Evidence of meeting #9 for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was treaties.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Patrick Borbey  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Jim Barkwell  Associate Director General, Negotiations - West, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Perry Billingsley  Director General, Policy Development and Coordination, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
  • Stephen Gagnon  Director General, Implementation Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

12:20 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Patrick Borbey

We have seen a number of responses. The first major response came in August 2009 when Minister Strahl reported on a number of issues, but since then, the current minister has also responded to some of the issues.

Maybe I could ask Mr. Barkwell to give you a sense of some of those items.

12:20 p.m.

Associate Director General, Negotiations - West, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Jim Barkwell

Six issues were raised. I'm not sure if I have the list right in front of me. The six elements that were addressed in the common table were: certainty and recognition; constitutional status of lands, also known as section 91(24) lands; self-government; shared decision-making and resource revenue-sharing; own-source revenue and taxation; and fisheries.

As a result of the common table process, the two governments, both on the federal side and on the provincial side, made formal responses and agreed to participate in technical level working group discussions on two specific topics that were part of the common table: achieving certainty in treaties, and first nation interests regarding section 91(24) status of lands.

12:20 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Patrick Borbey

We are now rolling out some of those new measures. There is a new recognition and reconciliation language that will now be offered to first nations. This is the first time in the context of the B.C. treaty process that we're rolling it out in one particular table first to make sure that it works well and responds well to the aspirations of the first nations.

We also have a certainty model that I think we would say is leaps and bounds beyond the old cede, surrender, and extinguish model that, unfortunately, some people still think is what the federal government is trying to achieve. The new model recognizes that aboriginal rights exist and that they continue to exist even in the context of a treaty. They are not extinguished by the treaty, and future rights, if they're claimed and found, can also be exercised.

I think we have some models that go further in meeting the aspirations of first nations, but it takes some time to roll them out at the various tables.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Mr. Borbey.

Mr. Genest-Jourdain.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

Good afternoon, Mr. Borbey.

To lead up to my question, I am going to go back to the words in your presentation. Among other things, you mentioned modern-day treaties between claimant groups. In your position, you probably well know that the concepts of band council and community management organizations are currently being questioned by first nation members. Based on that observation, does your department give consideration to claims from traditional family groups, acting as clans?

I would also like to ask another question about the representatives. I will be quick. When it comes to international law, we know that Canada focuses on the notion of democracy and the treatment of nationals and members of the population in diplomatic exchanges or economic and political exchanges. Will aboriginal groups be included as well? Is Canada going to make sure there is a community representative and that fundamental rights are upheld by those organizations before starting negotiations with any given group?

12:25 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Patrick Borbey

I am going to ask my colleague Mr. Billingsley to answer that question.

12:25 p.m.

Perry Billingsley Director General, Policy Development and Coordination, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

In answer to your first question, we currently have the band council system in place. But in order to move towards self-government, we are trying to find a government system that the council deems to be both legitimate and practical for the members of the community. All these issues are obviously to be taken into consideration in a 21st century. So we have to look at bringing the traditional and the democratic systems together and find solutions. And that entails negotiations. We have been successful with a Yukon community where we found a way to tailor the clan system to the democratic system.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

You are telling me that the band council is currently the only representative recognized by your department. Is that correct?

12:25 p.m.

Director General, Policy Development and Coordination, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Perry Billingsley

Yes, that’s the system we have to deal with. We have to comply with the legislation the way it is, but a big part of negotiations and consultations still includes consultations with the people of the community.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

We are talking about a government-to-government relationship and I would like to know whether those concerns will be brought forward. Are we going to make sure that we have the people's approval and that there is not going to be some sort of totalitarian regime imposed on community members, the way it is at the international level?

12:25 p.m.

Director General, Policy Development and Coordination, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Perry Billingsley

In our discussions and negotiations, we need to have a system in order to ratify the agreement and make sure that people are consulted. Not only do people have to vote on the self-government agreement, but they also have to vote on the constitution of the community that will be created.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

So the ratification by community members takes precedence over the consent of the nine people in charge. Is that what you are saying?

12:25 p.m.

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Patrick Borbey

Yes. The Charter and the Constitution continue to apply regardless of whether a treaty is signed.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Manicouagan, QC

We sometimes see acts of protest on the ground. The nine people in charge often ratify an agreement, but then the same agreement is rejected by the people. That is what is currently happening in the community I am from. Does this type of problem arise? Does your department take it into account?

12:25 p.m.

Director General, Policy Development and Coordination, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Perry Billingsley

We take it into account when ratifications fall through, which we have seen in the past. When that happens, we stop the agreement and the constitution. The agreement does not come into force.