud to be her colleague, to belong to a party and to sit in a caucus that backs words with action. As a caucus, we must work every day to honour her voice and leadership, a Dene woman from Northern Saskatchewan, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.
 
Today, I remind all my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House that we all have to work together. We all have work to do to truly honour and respect the authentic voices of indigenous women in the House and in our communities.