Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act

An Act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Bernard Valcourt  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment gives effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

June 6th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations with respect to Bill C-62, an act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Before I propose the motion, I want to thank the official opposition and all members of this House who have been working in co-operation to move expeditiously in advancing this legislation to implement the Yale final agreement.

I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-62, An Act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts be deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

June 5th, 2013 / 11:25 p.m.
See context

Madawaska—Restigouche
New Brunswick

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-62, An Act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts be read a second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to lead off our discussion of Bill C-62, the Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act.

On April 11, 2013, I had the privilege to be in Vancouver to sign the Yale First Nation Final Agreement along with Chief Robert Hope of Yale First Nation and the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation for the Province of British Columbia.

The final agreement brings certainty to the ownership and use of lands and resources in the area. It creates opportunities for the Yale First Nation and provides predictability for continued development and growth in the province. The introduction of this legislation marks the culmination of almost 20 years of discussion to reach a comprehensive treaty and bring about the bill in front of us tonight.

Now this was no small feat. Before I go any further I want to take a few moments to thank those who made it possible for us to be in a position to consider Bill C-62.

I want to thank the First Nation and the negotiators for their tireless efforts. I also want to thank the chief commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission, Sophie Pierre, as well as Premier Clark and Minister Chong for standing firmly behind the B.C. treaty process.

Most of all, I want to thank the men and women of Yale First Nation for their staunch support of the final agreement. For, in the end, this agreement and this bill are about them, their families and the future of their community.

No one deserves more credit for this final agreement than Yale First Nation Chief Robert Hope. Simply put, we are here today discussing Bill C-62 because of the vision and steadfast commitment of Chief Robert Hope. We must also credit his father, the late Chief Lawrence Hope, whose practical wisdom and quiet strength guided negotiators and continues to do so even after his passing.

I strongly believe that this agreement provides the people of Yale First Nation with a strong foundation on which to build a stable, accountable government and an economically prosperous, culturally vibrant community.

If any member of this House was in doubt of its merit, I am sure that my brief description of the five key areas of the agreement will convince them.

The first of these key areas is its financial components. As part of this comprehensive treaty, Yale First Nation will receive a capital transfer of $10.7 million. The community will also receive $2 million to promote economic development. Canada will also provide Yale First Nation with a one-time funding of $1.4 million and annual funding of some $1.25 million to implement the agreement and provide key programs and services.

The second key area of the agreement is land. As a result of the final agreement, Yale First Nation will own and control nearly 2,000 hectares of treaty settlement land located within the Fraser Valley Regional District just north of the town of Hope.

In addition, 23 hectares of provincial land transferred to Yale First Nation will retain their designation as part of the agricultural land reserve. If any land designated as agricultural land reserve is added to Yale First Nation in the future, this land will also retain its designation as agricultural.

What is more, 233 hectares of Yale First Nation land known as Frozen Lakes will be accessible to the public.

Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

June 5th, 2013 / 11:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, 233 hectares of Yale First Nation land known as Frozen Lakes will be accessible to the public for temporary non-commercial and recreational purposes, such as hunting and fishing.

With respect to the land, I should also point out that the parties sought to accommodate the interests of several neighbouring first nation communities whose traditional territories overlap with Yale First Nation's land.

To be precise, the agreement makes it possible for the public, including members of other first nations, to request access to Yale First Nation lands in order to fish, hunt and carry out other recreational activities as well as first nations traditional activities.

This unique provision also sets out that these requests must all be considered by the Yale First Nation and may only be refused on reasonable grounds.

The third key area of this agreement is access to and control over natural resources. In other words, all Yale First Nation land, that is, all 2,000 hectares of treaty settlement land, would be fee simple or private land subject to provincial and federal laws. Yale First Nation would control mineral rights on its land. Yale First Nation would own any forest on its land, and Yale First Nation community members would enjoy the right to fish and harvest wildlife and migratory birds for non-commercial purposes on its land. In addition, members of Yale First Nation would have the right to gather plants for food, social and ceremonial purposes and to harvest natural resources in provincial parks within Yale's defined harvest area, with the exception of the protected area, the Yale Garry Oak Ecological Reserve.

The final agreement would also make it possible for Yale First Nation to exercise control over water reserves, subject to federal and provincial laws, and to derive hydroelectric power from designated waterways on Yale First Nation Land.

The fourth key area of this agreement covers fishing. In fact, a harvest agreement that is separate from but related to the final agreement provides for fishing licences to be issued to Yale First Nation by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The term of this harvest agreement is 25 years, and Yale First Nation can renew it every 15 years after the initial term expires. The terms and conditions of commercial licences issued to Yale will be comparable to those of licences issued to other commercial fishers.

Those are the key provisions of the Yale First Nation Final Agreement, the agreement that Bill C-62 will enshrine in Canadian law. Clearly this bill will empower the Yale First Nation to make its own decisions and become more vibrant, prosperous and self-reliant.

For these reasons, I ask honourable members to adopt Bill C-62. In doing so, we will build a stronger Canada for all of us.

Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

June 5th, 2013 / 11:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, I am rising to speak to Bill C-62, An Act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The bill we are debating is the final step in the ratification process. This is the bringing into force of the Yale First Nation Final Agreement.

This has been a very long process. In fact, the Yale First Nation was formally accepted into the British Columbia treaty process on April 26, 1994. In 1996, the BC Treaty Commission declared the Yale First Nation treaty table ready to begin negotiations on February 8, 1996, and the provincial bill received royal assent on June 2, 2011. Of course, it has taken two years for Canada to bring the bill forward for debate. Unfortunately, we are debating it at nearly midnight in June, when surely we could have been talking about this bill many months ago.

The minister outlined some of the key provisions in the bill. I am not going to cover that same ground. I need to declare that New Democrats will be supporting this bill, and I look forward to considering this bill at committee shortly.

There are a couple of issues that I think are going to present ongoing challenges. One of the issues that continues to not be resolved both in the Yale treaty and the B.C. treaty process is the issue of overlap.

One of the background papers provided to the aboriginal affairs committee members noted that the Supreme Court, in a variety of court decisions, has indicated that the Crown has an obligation to consult with, and where appropriate, to accommodate the interests of first nations claiming aboriginal rights and title over areas subject to a treaty or final agreement.

The paper went on to indicate that it is desirable to have first nations resolve overlap issues among themselves. Canada and British Columbia have continued to encourage Yale First Nation efforts to discuss or resolve any shared territory issues with neighbouring first nations. In fact, there is certainly a dispute over shared territory with the Sto:lo Nation. As a result of some of the discussions that were going back and forth, the Yale First Nation Final Agreement was amended to allow reasonable public access to Yale First Nation land, by request, for non-commercial recreational purposes, such as hunting, fishing and other recreational activities. Such requests cannot be unreasonably refused by Yale First Nation.

As a measure of that, Yale First Nation Chief Robert Hope has entered into five written access protocols with Sto:lo individuals and has indicated that he is willing to do so with individual fishers or first nations bands to clarify and streamline the process for seeking access to fishing and cultural sites. There are non-exhaustive objective criteria for the refusal of access under the reasonable access provision. However, that measure has not been satisfactory to Sto:lo.

The challenge of the issue of overlap and shared territories is a critical one that must be dealt with, as well as implementation. There is an implementation plan in the agreement, and one would hope that this implementation plan goes more smoothly than other implementation plans with other land claims agreements, as the Land Claims Agreements Coalition will note.

With regard to the overlap, I want to touch on a couple of points. One goes back to the mission statement of the BC Treaty Commission. On January 28, 1991, representatives of the governments of Canada, British Columbia and the First Nations Summit put their signatures to the report of the British Columbia Claims Task Force. It made a number of recommendations, and one was that first nations resolve issues related to overlapping traditional territories among themselves. The analysis in the task force report as it relates to this recommendation is that first nations must discuss overlaps with neighbouring first nations preparing for negotiations, a process for resolving overlaps should be in place before a treaty is concluded, and the BC Treaty Commission can provide advice on dispute resolution and services.

We heard from the BC Treaty Commission in a pre-study in anticipation of this bill coming forward. Chief commissioner Sophie Pierre indicated that, in her view, best efforts had been made by all parties in the dispute over shared territories. Her strong recommendation was that the House adopt Bill C-62.

I also want to refer to the Lornie report from November 3, 2011, with regard to recommendations on shared territory dispute avoidance and resolution. The reason I am raising this issue is I want to encourage the government to look for opportunities to put together a better mechanism so we do not have final agreements coming before the House with unresolved issues around shared territories.

I can point to other agreements like the Tsawwassen agreement, in which there still was unresolved issues by the time we came to the House to debate Tsawwassen. It did pass, but there were issues with the Sencot'en Alliance, Penelakut and Cowichan peoples around some of the fishing rights.

With regard to the Lornie report, it recommended that there should be provided resources to support effective dispute resolution and resolution options for all first nations affected by potential conflicts relating to shared territories and overlap issues arising out of treaties, whether or not those first nations were participating in the B.C. treaty process.

There were a number of examples pointed out in the Lornie report of how these overlap issues were not getting resolved and how it was creating challenges within communities. The Lornie report went on to indicate that some overlap disputes appeared to be virtually irreconcilable through discussions and a few first nations had resorted to the courts to attempt to protect their interests. It said that the courts system, however, was expensive and time consuming and typically delivered either an all or nothing outcome, or sent the parties back to negotiate an agreement.

I do not think it is in the best interests of the nations involved in these disputes or the communities at large to have these unresolved issues going forward as we enter into final agreements.

Mrs. Jean Teillet, chief negotiator and legal counsel of the Sto:lo Nation, did indicate that in the past the government had provided a road map forward. She cited a number of cases. One was the Tlicho in the Northwest Territories, just north of Great Slave Lake, which borders on Nunavut, borders on Saulteau territory and on the bottom it borders on a people called the Akaitcho people.

I was in the House when the Tlicho agreement came forward. Because the government had taken a leadership role in working and setting some parameters for Tlicho to move forward on resolving the issues around the shared territories and the overlaps, by the time the agreement came to the House, we were able to pass that agreement at all stages because there were no issues around disputes over that shared territory.

This was one example that was provided. There were a number of others, including the 1975 agreement with James Bay and the Northern Quebec agreement, where there were islands in James Bay that were hotly in dispute.

Ms. Teillet indicated that the government, working with the first nations that were negotiating, was carving out those islands. They were pulled out of the agreement and then the govenrment said that it would give them all the rest of the agreement, it would sign it, but it would take this disputed area out of the agreement for now, it would give them the whole agreement, then it would come back when they had solved that overlap problem and it would figure out how to put it back in their treaty.

She also talked about the Nunavik agreement signed in 2006 and the Nunavut agreement in 1993.

Therefore, there are a number of examples where there have been either the resources or the parameters put in place to encourage the nations involved to sort out those overlapped and shared territory disputes before the final agreement is signed. It is unfortunate that we do not have that kind of agreement before us in the House today.

However, having said that, the Yale First Nations negotiated a treaty in good faith. It went through the B.C. Treaty Commission process and met the various stages that had been outlined that nations in British Columbia agreed to back in 1991. Therefore, what we have before us is a treaty negotiated in good faith that the New Democrats will support.

Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

June 5th, 2013 / 11:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with some concern that I rise today to speak to Bill C-62, the Yale First Nation Final Agreement act.

Resolving outstanding issues of first nations' rights through the negotiation implementation of treaties has important benefits for both first nations and non-first nations communities, not the least of which is a solid legal basis for future economic development. It also reflects the modern commitment to move forward in a spirit of partnership, respect and the co-operation for mutual benefit that characterized our original relationship. Two hundred and fifty years ago the royal proclamation laid out how the richness of this land would be fairly shared. Unfortunately, for many that vision has yet to be realized.

To put it simply, the process for settling first nations land claims is needlessly slow and burdensome for first nations seeking fair settlements to outstanding grievances. The comprehensive claims or modern treaties deal with the unfinished business of treaty making in Canada, where first nations rights have not been dealt with by historical treaties or other legal means. Bill C-62 deals with the ratification of such a modern treaty.

To date, the government has signed 24 comprehensive claims agreements with first nations in Canada, and two self-government agreements. Most of these agreements were signed under Liberal governments.

As of September 2012, there were still 93 active self-government and comprehensive land claim negotiation tables across the country. The frequent delays and increased costs associated with federal negotiators having to constantly return to Ottawa to revise unnecessarily narrow negotiating mandates is grinding the process to a standstill.

Federal negotiators simply do not have the sufficient flexibility and authority to engage in open, genuine and interest-based negotiations with first nations. This must change if we are to make significant further progress. On average, it takes 15 years to reach a final agreement. In September 2012, the government acknowledged its approach was not working by announcing a new “results-based approach” to self-government negotiations. However, the government has yet to publicly describe the details of this new approach.

There are grave concerns that the government is planning to use this new approach to simply withdraw from certain negotiations and pursue only those it believes will be settled in a manner agreeable to the government. In fact, the government seems now to be pursuing a take-it-or-leave-it approach with first nations, suggesting that if they are not willing to accept the government's final offer, they can pursue the matter through the courts.

This approach is fundamentally misguided and will not only be more expensive for the government in the long run, it will cost both first nations and the Canadian economy in terms of potential economic development and better paying jobs for first nations and non-first nations alike.

In terms of this agreement, although the Yale First Nation, and provincial and federal governments have been able to come together, there are still concerns that the narrow Department of Justice “strength of claim” analysis contributed to this final agreement failing to resolve disputed overlapping territory.

The Yale First Nation entered into tripartite negotiations with the federal and British Columbia governments for the settlement of their comprehensive land claim in 1994.

This modern treaty has been negotiated in good faith over almost 20 years through the B.C. treaty process and agreed to by the governments of Canada and British Columbia and the people of the Yale First Nation. The final agreement has already been ratified in March 2011, by members of the Yale First Nation with 68% support and in June 2011, by the British Columbia Legislative Assembly.

It deals with Yale First Nation's rights and responsibilities in areas such as governance, culture and heritage, natural resources, community infrastructure, financing and environmental protection. It will provide the Yale First Nation with full settlement of aboriginal rights and title and provides a modern framework for Canada, British Columbia and the Yale First Nation to move forward toward a more prosperous common future.

However, it is important to note that the Stó:lõ Nation and the Stó:lõ Tribal Council have expressed great concern with this agreement. They claim that the Yale treaty violates Stó:lõ rights and contend that they will no longer be able to engage in traditional practices that would require passage over Yale territory.

While this agreement fails to resolve all outstanding overlapping claims, we recognize that according to current practice this does not preclude ratifying the treaty. According to the Government of Canada comprehensive claims policy, “Ideally, competing Aboriginal claims over a territory should be resolved before reaching an AIP, but this is not a compulsory requirement”.

Although, according to section 2.4, the final agreement deals with aboriginal rights and title with respect to the Yale First Nation only, and does not affect the rights of other aboriginal peoples, it is regrettable that the parties were unable to resolve their differences before this final stage of the process.

Liberals hope that the Yale and Stó:lõ first nations will resolve any outstanding overlapping claims through ongoing good faith negotiations and can resolve their differences in the spirit of co-operation and respect. However, the issue of overlapping claims and current deficiencies in how we address those claims is a matter with far broader implications than this specific agreement.

We must develop a better process to facilitate first nations resolving disputes on overlapping claims as part of the treaty process. While we recognize that it is for first nations to resolve these issues, we must be ready and willing to provide assistance where warranted and requested.

In addition, the Liberal Party urges the government to respond to the requests of the British Columbia Treaty Commission as well as the recent recommendations of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples to provide the Commission with any necessary resources that would enable it to help first nations resolve their overlapping claims disputes.

The Liberal Party believes that this is essential to the success of the treaty process in British Columbia.

Further, the failure of the government to develop a coherent approach to implementing treaties not only undermines new treaty negotiations but has led to great frustration from first nations under the 70 historical treaties.

Recently, National Chief Shawn Atleo reflected that frustration when he said:

Treaty regions have been signalling for far too long the need for high-level discussions on Treaty implementation. They want to see the establishment of a process for them to sit down with their Treaty partner, the Crown in right of Canada, to implement the Treaties according to their true spirit and intent, as the Indigenous Nations understand them.

The right to self-determination and self-government must mean something real and tangible for first nations across Canada.

As Bill C-62 meets the current rules, we will be supporting the bill, but we implore the government to get on with the letter as sent from the BC Treaty Commission, with its four recommendations, and to fix this problem.

Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

June 5th, 2013 / 11:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased rise this evening to speak to Bill C-62, the Yale First Nation Final Agreement Act, which concerns the Yale First Nation in British Columbia.

Almost 40 years ago now, the governments of Quebec and Canada signed an important agreement with the Cree and Inuit nations: the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. This was the first major modern-day agreement negotiated in Quebec and Canada. Signed in 1975, it laid the foundation for the social, economic and administrative organization of a significant part of Quebec's aboriginal population.

The agreement covered all aspects of the lives of the Cree and Inuit people, who received 10,400 km2 in land holdings. Quebec also gave them exclusive hunting, fishing and trapping rights on category II lands and on all of the territory covered by the agreement.

The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement paved the way for collaborative agreements in Canada, such as the Yale First Nation Final Agreement. Quebec decided to take a different approach to its dealings with aboriginal people in the 1970s.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples entitled to the culture, language, customs and traditions that are key to the development of their identity. In so doing, it is respecting the direction taken by René Lévesque, a staunch defender of aboriginal peoples, who made Quebec the first nation in the Americas to recognize the aboriginal nations in its midst.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the future does not lie in pointless opposition, but rather in constructive partnerships that respect the legitimate interests of all parties. The Bloc Québécois's political position allows it to move the current debate forward, generate new ideas and provide a broad outline for what could be the renewal of the relationship between the first nations and Quebeckers. The Bloc Québécois stands behind aboriginal peoples in their quest for justice and the recognition of their rights.

For example, we believe that the entire first nations education system is underfunded. A 2% cap on increases in federal funding for education in aboriginal communities has been in place since 1996. Yet, given the rise in the cost of living and the tremendous growth in the first nations population, an annual increase of 6.2% is needed. That is not currently happening.

That is why the Bloc Québécois had the courage to introduce Bill C-599 during the previous Parliament. This bill had to do with the implementation of a first nations education funding plan, and its goal was to force the government to increase education funding for aboriginals and to develop a long-term funding plan.

Young people represent hope and the future of the first nations. We must focus on education and academic success, essential assets that must be seen as investments that will pave the way to the future.

The future does not lie in pointless opposition, but rather in constructive partnerships that respect the legitimate interests of all parties. The Bloc Québécois recognizes that aboriginal peoples make a significant contribution to Quebec society. This contribution is made possible because of the wealth of culture and knowledge of the aboriginal peoples.

The Bloc Québécois supports protecting these fundamental aspects of the collective identity of aboriginal peoples, as well as maintaining their languages. With regard to future relations between the government and aboriginal peoples, we feel it is important to support a more comprehensive approach that recognizes the aspirations of aboriginal peoples and favours negotiating agreements nation to nation.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of sending the bill on the Yale First Nation Final Agreement to be studied in committee, since it was the result of respectful negotiations with the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia and the Yale First Nation. In addition, this agreement will enable the Yale First Nation to exercise self-government over its land, resources and members.

Respect is what allows us to build sustainable connections between peoples.