House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nisga'a.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gilles Bernier Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I present a petition on behalf of the people in my riding.

The petition is addressed to the House of Commons and parliament assembled. It states that we the undersigned citizens of Canada draw the attention of the House to the following: Whereas, a majority of Canadians understand the concept of marriage as only the voluntary union of a single, that is unmarried male and a single, that is unmarried female; and whereas, it is the duty of parliament to ensure that marriage, as it has always been known and understood in Canada, be preserved and protected.

Therefore, the petitioners pray that parliament enact legislation, such as Bill C-225, so as to define the statute that a marriage can only be entered into between a single male and a single female.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition on the subject of God and the constitution. The petition was signed by residents of my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas, as well as many other constituencies in Canada.

The petitioners note that the laws of our country have always been based on Judeo-Christian morals and values which have been passed down through the centuries via western civilization; that the majority of Canadians believe in the God who created the heavens and the earth and are not offended by the mention of his name in the preamble of the charter of rights and freedoms; that the preamble of charter of rights and freedoms acts as a foundation upon which the subsequent sections are based and sets forth the basic transcendental understanding for our rights and freedoms.

Therefore, the petitioners pray and request that parliament oppose any amendment to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or any other federal legislation which will provide for the exclusion of reference to the supremacy of God in our constitution and laws.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I present one other petition on the subject of medicare, also signed by residents of my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas and others.

The petitioners urge that the federal government preserve and enforce the Canada Health Act, the foundation of medicare, in every province and region of Canada and maintain the five key principles of medicare.

They call upon parliament to enshrine the Canada Health Act and the five principles of medicare in the Canadian constitution to guarantee national standards of quality, publicly funded health care for every Canadian citizen as a right. They call for this in the Constitution of Canada.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Reform

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today.

The first petition contains 120 signatures. It draws the attention of the House to the fact that a majority of Canadians are in favour of a fair agreement with the Nisga'a and that it is complete and equitable to all Canadians.

It points out that there are court cases presently outstanding regarding the Nisga'a treaty, some of which, including one by the Liberal Party of B.C., question the constitutionality of the agreement, and that the citizens of British Columbia should have a vote on the referendum before changes are made to our constitution.

They therefore pray and request that parliament reject this treaty as it will divide Canadians forever.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Reform

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition contains 629 signatures. This is one of a series of several thousand signatures. It is in connection with the arrival of a ship earlier this year bearing illegal Chinese migrants.

The petitioners point out that bogus refugee claimants cause undue hardship for honest, bona fide refugees; that the current immigration system encourages international people smugglers; and that there is no effective system in place to quickly separate legitimate asylum seekers from illegal migrants.

They call on parliament to enact immediate changes to Canada's immigration laws governing refugees to allow for the deportation of obvious and blatant abusers of the system.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Réginald Bélair Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition this morning on behalf of the rural mail couriers who work for Canada Post. Most of the time they earn less than minimum wage and have working conditions reminiscent of another era.

Furthermore, these Canada Post employees have not been allowed to bargain collectively to improve their wages and working conditions like other workers.

They are therefore petitioning parliament to summon Canada Post to give them the same level of consideration as regular and permanent employees.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table a petition signed by many residents in my riding and others who are asking parliament to ensure that marriage, as it has always been known and understood in Canada, be preserved and protected.

They ask that parliament enact Bill C-225, an act to amend the Marriage Act and the Interpretation Act so as to define in statute that a marriage can only be entered into between a single male and a single female.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

The second petition I have, Mr. Speaker, also signed by constituents and others, asks that parliament, through the enactment and enforcement of the Criminal Code, protect the most vulnerable members of our society from sexual abuse and in particular child pornography.

They ask that parliament take all measures necessary to ensure that the possession of child pornography remain a serious criminal offence and that federal police forces be directed to give priority to enforcing this law for the protection of children.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition in the House which says that section 43 of the criminal code states that every school teacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or a child who is under their care if force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances, and that section 43 recognizes the primary role of parents in the raising and discipline of their children.

The petitioners ask that parliament reaffirm the duty of parents to responsibly raise their children according to their own conscience and beliefs and to retain section 43 in the Criminal Code as it currently is worded.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

October 26th, 1999 / 10:25 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Kenora—Rainy River
Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-9, an act to give effect to the Nisga'a Final Agreement, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour for me to bring forward this legislation, the Nisga'a final agreement act. The act and the treaty it will enshrine mark the culmination of a journey begun by the Nisga'a people more than a century ago.

Since 1887, the Nisga'a people have been actively seeking to resolve issues related to their land, culture and government. Generations came and went without solutions being found.

While the rest of Canada progressed into a modern and prosperous society, the Nisga'a were left behind uncertain of their place in the country, uncertain of whether there even was a place for them in the country.

Today marks a major step forward for the Nisga'a people, for British Columbia and for Canada. There is a great deal of excitement these days about the dawning of a new millennium and the opportunities it presents for our nation. However, as we enter the 21st century we still face the challenge of unfinished business from the 19th.

The bill represents a major step forward in bringing closure to unfinished business from a century ago. It marks a new era of reconciliation and renewal between Canada and aboriginal people. By doing so it sets the stage for Canada to realize even greater achievements in the new century.

For six generations the Nisga'a people refused to give up hope or to doubt that their goals would be achieved. The fact that we are debating the bill today is testament to their dedication and perseverance. I am sure history will prove that their efforts will make Canada a stronger and more complete nation.

I also recognize the efforts of my predecessors and colleagues in the House who have contributed so greatly to where we are today. I pay tribute to the government and people of British Columbia for demonstrating that our country can and will accommodate the needs and aspirations of all those living within its borders.

Bill C-9 is a national achievement. It represents a milestone not only for the Nisga'a people but for all British Columbians and Canadians. The Nisga'a treaty is a reconciliation between past and present, between native and non-native. It lets us put the mistakes of the past behind us. By clearly setting out our relationship it will foster community economic growth for the Nisga'a and for other Canadian citizens.

The treaty is an important step in the long process of nationbuilding within Canada. As Dr. Joe Gosnell, president of the Nisga'a Tribal Council, pointed out on numerous occasions, we are negotiating our way into Canada, not out of it.

With this endorsement from the House a century old goal is within our grasp. The Nisga'a treaty represents a pivotal point in the relationship between Canada and the Nisga'a people. It is an opportunity to demonstrate our mutual trust and respect.

The Nisga'a people have been living in northwestern British Columbia for thousands of years. When Europeans first arrived on the Pacific shores they found a well established society, one that was self-sustaining and able to care for its members. The Nisga'a were prosperous people and entrepreneurial in spirit. They lived in organized communities and governed themselves according to the ancient Ayuukhl Nisga'a laws, their rules of social obligation and conduct.

The arrival of European settlers had a dramatic effect on the Nisga'a and on other aboriginal people in British Columbia. As in other parts of Canada the imposition of foreign laws, cultural and religious customs had a negative impact that is still being felt today.

Diseases that had never before been seen in North America had a devastating effect on entire communities. The Nisga'a population was once more than 30,000, a number that subsequently declined to only 800. Today the Nisga'a number almost 6,000 but that is still a far cry from where they once were.

In British Columbia the circumstances of aboriginal people were further affected by the lack of comprehensive treaties with the crown. In most other parts of Canada these treaties were a prerequisite for settlement. They provided some degree of certainty over land tenure and defined a relationship between the crown and aboriginal people.

The absence of treaties in British Columbia means that to this day most aboriginal people in that province are unsure of their place in Canada. It also means great uncertainty for all residents of British Columbia.

For more than a century the Nisga'a have sought to rectify the situation. They did not let the events of the past outweigh their desire to achieve an honoured and valuable place within Canada. Despite serious obstacles that were placed before them, generations of Nisga'a leadership continue to pursue their goals through peaceful and lawful methods.

In more recent times the efforts of the Nisga'a have coincided with an evolution in the way individual Canadians and their governments view their relationship with aboriginal people. There is widespread agreement that the policies of the past have failed and a new approach is needed, one based on mutual respect and trust. There is broad recognition that all Canadians will benefit from such an approach.

This evolution of thought has produced a number of initiatives including the many task forces and royal commissions established to look into aboriginal issues, the launching in 1985 of the community based self-government policy, the passage by parliament of the Sechelt Indian Band Self-Government Act, through to the tabling in 1995 of the approach of the Government of Canada to the implementation of the inherent right and negotiation of aboriginal self-government.

The government believes that self-government is like other aboriginal rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the constitution of 1982. As the courts have suggested, these rights are best negotiated, not litigated, and this is precisely what we have done. The Nisga'a treaty is the logical result of the evolution of Canadian thought and policy and measures up as a practical and workable arrangement that operates within the constitutional framework of Canada.

The Nisga'a treaty establishes a shared understanding of how the Nisga'a people and other Canadians can coexist and achieve common goals. It provides a fair, affordable and honourable settlement that accommodates the interest of all Canadians and will promote stability and opportunity for all residents of the Nass Valley.

By clearly setting out the rights of the Nisga'a people as related to the ownership and use of lands and resources, the treaty provides certainty. This certainty will foster an economic climate conducive to attracting investment and creating jobs while at the same time providing an opportunity for the Nisga'a to protect their culture.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of certainty to the future of British Columbia. During the approximate 500 public consultations and information meetings which were held in B.C. during the Nisga'a negotiations the business community made one thing perfectly clear: certainty is essential to a strong economic future for the province.

What is the cost of the status quo? A 1991 Price Waterhouse study concluded that unresolved land claims in British Columbia cost the province $1 billion in investment and 1,500 jobs each year in forestry and mining alone. The Nisga'a treaty is a major step toward ensuring that kind of economic activity is not lost for future generations of British Columbians.

So long as certainty is achieved I know that the business community welcomes the opportunity to work in partnership with aboriginal people. This is as true in my own region as it is in British Columbia where partnerships are springing up throughout the province as the private sector and aboriginal communities work together on economic ventures.

Those who have known me for a while know how much importance I place on these kinds of partnerships and the ability for native and non-native people to work together. Throughout Canada but mostly in rural regions native and non-native Canadians live side by side. They share many of the same challenges and dreams, but for far too long they have lived isolated from each other.

In today's world that isolation cannot continue. The only way for aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians to realize their full potential is by working together. The Nisga'a treaty will encourage that process in northwestern British Columbia. It is important that members of the House and Canadians in general are aware of what the Nisga'a treaty will and will not do. I will outline a few of those items.

Most important, the treaty establishes a full and final settlement of all outstanding Nisga'a claims in respect of aboriginal rights and title. The Nisga'a will receive a settlement package including $196.1 million paid over 15 years, approximately 2,000 square kilometres of land in the Nass Valley area including surface and subsurface rights, and a share of Nass River salmon stocks and Nass area wildlife harvests.

The total estimated one time cost of the treaty including land value, implementation and other related costs is $487.1 million in 1999 dollars. Canada's share is $255 million. I want to be clear on the cost of the agreement. It does not involve, as some have implied, a cash transfer of a half billion dollars. While I am sure members will go into great detail during committee study, it is important to underscore this point for all Canadians to clarify the record.

A strong economy requires land and a resource base. With this achieved the Nisga'a will be able to participate more fully in the local and provincial economies. Once again the Nisga'a people will have the tools necessary to be self-reliant. They will be able to harvest timber on their lands for housing or commercial use. Given the natural beauty of the Nass Valley region it is likely the Nisga'a will explore economic opportunities such as outfitting, wilderness camping, ecotourism and sport fishing.

Other residents of the Nass Valley will benefit as well. Increased economic activity will produce inevitable spin-offs throughout the area. As infrastructure on Nisga'a lands and the Nisga'a highway are upgraded jobs will be created and local businesses will profit from an injection of new cash. A prosperous Nisga'a people will contribute to a stronger economy in northwestern British Columbia.

As significant as is the Nisga'a treaty it is equally significant that it has been achieved within Canada's existing constitutional framework. It does not directly or indirectly change the constitution. Nor is a constitutional amendment necessary to bring the treaty into effect. The Nisga'a treaty is a practical arrangement that defines the rights the Nisga'a people will exercise under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Although rights will be protected under section 35 it does not mean they are absolute. The courts have confirmed that those rights may be infringed where proper justification exists.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the nature of the Nisga'a government envisioned by the treaty. Quite simply the Nisga'a government will be a democratic government for the Nisga'a community. It will work to protect Nisga'a language, culture and property and to promote the future prosperity and well-being of the Nisga'a people. It will give the Nisga'a the control over their own lives and destinies that most of us have long taken for granted.

The treaty does not create an order of government apart from Canadian law and society. Let me be clear about this. The charter of rights and freedoms will continue to apply to the Nisga'a people.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

An hon. member

Wrong.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Nault Kenora—Rainy River, ON

Let me see if I can say that again. The charter of rights and freedoms will continue to apply to the Nisga'a people, the Nisga'a government and all people living on Nisga'a land. The charter will apply to all actions taken by the Nisga'a government, including when it can make laws and take decisions such as issuing permits and licences. The Nisga'a government will only be able to enact laws that are consistent with the charter of rights and freedoms.

Not only will the charter continue to apply. Nothing in the treaty takes away from federal or provincial authority under the constitution and the sovereignty of the crown is clearly acknowledged. Federal and provincial laws such as the criminal code or B.C.'s family relations act will apply. Where the Nisga'a government can make laws they will operate concurrently with federal and provincial laws. There will be no areas of exclusive Nisga'a jurisdiction.

Throughout history treaties have been used to define the relationships people have with each other. They represent solemn commitments. As such they cannot and must not be changed at the whim of one party or the other. For that reason the Nisga'a treaty and the Nisga'a final agreement act will prevail when there is a conflict with federal or provincial legislation. This is consistent with the constitutional protection of treaty rights.

That does not mean Nisga'a laws will necessarily prevail over federal-provincial laws. The treaty clearly lays out the areas in which the Nisga'a government will have the right to enact laws. These laws will only prevail in matters internal to the Nisga'a people, integral to their culture, and essential to the operation of their government.

For other areas the treaty clearly spells out the rules of which any conflict between Nisga'a laws and federal or provincial laws will be resolved. In general, federal and provincial laws will prevail, or the Nisga'a law will have to meet or exceed existing federal and provincial standards in order to be valid.

As well as providing clear avenues of authority, the Nisga'a treaty is a sensible and practical arrangement that will provide for the political, legal and financial accountability of the Nisga'a government. The treaty, its related fiscal financing agreement and the Nisga'a constitution all contain provisions to provide that the Nisga'a government will be accountable to its members and to the governments from which it will derive some of its funding.

The Nisga'a government will be required to prepare and provide audited financial statements to its members and to Canada and British Columbia. These statements must meet generally accepted accounting standards and any funding provided by Canada will be subject to review by the auditor general. This standard of accountability has been embraced by the Nisga'a leadership. Beyond any government's moral obligation to be accountable to those it represents, obviously there is a practical reality.

The modern self-government arrangements in the Nisga'a treaty clarify the responsibility for land management for all those who do business with the Nisga'a government and for those who live on Nisga'a lands. In order for the Nisga'a to attract economic development, their laws and decisions will have to be open and transparent with their administrative policies and review and appeal procedures both clear and fair.

While the Nisga'a government will be unique to the Nisga'a people, it will operate under principles of democratic, representative and accountable public administration common to other local and regional governments throughout Canada.

We should be proud that this treaty finally sets out the rights of the Nisga'a people. We should be no less proud, however, of the measures it takes to reconcile Nisga'a rights with the rights of others. The treaty protects the rights of other aboriginal people and the rights of non-Nisga'a individuals who reside on Nisga'a lands.

If the treaty were found to adversely affect an aboriginal right of another first nation, it will be read down to accommodate that first nation's rights. The parties would be obliged to make best efforts to amend the treaty in order to remedy the situation.

For non-Nisga'a living on Nisga'a lands, the treaty contains far stronger protection of their rights than the existing Indian Act. Those individuals will continue to enjoy the right to vote in federal, provincial and regional district elections. They will also have the right to vote for, or become members of, elected Nisga'a public institutions, such as school boards and health boards.

The treaty also provides that non-Nisga'a living on Nisga'a lands will have the right to be consulted about all decisions that might directly and significantly affect them. The Nisga'a government will have a duty and an obligation to give their views full and fair consideration. Like Nisga'a citizens, non-Nisga'a people will have full access to procedures allowing them to appeal administrative decisions of the Nisga'a government, including judicial review.

Throughout the negotiations leading up to the treaty, all parties were very mindful of the rights and interests of others. For example, people who are not Nisga'a citizens but reside on Nisga'a lands may very well benefit from services provided by the Nisga'a government. However, they will not be subject to taxation by the Nisga'a government.

The Canadian public will continue to enjoy reasonable access to Nisga'a lands for recreation and other non-commercial purposes. Access required to construct and operate licensed water supplies is protected, and the Nisga'a water reservation, amounting to only 1% of the Nass River flow, leaves ample volume for other uses which may be required in the future.

These are but a few of the many ways in which the Nisga'a treaty protects and respects the rights of others. This protection I should emphasize is not available under the Indian Act.

The Nisga'a treaty is a complex and carefully balanced agreement. If any of my colleagues have yet to read the text, I urge them to do so in order to see the extent to which the concerns and aspirations of all Canadians have been addressed. Anyone taking the time to do so will realize that, as with all negotiations, there has been give and take by all parties, including the Nisga'a.

One is in the area of taxation. Once the treaty is ratified the Nisga'a will enter an eight year period to phase out exemptions from sales tax and a 12 year period to phase out exemptions from income tax. At the end of the phase-out periods the Nisga'a people will pay taxes the same way that other Canadians do.

The Nisga'a will also undertake a share of the responsibility of funding their government. The reliance of the Nisga'a people on transfers will be reduced over time and it will contribute to the cost of programs and services through the operation of an own source revenue agreement.

The more that people actually learn about this agreement, the stronger their support for it becomes. I am certain other members will expand on areas of the treaty that are of particular interest to them. However, I would encourage members to bear in mind how historically and symbolically significant this debate is. In many ways this debate is about how we as Canadians see ourselves and our country. The fact that we have a treaty to debate is a testament to the spirit and intent of “Gathering Strength—Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan” in which we committed to address the needs of communities by building a real partnership with aboriginal people.

We would not be at this point today if Canadians had not made it clear to us that it is high time we resolved the unfinished business of the past in order to move into the future. At the same time, while the Nisga'a people will never forget what they have endured, they have come to know a different Canada in recent generations. It is a Canada that respects and embraces people of all heritages, whether aboriginal or non-aboriginal; a Canada that is grateful for the contribution aboriginal people have made and will continue to make; a Canada that is committed to reconciliation and renewal; and a Canada that knows its strength lies in the ability to forge partnerships among all those living within its borders.

The Nisga'a treaty says a great deal about how far Canada has come over the last century and our limitless potential to go even further in the future. It is a significant step in the path toward a better Canada. It is fitting that we are poised to ratify the treaty during the United Nations decade of the world's indigenous people. What better way to mark that occasion than a treaty that has become an example to nations around the world and a sign of hope to indigenous people in Canada and abroad.

In closing I would like to once again quote Dr. Joe Gosnell: “Now it is time to ratify the Nisga'a treaty for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people to come together and write a new chapter in the history of our nation, our country and indeed the world”.