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Motion to Resolve into Committee of the Whole to Hear Representatives of Aboriginal Community Adopted


Hon. Serge Joyal, pursuant to notice of February 3, 2009, moved:

That, at 3 o'clock p.m. on Thursday, June 11, 2009, the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole in order to hear from the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the President of the Metis National Council, for the purpose of reporting on progress made on commitments endorsed by parliamentarians of both Chambers during the year following the Government's apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools.

He said: Honourable senators will remember that on June 11, 2008, this house was privileged to host the representatives of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada on the day that formal apologies were presented on behalf of the Government of Canada by the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, and we had an opportunity to listen to the testimony of the Aboriginal leaders.

At the conclusion of that hearing, we asked if they would receive favourably an invitation to appear in a year and testify again on the progress made during that year on the repair of the damages, the compensation and all the initiatives that had to be taken with respect to the damages that the Aboriginal people of Canada endured in the 100 years that the residential school system lasted. Many of those leaders expressed their concern and accepted the opportunity to come forward to testify.

This motion is an invitation extended to them. The Senate Chamber is at its brightest time when we are in Committee of the Whole because there is a free flow of questions on both sides. It is always well managed. We can even consider being televised. It is not part of the motion, but perhaps the leaders on both sides can discuss that possibility at a later date.

It speaks to the Senate's concern about ensuring that the Aboriginal leaders have the capacity to report on the progress and that we have an opportunity to question them to see where additional help can be provided to them.

That is essentially the scope of the motion. It will be done as usual and on a non-partisan basis. Senators benefit from the presence within our walls of seven learned Aboriginal senators who have had responsibility in the past to their people and who are in the best position to question and to help us to understand where we are in terms of repairing the damage inflicted, and to determine the scope that we want to have in the future.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is there continuing debate?

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I agree with the points raised by my honourable colleague. I especially appreciated the comment regarding the value of using the Committee of the Whole. I have been a longstanding promoter of that practice because we do not use it enough. The Committee of the Whole has great potential.

I have no problem whatsoever in supporting the honourable senator's motion. I will take him up on the concept of televising the proceedings. We will discuss it with the other side, obviously, to see if it can be arranged.

I recall last year's appearance before this chamber of these learned Aboriginal leaders and the wonderful job they did. They were able to give us and the Canadian public a great deal of information.

I look forward to that session, and, therefore, I endorse the motion.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to.)