Bill C-54 (Historical)
First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Andy Scott Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Business of the House
November 21st, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
I am sure the House is glad to hear the news, but I do not think it is a point of order.
(Bill C-53. On the Order: Government Orders:)
November 16, 2005--The Minister of Justice--Consideration at report stage and second reading of Bill C-53, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (proceeds of crime) and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, as reported by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, without amendment.
(Bill concurred in at report stage, read a third time and passed)
(Bill C-54. On the Order: Government Orders:)
November 3, 2005--Resuming consideration of the motion of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development that Bill C-54, An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada, be read the third time and passed.
(Bill read the third time and passed)
(Bill C-55. On the Order: Government Orders:)
October 5, 2005--Minister of Industry--An Act to establish the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
(Bill concurred in at report stage, read the third time and passed)
(Bill C-66. On the Order: Government Orders:)
November 1, 2005--Resuming consideration of the motion of the Minister of Finance that Bill C-66, An Act to authorize payments to provide assistance in relation to energy costs, housing energy consumption and public transit infrastructure, and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
(Bill read a second time, referred to and reported from committee without amendment, concurred in at report stage, read the third time and passed)
Business of the House
November 21st, 2005 / 3 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I think you would find unanimous consent for the following. I move:
That Bill C-53 be deemed to have been concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed on division;
That Bill C-54 be deemed to have been read a third time and passed on division;
That Bill C-55 be deemed to have been reported from the committee with the following amendments presented by the government:
That Bill C-55, in clause 131, be amended by replacing line 41 on page 127 with the following:
as provided in this section or under the laws of the
That Bill C-55, in clause 131, be amended by adding after line 11 on page 129 the following:
(8) For greater certainty, any collective agreement that the company and the bargaining agent have not agreed to revise remains in force, and the court shall not alter its terms.
and that the said bill be deemed to have been concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed on division;
That Bill C-66 be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to and reported from committee without amendment, concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed on division.
First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
November 18th, 2005 / 10:30 a.m.
Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the fine work my colleague has done in advancing the cause of first nations, not only the first nations in his riding but elsewhere.
I was a little saddened to hear that comment. This legislation is being dealt with in a non-partisan way, as my learned friend points out. I wish to point out for the record that this Parliament has perhaps been unique because an enormous amount of legislation has arrived at Parliament from the doorsteps of first nations, not legislation developed by the Government of Canada but legislation developed by first nations.
I speak of Bill C-54, the oil and gas legislation that was brought to the House, developed by the first nations themselves; Bill C-71, which we are speaking to today, again developed by first nations; and Bill C-20, the fiscal and management package legislation, also developed by first nations.
All the legislation has been brought to the House and it has been moved through the House expeditiously, with a minimum of partisanship. There has been no partisanship from any of the opposition parties on any of the legislation. That needs to be pointed out because there is an attempt being made right now to suggest that somehow Parliament has blocked the advancement of aboriginal Canadians or that Parliament has not been in favour of the legislation that has been brought forward to improve their economic and social conditions.
Parliament can be very proud of the work it has done. The Indian affairs committee can be very proud of the work it has been done over the course of the last 18 months. There is, at this point, not a single piece of aboriginal legislation backlogged in the House. The opposition parties have not blocked any legislation that the Government of Canada has brought forward on aboriginal Canadians. Therefore, to somehow suggest that the opposition parties are being partisan is unfair in the extreme.
This legislation was brought to the House by the government today. The opposition parties are indicating their willingness to have it moved expeditiously through the House of Commons before any election takes place. At the end of the day, Canadians will be the judge of who is responsible for many of the difficulties and grievances that we see in aboriginal communities. It has not been the opposition parties.
I congratulate the proponents of this legislation, who are in Ottawa today, and they have our support.
First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act
November 18th, 2005 / 10 a.m.
Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
Mr. Speaker, a primary goal of the Prime Minister and the government is to close the gap in socio-economic conditions between first nations peoples and other Canadians.
The bill, the first nations commercial and industrial development act, FNCIDA, would allow first nations to participate more actively in the Canadian economy and to access engines of economic development.
In working toward fulfilling this goal, the government signed an accord with the Assembly of First Nations at the May 31, 2005 policy retreat, which underlined a shared commitment to helping first nations exercise greater control over their social and economic aspirations.
The government is committed to working with first nations to build stronger indigenous economies leading to greater economic independence.
The legislation represents a bold step forward in the partnership between the federal government and first nations. It builds on the success of previous legislation in this area, the First Nations Land Management Act and the proposed first nations oil and gas and moneys management act, Bill C-54, which is currently before the House.
This bill, like these two legislative initiatives, will give first nations who opt into the legislation the confidence that comes from accessing and developing the resources on their own lands. As such, it represents a very powerful tool to build economic opportunity and improve the quality of life on reserves.
First nations across Canada are considering development opportunities that will improve economic and social conditions on their own reserves. For example, Fort McKay First Nation in northern Alberta is pursuing over a billion dollar oil sands development to be developed by and with Shell Canada Limited. The oil sands in general represent enormous economic opportunity for all Canadians, including first nations like For McKay. Billions of dollars of investment will be flowing into the oil sands in the next few years. We know this and first nations want to be players and participants.
The investment in Fort McKay would create unprecedented job and revenue growth, along with vast opportunities and quality of life and social and cultural development on reserve and employment opportunities in the region. We are very pleased to move forward on this.
For these types of projects to proceed on reserves, first nations need effective regulatory regimes and existing federal legislation currently does not provide the authority to establish them, creating a regulatory barrier or gap.
The Constitution Act, 1867, gives Parliament exclusive authority in respect of “land reserve for the Indians”. Also, the Indian Act, the Canadian Environment Assessment Act, the Canadian Environment Protection Act and other federal legislation were never intended to provide a complete federal land regime on reserve. In her 2003 report, the Auditor General found that regulatory barriers like this are one of the main impediments to first nations economic development.
Therefore the government has responded to these concerns and is making legislative and regulatory renewal a priority. FNCIDA is an important part of this legislative and regulatory renewal and is designed to remove barriers to first nations economic development. This legislation is also consistent with the government's smart regulation initiative.
In its 2004 report, the external advisory committee on smart regulation recommended that the federal government “accelerate its agenda to modernize the regulatory regime in first nations communities and address regulatory gaps that inhibit the development of commercial and industrial projects on reserve land”.
For companies that were considering locating major commercial and industrial projects on reserve, like the multi-billion dollar oil sands development at Fort McKay, the bill would provide the authority to establish regulatory frameworks to address regulatory gaps, offering certainty and transparency for industry proponents and tearing down this barrier to economic growth.
First nations themselves have asked the federal government to help them attract and facilitate economic development on their lands by providing a framework like FNCIDA, which would enable the federal government to regulate large scale complex commercial and industrial projects. I can attest to the fact that the leaders on these reserves, who are the proponents of the bill, are capable, willing, able and anxious to get on with this legislation.
FNCIDA would allow the federal government to replicate provincial laws and regulations to apply to these projects on reserve. This would ensure that as first nations and investors or industry at large move ahead with these major projects, they are regulated in a fashion similar to similar projects off reserve. It would give the added benefit of stability for investors and developers as they deal with the same provincial regulatory regime that they already know and understand. It makes sense.
How does FNCIDA work? Consideration of regulation under FNCIDA for a specific project would be triggered when a first nation itself passes a band council resolution requesting regulations related to a specific project on the reserve, not a generalized project but a very specific major development project. Next, the federal government would conduct an analysis prior to making a final decision on whether to proceed with the development of regulations for the project.
If the regulations are to proceed for the project, the Government of Canada would in most cases seek an agreement regarding the administration and enforcement of the regulations with the province and the first nation. An indication of support from first nation members for the project and the use of regulations under FNCIDA would also be required. Typically, this support would be shown through a community vote.
First nations are leading this initiative. Five partnering first nations have passed band council resolutions in support of this legislation and have been eloquently advocating the initiative in other first nations communities. They have done so because, as we know, they are the best advocates for their proposals.
The five partnering first nations are Squamish Nation in British Columbia, Carry the Kettle First Nation in Saskatchewan, Fort William First Nation in Ontario, and Tsuu T'ina Nation and Fort McKay First Nation in Alberta. They have been assisted, with other partnering first nations, in getting the message across the country. I know that they have written at least twice to all the chiefs across the nation to carry the message to every province and every first nation. I have seen letters showing this.
A resolution of support for the legislation has been received from the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations. As well, there have been letters of support from the Uchucklesaht Tribe and the Skeetchestn Indian Band of British Columbia.
In addition, the government has been actively engaged in discussions with several provinces, particularly Alberta and Ontario, where first nations are actively advancing specific projects. In committee, we heard from an Alberta official that Alberta is particularly responsive to this particular proposal, as others would be.
There are active engagements with officials in other provinces, particularly in Alberta and Ontario, as I have mentioned, where first nations currently are advancing specific projects. Officials in both of these provinces have expressed support for a federal approach that would create as much regulatory compatibility as possible for on and off reserve commercial and industrial projects. They are very willing to discuss provincial involvement in monitoring and enforcing regulations for specific projects.
More recently, Saskatchewan and British Columbia officials have also expressed interest in this legislation. It is very much expected that other provinces will develop greater interest in the proposed legislation as first nations and industry partners begin to advance projects in their jurisdiction. Representatives of the oil and gas industry have also indicated strong support for this bill.
By moving forward this important piece of legislation, the government is demonstrating its commitment to work in partnership with first nations communities toward the goal of improved social and economic conditions. I must underscore how necessary this is for economic and social development on reserves. One is a partner with the other. We cannot get the increased viability of a community, the wealth of its culture and the enhancement of services to the people on reserves if there is not a land base to give the economic base. Then they can be a full partner and take it from the initial exploration or exploitation to the delivery.
Across this country, there are very fine leadership examples of first nations that are ready. This is what we are enabling. We all know that there are other first nations, places and communities across this country that have their challenges. They have different needs at this time, but some will be ready at a later stage and some first nations are ready now. As a government, we have to work with all levels of readiness and we have to facilitate. That is what the first ministers meeting next week will do, on some levels, but right now we also cannot forget and leave behind all of this important legislation that we need to move forward for the advancement of economic opportunity.
I encourage all members of this House to move this piece of legislation forward by the end of the day. I think that would be extremely positive.
Business of the House
November 17th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, we will continue this afternoon with the opposition motion.
On Tuesday, November 22 and Thursday, November 24, we will have allotted days. The opposition House leaders are in fact considering a special House order to expedite Bill C-53, Bill C-54, Bill C-55 and Bill C-66 through all stages with a recorded vote at third reading. I hope we can come to an agreement on that special House order and proceed in that fashion.
If we cannot agree on that special order, then tomorrow we will begin with reference before second reading of Bill C-71, the first nations commercial bill; report stage of Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention; second reading of Bill S-36, the rough diamonds bill; and reference before second reading of Bill C-72, the bill amending the DNA legislation. We will continue with this business next week, adding the report stage of Bill C-57, the financial governance bill, and other unfinished items.
With respect to the comment about the Chamber of Commerce, it is very clear, and I said this earlier, that Bill C-66 and the ways and means motion are in fact confidence motions. Although I am not sure I should do this, I am taking at the hon. member's word the public statements that in fact those members do support Bill C-66 and the ways and means motion with respect to taxes. Given his comment, I guess I should reconsider and speak to him once again since his party has flip-flopped on a number of occasions.
With respect to prorogation, I have to say that this rumour created by the Conservative Party was merely to keep the NDP in line with its confidence motion that it will put forward in the coming weeks.
November 14th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to hear my colleague from the NDP say that his party was not entering into an alliance, an unholy alliance, with the Conservative ideologues and the Quebec separatists. So I am just curious what in fact this is. Is this a political ménage à trois? It is a pretty scary thought.
More interesting, the member mentioned that in the spring they were not allying with the Liberals, but in fact were helping to govern to ensure that very important legislation would get passed. We have some 30-odd bills on the order paper that, if there is a non-confidence motion, will not get passed. Following that logic, I would assume the NDP is now saying that these are not important bills for the people of Canada.
What sort of bills are these? There is Bill C-66, the energy relief bill, which would provide relief in January for people on fixed incomes, our seniors and families on low incomes. It would fall to the side. Does his party not feel that is important legislation? There is Bill C-69, the agricultural marketing programs act bill; or Bill C-64, the vehicle identification bill or, as some would call it, the Chuck Cadman bill. It would unfortunately fall by the wayside. There is Bill C-16, the impaired driving bill and Bill C-54, the oil and gas exploration bill. I am sure that the members opposite from Alberta will be happy to see that one fall by the wayside. There is Bill C-11, the whistleblower protection bill, and Bill S-39, the sex offender database bill. Which of these bills does the member feel is not important enough to be passed?
Business of the House
November 3rd, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue the debate at third reading of Bill C-54, the first nations resources bill.
When this is complete, we will consider reference before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals. I expect that this business will carry over to tomorrow. We will then add to the list second reading of Bill S-36, respecting diamonds and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport bill.
We will also then return to any business from this week that is unfinished and if time permits, consider second reading of Bill C-61, the marine bill.
November 15 and November 17, as the hon. member across the way would have known weeks ago had he been at the House leaders meeting, will be allotted days. On Tuesday evening, November 15, we will have a take note debate on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.
Accordingly, I will propose the required motion pursuant to Standing Order 53.1(1). I move:
That a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place on Tuesday, November 15 on the subject of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.
First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
November 3rd, 2005 / 1:35 p.m.
Bernard Cleary Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-54, the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act. This bill will open up access to the natural resources and the immeasurable wealth of the first nations’ ancestral lands, allowing the money to be used for our aboriginal nations.
The intent of Bill C-54 is to give first nations the opportunity to manage and regulate oil and gas exploration and exploitation, and to receive the moneys that Canada retains for them. This bill was introduced in the House of Commons on June 1, 2005. It allows for the transfer, to the first nations named therein, of the management and control of the oil and gas resources found on their lands and the payment to the first nations of the moneys held in trust for them by the Crown.
The Bloc Québécois supports this bill. Although not perfect, it will give first nations the tools they need to achieve greater self-sufficiency when they have oil and gas resources on their lands. The first nations who opt to take advantage of the services provided for under this bill will be able to participate more actively in their economy and strengthen their autonomy. The first nations' demands for the authority to manage their own affairs are a matter of interest to the Bloc Québécois. Self-management can be achieved only when a nation controls the levers of its own economy.
The Government of Canada must not use Bill C-54 as a way of evading its fiduciary responsibilities towards the first nations. It bears a responsibility to rectify the inequalities between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.
I am very happy to be able to talk about the importance to a first nation of being able to participate in the economic development of its own territory. We know that the ancestors were always in favour of using their lands for their livelihood and their development. The impact on the life of the communities who are fortunate enough to participate in the development will be huge, in both social and economic terms.
The Bloc Québécois recognizes the aboriginal peoples’ right to self-determination, as I noted in Geneva during a study session of the Commission studying the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The role of trustee and the expectations that we should have with regard to the Department of Indian Affairs in the area of economic development will allow us to develop industries drawing on the resources of the territories negotiated.
It is important to remember that the standard of living of aboriginal peoples is much lower than that of non-aboriginals in Canada. The importance of reducing this gap has been noted on many occasions, notably in the throne speech on October 5, 2004.
Many first nations believe that economic development is the key to achieving this goal. However, it is difficult for a first nation that has no control over its lands and resources to achieve this. In her report in November 2003, the Auditor General of Canada pointed out that one of the barriers to economic development resulted from the federal approach to institutional management and development.
This report also stated that “several First Nations consider the department's approach too slow, too short term, and on some occasions, poorly administered”.
A large number of first nations and their organizations have worked diligently toward assuming greater responsibility for their lands and resources. Bill C-49, An Act providing for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management (First Nations Land Management Act), which received royal assent on June 17, 1999, is a good example of legislation giving participating first nations greater autonomy in the management of their lands. Under that legislation, any first nation may opt out of the land management provisions of the Indian Act and manage its lands using its own land management code. The First Nations Land Management Act, however, does not affect in any way the management of oil and gas resources on first nations lands.
The development of a new financial relationship between the first nations and the Government of Canada has always been the basis for discussions and analyses over the past 20 years or so.
Already in 1983, the Penner report, a report by the House of Commons Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, recommended that the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the first nations be redefined.
In 1996, the final report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples also recommended a full review of the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the first nations. The proposed initiative focused on redefining this relationship within a broader context based on first nations self-government. The Tlicho self-government act that we had the honour of passing in this House is an example of this.
Bill C-54 will change the way oil and gas are developed and it will allow first nations which are self-reliant to develop these resources on their own land. To date, first nations have had to comply with the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations, which has not allowed them to manage these resources directly.
The first nations oil and gas management initiative was launched in February 1995. This pilot project provided for the gradual transfer of management and control of oil and gas resources on the land of five first nations: the Blood tribe of Alberta, the Siksika first nation of Alberta, the White Bear first nation of Saskatchewan, the Horse Lake first nation of Alberta, and the Dene first nation of Alberta.
Only the Blood, the Siksika and the White Bear continue to participate in this initiative. The pilot project was directed by a steering committee composed of representatives of Indian and Northern Affairs, Indian Oil and Gas Canada, the participating first nations, and the Indian Claims Commission.
This project was divided in three phases: co-management, enhanced co-management and management and control by first nations. During the first phase, the administrative duties were shared between the first nations and IOGC, and decisions were made jointly.
In the second phase, IOGC maintained its authority and the first nations received the necessary training to perform IOGC functions. The pilot project is now in its final phase. It needs Bill C-54 to pass in order for the powers to be transferred to those first nations meeting the requirements in the legislation.
Bill C-54 will change the way oil and gas are developed and will allow first nations that are self-reliant to develop these resources on their own land. To date, first nations have had to comply with the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations, which has not allowed them to manage these resources directly.
The first nations oil and gas management initiative was launched in February 1995. This pilot project provided for the gradual transfer of management and control of oil and gas resources.
Bill C-54 would allow first nations, that choose to do so, to be excluded from the application of the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations. This act is currently the legislation governing the exploitation and exploration of the oil and gas resources on reserve land. This legislation does not allow first nations to manage the oil and gas resources on their land directly nor does it allow them to develop an appropriate regulatory framework.
However, Bill C-54 would allow any first nation, if it chooses to do so, to create regulations on oil and gas exploration and preservation, on the spending of moneys derived from the exploitation of these resources, and on the protection of the environment.
As for regulations to protect the environment, those established by first nations will have to at least meet the standards of Quebec or the province in which the aboriginal community is located.
As far as management of their finances are concerned, those first nations choosing to come under this new legislative framework will come under different rules as far as “Indian moneys” are concerned. These are currently defined in the Indian Act as all moneys collected, received or held by the federal government for the use and benefit of Indians or bands. For these first nations, the provisions of the Indian Act will no longer apply. They will therefore be able to directly administer the amounts collected rather than letting them be administered by the federal government. As a result, they will be able to make their own choices for investment in their communities instead of letting the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development dictate priorities to them. Auditor General Sheila Fraser pointed out in her 2004 report that this department is not doing a good job of administering the billions of dollars intended for the aboriginal communities.
If a first nation does not feel it would be advantageous to come under the new legislative regime, the current standards will continue to apply to it, so it will continue to benefit from the provisions of the Indian Act, including those that apply to the administration of Indian moneys.
Lastly, we wish to point out that the Bloc Québécois has endorsed the core recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The commission set forth an approach to the concept of self-government based on recognition of aboriginal governments as a level of government with jurisdiction over issues concerned with good governance and the well-being of their people.
Furthermore, the entire report is based on recognition of the aboriginal peoples as self-governing nations occupying a unique place in Canada.
First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
November 3rd, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
Ted Menzies Macleod, AB
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by recognizing the great amount of work that has gone into the drafting of this legislation and the advice that has come from the three first nations. They should be recognized for their leadership. The leaders of the three tribes have taken some flak at home from other treaty nations, but their forward-looking initiatives will pay off very well in the long term.
I would like to recognize the leadership of the White Bear nation in the Moose Mountains in southeastern Saskatchewan, the Blood Tribe and the Siksika First Nation as well. Two of these nations are resident in my riding and I know them very well.
The White Bear First Nation has one of the finest golf courses in Saskatchewan. I had a wonderful opportunity a couple of summers ago to play a round of golf there. There is a wonderful hotel and casino complex for evening entertainment. It is a great place to visit if one has the time.
I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-54, an act to provide first nations the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada. The bill would give the White Bear First Nation, the Blood Tribe and the Siksika First Nation the authority to manage and regulate all their oil and gas resources and moneys currently administered on their behalf by Indian Oil and Gas Canada.
Although these three first nations are currently the only signatories to this, the bill would enable other first nations to similarly access their oil and gas resources and moneys providing they meet the legislative conditions. By doing so, the bill lays the groundwork for true economic independence and autonomy for Canada's first nations.
For generations Canada has recognized the unique situation of its first nations. I might suggest we have not always addressed them, but we have recognized them. Various measures have been taken over the years to improve the economic condition of first nations.
Some may say that past actions to address first nations economic needs have been overly maternalistic. Some may consider too encouraging of a culture of dependence. Others may feel that before autonomy is granted, complete self-sufficiency must be demonstrated. How can a group of people become more self-sufficient by continuing to rely on government funding?
The reality is, the years of allocating government funding has done little to encourage economic growth within Canada's first nations communities. While this approach was thought to be the most effective one, it has not worked. Without direct control over the resources that generate the revenue, true economic independence is not possible.
For all the millions of dollars that go into first nations communities in Canada, there are still many reserves living in abject poverty with a lack of adequate and proper housing and, as has been referred to very eloquently in the papers and in the House as of late, a lack of safe drinking water. There are still reserves with exceedingly high levels of unemployment and critically low levels of education. There are still reserves ripe with social problems and violence.
While this legislation is not a panacea, it is the next logical step in carrying out Canada's commitments to its first nations. It embodies the concept of sustainable development. It puts power in the hands of the resource owners, giving them the autonomy to develop and reap the benefits of economic self-sufficiency. It is a well known fact that the performance and accountability of aboriginal self-government is enhanced when those who receive services contribute to the cost of those services.
Bill C-54 would allow first nations to achieve greater self-reliance and to benefit from improved governance tools. It would provide the means for first nations to create a unique process and framework of laws within which to exercise full control of their oil and gas resources. It also would demonstrate the ability of first nations and the Government of Canada to address the issue of accountability. On this side of the House we put a lot of credence in accountability. That is why we recognize the value in the bill because it does bring accountability. As this relates of course to the self-management of resources, that is the accountability to which we are referring in the bill.
There are five nations within my riding of Macleod including, as I mentioned, two of the signatories to the act, the Blood Tribe and Siksika First Nation. Naturally the legislation is important to me and to my first nations constituents. I am confident that the first nations that have signed on to this act will be very successful and that they will be the example for other first nations to follow.
These two signatories already have embraced some very unique and promising economic initiatives. For example, the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta, which is under the direction and leadership of Chief Charles WeaselHead at this point, already is active in the oil and gas sector. Western Lakota Drilling, an Alberta based company, approached the Blood Band with an offer to partner on a purchase of a drilling rig. The Blood also has been very active in agriculture. Last year, for example, the Blood Tribe entered into an agreement to market their long fibre hay products to Japan and also to other Pacific Rim countries with a multinational corporation.
The Siksika First Nation is in the midst of creating a world class tourism and interpretive centre. The date has not been set, but sometime in January it is my understanding there will be a grand opening for this interpretive centre. This interpretive centre, called the Blackfoot Crossing, is the historic site of the signing of Treaty 7. It is of national and international historical and archeological significance, and I am proud to say that it is in my riding of Macleod. It has been designated as a national heritage site and is recommended also to be a world heritage site. As a matter of interest, if this is successful in its bid, it will put two world heritage sites on the map in the riding of Macleod, another item of which I am quite proud.
It is easy to see how the legislation is a natural progression for both the Blood Tribe and the Siksika First Nation. It gives these first nations the authority to manage both their oil and gas revenues as well as their money.
Statistics show that status Indians living on reserves represent about 61% of the status Indian population in Canada. That translates to 445,436 on reserve status Indians and 285,139 who live off reserve. In addition, the on reserve status Indian population is expected to increase by almost 58% from 2003 to 2021. This compares with an increase of about 12% for the Canadian population as a whole. About 40% of the status Indian population is under the age of 19 compared with 25% for the entire Canadian population.
As we can see from the numbers Canada's aboriginal communities are young and they are experiencing significant population growth. For this reason it is so very important that our aboriginal communities become more self-sufficient.
We need to ensure that our first nations have the capacity now for future economic strength in the Canadian as well as in the global marketplace. Bill C-54 would help achieve this.
I will now talk about the implementation of the act. First, the legislation is entirely voluntary, which is one of the most important features of this. Although three nations are involved in it at this point, it is through voluntary membership that other nations will be encouraged to sign on to this opportunity. Only those first nations who meet the legislative requirements can proceed with joining on to this program. It requires an affirmative vote by any first nation, a referendum of all eligible voters and an approval by a majority of the majority is required.
Accountability is a key consideration as well. Accountability measures will include annual financial statements in accordance with the generally accepted accounting principles of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. Annual audits of the financial statements, in accordance with the generally accepted auditing standards, will also be required for those first nations choosing to opt in to the legislation.
A lot of other issues come to mind when we talk about the first nations. We have certainly heard a lot about the drinking water issues in Kashechewan and the negligence of the Liberal government in recognizing how dire a situation those people were put into. It is absolutely deplorable that this is actually allowed to happen in this modern age and in our rich country.
In today's newspaper we read again about the United Nations chastizing Canada once again for not resuming talks on a land claim settlement that has been in discussion for some seven years. It is amazing that we let something that serious drag on for so long. The people who inhabit these reserves deserve much more than what the government has been offering them.
I would like to recognize two colleagues of mine who have been very active in working on the legislation and helping to guide it through. Although it is a government bill, we need to recognize that our Indian and Northern Affairs critic has been very instrumental in making sure, before it was ever drafted, that it would actually acquire the support it needed and would address the issues that it was meant to address.
It is also interesting that we are hearing today about troubles within the first nations among their leadership. I would certainly encourage and hope that they can come together in some sort of agreement and be able to attend the first ministers meeting in Kelowna in the near future with a united front to help the government recognize how much it has forgotten about our first nations and how important they are.
I would like to talk a bit more about the two first nations within my riding. I spoke briefly about the Blood Tribe. I have become good friends with Charlie WeaselHead. He has been a wonderful host when I have been invited to the Blood Tribe for visits.
The Blood Tribe is doing something very unique. For many years its farmland has all been leased out to other farmers. This year it has pulled back about 2,500 acres and it is being leased to some of the members of the band. The band has an irrigation project with somewhere in the neighbourhood of, and correct me if I am wrong, over 50 pivot irrigation systems. More and more of these will be under the control of the band itself.
It is only fitting that the band is strengthening its position in agriculture as a way of providing resources to fund the health projects and the education projects that the band wants to put together on its own reserve and Bill C-54 would provide the band with the resources it needs.
I spoke earlier to their partnership on a drilling rig. My understanding is that this drill rig is not very far from being completely paid off, so there will be great profits not only to the company that they are in partnership with but also to the band itself. I applaud the Blood Tribe for its efforts to ensure that it will some day be self-sufficient. I think that is fundamental to its success and its future.
The Siksika Band, which is just east of Calgary on the Bow River where Treaty 7 was signed, had an incredible issue with flooding this past spring. A lot of the houses on the reserve were, if not destroyed, certainly damaged badly. We are still working with the band and helping it to get these houses back in shape.
However I understand those are not the only first nation houses at issue. I heard my colleague talk about some of the ones in northern Saskatchewan and other places. It is a common problem, not only the flooding but the lack of funding and direction from the federal government.
Another colleague of mine from southeastern Saskatchewan, who is part of the White Bear Nation, which is, as I mentioned, another very forward thinking first nation, has played a pivotal role in helping to put this together.
I would like to sum up by saying that this bill reflects 10 years of consultations with first nations and it follows a very successful pilot project. It is time for the aboriginal government to be given the power to raise its own revenues to reduce the cycle of dependency. Bill C-54, in my estimation, would achieve that.
Bill C-54 would build stronger and more self-reliant aboriginal communities. Bill C-54 would enhance the accountability of band councils through requirements to develop and ratify both an oil and gas code and an environmental code. That is something we have not talked much about but there are environmental requirements and very restrictive environmental controls within this.
I think it is pretty clear that I support the bill and I encourage other hon. members to do the same.
First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
November 3rd, 2005 / 1:10 p.m.
Jeremy Harrison Churchill River, SK
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments on Bill C-54 by the hon. member opposite. I know that the parliamentary secretary represents Yukon and has in his constituency a fairly significant number of first nations people.
In light of what we have seen over the last week and a half to two weeks in Kashechewan and in the Kwicksutaineuk First Nation, where every single home on the reserve is condemned, I would like the member to comment. We have seen the pictures of the incredible problems in Kashechewan.
I wonder if the member would recognize and admit what we have not seen from the Minister of Indian Affairs: that there are deep and systemic problems faced by first nations across the country.
In my constituency in northern Saskatchewan there are over 100 reserves. I know that Kashechewan and Kwicksutaineuk are not isolated incidents. As for the challenges faced by first nations, by these people who are living in what is literally third world poverty, I know that individuals from other parts of the country were shocked by seeing the pictures of living conditions in Kashechewan.
Quite frankly, the housing conditions and the water conditions are challenges faced by first nations right across the country. I am wondering if we can finally have an admission of that from the government.