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 treaty.

Topics

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I have listened to the Reform's debate and, quite frankly, it seems that we come around to this point every time where the Reform wants to take this wrecking ball approach to public policy debate. If nothing is working, we tear it all down to the base common denominator and then somehow build some constructive process on top of that after there is nothing there to start with.

There has been a fair amount of talk about the Supreme Court of Canada. We have gone to the supreme court far too many times in dealing with first nations in the country. Every time we have gone to the supreme court we end up with a decision that binds us by law to abide by and to live with.

When the member looks at the Sparrow, Delgamuukw, Simon, Gladstone, Smokehouse and all of the supreme court decisions of the last decade and some from the decade before, would he advise us to continue to go to the supreme court? I have heard the comments about what is happening on the east coast of Canada.

Or, are we not far better off to sit down in a public policy debate with first nations, the federal government and the provincial governments and establish some type of a treaty process, that may not be perfect for everybody but is perfect for the majority, and come to some concrete examples and terms of a decision that all Canadian can live by?

Does the hon. member not think that this is a much better process than allowing the Supreme Court of Canada to dictate Canadian laws to Canadians?

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member wants to have public debate and public claims on this, yet the public has not been included. If all of the public were included we would have a much better agreement.

It is interesting that he mentions the Delgamuukw case. I keep forgetting whether it is his party or the NDP party, they are so intermingled these days. When the Delgamuukw case began in British Columbia, it was won by the provincial government. However, by the time the decision came down in came the NDP provincial government which encouraged the people to appeal. It then fired all the lawyers who had won the case and conceded a number of points they had won. The court finally had to hire back those lawyers as friends of the court in order to have somebody speak on behalf of British Columbians.

Yes, Delgamuukw is a big problem, but one of the governments that was an author to the damn report is the reason for it.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

I stand today on behalf of the people of Okanagan—Coquihalla to speak to Bill C-9, an act to put into effect the Nisga'a final agreement. This is a very significant issue today and it is very important that members of parliament be able to represent their constituents.

What we are seeing today and what we will see throughout the debate is an attempt by the federal Liberal government to not allow the debate to go forward. It will use every means possible at its disposal, including closure on debate, and every tactic it can to not have a full hearing on the Nisga'a final agreement. The people of British Columbia have not been able to express their views on the Nisga'a final agreement.

It is very important, particularly for the members of our party, but certainly all members from British Columbia, to speak on the issue and to reflect what their constituents have been telling them because the deal is very significant. It is probably one of the most significant agreements for the aboriginal people in Canada for quite some time.

The deal will hand over to 5,500 Nisga'a ownership over an area of land that is one-half the size of the area that I come from, the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan Valley is home to over 200,000 people as compared to 5,500. Along with ownership of the land, these 5,500 individuals will get the rights to resources such as timber, water and minerals, and a major say over the wildlife resource management.

The Nisga'a will also get cash payments. According to an independent analysis done by R.M. Richardson and Associates, the total cost of the deal will be a minimum of $1.3 billion or $260,000 per Nisga'a. The agreement is dramatic because the federal government intends to make Nisga'a the blueprint for over 50 other agreements that will come down the road.

It is no wonder that the people of British Columbia are concerned. Let me point out that to date I alone, as the member of parliament for Okanagan—Coquihalla, have received literally thousands of names on petitions from people who are concerned about the agreement. They want questions answered. That is why it is important to have a full hearing of this debate, even though the Liberal government is going to throw up every roadblock it can to prevent that from happening.

In the grassroots plebiscites in the province of B.C., over 90% of British Columbians opposed the deal. It is also worthwhile pointing out that only 60% of the Nisga'a people agree with the Nisga'a final agreement.

The whole idea of agreements like this is to help solve the lingering social and economic problems facing aboriginal people in the country. If the agreement was going to solve those lingering social problems that have been faced by aboriginal people in the country, I and my colleagues would stand today in full agreement of the deal. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The agreement leaves more uncertainty than the Nisga'a had before.

When all is said and done, there is no doubt in my mind that this bill will pass. It will be a matter of history that the Reform Party of Canada stood alone, stood separate from all of the other political parties in the House of Commons, the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP, and the red Tories at the end of the hall, and the other NDP at the end of the way here.

The fact is that at the end of the day, after the votes are counted and this deal has passed, the social and economic problems faced by the Nisga'a will not have changed one iota. In fact this agreement will guarantee that the Nisga'a people will see another hundred years of poverty in their communities.

This agreement does not give the Nisga'a people the tools they need for a modern economy in the 21st century. It does not do that. That is unfortunate. That is why the members from British Columbia and the members from the Reform Party of Canada are standing here today. Although we are standing alone as a political party, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Nisga'a people and every aboriginal group across the country.

We want to see settlements that are final, that give the people the tools so that they can democratically elect their governments in the 21st century. We want to make sure that they have the tools to participate in the economy. These are very real problems.

One really important issue is the lack of property rights on reserves. It has been one of the major stumbling blocks for aboriginal peoples. It plays a leading role in any economy. Without the right to private property it is almost impossible to raise capital to start or expand a business. Aboriginal people cannot benefit from the hard work of past generations because they are unable to inherit property. Under the Nisga'a final agreement all land will be collectively owned by the Nisga'a government. It will have the right to determine what land, if any, will be sold privately.

By concentrating power into the hands of the Nisga'a government, the Nisga'a people do not gain individual rights and equality with other Canadians. Since much of the spending power of the Nisga'a government will be handed to them by Ottawa, they fail to become fiscally accountable. The Nisga'a will not acquire the opportunity and responsibility to make their own future and to pass the fruits of their labour on to their children.

Before the House considers this agreement or any other agreement, we should have a full debate on the issue of property rights for aboriginal people. Property rights should be the cornerstone of any 21st century agreement with aboriginal people. Without them we are condemning the aboriginals in Canada to repeat the 19th century and all that entails.

Let us not forget which party has been in government for most of those 100 years. It has been the Liberal Party of Canada and the red Tories at the other end of the hall who have insisted on agreements such as this which have made the aboriginal people suffer in abject poverty.

As a solution I would like to suggest three points which at minimum the Nisga'a agreement should ensure. There should be adequate protection of Nisga'a land occupants with guaranteed tenure and ownership rights to compare with non-aboriginal Canadians. There should be special measures to ensure that people have the same rights regarding the division of marital assets whether or not they live on Nisga'a land. There should be the guaranteed right on individual property ownership on Nisga'a land.

Federal and provincial legislation should apply on Indian lands to protect people living on that land. We hear a lot from the people on the other side of the House that everybody who lives on that land will be covered by the same federal and provincial agreements or laws that are in place.

I would like to refer to a situation in my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla. Members may recall that I introduced a private member's bill regarding the situation at the Driftwood Mobile Home Park. The 51 families who resided at Driftwood Mobile Home Park were evicted. They were told they had to leave their homes.

Why was that? It was because their septic system failed. After they had paid rental for years and years to have their mobile homes on that property their septic system failed. Why did it fail? We found out that because it was on reserve land proper inspections were not done. The landlord and tenant act did not apply to these people because they lived on reserve land. It was a huge injustice.

Did we see the Liberal government standing up to support those 51 low income families at that time? No, it did not. Nor did members of the NDP or the red Tories at the other end support those 51 low income families who lost their homes. Some of them only received 50 cents on the dollar for their investment. They are low income people. They are without homes. They are living in my riding. There are four other mobile home parks in jeopardy of the same fate. Why? It is because the Liberal government depends on agreements which are set up to fail.

This will not solve the problem. I wish the House would reconsider this whole area. At the end of the day I can guarantee that I will be standing shoulder to shoulder in support of the Nisga'a people for their future and their economic development when all these other people are long gone.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I have one question and a point that I would like to raise. The hon. member says that private property rights are not protected in the Nisga'a agreement when in reality if he has read the agreement he must be aware that private property rights are protected in the agreement.

Private landowners, non-Nisga'a landowners who live in the Nass Valley, are not under the Nisga'a agreement. They still have full title to their property. It even goes so far as to give them ownership of the roadbeds leading to that property. Therefore private property rights are definitely protected.

I find it a bit incongruous that government members are not standing to debate and defend the Nisga'a agreement. They have left it up to opposition parties in the House that may or many not agree with each other. Surely the Government of Canada, which represents the people of Canada, should be doing the job of defending the treaty that I am on my feet doing right now. It is a good treaty and I would like to hear more from government members. I would like to hear from the hon. member on that.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question. Unfortunately the member is not from the province of British Columbia which really makes his argument moot.

The people of British Columbia want to see an agreement that makes sense, an agreement that does not protect the property rights of Nisga'a people. We are talking about the Nisga'a people and their property rights. They do not have property rights in this agreement. This is what needs to be protected. They need to be protected in this agreement.

If we do not have the tools, which the agreement does not have, to give Nisga'a people those property rights in the 21st century, what are we giving them? We are giving them more of what they are used to now, more of what they have had for the last 200 years, and that is abject poverty. They will not be able to participate actively in the economy of the country and in the economy of British Columbia.

As I have said in my comments, they do not have the right to own that property. They do not have the right to hand it down to their heirs. They do not have the right to participate through a business.

The hon. member says he would like government members to stand and defend the Nisga'a agreement. Probably the reason they are not is it is indefensible.

The agreement is a bad agreement. It does not make sense for the Nisga'a people. I just hope at the end of the day when the deal is signed, because undoubtedly it will be, that the hon. member will be willing to go to British Columbia and explain it five years from now when the impact of the agreement on the Nisga'a people is truly felt. I hope the member is still around to explain that he stood in support of the agreement.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would ask the member to comment further on the issue of property rights. We have heard all day from Reform Party members that this treaty somehow does not allow property rights for Nisga'a people.

Would the member not agree, if he has read the treaty, that the treaty transfers ownership of the land back to the Nisga'a people as a people but that the treaty allows various ways for people to privately own the land they live on? It specifically says that individuals cannot get less in terms of property rights than they already have. They can only get more. I ask the member to confirm that is exactly what the treaty says.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, the agreement does not confer individual property rights on the Nisga'a people.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Madam Speaker, I am particularly interested seeing as how the last speaker is my neighbouring colleague in the Okanagan. I go into the south part and he goes into a major part of it.

I have a copy of a briefing note from the provincial ministry of agriculture to the minister of agriculture, Corky Evans, who is now running for the leadership of the NDP government out there. It states clearly that the Nisga'a treaty sets up a precedent that will affect every rancher in the province of British Columbia who lives within 10 kilometres of a reserve. In the Okanagan alone that could affect 1,000 ranchers.

I would like to hear my colleague who represents a good part of that area and those 1,000 ranchers comment on that.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, because I come from an area that has a ranching industry and an orchard industry natural resources are very important to our area. Because the agreement is set up the way it is, it has a direct impact on ranchers, orchardists and the natural resource sector.

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Reform

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, the Reform Party has always believed that treaties with our native people should be concluded as quickly as possible, so I really wish that I could stand before the House and offer my support for the bill. Unfortunately the bill is full of concerns that have deep ramifications for not only my home province of British Columbia but for the whole country.

The conditions under which many aboriginal people in my riding and many other regions of Canada live are absolutely appalling. I have seen homes without water and proper heating. I have spoken with people who are desperately poor having been unemployed virtually forever and who are hanging on through subsistence welfare cheques. I have seen the emotions of people as they begged for someone to help them. I have witnessed their sense of hopelessness and helplessness. I have been an eyewitness to the less than enthusiastic police investigations into filed complaints of wrongdoing that occurred on reserves.

It takes real courage for our native people to step forward in these circumstances. After the witness reports, the pictures and the paperwork it is truly wrong and upsetting to have the whole thing swept under the carpet.

I have observed firsthand the lack of personal initiative that many aboriginal people have for individual advancement, that personal drive which gives all of us a reason to roll out of bed in the morning and strive to do our best during the upcoming day.

Why do many aboriginals feel this way? The answer is simple. Either their own peers, the Indian act or a combination of both strive to hold them back.

Over the past 10 years approximately $60 billion have been poured into the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. If money alone could solve these problems, I would have thought they would have been solved years ago.

The problem is not money. There has been plenty of money poured into DIAND. Simply put, the resources have never reached those at the grassroots level that need it most. The reality is there has been a litany of broken promises from both the government and many of the native leaders. Bureaucratic red tape and corruption have made it nearly impossible for the individual grassroots aboriginal person to get ahead.

During the summer of 1998 I attended a meeting of grassroots aboriginal people in Airdrie, Alberta, initiated by the Reform Party. Following the meeting and after hearing from many aboriginal people I hosted a meeting on aboriginal accountability in my own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan. I expected 25 people. That was the number of invitations that went out. Over 50 people crowded into a room representing 15 different bands from all across Vancouver Island.

Time and time again grassroots aboriginals in attendance expressed serious concerns over their respective band councils and leadership. Of all the people in attendance the only ones who did not see that there was an accountability problem were those few who worked for the band councils or the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Person after person stood up to talk indicating that they had the same concerns within their band that other speakers had expressed. They also added they thought that they had been the only ones with this problem until they came to the meeting. They were grateful that others were willing to step forward and publicly discuss the issues. The primary concern was accountability among their own leadership. That is not new. I will refer to some quotes from that meeting:

It's sad to see your own people doing this to you.

If white people had done this to us we'd be up in arms.

This has really opened my eyes. I thought it was just us.

Reformers are the only people who'll listen.

I am leery of the agreement and the lack of firm details of accountability within the band. I am also very concerned about the welfare of women and children under the agreement. Contrary to words spoken on the other side, the rights of Nisga'a women have not been included in the document.

Women's rights deserve to be fully addressed. I have had the opportunity to talk with many grassroots aboriginal people at friendship centres and native women's associations. We have discussed a great many matters ranging from land settlements and equality to health care and family matters.

I speak from the heart on this issue. I have witnessed firsthand the terrible price women and children have paid through the native patriarchal system. Women and children typically have had very few rights bestowed upon them by the elite of the band councils. If the Liberal government is so concerned with the family, why does it not put its words into action for it is time to walk the talk?

One of my next concerns is the matter of personal property rights. Under the current agreement the Nisga'a council, village or corporation will be the owners of the land and therefore the resources.

I believe strongly that to take full responsibility for one's actions has both rewards and consequences. Consequences tend to mean very little if there is no personal risk and no cost to the individual personally. The reward is based on the same principal that to risk something to succeed there will be personal gain. Simply put, what one owns one cares for.

I believe this is not only a problem within our aboriginal community as a whole but a symptom of our society at large. To be truly effective I strongly urge the government to implement individual property rights for all Nisga'a people.

There are several positive aspects of the agreement. One of them is to move the Nisga'a people out from under the oppressive Indian Act. I hope and pray that the Nisga'a people will not be moving from one oppressive regime to another. I have to ask myself a question. If this agreement was to apply directly to me, would I be satisfied to live under it? My simple answer is no. I would not want to be placed under the terms of the agreement. Nor do I believe that all Nisga'a people truly want to be placed under it.

Although a majority of the Nisga'a people did pass the agreement the final result was certainly not overwhelming. A total of 61% approved the agreement, 39% were against it, and 15% of the eligible voters declined to vote.

Perhaps the greatest concern to me is that the agreement sets the framework for all treaty settlements in Canada. There are many agreements yet to be negotiated. However to use the agreement as the cornerstone, I am afraid, sets the country on a long road to the courts and confrontation. I hope that is not what my colleagues on the other side are looking for. They only need to look at the west coast and review the Musqueam land battles. They only need to look to the east coast and try to make sense of the fisheries fiasco the government has created.

All Canadians are deserving of a far better agreement. It is my belief that the agreement will not bring the Nisga'a people into Canada but will create a mini-state within the nation, a nation within a nation, a nation that in 14 different areas has the right to supersede the laws of the Canadian constitution and the province of British Columbia.

I have three native children who are part of my family. I love each one of them very much, just as I love my other five children who are non-native. We have made it work in our family. We love and comfort each other. I want them to grow up in a country where—

Nisga'A Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid I have to interrupt at this point. The hon. member will have approximately two and half minutes when the bill is brought back to the House.

The House resumed from October 22 consideration of motion that Bill C-6, an act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances, by providing for the use of electronic means to communicate or record information or transactions and by amending the Canada Evidence Act, the Statutory Instruments Act and the Statute Revision Act, be read the third time and passed.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

October 26th, 1999 / 6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It being 6.30 p.m., pursuant to order adopted Friday, October 22, 1999, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on the motion at third reading of Bill C-6.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 45
Government Orders

7 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Division No. 45
Adjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for being in the House this evening.

On October 18 I had the opportunity and the pleasure to rise in the House to question the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food about an issue that is very close and dear not only to my heart, but to the constituents of Brandon—Souris as well as to agricultural constituents all across this fair country of ours.

As the House has been told many times, the minister of agriculture and his department have put forward this wonderful program called AIDA that is going to solve all of the problems of western Canada and western Canadian producers.

I had the opportunity to rise on October 18 to ask the minister of agriculture why it was that only $90 million had been distributed to the four provinces for which the federal government administers the AIDA program.

For those who do not know, and perhaps the parliamentary secretary does not know, there are four provinces that have the AIDA program administered for them by the federal government, and those provinces are Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

With the commodity crisis that we are now suffering throughout western Canada, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are without question the hardest hit because they have a dependency on grains and oilseeds more so than other provinces and other commodities that are being grown and produced throughout Canada.

The $90 million is very important because as of October 18 that was the amount of money that was distributed to those four provinces. However, the minister of agriculture, in response to my question, suggested that in the four provinces where the federal government delivers the program well over $200 million had been delivered, as identified in Hansard . That, in fact, was not true and I would like the parliamentary secretary to explain to me how a $90 million distribution of funds could be mistaken for a $200 million distribution of funds.

The reason I brought this up was because not only was the money not being distributed, the applicants for the AIDA program were being denied. In those four provinces, 8,000 applicants had been approved for the AIDA program and some 10,000 applicants had been denied.

Supplementary to that question, I asked the minister if in fact he thought that the 10,000 applicants who had been denied did not require any assistance with the farm crisis. Needless to say, it was question period, not answer period, and the minister decided to go off on some different tangent and he never did answer the question.

Maybe the parliamentary secretary would like to answer tonight. Did those 10,000 applicants who have been denied apply simply on a whim? Did they apply because they thought there was going to be $900 million distributed, which we have seen is not happening? Did they apply because they did not need the assistance? Or, did they apply and get refused because the program itself is flawed?

The program is definitely flawed, as we have found out. There are no negative margins covered in the program right now. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary would like to explain why, when the program was designed and developed not to include negative margins in the process.

I should tell you, Madam Speaker, that the process of application is very—