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

1:25 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak in support of Bill C-23, the first nations fiscal and statistical management act, and against the motion that was introduced by the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Before going any further, I would like to say that I was listening to the speech by the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis a few minutes ago and I enjoyed the considerable eloquence for which he is so well known. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate him and thank him for his years of service to the public, his riding and of course all Canadians, here in the House of Commons.

I remember when this man—who today is the member for Lac-Saint-Louis—ran in a byelection in Chambly, I believe. I had the opportunity to go to his riding to listen to him during his nomination meeting. Unfortunately for us, the hon. member was not elected, but he ran again another time and has been with us ever since.

Nonetheless, unfortunately for us—perhaps not for him since he will undoubtedly have a very nice retirement—we will no longer hear his well-chosen words in the House of Commons once the election is called.

Once again, I would like to commend the hon. member and former provincial minister for his great speeches, which we will remember for a very long time; speeches that always come to mind when we are talking about individual rights. Hats off to the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

Now that I have taken a few minutes to pay tribute to the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, albeit inadequately since we could speak at length about his work, I will take a few minutes to discuss the substance of the bill now before the House.

Having praised the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, and rightly so, I am going to take a different point of view on this. Nonetheless, it says a lot about the greatness of the man and the respect he inspires that, even though we are not of the same opinion, we recognize today, just like every other day, the magnitude of his achievements, and of course of his commitment in general to all those he represented and will continue to represent for a little while longer here in the House of Commons.

I intend to vote in favour of the bill at third reading when it comes to a vote. We do not know when the vote will be because I understand a number of people on both sides intend to speak to the bill, some for and some against, but that is fair too.

I believe the parliamentary secretary, on countless occasions, has referred to the bill as being first nations-led. It perhaps is not with the agreement of everybody in that community but it is the genesis of it. I believe that is proof of the government's seriousness in fulfilling its commitment to first nations and aboriginal people.

Mr. Speaker, you and I will recall that in the Speech from the Throne the government restated its commitment to begin the difficult but essential work of renewing its relations with first nations. The government vowed to undertake a new and collaborative approach when working with aboriginal leaders. It pledged to rekindle the relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

The government also indicated clearly that fostering economic development in first nation communities and narrowing the gap in living standards between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people is a foremost priority, as it should be for everyone in this room. I think it is and I think it is for Canadians generally. I think every right minded Canadian wants a better life for the first citizens, their brothers and sisters of the first nations community in this country.

A number of significant steps have taken place to begin building a strong foundation for first nations economic progress. Let me give hon. members a few examples. Land claims have been negotiated. Self-government agreements have been signed. Together, first nations leaders and the federal government have taken action to support first nations entrepreneurs to attract investments and to create jobs in first nation communities.

When I was a minister of state and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, there was a period during which almost a majority of bills before the House dealt with Canada's aboriginal communities. Some very heated debates took place.

For example, I remember that a small group of parliamentarians from the other side submitted hundreds of amendments to the bill recognizing the Nisga'a community, in British Columbia. There were such ridiculous amendments as to change semicolons to commas, or change implementation dates. There have been hundreds of such examples. The purpose of this was to force parliamentarians to vote needlessly throughout the night in the House, thus delaying the implementation of an agreement signed by the Nisga'a community in British Columbia, the provincial government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada. Naturally, we held our own and the bill was passed.

I remember the bill on governance in the Yukon. The same people across the floor delayed the process. There was a large number of initiatives sponsored by aboriginal communities, or at least supported by a large number of people from that community. Again, the parliamentary process was slowed down for a while by those who were attempting to prevent this legislation from moving forward in the House.

I recall the bill on Nunavut. Nunavut, as we are all aware, is ably represented in this House by our colleague. I recall how greatly disappointed she was when certain members over there voted against that bill concerning the community she represents in this House. That bill was another recognition of the important role played by the aboriginal communities in that part of our big beautiful country. Considerable effort had to be made to counteract these attempts to slow down certain bills by filibustering.

As for the one before us today, similar attempts have been made to hold it up. Some of those responsible are seated in the House today. They tried to hold back a bill although it had considerable aboriginal support. Some may react by saying that perhaps it did not have the required 60% support. I wonder whether the member opposite would consider that a bill he supported, which had 51% of the member of the House on side, was of no value whatsoever. Of course not.

Just because this bill does not have 60% support does not mean it does not have the value of law in this House. I do, of course, acknowledge that this 60% criterion does exist under the regulations of the council of first nations for matters on which they will hold a vote. But that does not mean that we need to claim that same percentage applies in this House.

In recent years, the first nation economy has undergone a remarkable transformation in some parts of the country. Businesses owned by first nations now operate in a number of sectors of the Canadian economy. That is quite good, and we only hope that it will increase.

Although physical factors such as improved transportation links and communications technologies have contributed to this shift, I believe that one of the differences has been a change in attitude. Over the past years, a spirit of cooperation has grown among aboriginal and non-aboriginal citizens in public and private sectors alike.

I had an opportunity on a plane coming back from Quebec City one day. A couple on the plane was dressed in somewhat traditional attire that made it obvious they were of a first nations community. I engaged in an interesting conversation about how this couple had started a computer company and was enjoying quite a level of success. I could detect only a kind of optimism that was so obvious in these nice people, whom I have had the opportunity of meeting on a few occasions since, by the way. It was so refreshing. The only thought that came to my mind at that point was that I hope their success somehow can multiply itself thousands and thousands of times throughout the country so that many others can prosper where prosperity regrettably has not been there previously.

Having said this, though, it is also true that not all first nations have benefited from the increased cooperation that exists. Despite many positive strides forward, the economic and social conditions of obviously too many aboriginal communities remain extremely unwell, and I even would say unacceptable. C.T. (Manny) Jules, one of the principal architects of the legislation, articulated the root causes of this and said:

Today, a wall surrounds First Nation economies. It is a wall built by past legislation and policies. It is a wall of mistrust and dependency that traps us in our own poverty. Each additional year of dependency is another brick in this wall. This wall has not served Canada well. It has prevented us from participating in the economy.

To the members of this House who say that the bill is being rushed through, I must say I disagree with that analysis, because the bill has been under consideration for years; therefore, it is not being rushed through. In fact, some might say that the bill has been delayed, not hurried along.

Returning to Mr. Jules' idea, if we delay this bill any further, this additional delay, added to the previous one, will only serve to perpetuate even longer the conditions that are unacceptable to everyone, both those who are in favour of this bill and those who are opposed.

There are many who believe that Bill C-23 will help to dismantle that wall to which Mr. Jules referred. Bill C-23 is vitally important legislation that will help first nations to travel further on the road to prosperity and self-sufficiency, providing a way for first nation peoples to participate more actively in the Canadian economy and foster business-friendly environments while meeting the needs of their communities.

It is important to note that Bill C-23 was developed by first nations for first nations, recognizing, of course, that not everyone is in favour of it. The four institutions at the heart of the bill are the finance authority, the tax commission, the statistical institute, and the financial management board. They provide a foundation that will enable first nations to realize economic development according to their needs, their unique needs, because of course these kinds of structures are not replicated elsewhere in the economy. They have considerable differences.

This is a foundation which will ensure that first nation communities can become full partners in the Canadian federation. The practical tools at the heart of this legislation will help first nations to more easily acquire the funds they need to engage in capital infrastructure and of course we all know that is very badly needed in many of our communities.

Bill C-23 will also lead to greater and more effective decision making, enabling first nations to capitalize on existing business relationships as well as build new ones. Today, many first nations face economic disadvantages that must be corrected.

It is often said that the financial institutions are prepared to loan people money to set up a business, as long as they do not need it. That means, of course, that the financial institutions are looking for very solvent businesses in order to minimize their risks.

And if these businesses are that solvent, they will not likely need much help from the financial institutions. If they needed it, they would not be in that position, and they would have problems getting loans.

Research indicates that the cost of doing business on first nation land can be six times higher than in the rest of Canada, perhaps not everywhere, but I suppose it depends. I am using a law of averages. If the community is located in southern Canada perhaps that ratio is somewhat lower, but it is still expensive. This is because first nations communities lack the systems and public institutions that other local governments in Canada take for granted.

I could speak for a longer period, but my time is coming to an end.

Needless to say, when someone sets up a business, if there is no infrastructure or no sewers—if there are none of the things usually found in a village but rarely found in aboriginal communities—that is a very serious disadvantage.

Of course, that is only one example. Dozens more could be found, from urban planning and all the other elements that help develop the connections that can make businesses more successful.

I shall end my comments by congratulating the person temporarily in the chair, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, for the quality of his comments, especially in the last few minutes. Usually he sits behind me. I want to thank him for the excellent work he has done here, in the House of Commons, and I wish him many good things for the future.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is an old saying of great wisdom, which might even be from the scriptures: there are none so deaf as those who will not hear and there are none so blind as those who will not see.

That thought came to mind as I listened to the speech of the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. It would seem to me that his job today, as sent in by the government, the ruling party, is to ignore the appeal from first nations in regard to their wishes pertaining to the bill and to force through the government's wishes, to once again impose the will of government on first nations who have vehemently and clearly opposed this bill time and time again and found it to be unsatisfactory.

The hon. member misrepresented the amount of opposition there is to this bill when he tried to imply to the House that while there is not 60% support for this initiative among first nations there is at least broad support. Then he asked if 50% plus one should not be enough. It may be argued that it would be enough, but in actual fact there is not 50% plus one support for the bill. There are approximately 30 out of 633 first nations that support this bill. By my mathematics, that is 5% in strong support of the bill.

In fact, at two recent Assembly of First Nations assemblies, the vote was 81 against and 10 in favour. There was a vote in November 2002 about Bill C-19, as it was then called, and then, at a special confederacy called in February 2003, the same motion was put forward, with 37 opposed and 2 in support.

Even when a special assembly was orchestrated in British Columbia, where the base of the support for this bill resides, the government failed to achieve support. I believe it was 30% at that assembly; the 202 first nations from British Columbia did not even come out to support this initiative.

I am not going to take the entire time I had planned to because I know there are other speakers who would also like to confront the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell and make the same comments.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I never suggested that the number was that which the hon. member said. I only suggested that the basis for the argument in the previous speaker's comments was not applicable. The hon. member can always review what I said. He does not have to believe it. He only has to read Hansard , which presumably he will do later.

The hon. member was asking implicitly, why are we advancing with this bill given that some first nations are not supportive of it? The answer is that delays in approving this bill will be at a significant cost for those communities that are anxious to use it to advance the development of their communities. They have prepared for this; they have been working for this. It places quite a burden on them.

Given that it is elective, the hon. member is not, in my view, correct in his failure to support the legislation. But of course, he is entitled to his opinion, as I am entitled to mine. I will recognize that. Additionally, the government is honouring its commitment to first nations, which have worked long and hard to remove the barriers of development in their communities.

In addition, I want to say to the hon. member that it is not an either/or proposition because it does not preclude the government from working cooperatively with different groups of first nations in order to advance other initiatives.

I want to get back to the resolutions of the AFN in respect of the proposed first nations fiscal and statistical management act since its introduction. There has only been one resolution in which Bill C-23 has been mentioned since introduction in December 2002, and that is the vote that took place on October 8, 2003--perhaps that is the one the hon. member was referring to--at the Special Chiefs Assembly at the Squamish Nation.

He referred to the fact that it had been held in B.C., so presumably that is what he was referring to. It was an omnibus resolution meant to deal with Bills C-6, C-7 and C-19, now modified as Bill C-23.

The resolution called for the Chiefs and Special Assembly to, first, reject Bill C-6. In other words, they themselves produced a motion to reject Bill C-6, reject Bill C-7, and support Bill C-19. The three elements combined were in the same motion.The results of the vote were: 109 opposed; 65 for; two abstained; and 52 did not vote. But that had to do with rejecting two items and supporting one, in the same motion.

For the hon. member to state that all this is somehow equated with Bill C-19, now Bill C-23, is not totally factual. Neither he nor I can speculate as to the exact quantity of votes that there were for each item that we have here.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell will have three minutes remaining in his intervention. The Chair will now proceed to statements by members.

Peterborough Co-op
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, serving the rural and more recently the urban communities of the Peterborough area for more than 60 years, the Peterborough Co-op today presents a new, refreshed face to Peterborough county and city.

A larger building with many more products and services including an ice cream parlour, tuck shop, and a unique collection of antique farm equipment are only a few of the added features.

Rural Routes began and continues today to be a co-op, an organization where membership brings a patronage dividend, discounted purchases, and a say in the direction of business. The more one spends at a co-op the more one reaps. A farmer who spends $100,000 a year might get a cheque for $4,500 at the end of the year.

While all involved with our co-op are enthusiastic about the new look, they are adamant there is one thing that will never change and that is the co-op's reputation for quality and knowledgeable service.

My congratulations and best wishes for continued success to the management and staff of Rural Routes at the Peterborough Co-op.

Rural Communities
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, among the growing list of Canadians who have been forgotten by this Prime Minister and his Liberal government, is there a more obvious example of neglect than rural Canada?

In my riding of Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough in Nova Scotia there are communities on the brink of disaster as they face the possibility of the closure of their post office or their fish plant. They are asking that their national government defend their interests, and allow them to stay, work and live in their local communities.

Unfortunately, their pleas seem to go unheard. The Prime Minister does not make his decisions based on what is right. Rather, he defines his priorities based on the number of votes he can get. With clearly an eye on electoral support in urban Canada, the Prime Minister is trying to bluff through some sort of agenda for cities which, given his record, will be heavy on rhetoric and light on substance. However, for those in rural Canada he has not even offered that much.

Since 1993 the government has been instrumental in the deterioration of rural Canada. From funding cuts to health care to the wasted money on the gun registry, the government has given rural Canada nothing but the back of its hand.

Rural Canadians deserve better. They deserve a government that will listen to their problems and do something about them.

Iraq
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is impossible to remain silent let alone indifferent to the pictures of Iraqi prisoners. It is hard to find words to express adequately the horror and agony caused to human beings by other human beings.

These pictures do not reflect on the American people. We know that. But they do reflect on the U.S. administration. Yet, no political action has been taken to turn into deed the indignation expressed by the U.S. President. As each day goes by, without resignation or dismissal, the impression grows that words are not being matched by action.

We can be grateful to the International Red Cross for having gone public with its report. We can be grateful for the existence of an international convention that makes the Red Cross the agent in defence of humanitarian treatment.

The pictures of Iraqi prisoners are devastating. We all have a responsibility to discharge if we are to rebuild peace with the Arab world. That is why we as parliamentarians have to speak up.

National Police Week
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, May 9 to 15 is National Police Week. The purpose of this event is to strengthen ties between the police and the community since the best way to increase public protection is to establish partnerships with the public.

A number of community activities will be held across the country. For instance, police officers will be visiting schools, or taking part in a marathon or a softball game. In some communities they will be holding open houses or serving breakfast to seniors.

Our police services play a vital role in keeping our communities safe. It is thanks to them that Canadians have a strong sense of security.

To all those whose job it is to protect us, I say thank you. Keep up the good work to make our communities safer places to be.

Hockey
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, at this time of year the minds of Canadians turn to tuning up the lawn mower, a trip to the garden centre, and what else? You guessed it, Mr. Speaker, hockey.

Yesterday, Team Canada won the world cup in a 5 to 3 win over Sweden. The team captured back to back world championships for the first time since the Whitby Dunlops in 1958 and the Belleville McFarlands in 1959 turned the trick nearly half a century ago. I am sure you remember that, Mr. Speaker.

The back to back gold medals follow up from Canada's Olympic glory in Salt Lake City two years ago, as well as the women's world title two months ago. I think Canadians can rest assured knowing that all is right in the world when Team Canada is winning hockey championships.

This House and the whole country congratulates Team Canada. We are proud of their achievements.

Fisheries
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, as we increase our presence on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, we are finding more and more fishing violations. We now have proof that foreign vessels are overfishing, fishing species under moratorium, using illegal gear, and fishing in restricted areas, sometimes even inside our 200 mile limit. However, we have known that for years.

More presence at this stage means issuing more citations. What we need is action so that these abuses are brought to a halt. We can harass the foreigners affecting them economically. We can pursue avenues under the law of the sea convention. We can pursue international cooperation with teeth. It will still be a doubtful and time consuming process.

We do not have time. A renewable resource is disappearing. It is imperative that Canada take action now. If we cannot convince NAFO to enforce the laws, then we should declare custodial management before it is too late.

Claude Beausoleil
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to draw attention to the election of poet Claude Beausoleil to the prestigious Académie Mallarmé. This academy was founded in 1937 to support and promote contemporary poetry.

Before becoming a full member, Mr. Beausoleil had been an associate of the academy since 1997. Mr. Beausoleil, who wrote Dépossessions , Déchiffrement du monde and Chant du voyageur , will have a good opportunity to forge ties between the poetic communities of Canada and France.

Now that he is a member of the academy he will have a say in selecting works, suggesting readings and influencing the choice of meetings with wordsmiths.

There is no doubt that he will be able to further promote Canadian talent in his new capacity.

Jackie Robinson Awards
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, the Montreal Association of Black Business Persons and Professionals held its 19th Jackie Robinson banquet and honoured three members of Quebec's black community for their positive influence on Quebec society.

First, I should point out that Jackie Robinson is a professional baseball player who, in 1946, became the first black player to sign a contract with the Montreal Royals.

Yvette Bonny, who is originally from Haiti, is a pediatrician and hematologist at Montreal's Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital. In 1980, she performed the first bone marrow transplant on a child in Quebec.

Ulrick Chérubin, the mayor of Amos, who is also originally from Haiti, received an honorary award in recognition of his social involvement in the community.

Finally, the business personality of the year award went to Jean-Yves Renel, a sociologist born in Martinique who owns the Ferme du domaine, near Shawinigan.

We sincerely congratulate these three Quebec recipients. Their cultural, professional and social contributions are important to Quebec.

National Child Benefit
Statements By Members

May 10th, 2004 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gilbert Barrette Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I want to stress the significant efforts made by our government in recent years to fight child poverty.

Through the national child benefit, the Government of Canada provides financial support, programs and services to low income families.

The government is committed to ensuring that children get a good start in life, as evidenced by the 2004 budget, which includes an additional $75 million.

I am proud to be part of a government that wants to strengthen the social foundations of our country, now and in the future.

Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, when the current Prime Minister was running to unseat his predecessor, he campaigned across the country promising to fix the democratic deficit.

One of the most fundamental principles of democracy is the right of the people to select their own representatives, not to have these representatives appointed by a monarch or a party leader. The Prime Minister has violated this principle by appointing four more Liberal candidates in western Canada.

In my own home city of Edmonton, he directly intervened and cut off the democratic process by appointing John Bethel and preventing local businessman Sine Chadi from contesting the nomination. Why has the Prime Minister chosen Mr. Bethel? Could it be that he was the Alberta organizer for the Prime Minister's leadership campaign? Shame.

The Prime Minister has violated that fundamental right of the Liberal members of Edmonton East to choose their own representative in favour of rewarding his own friends. The people of Edmonton will have the final say on election day when they will render a just judgment on this undemocratic action of the Prime Minister by making Edmonton Liberal-free.