Bill C-7 (Historical)
First Nations Governance Act
An Act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, 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
Committee Report Presented
(This bill did not become law.)
Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business
November 28th, 2012 / 6:50 p.m.
Francine Raynault Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the privilege of talking about an issue as important as the one addressed in Bill C-428. I believe that this bill is important because it tackles the horrible Indian Act of 1876. There can be no doubt that this bill is one of Canada's most archaic colonial legacies. That is why I commend the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River on his initiative. However, it is not enough. It is too little, too late. The Conservative government should consider a much farther-reaching rewrite of the Indian Act and a much more open process.
As a New Democrat, I believe that a complete overhaul of this cursed bill should be led by aboriginals. If the changes are imposed unilaterally, then what, really, has changed? That is why Bill C-428 seems inappropriate.
I will explain why this bill is not likely to go down in history. I do not claim to have a plan to make up for 136 years of colonialism, but I can say that ideally, new legislation should be drafted in collaboration with aboriginals, be introduced by the government and honour the goals of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Because Bill C-428 does not satisfy any of these conditions, I cannot support it.
I want to begin by pointing out that the goal of the 1876 act was the assimilation of all aboriginals and their forced integration into what was then a fledgling Canadian society. When I visit Manawan, people there are still speaking Atikamekw in 2012. In that respect, the act failed. It also includes many provisions that make life difficult for aboriginals. The government will have to do better than a private member's bill to fix it.
In 1969, the Liberal Party tried to get rid of the act in order to integrate aboriginals into Canadian society. That was supposed to happen without compensation, without special status, and with no respect for treaties signed in the past. As one, aboriginals rejected the idea, but that does not mean they wanted to keep the Indian Act. Quite the contrary.
In their red paper, aboriginals stated that it was neither possible nor desirable to abolish the Indian Act. They said that a review of the act was critical, but that it should not happen until treaty issues were resolved. Some 45 years later, that issue is still outstanding.
Other attempts were explored in this House. In 1987, a list was made of discriminatory provisions in the Indian Act, and this led to a bill. Later, in 2003, the Liberals introduced Bill C-7, which, once again, was heavily criticized by first nations. The Conservatives are now bringing forward Bill C-428, a private member's bill, which seems just as irrelevant as other attempts.
In the words of Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In my opinion, this quote points to what is clearly lacking in Bill C-428: a different approach. Perhaps this flaw is the reason why there is very little support for the bill outside the Conservative caucus. The chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, said that this bill is along the same lines as the policy espoused in the 1969 white paper.
Had the Conservatives listened to Mr. Atleo, they would have understood that what to do with aboriginals is no longer the question. In the 21st century, the question is: what do aboriginals want to do with us?
Bill C-428, which the Assembly of First Nations has said came out of nowhere, does not reflect the current reality. During the Crown–First Nations Gathering, the Conservative Prime Minister spoke at length about how his government would work with the first nations.
Aboriginal peoples were not consulted about Bill C-428, or about Bill C-27 or Bill S-8. When the government promises something—and especially something so important—it must follow through. It is shameful to see that this government is not keeping its own promises.
Speaking of broken promises, the government committed to removing the residential school provisions from the Indian Act. We can see that the government preferred to hide the clause in a private member's bill. The NDP thinks that something so important should come from the government, and with apologies, no less. The government must take responsibility and come up with a real, serious solution to replace the Indian Act.
Bill C-428 contains some clauses that seem to be chosen at random, when they are not downright negative. For example, the elimination of the provisions dealing with wills and estates could put aboriginal people in a very frustrating legal void. Does the bill's sponsor understand its implications?
Finally, we must recognize that the living conditions of aboriginal people are getting worse all the time. While the first nations communities are experiencing an ongoing demographic boom, their social services budgets are increasing by only 2% a year, thanks to the Liberals. The fact that the social services budgets for other Canadians are increasing by 6% a year does not seem to bother the government at all.
Malnutrition and education problems are hitting first nations communities hard. I am afraid that the Prime Minister will have to do more than give a medal to Justin Bieber to make young aboriginals forget about this sad reality. When the government decides to really tackle the problems resulting from the Indian Act, I will be there.
Furthermore, I expect that the proposed measure will be very much in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This declaration, which Canada ignorantly refused to support, recognizes the specific needs of aboriginal people. It recognizes their right to be consulted about the use of resources on their land. Do we not owe at least that to those who played key roles in our history and the development of our economy?
If the government does not change its attitude toward the first nations, they will understand that the NDP is the only party that can offer them a truly open consultation process. We want to help them to govern themselves. Other Canadians need to know that the excellent social services they receive must also be provided to aboriginal people, in a spirit of sharing and recognition.
The Indian Act needs to be revised, but not without real consultation, clear objectives and a detailed plan of steps to follow. Unfortunately, Bill C-428 does not meet any of these criteria.
Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business
October 18th, 2012 / 5:35 p.m.
Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that. When the member was giving his speech, we allowed him the time and space to deliver it without the heckling and the noise.
I want to point out how serious this is. We have a private member's bill that is attempting to dismantle the Indian Act. I think there is agreement that the Indian Act is an archaic piece of legislation that needs to go, but the question is how it should go. Should it be through a private member's bill? Absolutely not. That does not recognize the nation-to-nation relationship that exists in this country.
There have been two other major attempts that ended in dismal failure, I might point out, and they were government bills, not private members' bills. There have been two major attempts at removing the Indian Act in the past. The first was a white paper authorized by Jean Chrétien in 1969 that sought to assimilate first nations into mainstream Canadian society by scrapping the Indian Act and reserves. We can see from the kinds of legislation that have been tabled in the House in the past that it is no wonder that first nations from coast to coast to coast are nervous about any attempt that does not involve meaningful consultation. People do not know what the end result of this is going to be because they are not involved and not at the table.
Harold Cardinal, another first nations leader, in response to the 1969 white paper, published a red paper titled “Citizens Plus” that outlined in reply:
It is neither possible nor desirable to eliminate the Indian Act. It is essential to review it, but not before the question of treaties is settled. Some sections can be altered, amended, or deleted readily. Other sections need more careful study, because the Indian Act provided for Indian people, the legal framework that is provided in many federal and provincial statutes for other Canadians. Thus the Indian Act is very complicated and cannot simply be burned.
In 2003, the Liberals introduced Bill C-7, the first nations governance act, which was widely panned by first nations who questioned if it was consistent with the rights, needs and priorities of Canadian first nations. Sadly, there was a news release on October 18 that indicates that the government would be supporting Bill C-428. The question then, of course, comes back to the new relationship that was promised at the Crown-first nations gathering back in January and how unilaterally introducing a private member's bill on some serious matters constitutes a new relationship in this country.
If the government were serious about a new relationship, it would go back to reports like that of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. A couple of years ago, the Assembly of First Nations issued a report card and, essentially, it almost gave an F across the board for what had been implemented. The royal commission process was a comprehensive one that many people had some faith in, but most of the recommendations have been completely disregarded by various governments since 1996. If it were serious, the government would go back to that, and if it were serious about consultation, it would go back to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that very important clause about free, prior and informed consent. This bill does nothing to address any of that.
I want to go back to a paper that was published back in 1987 entitled, “Aboriginal People: History of Discriminatory Laws”. This paper states:
It is generally accepted that the often conflicting goals of “civilization,” assimilation, and protection of Indian peoples that have been pursued throughout the history of federal Indian legislation have their origin in (primarily British) colonialism. Throughout the colonial and post-Confederation periods, governments vacillated between two policies. The isolationist policy held that assimilation could be best achieved by isolating Indians on reserves, with Indian agents gradually preparing them for integration with the dominant society. (Alternatively, isolation was viewed by some simply as a protective measure until the Indian people should become extinct). The policy of immediate assimilation, on the other hand, favoured immediate placement of Indians among non-native people and removal of special protective measures and legal status. The isolationist policy has predominated but, as some observers have noted, it has had the unintended result of preserving Indian cultures and providing a means for the Indian people to resist assimilative pressures. Accordingly, Indians have fought to retain their reserves, treaty rights and special legal status as a way of maintaining distinct cultural or national identities.
While Indian people view reserve and treaty rights as a quid pro quo for giving up a good part of their traditional lands, federal and provincial governments have frequently taken the view that the Indians’ refusal to abandon their distinctive cultures, government and identities is a refusal to take up the ways of a more “advanced civilization” and accordingly, a refusal to take up the “responsibilities” of full citizenship. In the result, the history of native policy, particularly Indian policy, in Canada is replete with examples of legal bars to the exercise of fundamental civil, political and cultural rights.
That continues to this day and this bill does nothing to address the problems that first nations across this country are facing, whether it is human rights or the ridiculous number of aboriginal women who are in prison.
One-third of women in federal prison are aboriginal. We had the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which talks about the dismal failure of aboriginal policy to keep children out of prisons. We have the current government still fighting at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on child welfare.
If the Conservatives are serious about a new relationship they will withdraw this bill, go back to the drawing board and work with first nations to fully implement a consultative approach to eliminating the Indian Act.
I want to add that there was a man named Leo Baskatawang, who—
March 8th, 2011 / 10:15 a.m.
Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you again for being here, Ms. Block.
Let me just say at the outset that I take great exception to your characterizing those who did not support this bill coming to committee as being opposed to transparency. I speak for myself as one who sat for days, 24 hours around the clock, to deal with Bill C-7 in 2002, which dealt with many of the issues related to transparency, and as one who advocated very strongly for the Kelowna accord, which very much advocated and had the tools and the infrastructure and had followed the processes of consultation that many of us value in developing legislation related to aboriginal people.
What I am most concerned about is how you reconcile this bill calling for transparency with your own government's unwillingness or inability or blockage of transparency of many other issues that are coming before this House. I just find the hypocrisy of it breathtaking.
June 12th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to both of our witnesses for being here today.
I don't think I need to remind anyone around this committee of the number of attempts there have been to repeal section 67, going back to 1992. And then there was this extensive review panel of the Canadian Human Rights Act in the year 1999 and 2000. All of the groups that represented aboriginal women at that point strongly supported the repeal of section 67.
Then again in 2002 there was Bill C-7. One of the major criticisms of Bill C-7, as I understand it, was the vagueness of the interpretive clause that was to have been included in that bill.
You mentioned, Ms. Eberts, that there is lots of wisdom in indigenous legal traditions, and I certainly agree with that. I certainly would not argue that for a moment.
But in terms of the number of first nations groups that exist across Canada, is it realistic for us to be able to achieve a one-size-fits-all interpretive clause when we're representing such a diverse group of first nations across Canada? That would be one of my concerns, when already a previous attempt was targeted with that criticism. How can we surmount that obstacle?
March 22nd, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
I'll speak first, Mr. Chair, with your permission. Then I'm pleased to answer any questions.
I know that Mr. Lemay is anxious to have a dialogue on this, and I always enjoy that.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to discuss Bill C-44. I'm pleased that the committee members are undertaking a review of this important projet de loi. It is human rights protection legislation that will repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill C-44 proposes to end an exemption that was included in the original legislation when it was enacted some time ago, actually in 1977.
As a result of this exemption, individuals, mostly residents of first nation communities, have had limited recourse under the Canadian Human Rights Act should they feel their rights have been violated. This fundamental injustice represents a black mark on Canada's democracy. I would draw to your attention a number of reports to the United Nations that have singled this out and recommended change.
Section 67 clearly permits discrimination against a particular group of citizens, and Bill C-44 proposes to ensure that the laws of the country will apply equally to all Canadian citizens.
This is not the first time that Parliament has tried to repeal section 67. Bill C-108 was introduced nearly 15 years ago, only to die on the Order Paper. More recently, attempts to repeal section 67 through Bills C-7 and S-45 suffered a similar fate. Parliamentarians now have an opportunity to see the job through.
Support for the repeal of section 67 comes from a wide variety of groups, including this very committee. In its report on matrimonial real property on reserves, Walking Arm in Armto Resolve the Issue of On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property, members of this committee called for the repeal of section 67.
Your committee's position on this matter was based largely on the testimony of representatives from several key groups, including the Native Women's Association of Canada. In fact, I would point out that Beverley Jacobs said this before your committee at that time, as follows:
—many first nations women have no recourse at all when their rights are being violated in their communities. They have no recourse to challenge their band councils for discriminating against them and for forcing them out of their own communities. We demand basic human rights for our women and children.
As minister, I take that statement to heart. Nothing will change unless action is taken, and that is precisely what we have done with this legislation.
Over the years, calls for the repeal of section 67 have come from a wide variety of sources, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself, and other independent commentators who have filed reports with the UN.
The fundamental injustice engendered by section 67 has also attracted international attention, unfortunately earning Canada censure from the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Mr. Chairman, in my opinion, it all boils down to a simple issue of human rights. Canada must not perpetuate the discrimination inherent in section 67.
I appreciate that some groups have raised concerns about Bill C-44, despite its noble goal. Most critics focus on three points: a perceived lack of consultation, the absence of an interpretive clause and concerns about the potential impact.
Today, I will address each of these criticisms in turn.
On the perceived lack of consultation, I would contend that in fact there's been a significant amount of discussion and consultation on the repeal of section 67, all of which has informed the bill that is before you today. There have been, really, 30 years of discussions since 1977 about the repeal of section 67.
Perhaps the most comprehensive consultation was launched in 1999 as part of a formal review of the Canada Human Rights Act. As you know, the Canada Human Rights Commission itself has spoken on this issue.
Among the many regional and national aboriginal organizations to participate in the review were the Native Women's Association of Canada, Alberta's Aboriginal Human Rights Commission, and New Brunswick's Aboriginal Peoples Council.
The final report issued by the review panel in 2000 recommended the repeal of section 67, and two years ago consultation with aboriginal groups informed a special report on section 67, completed and filed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself. Again, repeal was the recommended option.
In 2003 section 67 was also discussed as part of the committee's hearings into Bill C-7, the controversial First Nations Governance Act. During these hearings, several aboriginal groups lobbied for the repeal of section 67, a position restated during hearings that were held in 2005 on matrimonial real property on reserve. The Assembly of First Nations has also expressed its views on the public record.
While not every stakeholder and aboriginal person has had the opportunity to participate in consultations, there can be no doubt that a determined effort has been made to gather relevant opinions. And that the consensus was and continues to be clear: section 67 must go. Thirty years is long enough.
A second criticism of Bill C-44 concerns the absence of an interpretive clause. In this regard, an interpretive provision is required in the Canadian Human Rights Act to balance the interests of individuals seeking protection from discrimination with aboriginal community interest. That is the argument put forward.
I share the view that the Canadian Human Rights Act should be applied in a manner that is sensitive to particular circumstances of aboriginal communities, but the truth is that three factors preclude the need for an interpretive clause in the legislation. The first is that laws already exist that provide for a balancing of individual and collective rights. I refer to the constitutional protection already in place for the recognition of collective aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, which remains as the paramount authority in our legal system.
Given these protections, members of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the body that will adjudicate complaints under the statute, are required by the act to be sensitive to human issues as they pertain to aboriginal and treaty rights. They can also be expected to interpret the existing defences in the act, bearing in mind these concerns. With these protections in place to help guide the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the commission, there's no need to add an interpretive clause to Bill C-44. In effect, the Constitution Act provides that overall interpretive umbrella itself.
The second factor has to do with the critical role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself. The commission is charged with the administration of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which means that it not only processes complaints but also engages in educational activities concerning the act. Since it was created nearly 30 years ago, the commission has acquired unsurpassed expertise in interpreting and in resolving cases involving discrimination—that is what they do, and they're good at it. The commission's efforts to prevent discrimination have also been remarkable.
Rather than relying on a specific statutory interpretive clause to safeguard theirs interests, aboriginal groups can discuss the future operation of the Act with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In fact, many aboriginal governments have had experience with complaints under the Act, situations where section 67 has not applied.
The commission has vowed to work directly with aboriginal groups on implementation. In fact, the commission's aboriginal program is already established and a series of regional workshops are planned. The workshops will provide guidance and support to aboriginal groups that need help to exercise and carry out the new responsibilities under the act. Additionally, the Canadian Human Rights Act already grants the commission the power to establish guidelines or regulations on how the act should be applied to a particular class or group of complaints. These guidelines are statutory instruments with the same legal weight as regulations, but they are flexible enough to be adapted as required. I have full confidence that, given its mandate, its track record, and in dialogue with first nations, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is best placed to offer advice on how the act should be applied, and to do so over time. With passage of Bill C-44, this work will begin formally.
Thirdly, we know from experience with the interpretive clause, which was originally proposed in the First Nations Governance Act, Bill C-7, that it is extremely difficult to capture in a single clause fail-proof language that would address all the competing considerations for handling a Canadian Human Rights Act complaint in a first nations context. To attempt to distill the interpretive power of the Human Rights Commission into a single clause, I submit, is quite problematic. Additionally, an interpretive clause, if passed into law, would have to be interpreted by the commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, in any event, in specific cases, and would obtain clarity really only after the litigation of many complaints and conflicts, undoubtedly, with the charter.
In summary, with the protection offered by Canada's legal framework, the support provided by the commission, and the scope that already exists within the Canadian Human Rights Act and the powers of the commission, I'm personally convinced that the full application of the Canadian Human Rights Act can be implemented in a manner that is sensitive to aboriginal communities. I have confidence that the Human Rights Commission is best able to provide that oversight and that interpretive responsibility.
Other aspects of the legislation are helpful to consider. The mandatory review included in Bill C-44, for example, offers additional protection for those who are concerned about its impact. The legislation proposes that a parliamentary committee undertake a comprehensive review of the effects of the repeal of section 67, within five years. I think this is a useful fail-safe.
On this point, I would like to draw to the committee's attention that it is within Parliament's authority to undertake such a review earlier. I would respectfully caution against so doing, but this remains the prerogative of Parliament.
I acknowledge that the repeal of section 67 will have a significant impact on many groups, including First Nations and federal departments. To ensure that First Nations have time to prepare for these impacts, Bill C-44 proposes a delayed application to First Nations' governments six months after royal assent is granted.
With the support of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which has already begun to engage and to raise awareness of human rights legislation with representatives of national and regional aboriginal organizations, I believe this period provides the appropriate balance between, on the one hand, proceeding with repeal in a timely fashion while on the other hand allowing first nations to take measures to prepare for full implementation.
The question of resources has been raised, but until the bill is passed, these costs remain hypothetical. Yes, it will be important to assess what resources might be needed, and I invite your advice on that topic.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee—and we have a knowledgeable group of parliamentarians at this table today—the time has come to ensure that all Canadians are treated equally before the law of this country. Bill C-44 proposes a fair, realistic approach to ending 30 years of sanctioned discrimination in this country. This committee, in a non-partisan way, can seize the opportunity before it and ensure access to full human rights protection as provided to all. Now is the time for us to act to end the injustice that was created as a so-called temporary measure against first nations citizens 30 years ago. This is an historic opportunity for this Parliament, for all the parties in this House of Commons at this time, to accomplish something very significant. I urge you, as committee members, to review Bill C-44 and to support it.
Thank you. I will do my best to answer the questions from Mr. Lemay and others.
Private Members' Business
November 22nd, 2006 / 7:10 p.m.
Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB
Mr. Speaker, the argument is specious that somehow putting interim rules into place is in any way, shape or form going to delay action. If we have a desire to take action as a result of the consultations that are under way, we will take it, but I have listened to arguments being made for 20 years that there is a process under way. There was a process with the AJI. RCAP was a very extensive process.
Many of us here were part of Bill C-7 and remember the consultations around that. People have argued for many years and some chiefs always will argue that this is not any of our business. I do not think the arguments that this is somehow going to delay action coming from those sources have any credence whatsoever.
However, the argument that an interim action to provide rules for matrimonial property division until this or a subsequent government decides to take action is very strong, because it is either interim rules or no rules. If members knew the women who have been impacted by the absence of rules as I do, they certainly would support having interim rules as opposed to none.
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 / 5 p.m.
Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on Bill C-19.
I wish to thank the member for Perth—Middlesex for his work in the aboriginal affairs committee. Having been a former member of the committee, I do have a few things to say. My riding of Dauphin—Swan River has 13 bands and a significant population base of aboriginal Canadians.
It was mentioned earlier that it is so unfortunate that on a day when we pay tribute to the Prime Minister, his biggest failure in 40 years of public life is on the aboriginal affairs file. I know that he always had good intentions in terms of helping the aboriginal community, but unfortunately, the process is fatally flawed. I could say the same thing about our current minister. I am sure the minister is well intentioned to help people, but the problem is that the system does not work.
Having been a former critic for the PC Party going back almost two years, Bill C-19 was already on the Internet. Members of the committee and members of the aboriginal community did not know anything about it. It is a good example of the flawed communication process. We cannot force or expect people to do things unless they sit down at the table and discuss issues.
Bill C-7 is about governance. The change of governance for the aboriginal community which supposedly was to work toward self-government just did not work out. It was well-intentioned. The topic made sense, but the process was flawed.
The aboriginal community opposed Bill C-7, even though there are many good things in it. It is about setting up governance vehicles and making people accountable.
Unfortunately, unless the stakeholders are there, the people who this bill is going to affect, they are not going to buy into it. No more than if the federal government decided that all of a sudden it would dictate how municipalities should operate. People at the grassroots level would not take it sitting down because they want input.
In fact, that is one of the weaknesses of the government as we have heard in this House. Cooperative federalism in terms of relationships between the provinces and this place can certainly be improved. We know there can be huge improvements in terms of the relationship between the federal government and the aboriginal community. It is a terrible relationship which is so unfortunate. We go from a national chief to a national chief. It is poor planning and in no way does it deal with people.
We spend a great deal of money on this file, over $7 billion, and yet people still live in third world conditions. It just does not make any sense. Aboriginal communities and aboriginal people of this land are living in third world conditions.
In a rich country like this where everyone in the world wants to come to Canada because of the opportunities here, our first nations communities are living in squalor in many places. I have 13 reserves and many of them do not have running water. They have probably 10 to 12 people living in one house. It is just pathetic how the majority of people live.
Unfortunately, because of the lack of accountability, there is no accounting for how the money is spent. Again, I blame the federal government.
The Indian Act seems to have the attitude that father knows best. It is just as the Bloc member said. They are just like modern Indian agents; they decide how the money is spent and to whom they should give the money. I guess the band councils learned from their masters at this level about rampant spending and not having to account to anyone. It is very frustrating. It is frustrating for the people who live on reserves. They do not know what to do.
I have many contacts with the people who are on reservations in my riding. I forward them on to the minister and I am not even sure what happens, even on the issue of third party debt. There are millions and millions of dollars of third party debt incurred by what I say is the federal government but the minister said it is not his debt, that it is the bands' debt. Unfortunately someone gets hurt and it is usually the third party. There is no fairness in this.
The biggest irony is that this country believes in democracy and human rights. We travel all over the world promoting democracy, transparency and accountability. I met with Mr. Roy of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development which was established in 1988.
We do this yet at home we do not look at what we are doing in our own backyard. One would think that in 2003 as rational people in this place we would try to figure out a solution. After a contribution of 40 years to the country by the Prime Minister, surely it is time to sit down and work this out so that the aboriginal communities, the first nations of our land, have an opportunity to grow and to create wealth like other Canadians. Otherwise we are not going to go anywhere.
We have heard about the self-government initiative. It is not going to happen. It is not going to work as long as the Indian Act is in place. The Indian Act is a millstone around the first people's necks. The only way to have true autonomy and self-sufficiency is to let people manage their own affairs.
We are a country of regions. We are a country of first nations, distinct francophones and distinct anglophones. The strength of the country is that we have many differences and many regions. They can all learn to work together, not only the east, the west and the centre but also the north.
The government has a lot to learn. I will close by saying it is so unfortunate on the day we have been praising the Prime Minister for his contribution to the country that a file in which he has great interest is a total failure.
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 / 5:10 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.