Debates of April 20th, 2004
House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Business of the House
- Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
- Economic Development
- Canadian Sikh Community
- Information Rights Week
- Status of Women
- Canadian Prostate Cancer Research Initiative
- Employment Insurance
- Volunteer Award
- Income Tax
- Holocaust Memorial Day
- South Africa
- Holocaust Memorial Day
- Volunteer Awards
- Canadian Youth
- Government Contracts
- Employment Insurance
- Government Contracts
- International Aid
- National Defence
- Government Contracts
- Government Contracts
- Status of Women
- Government Contracts
- The Environment
- Olympic Games
- Points of Order
- Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
- Budget Implementation Act, 2004
- Income Tax Act
- Budget Implementation Act, 2004
- Budget Implementation Act, 2004
- Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
- Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
- The Armenian People
- Avian Flu
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Ethel Blondin-Andrew Western Arctic, NT
He is not a layperson.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Ted White North Vancouver, BC
One of the government members yelled out that Gordon Gibson is not a layperson. I agree. That is correct and my comment could have been interpreted incorrectly. What I meant was that for a layperson to read this article, that layperson would get a really good feel for what this whole thing is all about. Mr. Gibson wrote, and I agree with his first line wholeheartedly:
Ottawa continues to blunder its way into the future in its British Columbia operations.
There is absolutely no sensitivity whatsoever to the fact that in British Columbia we have more native Indian bands than anywhere else in the entire country. We have a huge issue in the settlement of land claims and treaties here. It is simply not good enough to do this one by one, with different procedures creating different governments.
A study that was released yesterday by the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation described the problems on reserves despite the huge amounts of money that have been pumped into the system. In the decade since I have been here, I have heard so many promises from that side of the House, from the members sitting opposite, about how things will be improved, that we just need more money, we need another program, and we need to do more of this. The problems have gotten worse. The things we have done have made it get worse.
Australia has just abandoned part of its aboriginal strategy. It is cancelling the commission on aboriginal affairs in Australia, after spending billions of dollars and having the problems get worse. We should be learning from these examples in other countries and from our own example. It is a disgrace that in Canada, right in my own riding in the third largest city in all of Canada, the living conditions on reserves are disgraceful. It is not for lack of money because the band earns more than $30 million a year from its investments, right in the third largest city in Canada.
By passing this type of legislation, all we do is perpetuate the problems. We do not fix them. We do not help people get jobs on the reserves. We do not help them be part of Canadian society. We cause them to live separately and to perpetuate the problems.
I had my own little rant there, but I am going to return now to Mr. Gibson's article. The latest example of blundering, according to Mr. Gibson, is the Westbank first nation government act. He states:
At first glance, this is a minor piece of legislation for a small community outside Kelowna. But in fact it cements the legal basis for a constitutionalized parallel system of Indian governments across the country. It also means that much of [the Prime Minister's] promised fundamental review of Indian policy is dead on arrival.
The legislation also has important negative implications for the democratic and Charter rights of the 8,000 non-Indian citizens of Westbank who, voteless and denied self-government for themselves in this allegedly “Self-Government Act,” will be ruled by the roughly 400 members of the band.
In the agreement implemented by this bill, Ottawa, for the first time, explicitly “recognizes that the inherent right of self-government is an existing right within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982”.
Then, astonishingly, the legislation declines to define what the “inherent right” means or contains, and indeed states that “the parties to this agreement acknowledge that they may have different legal views as to the scope and content of an inherent right of self-government”.
That was the point I made right at the beginning. This is fodder for lawyers for decades to come. We will not know where we stand on this agreement for decades because of the disagreement of what it truly means in terms of charter rights. He goes on to state:
Think about it. We all have an “inherent right” to govern ourselves, each of us. But to collectivize this on the basis of ancestry?
That is what this bill does.
Section 35 is the part of the Constitution which protects aboriginal rights.
By virtue of section 35, the Supreme Court of Canada has displaced Parliament as the final maker of Indian law in Canada. The word “displaced” is used intentionally. The framers of the 1982 constitutional amendments avowedly intended nothing like the judicial adventurism which the courts have shown in making Indian law since then.
But most unusually in this Westbank agreement, Ottawa has moved farther out into left field than the Supremes have yet dreamed.
He goes on to describe a single court case in British Columbia where Justice Paul Williamson of the B.C. Supreme Court found, and he is the only person, any basis for a third order of government of the kind stipulated in this agreement.
That particular judgment involved a case that was brought by the Liberal Party of British Columbia prior to it becoming the government in British Columbia. It was related to the Nisga’a agreement under which the Liberal Party was challenging the constitutionality of that agreement. Unfortunately, when the Liberal government was elected in British Columbia, it decided not to appeal this rather unusual and alarming ruling. The unusual finding was never appealed, but no other court in Canadian history has found anything like this. Indeed, a century of jurisprudence disagrees, including the B.C. Court of Appeal, which in the Delgamuukw decision found exactly the opposite concerning a third order of government.
As I started out saying at the beginning, the real problem with this bill is the third order of government. The establishment of an order of government that can set its own legislation and regulations, which are not open to scrutiny, and extrapolating that to the total number of Indian bands in British Columbia and giving them all the same structure would be a nightmare in British Columbia. There would be multiple governments all operating independently with their own sets of regulations, uncoordinated in any way and not open to any scrutiny or challenge by anyone.
It is wrong. We should not be passing a law like this. We should be concentrating our efforts on improving the living conditions for aboriginals on reserves by helping them become part of Canadian society, not by isolating them and consistently making them different from mainstream Canada. It is unacceptable to me and I could never vote for a bill like this.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise this morning and address the amendments at report stage to Bill C-11, an act to give effect to the Westbank first nation self-government agreement.
I would like to make a couple of statements at the outset of my remarks. To begin with, this bill is only some six pages long. It is quite a concise bill. There is not a lot to it. I think any member of the public could understand what it is that we are talking about today.
Specifically, I would like to address Motion No. 1 in the name of my colleague from Delta, which basically amends Bill C-11 by deleting clause 3 which is the implementation of the bill itself.
In consultation with my colleague from Delta, he was disappointed that his amendment dealing with the charter provisions was not allowed to proceed and instead, this amendment was the only one that he had submitted that was allowed to stand. He would have liked to have debated the issue of how the bill relates to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Indeed, we are not prevented from doing that within the confines of the existing amendments and I will refer to that a bit later.
During some remarks earlier in the debate, the parliamentary secretary for Indian Affairs and Northern Development said that if someone wanted to change this bill, they should lobby to change the entire government policy, not just one clause in this act. While I would agree with him, obviously, that is not the basis of the debate today. Indeed, that debate will be taking place probably fairly quickly. Whenever the Prime Minister calls the election, we can have a debate about replacing this failed government's policy in connection with aboriginal people.
I also want to make some reference at the outset to the NDP member for Regina—Qu'Appelle who used his 10 minutes to launch a vitriolic rant against Conservative members in the House of Commons and really did not address the bill or the amendments before us today whatsoever.
As my colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla said, I do not think that adds to the debate for someone to stand up and just go on a personal rant against one member or a party, based on misinformation, I might add. I do not think that helps us with this debate.
To say that this issue is controversial would be stating the obvious. Last weekend I was in my riding as were the majority of MPs. I had the opportunity to man a booth at a trade fair in my home town in the City of Fort St. John where usually somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 local citizens attend that fair over the three days of the weekend. A number of them expressed some great reservations about this bill. As their member of Parliament, I would like to raise those concerns in the debate today.
The first thing, as has been said by a number of speakers, are the deep concerns about the whole business of taxation without representation. When we look at the bill, we see that 8,000-odd non-native residents who are currently or will be living on a reserve will not have a say in the governing and in the passing of bylaws by that body that will govern that piece of property.
Something is inherently wrong when an act takes away people's right to vote for their own representation and to have some means to affect those who govern over them.
As has already been noted, there is provision for an advisory council but the key word there is “advisory”. This council would only be providing advice. I would argue that it certainly does not take the place of people having the right to mark a ballot. Just to make that point, I do not think too many Canadians out there would trade their right to mark a ballot in either a municipal, provincial or federal election for the right to appear before and make comments and suggestions to an advisory board. I do not think too many Canadians would willingly give up their right to cast their ballots for that type of process.
The second issue, to which a number of MPs on both sides of the House have spoken, is that the bill would institute an unconstitutional third level of government. I am reminded that I was one of those MPs who was quite active prior to my election to this place in 1993. We had a constitutional amendment called the Charlottetown accord in 1992 that was voted on by the people of Canada and resoundingly defeated.
While we all recognize that there were a number of reasons that people voted either yes or no, those who voted no to the Charlottetown accord might have picked different things that they opposed in the agreement. A lot of people in my particular riding in northeastern British Columbia opposed the Charlottetown accord because of the undefined third order of government that would have been instituted in the Charlottetown accord.
Yet now we have the government moving forward with the act for the Westbank First Nation that would effectively do that. It would enshrine in law another order of government that would have considerably more powers than do municipalities, whether it is power over language and culture, natural resources, agriculture, the use of intoxicants on their property, education, medicine and the list goes on, this governing body would have the power to bring forward law which a municipality does not have.
As I said, I know, in speaking to a lot of my constituents, that they have a problem with the government moving ahead to institute a third level of government without the approval of the people of Canada.
One of the things we hear from both sides of the House is that there is a force in our country today that wants to see fundamental change to the way in which we interact with the aboriginal peoples in Canada. One of the things I have heard, not only from our party but from other parties and, indeed, the governing party, is that we should do away with the Indian Act. We should get away from this archaic system of paternalism and move into a new era of how we deal with our aboriginal peoples. Our party, the Conservative Party of Canada, supports that wholeheartedly.
It seems rather ironic to me that at the very time that we should be questioning the way in which we structure reserves and the way in which we devolve power to reserve governments to hold the property unto themselves in commonality rather than in fee simple, to prevent the average aboriginal person in Canada from enjoying the pride that comes from owning his or her own home and property, that we seem to be moving away from that with this act. We seem to be moving away from what I would consider to be the inherent right to property.
I know we do not have property rights in Canada enshrined in our Constitution. It is one of the problems I have with our Constitution. I think we should have property rights and those property rights should be just as relevant for aboriginal people as they are for non-aboriginal people.
It seems to me that the legislation would move the aboriginal peoples of the Westbank First Nation further away from enjoying the same rights and privileges that other Canadians have.
For those three reasons I am voicing the concerns expressed to me by many of my constituents in Prince George--Peace River who have some very deep reservations about the bill.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-11, the Westbank first nation agreement.
My frustration with the entire bill and the debate is the fact that most of the discussions that centre on aboriginal affairs really do not deal with the fundamentals or the basic principles involved.
I would like to thank both the MP from Delta and the MP for Vancouver Island North for promoting discussion on this issue. I have noticed that it is primarily the Conservative Party that is discussing the pros and cons of it. However I think we need a bit more discussion on some of the basic principles that have to form the foundation for our dealings with aboriginal people.
The Prime Minister made some grand pronouncements in the last day or two about the need to address aboriginal concerns but he still refuses to get the basics right. I would like to explain what I mean by that.
Before I go ahead with that, I would like to read a bit of our party policy because it forms the basis for what I am going to say today.
The Conservative Party of Canada believes that self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada. To ensure fairness and equality, a Conservative government will ensure that the charter will apply to aboriginal self-government. Aboriginal self-government must not create a sovereign, third order of government.
The Conservative Party of Canada believes giving aboriginal government the power to raise their own revenues will reduce the cycle of dependency; and that the performance and accountability of aboriginal self-government is enhanced when those who receive services contribute to the cost of those services.
I will discuss the amendments put forward by my colleague from Delta in regard to that.
One amendment was disallowed, and that is primarily the one I want to discuss today. It was an important amendment and we should have taken another look at it.
Our policy statement says that the charter should apply and that aboriginal governments should have the power to raise their own revenues. We need to reduce the cycle of dependency. Let me focus in on that.
It is quite obvious that anyone who has been involved in this debate today cares about the aboriginal people. That is why we are here and that is why we are debating this. Except for some personal slurs by the NDP, I think we have stuck basically to the issues, and I appreciate that.
The point was made previously that there is within the bill the wording that the charter applies with due regard to section 25. That is a major concern for many of us who have looked at this.
I want to focus on the fact that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is flawed because it omits one of the key essential rights needed in Canada and especially by those who are caught in the cycle of poverty and those who are living on reserves.
Poverty on reserves across Canada is a huge problem. I lived on a reserve for a couple of years so I have firsthand knowledge of how devastating this is to our aboriginal people.
The Department of Indian Affairs spends between $7 billion and $8 billion. If we were to divide this amount of money by the number of aboriginal people covered, it would likely come to more than $15,000 for every man, woman and child. What we need to know is where the money is going.
Aside from that, do we have the fundamental principles, on which these agreements should be based, right? I would argue that is not the case because we have omitted a very key element from our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What is that key element? We have not included property rights in the charter. In 1982, when Mr. Trudeau brought the charter in, he intentionally omitted it. I think that is a huge flaw and I will explain why. I am going to explain how important that is.
In arguing my case, I will turn to one of the world's leading experts on this issue who, by the way, has the support of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister underscored the fact that the principles enunciated by this man needed to be brought to Canada and implemented in Canada. This man is also supported by another prominent person in the western world, Mr. Bill Clinton. So these principles are not to be dismissed quickly as principles enunciated by someone of a certain partisan persuasion.
The man's name is Hernando de Soto. He is head of the Peru based Institute for Liberty and Democracy. He has authored some excellent books which I would recommend people read who are in involved in the discussion on this Westbank agreement. Time Magazine and The Economist have all explained and pegged Mr. de Soto as one of the emerging voices of influence and someone whose ideas will form the basis for future agreements. His ideas are having a huge influence on the world. It is about time we got some of those principles right here in Canada.
In simple terms, Mr. de Soto argues that property conquers poverty and it is the poor people who benefit most from property rights. “A poor person's land assets should be identified and should be registered”, he argues, “and then they would have the assets on which to build wealth”.
I do not have time in 10 minutes to explain that in detail but if members would like to get more information on this, I would suggest people who are arguing this issue do that because they will see that what I am saying is essential in getting our fundamentals right.
Mr. de Soto's ideas have been called innovative but they have been around for a long time. I think they are innovative simply because they fly in the face of traditional ideas about battling third world poverty. We see that third world poverty on our aboriginal reserves. The notion, for instance, that capitalism is a bad word and that the market economy is the enemy of the disadvantaged is something that he clearly disputes and shows that is not the case.
Mr. de Soto's ideas have been tested in his native Peru. They helped to enact property registration laws and systems in the Peruvian government during the 1990s. He still oversees that whole program in Peru. It is a very successful program and one that we should take a close look at.
Let me read some of the things that he has said.
Mr. de Soto said:
These people should be able to produce wealth. It means that you've got to ask, like we ask, what happens to the property rights, have they really got the tools to produce capital? What can we do about getting banks, which are not interested in them, interested in them--not because their hearts are going to palpitate for the poor, but because they're going to become a lot more interesting.
So much of traditional aid programs rest on paternalism and condescension...
That would describe what is happening in Canada today.
Mr. de Soto went on to say:
The traditional thing, Canadian aid, is about saying, 'Oh my God, there's four billion starving out there, let's go and make a difference among 10 million of them.' In other words, nothing that's really leveraged, nothing that really allows you to bring in anything new.
I would like to say that we should take this man's ideas and build some proper agreements on which to deal with the aboriginal situation in our country.
I want to conclude by saying that about 30 aboriginal women visited Parliament Hill recently but, unfortunately, there was very little media attention or coverage of this event. However one of the things they said is that property rights was one of the key issues that needed to be addressed in Canada.
Dawn Harvard, who was the Ontario president of the Native Women's Association, questioned whether the cases would get more attention about abuse of aboriginal people if they were not poor, drug addicted or working in the sex trade.
A key thing she said was that provincial property rights that govern fair distribution of assets during divorce disputes are not enforced on the more than 600 reserves in Canada. I would argue by extension that we need property rights right across the reserves. It has to happen.
In conclusion, other MPs have made it clear that this agreement is a lawyer's dream because we will turn over to the courts the big issue, such as defining self-government and inherent rights. Before we pass this piece of legislation, let us get our Charter of Rights and Freedoms right. Let us include property rights. It is the most important right needed for our aboriginal people.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Andy Burton Skeena, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this very important issue.
I come from British Columbia and probably have a different view on the whole situation with regard to treaties, land claims and agreements. The B.C. situation is quite different from that in the rest of Canada. Elsewhere treaties have been in place for a lot of years. In B.C. there were only two very small treaty areas prior to the Nisga'a agreement of some years ago. B.C. is wide open and subject to setting a lot of precedents for the future perceivably right across Canada.
I want to say right off the bat that I am very much in favour of resolving this whole land claim and native agreement issue. It is something that is seriously impeding progress especially in British Columbia where any project now has to be vetted by the local aboriginal group. I do not have a big problem with that, except that the vetting process should not be a veto process, which it tends to become from time to time. Resource development projects, which is usually what they are in my part of the world, affect people who live in the area and it is only right that they should have input. I am very concerned when that input for all intents and purposes becomes a veto. This is a huge concern.
Bill C-11 is intended as an act of Parliament to give effect to the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement. The Westbank First Nation is an Indian band within the meaning of the Indian Act. Its principal reserves, IR 9 and IR 10, are located in an area known as Westside adjacent to the city of Kelowna and the unincorporated community of Westbank. The population of the band is 594, 383 of whom lived on the land as of December 2002 but there may be a few more now.
The land is about 24 acres and is partially developed prime residential and industrial land. There are about, and I think this is a really important matter, 7,500 non-Westbank First Nation people who either live or own businesses on the land.
The purpose of the bill is to incorporate by reference the agreement, approve it and give it the effect of law. The agreement is defined as including any future amendments to the agreement. Thus, the bill incorporates by reference and gives the force of law to a document, part of which is not yet in existence. That has to be a major concern. How can we put something into force of law when we do not know how it will be worded or implemented?
This is known as Westbank law. It is to be enacted from time to time by the Westbank council. Westbank law on numerous subjects may be inconsistent with and will prevail over laws passed by Parliament.
The Westbank First Nation has all the attributes of a self-governing enclave. Canadian citizens, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, living or working there will be subject to a form of government that for most of them is not elected by them and is unrestrained by any of the checks, balances and safeguards that apply to other governmental institutions in Canada.
I quote lawyer Mr. Chris Harvey, who did a fairly significant indepth review of this agreement:
The substance of the act is contained in the agreement of some 84 pages which is referentially incorporated in the act. This is a remarkable piece of legislation. It amounts to an abdication of the sovereign law-making and executive authority of the Crown in Parliament. Its effect on the people residing and working in Westbank is to remove many of the fundamental political and legal safeguards that support their freedoms and security. This is completely out of character in a modern liberal democracy committed to equality of opportunity and individual rights. It is surprising to see basic legal rights which have been acquired gradually over many years of political struggles being so abruptly discarded.
Many of the provisions of this legislation are contrary to accepted norms of parliamentary practice in Canada. Some of the provisions are so clearly inconsistent with such norms that they may be said to be unconstitutional in law.
Every citizen of Canada, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, is entitled to be governed by laws which are passed or authorized by a democratically elected parliament, provincial legislature, or town council for that matter. Law-making authority may be delegated down to subordinate institutions, but it is not acceptable in such an arrangement that the subordinate institutions be authorized to supplant Parliament and Parliament's laws by passing laws that are inconsistent with the laws of Canada and prevail over them.
The municipal style government is obviously very successful and is the closest form of government to the citizens of Canada. I was the mayor of a small town for a number of years and was on council for 24 years. I certainly understand how answerable to the people municipal style government is. It is the most direct and closest form of government. It is still delegated down from the province and the federal government.
It has long been held by the highest court in Canadian law that constitutional powers in Canada are wholly and exhaustively distributed between the federal and provincial governments. The concept of a third order of government, though much discussed in economic and political circles, has never gained recognition in Canadian constitutional law.
The academic debate as to whether there exists in law an inherent right of self-government is reflected in section 1(a) of the agreement which provides:
The purpose of this agreement is to implement aspects of the inherent right of self-government by Westbank First Nation on Westbank lands based on the recognition that the inherent right of self-government is an existing aboriginal right within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
The inference in this statement is that such a right was an existing aboriginal right when the Constitution was passed and that Parliament has been asked merely to recognize that fact in this section of the agreement. This is plainly incorrect.
In a recent case the Newfoundland Court of Appeal again affirmed the sovereignty of Parliament. In Dawe v. the Town of Conception Bay South, the judge stated that Parliament and the provincial legislature are established by the Constitution as the supreme and only legislative bodies and given that all power must be founded on the Constitution there is no remaining room for inherent powers of government.
A concern with the Westbank agreement is the protection under the inherent clause that basically would set aside any right for non-aboriginals to make any sort of claim or go to court based on a constitutional matter. That is a big concern.
Although the agreement is expressly not a treaty, it is brought within section 35 of the Constitution Act by the government's recognition of the inherent right of self-government, as I have already said.
It must be remembered that all those living and working on Westbank lands, approximately 90% of whom are not aboriginal or members of the WFN at present, have their full rights and freedoms guaranteed under the charter. Section 15 of the charter provides:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and the equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability.
The charter further provides:
Notwithstanding anything in this charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.
Without altering the legislative authority of Parliament or the provincial legislatures or the rights of any of them with respect to the exercise of their legislative authority, Parliament and the legislatures, together with the Government of Canada and the provincial governments are committed to promoting equal opportunities for the well-being of Canadians.
Although I have a lot more to say on this issue and hopefully will have the chance, I will close by saying that these fundamental rights which have been developed in Anglo-Canadian law and reach back to the Magna Carta are today more or less all grouped together in the charter. Rightly or wrongly, they are referred to as charter rights.
This is why Bill C-11 and the agreement need careful scrutiny. A simple amendment is needed to remove reference to the inherent right of the aboriginal right of self-government and to section 25 of the charter, so that all citizens would have unimpeded access to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am going to take this debate in a slightly different direction than it has been so far this morning and comment on clause 16 in the bill before us which is a related amendments clause. It says:
Subsection 13(3) of the Access to Information Act is replaced by the following:
(b) the council, as defined in the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement given effect by the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act.
Well, Mr. Speaker, section 13 of the Access to Information Act requires the government to keep in confidence information it has received from either a provincial government, or a foreign government, or an aboriginal government. Mr. Speaker, this section basically denies public access, particularly as we read here, to the debates, the exchange of information with the council of the Westbank nation.
The reason why section 13 exempts foreign governments is obvious but the reason why it exempts provincial governments from the application of the Access to Information Act and the requirement for transparency that is therein contained is that provincial governments, that other order of government, all have freedom of information legislation of their own.
Municipal governments across the country are subordinate to provincial governments. It varies from province to province, but if provincial governments want to require municipalities to have freedom of information or access to information legislation, then the provincial governments can impose it. Indeed, if I may say so, in come cases provincial freedom of information and privacy legislation is better than the federal law.
However, what we see here is an instance where the federal legislation is creating an exemption for all aboriginal governments. We can see the problem. For some reason the federal government has decided that aboriginal communities and aboriginal governments will be excluded from the requirement for transparency and accountability that is required of every other order of government and indeed just about every other institution that is subordinate to government in the country.
So we have this again, Mr. Speaker, and I think it is something that every Canadian should be very concerned about, we have a situation where because it is an aboriginal community, it is given, shall we say, a benefit of secrecy that is not accorded to non-aboriginal communities and non-aboriginal orders of government.
We need to be very concerned about this. We know from our own experience, anecdotally perhaps, that those institutions that operate without transparency, those institutions that have money to spend and influence to use, to apply, in order to benefit friends, to benefit people who should not be benefited, where transparency does not exist in these groups, abuses do occur.
The difficulty is that I think most of us who have had any experience with aboriginal communities at all know that some of the problems that exist in aboriginal communities have to do with the fact that the leaderships of those communities are not accountable and do not have requirements of transparency.
The previous Liberal government attempted to address this problem in a broad sense by something called the corporate governance bill. That bill would have required aboriginal communities to meet standards of governance, standards of transparency, standards of election and disclosure that were at least parallel to the same standards that we would find in the municipalities across Canada, that we would find in school boards and in any other political or quasi-political institutions in the land.
I regret to say, Mr. Speaker, and I really regret to say that the current government, under this Prime Minister, has not carried forward on that important legislation. Many of us who have long experience on the aboriginal affairs committee and many of us who have had experience with aboriginal communities in our own ridings know that one of the fundamental reasons for poverty and distress on Indian reserves and in Indian communities across the country has to do with the fact that there is not the level of transparency, there is not the level of accountability, and the money is getting to the leadership in too many cases and not getting to the people. It is a management problem that could be addressed by transparency, which would lead, I think, to increased efficiencies.
Really, we should not, anywhere in this country, want to see any kind of political entity operating without the legislated requirement of transparency. If there is an inherent right of all Canadians, it is the right to be able to see how we are governed, to see how those who govern us spend our money.
What we have done in this legislation, in this Bill C-11, is that the federal government, on its initiative--on its initiative, Mr. Speaker--has excluded the Westbank nation from coverage under the Access to Information Act, even though everywhere else in the country provincial legislation applies to municipalities. Those municipalities or school boards that do not have adequate transparency regimes are still subject to provincial law and could have them, but in this particular case aboriginal self-government is entirely subject to federal law and we have this instance where the federal government has chosen--I do not like to say this--chosen based on race to exclude a government from the proper regime of transparency that we expect of all other Canadians.
So, Mr. Speaker, I think this is a major flaw in the bill. It is very, very disappointing. Because of other circumstances my attention has been diverted in the last month and a half or so, but I am very, very sorry that I do not have an opportunity to move an amendment, because what we really ought to see in this legislation is that we ought to see the Westbank First Nation subject to the Access to Information Act.
I should tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the Access to Information Act is an act that provides protection for all kinds of confidences. The federal government, this federal government, operates very effectively under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, and so there is no reason why an aboriginal first nation government could not operate under the Access to Information Act.
So it is a disappointment, Mr. Speaker, and I think it does have to do with a weakness in the charter. I tend to agree with many of the speakers who spoke before me. It is too bad that the charter basically exempted Canada's first nations, Canada's aboriginals, from the application of the charter. It does so in section 25. I will read it, if I may, because I think it is important for Canadians to know what section 25 says. The rest of the charter describes all the protections that Canadians have, freedom of speech and democracy and so forth, and then section 25 goes on to say:
The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada--
In other words, what the charter does is put aboriginal rights, as defined by treaty or other means, above or beyond the charter. This is precisely the debate that we are carrying on today. Is it right, is it proper, for any aboriginal community or any aboriginal government to be able to operate outside the charter?
So, Mr. Speaker, I really do think that what is really necessary is not to repeat this type of situation over and over again. What is really necessary is for the government to rethink its entire strategy with respect to Canada's first nations and treat them in law like other Canadians.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning to take part in the report stage debate on this bill.
The member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot has made his points very clear. He basically said that this bill is very important and could set a precedent ruling for further aboriginal governance formed down the road.
This Westbank agreement may become a threat to Canadian values. As Canadians, we hold these qualities very dearly, that is, as Canadians across the country we should all be treated equally, certainly under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is designed to shield or, in other words, protect individuals from the arbitrary actions of their government, irrespective of which level of government, whether it be band councils or municipal councils, provincial governments or the federal government.
My colleague spoke about the two levels of government, saying that basically the child of the federal government is the Indian Act, the band councils and their regime, much like the provincial governments which in essence created the municipalities. The municipalities really are not entities unto themselves; they are governed by the provincial government.
Like my colleague, I believe that access to information and transparency are ultimately important. I come from the constituency of Dauphin—Swan River, which has 13 aboriginal reservations. At least 13% of the population is aboriginal. The same problems exist in Dauphin—Swan River that exist in other parts of the country. The problem is not the money that comes into the riding. The problem is governance. The problem is about transparency of governance, about the aboriginal community having better access and accountability as to how the money is spent. Some of the conditions my aboriginal citizens live under are unbelievable, even though we know that the federal government annually spends $7.5 billion under the aboriginal file.
The problem with the bill is that section 25 of the charter acts to shield government actions involving aboriginal rights from challenges under the charter, that is, if an individual challenges a government action involving the exercise of aboriginal rights, the government can shield itself from the challenge by claiming that the arbitrary government action involves aboriginal rights. Charter challenges involving aboriginal rights trigger the section 25 shield.
What does section 25 have to do with the rights of Westbank residents to use the charter to challenge arbitrary actions of the Westbank government? Section 25 has everything to do with the right of Westbank residents to use the charter to challenge the Westbank government. Section 25 will be available to the Westbank government to shield itself from challenge under the charter only if it can claim that its actions involve the exercise of aboriginal rights.
The Westbank agreement makes invoking the section 25 shield very easy. The Westbank agreement states throughout that the purpose of the agreement is to recognize and implement an aboriginal right of self-government. In establishing the Westbank government as an aboriginal right, the agreement triggers section 25 of the charter. This gives the Westbank government a power to shield itself from a challenge from its own residents. All the Westbank government needs to do when challenged is to point out that it is exercising an aboriginal right. In other words, that is really like an opting out clause. That really is the essence of the problem.
In other words, those who are paying taxes who live on the reserve really do not have a say. We even can go back to a long time ago, 200 years ago, when the 13 colonies in the United States said “no taxation without representation”. What are we doing today? In essence, we are doing the same thing the British did to the 13 colonies. I think we need to move beyond that.
The Westbank government actually has a step up on the Nova Scotia band that challenged the federal government under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It will never have to make the argument that it has an aboriginal right of self-government and, as such, that its actions are shielded from charter challenge. The Westbank agreement does all of that. It states clearly and unequivocally that the Westbank government is a representation of the aboriginal right of self-government. Any time it faces a charter challenge, it need only point to the agreement with the Crown that will have been ratified by Parliament. Its actions will automatically be shielded from charter challenges.
In a recent decision, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that section 25 offers a complete defence or what it called “a complete answer” to challenges under the charter involving section 7, legal rights of life, liberty and security of the person, section 15, equality rights, and section 3, democratic rights of citizens. It stated:
...Section 25 of the Charter is a complete answer to this argument... In any case, s. 25 of the Charter itself is as much an answer to a submission concerning sections 7 and 15(1) as it is an answer to the s. 3 submission...The challenges based upon the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are answered by s. 25 of the Charter.
Based upon this dangerous wording of the Westbank agreement, it will always be open to the Westbank government to affirm that its arbitrary actions against its own residents are merely an exercise of its aboriginal right to govern and are therefore shielded from a resident's challenge under the charter.
There is a question that needs to be raised. Do members of Parliament really want to create the Westbank government as a charter-free zone, where residents will have lost their rights to challenge their own government? Do members of Parliament really intend to give the Westbank government a shield to protect itself from any and every challenge, no matter how arbitrary its actions have been and how legitimate the challenge might be?
There is another question that needs to be asked. Do members of Parliament really want to create a Westbank government that will have free rein to abuse its residents and to have that government's actions shielded from any and all challenges under the charter?
Sometimes it is too easy for non-aboriginal folks to say that people moved to the reserve because they wanted to, but does that make it legitimate to abrogate their rights as citizens of this country? In other words, the charter should really come first, regardless of the voluntary choices that people make on where they live and do business. Wherever they live and do business, they need to have access to being represented fairly, certainly if they pay taxes, and if one lives in a residence or operates a business, one pays taxes.
The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development acknowledged at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on March 22 the real and growing conflict between the protection of what he called the “individual rights” identified in the charter, which are equality rights, political rights, and the legal rights of life, liberty and security of the person, and what he called the “collective rights” protected by section 25. He acknowledged:
There is the necessity to reconcile principles contained in... the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with those contained in section 25, which protects aboriginal rights.
The acknowledgement by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development of the conflict between charter rights and section 25 aboriginal rights differs considerably from his statement on March 10 before the House of Commons committee studying the Westbank bill and agreement. There he said that:
The agreement... recognizes that all first nation members, like all Canadians everywhere, are subject to... the charter.
His statement is patently untrue when aboriginal rights are involved, and he acknowledged as much at the Senate Committee on Human Rights on March 22. We know that females living on reservations do not have property rights. We know that as a fact.
In fact, I will close by stating that the government of Westbank and its council are effectively bound by the charter when the Westbank government chooses to be bound. When the Westbank government wants to opt out of the charter, it can use the aboriginal rights defence. It need only assert that its actions are merely an exercise of its aboriginal right to govern as set out in the agreement and put into force by government.
Simply put, this agreement would give the Westbank government an umbrella to shield itself with anytime a resident seeks to rain on its arbitrary actions with a challenge under the charter.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC
Mr. Speaker, today we are speaking to the amendments to Bill C-11, the Westbank agreement. I have some concerns with the bill, and I am in full support of the amendments.
I often read as much as possible about what is happening in Canada. I read a headline in an article stating, “Ottawa continues to blunder its way into the future in its British Columbia operations”. This was an editorial regarding the Westbank legislation, and it raised concerns with me.
First, we were sent here to draft the best legislation we possibly could for the benefit of the Canadian people. I decided to look a little farther. With regard to the Westbank agreement, the Westbank members themselves were very split on this legislation coming forward. I want everybody to realize that there were grave concerns among the Westbank people about the agreement. It actually took three votes by the Westbank members to agree to this.
It took three votes and it was successfully passed on the third vote because they reduced the required majority to a simple majority vote. Of the 430 eligible Westbank voters, 195 voted for and 170 voted against. That should be enough to raise concerns in the House right now. We are talking about an almost even split. To put it in another perspective, we have a divided community on this.
Another large concern is 7,500 residents were not allowed to cast a ballot on this. That native population is not registered on the band registry as eligible to vote. This also raises a major point. We are talking about people who will now be living on these lands, who will be subject to taxation for services, but who absolutely have no say in the matter.
I want to make it clear that the present band administration in Westbank is very progressive, and that is a good thing. They have a reputation as being excellent managers. They are not the first band members in the Westbank to be so acclaimed. Previous band administrators have also been so acclaimed.
In this party we believe that aboriginal people have a right to self-government, but not under the level of government we are trying to set up here. We have grave concerns, concerns which we hear from the people.
My learned colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla is not concerned about the rights under the charter, but it is a concern with a number of us. I have concerns with how far the protection of the charter will apply under this agreement, and it is of grave concern to the public. I have had a number of calls, e-mails and faxes in regard to what will happen if this is allowed to go through without being properly addressed.
The fundamental right of all Canadians is protection under the charter. I also believe that we would not be in this mess if we had been more insightful in the past in regard to private property rights. I strongly believe that all individuals have the right to own private property, either on reserve or off reserve, which includes individual members on reserve.
I know I will have disagreement from all sides of the House on that and there will be disagreement from natives who live on and off reserves as well. Some will agree with me and there will be some who definitely will not agree with me. That is the way it is, but I strongly believe that all individuals have that right.
I also believe that it is the fundamental principles of a democratic government that those governing must represent the people to the extreme with regard to laws. That means that those who govern are elected by the people in most cases. That principle should apply to all government levels, as it does federally, provincially and municipally. That right will be taken away by this agreement, and that concerns me.
Laws and regulations apply to those who are elected. They must be Canadian citizens and be 18 years or older. They must not have a criminal record even though criminals are allowed to vote now in Canada, which I find highly distasteful.
The Westbank self-government agreement divides residents on Westbank land into two groups: those who are on the Westbank membership roll and those who are not. Those who are on the roll may vote and the others may not. To be on the roll, one must be registered as an Indian under the Indian Act. Any residents on Westbank land who are not on the membership roll are disenfranchised, in my opinion. Of the approximately 8,000 residents who live on Westbank land, about 500 are on the roll and 7,500 are not.
The practical impact of this is that any law, regulation, administration act, or band council decision is determined without electoral representation on that council or about 93% of the people who reside there. I find this hard to accept as I would imagine the people who live there do as well.
In the day to day operations of any self-government or any band, laws will be made and implemented with regard to property taxes, licensing fees, user fees, development cost charges, permit fees, infrastructure and local services. Those who live there for the large part have no say on those matters, and I find that highly questionable.
We should look at Motion No. 3 very carefully. I would like to read this motion to the House because it is important for people to understand the concern that this agreement is causing local communities. It reads:
That Bill C-11 be amended by adding after line 13 on page 2 the following new clause:
4.1 Despite section 102 of the Agreement, lands acquired by the Westbank First Nation that are contained within the limits of the city of Kelowna, British Columbia, may be transferred to Canada for the purpose of being set apart as lands reserved for Indians under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, or as reserves within the meaning of the Indian Act for the use and benefit of the Westbank First Nation, only with the consent of the City of Kelowna.
That is an excellent amendment. It would offset many concerns with regard to portions of land sitting within the city of Kelowna and how the bill impact on that area of land within the city. It has many people concerned as it would apply to those people who live on that land within the city limits.
I urge members of the House to take the amendments into consideration. They are good amendments and should be looked at very carefully. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Westbank community itself, the aboriginals themselves who reside there, are almost evenly divided on this issue.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to discuss a very historic agreement with the Westbank first nation.
The Westbank First Nation is of the Okanagan nation and it is a region of Canada that has unfinished business in terms of creating treaty. I want to focus on this because it should be put on record that Canada was created as a treaty nation. It was not taken in any other way. All the agreements that the Crown entered into were peaceful, friendship treaties to ascertain the territories.
If we checked international law, no country or state can be without a territory. This territory in the country was secured by treaty and those treaties were taken in a sacred context. The aboriginal indigenous nations of Canada hope for the sharing of this land, of creating one country to live among each other, with certain assurances. Different treaties have different assurances.
For the record, the Westbank region has no treaty, so the relationship it has with the government is the self-government agreement. It is continuing negotiations with the provincial and federal governments. Hopefully, in the future a treaty will be signed for that region.
The entire province of British Columbia was the unfinished business by treaty. The Hudson's Bay Company played a significant role in ascertaining that territory. There is a whole history of which the country needs to be aware. We as members of Parliament have more treaty rights flowing from those treaties than the indigenous nations do. They had sovereign right to this land, its resources and sources of life. They had all these relations before the crown negotiated these treaties. Those rights were with sovereign nations.
We see countries of the world where there is conflict. There is conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are regions there where people want to put in their level of western democracy. There is a self-government model that is being negotiated by their people. They see a vision of how they can govern their community in the hope that their country will engage by treaty for a future of certainty and security.
I ask my colleagues to please have patience. This is an evolution of a country. We are still growing. We are still very young. We have lots to learn from our indigenous nations. They may make mistakes, as we may make mistakes in the House or in the provincial legislatures, but we will correct those mistakes because we are governed by human beings. Humans make mistakes. However, there is a sacred context when we enter these treaties.
I have Treaty No. 6 and Treaty No. 10 in my area. Those treaties were secured in a sacred context, using the pipe and a sacred instrument to enter a future. As an example, I would like to share this with my colleagues. In Treaty No. 6 there was a vision by the chiefs that a medicine chest be provided for their people. This medicine chest was a public policy and a public vision for all Canadians. It was not only for the Cree, the Dene and the Saulteaux children. Why can we not look at the indigenous people, the aboriginal first nations as contributing to a vision of the country, not only for their sake but for the entire nation?
I also beg that the Westbank, through its affiliation with its nation, the Okanagan nation, could some day sit here in Parliament. I have shared a vision that this is a house, a House of Commons. We also have another house called the Senate. Maybe a third house should be created where the aboriginal nations could sit and help govern the country as one. We have to come as one country. We cannot be debating from one side to the next. This is one country, flowing as one.
That is what the vision of those treaties was: that the aboriginal nations would not be left alone, or that the Crown went off and administered the country in isolation of those aboriginal nations.
Let us bring the aboriginal nations into this fold. Let us treat the aboriginal leadership as parliamentarians. The chiefs should be accountable and transparent to all of Canada. Keep them here. This House that I speak about exists. There is a building at the back of these Parliament Buildings called the Library of Parliament. It is a sacred symbol. It has a medicine chest and a medicine wheel. A medicine wheel is embedded right in the floor plan. It survived the fire of 1916. When all these other buildings, the square buildings, all burned down, this round building, a symbol of unity, survived the fire. It survived the major test. It was negotiated and built 128 years ago. That library was envisioned by an architect.
One hundred and twenty-eight years ago, our elders in Treaty No. 6 were negotiating treaty. Maybe there was a sacred and spiritual intervention with their prayers to build that building here for a greater purpose. Maybe it is now, in 2004, a year of an indigenous decade in which indigenous issues throughout the world are to be addressed.
Maybe it is time that we welcome our nations, the original nations of this country, the Inuit, the Mi'kmaq, the Okanagan, the Cree, the Dene, the Haida, and the Stó:lõ, as nations to come and help us govern this country, because there are many gifts that these nations have, which they cannot give away but they can share, which they have to hold in trust, just like their languages.
I was born with a first language: nenehiyawan, nehiyawewin. I speak a Cree language, nehiyaw. I speak a Cree world view because from that view I see a vision of the world. That is what all these nations carry. They are distinct nations. They are not all one generic first nation. They are unique nations. Let us unfold those nations as to who they are and let us show the world. Let us listen, really listen with our hearts and our minds, to what they see as a vision of this country so that for all the children who come here, no matter where they are from, we live together as one country.
That is why I have shared a vision that we should have a motto of Canada. The motto of Canada says “from sea to shining sea”. I would like to change that motto. It should be “a nation of rivers and a river of nations”. There are many nations that flow here, even in this House, and there are our ancestors. We have to be proud of our ancestors and the gifts that our ancestors gave us, the prayers they give that we survive.
However, there are distinct responsibilities to the land and, as we say, all our relations: the four-legged, the winged, the ones that crawl and the ones that swim, all the little beings of this planet, all the plants, the medicines, the little gifts that we have the consciousness to be careful for. As human beings, we carry that will here in these houses, in these political institutions.
But what is missing is the aboriginal nations. They are not in Parliament. They are not here directing this vessel into the future. This vessel was envisioned with the two row wampum, where the original vessel of the original people can flow together with the newcomers and their vessel. This vessel came from Britain. This is a British parliamentary system. Maybe that parliamentary library that I talked about is the original vessel for the original people. Those two vessels can flow together to create one country and one Parliament.
I commend the people of the Westbank, who are willing to create a government structure to live among their people and the people who live with them in rules, policies and bylaws that will affect their people, but who have a greater vision and a greater respect for the Okanagan nation as a whole. That nation should be welcomed here so that the country can be governed together as one.
I share that with the House at this time because this is a year in the indigenous decade of indigenous people worldwide. I think it is time that Canada opened its arms and welcomed the true meaning of friendship and peace.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this bill today and to the amendments that have been proposed, which I support fully. I listened intently to the last speaker from the Liberal Party, who obviously speaks from the heart and, in the tone that he spoke, means things for the good of the country. There is no doubt in my mind about it. I believe that he is very sincere about this.
The entire debate has been troubling to me for a number of reasons. I would like to point out some of these things in regard to why the Liberal government of today would be so willing to push this bill through so quickly and bring it to an end.
These are the things that bother me the most. First, it is my understanding that on the reserve the vote was 195 to 170, so obviously there is a split feeling on the reserve itself as to what direction we should be taking. I find it difficult to understand why the government would immediately side with the 195 and why it would not be willing to say, “Wait a minute, there are quite a few people on that reserve who are opposed to this direction”, and then ask itself what it knows about why they are opposed and what they could suggest that would make this thing better. I do not hear that debate happening.
I think we are having a debate to try to draw out all the pros and cons of this bill today. I think that my two colleagues who proposed these amendments have some serious concerns, which I think are reflected in the hearts of a number of Canadians. We are looking for that change to come, but why have we not considered what is happening on the reserve itself? It does not appear to me that we have. It does not appear to me that the Liberal government has, because it is willing to ignore the 170 people against 195, which is a very close vote. That does not make sense to me.
Something else also troubles me. I do not know what the real relationship is between this bill and what was proposed in the Charlottetown accord. I do not remember the particulars of the Charlottetown accord, but it almost appears to me that these documents are very much the same and that this bill is proposing what Canadians rejected in a big way through the Charlottetown accord.
A number of people in my area indicated to me that they were opposed to the Charlottetown accord because of what the elites had done in trying to correct the situation with treaties and first nations and all of that. Yet that was rejected, not only by people of one race, but by all groups. The natives themselves rejected the ideas that came out of the Charlottetown accord.
Why does the government want to move so quickly on getting this bill processed, completed, to third reading and into law without considering the fact that there are quite a few people out there, including natives themselves from that reserve, who are not quite happy with what is going on? What is the rush?
Is it not better to have a good, open debate about this issue in the House, on the reserve and in the communities in order to get a good feel for what we need to do--if we are going to do anything--and at least make every effort that we can to make it right? Obviously it must not be very right because of the great debates that are taking place not only in Canada as a whole but on the reserve itself.
Why is the government so adamant about pushing forward legislation when obviously, in the minds of a number of people in this country, we are not ready for it without further discussion? I do not mean the kind of discussion that the fool from the Regina area gave us from the NDP in his speech when he did not refer to the bill at all but just went into name calling and did not contribute anything whatsoever to the debate. I wonder if he feels the same way about the 170 people on the reserve who are opposed to this bill as he feels about the Conservative Party members who are opposed to this bill.
I wonder if he feels that way. Would he have the guts to stand up somewhere in this country and tell those 170 people what he tried to tell us this morning? What a bunch of nonsense. People like that should be left totally out of the debate. They contribute nothing.
I am really fearful that we are moving in this direction when there are too many people, including natives, who are not satisfied with this Bill C-11. Why are we pushing it so quickly? Is it not better to keep the debate going, open it up more broadly and, if we are going to do something, when we do it, we do it right? Is it not better to take the feelings of this Liberal member who just spoke into account, along with those of all the other people who are involved and concerned about it? Then we can put it together and see if we cannot come up with a decent package. Obviously the government now does not have a package that is very acceptable.
Why do the Liberals want to support it when so many people are speaking out against it? Never mind just the Conservative Party; let us talk about the other folks as well.
The member from Vancouver North made a very strong point this morning. For 50 years now, we have watched poverty grow and conditions worsen on the reserves to the point that they are in third world conditions. We still have not fixed that problem. Over the last 10 years it has been no better. In fact, it has become worse on many reserves.
I was assigned by Preston Manning, our first leader, to go into the reserves and do a study on this issue. For nearly two years, I visited people in their homes, their huts and their tepees, you name it. I know what those conditions were. If the government over there has such brilliant ideas and is so wonderful, then why has there not been some improvement in those conditions? Why have we not made accountability on the reserves a very major concern in the country?
Lo and behold, it is starting to come to light. When the government does not even have accountability in its own cabinet and we must have hours and hours of debate in committee about the accountability of this government, how can we expect anything good to happen outside the government when it is in control?
It is time for us to really sit back and say that there is something totally wrong with the big picture. This big picture needs to be addressed and we are not doing a very good job of it when the reserves that I went into in 1994 are worse off in 2004. Unemployment is higher. Homelessness is higher. Addiction and abuse rates are higher. Crime rates are higher. And this government wants to brag about all the wonderful things it is doing?
Now it wants to shove through a bill that 170 people, an almost fifty-fifty split on the reserve itself, are not satisfied with. What in the world is the rush? Surely the government should take a serious look at the amendments and ask if they improve the situation. Maybe it should go out and ask the people on the reserve what they think of the amendments and ask what else we can do to make it better.
No, that outfit over there is going to have a vote on the bill very soon. It wants to get it passed. For what reason? For all the wrong reasons, as far as I am concerned. Until we get a lot more support for the action that we are taking in this building, why do we want to be in such a rush? I am really puzzled by all of that.
Last, but certainly not least, why would we ever want to live in a country where 93% of a population in an area is being taxed without representation? Why would we want to live in a country with a democracy of that type? Have we forgotten the number of countries in the past--let us talk about the history of the world, as a matter of fact--whose citizens fought and died on the bloody grounds of war, fighting for representation? Taxation without representation in Canada? Whoa, I am not sure I like that at all. Those members over there should think about it. They should think about it before jumping up to support something that would allow such a thing to happen. Where do we live? I say, let us give this some considerable thought. I ask them, in the name of democracy, to give it some serious, considerable thought.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-11 on the Westbank agreement.
I want to comment on some of the heartfelt remarks that my colleague made and the good work that he did for the party. We went into the aboriginal communities and talked to the people who live there to find out the situation and what they thought, rather than just taking the views of representatives of the aboriginal community who make a living out of lobbying the government.
As representatives of the people in this place, we are their only voice when it comes to government legislation. We often forget that role. We get taken in by the government bureaucrats' position. We are presented with a finished product and we either approve it or reject it. We forget that we are here to speak for the people out there who will have to live with the legislation.
I spent 15 years in Canada's north living with the aboriginal community. I have some very real experiences of the differences between the aboriginals who happen to be registered with the government and those who for whatever reason were never registered. The difference in the way they are treated is incredible. Members of one part of the aboriginal community, and many of them share the same bloodline, are given almost everything they require and the others are given nothing.
I was employed by the government of Alberta for a period of time to bring self-government to that aboriginal community that was not registered with the Government of Canada. It was part of my responsibility to prepare that aboriginal community for self-government, how to run its own community, how to handle the ownership of property, because the Alberta government did give ownership to a community that had squatted on Crown land for generations.
There is a lot more to it than just a piece of paper and writing things in a statutory way. There are cultural differences. There are lifestyles. There are expectations and emotions. They all become part of being ready for self-government.
My hon. colleague from Wild Rose mentioned that not all of the aboriginal community agree with the direction in which the government is taking them, but they have lost their ability to express their concerns. We forget that it is our job to represent those concerns here before the bill is passed. We try in whatever way we can to say there are concerns and problems but once it is written in statute, it is very hard to undo, to change.
It is going to be very difficult for the people who find themselves somehow left out of this agreement. They are not going to have the same rights as all Canadians. They are not going to have the ability to own land. Many of the people who live on that reserve are not going to be able to vote for the taxes that they are going to be asked to pay, or for the representation that is going to supposedly represent their interests. How are they going to address some of the outfalls of this legislation? It is very important at the end of the day, whether we win or we lose, that this enter into the debate.
It is unparliamentary for members of any party in this House to think or to accuse that there are other motives when an individual, representing whomever, raises issues. Our job is to bring up all the issues and represent all sides of the question.
I would like to express some concerns that I have. Once again, the federal government, as my colleague from Wild Rose said, is rushing to sign on the dotted line to make something statutory. We are not looking far enough down the road and the what direction we should be taking with all Canadians, aboriginal communities and non-aboriginal communities. We should be looking at the broader, bigger picture of equality of all Canadians. We should be making sure that we do not have communities, whether they are aboriginal or non-aboriginal, living in poverty.
I have hands-on experience of the situations about which the member for Wild Rose spoke. I went to communities that I could only fly into. In the wintertime maybe they could drive, if the ground was frozen thick enough. These communities had a health nurse that came maybe every two or three weeks, if the nurse could get in.
I remember arriving at an airport in one community and a man was waiting for a ride out, if he could hitch one. Up in the north people hitch airplane rides, not car rides. He had a gash on his face that was taped together with Scotch tape. It was a deep gash that required stitches, but the health nurse would not be back for another couple of weeks. These people do without the help that we all assume is our right.
I brought potable water into the communities, and treated the water that they used for drinking and cooking purposes. These communities had high incidences of sickness because people were drinking the water from the lakes. In these communities all the houses are built around the lakes. For years, garbage and sewage and whatnot have been going into the lakes. The people drink the water from the lakes or rivers which is a problem.
In trying to deal with their health issues, we were trying to bring them services which we take for granted. Many of these communities do not have roads to connect one community to another. This is what the people want. They want to be able to contribute their opinions and run their communities.
I think the majority of them really do not care about the statutory framework that is being developed by government to allow them to run their communities. These people want to know that they can vote for their representatives. They want to know that they can own property. They want to know that they can develop their communities, develop a fire response team, develop a recreation board, develop good services. They want to be part of that.
They do not want a statutory document stating the parameters, that they will not be able to own their own homes; that we are not going to protect their charter rights, because for whatever reason we might be leaving them out of the charter; that we are not going to guarantee them a democratic government where they get to vote; that we are not going to guarantee any protection for the non-native people who live on the reserve.
I have had first-hand experience where people who had lived on a reserve for 50 years, for two or three generations, automatically overnight were kicked off the reserve for no good reason. No one protected them. It happens. It happened in Musqueam in Vancouver. Situations change overnight and affect the residents.
A statutory declaration or document is not going to protect the people. It may prevent them from developing and growing and running their own community in a natural course of events with people helping them to get to that level without it being a statutory document that encumbers them.
I want to share a story with the House. Senator Walter Twinn represented the area where I spent a good number of my adult years. Walter Twinn's success depended on his finding a loophole in a statutory document that allowed the aboriginal community to get its funds and decision making abilities out from under the control of the federal government. He went on from there to grow his community, to make an income, to hire them to create business and to take his reserve out of poverty. He did it because he found a way to get out of the statutory confinements that were created by the Government of Canada.
I would encourage the government to stop narrowing its thinking by one contract to another and to start looking at the big picture. What do we need to do to free our aboriginal people? I will not make the distinction between registered aboriginals and non-registered aboriginals. To me they all deserve an opportunity to become part of the mainstay of the Canadian population.
I urge the government of the day to think broader, to look longer term and to stop restraining communities through statutory documents.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is good to speak to these amendments that have been brought forward. I want to address most of my remarks to Motion No. 3 which was brought forward by the member for Vancouver Island North.
The amendment asks for some clarification in legislation that had been asked for and referred to by the chief of the Westbank First Nation and also by the mayor of Kelowna. As we get into debating the relevance of the bill and the whole aspect of what this would bring to the table and what it will do to governance right across the country, we have to deal with this amendment very closely. We need more debate and analysis and some more time to look at what the ramifications would be of what is being proposed in Bill C-11.
There are other issues. One that is really important to note is that the member for Vancouver Island North brought motions to committee to have the committee travel, to hold hearings in Kelowna, in the Westbank area, to allow people closely associated with this issue the opportunity to appear in front of the committee to allow their thoughts and ideas to be heard. That is what hearings are about. It is to allow Canadians a chance for input on the issues that are being debated. That was refused. I feel that is very unfortunate because that could have served as a very useful platform to allow many people on both sides of this debate to bring forward issues and to clarify their positions. Without that opportunity being made available in the area where this issue is going to have the most effect was a wrong decision by the government.
The people who did come to committee in Ottawa brought forward some ideas and some issues. Some of the testimony that was brought forward at committee by the mayor of Kelowna and also by Chief Robert Louie is what prompted the amendment by the member for Vancouver Island North. We can zero in on the last sentence. It has to do with the expansion of reserve lands and the governance of the band regarding purchase of land in downtown Kelowna and that it can only be turned into reserve land upon the consent of the city of Kelowna.
In referring to the presentations made at committee and in response to a question from the member for Vancouver Island North, the chief responded:
I can assure you very clearly that the self-government agreement would apply to reserve lands and if we were to look [to] downtown Kelowna, let's say, look to you and say to you, Mayor, council members will you agree to give us 10 acres of reserve here in downtown Kelowna, I would expect, as you've clearly indicated, that your answer would be no. What would happen is we would need to approach the province of British Columbia. The province is required to give their consent and according to the additions to reserve land policy, they would be required to come to you and to the city and to local government, the community, to ask whether or not you would agree.
If the city of Kelowna did not agree, then the province of British Columbia would not agree. This is a roundabout process where this kind of approval would be necessary. What the chief and the mayor of Kelowna are asking for and what the amendment would bring to the bill is the certainty that the consent would have to be given by the city of Kelowna. Without that, it leaves too much in the air. There is a good relationship now between the chief and the mayor, between different levels of government, but as we know, and as some of us hope, governments do change from time to time.
Councils change, mayors change, bands and chiefs change through the electoral process. An agreement that may be here today--a gentleman's agreement or an agreement amongst all parties--could quickly go away if there is a change at any one of those levels. If it gets to be an adversarial approach after that, instead of working together, then there has to be something in the bill to deal with that issue because that is a huge concern to people on both sides of this debate.
I want to put into the record what Mr. Gray said in response to what the chief had to say. He said:
I hear Chief Louie, and of course we know one another. He has a lot of credibility,--
I refer back to the fact that these people understand and appreciate each other's assets. He went on to say:
--we certainly have no issue with the current chief or council, but as elected officials, we all know that elections and people come and go. What we're looking for is some sort of certainty.
Here we have it from both sides. They want some clarification on the issue. This amendment would give that clarification. I hope it is supported when it is brought to the floor because it is exactly what has been asked for
The mayor of Westbank First Nation said:
We certainly don't want to stand in the way of progress. In fact, the contrary is true. We want to cooperate.
Why will the government not consider an amendment to a bill that would allow that cooperation to take place, allow that certainty to be embedded, and allow this mutual respect and this mutual working together for the mutual good of both areas so this issue is clarified? I am going to quote again from the committee:
--the point we want to make is that there has to be some assurance, whether it's within this agreement or some other way, that we would not be creating two classes of property owners in the city of Kelowna--
That is the mayor's concern. This means that property owners who pay taxes, all of those property owners who currently exist, face the possibility at a future date of a property owner with Westbank first nation reserve status becoming a non-tax paying property owner. He went on to say:
I am not entirely sure that we get to tell the province or the federal government or the federal minister that we don't want something and therefore it won't happen.
The mayor is asking for that certainty. He is unclear at this point in time whether his position would be accepted by other levels of government.
There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed. It would help put aside a lot of the debate that is going on, particularly on the property rights issue, if this amendment were looked at for what it was intended to do.
The members for Vancouver Island North and Macleod, and I had an opportunity this past winter to meet with native people at the Friendship Centre in Lethbridge. We had two days of informal hearings where we heard a lot of very interesting and sometimes very troubling testimony from grassroots natives. Some would not appear because they were afraid to do so, and that says a lot about some of the situations that these people face.
One of the issues is the property rights issue and the ability for people on reserves to own their property, to have equity in that property, and to be able to engage in financial situations that the rest of us are entitled to. The other issue was the rights of native women. We heard a lot about these two issues, but I am not sure that Bill C-11 would deal with them in a direct way.
If we have an opportunity as a legislative body to bring some clarity to a controversial issue, then why would we not? I believe we should. I believe the government should look at this amendment and accept it in order to bring certainty to the people involved so that in the future when this issue does arise, it will be clearly stated that permission would not be granted to have reserve land in the middle of the city without the consent of the City of Kelowna. It is clear and plain, and it is something the House should support.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to stand in this place to debate a bill that I think is possibly not as well known in this country. It is a bill about which a lot of people have a lot of questions, and a bill of which many people are unsure.
I would say that with Bill C-11 there is a certain hesitancy among some to even come to this place to debate it for fear of what the political ramifications and consequences may be. Sometimes good, healthy debate is held back because we become afraid that we might be painted in a way that certainly no one wants to be.
First, I would like to say that over the last two weeks I have had the privilege and the opportunity to travel around my constituency, not talking necessarily about politics, but more about our country, about what our country is and what makes it the great place that it is. Mainly, I do this at schools at the grade six curriculum and the high school curriculum. We talk about the issues, but it flows down to talking about what this country stands for. Who are we? What do we want to become? Where have we come from?
Certainly, I have noticed that there are a number of different categories of people within the schools. There are those who are complacent about who we are as Canadians and what our country stands for. They think this is a place, a boundary, where we live that is simply a place where we can find a job and go about the exercise of earning enough money for food, clothing and shelter for those we support or those in our family.
There are others who believe that the country is something they like. There are certain things about this country that they like. Many of the students said they like the fact that they have an education system. They like the fact that there is a health care system here that they can count on when they need it. Others talked about some of the freedoms that they enjoy.
I met a couple of young Canadians, Sara, Alyssa and Matthew Olafson. Although they are very young, they talked about what their country is and why they enjoy living where they live. When we went into the high schools, many of the students talked about the fact that we can have different ideas, we can believe something different, yet we can be heard. They talked about freedom, the freedom to choose, and the freedom to become whatever they may want to be.
They talked about equality of Canadians. They talked about having a country where, regardless of skin colour, regardless of social status, and regardless of the size of the bank account, there are some absolute givens that we can appreciate. They like the fact that this is a democracy. They love the fact that we can choose who supports us. We can choose the government that will lead us. We can choose the MP, the MLA, the county councillor who will represent us in that place where decisions will be made. Those are some of the fundamental ideals in which Canadians believe.
Now we have the federal government coming forward with a piece of legislation that establishes a self-government agreement with the Westbank Indian Band of British Columbia. I would submit that much of what has become so important to young Canadians is indeed threatened in this type of legislation. So much of the freedoms, so much of the democracy, and so much of even, yes, equality is put into question in Bill C-11.
This legislation is divisive. So many times in this place we come and we debate certain pieces of legislation that would take a constitutional change. I recognize that this piece of legislation may not take a constitutional change because of section 25 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There may be certain things, section 35 and other sections, that may not take a constitutional change, but this legislation is divisive.
We have debated issues here that, until provinces come forward and say they need change, I do not even think we should be debating until we know that it is not just an exercise that is going to divide people. This legislation has become very divisive, not only among the greater part of the country, but among every part, aboriginals included.
This piece of legislation that we have before us would shield the Westbank government from the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This piece of legislation says that those 500 aboriginals who live on the land in question would have the opportunity to select a level of government and that they would have the ability to choose who would represent them, but the other 7,500 non-aboriginals on the piece of property would not have the ability to choose who would represent them.
One of the fundamentals of democracy is no taxation without representation. That principle is thrown out the window with this piece of legislation.
This piece of legislation sets in motion many different governments. We talk about expecting accountability within government and we talk about transparency in government. When we have so many different governments--629 different governments could be set up if this becomes a precedent--certainly, the idea of accountability and transparency is put into question.
This would be shielding the Westbank government from the charter by saying that it would not have to adhere to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 25 of the charter states:
The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada...any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.
Basically, it says that the laws made up in that third level of government supercede all other laws. The people living there do not have to adhere to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was given to all Canadians. We believe that this is simply wrong. I want to quote from a paper that I have here. It says:
A Westbank Law, for example, which discriminates between persons residing or working in Westbank on the basis of their race, or some other analogous ground, could not be struck down as a contravention of the Charter.
So much for the idea of equality. So much for the idea of certain freedoms that would be allowed.
Debate is good. Our country is great. One of the outstanding values and one of the outstanding rights that we have is to be able to stand and debate pieces of legislation; however, let me again say that we must be careful before we enshrine a new third level of government.
Self-government within the parameters of a municipal government is something that we would certainly encourage; however, a third level of government is something that we must be very cautious about approaching.
Members should cast aside the political considerations and consider what is right for our country. Let us consider what is right, given the principles of freedom, democracy and equality.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
April 20th, 2004 / 1:30 p.m.
Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-11 and the amendments that have been brought forward by members of the official opposition.
By way of preamble to what I have to say and for the benefit of those who may be listening in the gallery or perhaps on television to the debate in the House of Commons, I would like to state where I as a person am in this whole thing.
Over the last 25 years my wife and I have been foster parents. We have actually been foster parents for 32 years but 25 years ago we brought into our house a native child. He is almost 25 years old now and he is on his own. He is working his way through a degree at a college and is a very fine young man. He is part of the first nations community on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
After that we fostered a number of other children, among them a number of native children. We now have three native children in our family. One is a 19 year old daughter who is part of the Blood Tribe from southern Alberta and another is a 17 year old daughter who is part of the Siksika nation from around Gleichen in Alberta.
Because of our involvement with first nations children, we were drawn into involvement with the wider aboriginal community in Canada and have continued over the years to keep very current on what was happening with our aboriginal brothers and sisters across the country.
At the present time, after 32 years of fostering, we have a three year old native child who has been in our home since she was six months old.
I am also the member of Parliament for Nanaimo—Cowichan. Because of that role, I have sometimes struggled with the native and non-native communities as they try to come to agreement over the treaty process that is in place in British Columbia. We have the Snuneymuxw First Nation in my riding that is attempting to hammer out an urban agreement with surrounding neighbours in the Nanaimo area.
For a year and a half I was the senior critic for Indian affairs for my party and in that role I touched base with a lot of native people across Canada. Before that, I had been part of accountability groups that had sprung up across the country where native people were coming with their concerns about what was happening on reserve. I do not come to this in a vacuum. I come to it with a lot of heartfelt tugs because of my native children and I come to it with some pretty practical observations of what I have seen happen on reserves and with our native population across Canada.
Then we come to a treaty like this, the third major treaty that will be struck in British Columbia since the 1870s when we only had the Douglas treaties on Vancouver Island. How do we balance the need to free up our aboriginal people to manage their own concerns in a way that brings economic prosperity and stability to them and which helps to bring them into the mainstream of Canadian life in some kind of equality? I am not talking about assimilation. That is something that will or will not take place depending upon people's individual choices.
However, how do we get over the hurdles that are in our native communities where in some native communities in my riding there is 80% to 85% unemployment? When I walk down the street of one of the major shopping areas in my riding I see many native children, teenagers, young adults simply lounging around on the streets with an aimless look in their eyes because they have no hope for the future. They have been hit by some of the social problems that invade native communities and non-native communities as well. I think of alcoholism and fetal alcohol syndrome which, incidentally, is troubling two of our children. We know the effects of that and what parents go through. We know the pain that it brings to people's lives.
How do we get rid of those problems for our native people, let alone the non-native population? We have to do something. We have to move forward with our native brothers and sisters so they can start taking control of their own destiny and not have it in the hands of government all the time.
I come to an agreement like this and I am torn. I see within the agreement steps that can be taken to move aboriginal people forward in terms of economic prosperity, where they can take charge of the economy and create jobs for their people to get them out of this cycle of social welfare dependency. Yes, that is what we need to see take place on reserves. We need to see that take place for urban aboriginals who often are a forgotten people within the whole context of the native situation in Canada.
At the same time, in this particular agreement, we do have some problems, and they are not just problems for the Westbank or for the city of Kelowna. They are problems for the whole of Canada as we move forward with trying to bring a resolution to the treaty process and to bring prosperity to aboriginal communities.
Therefore we have proposed some amendments to the bill today that would, for instance, remove references to inherent right of self-government, which I know we talk a lot about but which has never been settled as to what it means. We do not really know what that means.
In all its years of negotiating with native people, the government has never been able to come up with a real definition that would help move this across the country so we would not have this kind of uncertainty at the end of the treaty process.
It does bring uncertainty. It is bringing uncertainty into the Snuneymuxw agreement that is being hammered out in the Nanaimo area where it is just natural that non-native people wonder what will happen to lands that may be available under fee simple purchase in the centre of Nanaimo or the centre of Gabriola Island. Unless these things are very carefully hammered out and there are good applications of both law and justice in this process, we will have lingering festering problems after treaties are struck for a long time.
There is a need for certainty, transparency and for clarification around some of these issues so that we can truly go forward together.
I do not think we should be rushing into things that would cause us more problems in the future than they have in the past. If, at this point in our history, we are here debating this simply because there is an election coming and it has to be rushed through to be put up on the Liberals' trophy wall some place as another accomplishment, then that is wrong.
I want this treaty to go forward. I want native people to have economic prosperity but I want all of us as Canadians to have equality and justice before the law and before each other.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
Ken Epp Elk Island, AB
Mr. Speaker, I have a serious challenge in front of me today. There are, presumably, some 170 Liberals in the House who are listening intently to the arguments being made from this side today. My challenge is to somehow persuade them to favour the amendments that are being proposed so that we avoid disasters in the future.
I often think of the analogy of being a chess player. I have always enjoyed that game. It is a game that requires forethought. It is a game where one does not look just at the present move because if one does, one will almost certainly lose, unless one is playing with an opponent who also only looks at the current move. One must look at the second move and the third move and at what one's opponent may or may not do. In order to pass good laws we have to look at the consequences of those laws after they have been enacted to see what actually will happen.
The plea that I make to the members opposite today is to listen carefully to what is being said from this side and to actually, regardless of what their minister says or what the Prime Minister says, use their own judgment and carefully judge the impact of passing this law unamended.
I want to be a little more specific here. We have in our society a number of arrangements for how we live together. It used to be in our family, when we had all of the children still at home, that I as the dad often got my way, but just as often I did not. As a matter of fact, I was outnumbered four to one when it came to a family conference. I had to use arguments of persuasion if I wanted the family to agree on a certain task.
I also live in a little community. We happen to live out on one of those little acreage developments where there are 16 neighbours on a 40 acre or 80 acre parcel of land. I am not exactly sure how much it has extended beyond. For 17 years I was treasurer of our residents association. We had different rules that regulated what our association could and could not do. We agreed on those. We had meetings where we set up, in essence, a charter. That charter said what was permitted and what was not. When the neighbours came along and said that they wanted to have a big party and that the association should pay for it, I was the treasurer who said that we would not do that. I said that if they wanted a party they would have to collect from each of the people who came to the party and that would pay for the expenses of the party. I told them that they could not use our association money for that because it was to be used for other things, such as grass cutting, running the lights in the community and those types of things. We had those rules.
We also lived in a municipality and there are all kinds of rules in a municipality. I cannot build my garage any closer than four feet from the boundary of my property. I must put my garbage out on Tuesdays or they have no obligation to pick it up. I must pay my municipal taxes, which, by the way, I must pay with money that I have already paid tax on. That is why I have a private member's bill that says that property taxes should be exempt from federal income tax. One should not have to pay tax on money earned for the sole purpose of paying tax. However that is what we get in this federal government.
Beyond that, I am a member of the population of the province of Alberta, so I have to comply with provincial rules and regulations. One of the rules is that I must drive on the right side of the road, with which I comply most happily. Another rule says that on the road from my house up to the main highway I shall not exceed 80, with which I also comply very happily.
I believe we have rules that regulate us in that society. Now we get to the crunch. We are also Canadian citizens. Every one of us who calls Canada home is subject to the rules and laws of the Government of Canada. Those rules include a whole bunch of things, like the necessity of paying income tax, EI, CPP and complying with different aspects of the criminal code and other things. Of course the laws of Canada also provide us certain protection.
There is a myth going around that unless it is in the charter it is not necessarily a right. I disagree with that. There are many items and aspects of our lives which I believe we all have in an inherent right. It is not granted by the charter. It was not granted by Pierre Trudeau and his crew way back in 1982. In some instances the charter simply articulates rights which we already had. We have to ensure that we remember that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is simply an articulation of some of the rights that we have, but at any rate it is a rule that we have to live under.
If Bill C-11 is passed without amendments, I am very concerned about the application of the Charter of Rights under the bill. It is tremendously troubling.
I can live in my county and have all the rights of the charter that apply to me. If I were to live in the Westbank, suddenly I would not have some of the rights or at minimum it would be questioned whether I could apply those rights. I would have to go to court, as a citizen of that part of the country, to demonstrate that the charter applied to me. That is a very serious error, and I beg those 170 some Liberal members over there who are patiently listening to this to think like a chess player. Think about what will happen after the bill passes and somebody gets up to challenge it.
I know we want to trust the natives. Of course we do. We want to all trust each other. The purpose of the law is to restrain those who prove not to be trustworthy by themselves. The present government seems to be doing fine in the Westbank. However, some time in future the Westbank government may decide to do certain things which are deemed a violation of someone else's rights who live there. In fact one could even argue right now about the demand by it to collect property taxes, which it is already doing. That demand is one of the things which it presumably can carry on with, yet we find that the people from whom it is collecting taxes have no right to vote in respect to that municipal-like government.
Is that not a violation? Why would we put into law the ability of that local government to have a serious violation of our country's laws in terms of the ability to vote for the government that has control over our lives and property? That is a serious error. Why would the government want to pass the bill unamended and allow such a potential error to come in to part of the governance of the country?
In conclusion, this is a very serious matter. It is not one to be rushed through suddenly before Parliament prorogues and we have an election. It is one that requires serious thought. We need to look at the moves beyond just the passing of the legislation. We need to look at the consequences. I persuade, I beg, I cajole the members who are in majority in the House and who have the control to act wisely and to make wise decisions as our prayer says every morning.