House of Commons Hansard #152 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Business of the House
Government Orders

November 6th, 2003 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been further consultations and I believe you would now find there is unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, Bill S-21, an act to amalgamate the Canadian Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the Canadian Association of Financial Planners under the name The Financial Advisors Association of Canada be deemed adopted at all stages.

I again express my great thanks to members from all parties for their cooperation.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Business of the House
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4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-19, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of Motions Nos. 52 and 53.

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4:20 p.m.

Miramichi
New Brunswick

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, for the information of all, Bill C-19 deals with the first nations fiscal and statistical management act. It is a bill that would set up four commissions.

I know the hon. member was moving her motions but I took great exception to some of the points she made in her presentation. I would like to point out to the hon. members that we have more than 600 first nations across the country. I know in a democracy or in any given society, it is never possible to get unanimous consent from all people.

However I would like to point out that in terms of this particular piece of legislation we have had first nations communities and leaders working toward this legislation for more than 10 years. As members of the committee, we certainly heard from many of them who came to us, appealing to us to pass this legislation.

This is an optional piece of legislation. It is not mandated that all first nations have to work under this so-called piece of legislation. However it does provide the first nations communities, which want to develop their economy and improve the lot of their people, the opportunity to participate in the economy of all Canadians, whereby they can use their fiscal powers to develop a management system of dealing with finances, to be able to bring wealth to their people and offer their people an opportunity to participate in the economy of the country.

I am disappointed that some people in the House would like us to see all first nations people live under the Indian Act of 1876. The Prime Minister today in his remarks expressed his great concern for the lives, the welfare and the future that might be available to first nations people, As the parliamentary secretary to our minister, I want to assure the House that he has worked hard in bringing this legislation to the House because he has a vision of what might happen.

With it, I would hope that all of us can join together to support those first nation communities and leaders who want to see a better society developed for their people.

The motions we are dealing with, in terms of those the hon. member has brought to the House, deal with a very basic concept of how corporate society works. With it, we assume that the chiefs, the council, those who may have important decisions legislated by this particular legislation, will have the same protection in law that all people in Canada have in terms of working in good faith for the corporation and the society which they represent.

I would hope all members can support this legislation and can overlook the particular motion that I see as being outside the general concepts from which all Canadians can benefit in terms of taking responsibility, and with it, we can move on to get the legislation passed and to offer to those people across Canada, especially those in British Columbia and some in Nova Scotia, who are developing an economy for their people, who are offering their people an opportunity to participate in this great society that Canada has, and to get away from the old concepts that the House had back in the 1870s.

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to the amendments to Bill C-19 proposed by my colleagues in the New Democratic Party.

I was very disappointed to see that, of all of the proposed amendments, you have only selected two for debate. It seemed to me that while we were examining this bill—and a controversial one it is—we would have been able to revisit the debate on some of the truly problematic elements.

First, as we begin, I would like to point out that, contrary to what the hon. parliamentary secretary said a few moments ago, there is no unanimity on this bill, none at all. There are positive things, but there are so many negative ones. It was the minister's responsibility to convince the first nations that the positive elements could outweigh the negative ones in this bill, or else show some openness to substantive amendments. In fact, there are many problems in this bill. It has missed its mark.

A few weeks ago, I attended the special chiefs assembly, held by the Assembly of First Nations in Vancouver. This bill was the subject of a heated debate. Some of the first nations supported the bill because it might mean an improvement. Others, the vast majority in fact, rejected the bill. The results of the vote were clear. If my memory serves me, 103 first nations chiefs were opposed and 59 were in favour. When there is more opposition to a bill than support for it, it is because the minister did not do his job in several respects.

First, he tried to convince some first nations, the most developed ones, that this bill might have merit. He forgot about the others. He forgot that most of the 638 first nations in Canada are experiencing real problems on a daily basis, problems such as poverty, multiple addictions, the lack of management and development resources, and access to drinking water. These problems are major ones. Young aboriginals are also experiencing social problems.

Ten years ago, when the Liberals talked about improving the status of first nations, something should have been done. However, instead of talking about it, instead of proposing concrete measures, they chose to engage in petty politics, to try to convince some at the expense of others; in short, to divide and conquer. Now, the vast majority of the 638 first nations in Canada do not want this bill to pass.

They do not want it primarily because this bill is part of a trilogy. There was Bill C-6 on specific claims resolution. Then, there was Bill C-7. No one knows what happened to this bill or where it is. I hope it stays lost. Then there was Bill C-19. The minister himself appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources to tell us that this was a complete package.

When he did present us with Bill C-7, it was the most odious bill possible for the first nations. He claimed to be replacing the odious Indian Act, which has been in place for 130 years. In the end, all that was accomplished was to retain the Indian Act, which treated the first nations like children, while adding on some elements of colonialism. This was not a good start to any demonstration of the virtues of the trilogy.

Then he turned up with Bill C-6. Yesterday, convinced of his inability to sell us on its validity, he imposed it on us. He is imposing upon the first nations the amendments proposed by the Senate on specific claims, which are now subject to a $10 million ceiling, whereas they average out at $18 million, judging from the situation in Saskatchewan in recent years.

He is using time allocation to shove this bill down our throats, once again thwarting the legitimate aspirations and ignoring the legitimate objections of the first nations. Here we are faced with Bill C-19, which is an attempt to push through something that no one will buy.

Why not focus the same amount of energy, courage, perseverance and political savvy on moving real things ahead? In the case of the first nations, this means speeding up negotiations on self-government. Enough of the apartheid mentality, enough of colonialism, let them speed up negotiations on self-government. That is the only way to ensure that the first nations can develop in keeping with what they are, what they want, and what they aspire to. Is that clear enough?

In order for a nation to develop, it must possess one main tool: government. The first nations have been calling for that government for ages. Their entitlement to it is recognized not just nationally but internationally. Even the United Nations have said that the first nations constituted nations. As nations, they therefore have the capacity to determine their own futures, to put in place their own government, to determine their own policies, their own way of doing things in accordance with their culture, their language and their traditions.

There still exists this paternalistic, colonial, condescending reflex. We thought this reflex had disappeared years ago with the elimination of apartheid in South Africa. We thought that was a thing of the past. Here we are with a bill that would still have us control the first nations.

The minister, in his quest to exercise control, is so driven that he forgets some things and says whatever comes to mind. On Tuesday, in response to questions I had asked him, he said, “We appointed the present national chief to the commission that exists today”. They appointed the head of the taxation commission. The minister thinks he has such extraordinary powers that he told us, here in this House, just check Hansard, “The national chief himself was appointed by the government”. He said that Phil Fontaine was appointed by the government. It takes a narrow-minded, power-hungry megalomaniac to think like that.

He is so power-hungry that in Bills C-6, C-7, and C-19, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is vested with all the discretionary power. He can appoint the members of commissions or institutions, he can reject or accept first nations specific claims. He can also say to first nations, “You have decided one thing, I will decide another”. He is so self-important he thinks this power is fully and completely his. He says, “I myself appointed the national chief of first nations”. Who does this minister take himself for? He has been in politics for 14 years, and it is time that he left.

This man wreaks havoc. He has become a megalomaniac. Everyone knows that the chief of the first nations is elected by the chiefs of the 638 first nations. He is elected by his peers. Neither the government nor the minister has anything to do with it. He must be really full of himself.

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I regret interrupting my colleague from the Bloc. We do not appear to have quorum in the House. On an issue of such great consequence for the first nations of this country, I would at least expect a quorum in the House.

And the bells having rung:

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4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am taking advantage of the fact that the minister is here right now. I would like to ask him whether he is so arrogant as to think that he was the one who appointed Phil Fontaine to head the Assembly of First Nations.

He will not answer, naturally, because this was a blunder yesterday. He is so steeped in this power to decide the future of first nations, decide for them, decide what is good for them, decide their style of governance, decide that $10 million is enough, even when the value of claims may exceed $18 million.

There is a double standard with respect to first nations. In non-aboriginal society, one may claim any amount before the courts, but not in the first nations. The limit is set at $10 million. This is how it is with every bill, including Bill C-19. We will oppose this bill with all our might.

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4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order please. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Terrebonne-Blainville, Harassment; and the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River, Justice.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today and speak on Bill C-19, a very interesting first nations omnibus bill that deals with the creation of three financial institutions and a separate statistical institute.

Listening to some of the debate today has led me to a thought process which I would like to share before I get into my prepared notes. It deals with the tensions that currently exist between what I would say is the one size fits all approach of the Indian Act, which has been the historical way that the affairs of first nations in Canada have been dealt with for a long period of time, versus the whole trend of now moving toward an opting in or a situation where first nations either singly or as a group propose and become advocates for various other forms of management, administration and governance, all of the critical things that we think of in terms of legislation.

I believe that it is a fiction under this new scenario for us to think that a majority decision made by an organization like the Assembly of First Nations, for example, is binding on anyone. Membership of the 633 bands in Canada in the Assembly of First Nations is automatic, just because of the way it is created, the way it is funded and the way it operates.

So I think it is natural that these tensions now exist. They are going to continue to exist, but hopefully it will be a creative tension. I think we see some signs that it will be. For example, we are set to give unanimous consent in the House tomorrow, I believe, to the Westbank First Nations Self-Government Agreement, which was signed in Westbank, British Columbia, on October 3. I think it signals something very constructive for the House.

At the same time, all of that tension leads me to the conclusion, and it should be no surprise to anyone, that Bill C-19 would have its strong opponents and strong proponents. A significant contributor to all of this is that it is omnibus legislation. I do not think the government needed to do that. I do not think the minister needed to do that. I think it was a mistake. The politics of this bill could be so much simpler and so much more productive. I do not quite understand why it was done this way.

The thrust of the legislation is to empower subscribing bands across the country to join together to advance their economic situation. Before I get into the specifics of the bill, I think it is important that we frame the discussion from the standpoint of what we have in Canada as a consequence of the Constitution, the reserve system of land ownership and the Indian Act. It is the very worst of all circumstances for tens of thousands of aboriginal people who are growing up in a cycle of poverty and abuse that in many circumstances is as bad as anything we can find in the third world, and in the worst circumstances in the third world.

It is essential that Canada as a modern country think outside the box so we do not perpetuate that which has been going on for too long in too many places. Economic advancement cannot occur without social advancement and the reverse is also true.

The current system and the current apparatus of government caters to the defenders of the status quo, who benefit from the asymmetrical system we currently have. It is a system that on some reserves has allowed elected chiefs and councillors to use federal money to reward themselves and their friends through jobs, through pay and through perks, to consolidate their status to influence elections, to intimidate members of their community, and to perpetuate themselves in office. This is the basic premise that the government needs to operate on in order to fix the worst of what is happening.

The government must operate from the standpoint that democracy, transparency and accountability are not negotiable. The sad truth is that I have been a witness in this place for 10 years to this government continuing to allow these things to occur. These are my first concerns whenever I am faced with reviewing legislation. Is democracy being served? Is transparency being served? Is accountability being served?

My first important observation when it comes to Bill C-19 is that it applies only to those bands that subscribe to it. My reading of ideas emanating from some of the most progressive bands in the country is that this is an essential direction in which we have to go, and I certainly concur.

The reason I concur is that when I look at the way the courts interpret transactions on reserve, the first consideration is always given to the Indian Act, which becomes the lowest common denominator and a very huge barrier to progress unless there is specific legislation in place that overrides the Indian Act for that specific band.

For example, a specific piece of legislation applies to the Sechelt band in British Columbia. It is so overwhelmingly different from the Indian Act that it is inappropriate and incorrect to call the Sechelt land base a reserve. The Sechelt band achieved fee simple ownership of their lands in 1985, lands that formerly were reserved for them and held by the Crown.

Like it is for so many other attempts at progress by first nations, the approach taken by the Department of Indian Affairs since 1985, which to me flies in the face of the great successes achieved by the Sechelt, has been to tell any other band seeking any similar treatment of their land base that there were to be no more Sechelts. One might ask why.

There is quite a bit more that I could say, but I am running out of time. I will conclude by saying that one part of this four-suite institution set-up, the first nations statistical institute, absolutely in its entirety has nothing to do with the other three. We could do without it. It is the most divisive part of the bill and should be hived off. It should never have resided in the legislation. It is a total duplication of what Statistics Canada is already carrying out. We would all be better off if we were not in the position of having to support this legislation as it stands.

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4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, on a point of order.

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4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would call for a quorum count. I do not think we have quorum.

And the count having been taken:

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4:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

We do not have quorum. Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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4:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I see a quorum.

Before I hand over the floor, I understand there have been some discussions between the members in terms of the rotation because I know it would be otherwise unusual to see a spokesperson from the same party back to back under the circumstances.

Just so everyone understands that following this, if someone from the Bloc Quebecois should seek the floor after the member of the official opposition, that would be the case. Following that I would go to the hon. member from the Progressive Conservative Party, and so on.

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin.