Bill C-37 (Historical)
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
An Act to facilitate the implementation of those provisions of first nations' claim settlements in the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan that relate to the creation of reserves or the addition of land to existing reserves, and to make related amendments to the Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act and the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Bob Nault Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
The Royal Assent
March 21st, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend Her Excellency the Governor General in the Senate Chamber Her Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to certain bills:
Bill S-14, an act respecting Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day--Chapter No.2.
Bill C-37, an act to facilitate the implementation of those provisions of first nations' claim settlements in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan that relate to the creation of reserves or the addition of land to existing reserves, and to make related amendments to the Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act and the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act--Chapter No. 3.
Bill C-41, an act to amend the Canadian Commercial Corporation Act--Chapter No. 4.
Public Safety Act
December 3rd, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me say that I will be using up all the time left for this sitting of the House.
I would like to continue the debate on the all important Bill C-42. It is very important because it received such broad media coverage last week. All that happened because, basically, the Minister of Transport introduced a bill that was a hidden attack against our democracy and our freedoms. Those were very important points that were raised, in particular by Bloc Quebecois members.
This is all the more serious because Bill C-42, which is now before the House, was not even on the order of business for today. We were supposed to be discussing Bill C-37, Bill C-39 and Motion No. 20 under government orders, as well as Bill S-31.
Why then is Bill C-42 before the House today, a situation which probably forced the minister to quickly react and address the House, as I had to do because I am the Bloc Quebecois critic? It happened very simply because the House did not have enough work for today.
It is a cause for concern. It comes after the difficulties encountered by the Liberal government last week. The week started very badly with the introduction of Bill C-42, which was almost a knee-jerk reaction, if I may use the expression, to the airline safety bill introduced two weeks earlier by the U.S. congress.
The Canadian government, because it was not ready to introduce a bill on airline safety, decided to introduce a bill on public safety.
Again, I have trouble understanding the minister when he says that these powers already exist. He is not the only one who said that in the House. The Prime Minister said so too, as so did the Minister of National Defence.
If they already exist, why insult us by introducing a bill that is a serious threat to democracy and the rights and freedoms of Quebecers and Canadians? The reason is very simple: these powers simply did not exist.
The government is fine tuning these powers and introducing new ones. It is coming here with emergency directives, with military zones, with a lot of provisions which the Minister of Transport has taken great care today not to elaborate on.
He has elaborated today, of course, on the changes to the Aeronautics Act, for which he is responsible as a minister. He has admitted once again, quite candidly, that there was a lot of opposition to the changes that were put in Bill C-42, because the opposition thought there was not very much in this bill.
Of course he has told us that there still is no money. Funds will be announced during the budget speech that the Minister of Finance will give on December 10.
Thus, we will have fine tuning of the whole air safety policy and we will have the funds. The minister said that he was still negotiating with the Minister of Finance to determine the amounts that would be allocated to air safety.
Concerning this bill, the Bloc Quebecois asked the Prime Minister the following question “What could you not do on September 11 that such a bill would allow you to do?” The Prime Minister responded by letting the Minister of Transport answer and, once again, he could not say today what he could not do.
He elaborated earlier on what he did exactly on September 11, with the existing laws, and for which new laws to intervene were never asked for.
The attacks coming from the opposition were, among other things, about representations, statements and actions of the Minister of Health, who decided to award a contract to a company, namely Apotex, which did not have the rights. It was Bayer that had the rights on the anthrax vaccine.
Of course, these are government mistakes. Today, in response to a question from the leader of the Progressive Conservative/Democratic Representative Coalition, the Minister of Health seemed once again to laugh at the fact that this bill would give him new powers.
I can perhaps try to explain, to help Quebecers listening to us to better understand the new powers that would be given to the health minister. It is quite simple:
11.1 (1) The Minister may make an interim order that contains any provision that may be contained in a regulation made under section 11 if the Minister believes that immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk, direct or indirect, to health or safety.
Hence, by way of an interim order, a new power has been given to the health minister. In the case of the anthrax vaccine or the protective inoculation, this power would have entailed the minister to give his officials the power to buy the necessary vaccine and to compel every Canadian to receive it.
These new dispositions all give more powers and this is what makes it so serious. It is not done simply by giving the minister more powers, because we do not simply give him more powers, we tell him that now “An interim order is exempt from the application of sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act”.
This means that the minister could adopt interim orders for all sorts of emergency purposes and be exempt from the application of sections of the Statutory Instruments Act, and I am not talking about any old section, either. I will read a part of section 3, which would no longer apply to the Minister of Health in the case of interim orders. This section states:
- (1) Subject to any regulations made pursuant to paragraph 20(a), where a regulation-making authority proposes to make a regulation, it shall cause to be forwarded to the Clerk of the Privy Council three copies of the proposed regulation in both official languages.
Now, it would no longer be necessary to send them in both official languages. I read on:
(2) On receipt by the Clerk of the Privy Council of copies of a proposed regulation pursuant to subsection (1), the Clerk of the Privy Council, in consultation with the Deputy Minister of Justice, shall examine the proposed regulation to ensure that
(a) it is authorized by the statute pursuant to which it is to be made;
(b) it does not constitute an unusual or unexpected use of the authority pursuant to which it is to be made;
(c) it does not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms and is not, in any case, inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—
If the Minister of Health is empowered to make interim orders, to purchase vaccines, of whatever kind, exempt from the application of the provisions of enabling legislation, he could very well acquire unacceptable vaccines, vaccines whose patents are held elsewhere. This is no problem. He could then require a group to be vaccinated without complying with the charter of rights and freedoms. All this is effective for 23 days. After 23 days, the regulation must be published.
If this does not infringe on individual rights and freedoms, I do not know what they can be thinking. If the minister had all these powers, why write in black and white in a bill that now he will be able to make interim orders without the House or the usual regulatory procedure requiring him to meet the test of the charter of rights and freedoms?
This is the type of regulation now proposed by the Minister of Transport. These regulations were of course tabled like any major bill. The minister said it earlier: This is the second phase in the fight against terrorism. He said it solemnly, in camera.
The transport officials who tabled the draft regulations in camera, and I was there, were not able to explain the content of the regulations. They were accompanied by officials from DND, who were there to explain what was happening with national defence, and from each of the other departments. There were 10 officials representing the various departments to explain to us the part of the bill involving their department.
So if the official representing the Department of Transport is unable to answer questions on a bill sponsored by his minister, I can understand why the minister himself could not answer questions in the House on this bill. This is the harsh reality.
While we are confronted with emergency situations, situations as serious as the events of September 11, officials from several departments are trying to fulfill their dreams. It is unbelievable that a minister would agree to defend a measure as important as this one. This is a measure that amends 19 acts, of which officials do not understand the operation.
Therefore, it was really easy for the Bloc Quebecois to attack this bill relentlessly in the House. I am proud and I am confident that my leader has made important gains for Quebec society by finding in the legislation all these irritants for democracy and for the respect of Quebecers' rights and freedoms. Today we thought the battle was practically over.
We managed to make the government realize that the only really urgent issue was what was made into a distinct bill, Bill C-44, amending the Aeronautics Act. This was the only really urgent matter in the 98 pages of Bill C-42. We needed just one page, because we have to meet the American requirements concerning the information airlines have to provide on passengers. These are American requirements.
Concerning Bill C-44, we have been told regulations would be provided, and we were supposed to get further explanations. The House leader of the Liberal Party told us, when he answered a question by the Bloc Quebecois, that he would table the regulation amendments or the draft of these amendments so we could study them in committee. We were supposed to get them last Friday, but we are still waiting. Tomorrow, the committee will examine Bill C-44, but with this Liberal government I am sure we will still not have these amendments.
This concludes this part of my remarks. I hope I get another chance to take the floor, because I intend to use all the time I am allotted to explain the defects in Bill C-42.
December 3rd, 2001 / 1:25 p.m.
Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB
The member said he would not be here if he had struck it rich. I suspect there were many people who had those dreams back in the original gold rush, as well as in the late 1970s when other people went up there.
We can just see the boom and bust, though, in an area like that where, as the member from Winnipeg just said, out of 25,000 people 8,000 left when every single mine closed down. It was a terrifying experience because they were there, it was part of their life, they were raising families there and then, all of a sudden, poof, the jobs were gone. We can see it happening now. There is another cycle going on in the softwood lumber debate, and the price of oil, of course, is dropping, which severely affects my province of Alberta.
We see these cycles and if there is any way that we can bring in legislation in this place that would help smooth out those boom and bust times it would probably be a really good thing for us to do and a really good way to spend our time.
Maybe this piece of legislation does not help the boom and bust cycle, but it would certainly help a lot of things and areas and classifications in Yukon so that it would be able to move toward more autonomy. Of course, as has been mentioned here several times, and the member for Yukon who is packing this bill around with him knows, it would not achieve full provincial status at this point. I am not sure if this is baby steps that the government is thinking about or if it thinks it needs to see if Yukon can behave responsibly as a teenager before it gets adult status. It is certainly beyond me.
I think that it would be wise for the government to think about the wisdom of this, about not just going this far with Bill C-39 and certainly giving a devolution of power, but about giving full provincial status. I suppose the question could be, when might that come? I know that this will take place in April 2003, and again that is going to be a tremendous step for Yukon, but one has to wonder what kind of proof in the pudding the government needs to see before Yukon gets full provincial status. I think all of us would look forward to that.
It was interesting that government member, from Oxford, I believe, said that in fact people had been invited or could have submitted requests to appear before the committee. I was on that committee. I understand that the chairman and others thought it would be a good thing to wrap up before Christmas break so that we would not drag it on.
However, let us look at the pattern in this place of how stuff goes through here at lightning speed. In fact, the government has brought in closure over 70 times, or time allocation if we want to be technical, but it really does not matter. What the government is doing is shoving stuff through just as quickly as it possibly can. Witness the anti-terrorism bill. Witness some of these other things. I think that is probably the point the member for Winnipeg was making, and probably the member for Yukon as well. That is his home riding and so he deals with the Kaska first nations if they do have concerns. It seems to be very wise to make sure that people have their voices and their concerns heard and that the consultations are listened to. We could go on forever consulting, but for the sake of wisdom it seems to me that we should say “Let us hear the concerns, let us hear the consultations, let us get together and talk” so that we know these things ahead of time.
I am sorry that I was out of town when the government leader was here last week and did not get a chance to meet her. I would have liked to and I hope I get a chance to sometime. She was not unduly concerned about the consultative process. She thought that there were good things in it. As for the continued power for the aboriginal affairs minister, there were some concerns but not huge ones. I think that shows good trust back and forth. If there is any way to better that, it seems to me that we should err on the side of “Let us consult” rather than saying “Sorry, you had a chance and you did not get a hold of us in time” because we put the thing through at such breakneck speed. I think that is wise in terms of any legislation.
We are dealing with two bills in the House right now at third reading. One is Bill C-37, which went through very quickly as well, about the Alberta and Saskatchewan land claim settlement. Again, in my province of Alberta it is a wise thing. Neil Reddekopp, who is the executive director of aboriginal lands claims for the government of Alberta raised this need for a method of dealing with surface rights once the reserves have been created. That is in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
There is great sanity in that, in making sure that things are going through at a reasonable speed with reasonable consultation so that there are reasonable expectations from people at the ground level. As we saw in Bill C-37, which has just passed the House by agreement, and now again with Bill C-39 a few moments later, we are able to say this is a good thing and let us keep moving it ahead, but let us all not get so pleased with ourselves that we get all caught up with the excitement of passing legislation just so that people can slide home as quickly as possible for Christmas.
We know that in Bill C-39 these new administrative powers would be given over its own affairs to Yukon, not just for digging 5x5x5 holes and staking land claims but for land management, resources and water rights, of course excluding those under federal jurisdiction such as national parks. Again, the devolution of those provincial types of powers is a good thing and we in the coalition support that. We know the lower the level of government the closer it is to the people, so for the federal government to say to give these powers to Yukon so it has province like powers yet is still not considered to have province like status, I think some of us would question that.
Yukon would now have powers through devolution to make laws regarding the exploration, development, conservation and management of its own non-renewable natural resources. This is a far better thing than someone from Ottawa, 5,000, 6,000 or 8,000 miles away, deciding what is best for Yukoners. Again, that lower level of government would serve the people better because it is closer, at the ground level. It would be a very sane thing to do.
The federal government would retain some administration and control of property in Yukon if it is deemed necessary, for defence and security, for creating a national park, for settlement of an aboriginal land claim, et cetera. Again, because we have just looked at Bill C-37, the Alberta and Saskatchewan land claims settlement, we know how important it is to have the level of trust between two levels of government, or among three levels, whether it is the provincial one in Alberta. The four western provinces have their own provincial departments of aboriginal land claims. To be able to see this also in Yukon, where that level of government could deal with the federal government, I do not think anyone would dispute that. I am sure my colleague from Yukon would agree that there still is a place for federal government legislation in these areas I have just mentioned, which Yukon would not want to usurp in terms of national parks or defence and security.
Of course we all have that remembrance from September 11 of a great, big, jumbo jetliner landing in Whitehorse. It was a surprise to the local folks, I am sure, but to everyone else as well. We realize now that no matter where we are on the planet, let alone in Canada, the world is different now after September 11 in defence and security issues. For Yukoners to have seen a jetliner sitting on the tarmac in Whitehorse, I understand and appreciate that Yukoners realize and recognize that there is a role for the federal government to play there.
The auditor general would conduct yearly audits of the Yukon government and report his or her findings to the legislative assembly. Each one of us needs to be accountable, of course, and to have an auditor general is a very smart thing to do. We know that the auditor general is coming out with her recommendations and report tomorrow and we are looking forward to some of those things because everyone needs to be held accountable. With Yukoners and the books and how the auditor general would go in there and report them to the legislative assembly, it is a really good accountability mechanism, not just a triggering mechanism. Everyone finds it important.
Although the Yukon government, and I mentioned earlier that the leader of Yukon was down here last week, seems content with the amount of federal authority that remains in the legislation, we in the coalition have some concerns which we would like brought forward even though we are supporting the legislation. Specifically, the commissioner of Yukon would be appointed by an order of the governor in council. Recently I received an excellent briefing on this from the departmental people in my office. Under the legislation the commissioner of Yukon must follow any written instructions given to the commissioner by the governor in council or the minister. Again, it is a trust factor. If the minister deals fairly with me, and if it looks as though the minister's department or governor in council makes appointments on merit, I do not think any of us have a problem.
Of course once things start turning political or partisan or because someone is my political buddy and will get such and such a position, then it is no longer filled strictly by merit. Again we need to be careful that power is not usurped. We have that caveat in place, that these orders of the governor in council must be wise and based on merit.
Under the bill the governor in council also could direct the commissioner to withhold his or her assent to any bill that has been introduced in the legislative assembly and the governor in council could disallow any bill from the legislative assembly within a year after it is passed. An example would be if I were a member of the Yukon government, this power of devolution was transferred to us in 2003 and we were thinking, yes, we are on the track and are masters of our own destiny, but then within a full year from that, which is a fairly long time, the minister or the governor in council could direct the commissioner to say “No, sorry, we veto that bill”.
When something is up and running and taking shape and within a year officials can say “No, sorry, we have the veto power on that”, that is a tremendous amount of power. I would want to make sure and we in the coalition would be concerned about making sure that power is not usurped. I know the member for Yukon would also have horrible concerns and frustrations if his home government in the Yukon passed a piece of legislation and then someone in Ottawa, with the great wisdom bestowed on him or her, said almost a year later “Sorry, we are vetoing that”. There would be a great hue and cry. It would be as big, as bright and as sparkly, I am sure, as the northern lights themselves. Let us make sure these concerns are taken into account.
Let me wind down by talking about the employment offer. Those who are currently employed by the federal government will now be offered jobs under Yukon. I asked someone somewhere with whom I was consulting whether all the federal government civil servants would be under Yukon. That may bind their hands. If the government is saying it is guaranteeing jobs, what if there is some sort of changing mechanism, not downsizing but restructuring, when they have jobs through the Yukon government? If these jobs are being virtually guaranteed to those who are now in the federal civil service, with the same pay and cost of living allowance, plus the territorial bonus or northern living allowance, what happens if there is restructuring and someone loses a job? I can see that there could be a tremendous outcry and a tremendous difficulty in being faced by that.
My colleague from Winnipeg, who disagrees with me on most things political, and we are probably at opposite ends of the spectrum, was a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and paid by the federal government. So was I. I was a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada when I taught school under Indian Affairs.
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
December 3rd, 2001 / 12:30 p.m.
Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address Bill C-37 in the spirit of co-operation that the Bloc Quebecois always displays when the bills proposed are good measures and, more importantly, in a spirit of friendship, since Quebec sovereignists are allies of the various aboriginal nations.
It is in a spirit of help, support and friendship that the Bloc Quebecois takes a stand on all aboriginal issues. We often offer our assistance to them, always in a spirit of co-operation between nations.
Bill C-37 before us today is intended to facilitate the implementation of territorial agreements reached between the federal government and the first nations.
As we saw in committee with the speeches that were made, the bill is very technical. In fact, this is in stark contrast with the approach which the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development seemed to have adopted and which generated controversy every time he wanted to introduce a new government measure, as was the case, for instance, with the governance bill.
Incidentally, it is unfortunate for the minister that this attitude impacts negatively on the federal government's relations with first nations. One example is, of course, the rather drastic and unacceptable cuts imposed on the Assembly of First Nations by the federal government.
Such decisions and actions will not help improve relations between the federal government and first nations, and this is very unfortunate for all Quebecers, Canadians and first nations.
In fact, there are even rumours on the other side of the House and in the newspapers that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development may lose his job during the next cabinet shuffle. It sure must be difficult to work with this dangling over one's head.
But let us not get distracted by the internal problems of the Liberal Party. Let us get back to Bill C-37.
The Bloc Quebecois is proud to contribute to the quick passage of this legislation since it includes constructive measures for first nations.
The Bloc Quebecois' position on the study of this bill is entirely consistent with our party's position on the right of first nations to self-government.
Incidentally, I am sorry that the federal government left aside the political framework suggested in the Erasmus-Dussault Commission report and that it is using different mechanisms, a piecemeal approach, when a clearly defined path has been laid out, a path that we as well as a majority of stakeholders in the aboriginal community and others support.
The Bloc Quebecois has demonstrated that we are open to first nations and we have also demonstrated our sincere concern for them on numerous occasions.
Bill C-37 implements land claims agreements which are the result of long and often difficult negotiations for increased self-government and accountability for first nations.
It is important to remember that this legislative measure applies exclusively to the result of negotiations in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Similar legislation was passed approximately one year ago for Manitoba.
Bill C-37 will considerably reduce the time required to grant the lands negotiated real reserve status. Aboriginal people in these areas will be able to use this legislation to accelerate the land transfer process.
This is a key element of the notion of self-government, as it will allow first nations to benefit sooner from the natural resources on their lands. Their economic space will be strengthened, and everything seems to indicate that the legislation will have a positive effect on these communities.
I could go on for much longer, but in order to be brief, in conclusion, I reiterate that the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-37. We invite our colleagues from all political parties to do likewise.
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
December 3rd, 2001 / 12:20 p.m.
Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me today to rise to debate Bill C-37, the Alberta and Saskatchewan claims act. The official opposition, the Canadian Alliance, recognizes the need for the legislation and therefore will be supporting the bill.
Let me take just a moment to discuss and summarize the intention and purpose of the bill. The bill's summary describes the act as a mechanism:
—to facilitate the implementation of those provisions of first nations' claim settlements in Alberta and Saskatchewan that relate to the creation of reserves or the addition of lands to existing reserves. The new Act empowers the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to set land apart as a reserve, and allows for the accommodation of third-party rights and interests in that land during the process of setting it apart as a reserve.
In short, the bill rightly addresses aspects of legitimate treaties that have not yet been fulfilled in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Where these errors and omissions have occurred over the years, for whatever reason, all the parties need to move quickly and efficiently in an effort to bring prompt resolution to them.
I want to categorically state that we in the Canadian Alliance believe that all treaty obligations should be met and that it is a moral imperative that we do so. Members in this party believe in honouring treaties.
I would like to note that during both the departmental briefings to the Canadian Alliance and the departmental presentations to the standing committee, the question as to why the bill was necessary was brought up. I found it interesting that the consistent answer to that question was that the current system was both cumbersome and unable to contend with the backlog of approvals.
Currently the governor in council must approve all reserve additions. The process is a cumbersome, four step process and at times it seems the approval process is longer even than the negotiation process itself, which boggles the mind. However, those of us who have been around the bureaucracy long enough know very well that these things can certainly take place.
We therefore know that the bill is intended to speed up the implementation process of additional reserve lands under the treaty land entitlement, or TLE, program in both Alberta and Saskatchewan.
I am pleased that Bill C-37 addresses the previous concerns that have been brought forward by third party interests. In the past, third party interests have been a major stumbling block to proceeding with the settlement of outstanding treaty land entitlements. Under the bill, third party interests may choose to opt into the regulations introduced through Bill C-37 or they may choose to continue with the old method. It is anticipated that the majority, if not all, will choose to opt in.
I would encourage the government to move quickly and decisively in the settlement of the remaining treaty land entitlement claims in Alberta and Saskatchewan. To procrastinate further serves no positive purpose for anyone. To continue the slow, grinding process is financially costly to all the parties and certainly provides no economic certainty to the aboriginal community or to the non-native population either.
We know that only too well in British Columbia and in the region which I serve as member of parliament where uncertainty in the treaty process has led to a great loss of investment in the province and is certainly one of the factors in our near recession like conditions in B.C. these days. These things must change and I believe Bill C-37 would bring us along the road to positive change in this regard.
One of the biggest questions I had going into the committee discussions surrounding the bill was the position that the respective provincial government had. I was pleased to hear that the provincial governments have been actively involved in the consultation and draft development of the bill and therefore feel that their previous concerns have been met.
The government official from the province of Alberta, for instance, mentioned that the bill was long overdue. It is something for which officials in the province of Alberta have been asking for a long time. Now that we have it I know they are very pleased.
They also made the observation that although negotiations are often long and drawn out, the waiting time for the governor in council to rubber stamp and finalize the agreement is often even longer. That has led to a detrimental situation in that province.
While I do not generally relish the thought of adding more powers to any of the ministers of the crown, I am supportive of any move that would reduce the waiting time due to an unacceptable bureaucracy. The Canadian Alliance endorses any move to minimize government interference in the daily lives of Canadians. Therefore, the bill is in keeping with our current policy.
The Canadian Alliance also recognizes the legitimacy of signed treaties as legally binding agreements and therefore we believe all obligations must be met under these treaties. In the cases where obligations have not been met, then our party will support the efforts to resolve them as quickly as possible.
The slow process of government bureaucracy should not stand in the way of settling these land claim submissions and therefore we support the bill.
Although it is not exclusively an economic bill, we again want to say that we believe the bill would assist some bands to realize economic opportunities in a more timely manner. The recognition of third party interests under the bill is key in order to achieve it.
I believe we must proceed quickly and ensure that bands are able to achieve those kinds of results within their own sphere of influence, not at a cost to others but in a fair and open market. Bands and band members must be given equal opportunity to achieve economic prosperity just like all other Canadians across this great land.
In conclusion, the Canadian Alliance will be supporting the bill. We are very glad it has been brought to the House.
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
December 3rd, 2001 / 12:05 p.m.
Paul Devillers Simcoe North, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on Bill C-37, the claim settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) implementation act. I am pleased to be presenting this legislation for a third and final reading.
I want to begin by thanking hon. members for supporting Bill C-37 at second reading, when members from all parties spoke in favour of the legislation. I also want to thank the standing committee for its thorough examination of Bill C-37.
First nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan, with the full support of the government, want to move forward. It is time to fulfill Canada's treaty land entitlement commitments and implement specific claim settlements agreements in these two provinces.
Bill C-37 would facilitate this process by expediting the acquisition and transfer of lands to reserve status in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
As hon. members will recall, we currently have a backlog of about a million hectares, or two million acres, of land that has yet to be added to reserves as a result of claim settlements in these two provinces, and even more commitments are expected in the future.
Members will have realized that this bill deals mainly with administrative matters. Nevertheless, it will bring changes which we expect will yield important improvements in the implementation of claim settlements.
For example, the existing additions to reserves process simply was not designed to accommodate such a volume of work in an expedient or efficient manner.
In addition, today many of the lands first nations are selecting to add to their reserves have third party interests, such as leases or mineral rights, that need to be addressed.
Although a number of mechanisms exist in federal law for accommodating third party interests, these are not currently available for the purposes of adding lands to reserves.
Changes are needed, progressive changes that will allow the government to meet its commitments to first nations people, as we promised to do in “Gathering Strength”, our response to the royal commission on aboriginal peoples, and in the recent Speech from the Throne.
Changes are needed that will allow us to get the job done quicker, while respecting the rights of everyone involved and providing new opportunities for first nations to build their economies and create jobs in their communities.
Bill C-37 passes the test on all accounts. It would protect and even enhance the rights of other parties. It would speed up the process for first nations and give them access to a broader range of lands that have existing commercial interests and development potential.
I would like to quickly review the key elements of the bill so that hon. members can appreciate what we are trying to do and why they should support the government and first nations in this process.
First, Bill C-37 would empower the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to grant reserve status to lands that are selected by Alberta and Saskatchewan first nations under claim settlements. This would replace the current process of obtaining an order in council. We expect this change will shorten the time needed to approve additions to reserves which in turn would allow any economic benefits associated with the lands to be realized more quickly by the first nations. More importantly however, Bill C-37 would streamline the process for dealing with third party interests in lands selected for additions to reserves under claim settlements.
This will be achieved by giving first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan pre-reserve designation and permit granting powers that will allow them to agree to continue an existing third party interest or to negotiate a new one in selected lands before the lands become part of a reserve, and even before the lands are purchased.
Under the existing process, any such interests must either be bought out or otherwise accommodated before the land can be transferred to Canada and granted reserve status.
As I noted a moment ago, this improved pre-reserve designation power will give first nations access to a broader range of lands that have development interests or potential. Because these lands can be selected and acquired more quickly, any third party interests associated with them will contribute sooner to economic and social progress in the community.
First nations will not be the only ones to win from these new mechanisms. All concerned parties, including private sector developers, landowners and people, companies or institutions who hold interests in land in Alberta and Saskatchewan, will benefit from the higher level of certainty that will result from Bill C-37.
For example, the proposed legislation would provide businesses and investors in Alberta and Saskatchewan with certainty of tenure for any third party interest they might hold in lands to be added to a reserve. It would also provide the certainty, stability and predictability first nations and businesses need to negotiate new commercial arrangements and economic development partnerships.
Facilitating the transfer of lands to reserve status is the main object of Bill C-37, but I want to remind hon. members that the legislation also proposes to amend the Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act and the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act of 1993. In the case of the Manitoba bill the amendments would make minor language improvements to ensure its consistency with Bill C-37.
Hon. members will recall that part 2 of the Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act already has put the new regime in place for claim settlements in that province. In fact it served as a model for the legislation currently before the House. The changes to the Saskatchewan legislation are more substantive but their purpose is equally straightforward.
Clause 12 would confirm in law any release of the province of Saskatchewan from its obligations under the natural resources transfer agreement of 1930 to provide unoccupied crown lands when that obligation otherwise has been met as part of a treaty land entitlement settlement negotiated since 1993 or in the future. As well, clause 13 would establish clear rules for determining whether the pre-designation power provided in Bill C-37 or a similar power in the Saskatchewan legislation applies in different circumstances.
I am pleased that Bill C-37 has enjoyed the support of all parties because the legislation demonstrates real progress in fulfilling Canada's historical obligations to first nations people.
Let me remind hon. members that some of the treaty land entitlement settlements that will be facilitated by this legislation resolve grievances that go back more than a century.
At long last, more than 30 first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan will receive land that was promised when their forefathers signed treaties with the crown, but that was never fully delivered, lands that will meet their needs today and in the future.
I am especially pleased for the Alexander First Nation and the Loon River Cree First Nation in Alberta, whose treaty land entitlement settlement agreements included commitments by Canada to recommend legislation to streamline the additions to reserves process.
I am also pleased for those first nations whose specific claim settlement agreements will be facilitated by Bill C-37. Looking to the future, these provisions will be available for all future claim settlements in Alberta and Saskatchewan that involve additions to reserves.
In other words, what we are putting in place here is not a short term fix, but a long term solution to assist a process that could be ongoing for many years, as more claim settlements are negotiated by Canada. As we gain experience with this new process it may serve as a model for the entire country.
I am pleased with the flexibility that is inherent in Bill C-37. While I believe this new approach would be a great improvement over the existing additions to reserve process, it may be that some first nations will not agree. Bill C-37 would therefore give them the option of either electing to adopt these mechanisms or to continue under the current process.
As hon. members were advised during second reading debate, the opt in decision would apply only on a settlement by settlement basis. In other words, any first nation that has both a specific claim settlement and a treaty land entitlement settlement must make a separate election for each settlement agreement and it would be free to make a different election in each case.
Whatever choice they make, I can assure hon. members that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development will continue to work closely with first nations to fulfill any commitments to expand reserves.
Consistent with our government's approach to doing business, Bill C-37 was developed in close consultation with the affected stakeholders. First nations and treaty organizations in both provinces were consulted and have endorsed the approach set out in Bill C-37, including the Alexander First Nation and the Loon River Cree First Nation.
The proposed amendments to the Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act and to the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act have also been endorsed by the affected parties. Bill C-37 also has the full support of the provincial governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Clearly this is good legislation that would improve Canada's relationship with first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Just as important, it would strengthen the capacity of first nations governments to make decisions about their lands and communities and allow them to more effectively pursue economic development opportunities.
Bill C-37 also meets the needs of other parties who have an interest in lands in those two provinces. This is a win-win bill for all who will be affected by it. With that in mind, I invite hon. members on both sides of the House to join me in supporting Bill C-37.
Business Of The House
Oral Question Period
November 29th, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond somewhat belatedly, as a result of the disorder created by the opposition.
The business of the House will be as follows. We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-27 respecting nuclear waste. Following that I propose we move on to private members' hour.
Tomorrow the business will be Bill C-44, the aeronautics bill for which the House gave its unanimous consent earlier this week and for which I thank it.
Tuesday shall be an allotted day. This is the final day in the supply cycle with the resulting supply votes and so on at the end of the day.
On Wednesday we will complete any of the business that I previously mentioned that has not been finished, if such is the case, and we will consider the report stage of any bill that is reported from committee in the interim. I am told for instance that Bill C-41 has been reported today or will be tomorrow. That will be on the list as well.
Finally, there has been agreement among House leaders that on Monday, after we complete the deliberations on the two bills I mentioned, we would have a short debate on a motion on employment equity. That is a compulsory requirement according to our rules, to have a committee review of the employment equity legislation. The House leaders have agreed, and I have since put it on the order paper, that we would consider that motion toward the end of the day on Monday, in addition to the business I have just announced.
Committees of the House
November 28th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
Raymond Bonin Nickel Belt, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Monday, November 5, 2001, your committee has considered Bill C-39, an act to replace the Yukon Act, to modernize it and to implement certain provisions of the Yukon northern affairs program devolution transfer agreement and to repeal and make amendments to other acts and agreed on Thursday, November 22 to report it without amendment.
I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.
In accordance with its order of reference of Monday, October 22, 2001, your committee has considered Bill C-37, an act to facilitate the implementation of those provisions of first nations' claim settlements in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan that relate to the creation of reserves or the addition of land to existing reserves and to make related amendments to the Manitoba Claim Settlement Implementation Act and the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act and agreed on Tuesday, November 27 to report it without amendment.
Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act
October 22nd, 2001 / 3:35 p.m.
Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague in the coalition from Cumberland--Colchester. He is not a man who often sings his own praises, but I will briefly mention that he is very hard-working and is in fact working on bringing together a conference of individuals from the Middle East, Palestine and Israel, to talk about a resolution to the ongoing conflict taking place there. I congratulate him for his hard work on that particular issue.
I will ask him one question about Bill C-37, that being the part that was brought up earlier by the member for Crowfoot about the RCMP and its role in providing security in these kinds of situations. Could my colleague comment on whether he thinks that is addressed adequately within this bill or is there more that could be done in that particular area?
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
October 22nd, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
John Finlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on Bill C-37, the claim settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) implementation act.
I join the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in urging hon. members to recognize the merits of the legislation and to help us move it quickly through the legislative process. As the hon. member for Yukon mentioned, that means the committee. We are looking forward to getting it as soon as possible.
I, too, feel that it is an essential bill that would help very much in the recognition and respect for which our native people are looking and also in the economic development in which they want to partake.
As the minister made clear this morning, the bill addresses a number of commitments and goals consistent with the government's aboriginal agenda. It would affirm and honour treaties which are a cornerstone of Canada's relationships with aboriginal people. It would help foster economic development in first nations communities throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan so that the communities can become more self-sufficient and sustainable.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of areas in your riding and mine, and in the ridings of many members on both sides of the House, that would benefit from extension of the act to all provinces. That may be something we will see within a short space of time.
It would facilitate the process by which Canada is living up to its commitments to the first nations people. It would accomplish all this primarily by ensuring that better means exist to recognize and accommodate third party interests in lands selected for additions to reserves in Alberta and Saskatchewan. In other words, the powers being accorded first nations under the proposed legislation do not come at the expense of any individual, business, institution or government, and that is often the sticking point in some of our negotiations.
In fact, the opposite is true. Bill C-37 would provide the certainty of tenure that third parties with existing interests need. The minister has stated that this is truly a win-win situation for the current backlog of current reserve expansion commitments in Alberta and Saskatchewan. At the present time there is close to a million hectares, which is 2.5 million acres, of land being considered for this very purpose.
It is a good solution for first nations because the pre-reserve designation and permit granting powers provided for under the legislation would allow them to select and acquire the best lands available, regardless of encumbrances, instead of taking what is left over and the worst lands available.
First nations would be able to enter into better agreements with third parties and more quickly which means that the economic benefits of land ownership will flow to communities sooner rather than later.
However, developers, investors and others who have third party interests in lands selected by first nations to fulfill a treaty land entitlement or specific claims agreement, would also benefit from the commercial certainty provided by Bill C-37.
I want to focus on the issue of accommodating third party interests for two reasons: first, it has been the main stumbling block to moving more quickly in meeting Canada's reserve expansion commitments in Alberta and Saskatchewan; and second, I know the protection of third party interests is an important consideration for hon. members on all sides of the House.
The minister has advised us that Canada currently has a commitment to add a million hectares. More such commitments will be made as additional claims are settled.
Land to fulfill these commitments is typically contributed from unoccupied federal or provincial crown lands. Alternatively the land may be purchased by the first nations on a willing seller, willing buyer basis. Herein lies the problem: the vast majority of land being selected by first nations for additions to reserves has existing third party interest.
These interests may range from rights of way and hydro line easements to mineral permits and leases, timber licences, commercial and residential leaseholds for tourism, recreation, vacations, et cetera.
Regardless of the nature of the interest, it must be accommodating in some way that is satisfactory to all parties: Canada, the first nation and the interest holder. This is one of the key issues that must be addressed under the federal additions to reserves process.
Unfortunately, as we have heard already, with the exception of the recently enacted Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act and the 1993 Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act, existing federal laws were not designed with the requirements of the additions to reserves process in mind. In other words, they are not geared to accommodate third party interest in a way that is either commercially certain or commercially expeditious.
Under the current provisions of the Indian Act, for example, a first nation can only consent to the creation of interest on reserve land if the land is already part of the reserve. This does not include land that is being merely proposed for reserve status. Of course first nations, like any land owner, can grant leases on land they own privately, but if a first nation wanted to transfer such land to Canada to be made into a reserve, any third party interests on the land could not legally be carried forward. They would have to be terminated and then reinstituted.
Land must exist as reserve land before leases or any other third party interests can be voted on by the membership of the first nation.
What this means is that a third party must surrender its interest in land, even if only temporarily, before the land can be added to a reserve. In exchange, the first nation at present is only able to offer the promise or undertaking that it will vote to re-grant that interest once the reserve is created. At the snail's pace that some negotiations move, that could be a long wait and someone might lose interest.
Most interest holders are understandably reluctant to do this because it puts their future rights at risk. As a result, the addition to reserve may be effectively stalemated and the affected first nation may have to abandon its preferred choice of land and accept land that has far less development potential.
Manitoba first nations have been released from this cumbersome process under the Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act, providing the additions to reserves commitment arises out of a land claim settlement. The situation has also been addressed to some extent in Saskatchewan where the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act of 1993 allows first nations to consent to the granting of interest on lands that do not yet have reserve status.
However experience since 1993 has taught us that this power under the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act has not proven as advantageous as it could have been since it is limited to the granting of existing interest. It can only be used in treaty land entitlement situations, not in specific claim situations, and it can be only used when the first nation has already purchased the land.
Such limitations have been avoided in the wording of both the Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act and the provisions of the present bill.
Bill C-37 would essentially extend the pre-designation powers now available in Manitoba to first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Under this proposed legislation, a first nation will be able to consent to a third party land interest either existing or new during the reserve expansion process and indeed even before purchasing the land itself. In this way first nations will be free to then purchase the land knowing the encumbrances have been settled in advance and where they will not present a hurdle to reserve designation.
To achieve this, Bill C-37 borrows from a variety of existing federal legal mechanisms for granting third party interests but adjusts each in minor ways to facilitate their use when applied to additions to reserves. The effect will be to provide first nations and third parties with commercial certainty in their deal making while land is being processed as reserve land.
This new approach will help avoid situations where the first nation is forced to negotiate the buy-out and closure of an ongoing viable operation simply to clear the land of encumbrances, thereby forgoing any future revenues that might have been derived in terms of royalties or rents, or the holder of that third party interest is asked to risk temporarily surrendering that interest while a parcel of land is being processed into reserve status.
The bill will give developers and investors, both existing and potential, the assurances they need to enter into agreements with first nations. At the end of the day, both parties, the first nations community and the holder of the interest, will benefit from these business arrangements.
Hon. members can appreciate that these proposed changes are designed to make the additions to reserves process as smooth and simple as possible for all parties in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Bill C-37 will put real estate transactions related to reserve expansions on a level playing field with non-reserve transactions in these two provinces. At the same time it will provide clear-cut legal mechanisms for protecting third party interests in land selected for addition to a reserve.
Having said that, it is important to acknowledge that the first nations with claim settlement agreements in Alberta and Saskatchewan will not automatically be bound by this new legislation. First nations will have complete flexibility in deciding whether to opt into these provisions.
I assure hon. members that Bill C-37 will not impose any additional restrictions or requirements on land owners or third party interest holders. No land owner will be forced to sell property to a first nation to fulfill a claims settlement agreement nor will a third party interest holder be forced to enter into agreements with first nations. Both these types of transactions will continue to take place on the basis of a willing buyer and a willing seller. The bill simply allows agreements to be put in place where both parties desire it.
This is clearly a good piece of legislation. It will protect third parties while giving way for new partnerships with aboriginal communities. It deserves the support of hon. members and I urge them to join me in voting to send Bill C-37 to committee for review.
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
October 22nd, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened with a lot of interest to the speech of the member for Yukon and would like to tell him that in the past I have had a chance to work with the minister of Indian affairs. In 1995 we worked on the privatization of CN, so I see a lot of good things in Bill C-37 right now, having worked with the minister previously.
I would like the member to explain some points to me. In Bill C-37 I see basically a lot of components of the Manitoba land claims act and settlement. I would like him to explain to me what he would like to see when the bill goes to committee. There are some strong points in the bill. Could he highlight what points he would like to see drawn out in committee immediately to go along on this deal making process he was talking about?
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
October 22nd, 2001 / 1:20 p.m.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, I will begin by answering the questions from the opposition parties. I think I can deal with virtually all of them, which I hope will speed the process through committee.
I was of course delighted to hear the member from the coalition talk about the futility of dredging up the past. I eagerly look forward to seeing how the Alliance and the coalition bring that sentiment into question period today.
The NDP and the Bloc were basically in support of the bill and outlined some of its good points. Several questions came up, mostly from the official opposition, and I will address some of those points. The first point was about providing the public with more and better information on some of the concepts. My colleague from the NDP did a very good job of that. For people who may not have been aware of them, he explained some of the provisions in the bill.
The opposition member mentioned that one definition that is not covered is specific claims. Just so members know, these are items that come up over and above the regular treaty obligations, which may have come up over the years as isolated incidents that do not hold up under the Indian Act and that we have to deal with.
The second point the member for the official opposition mentioned was related to municipal claims. He specifically mentioned SARM, but SARM has been involved along the way with these claims and has been dealing with the government in a good working relationship. SARM is quite familiar with the claims. Although it is not an issue in Alberta, there have been claims by municipalities, school boards and other taxing authorities for alleged loss of tax revenues due to establishment under a claims settlement.
However in Saskatchewan the tax loss issues were dealt with in two ways. For Saskatchewan, the treaty land entitlement framework provides that Canada and Saskatchewan shall contribute equally to a fund which is to be used to compensate rural municipalities. It also compensates school boards for tax losses experienced as a result of reserve expansions under that agreement. For the specific claim settlements which the member for the opposition mentioned, tax loss is largely the responsibility of the government of Saskatchewan by virtue of a bilateral agreement signed in 1999 between Saskatchewan and Canada. This is well in hand. I hope the member will be happy that it has been dealt with.
The last point he raised is related to mineral claims. He is right when he says that in some cases mineral claims will revert to the crown for the benefit of the first nation. That is good because that will help first nations economic development.
That is all I can remember of the member's points. If there were any others perhaps the member could bring them up in question period, because if all the questions have been dealt with hopefully the bill will go quickly through committee.
There was a point brought up by the NDP and the coalition that related to the powers of the minister, in particular the powers to allow the minister to make these decisions as opposed to having an order in council. This was requested by a number of first nations and also will speed up the process of this administrative function so that they can get on with their economic development with these third party interests.
The last point I want to comment on relates to the pipeline. It was mentioned by the coalition. Because the Alaska gas pipeline would go through my riding, I am delighted that this was raised. There would be great benefits for aboriginal people through employment and perhaps in taxes in different parts of the north, but in the Northwest Territories and Yukon there are different legal regimes, different treaty regimes, so it is not that relevant to those areas.
However, if it goes through Alberta through the natural gas pipeline which would bring Alaskan gas from Prudhoe Bay through Alaska and the Yukon, and if it happens to go through a reserve, it could possibly apply and once again would help first nations speed up their economic development with those added assets.
This is important legislation not only for the first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan but for all residents of those provinces and indeed for all Canadians. I would like to take a few minutes to explore the issues of how changes proposed in Bill C-37 would foster economic development in the affected first nations communities. I want to focus on this because it is a fundamental argument in favour of the proposed legislation.
I think hon. members on all sides of the House would agree it is vitally important that aboriginal communities from coast to coast to coast have opportunities to become more fully engaged in the Canadian economy. A strengthened aboriginal economy would help to address the many difficult issues that face first nations and Inuit communities across the nation. That is not to say that progress has not been made already. I can cite dozens of examples of successful aboriginal companies. In fact, there are more than 18,000 aboriginal owned businesses in Canada, ranging from small home based enterprises to multimillion dollar companies that do business around the world. Many of these are located on first nations reserves where they not only provide essential goods and services but are a vital source of employment and revenue.
The aboriginal community is diverse and vibrant. Aboriginal businesses operate in all sectors of the economy. They include resource industry firms, transportation and construction companies and retail and service outlets. They include manufacturing operations, management consultants, computer companies, arts and crafts enterprises and environmental and cultural tourism businesses.
However, more needs to be done to foster economic development in aboriginal communities, particularly on reserves. Despite the progress that has been made over the past couple of decades, aboriginal people continue to be among the most economically disadvantaged of all Canadians. There is still far too large a gap between the employment rates among first nations people and among other Canadians.
First nations still face special barriers to economic development, including legal obstacles, lower levels of education and lack of business experience and capital. These barriers are affecting social conditions in reserve communities. They are affecting families and children, and the effects are not positive ones.
What does all this have to do with Bill C-37? In my mind, having a sufficient land base upon which to engage in economic activity is the key to achieving prosperity in first nations communities. Since the claim settlements that would be facilitated by this proposed legislation concern reserve expansion, these settlements are an incredibly important vehicle for supporting aboriginal economic development. Treaty land entitlement and specific claim settlements do more than address past wrongs of first nations people. They pave the way for a better economic future by providing a secure land base and, in some cases, a financial package that can be used by the claimant group to fund economic development activities.
As consideration of the bill progresses, we will hear repeatedly of the legal and technical obstacles in the current additions to reserves process, which are impeding progress in implementing settlement agreements. These obstacles have resulted in an enormous backlog of commitments to add lands to reserves in Alberta and Saskatchewan, a backlog that is certain to grow unless action is taken to address some of the basic underlying problems. This is the objective of Bill C-37.
The proposed legislation would expedite and facilitate the additions to reserves process in two ways: first, by authorizing the minister rather than the governor in council to confer reserve status on lands and, second, by introducing new and better ways to accommodate third party interests in lands that are being converted to reserve status under claim settlements in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
I would like to consider three ways in which these elements of the bill would encourage economic activity in reserve communities. First and foremost, the proposed legislation would demonstrate to investors and others who engage in activities on lands proposed for reserve status that transactions can be concluded with greater predictability for both the first nation and third parties.
Hon. members can appreciate that certainty and stability are prerequisites for economic development. Regardless of whether an activity would be taking place in a reserve community or in downtown Edmonton or Regina, Bill C-37 would provide businesses and investors in Alberta and Saskatchewan with certainty of tenure for any third party interest they might hold in lands to be added to a reserve. It would also provide the certainty businesses need to negotiate new commercial arrangements with first nations communities.
Equally important is that the changes proposed in Bill C-37 would significantly reduce the amount of time needed to process lands into reserve status. Dealing with third party interests under the current process is problematic and time consuming. Sometimes it takes up to two years or more. This would all change if Bill C-37 becomes law. Because lands would be selected and added to reserves more quickly, the lands themselves and the revenues generated from any third party interests preserved on them would contribute to more immediate economic and social progress in the community. In fact, the pre-designation powers included in Bill C-37 would allow first nations to begin to enjoy these economic rewards even before the selected lands have been granted reserve status.
Finally, I support the bill 100% because making the accommodation of third party interests easier would give first nations access to a broader range of land that has development interests or potential. I think the member from one of the opposition parties mentioned that positive point.
In other words, these changes would facilitate the selection by first nations of commercially viable lands rather than lands that are simply unencumbered by existing interests. As first nations acquire better lands we can expect to see increased economic activity in these communities.
Although this proposed legislation may appear to be minor in the overall scheme of government activities, I do not think we should underestimate its impact. The vast majority of land selections under claim settlements in Alberta and Saskatchewan would be affected by one or more third party interests, whether that be a right of way for an access road, resource rights or a leasehold. Bill C-37 would have the potential to come into play for virtually every one of these claims. With the likelihood of even more settlements in the years ahead, the legislation's importance to the additions to reserve process in Alberta and Saskatchewan would only increase over time.
Obviously I am very supportive of the proposed legislation. I believe Bill C-37 would contribute to improved quality of life in first nations communities throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan. It would contribute to a growing economic base to support first nations self-government and it would help first nations communities further distance themselves from economic dependency on government.
Bill C-37 is yet another step the government is taking to live up to its commitments in “Gathering Strength”, including our commitment to support strong communities, people and economies. It is another step toward a better future for aboriginal people in Canada.
With these important benefits in mind, I would encourage hon. members to support the proposed legislation so it can proceed quickly through the House and to the other place.
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
October 22nd, 2001 / 1:10 p.m.
Gérard Binet Frontenac—Mégantic, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on Bill C-37, claims settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) implementation act. I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of this proposed legislation.
At first glance this may appear to be a somewhat technical bill, with limited scope and applicability but first impressions can be deceiving. The reality is that the changes proposed in this legislation--as minor as they may appear--will have a big impact on first nations communities throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Hon. members should know that Bill C-37, when it becomes law, will make a difference in the lives of first nations people and communities. It will make a difference to landowners, developers and people who live and work near existing reserves.
What is so important about this proposed legislation? After all, the existing process for adding lands to reserves works, does it not? It is a little slow and cumbersome but the job gets done.
If that is the approach we wish to take, then yes, the current process does work, but it hardly works well. In fact, it is severely impeding progress in resolving outstanding settlement commitments that have been made to first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan--some of which date back a decade or more.
Let me state for the record that this in not the approach this government intends to take. We are not prepared to accept the status quo because first nations deserve and want better, and Canadian taxpayers as a whole deserve a more efficient process.
The government intends to move quickly in fulfilling Canada's commitments to aboriginal people. This is really what Bill C-37 is all about.
“Gathering Strength”, our response to the report of the royal commission on aboriginal peoples, included a number of specific commitments. Notable among these was a pledge to honour Canada's treaties signed with aboriginal people.
This goes to the very heart of Bill C-37 because the key objective of this proposed legislation is to implement better, more expeditious ways to meet our reserve expansion commitments, most of which arise out of treaty land entitlements.
Perhaps some history is in order to help put this issue into perspective. As members will know, between 1874 and 1906, the Government of Canada signed several numbered treaties with first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan. As a general rule, these treaties required Canada to allocate reserve land to a first nation based on its population--generally, the first nation was to receive a certain acreage for each family group.
For one reason or another, many first nations involved in this treaty making process did not receive the full amount of land promised to them. In some cases, the shortfall can be blamed on inaccurate counts of band members; in other instances, not enough land was set apart when a reserve was first surveyed.
Regardless of the cause, there is no question that insufficient amounts of reserve lands were provided to some first nations. Therefore, while some of the treaty land entitlement obligations were fully satisfied long ago, many first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan did not historically receive their full land entitlement.
These century old injustices must be resolved and our government has been tackling the problem with renewed energy over the past several years.
Treaty land entitlement settlement agreements have been signed with six first nations in Alberta. In Saskatchewan, a treaty land entitlement framework agreement is in place covering most of the affected first nations, and several others have signed individual agreements. In total, 36 first nations in the two provinces are encompassed by these agreements.
Clearly the will exists on all sides to move forward on this issue. Appropriate resources have been earmarked for these settlements by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Saskatchewan. First nations have been identifying lands they would like to add to their reserves. However, despite the best of intentions and the full co-operation of all parties, this is where progress has bogged down.
Almost invariably, the lands being selected by first nations have existing third party interests. Under the terms of claim settlements, these interests must either be cleared or accommodated in a way that is satisfactory to everyone involved before the lands can be added to a reserve.
Unfortunately, with the exception of the Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act and, to a lesser extent, the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Act, existing federal laws simply are not geared to accommodating third party interests with any degree of certainty or timeliness.
In fact, the current additions to reserve process create a classic catch 22 situation. Third party interests must be addressed before lands can be granted reserve status. But with the exceptions I just noted, first nations can only agree to permit a third party interest on land that is already part of a reserve.
The end result is that processing selected lands into reserve status takes a great deal of time and energy, which is one reason why settlements signed some time ago are not yet fully implemented.
Bill C-37 will address this situation by providing for more efficient and commercially certain ways to accommodate third party interests. Essentially, a first nation will be able to consent to such an interest--either existing or new--before lands have been granted reserve status.
Recent experience has shown that the sooner third-party interests can be resolved, the quicker lands can be added to a reserve, and the quicker first nations can begin to reap the economic benefits associated with those lands.
It is interesting to note that the catalyst for Bill C-37 was a commitment by Canada to recommend such legislation under treaty land entitlement settlements concluded in 1998 with the Alexander First Nation and the Loon River Cree First Nation.
In other words, the proposed legislation is fulfilling commitments to specific first nations, while at the same time addressing longstanding issues of concern for more than 30 other first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Bill C-37 extends beyond the scope of treaty land entitlement agreements. With the approval of first nations and the affected provincial governments, the legislation has been crafted in such a way that it may benefit any other existing or future claim settlements containing reserve expansion commitments in both provinces.
For example, Canada also has reserve expansion commitments arising out of specific claims settlements in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Although these commitments involve significantly less land than treaty land entitlement settlements, they present the same implementation difficulties.
I want to emphasize that the bill is not being forced on any first nation in Alberta or Saskatchewan. It would apply on a per claim basis, and only when the affected first nation agrees to opt in to its provisions. First nations that wish to continue to add lands to their reserves using existing processes will be free to do so.
In closing, let me say once again that Bill C-37 is an implicit part of this government's commitment under “Gathering Strength” to address Canada's historical obligations to aboriginal people and to pave the way for their greater economic self-reliance.
The bill would also strengthen the capacity of first nations governments to make decisions about lands selected for addition to reserves under claim settlements in a way that is effective, timely and accountable to their membership.
Bill C-37 would help Canada move beyond historic grievances with first nations people while ensuring that past agreements were honoured and fulfilled. It is a positive step into the future, a step that is supported by first nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan and by the governments of these provinces. It clearly deserves the support of this House as well.
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
October 22nd, 2001 / 12:55 p.m.
Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB
Mr. Speaker, some of the last comments made by the member for Winnipeg Centre seem unfortunate. I certainly have no idea how dredging up things from years and years gone by, probably taken out of context, has anything to do with building and being positive.
As the first ever Reform Party member elected to the House of Commons in 1989 I remind the member for Winnipeg Centre that I taught school on a reserve at Frog Lake. I had several native foster children in my home. I was a lighthouse for the Reform Party. I tell him that there is sweet nothing to be gained by this kind of behaviour and debate in the House of Commons.
Let me tell him exactly what the Canadian Alliance position is in its policy paper. It states:
Our position in land claims negotiations will be to ensure respect for existing private property rights, affordable and conclusive settlement of all claims, and an open and transparent process involving all stakeholders.
Is that not what the NDP just said? Is that not in some measure what the government is trying to do right now? That is what we should be discussing right now.
On behalf of members of the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, as someone who has represented them for quite some time, and on behalf of every member of the House of Commons, it is foolish to even go down that path. Shame on them.
Let me get to the bill at hand, Bill C-37, and talk a bit about some of the pros and cons in that legislation. Obviously there is a history in this regard. The minister talked about it earlier this morning. If we had any choice it would have been to have the bill longer because there is so much to study in it. It was just brought in last week. I know that it was to be debated this coming Thursday, but because of Bill C-33 respecting the Nunavut water board and tribunal this bill is coming into the House earlier today.
So keen was I to make sure that I did get something to say about it, I travelled on the all-nighter last night so I arrived here at about 8.25 this morning. I am glad to be here while we are participating in this debate. I am also glad that we can change our flights around.
If we look at the history in this regard, the minister alluded to the Manitoba land claims agreement and made some changes to that as well. That came in, in 2000. To be able to make changes to that legislation to tighten it up, to make it more efficient and more streamlined, as the minister said, is a good thing. With the ongoing land claim settlements we need to be able to make sure they are swiftly and positively resolved. If this bill is in any way able to do that it is a good thing, not just for first nations but also for third party stakeholders. The minister talked about them.
Life is a balance. We always need to be able to come up with some sort of a balance that we can strike with regard to the stakeholders, whether in oil, gas, minerals or whatever, on reserve land or on future reserve land, as the minister talked about.
Let us look for a few moments at some of the general observations of the bill. Native reserve claim settlements normally require the accommodation of existing third party interest. That is there already.
Before land can be set apart for reserve creation or expansion the existing third party interests on that piece of land must be cleared either by buying out that land and cancelling it, or by accommodating the interest in a manner agreeable to Canada, the particular first nation and the third party. Only after that can the land be transferred to the government for reserve purposes.
Again that process looks like it is a good one, but of course the trick is how lengthy that process can be become. I think my colleague said that it could go on for years and years, sometimes even a generation for sure. Usually the additions to the reserve process takes between one and three years, but all kinds of outstanding land claim settlements can go on for many years.
Hopefully Bill C-37 will speed up that process. It would allow a first nation to consent to the creation of interests on land proposed for reserve status rather than waiting until after the land has been purchased by the federal government and granted reserve status.
We look at the timelines on it, give checkmarks and say that is a good thing.
We have to look at some of the pros and a few of the cons in the particular bill. We need to draw a column. It seems to me we all do that in our lives when we have a decision to make. We look at the pros and the cons. Then we weigh them off against each other because life is obviously just a series of tradeoffs and balances.
Some of the pros are that Bill C-37 would allow the minister to set lands apart for reserve creation expansion rather than doing this by the more time consuming order in council. Not only will this hasten the settlement of outstanding reserve claims, but with the large numbers of reserve creation orders expected in the future this will also avoid taxing the order in council process. I am sure that gets to be fairly lengthy on its own.
We could flip that pro into a con and say that as with so much legislation, as the member for Winnipeg said, the minister seems to get a great deal of power regardless of who is in power. We have to make sure that there are checks and balances on the power of the minister.
I am sure the minister would agree with that. We have both sat in the House for many years. It would be a pity to think that he would become omnipotent or something like that. I am sure he would never want that to happen. We have to make sure we balance out the pro with the con in that regard. Yes, it does give the minister more power, but let us make sure that there are checks and balances.
The predesignation provision allowing a first nation to consent to third party interest on land proposed for reserve status will significantly reduce the time required for Saskatchewan and Alberta to fulfill their reserve expansion commitments. Dear knows this whole process goes on and on. Perhaps the bill can hurry that process along, again making sure that all aspects are taken into consideration and that all stakeholders and third parties, regardless of what their interests are, are not getting the short end of the stick or shafted in any way on either side.
A speedier implementation process would encourage on reserve economic activity benefiting the first nation and provide commercial certainty for the third party that has an interest in proposed reserve land during the transfer process.
What a smart thing it is to have economic development on reserves. Hopefully the idea of complete dependence on government is waning across the nation. For first nations and reserves to be totally dependent on government is not a happy situation for anyone. None of us like to be completely dependent. If this in any way gives economic self-sufficiency or economic development for reserves across the land, it would certainly be seen as a good thing.
The legislation accommodates existing third party interests to give the first nations the opportunity to welcome new interests during the reserve creation process. It is interesting that while the bill is before the House we are talking about the pipeline in the Northwest Territories. That is also important.
All the kinks have not been worked out of it. That is for sure, but as we are watching this process evolve right now there are private oil companies which are taking in the aboriginal community in a one-third profit sharing idea. That whole idea of economic development cannot hurt anyone for sure. It is interesting that those events are going along a parallel track to make sure that third party interests really are considered and yet they are able to share the benefit of using native lands as well.
This will give the first nations a chance to select commercially viable lands for reserve expansion rather than simply those lands which are already cleared of existing interests. Again, that appears to be a benefit.
We have a couple of concerns. I have already mentioned the explicit one, not total but certainly more power for the minister. We need to make sure we keep that in check.
Although we support facilitating a quicker resolution of first nation claim settlements, we have concerns regarding the effects of the legislation on third party stakeholders with interest on proposed reserve lands.
I just mentioned the pipeline through the north coming down into Canada. Alaska also wants to get in on that. However, to make sure we are not all on one side or the other, there needs to be a balance. As I have said many times in my remarks as well as in the past, we need to make sure that there is concern for both sides here, that we do not just take off our glasses and say we want this side or that side to benefit. It needs to be mutually beneficial.
That is the only way in life it works. To me it is the only way this piece of legislation can work. We have to work together and make sure we get the aboriginal community as well as the third party stakeholders to the table.
We are not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes or pull a quick one and say to them that they have missed their chance, because we know these things always have ramifications. Sooner or later those concerns will come up, or there will not be any goodwill for third party stakeholders to even work with the government or to believe that a piece of legislation like this will really help them. We want to make sure that the third party stakeholders feel they are being listened to, that they, as well as the first nations, are being given not just the benefit of the doubt but the benefit of the whole situation, because I know that many of them over the years have had concerns that they have been railroaded or whatever.
Again, the minister has a huge responsibility to live up to. I know there are frustrations across the country right now and he faced frustrations this summer. These surely are difficult times for him to be working through. I know he will realize how important it is to strike that balance. We in the official coalition are in the opposition now, but sooner or later, as the member said, someone else will be in government and we want to make sure that there are reasonable and rational processes in place, as well as transitions that would take place for any government of the day.
I know the minister understands that because when he and I first started in the House we were sitting in the opposition corner. The opposition coalition wishes him well with this. I suppose if we can give any advice or caution it would be to make sure that he deals with this sensitively on both sides of the issue. I know it is a tough tightrope to walk but at the same time I do believe it is important. If he does not, obviously down the road he will end up with problems far more serious than those he is facing now.
The opposition coalition gives qualified support. We say to the government that we want to move ahead with these land claims settlements and we trust that this Alberta-Saskatchewan land claims agreement, which is modelled after Manitoba's, will go well, that it will go speedily and that we will see some true benefits both for the first nations and the third party stakeholders.
Claim Settlements (Alberta and Saskatchewan) Implementation Act
October 22nd, 2001 / 12:50 p.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, as uncomfortable as I am with that kind of introduction, I do not mind speaking a little longer about a bill in which I see a lot of good qualities.
To take the hon. member's question seriously, the most important single thing that Bill C-37 could do is alleviate the backlog of unsettled claims that exist on the two prairie provinces so that we could use our energy and resources in a more positive way and take serious concrete steps toward the larger issue of aboriginal self-government. In other words, the sooner we rid ourselves of these bureaucratic, almost nuisance claims, where we have lawsuit piled upon lawsuit waiting for resolution. Ten, twenty or thirty years go by, generations go by before first nations communities can avail themselves of the land to which they are entitled by court order. However with third party complications they simply cannot address it.
That would be the first single biggest advantage that I see. In Manitoba we are managing to cut through some of that bureaucratic backlog that has piled up on people's desks. If we can accomplish that for the 30 first nations in Alberta and the 14 first nations in Saskatchewan, who support the bill and endorse this process, that in itself would be progress, and I support that.