Bill C-6 (Historical)
Specific Claims Resolution Act
An Act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.
Bob Nault Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Specific Claims Tribunal Act
May 12th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB
As my hon. colleague says, “They had enough of talk”.
It was not until about a month later that in fact the term “accord” was attached to what we all know was not a signed agreement. Thankfully, our government was elected and we have been able to move forward with some real tangible plans, not a dreamy panacea that would cure everything. That is the only approach that the Liberals have. They bring forward very glorious talk, but after 13 years they did nothing for aboriginal people.
If we look at some of the ideas that came out in the previous era, the good ones were set aside. I can comment on former minister Nault. The member of course knows minister Nault quite well. His great ideas were set aside. All the Liberals wanted was talk and that is all they came forward with at the last moment.
The member needs to talk to his caucus. On the subject at hand, Bill C-30, I guess the member has not spoken with his caucus. In fact, the whole caucus voted to completely endorse this bill. In clause by clause, every single element of this bill was endorsed unanimously by his party. Yet, he talks about the bill as if it is something he and his party do not support. That is wrong and I am not sure what cheap political points he is attempting to score here, but his party, like I said, has unanimously endorsed this bill.
On top of the deception related to the Kelowna press release that the member put on the record, I would also like to speak to some of the other misinformation he has put on the record. The $150 million associated with this bill is quite a significant amount. When we look back to Bill C-6, the bill that the former government tried to put before Canadians, it only had about $6 million associated with it for the settlement of claims. This legislation is a considerable improvement on the ability of government to actually settle some of these outstanding claims, in fact, a large number of them.
He thinks that the outstanding backlog will not be addressed. He should know that 50% of the outstanding specific claims are less than $3 million. In fact, the vast majority of them are a great deal below the $150 million mark. The $2.5 billion that we have extended to this important tribunal is going to take care of this massive backlog that is in place.
I want to ask the member a quick question. He was speaking earlier about how the tribunal would not be able to unilaterally remove parcels of land from the provinces and territories, including his own territory. Is he suggesting that this bill should now be modified at third reading so that the tribunal could unilaterally take parcels of land out of Yukon? I am not sure his voters back home would like that.
April 16th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
Chief Phil Fontaine National Chief, Assembly of First Nations
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We want to express our thanks to the committee for extending an invitation to the Assembly of First Nations to speak to this committee on a very important matter.
Before I proceed with my formal presentation I would like to extend a very warm welcome to the newest member of this committee, Mr. Clarke. It's good to see you.
On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, I thank the chair and members of this committee for the invitation to appear before you.
As you know, the Assembly of First Nations is the national first nations organization, representing over 633 first nation communities in Canada. First nations leadership as well as the Assembly of First Nations leadership are democratically elected. Our organization derives its mandate and its instructions from the chiefs who meet in regular assembly gatherings. We represent all first nations people, whether they live on reserve or off, regardless of gender.
Throughout the novel process that led to the formation of Bill C-30, we were consistent and clear with the federal government on one important point: that while we would respect their political process and all that it entailed, the government must reciprocate and respect ours. It was in this spirit that I requested to appear at the end of your hearings. I wanted to ensure that all first nation representatives who wished to submit testimony before you could do so freely and unencumbered by the position taken by the Assembly of First Nations, particularly since we were directly involved in the development of Bill C-30.
If individual first nations have expressed a desire for amendments to the legislation, that is their prerogative. This should not be construed as dissent, but rather as democracy at work. The Assembly of First Nations fully respects the voices and opinions of chiefs and first nations peoples in every part of the country.
As I prepared for this presentation, I reflected on the long history of active engagement that we've had on this issue with successive governments. Throughout your deliberations I urge you to be mindful that the ultimate objective of Bill C-30 is to improve the specific claims resolution system in Canada. The current process is fraught with conflict of interest, inordinate delays. It lacks critical independence and is underfunded. All of this has resulted in an enormous backlog of over 1,000 unresolved claims. An effective system must be fair, independent, efficient, expeditious, and well resourced. While no system will ever be perfect, I suggest to you that Bill C-30, together with the political agreement, satisfies the elements of an effective system and will bring about much-needed change that we have worked many years to achieve.
Prior to the establishment of the Indian Specific Claims Commission in the early 1990s, the Assembly of First Nations had been active in trying to improve the federal system that deals with the resolution of specific claims. In 1996 Canada initiated a joint task force process. This process was effective in bringing together regional representatives to make recommendations with respect to the existing system, culminating in a proposal for the adoption of a model bill that would create an improved system based on key recommendations that included:
(1) The elimination of Canada's conflict of interest through an independent legislative mechanism;
(2) The establishment of a commission to facilitate negotiations;
(3) The establishment of a tribunal to resolve disputes in cases of failed negotiations with the authority to make binding decisions;
(4) Independent funding for first nations research and negotiations; and
(5) A joint review after five years, to include consideration of outstanding matters such as lawful obligations arising from aboriginal rights.
Unfortunately, the report that was issued in 1998 was never implemented. In the intervening period, we've seen other attempts to address problems with the current system, most notably the Specific Claims Resolution Act, Bill C-6, and subsequent attempts to improve that legislation.
In December 2006 the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples released its report on specific claims, entitled Negotiation or Confrontation: It's Canada's Choice. This groundbreaking Senate report represented an important element in enabling the then Minister of Indian Affairs, the Honourable Jim Prentice, to advance significant reforms related to specific claims.
It must be stressed that the Assembly of First Nations was not involved in establishing the parameters of the plan to develop this legislation. We were, however, subsequently invited to participate in the announcement last June and to collaborate with Canada to jointly develop legislation based on the parameters set out in Justice at Last, Canada's proposal to reform the specific claims system.
While the process that ensued should be seen as a success in the context of this initiative, this success has not defined a new approach or relationship when it comes to law and policy development in other areas that are important to first nation communities and our citizens.
I want to talk a bit about the engagement with the Assembly of First Nations.
Bill C-30 represents a tremendous collaborative effort between first nations and the federal government at achieving agreement on the design, composition, and mandate of an independent specific claims tribunal. The successful elements of this mutual development were, first, that the legislative drafting process incorporated interests that had already been identified as critical to its success, mainly through work that had been conducted over many years, including the work of the 1998 joint task force report. From this standpoint, the main thrust of this initiative embodied a shared objective.
The second element was that a shared objective, the approach that was used to advance this initiative, involved constructive collaboration and cooperation. It included AFN representation at all levels and was guided by both a senior political forum and a senior technical committee.
We have always maintained that meaningful upfront engagement with first nations is more efficient and effective than unilateral top-down imposed processes. Bill C-30 and the political agreement are examples of this. In fact, despite the various proposals for amendments, the majority of witnesses who have appeared before you have admitted that this bill will improve the claims resolution system.
The Assembly of First Nations has extensive experience in facilitating first nation and crown discussions on law and policy change, which I note is distinct from federal legal obligations to consult with first nations on matters affecting our rights and interests.
It is clear through case law and through our clearly stated position that the Assembly of First Nations cannot serve as the crown's agent to conduct consultations, nor as a replacement for direct consultations with first nations. However, our proven track record in advocacy, communications, and analysis supports both the crown and first nations efforts to consult effectively.
This said, the AFN has never committed to undertake the government's responsibility to consult with first nations about Bill C-30. That remains a federal legal responsibility. Rather, we undertook to ensure that the perspective of first nations was central to the legislative drafting process and to help inform first nations, to engage our citizens in dialogue on the contents of the bill and the political agreement.
We have made every effort to live up to our obligations while respecting the federal government's repeated insistence on the confidentiality of the discussions. While respecting the concern with confidentiality, we did everything in our power to get information to our people. We provided updates to first nations people as often as we could during the process, again fully respecting the government's need for confidentiality.
Once the legislation was publicly available, we conducted an intensive national campaign to inform our people about this. We visited virtually every region in Canada in what was less than a two-week window of opportunity, and we mailed out a comprehensive summary of our accomplishments on the very day that the legislation became public.
First nations were calling for more information and engagement throughout our collaboration with the government, but we respected the conditions that had been placed on this process. We have honoured our commitment to confidentiality, no less than we expect the members of this committee to honour the right of first nations to appear before this committee and to propose amendments. This does not mean that things have gone wrong. Quite simply, it is an indication that things have gone right.
No legislation or public policy will ever address all the concerns or issues of the people it affects. However, by involving our people in this development and allowing the diverse first nations interests to be heard, the government will have utilized the ingredients for a more positive outcome.
It has been our experience--and this is borne out in the process resulting in the Specific Claims Tribunal Act--that joint policy and legislative development processes are the best means for reaching sustainable, accountable, and innovative development on issues that directly affect our people. We encourage the government, and indeed all parties in the House, to learn from the success of this process and to apply it to other policy areas in which our rights and interests are affected--for example, safe drinking water, the apology to first nation survivors of the Indian residential school experience, and the OAS draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, to cite just three examples.
However, to date we have been unable to replicate the very successful collaborative process of Bill C-30 in other policy areas, such as matrimonial real property, the repeal of section 67 in the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Fisheries Act renewal.
It is unfortunate and regrettable that as of yet we have not been able to forge an open, ongoing, reliable, stable relationship with the current government that meaningfully reflects and respects the government-to-government relationship between first nations and the government. We see this as a missed opportunity.
Admittedly, Bill C-30 has not addressed all the inadequacies of the specific claims policy or process. However, these inadequacies were to some degree non-negotiable, because they fell outside the legislative framework that was provided to us as set out in the Justice at Last mandate.
I am getting close to the end, Mr. Chair. Sorry.
The shortcomings of the federal mandate led to the creation of the political agreement. It is very important that this signed agreement and the commitments therein be implemented in the spirit in which they were entered into. The political agreement, along with subclause 41(1), which provides for a five-year legislative review and report process, are mechanisms by which the range of proposed amendments may be addressed.
It is very important to keep in mind that the ultimate objective of this initiative is to resolve and settle claims faster and more fairly than the current system will allow. We must end 60 years of unsuccessful attempts and look to create a system that will effectively reduce these debts that are bogging down both Canadian and first nations economies.
The bottom line is that a new, independent tribunal with powers that bind the parties to a maximum value of $150 million, in tandem with further commitments embodied in the companion political agreement, will indeed make a significant difference in improving the process and in expediting claims resolution. Therefore, it is very important to seize this historic opportunity to pass this legislation and to ensure that the federal government fully implements the undertakings and joint process outlined in the political agreement.
While first nations have proposed some thoughtful and potentially beneficial amendments, the Assembly of First Nations is prepared to accept Bill C-30 and the companion political agreement based on the significant improvements they embody. The corresponding commitment of this government is to live up to each and every undertaking it has made therein.
The Assembly of First Nations is fully committed to cooperative, collaborative, and constructive engagement, and we trust that the Government of Canada is as well. That is our true path to progress on this and the many other issues that require our collective energy and efforts.
I want to make one final comment here before I turn it back to you, Mr. Chairman. By the way, I really appreciate your giving me a bit of extra time.
When we began this process, including when I stood before the country with the Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the then Minister of Indian Affairs Jim Prentice, we gave a commitment that we would undertake a collaborative process with the government. We committed ourselves to this process. We wanted to achieve success. We wanted something that would be a vast improvement over what we have now. We gave our word. We never intended to retreat from our word, and there should have been no question about our commitment from any quarter. Our commitment was real. Our word was true, and this is what we brought to the process--no more.
Specific Claims Tribunal Act
December 4th, 2007 / 3:55 p.m.
Yvon Lévesque Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain that my riding includes the region of Nunavik, not Nunavut. There is a difference between the two territories, and I would not like to take the place of my Liberal colleague who represents Nunavut.
If I read correctly, this bill applies only to specific claims, but what are specific claims, in lay terms?
We do not need to look very far to learn that they originated in old grievances made by the first nations. These grievances have to do with negotiations Canada is required to conduct under historic treaties or the way the country has managed the money or other property belonging to the first nations, including reserve lands.
It is true that, since 1973, the government has had a policy and a process whereby it settles these claims through negotiation rather than in court.
However, there have been calls for measures to settle these disputes not just since 1973, but since July 1947, when a joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons made this recommendation:
That a Commission, in the nature of the Claims Commission, be set up with the least possible delay to inquire into the terms of the Indian treaties...and to appraise and settle in a just and equitable manner any claims or grievances arising thereunder.
It was not until 1961 that another joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons again recommended that a claims commission be set up and Prime Minister Diefenbaker's cabinet approved draft legislation to create a claims commission. However, as luck would have it, this draft legislation was never introduced, because of an election call.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson introduced Bill C-130, entitled the Indian Claims Act, in the House of Commons on December 14, 1963. He was determined to keep up with the true Conservatives. However, even back then, the government neglected to consult with the first nations, and the bill was withdrawn to allow time for consultation.
Another bill with the same title was introduced on June 21, 1965. June 21: what a lovely date. I can hardly wait for it to arrive. All kidding aside, guess what happened: yes, the bill died on the order paper when an election was called.
It was not until 1973 that further action was taken, with the establishment of the specific claims policy I mentioned at the very beginning of my remarks, which has been in effect to this day.
In the meantime, a government report on the administrative process for resolving specific claims was indeed published in 1979, citing conflicting duties and recommending the creation of an independent body which would in all respects be a specialized tribunal.
During the same period of time, the Penner report, published in 1983, called for a quasi-judicial process for managing failed negotiations and the neutral facilitation of negotiated settlements.
In 1990, in a report entitled “Unfinished Business: An Agenda for All Canadians in the 1990's”, a standing committee of the House of Commons reiterated the need for an independent claims body. At the same time, a joint working group bringing together representatives of Canada and the first nations—things are getting better—was looking at creating a permanent, legislative entity with tribunal-like powers, and finally in January 1991, the government created the Indian Specific Claims Commission under the federal Inquiries Act .
This commission was only intended as an interim measure, until a permanent independent body with adjudicative powers could be created. The commission remains in existence today, but continues to have only non-binding powers to make recommendations.
By 1996, the need was ever more pressing. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, whose report is commonly known as the Erasmus-Dussault report, conducted extensive consultations with first nations people across the country and recommended an independent tribunal to replace the ISCC and concentrate on land and treaty issues.
In 1998, the efforts of a joint Canada-first nations working group eventually led to Bill C-6, specific claims legislation which, this time, received royal assent, in November 2003. That legislation would have provided binding decision-making powers, including on those compensation amounts, estimated at $10 million, which first nations deemed insufficient. They rejected that. This is yet another fine example of consultation.
Here we are now, in 2007, with Bill C-30, at a time when the political landscape has evolved somewhat, at least I hope so. To my knowledge, there are already particular conditions in Quebec, such as a specific first nations association with their own culture and needs. However, this government seems, deliberately or not, to have forgotten to consult those first nations. If we look at the timing of this bill, it is almost certain that we will have an election before it reaches third reading stage. In the end, this bill will only have served electoral purposes, as was the case with Kelowna, in 2005, with Bill C-130, in 1965, or with the Diefenbaker draft bill, in 1962.
In the explanatory notes that accompany this bill—and that were given to us by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development—it is mentioned that the new approach is based on a wealth of reports, studies and recommendations made by first nations in the past. I emphasize the expression “in the past”. I am prepared to believe that federal officials did consult a few first nations leaders, as they did in 1963 with Bill C-130, for which they had to go back again for another consultation, or in 2003 with Bill C-6, for which they consulted a few first nations leaders. I sense that we will have to hear many more dissatisfied witnesses, as was the case with Bills C-44 and C-21, which is now before us and regarding which the government merely changed the cover page, even though it is well aware of the fact that the various first nations associations are unhappy about it.
I feel a little sheepish for overestimating the Prime Minister's vision and desire for transparency, a transparency that is less relevant than that of Quebec's dark ages under Duplessis, whom he reminds me of, if only because he is so blindly obstinate.
Like my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I will nevertheless support this bill, which will speed up the resolution of specific claims of first nations, a process that has been criticized since the 1940s, as I just described. It would still have to receive royal assent before an election, and all the first nations must agree to it.
How many times in the past have we heard the elected members of this government announce the support of provincial premiers or ministers, organizations or union leaders, when it was completely untrue? As some people would say, credibility goes hand in hand with accountability, which the government seems to be seriously lacking.
I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to the Whapmagoostui community and the family and friends of David Masty, a prominent Cree man who went missing in the waters of Hudson's Bay over the weekend. He was seen as an elder throughout northern Quebec. He was a longtime friend of mine for whom I had a lot of respect.
It goes without saying that we have some concerns about this bill, for example, the fact that a single judge will render a binding decision about a third party's responsibility for paying without that party even being involved in the judgment. Quebec assumes a great deal of responsibility towards first nations, so the other provinces and this government could be more vulnerable to this type of judgment. Could the judge unilaterally require a third party to pay 30% of a first nations claim? Once again, what about the government's fiduciary responsibility?
The Bloc Québécois recognizes that certain specific claims are a strictly federal responsibility. Various House committees have been recommending the establishment of this tribunal for more than 60 years, in order to resolve specific first nations claims, as mentioned at the beginning of my speech, with the expression of concern and regret over the fact that this government is, once again, ignoring Quebec's distinctiveness.
Given the current structure of the judicial appointment process, a contested process if ever there was one, it is worrisome to think that a decision by this tribunal could not be appealed, and this goes for Quebec as well as for first nations, even though the decision is subject to judicial oversight.
This approach will have consequences that first nations really need to consider carefully. No further legal action will be possible. The surrender of land rights will give a clear title to third parties who own the land, and the decisions of the tribunal will resolve, once and for all, all specific claims.
Given that a province, which does not attend a land claim ruling, has no obligation to compensate the first nation, it is possible that the first nation will use the federal decision to demand compensation from that province. What happens, then, to the federal fiduciary responsibility?
The Bloc Québécois has always supported aboriginal peoples in their quest for justice and recognition of their rights. We recognize that the 11 first nations of Quebec are nations in their own right. We recognize that they are distinct peoples with the right to their own culture, language, customs and traditions as well as the right to direct the development of their own identity.
For this reason, aboriginal peoples must have the tools to develop their own identity, namely the right to self-government and the recognition of their rights. The right to self-determination was recognized by the Bloc Québécois in 1993 in its manifeste du Forum paritaire Québécois-Autochtones, in the future country of Quebec where we will also be masters of our own culture and vision for the future.
Like my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I reiterate my support for this bill, which will speed up resolution of the specific claims of the first nations that have been ongoing for 70 years. However, this is contingent upon my not discovering along the way, as is the case with many other declarations, that the declaration is as false as the consultation of first nations.
Naturally we will have the opportunity to examine the bill in the standing committee. I have the privilege of being a member of that committee where we can observe the childish antics of the members of this government, who have demonstrated a chronic inability to accept other people's ideas.
That is perhaps why they continue to call themselves the new government. There are too many issues that have failed to advance. It is like a plumber who has not understood that something other than water may pass through a pipe. Or an electrician who believes that his job is to make wires pass through this same pipe. This leads to confrontations, such as those the government will have on the international stage, which unfortunately would have reflected on the whole country had it not been for the generosity of the Bloc Québécois members who helped their colleagues go to defend Quebec's integrity in Bali.
What a bunch of half-wits we would have looked like without those few sensible persons who, democratically, have an undeniable right, especially because in terms of simple distribution, this government only represents some 30% of the Canadian population! Unfortunately, we have not yet avoided this reputation, which we must acknowledge is not a source of pride.
We have not forgotten this government's stand with respect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is enough to leave anyone involved with this bill perplexed.
We in northern Quebec certainly have our own concerns about the last James Bay agreement, which gave the Cree their share, although they are still awaiting the final agreement.
This is somewhat like Santa's sack, which he is holding in front of the beneficiaries, even though he has no intention of loosening the strings and handing out any presents. This is another point that reminds us of the dirty tricks of the Duplessis years.
It is like the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, who was elected based on his campaign promise to resolve the forestry crisis. He was elected at the beginning of September. The throne speech was presented at the end of October, but there was no mention of the forestry crisis. Nevertheless, he stood up and voted for that speech. This is not a problem; there are others just like him. In fact, one mayor in my riding stood up to protect this little sinking ship in a sea of Canadians—especially in the shadow of a big Albertan—who would include this topic in the next minibudget. Once again, they did not deliver.
Yet, his big Albertan, as a consolation prize, allows him to blather on, making a few silly remarks on occasion, getting a laugh out of the visitors' gallery, more often than not at his own expense. After all, there are still a few good little French Canadians in Quebec who have not yet managed to separate.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois must remain ever vigilant and uncompromising on behalf of all Quebeckers, aboriginal and non-aboriginal. This always leads us to demand that Quebec officials be consulted in the same way as Canadian officials.
We will therefore vote in favour of this bill, so we may study it and propose amendments, as needed.
November 7th, 2003 / 1:15 p.m.
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber, Her Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-45, an act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal liability of organizations)--Chapter No. 21.
Bill C-25, an act to modernize employment and labour relations in the public service and to amend the Financial Administration Act and the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter 22.
Bill C-6, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other acts--Chapter 23.
Bill C-459, an act to establish Holocaust Memorial Day--Chapter 24.
Bill C-55, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004--Chapter 25.
Bill C-37, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter 26.
Bill C-50, an act to amend the statute law in respect of benefits for veterans and the children of deceased veterans--Chapter 27.
Bill C-48, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (natural resources)--Chapter 28
Bill S-21, an act to amalgamate the Canadian Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and The Canadian Association of Financial Planners under the name The Financial Advisors Association of Canada.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
November 6th, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC
They were young women and we could just not accept that. We were shocked. We asked them, “What can we do to help you?” And what they said to us was, “Let us live. Let us flourish. Let us share this country, which was ours before you came, in our own way”.
I share my colleagues' opinion that we Quebeckers behave better towards the Amerindians, the first nations.
I would never agree to a law that still told them what to do. “Under certain conditions, we can help you, but you will always be at our mercy, you will always be minors with relation to us”. That is demoralizing and humiliating. I understand why these people are doing all they can to try to tell us, “Oppose this bill”.
I repeat what was said earlier: we have had Bill C-6, C-7, C-19, ehough is enough. We have had enough of pushing around people who have a right to live, who have a right to all they posses, and who have the right to develop in their own way.
Once again, I am probably wasting my breath, because the majority is over there and the bill will pass. Still, we will have the pleasure of saying that we did our duty, that we said what we had to say, and that we have tried to speak up for the people who have asked for our help.
As for the communities in my riding, unfortunately, I do not have an opportunity to see them very often, because they are far away and the riding is large. Still, if I can help them develop in their own way, I will do what I can.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
November 6th, 2003 / 5:40 p.m.
Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC
Madam Speaker, again today we are having an emotional debate. Having listened to the members for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, Drummond and Saint-Jean, I realize how true my feelings are, and how much they are shared by others.
The government is acting the way it always has. As a superior being telling others what to do and how to do it, rather than allowing the first nations to develop according to their potential, their interests and their abilities.
These are recognized peoples. Why are we always so paternalistic? Why not let them develop at their own speed and according to their own abilities? We have heard the comments on Bill C-6 on first nations specific claims, and C-7, and now on C-19. The first nations are on the verge of announcing that enough is enough, and of demanding the powers they need.
Not long ago, I and my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot had the opportunity to visit the Attikamek of Weymontachie. I was amazed at these brave people, who have done wonders despite being blocked at every turn.
I found it fantastic to see this community of 1,150 had managed to preserve its language and was teaching its children Attikamek up to grade three. This community is perfectly bilingual; both French and Attikamek are spoken.
We can learn something from this people, with their amazing will to survive. We cannot help but be amazed at their determination and their abilities.
The member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot shared my amazement when they told us that there are six seasons when you get 100 km north of La Tuque. The way they explain the different seasons is really extraordinary and well worth the trip just from the cultural point of view. The Attikemek have a very logical explanation for their six seasons.
The member for Saint-Jean has referred to his unforgettable memories of trips to aboriginal lands, and I can say the same.
What is regrettable is witnessing how hampered they are in their development, when that development would enrich all of society. It is not true that we stand to lose when we allow others to grow. The same applies to Canada as a whole. The day that Quebec can reach its full potential on its own, everyone will stand to gain. I am certain that if I develop my personal potential to the fullest, others gain something from it.
I am reading a book about this on that period. We took their land, yet the first nations saved us. Learning about history makes us realize to what extent we owe them our being here. It is painful to see them constantly being put down and told how and what to do, when we have so much to learn from them.
Forty years ago, I was coming back from La Tuque, where I was a manager for a company. I gave a ride to a hitchhiker, a man between 25 and 30, who looked pretty demoralized. I asked him what was wrong.
He said, “I have left my country”. I asked him where his country was. “It was located north and west from La Tuque, near Gagnon Lake. Our people lived there”, he said, and he added, “We had our customs, our language, our culture”. He went on to say, “I buried my father yesterday. He was the last one. He wanted to be buried with his ancestors. But I am leaving because our country is gone”.
That day, I told myself I did not know what I would have done in his place. I was the white man who had not allowed him to develop, while he had as much right as I did to do so, and his people and language had enriched my life.
I asked him if he resented me. His answer was, “Why would I? What I have lost is lost forever”. That is right. When we manage to pass legislation here that allows these people to survive, they enrich us at the same time as they enrich themselves.
When I was in Weymontachie with my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, we learned that, in the early summer, one young person a week, for three weeks in a row, had committed suicide.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
November 6th, 2003 / 5:10 p.m.
Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, it should be noted that we are debating a group of amendments at report stage of Bill C-19, but 54 out of 56 amendments put forward by the NDP have been disallowed and will not have the benefit of debate. We will not have the opportunity to re-craft the bill with language more acceptable to first nations on whose behalf we speak today. We were hoping the minister would stay and listen to our arguments because he did not listen to first nations in crafting this legislation.
I can say categorically that first nations across this country oppose Bill C-19 just as they oppose the rest of the minister's suite of bills, Bill C-7, Bill C-6 and Bill C-19. They viewed it as the reincarnation of the 1969 white paper which is something with which the current Prime Minister is very familiar.
We are debating two amendments to a bill that we in the NDP fundamentally oppose and that is the least crucial point. First nations oppose the bill as well.
I have in my hand a letter dated October 31, 2003 from the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He is prepared to admit and concede and put on the record that he too opposes Bill C-19 on behalf of first nations across the country. I will read it because it is important. To hear the minister and the parliamentary secretary tell it, the Assembly of First Nations wants the bill but we and a few first nations are somehow blocking it.
I would like to read from this recent letter from the legitimately elected leadership of first nations. He said simply:
As many of you know, an AFN Special Assembly was held in October at Squamish First Nation.
I was there, as was the member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot. During that meeting, a resolution was put forward concerning the AFN's position on Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19. The resolution which the chief endorsed called for the rejection of Bill C-7, the rejection of Bill C-6, but proposed to support Bill C-19. I quote:
The resolution failed to receive support from the Chiefs.
In other words, the chiefs voted down support for Bill C-19. I want to be perfectly accurate here because this is critically important. The letter continues on:
We must, as an organization, remember that unity is often best measured.... And while we do not support Bill C-6, Bill C-7, and Bill C-19, the AFN's view respects and gives dignity to those First Nations who disagree.
Fair enough. It is as clear as the writing on the page that the Assembly of First Nations oppose it. Therefore it is the height of colonial style arrogance for the Minister of Indian Affairs, in the last days of his being the Minister of Indian Affairs, to shove the bill down the throats of aboriginal people. We have seen this consistent pattern with Bill C-7, Bill C-6 and now with Bill C-19.
Will those members never learn? Will they never listen to first nations people across this country who have said categorically and unanimously that they oppose this suite of legislation? They are offended and insulted by the manner in which it has been rammed down their throats without consultation. They reject it and we in the House of Commons should reject it as well.
I have been denied the right to move 54 significant amendments which were drafted not by me and my researchers, but were drafted by people in the Assembly of First Nations. Leadership in the aboriginal community fed us material. They provided us with changes that they found acceptable. We are not even going to get to debate those amendments.
I regret that this will probably be the last time I will have a chance to share my thoughts with the House on this very flawed bill. In the few minutes that I have, I want to pay tribute to the courageous leaders in first nations communities who have dedicated months and months, actually years now, standing up for their rights and opposing the strategy of the Liberal government.
I have to begin with Chief Roberta Jamieson of the Six Nations of the Grand River. She has tirelessly led a campaign to coerce the government into respecting aboriginal and treaty rights and to bypass this flawed package. Also, the vice-chief for Ontario for the Assembly of First Nations, Charles Fox, representing all of the first nations in Ontario, is vehemently opposed to this bill. The vice-chief for the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec, Ghislain Picard, is vehemently opposed to this legislation and has said so categorically in print and verbally.
The vice-chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Manitoba, Grand Chief Francis Flett, is opposed. The grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Dennis Whitebird, is opposed. The grand chief for the Southern Chiefs Organization, Margaret Swan, is opposed. Stewart Phillip, the grand chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is opposed. Stan Beardy from the Nishnawbe Aski nation in northern Ontario is also opposed. Leon Jourdain represents the treaty 3 people in the minister's own riding, the 54 first nations in the minister's own riding. They are unanimously opposed. They do not want it.
What is so difficult to understand? Where do the Liberals get off being so arrogant in thinking that without consultation, without cooperation and without the participation of first nations they are going to fundamentally change the way the first nations are supposed to govern themselves? It is the very antithesis of self-governance to impose government structures on a free, independent and sovereign people. It makes me mad just thinking about it.
I attended the Assembly of First Nations national assembly in October and the Squamish first nation of British Columbia and I saw the debate. There are, legitimately, first nations leaders from British Columbia who support Bill C-19 which is fair enough. However there is nothing stopping them from moving forward with the issues we find in this bill without national legislation because of the 633 first nations, the majority of which are overwhelmingly opposed.
I also would be remiss if I did not mention the courageous battle and the energetic, enthusiastic actions of my colleague, mon frère autochtone, my brother in aboriginal issues, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
Both of us had the honour of being recognized by the Assembly of First Nations for the positions we have taken on this bill. Both of us were given spiritual names, which is an honour that I will never forget and an honour that I will value all of my life. I could not have been more proud if I had received the Order of Canada when we were brought before the Assembly of First Nations and thanked.
We were told it is a rare thing when non-aboriginal people actually get it for a second, actually understand the issue of sovereignty and self-governance and the inherent rights of a people to be independent and sovereign. My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has no problem with that concept. I learned that concept more recently perhaps. We were both very honoured and very proud to work hand in hand with the people in the Assembly of First Nations.
I also want to recognize some of the elders, the clan mothers of the Oneida, the Cayuga, the Mohawk and Six Nations who came out night after night to represent the interests of their people. They reminded us that frankly the eurocentric view of the government does not honour and respect tradition, culture and heritage. The clan mothers reminded us that we must think seven generations back and seven generations forward before we introduce this kind of change. My thanks go to them. They have my never-ending respect for the work they have done in their representations.
We should defeat this bill in its entirety. We should go back to the drawing board. We should work with respect and cooperation to craft self-governance legislation, as the emancipation of aboriginal people is the civil rights challenge of our time.
First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
November 6th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to the amendments to Bill C-19 proposed by my colleagues in the New Democratic Party.
I was very disappointed to see that, of all of the proposed amendments, you have only selected two for debate. It seemed to me that while we were examining this bill—and a controversial one it is—we would have been able to revisit the debate on some of the truly problematic elements.
First, as we begin, I would like to point out that, contrary to what the hon. parliamentary secretary said a few moments ago, there is no unanimity on this bill, none at all. There are positive things, but there are so many negative ones. It was the minister's responsibility to convince the first nations that the positive elements could outweigh the negative ones in this bill, or else show some openness to substantive amendments. In fact, there are many problems in this bill. It has missed its mark.
A few weeks ago, I attended the special chiefs assembly, held by the Assembly of First Nations in Vancouver. This bill was the subject of a heated debate. Some of the first nations supported the bill because it might mean an improvement. Others, the vast majority in fact, rejected the bill. The results of the vote were clear. If my memory serves me, 103 first nations chiefs were opposed and 59 were in favour. When there is more opposition to a bill than support for it, it is because the minister did not do his job in several respects.
First, he tried to convince some first nations, the most developed ones, that this bill might have merit. He forgot about the others. He forgot that most of the 638 first nations in Canada are experiencing real problems on a daily basis, problems such as poverty, multiple addictions, the lack of management and development resources, and access to drinking water. These problems are major ones. Young aboriginals are also experiencing social problems.
Ten years ago, when the Liberals talked about improving the status of first nations, something should have been done. However, instead of talking about it, instead of proposing concrete measures, they chose to engage in petty politics, to try to convince some at the expense of others; in short, to divide and conquer. Now, the vast majority of the 638 first nations in Canada do not want this bill to pass.
They do not want it primarily because this bill is part of a trilogy. There was Bill C-6 on specific claims resolution. Then, there was Bill C-7. No one knows what happened to this bill or where it is. I hope it stays lost. Then there was Bill C-19. The minister himself appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources to tell us that this was a complete package.
When he did present us with Bill C-7, it was the most odious bill possible for the first nations. He claimed to be replacing the odious Indian Act, which has been in place for 130 years. In the end, all that was accomplished was to retain the Indian Act, which treated the first nations like children, while adding on some elements of colonialism. This was not a good start to any demonstration of the virtues of the trilogy.
Then he turned up with Bill C-6. Yesterday, convinced of his inability to sell us on its validity, he imposed it on us. He is imposing upon the first nations the amendments proposed by the Senate on specific claims, which are now subject to a $10 million ceiling, whereas they average out at $18 million, judging from the situation in Saskatchewan in recent years.
He is using time allocation to shove this bill down our throats, once again thwarting the legitimate aspirations and ignoring the legitimate objections of the first nations. Here we are faced with Bill C-19, which is an attempt to push through something that no one will buy.
Why not focus the same amount of energy, courage, perseverance and political savvy on moving real things ahead? In the case of the first nations, this means speeding up negotiations on self-government. Enough of the apartheid mentality, enough of colonialism, let them speed up negotiations on self-government. That is the only way to ensure that the first nations can develop in keeping with what they are, what they want, and what they aspire to. Is that clear enough?
In order for a nation to develop, it must possess one main tool: government. The first nations have been calling for that government for ages. Their entitlement to it is recognized not just nationally but internationally. Even the United Nations have said that the first nations constituted nations. As nations, they therefore have the capacity to determine their own futures, to put in place their own government, to determine their own policies, their own way of doing things in accordance with their culture, their language and their traditions.
There still exists this paternalistic, colonial, condescending reflex. We thought this reflex had disappeared years ago with the elimination of apartheid in South Africa. We thought that was a thing of the past. Here we are with a bill that would still have us control the first nations.
The minister, in his quest to exercise control, is so driven that he forgets some things and says whatever comes to mind. On Tuesday, in response to questions I had asked him, he said, “We appointed the present national chief to the commission that exists today”. They appointed the head of the taxation commission. The minister thinks he has such extraordinary powers that he told us, here in this House, just check Hansard, “The national chief himself was appointed by the government”. He said that Phil Fontaine was appointed by the government. It takes a narrow-minded, power-hungry megalomaniac to think like that.
He is so power-hungry that in Bills C-6, C-7, and C-19, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is vested with all the discretionary power. He can appoint the members of commissions or institutions, he can reject or accept first nations specific claims. He can also say to first nations, “You have decided one thing, I will decide another”. He is so self-important he thinks this power is fully and completely his. He says, “I myself appointed the national chief of first nations”. Who does this minister take himself for? He has been in politics for 14 years, and it is time that he left.
This man wreaks havoc. He has become a megalomaniac. Everyone knows that the chief of the first nations is elected by the chiefs of the 638 first nations. He is elected by his peers. Neither the government nor the minister has anything to do with it. He must be really full of himself.
Specific Claims Resolutions Act
November 4th, 2003 / 5:15 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
I apologize to the hon. member, but it being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion relating to the Senate amendments to Bill C-6.
The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Specific Claims Resolutions Act
November 4th, 2003 / 5:10 p.m.
Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB
Madam Speaker, the member said that the AFN has opposed the bill. Certainly the AFN has opposed the bill. The Senate also opposed the bill. It is not the type of bill that looks after the interests of our aboriginal people.
Our aboriginal people are saying once again, and they have been saying it for many years, that they have not been treated fairly and equally.
When the member states that the national chief is opposed to Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19, all of them, that tells us that the bill itself is an injustice to the aboriginal people. That is how the aboriginal people feel.
Does the hon. member not think it is about time that we sat around the table and we listened to the recommendations of the aboriginal people? Should we not open our minds to that for a change instead of closing the door on them every time?
For years and years we have been closing the door on the aboriginal people. For once we should open the door and let them speak. Let the aboriginal people have an opportunity to have their say. It is about time.
Specific Claims Resolutions Act
November 4th, 2003 / 5:10 p.m.
Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK
Madam Speaker, on October 31 the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations stated that the AFN must and will vigorously oppose the enactment of all three bills, referring to Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19.
In her presentation the hon. member emphasized the relationship of the aboriginal people and the aboriginal nations of this country. I would like to ask her if she would agree with the terminology that Canada is a treaty nation. This nation was created by peace treaties. These peace treaties may have the gift to give world peace, because the world is looking for peace. That gift might be here. It might be embedded in the very treaties on which this nation rests its laurels and its certainties.
We go to bed every night as proud Canadians. However it was the aboriginal nations, through their agreements with the crown after its differences with France and Spain, which engaged by treaty to create a treaty nation based on peace and friendship.
Is the member aware that the national chief stated on October 31 that the AFN must and will vigorously oppose the bill?
Specific Claims Resolutions Act
November 4th, 2003 / 5 p.m.
Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB
Mr. Speaker, I will not be speaking that long, as the hon. member from the Bloc will also be speaking. It is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-6.
My friend and colleague, the member for Perth--Middlesex, spoke on this important legislation earlier today and I yield to his knowledge on this issue. He has done remarkable service for our caucus on this file and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for all his hard work. He has been keeping our caucus well informed and he is the expert in our party on this issue.
What I do know, and what everyone in the House knows, is that we have a special obligation to our first nations people. Each and every one of us do, on both sides of the House. All first nations, as was stated by the Bloc member, are against this bill. It goes against their democracy, and we must not have that.
This has happened for hundreds of years to the first nations people. It is time that the government straightened this out once and for all. They are special. They were here before any of our people historically came upon the grounds in Canada. For the power of the first nations, they should have their own autonomy.
I was really shocked when I heard the hon. member on the government side refer to them as special interest groups. They are not special interest groups. They are special people as well as being Canadians. They do not mind being Canadians, but they are first nations. There is no question that they have special interests and Bill C-6 does not address those interests. They want to look after their children.
It is time now, once and for all, for all of us to get together and do what is right. I would like to have seen the motion that was sent to the Bloc member. Every member in the House should see it.
I am not a historian and I recognize that correcting the injustices of the past sometimes involves a very long and arduous process. Not only has our nation evolved, it has expanded, and some of the claims being made by our first nations are where some of our greatest cities now stand. The land is there. There is land that they owned, land that was theirs, and there is land still there that should be theirs. The maps of our history have been replaced by the maps of the present day. They take the maps of the present day, but they do not look historically at what belongs to the first nations.
There is no question that historic injustices have been imposed upon our first nation people in Canada. There is no question that we must ensure we can adequately reconcile the disputes of the past by the means of the present. That is the purpose of this legislation, but I am deeply concerned, as are all of our people on this side of the House, about Bill C-6. Senators as well are very concerned because they have brought forward amendments. When that happens, we know there is an injustice in the bill that has been brought forward.
Like many of the bills before the House, there is much room for improvement. As it is currently written, Bill C-6 might not fix the very problems it hopes to correct and that is why they have sent their motion. They are saying that they oppose this bill, that they have an alternative motion that should be dealt with. We have received additional guidance from our friends in other places, as I have stated, and we would be wise to consider the amendments from the Senate.
My friend from Perth--Middlesex offered his thoughts on possible changes, when he spoke to this legislation earlier today. I echo his comments and I urge the House to listen to his compassionate reasoning. I believe Bill C-6 might not be capable of addressing some of the additional factors that can be a crucial part of the claim.
At the present time a claim can include treaty rights with respect to hunting and fishing. In New Brunswick where I come from we have seen what can result when these important considerations are not properly dealt with. We have seen the violence that can result when a decision is forced on the community. We have seen the dangers of not taking the care necessary to correct the longstanding problems that still exist.
Certainly the Supreme Court and the Department of Indian Affairs have dealt with cases of all kinds. Some types of cases involve cultural values and practices that can complicate the process but must be respected. Bill C-6, I am told, might not properly acknowledge treaty breaches of that kind. These types of rights have been at the very core of a number of first nations communities and we must deal with them very carefully for fear of affecting those communities and hurting our first nations people.
The story of our first nations is one about promises made by governments both in the past and in the present. The steps that we take must acknowledge those promises. For many first nations communities, the land at their disposal is crucial to their standard of living and for their families. I do not think that everyone realizes that, like all of us, they have families. They want to look after their families. The land is crucial to their standard of living. They have to have their land.
There are serious questions as to whether Bill C-6 will adequately protect the rights of those whose claims fall through the cracks of this legislation, and it will not. We know that it will not protect them. Given the complicated relationship that exists between the government and our first nations, the Supreme Court has made it clear that a fiduciary relationship exists. That fiduciary relationship ensures that those who have entered into commitments with the government are not taken advantage of by the government. We should make sure that never happens.
We must take this duty very seriously if we consider this legislation and its effects. We must acknowledge that we have a special responsibility, and I say that right from the heart, to protect the interests of our first nations. I am not, as I have said, an expert in these matters. I know there are those who have spent their professional lives working for solutions to these problems. I know in my heart that something must be done and I know that the House must play a leading role. I have to say that I do not have all of the answers, but I think it is time that we started to listen to members of the first nations.
The consideration of the bill lets us revisit the mistakes that have been made in the past. Many, many mistakes have been made with our first nations. Indeed, the entire issue of first nations claims stems from oversights and mistakes that occurred when our country was still very young. Let us not make further mistakes in correcting these injustices.
As I stated at the beginning, the first nations should have their own autonomy. All first nations are against the bill, as was stated by the member from the Bloc, and it goes against democracy as it is stated right now. If it goes against democracy, that is not what we are about in the House of Commons.
The first nations have contributed to this country. They have not always wanted a handout from any of us. They want to live their lives on their land that they own, that is theirs, that they founded, and we should make sure that they can. I never want to hear anyone in this House ever refer to the first nations as a special interest group. They are founders of our country. We owe it to them to do what is right for them and that is exactly what we are here for.
Specific Claims Resolutions Act
November 4th, 2003 / 5 p.m.
Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON
Mr. Speaker, there has always been controversy ever since Bill C-7 was introduced, also Bill C-6, Bill C-19 and Bill C-19, which took 10 years of development by the first nations people. They agreed to it and then things changed dramatically.
As far as that party is concerned, there is direction from a leader and the major critic on Indian affairs in misguiding the members of his community. What he is really advocating is that the status quo be maintained with the first nations people organizations. He says that there are--
Specific Claims Resolutions Act
November 4th, 2003 / 5 p.m.
Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to ask a question.
What has just happened is absolutely shameful, shameful beyond words.
The member who has just spoken may not have a crystal ball, but the facts are there. Throughout consideration of Bill C-6, all of the first nations were opposed to this bill, along with all the opposition parties.
Everything in this bill is anti-democratic. I wonder what the hon. member is doing in this House when he denies the first nations' right to be masters of their own house, and to take steps to regain the independence this government has taken from them.
I would like to hear the hon. member's thoughts on this resolution, which the first nations have sent to my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
Specific Claims Resolutions Act
November 4th, 2003 / 4:55 p.m.
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member says is all very well, but the least one can say is that his crystal ball is very cloudy.
He has painted a very limited picture of reality. This matter is causing tensions between communities. No conciliation is possible in such an environment. As we speak, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and the Native Women of Quebec are meeting in a general assembly in Rivière-du-Loup, and they are angry.
They have just sent us a resolution in which they confirm the opposition of the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. They also say in their resolution that they are formally informing the federal government that the first nations of Quebec and Labrador will take all political, legal and administrative measures necessary to ensure that Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19, do not interfere with the autonomy and development of the first nations.
Let us stop talking about conciliation: the ink is not even dry on the resolution from the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Native Women, a document we received just moments ago. They are reaffirming their strong opposition to the three bills, especially the government's attitude as demonstrated in Bill C-19.