House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly, the vote is deferred until next Monday, at the end of government orders.

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Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I think you would find unanimous consent for the vote that was just deferred until Monday at the end of government orders to be deferred until Tuesday following oral question period.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

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4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in view of the extreme popularity of Bill C-9, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act (The Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa), I have a request to make.

I would like to ask for the consent of the House to deem the motion for third reading of Bill C-9 carried.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Just moments ago we dealt with that. It is being deferred until Monday or Tuesday. We are prepared to support the bill at that time. We will not give unanimous consent.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, since we all agree that we will vote in favour of the bill, I am wondering if we could do it right now. If not, so be it.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent?

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4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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4 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed from April 26, 2004, consideration of Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported by a committee; and of the motions in Group No. 1.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

April 29th, 2004 / 4 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to debate the amendments in Group No. 1 proposed by the government in connection with Bill C-23.

I was extremely disappointed by the government's amendments, not just Group No. 1, but also Group No. 2, which we will also likely deal with this afternoon. The main reason for this is that, when we met with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development a few weeks ago, he assured us there would be one amendment among those he was planning to propose to the House of Commons on Bill C-23 to the effect that the provisions of the bill would not be applied to the first nations of Quebec and Canada that did not want to take advantage of them.

Now, looking at the series of amendments in Groups No. 1 and No. 2, we do not see such an amendment. Yet the minister told us it would be among the government's amendments.

This results is an uncomfortable feeling toward the bill. I remember that the general assembly of the Assembly of First Nations was held in British Columbia a few months ago. Most of the chiefs from across Canada and Quebec were in attendance. The new chief of the Assembly of First Nations asked the assembly to express its opinion of Bill C-23, which at the time was C-19. There were some lively discussions on the scope of the bill, and finally there was a vote. A strong majority, 61% of the chiefs of Canada's first nations, voted against the bill.

Why? Because this bill does not meet the needs of the vast majority of Quebec's and Canada's first nations. It may be worthwhile for the most wealthy ones, the ones that are highly developed and might be able to take advantage of institutions and loan opportunities, particularly for investment in infrastructures.

Basically, however, for the vast majority of first nations, this bill does not live up to their expectations. In particular, it does not solve the many problems they face every day. These are the problems of safe drinking water, infrastructure, lack of or shortfalls in federal funding and housing. I believe I will have the opportunity to return to this important issue a little later.

Another thing this bill does is to arouse fears among the first nations. I believed that it would be different with a new minister who appears more open than the previous one. The previous minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was completely obtuse and impervious to all criticisms made by the first nations and the opposition parties. So much so that for Bill C-7 on governance, my NDP from Winnipeg Centre and I had to keep the government in suspense for 55 days with a filibuster in the committee, to make the point that the first nations did not want that bill.

And now here we are with a Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development who takes exactly the same stance with respect to Bill C-23. He had promised substantial amendments to allay the fears surrounding this bill. These fears arise primarily from the fact that the government may, under certain provisions of Bill C-23, make a clean slate of all its fiduciary obligations and arrange it so the first nations would have to assume, by themselves, all the debt they might enter into, and use their ancestral lands as collateral for such loans needed for infrastructure and other things.

It is a fear that has not yet been allayed. Despite the minister's promises, there is no amendment to reassure the first nations.

If 61% of the aboriginal communities in Canada do not want this bill, the minister's attitude or reaction should have been to say that they would sit down together and rewrite the parts of the bill on first nations financial institutions so as to reach a consensus and not please just 39% of the first nations.

It is quite sad to see that a government is dividing to conquer. Even the new Prime Minister, who met the chiefs of the first nations in a special assembly not so long ago, perhaps one and a half weeks ago, had promised greater openness and flexibility. He held out his hand and all the hopes were there. Once again, these hopes began with the series of amendments in Group No. 1 and Group No. 2.

It is unacceptable that the majority of first nations be served to this extent by legislation. If it had been clear legislation, with no room for confusion, and the assurance that the first nations that do not want to live with the provisions in Bill C-23 can opt out of this obligation, perhaps we would have supported more indepth consideration and our position would have been more carefully stated.

However, it is clear that no assurances are being given to the vast majority of first nations. So, we are unable to support such legislation.

The first nations communities have urgent needs. The fundamental need is for the self-government process to be accelerated. Helping the first nations achieve their inherent right to self-government is the only clear route we should use to guide our relationship with them.

In 1996, the Royal Commission of Inquiry tabled a report. It was preceded by the Penner report. Our time was spent writing reports and quasi-anthropological studies of the first nations before taking decisive action.

In 1996, the royal commission clearly said that this route was the only one possible, the only one that would generate results and ensure that the first nations could take responsibility for themselves. They must do so with their own tools for development and their own institutions. The early Europeans trampled on those institutions when they arrived in America. The first nations must take responsibility for themselves, with their own culture and languages too, their own way of managing their affairs and with the resources they are entitled to.

There have been too many cases, over the past 130 years under the Indian Act, where the aboriginal communities and first nations were put on reserves, on limited land with no possibility for development.

From all we hear, we criticized the first nations for not wanting to engage in their own development. But we took away all their means for development. Often, when land was discovered to have interesting forestry potential, we would displace aboriginal communities and let the major forestry companies exploit this resource. The term exploit has many meanings.

This exploitation by the forestry companies produced catastrophic results. Clear cutting occurred in many regions in Quebec and Canada. This activity violated the first nations ancestral lands where they could have practised their traditional activities, developed their communities and engaged in a reasoned, rational and sustainable exploitation of the forests. However, we often preferred to give concessions to U.S. companies to come devastate their lands. We took the first nations and put them on adjacent reserves and told them we would provide for their basic needs, and that was it.

That has been our relationship with the first nations in 130 years of applying the worst legislation ever created in the West: the Indian Act.

The only course to take is to recognize the inherent right to self-government. This has already been done in the Constitution; now we have to make it happen.

Currently too few discussions are accelerated for achieving self-government and giving first nations the land and resources they need for their own development in order to provide a promising future for their children. There are 80 negotiation tables right now and that is not enough.

I asked questions to the minister responsible for the negotiations. I asked him if, by the deadline established by the royal commission, which is 2018, we might expect that most of the cases will be settled, that the negotiations will be over, that we might be able to live in harmony with our different nations. This is uncertain.

Financial and human resources to expedite the process are lacking, and we are wasting time on bills. For example, last year, on Bill C-7, it was horrible to see the financial and human resources that were invested in a bill that no one wanted.

Group No. 1 of amendments to Bill C-23 is not satisfactory to us, and we will have the opportunity to go back to Group No. 2 a little later.

However, that being said, we must tackle the issue of self-government and speed up negotiations, but, in the meantime, we must also deal with urgent problems.

I mentioned housing at the beginning of my speech. There is a housing crisis in the first nations. There is an incredible lack of housing. Constructions that are done annually do not even represent a quarter of what would be needed, given the demographic growth in the first nations.

There are a number of other very urgent problems that must be solved in several communities, particularly the chronic mould problem. I have visited several aboriginal territories and realized that the problem was quite widespread.

Consequently, we must immediately allocate resources to deal with this problem. We must have an emergency plan, which is appallingly lacking at this time. Even the Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development told me there was no emergency housing plan. If there is no emergency plan, if we let entire aboriginal families live in substandard conditions, as is the case in Lac-Barrière, Winneway and elsewhere, we will not fulfill our duty as fiduciary of the first nations.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.