House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Madam Speaker, the Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty toward animals and supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. There should not be any question at all about that.

For many years I have been owned by dogs. They run my life. I love them dearly. They are wonderful animals to have in one's life. I cannot tolerate anyone who would deliberately be cruel to a small animal such as that. The proposal in front of us affects far more than small animals. We have rules and regulations in place and if we were to enforce those fully, I think we could do everything possible to eliminate cruelty to small animals.

My concern with the bill is with regard to ranchers. I have the privilege of representing a riding that is surrounded by ranchers. There was no consultation with the producers on this bill. If the government had talked to the producers, they would have reassured it about the way they treat their animals and the investment that they have in the animals and we would not have the kind of wording that there is.

It is very disturbing to me when someone who has absolutely no idea of a lifestyle is prepared to jeopardize that lifestyle. Maybe in the minds of some of the Liberal members they believe that ranchers are an uncaring lot. Nothing could be further from the truth with regard to ranchers.

Ranchers are the original entrepreneurs of the country. They have to go through hardships and have incredibly difficult lives. For anyone to think that they would deliberately damage an animal or be cruel to it is beyond my comprehension.

They inoculate their animals. They care for their animals. After the delivery of little calves in the dead of winter, some of the ranchers in my riding actually go so far as to take them into their living rooms or kitchens to make sure they are safe and that they will be all right. That is the kind of concerned people we are talking about.

They hand feed these little animals to keep them going. They make every effort to ensure that the animal is safe. They inoculate. They do all of the proper things. To put them in a position where they could become criminals with this bill is intolerable to me.

We must understand the situation ranchers face. For instance, if there was a herd of 100 cattle and 10 were lost for whatever reason, the entire profit margin would be lost. Ranchers are business people and profit is important but the maintenance and safety of the animals is far more important to them.

The comments from the minister are incredibly disturbing. This has been raised over and over again and her comment has always been that it was not the intent of the bill to condemn ranchers but to protect animals. If it is true that the intent is to protect animals and not to put ranchers in a position of being charged with criminal acts, then that should be made very clear in the writing of this legislation but it is not.

We should define cruelty and eliminate any concern or fear that those in the ranching community would have that they may be treated as criminals. I do not think that is too much to ask under the circumstances. It would go a long way toward making it a more palatable bill.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. First, I want to apologize to the hon. member. I had hoped to get consent for the motion that I am about to put a few minutes ago between two speakers but that was not possible so I apologize to the hon. member.

There has been consultation among parties and I believe that if you were to seek it there would be consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding Standing Order 76, the House may consider Bill C-23 at report stage at second reading on Friday, December 7, 2001.

This is for the convenience of members. Instead of doing it Monday, it would be done tomorrow.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of Motions Nos. 1 and 4 to 9.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Madam Speaker, as I was saying, if the intent of the bill is not to put ranchers in the position of being charged with criminal offences, then it needs to be clearly defined. I do not think it is asking too much to make that clear. It disturbed me very much when the minister commented that this was not the intent and that if this were to happen, it would be taken care of through a court of law.

I outlined earlier the tenuous position some ranchers find themselves in. When a rancher has 100 head of cattle and loses 10, he has lost all of his profit. The minister is asking that these people, who are the original entrepreneurs of the country, to put themselves in a position of having to go to court to defend their way of life and take a chance that a criminal action may be brought against them. That is completely and totally unfair. It makes absolutely no sense at all to put people in that position.

Ranchers, farmers and people who are in these positions are not able to go to court. If a law has been created properly, which is what we are trying to have happen, why in the world would it get to the point where people would have to go into a court of law to defend themselves? Those are the parts that are absolutely wrong.

The new definition of animal includes is extremely broad and includes “a vertebrate, other than a human being, and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain”. This new definition extends legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided that kind of protection. This is a case of overkill. The bill goes too far in one direction.

One of our main concerns of the bill is that the criminal code would no longer provide the same level of legal protection presently afforded to those who use animals for legitimate, lawful and justified practices. The example that I used today was ranchers.

The phrase “legal justification or excuse and with colour of right” in section 429(2) of the criminal code currently provides protection for those who commit any kind of property offence. However, in the new bill the fact that the animal cruelty provisions would be moved out of the general classification of property offences and into a section of their own would effectively remove these provisions outside the ambit of that protection.

The Canadian Alliance asked the government members to make the defences in section 429(2) explicit in this new legislation, but they refused. If there is no hidden intent, or hidden agenda as I have heard other colleagues say today, why not define that clearly and take that burden off the ranchers in Canada?

The Canadian Alliance in no way condones intentional acts of cruelty toward animals and it supports increasing the penalties for offences relating to such acts. However, while cruelty to animals cannot be tolerated, the criminal law should not be used as a tool by special interest groups to destroy the legitimate farming and related food production industry. We will strive to ensure that the legitimate use of animals by farmers, sportsmen and medical researchers is protected. That is our job.

All we are asking is that the Liberal side of the House take due consideration and make the necessary amendments so we can work together and get what we want out of the bill. We need to work together in order to ensure that everyone's rights are protected and that the ranching way of life in Canada is not destroyed intentionally or unintentionally by poorly worded legislation.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I have already had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-15, Bill C-15A and Bill C-15B. I was not expecting to speak to the bill, but the lack of speakers from other parties has allowed me the opportunity. That is not an attack on any other party. I appreciate the opportunity to recollect some of the concerns that the bill brings forward.

When Bill C-15 initially came forward we were disturbed by what we saw. We saw an omnibus bill that brought in many good things, but there were a number of specifics that were worrisome to the Canadian Alliance as well as to other members of the opposition.

We applaud the government for splitting the bill after pressure from the opposition. It allowed for quicker passage of Bill C-15A which dealt with child luring, disarming of a police officer and other items. It allowed us the opportunity to take the second portion of Bill C-15, study it and bring witnesses forward so that we could deal with the concerns regarding the cruelty to animal clause and the firearms issue. That is exactly what happened over the last month.

It has been a busy three months since September 11. When we have not been dealing with terrorism bills in the justice committee, we have been dealing with the cruelty to animal clause.

For us to stand in the House to explain the frustration in the agricultural sector over the last few years, it would be an understatement no matter what we tried to say. We have watched as commodity prices have fallen and input costs have gone up. Other government practices have been ineffective. Many of the agriculture programs that we would have liked to have seen from the government have been forgotten, put on the back burner or totally ignored. Due to the lack of government support there have been steps taken by the federal Liberals that would actually raise additional concerns for our farming community and food production groups.

What we see in Bill C-15B is exactly one of the concerns. This is a bill that is very divisive. It pits urban against rural. It is much like Bill C-68, the gun registration bill, which was a divisive bill. The Liberal government said we needed Bill C-68, but it pitted the urban sector against the rural sector.

Legislation dealing with cruelty to animals does the same. The agriculture sector in western Canada would say to those who are involved in defined cruelty to animal cases that there should be tougher and harsher sentences. Cruelty to animals charges should be taken seriously. Agriculture would say those who willfully bring pain on animals or refuse to look after animals need to be prosecuted.

The bill takes some of the practices that our ranching and farming communities are involved in and puts them into question. Regardless of what the minister said about acceptable practices when she came to committee, animal extremist groups and other animal rights groups have said that we need to use the legislation as a basis to bring forward prosecutions. We need to push the legislation on to the front burner and use it as a reason to prosecute.

One individual who spoke in committee referred to the legislation as only the beginning. She said the onus was on humane societies and other groups on the frontlines to push the legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of the law, and to have the courage and the conviction to lay charges. She warned us not to make any mistake about it because that was what it was all about.

What was she saying? She was saying that in Bill C-15B we have the opportunity to take the legislation that was asked for and make it a springboard for prosecutions of our farmers, ranchers, trappers, including aboriginals and all others it would affect.

I have been on the farm for 40 years. I understand a number of things about farming. One of the concerns that has been brought forward so eloquently by the member for Cypress Hills--Grasslands is that the margins are simply not there to be brought and hauled before a federal or provincial court to fight a prosecution for the sake of the humane society getting it on the agenda. Farmers and ranchers move back in fear of having to defend common practices of farming.

The government says to trust it. It has said that a few times. It said that Bill C-68 would cost $85 million. We find our trust level around the Liberal government diminishing as time goes on because Bill C-68 has cost $685 million. Who knows where it will end? Perhaps it will be at least $1 billion.

I want to mention that we have seen other bills come forward too. We have seen the species at risk bill. The phone in my constituency office in Crowfoot rings constantly. I have received hundreds of letters dealing with the species at risk bill. The government is saying that to keep these species it needs to take farmland or any type of land and protect it. It says that there would not be any compensation, or maybe a little compensation, but to trust it because it would not take huge numbers of acres; just what it needed.

The calls keep coming. We have received numerous calls and correspondences from individuals who have grave concerns about how this would impact on their livelihood and on legitimate activities.

The moving of these sections from the property section into a separate section in the criminal code is something which causes great concern. For example, section 445 deals with wilfully and without lawful excuse killing, maiming, wounding, poisoning or injuring dogs, birds or animals that are not cattle and kept for a lawful purpose. We have heard the member for Cypress Hills--Grassland talk about the changing of the definition of animal to something that feels pain.

A few nights ago in the House we discussed the strychnine bill. Gophers feel pain. It is not necessarily an acceptable practice by a lot of animal rights groups but it is another case of an exercise that is needed on ranches and farms. We support any kind of bill that would genuinely deter cruelty to animals. Bill C-15B does not. It is an attack on western agriculture and farming practices. Even though amendments have been brought forward in good will they do not suffice.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I will continue down the line that my colleague from Crowfoot started on. There is no farmer or rancher that I know of who approves cruelty to animals of any nature whatsoever. However there are common practices to which we have become accustomed over the last hundreds of years that have been acceptable to society.

Suddenly we get this kind of legislation. My colleague from Crowfoot is right when he says that we have an example of a piece of legislation that begins on a slippery slope to some real problems for people who are working hard, trying their darndest to make a decent living by raising livestock or whatever the case might be.

Government is once again coming up with legislation that will sooner or later ride on its back like a chunk of lead. Instead it should be a helpful body for people to get their produce to market and make a decent living. The government is not smart enough to realize that, and that really bothers me.

Government members are telling us to trust them. They are saying that the legislation would work the way it is supposed to work. I have absolutely no trust for the Liberal government. I encourage all my ranching buddies and cattlemen to have no trust in it either. It is untrustworthy.

Business of the House
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please. The hon. member for Jonquière advised me in writing that she would be unable to introduce her motion during private members' business on Friday, December 7, 2001.

Since it has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence, I am directing the clerk to drop that item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence.

Private members' hour will thus be cancelled and the House will continue with the business before it prior to private members' hour tomorrow.

It being 5.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

December 6th, 2001 / 5:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

moved:

That this House urge the government to call a full public inquiry into the death of Dudley George, fatally shot on September 6, 1995, at Ipperwash Park, during a land claims dispute related to the land, treaty and cultural rights of the Stoney Point aboriginal people.

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have this one hour debate on the untimely death of Dudley George during the tragic events at Ipperwash.

When an unarmed man is shot and killed during a peaceful protest it should be cause for great alarm and great concern. It should be, I argue with the motion, the subject of a full federal inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened.

The facts surrounding Dudley George's death are not in dispute whatsoever. The person who pulled the trigger has been charged, tried and convicted of this wrongful death. Therefore, we do not need any kind of an investigation about the actual killing of Dudley George.

However, what the country does need to know is whether there was political interference in the actions the police took at Ipperwash. In other words, did the premier of the province of Ontario improperly interfere and influence the way the police officers handled themselves in the events leading up to the death of Dudley George?

We have presented this issue to the federal government because we believe it is appropriate and that it is within the federal government's jurisdiction to undertake the inquiry, although it would have been more appropriate if the province of Ontario had undertaken a full provincial inquiry. As more evidence has come forward we know the premier and at least one, and possibly as many as three, of his senior cabinet ministers are in a conflict of interest situation and therefore have steadfastly refused to allow the truth to come out surrounding Dudley George's death.

We do not need a full two year, multimillion dollar inquiry. I know that is the fear some people have. When they think of federal inquiries they think of the Somalia affair or the APEC affair. Frankly, given that it is a very specific thing we need to know, we do not contemplate the need for a two year investigation. It could be very short and focused. I have heard that with any degree of co-operation it could be over in a six week period. Then we would know if there were police involvement in an improper way.

The real point here is that the very definition of a police state is when politicians can interfere with police officers to have them do their bidding for some purpose other than the enforcement of the law.

I will not dwell on the very sad details of Dudley George's death. The point I would like to make is that the federal government had knowledge that the native protesters at Ipperwash were unarmed and had no plans of violent action because it had a CSIS plant among the aboriginal people the whole time. This was readily admitted.

The CSIS report to the federal government during the days leading up to the incident stated that there were between 27 and 35 individuals, many of whom were women, children and elders; that they were unarmed and had no plans for any kind of violence; and that the park they occupied was closed for the season. No tourists were around and no one could be inconvenienced if these aboriginal people occupied the park for a day, a week, a month or even until the next spring when the park opened again.

It seems that no one had any urgency to clear these people out of the park other than the premier of Ontario. He did not want to be seen to be soft on aboriginal occupancy type issues. He remembered that only a year earlier the premier of Quebec had lost an election partly because he was viewed as being soft on the Oka crisis by letting it get out of control. We believe the thought process of the premier of Ontario was similar. He had just been elected to his first term of office and was not going to be namby-pamby about one of these nuisance aboriginal occupancy issues.

Even though the information from CSIS, in the days leading up to September 6, 1995, said nothing about any kind of imminent violence, on September 6, we now know, Premier Harris and one of his cabinet ministers met with the OPP. That evening some 200 OPP officers, armed with rapid fire machine guns and armoured personnel carriers they had borrowed from DND, went in with a great sense of urgency to get these people out of the park that night. That was when the situation hit a crisis fever pitch and escalated into an armed conflict.

No one has ever been able to indicate that the aboriginal people involved were armed at all, although hundreds of shots were fired by the police. Dudley George was killed, another fellow was shot, a dog was shot to death and an aboriginal person was literally beaten to death and then resuscitated on the way to the hospital. The level of violence was extreme.

I made the point earlier in the House of Commons that when some middle class college kids were pepper sprayed at UBC during the APEC demonstration, as vile as that action was, it caused a full public inquiry that went on for years. When an unarmed aboriginal man is shot and killed at a peaceful protest, no full public inquiry is held. I should also add that Dudley George was the only aboriginal man to be killed in the 20th century on a land claims disagreement issue. That in itself should be worrisome to the point where we should be as a nation very interested in getting to the bottom of this matter.

It is not just the voice of the NDP caucus. While this is actually a private member's motion, it is not just my lone voice as a member of parliament calling for a federal inquiry. I am in very good company. I would like to indicate some of the international attention that this issue has generated.

Other groups that are calling for a full inquiry include: the United Nations human rights committee; Amnesty International; the Ontario ombudsman; the Chiefs of Ontario; the Assembly of First Nations; the Canadian Labour Congress; and both provincial opposition parties, the Liberal Party and the NDP at Queen's Park.

Interestingly enough, the former minister of Indian affairs, Mr. Ron Irwin, went on the record a number of times calling for a full public inquiry into the death of Dudley George because, frankly, he was left out of the loop. He had information that the occupancy of this provincial park actually had merit. DIAND had letters on file from the 1930s when the park was formed in which the aboriginal people were complaining that the proposed park was their historical burial ground. DIAND had the historical record on file that at least proved there was some justification for the actions the aboriginal people were taking. I think the reason Mr. Irwin was so offended was that he could have brought some light to the issue if he had been brought into the loop. Instead, it became a matter where we have a letter from the current Deputy Prime Minister, who was then the acting solicitor general, volunteering the loan of an armoured personnel carrier to the OPP siege of the Ipperwash gates.

Therefore there was involvement from the federal Liberal government but not enough involvement from the minister of DIAND, so he was one of those actively calling for a public inquiry.

In its report on the status of human rights conditions in Canada, the United Nations made reference to Ipperwash eight times. In its concluding observations about Canada, it stated:

The Committee is deeply concerned that the State party so far has failed to hold a thorough public inquiry into the death of an aboriginal activist who was shot dead by provincial police during a peaceful demonstration regarding land claims in September 1995, in Ipperwash. The Committee strongly urges the State party to establish a public inquiry into all aspects of this matter, including the role and responsibility of public officials.

Amnesty International went further when it called the killing of Dudley George a possible extrajudicial execution. This is along the lines of a Stephen Biko issue in South Africa.

We have the United Nations human rights committee calling for a federal inquiry. We have a professor, Bruce Ryder, a constitutional law expert, calling for a federal inquiry and reminding us that the federal government has the right to call this type of inquiry under the peace, order and good government clause on any issue, but further, that the federal government is justified and jurisdictionally correct to call a federal inquiry because of the fiduciary responsibility by DIAND for aboriginal peoples and land claims, which was the origin of this whole dispute, and the involvement of DND, as Ipperwash was the neighbouring property to a military base which was the first activism taken by the Stoney Point people.

The third thing, I suppose, would be the issue that DND loaned an armoured personnel carrier to the efforts at Ipperwash to lend further force to the approximately 200 police that were already there to oust the 27 to 35 protesters. If there were more justification needed, the fact that there was a federal government CSIS plant among the aboriginal people the whole time making believe he was a member of the American Indian movement and reporting back to the federal government, surely the federal government cannot deny that it was involved.

We are not looking for blame here. We are looking to find out if in fact the premier of Ontario acted in an improper way and if he did interfere with the police action.

I suppose we are hoping, as a result of a inquiry, if any stated goal were necessary in order to justify opening up such a thing, that we could develop some accepted protocol for dealing with this type of thing in the future, because a lot of aboriginal people and a lot of groups around the country have had to resort to occupying ministers' offices, occupying pieces of property that are under land claims and blocking roads. Incidents like this have been happening across the country and we need to know that these will not resort to lethal force on a regular basis. We need to have some series of tests or justifications before sending in tactical riot squads that are armed with machine guns capable of firing 800 rounds per minute and killing people a mile away. The action taken at Ipperwash was a serious reaction to what was, in this case, a peaceful protest, which many protests are.

We would hope that the recommendations from an inquiry commission would give some direction to the federal government as to how it might conduct itself in the future in cases of occupancy.

I hope I have explained clearly enough that it is not our purpose to open up every aspect of the case. As I said, the actual pulling of the trigger is a stated fact and has been proven in a court of law. Sergeant Deans, who actually pulled the trigger and killed Dudley George, has been charged, tried and convicted. We are not interested in revisiting that. We are interested in the days leading up to the terrible tragedy of the death of Dudley George. Was the premier of Ontario improperly influencing the Ontario Provincial Police in the action it took? I look forward to hearing comments from other parties.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Waterloo—Wellington
Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Motion No. 421, tabled by the member for Winnipeg Centre.

As the hon. member has reminded us, the events that led to the tragic death of Mr. Dudley George in September 1995 remain a very fresh and painful memory for many Canadians. As members will be aware, Mr. George was killed in an incident involving the Ontario Provincial Police during an occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park by aboriginal supporters of the Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation's assertions of aboriginal land treaty rights.

It is important in my view to remember that the responsibility for these matters is of provincial jurisdiction. As such, it is really the province of Ontario that must take responsibility for ensuring that justice is served in the wake of this terrible tragedy.

To this end, it is well known that Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, the SIU, was brought in to conduct a formal investigation immediately following the incident. On the basis of this review, the SIU called for criminal charges to be laid against the OPP officer alleged to have fired the fatal shot. As hon. members know, the case has made its way through the court system. The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the conviction of the officer on charges of criminal negligence in the use of a firearm.

In addition, I understand that an outcome is expected shortly on discreditable conduct charges against the officer under the Ontario police act. Furthermore, as hon. members may know, the wrongful death suit filed by the George family against officials of the government of Ontario is ongoing at this time.

It clearly would be inappropriate for the federal government to call for a public inquiry. There is no question that the path to justice and healing for the George family and their community has been long and difficult, but they have not walked this path alone. The loss of a loved one in such violent circumstances is an unforgettable, life changing event for family, for friends and for the community as a whole.

The shocking events at Ipperwash Provincial Park in September 1995 affirmed for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, the urgent need to find better ways and better solutions to settle differences, through dialogue rather than confrontation, through respectful, open negotiation rather than dispute.

We saw this powerful learning applied early in the aftermath of the crisis in the strong collaborative efforts of the Anishinabek police service and the OPP to curb any further escalation of tensions and to maintain peace and order. That was a great example of this kind of collaboration.

Together with the province of Ontario and the Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation, the Department of the Solicitor General remains an active partner in the ongoing tripartite arrangement that supports the Anishinabek police service. On a personal level, I have been greatly impressed and encouraged by the positive role this police service continues to play in support of community healing, stability and well-being.

Strong and safe communities are an essential part of the fabric of our society. The Department of the Solicitor General has pledged its full support to broad based partnership efforts with first nations leaders and individuals to bring about the kind of policing arrangements that are needed to sustain safe, vital and healthy aboriginal communities.

To meet this shared goal, the Department of the Solicitor General continues to strengthen its collaboration with the provinces and first nations peoples through the first nations policing program, the FNPP, to build community policing arrangements that are professional, effective, sustainable and accountable to the communities they are sworn to serve. The FNPP offers many success stories in improved government-first nations relations. Just as important, the FNPP responds to the needs and aspirations of first nations and Inuit communities across Canada to assume greater responsibility for public safety and well-being in their communities.

They clearly want to play a key role in making this change happen. Recent surveys undertaken in aboriginal communities across Canada confirm that first nations like most Canadians are most concerned about making progress on the issues which are central to a good quality of life: health care, education, social and economic well-being.

The overall picture shows that first nations like most Canadians are optimistic about the future of themselves, their children and communities. Almost three of four aboriginal people who took part in the survey agreed that providing them with the tools for effective governance would improve living conditions in their communities.

Six years have passed since Ipperwash. During this time the federal government has played a strong partnership role in ensuring that the pressing issues which gave rise to the events at Ipperwash would be addressed and resolved. Officials of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development continue to make good progress with Kettle Point and Stoney Point first nations. They are negotiating to resolve some of the deep rooted land claims and other issues that lie at the heart of this crisis.

The Speech from the Throne reaffirmed the government's commitment to tackle the most pressing issues facing aboriginal people on a priority basis. The Government of Canada is committed to an agenda for action that would improve the quality of life and self-sufficiency of aboriginal people.

This means working with a range of partners to ensure that aboriginal communities would have the ability to acquire the appropriate institution, resources and expertise they need to deal effectively with the complex social and economic challenges they face now and will face in the future.

It is a tragic reality that far too many aboriginal people are finding themselves in conflict with the law. We are committed as a government to taking the necessary measures to significantly reduce the percentage of aboriginal people entering the criminal justice system so that within a generation it would no longer be higher than the Canadian average.

The motion before us seeks to revisit the troubling events of 1995 through a federal call for a public inquiry. Given the clear jurisdictional responsibilities of the province of Ontario and continuing litigation, the government does not support such an action. We have seen real progress in rebuilding trust in the relationship between governments and first nations on many fronts, and I believe this would continue in a very effective way.

Strengthened partnerships are the basis for our government's efforts to bring about real and lasting change in community policing and public safety. They are the basis for broader initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life of aboriginal communities, initiatives tied to land claims, housing, education, governance, and economic and social development.

These efforts would help first nations to establish community governance practices that would be sensitive and reflective of their unique history, values, traditions, and cultural and spiritual beliefs. They would help to ensure that more of the impetus for positive change would be generated by first nations themselves.

The Government of Canada is determined to do its part and would continue to do so to help realize these aspirations and the shared goal of a brighter future for aboriginal people in Canada. It is progress that we would continue to make in helping to sustain safe and secure first nations communities which would confirm beyond a doubt that the lessons we have all learned from the tragic death of Mr. George would never be forgotten.

The commitment of the government would be to ensure that in working in partnership with our first nations we would do the right thing in this important area. That is precisely what we on this side of the House in the Government of Canada would continue to do.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to participate in this debate regarding the motion to have a public inquiry into the events of September 6, 1995.

As a member of parliament from the province of Ontario where the incident the motion refers to occurred, I believe it is important to have input into the motion as there is a variety of issues at stake. While I commend the notion of a public inquiry, particularly when the public interest calls for it, the reference to the word full is helpful when we look at the potential scope of such an investigation.

As I see the motion there are two directions that could be followed in such an inquiry. First, there is the death of Stoney Point aboriginal member Dudley George. Second, the event leading to the death of Mr. George was, as the motion states, a land claim dispute related to the land treaty and cultural rights of the Stoney Point aboriginal people.

It is always tragic whenever needless death occurs. There is no doubt that broken promises by the federal government to our aboriginal peoples played a significant role which led to the sequence of events on September 6, 1995.

It was broken promises by the federal government that led to the protest by members of the Stoney Point people to occupy Ipperwash Provincial Park. Unfortunately it took the death of Dudley George to get the government to come to the negotiating table to return the Stoney Point lands. However the transfer of lands has still not taken place, so closure is not possible regarding this element of the motion before us.

It is instructive that we are debating the motion today because it was the Liberal government of the day in 1942 that invoked the War Measures Act to expropriate the remaining Stoney Point territory for use as a military base. After the emergency was over the federal government forgot to return the land to its owners.

It is ironic that we see the same parallel today in government legislation under the cover of an emergency act which creates military security zones. Conscientious Canadians have expressed alarm and concern over the arbitrary nature of these definitions. If history is to be our guide and teacher, those concerns are well founded.

The government has a reputation for seeking to remove and reduce the role of democratically elected representatives to perform their historic parliamentary role of scrutinizing the actions of government. As recently as this week Canadians were alarmed by the report of the auditor general and the threat to democracy that the government represents.

While we may chuckle when we read book titles like Benevolent Dictator and references are made to the current Prime Minister, there is a sinister undertone to the actions of the government and anyone who takes time to read these writings fear in their hearts for the future of our nation.

There is another element to the motion which I hope is not the case because if it is, it would be an insult to the family of Dudley George: the effort to politicize the tragic circumstances surrounding Ipperwash for partisan political gain. It is one thing to want to get at the truth of an incident or event. It is quite another to be pursuing an issue for crass political gain.

I was quite surprised to be informed that on the government broadcasting corporation today a feature was being played that gave one side of the Ipperwash events. Sixty million dollars sure buys a lot of government advertising.

It is true that the provincial NDP in Ontario tried to pursue this issue in the Ontario legislature with no success, and today is just more of the same. I understand that it has asked the RCMP to investigate and that the RCMP deputy commissioner responded in writing to the leader of the third party in that legislature, declining the request for a criminal investigation. It deeply disturbs that in the process of calling for in inquiry the opposition in Ontario would be so quick to malign the men and women in the Ontario Provincial Police.

Recently in my office I had the privilege of participating in the swearing in of four special constables of the snowmobile trail officer program in Deep River, Ontario. This program is an excellent example of community policing as a partnership between the OPP and in this case the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs. The OPP is a professional organization and I have the utmost confidence in its ability to do whatever task is asked of it. I reject many of the unfounded accusations that have been directed at the OPP as a result of innuendo from the NDP. I believe we owe these individuals our support and encouragement.

I know that all members of the government of Ontario have expressed their sorrow at the unfortunate sequence of events that occurred at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

It is scandalous to even suggest that any member of the Ontario government would purposely wish harm would occur to an individual who was exercising his democratic right.

This tragedy has affected many lives. As a result of Mr. George's death and the circumstances surrounding it criminal charges were laid. These charges were dealt with by the courts and civil proceedings have begun. Those proceedings are currently before the court.

When we look at that element of the member's motion we can see it is nothing new and nothing that has not already been tried in the Ontario legislature. This is yet another request to short-circuit the judicial process and in this case to get the federal government involved, a request that the federal government has already turned down several times.

A court in the province of Ontario is currently examining this issue. After the court matter is complete I am sure the Ontario government will consider other options should it prove necessary. It would be inappropriate to do anything else while the matter is before the courts.

This is not new; it will not change. It is entirely appropriate that the federal government should respect the court processes. It is worth reminding the House that the events surrounding Ipperwash and the death of Mr. George have already been examined by a court of law three times: during a criminal trial, during an appeal and during a motion to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal.

The offence surrounding the death of Dudley George is the subject of a civil suit initiated by the George family before the superior court of Ontario. I have full confidence in the government of Ontario that it has and will continue to co-operate fully and completely in this ongoing civil suit.

Thousands of documents have been exchanged. Examinations for discovery are well under way and a case management judge has been assigned at crown counsel's request to expedite the case. It is absolutely correct that the federal government has refused to interfere with this case while the legal process takes place in Ontario.

It is entirely inappropriate for members of the NDP to hide behind motions when what they are really saying is they do not like the outcome or rulings from the legal system, one of the cornerstones of our democratic system. If you have no respect for Ontario's judges, courts or the women and men who serve in the OPP, just come out and say it. We must safeguard the system of inquiry from undue political interference. I do not see this happening with this current federal government.

I remind the member opposite about the APEC inquiry. Whatever happened to that investigation? Maybe the courts are not such a bad idea when we look at the stonewalling that went on during that inquiry.

I draw the attention of members of the House to the Somalia inquiry and the disastrous, shortsighted decision to disband the Canadian airborne regiment. We are suffering from the consequences of that decision today as it was almost three whole months before there was any Canadian response to the ground war against international terrorism. We still do not know what that response was as the government refused to bring the issue before parliament to be properly debated before one Canadian soldier left this country.

Just when it looked like the Somalia inquiry would inform Canadians of the duplicitous role played by members of the government, the inquiry was shut down. We may never know the truth.

I certainly would not be dismissing the court system as a means to bring answers to any questions that may need to be answered regarding Ipperwash. If we in the House truly wish to advance the cause of justice, we will not interfere in any way with the judicial process in Ontario.

In concluding my remarks I should like to refer once again to the fact that we have two issues before us with this motion: the criminal and civil investigation and the land claims dispute which was the root cause of this unfortunate incident.

When it comes to matters of federal jurisdiction that will not in any way prejudice any court proceedings we support such an investigation. If on the other hand all we are witnessing is a disingenuous way to circumvent the legal process and fight someone else's political battle in the process, we cannot in all fairness support such an approach.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Before we resume debate, I will caution members for the future. Members of the House should be referred to by their ridings and their constituencies. The reference for that is Marleau and Montpetit, page 522, wherein it states:

The Speaker will not allow a Member to refer to another Member by name even if the Member is quoting from a document such as a newspaper article.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I could try to cool down the partisan tone of this debate.

Indeed, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Motion M-421, sponsored by my colleague and friend, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, urging the government to call a full public inquiry into the death of Dudley George, on September 6, 1995 during a confrontation between police and natives in the Ipperwash provincial park, in Ontario.

This affair continues to be widely reported, and rightly so, after more than six years. The details surrounding this dark and deplorable affair are troubling in many respects. It has to do with the death of a man that took place during a protest over a major land claims dispute involving the government of Ontario. This is a major element of the problem with which we are now grappling.

Moreover, our conscience dictates that we do everything within our power to shed light on a troubling homicide case in which there still lingers today some doubt as to whether or not justice was really served.

The intention of my colleague from Winnipeg Centre is creditable. I agree with him that, because of the very delicate nature of past events, a public inquiry should definitely be held to reveal the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Dudley George.

However, I wonder about the relevance of calling on the federal government for such an inquiry. I understand my colleague's concerns, and especially the desire of the members of Mr. George's family for justice. I repeat, these events were troubling for several reasons and it is our duty as well to promote justice and truth.

I think therefore it should be up to the Government of Ontario to establish such an inquiry. For one thing, the events of September 6, 1995 occurred in Ipperwash provincial park. For another, the tragic events directly involved the Ontario Provincial Police.

As our colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development said on November 29, in response to a question from the member for Winnipeg Centre, the responsibility of the federal government is not at issue in this matter.

The federal government agreed at the time to clean up the Ipperwash land with a view to giving it to the first nations. The handling of the events of September 6, 1995 was therefore not the federal government's responsibility.

I also have a hard time seeing how the federal government could be allowed to become involved in such a crucial matter, which is not within its jurisdiction, when every day we criticize its propensity for interfering in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

I repeat, to make sure I am understood by my colleagues and those involved in the matter, that the Bloc Quebecois supports holding a public inquiry into the death of Dudley George. However, we think the federal government has no business interfering in a provincial matter, since the Ontario government is empowered to conduct such an exercise.

It is a matter of respecting the jurisdictions of the provinces, which, if left alone, would serve truth and justice all the better.

Aboriginal Affairs
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter into debate on the issue raised by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre. The motion reads:

That this House urge the government to call a full public inquiry into the death of Dudley George, fatally shot on September 6, 1995, at Ipperwash Park, during a land claims dispute related to the land, treaty and cultural rights of the Stoney Point aboriginal people.

While I do not agree with everything my colleague from the NDP mentioned, I am supportive of the notion of getting to the truth of what happened at Ipperwash, obviously a tragic event.

In September 1995 a group of unarmed aboriginals gathered at Ipperwash Park to defend an ancient cemetery and advocate other rights. In the course of that protest Mr. George was tragically shot and killed by an OPP officer. A second man, as my colleague mentioned, narrowly survived a very severe beating and others were wounded. It was not a very pleasant set of circumstances.

As a result of the incident one youth was convicted and jailed. In 1997 acting Sergeant Kenneth Deane was convicted of criminal negligence causing death for the shooting of Mr. George and received a punishment of 180 hours of community volunteer work. Many would argue that was not good enough. We cannot go back and revisit that. The process was in place and there was no dispute about that part of the incident.

Since the protest there has been a great deal of concern and a number of people have called for a full public inquiry into the incident. To date none have been conducted, either provincially or federally. In 1999 the Ontario provincial ombudsman recommended an inquiry into Ipperwash in the 1998-99 annual report.

In 1999 the United Nations human rights committee directed Canada to call an inquiry into the affair. The Canadian government answered that Ipperwash was a provincial affair. However the head of the UNHRC delegation, the current secretary of state, promised to take up the Ipperwash matter with Ontario officials, provide further information to the UNHRC and hold a press conference to air the issues raised by the committee.

To my knowledge this has not happened. Mr. George's brother has filed a lawsuit against the premier of Ontario and others for their alleged roles in Dudley George's death. There is a process in place there as well.

I would partly agree with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada that this is mainly a provincial matter although there is some overlap with federal jurisdiction. I believe others may expand on that point. The federal government does have some obligations regarding the Ipperwash affair. It has a constitutionally mandated fiduciary responsibility.

The federal government can call a public inquiry into any matter that relates to peace, order and good government. The Department of National Defence used the Stoney Point territory for more than five decades. The military withdrew from that land in 1995.

It is not our job to assign blame in this matter but it is our job in the House to bring forward issues. I reject the allegation by others in this place that motions should not be brought forward because other individuals disagree with them. We should have an open airing of many issues and we should have an opportunity to vote on them. They are important issues if they make it to the floor of the House of Commons and we should take a stand on them.

If we were to do that we would have government members supporting opposition motions, opposition members supporting government motions and everything in between. It would help to change the tone and give real importance to the notion of private members' business.

A significant number of questions have been raised regarding the events at Ipperwash. As parliamentarians we should respond when there is an issue being raised. There should be an open ability to get to the truth of the matter. Some are saying that a public inquiry is the way to go. Others argue that there has been a process in place to this point.

The public in Ontario who have concerns about this issue should bring them forward and bring them to bear with the current government. It has been called for in the provincial auditor general's report and being mainly a provincial matter should be addressed there.

It is a worthy motion. It is worth the time to debate and consider whether or not it goes ahead. People are concerned that the entire story has not unfolded. It needs to be pursued and adequate answers must be provided through some format or process.

A full hearing of facts is needed and we should not assume that we know what the motivations of people are ahead of time or why people did certain things. Let us get to the bottom of it and move on from there.