House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, throughout the debate on this bill much has been made of the optional nature of the bill. Even in earlier incarnations this was less clear, but in this incarnation of the bill, as it went from Bill C-19 to Bill C-23, to now Bill C-20 in this Parliament, the claim is made by the government that this is truly optional and people's fears are groundless.

However, it remains unclear to me and perhaps the parliamentary secretary can help me with this. In relation to the statistical institute, which is one of the four new fiscal institutions created by Bill C-20, I do not understand how the claim can be made that Bill C-20 is optional. In fact, the statistical institute is not optional at all. All first nations in Canada come under this whether they wish to or not.

Unless I am missing something completely, there is no optional nature to the statistical institute. Perhaps this should have been dealt with as a separate bill. Perhaps the government should have introduced the three other fiscal institutions as one bill. If there was a need for the statistical institute, it could have been dealt with separately. I would like the parliamentary secretary to explain to me how the statistical institute could be seen as optional.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I referred to the optional part of this bill as in the fiscal tools. The minister stated in committee in his opening remarks that the statistical institute is not optional. It applies to all first nations. If the member had wanted to do something different about severing the statistical institute, I am sure he could have made amendments to that effect, but he did not. In fact, he chose, and I am very glad that he did, to be part of the unanimous passing with other amendments but nothing relating to that situation.

It was clarified in committee. The bill is a reincarnation of two previous attempts to have the bill changed into optional legislation. First nations will choose if and when they wish to participate in the taxing and borrowing regimes established by the bill. The provisions of the bill dealing with these regimes will apply only to those first nations which appear in the schedule to the bill. A band council must ask to be added to the schedule.

The schedule is established by the governor in council. The name of the first nation can appear in the schedule only at the request of the council of that first nation. First nations have had the option, under the Indian Act, to establish real property tax regimes since 1988 and that option will also continue to be available.

First nations would continue to be free to raise capital as they do now. There is no obligation for any first nation to borrow through the finance authority. No one has forced any first nation to tax under the provisions of the Indian Act. No one will force any first nation to tax or borrow under the provisions of this bill. First nations will make that decision. The minister made that point very clearly in committee.

This initiative is first nation led. The bill has resulted from over 15 years of dedicated effort by a group of first nation leaders who seek to remove existing barriers to economic development. The development of the bill has been guided by their vision, their determination, their skills and personal commitment, along with input of industry specialists.

Overall, yes this is optional for the taxation. The whole point of the statistical institute is to be able to do the planning. If that was unclear to the member, I am very glad he gave me this opportunity to clarify that.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill C-20, a bill described as the first nations statistical and management act. The bill has made quite an expeditious journey through the House of Commons to committee and back onto the floor of the House of Commons today, anticipating early approval with the cooperation of all of the parties in the House.

I will not replicate the comments made by my learned friend. There are substantial parts of this legislation upon which she and I agree for once. My comments will respond to a couple of the questions that have been raised and to outline in philosophical terms why our party supports this legislation. The Conservative Party is fully in support of Bill C-20 and the principles contained therein.

This past month the National Post published an opinion piece which was prepared by Phil Fontaine, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. As I said before, while I do not agree with everything that my colleague, Grand Chief Fontaine, has said in that article, there are many matters upon which he and I agree and which I think all Canadians should consider.

This country is a modern federal democracy in which all of the citizens of Canada must bear equally the responsibilities and also the privileges of citizenship. The time has come that aboriginal Canadians are entitled, indeed they are expected, to share in the governance of Canada, to share in the governance of their own affairs, and their inherent right of self-government. If aboriginal Canadians are to be equal citizens in this country, if they are also to bear upon their shoulders the hopes and dreams of Canada, then they must also bear equally the responsibilities of governing this country. Concurrently, they must enjoy the full benefits of citizenship, including the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As Chief Fontaine observed in the

National Post:

To be self-sufficient, to rely on ourselves, we must be free and able to make our own choices. Reliance on the choices that others make for us is a denial of the means to self-sufficiency.

In that regard, an important study was carried out in Canada and referred to by Mr. Fontaine, the Harvard Project. It referred to three factors which are critical to economic self-sufficiency. These are worth emphasizing in the context of this debate.

First, practical sovereignty means genuine decision-making power over internal affairs, governance, resources, institutions and development strategies.

Second, capable governing institutions are those which exercise power effectively, responsibly and reliably.

Third, the necessity for a cultural match, which means formal institutions of government that match indigenous concepts of how authority should be organized and should be exercised.

In this country, over the past many years, we have had a debate about the scope and content of aboriginal self-government. Much has been said about that subject and that debate will carry on. The debate, by and large, has been a democratic and a civil one, even though it has been marked by a lack of consensus on many fundamental matters.

Both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians need to be reminded that, while we do not always agree upon the scope and content of governance rights, virtually all Canadians share a desire to see aboriginal Canadians as equal partners in this marvellous country. They wish to see a full embodiment of the inherent right of self-government in a way which is practical and which achieves success for aboriginal Canadians.

The Indian Act is both anachronistic and archaic. Frankly, it has no place in the Canada of tomorrow. It has not yet been replaced in our country by a modern legislative framework only because we have been unable as a country to this point to define how and by what legislative means the Indian Act should be replaced. However, I would hasten to add that I anticipate that in the next several years we will make great strides in that regard. We will succeed in replacing the Indian Act with legislation which has the support of first nations and which moves us into the future.

The issues to be sure are complex. They involve questions that strike to the heart of this country: issues pertaining to the application of the charter; the distribution of governmental jurisdiction within our country, within our federal system; the incidence of citizenship; the correlative rights and expectations which we demand of one another as fellow citizens; and also those difficult issues that deal with the distribution of resources.

These would be difficult enough questions on their own. They are all the more difficult when one factors in the rich and diverse mosaic, the linguistic mosaic, and the cultural mosaic of Canada's aboriginal peoples: Inuit, Métis and over 600 distinct Indian first nations.

As Grand Chief Fontaine has observed, people need control over their own lives and the chance to reap the benefits of their own labours. They do not flourish when they are denied the right to decide for themselves how they will live.

I for one have reached the conclusion, after many years of involvement on this subject, that many of the difficulties which aboriginal people have faced in this country tie back to their struggle against the collectivist tyranny of the Indian Act. It is important that we replace that legislation and Bill C-20 is extraordinarily important legislation in that regard. It represents one of the first steps to pass control of the lives of aboriginal Canadians in respect of economic and taxation matters back within their own jurisdiction in a voluntary manner.

In respect of self-government, the position of myself and my party is clear. The Indian Act and related legislation should be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the inherent right of self-government for the devolution of full, legal and democratic responsibility to aboriginal peoples over their own affairs. This must be done within the overall framework of our federal state.

This reform should be pursued following full consultation with first nations, with the objective of achieving a full and complete devolution of democratic authority that is consistent with the devolution of authority elsewhere within our federal democratic system. Aboriginal Canadians, like all Canadians, are entitled to enjoy democratic control over their own affairs within a legislative context that ensures certainty, stability, respect for the rule of law, and which balances individual and collective responsibility.

Aboriginal communities must have the flexibility to determine for themselves whether and how principles, such as free market principles and individual property ownership should apply to reserve lands. We feel very strongly that this devolution should be accomplished in a manner which takes into account the cultural, linguistic and rich diversity of Canada's first nations. Within that context and within the framework of the Canadian Constitution, we should be prepared to make flexible accommodations for the protection of language and culture within self-government agreements.

I return at this point to the legislation before the House, Bill C-20. One of the fundamental aspects of this legislation, which warrants emphasis, is that it originates not so much with the Government of Canada, and I mean no disrespect in that regard, but rather with a group of visionary leaders, aboriginal Canadians who have fought for their vision of self-government and who have persisted in the face of considerable difficulty.

I speak of a team of people, but there are four or five people in particular I wish to mention for the record in this honourable House. They are Chief Tom Bressette, the chairman of the first nations statistical advisory panel and the present Chief of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation; Harold Calla, chairman of the financial management advisory panel, a councillor and individual from the Squamish First Nation; Chief Strater Crowfoot, chairman of the Indian taxation advisory board and chief of the Siksika First Nation; Deanna Hamilton, the president and CEO of the first nation finance authority of the Westbank First Nation; and Manny Jules, the former Indian taxation advisory board chairman and the former chief of the Kamloops Indian Band.

These men and women, and the extraordinary team of people who have worked with them are fighting to ensure that the first nation communities that wish to will have voluntary access to practical levers of self-government, which will bring them economic progress, prosperity and social development.

Their vision is one of prosperity, of infrastructure development, of economic development, of economic opportunity and social progress. The self-government, which they are fighting for, is predicated upon the hard work associated with citizenship in this country, the installation of community infrastructure, the responsibilities of debt service, the administration of a property tax system, and the building of fiscal, managerial and financial capacity in their communities.

The legislation also concurrently balances the interests of the federal crown and contains provisions that would provide the necessary protection for the position of taxpayers commensurate with that of other taxpayers in our federal system.

I wish to point out, in response to some of the questions that have been raised surrounding this legislation, that there has been an enormous amount of consultation surrounding the development of this statute.

The bill not only originated with the first nation communities, of which I have spoken, but this project evolved to include many other first nations and regional first nation bodies, the First Nation Summit of British Columbia and the Union of Ontario Indians. Discussion was held in those forums.

Years of consultation and debate have surrounded the development of this initiative. Debates with the Assembly of First Nations AGM, the B.C. First Nation Summit, the Union of Ontario Indians, the Atlantic Policy Congress, as well as numerous discussions with individual first nations. In addition to those consultations, meetings have been held with non-first nation taxpayers, provincial governments, private sector companies and municipal governments.

I would point out for the record and for special note, that consultations have been held with the Canadian Property Tax Association, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Bank of Montreal, First Nations Bank, TD Canada Trust, VanCity Credit Union, Standard & Poor's Corporation, Moody's Investors Services, the Aboriginal Finance Officers Association, the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia and other bodies as well.

What all of that speaks to is the remarkable amount of consultation on the legislative progress of the bill. In that regard, when I went through the provisions of the bill in a detailed way, chapter and verse, paragraph by paragraph, I was struck by the fact that the provisions of the bill were well thought out, well crafted and meticulously drafted.

There are three particular issues which the House needs to be aware of and which I think are adequately addressed in the legislation. First, the rights of taxpayers under this legislation; second, the liability of the crown; and third, the provisions relating to default or defalcation.

It is important to note that with respect to the rights of taxpayers, a great deal has been done in the legislation to ensure that a taxpayer on reserve, whether it be an industrial taxpayer or a taxpayer in a residential or commercial context, is being treated very much the same as a taxpayer anywhere else in Canada. An assessment bylaw must be approved by the tax commission under clause 5(2). Assessment appeals are mandatory and prescribed by regulation. There is an appeal review process. A review can be requested of the first nation tax commission under clause 33. In addition, the commissioners of the tax commission include specifically taxpayer appointed nominees under clause 20.

A great deal of effort went into ensuring that the rights of taxpayers were examined, considered and protected. I think they are quite commensurate with a situation any other taxpayer would face in this country.

With respect to the liability of the crown, this is an issue that has been raised. I would point out that under section 60 of the statute, no one is entitled to give a guarantee on behalf of the Government of Canada. Both sections 133 and 135 provide very clearly that no person has a right to receive any compensation or damages, or an indemnity from the crown in respect of this legislation.

I think that is very important because the first nations in this case are not being backstopped by anyone other than themselves. When we talk about aboriginal Canadians standing up and taking responsibility for their own affairs, this legislation shows that it is exactly what is happening. They are not being backstopped by the Government of Canada. This is their own responsibility. It is a collective effort on the part of first nations to guarantee one another's debt and, through that method, to advance themselves economically.

The legislation does contain provisions relating to accountability, and in particular what happens in the event of a difficult circumstance of defalcation or default. There are also extensive co-management or third party management procedures that would happen under the direction of the First Nations Finance Authority. Those matters have been dealt with as well.

This is good legislation and it is indicative of the direction in which we need to move. I spoke earlier of the individuals who have exercised leadership in bringing this forward. Our party compliments them. We are proud of the work they have achieved. We are proud to support this initiative. We think it sets a direction for the country.

Other initiatives in Canada are developing along these same lines. Just this week I met with a very well respected aboriginal leader, Satsan Herb George, who spoke of the governance centre in Chilliwack, British Columbia. This is a proposal that will fit quite naturally in with what is being envisioned by the legislation in front of us, Bill C-20.

What we are talking about is capacity building for first nations to put themselves in a position where they will have governance structures, taxation options, finance options and fiscal management capabilities to lift themselves up and to make social and economic progress on their reserves. This is all very positive.

For my part, I have sometimes worried about the endlessness of the debate that we are having surrounding self-government. The many issues surrounding self-government, the meaning, the scope and the content of that term will, in gradual course, be resolved in Canada, but I think it will be resolved in the same way that other issues in our country have been resolved and that is in an evolutionary and, I would suggest, a conservative and cautious manner that responds in a gradual way to the needs of our diverse Canadian community.

We will make progress. We perhaps will make it cautiously but we will make it with full regard to the consequences of the decisions that we are making.

Let us move forward with the legislation. This is not legislation that answers all of the self-government questions in this nation but it is a start . If we adopt this legislation there will be economic and social progress in Canada for many of the first nations that are in a position and can decide to avail themselves of this legislation. We will be closer to the economic independence and self-sufficiency of which Grand Chief Fontaine speaks.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it must be simple being the aboriginal affairs critic for that party because members of that party do not seem burdened by any contradictions or contradictions do not seem to bother them.

On the one hand, the member has been waxing poetic about the importance of self-determination and self-governance, and on the other hand, just this week we saw members of the Conservative Party en masse vote against the most historic self-governance and self-determination land claims issue in recent history, only the second such modern land claim in the country since the Nisga'a bill which they also voted against.

For all the member's quite valid language about the importance of the abolition of the Indian Act and that successful economic development models are directly correlated to the degree of self-governance, during the clause by clause consideration of Bill C-20 in committee he and his party voted against eight separate amendments which would have given some input into the placement of the board of directors of these new fiscal institutions.

I would ask him to dwell on, if he could, why he could not see fit to support changes to the appointment process in Bill C-20, of appointing the board of directors which would have given first nations more direction and control over who will get these key commissioner, co-commissioner and director positions in these new fiscal institutions.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that it is a pleasure to be the critic on this subject matter for the Conservative Party. I can also confirm, as my friend has said, that it is a pleasure not to be burdened by contradiction because we are not.

Our party has spoken in a principled way about the way forward. We have consulted with people in the community. We have talked with the AFN and with others. We have put forward a series of policy ideas that take the Conservative Party to the very front of what is going to happen in this country in the next 20 years in terms of the development of self-government and those are based upon a very logical, consistent and principled approach.

I would point out that it is an approach that has enjoyed a great deal of support among the aboriginal Canadians with whom I have spoken. It involves the gradual orderly elimination of the Indian Act with other legislation, which will make it possible for aboriginal Canadians to get on with their lives and to achieve social and economic progress.

We are proud of where we are going. It is a program that will enjoy support in the days ahead. I have spoken of the need to develop a legislative framework which governs the expenditures that the department is making on behalf of aboriginal Canadians.

I would encourage my learned friend to stay involved in the debate and he will continue to be pleased with the progress that the Conservative Party is making.

With respect to his specific question, his party brought forward a series of motions which were soundly defeated at the committee stage. The effect of those motions would have been to essentially take the good work of the respected leaders, the respected aboriginal Canadians who brought Bill C-20 forward to this point, and frozen it by adopting a process of consultation that would have been unworkable and would have made it impossible for the government, or frankly any government, to achieve the necessary unanimity on appointments, and that is why we did not--

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member will have another five minutes for questions and comments after question period.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate International Human Rights Day. This date was established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly to honour the anniversary of the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

The declaration is truly a remarkable document. Its 30 articles deal with the full range of human rights, including political participation, due process under law, education, property rights, and the freedom to marry among consenting spouses.

While virtually every country has signed on to the declaration, we know that the practical recognition of human rights is far from universally observed. This is why it is important to celebrate and reflect on these values that are so fundamental to living a life unburdened by despotism, racism, persecution and arbitrary sanction.

Among the people observing International Human Rights Day, I would especially like to single out our country's vibrant Tibetan community, a great many of whom live in my riding. I commend their efforts and the efforts of all their supporters in promoting human rights during this difficult period in their long history.

Hamilton International Airport
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I call on the government today to provide the appropriate support to Hamilton International Airport and halt the unnecessary Pickering airport proposal. There is no need for a new regional airport east of Toronto when Hamilton International is operating under capacity and provides a more economical and competitive option.

The Pickering airport proposal was first announced in 1972, but it was wisely cancelled in 1975. Why is the government allowing a bad idea to be resurrected?

The infrastructure for a thriving airport in Hamilton is already in place. A new highway in Hamilton leading to the airport has just been opened.

Rather than exploring an obviously bad idea, the government should reverse its decision and invest in Hamilton International through ACAP, the airport capital assistance program.

I particularly call on the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek to put some action behind his words. He enjoyed media attention by announcing he was opposed to the Pickering project, yet when he was transport minister, he did absolutely nothing to halt work on the proposal.

Resources should be put into Hamilton International where a positive difference can be made, and not into an expensive boondoggle that makes no sense.

Sports-Québec Gala
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, in a few days, on Tuesday, December 21, the 32nd Sports-Québec gala will be held in Laval. This event is an excellent opportunity to promote excellence in sports by recognizing the exceptional performances of the athletes, officials, coaches, teams, managers, volunteers and organizations in Quebec's world of sports.

At this 32nd Sports-Québec gala, 48 finalists, selected from 224 names submitted by sports federations, have been nominated in 16 categories.

I want to congratulate all finalists. The fact that they were nominated is already a reflection of their achievements in their respective fields. I thank all the athletes and the people involved in sports in Quebec. Their excellence brings honour to our society as a whole.

Joint Task Force 2
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, on December 7, 2004 a contingent of our Joint Task Force 2, which is our Canadian Forces special operations group, was awarded the United States presidential unit citation for their extraordinary accomplishments in Afghanistan in the campaign against terrorism.

The citation was awarded to members of JTF2 for extraordinary heroism and action during the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda targets.

JTF2 members captured enemy personnel, equipment and material of significant value and hampered the enemy's ability to conduct operations. They displayed extraordinary gallantry under extremely difficult circumstances and hazardous conditions, which set that unit apart from all others.

On behalf of the Minister of National Defence and all members, we congratulate Joint Task Force 2 for their well-deserved award and thank them for their profound service to our country.

Religious Freedom
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, modern democracies are founded on the principle of the separation of church and state. It is a principle that I certainly support.

When secular tradition suppresses individual freedoms and disregards tolerance, I think we as a House and as a nation need to stand up. I am particularly concerned with the ban on articles of faith and the wearing of articles of faith in France.

I recently circulated a letter to all members of Parliament, many of whom have signed, expressing to the French government the need to repeal this action as it is directly contrary to our deeply felt convictions that we need to support freedom and democracy.

This affects Muslims, Jews and Christians equally. The fear is that if France entrenches this, it will extend into other jurisdictions.

Individuals must be free to express themselves. We must fight for that freedom. I urge all members of the House to stand on that principle.

Kodak Canada
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we were informed by the president of Kodak Canada that Canadian manufacturing operations would be discontinued by the middle of 2005. It is with deep regret that we received this announcement.

Kodak, at its Mount Dennis location on Eglinton Avenue, has been part of the history of the former city of York, now the city of Toronto, for 100 years. During that time Kodak has been a caring and sharing corporate citizen, supporting community activities, enjoying a committed and dedicated family of employees. Kodak Canada has contributed to the international reputation that Eastman Kodak enjoyed, from traditional imaging to state of the art digital technology.

This is the end of a very special era. It is a very special and sad time for the Kodak family and the York South--Weston community. We are appreciative of the care that Kodak officials have expressed with respect to their employees and the transitional support that will be provided.

Given Kodak's past record of community involvement, we are confident the company will work with all levels of government to find the most appropriate use of its present site with the highest and best return to the community that it has served for so long.

Christianity
Statements By Members

December 10th, 2004 / 11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we approach this holy time in the Christian calendar, the birth of Jesus Christ, Christians in Canada and around the world are facing increased persecution. In response to church bombings in parts of the world, the Vatican is asking the United Nations to recognize Christianophobia as an evil equal to that of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia.

Hostility in Canada to Christian teachings about the sanctity of the family and life has resulted in persecution here at home. The government has launched a campaign of intimidation to silence churches by dispatching tax collectors to threaten the charitable tax status of denominations who speak out against the Liberal government. This attacks the very democratic foundations of our society. The recent persecution of a Christian children's camp by the Ontario Liberal Party over its flawed and unworkable water regulations is but one example of anti-Christian actions here at home.

Governments do not like those who challenge the moral authority they claim for themselves. It is time to challenge what we believe is wrong. To quote St. Pius X, “error is approved by non-resistance, and truth is suffocated by not defending her”.

2004 Farm Family of the Year
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, as part of the recent annual assembly of the Union des producteurs agricoles, the family of Jean-Louis Charbonneau and Alice Cyr from Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines was named the 2004 farm family of the year. The title is awarded by the Fondation de la famille terrienne.

Jean-Louis Charbonneau represents the 10th consecutive generation of farmers who settled in New France. He was born on his parents' property near the village of Sainte-Thérèse on the north shore of Montreal, a property that has been farmed by his family since the early 1800s. The farm has 200 head of cattle, including 97 dairy cows, and 350 hectares of crop land. The property also has a 20-hectare artificial forest. Over the years, the farm has earned many awards for the quality of its production.

This award is presented annually to a Quebec family that has preserved and inspired values unique to farming in Quebec. From generation to generation in family, social, economic and professional terms. Without question, the family—

2004 Farm Family of the Year
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Ahuntsic.