House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was yukon.

Topics

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, a recorded division on the motion stands deferred until Monday, March 17, 2003, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I think if you seek it you would find consent in the House to further defer the recorded division to Tuesday, March 18 at the end of government orders.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

February 28th, 2003 / 12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Madam Speaker, there is no party in the House that wants to speed up the resolution of land claims more than the Canadian Alliance. We have seen and experienced firsthand the awful economic impact Liberal dawdling has had on the economies of our constituencies.

There is no party in the House that wants a fair and just land claims settlement program more than the Alliance Party. We have seen and experienced firsthand the grievous financial injury done to individuals who were sideswiped by land claims and lost their grazing leases or even their private property.

No party wants an independent land claims body more than the Alliance because we know what political meddling and influence peddling can do to thwart just settlements and fair and just treatment of all concerned.

The legislation, an act to establish the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims, will not speed up the resolution of claims, particularly larger, more costly claims such as in British Columbia.

All one has to do is consider the proposed process for settlement. A first nation submits a claim to the proposed commission, at which time research funding is allocated by the commission to the first nation. All interested parties are notified and preparatory meetings are facilitated. How long that first step will take is anyone's guess, but we know how slowly the wheels of commissions can turn.

Following the first step, the Crown must decide whether to accept the claim. One would think that before allocating research money to the first nation making the claim that some decision on the validity of the claim would be made before throwing money out the window. That is not the case.

Step two has not finished. If the Crown refuses the claim after having handed over the research money, the first nation can ask for dispute resolution led by the commission. Keep an eye on that wheel to see if there is any movement. If the request for dispute resolution or dispute resolution fails, the first nation can ask the commission to refer the matter to a tribunal to ponder the validity of the claim. I should note here that we are still in what the government calls step two of this process and only just completing it.

Step three is if the claim is accepted as valid by the Crown or the tribunal, then the matter reverts back to the commission which will lead the negotiations with the first nation on the amount and the amount will never be allowed to exceed $7 million. I state again, that leaves British Columbia out of the process. However, if those commission led negotiations fail, the first nation can demand that the matter be referred back to the tribunal for a binding decision on the amount of compensation to a maximum of $7 million.

Those three steps alone could take years. Whatever happened to the speedy settlement of land claims, particularly those that are worth $7 million or less? It is not speeding anything up.

In its wording, the government uses the term “independent”. We must take issue with that. The Prime Minister will appoint the chief, the vice-chief commissioners and the other five commissioners. The Prime Minister will also appoint the chief and the vice-chief adjudicators and the other five adjudicators. He will determine what they will be paid and what their travel and living allowances will be. How independent are those 14 individuals going to be if the Prime Minister appoints them? Will they be as independent as the ethics counsellor? There will be suspicions and allegations from the outset of patronage and partiality. Those accusations and suspicions will tarnish the legitimacy and the credibility of the centre before it even gets off the ground.

It is also disturbing to read that the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims will determine its own staffing requirements. We have seen enough over the years to know that when a so-called independent body is left to determine its own staffing needs, there is an out of control bureaucracy in the making. I could cite several examples.

We also have to ask this. Who will represent the vast majority of Canadians in this new process, the other stakeholders? By vast majority I mean all the people who pay taxes. Who will stand up for the taxpayer?

A system like this that avoids accountability for government stonewalling and discourages alternative dispute mechanisms over costly court cases is a potentially huge waste of scarce and hard earned tax dollars.

We find fault in the clause that says that the centre will submit quarterly reports on the values of all settlements to the minister. It does not say that the minister will immediately turn those quarterly reports over to the House for parliamentary scrutiny. We have seen what happened to the firearms registry and how true costs were hidden by the justice department. We have seen billion dollar HRDC disasters that the department tried to hide from Parliament. We know that Canada Customs and Revenue is desperately trying to hide the true losses taxpayers are suffering from the GST fraud.

How can the House feel assured that the minister will pass on the true costs of all these $7 million maximum settlements? By true costs, I mean the settlements plus the bureaucratic costs. The question remains, where is there anything in the legislation that suggests the taxpayers have somebody standing up for them in this process?

We have heard a lot from the Liberal side of the House about transparency in government. Liberals seem to have a bit of difficulty determining what transparency and what translucency is. When we say transparency, we mean see through. They have a different version of that.

In reading this over it appears that lip service is being paid to transparency in government but nothing is being done about it. There is no transparency in the legislation. Government members on the Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources voted against all the amendments that would have required the government to declare openly its reasons for deciding against a claim or for holding up the claim process. Where is the transparency in that?

As for speeding up the process, why is there no mandated timeline in the process? Why are there plenty of loopholes in here so as to permit the government to delay and stonewall. Every amendment put forward in committee to discourage stonewalling and delay was defeated by the Liberal members of the committee on orders handed down by the Prime Minister's Office.

The Liberals have, for over 100 years, treated our aboriginal people with indifference and even contempt. These half measures to make amends will be seen through by the first nation people. Maybe that is where they are talking about transparency because it is the only thing transparent in the legislation.

They know that the proposed legislation will not bring speedy resolution to their claims. They have seen the wheels of government turn and they know how long it takes to even get the wheels moving. They know how agonizingly long it will take for a full revolution of those wheels.

They will rightly feel betrayed by the Prime Minister and the author of the 1993 Liberal red book who happens to be the former finance minister. He wrote the Liberal promise that an independent claims commission would be jointly appointed by first nations and the Government of Canada.

The legislation breaks the promise of the Liberals and the former finance minister because it concentrates the power in the hands of the Prime Minister by making him the only person who can appoint the members of the centre for independent resolution of first nation specific claims.

If first nations people feel betrayed, it is no surprise. It is just one more broken Liberal promise in 150 years worth of broken Liberal promises.

The legislation is not worthy of support. That is why on this side of the House the official opposition will oppose it.