Debates of April 20th, 1998
House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.
- National Head Start Program
- Nunavut Act
- Armenian People
- National Textiles Week
- Cancer Awareness Month
- Ytv Youth Achievement Awards
- Multilateral Agreement On Investment
- Canadian Flag
- Ethos Radio
- The Senate
- Fernand Labrie
- Parti Quebecois
- Hepatitis C
- The Senate
- C.D. Howe Institute
- National Volunteer Week
- National Organ Donor Week
- Correctional Service Canada
- Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis C
- C. D. Howe Institute
- Young Offenders Act
- Cigarette Prices
- Young Offenders Act
- Hepatitis C
- Year 2000
- International Development
- Acquisition Of Submarines
- Persons With Disabilities
- Corporate Taxation
- Order In Council Appointments
- Government Response To Petitions
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Request For Emergency Debate
- Business Of The House
- Nunavut Act
Business Of The House
Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
Business Of The House
Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to)
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-39, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
April 20th, 1998 / 3:15 p.m.
Preston Manning Leader of the Opposition
Mr. Speaker, I want to resume the discussion of this bill, in particular the subject of Senate reform.
Since I spoke this morning two interesting things have happened in the House. The first was that we saw a Bloc member run out of the House carrying his chair. I have not witnessed this before. During the election I had a speech, actually, on “To whom does this seat belong?” One of my lines was that some members think it belongs to them, but I never expected to see it taken quite that literally.
The second incident was that the member for Wentworth—Burlington made a statement in an S. O. 31 knocking my earlier comments on Senate reform. I just want to say that I understand the member for Wentworth—Burlington is upset today. One of the newspapers mistakenly confused him with a senator from New Brunswick of the same name. In some countries a member of the lower house would be pleased to be confused and mistaken as a senator, but this member went to great lengths to distance himself from that connection. This is yet another argument in support of Senate reform.
When we broke for question period I was in the process of reading into the record the Reform draft constitutional amendment to reform the Senate of Canada, dated May 17, 1988. I can continue to read this into the record, however, I would like to again seek the consent of the House to dispense with actually reading it and to have it recorded in Hansard as read if there is unanimous consent for doing that just to save time.
Ordinarily we would not ask the same question, but we are here now. The hon. Leader of the Opposition has told us of the intent of a motion that he would put forward. Does he have permission to put the motion?
Some hon. members
Peter Adams Peterborough, ON
Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB
I am reading into the record the proposed constitutional amendment of May 17, 1988. I will pick up on section 21.
The Upper House, styled the Senate, constituted by Section 17 of this Act, shall be comprised of 108 members called Senators who shall be drawn from throughout Canada and elected in accordance with the provisions of Sections 22 and 23.
(1) Each of the Provinces of Canada is at all times entitled to be represented in the Senate by 10 Senators and the Yukon and Northwest Territories are each entitled to be represented by 4 Senators.
(2) Any province which may be created, pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, after this section comes into force, shall on and after its creation be entitled to be represented in the Senate by 10 Senators.
- (1) Senators shall be chosen by the people of each Province and Territory through popular elections held throughout Canada in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in sub-section 5, Senators shall be elected for a term of 6 years and Senators shall be eligible for re-election.
(3) Senate elections shall be held throughout Canada on the last Monday of October every three years.
(4) The first election, hereinafter referred to as “the initial election”, will be held on the last Monday of October not less than one year nor more than two years after this provision comes into force.
(5) One half of the Senators elected from each Province and Territory at the initial election shall be elected for a term of 3 years and the balance of the Senators elected at the initial election shall be elected for a term of 6 years.
(6) The Legislature of a province or territory shall divide the Province or Territory into senatorial electoral districts, having special regard to geographical considerations, and determine the number of Senators to be chosen from each district.
(7) The election of Senators shall be based on the single transferable ballot method of election.
(8) The Legislature of a Province or Territory shall make laws in relation to procedures for the election of Senators within that Province or Territory, the financing of elections, the funding of election campaigns, and the nomination of candidates.
(9) The Parliament of Canada may, except as is otherwise provided in sub-section (8) of this Part, make laws in relation to procedures for the election of Senators.
- Any person is eligible to be elected as a Senator for a Province or Territory if that person:
(a) is a Canadian citizen;
(b) is of the full age of 18 years at the date of the election;
(c) has been ordinarily resident within that Province or Territory for an aggregate period of at least five years during the ten years immediately preceding the election and is resident within that Province or Territory at the date of the election; and
(d) has not been a member of the House of Commons or a Legislative Assembly for a period of one year prior to the date of the election.
A Senator shall not be a member of the Governor General in Council, or a director, officer, or member of a federal crown corporation, board, commission, agency or tribunal.
(1) If a vacancy occurs in the Senate, not more than two years from the date of the election, then such vacancy shall be filled through a by-election.
(2) The term of a Senator elected at a by-election shall be for the unexpired term of the Senator whose seat was vacated.
The Senate is empowered to establish its own procedures for the election of the Speaker of the Senate and for the conduct of its business.
(1) Bills proposed to Parliament, other than Bills for appropriating any part of the public revenue or for imposing any tax or impost, may originate in the Senate equally as in the House of Commons.
(2) A bill shall not be taken to appropriate revenue, or to impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand of payment or appropriation of fees for licences or services.
A Bill certified by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate as being a Bill to appropriate money solely for the ordinary annual essential services of the government shall be presented to but need not be passed by the Senate.
A defeat of a government sponsored Bill, motion, or resolution in the Senate shall not constitute a vote of non-confidence in the government so as to require the government's resignation.
(1) Where any Bill that has been passed by the House of Commons and presented to the Senate
(a) has been refused passage by the Senate, or
(b) has not been finally dealt with by the Senate and not less than 60 days have elapsed since the Bill was presented to the Senate of which at least 45 days were days in which Parliament was sitting, or
(c) has been amended by the Senate and the House of Commons has duly advised the Senate that it does not concur in all or some of the amendments made by the Senate,
the Bill, in the form in which it was presented to the Senate but with such amendments made by the Senate as may be concurred in by the House of Commons in the case of a Bill to which clause (c) applies, may be referred by the Speaker of either House to the Reconciliation Committee for the purpose of seeking to reconcile the differences and seek a mutually acceptable compromise.
(2) A joint standing committee known as the Reconciliation Committee which shall be composed of ten Senators and ten members of the House of Commons is hereby established for the purpose of this Section.
(3) The Senate and the House of Commons shall elect from among its members persons to be appointed to the Reconciliation Committee established pursuant to this section.
(4) This section shall apply equally, with the necessary changes, to Bills that have been first passed by the Senate.
- (1) No appointment of a person
(a) to be a Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada;
(b) to be an officer, director, or member of any federal Crown Corporation, Board, Commission, Agency, or Tribunal, having a regional impact, including those set forth in the Appendix
shall have effect until such time as the appointment of that person has been affirmed by the Senate.
(2) If no action is taken by the Senate after 30 sitting days of a nomination being referred to it, then the appointment shall be deemed to have been affirmed by the Senate.
(3) The Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate together shall determine those federal Crown Corporations, Boards, Commissions, Agencies, and Tribunals which, in addition to those in the Appendix, have a regional impact.
- The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution Act, 1867, is repealed and the following substituted therefor:
OATH OF ALLEGIANCE
This is a revised oath of allegiance for the Senate:
I,—, do swear, That I will faithfully represent the people of the electoral district of—who have elected me to represent them in the Senate of Canada [or as the case may be], and be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
Then follows a declaration of qualification, modified in accordance with section 24, and an appendix which reads:
Select Crown Corporations, Boards, Commissions, Agencies, or Tribunals, for example:
Bank of Canada
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian International Development Agency
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Canadian Transport Commission
Canadian Wheat Board
Export Development Corporation
Federal Business Development Bank
National Energy Board
National Harbours Commission
National Parole Board
St. Lawrence Seaway Authority
We have therefore read into the record this 1988 constitutional amendment to reform the Senate of Canada along the lines of a triple E Senate.
I want to point out to members that this amendment provided for a 108 member elected Senate: 10 members per province and 4 per territory.
In the hearings that accompanied this amendment's development we also found considerable support for six to eight senators per province, a smaller Senate, and one per territory, with considerable debate over whether equality per province or equality per region was preferable.
This amendment also provided for half the senators to be elected every three years to six year terms by a single transferable ballot method of election.
The Reform amendment provided further for the division of each province and territory into senatorial districts in order to ensure genuine regional representation and to ensure that the upper house was not a mirror image of the lower house.
The 1988 triple E amendment required that a senator should not be able to hold office in the cabinet or accept other federal appointments in order to secure greater independence of the Senate from the House and from the Office of the Prime Minister.
The amendment also provided for free votes in the Senate so that it would not become a House of the parties, which has become one of the big problems with the Australian Upper House, and stipulated that a defeat of a government sponsored bill, motion or resolution in the Senate would not constitute a vote of non-confidence in the government so as to require the government to resign.
This amendment provided for the Senate to be coequal with the House in terms of powers, which of course is theoretically the case at the present time. It provided for a reconciliation committee based on the West German model to resolve deadlocks.
In the view of western Reformers, if the Senate deadlocked over a bill like the Petroleum Administration Act, which was the centrepiece of the national energy program, and could find no way to reconcile the conflicting interests, it would be better for Canada if the legislation was not passed than to have discriminatory legislation passed.
Finally, the 1988 triple E constitutional amendment required that appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada and to crown corporations, boards, commissions, agencies and tribunals having regional impacts and listed in an appendix be affirmed by the reformed Senate.
To pick up our story of the trail of Senate reform in the west, fortified by the Senate reform initiatives of the Alberta legislature, the Senate reform initiatives of the Reform Party, the work of the Canadian committee for a triple E Senate and the research of the Canada West Foundation, Alberta moved toward the next big milestone on the western trail to Senate reform.
This was the Alberta Senate election of 1989 in which over 600,000 Albertans were persuaded to participate. If anyone thinks it is an easy task to persuade 600,000 people to do something they have not done before, they ought to participate in that exercise. In that election Reformer Stan Waters received over 257,000 votes to become Canada's first democratically selected Senate nominee.
I would like to point out that is the largest number of votes that any member of this Parliament ever received. Of course it was large because his constituency was province wide. However, 257,000 people said that that individual should sit in the Parliament of Canada. Eight months later in June 1990 a reluctant Brian Mulroney was finally persuaded to actually accept the results of this democratic election and appoint Stan Waters to the Senate of Canada.
All of this history, all of these milestones on the western trail to Senate reform are detailed in chapter 11 of my 1992 book The New Canada . I record them here to make one simple, important point which is that most of the background work required to reform the Senate in the direction of greater accountability, equality and effectiveness has already been done.
I would argue that as much work has been put into this effort in western Canada over the last 20 years as has been put into defining Quebec's constitutional demands over the same period. However this effort has not received one-tenth of the attention of Quebec's constitutional demands. Why? Because it has not been accompanied by the threat of secession. It is now time that such attention was paid.
The immediate future presents new opportunities to pick up the western trail of Senate reform and move toward the objective of providing an accountable and effective Chamber in the national parliament to ensure regional representation and input into national decision making and legislation.
Let me first describe the opportunity and then issue a challenge, a challenge to the present senators, a challenge to the Prime Minister and the federal government and a challenge to this House, a challenge to act on the present opportunities.
The province of Alberta under the leadership of Premier Klein is in the process of reactivating its senatorial selection act. It is proposing to proceed with the conduct of a senatorial election this fall in conjunction with the Alberta municipal elections. It is proposing to elect two senators in waiting and as soon as there is an Alberta vacancy in the Senate, to then request the Prime Minister to appoint a democratically selected senator to fill the vacancy.
In proceeding along these lines, the premier and the legislature of Alberta are completely in tune with public opinion on this subject in that province. In late February of this year, an Environics West poll reported that 91% of Albertans surveyed said they wanted Alberta's next senator to be elected by all Albertans, compared to only 7% who favoured appointment by the Prime Minister and 2% who said they did not know. In proceeding along these lines, Albertans are rejecting the arguments by the intergovernmental affairs minister that an elected and equal Senate will not serve western interests.
The intergovernmental affairs minister argued three months ago that a Senate in which the Atlantic provinces held 40% of the seats, which would be the case under equal representation by province, or even 20% of the seats, which would be the case under equal representation per region, could easily outvote and frustrate representatives of Alberta's interests in a Senate in which Alberta's representation would at best amount to 10% of the seats. The minister said:
Today (that imbalance) is not important because the (appointed) Senate is not very influential. But the day they are elected, they want to be influential and then the under-representation of Alberta will be a problem. (Reformers) have to explain to Albertans why it would be good that eight per cent of Canadians (in the Atlantic provinces) would have 40 per cent of the seats.
I am sure members can see the flaw in that line of reasoning. One would wonder how this can happen after all the discussions on this subject. The minister's statement completely confuses representation by province with representation by population. We are not trying to get equality of representation by population in the Senate. We want that in this House. We are trying to get equality of representation by areas of province in the upper house and that has been the whole intent.
I should say that Albertans are also insulted by the insinuation that they have not thought this thing through or that they do not understand their own interests. Albertans do not share the intergovernmental affairs minister's negative opinion of Atlantic Canadian regional interest. Albertans do not see Atlantic Canada as forever dependent on or beholden to the federal government.
Albertans see in Atlantic Canada a region that suffers regional alienation from Ottawa and central Canada as much or more than western Canada. Albertans see for example the interests of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in the development and expansion of the east coast oil and gas industry. Albertans see in that not an opponent but a potential ally of the western provinces in protecting and advancing provincial control of natural resources. Albertans will take their chances in favour of stronger, not weaker, regional representation for Atlantic Canada in a reformed Senate.
In proceeding with the election of two standby senators Albertans are also rejecting the argument that step by step election of senators is inadvisable and that democratization of the Senate should be deferred until there is general support for electing all senators.
Albertans believe that a start, a first step however small down the road to a democratic Senate is better than no start at all. Every journey, as the proverb says, begins with a single step and the election of one senator, then two senators, then three will hopefully end in the election of all senators.
This of course is what happened in the United States where at one time senators were appointed by the state legislatures. Then the state of Oregon began to elect senators directly in 1907. For a short time the U.S. Senate contained a mixture of democratically elected senators and the others. The American public soon showed a distinct preference for directly electing their senators rather than having them appointed. In 1913 the U.S. Constitution was amended to provide for a fully democratically elected Senate.
This is why I wrote to each of the provincial premiers in February of this year outlining the Senate vacancies that will occur in their respective provinces in the near future. I urged each province to put in place its own senatorial selection act. If the federal government continues to drag its feet on democratization of the Senate as it drags its feet on every other proposed reform of federal institutions, then the provinces should take the initiative.
In proceeding with an Alberta Senate election this fall, Alberta is also dismissing as lamentable, even laughable, the Prime Minister's lame argument that the election of senators accountable to the people will prevent any further reforms to the Senate, in particular the achievement of equality.
The Senate has been inhabited exclusively for the past 131 years by appointed senators who have resisted every major proposal for reform. We can hardly do any worse. They have resisted proposals for greater effectiveness, greater accountability and greater equality. We can hardly have a more reform resistant Senate than the appointed one, particularly when that is combined with a Prime Minister who, while professing a commitment to Senate reform, invariably finds excuses for not proceeding.
Election is not wise because it will prevent equality says the Prime Minister. Equality will be difficult because Ontario and Quebec will never agree says the Prime Minister. Effectiveness is not attainable because accountability and equality are unattainable. Round and round we go. The time is not right for Senate reform, or the proposals are not right, or the provincial climate is not right, or the federal climate is not right, or the moon is not in the right phase. Excuses, excuses, excuses.
In the opinion of the official opposition, the time for such lame excuses is over. It is time for leadership and action.
I want to end this presentation of the case for Senate reform with a challenge to this Parliament and to the federal government.
First, to the current senators whom I will divide into the two categories of distinguished senators and the others. To the others, and you know who you are, your colleagues know who you are, and if we have anything to do with it the media and public will know who you are. To those senators who discredit the Senate by patronage connections or by unethical behaviour or by abysmal attendance records, or by sloth or by greed, or by the abuse of travel and expense accounts, by the blatant misuse of positions for purely partisan work, by the failure to be accountable to anyone, by the failure to represent regional aspirations and concerns, to those senators we have only one request. Resign. Resign before the Senate is entirely discredited and you are kicked out lock, stock and barrel by the abolitionists.
In one of the public meetings we had years ago discussing the Senate amendment, I think it was in the Peace River country of B.C. or Alberta, when we got to this point of reforming the Senate, someone raised the question of what should be done with the senators who would be left behind. Given the standing rules of the House I cannot repeat in this Chamber and in the presence of civil company some of the suggestions that were made. All I can say is that the most charitable one was the one which suggested that those senators be granted immunity from future prosecution if they went quietly. That was the tamest of those suggestions.
I have a particular word for the senior Tory senator from Alberta whose reputation as he knows and as other people know was tarnished from the very outset when he took by appointment from the hand of Brian Mulroney the Senate seat which the people of Alberta had given by democratic election to the Reformer Stan Waters.
In late February when Senator Ghitter was convinced that Alberta would not proceed with a senatorial election, he offered to resign his seat to make way for an elected senator if the Prime Minister would so appoint. Now that Alberta is proceeding with a senate election, we challenge this senator to act on his offer without conditions. Resign and run in the Alberta election, if the Tories will have you, and join with Albertans in challenging the Prime Minister to appoint the winner of that election.
To the distinguished senators, and I acknowledge your existence and your contributions as distinct from the others, I offer a different challenge. Identify yourselves, clearly identity yourselves to members of this House, but more important to the media and the public as champions of reforming the Senate from within. Do not just talk about the need for Senate reform in generalities. Do something. Sponsor a debate in the Senate, a real no holds barred debate on genuine Senate reform.
Answer the suspicions and charges of an impatient public concerning fraudulent beginnings, compromised principles, patronage, excessive partisanship, excessive costs, unaccountability, inequality, ineffectiveness in the Senate as it is. Answer these charges and suspicions not with denials which no one will believe, or protestations of innocence, but by distancing yourselves publicly from those who discredit the Senate and by declaring in concrete terms your commitments to Senate reform.
Discipline those among you whose activities discredit the entire Senate institution and whose abuse of public position and public trust may well bring the Senate walls crashing down upon all your heads.
Sponsor your own Senate reform bill so that we in this House and the public at large can see where you stand in relation to the demands for equality, for accountability, for effectiveness and other reforms necessary to make the Senate a 21st century institution.
The Senate is often described as a Chamber of sober second thought. A lot of jokes have been made about that phrase. It brings to mind that New Testament parable about pouring new wine into old bottles, a parable on institutional reform which is as applicable to political institutions as it is to religious institutions.
The political vineyard in Canada is producing some new wine, demands for more accountability, effectiveness and respect for equality in all our federal institutions. This is strong stuff which should not be rejected or discarded simply because of its novelty or its harsh taste but which needs to be gathered and stored in proper institutions to mellow and be available for present and future use.
As is always the case in the contest between old wine and new wine, there will be those who will argue that the old wine is better and that the old wine bottle is to be preferred to the new. As is often the case, it is the best representatives of the old vintage, not the worst, who constitute the greatest obstacle to the production, storage and use of a new wine.
In every instance where there is a contest between the proponents of institutions as they are and institutions as they should be, between the defenders of the status quo and the advocates of reform, the greatest obstacle to change is never found in the protests of the worst representatives of the status quo. Rather it is the indifference or the objections of the best and most distinguished representatives of the old order that is the greatest obstacle to change and reform.
The public expects it and is unimpressed when the worst political appointees in the Senate object to our efforts to abolish patronage appointments, when senators surrounded by clouds of unethical or even illegal conduct protest our demands for accountability, or when senators who regard the Senate as an extension of their party object to our insistence that it be made an effective chamber of regional representation. The public expects such senators to be against real Senate reform and their opposition to Senate reform cuts no ice.
When the best and most distinguished senators appear indifferent to these features of the status quo or worse yet defend the status quo and join in the protest against reform, that is an obstacle which truly does delay and prevent genuine reform and makes things worse rather than better. I therefore challenge the best and the most distinguished members of the current Senate to declare themselves in deeds and not just in words clearly and strongly in favour of reform of the Senate. If and when that is done they will find themselves with allies in this House, in particular among the official opposition.
Now I have a challenge to the federal government, to the intergovernmental affairs minister and all other ministers and members with an interest in national unity. Start to see and support Senate reform for what it is, not some eccentric side issue but a means of addressing regional aspirations and concerns through a national institution; concerns and aspirations which if not recognized, if not represented, if not accommodated in concrete ways, have as much potential for destabilizing the unity of this federation in the future as any of the current discontents in Quebec.
We have no great demands of the Prime Minister. No great reforms are to be expected from a Prime Minister whose credo is that the status quo is good enough.
With respect to Senate reform, all we ask is assent to one tiny step: agree to appoint the next senator elected in Alberta to the first Senate vacancy for that province. Even Brian Mulroney ultimately bowed to the will of the public and appointed Stan Waters; surely this Prime Minister can do no less.
Finally, I have a challenge to the members of the House. I would like to ask for a ringing endorsement of genuine Senate reform from the 36th Parliament but I realize that day will not come until there are at least 150 members elected in this House with a commitment to that objective.
All I am asking the House for today is a token, a token step toward Senate reform but one that would be appreciated by the people of Nunavut and encouraging to Senate reformers everywhere. I ask members of the House to support a simple amendment to the Nunavut bill before us which will be moved by one of my colleagues at report stage. It is an amendment to the effect that prior to appointment of any senator for Nunavut the people of Nunavut should be asked by plebiscite: In your opinion, should Nunavut's first senator be selected by the Prime Minister or through election by the people of Nunavut?
Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC
Mr. Speaker, as the second opposition party, the Bloc Quebecois will not have as much time as the leader of the opposition, who, according to my calculations, spoke for over two hours.
I draw the attention of the leader of the opposition to the fact that, during these two hours, he did not, to my knowledge, pronounce the word “Inuit” once. I find it absolutely deplorable that in such an important debate, which concerns one of Canada's great peoples, the Inuit, the leader of the opposition would launch an all-out attack against the Senate, while barely talking about the Inuit people during a two-hour speech.
Over the last few weeks, the Reform Party has been showing that it should not be the official opposition for aboriginal issues. It should be the Bloc Quebecois.
I can provide examples. Before the Easter break, the Reform Party launched a major attack on the Stoney community. The issue was the death of a woman and her child, but instead of addressing it, the Reform Party discussed only the economic aspect. The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations strongly condemned this attitude, saying that it was not right. And what is the Reform Party now doing? It will probably decide to sue the Chief of First Nations.
In this context, I again say that the Bloc Quebecois welcomes Canada's aboriginal people, including the Inuit and the Metis, and tells them that, if they have specific claims, they should take them to the Bloc Quebecois and the other parties, rather than to the official opposition.
The leader of the official opposition has just clearly demonstrated that he has no interest in aboriginal issues, except to play petty politics and to seize the opportunity to present his case against the Senate, as he did today, or to discuss the economy of aboriginal reserves, as he did in the past, rather than dealing with the fundamental aboriginal issue.
I had to make that point.
I will now deal with the bill before us. Effective April 1, 1999, the map of Canada is going to be substantially changed because a huge area will be created that will come under a legislative assembly, in which many Inuit will of necessity be involved in decision making. I say of necessity because, at this time, 80% of the residents of the area are Inuit, and 20% non-aboriginal.
This will therefore be reflected in the decision-making structures of this new territory and for once the Inuit will really find they have decision-making power on many issues that have always been very important to them.
This is the first time since Newfoundland's entry into Confederation in 1949—which I hardly need point out took two referendums—that we have seen the creation of a territory of such importance with such responsibilities as far as government autonomy is concerned.
Nunavut means something. I have already given an explanation of where all of the lands are situated. Every time I have the opportunity to speak, I like to point out where the new territory is located geographically.
This territory, which, under this bill, will be given the opportunity to come into existence on April 1, 1999 is an immense territory covering 1.9 million square kilometres. I have not done the calculations but, with a total of 17,000 Inuit living there, there are very few inhabitants per square kilometre. That vast expanse will now be under the jurisdiction of the Inuit.
As I said earlier, they make up 80% of the population. The other 20% will not be left out. They can, of course, run for office; it will be done through universal suffrage. I think however that 80% of the seats in the legislative assembly will, of necessity, be held by Inuit.
I have had several opportunities to visit Nunavut. We parliamentarians often tend to visit the capital of a territory or province, and this was so in my case. I have been to Iqaluit twice. The first time, in 1993, I had just been elected and the Prime Minister had decided that Parliament would start sitting only in February, so I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Far North.
I take a special approach to visits. The first day I often just wander around the place and talk to people. I rarely identify myself. I do not tell them that I am an MP. This way, I get a better idea of what kind of life people lead there.
Life in the Far North is hard. It used to be even harder because most decisions affecting the people there were taken in Ottawa.
What we have before us today will change this situation to ensure that the power is devolved toward those who know what their specific needs are. Given the huge area involved, we can see that there are many needs. There are needs with respect to infrastructure, communications and education.
Let me remind members that, all too often, education programs designed here, in Ottawa, were implemented in the Northwest Territories, and the people had to comply with requirements in terms of education, health and economic development. All decisions used to be made in Ottawa. This will be a very significant change for these people.
In my travels, I was also struck by the hospitality of the Inuit. They are very open people who like to discuss. We have had a great deal of fun at the place where I lived, in bars and at the various decision making places in Iqaluit.
The Inuit are a people I greatly admire; they have been living on this land from time immemorial. Long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, Jacques Cartier and other European discoverers, the Inuit had already settled here, with their own political and cultural systems and all the societal considerations associated with settling a territory.
I was shocked at the time by the price of food in this region, and I later made it one of my favourite themes. It seemed to me that food prices were disproportionate. I will quote some statistics later on, in this regard. But the most alarming thing, in my opinion, is the fact that between 50% and 80% of the population is unemployed. I was amazed to see that food was twice as expensive in Iqaluit as it was in the greater Montreal area for instance.
So, these people are in very extremely difficult circumstances. The fact that they will now be able to take control of their destiny and look after themselves pleases me tremendously. I think this was a fundamental need of theirs.
There is much discussion at present. There are plans to establish a legislative assembly before the new territory is officially created on April 1, 1999. I remind members once again of the specific character of Nunavut. This can be seen by the fact that they have even considered eventually having half the seats in the legislative assembly occupied by women. The respect owed to mothers and to women in general is a serious matter for aboriginal nations. The Inuit and native peoples are often much more advanced than we are when it comes to the status of women.
The very fact that they are considering a parliament or legislative assembly with 50% of the seats held by women is very interesting. I think it would be worthwhile to look closely at how people arrived at the idea of having this percentage of women in the legislative assembly.
The capital of Nunavut is Iqaluit. The committee to prepare the way for the legislative assembly, which I will get to later, did one important thing and that was to recommend that the government hold a referendum to decide where Nunavut's capital would be, and Iqaluit was the choice.
Another thing about Iqaluit, and I make a point of drawing this to members' attention, is that 10% of its inhabitants are French speaking. Naturally, Inuktitut is the official language of Nunavut, and there are people there who speak English, so there is still a fairly high rate of assimilation.
Without wishing to give advice to the future assembly, but as a Bloc Quebecois representative and French speaking parliamentarian, I would greatly appreciate any efforts that could be made to preserve the French language, because it is, after all, one of Canada's two official languages. Obviously, Inuktitut will probably be the language used in the legislative assembly.
I take this opportunity, with many of Nunavut's inhabitants listening today, to point out that, if they could make an effort to preserve the rights of the 10% of the population that is French-speaking, it would be a very worthwhile gesture.
Nunavut occupies one-fifth of Canada's surface and is composed of three regions: Qikiqtaaluk, Kivalik and Kitikmeot. These three regions contain 28 communities of Inuit operating, as you know, on an essentially municipal basis. These communities are run by mayors, while aboriginal reserves are under the authority of chiefs. Aboriginal reserves have a specific way of appointing the chief and band council. In Inuit communities, the municipal structure is often in place and people elect mayors rather than chiefs of communities.
So, the Nunavut government will allow Inuit people to have the place that should have been theirs since the very beginning. It also reflects the wish of Inuit people regarding self-government. These people have negotiated for close to 25 years to arrive at this result.
The Bloc Quebecois strongly supports the bill. There are a few minor things which we may try to change but, overall, this legislation allows the Inuit people to take their destiny into their own hands. Therefore, we can only agree with it.
Earlier, I mentioned that 50% to 80% of the people are unemployed. Since the legislative assembly will hire a number of public servants, it will help economic development. We should probably warn them not to create a bureaucracy that is too burdensome. Still, if Canada can provide funds for training, it will be a very good thing to create 600 or 700 jobs for people whose first responsibility will be as public servants for the legislative assembly. An effort will have to be made to ensure that this training can allow these people to hold important positions in the public service of that government.
Another interesting point is that, like in aboriginal reserves, 60% of the population is under 25 years of age. Therefore, it will be important to give them the tools needed to build a solid foundation for their legislative assembly, so that they can adequately control all the programs and address an issue that is extremely important to them and to Indian reserves: their young people.
The birth rate of aboriginal and Inuit people is twice that of the Canadian population as a whole. This will eventually create a problem that has to be looked at now. In fact, this problem is already surfacing in the reserves and villages. There are major demographic pressures, given how young the population is. This issue will have to be looked at very carefully. The legislative assembly will probably be well informed of these statistics, and I am sure that it will take the necessary steps to control the situation properly.
What we have before us is the most important land claims and self-government settlement there has ever been in Canada. I have been here since 1993, and we will remember the many self-government and land claim agreements there have been in the Yukon, the Sahtu, the Mackenzie Valley, and elsewhere. But there has never been such a large amount of land involved. That is very obvious, as we are talking about 28 communities over a territory of 1.9 million square kilometres.
There is a communication problem. We will see that the philosophy the Inuit will adopt concerning their legislative assembly will be aimed at decentralization as much as possible. In the past, all decisions came from Ottawa. Now, they must not all come from Iqualuit, and people will have to look at the possibility of having certain powers passed down to the communities, precisely in order to lessen the isolation of such a vast territory.
I referred earlier to the geography of Nunavut. It is one of the four great regions, principally Inuit, which will be the second to gain recognition. Inuvialuit has already been recognized in the part that is completely in the west of Canada. This one will be located right in the middle, and will encompass a large part, one-fifth in fact, of continental Canada. The other part, Nunavik, occupies the entire northern part of Quebec.
I would just like remind the House that the Government of Quebec is also opening up and intensifying negotiations concerning Nunavik and the Inuit who live there. I think, in fact I am convinced, that this will be the third region to be recognized, in terms of self-government land claims in Quebec, since the last region that involves the Inuit is in Labrador. Negotiations there are dragging out. They are making little progress, while things with Nunavut are reaching a conclusion. The western side, Inuvialuit, is already done. Soon, I hope, the same will be the case for Nunavik in northern Quebec, and the last one will probably be the people of Labrador.
Nunavut is located in the middle and the east of the Northwest Territories. The bill before us will divide up the Northwest Territories. The lines are already pretty well drawn. There will be one legislative assembly, the one already in place in Yellowknife, NWT, and then another for the other part, the old eastern part of the Northwest Territories, with Iqualuit as its capital, as I have said.
This is a territory with many water courses, running to the Arctic Ocean and to Baffin Bay on the east. Furthermore, Baffin Bay separates Nunavut from Greenland, which does not, by the way, mean that, because the respective territories are separated, there is no contact. I must point out that, for years now, the Inuit have had a circumpolar conference. It is supranational. Naturally, Inuit from throughout Canada speak to each other, but they are also going to speak with Inuit from Greenland or Russia. This is a very important body for them, an international body that allows them to put forward common claims.
Obviously, the isolated and polar nature of this territory is already a particular feature that must be taken into account. I think that there are dealings with other countries that it is important to monitor and I think that the circumpolar conference is ideally suited to this task.
There is possibly a dispute with Quebec that I must mention. I have just drawn a broad outline of Nunavut's geography, which, as I have said, is very far-flung. The Belcher Islands, however, which lie beyond this general outline, were also included in Nunavut. These islands lie a few kilometres off Quebec's shores.
I know that there is a dispute with Quebec. I do not think that the purpose of the bill before us is to resolve that dispute. It seemed to me important to state Quebec's position and to tell members that Quebec is claiming these islands, because they are much closer to Quebec's territory than to the territory of Nunavut.
Basically, the territory of Nunavut was marked off, and then, much later, two islands were dragged in. I have trouble seeing the logic behind this land claim. Quebec has most definitely not thrown in the towel on these islands and there will certainly be other discussions.
With the probable exception of the Belcher Islands, which may well, I agree, be inhabited by Inuit, but Inuit much closer to Quebec than to Nunavut, the territory of Nunavut—with the exception of the Belcher Islands—normally corresponds very closely to the traditional lands of the Inuit living in Canada's north and to the lands inhabited by their ancestors from time immemorial.
I will now summarize the legislation. The bill seeks to ensure a smooth transition and a delegation of the powers that were all concentrated in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. These powers will now be decentralized and decisions will be made in the Nunavut.
The bill amends the Act to establish a territory to be known as Nunavut and to provide for its government, whose short title is the Nunavut Act. The act already exists. It was passed on June 10, 1993, by the political parties present in Parliament at the time.
The 1993 act also ratified an agreement. Before a bill is introduced, it is often preceded by agreements in principle and various processes that eventually lead to a final agreement requiring that a bill be passed, as is now the case. The same was done with the Nunavut Act. The bill before us today goes a little further, since it calls for constitutional amendments, among others.
At the time, the Nunavut Act provided land titles over a territory covering 350,000 square kilometres, and mining rights over 35,257 square kilometres. This is important, since we often have debates here on mining rights. Until now, it was Canada that developed, mined and benefited from mining or oil rights, with very little going to aboriginal people.
The 1993 Nunavut Act gave Inuit people an opportunity to achieve self-financing, and we should support this idea. We absolutely must break the financial and political dependency of aboriginals and Inuit on Ottawa. The 1993 Nunavut Act was right on target.
It also provided for hunting and fishing rights in that territory. Whenever I have the opportunity to make a speech on Indian affairs or on Inuit people, I stress that these things are extremely important. Hunting and fishing are often the foundations of their economy, whether it is caribou, seal or whale.
The hon. member for Nunavut invited us the other day to a day of festivities with dances and traditional food. I always enjoy traditional Inuit food. Whether it is frozen caribou, seal or Arctic char, they are all delicious foods.
So, hunting and fishing are very fundamental activities in Nunavut. When 50% to 80% of the population is without a job, these foods become subsistence, practically. Earlier, I also explained that prices in stores in the north are often twice what they are in the south. Therefore, these people have to hunt and fish to compensate, and I think that the right to hunt and to fish is the very foundation of Inuit family subsistence.
The act provided for a share of the oil, gas and mining royalties on crown lands, as well as the right of first refusal with regard to sports and commercial development of renewable resources in Nunavut. For game and fish, the 1993 act gave these people the final say. It is a kind of veto on everything that occurs in the territory, and its purpose is to ensure the subsistence of Inuit families.
It also established the legal and political framework for the establishment of the new territory. Furthermore, it provided for the creation of the famous Nunavut commission I mentioned earlier, whose mandate was to advise the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories, as well as Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the three parties concerned in the establishment of Nunavut.
We saw the establishment of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which was the agency responsible for managing the whole financial issue, to ensure a harmonious transition toward the establishment of the new territory and its legislative assembly, on April 1, 1999.
What did the commission do? It examined several political and administrative issues. In particular, it looked at the transfer of services from the Government of the Northwest Territories to the new Government of Nunavut. At present, Nunavut is administered by Yellowknife, by the Northwest Territories.
Before the legislative assembly of the new territory is convened, it should be determined which jurisdictional aspects will be devolved to the new territory and a time frame should be set. They have looked into this.
I referred earlier to the funding and development of training programs so that Nunavut can have its own public service. Inuit affairs were normally dealt with by Indian and Northern Affairs officials in Ottawa. Now, from the moment they have their own legislature, Inuit people will need to have an efficient public administration.
One way to promote the economic development of the region is to have decently paid public service employees. I mentioned earlier that 600 to 700 jobs would be created. Funds must be set aside now to train these people to ensure that they can start performing their duties as soon as the new government takes office.
Naturally, the commission is also responsible for organizing the election of the first government and identifying the infrastructure needs, which are enormous because of how isolated most of these regions are.
A referendum was actually held to select the capital of Nunavut. Three municipalities were in the running: Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay. In the end, Iqaluit won out and it will be the capital and seat of the next legislative assembly.
The commission also recommended appointing an interim commissioner to Nunavut, a position held by our former colleague, the hon. member for Nunavut's predecessor, Jack Anawak.
Most of the recommendations are reflected in the bill before us today. Several amendments will be made to the Nunavut Act, including those I just mentioned. This bill makes a number of changes to the act.
In 1993, the act provided that elections would be held after the territory was established. This makes little sense for, if the territory is officially recognized on April 1, 1999, a legislative assembly should be in place and ready to take immediate action.
We are developing not only the public service, but also the new philosophy. We want to be ready, come April 1, 1999, to put the legislative assembly into action. A number of people are now saying that it will be hard to do all this by the April 1, 1999 deadline, but the information I have for now is that everything possible is being done to ensure that the whole thing is up and running on time.
The elections are apparently going to be held before April 1, 1999, precisely so that the legislative assembly will be ready on the date I mentioned. The legislative assembly will have 19 members. There will therefore be 19 electoral ridings in Nunavut. I think I am very lucky to represent the riding of Saint-Jean. It takes me perhaps 30 minutes to travel from one end of my riding to the other, or an hour to cover the whole area.
Nunavut is so vast that it would take more than one hour by plane to make the same journey. I was saying earlier that the territory will cover an area of 1.9 million square kilometres and have 19 ridings. This means that each riding will cover 100,000 square kilometres.
This is huge as ridings go. In fact, this is why there are many discussions about decentralization taking place in preparation for the next legislative session. The idea is to give each of the 28 communities a little more power so that it is not necessary to ask for Iqaluit's permission every time urgent action is required, since people live in isolated communities.
The Inuit themselves admit this. They say that their government will be extremely decentralized, but that it will be necessary to wait for the commission to wrap up its work and the new assembly to take up its role before deciding on the extent of this decentralization.
Many government departments and agencies will be created in the territory's various communities. Approximately 20 are being considered. There will therefore be 28 communities. Departments and agencies could be decentralized in various municipalities in the interests of maximum decentralization of power.
One last detail on the Nunavut Act, which is that the elections will be based on the current NWT election legislation. The Northwest Territories Elections Act will therefore be the model for the coming elections for the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.
Another amendment to the Northwest Territories Act will be to adjust the number of seats required in the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, because after April 1, 1999 they will have lost part of their territory. The east will come under the new legislative assembly. The Northwest Territories will go from 15 seats to 14.
The purpose of the bill is to amend the 1867 Constitution Act in order to ensure that Nunavut is represented in the House of Commons as well as in the Senate. There are certain problems. Unlike the leader of the official opposition, I will not spend 35 minutes talking to you about the Senate, and then only 5 on the Inuit, but will try to do the opposite.
I must admit, however, that I have certain reservations about the Senate. Of course, in the present system certain senators represent certain regions, and we in the Bloc Quebecois MPs would be ill advised to tell the Nunavut not to elect senators because of our position on the Senate.
I must admit that there some thinking is still needed on this. I believe everyone is aware of the Bloc Quebecois position on the Senate. We simply want it abolished. When adding a senator is suggested to us, therefore, we are not all that receptive, but we do not want to take it out on Nunavut by saying it is the only region not entitled to have senators.
I would however like to make a point here. As I have said, we want to clarify our position a bit perhaps. At present, this is an irritant to us. The entire Senate, in fact, is an irritant. We spent an official opposition day demonstrating the inefficiency of the Senate, its costs in particular. For us, the true power must lie with the elected representatives, not with appointed senators.
There may be other ways to view the Senate, as the Reform Party leader demonstrated earlier. But if the Senate were elected, it could create other problems in our opinion. Who, in a given territory, would decide: the senator or the member of Parliament?
There are many problems. Consequently, the Bloc Quebecois is not beating around the bush. It proposes the outright abolition of the Senate.
There are other minor changes. The day that Nunavut is established, the laws and ordinances of the legislative assembly of the Northwest Territories will become the laws of Nunavut. We do not want a legislative and political void. When Nunavut is established, people will simply apply the laws that applied previously in the Northwest Territories, in Yellowknife.
This will prevent total chaos on April 2, 1999, by making sure people will not find themselves without laws. So, to avoid legislative void, the Northwest Territories Act will apply to the Nunavut territory. Therefore, the laws and ordinances of the Northwest Territories will form Nunavut's legislative basis.
The new government will have powers equivalent to those of existing territorial governments. It is anticipated that the whole transfer could be completed around the year 2009. There are many things to transfer in the areas of culture, public housing, health, education, and so on. So, there is a lot of work ahead. People will be able to start operating on April 1, 1999, but it must be realized that it will take some time before the delegation is fully completed.
There is also the issue of leases signed with the federal government regarding Nunavut's administration. These leases will of course be transferred to the Nunavut territory.
As for sharing the assets and liabilities of the Northwest Territories with Nunavut, there is no agreement between the two territories. The governor in council has the power to transfer the property of certain assets to Nunavut and to terminate certain federal contracts.
This means that in the meantime cabinet will be able to make a number of transfers while hoping that everything will be done by April 1, 1999 but knowing full well that everything cannot be done by then. The laws currently applying to the Northwest Territories will remain in force until such time as the people become completely autonomous as far as the Nunavut legislature is concerned.
The authorities and powers of the interim commissioner will also be clarified. At present, he is recruiting many people for the future public service of Nunavut. The interim commissioner, who is our former colleague, Mr. Anawak, is currently busy looking for qualified people to hold important positions in the future public service.
His mandate will end the day the first official commissioner of Nunavut is formally appointed. The new territory of Nunavut will then appoint a commissioner who will be directly assigned to Nunavut on a permanent basis. Mr. Anawak must be listening in. I want to salute this man who, for nine years in this House, represented the riding of Nunatsiaq, which is now represented by my hon. colleague opposite.
With respect to the public service of Nunavut and its establishment, some $39 million has been invested in employee training since April 1996. The process is already under way to recruit the 600 to 700 public service employees who will be responsible for carrying out the administrative and executive functions of the new government.
The establishment and division of the Northwest Territories into separate territories is nothing new. Originally, the Territories covered a much larger area known as Rupert's Land. I think these names can still be found in geography books.
Talk of splitting the territory into an eastern and a western portion is therefore nothing new. Members know that the present boundaries of the Northwest Territories were set in 1912, at the same time as those for Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Furthermore, it was at this time that we were given the northern tip of Quebec, that will eventually also be called Nunavik, and that will also probably be part of the drive for self-government that is part of the far north Inuit land claims.
Until 1950, the federal government administered the Northwest Territories. There was a territorial council whose members were appointed and this council was chaired by a commissioner appointed and serving in Ottawa. Ottawa decided who was the public servant and who was the commissioner. He was based in Ottawa and from here made decisions affecting territories thousands of kilometres away.
Things have changed significantly. This, of course, was the forerunner of the legislative assembly of the Northwest Territories.
In conclusion, I would like to read, as I always do, a short passage in Inuktitut, and perhaps my colleague will tell me if I pronounced it properly.
As I was saying in Inuktitut, I hope that the return of this bill to the legislative agenda will encourage the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the government to take action to compensate for their mistreatment of the Nunavut Inuit. I hope that the creation of Nunavut will bring harmony and prosperity to your communities. Long live Nunavut.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Halifax West, Human rights; the hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, Multilateral Agreement on Investment; the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie, Young Offenders Act; the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, Dredging of St. Lawrence; the hon. member for Durham, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
Gordon Earle Halifax West, NS
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased and honoured to have the opportunity to speak to this historic piece of legislation, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867.
I noticed earlier the hon. Leader of the Opposition in his remarks commented that the NDP had a certain position with respect to Senate reform and that we should take note, particularly members from the Atlantic area, of his words of wisdom. The NDP has clearly stated its position with respect to the Senate. It is unequivocal. It is on record.
I was quite disappointed to hear the hon. Leader of the Opposition, as was mentioned by my colleague from the Bloc, spend two hours commenting on Senate reform when this very important piece of legislation is before the House.
There is quite a bit of excitement surrounding the legislation. This is a very exciting time particularly for the people of Nunavut, for the Inuit.
A few weeks back I had the honour, along with some of my other colleagues, of attending a celebration of the coming into being of Nunavut. It was quite evident when we saw the rich cultural heritage that was being displayed and we sampled the cultural foods and so forth that there was a lot of excitement and a lot of hope surrounding the legislation. That is where we should be putting our focus today in terms of the hopes and aspirations of the people in the north with respect to the legislation rather than using it as a platform for a particular political agenda around Senate reform.
The legislation would pave the way for Nunavut's first general election. Timely passage of the bill would allow for a territorial election to actually precede the formal creation of Nunavut.
I am aware that the provisions contained in Bill C-39 are the result of long negotiations and discussions between the federal government, the Government of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.
The creation of Nunavut and the unfolding of aboriginal self-government through public government in this new territory will be watched closely throughout the world. I must confess that I am not as fluent in Inuktitut as the previous speaker. From Qurluqtuuq or Copper Mine to Qikiqtarjuaq the early years of the territory of Nunavut will be monitored by many throughout the globe.
Before we send the bill to committee I want to congratulate all Inuit who have worked on and participated in this effort over the last 22 years and before.
Central to the success thus far in the historic effort that is the creation of Nunavut has been the careful negotiations between Inuit negotiators and those aboriginal groups on the borders of the land that is to become Nunavut. The success in the negotiations with first nations people living in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Denesuline, is a credit to all involved. Although the 60th parallel exists in our textbooks and laws it is irrelevant to the Dene who inhabit this region. The 60th parallel is also irrelevant to the caribou, fish and other wildlife that share the region.
The painstaking work of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which is formerly the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut, is a testament to the bright possibilities that mark the birth of this new territory.
In less than one year Canada's third territory will come into being thanks to passage of the Nunavut Act on June 10, 1993. On behalf of the leader of my party and my caucus colleagues I wish to indicate support of the bill at this stage as our party supported the Nunavut Act in 1993.
The amendments in the bill would allow for an election prior to the April 1, 1999 coming into being of Nunavut. With passage of the bill an elected assembly from the moment it comes into existence will govern Nunavut. It is very important that the assembly be in place at the time Nunavut is officially created.
The other amendments in the bill are the result of prolonged negotiations and would help to ensure the transition to Nunavut is a smooth one. The proposed interim commissioner would have responsibility for working on the division of assets and liabilities between the governments of Nunavut and of the Northwest Territories. The commissioner would also work to clarify how Northwest Territories laws would apply in Nunavut. Clearly these issues must be closely explored in committee.
The bill would also clarify liability for leases relating to staff housing and office facilities. The legislation also reassigns one of the two Northwest Territories seats to Nunavut and creates a seat in the Senate.
Support for the bill will be an important part of the effort to move ahead aboriginal self-government in this region. This will allow for province-type powers essential to the development of the social, cultural, economic and political well-being of Inuit.
Nunavut comprises, as we have heard, 1.9 million square kilometres, roughly one-fifth of the entire Canadian land mass. It is almost the size of Greenland. This clearly represents a tremendous opportunity for Inuit to manage wildlife and resources in a formal fashion in government, having managed them for so many thousands of years before Canada came into being. This will seek to formalize inherent Inuit rights to fish, wildlife and land that have been their rights since time immemorial.
With a population of roughly 24,600, Inuit comprise over four out of every five people in the territory to be. The representatives elected to bring this new territory into being would be accountable to a largely aboriginal electorate. The land claims agreement already passed recognizes Inuit title to 350,000 square kilometres of land and includes provisions for joint management and resource revenue sharing.
It is difficult for many southern Canadians to understand the social and economic nature of the region to become Nunavut. With a litre of milk costing roughly $7 and a loaf of bread $3 and with about 20 kilometres of paved road in almost 2 million square kilometres of land, the challenges and the opportunities facing the voters of Nunavut and their families are unique and most certainly require their own territorial government.
Nunavut means “our land”. The bill would facilitate giving meaning in history to that title. This new territory will be able to work in concert with native development corporations such as Nusai and Qikiqtaaluk Corporation representing concerns such as shrimp fishing, trucking and the hotel industry.
The Nunavut government will be elected by all voting residents of Nunavut, Inuit and non-Inuit. The government elected will be responsible to all citizens of the territory. Increasingly, beginning after the first election and the formal birth of the territory in April of next year, the government of Nunavut will assume responsibilities currently exercised by the Government of the Northwest Territories with the transfer of programs such as culture, public housing and health care to be completed by the year 2009.
While the federal government's co-operation with the Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and the Government of the Northwest Territories is to be commended, it also serves to further underscore the dismal failure of the government in so many areas concerning self-government for aboriginal peoples.
The Liberal government should take the efforts and relative success in the developing creation of Nunavut and learn from it in its relations with aboriginal peoples throughout the land. The government should be taking the lead instead of waiting for costly and confrontational court actions to determine the history of our relations with aboriginal peoples.
Delgamuukw is an excellent case in point. It is astonishing that on the one hand the government can proceed with positive steps in the creation of the territory of Nunavut but stumble and fall so terribly in its abject failure to respond coherently to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
As I mentioned earlier in these comments, the government did manage to engage in successful negotiations with Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, the body that now affords representation and a negotiating structure for the Inuit of Nunavut. Why then has the government failed to carry this model forward and negotiate self-government?
The supreme court in the recent Delgammuukw decision encouraged the government not to continue to rely on the courts but to negotiate in the spirit of self-government recognized in the Constitution Act.
One of the issues that will need continued work in the future, which is not covered by the bill, is the area of the court system. There are no commitments in the legislation to move to develop community courts and to recognize the role of aboriginal justice. This glaring omission merits serious attention in the months to come. Although the bill would establish the supreme court of Nunavut and the court of appeal of Nunavut, it is silent on the issue of aboriginal justice and this silence condemns the Inuit to the existing judicial arrangements.
Furthermore, the issue of the status of Nunavut in the Canadian charter remains unsettled. Although the legislation would permit the new interim commissioner to enter into full employment contracts with future government of Nunavut employees and go beyond simple recruitment, much concentration is required on the whole issue of staff development and training. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples stated:
An important goal is to ensure that the majority population of Inuit can staff their own governing institutions. The importance of training to self-determination cannot be overestimated.
Systems must be developed to ensure Inuit are trained and educated in such a way to ensure their full ongoing participation in all aspects of policy making, management and operation of the administrative, cultural, economic and other institutions developed. Given that many of the new jobs to be created will require some form of post-secondary education, according to the commission it is alarming that the government has not addressed the fact that less than one per cent of this population has a university degree.
The challenge at hand for all is to ensure that education is available particularly in areas of accounting, financial management, organizational development, planning and business development. Public education materials and programs must be developed in co-operation with the aboriginal population to ensure all understand and develop the dramatic changes in texture and responsibility of government in the land that will become the territory of Nunavut.
While the minority population of Nunavut currently pervades the territorial administration, the challenge in part will be to see how the majority culture of Nunavut can be “knit together with the culture of the minority population”, as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples suggested.
Once again I commend the Inuit involved in all aspects of the negotiations which led to the bill and to the development of Nunavut as a whole. As I said at the outset, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the legislation. Even as I am speaking now I understand there is a web page on the Internet sponsored by a school in Nunavut. They are having a second by second countdown to the day that Nunavut will come into existence. It is not a day by day countdown but a second by second countdown. That shows how much excitement there is surrounding the whole concept.
This accommodation extends not only to the chief negotiators but to all those involved at every level, particularly families who so often had to endure long absences during the varied steps of the process.
Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to the Denesuline and to the Government of the Northwest Territories for the endless negotiation over the years to arrive at this point. The efforts of the minister and her staff in this instance, not to mention the many people in the federal government who have all brought goodwill and hard work to bear on the development of Nunavut, deserve to be commended.
I look forward to a very careful examination of the bill in detail over the days and weeks to come.
Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to say a few words on Bill C-39, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867. My colleague, the member for South Shore, is the critic for aboriginal affairs and northern development but he could not be present today. He is a little late in getting here so he asked me to make some remarks on his behalf.
The creation of the new territory in the northeastern and central region of Canada on April 1, 1999 is a very historic occasion. This will create Nunavut as a separate territory from what is currently the Northwest Territories. This will happen about 50 years from the date of another milestone in Canadian history, the day Newfoundland entered Confederation.
I want to begin with a brief history of the events leading to this momentous occasion, the creation of a new territory in the north to be called Nunavut. It has been a long time in coming to fruition and the journey has not been without a lot of hurdles.
The first attempt to divide the Northwest Territories into two regions was made back in 1965 and was initiated by the western region of the Northwest Territories. The bill died on the order paper at that time. The next event of significance was the release of the Carrothers report in 1966 and its recommendation that a division of the Northwest Territories would not be beneficial at that time to the Inuit living primarily in the eastern region. Instead, the report made a number of recommendations, including the creation of electoral constituencies in the eastern and central Arctic, the appointment of a commissioner who resided in the Northwest Territories and the transfer of federal programs to the territorial government.
It should be noted that at that time the commissioner of the Northwest Territories was based out of Ottawa. His recommendations were to set the stage for division of the Northwest Territories at a later point in time when the regions would be in a better position to assume control of their administration and governance. These recommendations were acted on in the following years.
In 1976 another bid was made for division of the territory, this time by the ITC, an organization representing Inuit in Canada. A plebiscite on the issue of division followed in 1982 and it garnered a 56% rate of approval, particularly strong in the eastern Arctic.
That year also saw the formation of a constitutional alliance consisting of members of the legislative assembly in the Northwest Territories with representatives from aboriginal groups. Its objective was to develop an agreement on dividing the territory. Although an agreement was reached in 1987 it was not ratified by the Dene Nation and Metis Association, which had a land claims settlement in the western area and objected to the proposed boundary. Thus the agreement failed and the group dissolved.
In 1990 the Progressive Conservative government asked John Parker to determine the boundary between the two land claims settlement areas, the Denis-Metis nation in the western area and the Inuit in the eastern region. The proposed boundary was taken to a plebiscite in May of 1992 and received a 54% vote.
One important piece of information that I have not mentioned is that in 1990 it was agreed that a vote on the Inuit land claim agreement would take place. The Inuit ratified the agreement with a vote in November of 1992 that resulted in 85% of the people voting in favour of the settlement. So on May 25, 1993 former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's government signed the land claims agreement into being.
The Nunavut land claims agreement will create the Nunavut territory on April 1, 1999. The agreement is the largest aboriginal land claims agreement in Canadian history.
Nunavut means our land in Inuktitut and it represents 2.242 million square kilometres, roughly one-fifth of Canada's land mass. The capital of the new region will be Iqaluit on Baffin Island.
The land claims agreement sets out the creation of the new Nunavut territory and gives Inuit title to 350,000 square kilometres of land. Along with the land agreement is a cash settlement for $1.1 billion over 14 years. In return the Inuit agree to relinquish rights and aboriginal title to other lands within the proposed Nunavut.
There are a number of challenges that must be overcome before the creation of Nunavut in April 1999. This legislation, Bill C-39, addresses some of these concerns. It confers greater powers to the interim commissioner, Jack Anawak, to enable him to enter into leases on behalf of the new territory and ensures that employees hired for the new government are permanent rather than temporary positions.
Even more important, this amendment to the Nunavut Act provides for an election prior to the date the new territory comes into existence. This is of critical importance since it ensures a government will be in place to begin work immediately without having to go through the process of an election in what is obviously going to be a critical and a dynamic time for the new territory.
Another issue of concern to the western region was the number of elected representatives required for governing after the division occurs. The western region will be left with 14 members but the regulation requires 15 members to form a government. Amendment to this legislation will reduce the numbers needed to 14. This will ensure that the western region is also in the position to offer a continuation of services for their area.
Furthermore, this legislation amends the Constitution Act, 1867 to create another seat in the Senate to recognize the new territory. Currently there is only one seat for the Northwest Territories, but the senator representing the Northwest Territories resides in what will become Nunavut. This amendment eliminates any uncertainty along these lines.
One of the greatest concerns expressed by the Inuit and others affected by the change is the need for continuation of services. This legislation helps to ensure that this will occur. At the same time there are still concerns for those people living in the eastern and the central Arctic area. Is the infrastructure going to be in place? Will financial assistance be provided and will there be enough of it? Are there going to be enough people to fill the expected 600 new positions in Nunavut?
The new territory will consist of approximately 24,000 people, 85% or 18,000 of them Inuit. Inuktituk will be the working language and the hope is to have 85% of the staffing positions filled by Inuit in the long term and 45% in the short term.
The federal government has provided approximately $40 million for training and education to prepare the people living in the eastern and central Arctic for positions in the new government. With the settlement of land claims in this area, however, a number of new positions are available for the Inuit and it may be difficult to find people for all these positions. With Nunavut's plan to have government offices spread out over 11 communities attracting workers to the outlying areas may also present a challenge.
The Nunavut implementation commission has reported that Nunavut will have to attain 50% of the people for these new positions from outside of their region.
At the same time a report by the government of the Northwest Territories suggests that only 10% to 15% of its staff will move to Nunavut. That means Nunavut will not have a large corporate knowledge base from which to build.
Furthermore it is questionable whether the infrastructure will be in place in time and Arctic conditions may also be a factor. Moreover, there is little or no private sector space available since everything is typically built on an as needed basis.
Although the entire infrastructure is not required immediately and it is my understanding that the timetable factors in a delay of two years for a summit, a continuation of services will not be possible without adequate infrastructure.
The division of the Northwest Territories creates some interesting and difficult questions for operations such as the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and workers compensation board. According to the divisional secretariat of the Northwest Territories, economies of scale will be a deciding factor in determining how essential services such as these are affected.
Both territories will likely share hospitals and correctional facilities until Nunavut has infrastructure in place for these facilities. That may create problems, however, since the Yellowknife correctional facility is not large enough to accommodate the needs of the entire region.
The western region of the current Northwest Territories has expressed concern over lack of recognition of the problems facing their areas as well. They also have to ensure that the continuation of services is provided during the division of territories. They are obviously in a better position to do so since the infrastructure exists and the legislative, judicial, financial and administrative systems are in place.
Nunavut will have a public government with Inuit and non-Inuit representation. Although Nunavut was created as part of the land claim agreement, the Inuit chose a public government format. The land claim agreement raises another interesting point about what constitutional rights Nunavut will have. Although one would presume its powers would be equivalent to those of the Yukon Territory and the western region, Nunavut will be created as part of a land claim settlement agreement under section 35 of the Constitution. This is another area that is not clarified for the new territory and may create uncertainty.
A Progressive Conservative government initiated the process when the Nunavut land claim agreement was signed in May of 1993 and will culminate in the creation of Nunavut on April 1, 1999. The creation of this territory is a positive move for the eastern region. The PC Party supports self-government for aboriginal peoples as a means of improving their economic development.
While I agree in principle with this legislation as it attempts to rectify some omissions in the Nunavut Act, there are still a number of challenges, as we are all very much aware, facing the new territory as it counts down to April 1, 1999.
Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU
Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured today to speak to Bill C-39, which is the act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867.
As we discussed a few moments ago, I will be speaking both in Inuktitut and English because of the importance of this bill to my riding.
As the House is very well aware, the map of Canada will change in less than a year from now. April 1, 1999 will mark an important day in the history of Canada. This is equally important to Nunavut residents and to people in the rest of Canada. The coming into place of the Nunavut Act amendments brings us one step closer to our dream. After years of decisions being made by outsiders, Nunavut residents will finally have a chance to control their own future. We should all be proud of that.
This is very significant for me. The people I represent will have the opportunity to make decisions and to control over their own lives. I think of the people who have gone through all the years of having decisions made by people in Ottawa or other parts of Canada who had no idea how those decisions impacted people.
I was quite disappointed earlier today. I thought today we would be talking about the Nunavut Act amendments. I really did not see that when the Leader of the Opposition spent two hours talking about something which I felt was very much a side issue. I felt very cheated of this day. I was told that April 20 would be the day we spoke about the Nunavut Act amendments and the opening of possibilities for the people of Nunavut.
This is a very important day for me. It brings us one step closer to seeing the creation of our government. I think of the people who had no control over their own lives. They see so much hope in the new Nunavut government.
I think of the parents whose children were taken away from them to go to school. They had no control over whether or not their children would go to school thousands of miles away. They did not see them for a year or two at a time. These people whose children are now grown and working still feel they will have an opportunity to make decisions that will help the Nunavut government be responsive to the people it represents.
I think of the people who were relocated from other parts of Canada and who moved to the Nunavut area. There are other people who lived in other parts of Nunavut who were relocated by the government. They are waiting today for a chance to run their own government, to make decisions in government and to help their government make decisions that are responsive to the people.
I see the Nunavut Act amendments as taking them one step closer to that goal. It is an opportunity to right something that went wrong 50 years ago or however many years ago those decisions were made.
This bill also continues the good work set out by the original Nunavut Act as we argue that there are certain things coming out which were not foreseen. Now we have to finish up the Nunavut Act so that we can get a government in place by April 1, 1999. To make sure that the Nunavut government is able to get off on the right track, it is the responsibility of everyone here to help pass the Nunavut Act amendments.
A lot of work has been done by the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut Tunngavik and the people of Nunavut and others over the last 30 years. People worked really hard for about 30 years and I want to remember those people.
As I speak here today, I feel that I have come on at the end of the struggle. It is now less than a year to April 1, 1999 and I want to remember the many people who worked over these past years with a lot of determination and courage to get to this position. I would also like to remember those people who will not be with us when we see the results of all their efforts on April 1, 1999.
I would like to take this opportunity to ask the other members of Parliament to support the Nunavut Act amendments because no territory or province in this country can succeed unless it has the support of the rest of the country.
The people of Canada bind Canada together. They make it work. The settling of our land claims is a perfect example of how flexible our federation is and how Canadians from coast to coast to coast are willing to work together. That is the responsibility of all Canadians.
It is important when speaking to this legislation to remember why Nunavut is being created. I spoke a bit about that earlier but I would like to say it again. It is being created out of hope. It is hope for the children and youth of Nunavut and hope for a better future. It is also hope for a better deal for the Inuit who have relied on Nunavut's land and resources for thousands of years.
I also see this more as a bill about democracy and making democracy work for the people of Nunavut. I see it as being necessary to ensure fair representation at two levels of government, both the federal and territorial levels. This legislation will allow for that.
Bill C-39 is about hope. It provides a smooth transition to the larger new territory of Nunavut. It also allows elections to take place prior to April 1, 1999 which is very important to me. As it is now, we will not have an elected government on April 1, 1999. We will be able to hold an election after that date, but come April 1, 1999 there will not be an elected government to take over if we do not allow this legislation to pass.
I urge everyone in this House to not delay the passing of the act. We must get it through by the end of June 1998. We have already lost so much time dealing with different issues, waiting for new legislation and waiting for new directions for the interim commissioner's office that we do not have much time left to make sure that we have an operational government by April 1, 1999. If we delay it any longer, we will not have time to put into place what needs to be in place to have good government administratively and legislatively to represent the people.
The Inuit have had their own form of government since time began. When I talk about a community, I mean a group of people who live together. Communities were nomadic, but most stayed together through the spring, summer and winter camps or met up with different people. These communities had their own form of governing their own group of people. We see this as a chance for the Nunavut government to use some of those traditional ways of governing along with the new methods of governing we have learned over the years.
The creation of the Nunavut government is an opportunity for us to take the good points of these two types of government and work them into the new legislation for the Nunavut government. It is also an opportunity for the older people to participate by passing on their traditional knowledge of how we used to be governed.
In my maiden speech I talked about how adaptable Inuit people are. We have adapted over the last 50 years at a phenomenal rate. I would like to use that example to show that we will be adapting again to the new government. Not everything will in place by April 1, 1999, but I look at the new Nunavut government as a child. We will grow as we pick up good habits from the experience and adapt things to the way we want to govern ourselves.
Justice is another initiative we will be watching very closely. The new Nunavut government is already covering new ground by creating a unified court system. It will give us an opportunity to deal with incarceration. One of my colleagues mentioned there might be problems with incarceration within the new Nunavut territory. I know we will not have all the infrastructure needed. We will need to use the infrastructures of other territories and provinces for the time being until we can get our own. This issue has been talked about by many people, especially at the community justice system committee. They want to deal with incarceration of the people of Nunavut. They have some very good ideas.
With the new Nunavut government they will have an opportunity to pass what they know on to the young people and try to deal with their social issues in that way. I am very optimistic that a lot of the ideas which were used in traditional camps can be incorporated into a Nunavut government. They can be adapted to the new way of governing and can be done within the law of the country. I would like to think that this government is flexible enough to allow these ideas to be put into place within the new Nunavut government.
I talked about our new government being in place by April 1, 1999. It is hard to grasp exactly what we are going to see on April 1, 1999. As my hon. colleague mentioned, people are so excited about the possibilities. People are planning events now. I cannot indicate strongly enough how important it is that we make sure this legislation goes through. I see it as being one of the most important pieces of legislation accountable to the people of Nunavut. Any efforts to put up roadblocks to this bill will be denying democracy especially to the people of Nunavut. This is not the Canadian way.
I do not want to talk so much about Senate representation. I want to deal more with the actual Nunavut Act. That is just one little piece of the legislation. This legislation is trying to ensure there is a representative for the western Arctic and one for Nunavut. I do not think this is the time or place to be dealing with how we want to set up the senator.
I want to concentrate more on what it means to the people of Nunavut to make sure these amendments go through because the very crucial ones are not being addressed, as far as I am concerned, by the opposition party.
He talked about the plebiscite. I know that is getting the opinion of the people, but I see that as another delay that we do not need right now. There have already been three plebiscites in getting this far and I think that is an issue which can be dealt with at another time. I do not think this is the time or the place. We still have a responsibility to ensure that we do not deny fair and equal representation, but I do not feel this is the place for it.
Doing the right thing is supporting this bill. As I said, railroading this bill will deny the Nunavut residents quality health care and access to education. We have all these agreements with our southern counterparts because, as I said, we do not have all the facilities and the necessities in our area.
If we railroad this legislation what is going to happen to the court cases, both criminal and civil, that are before the NWT courts? Are they going to face a technicality? That could likely happen if the bill does not receive the opposition's support.
I will not go into all the technical reasons for which we want to pass this legislation. To me the Nunavut act amendments have a human element to them. I know those other technical pieces are relevant and necessary, but I want to deal more with what this means to the people of Nunavut.
In the new government Inuktitut is going to be the working language. That is a new initiative on the part of the people of Nunavut. Even though 85% of the people are Inuit, they are not represented in the jobs that are available in our area. If one is unilingual Inuktitut it is very difficult to get jobs in the communities or work for the government. Elders are hoping this will give the people more opportunities to get involved and participate in working with and for their Nunavut government. It will give them such pride to be able to speak in their own language in any office in the government and within the schools.
In closing, again, I would plead with members of Parliament to pass this legislation because it is so crucial to the continuation of the great work of the people who have strived to make a new Nunavut government. We have less than one year to go. We want to work and do all the great things. Just give us a chance to do so.
Alex Shepherd Durham, ON
Madam Speaker, I was quite taken back by my fellow colleague and her vision of Nunavut. I was speaking to her earlier on a personal basis and I actually managed to get very close to her riding over the Easter holidays when I was in Churchill.
I know the hon. member has a great vision of Nunavut and of the people of that great part of our country.
I want her to know that even though I am member of parliament from Southern Ontario we strongly believe that this is very much part of our nation and our history.
I would like to know from her how she sees the future, for instance, of tourism in the north. I know there are a lot of questions about how that will affect the ecological balance of some of those communities. I know that it is very fragile in some areas.
I am just wondering how she would balance creating more wealth by attracting visitors into the community with their traditional ways of life, as well as protecting the environment.
Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU
Madam Speaker, one of the challenges we have is that economic development and tourism right now has the most potential in the north of creating employment.
Within the Nunavut land claims agreement and settlement different bodies have been created to safeguard the environment. We hope to work with each of those bodies. As well, we are in the processing of creating a national park. Those advisory boards right now are working with different community groups to ensure that in creating a park all these issues are taken into consideration.
Tourism has one of the biggest potentials in our area. We just do not want to see it getting too crowded.