Bill C-39 (Historical)
An Act to replace the Yukon Act in order 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
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.
Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent
March 27th, 2002 / 11:40 a.m.
The Deputy Speaker
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber, the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-51, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002— Chapter No. 5.
Bill C-52, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2003— Chapter No. 6.
Bill C-39, an act to replace the Yukon Act in order 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—Chapter No. 7.
Bill C-30, an act to establish a body that provides administrative services to the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Tax Court of Canada, to amend the Federal Court Act, the Tax Court of Canada Act and the Judges Act, and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 8.
Bill C-49, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on December 10, 2001—Chapter No. 9.
It being 11.50 a.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, April 8, 2002, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.
(The House adjourned at 11.50 a.m.)
March 14th, 2002 / 5:25 p.m.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his questions. I always appreciate his contribution in the House. I quite enjoy debating with him.
He asked a number of questions and I am glad he did. There are some points I did not put in my speech that could have clarified them. He mentioned The Shooting of Dan McGrew written by Robert Service, the greatest Canadian poet of whom the Alaskans are great fans because of their gold rush and they try to use one of our poets.
I will touch a bit on the industry and our markets. As everyone in Canada and the United States knows, the lumber industry is competitive. It is hard for us to keep mills going. We have a number of mills but most cannot open under these conditions. They cannot open half the time under any conditions so we have very few mills.
We have an effective Yukon forestry industry association for small mills. A few weeks ago I visited a mill in the community of Teslin which is owned by a first nation. It is hundreds of miles from anything so it is difficult to manage. Most of the trees are either white spruce or lodgepole pine. Some are 300 years old. Their growth rings are close together because they take a long time to grow in a cold environment without water.
The regulatory regime is an excellent question. As I mentioned in my speech, the Teslin mill and some other mills are owned by first nations. They have settlement land which is private land which excludes them from duties. I do not know how long it will take the U.S. commerce department to figure that out but it is a situation unique to Yukon.
As the hon. member said, the rest of Yukon is currently under territorial jurisdiction but the House of Commons unanimously passed Bill C-39, the Yukon Act, which is now at third reading stage in the Senate. It would transfer jurisdiction from the federal government although some of the provisions, conditions and regulatory regimes under the federal government are very similar to the provinces. What the U.S. commerce department may be complaining about is that even though the mills are operated by the federal government they may shortly be operated by the Yukon government and be under no different a regulatory regime than any of the provinces. The Yukon government would then be able to make the same changes, alterations and deals to make the industry acceptable.
As I said, it is absolutely ridiculous that we would be a threat to anyone. It is like an elephant and a mouse going to war where the elephant asks for a 33% head start bonus to subsidize it to make sure it wins.
Species at Risk Act
February 21st, 2002 / 1:25 p.m.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, I believe it is absolutely essential that we get a law in place to protect species at risk. We have waited far too long, seven years. We cannot fail Canada's species, the world's species, by failing to enact a law.
Much has been made of the proposed species at risk act: Is it too strong? Is it too weak? Does it protect enough? Does it prohibit enough?
My remarks will centre on the need to remember that Canada's territories must be treated as full partners in the approach to the protection of species at risk. I would also like to use my time to address the importance of the co-operative approach and of the national aboriginal committee.
There is a significant amount of federal land in the territories, but the territories, under the proposed legislation, are not treated like little brothers and sisters, they are treated as equals. We must continue to ensure that this full partnership is not undermined in any way. That is why the approach must be one of joint actions, not a heavy-handed, top down law. A balance is what we must strive for. This is certainty.
In Canada, the federal government must work with the provinces and the territories as part of its constitutional structure. This applies as well to the protection of species and habitats. Protecting species at risk is a shared responsibility of all governments, that includes Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories.
The overall strategy for protection of species at risk is ensuring that the federal portion of this responsibility is met. The bill is one element of the strategy and it complements the work done by other levels of government. It also builds on the partnership approach under the federal-provincial-territorial accord for the protection of species at risk. It also, of course, reinforces the stewardship component of the strategy.
The accord is one of Canada's commitments to protect species. We also have commitments to international and domestic agreements, such as the United Nations convention on biological diversity and the migratory birds convention.
Unfortunately, the standing committee amendments eliminate the incentive for Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to complete the development of their own species at risk legislation to meet their commitments under the accord. That is certainly not good news for wildlife.
The standing committee's approach, whereby the safety net is only available in the territories for game species, is not consistent with current practices and contradicts ongoing devolution of federal responsibilities to territorial governments.
Bill C-39, the new Yukon act, was introduced into the House of Commons in October. The purpose of the bill is to transfer responsibilities for federal land and resource management in Yukon to the government of Yukon.
Yukon's responsibilities will include “conservation of wildlife and its habitat, other than a federal conservation area”. This means all wildlife, not just game. If we were to accept the standing committee's approach, we would be contradicting ourselves.
While the federal government is devolving authority to the territories, the federal government would also be taking away this authority through the species at risk act.
Let me also note that the formation of the proposed legislation has involved wildlife management boards under land claims agreements and aboriginal peoples in a variety of ways. They have been at the table for many rounds of discussions. They have provided a very significant advisory capacity by helping us to fully understand the issues, needs and capacities to protect species at risk.
For the first time ever, in any piece of federal conservation or environmental legislation, we are entrenching the role and importance of aboriginal traditional knowledge. These are the people whose traditions tell us about the habits and patterns of birds and animals. These are the people who know, because they have been told by their parents and the parents of their parents, that certain plants can survive in certain places.
This knowledge will help us protect species and it will further help us plan effective recovery. In fact, we are incorporating aboriginal traditional knowledge into our assessment and recovery process in a formal way. This is quite unique.
It is absolutely essential that the first nations of Canada have mandatory consultation on species at risk and when they are being protected. A lot of the species live on their lands or lands that will be their lands after a treaty. It is absolutely essential that they have the chance to be consulted as we proceed in these initiatives.
I would also like to speak in support of the motions for a national aboriginal body or committee on species at risk. This is an enormous step forward. We are recognizing and putting into law the importance of the relationship with aboriginal peoples to the land and to wildlife. With this committee, with this legislation and with the incorporation of aboriginal traditional knowledge into the assessment and recovery of species, we are moving forward.
I also support the overall co-operative and inclusive approach of the legislation. Bill C-5 is flexible enough to make room for all Canadians to get involved with species protection recovery: from the fisherman to the trapper, to the territorial governments, to the aboriginal organizations, to wildlife management boards, to biologists, to mining companies and everyone else. Bill C-5 also has teeth, but what is most important is it does not bare them in a threatening way. They are there if necessary.
The emphasis is on co-operation, building partnerships with the people on the ground. This will work.
The policy intents of Bill C-5 were not arrived at overnight. They came from years of study and consultation, of discussion and examination. We know, because it is already working, that the co-operative approach is the Canadian way. We know it is the only way. The time to act on this legislation is now.
Let us pass the bill so we can get on with the more important task of actually protecting and recovering our species at risk.
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.
December 3rd, 2001 / 1:05 p.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my colleagues in speaking to third reading of Bill C-39. I have been watching the bill with interest like most of my colleagues in the House of Commons, but perhaps more so because I spent a number of my formative years in Yukon and feel strongly about that wonderful place north of 60.
It is a pleasure to see the bill moving forward with a great degree of co-operation from all sides of the House and with the growing recognition that this is a natural evolution of the relationship between the territorial government and the Government of Canada. I join my colleagues by welcoming Yukon as a full partner for the first time in the great Confederation of Canada. We look forward to the day when it reaches the status of a full province.
I spent a long time in Yukon. I could point out some examples from my own personal experience as to why this move is important and why this devolution is a natural aspect of the relationship with the Government of Canada. I went to work in the asbestos mines in Yukon at age 17. I fell in love with the place and stayed for eight years. I met and married my wife, and our first child was born in Dawson City. I worked for the Yukon forest service for a number of years.
Other than the fact that I know members will be interested in my personal life, the reason I am saying this is to explain some of the contradictions that existed in the former relationship. As an officer of the forest service, even though I worked for the interests of the territorial government and the immediate forest district I represented, I was an employee of the federal government and a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, not a Yukon territory government union. The policy about land use was influenced greatly by what the federal government thought was best for the people of Yukon many thousands of miles away.
I can think of one graphic example which involved homestead rights in the Yukon territory at that time. If individuals cleared a certain amount of land, stayed and made proper developments to the land, the property would be deeded to them for their own personal use. This was of interest to many people because one of the shortcomings was that the Yukon government, even though there was a great demand for rural property, could not subdivide land and sell it in lots to the people of Yukon because its hands were tied within the federal government's master plan for the area.
As a land use officer for the Yukon territorial government but ultimately working for the federal government because it was still federal purview, I would look at these homesteads to see if the people met the requirements to earn title to the property by clearing the area.
I refer to the case of a backward hippie living on the land outside Haines Junction with two yaks. Yaks are Tibetan animals with long hair that look something like a highland cow but are not. They are quite wild. I learned that when one of them broke out of a truck in downtown Whitehorse, the local radio station had to alert people not to approach it because it was not a domestic animal. However I digress from what I was saying.
There was a lot of interest in the community in allowing Monty and his yaks to have deed and title to this piece of property. Most of us who lived in the community of Haines Junction at the time felt it would be positive for the local community if the land were cleared and developed so that houses could be built.
When the land was measured after being cleared and made into pasture he was one-half acre short of what he needed to qualify. Were it a local decision the person would have had his property and could have developed that little remote pocket of land close to Haines Junction. In the best interests of the local community, Monty and his yaks would have had a proper home.
That is one example to maybe help the people here understand what the member for Yukon was pointing out, the fact that most people in Yukon do want to see this devolution of authority and decision making take place. We believe those events should be decided by the people most closely affected by the ruling.
When I built my first home in Yukon we could not get land anywhere. What few privately held lots there were, even in a place like Dawson City where I lived, had prices that went through the roof because we were not allowed to subdivide or open up any more property. The only way to do that was to stake a mining claim, which one never actually owned but one was then allowed to use that property.
Those of us who had new families and wanted to build our first house had to stake a mining claim and build the cabin on the land. We then had to dig a hole 5x5x5 each year to prove that we were in fact moving dirt around. Was that dishonest? I do not know. It was something we were driven to do. This was the only way we could build without violating all kinds of bylaws and forestry rules, et cetera. We had to go into the forest and build a cabin on a creek and stake that placer claim.
We believe that with the settlement of aboriginal land claims and the devolution of power to Yukon territory, finally more and more subdivisions will be opening up based on need and on the local planning of towns, communities and the territorial government. The people who would now seek to find property in Yukon will welcome this devolution of power as well.
I want to point out one shortcoming. The NDP caucus was approached by the Kaska first nation in the Watson Lake area. The Kaska have strong reservations about the speedy passage of Bill C-39. They felt they should have had an opportunity to come before the committee because they took part in the tripartite process in the devolution agreement to this point. They were very disappointed that only the premier of Yukon appeared before the standing committee to make representation and that they were not allowed to come forward and put forward their concerns.
I believe the Kaska do have some valid points, in that their relationship in the 30 years they have been negotiating their land claim has been with the federal government. Now, as they reach the final stages of that negotiation, the very land that is being claimed will now be transferred from federal ownership to the territorial government. The ownership of some of the subject properties will change. If they were getting close to some sort of a closure of this long process with the federal government, they have a valid reason to believe that it might be impacted now by the devolution of authority or the control of that land to the territorial government.
I raise that concern on behalf of the Kaska. As much as it is possible, I urge the House to make space available for them or guarantee it to them at the Senate committee hearings on Bill C-39. The Kaska certainly feel shortchanged since they were not allowed to present to the House of Commons standing committee. I certainly hope they will be able to voice their issues at the Senate standing committee.
The NDP caucus, on behalf of the people of Yukon, welcomes the devolution of authority from the federal to the territorial government. We believe it is a welcome first step toward what we ultimately hope to see as the full provincehood status for Yukon territory. Some day it will be welcomed into the family of provinces and the Confederation of Canada. In the interim, it is the wish of Yukon people that they have more control over their resources and land use issues. It will be the NDP's pleasure to vote in favour of Bill C-39 at third reading.
December 3rd, 2001 / 1 p.m.
Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise at third reading of Bill C-39 on the revision of the Yukon Act.
I would like to take a moment to highlight the work done by the member for Yukon, who has always co-operated and listened to what we have to say. He truly is an advocate for the people of his riding, his territory. I think he deserves to be commended by the members of the House. He also deserves congratulations from his constituents when he returns to his riding next weekend.
The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources had the opportunity to hear from a number of witnesses during its hearings on Bill C-39. We had the privilege of hearing from the Hon. Pat Duncan, the premier of Yukon, who made a special trip from Whitehorse to share with us the positive impact this bill would have on the administration of her territory.
The Bloc Quebecois and I believe that this legislation could loosen the grip that this paternalist federal government has on aboriginal communities and the people of Canada's territories: Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
The main focus of Bill C-39 is to modernize the political and democratic institutions of the Yukon Territory. However, the bill does not make Yukon a province, as its constitutional status will in no way be changed with the passage of Bill C-39.
The bill replaces the current Yukon Act, by, among other things, recognizing the existence of a system of responsible government in Yukon. The bill goes on to change the name of certain public institutions in keeping with current usage and also gives the legislature of Yukon additional legislative jurisdiction over public real property and waters.
Thus the bill changes the word council and calls the legislative branch of Yukon the legislative assembly of Yukon. The commissioner in council becomes the legislature of Yukon and the ordinances become the laws of the legislature.
However, as the current Yukon Act provides, the Auditor General of Canada will remain the auditor of the Yukon government, although the Yukon government will be able to appoint its own independent auditor.
The enactment also includes a preamble stating that Yukon has a system of responsible government that is similar to that of Canada. It also establishes and clarifies the relationship between the commissioner and the executive council. As Yukon does not enjoy the same constitutional status as the provinces, a musty holdover in Canada, the commissioner of Yukon, appointed by the federal government, will retain his executive duties as representative, consistent with the current conventions of government.
As I mentioned at the start of my remarks, this bill will permit the modernization of the deplorable regime, which might be called colonial, of the Canadian territories not enjoying provincial status. We consider it a step in the right direction in decentralizing the powers of the federal government in the day to day administration of communities that are so distant from Ottawa and whose legitimate aspirations are at the mercy of the failing political leadership of the federal government.
Finally, as this bill appears to reflect the desire and wishes of the government and people of Yukon, the Bloc Quebecois will not oppose its passage at third reading.
December 3rd, 2001 / 12:50 p.m.
Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to rise to speak to Bill C-39, an act to replace the Yukon Act. I am pleased to state that, after careful consideration and listening to the debate and the principal stakeholders who would be affected by the bill, the Canadian Alliance will be supporting this piece of legislation.
I applaud my hon. colleague from Yukon who in his first term of office has done the work of an MP to help steer the bill through the House of Commons. He has been a strong advocate for his people. Regardless of party affiliation it is important that all of us as members of the House model what it means to be a good MP. It only increases the respect Canadians have for us as MPs.
If I might digress for a moment, for far too long in Canada we have been in confrontational situations in the House that have not always led to the betterment of Confederation. Some of us are now learning that we need to be far more consultative and listen far more to each other so we can do the work for Canadians that needs to be done. I applaud the member for Yukon for modelling that in this situation.
The principle of devolution of power to the Yukon territory is one the Canadian Alliance has long supported. Early in the debate I stated that we had questions and concerns which required answers from the minister, departmental officials and, most important, representatives from Yukon.
I am pleased the devolution transfer agreement has been agreed to by the Yukon government, the first nations of Yukon and the federal government. This is the key to a successful transfer of power from the federal government to a territorial government. The devolution agreement is consistent with the longstanding objective of past governments to transfer provincial types of programs and responsibilities to territorial governments.
I had another concern. I wanted to be assured that with the transfer of responsibilities to the Yukon government the appropriate authority and accountability would be transferred.
One of the problems we have had in Confederation, whether at the time of the formation of the country or later in our history, is that once authority has been passed on to provincial governments there is often a temptation for the federal government to keep meddling and keep its finger on things.
If our Confederation is to work we must have a clear definition of responsibilities between provincial and federal governments. We ought to allow each other to take responsibility to do the jobs we have been given under the constitution.
Upon listening to officials from both levels of government I am confident this has taken place in the Yukon agreement. It would not be in the best interests of the federal government to withhold authority from the Yukon government because it is the one that is closest to the people of Yukon.
After meeting with and listening to elected and departmental officials I am confident the tripartite agreement signed by the Yukon government, the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Canadian government would adhere to the principles of responsible government. I was pleased to hear Yukon Premier Pat Duncan refer specifically to this in our private meetings with her and at the standing committee hearings.
Simply put, responsible governments must first reflect the people to whom they are responsible. They are and must be responsible to those whom they govern. Under the bill these would be the citizens of Yukon, Yukon first nations and Canada respectively. The citizens of these three jurisdictions are the voters and taxpayers for each of these levels of government. Without the respect of citizens, governments have no jurisdiction or authority.
Accountability must be the primary issue for a responsible government. Accountability may be discerned in many ways, including financially and electorally. For a government to be accountable to the people it must be transparent. The decision making process must be clear for all to see and follow.
This does not mean everyone will like the final decisions. It means that the way we arrive at decisions will be clearly seen and the process clearly understood.
I believe that all hon. members in the House know that many of the decisions we face are difficult ones and not easily understood by the general population. Canadians need to know we have taken sufficient time to study the issues and allowed input so that the results of our deliberations may be lasting and have the desired good effect upon the population.
This is a large bill and I do not mean that in the physical sense. It is a long and complicated bill. I joked with the member for Yukon at the Vancouver airport yesterday that he loves the legislation and carries it under his arm wherever he goes. It is a large and important bill. It would have an effect on every person living in Yukon. It would affect the employees of the northern affairs program and the Yukon government.
I was pleased to hear of the discussions and negotiations between the respective governments and their employee union representatives. I hope the employee transition will be a smooth one.
There are many positive aspects to the bill. I am pleased the powers granted under the bill would resemble provincial powers as outlined in the Canadian constitution. I can think of nothing better than to work toward the independence of Yukon as a province in due time. It would be wonderful for us to gather again in the Chamber at some future date and pass legislation that would bring Yukon and other northern territories into this great Confederation as full partners, as provinces. That would be a great day.
I am pleased the devolution of power under the bill would cause the cessation of operations of the northern affairs program in Yukon. The Canadian Alliance believes that over time the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development should take on a substantial reduction, perhaps even be phased out, as we move toward giving independence in many matters to our native peoples. This move in Yukon is a promising first step toward that.
Furthermore, the bill specifies that the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development would consult with the executive council with respect to proposed amendments in the future. This is all good and well because it shows the depth of co-operation for which the levels of government are wishing.
I am particularly pleased to see that there is a goal to settle all Yukon land claims before the devolution of power to the Yukon government is implemented. There is a need to move these settlements and their negotiations along quickly as the current plan is to implement the new Yukon bill by April 1, 2003. There would be sufficient time to reach this goal but negotiations should not be delayed by any party.
I encourage all parties involved to actively pursue this goal while keeping in mind the need to reach a settlement that is affordable, achieves finality and meets the needs of all parties and their respective citizens.
I note that all members of the standing committee had correspondences from the Kaska first nation. We duly noted its concerns in committee. I feel certain that the current process, timeline and the bill itself would allow it sufficient opportunity to successfully negotiate its land claim and be heard when the bill is presented in the Senate.
In our meetings with Premier Duncan of Yukon we expressed our party's support for the bill. In turn I was pleased to hear that the Yukon government was also fully supportive. The concerns and questions the Canadian Alliance had with regard to the bill were addressed to our satisfaction. While there is always room for interpretation, my party will continue to watch over the implementation process.
The bill is a positive step forward. It gives me a great deal of pleasure on behalf of the official opposition to say that we will be supporting the bill. We look forward to Yukon, with the great hope it has for our northern areas, taking its place as a full and equal partner in the Confederation of this great country that we all love.
December 3rd, 2001 / 12:35 p.m.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners stand today on the threshold of a dream that many have had for decades, the possibility that northerners would be able to make their own decisions on their own land in the north. With the freedom to make those decisions comes a responsibility for us to be wise stewards of our magnificent land for future generations.
It is very gratifying to stand before the House today to advance Bill C-39 at third reading surrounded by hon. members from all over the country who clearly recognize its merits. As pleased as I was by the positive response to the legislation received from all parties at second reading, I was even more delighted by the tremendous reception the revised Yukon Act received when it went to committee. It was most rewarding to have earned the unanimous approval of committee members present and to experience the tremendous spirit of co-operation and support for Yukon from all parties in the House.
I want to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources and all my hon. colleagues for their strong support and valuable insight as this bill has worked its way through this place. This legislation is a testament of what we can achieve together when we work in partnership.
I would like to thank the minister for all the time and effort he has given to Yukoners, especially for land claims and for the devolution transfer agreement. I also thank him for allowing me this historic opportunity to present the bill both at second reading and at third reading, speeches the minister would normally give. I reserve my greatest praise for the people of Yukon, whose patience, hard work and persistence for years in pursuit of a fair deal for territorial residents have resulted in this historic legislation.
One of the strengths of this devolution initiative and Yukon Act is that at the beginning of the process several years ago, the time was taken to ask the people of Yukon what they wanted. In fact, one of the most persuasive arguments for supporting this legislation is that the modernized Yukon Act and the devolution transfer agreement that underlies it are the result of several years of extensive negotiations. Yukoners have outlined their expectations, something which has made this initiative even stronger.
The premier of Yukon told members at committee “We appreciated the opportunity to participate in this process and despite the occasional frustrations on either side, the final text is all the better for this collaboration”.
We have worked closely with our partners in Yukon to make sure that we would address the needs and interests of various parties and to ensure that the act truly represented local priorities. We recognize that people at the grassroots level are far closer to both the challenges and solutions so we attempted to reflect their ideas in this legislation which affects their lives and their livelihoods.
Before we began drafting the bill, the Yukon government carried out extensive public consultations in Yukon. Based on the input gained from these consultations, it made a number of recommendations. The bill in front of us is based upon this body of knowledge. Successive drafts of this bill were discussed with representatives of the territorial government and the first nations through the years 2000 and 2001.
During the negotiation process on both the transfer agreement and the bill, these representatives in turn provided progress reports to their constituents. The draft bill was also shared with the Gwich'in Tribal Council and the Inuvialuit Regional Council, as both organizations represent first nations which have signed land claims and have interests in Yukon.
Public opinion polling conducted by Ekos in April 2001 confirms that a large majority of both aboriginal and non-aboriginal residents support the transfer of specific authorities from the federal government to northern governments.
This is one of a number of devolutions of provincial-like powers to the Yukon territorial government that have occurred over the years. As in any such transfer, there will always be those who wish it went faster or slower, with more powers or fewer powers. About half a dozen individuals or groups have approached me in Ottawa with such suggestions.
Most of these suggestions, such as the fact that several first nations would have preferred to have their land claims completed before devolution, were noted during second reading and/or in the premier's comments before committee. I will review some of these points.
One individual brought forward the following suggestions: finalizing the offshore boundary in the Beaufort Sea, transferring title to all public lands, ensuring more clarity of the commissioner's role after 10 years and providing more consultation.
One first nation that would have preferred its land claims to be settled first is the Kaska band. It has elaborated on this with several points.
First, it does not believe the package before parliament is consistent with the agreement between it and the territorial government concerning devolution.
Second, it believes the agreements provide that devolution would not apply to traditional Kaska territory in Yukon without the band's consent in the event devolution is completed before its claim is completed.
Third, it believes the Yukon government has not provided safeguards for the protocol of lands and resources in the traditional territory for Yukon first nations and transboundary claimant groups.
Fourth, it believes that because of the Rupert's Land and North-Western Territory order of 1870 the Government of Canada cannot transfer responsibility before a Kaska claim is settled over lands in traditional Kaska territory without upholding its fiduciary responsibility to protect Kaska interests.
Finally, the Kaska band feels that in conjunction with the Yukon government's involvement in transboundary claims as defined in the umbrella final agreement it would be much harder to obtain a fair settlement of its land claim.
The French community would like to ensure it is acknowledged and its rights are protected. One day perhaps the federal government could provide a stronger acknowledgement and recognition of the municipal order of government in Canada.
We are working with first nations and the Yukon government to settle outstanding land claims as a matter of highest priority. Moreover, due to the types of concerns I have outlined, the devolution transfer agreement contains measures to protect Yukon first nations who have not yet completed land claims agreements. There are numerous safeguards and conditions to ensure the rights of first nations would not in any way be compromised.
First nations would directly benefit from the package being considered today. While first nation interests are reflected in numerous provisions in the transfer agreement and the bill, among the most significant accomplishments of the initiative is its commitment to closer co-operation and enhanced communication between the Yukon government and first nations. The initiative would strengthen intergovernmental relationships in Yukon.
Decisions about sustainable development that are made in Whitehorse instead of Ottawa would invariably be more sensitive and responsive to the concerns and priorities of different groups of Yukoners. Minority populations in the territory would have their interests safeguarded under the legislation.
For example, Bill C-39 upholds the protection of minority linguistic rights in the Yukon. The Yukon government recognizes its obligation to provide communications in both of Canada's official languages.
According to the devolution transfer agreement, after the transfer, service delivery in both official languages of Canada must satisfy the criteria set out in the Official Languages Act.
The Yukon government has made a commitment to incorporate the standards of service consistent with the Official Languages Act into territorial legislation governing lands and resources management programs.
The legislation would be a fair deal for all affected federal employees. Under the terms of the devolution transfer agreement each of the affected 240 federal employees working for the northern affairs program in Yukon would receive an offer of employment from the Yukon government no later than six months prior to the date of devolution.
The offer would be for a position whose duties and responsibilities match as closely as possible those of the person's federal position. The salary of any federal staff member who accepted a position with the Yukon government would be equal to the employee's base federal salary plus the environmental allowance and cost of living allowance components of the federal isolated post allowance.
The terms and conditions set out in the devolution transfer agreement not only meet but in some cases exceed the requirements of the alternative service delivery type 2 transfer the federal government negotiated with federal employee unions.
While the initiative has carefully balanced the rights and interests of stakeholders, what is most exciting about it are the unprecedented opportunities it would create for Yukoners.
Once approved by parliament, Bill C-39 would transfer significant new lawmaking powers to the Yukon legislature. It would transfer to the Yukon government land and resource management in the territory including forests, mines, minerals and water rights. This would give Yukoners real decision making authority over matters fundamental to the well-being of the territory. This long awaited development is welcomed by a majority of Yukon residents.
After devolution takes effect on April 1, 2003, the Yukon government will have the necessary financial resources to carry out the work. It will receive the funds currently utilized by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to carry out the responsibilities plus significant one time funding to ensure a smooth transition.
In addition, the agreement would ensure the territorial government received a net fiscal benefit from the new resource revenues it would collect. The Yukon government would be able to keep the first $3 million raised from resource revenues with no impact on the territory's formula financing grant. These revenues would be over and above the proceeds the territorial government already receives from an earlier agreement on oil and gas.
Bill C-39 acknowledges that the Yukon government has taken on increasing levels of responsibility and proven its capacity to administer territorial affairs. The bill recognizes that there is responsible government in Yukon and that it has a system of government similar in principle to that of Canada.
Bill C-39 would place resource management decision making in the hands of northerners, the people most knowledgeable about local conditions and most affected by the consequences of those decisions. These powers would rest where they rightfully belong.
This is in keeping with our government's conviction that the key to building strong, prosperous communities is to foster local solutions to local challenges. It is equally a reflection of our government's commitment to renewed federalism.
We have before us a progressive and necessary piece of legislation that deserves the House's endorsement. It is progressive for Yukoners and all Canadians. There is widespread support for the agreement. The changes before us have been long in the making and are long overdue.
I hope I can count on the support of my hon. colleagues to help us move the legislation through to the Senate for final approval. We can then contribute to our common objective of building a more self-sufficient and prosperous Yukon that can make an even stronger contribution to our great Canadian federation.
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.