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 agreement.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to revert to introduce of private members' bills?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition with 26 names requesting the assistance of the Government of Canada for the provision of affordable assistance devices for all Canadians who are blind, visually impaired or deaf-blind. It states that Canada urgently needs an assistance devices program that is nationwide, sustainable, mobile and open to all age groups and that affordable assisted devices allow persons who are disabled to achieve greater independence.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation permitting the Government of Canada to work with other levels of government to ensure that all Canadians receive access to affordable assisted devices.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise to present yet another petition in a long line of petitions that I have been presenting on the same issue. It is from concerned citizens of Windsor, Ontario.

The petitioners wish to draw to the attention of the House that the Canadian Forces Housing Agency serves a valuable purpose by providing on base housing. Unfortunately, much of the housing provided for our military families is substandard and below acceptable living conditions.

Also, in many cases they have seen dramatic increases in their rent. Indeed, today, November 1, about half the people who live in on base housing are about to see dramatic increases in their rent again.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases for accommodation provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency until such time as the government makes substantive improvements to the living conditions provided for our on base military families.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

November 1st, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-14, an act to give effect to a land claims and self-government agreement among the Tlicho, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada, to make related amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, just before question period I was talking about Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act and the role that aboriginal Canadians have played in the history of the country. They certainly had a major role to play in the settlement of western Canada. There are dozens of treaties that were concluded by the colonial authorities and they had a beneficial effect for the country. It allowed us to establish our sovereignty over areas that we would have been in direct competition with the United States. It was very valuable.

However, today we have to recognize those treaties. We have to come to some conclusion on some of the vague terms that are contained therein. I see the particular act before Parliament as a continuation of the process, the process of fairness. However, I did not hear answers to some of the legitimate concerns that were raised by the member for Calgary Centre-North and by other members on this side of the House. Contrary to comments we have heard, this is the time and the place to discuss some of these things.

The second reading debate is when a bill is either accepted or rejected on principle, so it is legitimate that we raise some of these concerns. If the matter moves on to the committee, as I expect it probably will, I hope then finally some of the legitimate questions that have been raised will get answered. I hope they include, among other things, the question of finality.

We have heard testimony in the House that the agreement is not final, but that it will be opened up when any other land claim or self-government treaties are concluded. That means this process could go on ad infinitum. I believe there are about 70 land claim treaties in the mix right now and there are hundreds of other potential ones. It means that after each and every one of them, this one would be measured to see if some other group land claim treaty included more and therefore the Tlicho people would be included within that. As a result we do not attain any finality with this. I would like to see that matter addressed in the committee. I think it is a reasonable one.

As well, we heard comments with respect to Canada's obligations in the area of international treaties. If Canada concludes an international treaty, that treaty will be measured against the provisions of this agreement. There are provisions, I guess, for consultation and mediation.

What we could possibly have, and again it is one of those issues that should be addressed by the committee, is that Canada may very well be put in the position some day where it will be impossible for us to conclude international treaties because no future land claim agreement will have any less than this agreement. This would be the base for all future agreements.

Presumably the other 70 land claim agreements and self-government claims that are in the mix now will all want to be consulted when Canada gets into the business of international treaties. One could just imagine how difficult that would be to conclude if the federal government were under an obligation to go through a process of consultation, which is fair enough. For the process of mediation, I just want to know where that ends. What happens if the mediation is unsuccessful? I look forward to that being answered.

As well, I did not hear a complete answer to the question of what is supreme, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or this act? Is it a constitutional document? There is no question about that. Is it subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? I have seen wording in the agreement that says that whatever happens within this agreement, it should be “consistent with”. That is not quite the same as being subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

These are all important, vital questions because the government of the country has to be able to work and we have to be fair to all Canadians. I hope that process will have complete examination after the second reading stage in the committee.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join our party in opposition to Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claim agreement.

The Conservative Party agrees with the spirit of the agreement but it has grave concerns relating to four areas of the treaty specifically. Those are the absence of finality, incursions upon Canada's international autonomy, jurisdictional confusion and the adoption of governance structures which are racially based.

This agreement is most notably unique in that it ratifies both land claim and self-government agreements at the same time. This is the first time this has happened and for this reason it will serve to set a precedent for all future agreements for as many as 600 first nations in this country that are still negotiating land claim agreements.

I want to deal with the four points that I mentioned at the start. The first one I will deal with will be the absence of finality. It is the first problem. I know many of my colleagues have spoken to the issue that the agreement is not a final agreement. I think what most Canadians are asking and what the people in my constituency in the province of Manitoba have asked is finality; that when the deal is made a deal is done and a deal is completed. This certainly does not allow for that.

It is my understanding that land claims are supposed to be final settlements. It was the case in the Nisga'a agreement, but apparently it is not in this case. I do want to put on the record some of the portions of the final agreement with the Nisga'a. The agreement states:

This Agreement constitutes the full and final settlement in respect of the aboriginal rights, including aboriginal title, in Canada of the Nisga'a Nation.

Article 23 reads:

This Agreement exhaustively sets out Nisga'a section 35 rights, the geographic extent of thoserights, and the limitations to those rights, to which the Parties have agreed, and those rightsare:

a. the aboriginal rights, including aboriginal title, as modified by this Agreement, in Canada of the Nisga'a Nation and its people in and to Nisga'a Lands and other lands and resources in Canada;

b. the jurisdictions, authorities, and rights of Nisga'a Government; and

c. the other Nisga'a section 35 rights.

Further to that article, article 26 reads:

If, despite this Agreement and the settlement legislation, the Nisga'a Nation has an aboriginal right, including aboriginal title, in Canada, that is other than, or different in attributes or geographical extent from, the Nisga'a section 35 rights as set out in this Agreement, the Nisga'a Nation releases that aboriginal right to Canada to the extent that the aboriginal right is other than, or different in attributes or geographical extent from, the Nisga'a section 35 rights as set out in this Agreement.

Article 27.6.1 grants that if the Government of Canada or the Government of the Northwest Territories ever gives another aboriginal people greater tax powers or tax exemptions, whether by land claims agreement, self-government agreement, tax power exemption or legislation than that negotiated with the Tlicho, then the federal and territorial governments must reopen negotiations with the Tlicho to provide them with equal benefits.

We can be sure that every one of the 600 first nations still negotiating agreements will demand the same clause in their own agreements.

Potentially what this agreement could be doing is setting up a system of perpetual one-upmanship among Canada's first nations. Do not think that this could not happen, as the Akaitcho and Deh Cho First Nations that border the Tlicho are both seeking their own land claims as we speak. They will not settle for less and that could start the trend upward very soon.

The second part in my opening comments concerns the incursions upon Canada's international autonomy. Article 2.9 does not limit the authority of the Tlicho to enter into international, national, interprovincial and interterritorial agreements. This, in my understanding, means that the Tlicho government has the authority to enter into international agreements.

Does the Government of Canada have veto power over an agreement if it could have potential negative impacts on Canada as a whole? It is unclear, as this agreement is so ambiguous and poorly written that one cannot even answer these questions without vague assumptions or outright guesses.

To add to the confusing morass, the agreement indicates under article 7.13.2 that the Government of Canada will have to consult with the Tlicho if an international treaty may affect the rights of one Tlicho citizen. Provinces do not have these rights, and the government may be giving them out without thinking twice.

Our next concern is with regard to jurisdictional confusion. This agreement would effectively create a third order of government whose authority would be superior to that of the federal and territorial governments in certain matters. The jurisdictional confusion is exacerbated by the fact that the wording of the agreement is confusing as to which legislation, federal, territorial, Tlicho or the charter, is paramount in the event of conflict with the Tlicho constitution.

The agreement addresses these interjurisdictional issues in at least three places and prescribes three distinct paramount provisions.

First, in articles 7.7.2 through 7.7.4, Tlicho laws prevail over territorial laws and also over federal laws relating to the Tlicho. The federal government seems, therefore, to have rendered specific federal legislation relating to the Tlicho subordinate to the Tlicho laws.

Continuing on this confusing path, article 2.8.3 introduces yet another concept of paramountcy, in that it makes the settlement legislation, presumably Bill C-14, paramount over the provisions of any other legislation or Tlicho laws.

Unfortunately, for the sake of consistency and clarity, article 2.10.7 prescribes yet another legislative hierarchy which applies in the event of arbitration.

The problem here is that there seems to be multiple definitions of how to determine supremacy in the event of conflict between the Constitution of Canada, the charter, territorial legislation, Tlicho legislation and the agreement itself. One can only imagine the legal problems and confusion that this agreement will create if passed in its current form.

My final point is that it would create a racially based electoral system. The agreement also would create a category of citizens called Tlicho citizens who are the only people who may be elected as chiefs, and 50% of the elected councillors must be Tlicho citizens. This is arguably counter to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and we can almost be assured that it will be subject to a charter challenge, if the charter even ends up applying in Tlicho territory.

We believe that aboriginal agreements reached with the federal government must represent a final agreement in the same manner as was achieved with the Nisga'a. We believe that self-government agreements must be structured so as to ensure constitutional harmony and so as not to impede the overall governance of Canada.

We believe that the principles of the charter must apply to aboriginal self-government and that self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada.

If those principles cannot be upheld, then I cannot support this agreement.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this afternoon to offer a few thoughts on behalf of my constituents of Prince George—Peace River on Bill C-14, the bill that would bring the force of law to an agreement signed on August 25, 2003 between the federal government, the Northwest Territories government and the Tlicho Nation.

As has been stated by a number of my colleagues, and recently by my colleague from Brandon--Souris, the official opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada, is opposed to the agreement for a number of reasons.

I want to state at the outset that one of the things we have great difficulty with is the way in which the bill was brought forward and the fact that it cannot be amended, which creates a great deal of problems. Today during question period the minister avoided and evaded serious, sensible and common sense questions that were put forward on Bill C-14 by the official opposition by stating that the bill would go before committee and that our concerns could be known there.

It is becoming plain, not only to the official opposition but to Canadians from coast to coast, that the bill cannot be amended. It was brought forward by a ways and means motion, so in effect the government has said it is an all or nothing situation. We either accept it the way it is or we reject it. There is no way concerns can be brought forward and dealt with in any substantive manner.

I want to pay special tribute to our aboriginal affairs critic, the member for Calgary Centre-North, who has done an outstanding job in his short time in this chamber dealing with this legislation. I am sure he will go on to provide some insightful analysis to a lot of legislation as we move forward.

I also want to make it very clear that I and my colleagues would like to see these negotiations and these agreements brought to a conclusion. It is not like we are trying to stand in the way of negotiating what is fair, not only to the aboriginal people of Canada, the ones who have waited, in some cases, over 100 years now, for a treaty, for some finality and some certainty in their negotiations. It is not like we are opposed to that. Far from it. What we want to see, what they themselves and what Canadians at large want to see is not only some certainty but some fairness on both sides.

This is like a contract between two people. A contract should be fair to both parties. It is not helpful to either side to put a contract in place that is perhaps ambiguous or confusing. As my colleague from Brandon—Souris just mentioned, after a cursory examination of the legislation, what strikes us is how confusing and how ambiguous the language being used really is. It is a lawyer's dream come true.

As sure as I am standing in this chamber this afternoon, Bill C-14 will be before the courts before it is done. There will be some dispute in the future about it. I do not think it is helpful for the Tlicho people or Canadians who will end up paying the bill for the ongoing court cases. They want to see these things settled in a fair manner and they want finality. As we have heard from speaker after speaker on behalf of the official opposition, that is not the case with Bill C-14.

I want to reiterate for the record and on behalf of my constituents of Prince George—Peace River that I am proud and pleased to represent a huge northern riding that is just southwest of the area we are discussing under Bill C-14. Prince George—Peace River is about one-quarter of the land mass of northeastern British Columbia. It straddles the Rocky Mountains. We are pleased and proud to be home to a lot of aboriginal people. A lot of first nations make their homes in Prince George—Peace River. It is not that we do not have some problems there as well. We want to ensure fairness, not only in my riding but in areas, ridings and regions all across the country regardless of the province or the territory. We want to see fairness, we want to see finality and we want to see certainty.

In the four areas as laid out by a number of my colleagues, it is not a final agreement. As has been pointed out, if subsequent agreements that are under negotiation now actually bring in some clauses that are more beneficial to the Tlicho people, they can reopen negotiations. It is not final. That is a concern.

One thing that I have heard consistently in the 11 years that I have been the member of Parliament for Prince George—Peace River from people on both sides of the issue is they want these ongoing disputes to be settled in a fair manner, but they want them to be final. They want it to be like a contract that people would enter into when they purchased a home or bought a car. It is a final agreement and is bound by law. It is not that one side later on can say, “My buddy Joe down the street got a little better deal when he bought his new car, so I want to revisit this” and the person goes back to the dealer. Imagine what the dealer would say. He would tell the person to blow it out his ear, that he entered into a contract, signed it on the dotted line and it is final. It is an agreement.

These are concerns that we are bringing forward and as I say a lot of this is a lot of confusing language. The second thing is it appears to, and I would stress appears to, recognize the right of the Tlicho to enter into international agreements. That is of concern to us.

Third, it creates a racially based electoral system. A number of other people have talked about that. I remember that we have talked about that in a number of agreements, whether it was the Westbank agreement in the last Parliament or the Nisga'a agreement. We are concerned that we are setting up some sort of two tier electoral system in Canada. I do not think that is what the first nations people want and I do not think it is what Canadians want. They want all Canadians to be treated equally.

Fourth, the agreement is jurisdictionally confusing. I have already talked about that. I think the greatest confusion with regard to that was asked of the minister in question period today by one of my colleagues. He asked if, in the final analysis, push came to shove would the Tlicho agreement take supremacy or would it fall under the supremacy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That is a critical question to ask, and it should be an easy question for the government to answer. Yet the minister avoided the question. He ducked the question. That is of concern. It should be of concern to the Tlicho people themselves. They should be concerned that this is so ambiguous as to be confusing as to which would be supreme in the end.

It sets a precedent. We have also discussed that. It sets a very dangerous precedent because of a number of these issues that other bands will look at and say that the Government of Canada and by extension the people of Canada have entered into this agreement and they want the same thing, and rightly so. If I were next in line to negotiate, I would want the same provisions and the same loopholes, if I could call them that, or vagueness, to allow me wiggle room down the road if I wanted to renegotiate.

On this whole third order of government, I very vividly recall the Charlottetown accord referendum. I can say that the people in my riding voted overwhelmingly against it. In fact I think the strongest no vote against Charlottetown in Canada was Prince George—Peace River in 1992.

One of the huge concerns, and there were many with that accord, was this undefined third order of government and the powers that it may or may not be given. I want it on the record that the people of my riding certainly are opposed to this ill defined third order of government, rather than having something similar to a municipal government which I think all people would support.

I want to make a point on behalf of the aboriginal people themselves. I would hope that when we do negotiate these agreements and bring them forward and have at least some semblance of finality to it that the grassroots people are better off and that it is not just their government, it is not just the chiefs, the consultants and the advisors that are better off, but the grassroots people themselves.

All too often, despite the billions being spent through aboriginal affairs and northern development, I have witnessed in my riding and indeed across the country that the grassroots people themselves are no better off than they were 50 years ago.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Cleary Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a number of questions about a statement made within the past 20 or 25 minutes.

Reference was made to certainty—

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but I am told that you have already spoken on this bill. We are presently at 10 minute speeches with no questions and comments. I will have to ask you to drop the matter at this time.

Is the House ready for the question?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.