Evidence of meeting #47 for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was complaints.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Daniel Watson  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and Strategic Direction, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Christine Aubin  Counsel, Operations and Programs Section, Legal Services Unit, Department of Justice
  • Patrick Brazeau  National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
  • Daniel Ricard  Director General, Litigation Management and Resolution Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Bonnie Charron

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Colin Mayes

You're out of time, Mr. Albrecht.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

You've got to be kidding.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Colin Mayes

No, I'm not.

I do have a question. Who should the consultations be between? Obviously, the aboriginal leadership and the communities, but on the government side should it be the department, the Department of Justice, or should it be the committee? Who should be the other party? I'm curious. Is anybody else curious about that?

I would ask Mr. Watson.

12:15 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and Strategic Direction, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Daniel Watson

I guess when we look to the court decisions, the court speaks to consulting with the potential rights holders, or the actual rights holders would be my lay description of it. Obviously, there are any number of ways that consultation can take place. First nations can group together to do that, or other aboriginal groups can group together, or they may wish to speak individually on the subject.

In terms of the government side, as my colleague from the Department of Justice who spoke earlier said, there hasn't been explicit direction through the legislative development process yet from the Supreme Court of Canada. Most of what we have seen has been more of a regulatory nature and sort of program driven.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Colin Mayes

To me, the determination of the amount of time it is going to take has a lot to do with how you'll facilitate and be that channel for that consultation.

Mr. Brazeau, do you have any thoughts on that, as far as who on the government side should be speaking or sitting at the table on behalf of the government? Would it be the department, this committee, or the minister?

12:20 p.m.

National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Chief Patrick Brazeau

I'd certainly suggest that first and foremost the department should be the ones consulting on behalf of the government with the band councils and aboriginal representative organizations, because in our view they are the lead on this topic. They have the vested interest in reserve communities, so I think they should be the primary group.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Colin Mayes

Thank you.

Mr. Russell.

April 26th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning to each and every one of you, and a special good morning to Patrick, because I've known Patrick for quite some time.

I certainly don't agree with much of what you've written in your submission, or at least the politicized comments. Probably we can take that up at another point.

By its own admission, Mr. Albrecht, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples says that the implementation may at times, perhaps, be overwhelming. It is fair of us as a committee, when we have a significant piece of legislation, to ask questions, to have an investigation into a significant piece of legislation that is before us. So there's nothing wrong with asking questions.

Nobody around this table and not one witness who has ever appeared before this committee has said we should not repeal section 67. It is how best to do it and the process by which we do it that is important.

I have a question to Mr. Ricard. The Canadian Human Rights Commission was before us. This is the same organization through which we want first nations people to now have recourse to for the repeal of section 67. That organization itself has said that we need a longer transition period, we need some kind of interpretive clause, or, in the absence of it, we need some binding guidelines.

They say there'll be an increase in terms of complaints, because we have 60 now without any recourse. So how many will we have when we have full recourse? There will obviously be an exponential number of complaints coming forward, so we need additional resources for first nations, for maybe the CHRC, and maybe even the government will require additional resources itself, to defend itself with the repeal.

With all of these groups saying transition time extension or a further transition time, resourcing, interpretation, or something like that, why was none of that included in this bill? I am sure that in all the consultations, adequate or not, that have been conducted since 1977, that would have been there; that would have formed part of the consultation. With all that arose out of most of the consultations that took place, why did the government decide not to include these things in this particular bill? What is the government's own policy? Outside of law as such, what policy does the government itself have in place for consultation with aboriginal people prior to the introduction of legislation? Do you have a policy that says we should do this, that, or the other thing, prior to submitting legislation? I only want to know, do you have a policy, an internal operating principle?

12:20 p.m.

Director General, Litigation Management and Resolution Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Daniel Ricard

Thank you for that.

With respect to the reasons why there are no provisions in the bill with respect to resources, it's simply because we don't believe this is something that necessarily belongs in the bill. The minister did speak to that when he came. We are looking to this committee to provide advice on that, but the issue of resources is not an issue that normally you will find in a piece of legislation.

With respect to the interpretive clause, that is an issue we have given thought to. It's an issue that's been debated for a long time. I think everyone's views are well known on this.

As the minister indicated, we don't believe that an interpretive clause is required. We do believe that the provisions within the Constitution Act are sufficient, and I'm specifically referring to section 35, section 15, and section 25, which tries to make a link or find an equilibrium between the collective and individual rights.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

On that, very briefly, when has an aboriginal right ever been asserted under section 35 that hasn't been contested by the federal government?

12:25 p.m.

Director General, Litigation Management and Resolution Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Daniel Ricard

Repeat that, please.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Has there ever been an aboriginal right, that you can think of, that's been asserted or claimed by an aboriginal group and has not been contested by the federal government?

12:25 p.m.

Director General, Litigation Management and Resolution Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Daniel Ricard

Well, in fact I'm not necessarily an expert in this area, but if I understand the BCTC process, we're not saying that in the context of the BCTC process we are challenging the existence of aboriginal rights. We do recognize that some rights possibly exist. But as you know, the specifics of those rights in terms of their nature, the scope, the geographical location, are very difficult issues and often in fact specific.

So going back to the bill, then, with respect to the interpretive clause, as I said, the view has been that the provisions of the Constitution Act are probably sufficient to provide the equilibrium needed.

Now, with respect to the policy on consultation with respect to legislation, it varies from case to case. There is no standard rule that requires there be x period of time allocated for consultation. It does vary from bill to bill or from legislation to legislation. It varies from one to the other.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Colin Mayes

Okay. Thank you. We're out of time.

We're going to finish this five-minute round, which will end at Madam Crowder, and then we'll go into committee business.

Mr. Bruinooge.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks again to the committee members.

Perhaps I'll start by asking a question of Mr. Brazeau.

As a treaty Indian from Quebec, have you had the opportunity in your life on reserve to witness the allocation of resources in a way that you feel may be perhaps subject to challenge by the Canadian Human Rights Act if it were applied on reserve?