House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wildlife.

Topics

Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act
Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act
Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act
Government Orders

7:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

Pursuant to Standing Order 45(5)( a ), I have been requested by the deputy government whip to defer the division until tomorrow at 6.30 p.m.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 45(5)( a ) a division on the question now before the House stands deferred until tomorrow at 6.30 p.m., at which time the bells to call in the members will be sounded for not more than 15 minutes.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-16, an act to approve, give effect to and declare valid an agreement between Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada and the Dene of Colville Lake, Déline, Fort Good Hope and Fort Norman and the Metis of Fort Good Hope, Fort Norman and Norman Wells, as represented by the Sahtu Tribal Council, and to make related amendments to another act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie
Ontario

Liberal

Ron Irwin Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ron Irwin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with mixed feelings that I rise today to speak to Bill C-16. Certainly there are some positive developments in the bill. Negotiations toward aboriginal self-government for instance have been a long time in coming. Although the Reform Party does not adhere to the concept of inherent self-government we support self-government negotiations on a voluntary basis where neither party is coerced to come to the table. To my knowledge this is a voluntary agreement and that part of it is good.

Our caucus is also pleased that the agreement has been put before Parliament in the form of a bill so at least we get a chance to discuss this particular agreement before Canadians and in public.

The presentation of this bill sets a precedent. Members on this side of the House fully expect that every negotiated settlement in the future will also come under the scrutiny of Parliament. We only regret that the last bill, the one approving the Nunavut agreement, received such a cursory examination by the House.

My remarks therefore will be confined to the understanding that when agreements move aboriginals toward more self-reliance they are positive agreements. In concept the land claims settlement we are talking about tonight, a historic reconciliation between the Sahtu Dene and Metis people and the federal government could be and has the framework of a good deal.

The Reform Party has long been on the record as wanting to settle outstanding land claims issues. However, since this is the first such agreement to come before this current Parliament and the Reform Party of Canada, it must come under more careful scrutiny than might otherwise be the case because it sets yet another precedent that other groups will surely point to in the future.

Reformers must do their utmost to lay down principles that will guide lawmakers in this and future agreements because for all its good points there are many deficiencies both in the process of negotiation and in the bill itself that must be corrected before it can become law.

Unfortunately the media and our intellectual establishment have done the country a disservice by pressuring the government to make sweeping agreements without regard to such minor details as cost, political process, definition of self-government or the wishes of non-aboriginal Canadians. It has been left to the Reform Party of Canada to ask searching questions on this subject and we are prepared to do just that.

Reformers feel that barriers to free thought on a number of issues like this have been erected in the country. The political forces that have run government for the last 15 or 20 years have consistently confused reason and reasonable criticism with radical thought.

For the media and our academics to do so much as question some topics is to reveal some sort of subversive, dangerous tendency. This is a sad commentary on the state of intellectual life in this country. The one who questions First Nations' policy in the minds of the media is quickly hounded to the wall as a racist and a bigot.

This notion of the politically correct can occur in any country and it becomes an oppressive straitjacket that is truly dangerous to public policy.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn tells an interesting story in his great work The Gulag Achipelago in which a large number of people gathered to hear a government official make a speech. In those days it was customary to applaud a political speech after it was done by clapping your hands over your head.

After the speech the crowd began thunderous applause but no one dared stop or even slow down because secret agents were watching and the one who stopped clapping first might be seen as disloyal. The room was crowded and hot. Everyone was standing. There were no chairs and the clapping went on and on and on.

Finally, after a few minutes, an old man fainted in the crowd and then a brave fellow standing on the platform, tired of all the foolishness, abruptly stopped clapping and sat down. Of course the rest of the room immediately fell silent as well.

This somewhat comical example is sobered by the fact that the man on the platform who stopped clapping was later done away with by the communists.

In a very small way this situation finds a parallel in our country today. The leaders of our country, the academics and special interest groups, have all made the same speech. That speech has been reiterated over and over again by them and then taken up in turn by the media. Then the politicians, willing to do just about anything to gain political victory, begin to include these thoughts in their speeches until all of them are clapping in unison.

The fact that a particular policy may not really be in the best long term interest of the country is no longer addressed. Everyone is clapping. It would be a sign of disloyalty for the speech to somehow quit. The first one to do so much as stop this enthusiastic clapping might lose his career or his money or his power or prestige or face or tenure or something.

What does it take to correct this situation? It takes someone on the platform with a little bit of spine and backbone to get tired of this foolishness and stop clapping.

I am relieved to say that there is someone on Canada's national platform today and that is the Reform Party of Canada. It has the spine and the backbone it takes to stop this foolish applause so that Canadians can hear finally the public interest.

Just like the Solzhenitsyn story where the room fell immediately silent when one leader stopped clapping, perhaps now for the first time intelligent, rational discussion can take place on these so-called delicate issues.

Although everyone was afraid to question government policy on these politically correct issues, as soon as someone stood up tall and proud and said in front of the whole nation: "I'm no longer willing to agree to a policy that is not in the public interest, a policy that people don't really want", finally we are getting down to the crux of some of these important issues that have never been discussed in Parliament before. What we have

done already to break this stranglehold of intellectual faddism is a credit to our party and a great service to our country.

The first question with regard to Bill C-16 that must be asked and answered is the question of fairness. The seeds for this question were planted by our forefathers who negotiated treaties with different Indian bands in the last century. They did it piecemeal and so different bands negotiated different agreements. Today the government is doing exactly the same thing, sowing new seeds that may produce the fruits of division and jealousy in the future.

This problem was recently addressed by the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ovide Mercredi, when he said:

Each First Nation in Canada that has a treaty must benefit equally from the Liberal promises. There cannot be a selective approach by government as to what region or what First Nation will be able to move ahead on treaties or self-government or education.

Just a few weeks ago the Star-Phoenix quoted Mr. Mercredi as saying:

The inherent right of our people is not a pilot project. It cannot be implemented as a model in one province or one region for all First Nations to copy-he said chiefs throughout the country must accept self-government as a national policy.

Non-natives want to be fair to all aboriginals in Canada, but if the government cannot be as generous to the Sto:lo Nation in my riding as it is to the Sahtu under this agreement, what will stop groups from returning to the table in 20 years and saying: "We still have an historic grievance. We were shortchanged in the negotiations. Look what the Sahtu received in 1994. Now we want a fair deal".

How do we know that Bill C-16 is a fair settlement? Is this a national standard, a benchmark by which we judge all other agreements?

When we bring all these agreements together, and a couple of the others have been discussed in Parliament tonight, and we find out their total cost, we must ask the Canadian people somewhere along the line if they are willing to pay this much to establish this land claim settlement and self-government.

As the hon. member for Athabasca mentioned earlier, this bill should be put on hold until national negotiations have been completed and Canadians properly consulted. There is no rush. It is a mistake to rush ahead with this. Otherwise we will be renegotiating many of these deals well into the next century. By that time standards will have changed completely. This type of negotiation is irresponsible and the government is setting the stage for continuing conflict over land claims and self-government for decades to come.

The next problem with the bill flows logically from the first and that is the huge cost of this agreement. One thousand, seven hundred and fifty-five people will benefit from this agreement. Each adult will receive 285 square kilometres of land. Over 42 square kilometres of land will be given in fee simple to each member. I should probably repeat that, 42 square kilometres for each person.

For instance the land that is in the province of Ontario belongs to all Canadians, but under the Sahtu agreement 74,000 square kilometres of land will be owned by individual natives and they will control four times that much.

Do Canadians realize how big this settlement is? Two hundred and eighty thousand square kilometres of Canadian land, that is one-third the size of my province, British Columbia, will be removed permanently from the public domain. Together with the last three agreements, including the ones I mentioned earlier, soon there will be very little public land north of the 60th parallel.

No legal precedent equates aboriginal title with land ownership. The courts have always categorically rejected that idea. Where does it come from then? It stems from the Liberal Party of Canada, the party that has for the last 20 years nurtured interest groups and catered to their every whim. The Liberal government always gives first place to its political children and second place, I believe, to the people of Canada. This latest massive giveaway is a political present wrapped up in the backrooms of the Liberal Party.

There is more. There is also a cash component of this agreement. One hundred and thirty million dollars will be paid out to just 1,700 people over 15 years which works out to $100,000 each, plus a percentage of resource royalties, plus fishing and hunting rights, plus a new complicated bureaucracy paid for by the taxpayers, plus the benefit of programs already available to natives elsewhere in Canada.

You or I might think this would be satisfactory, Mr. Speaker, but not at all. Canadians who hope that this agreement at last defines what self-government really means will be bitterly disappointed. This agreement is not a self-government agreement. It is simply a land claims agreement. Self-government has yet to be negotiated. No doubt it will confer many more benefits on the Sahtu, Dene and Metis. This is not the end of the process. It is just the beginning.

I want to address another problem with this agreement. Many of the aboriginal people in Canada are concerned about this headlong rush into self-government and land claim settlements. During the Charlottetown accord debate aboriginal women's groups urged the rejection of that agreement on the grounds that they had not been included in the negotiations and that they were not secure in approving an agreement that could take away the protection, privileges and freedoms they now enjoy.

In my own constituency of Fraser Valley East many of the grassroots aboriginals who try to live with these agreements negotiated behind closed doors, things like the aboriginal fishing strategy or the make-up of local government structures, find themselves frustrated by decisions and a process that leaves the power in the hands of a very powerful few in these government structures.

Obviously the demands for honest leadership, fiscal accountability and democratic principles transcend cultural boundaries. Canadians of all backgrounds want an open government and an open process.

I have been approached by two different aboriginal leaders from my home town about this matter. There are 20 some bands in my constituency. Some of them doubt whether the concept for self-government is something whose time has come. Allow me to quote from a letter I received from a native official who is currently active in leadership. He says: "The bands in my area cannot agree on the manner in which lands should be held or how control should be structured. The Chilliwack Area Indian Council and Sto:Lo Nation Group do not seem to be able to agree on the simplest matters. As far as funding is concerned everything is chaotic. There are many instances of funding abuses".

He goes on to cite instances of mismanagement of government funds, including federal money designated to create new positions used instead by the bands to increase existing salaries. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has been notified of this problem.

If the bands demonstrate this type of behaviour now, it is no wonder that they are questioning whether this behind closed doors process is the proper process that will give them the type of leadership and the type of control that they are hoping for in the future. We need to take a close look at current band management before we entrust these sorts of things to legislative power equal to that of the provinces. Will the majority of aboriginals benefit at the hands of their own governments?

Let me cite one more example that has been brought before me, a personal experience. The aboriginal fishing strategy is an agreement granting unprecedented authority to natives to catch and sell salmon from B.C.'s Fraser River. The management regime over this resource is controlled by natives but native officials have approached me with allegations of surprising proportions, the latest one being that a proper audit has not been submitted on time, at the end of May as required in the original agreement, causing further doubt as to whether these funds have been used and allocated properly.

The department again is aware of all these problems and doing nothing about it. One native leader wrote to me and said: "It is disappointing to realize our Indian government prefers to impose authority on its membership rather than to be guided by it". The same man told me personally that in their case, in their band, they are not ready for self-government.

A century and a half ago Canadians ruled by the British were champing at the bit to have a little more say over their own lives. Responsible government was finally granted by Britain but it was a long time in coming. It was only given after Canadian political leaders had demonstrated through action that they were ready for it. Budget by budget, decision by decision, crisis by crisis, the leadership of the colony built up a store of experience and dedication that showed they could be trusted to act in the public interest.

Should there not be a companion requirement for aboriginal leaders? Is it not wise to require many small demonstrations of responsibility, sound management, compassion and trustworthiness so that we can ensure natives will act in the interest of other natives in all of Canada? Power and money alone cannot solve the problems of our aboriginal people. In fact they may only make them worse.

Many aboriginal people want and need assurances that any new agreements move them toward a better, more responsive and responsible form of government. No one has the inherent right to govern; the privilege of governance must be earned.

I want to draw on for a moment the process of this agreement. The Meech Lake fiasco provoked a general outcry about constitutional processes in Canada. No more were there to be negotiations behind closed doors. Canadians from all walks of life, except those in the old line parties, were quick to issue their angry denunciations. The group which felt the most betrayed, the ones who uttered the most embittered and angry denunciations, was none other than aboriginal people themselves. They condemned the deal and the deal makers alike.

Have the Liberals learned from the Meech Lake and Charlottetown agreements? Not at all. Now that the Sahtu have a 125-page agreement, every word of which will be entrenched in our own Constitution, what do we hear? A deafening silence. When 200 Canadian municipalities want input into the process they have to write a letter. Listen to a quote from their brief: "Municipalities have felt excluded from a process that has so far involved only aboriginal leaders and federal and provincial governments".

Even the provinces are in the dark. Even though negotiations for instance with the Manitoba chiefs are ongoing right now to dismantle Indian affairs in that province, the Toronto Star quoted the premier of Manitoba as ``having absolutely no information on which to build a provincial government policy''. Where is the openness of the process? Where are the promises of

the Liberals about candour and public trust? Let me quote from page 91 of the vaunted Liberal red book:

The people are irritated with governments that do not consult them, or that disregard their views, or that try to conduct key parts of public business behind closed doors.

The Liberals criticized the Conservatives about their lack of openness but it is all just politics. They are the pot calling the kettle black. Mr. Speaker, could you or I listen to the dismantling negotiations in Manitoba? Will they be public? Could you appear before the negotiators to make a presentation? Not on your life.

I asked the minister a number of important questions about the Manitoba process. I wrote to him on April 5 asking how I might have input. I received a statement in return that ignored the questions I asked, although it did reveal that the government had given $400,000 to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to help them make their case against the Canadian people.

This process is worse than Meech Lake. It is shut tight. Ordinary Canadians are totally excluded. Not even the media has access to them. The Sahtu package is presented before Parliament today as a fait accompli without the benefit of public discussion beforehand. The Liberal government will use its majority to ram it through the House, putting its trust in the continuing silence of the silent majority.

While aboriginals, the media and the academic community exploded in anger over Meech Lake, they are all curiously silent today. Who speaks for ordinary Canadians who have to pay for this deal? They are the ones excluded from the process established over a decade of constitutional struggle, a process promised in the red book, a process ignored by the Liberals today.

It makes a travesty of red book promises. It makes a mockery of the constitutional process. It treats the people of Canada and members of Parliament like children who cannot eat at the table with the big folks. They have to sit at the card table in Parliament and eat the leftovers thrown to them by the negotiators. This is unacceptable.

There are principles of fairness and equality that every agreement should contain, principles that should be acceptable to the Canadian people. They would be. Let me enumerate them. The first is an open, national negotiating process.

The second is definitive reasonable costs acceptable to non-aboriginal people throughout the country.

The third is to ensure the supremacy of Parliament by agreeing that the charter will apply to every person in Canada. It disturbs me greatly to read in the May 12 edition of the Gazette that Canada's criminal law and the charter will not necessarily apply to aboriginal people. ``That is something that remains to be determined'', the Minister of Justice says. All Canadians, native and non-native, must be equal under the law.

The fourth principle is that the text of these agreements must not be entrenched in the Constitution. Its complex details are too difficult to change and the process for changing them is not specified in the Constitution. Details need to be legitimized by practice over a long period of time before, if ever, they are entrenched.

Fifth, every agreement must contain the extinguishment of aboriginal title. We want to know if the demands on Canada will be finished by signing any one agreement. I want to add that the Sahtu agreement does contain this necessary element. I am pleased about that one part of it. Every agreement should require aboriginals to be subject to some form of federal taxation. Every agreement should reduce native dependency on government, and finally no agreement should create parallel bureaucracies. The creation of one bureaucracy must be accompanied by the dissolution of another.

To sum up, I am worried today that our government is recklessly making revolutionary changes in public land, public authority and public institutions without public input. It is doing so in the interests of a very few.

So that I am not misunderstood, allow me to repeat my conviction once again. I do not oppose self-government. I do not oppose an agreement with the Sahtu Dene and Metis people, but I strenuously oppose the deal making process. On behalf of all Canadians I oppose the overly generous terms of the agreement.

The minister needs to take the process back to the people and his legislation back to the drawingboard.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act
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7:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, after listening carefully to my colleague, particularly to his introduction and the early portion of his remarks, I must admit that I would like to say something on the subject of loyalty. It is my impression that I am being disloyal strictly to the Reform Party this evening because, in fact, I think that the government agrees with Bill C-16. We have already made it known that we support the bill as it now stands.

I also tend to want to react to this type of argument; although I respect it, I do not agree with it at all. I do not think the Bloc Quebecois has been termed left-wing intellectuals in Canada or in Quebec. Nor do I believe that we are disloyal to anyone in saying that we share the views expressed in Bill C-16.

I will go over some of the points I raised previously during the second reading of the bill-fairly quickly, because we are in the final stage before passage. During second reading, I said that one of the premises for this type of agreement, land claims, is the importance of having confidence in both parties.

Concerning the Dene, the Metis and the Sahtu Tribal Council, we fully agree that these people were representative, and they can rest assured that we have complete confidence in their negotiations and the outcome of those negotiations.

With respect to the agreement per se, Sahtu means "great bear" and naturally, reference is made to Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. This vast territory is steeped in history, much of which has to do with oil. As you will see, the financial agreement which has been finalized is based on the price of oil, particularly at Norman Wells.

There are five major communities within the territory covered by the agreement. Colville Lake is home to a tribe of Slavey Dene. The community was founded in 1962 on ancestral lands. Colville Lake is the only community in the Northwest Territories where all buildings are constructed entirely of logs. I believe this is worth mentioning because these are features of the landscape and communities covered by the agreement. Colville Lake is a very rustic and very beautiful village, and I felt that this was important to mention.

Déline was formerly known as Fort Franklin. In 1825, Sir John Franklin made this community his winter headquarters. When oil was discovered in Norman Wells during the 1920s, Fort Franklin became a major trading post owing to its close proximity to transportation routes.

Fort Norman has long been important to the Dene because of the excellent sites for placing traps. Trapping is a seasonal activity which is an important part of the traditional Dene economy.

Fort Good Hope is the oldest trading post in the lower Mackenzie Valley; although it is within the territory of the northern Slave Dene, the Vuntut Gwich'in, as they are called, the mountain people and Inuit of the Mackenzie Delta used to go there regularly. But in Norman Wells, I think it is known-besides, we will soon have Bill C-25, which will allow more wells to be dug in Norman Wells and extracting oil from existing wells using a new method such as water under pressure, so that a well can produce in a much more healthy environment.

Norman Wells is important in the discussion and I will come back to it soon. We shall see that the financial agreement is based on the oil resources at Norman Wells, among other things.

The agreement before us was signed in 1993 at Fort Norman and the Act will simply implement that agreement. It also has constitutional protection. Some people think that is awful but we do not think so. It is simply one of the new treaties covered by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

My colleague raised a very important point about how representative the process leading to the signing of that agreement was. I think that the figures I will give will reassure us on that point. More than 90 per cent of eligible voters participated because that agreement was put to a vote and 90 per cent of the people on a territory of 28,000 square kilometres went out and voted.

This goes to show how important this agreement is to them and, in my view, we cannot doubt the representativeness of the people who have signed the agreement, not only because of this 90 per cent participation rate but also because 85 per cent of the Dene and 99 per cent of the Metis are in favour of this agreement. It think it is important to point out that in terms of representativeness, a 90 per cent participation rate leaves no doubt about the representativeness of the signatories; they were backed by a democratic vote of the people they represented.

Turning to the development of this agreement at the political level, it arises from land claims but does not put self-government in issue. In fact, these are two entirely different matters. A list of agreed subjects negotiators will have to look into again, self-government being one of them, has been appended to the agreement.

For now, it must be understood that this is simply a bill which approves a land claim agreement.

I will move along quickly because I mentioned many of these facts at second reading. The Dene and the Metis receive title to 41,437 square kilometres of land, 1,813 square kilometres of which include mining and mineral rights. This is entirely consistent with the European economic tradition of the day: the subsoil teeming with precious metals and black gold, representing a considerable amount of wealth in the territory as such.

Now about the settlement. The agreement does call for compensation of $75 million over 15 years.

This settlement is based on the value of oil taken out of the ground at Norman Wells. Statistics indicated that approximately $75 million was extracted from the ground each year and shared by Esso and the Government of Canada, which are partners in the Norman Wells venture.

This agreement is based on this $75 million. It simply acknowledges that it costs $75 million annually, that they incurred a loss of income of $75 million annually, and it is being conceded to them for a period of 15 years. The famous issue of economic development is also considered. Economic development is vital, in my opinion, for the aboriginal nations of this country and, in particular, the Dene and the Metis; the economic development that this $75 million will bring is certainly not negligible.

It will be up to them to combine economic development and development of their traditional resources. Based on what I have seen in the agreement, they will surely succeed. This is a successful example of economic development, and I think congratulations are in order. I also want to draw an analogy with the Cree and Naskapi in Quebec. As you know, the James Bay

agreement also provided certain amounts of money to be administered by a company headed by the Cree. I want to say that what is happening with the Dene and the Metis is not a precedent and that a precedent was definitely set in Quebec in the eighties with the Cree and the Naskapi.

The agreement contains provisions on wildlife. As you know, wildlife management is part of their tradition. They have an inborn respect for the environment, so to them it is important to preserve, both in the agreement and in this bill, this particular aspect of their tradition, which includes hunting, trapping and fishing rights. These are all included in the agreement and reflect the traditional culture and the traditional hunting grounds of the Dene and the Metis.

I would like to add that a number of interest groups were consulted, not only the Dene and the Metis. These included the Northwest Territories Chamber of Mines, which approved this bill, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Northwest Territories Wildlife Federation, the Mount Mackenzie Outfitters and the Lynn Graham Trail Association.

As far as outfitters are concerned, this is an interesting aspect of the agreement. There are people already involved in trapping and hunting activities in the territory who are not necessarily Dene or Metis. What is interesting in the agreement is that these people will be able to continue those activities. This is further evidence of the philosophy of aboriginal people when the Europeans arrived. To them, the land was something to be shared. The Dene and the Metis, like all other aboriginal peoples, have always agreed to share their land. What happened is that the Europeans got a lot of money out of their land and restricted them to reserves and certain territories.

This agreement enables them to throw off at least partially the yoke of the Indian Act because this will be in fact the first step we will allow them to take toward financial autonomy and it is something we should consider for a few minutes.

This financial autonomy is important to them because we know that, in fact, the Indian Act maintains all Native nations under trusteeship, where all decisions are made for them. The statement that we are witnessing the birth of a new bureaucracy must be toned down a bit.

I think that the time has come for us, the people of Quebec and Canada, to end this trusteeship and allow these people to take control of their own destiny. Given the financial agreement before us and their eventual right to design and prepare special programs for the regions and, at the end of the day, to administer themselves, I do not think we are witnessing the birth of a new bureaucracy.

We are simply giving them the power to take control of their own future. Ottawa will no longer decide what programs are good for them. They will decide for themselves what programs they want. I think that, in this regard, the negotiators' efforts were commendable. I see that, according to the agreement provisions that are, of course, linked to the bill, this bureaucracy or pseudo-bureaucracy will enable them to really administer their lands with their own programs while respecting their culture and promoting a new economic development.

Finally, I must salute them. These people venerate their elders and often think in terms of the next seven generations. I am sure that seven generations ago, native people were in possession of their territory, but the situation changed drastically with the arrival of Europeans. These people have always wanted to regain control of what had been theirs as first occupants, and I think that, in these negotiations, they had future generations in mind.

In fact, negotiators and representatives from the territory in question came to my office and told me that their elders had always persevered, and that they were very pleased to have the support of the Bloc Quebecois. Consequently, I am pleased to say once again that our party will fully support Bill C-16 in third reading.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act
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8:05 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is again a pleasure to rise in debate on Bill C-16, the Sahtu Dene and Metis land claim agreement, this time in third reading.

The terms, provisions and conditions have been well canvassed on this side of the House and unfortunately our concerns with Bill C-16 still apply. Our pleas, both in the House and in committee, have fallen on deaf ears.

I want today only to make a few points beginning with a point which is general in nature but strikes at the very heart of my party's concern with federal land claims policy. The government's policy is based on a false assumption. In March 1993 a document was published by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development entitled "Federal Policy for the Settlement of Native Land Claims". Within that publication there is a glowing observation which states the evolution and development of the federal government's land claim policy has been closely linked to court decisions.

The first claims policy statement in 1973 was initiated by a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1973 Calder decision which acknowledges the existence of aboriginal title in Canadian law.

Further in the document: "The common law concept of aboriginal rights was addressed in the 1973 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Calder case. Six of the seven Supreme Court justices who heard the case acknowledge the existence of aboriginal title in Canadian law".

With respect to those departmental drafters, I do not accept these statements as properly reflecting historical fact. How can you base your federal land claims policy on these misinterpretations?

The Calder case was a claim by the Nishga people to aboriginal title over the Nass Valley in B.C. It was a claim to aboriginal title without precisely delineating what those words meant. When the claim was brought to the Supreme Court of British Columbia it was dismissed. It was then brought before the Court of Appeal of B.C. in which a three man court again dismissed the claim for aboriginal title.

Finally it was appealed before the Supreme Court of Canada where it was once again dismissed, with three judges finding that aboriginal title may have existed prior to colonial contact but that it was extinguished at the time of colonial contact. Three other judges ruminated and the seventh dismissed the appeal on technical grounds.

In the final analysis the Calder case did not decide that aboriginal title exists in Canada.

Even if the Calder had been ruled as aboriginal title it would have been title that was far less than a fee simple title. It was not ever proposed or put forward in the case that the aboriginal title amounted to fee simple ownership, unlike the transfer that Bill C-16 provides. Bill C-16 conveys 41,000 square kilometres in fee simple ownership, about three quarters the size of Nova Scotia, based on no court substantiation.

In the four agreements thus far, north of 60 degrees latitude, in other words in what Canadians have collectively known as the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory, the total fee simple lands amount to 505,000 square kilometres or about half the size of the province of Ontario. We should be very concerned over land claim agreements that remove from the public domain vast areas of public lands.

My party's other major concern with Bill C-16 is the constitutional entrenchment provision. The bill states that the agreement is constitutionalized. If our interpretation is correct this means that it cannot be amended other than by virtue of the amending formula to the Constitution which was agreed to in 1982. When we look at the 1982 amending formula it does not fit very well to these kinds of land claim agreements. There are, as the House knows, six amending formulae and none of them seems to apply to situations created by bills such as Bill C-16.

I question the validity of section 3.1.26 of the act which says amendments can be made because if the agreement can be so readily amended by order in council of the federal government and approval of the Sahtu Tribal Council, if it can be so easily amended in that way then how can we say this agreement is constitutionally entrenched? Those points fell on deaf ears in committee but again I make them.

In this same vein we again state our concerns with locking in such detailed and untried provisions as are in this document. Hundreds of pages of clauses and provisions are locked in and only time will tell if they are workable.

I would hope that in future these types of agreements that are to be constitutionalized be kept to land claim rights only. These are the ones that section 35 of the Constitution is really talking about. Maybe a 10 year clause should accompany these locking in provisions to allow for a shakedown of the agreement.

Bill C-16 allows for law making power and thus raises the issue of the charter of rights. The question is will those laws be subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I know the minister has said yes to the above, but with the greatest of respect that cannot be achieved by degree or by fiat.

My understanding is that the only way this legislation that is passed under self-government agreements can be subject to the charter of rights is for the charter itself to be amended to make certain that legislation passed by aboriginal governments is subject to the charter. That is what was proposed in the Charlottetown accord and that was and can be the only rationale.

In the absence of a specific provision in the charter of rights itself it is most unlikely that the charter applies to legislation passed by native self-government.

Finally, I am amazed by the layers of bureaucracy that this bill creates from renewable resource boards to administration panels, to planning and water boards, to an environmental planning board. We have it all. I submit that these functions are currently being performed by the department of Indian affairs or by the territorial governments.

Our final litmus is does it provide for the self-sufficiency of the Sahtu and the independence they seek? I fear as I do for the Yukon agreement that this litmus test will fail in the long term and even perhaps in the medium term. The intentions of both parties to the agreement, the Sahtu and the federal government, have been hijacked by bureaucratic solutions albeit with the best intentions.

There are built in disincentives to business, once again designed by bureaucrats. We have a precedent in the Indian Act

with all the built in disincentives to business within the Indian Act. Surely we could come up with a simpler design than this.

I have found my relationships with the Sahtu first class. I hope that they feel the same way and I wish them the very best with their challenge and their adventure. Much adversity can be overcome with the correct spirit and attitude. I know how important Norman Wells is to the area. I have talked to many of the players. This enterprise will continue. It is new industry that is the challenge. I certainly hope that I am proven wrong in my major assumptions.

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8:15 p.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I spoke at some length on this bill during second reading debate and during committee. I have a few brief points that I want to make in closing the debate.

This being another step into the process of the huge giveaway of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon territory of Canada and removing it from the ownership of the crown for the use and enjoyment of all Canadians is a dangerous precedent to be setting. Not only is that precedent a giveaway of that amount of territory with no legal obligation to do so, there is another precedent that I spoke of earlier, and I continue to go back to on this particular agreement, the precedent that there is a valid treaty in force covering this territory which provided for the extinguishment of land claims and rights of aboriginal peoples in that area.

We are now in the process of renegotiating, reopening that agreement to again negotiate a broader package, a more generous package and much more territory. I think that is a real dangerous precedent to be setting and bodes poorly for the future when we will again be negotiating treaties one through eleven under the same circumstances that we are now renegotiating this one.

The richness of this agreement I can only object to on the grounds that it does not end the responsibility of the Canadian taxpayer for these aboriginal people. Surely the $100,000 per individual payout in the share of resource revenue from the Norman Wells oil field and other resources is enough to provide for self-sufficiency and for self-determination for this group of people to allow them economic development to participate in all the things that all Canadians enjoy and take for granted in this country.

Having given that opportunity we should then end the responsibility of the Canadian taxpayer to continue to support these aboriginal people. The Bloc spoke on this bill, both in second reading and now in third reading, in support of the bill. It is quite easy to understand the Bloc's position on this particular bill.

It goes a long way to reinforcing the proposal of the recognition of sovereignty for a particular ethnic group and plays to its own cause. It certainly does not have to be concerned with the financial cost or the financial responsibility for ongoing generations of Canadians because clearly it does not want to be part of Canada and part of that obligation to future generations.

When we talk about the large amount of oil and the large amount of money that was taken out of the Norman Wells oil field, certainly there have been great amounts of oil and wealth taken out, but I have worked in the Norman Wells oil field and it is a hugely expensive part of Canada to develop that resource in and to extract that resource.

When we talk about those kinds of things, we have to consider the cost of developing not only the oil field but the technology that goes with it. Let us talk about the net value of the resource that was taken out.

Let us, at the same time, consider the huge amounts of tax dollars that have been returned to the area in social spending to cover all kinds of things from housing to economic development, to schools, to all those other things. I think a good share of that resource is being returned and continues to be returned to that area.

The other thing that I would like to speak briefly on is the process of this legislation as it went through the House and the fact that we, as an opposition party, were not allowed any provision to make our views heard or make our views known in the final report on the bill when it was returned to the House in report stage simply because we were not allowed to recommend or to discuss changes in the agreement. We were only allowed to discuss the bill itself, which was very small and did not really address the terms of the agreement.

In spite of the fact that in committee we heard a number of witnesses from the region, the aboriginal people from the area, and some of them clearly neither understood nor desired the terms of this settlement, their views were not taken into consideration.

There has been no discussion on report stage of those people who opposed this. I want to make sure that I and my party go on record opposing this process and this agreement simply because I think it is a huge mistake to be moving Canada toward a system that South Africa is celebrating leaving behind.

We are imposing ethnic homelands on these people and trapping them in these agreements. That is a terrible precedent to be setting. We should be moving at some point to the equal treatment of all Canadians no matter where they live or what their ethnic or racial background is.

In closing, when the record is written the Reform Party opposed the agreement and the Liberals pushed it through in spite of the objections of our party and a number of the people involved.

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8:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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8:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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8:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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8:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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8:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.