House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was claims.

Topics

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

The minister of backlogs.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Yes, he is the minister of backlogs and he will continue to be the minister of backlogs.

In this backlog, 48% of the specific claims are from first nations in British Columbia. That is almost half. The most claims from any region in Canada are in the province of British Columbia. First nations in British Columbia have the most to gain from the establishment of a truly independent, fair and timely process. And they have the most to lose if the bill before us is passed without further significant amendments, which we have come forward with in the past.

Bill C-6 will institutionalize the federal government's conflict of interest in judging claims against itself and will authorize and reward the Minister of Indian Affairs for indefinite delay in deciding whether or not to accept specific claims for negotiations. It will institutionalize the conflict of interest in the whole process.

The Alliance of Tribal Nations is outraged by the failure of the minister to consult with first nations on Bill C-6, by the speed with which Bill C-6 was rushed through second reading, and by the fast tracking of this legislation through the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

As members may remember, only one day was allocated for briefs from first nations, with their presentations being limited to from 5 to 10 minutes, and with only 10 to 20 minutes for questions and answers. That was not enough. If we wanted to listen to all the parties involved, one day, with just 5 to 10 minute presentations, was not good enough.

The Alliance of Tribal Nations has asked that I oppose this legislation vigorously. That is why I am participating in the debate along with my other colleagues, who have already given a good version of this whole situation.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the Canadian Alliance strongly supports the speedy resolution of claims. However, this bill will not speed up the resolution of claims and particularly not the larger and more costly claims. The Senate recognized all the main problems with the bill, which we in the Canadian Alliance pointed out during earlier debate in the House. While the Senate amendments marginally improve the bill, they do not go far enough to rectify the fundamental flaws in the legislation. We therefore stand opposed to the Senate report and to the final passing of this bill.

However, I believe that this exercise of participation in the debate is an exercise in futility. It is an exercise in vain. First, the government does not listen. Second, we know that the House is going to prorogue soon for the preparation of the incoming leader. Or maybe the House will adjourn soon and all this legislation will be pending and will go into the waste bin eventually. I will just say for the sake of analogy that if we have to demolish something and there is a bulldozer next to us but we continue building something with the hope that it will not be demolished, we know that if the bulldozer is there our building will be demolished. The work we do will not be fruitful.

I am concerned that the government is not serious about specific claims settlement. I still believe that if the government listens to the official opposition, to the other concerned bodies and to first nations, it can come up with some proposed amendments. The government should listen. That would improve the quality of the bill.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member. I do not think the 10 minutes available to us will enable me to comment on all the various points he has made, but there are several points I would like to bring into question.

First of all, he indicated that the bill has been very rushed. In fact, various parts of this government and the previous government have spent more than 10 years preparing this legislation. They have listened to the various departments.

In terms of claims, not only do we think of claims between the Government of Canada and our various first nations communities, but also we think of the people affected in our provinces, territories and in fact all Canadians. So when we talk about specific claims and how they might be resolved and we look at the process that has been in progress, we can see that there have been very few successes in terms of the number of issues that have been dealt with.

I hope that in terms of this legislation we will see a speedier resolution of the various claims that first nations will bring to our table.

I would like to remind members of the House that the more than 600 first nations across the country are getting more involved with their history. The scholars being developed through our educational systems on those first nations communities are bringing to bear on this people who are very much concerned about the history of their communities and what effect Canadians and history have had on their various groups. With this, we find that research is being done and new specific claims are being brought about. With that, of course, we find that hopefully just dues will be paid for the mistakes that have been made by our peoples in the past.

The hon. member has also indicated that there is a problem about independence of the centre and of the tribunal. He has tried to indicate that by the way the appointments might be made there could be bias, but the same argument could be made in terms of the Supreme Court of Canada or the judicial system itself because there, of course, appointments are made by various levels of government. With it, we always have high hopes that the decisions made by those groups are fair, unbiased and in the best interests of all of Canada.

I visit various parts of British Columbia and we know that in British Columbia great assertions of their traditional territories are made by first nations peoples. In the member's home province, a commission has been set up that has looked at some of those claims and is attempting to bring resolution to many of the concerns they have in that great province. I would ask the hon. member if he could simply bring to the attention of the House what is happening in his home province in terms of that commission and how it is improving the lives, the attitudes and the outlook of the more than 300 first nations in the province of British Columbia.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's concern. He has raised a good point but the overall purpose of the bill is not accomplished at all. The specific claim process is not independent. The minister has every right to interfere with it. The minister will be making the patronage appointments, including the chief executive officer of the tribunal, the commission members and so on.

The cap for the claims is arbitrary; $7 million is not enough. We made an amendment in committee for $25 million, which would have been fairer. The backlog is already huge. The process will be quite slow and the backlog will continue. The minister still has 500 specific claims on his desk that need to be concluded as to whether they should go for negotiation. There is a huge backlog and 48% of those claims are from my province of British Columbia.

The government has not paid full attention to the issues and concerns and it did not look at the amendments in the way it should have. The flaws in the bill that we pointed out in previous debates were the same flaws that the Senate pointed out but the government still refuses to accommodate those concerns.

In a nutshell, this whole process is not independent, it is not fair and it will not resolve the claims in a timely fashion.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I have the advantage of having been the Indian Affairs critic for my party for seven years. There is one thing that has always struck me: the matter of consultation. I recall several bills where we called witnesses after second reading, when we asked aboriginal people to come and give us their views.

I always found that the government heeded this consultation very little, and did not pay much attention to the representations made. One might say that the government had a preconceived idea in mind when it introduced a bill. Everything was organized in advance, everything was prepared. Regardless of what the aboriginal leaders had to say, or the aboriginal people themselves or their chiefs, the government went ahead and decided to pass its legislation, attaching no importance to the consultation.

From what I hear about Bill C-6, it seems that is more or less what happened. There were numerous representations. Many people were consulted. Now the government is saying, “Well, we listened to you, but now we are going to do as we please”. That is the impression I have about the bill before us.

I would like to ask my colleague, who has just given an excellent presentation, if he does not somewhat share my opinion that the government has once again missed its chance to listen to those who are the directly concerned by this bill, that is the aboriginal people themselves? Once again, we are involved in a debate on a bill that has been presented after consultation, but the consultation will not be heeded. They want to impose this bill, ignoring not only the opinion of the first nations people, but also the opinion of all opposition parties in the House of Commons.

I would like to know whether my colleague shares my impression that there has been a lack of consultation or that the consultation that did take place is being ignored, as far as Bill C-6 is concerned?

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member has done tremendous work on this issue for many years in the past. He is absolutely right when he says that the government has completely ignored addressing the specific concerns of the first nations.

We know our first nations people are in a desperate situation. The issues of health care, unemployment, suicide rates, poverty and accountability continue as they were many years ago. It is difficult for the first nations to get their rights and the attention of the government on these issues.

I agree with the member that the government is not listening. It is not listening to the opposition nor is it listening to the first nations. It has misspent all the money in various programs. The money flows from the government to certain people in the first nations but it does not reach the grassroots first nations people where it has to go.

The government has completely ignored looking into various issues like health care, unemployment or employment and the general overall welfare of the society in general. I blame the government for that. Not only does it not have any plan in place, but I guess there is a lack of political will to resolve the problems in an effective manner.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Brampton Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, my colleague from the Alliance Party blasted the government for its record but I have to remind him that this government and this party has been more friendly to aboriginal people than any other government over the last 100 years.

Why is he so opposed to bringing this system into the 21st century? What was so good about the previous treatment of first nations that he is still defending it? I cannot comprehend his logic.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member has it wrong again. Neither I, my party nor anyone on this side of the House are against the process of resolving the claims. We are against the government's ill will and its lack of understanding that it has put into Bill C-6 to resolve the issues.

As I indicated, the process is not independent and it is not fair. It will not be done in a timely manner. The backlog will continue. The member should look at this issue again. All of us in this chamber have a moral responsibility to deal with the claims in a timely and fair manner.

Veterans' Week
Statements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, this month we are celebrating Veterans' Week, culminating in the ceremonies on Remembrance Day, November 11.

Yesterday, I participated in a ceremony at the veterans' hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, where the minister presided over the sod-turning for the hospital modernization project.

This modernization project involves an expenditure of $67.7 million for improvements at the hospital. The hospital is redesigning its main section and adding a new 130 bed pavilion. By the end of construction in 2007, the hospital will include 460 private rooms equipped to take care of the unique needs of our most deserving citizens.

I applaud this initiative of Veterans Affairs Canada on behalf of those who have sacrificed so much of themselves in the cause of freedom and peace.

Minister of Transport
Statements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Madam Speaker, in the final days of his dictatorial tenure as the transport minister, I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his latest excesses on VIA Rail. His outrageous new spending announcement is enough to finally focus media and public attention on the phenomenal waste of money that VIA represents.

Since the Liberals took office, VIA has used up $3 billion of taxpayer money, exclusive of this latest announcement. That money could have been far better spent on health care, justice issues, basic community infrastructure or simply left in the pockets of Canada's hard-pressed taxpayers.

However I certainly cannot thank the minister for the destruction he has brought on all the other areas of transportation. While he has focused on his pet rail fetish, our highways are crumbling, airport rents and the subsequent airline fees have skyrocketed and have tripled. Airline security has turned into another expensive and inefficient bureaucracy, and security at our national ports has been slashed.

Our country needs and deserves better. If the minister had just stayed home and played with toy trains, the taxpayers and the transport industry would be in far better shape.

International Cinema Festival in Abitibi-Témiscamingue
Statements by Members

November 4th, 2003 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Gilbert Barrette Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, allow me to rise in this House to pay tribute to people from Rouyn-Noranda who help make the International Cinema Festival in Abitibi-Témiscamingue a success year after year.

The festival generates economic spinoffs estimated at $1.5 million annually and gives more than 20,000 moviegoers an opportunity to view a hundred or so films. During five intensive days, we get to venture into the worlds of the cinema of Quebec, Canada, Europe, Africaand South America. Our festival knows no boundaries.

Under the direction of the founding trio of Jacques Matte, Louis Dallaire and Guy Parent, some 60 volunteers and associates welcome each year a hundred or so producers, directors, actors, journalists and distributors.

My warmest congratulations to the organizers of the festival, which is celebrating its 22nd anniversary.

Foreign Affairs
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, we just concluded an all party press conference in support of the case and cause of Dr. Wang Bingzhang, the celebrated Chinese human rights advocate, regarded as the father of the overseas Chinese democracy movement, who has been sentenced to life in imprisonment in China, the longest sentence ever meted out to a Chinese dissident, on trumped up charges of terrorism and kidnapping. Ironically, as witness testimony has revealed, he was the victim of kidnapping and criminal violence rather than the perpetrator of them.

Indeed, the UN working group on arbitrary detention has determined that the charges are without foundation; that his continued detention is in violation of international law; that he has been denied the right to a fair trial; and that China should remedy these violations.

Dr. Wang Bingzhang has a close connection to Canada. He is a doctoral graduate from McGill University and his parents, children and siblings reside in Canada.

Accordingly, we call upon the Chinese authorities to abide by their undertakings under international law, undertakings also to Canada which is a co-signatory, to release Dr. Wang Bingzhang from prison, where, as his family testified today, his health is deteriorating, and permit him to be reunited with his family and colleagues in Canada and the United States.

National Defence
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, if anything demonstrates 10 years of Liberal incompetence it is the sad tale of the Sea King helicopter.

Political expedience has been deemed more important than national security and the safety of the lives of the men and women who serve in the Canadian Forces.

Scheduled to be replaced in the 1980s, by the time they are actually replaced these helicopters will be 50 years old. Most pilots who fly the Sea King were not even born when that helicopter came into service.

The Prime Minister cancelled the Sea King replacement with a stroke of his pen and then happily paid 500 million in taxpayer dollars for cancellation penalties.

Ten years later, there are still no replacements. Continued government interference into the contract process will mean further delays.

Our soldiers deserve the best.

The Sea King will forever stand as a symbol for the most shameful legacy in the 10 years of neglecting our nation's defence by the Prime Minister.

Foreign Affairs
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Brampton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to applaud the appointment of Mr. Bhupinder S. Liddar as Canada's new Consul General in Chandigarh India, an appointment made all the more important, as Mr. Liddar is the first Canadian Sikh to become head of a Canadian diplomatic mission overseas.

Mr. Liddar is no newcomer to the diplomatic scene as he has served as editor and publisher of Diplomat & International Canada magazine since 1989, host of CPAC's the Diplomatic World , a weekly panel discussion on current international issues, as well as contributing regular columns to the Hill Times and Ottawa Sun on international relations for many years.

I urge my fellow members of Parliament to join me in congratulating Mr. Liddar on his appointment and in wishing him all the best as he undertakes this important role as Canada's new representative in Punjab.

Middle East
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, after hate propaganda was broadcast last year in Egypt based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fraudulent document from 1905, something similar is now happening in Lebanon.

The Al-Manar channel run by Hezbollah, a recognized party in Lebanon, will broadcast a series called Al-Shatat , the diaspora, at prime time during the holy month of Ramadan. This offensive series is based on the classic anti-Semitic myth that the Jews want to rule the world.

All governments in this part of the world must prohibit all forms of hate mongering or calls for violence against neighbours. As long as people in the Middle East are exposed to such propaganda, it is foolish to believe that the peace we all want so badly will be achieved.