House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tlicho.

Topics

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, in the area covered by the Tlicho agreement there are four communities where virtually all the citizens live. In those four communities, there are some non-aboriginal people. Could the member tell us how the rights of non-aboriginal people will be protected in this Tlicho agreement?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, that is quite obvious. It is just the basic principle: as “two people”. That is what Chief Bruneau wanted. He wanted people living together, the non-aboriginal and the aboriginal, as two peoples. But they are within the same community and they function and operate within the same community. I am sure that over a period of time we are going to find a great deal of intermarriage taking place between the members of the two groups. There is no doubt about that.

However, the wonderful thing about it is that they work together. They see something, they have a vision of a problem that has to be solved, and they solve the problem together. It is not simply a question of turning the problem over to somebody else to solve, somebody who is not aboriginal. For many, many years in this country, problems have been solved for the aboriginal people. Somebody who was non-aboriginal solved them.

It is a wonderful working partnership in all five communities and it will continue to grow as more and more people locate in a growing, prosperous economic model that is situated way up north in Canada.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the member could just tell us briefly in global terms what will change for the Tlicho. The member's speech was very specific on education and another couple of areas, but the agreement covers a whole bunch of areas that were for Indian Act bands, and they will not be Indian Act bands anymore. There is land, there are resources and there is now law making ability. I wonder if the member could give us, for those who are not that familiar with the details, some generalities of how life will change for the Tlicho under this agreement.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, I think everyone listening must realize that this area we are talking about is a very prosperous area of the country. This is where we have diamond mines. There are five communities and the unemployment rate is practically nil. Everyone is working. Money is flowing. There are opportunities that can be purchased, but there are also services that can be purchased.

On the type of question that has been asked, I could go on for a long time. Let us take a look at it from the political scene. Let us look at what is going to happen politically in that whole area in the years to come. Sure, they will be influenced by what happens here in the House of Commons, and they will be influenced by what happens in the provincial governments in western Canada. And they will be influenced by the political decisions made by companies that have invested heavily in economic endeavours in that area, no doubt about it.

However, the most amazing thing, based on the educational model, is that the people will be accustomed to the political scene. They will be under the bill of rights. They will expect and even demand to have a major role to play in the political endeavours of that area for years to come. In other words, they are not going to be content to sit back and wait for the white man who lives in Ottawa under the Peace Tower to tell them what to do, when to do it, how high to jump and why. They will make the decisions and they will have a tremendous influence on the other forms of government throughout Canada.

I will predict for my hon. colleague who asked the question that from a political viewpoint there will be a model emerging in that area which will have an influence for many years to come on decisions made in this House that pertain to aboriginal communities.

I already have mentioned something about the economic factors. The spinoffs are fantastic. We already know that some have come back and have established businesses and services. Soon there will be highly educated university students coming back as dentists, doctors and so forth.

The spinoffs are unbelievable. With so many professional people and business people in the community, there has to be a support system. There must be more doctors, more dentists, more teachers, more carpenters, more plumbers, more engineers and so forth. There must be more shopkeepers, more store owners and so forth. It will keep on growing. It will go on like that for many years to come, because the prospect of delivering new diamond mines is unbelievable. I recently read a report about western, northwestern and central Canada, where over 100 sites that might hold rich deposits of diamonds already have been discovered, people feel.

Socially there may be problems. A surplus of money will generate social problems. There will be an element in our society that will have an effect on these people. There might be access to too much of anything: too much alcohol or drugs or other forms of human endeavour that have detrimental effects on the people. Who knows? The government of that district, Yukon, might even establish a huge casino. That is a nice way of indirectly collecting a lot of taxes from very wealthy people and using them for whatever the government wants to use it for in its districts, not only in that area of Yukon but in other areas.

What will happen to the family unit? It will all depend upon the dedication of the father and mother to their principles, their culture and their value system, on whether they really believe in them.

Let me give an example. It is really frightening and I hate to even talk about it, but we have so many Christians in the world who claim to be Christians yet their value systems crumbled a long time ago. As for principles, they do not have them. They have a few in the bag that they pull out to use to their advantage. It is these people I find most disturbing, because they teach their children. They teach their children to hate other religious groups in this society and in other parts of the world. To me that is extremely disturbing. Fortunately, there are not too many of that kind of people.

In the north, because of two strong people living together, working together and solving problems together, many of the problems of discrimination will disappear and we will get to the point where it will become insignificant.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I was going to maybe raise a comment about the speech in terms of a suggestion of intolerance toward certain parts of our society, but I do not think the member intended to say that. I do not know to what he was referring when he said that there was a certain religious group in our society that was intolerant and promoted hate against other people. I am not sure what group that is, but I am will leave that issue aside.

Something just recently developed in the province of Saskatchewan. A band has announced that it will build an MRI clinic, for profit, on its reserve. How would a Liberal government approach that concept in terms of the Canada Health Act and payment of a for profit private facility in the health care system? What would the stand of the member and his government on supporting that initiative or attacking it?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, regarding the first point, I was speaking in global terms. I was rushing and I generalized. In the global context, in the world in which we live, there are religious groups that attack other religious groups and teach each other to hate each other.

The second point was in regard to an MRI machine that was to be introduced on a reserve some place in Canada. The member asked how our cabinet and government would approach that and how would we handle the problem. I think when that problem appears before the ministers, the cabinet and the departments responsible, they in turn will have to thrash it out and provide some type of guidance for the rest of the government members to debate and proceed.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-31, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act.

The principal component of this legislation is a tripartite agreement negotiated by the representatives of the Tlicho people and the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories. It is incumbent upon us to look at the collaborative approach adopted by the Tlicho and to go ahead and approve Bill C-31.

Close collaboration is vital to the national interest. I believe it is only through genuine participation and partnership between the government and the first nations that aboriginal communities can achieve effective self-government. It is only through open, transparent and accountable governments that the first nations will be able to build a strong, robust economy and develop healthy, enduring societies for the generations that come after us.

I am convinced that enacting this legislation will benefit not only the Tlicho but also the people of Canada. Strong, self-reliant first nations have much to contribute to Canada. They contribute economically, socially, as well as culturally.

Consider for a moment the potential impact of the current demographic projections. Perhaps members already know this, but Canada's aboriginal population is relatively young. Approximately half of all aboriginals are under the age of 25, and the birth rate among aboriginals is about twice that of the general population. With this growth comes immense opportunity: expanding markets for goods and services, a fresh supply of workers, as well as an increasing class of entrepreneurs.

Recent statistics indicate that aboriginal youth are much more likely than other young Canadians to start businesses. Today aboriginals own more than 30,000 companies, and that number increases every day. By nurturing this entrepreneurial spirit among aboriginal youth, I am convinced that we can virtually guarantee Canada's long term prosperity. The key is to ensure that aboriginals play an equal role in the planning and in the executing of economic development projects.

By enacting Bill C-31, the Tlicho will be able to increase their participation in the economy. Furthermore, by ratifying this legislation, the Government of Canada will send a clear message about honouring its commitments to aboriginal and first nation communities. In fact I am confident that negotiators working on land claim and self-government agreements across Canada will follow the progress of Bill C-31 with considerable interest.

I encourage all my colleagues to bear this scrutiny in mind as they consider the many merits of this very important legislation.

A close examination of Bill C-31 reveals how it will foster accountability and create self-reliance for the Tlicho. The Tlicho would form a democratic, responsive and representative government. Investors will appreciate the consistency and the certainty that this will provide. Ownership and control of resources will be transparent and it will be unambiguous. This will enable entrepreneurs to attract new business partners and also encourage investment in these new unfolding enterprises.

Under the terms of Bill C-31, key decisions would be made by the people most familiar with and most affected by local issues. The Tlicho government could enact laws in areas such as aboriginal language and cultural issues. They could develop social services. They would also have a key role and a say in the management of the land and the resources on Tlicho land.

The Tlicho would also be guaranteed representation on the land issues dealing with water and issues dealing with renewable resource boards, which would approve development activities within the settlement area. This kind of active role and opportunity to decide what the decisions will look like is absolutely key as we go forward.

The Tlicho gain the freedom to establish partnerships. They have freedom to conduct business according to their needs, while at the same time respecting the interests of the already existing businesses and structures.

In short, the Tlicho will establish and maintain a democratic government within the constitutional framework of Canada. This government will respect Canadian law and it will recognize the Tlicho, like Canadians everywhere, are subject to the Criminal Code, as well as protected under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Tlicho have demonstrated that they know how to manage their affairs responsibly and can do it profitably. This is, after all, one of the more prosperous and successful aboriginal groups we have in the north. The Tlicho built and maintain their own airport. They help to manage their schools. They run a senior citizens' centre, as well as a long term care facility. The Tlicho have also negotiated service delivery agreements with the government of the Northwest Territories.

The Tlicho have also signed a number of mutually beneficial agreements with private sector firms. More than five years ago, an impact and benefits deal was struck with the Ekati diamond mine, which is located on the traditional lands of the Tlicho, and a second agreement was negotiated for the Diavik mine. This is good news. These deals have delivered a wealth of economic and social benefits to the Tlicho, such as jobs and opportunity for training. The money flowing into Tlicho communities as a result of these deals supports a wide range of social services.

The legislation before us will inspire new partnerships and will enable the Tlicho to honour their proud tradition of self-sufficiency.

This agreement also provides for a constitution that was created and ratified by the Tlicho before the agreement was signed. I think this is very significant. The constitution is critical. It is critical because it enshrines the community's governance structures and processes. These range from electing officials to drafting budgets to creating new laws. It also sets out the community's governing principles and guiding philosophy. Most significantly, the constitution was developed by the members of the community. The document reflects the wishes of the Tlicho. It does not reflect the views of consultants and lawyers.

The agreement is also the product of the Tlicho's consultative approach. Community meetings were held, ideas were put forward, issues were discussed and they worked through problems. This consensus building strengthened the agreement, and it will also improve the governance. As we know, people are far more likely to respect laws and to participate in governance structures that they themselves helped create.

Through this collaborative process, the Tlicho have shown that difficult issues can be overcome. They have been overcome through thorough consultation and with genuine understanding. They have demonstrated that an agreement can be tailored to fit local circumstances and that the rights and interests of everyone involved can be respected. They have been able to foster better relations with their neighbouring aboriginal groups. For instance, the Tlicho have successfully negotiated overlap agreements with the Sahtu Dene and the Metis, the Gwich'in, the Deh Cho and the Akaitcho Treaty 8 Dene.

The Tlicho are clearly ready to fulfill their obligations. They have been working toward this agreement for more than a decade. They have staged hundreds of information sessions. They have consulted broadly. They have secured the support of a range of public and private sector groups.

Enacting Bill C-31 will send a strong and positive message to other aboriginal communities. As the first agreement in the Northwest Territories to combine land claims and self-government, it demonstrates Canada's commitment to negotiate as the most effective means to achieve reconciliation with aboriginal people. The agreement's numerous distinctive aspects proclaim the government's determination to ensure that the unique needs of the aboriginal peoples are met. When I look at this agreement, I cannot tell members how proud it makes me to be a Canadian.

Many members of the House were members on April 1, 1999 when Nunavut, our third territory, came into existence. How many Canadians have stopped to think that the map of the world has been forever changed and it was done by the Canadian government, with the aboriginals and the citizens of a territory of Canada through negotiation? There was no civil war. Nobody bore arms. We negotiated and we found an agreement.

The bill before us has those same markings. It is about negotiation. It is about consultation. We can also hold up the Tlicho nation as a community that is responsible and is providing effective self-government. It can be used as a best practice, which I think is one reason why the members of the House need to take this incredible legislation to absolutely bind at the local level to a process to effect something that meets the needs of the Tlicho people.

When I was preparing for this speech I came across some statistics which I found really remarkable. We often talk about the lack of participation in the democratic process. I think it is something with which all members of the House are concerned. One only has to look at what these people went through for over 10 years and at the kind of participation they had for voter turnout. They had somewhere in the neighbourhood of, I believe, 83% ratification and the participation of those who were able to vote was extremely high. It speaks to the kind of empowerment that the government needs to create, not only with its aboriginal peoples but with Canadians right across Canada. We have empowered this group through their own hard work to manage their own resources.

I think back to when I was parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment and we were dealing with the species at risk legislation. The aboriginal groups were very impressed that we were able to have meaningful dialogue with them and to build into a piece of legislation a reverence and an acknowledgement that aboriginal traditional knowledge had much to teach all of us about protecting species at risk and safeguarding their habitat; that the people on the land, the aboriginals, the trappers, the ranchers, the farmers, knew more about these species on their land than any scientist going in; and that it would be through this kind of partnership that we would be able to protect some of our most precious resources.

I encourage all members to become familiar with the legislation and to support it. This is an agreement where a total of 93% of the eligible voters participated in the vote and 84% of the eligible voters voted in favour of this agreement. This can be held out as a best practice, an example for all other aboriginal groups to bring together the best that is possible in partnership with, in this case, the Government of the Northwest Territories, as well as the Canadian government, to bring about the kind of structures which the people themselves have bought into.

I encourage all hon. members to support this very important bill.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Sherbrooke, Gasoline Pricing; the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Agriculture.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
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4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I do not rise to speak for or against but rather to make an observation and then to invite a comment from the member for York North on this important issue.

I want to quote from the interim report released by the Senate last November entitled “A Hard Bed to Lie in: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve”, and I would invite the member to respond because it is an issue we should not ignore.

Members in the House know the important and extensive work done by the royal commission on aboriginal peoples over a long period of time. The member alluded to the length of time it took to arrive at this agreement. The royal commission not only took a long time but it spent a lot of money to arrive at its recommendations and I think we should pay attention to some of them.

One of the areas with which the royal commission dealt was matrimonial property. It is not something that is fully dealt with in the proposal, certainly not to the satisfaction of a number of aboriginal leaders and aboriginal grassroots people with whom I have spoken.

I just want to read this into the record. It states:

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

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

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

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

That is from the interim report of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights.

My concern and the concern of many members of this party is that the issues of matrimonial property are not properly, fully and fairly addressed in this agreement and that, if we proceed in this manner, there is the real possibility that we will perpetuate the circumstance. There is only one place in Canada where no such property rules exist and that is on reserves.

This uncertainty has its effects and those effects are well documented. I have spoken now to dozens of aboriginal women who have experienced firsthand the circumstances of a marital breakup and who have experienced firsthand the absence of any rules, regulations or officious authority that might protect them in that circumstance.

I ask the member, with all the good things that she has observed, with all the positive things that went into the process of developing this agreement, with all of that in mind, does she not feel that this particular issue is one that we must address? Is it fair to download this responsibility onto 600-plus first nations communities across Canada with the resources already stretched to the limit in so many of those communities? Is it fair to have a hodgepodge of rules or in fact no rules at all for such an important aspect, not just of the Canadian fabric but of the lives of these people who have been profoundly affected by the absence of such rules? Is this not an oversight that we should address and address it urgently?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
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4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the Tlicho government could well make laws that touch on the matrimonial real property and it will be able to make laws respecting the Tlicho lands, including leases granted by it and how such leases will be dealt with in the context of a marriage or, indeed, that of a marital breakdown between a leaseholder and another person.

However, unlike the case of land that is on reserves, territorial law respecting matrimonial property will apply to matrimonial property on Tlicho lands. These lands will be held in fee simple by the Tlicho government and will not be dealt with as though they were being held as reserve lands.

Although Tlicho laws will prevail over a conflicting territorial law, the Tlicho constitution is required to provide rights and freedoms no less than those of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
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4:50 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, this agreement involves almost four categories of territory in the Tlicho lands. There is a larger category with certain harvesting rights; a smaller territory where there are environmental assessment controls and responsibilities; and there is even a smaller area that is the actual Tlicho lands. Within the Tlicho lands there are four communities, which is really the only place where people have permanent homes.

In those four communities there are some non-aboriginal people. I wonder if the member could outline how the non-aboriginal people will fit into this whole agreement.

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4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the Tlicho agreement would establish a municipal-like community government and this would be pursuant to territorial legislation. Each of the four Tlicho communities would be covered under this agreement. All eligible voters can run and all eligible voters can vote for seats on the community council. Half of the seats on the community council will be guaranteed for Tlicho citizens and only a Tlicho citizen could run or vote for the chief of the community government. However the structure itself does engage all members of the community.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
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April 21st, 2004 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence O'Brien Labrador, NL

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to speak in this debate. I hail from a riding that is largely dominated by aboriginal parties, the Innu, the Inuit and the Métis of Labrador.

It is a genuine honour and privilege for me to rise in the House to speak to this legislation. Bill C-31 is no ordinary piece of legislation. The bill puts into effect the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement. This is an historic step for the Tlicho people of the Northwest Territories and a milestone in the history of aboriginal peoples in Canada.

The word milestone is entirely appropriate, for the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement represents the accumulation of a long journey, one that has demanded patience, determination and conviction.

As this journey has now reached the House of Commons, I would like to offer my congratulations to the Tlicho people for achieving this momentous agreement. I am proud to declare my support for the agreement and for Bill C-31.

The benefits of aboriginal self-government are many. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has made this fact abundantly clear on numerous occasions. In the time allocated to me today, I would like to touch on just one of these benefits: strengthening economic development in aboriginal communities.

This is an area of which I am deeply concerned. I am very proud to see our aboriginal peoples move forward and to see the Tlicho people, as well as the aboriginal people that I represent, starting to do so very well in economic development.

The question is, why does the promise of economic development for the Tlicho people deserve special attention? As the House will recall, the government made a plea in the recent Speech from the Throne to foster such opportunities for aboriginal communities, to see aboriginal peoples participate fully in national life on the basis of historic rights and agreements, with greater economic self-reliance and improved quality of life.

The land claims and self-government agreement signed by the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho people helps fulfill that commitment by recognizing the jurisdiction of the Tlicho people over their land, resources, language and culture.

Economic growth can occur only when people have their freedom to cultivate it. Most Canadians take this truth to be self-evident but I was struck by a comment made by the Tlicho elder, Mary Ann Jermemick, upon the signing of the Tlicho agreement last August. She said:

We were always told what to do and what we couldn't do. We could have somebody doing mining…right next to our house and we have nothing to say about it. Now at least we have some say about what's going on in our community and our land.

I think that is a very important statement and one that speaks well of aboriginal people throughout Canada and a statement that could be used by almost any aboriginal person. These are profound words spoken by a wise elder. With this agreement, the Tlicho people will now have the freedom to cultivate economic development. They will possess the authority to not only identify new and important opportunities but also to promptly and decisively pursue them.

How will they accomplish these worthy goals? Under the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement, the Tlicho people will gain additional governance and administrative tools to strengthen their economy. Using these levers of prosperity, the Tlicho expect to create an entrepreneurial climate that will encourage investment and pave the way for new jobs paying good wages. Through the land, resource and financial benefits they receive from the agreement, the Tlicho will be in a better position to undertake new business ventures and forge profitable partnerships.

As new economic ventures get underway, other opportunities are sure to follow. With these exciting new possibilities on the horizon, it is important to remember that the Tlicho people are no strangers to entrepreneurship. In fact, they have provided an excellent example to other groups, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, of the benefits of hard work, the strength of partnership, and the value of innovative thinking.

The Tlicho people were the first aboriginal group in the Northwest Territories to develop their own hydroelectric project. Developed in the 1990s, the Snare Cascades hydroelectric project was a joint venture with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and represented the largest economic project undertaken by the Tlicho. A vital component of the regional power grid, the Snare Cascades project now generates more than four megawatts and supplies 7% of the territory's power. Labrador could probably help a bit because there are 5,500 in Great Churchill Falls.

The Tlicho also built, independent of any government funding, an airport in the aboriginal community of Rae-Edzo. The airport, which enables airlines to provide direct flights to Edmonton and Yellowknife, is sure to bolster a variety of industries in the region as traffic steadily increases.

The Tlicho currently partner with some of Canada's largest engineering companies, including Procon and SNC-Lavalin. The Tlicho nation is party to impact and benefits agreements with Diavik and Ekati, two prominent diamond mining companies in the region. Through these accords, the Tlicho have negotiated for guaranteed training and employment at both mines, enhancing the chances for increased employment and improved standards of living for the Tlicho well into the future.

It is no secret that the mining industry is the leading employer of aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories. In the early 1990s, aboriginal people accounted for only 10% of full time mining jobs in the north. Direct employment since then has tripled to about 30% largely due to the aboriginal hiring and training initiatives at the two diamond mines.

In fact, at the end of 2001, 683 aboriginal employees, or 30% of the operation's workforce, worked for the Ekati mine or its contractors. At the end of 2002, 36 of Diavik's operating employees were aboriginal. Diavik anticipates that aboriginal workers will account for at least 40% of the company's northern workforce when the mine reaches full capacity.

The mine is well on its way to reaching this figure following a recent agreement signed between Diavik and I&D Management Services, a consortium of aboriginal groups. Under this agreement, I&D provides 100 employees to the mine, of whom half are aboriginal. These workers operate many of the ore haul trucks, excavators, dozers and other heavy equipment essential to the mine's operations.

A new school, for instance, now provides Tlicho youth with a broader range of career and lifestyle options than those enjoyed by previous generations. These increased opportunities are encouraging many more students to remain in school and graduate. Dropout rates have plummeted. Many young people are now going on to post-secondary education, and in June 2006 the school will graduate its first university bound students. That is a very important milestone.

The spirit of entrepreneurship is also reflected in the rapid growth of the local business community. Today, more than 200 aboriginal owned businesses in the region, with annual revenues in excess of $100 million, are employing some 1,000 aboriginal people. These figures represent unprecedented growth in aboriginal entrepreneurship in Canada's north.

Here is more evidence of this growth. In 2001, Ekati spent $105 million of its $400 million operations support budget with aboriginal owned firms, a 62% increase over the previous year. At Diavik, by the end of 2001, the company had $726 million in contracts with northern companies, including $500 million with aboriginal joint venture firms.

These firms provide a variety of support services to the mines, namely, pit haul operations, explosives manufacturing, camp management and food services, employee recruiting, construction, engineering, and environmental management. Mining companies are fast recognizing that contract aboriginal firms in the region makes, above all else, excellent business sense.

I believe that I have made it clear that the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well among the Tlicho people. I have no doubt that the land claims and self-government agreement will help bolster the regional economy even further.

The agreement gives the Tlicho people greater and more immediate decision making powers to capitalize on business relationships and expand their entrepreneurial horizons. As those horizons expand, the range of work experience available to the Tlicho will continue to broaden. And it is precisely that breadth of experience that will foster ongoing economic development and innovation.

In this way the Tlicho agreement benefits all Canadians, by providing a model of economic self-determination that others might emulate, and by strengthening the central role played by an aboriginal community within a broader regional economy.

I want to offer my personal congratulations again. This agreement and the people represented in this agreement rivals the kind of support and the kind of development I see in my own riding of Labrador among aboriginal peoples. I wish to offer my sincere congratulations.

It is for these reasons, and many others, that I urge all members to lend their support to this historic piece of legislation, to see its passing, and to ensure that the economic promise of the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement is made real.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
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5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.