House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nation.

Topics

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the people of the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation of the treaty nine district of northern Ontario have sent me a question via the magic of e-mail.

They point out that in 2002 when Bill C-19 was first introduced by the then minister of Indian affairs, the member for Kenora--Rainy River, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre asked how the minister could be tabling the legislation when the four institutions were already up and running. They had offices, staff, salaried officers, boards of directors, and CEOs. The enabling legislation had just been introduced and was being debated but the institutions had been up and running for two years, if not longer. Where did the minister get the spending authority to hire those people and create the four institutions without the enabling legislation having been passed?

Does the member believe that this is the reason for the urgency of ramming the bill through even though no one in Indian country wants it?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I cannot answer the question about where the financial obligations are. Maybe it is in the estimates. Perhaps people in the department could answer that question.

The member is right. There is an existing commission. Advisory boards have been created over the years. The preamble of the legislation recognizes that these boards have already been created.

In 1995 the First Nations Finance Authority was created. In 1999 the first nations and the government recognized the benefits of establishing statutory institutes and the fiscal statistical management system. The Indian Taxation Advisory Board was created in 1988.

There is a grandfathering clause in Bill C-23 as well. The existing organizations and institutes will retain their commissioners, boards of directors and employees until the renewal process takes place.

With regard to the opt-in situation, the bill provides for a seven year review. After royal assent and after consultation, not with first nations members or leaders, but after consultation with the tax commission, the management board, the finance authority, and the statistical institute, the minister will make amendments, including any changes the minister recommends relating to the evolution of this mandate and the operation of the institutions.

That is why Bill C-23 should be sent back to committee. Amendments should be made so that after seven years, the minister, when making changes, should not only consult with the financial institutions created by the bill but also with first nations and first nations leaders.

I would ask the government, under the fiduciary responsibility of the Crown, to please respect the tribes and first nations under royal proclamation that have been identified. There are nations in this country that need that respect.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

May 10th, 2004 / 12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the least we can say about the bill is that from its very inception it has been subject to constant controversy as well as a consistent and profound opposition by the majority of first nations. This is why I strongly endorse the substance of the motion proposed by my colleague from Churchill River to refer Bill C-23 back to committee for re-examination and new hearings. I realize that you have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that the motion as it is framed is not receivable. You have also opened the way for some other procedure to be adopted that would come to the same result, in other words, to refer the bill to committee for new hearings and consultation.

It is clear to me that the systematic opposition that the bill has faced on the part of a large majority of first nations has been compounded by what first nations rightfully contend as inadequate consultation.

I listened to the debate on the bill. I am happy to recognize the broadmindedness of my colleague from the Yukon who backed the bill, naturally as he is the parliamentary secretary. At the same time he expressed a degree of fairness and openness and is ready to listen to arguments on both sides. This is why my colleague from Churchill River and I are speaking from a different viewpoint.

Perhaps we could find it in ourselves to express this feeling of openness and conciliation, that we should listen and hear the voices in opposition that have been expressed on the bill and send it back to the committee for review and re-examination. Nothing would be lost in doing what is proper, right and fair.

The Supreme Court of Canada in such leading cases as Sparrow and Delgamuukw has been clear that the first nations are entitled to full and reasonable consultation when there is a proposed measure likely to affect their rights. Certainly this measure is there to affect their rights. In special cases first nations' consent may be required and if the consultation record is insufficient, the legislative measure may be deemed invalid. This is what the Assembly of First Nations in several resolutions and many first nations acting on their own have contended right from the start.

I am convinced that if the bill is passed into law, it will surely be challenged in the courts. There is a strong likelihood that the statute would be held unconstitutional because of the failure to follow the consultation standard laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada in numerous landmark decisions.

Recent initiatives by the Prime Minister and our government have given fresh hope that a new climate of mutual trust and understanding may be pointing itself on the horizon as between government and our first nations.

Sadly, Bill C-23 conflicts with this new spirit of hope and of a true dialogue and understanding with our first nations. It stands out as an important irritant in a context of what was just yesterday and the day before renewed hope by our first nations spirited by the recent, and I would say courageous, statements and initiatives by our Prime Minister.

When the bill was briefly before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources in 2003, the committee heard from Mr. Fred Lazar, an economist with the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. Dr. Lazar said that he was “adamantly opposed to Bill C-19”, which is now Bill C-23. He said:

So we have taxation, devolution, and control, which is the essence of this proposed bill, all wrapped up in the federal government's limited and historically and legally incorrect view of aboriginal self-government.

Dr. Lazar pointed out that if first nations received their fair share of revenues from resources, the situation would greatly improve.

For several years I have been acting as a volunteer, as a friend, and for two years as a special representative of an Algonquin band not far from here. In 1991, 13 years ago, the band signed a trilateral agreement with the federal government and the Quebec government about the integrated management of the resources on the band's land.

The trilateral agreement happened because suddenly, one day, forestry companies, acting on a management mandate from the Quebec government, started to cut trees on a vast scale on the band's land, which its people have occupied for thousands of years. They rebelled. They blocked the roads and forced the advent of the trilateral agreement, expressing the view that under the Brundtland report, sustainable development was endorsed by all our governments.

The trilateral agreement is viewed by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, by the United Nations itself, as a landmark agreement of its kind. It has been 13 years since its inception and we are still arguing whether or not resources should be shared. We are still arguing about where this first nation will find the resources through grants and subsidies to repair its schools, to build adequate housing, which it badly needs, to find revenues with respect, without having to beg from any governments to have what we take for granted in our lives: that every person has a right to a decent living, to quality of life, to education and to proper health care.

Where do they find these resources? If they are on their own territories, they are not allowed a share of these resources, which they own and which treaties recognize as their own. This is really what the bill is about.

Dr. Lazar rightly said:

The first nations view of the verbal commitments made by both sides was that the lands were to be shared so that both groups could live and prosper together.

This implies at a minimum that the first nations should have received at least half of the revenues and wealth generated by the land and the resources on or below the land. They have not even asked for 50%; they have asked for a share. In the case of the people I know well, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, they would be satisfied with any share of the revenues on their land. They would be satisfied with control of some of their resources so that people would not abuse them, both ecologically and in regard to their long term sustainability.

Dr. Lazar asked whether the bill would provide first nations with the access to capital markets that is available to other governments.

The federal government sees securitization of tax and other long term revenues as a means for the first nations to build up their infrastructure on reserves. Undoubtedly, there is a need for significant investments to upgrade the infrastructure on reserves, but the onus remains on the federal government to fully underwrite these costs. What we ask is not for the federal government to give grants forever, but to give to the people a share of their own resources which belong to them by treaty.

The proposed bill highlights the potential for control over almost all financial affairs on reserves. It appears to be the Trojan horse, enabling the eventual takeover of all spending decisions on reserves by the independent institutions to be created by the bill.

I would like to quote one of the chiefs. Chief Stewart Phillip is president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. He told the committee that 60 first nations who belong to that organization are opposed to the bill. He is the chief of the Penticton Indian Band which is a member community of the Okanagan nation.

The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is the oldest political organization in B.C. Chief Phillip told the committee that Bill C-23 fails to meet the conditions set out in various AFN resolutions--and which have been successively carried out--saying the bill is flawed. I have a set of these resolutions passed over a whole year, time after time in Ottawa, in B.C., and in various parts of the country, repeating again and again that the bill is flawed, that it has not been subjected to adequate consultation and that it should be re-examined or it should fail.

Indeed, a special AFN assembly was convened in Ottawa in November of 2002, two years ago now, for the chiefs in the assembly to make a decision on the first nations financial and statistical management act. It rejected Bill C-23 in its entirety. I will again quote Chief Phillip, who said:

As for the contents of Bill C-19, it is our submission that legislation, especially national legislation, is not necessary for these four institutions to function.

The Indian Taxation Advisory Board and the other boards are already in existence and operating, as far as we know.

I strongly believe that Chief Phillip and his organization express the views of a substantial majority of first nations and that his recommendation is reflected in the very justified motion of my colleague from Churchill River. I hope that somehow I will find a way to implement the substance of his motion.

Let me now review certain of the modifications of the bills which proponents tout as justifying support for it. The new schedule of the bill conveys the impression that three of the institutions in the bill, all but the statistical institute in part 5, are optional and therefore do not prejudice the first nations that choose not to join.

In addition to the deceptive information that the bill has the support of first nations, the so-called opting in feature is touted as another important measure favouring the bill. The implicit message is that even if most first nations do not like it, they should not interfere with the opportunities of those who choose to opt in.

This is clearly misleading.

First, the so-called opting in provision introduced by the schedule amendment does not apply in the case of the statistical institute under part 5. This part is imposed on all first nations or bands in Canada whether or not they are added to the schedule. This is clearly unfair to the overwhelming majority of first nations who oppose the bill. It should be noted that under clause 105 of the bill the federally appointed institute can indefinitely collect and use the most sensitive data about all bands in Canada without their consent.

What about the other three institutions: the tax commission, the management board, and the financial authority? Again the alleged opting in regarding these three institutions is very misleading. In fact, these statutory national bodies will affect the rights and interests of all first nations in Canada whether or not they are added to the schedule. Indeed, these important national institutions will be controlled for the long term, and in fact forever, by a small number of first nations strongly in support of Bill C-23 and aligned with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

The tax commission, which is a federally appointed body, will become the overseer of all future on reserve property taxation bylaws or laws. If the bill is passed, all first nations in Canada that want to develop on reserve property taxation laws and systems will have to seek the approval of this federally appointed commission. All such first nations will have to submit their annual property tax budgets to the commission for approval under clause 9. Surely this affects the rights and interests of all first nations, which belies the argument about the opting in feature.

Clause 13.1, an amendment to Bill C-23 tabled by the minister, may seem to suggest that current property tax provisions in the Indian Act--namely, sections 83 and 84--will continue to be available to communities that do not enlist in the tax commission. However, I question whether, if Bill C-23 is passed into law, two parallel systems will be maintained into the long term.

It is very improbable to think that communities will be permitted to operate for any length of time under the Indian Act regime whilst a new tax commission operates the new, chosen instrument adopted by the federal government.

Perhaps the provision which most significantly disturbs those first nations that oppose Bill C-23 is that of the management board. According to clause 8 of the bill, communities that do not join Bill C-23 are not permitted to pass bylaws or laws dealing with the critical area of financial administration.

Thus, non-opting in communities are restricted to the narrow list of bylaw topics under section 81(1) of the Indian Act, which list does not include financial administration, the very core of local government. In other words, first nations that do not opt in effectively forfeit a key area of local jurisdiction: financial administration.

I referred earlier to the constitutional aspects of the bill which are likely to lead to legal challenges. No doubt the most fundamental problem in this connection is its conflict with the inherent right of first nations to self-government as protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. Surely the powers granted to the tax commission and to the management board under Bill C-23 are a direct interference with an inherent right of self-government protected by the Constitution and cherished by all first nations as a centrepiece of their fundamental rights as our first citizens.

Supporters of the bill will argue that the recent introduction of a non-derogation clause relating to section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 will fully protect all constitutional rights of first nations. However, there still remains the serious risk that the bill might still infringe the fiduciary duty of Canada to appropriately consult under section 35, which the majority of first nations contends has not taken place, as well as the protection against discrimination under section 15 of the charter, and, most important, the inherent right of self-government of all first nations protected under the Constitution.

I consider that the motion by my colleague from Churchill River--or a substitute for it that he is now negotiating with the Table--is fair and makes eminent sense in the circumstances. It seeks to replace controversy and consistent opposition with consultation, fairness and conciliation. I would like to support its substance most convincingly.

In the time that I am allowed I would like to appeal to all sides of the House for fairness and for conciliation. Surely all these first nations that oppose Bill C-23--and there are hundreds of them reflected in those resolutions that I have read, a great majority of them--represent a voice that cannot be ignored. Surely they have a right to express their position, and surely also they must feel in their heart that something is wrong with the bill.

Who are we here to decide for them as to measures that they themselves do not accept or agree with? Who are we here to say that we know best what is good for them when they tell us that it is not good enough for them? Who are we here to dictate and legislate when such a position is there?

I strongly recommend that we support very actively the substance of the motion of my colleague from Churchill River and send this bill back to committee. We must take time to produce a better bill, one that is acceptable to the people most concerned, the first nations of Canada.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for a very sensitive and insightful speech regarding a very controversial bill. I welcome the insights. Both the tone and content of his speech were perhaps the best I have heard on this subject in the House of Commons since this controversial bill has been debated.

Given that the overwhelming majority of first nations across the country vehemently oppose this bill, I would like him to expand upon the thought that he left us with. Is it not the height of colonial arrogance for us to impose our will on the governance structure of first nations that have looked at and studied this bill and rejected it categorically?

Of the 633 first nations in the Assembly of First Nations, about 30 support this bill. Government speakers have said there are as many as 100, but they are adding in all those who have indicated even some interest in some aspects of the bill. Those who actively promote and support the bill number no more than 30, most of them concentrated in British Columbia, and they have their own legitimate reasons for supporting aspects of the bill.

I would also ask the member to comment on the optionality issue. My view, our view, is that saying this bill is optional is the same thing as saying that driver's licences are optional. They are optional until one wants to drive a car, and then suddenly one has to have a licence.

My hon. colleague specifically made reference to the management board. If first nations do not sign on to this particular bill, if they are not one of the signatories in the schedule of optional first nations, they are not allowed to put in place financial bylaws dealing with those issues. If they want to put in place financial administration bylaws that go beyond the current parameters of the Indian Act, they have to join this particular vision of this financial management board. How is that optional? It is not optional. It is mandatory if they want to do those things.

The final point I would like him to comment on is the fear, and in my view the legitimate fear, that co-management and third party management may become one of the tasks and duties of this board, so that when the government puts a band into trusteeship for overspending or for trying to meet the basic needs of their communities with the inadequate financial resources they have, when the government comes along and imposes third party trusteeship on them, that duty will be assigned to this government-appointed management board that is an instrument of government now.

I would be interested in hearing my colleague expand upon all of those things.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

I would like to thank my colleague for his remarks. His consistent fight on behalf of aboriginal peoples has been constant and very sincere. I think it adds greatly to the debate that he should express them so forcefully and so frankly.

I sense a feeling in the House that it is not all black and white. I sense this in our own party. The very fact that I am able to stand here and take a position to a measure by my own government, that my colleague from Churchill River has done likewise, that the parliamentary secretary from Yukon has chatted with me outside and in a very open fashion, I view this as something very constructive for us all.

I agree with my colleague from the NDP that the time when we can impose measures on others is long past, especially with regard to first nations. They should be telling us that they are the people who owned this land and still do. They should be telling us what they want, not we telling them what is good for them.

In my case, it is my conviction on why the bill is flawed. We are opposing measures that obviously, the great majority, whether it is 550, 450, or 490, are opposed to.

I take the point of my colleague that once we have these institutions legislated and entrenched into law, are we going to say, 5 years or 10 years hence, that the opting in clause for those who do not join is a reality, is something that will be substantial? Of course not. When we will have these institutions staffed with a lot of administrative powers and staff, surely the pressure for those nations that stay out will be unbearable. They will either join the system or they will not join.

This is why I made the point in my speech that to say that they will be allowed in certain cases to use the provisions of the Indian Act to run a parallel system, I do not believe is realistic. Once these boards are in place, staffed and funded, the pressures on the nations that do not join in will be so unbearable that they will stand outside the system. Decisions will be made despite them and against them, and against the opposition, and they will have to cave in or the law will have to be changed.

It seems to me that this consistent opposition to the law which has started ever since the first bill was introduced is indicative that it is not perfect and it is flawed.

It seems to me, in the spirit expressed by the Prime Minister recently, that we should look at it. Let us take a few more months. Let us take another year but do it right rather than force it through at the last minute, despite opposition. This is what I seek and this is what is sought by my colleague from the NDP.

This is why we should join in a consensus in the House to support the substance of what is requested by my colleague from Churchill River.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, in a recent study by the United Nations on the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, there was a summit on the treaty relationships that the indigenous nations of the world have with nation state members of the United Nations.

The bill does not refer to any of the treaties that created this country. Canada has adopted a policy of self-government. It does not refer to anything in section 35, the inherent or historical rights and privileges of the first nations. Could the member comment on this?

In my reference to reconsidering the bill, perhaps the bill would be better founded if it referred to the original treaties and to the first nations as the real nations of this land as opposed to just band councils under the Indian Act or just the policy of government? Perhaps the foundation of this relationship should be treaty based. Perhaps that is the appropriate way to approach the bill.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Churchill River expressed the feeling that I am deeply convinced about, that the first nations have a special place in our history, in our nation, and in our way of life. They are protected by section 35 for good reason. Section 35 protects all these treaties and all these inherent rights to self-government that are entrenched, not only in the Constitution of our nation but in the historical relationships with the first nations. We cannot just toss them aside willy-nilly by a few pages of legislation and say these are the institutions that we have decided are best for them.

This is really where the opposition comes from in one segment, including the majority of first nations that say we cannot toss aside all these inherent rights sanctioned by treaties. I give the example of a tri-lateral agreement which was signed by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake Indian Band as a sovereign people with the Quebec and federal governments. And 13 years after, the Quebec government opted out unilaterally at one point and then came back in when it realized it was ultra vires.

Today the federal government is virtually absent from it because it has decided that the Algonquins are people that are too annoying and too embarrassing. They keep on harping about sharing of resources and 13 years after we have not resolved the whole question of their right to their own resources on their own lands so that they can live in dignity, in self respect, and in full pride of their own achievements using their own resources the way they want to.

This is why the question brought up by my colleague from Churchill River is quite right and should be entrenched in the bill.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-23 and honoured to follow the comments by the member for Lac-Saint-Louis who has put on record an impassioned, compassionate, and cogent argument for why this piece of legislation ought to be reviewed further.

I want to add my congratulations and thanks to the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his years of service in this place. He leaves a legacy to be followed by all of us and I wish him well in his future pursuits.

The member for Lac-Saint-Louis gave us a strong and clearly articulated argument about pausing, taking a moment to reflect, and giving further consideration to the bill before us. That is very wise advice in the case of this particular legislation which deals directly with our relations to first nations communities.

I sense from the comments across the way that there are a good number of Liberals who are uneasy about Bill C-23. I would hope that the views of members from the Liberal backbenches are taken into serious consideration before the government makes the final decision to advance this bill through all of its stages.

It seems to me that this is a perfect example of how we deal with the democratic deficit in this place. If the Prime Minister is serious about giving more power to backbenchers and increasing the role of parliamentarians, and about ensuring that decisions are made in this place based on the best advice possible that takes into account external factors,--in this case, relations with our first nations communities--then we have all of the ingredients that we need today for the Prime Minister to say that he agrees that we should pull back on this piece of legislation.

My question to the Prime Minister is, is he listening to his backbenchers or does he have a three line whip on this bill? Is it a three line whip or a two line whip? How is the Prime Minister responding to concerns on Liberal benches about this piece of legislation? If he were true to his words about addressing the democratic deficit, we should see a response shortly vis-à-vis this bill and a decision to pull it off the agenda and send it back to committee.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

It is the only right thing to do.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

As my colleague from Winnipeg Centre has just said, it is the only right thing to do. He ought to know. As the aboriginal affairs critic for the New Democratic Party, he has been working tirelessly on this and other matters pertaining to our first nations communities.

He has consulted and spoken with first nations communities right across the country. He has sought their advice and input, and has come back to our caucus and this Parliament with a message from the vast majority of the first nations communities to say: “For goodness sake, don't rush into this bill. It is flawed. It will harm our relationship. It will set us back at the very time when we need to be coming together and dealing once and for all with a historically embarrassing situation vis-à-vis first nations communities in this, one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Whether talking about the democratic deficit here in this place or disillusionment among Canadians with the parliamentary process, the Prime Minister has only one option. The bill should be pulled to allow for further study, not to concede defeat and say it was all wrong, but to say it has serious problems. The first nations communities have raised concerns that have to be taken into account.

That is absolutely critical. If we are going to build the kind of partnerships we need with our first nations communities, it is absolutely the kind of response that is necessary if we are going to once and for all deal with and find solutions for deep rooted, systemic economic and social inequality.

It is the kind of response that is absolutely necessary if we are going to take seriously the well documented and impartial observations by UN observers that Canada's first nations communities live in third world conditions. If we are concerned about leaving a legacy of finally addressing the deplorable living and working conditions of our first nations communities, then surely the Prime Minister will do the right thing and send the bill back to committee in the new Parliament.

Why would we rush the bill through the House in the few days left before we rise for a break or before this Parliament adjourns because of an election call? Why do we want to saddle the new Parliament with less than perfect legislation? Why would we want to hand to the new Parliament a breakdown in relationships between Parliament and first nations communities? Why would we not hold this in abeyance, do further studies, build something that would reflect those concerns and take into account the needs of all those involved in this important partnership?

The member for Lac-Saint-Louis, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre and others have documented clearly just how much opposition this is from first nations communities to the bill. It is clear that Bill C-23 is vehemently opposed by the overwhelming majority of the more than 600 first nations communities in Canada. Is that not enough to make the government have second thoughts? Why proceed if more than 50% of those involved have deep concerns about the actual legislation?

The governing organization of our first nations communities, the Assembly of First Nations, has called for the bill to be withdrawn in favour of legislation that would apply only to those specific first nations that want to participate in the institutions. The AFN has said that the bill needs clear and concise non-derogation, which would guarantee that it would not affect aboriginal and treaty rights. The bill needs much more clear provision around the ability of a first nation to opt in or out of the legislation.

Members in this place know how tenuous the relationship is between government and first nations communities. We know how first nations communities bear a tremendous sense of betrayal by governments through the ages. We have an opportunity today to change that. We have an opportunity to make a difference by listening to their voices. We have an opportunity to do it better. Let us listen to the concerns of first nations communities.

I could go on at length about problems with the bill and about what each first nations community has said with respect to different aspects of the bill, but that job has been done by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis and others.

In the few minutes I have left, I want to simply repeat a plea that has been heard in this chamber often. There is no mileage in terms of forcing Bill C-23 through. Changing the whole question of first nations fiscal and statistical management will only work if there is cooperation. Cooperation is built through partnership and by listening to one another's voices. We do that by respecting the right of first nations to self-government. We do that by addressing and working with first nations communities on a nation to nation basis.

Something that is top down, handed to first nations communities is a complete violation of that partnership. It is a complete denial of the nation to nation relationship. Pushing through this bill at this time will do more harm than good. It will set us back further in terms of the work that has to be done.

Let me just conclude by saying that I and all my colleagues in the New Democratic Party and a growing number of members of Parliament on the Liberal's side believe that Bill C-23 is a flawed and misguided piece of legislation. It places too much discretionary power in the hands of the minister and it denies the need to develop a relationship of consulting and listening to first nations communities.

The government should not be trying to railroad this bill through in the last few days before the end of this Parliament and before an imminent election call. It only makes sense that we hold it, that we send it back to members of Parliament on the new aboriginal affairs committee of the House once a new Parliament has been reconvened and once some time has been allowed to lapse between the introduction of this bill and concerns about it. It is only fair to regroup again and this time take into account fully the needs and concerns of our first nations.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her debate. Basically, I do not have a problem with most of the sentiment of her intervention. However, early on in her speech she referred to the serious problems with the legislation. Could she could outline some of those problems?

Contrary to what she inferred about top down, this legislation, as I think most people who have been worked with it realize, came from first nations. It was a first nations' proposal to the government. As the Prime Minister has said, we are looking for solutions from first nations. We are trying to work with the suggestions that we have received and put them in place.

I do not think there is any effort to rush it through. We have been debating this since the 1990s, when these proposals first started to come in to us. It has had a lot of debate and a lot of feedback. There has been a lot of changes, and interaction has been made to the feedback. I am not sure where there is any intention to rush it through.

As with the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, we are having a very fruitful debate now and are trying to look at the issues and problems. I do not know how many member will speak to the bill, but I think there are a still a number of them to speak. Therefore, I do not see any sense that we are rushing it.

What I am trying to do is search out and research some of those issues that the member might be able to bring forward, in addition to the ones I have written down from the excellent intervention from the member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

While he is here, I would like to also pay tribute to him, as the others have, in his last term with us. I have always treated him with a great deal of respect and have listened intently when he has spoken. He has made some fantastic speeches in the House of Commons and will leave a real legacy in the Parliament of Canada. I honour him for his efforts in the House.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to address some of the specific concerns with respect to the bill. To begin, it would appear, in terms of our analysis, that Bill C-23 is hardly different from Bill C-19, around which we had some discussion and considerable input. It was recommended that some drastic changes had to be made to that bill to make it acceptable in terms of the first nations community and what constituted good public policy.

I would also point out to the member that, as I far as I understand it, the concept of enshrining the four fiscal and statistical institutions in federal legislation was considered by the AFN at its annual assembly in Halifax in 2001. There was good discussion and debate, but it did not garner the 60% of support required by the AFN charter. We are still a long way from having the first nations community as a whole on-board with the legislation.

I will not have time to go into all the specifics, but let me reference just a few of the major concerns. This is from documents from the chiefs in Ontario, with which I think the member may be familiar. It is indicated that the most disturbing strong-arm component of the amended Bill C-23 is directly linked to the management board. As the member knows, this component is found in clause 8 of the bill.

Communities that do not voluntarily join the Bill C-23 schedule are not permitted to pass bylaws or laws dealing with the critical area of financial administration. Non-believer communities are restricted to the narrow list of bylaw topics under subsection 81(1) of the Indian Act. The list does not include financial administration. That is one point. Another is that some of the most draconian measures in Bill C-23 are designed to prop up the credit worthiness of the authority, apparently at almost any cost.

I will quote from the document that was provided to the chiefs in Ontario where it states, “There is a gross surrender of sovereignty by first nations that get caught up in the scheme. A single missed payment can trigger the takeover of local financial affairs by the management board”.

Those are a couple of the major concerns. The most fundamental constitutional problem with Bill C-23, even as it has been amended by the schedule attachment, is its broadside attack on the inherent right of all first nations to self-government.

I come back to the first point I made which is when we try to correct historical wrongs or address our failures of the past, we must do so with full cooperation and partnership of the first nations community. If there is any sense to the inherent right of self-government being bypassed, if there is any refusal to deal nation to nation with first nations, then we will have failed and only made the situation more difficult than it already is.

I truly hope that the member for Yukon, who is genuine in his pursuit of justice in this regard, listens to those in his house who have made strong appeals, and they are not just dumping all over the bill, to hold off and get it back to committee in the new Parliament. That is the message of the member for Lac-Saint-Louis. He has said that we should give it more thoughtful consideration, that we should involve the first nations in a true dialogue and come up with a financial statistical management package that is truly reflective of the needs of everyone in our country today.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Given that the amendment I proposed earlier today was ruled out of order, because we are debating an existing amendment, I would like to seek unanimous consent of the House to propose the following subamendment.

I would like to move that the amendment be amended by adding after the words, “The needs of most first nations”, the following: In particular the need to enter into full consultation with first nations leaders and communities on the benefits and impacts of the new fiscal relationship.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Churchill River have the consent of the House to propose the motion?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.