House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that BillC-54, An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

David Smith Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-54, which will have numerous positive benefits for the first nations who have been involved in the pilot project and the drafting of the legislation.

When the participating first nations began this process nearly ten years ago, the White Bear nation, the Blood tribe, and the Siksika nation shared the same overall goal: to create employment and new economic prospects for the members of their communities and thereby build a better future for their children. They realized that in order to achieve that goal they needed to begin by honing their knowledge and then develop their capacity to assume responsibility for the economic development of their lands. Throughout the entire process they never lost sight of their ultimate goal: to benefit more fully from oil and gas operations by taking charge of the management of these resources and thereby to provide their communities with a better life.

The time has come for these three sponsoring nations to reap the rewards for their efforts. Passage of this legislation will provide a level playing field so that first nations with oil and gas resources will be able to reap the benefits of the growing prospects of that sector of the economy. Direct participation in the energy sector will become a possibility for them for the first time.

The White Bear First Nations, Blood Tribe and Siksika First Nation have worked with the federal government to develop this sectoral self-government legislative initiative which would enable interested first nations to assume jurisdiction and control of their oil and gas and related revenues, as well as the moneys held in trust by the Crown, to better meet the priorities and aspirations of their people.

Hon. members must know that this initiative has been jointly developed by the three sponsoring first nations. This initiative was developed from A to Z by the people closest to the challenges and the solutions. The proposed legislation respecting the management of the oil and gas and moneys of first nations will be implemented by the very people who developed it and who stand to benefit the most from it.

Once the bill is passed, subject to a favourable vote by their members, the first nations will assume control of the management of the oil and gas moneys and will be able to take advantage of development opportunities throughout the industry, from the exploration stage to the final sale.

They will also be able to do this on their own lands, where jobs and wealth will be created for all the members of their communities to enjoy. A strengthened economy will eventually translate into an improved quality of life not only for this generation but also for future generations.

In the long term, this legislative initiative will ensure that first nations children and young people have good opportunities for the future and for self-sufficiency. They will not feel compelled to leave their communities to find work, seeing as more work will be available where they live, on reserve lands. Moreover, they will take pride in being able to provide for themselves and will enjoy the fringe benefits that come with good jobs, productive people and healthy communities.

What is more, they will see the advantages of partnerships. They will realize that projects created and undertaken in the community and then developed jointly with the Government of Canada can substantially improve the governance of their communities. The fact is that this bill, drawn up after many years of negotiations and cooperation with Canada, provides tangible evidence of strengthened relations between the two levels of government.

And this is only a start. Given North America's appetite for energy resources, the opportunities for exploiting these resources on first nations land will only increase. The growth of this sector will provide a major stimulus to social and economic development on the reserves, which could then provide a solid basis for other industries and businesses.

The three sponsoring first nations are prepared now to assume their responsibilities, and other first nations have expressed their interest in doing the same. There are more than 130 first nations capable of exploiting oil and gas and about 50 that have active oil leases or licences. Over the next few decades, some of these first nations may adopt the proposed legislation.

That is another advantage of this bill. It is entirely voluntary. First nations can decide to take advantage of all the provisions in the bill or just some of them. Every community is entitled to decide for itself whether or not it wants to benefit from this legislation. It was designed to meet the needs of the sponsoring first nations and does not force any first nation to adopt it or prevent other first nations from suggesting alternatives. It just gives first nations that opt to adopt it some new tools for achieving their goals of building solid economies that create wealth and better prospects for their members.

And these are not the only advantages. The bill will also benefit industry because companies will be able henceforth to go directly to the decision-makers for quick decisions on the exploitation of resources. There will also be some direct benefits for governments in the form of new revenues from the increased production of oil and gas. These revenues will increase the funds spent on social programs to meet the needs of first nations communities.

Ultimately, all Canadians will benefit from the fact that self-sufficient and autonomous first nations will be better able to overcome the socio-economic challenges they have faced for so long. Now they will be able to improve the quality of life of their members.

It is extremely important for these groups and for all Canadians that the House pass this bill.

Thanks to the lessons learned and the skills and knowledge acquired over the years, the sponsoring first nations now want their long-term goal to become reality. They want to begin generating all the social and economic benefits for their peoples and their communities that oil and gas development will support.

It is important for people in every community with natural resources to have the opportunity, like other Canadians, to meet their own needs and create this sense of belonging and renewal that is so important to communities on first nations reserves.

This long-cherished goal and dream are in our hands. Let us be fair to the White Bear first nations, the Blood tribe and the Siksika nation—and all Canadians—and pass this good bill so that these people, like each and every one of us, can reach new heights and be proud of where they live.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with pleasure to speak to Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act. This is a piece of legislation that my party is pleased and proud to support.

In a sense this legislation follows upon Bill C-20, the first nations fiscal and statistical institutions legislation that was passed earlier this year. This legislation, taken together with the earlier legislation and, I believe, legislation that will follow, represents very important steps in this country toward self-government. I will address my comments to that.

This legislation is important for all first nations in Canada, but it is of specific importance to and follows upon the very hard work of three first nations in particular: the Blood Tribe of Alberta, the White Bear First Nation of Saskatchewan, and the Siksika Blackfoot First Nation of Alberta. These three first nations have worked together with the Government of Canada for 11 years in the pursuit of this legislation.

It is worth pausing to bear in mind that in the case of White Bear, Treaty No. 4 between the Crown and the White Bear First Nation was executed in 1875. This legislation is coming forward 130 years later. It has taken us 130 years to create this self-government initiative. With regard to the Blood and Siksika first nations, Treaty No. 7 was signed in 1877. In that context it has been 128 years since the treaties were executed. This is a very important historic step we are taking.

The Conservative Party is speaking in favour of this legislation. The position of the Conservative Party in respect of self-government was clearly enunciated by the members of our party at our policy convention this past March in Montreal. The policy position of the party is as follows:

The Indian Act (and related legislation) should be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the devolution of full legal and democratic responsibility to [aboriginal Canadians] for their own affairs within the overall constitutional framework of our federal state.

Such legislative reform should be pursued following full consultation with First Nations, with the objective of achieving a full and complete devolution of democratic authority that is consistent with the devolution of other decision making responsibility within our federal system.

[Aboriginal Canadians], like other Canadians, are entitled to enjoy democratic control over their own affairs within a legislative context that ensures certainty, stability, respect for the rule of law and which balances collective and individual responsibility. [Aboriginal] communities must have the flexibility to determine for themselves whether and how free market principles, such as individual property ownership, should apply to reserve lands.

[This devolution] should be accomplished in a manner which takes into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of Canada's First Nations. Within the context of the Canadian Constitution, we should be prepared to make flexible accommodations for the protection of language and culture within self-government agreements.

The initiative that is before the House today is described in some circles as sectoral self-government. Some time ago one of Canada's national newspapers published an opinion piece which I recall was written by Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. In that article there were a number of matters raised by National Chief Fontaine with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Canada is a modern, full-fledged federal democratic state. It is a state in which all citizens must bear equally the responsibilities and the privileges of citizenship.

Aboriginal Canadians are entitled, indeed expected, to share in the governance of Canada. If our aboriginal peoples are to be equal citizens also bearing the hopes and the dreams of this country on their shoulders, then they must bear equally the responsibilities of governing this land. Concurrently, they must enjoy the full benefits of Canadian citizenship including control over their own affairs, including the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As Chief Fontaine observed, as I recall in that article, aboriginal people will only be self-sufficient, and free and able to rely upon themselves if they are free and able to make their own choices because reliance upon the choices of others is a denial of the status of citizenship.

Earlier this week I had the privilege to meet with a number of first nation leaders. I have spoken with Chief Strater Crowfoot who is one of the architects of this legislation and who has fought many years for it. I have spoken with Jim Boucher, the Chief of the Fort McKay First Nation and other chiefs as well.

In particular I reflect upon the comments of Chief Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nation who pointed out that in his view those aboriginal communities which are strong, vibrant and building wonderful economic and strong cultural opportunity, and a high quality of life for their citizens are those in which people have the confidence that comes from accessing their own resources. That is what is so important about this legislation.

Bill C-54 before the House points out in the preamble that this legislation is optional. This is legislation which first nations can either opt into or not. As the title of the bill says, it is “An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada”.

This is legislation which first nations will be expected and required to make a decision about. The subject matter of the legislation is very broad, providing first nations with extensive control over all matters relating to control of their own oil and gas and their own money. In particular, the definition of exploitation in relation to oil and gas in the legislation includes its extraction, production, storage, distribution, processing, refinery and use.

The definition of exploration includes all things which are ancillary to exploration. Of course, oil and gas money includes all of the money derived by first nations from their oil and gas assets as well as other money which is held by the Government of Canada to the account of the first nation in question.

It is important to point out that this legislation has been well thought out. It has been developed in a manner which is consistent with the principles of fundamental justice. It contains precautionary measures, balancing measures which I will speak to.

First, the procedural protection for first nations citizens is very extensive. Oil and gas assets can only be transferred from the Government of Canada to the first nation if the procedures set out in clause 6 of the legislation are followed which specifically requires a council of the first nation by resolution to invoke the process. Similarly, if a first nation wishes to access its own money, it requires the initiation by a decision of the council of the first nation either to access money which will be collected in the future or money which is currently held in trust for the first nation.

Before any first nations are entitled to access their own oil and gas they are required, pursuant to subclause 10(1) of the legislation, to pass an oil and gas code. That code is defined in the legislation. It contains extensive mechanisms to protect the process for amending the code itself, accountability mechanisms, mechanisms to disclose any conflicts of interest, and in addition, under subclause 10(2), first nations are also required to pass a financial code.

Stated simply, no aboriginal community can access its own oil and gas resources until such time as it has taken the legislative steps that are required by the Government of Canada in this legislation to be invoked.

Similarly, no first nation is entitled to access its own money on the terms of its own trust conditions and indentures unless it has passed the financial code. The financial code must deal with the method of holding money, the form of the trust, the nature of the trustees, the manner in which money is to be collected and distributed, and to whom it is to be distributed, and also dealing with the resolution of conflicts of interest.

It is important in examining this legislation to consider that the legislation does contain protection both for aboriginal Canadians but also for others such as third party interests who have an interest at the present time in oil and gas activities on aboriginal reserves or aboriginal assets.

We not only have the oil and gas code and the financial code, but there is a clear prohibition that the council members of the first nation are not allowed to serve as trustees in a trust. They do not meet the qualifying requirements to be trustees and therefore are not able to serve in that capacity.

Clause 14 of the legislation also contains specific bonding requirements, so that the people who do serve as trustees need to meet the requirements of the provincial trustee legislation such that they are reliable people, properly secured and properly bonded if they are to be entrusted with aboriginal moneys.

Clause 24 of the legislation is quite important because in the context of the transition toward this kind of sectoral self-government, the protection of existing contract holders, people who have currently a contract or an expectation from the Government of Canada, are quite important. Clause 24 provides that oil and gas laws that come into force on a first nations transfer date may not impair the rights or interests of the contract holder under a contract as signed by clause 23. So, in effect the oil and gas contracts that are in place today are transferred from the Government of Canada to the first nation. The first nation must by law honour those obligations.

It is also important in considering this type of legislation to address the extent to which the position of the Crown has been protected. This is consistent with the Samson decision, but the legislation actually could not be clearer. After the oil and gas assets are transferred to an aboriginal community, a first nation, subclause 27(3) of the legislation provides as follows:

Her Majesty is not liable, as the holder of title to reserve lands or to oil and gas found in those lands, in respect of any damage occasioned by oil and gas exploration or exploitation under this Act.

It carries on in clause 28:

Subject to section 27, this Act does not affect the liability of Her Majesty or a first nation for any act or omission occurring before the first nation’s transfer date.

Therefore, the effect of this is clear. Any claims or disputes that might exist between a first nation and the Government of Canada relating to the management of aboriginal oil and gas are not affected but on a go-forward basis, the communities that accept responsibility for the governance of their own assets are responsible themselves for the governance of those assets and the Crown is not exposed to liability for any decision making. Nor is the Crown exposed to any liability if a first nation decides of their own volition to pursue these remedies.

The mechanisms are equally clear with respect to money. Subclause 32(2) provides that:

Following the payment of moneys out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund into an account or a trust under section 30 or 31, Her Majesty is not liable for the payment or the management of those moneys.

Again, making it very clear that if a first nation decides that it is going to assume responsibility for its own financial decision making, the management of its own money, henceforth on a go-forward basis, the Government of Canada is no longer responsible for any of the decision making that is made by that first nation.

This is consistent with the principles of self-government because if first nations are going to accept responsibility for these assets and these moneys and benefit from the upside, they will be responsible as well for any decisions that are made which do not over time prove to be happy ones, if I could say that.

In light of the significant consequences of a first nation therefore invoking the legislation, it is important that we look at the process by which a first nation is able to invoke the legislation. The ratification procedures are set out in the statute and specifically, the majority of the majority has to approve if a first nation is going to opt into the legislation.

A majority of the eligible voters on the reserve must show up to vote and the majority of those who vote must be in favour. It is a provision known as the majority of the majority and it means that once a majority of a majority is on side, that is essentially approval, the Government of Canada can then pursue the devolution of responsibility.

It is also important that we have regard to the constitutional framework in Canada, the federal legislative constitutional jurisdiction, because self-government will not work in this country unless there is a respect for the distribution of powers between the federal and provincial governments. We are essentially overlaying on top of the existing federal distribution of powers a legislative framework for self-government in a sectoral sense.

The legislation does deal with that. Clause 34 outlines very clearly the circumstances in which a first nation has the right to pass legislation. Clause 35 is very important. It allows for the passage of laws and says: “to the extent that those laws are not in relation to matters coming within the exclusive jurisdiction of a provincial legislature”. Clause 36 protects areas of federal jurisdiction. In a sense we have a clear attempt to ensure that the self-government legislation respects provincial and federal jurisdictions and that we do not have unacceptable overlaps.

It is also important that one of the hallmarks by which we judge the legislation is the extent to which it protects the environment. I would point out clause 37 of the legislation where environmental assessments are mandatory. The legislation specifically provides that in the context of the oil and gas code that the first nation develops, the provincial environmental legislation must be adhered to and first nations must pursue environmental assessments if they are to exploit oil and gas resources on their own land. Once again there has been a recognition and an attempt to protect the environment.

It may seem to be a small point, but this is a difficulty that exists elsewhere in Canada. The legislation specifically preserves the right of the federal Crown, if necessary, to expropriate an interest. Pursuant to the legislation, the federal Crown has reserved its right, in circumstances that are in the overall public interest, to step in and actually expropriate an interest if that is needed.

I raise this as a very important point because there are other jurisdictions in the country where there are now, because of the failure of the government to address this in a proper way, issues about whether the federal government has in fact vacated its jurisdiction to ever act in the public interest on first nation lands. Clearly, if we are going to have constitutional workability in the country, paramount authority must rest with this Parliament, with the Government of Canada, and we must have the capacity preserved to act.

Finally, the legislation is also consistent with the Federal Court decision on the Terry Buffalo case which is a court decision of some importance in this country. It was a decision for billions of dollars where the Samson Indian Band sued the Government of Canada claiming that its oil and gas assets had been mismanaged over a period of 30 years.

Last year the judge in that case issued a decision calling upon the Government of Canada to deliver those assets to the first nation and he stipulated a process that the government and the first nation would have to follow to ensure that there was procedural protection. The legislation is in fact quite consistent with the Samson case.

For all of those reasons, I will conclude by saying that this is an important step forward. It is extremely important self-government legislation and of obvious importance in western Canada but applicable throughout the country. It is consistent with our party's position and we are pleased to support it.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some interest to my colleague and I commend him on his speech which was well delivered. He basically lives this portfolio and has done so for many years. He has dealt a lot with aboriginal concerns throughout our country.

My colleague mentioned that the Crown reserves the right to expropriate certain lands under certain circumstances. I am wondering if he could enlarge on that a little and give me an idea of what types of circumstances would be deemed as cause for expropriation.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Crowfoot is one of the hardest working members in the House. I applaud his interest in this legislation.

It is difficult to say where and when the power of expropriation might be necessary. What the legislation does do is it preserves the right of the Government of Canada, essentially this Parliament, in the best interests of the citizens of Canada to proceed to expropriate first nation lands or other assets. The point one can take from that is that aboriginal communities under this legislation are in really the same position as all other Canadians, in the sense that they are subject to the overall best interests of Canada. If Canada needs to proceed for whatever reason with taking a forced entry, as it is called in law, the government has the power to do that.

The reason I raise this as important is that one of the very difficult questions we have in the Mackenzie Valley, which has emerged in the context of the negotiations over the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, is whether or not through sheer negligence the Liberal government neglected to protect that very right. There are those who argue that if we examine the treaty negotiations that have taken place and the treaties that have been put in place up the Mackenzie Valley, the Government of Canada has, through a constitutional agreement, given up its right to expropriate, for example, a pipeline easement or a pipeline right of way. Some would make the argument that because it is not in the treaty, it is not in the legislation, this House in fact no longer has the authority within the sovereign jurisdiction of Canada to actually make those kinds of decisions, that because of the negligence of the Liberal government in putting that legislation in place, it overlooked that fact. That is, I am told, a significant issue in the negotiations in relation to some of the pipeline questions.

I might conclude by saying that is not the case with this legislation. We have been vigilant to make sure that those authorities, the authorities of this Parliament, are protected and maintained. It is one of the reasons we support the bill.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Western Arctic
Northwest Territories

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Minister of State (Northern Development)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to this legislation.

Serving the public here in the House of Commons is a wild and wonderful experience. I have just come from the Commonwealth Room where I met with the Métis of Alberta. If there ever was a group that was impacted by resources in their region it is that group. They felt such empowerment from the legislation they put together in terms of the Métis settlement. It will enable them to create wealth and opportunities for employment for themselves. This speaks loudly in support of Bill C-54. This legislation is necessary, empowering and definitive.

The Métis were here today to announce the opening of an office in Ottawa. This will further empower them to achieve and enact the provisions of their settlement.

Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act, will equip first nations that choose to participate with vital tools to create good jobs, stimulate economic activity and improve the quality of life in their communities.

I would also like to share some of the successes of my first nations constituents in oil and gas development north of 60. It is not doom and gloom. People have different interpretations on how expropriation works. The reality is that every democratic government does not have expropriation as the first step. It is something that is done after having exhausted every other possibility.

I like to be positive about these things. I think this is a wonderful piece of legislation. I am really into empowering our people to create their own wealth and to be self-sustaining. Bill C-54 does that. It makes the rules quite clear, which is a good thing.

First and foremost, this legislation was designed to respond to the specific needs of the three sponsoring first nations, the White Bear First Nation, the Blood Tribe and the Siksika First Nation, which were directly involved with the first nations oil and gas pilot project launched in 1994. Not every pilot project ends in legislation. Obviously a lot of success was gleaned from that pilot project.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the efforts of the sponsoring first nations and the great success that has already been achieved over the past decade. Their commitment to working in partnership with Canada to develop this legislation is honoured as we help them to reach their goals.

Bill C-54 builds on the excellent progress the government has made through several recent initiatives, including the Canada-aboriginal peoples round table, the policy retreat, and the upcoming historic first ministers meeting. It builds on the commitments made in recent Speeches from the Throne, budgets, land claims and self-government agreements. We have achieved some major milestones with our partners in the aboriginal community across the country.

This legislation provides two related but distinct authorities for first nations. First, it provides communities that opt in with the authority to gain complete control and management over their oil and gas resources, creating jobs in the expanding oil and gas sector. Second, it provides these communities with the authority to gain complete control over the management of their moneys held by Canada on their behalf, allowing them to respond to emerging economic opportunities. Therein lies the challenge. First nations are not always in a situation to do that, but in this case we are heading in the right direction. I believe this will be very helpful.

A first nation that chooses to opt for the legislation can opt in to either the oil and gas provisions or the money provisions or both.

Economic development on reserve and strengthening communities continue to be priorities of the government. I am pleased to note that first nations communities both north and south of 60 will be able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded under the moneys management provisions of the legislation.

However, the oil and gas provisions do not apply in the north because oil and gas development is presently governed by a distinct legislative and regulatory framework. South of 60, FNOGMMA as Bill C-54 is known, would remove several levels of federal oversight and offer to first nations the same benefits that many northern communities are already enjoying in managing their own resources. In fact equity participation is a huge part of that. That is something I just gleaned from a recent trip to St. Petersburg, Russia to attend an oil and gas symposium. All circumpolar indigenous peoples have the aspiration to be involved in managing the resources that are in their region, and any of the resource development activity that takes place.

Extensive efforts have been made and continue to be made in the north to negotiate land claim and self-government agreements to respond to first nations' and Inuit people's desire to manage their political and social affairs and to advance economic development and self-sufficiency. That is the goal of every government at all levels.

Regarding oil and gas development and management, the land claim and self-government agreements enable resource development in the north. They clarify land and resource ownership rights, which are of vital importance to investors. These agreements have created conditions for sustainable economic and social development, providing a land base, opportunities for economic development and modern institutions of government to secure a higher standard of living and quality of life for all northern and first nations people.

Consider for instance the Inuvialuit whose land claim was finalized more than two decades ago. Since then the Inuvialuit have secured valuable partnerships with several companies and have launched dozens of businesses. These partnerships and businesses generate revenues that help pay for physical and social infrastructure in Inuvialuit communities and create jobs and training opportunities. They create hope and a vision of prosperity for the people in that region, or at least participating in the wealth that is being created in that area.

By facilitating the success of resource projects, land claim and self-government agreements also have a significant impact on Canada's economy. The economic benefits of large scale resource development projects are felt across the country. Never let it be said that people are not trying to achieve important milestones in going ahead with these projects. Anyone who says to the contrary is wrong.

Land claim settlements and self-government agreements are just one way to ensure first nations and Inuit peoples have the tools needed to assist in fostering business partnerships between industry and aboriginal groups. FNOGMMA provides first nations with similar tools and will also be of tremendous benefit, as we have seen from the northern experience.

Although Bill C-54 describes a somewhat different path than the land claims settlement or self-government approach, it is designed to enable first nations to achieve many of the same goals, such as fostering prosperity and strengthening communities. With the passage of this legislation, first nations that vote to come under its provisions will have more tools available to them as they seek to be more self-sufficient and better able to take charge of their economies. What more could we want for people of any part of this country?

The management authority that this legislation provides will help create jobs in the oil and gas sector, as well as in the many spinoff businesses and all of the value added that result, helping first nations improve their members' quality of life and standard of living. This is a goal shared by all members of this House, I am sure, and all Canadians.

Every community has the right to decide for itself whether it wants to take advantage of this legislation. It simply provides the three sponsoring first nations, and any other first nations in similar situations that choose to opt in, with the authority to assume control of their oil and gas and related revenues, and to assume control of moneys held on their behalf by the Crown.

In effect, Bill C-54 will enable first nations communities to participate in the oil and gas sector and to access moneys held in trust. With these powers, first nations will become more engaged in the economy and better able to implement projects that will improve social and economic infrastructure in their communities, as we have witnessed in land claim settlements and self-government agreements.

If we consider the example of the Inuvialuit or, more recently, the Tlicho, the Labrador Inuit, the Westbank First Nation and even the Kwanlin Dün self-government agreement signed in February of this year, we can see where Bill C-54 might lead. We can see improvements in the transportation networks and in health care and educational facilities. We can see post-secondary scholarships, youth centres and assisted living residences for seniors. For the first time in generations, we can see young people looking forward to bright futures.

In the end, this is what Bill C-54 is all about: enabling first nations to assume greater control of their social and economic destinies. It is about ensuring that first nations have the access to the tools they need to improve the quality of life in their communities.

It is through these types of arrangements, whether they are land claim settlements, self-government agreements or initiatives such as FNOGMMA that ways are found to forge a lasting partnership between first nations and Canada which will set us on a new path toward prosperity.

In my area, we are proposing to build a pipeline that is 1,200 miles long, all along the Mackenzie route. We have achieved significant milestones to move that along. These are not easy things. It is this type of legislation south of 60 that will enable our friends, relatives, people in the south and neighbours to be part of what is happening in their backyard. That is so important. For too long, aboriginal people have been sitting back and waiting for arrangements to evolve. That is not going to happen.

This bill will help that. This is the work of first nations people. They did the pilot project that actually enabled them to come up with this legislation. They are responsible for this. This is a very good piece of legislation. We should support it.

We believe the empowerment of our people is a singular objective of every first nation in Canada. I want to appeal to the members of the House to support this wholeheartedly.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously, the Bloc Québécois will support Bill-54. This leads me to put a question to the hon. member.

Since Quebec has been a pioneer in the signing of agreements with first nations—such as the peace of the braves agreement, for instance—could the hon. member explain how Quebec served as an example to the federal government, with the result that it is now proposing Bill C-54? This measure will give first nations the opportunity to manage and regulate oil and gas exploration and exploitation. What was Quebec's contribution and what example did it set in this area?

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would never claim to be an expert on Quebec, but I do appreciate that Quebec has forged a unique relationship with first nations. Agreements have been struck that relate to resource development revenues and that help to empower the Cree of James Bay and work with all first nations in Quebec.

Quebec has its strengths. It is known for the work that it does on the social agenda, for all of its social programs: child care, housing, and looking at the needs of the civil society in terms of how community development happens, how people live within a community and what their needs are.

The first nations are very indicative of those needs. Quebec has been very skilled at being able to integrate the first nations into this. Not only that, but Quebec has been very skilled at developing a very good relationship with the first nations leadership like Matthew Coon Come, Bill Namagoose, Albert “Billy” Diamond and many of the other leaders, all those people who are from the Quebec aboriginal leadership community. A good leadership relationship was forged. That is the unique part of it. Also, the work plan set together to achieve those milestones is pretty significant.

I think Quebec does set a good example, but every province has its own story to tell, not just one province. All the different communities have that story to tell as well. It is not one partisan issue. Successive governments replace one another and basically do a good job with the first nations. We have to look at those examples.

For me it is not a partisan issue; it is what each different government does well, what are the best practices and what we learn from them. I understand that. To be fair, we have to look at what different provinces and municipalities have achieved. Some people will say that a province is weak in one area but strong in another. Forging that relationship with the leadership and setting an agenda with the first nations has been pretty significant. That is hard to deny.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Bill C-54, first of all I would like to acknowledge the critical role that Chief Brian Standingready and the White Bear First Nation have played and continue to play in the self-government of White Bear in particular and the first nations in general.

White Bear First Nation, the Blood Tribe and the Siksika First Nation were all part of a pilot project with respect to the co-management of oil and gas on their reserve land as early as 1994. I am proud to say that White Bear is within my constituency. They were the forerunners in the establishment and passage of an act to provide for real property taxation powers which involved a series of different structural organizations and changes that they put together.

The driving force behind that piece of legislation, as in this one, was the economic development of reserves and the improvement of the quality of life. It provided the ability to raise capital and generate revenue. It was an initial step in self-government, in being in charge of one's destiny and being responsible for one's own economic development.

At that time, I said that it was a good step but that there was a much larger journey that must be taken for the first nations to truly arrive at self-government. As Bruce Standingready of the White Bear First Nation put it, “You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time”. Chief Brian Standingready of the White Bear First Nation put it quite correctly when he stated, “If you don't have the jurisdiction, you don't have the ability to make decisions”. With respect to this legislation, he indicated, “This new enabling legislation is recognizing our inherent rights to make our own laws in regard to managing and controlling our oil and gas revenue derived from these sources”.

The bottom line is that not only should first nations have the legislative means to address issues facing first nations on the reserves, but they should also have the financial means to do so. The White Bear First Nation is willing and eager to take charge of its own destiny and to participate in the development and use of its natural resources to better the life of its people

On the reserve there are many basic issues that need to be addressed: housing, infrastructure, water, sewer and electricity. It is important, however, that a good foundation be laid by the legislation to ensure the future success of first nations initiatives.

I support this legislation, as does my party. There are some important features and principles in place that will help in success. They relate to the transfer of moneys held on behalf of first nations and the transfer of the management and regulation of oil and gas exploration and a host of activities related to it.

Let me speak of some of the important features. There is an oil and gas code that provides for accountability of the council to first nations for the management and regulation of exploration and exploitation and the establishment of a procedure for disclosing and addressing conflicts of interest of members of council.

The legislation provides for a financial code, specifying the mode of holding oil and gas moneys, either by deposit in a financial institution or payment to a trust of which the first nation is settlor and sole beneficiary. It prescribes the conditions governing subsequent changes from one mode to another.

The legislation also provides for the manner of expending moneys. It provides for accountability. It addresses procedures for disclosing, as I said, and for addressing conflicts of interests. It also requires that books of account be maintained and annual financial statements be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. I think these are all good and proper safeguards.

I am somewhat disappointed that the proposed legislation fails to specifically and in advance set out some generic, boilerplate, basic prerequisites that one would expect to find in a trust agreement, not only in terms of the fiduciary duty of the trustees but the specific objects of the trust and the method of spending approval.

However, the legislation does provide for a vote where a majority of those present, not less than 25%, would approve any of the procedures or codes outlined. That in itself provides some safeguards.

Having said that, I see great potential for the first nations, White Bear in particular, in the transfer of moneys and oil and gas rights by giving them an opportunity to chart their own destiny. It seems to me that education, skills training in jobs in various sectors, and management of various forms of business will be a way of ensuring economic prosperity and an acceptable level of quality of life.

There is much to be gained from oil and gas management. As the preamble of the bill states, first nations are able to assume control of their oil and gas industry.

What does that mean in practical terms? It means that first nations can enter into petroleum and natural gas leases, surface leases, easements, rights of way and rights of entry. They can participate in the extraction of oil and gas, in exploration, in production and storage, in distribution and even in processing or refining. There are many associated activities, such as surveying, mapping, test drilling, pipelining and all other related activities that will provide an opportunity for employment.

The White Bear First Nation has experienced some of this in its involvement with Tri Link Resources. It gives it an opportunity to receive a royalty on production and even to participate in oil production. Moneys raised can be placed back into production or used to help the community. It is a great opportunity to create employment, to encourage education and to be trained and employed in the oil industry.

A good example of that was articulated in an article dated May 29, 2000, prepared by Wayne Dunn & Associates, titled, “Experiences and Thoughts on Indigenous Business and Economic Development”. The article, although somewhat dated, provides a little bit of history that the White Bear First Nation has experienced. The article states:

Since White Bear began working with Tri Link, a number of First Nation members have been trained and employed in the oil industry. Tri Link hired two university graduates from White Bear to work in their Calgary office as a petroleum land administration assistant. A summer student was hired to work out of their Kipling office to gain environmental and production experience.

Two White Bear members work out of [White Bear's] office and two members work as Petroleum Land Administrators with the White Bear Pilot Project. These individuals all attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology for training sponsored by the White Bear First Nation and received certificates as Petroleum Land Administrators.

Many White Bear First Nation members have gained training and experience in the oil industry thanks to WBOG. So far approximately 38 members have been trained and employed by drilling rigs that are working for Tri Link and four have been trained and are working as contract battery operators. Recently four White Bear members were trained and certified as heavy equipment operators in a program jointly sponsored between Tri Link and the First Nation-run Kakakaway Learning Centre. In the past, the Kakakaway Learning Centre and Tri Link have teamed up to offer training to 30 individuals in the areas of chainsaw certification, chainsaw instructors certification and entry level training such as first aid, CPR and H2S Alive.

As well, the agreement provides White Bear companies and private contractors with the opportunity to bid for services required by Tri Link such as surface lease construction, pipeline construction, seismic line clearing, well site reclamation, trucking, well site maintenance and drilling and service contracting. As a result, seven new businesses have developed on the White Bear First Nation creating new employment opportunities and on-the-job work experience for many First Nation members. These activities have provided over 90 First Nation people with short or long-term employment”.

Part of that in the bill allows this to continue and to be expanded as they take control and management of their own resources. The bottom line in all of this was best stated by Chief Brian Standingready when he said that he “believes it is important that the first nation focuses on helping their people, rather than making profits”. “The oil”, he said, “won't be here forever, our people are our priority. We have to respect the land, our heritage sites, the environment. We always consider the future generations and ask what this is doing for them”.

White Bear in particular has been developing its governance structure in a number of ways. It operates White Bear Lake Resort, the Bear Claw Casino and works in an integrated and cooperative manner with the community of Carlyle, Saskatchewan. With the passing of this legislation, I see the role only increasing into the future. I think it is a good step and is going in the right direction.

I am looking forward to the White Bear First Nation continuing to lead by example, in its industrial expansion and in its involvement in various activities on the reserve, in upgrading the skills of the various participants, in taking part in business, in bringing back some prosperity and putting itself in a position and a place where it can look after some of the very basic needs that it finds facing its community.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to the bill at second reading.

One of the countless good reasons to support Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act, is the fact that three first nations, which are directly involved, the White Bear First Nation from Saskatchewan, the Blood Tribe and Siksika Nation from Alberta, have taken the necessary steps to prepare their communities for the new responsibilities participation in this legislation would bring.

As a result of 10 years of hard work and dedication building capacity in their communities, these three first nations are now ready to assume control over the management of oil and gas resources on their land.

Working closely with federal officials and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the White Bear, Blood Tribe and Siksika Nation entered into a pilot project back in 1994. It would see them move to full first nations control of oil and gas resources and related revenues on their lands and the management of first nations' moneys as envisioned in the sectoral self-government legislation before us today.

To appreciate this progress we need to know a little history behind it. This work began through a pilot project initiated by the Indian Resource Council. The council is a stand alone, first nation-owned and operated agency representing over 130 first nations with oil and gas interests. It provides a mechanism for first nations to become involved in the planning, policy development and strategic direction of Indian and Oil Gas Canada, a special operating agency of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

The three first nations, White Bear, Blood Tribe and Siksika, entered into the pilot project so they could one day assume responsibility for the management of oil and gas resources on their lands.

In phase 1 of the project, they entered into a co-management agreement with Indian Oil and Gas Canada. Co-management involved specific oil and gas training as well as capacity building exercises. After three years of co-management capacity building, the three first nations were ready to move on to phase 2 in 2000. This phase involved continuing the joint administrative and management processes begun in the earlier phase. It also equipped the first nations with the necessary knowledge to jointly approve all administrative and management decisions with Indian Oil and Gas Canada.

However it went further: developing a process to transfer control of oil and gas resources to the participating first nations. This stage also required building capacity through enhanced training. Equally critical, it entailed developing individual communication processes incorporating first nations values and beliefs to inform community members as well as industry and government.

This latter point is extremely important as we recognize that any initiatives undertaken to support first nations development must conform to the values of the first nations people affected.

In mid-2001 the three first nations entered into discussions on a framework proposal that served as the launching point for work leading to the current legislation. At this time, the first nations, which initially began this capacity building exercise, are ready to move on to the final phase of this process.

As part of this legislation, first nations choose to control the moneys derived from oil and gas activity when they choose to manage their oil and gas, or moneys in the consolidated revenue fund held by the Crown on their behalf. Opting into one or both parts of this legislation can ensure first nation governments have the tools needed to better manage their community affairs.

Bill C-54 encompasses all of these objectives for the first nations that want to opt into its provisions. There is no obligation for any first nation to take advantage of the bill.

A first nation would be able to choose whether it wishes to assume control of oil and gas resources on reserve and related revenues, assume control of moneys held in the consolidated revenue fund or both. It would be up to community members to decide.

The bill before us is a tribute to the first nations that have shown determination and the desire to acquire the skills needed to manage their own resources and moneys.

This past weekend I was pleased to participate in a first nations event in my riding of Davenport. Consistent with the aims of the bill, I witnessed the desire of first nations to manage their own future and to honour the long, rich and vibrant first nations legacy in this country.

After 10 years of hard work and dedication, the White Bear First Nation, Blood Tribe and the Siksika Nation are now ready to fully assume the roles and responsibilities for which they have been preparing for more than a decade. Should their communities decide to participate in the legislation, the sectoral self-government legislation would enable the White Bear First Nation, Blood Tribe and the Siksika Nation to assume full authority for decision making in relation to oil and gas activities and the revenues generated as a result.

It is now our responsibility to transfer the necessary authorities. I urge all hon. members of the House to support the legislation and to ensure this progress is fully realized.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Charlottetown
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I have been following the legislation as best I could this afternoon and there is one issue I want clarified. I would ask the member to perhaps explain or clarify the necessity for this particular legislation for the first nations to manage their own oil and gas resources. In other words, what new legislative capacities would this legislation give them that they cannot already do now?

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, presently there are gaps and constraints in the legislation that do not permit first nations to engage in the type of activity we want them to, which, in many ways, lead them to self-government. In particular, the oil and gas sector is an extremely important one for them because we are talking about economic controls that should be in the hands of the people who are most affected.

The present legislation has some of these gaps and constraints and this legislation would allow them to take on these steps. It is a move forward for the first nations in this country and is the reason that I would hope all members in the House will support the legislation.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is the House ready for the question?