Debates of Nov. 5th, 1998
House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.
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- Presence In Gallery
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- Points Of Order
- First Nations Land Management Act
- Points Of Order
- First Nations Land Management Act
- Canada Student Loans
Some hon. members
The Deputy Speaker
In my opinion the yeas have it.
And more than five members having risen:
The Deputy Speaker
The hon. chief government whip on a point of order before we call in the members.
Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON
Mr. Speaker, there have been discussion among the parties and I believe you would find consent to defer the recorded division requested on the motion for third reading of Bill C-51 to the expiry of Government Orders on Tuesday, November 17, 1998.
The Deputy Speaker
The House has heard the proposal of the chief government whip. Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon. members
Business Of The House
Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON
Mr. Speaker, relative to the matter of Private Members' Business later this day, discussions have also taken place with all parties and the member for Vancouver East concerning the taking of the division on Motion No. M-132 scheduled for later this day at the conclusion of Private Members' Business. I believe you would find consent for the following motion:
That at the conclusion of today's debate on Motion No. M-132, the question shall be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on Tuesday, November 17, 1998.
Business Of The House
The Deputy Speaker
The hon. member for Vancouver East is here and consents. The House has heard the proposal of the chief government whip. Is there unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
Business Of The House
Some hon. members
Business Of The House
The Deputy Speaker
The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion.
Business Of The House
Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to)
First Nations Land Management Act
Diane Marleau for the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs
moved that Bill C-49, an act providing for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
First Nations Land Management Act
Derrek Konrad Prince Albert, SK
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Bill C-49, an act to bring into effect a framework agreement on first nations land management. This is a significant piece of legislation because, as its title suggests, it has the laudable goal of giving certain Indian bands across the country the right to manage their own reserve lands.
It has been a long term goal of the Reform Party to ensure that Indians obtain authority to manage their own affairs. However, the bill carries within it many profound implications for both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians and is a Trojan horse.
As the debate progresses it will be seen that Bill C-49 in its present form will only serve to further widen the gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians by extending special rights to a specific segment of Canada's population, solely on the basis of race. It will also serve to continue the marginalization of Canadian women of aboriginal descent who live on reserves.
It is my intention to focus on many of the details within Bill C-49. However I feel compelled to address first some broader issues and questions which the legislation raises. Many of them may explain the perceived necessity of the bill and some of its shortcomings.
My remarks are in the context of one Canada, equality for and among all persons, a phrase taken from the blue book outlining the principles and policies of the Reform Party of Canada. I am proud to represent a party which holds the view that no one should be discriminated against on the basis of race as Canada's aboriginals have been for far too long.
We were recently honoured to have in our midst a great modern day hero, Mr. Nelson Mandela, President of the Republic South Africa. What a tremendous privilege it was to hear him speak of his struggle toward freedom and equality for everyone in his country. It strengthened my belief in the power of hope, truth and grace for our country at this time in its history.
To be in the presence of a man who has endured so much hardship and suffered such loss, to know that he remained triumphant and resolute against the desire to give in to hate, anger, fear and bitterness throughout his struggle, has become for me an indelible memory. I am sure I speak for all of us here today when I say this.
At the same time I was struck by the apparent contradictions in the Prime Minister's introduction of President Mandela and his own sorry record in the matter of Canada's native population. I can only regard them as either blind ignorance or outright hypocrisy.
The Prime Minister lauded President Mandela's fight against apartheid and Canada's efforts in joining this fight. He praised the ideals of a constitution which recognizes no race and grants rights and freedoms to all citizens regardless of race, religion or language. These comments were made against the backdrop of a government whose current and past policies in respect to aboriginal Canadians betray such words.
The government's policy with respect to aboriginal Canadians has actually reinforced a system within the country which has contributed to inequity of opportunity and unequal protection under the law. The practice of treating Indians unequally and apart from the mainstream of Canadian society has created the worst imaginable social and economic conditions for those who live on Canada's reserves. This separation has been just as real and just as injurious to aboriginal Canadians as it was to South African blacks.
I call upon the government today to reconsider seriously its course of policy with respect to aboriginal Canadians and the implications it has for all Canadians. As I will show, legislation such as that which we see in Bill C-49, as well as the current convoluted environment in which land claim and treaty making processes are taking place, is misguided and is contributing to inequality and segregation on the basis of race.
The past band-aid approaches of the government and those before it have failed to establish a legislative fiduciary responsibility by any level of government to aboriginal Canadians. Instead, what we have seen in recent decades are governments attempting to make amends for the wrongs of past actions by creating legislation which changes the outward appearance of things but does not address the fundamental issues.
Our country desperately needs today a brand new relationship between aboriginal Canadians and the Government of Canada which recognizes treaty rights but stresses a commitment to equality, not inequality.
As I turn now to address the details of Bill C-49 I want to point out some of the weaknesses of the bill and what needs to change. One of the primary assertions made by Canadian aboriginal peoples today concerns what they say is a special relationship to the land. Given this claim, it follows that land management could be considered a critical first step toward achieving self-government and economic security. This is a fundamental connection to bear in mind when considering the merits and weaknesses of the bill.
This much granted, while Bill C-49 in title sets out to give certain bands the right to manage their reserve lands, in function it amounts to a substantial power of self-government for each of the individual bands that have signed the framework agreement on land management.
I am sure the government envisions this being accomplished in two primary ways: first, by making those sections of the Indian Act which relate to land management of no effect for those bands that are signatories to the agreement. Of course this would end the delegated authority of the minister of Indian affairs over those sections of the Indian Act. Second, in the vacuum created by making those sections of the Indian Act of no effect, the framework agreement would allow the band councils to create and enforce their own laws with respect to their lands.
I want to state clearly that the Reform Party fully supports expressions of aboriginal self-government which ensure that all members of their communities remain full and equal participants in Canadian society and which uphold the rule of Canadian law and the supremacy of the Constitution of Canada.
However, Reform is opposed to the creation of any act or first nations laws that create a level of governance not envisioned within the Constitution. Yet this is precisely what Bill C-49 does and is the Trojan horse I mentioned earlier. It will extend powers of governance to the bands which are signatory to the framework agreement without any constitutional provisions for such powers having been put in place. We all know that changing the Constitution is a process far more complex and time consuming than simply passing legislation because its effects are so wide ranging.
The legislation in its present form clearly states that in the event of a conflict between band laws and federal or provincial laws band law would prevail. In this sense the rule of Canadian law will not be upheld, which leads to special sovereign rights being granted to certain Indian bands. There is no constitutional basis for this at this time.
There is a process for dealing with this problem. Amend the Constitution. This is difficult to do, and rightly so. The entire purpose of the Constitution is to limit the arbitrary use and abuse of power by governments. That this proposed legislation could lead to abuses of power is the subject of the next part of my speech and a major concern of the British Columbia Native Women's Society.
The British Columbia Native Women's Society has been raging a protracted battle with government to address inequalities and the break-up of families for the previous 15 years without success. Now the government wants to turn over land management to bands without first putting an end to the unequal status of reserve women. The problem will never end for these people. When bands can make laws governing themselves that do not recognize the rights of specific members of their bands which are accorded to them under the Constitution, government is abdicating its responsibilities. Shame on a government like that, shame on this government.
When we say that certain laws that apply to non-aboriginal Canadians no longer apply to aboriginal Canadians we are creating two classes of citizens, those who enjoy general rights together with special rights and privileges and those who enjoy only general rights with no special rights and privileges. This raises an important point about the concept of self-government.
A number of my colleagues have over the years lived in and worked closely with aboriginal communities. As members of this House, many have been meeting extensively with grassroots aboriginal Canadians to address their concerns about the deplorable state of many of Canada's reserves. It is tragic that many aboriginal Canadians, especially those on reserve, have been the victims of the current regime of inequality, prejudice and injustice that characterizes this government.
It is true this government is not overtly promoting inequality or injustice but it has never declared a policy to reinforce equality and justice. We only ever hear the exact opposite. We hear how the government is concerned about the well-being of aboriginal Canadians. It informs us that it has a wide range of effective programs and services in place, that it is increasing funding to ensure the long term economic development and equality of life for individuals and communities. But these are only superficial and empty words. Something is terribly wrong with he government's silence on the problems facing rank and file Indians, its refusal to act and its utter refusal to admit the facts.
The facts are that living conditions for the majority of aboriginals on reserves in Canada have for decades actually been at third world levels. While this government boasts about Canada's standing among the G-7 countries and about our consistent top quality of life ranking by the United Nations, it refuses to address the harsh realities of life on reserve. The reality is that by using the same criteria used to show Canada is number one in quality in life, Canada's Indian reserves would rank 63rd on the same UN list.
What is wrong with this government? Does it only see what it wants to see? Does it only hear what it wants to hear? Will this government stubbornly go on accepting a lie and refusing to admit these realities or will it move to change its present course of action?
Grassroots aboriginals are beginning to speak out strongly concerning the desperate need for change in the quality of life on reserves. Many aboriginals on reserve have no way of life that they are proud of or happy about. This should not be. These people have made it clear to us that on issues such as self-government they are simply not ready.
Listen to what some of them have said. “Most of us living on reserves today are living under dictatorships”, one middle aged woman said recently. A man from another reserve asked “What is the government trying to do with its agenda of self-government, wipe out the Indian people? In a different way it seems as though it is setting us up to wipe us out through self-government”.
Regarding the healing fund another aboriginal on reserve asked, “How can the minister of Indian affairs ever apologize for the abusers? What has happened to us has been passed down through the generations. Do you think money is going to heal us? No way. Only the Creator can do that. The government talks about healing yet not one of us will see a penny of the $350 million for the healing. It is going to go to drive the Indian industry. The chiefs, the government and their lawyers are the only ones who will benefit. We must make sure that our rights and freedoms are protected. I am determined to fight for the future of my children and my grandchildren. We must stop this cycle of desperation”.
There are legal concerns surrounding the elimination of major sections of the Indian Act. These concerns relate especially to the breakdown of marriage, the status of women and children and the potential for unfair treatment of certain groups of natives and non-natives with respect to the possession, occupation, ownership, enjoyment and use of land.
To be obvious, successful land management is perhaps the first most critical step toward self-determination and self-government. Reform supports this insofar as such movement creates a climate for first nations to achieve greater economic self-sufficiency and ultimately self-government as full and equal participants under Canadian law and the Constitution.
The supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law are at issue here. The bill makes it very clear that in the event of a conflict between band laws and either federal or provincial laws, band law will prevail.
What safeguards this is legislation put in place to protect individuals' fundamental rights and freedoms and to ensure they are above encroachment by band laws. Essentially there are none and this is wrong. It is shameful.
The Liberals are washing their hands of responsibility to protect the weakest, most powerless members of the aboriginal communities by introducing this legislation.
It appears to be in direct conflict with section 15(1) of the charter of rights and freedoms:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Do members not find it incredible, as I do, that the government is proceeding with this legislation? The government's complete abdication of responsibility by failing to uphold this section and indeed to defend the entire Constitution is unconscionable.
Surely the primary role of government is to uphold the Constitution, but the legislation being contemplated here states in clause 37 the following:
In the event of any inconsistency or conflict between this Act and any other federal law, this Act prevails to the extent of the inconsistency or conflict.
What guarantee is there that individual rights or freedoms would be protected in Indian band laws? Surely this House must act to ensure the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of federal and provincial laws are strongly affirmed as sufficient. This legislation is found to be flawed on these grounds alone.
I want to briefly address the fact that this legislation will make certain sections of the Indian Act non-applicable. While this is not the first time the government has done this perhaps it is time for the government to undertake a serious review of the need for the Indian Act or at least as to whether comprehensive amendments to it should be introduced.
For many aboriginal Canadians the act has become an anachronistic burden and a vestige of colonial policies. Many sections of the act have directly prevented many on reserve aboriginals from attaining personal wealth, property and financial independence.
It is not insignificant that many of these sections are the same ones that would be made non-applicable by this legislation. It speaks to the many inadequacies of the Indian Act and the barriers which prevent individuals from attaining personal wealth.
This is a very important issue which is the subject of another full speech for another day. However, I wanted this issue to go on the record today.
What I have been attempting to emphasize here is that this government's piecemeal approach to the elimination of the Indian Act is misguided. If the government's intention is, and it appears as though it is, to remove the burden of the act in order to give all aboriginals the right to acquire personal wealth and property which all other Canadians enjoy, then why does it not declare its intentions and just do away with the Indian Act altogether? That would certainly be a positive first step toward true equality of opportunity.
However, if the government's agenda is to slowly erode the Indian Act in order to give the Indian leadership more power at the expense of the powerless, even the right to sovereign self-government but without accountability, then the government should declare those intentions.
The legislation before the House is nothing more than a thinly disguised agenda to bring about self-government. But again, self-government is not the real problem. The problem is what is not being addressed, the government's unwillingness to correct the core problems inherent in the system.
The balance of power must change to favour the majority of aboriginals on reserve, not just the privileged few at the top. The problem is that all we hear is the minister repeating the mantra of commitment to partnering with aboriginals to bring about change. It sounds good. But I wonder if the minister really knows what that means. Is she really confronted every day as she recently claimed with the problems that face the majority of aboriginals on most reserves? Does she experience every day the third world levels of health and housing or the fact that many reserves experience virtually total unemployment? Does she daily experience the effects of substance abuse and gambling addition? I doubt it.
Further I wonder if she is really aware of how all these things are linked to the tragically high rates of fetal alcohol syndrome and family breakdown on a daily basis. If the minister were aware of these things we would see a drastic change in her condescending attitude toward questions on these subjects. We would see a different kind of action and not just words. When will the partnerships that the minister is so fond of mentioning include all aboriginals and not just those fortunate enough to be in leadership? Is it not true that this partnership the minister talks about extends only to the privileged few? Clearly this is the way things appear to be.
This is what I would call extreme, extreme injustice. This is what I call extreme inequity. This is callous indifference to the needs and will of many grassroots aboriginals. Many see individual land codes as necessary given the regional differences and needs of each band. However, it should be noted that this fact actually strengthens the argument in favour upholding Canada's Constitution and law in the event of conflict between Indian band laws and federal and provincial laws which are designed to protect individual rights.
An additional complication is seen in the creation and enactment of a band land code. Since each of these will be individually created and entered into by the bands and since the rule of Canadian law would not always apply, there is no guarantee that a national standard of rights will be met. Furthermore, it will be difficult if not impossible to track cases of inequity and litigation across reserves since each reserve could have vastly different land codes and laws within those codes.
It would be instructive for the House and particularly for members of the government to revisit their recent past. I am referring to their 1969 white paper which was introduced by none other than the Right Hon. Prime Minister who was at that time minister of Indian affairs. Listen to some of the ideas and words uttered at that time by the Liberal government. As members listen I ask them to reflect on this government's near abandonment of those lofty ideals and also to where its departure from those ideals has led it in the last 30 years. I urge members to reflect on whether its policy path has really led to greater equality, a stronger identity and strengthened unity between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.
The white paper initiative was designed to “Lead to the full, free and non-discriminatory participation of Indian people in Canadian society”. The white paper outlined several policy initiatives which I summarize to achieve that goal.
First, the legislative and constitutional bases which set Indians apart from other Canadians must be removed. Second, all Canadians must recognize the unique contribution of Indian culture to Canadian life. On this point it is safe to say that the majority of Canadians would affirm this today.
Third, government services to aboriginals should come through the same channels and from the same government agencies for all Canadians. The white paper actually recommended dismantling the department of Indian affairs within five years. This was to have been a key factor in establishing equality for aboriginals among all Canadians.
Fourth, lawful obligations must be recognized. Fifth, those who are furthest behind must be helped the most.
The white paper went on to state:
The separate legal status of Indians—have kept the Indian people apart from and behind other Canadians. The Indian people have not been full citizens of the communities and provinces in which they live and have not enjoyed the equality and benefits that such participation offers. The treatment resulting from their different status has been often worse, sometimes equal and occasionally better than that accorded to their fellow citizens.
What has changed since then? I submit that very little has changed. I ask members to consider the input this government has given over the intervening years and what it has achieved in terms of equality of outcomes. There has not been equality of opportunity because much of the money spent has not reached the majority, and as a result there has not been equality of outcomes.
It is instructive and profitable to read even more of what the Liberal government of the day was saying at that time. A review of this part of the Liberal's history is relevant to the debate today because this successor government has lost sight of a worthy vision that was short lived. Although the Liberals did a complete about face in implementing this policy some four years after introducing the white paper, it is important to remind them of where they stood.
This government must recognize that in its departure from the white paper policy, the path it chose to go down has actually done less to serve and protect the equality rights of aboriginal Canadians. In a very real sense the government's policy decisions over the last 30 years were set on a very slippery slope and today more than ever this is abundantly clear.
It is tragic that the government refuses to recognize that its policies rest on assumptions that have not delivered freedom from want and entry into the mainstream of Canada's economy by aboriginal Canadians.
The white paper even had the full support of then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. At the time he said:
We have set the Indians apart as a race. We have set them apart in our laws. We have set them apart in the ways our governments deal with them. They are not citizens of the province as the rest of us are. They are wards of the federal government—they have been set apart in the relations with the government and they have been set apart socially too—.We can go on treating the Indians as having special status. We can go on adding bricks of discrimination around the ghetto in which they live and at the same time perhaps helping them to preserve certain cultural traits and certain ancestral rights—or we can say you are at a crossroads—the time is now to decide whether Indians will be a race set apart in Canada or whether they will be Canadians of full status.
I remind the House that those words were spoken in 1969. Today on the threshold of the 21st century, sadly aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians are still at the same crossroads. Now almost 30 years and billions of dollars later we should not be in this place. Significant progress could have been made and real changes should have been made.
We know that the majority of Canadians desire to see past wrongs made right for a sense of closure to be achieved. There is a desire to move ahead with building a strong and united country. The Reform Party believes in the common sense and goodwill of the majority of Canadians to move forward and accomplish change. But we know that while the majority of aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians desire this change, they also realize that it is not more money and programs that will achieve this.
There is not currently equality of opportunity, nor is there equality of outcome despite a history of spending. A person spending just one day hearing testimony in the Standing Committee on Indian Affairs and Northern Development proves that. Studying the human development index report on Canada's reserves will serve to reinforce this knowledge.
True equality can only be achieved when Canadians are united together in willing a change. It must be all Canadians, non-aboriginal and aboriginal together willing equality. One people, one vision and one goal: one Canada, equality for and among all persons.
Clearly governments do have a significant role to play in allowing for the will of the people to bring about this change. Making things right is never easy. It can only occur when there is humility and generosity of spirit on both sides.
With this legislation the government is at another crossroads. It has another opportunity to choose the way of establishing true equality and justice. I urge the government to rethink its current course of policy and the approaches needed to make Canada's aboriginal people truly equal with all other Canadians. This would be the right thing for the government to do. But I wonder, does it have the moral fortitude to choose the right way?
The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development needs to be significantly restructured. Decades of DIAND's consistent mismanagement of aboriginal communities must end. It is time for a fresh and revitalized relationship between governments and first nations that will allow them to regain confidence, self-reliance and greater economic independence.
I have highlighted how DIAND's piecemeal approach to addressing problems among first nations has consistently failed. First, by creating programs with no long term plan, it has created a convoluted landscape of programs and rights that benefit a few but which fail to reach and benefit the majority of grassroots aboriginals.
Until such time that the mandate of DIAND is clearly defined in a modern context and its goals realigned with the priority of ensuring that aboriginal Canadians are fully equal under the law and with equal opportunity, Canada's Indian population will continue to suffer.
DIAND is like a canoe heading down a fast moving river but without a paddle. That river can be likened to the Niagara, and we all know how a trip down that river would end up.
There is a great struggle for more than land right now and the stakes are high. The current general direction of modern day treaty negotiations as evidenced in the recent Nisga'a treaty are inconsistent with the Reform Party's principles and policies and are unacceptable to the Canadian public at large.
These treaties have not been negotiated in an open, public manner. Third party interests and the public in general are being ignored throughout the process and then are expected to approve the package after the deals have been made and signed. Current self-government agreements negotiated under the treaty process go beyond any concept of a form of delegated self-government.
What is most incredible is that if anyone dares to question either the contents of the treaty or the process used to arrive at a final agreement, he is instantly labelled a racist and troublemaker by those driving the agenda. There needs to be an openness and acceptance to public scrutiny of both process and analysis of substantive issues.
I want to conclude by saying that the Reform Party strongly desires to bring about closure to outstanding grievances so that aboriginals and non-aboriginals, Canadians all, can move forward as true equals and partners. It is our desire that Canadians move forward into the next millennium, not backward to the attitudes and prejudices of the past. In order to do this, government needs to re-examine many fundamental assumptions it has been operating on for decades.
The way to righting wrongs and having a fresh start is not through unfocused spending and the creation of special rights and privileges which serve only to degrade the rights of others. We cannot purchase equality nor buy an end to injustice. If it were only that easy. These things can only come about by a change of heart and spirit and this nation desperately needs renewal of spirit.
Inequality breeds injustice, suspicion and prejudice. If this government continues on its present course, there will not be greater equality. It will be diminished as will hope for the justice which so many aboriginals are crying out for today.
Aboriginal Canadians continue to experience an ever greater sense of dislocation and isolation from the rest of Canada and the sense of being fully Canadian. I know this is clearly not what the majority of Canadians want.
In closing, I want to point out to this House that Mr. Mandela referred to Canadians as a people. Why can Canadians not refer to themselves as a people? Why can they not do the same? I believe that this Prime Minister and his government have at certain times had a vision of Canadians as a people united and equal. On June 6, 1994 in his address to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on Juno Beach in Normandy, France, the Prime Minister spoke these ringing phrases:
On the beach behind us, Canadians gave their lives So the world would be a better place. In death they were neither anglophones nor francophones, not from the West or the East, not Christians or Jews, not aboriginal peoples or immigrants. They were Canadians.
Let us not simply consecrate a foreign battlefield on which Canadians died with words like these. If we who share this land can die together as Canadians, why can we not also live together as Canadians?
This government must regain sight of this vision of Canada. It must regain it with respect to this piece of legislation, to land claim and treaty negotiations, as well as with respect to its overall fiduciary responsibilities to aboriginal Canadians.
It is impossible to move ahead while dwelling on the past. A weak and halting apology has been extended. Forgiveness, however grudgingly accepted, was given. It is time now time for all Canadians to move on into the next century as one people, united in the principle of equality and strengthened by freedom and truth.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:
Bill C-49, an act providing for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.
First Nations Land Management Act
David Iftody Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to continue the debate on second reading of Bill C-49, the first nations land management act.
This bill gives us the opportunity to deliver on a vision that the government articulated in January when we responded to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. This is a bill that puts into action the vision outlined in “Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan”. We said that gathering strength was about addressing the needs of communities. We said it was about building a real partnership with aboriginal people. We said it was about working closely together with aboriginal peoples to define that relationship and shape a common vision of that relationship between us.
The bill before us delivers on that vision. It seeks to ratify the framework agreement of first nations land management signed by the first nations who have been working patiently, persistently and with tremendous commitment over the past seven years to establish this new land management regime.
The framework agreement was negotiated government to government by the department and these first nations. Provincial governments directly impacted by the framework agreement were consulted closely throughout the process. The agreement will end the control imposed by the Indian Act on how these first nations manage their lands. It is about putting the daily management of their own affairs into their own hands. In other words, it is about empowerment.
The Indian Act is a complex piece of legislation and first nations feel very strongly about it. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recognizes that complexity in its own report. The Indian Act is paternalistic. At the same time, it confers recognition that first nations have, contrary to what the hon. member was suggesting here earlier, a unique legal position in Canada which includes a special relationship with the federal government.
There are always ways to get away from some of the more intrusive provisions of the Indian Act without changing that special relationship and that is part of the purpose of the bill before us. It ratifies a framework agreement on first nations land management in which 14 first nations move out from those sections of the Indian Act dealing with land management. The regime represented in this legislation would provide first nations with control over their land and indeed natural resources.
As outlined in this bill, first nations will develop a land code that will set the basic mechanisms for governance, laws that govern land, accountability and interest in lands and resources. Each first nation will enter into an individual agreement with Canada to determine a level of operational funding for land management and to set out the specifics of transition to the new regime. Once this bill is passed and once the land code is in effect and the agreement in place, the land management provisions of the Indian Act will no longer apply to these communities.
First nations authority will apply on first nations land. First nations will control the issues of leases, licences and other interests in their lands. They will also have the commensurate and compatible authority to enforce their laws by creating offences punishable on summary conviction and a range of remedies. They will be able to establish enforcement procedures including the appointment of justices of the peace to deal with offences against first nations land laws. First nations will retain and manage revenue money from the land transactions for which they will be accountable to their members.
The bill withdraws the expropriation provisions in section 35 of the Indian Act. It ensures there will be no loss of first nations lands through sale or expropriation.
In negotiating the framework agreement, first nations have provided for a series of democratic accountability that will ensure that communities will have a vote before the land codes are implemented.
For the first time the agreement will also provide for the implementation of environmental regulations on their land. These regulations will be harmonized with those in effect in the province in which the community is located.
For these first nations the framework agreement ends a system where officials in my department have considerable involvement and authority in day to day land management issues. It ends a system where ministerial approval must be sought even for routine transactions such as the issuance of licences and permits.
The Indian Act contains provisions regarding the purposes for which lands may be used. It controls the rights of individual first nations peoples in possession of reserve lands and the surrender and designation of reserve lands. It controls the management of reserves, surrendered and designated lands and other matters. It gives the minister wide ranging discretion regarding the use of reserve lands and resources. It gives the governor in council the right to grant a first nation powers to control and manage land in the reserve. However, at the same time it may withdraw that right at any time.
The land management provisions of the Indian Act have caused delays for first nations that want to proceed with economic development projects in their communities. Some have wanted, for example, to develop forest companies. We are told that even today possibly up to 50 memorandums of understanding exist between first nations and mining companies to exploit these opportunities in their communities.
Others have wanted to develop shopping centres but because of the red tape imposed by the Indian Act, first nations, the federal government and third parties, in other words business interests and private interests, have often been frustrated by these interminable delays. Transactions that off reserve might take a matter of weeks can go on for months when they involve first nations land.
As a result, many opportunities are lost and communities are denied the chance to realize their hopes for economic prosperity and freedom within the boundaries of their own communities.
There is no reason why the minister needs to be involved in these day to day operations and in the management of these reserve lands. Those decisions ought to be made at the local level.
The framework agreement in this legislation gives the community the option of taking control over the reserve lands and resources. These first nations want to get on with creating jobs and economic growth in their communities without having to turn to the minister or my department for approval.
This regime places first nations in the position of managing their lands and resources to strengthen and sustain their communities. This is what the framework agreement gives them the authority to do.
With respect to the Indian Act, I realize there is a legislative gap concerning matrimonial property issues. Therefore to address this very important matter, on June 9 the minister announced the establishment of an independent fact finding process to investigate the issue of matrimonial property as it relates to reserve lands. Letters of invitation have been sent to our partners to participate in the meeting where in partnership we could define the terms of reference and the time lines for the process. We look forward to making a further announcement on this initiative in the near future.
I remind the House that although the framework agreement applies to first nations that have signed it, other first nations are watching closely to see how effective the new regime will be in getting those communities out from under the paternalism of the Indian Act and creating positive opportunities in their communities.
The provisions in this agreement and the legislation before us could well become a model for other agreements in the near future.
As a result of the interest expressed by other first nations to participate in the new land management regime, a provision has been included to permit other first nations to be added to this bill through order in council.
However, before the regime is open to other first nations we will review the language of the bill.
As this House is aware, federal laws must apply equally in both common law and civil code in both official languages. None of the 14 first nations are in the province of Quebec and therefore the civil code does not apply to them.
My department has agreed that the formal review will be undertaken during the 12 months and the revision to the legislation resulting from this review will be included in the harmonization act which my colleague the Minister of Justice will introduce.
However, this will not take place until the provinces have been thoroughly and properly consulted and we have reviewed this regime within 12 months of its operation.
In the meantime, it is important that first nations get on with the job of developing and ratifying their land codes and individual agreements with the government. It is important that first nations get on with the job of building their economies on the strength of the new land management regime.
The benefits of this legislation will be far reaching. It will affect not only first nations communities but will also benefit the people, businesses and government that have sought to build a stronger relationship, a stronger partnership, with these first nation communities.
Most of all, this legislation will benefit the first nations themselves. It will give them greater autonomy and control over land and revenue monies. It will create new opportunities for economic development and strengthen the capacity and expertise in first nations communities across the country. It will help create a foundation of self-government and in this way it delivers on the commitments made in our aboriginal action plan “Gathering Strength”.
I want to say a few words in appreciation for the first nations leaders, some of them in Ottawa this week, who have negotiated the framework agreement and seen it through. They have my deepest respect and admiration for their tenacity and determination. The first nations leaders had a goal and they did not waver in pursuing it. The leaders led this process. This is a first nations initiative driven by leadership, vision and commitment to their own people.
I urge the House, particularly the Reform Party, to support this legislation which ratifies the framework agreement that makes the first nations vision a reality.
First Nations Land Management Act
Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak today to Bill C-49. I am delighted because it is one we were no longer expecting. We had been talking about this bill for a long time but nothing was happening. I was even told yesterday or the day before that there was only about a 50% chance that this bill would be debated on Friday.
So, imagine my surprise this morning at learning, with great delight, that Bill C-49 was on the Order Paper. Naturally, my speech was ready. Native peoples also told me there was some urgency in having this bill introduced.
I would like to thank the parliamentary leaders who arranged to have this bill come up as early as today. This week, I met with native people, who made representations to me. I even invited them here in the lobby. We are very happy to have the bill now before us.
I thank the leaders who understood the urgency of the situation and who presented the bill finally, today.
This bill follows directly from the framework agreement signed in February 1996. What is original about it is that it applies to 14 native communities scattered across the country. It is a fairly unique bill. Bills usually apply to one nation or sometimes to a number of communities, but this one concerns 14 communities across the country. I have here a list of the communities, which are scattered through British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.
In British Columbia, we have the first nations of Westbank, Musqueam, Squamish, Lheidli T'enneh and N'Quatqua.
In Alberta, we only have the Siksika nation, but this is a great nation to which I will get back later on, because I had the privilege of meeting its members when I traveled to that region. I will elaborate a little more on the Siksika who is, in my opinion, one of Canada's great nations.
In Saskatchewan, we have the first nations of Muskoday and Cowessess. In Manitoba, we have the Opaskwayak Cree. In Ontario, we have the Nipissing, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island, the Chippewas of Georgina Island and the Chippewas of Mnjikaning. In New Brunswick, we have the first nation of Saint Mary's.
Bill C-49 is an act on first nation land management which will allow first nations to establish their own land and natural resources management system.
There is a part in the Indian Act that deals with land management. What is unusual about this bill is precisely the fact that the Indian Act will no longer apply to these lands, which will now come under the legislation before us.
There were some absurd things in the Indian Act, particularly the part dealing with land management. People had to obtain the federal government's approval to sell grain or to raise and sell cattle. As we know, the Indian Act is a century-old act and it is obsolete. Of course, it would be very difficult to scrap this act.
Eliminating the act leaves nothing in the way of a legal guarantee. Aboriginal people are therefore stuck with an outmoded piece of legislation which affords them a minimum of protection. But it is heart-warming to see bills like the one before us today come along, because whole sections of the Indian Act will no longer apply to these 14 nations in particular. This means one more step toward aboriginal self-government.
The Indian Act will, however, continue to apply in all other areas. As I said, the minister will no longer have the discretionary power to say “No, you cannot sell wheat. No, you cannot sell cattle.” Of course, the ministers have been far more attuned to what was going on in the communities in recent years. I do not think any minister would have been so heavy-handed as to forbid them to sell grain or cattle.
At the present time, however, that is the way the act is worded. The principle we are considering will enable aboriginal people to get out from under this outmoded part of the act.
When we have a bill that gives more autonomy than the Indian Act, which means that certain specific chapters of that act no longer apply, consultation with the communities generally takes place. According to the details we have at present, there was such consultation. These nations are fully in favour of Bill C-49.
As I said at the beginning, not only are they in agreement with the bill, but they are also urging us to see that it goes through quickly.
I find the reaction of the Reform Party rather disappointing. This summer, I believe the chief of First Nations met with the leader of the Reform Party in an attempt to explain to him the need for a different attitude toward the aboriginal people. For example, the Reform Party refers to the white paper from the time when the present Prime Minister was Minister of Indian Affairs, saying “what was wanted at that time was a Canada that was uniform from coast to coast”. That is not our philosophy. We in the Bloc Quebecois believe in the principle of founding peoples, the Quebec people and the peoples in the rest of Canada. The aboriginal people are being forgotten, when statements are made like “In such and such a year the Liberals introduced a white paper—this much is true—which made the aboriginal people full-fledged citizens”. They tried to do this, however, by bringing them into Canadian society and destroying their culture, their language and their way of life. By that very fact, there was no recognition that these nations were founding peoples, exactly the same, in my view, as the Quebec people and the people in the rest of Canada.
This kind of approach is unfortunate and we are naturally taking the opportunity to state our opposition to it.
There are certain problems with the bill, including the issue of what happens in cases of marriage breakdown. Aboriginals will have to address the issue of division of property in cases of marriage breakdown. Unfortunately, there is a sort of legal vacuum right now when a couple decides to separate. Provincial laws do not apply on reserves and there is nothing in the Indian Act covering these cases.
We therefore have certain questions about the provisions of the bill to which I will come back a bit later.
The Bloc Quebecois is going to support the underlying principles of Bill C-49 because we see them as another step towards the economic development and in particular the autonomy of aboriginals. We point out regularly in our speeches that aboriginals are in a situation of dependence, which has created all sorts of problems on the reserves and among the people.
Aboriginals are not found only on reserves. There are just as many of them off reserves as on. There are major housing problems, for instance, which drive people away from reserves. According to the statistics, almost 40% of status Indians no longer live on reserves.
A bill that stresses greater autonomy and self-government will have the support of the Bloc Quebecois. Autonomy can take several forms. Self-government is often mentioned. Self-government is important but, unless it is accompanied by economic development, it leads nowhere.
This is why bills introduced in the House will often address both issues: self-government as well as land claims.
We saw it in the case of the Yukon a few years ago, when people came to study the bill before the House, which dealt not only with self-government but also with land claims allowing them to achieve financial independence so they could finally break away from the federal government.
This is the gist of the bill. That is, it moves away from the Indian Act and introduces other notions on the management of their own lands.
White people and native people see things differently. When native people speak of lands, their idea is that the land belongs to everyone and exists to be shared. This is in fact what guided initial relations between native peoples and the new arrivals, the Europeans who arrived here in Canada. The native peoples had no objection to letting the whites take certain lands, cultivate them and raise livestock.
Even now, on the reserves, land is held collectively, whereas we see things a bit differently. The way we see it is that the land belongs to us. When we buy land, we quickly have it surveyed and registered and have the deed signed. A whole lot of planning goes into making it known that this tract of land is ours. Sometimes we go so far as to fence it in. Native people see it all very differently. They see it more collectively, with the land belonging to everyone.
I think I have explained enough why this bill should be passed quickly, and the Bloc Quebecois will of course help to get it passed.
I was saying earlier that, in democratic terms, I see no problem. The 14 communities were consulted on this bill, and they agree on the need to act quickly.
I also told you I would get back to the issue of marriage breakdown. This is an important issue for aboriginal women. There is a history to this bill and to the issues concerning women.
Bill C-75, introduced in 1997, did not include any provision on marriage breakdown. I will tell you later the story of some women and women's groups who went to court to challenge the fact that the bill did not include provisions to help settle the issue in case of marriage breakdown.
Unfortunately, Bill C-75 died on the Order Paper when the previous Parliament came to an end. However, the Bloc Quebecois decided, with the support of some parties in the House, to quickly bring back that legislation during this Parliament and to ensure its swift passage because, as I indicated earlier, of the urgent nature of the situation.
Given the court challenge and the quick reintroduction of the bill before the House, government officials and aboriginal representatives looked at provisions that could be included in the bill to achieve the objective of protecting aboriginal women in case of marriage breakdown.
Let me read clause 17 of the bill, which is aimed at correcting this flaw in the initial bill.
- (1) A first nation shall, in accordance with the Framework Agreement and following the community consultation process provided for in its land code, establish general rules and procedures, in cases of breakdown of marriage, respecting the use, occupation and possession of first nation land and the division of interests in first nation land.
Bill C-75, which has now become Bill C-49, was amended to provide for a community consultation process to establish the land code that will include a mechanism in case of marriage breakdown.
Of course, that procedure may not be comprehensive and it may not be the same everywhere, because the 14 first nations will ultimately have to prepare their own land code. I could add that there will be up to 12 months for incorporating rules concerning breakdown of marriage in the land code.
I wanted to touch on the women's objections, to which I have already referred. One of the ways women's groups reacted to the first reading of the bill last June was by writing to the Globe and Mail . These groups included the British Columbia Native Women's Society and the Native Women's Association of Canada, headed by my good friend Marilyn Buffalo. Their reaction was “While we realize you have made an effort with clause 17 to include procedures in the event of marriage breakdown, what is there does not suit us in the least”. They decided to file an injunction to get the courts to block the bill.
The case has not yet been heard. The bill is currently under consideration. Although there has been no court decision, it seems to me that it would be hard for the women to block the proceedings of the House of Commons with a court order. That is not part of our tradition, but we do need to realize that they have objections and that clause 17, which I have just read, needs to be tightened up considerably.
I raised this human rights matter with the chair of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Mrs. Falardeau-Ramsay, whom I had the pleasure of meeting—last year, I think it was—in a delegation to Geneva. She indicated to me that she was a bit uncomfortable with the fact that aboriginal women were in a kind of legal vacuum at the moment. In the event of marriage breakdown, they are forced to leave the reserve and to leave all their family heritage behind.
Quebec has family heritage legislation, called in fact la Loi du patrimoine familial, with provisions for marriage breakdown. As I was saying, this does not apply on the reserve, however. These women are, therefore, left in a legal vacuum and an effort absolutely must be made to correct this.
However, as I told women's groups, we cannot, as a matter of principle, in the case of a bill providing greater autonomy to first nations, oppose the legislation on the grounds that the provision dealing with them may not be supportive enough of their cause.
We must not block Bill C-49 on the grounds that its provisions are not specific enough.
The minister did react to the legal challenge. She decided to set up some commission to take a more comprehensive look at the issue and to avoid having women's groups block each of the bills on native issues when they are introduced in the House. The minister struck a committee to look at what happens when a marriage breaks down on a native reserve.
In so doing, the minister acknowledged the existence of a legal vacuum. Therefore, I ask her to act quickly regarding this issue. When we inquired about the progress made regarding that commission, we were told that the investigator had not even been appointed yet. I remember reading a press release—in July or August—in which the minister announced that this commission would be established. Now, several months later, that commission has not even begun its work.
I therefore urge the minister to speed up the process in this regard. Whenever a bill dealing with native issues is introduced in the House, there is a risk that it could be systematically opposed, because the basic issue was not settled.
The Bloc Quebecois will, in parliamentary committee, take a close look at clause 17, which I read earlier and which deals with the breakdown of marriages. The approach is innovative, and concerns land management. The provisions of the Indian Act are being replaced because they are very restrictive. The government is now proposing a bill and a land code that will allow first nations not only to manage the resources on their lands, but also to decide how they wish to dispose of such lands.
This week, for example, I met representatives from one reserve who will have to renew their leases next March. So members can just imagine, if the bill is not passed, what a hard time they will have renewing, because they will have to come before the House of Commons, the minister and cabinet to obtain permission to continue the leases. The idea with this land code is that it will no longer be necessary to seek the minister's permission.
Another provision of the bill concerns expropriation. This was and remains a hateful provision. The law is antiquated. It has existed for some 100 years. Right now, a municipality, a province or the federal government can say “We want to expropriate part of the reserve”.
Before a major tribunal known as the specific native claims tribunal, which reports to the House of Commons and where most cases were heard, a municipality would decide at one point “We have finished cutting down the forest at this point, we would now like to encroach on the reserve. We request permission to expropriate the reserve or part of it so we can continue our work”. This sort of request was almost always automatically granted, resulting in great injustice and the fact that we had to go to court or before commissions in order to untangle these things and return to the native peoples the land that belonged to them.
So this bill puts paid to injustice. The minister of Indian affairs is now the only one who can and, if she does so, she will have to provide land or financial compensation with the approval of the reserve.
The government is trying, clearly. We can no longer allow municipalities or provinces for different, often valid, reasons to expropriate part of a reserve. That period is over.
The bill also contains provisions for environmental assessment plans.
I think it is important to mention that, if ever a group was respectful of the environment, it is certainly aboriginals. However, when giving them responsibility for land management, care must be taken to harmonize environmental legislation. Naturally, we cannot allow standards on a reserve to be well below those in a neighbouring village subject to provincial laws. The land code will resolve this.
There will also be a procedure for harmonizing environmental legislation, so that standards on the reserves and in the province will be largely the same. There is even provision for the provinces affected, because many are affected by the bill, to be involved in the planning of any subsidiary environmental agreements.
As for the structure of the land management agreement, it was first proposed by chiefs in 1987. There were several negotiations. I would even go so far as to say that we are surprised that any agreement at all has been reached after eleven years. It seems like a relatively long time. Other bills introduced in the House have also been a long time coming; the Yukon bill, for instance, has taken 21 years.
Negotiations with aboriginals are still taking place today and have been for 30 years. It has been an on-again, off-again process. Ten years is quite a long time. That is why it is important that today we give aboriginals what they need.
I also wish to point out the agreement is not a treaty and that it will not be protected under section 35. This is a bill that leaves participation optional. Right now, this means that 14 first nations are covered in the bill and listed in the schedule, but other first nations will always be able to say that, having examined Bill C-49, they too would like to manage their lands.
There are several ways this could come about. As I have said, it could be through self-government and land claims. They could also say that they have lands and that they wish to take part in the process and manage their lands without relying on the provisions of the Indian Act.
I have spoken with first nations' representatives and they are not always aware of what is going on elsewhere, so they find this a highly practical approach, and to their liking. Some first nations are in fact involved in exploring the possibility of adopting the same type of land management arrangement.
I think it is important to speak of the 14 first nations involved, at this point. I listed them quickly already, but I would now like to give a brief historical overview of each. They are the ground-breakers, the ones that decided to move ahead toward self-government. I feel it is important to give the House a brief rundown on each of them.
First, there are the Siksika, of Alberta. They are a very sizeable community in Alberta, with 2,795 members living on the reserve and another 1,635 living off the reserve. As I have already said, close to 40% of aboriginal people have left the reserve for one reason or another. The reserves are getting over-crowded. Aboriginal demographics are such that the population is growing twice as fast as the Canadian population as a whole, and so people are being systematically forced off the reserve. This is what has happened with the Siksika.
Their language is part of the Algonquian family of languages. Present-day Edmonton and Calgary are on their land. They administer a number of programs. Theirs is a beautiful area. I had the pleasure of visiting this great people, and they took me to see a sacred mountain that is currently the object of a land claim, Castle Mountain, in Banff National Park.
This situation continues to be of concern to them. Incidentally, I would like the Siksikas listening today to know that their file is still with me, and we are still trying to settle the dispute. What they would like is for the part of Banff Park where the sacred mountain is located to be aboriginal territory. I feel this would be in the best interests of both aboriginal people and whites. This is a beautiful area, and having a sacred mountain on aboriginal land within it might be of great interest to the white population.
We speak of “aboriginal lands” but they do not have the same concept of property as we do. It is not a question of fencing in a surveyed lot, or something else that has been registered with a land office. For them, there is the concept of sharing. They want to share Banff National Park, which has moreover always been part of their land claim, and they want this mountain to be theirs. I mention this in passing, because I felt it was important to raise this issue and wanted them to know it is not a dead issue.
The Muskoday First Nation reserve is located 19 kilometres southeast of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. It covers 23,832 acres. Here again, 411 members live on the reserve and 623 live off the reserve, which confirms the trend that 40% of aboriginal people live off the reserve.
Their economy is mainly agriculture-based, hence the importance of passing this bill so that they may lease or develop their lands and to make use of them without being constrained by the Indian Act.
The other first nation in Saskatchewan, the Cowessess, also makes its living from agriculture and tourism. Its population totals 2,544, 411 on the reserve and 1,133 off the reserve.
The Chippewas of Georgina Island are located in the county of York—Simcoe, north of Toronto. Historically, these are the descendants of a larger band, the Chippewas of Lake Huron and Lake Simcoe. In 1818, the Chippewas gave up a large parcel of their land south of Georgian Bay. In 1830, Sir John Colborne settled them on lands between Coldwater and Lake Couchiching.
They subsequently divided into three separate bands. One group went to Georgina Island around 1838, another went to Beausoleil Island in 1842 and the chief of the Yellowhead and his band went to Rama in 1838. The reserve was confirmed with the Williams treaty of 1923.
Although 81% of the population speaks English, most form part of the Algonquian family of languages, but few have kept their language.
The Mississaugas of Scugog Island, like the Chippewa of Georgina Island, have been displaced a number of times. This big reserve measures some 1,951,000 acres. On two occasions they gave up part of their lands. Their reserve, like the others, was confirmed by the Williams treaty in 1923.
The Ojibways may be found in Ontario, in the great lakes region. I will shortly be speaking in a few aboriginal languages. I have asked for the translation of a passage I particularly wanted to read. A number of communities have sent remarks, which I will read, along with their translation. I hope I will be forgiven if I have difficulty getting my tongue around some words, as some things are quite hard to pronounce. However, I think that they will enjoy having an MP wishing them good luck in the House in their own language.
I would also like to mention the Westbank first nation, because the chief, Robert Louie, is directing the operations concerning the bill before us. I raised the problem of marriage breakup. It was about his first nation that the supreme court—in 1981, I think—gave its first decision in Derrickson. Mrs. Derrickson is Robert Louie's mother-in-law. The supreme court was forced to acknowledge a legal void, that, in the case of a marriage breakup, provincial law did not apply and the Indian Act contained no provision to settle the problem.
I think it important to talk to you about the Westbank first nation, because Mrs. Derrickson, who behind the Derrickson decision of 1981, comes from there. This first nation is situated in the Okanagan valley.
This summer, I travelled to British Columbia. Unfortunately, Mrs. Derrickson was ill and I was unable to visit Robert Louie, but there will be another time and I look forward to going back.
I realize that time is running out and that, since there are 14 nations, it would take a while to give the history of each one, and I do not wish to go over my allotted time.
I wanted to say, in various native languages, what our wishes for aboriginals are. Since I have eight minutes left, I think I can manage.
I have four translations to read. Please bear with me as I try to get my tongue around them, because Ojibway, Cree, Salishan and another passage in Ojibway are involved. My pronunciation may not be completely perfect, but I did want to say a few words in these languages to wish aboriginals well.
What I am about to say in these native languages can be summarized as follows.
The Bloc Quebecois is always supportive of aboriginals in their quest for greater autonomy. This bill furthers that quest and we wish the 14 communities involved the best of luck.
I sometimes make life difficult for the interpreters when I speak a native language. I will now try to speak Cree.
I will be attempting to say the same in Salishan, which is used by the Squamish nation on the west coast; it was they who sent me the translation of my text.
It took only a few seconds to read the passage aloud in French but, when we were sent the translations, we were told that there are many more figuratives in aboriginal languages. That is why each translation takes a little longer to read.
Next comes Ojibway. This covers the whole Great Lakes area in Ontario. The Objibways sent me a translation of the same message. Theirs reads as follows:
“Mnaabmewziding” means “good luck”.
I have one last message in Ojibway, but it is in a different dialect spoken by the Chippewas of Georgina Island. It was sent to me by Chief William McCue, to whom I send my best wishes.
Members will understand not only that the Bloc Quebecois supports the bill, but that it will try to ensure its quick passage, so that these people can be released as quickly as possible from the provisions of the Indian Act, and can achieve financial autonomy and self-government, and also deal with land claims. They will thus be able to live a life that will be far removed from the current dependency on the government.
Finally, I wish them good luck in their new venture.