House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, some citizens may have issue with the legislation and the more they research the legislation they might have more concerns.

The legislation dates back in reality to King George III's proclamation of 1763, 301 years ago almost to the day.

This comes back to the situation that is to be admired in our great country, that we will protect the rights of individuals, even those people who are not able to protect themselves. That is why I oppose the bill today.

The Constitution protects aboriginal rights and the decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada, specifically in 1997, have protected and reinforced the rights of aboriginals.

I would encourage any people who do take offence or do take major issue with the legislation to educate themselves regarding the history of aboriginal claims in this country. There are many resources on the Internet, for instance, where they can find that information.

We cannot ignore these rights as Canadians. We have to protect all citizens, no matter what status they have. I myself have argued before the courts in Alberta for aboriginal rights, as a litigator and a solicitor in the past, and I am very proud of that record.

I personally support the settlement of all outstanding claims for bands. I agree with the federal government that we must satisfy these claims. However, at what cost?

I do not support any agreement that takes the citizens of any area of Canada outside the jurisdiction of the Constitution or outside the jurisdiction of the charter. I do not support any agreement that usurps the authority of the federal government to negotiate with international governments as I believe this would lead to major distress and, unfortunately, disharmony in the country.

I believe we are setting a dangerous precedent. I would suggest that it can be effectively argued that all international agreements pursuant to this legislation would be affected by Tlicho citizens. As such, it is arguable that all international agreements would have to be ratified by the Tlicho band before we as a sovereign nation could enter into it. That I find greatly discomforting.

As I stated before, I am from northeastern Alberta. I am very proud to be from a constituency that has some 20% of its members as aboriginals and first nations. I am proud to have over 20 family members who have aboriginal status and are members of bands either treaty or status, especially under Treaty 8. I have hunted, trapped, played hockey and worked beside aboriginals since the 1970s in northeastern Alberta. These Canadians need to be respected and our agreements with these Canadians need to be respected as well.

We as Canadians should be embarrassed and ashamed that we, for the last 300 years, have not negotiated land treaties with them and that we have not reached an agreement up to this point. We should have resolved these issues hundreds of years ago before they became issues of topic today.

I, along with, I believe, all members of the Conservative caucus, respect the culture and diversity of the aboriginal peoples. My concern, quite frankly, is for the people of the Tlicho band. Will they be protected by the charter? Will we create more strife in the future in the community by creating two classes of citizens? Will all persons, regardless of sex, be protected?

Today we would be approving an agreement that would be a forever agreement. It would be forever for us but not necessarily forever for the Tlicho people. There would be no going back on the terms but it would allow, if there were negotiations with other bands in the Northwest Territories, the Tlicho people to get more in the future. It would allow them to renegotiate a final agreement.

Apparently this agreement deals with a final decision as far as the land goes but, in my opinion, it does not. Reading the legislation as a lawyer, I fail to see how this agreement can be a final agreement based on what I have read.

This is not an argument as to whether the agreement is fair or how much is paid. I do not believe that has substance. The people who have negotiated this agreement have certainly taken all the issues of negotiation into perspective and their position needs to be respected.

The Tlicho people need to be respected and protected. That is my concern. It is about the future. It is about harmony within the Tlicho area. It is about harmony for all future land claim agreements with first nations throughout the Northwest Territories and British Columbia.

Currently, we have 3,500 persons with Tlicho citizen status, but how many Tlicho citizens, as defined under the agreement, will there be in 100 years controlling an area the size of New Brunswick? I am not thinking about this for the benefit of other Canadians, only of the people who are from Tlicho ancestry. Some people will be treated one way and some people will be treated another way, both from the same ancestral area.

In my opinion the Government of Canada has a fiduciary obligation, a responsibility, to finalize all agreements with first nations, but not at the expense of other members of the band and not at the expense of those people and their rights under the charter or the continued harmony of all Canada in the future. Self-government is necessary. I think I speak for all of my colleagues that self-government is the best way that aboriginal peoples can move forward. It will be much better for the Tlicho people and much better for Canada's future.

I implore the government to go past today and not look at an immediate settlement to solve the problem so that the economy can keep rolling and they can move into an economic prosperity without taking into consideration all the ramifications in the future. I implore the government to look at the future for Canada, to look toward the future for the people of Tlicho of all different respects, whether they be Tlicho citizens or of Tlicho ancestry, and to ensure that they are protected fully and finally in all matters respecting the charter and that the Tlicho people and the area they will control, in essence the size of New Brunswick, will be under the charter and the constitution. I implore the government to make this a final agreement so there is no going back, there are no renegotiations and there is no continued strife for the people of Canada.

Finally, to protect our international sovereignty is absolutely crucial. As a country, we need to ensure that the federal government can continue to operate in such a manner as to bind the people of Canada on an international basis without needing to go to each and every band to have a ratification of treaties.

I would submit being Canadian means that some things cannot be negotiated away. In this case I would suggest that the charter and the Constitution and the rights under those two crucial pieces of paperwork are being negotiated away. I would suggest it is not the best thing for Canada or Canadians.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I would also like to add a few comments on the agreement.

I do not think there is any doubt on this side of the House that agreements that move the aboriginal peoples forward are all in good form for all Canadians. Self-awareness, respect for these peoples and a decreased dependency on the government is all good. Frankly, it is a bit insulting to us, when we want to improve on any agreement among all Canadians, that members on the opposite side of the House seem to imply that we are in some way against aboriginal peoples, which of course we are not.

It is great progress for all Canadians, but I think the agreement has gone slightly overboard. I have great concerns with some of the parts of this agreement, and I will speak to a few of those if I can.

One, which I am not sure has been mentioned earlier, is that it creates what seems to be a racially biased electoral system. It speaks in the agreement itself as well as in the Tlicho constitution of Tlicho citizens that 50% of the council has to be Tlicho citizens. We do not see that kind of government or structure anywhere else in Canada. I think this raises great concerns. As well, it appears that the agreement would give this group of people the right to negotiate its own international agreements.

I know there is a lot of detail and there is a lot of thought as to where this will take us in the future, but we cannot predict the future. I would like to ask the members opposite, how does this affect their rights to negotiate treaties with respect to fisheries? Can they produce arms and weapons and sell them globally? Will we be able to control those kinds of decisions if in fact they are made?

As well, the agreement itself, despite the hon. members opposite telling us that it is not, does in fact create jurisdictional confusion. In the constitution of the Tlicho communities themselves, it states, and section 3.1 of their constitution says quite clearly, “This constitution is Tlicho nations highest law”. I do not know what that means. Does that mean that they have to represent Canadian laws on a broader scale or do they just make up their own laws?

As well, if we want to challenge a Tlicho law, if I can read from their own constitution, it simply states here:

Any person directly affected by a Tåîchô law may challenge its validity. The body with jurisdiction to decide such a challenge has the jurisdiction to quash or limit the application of the Tåîchô law that is subject to thechallenge.

That is all good and it sounds like the same thing that happens across Canada. However, if we do not agree with a municipality's reason for a decision, we can take that to a higher court. According to the Tlicho constitution, we cannot do that. It says:

In the absence of a Tåîchô law providing for a challenge to the validity of a Tåîchô law, such a challenge shall be by way of an appeal to the Tåîchô Assembly.

This constitution does not give anybody the room to manoeuvre and I think it is frankly unconstitutional within the framework of Canada.

The last thing I would like to comment on is just the generalities of the agreement by itself. This is not a diversity which Canada honours and respects, the diversity of its multiculturalism; this is divisive.This is actually creating a number of different countries with their own governance and their own ability to set law and negotiate international treaties within this country.

I am from Cambridge, Ontario, and I am concerned where this kind of precedent will take us. In my community we have all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and a wonderful pluralism within it. Does it mean that in five or ten years we will end up with a whole bunch of little communities with their own sets of laws and their own court systems which nobody can influence? Before we go any further on this agreement, we should reflect on the realities that these questions still remain.

The fact is we do need to move forward for our aboriginal peoples. There is no question that they have been forgotten for the last decade by this government. However, we have gone overboard with this agreement. It should be a win-win for all parties. This is a win for the Tlicho people; this is not a win for Canada nor the future of Canada.

I would encourage the House to reconsider the agreement and come to the conclusions of what all the lateral implications will be. The government's knee jerk reaction to find a solution will put the future of Canada in jeopardy.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, once again it is a pleasure to rise and talk on the issue, mainly as it pertains to the aboriginal people and the first nations people of our country. I have spent a couple of years in Parliament and I travelled the country and visited many reserves. I listened to many grassroots people and their concerns. This has been going on for years and years.

A moment ago one of the Liberal members said that we should see some of the quotes he had from us. Unfortunately, the only quote I can bring up from the Liberals is the constant repetition in the throne speeches from years and years about how disgraceful and deplorable the conditions were on the reserve and how the Liberal government was dedicated and promised to do something to fix it .

Now we have come all the way to the present Prime Minister. Guess what? He is another one of those leaders who has said that he is the right man for the job and that he will be dedicated fixing problem on the reserves. It is a continuous record. We have heard it over and over since 1993 and even before that. We have heard of all the things the Liberals would do, yet many of things that need to be done are very basic.

The Conservative Party believes in self-government and that it is a good thing. However, it has to occur within the Constitution of Canada, and I do not think anyone can argue that. We want to ensure that is the case with any settlement. We also believe that it must be structured to ensure that constitutional harmony is such that it does not impede on the governments of other parts of our great country, provincial and municipal government levels. We want things to be right.

The bottom line for me and many of the people who I have talked with is simply this. Will all the agreements that are to be made and all the settlements that will be completed be something that will help address the seriousness of unemployment and great poverty. Unemployment is up to 90% on some reserves. There is the serious situation of health hazards and drinking water that does not exist. Clean drinking water ought to be everywhere in Canada. It does not exist on many reserves.

It is possible to travel down one of the major highways in Alberta, pass through a reserve and see the housing. I had thought it was a pretty good deal that housing was going up on these reserves and that would help the situation a great deal. One time I stopped to visit on the reserve. I went into the houses in which the people were living. These houses were shells. There was no running water. There were no rooms. Blankets hung in the house to differentiate between rooms and give a little privacy. There was no finishing whatsoever on the inside of the house, but it looked good from the highway.

For many years I thought that we were moving right along until I started to get calls from people. They asked me to come and take a look at what was going on there. All they have ever asked for is to be treated fairly on their own reserves, but the corruption that exists is unbelievable. This is not on all reserves. Please do not think for a moment that I am saying that all reserves are that way because there are some really good reserves which are running effectively. However, there are many reserves that are not. Those are the grassroots natives that we hear from all across the country, who are constantly saying--

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, the member just mentioned the word “corruption” in the House and I just want to make sure that he is not referring to the matter on this bill here, Bill C-14, which is on the Tlicho. I would just like that clarified.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, if there was ever a party or a member that knew anything about corruption, it would be that party over there, that is for darn sure. They are the experts.

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1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Please clarify the use of the word corruption in the sense that the member asks. Would you please respond to the question from the other side.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, many people who live on the reserves, the grassroots natives, have contacted me and other members of the House of Commons complaining about corruption on their reserves and mismanagement. That is the word they used.

We know that some auditing has been going on. We know that third party management has moved into many reserves because of that. We know that is true because it happened in my riding on one of the major reserves.

All I am saying is that this has been going on for years and years, and that magic government over there keeps throwing in its throne speech that it is going to address these issues and put an end to poverty, unemployment, poor education and unhealthy status. Yet we can go into a reserve today or tomorrow, and I will guarantee that if we go to the right ones and look around we will find people living in shacks, living in broken down old buses, living in what we would not want to live in, no matter who we are or where we are from.

I do not think most of the people over there have ever walked in to find out what they are all about. They do not have the guts to do that. Instead they will stand in the House of Commons and talk about the wonderful things they are doing with an agreement like this. All I want to know is whether that agreement is going to help solve the problems that have been in existence for years and years. I will bet members a dime to a dollar that it will not, because they do not address those things from that point of view.

I said this in the committee last year when the previous Indian affairs minister, Mr. Nault, brought in legislation that was going to do everything. It does not matter what it was called. It was legislation that was about this thick. By the time they got done with it, they had amendments to that legislation that were about this thick. Good grief, if they have to amend a little piece of legislation like that with that number of amendments, there must be something wrong with the legislation. Where were these amendments coming from? They were being requested by grassroots natives all across the country who were trying to get it right.

When are we going to get it right? When is this country going to realize that we are one of the best, if not the best country, the number one country in which to live, but not on an Indian reserve. The United Nations itself has put out reports saying that if the reserves in Canada were factored in, we would rank about 38th.

All I want to know is whether we are bringing in treaty settlement agreements that are going to change that picture, where the equality all across the country is the same for everybody? Are our friends in the aboriginal communities going to have the same opportunities to employment, to education and to other opportunities because of these kinds of things, or are we going to keep plowing the same old field over and over?

If there is ever anything that needs recall, I will guarantee one thing, it is a corrupt government, and I mean corrupt. I would not want to confuse anybody about the word that I use.

There is no excuse that we live in Canada and those kinds of conditions exist on reserve. We should quit putting together legislation which one member had to get up and read over and over. Nobody could understand it because it probably took 12 lawyers to write it. It is not understood by the average person anywhere and it does not address the issues at all.

There is somebody mouthing off over there who probably has not been to a reserve. I would like to take him into one. I would like to take him right into the homes that I have been in to have a look for himself. Instead of mouthing off he ought to get out there and take a look. That is all they do over there. They are better at mouthing off than anything else. They should get out there and find out what is going on.

If they want to do something to help the situation, then they should start recognizing the problems. They should start recognizing the high rates of suicide as being very serious. They should start recognizing the undereducation that is going on. It is a very serious problem. They should start thinking about the high rate of medical drug addictions. It is extremely serious. The member has not been in there to see it, but I have. I have been there many times.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Do not tell me what I have done, because I have. You have not.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

I am not talking about this member, I am talking about that member over there. I do not care what this one has done. If you ask me, it has not been much.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the Tlicho land claims and self-government bill. This is a historic piece of legislation and is deserving of some scrutiny by the House.

The Tlicho are the latest in the Northwest Territories to reach a land claims settlement but this is the first instance where self-government has been negotiated in an agreement at the same time. We have to be careful and take our time with this legislation. I will outline several areas where I find the bill to be deficient.

First, this is not a final agreement. The agreement contains a clause to reopen negotiations should other first nations in the Northwest Territories negotiate terms in their agreement that appear attractive to the Tlicho in the future. In this the agreement does not achieve a basic goal: to arrive at a final settlement.

Second, it would appear depending on how one interprets the text that the agreement recognizes the right of the Tlicho to enter into international agreements. It states right in the agreement that it does not limit the right of the Tlicho to enter into international, national, interprovincial and interterritorial agreements. It also requires the Government of Canada to consult with the Tlicho nation before entering into an international agreement that may affect the right of the Tlicho government, the Tlicho First Nation or Tlicho citizens.

I am concerned that this kind of language could be seen as being too broad and that it may put a restriction on what is an exclusively federal area of jurisdiction.

Third, the agreement creates a racially based electoral system which some will recall was the subject of a fierce debate in the House during the Nisga'a discussions.

Under this agreement a category of citizens called Tlicho citizens is created who are the only people who may be elected as chiefs. In addition 50% of elected councillors must come from this Tlicho citizens group. Some might argue that this is counter to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it is certainly something that might be open to a court challenge.

Last, the most fundamentally difficult problem with the agreement is the way in which it deals with jurisdictions. The agreement describes several different hierarchies to determine which legislation should prevail in the event of a conflict: federal legislation, territorial legislation, Tlicho law or the agreement itself. It is also not clear whether Tlicho citizens would have the protection of the charter in the event of a conflict with the Tlicho constitution.

As the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, there is another issue I would like to raise with respect to this agreement. It is the issue of matrimonial property. My colleague, the member for Portage—Lisgar, raised this in the previous Parliament when this legislation was Bill C-31. I would like to revisit some of the points he made for the record.

Let me quote from the interim report released by the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights in November 2003, entitled “A Hard Bed to Lie In: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve”. This is an issue we should not ignore. The Senate report stated:

I believe that one of the basic rights we should be able to enjoy is the right to call a place, a community or a structure “home”. Home is a place where we are safe and protected by family and friends. It is our private spot, where we can lock out the cares of the world and enjoy one another. It is also the place where, as a couple, when we plan a family, we know that this is the place where they will be safe, protected and loved. As a couple, you take a structure, and with personal touches from each of you, you make this your private world. You open your private world to family and friends, making them feel welcome when they visit you. However, make no mistake, this place is your private world.

Imagine the stress on a woman who knows that, if this loving relationship ends, then her world will crumble. Imagine the stress when this woman has children, and she knows, that not only she but also her children will soon have to leave the place she and they call home, and in some cases, must leave the community.

It is not an easy choice to decide that a relationship is not working and that the relationship must end. Normally, while there is a certain degree of animosity, most couples know that they must work out a mutually agreed upon arrangement for the deposition of property, including the home.

This would not appear to be the case for on-reserve women, as they hold no interest in the family home. There is no choice as to who has to move. It is the woman and, in most cases, it is the woman and her children. What a choice: be homeless or be in a loveless relationship, maybe an abusive relationship. Is that what Aboriginal women deserve? No, it is not. Is it humane? It is definitely not.

My concern and the concern of many members of my party is that the issues of matrimonial property are not properly, fully and fairly addressed in this agreement and that, if we proceed in this manner, there is the real possibility that we will perpetuate the circumstance. There is only one place in Canada where no such property rules exist and that is on reserves. It is important that we recognize this fact and commit ourselves to take every opportunity to correct the situation.

For those of us in opposition, it is not enough for us simply to oppose, especially in a minority Parliament. We must also put forward where we stand on issues such as this one. Allow me to make a few points about where a Conservative government would be with an issue like this.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada. Settlement of all outstanding comprehensive claims must be pursued on the basis of a clear framework which balances the rights of aboriginal claimants with those of Canada.

Self-government agreements must be structured so as to ensure constitutional harmony so as not to impede the overall governance of Canada. To ensure fairness and equality, a Conservative government would ensure that the principles of the charter applied to aboriginal self-government.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes in giving aboriginal governments the power to raise their own revenues. Aboriginal agreements reached with the federal government must represent a final agreement in the same manner as was achieved with the Nisga'a.

In closing, I believe that the underlying principles expressed are good ones. A comprehensive land claim settlement and self-government agreement in one document is a historic achievement, one which deserves credit for its good intentions.

Unfortunately, this agreement and the bill implementing it do not measure up to the standards that should be applied in such an important document. Again, here is why: The agreement is not final. The agreement does not fully respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor does it fully respect the overarching authority of the federal government in areas of its exclusive jurisdiction. It creates substantial jurisdictional confusion between federal, territorial and Tlicho legislation as to which takes precedence and in what situation.

I urge the government to consider the words of my colleagues, especially our critic, the member for Calgary Centre-North, with regard to this bill. Before something as important as this agreement gets cemented into place with the force of the Constitution behind it, we must be certain that we are in fact doing the right thing.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to make a few comments with respect to Bill C-14 but before I do that I want to say how much I agree with the member for Wild Rose, who talked about the social problems of our native people in this country, the extreme poverty and drug problems. It has been going on for a long time. No government seems to be adequately dealing with it. The government has an opportunity now to deal with it.

The bill seems to have a lot of legalese in it. One member over here spent a great deal of time making us rather dizzy with some of the legal arguments as to why we should support the bill, but what it comes down to it there is nothing in the bill to solve the very serious problems that these people have. A lot of money has been spent by many governments and it is still going on. I think it is regrettable that we can stand here, debate these issues and not solve these problems.

Several other arguments have been raised as to why we in the Conservative Party are opposing the bill. One argument is that it is not a final agreement. It is quite remarkable that the agreement contains an article to reopen negotiations if another Northwest Territories aboriginal group negotiates terms that are attractive to the Tlicho in a future agreement. It fails to do what it is supposed to be doing, which is to create something that is final.

It is like no one thought about that. This other group thought about it but we did not think about it, so let us reopen the agreement. How silly. Why can we not have a final deal now? Why is that article in there? It is quite remarkable that clause is in there.

The second opposition we have to the bill is that it appears to recognize the right of the Tlicho people to enter into international agreements. I find that remarkable as well. This is Canada. Canada is supposed to be the one that negotiates international agreements, not a balkanization of this country, whether it is aboriginal or any other group. It is Canada that decides what the international agreements are supposed to be.

This agreement states that it does not limit the authority of the Tlicho nation to enter into international, national, interprovincial and interterritorial agreements. It further requires that the Government of Canada consult with the Tlicho nation before Canada enters into an international agreement that may affect the right of the Tlicho government, the Tlicho First Nation or a Tlicho citizen. Does a Tlicho citizen mean one person? Is that what that means? Surely to heaven we are not going to restrict ourselves to Canada making an agreement that one citizen can come forward and challenge the Canadian government. We will be in anarchy.

We on this side are saying that it is very broad language and puts a remarkable restriction on a power constitutionally reserved for the Canadian government. It would be quite a new change in the laws of this country if we were to allow one group to literally veto what a Canadian government is going to do.

The third argument of course is that it would create a racially based electoral system. The agreement would create a category of citizens called “Tlicho citizens”. They would be the only people who could be elected as chiefs. Further, 50% of the elected councillors must be Tlicho citizens. Surely this is contrary to the Canadian Bill of Rights.

The final argument that I wish to address in my comments is the one that alarms me the most. I referred to it in a question that I asked one of the government members. It has to do with clause 5 of Bill C-14.

Someone said that was not the right interpretation. I am reading it and it says that the agreement, or the bill or the regulations made under the bill will prevail over the provisions of any other act of Parliament, any ordinance of the Northwest Territories, any regulation made under any of these acts or ordinances or any Tlicho law. It is really amazing, this paramountcy section.

The government members have said that we are not reading it correctly. Well, that is what it says. In other words, I can only assume that the Tlicho nation can create its own criminal code. The Criminal Code of Canada does not apply if there is a criminal section set up under this agreement. It has paramountcy over the Criminal Code of Canada. It could even be suggested, although the government disagrees, that it takes paramountcy over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If I were one of the Tlicho citizens I would have grave concerns as to how laws might be passed that would take paramountcy over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Clause 5 will be a lawyer's dream. The courts will be so packed with constitutional cases for eons over this section alone, let alone all the other sections that are being referred to by my colleagues on this side.

The agreement describes three different hierarchies to determine which legislation is paramount in the event of conflict: federal legislation, territorial legislation, the Tlicho laws or the agreement. It is not clear whether the Tlicho citizens will have the benefit of protection under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the event of a conflict with the Tlicho constitution. That is the most serious issue.

The Liberal government, of course, has taken great pride in saying that it set up the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is directly contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why in the world anyone would want to support it, I do not know. It does not make sense to support legislation that will violate the rights of Canadian citizens. I would encourage all members, including members of the government, to oppose the legislation on that issue alone.

There is a final element of confusion. The agreement provides, in article 7.1, for a Tlicho constitution. Although the constitution does not--

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

The Tlicho. Learn how to say it.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

I can be challenged on how I pronounce my words but I look forward to the member challenging me on what we are saying over here as to how the bill is so faulty. It has major drawbacks. The Liberals boast about how they will support the bill but they cannot give answers to all these issues.

The constitution does not form part of the agreement. The agreement states in article 7.1.2 that the protection under the Tlicho constitution shall be no less than the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and yet in article 7.1.4 the agreement prevails over the Tlicho constitution. However the constitution states that it prevails over everything else. It is like a big circle.

Those are my major arguments for not supporting the legislation. I cannot support the bill with clause 5, and I encourage all members of this place to vote against the bill.

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1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of my colleagues and some of the comments of members on the government side. I also listened to the member for Calgary Centre-North, our critic for aboriginal affairs, who has done a good job in researching Bill C-14.

Like all matters dealing with aboriginal affairs, Bill C-14 is complicated and deserves intense and close study. This has nothing to do with an unwillingness on behalf of the Conservative Party to seek a final remedy for a number of first nations that are seeking land claims and treaties, but rather an attempt to bring some fairness to the issue.

Reference has been made to the Nisga'a treaty. I was aboriginal affairs critic at one time and supported the Nisga'a treaty. The treaty we have before us, as I have read it, is nothing like the Nisga'a treaty. They are totally separate issues.

I know some members of the House have taken exception to a number of issues in the treaty, such as the issue of paramountcy, which doe not particularly bother me as much as it may bother others. However I do find a number of other issues problematic, especially when it comes to international affairs. I have not heard a clear and concise explanation from the government side on them. They certainly deserve a much closer study and a much more introspective study by government members.

I would like to draw the House's attention to 7.13.2 which reads:

Prior to consenting to be bound by an international treaty that may affect a right of the Tlicho Government, the Tlicho First Nation or Tlicho Citizen, flowing from the Agreement, the Government of Canada shall provide an opportunity for the Tlicho Government to make its views known with respect to the international treaty either separately or through a forum.

That makes common sense to me and I would see no problem with that. I would think that any first nation about to ratify an international treaty signed by the Government of Canada would want an opportunity to look at that treaty.

I will go a step further here and read 7.13.3 which states:

Where the Government of Canada informs the Tlicho Government that it considers that a law or other exercise of power of the Tlicho Government causes Canada to be unable to perform an international legal obligation, the Tlicho Government and the Government of Canada shall discuss remedial measures to enable Canada to perform the international legal obligation. Subject to 7.13.4, the Tlicho Government shall remedy the law or other exercise of power to the extent necessary to enable Canada to perform the international legal obligation.

Again, this makes common sense. The Tlicho people would amend their laws, which makes sense. However now we get to the crux of the problem.

The crux of the problem is really in 7.13.4 which states:

If the arbitrator, having taken into account all relevant considerations including any reservations and exceptions available to Canada, determines that the Tlicho Government law or other exercise of power causes Canada to be unable to perform the international legal obligation, the Tlicho Government shall remedy the law or other exercise of power to enable Canada to perform the internal legal obligation.

Under the legislation, what would stop the Tlicho government from selling bulk water? We have agreements among the provinces and the territories. We are not about to start exporting bulk water, although it does cross the border every day through municipal agreements along the border. We sell bottled water to the U.S. under our obligations under NAFTA and under the WTO.

Just imagine for a minute what would happen if the Tlicho First Nation decided to sell bulk water. There are all kinds of issues at stake. There are all kinds of bylaws that state that the Government of Canada shall not supercede the Tlicho ability to deal as an international body. Within a certain frame or guideline, I can agree with that. I have no difficulty with that.

I want to know some specifics. The government is very short on specifics, but very big on grandiose plans on how this is going to help first nations.

We have a great example. That is the Nisga'a agreement where the first nation has paramountcy on a number of issues that do not infringe upon the obligations of the sovereign state of Canada and the responsibilities of the federal government. There are dozens of examples, but it is very clearly written into the Nisga'a agreement. This language is not clear, final or definite when I read this proposed legislation.

What prevents the Tlicho people from deciding tomorrow, after the agreement is signed, that they wish to sell bulk water? As the agreement is written, there is anything in it to prevent that. That is one example.

This is pretty straightforward, responsible type of legislation that we would like to see governments bring forward. We have a number of first nations who have never signed treaties. Some of the Tlicho band are among those people.

This is about something called the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. It is about Arctic gas flowing through Tlicho land and an ulterior motive on behalf of the government. It is in such a hurry to exploit the resources of northern Canada, and by the way to exploit the resources and give nothing back to either three levels of government in northern Canada. It takes the lion's share of the profit and the Tlicho should recognize this, as well.

The government is not a beneficiary. It does not always act in the best interests of its clients, including Yukon, the NWT and Nunavut, let alone does it act in good faith when it deals with first nations.

There is a bottom line that we cannot ignore. The treaty, unlike almost any other treaty that I have had the experience of reading, does not deal with finality. It is not clear in its language and it opens the door internationally to a real serious problem. Part of that problem is about water, or could be.

If we look at article 2.2.9, it states:

Nothing in the Agreement shall be interpreted so as to limit or extend any authority of the Parties to negotiate and enter into international, national, interprovincial and inter-territorial agreements, but this does not prevent the Tlicho Government from entering into agreements--

I have heard a lot of language coming from the government benches that the opposition is not looking at the legislation with a clear mind and that we are attempting to be unfair in our deliberations. As an individual who has supported a lot of good legislation regarding first nations, this piece of legislation has a serious flaw in it. Until I hear the answer, not just the criticisms about what everyone else thinks about this but the answer to that specific part of the bill, then I am going to be very apprehensive in believing that this legislation is good for Canada and good for first nations.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today to speak to the bill. I have been listening with interest to the comments that some of the members on this side have been making. I think they are very valid and we are raising some very serious concerns.

I want to talk about two issues primarily that are so fundamental to a free and democratic society, one of those being access to information on the part of its citizens and the other is the principle of equality before the law of all citizens.

I want to focus on a particular article, 2.12, disclosure of information. Currently, we have access to information provisions in this country that allow individual citizens to access the information contained by government. It states:

Subject to 2.12.3, but notwithstanding any other provision of the Agreement, neither government, including the Tlicho community governments, nor the Tlicho Government is required to disclose any information that it is required or entitled to withhold under any legislation or Tlicho law relating to access to information or privacy.

Article 2.12.2 goes on:

Where government, including a Tlicho community government, or the Tlicho government has a discretion to disclose any information, it shall take into account the objects of the Agreement in exercising that discretion.

Finally, article 2.12.3 states:

Notwithstanding any legislation relating to access to information or privacy, government shall provide a Tlicho community government access to any information under its control, other than federal Cabinet documents or territorial Executive Council documents, that is required for the administration, by the Tlicho community government, of an interest listed in part 2 of the appendix to chapter 9 or a lease listed in part 3 of the appendix to chapter 9.

I raise that issue of access to information. We want to ensure that the citizens who are governed under this agreement are not subject to a lesser amount of access to important vital information than Canadian citizens are subject today. That is a concern because access to information is a cornerstone of a free and democratic society.

I also want to talk a bit about the principle of equality. That is a principle to which most of us on this side are committed to and to which those on the other side say they are committed. This overall agreement will create a racially segregated electoral system, which is clearly contrary to our charter of rights that we cherish.

Those who are Tlicho citizens acquire a very distinct status. They enjoy the electoral franchise as Tlicho citizens. They have all the rights and benefits of other Canadian citizens. They also maintain their identity as aboriginal people of Canada participating in and benefiting from any existing or future constitutional rights. They also receive all status Indian benefits and maintain their hunting, fishing and trapping rights under treaty.

I fear we are creating here a system of rights, competing rights and conflicting rights among various groups of Canadians. The principle of equality appears to be thrown out the window in an effort to reach this agreement.

As Canadians we are protected under the charter of rights. It is part of our Constitution and has been since 1982. It provides certain rights and guarantees to all Canadians. Some of those rights that we cherish are included under that charter. It is not clear to me, and it has been raised today by various members, that the charter will apply to these citizens.

It seems quite clear on its face that if we were to take some of the provisions of this agreement and pushed them onto an area such as Ottawa, or my riding where we had a segregated electoral system, Canadians would not appreciate that. However, under the guise of reaching an agreement, we have some onerous provisions.

The principles that we cherish in a free and democratic society, that are necessary to maintain a democracy, the principles of openness of government, and the principle of equality of all citizens before and under the law, I would urge all members to consider whether this bill is in keeping with those principles that we claim to hold so dear. When we look at some of the provisions here, that is not the case.

Other provisions have already been raised today. I want to touch on some other items. We can go through so much effort in the debate on this agreement and the cost of trying to reach an agreement, but when we finally achieve an agreement, it must be final. How can we subject Canadians from across this country to this type of debate and this type of effort that goes into reaching an agreement and not have a final agreement?

I fear that the government has put us in a situation where we will have to revisit this issue often. It sets a terrible precedent. Canadians would expect that this agreement would be final. Finality is an important part of any contract. We all want to know that we can rely on what we have entered into a year from now, 10 years from now and into the future. If we have an agreement that is not final, it does a disservice to the Tlicho people and to all Canadians.

The other item that has been mentioned, and I cannot understand why there has not been more opposition raised to it, is the right to enter into international agreements. We have seen some of the controversy on the other side when statements were made that some provinces could act on the international stage as a representative of Canada. We know that is not true. The Government of Canada speaks for Canada on international debate and international negotiations.

Have we opened the door now to a group of people within our country and have we given the opportunity now for them to speak to international agreements and international issues? In practice how would that be put in place?

We do not offer a seat for the provinces. Yet, we are now going to extend a seat in international agreements which is what the agreement says. This is a power that is constitutionally reserved for the federal government and we are going to open this up in this agreement.

I have already mentioned the electoral system. There has to be fundamental equality before the law. We have seen recent Supreme Court decisions affirming that every Canadian citizen has the right to vote. We have seen that even extending into our federal prison system.

To then suggest that only certain citizens in an area, these Tlicho citizens as they will be known, are entitled to be elected to certain positions is a clearly racially based system.

There is also concern in creating another tier of government. We have a municipal tier which ironically enough this government has promised time and time again to support and has been pulling the rug out from under our municipal governments. Now we see the government creating another tier.

Those are some of the issues that must be addressed.