House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.

Topics

Child Care
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have one last petition signed by a number of my constituents in the Prince Rupert area of British Columbia that puts the truth to the lie of the Conservative child care support program. The petitioners call upon Parliament to re-enact the $1.2 billion in spending to provide high quality, accessible, affordable and community based child care systems in this country. We have waited too long. Let us get on with actually doing something for families.

Questions on the Order paper
Routine Proceedings

June 19th, 2006 / 3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer) Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Before he was interrupted by question period, the hon. member for West Nova had three minutes remaining for his speech.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, about one hundred minutes ago I stood in the House to address this motion by the member for Winnipeg South Centre, a very good motion, and it is a little difficult one hundred minutes later to resume with exactly the same tone and at the same place.

I ask the House to imagine what it would be like should the government find the maturity to resume the discussions on Kelowna. The longer it waits the more difficult it is. I would ask the government to reconsider this seriously. I would ask all members of the House to look at the motion and support it, because we are at an opportune time in our country, in our nation, in our federation, where the economy is the best that it has ever been. For eight years we have had surplus budgets. We have resources. We can look toward financial resources for the future.

I believe it is incumbent upon us as a people to make sure that nobody is left behind, that we work together to make sure that those who are suffering the most or have the most difficulties get the assistance that is necessary, not welfare and not charity, but real and reasonable investments in the form of partnerships, in the form of a mature relationship, government to government to government. To me that is what Kelowna represents. Kelowna represents a chance for these communities to look to the future.

When I sat on the government side of the House and listened to the members in opposition speaking about their concerns and what they would do, it was completely different from what we have seen. The minute the government came into power the first thing it did was cancel that historic agreement. I would ask the government to return to it.

I see aboriginal communities, native communities and the Mi'kmaq community in my neighbourhood doing very well. Based on the resources, we have to go further than that. We have pitted people against people in a fight for a limited resource. Who is going to get the biggest amount of a finite resource? We have the fight in fisheries. We are looking at forestry now.

I think those communities deserve, as we do, to be able to participate in all sectors of our economy. They deserve, as we do, to know that their children are growing up in a healthy environment where they have safe water, good waste water treatment, adequate housing and not too many people per house, and where they need not be fearful of pandemics or diseases such as tuberculosis.

In my little community of Yarmouth, we have the risk of an outbreak of tuberculosis, with 700 people having to be tested a couple of times. I can tell members that this puts fear into the community.

First nations communities are facing that daily. They do not see any change. They must be very frustrated and disappointed. For once there was an agreement with them, the federal government and the provincial governments, an agreement that shone a light, gave them potential and was a place to start.

I encourage all House members to support this motion, to reassure these people and all Canadians, by proving that we are working together to ensure a better future for all of our citizens.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the comments that the member for West Nova made in the seven minutes before question period broke up his speaking time. He was speaking in relation to the troubling situation that this new government has inherited. He spoke to the last period of time and having issues associated with it specifically for aboriginal people. There is no denying that there are many issues that we as a government have inherited.

He made reference to the phrase “when you buy the dog you get the fleas” in relation to the issues we have inherited. It seems to me that referring to these issues as fleas is very offensive. Perhaps his first language is not English, so maybe he would want take a look at that statement one more time and further clarify it for me.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I was quoting a member of another opposition party who used that comment in the House once to say that there are some very difficult problems. There are some problems that are not going to be easy to resolve. The worst thing we can do is hide from them or stand back from them. I think we have to look at them in a serious manner.

I would ask the member to first consider that the Conservatives should not say that “they” have inherited this problem. This is our problem. All Canadians have participated for over 135 years in creating the problems that are out there in those communities. It is time to participate in the solution and to do that in an honest manner.

The question that has not been raised here today is about what we should have seen at the last federal election. The people in these communities are underrepresented at the ballot box. They tend not to vote in the same numbers as the non-aboriginal community. If we wonder why, let me say it seems to me that they do not have any confidence. They do not have any confidence that Parliament and the government are going to have the proper effect, although the potential is there. The cancellation of this historic accord I think shows that they have reason to be apprehensive.

We had the provincial governments and the federal government getting together for years of negotiations and discussions on how this was going to be addressed. Finally we had one step in the right direction, not the solution to all problems, but a good step in the right direction, which was summarily cancelled after an election. Contrary to all the statements that I heard from the Conservative side of the House prior to the election on their desire to work with the first nations of this land, the Conservatives cancelled this agreement. This is the root of and the foundation for solutions to our many problems that we jointly share.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about the aboriginal community not having confidence in government. We cannot really blame them. There have been so many empty promises. There have been endless consultations. There have been commissions. There have been promises. There have been red books. There have been discussions. There have been announcements and press conferences. Yet we have seen over and over again that announcements have been made but the money has not been spent.

We are here today considering a motion that I hope will pass, but I do not know whether it is empty rhetoric or not. I think what we need to do is come together and not look at the past, because we are all guilty. It does not matter which party.

The NDP has been very clear on what we would do, but as we have heard, so many times there have been broken promises. The discussion has been going around in circles. I would like to ask the hon. member a question. If the motion passes, what does he think would be one of the top priorities that can be done immediately by the Conservative government? Other than the Kelowna accord, what concrete action can be taken immediately?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for this excellent question. I do not necessarily have an answer to it and perhaps it is not up to me to have one. This was the beauty of the Kelowna accord. In fact, no single person or specific level of government was expected to have all of the answers.

First nations communities are very diverse. Such communities have all kinds of differences. They have different capabilities and different challenges to overcome.

This accord facilitated a partnership between the communities and the federal, provincial and territorial governments in order to work on the various problems, using the various qualities that exist from one community to the next. We were getting closer to reaching our goal, but only the bigger challenges were addressed. The motion mentioned health care, housing, education and economic opportunities.

In our communities, whether in Toronto or Baie Sainte-Marie, Nova Scotia, as Canadians, we all deserve the same opportunities, the same solutions and the same security. I believe it is entirely legitimate that these communities want the same thing and it is only reasonable to admit that the existing structures and systems are inadequate. We have seen some success, but there were many shortcomings. I therefore believe that we should go back to the Kelowna accord.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House today to join my colleagues in discussing this extraordinarily important resolution and follow on the wise words of my colleague and friend, the member for West Nova. As he put it well to the House, this is an issue and a matter which far transcends in many ways the nature of the resolution itself. It is about Canada and our future.

It is not just about a province like Saskatchewan where some 50% of the population is made up of aboriginal people. It is not just about British Columbia, which is undergoing enormous social problems of adjusting on how to manage this extraordinary issue. It is not just about the member for West Nova's own province where we have seen picket lines in fisheries and disputes that pit neighbours against one another. It is not just about the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon where aboriginal people are controlling their own destinies now in a way which makes us proud as Canadians.

It is also about my riding of Toronto Centre where there is a large aboriginal community. I go to the council fire and attend aboriginal events, and find people living in despair, in conditions that we would really find unacceptable.

Basically, it is about us as Canadians finding a way in which we can deal with a challenge that is basically unacceptable, an embarrassment to Canada and Canadians, and an international concern for people around the world as they look at one of the wealthiest countries in the world and ask themselves how it can be that Canada, with all its success, resources, goodwill and ability to work on issues, has not been able to find in its long history a way of resolving this extraordinary issue.

My own formation is as a lawyer and colleagues in the House might find that an unfortunate background to come to such an important issue as this, but it is rather remarkable that in fact it has been the courts of our country that have been dealing with this issue rather than the politicians over the years. It has been the adversarial nature of the life of our aboriginal leaders that I have spoken about so many times that they have found so difficult.

In fact, in order to get justice in the world, instead of being able to turn to and get understanding from our political institutions, they have had to turn to the courts. I am proud of the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sparrow case established the special trust relationship that we owe to our aboriginal people.

In Delgamuukw, section 35 of the Constitution was interpreted and guaranteed the aboriginal use of land. Marshall was a case which troubled my colleague from West Nova's own province so much, but which gave a wise solution to something that was creating huge social disorder. The Calder case resulted ultimately in the Nisga'a agreement, an agreement of which all of us are extremely proud.

My friends on the opposite side of the House may not recall, but I was in the House some years ago when we debated the Nisga'a agreement until the middle of the night. It was an agreement which was revolutionary in the sense that it gave people a sense of control over their own destiny. It was nothing more, really, than a sophisticated municipal government level of control over themselves, but it enabled them to control their resources and how their population would survive in the 21st century in a way that made us so proud.

That was fought so hard by so many in the House but, in turning the page, if we look back those who opposed that with such ferocity would today say it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do, as I think it is the right thing to do today, not to turn our back on the Kelowna accord for the same reasons.

These have been complex cases. I have had the opportunity to argue some of them. They pit treaty people against non-treaty people. They pit aboriginal rights against extinguishment. They drag in the jurisprudence from the United States of America, South Africa, Australia, and other countries with a common law tradition about what is the responsibility that the Crown owes to people of aboriginal origin in their countries.

They even bring in international cases. Everyone may recall the Lovelace case, a case that went to the international commission on human rights and which determined that women were being discriminated against by virtue of our Indian Act in a way that forced this country to change our own Indian Act because we were required to do so by international law and international pressure.

In my view, Kelowna turned the page. It created a new framework for discussing the settlement. As was eloquently said this morning by the member for Winnipeg South Centre, in her opening statement in this House, she referred to the remarks of the premier of British Columbia, for whom this is so important, the premier of Saskatchewan, and the premier of Quebec, who said that failure was not an option, the time had come to move ahead.

That was the message I got when I travelled across the country recently, meeting the Manitoba chiefs in Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, going with my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, attending with him in his riding, and meeting people on the ground who said that we changed the tone, we changed an attitude.

We replaced this confrontation with cooperation. We created new hope. We had an opportunity to change things. But we are now wasting this opportunity.

I think that is a difficulty that we have as we speak in the House because when we contrast the past and the adversarial nature, look at what we can do when in fact there is political leadership. Look at it domestically. Look at what happened when we had the Yukon and the Northwest Territories agreements. Look at the cooperation that now takes place over our resources, the Mackenzie pipeline. When Mr. Justice Thomas Berger did his report, he said there would never be any cooperation among people, but today people are coming together because they have a buy-in. They have a sense that it is their problem; it is a common problem.

That is what Kelowna was about. It was not just about the money, but for heaven's sake, the money was there, $5 billion, it was booked. It was more than the money. It was the sense that the communities had come together, the premiers had come together, and the Prime Minister of Canada had come together with all of the various communities represented. Money was committed, but we ourselves were committed to solving these problems.

I have seen what we can do when we work together. I have been to the riding of the member for Nunavut of whom we are very proud in what she does in her riding. I have seen what is happening up there and the challenges that are in our north and our arctic as climate change takes place. However, people are meeting these challenges. We can only deal with that in cooperation.

If members could have attended, like I did when I was the foreign minister, the Arctic Council, with representatives of our aboriginal people, the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, and the Athabasca Nation. They sat there at the table, they looked at our Russian colleagues, American colleagues and Norwegian colleagues. They talked of the Sami nations across the pole. They spoke of what their future was at the pole. They spoke about climate change. They told us the way ahead. This is what our aboriginal people do for us internationally.

The same thing was true in Quebec City at the Summit of the Council of the Americas where we had our aboriginal people present. I had the Mexican foreign minister say to me, “Send us some of your aboriginal people. Help us solve the problem of Chiapas. You can help us”. I have talked to our aboriginal leaders who have been in Mexico helping the Mexicans with their problems. I was in Chile with the leader of the Nisga'a nation when he spoke to the Chilean authorities and he went to islands there and helped negotiate with native people in their country, showing them how we can solve problems.

This is what cooperation leads to, as opposed to the adversarial system which we lived for so long in this country.

In conclusion, if we read the cases, and I would urge any member to read these cases, some of them are dry, boring legal cases. All cases tend to be dry and boring, but these tend to be the least dry and boring, if I may say. I read one, the Gitksan case, in which one of the chiefs said to the court, “The land, the plants, the animals and the people all have spirit, they all must be shown respect”.

That is what we would like in this House today, respect for an attempt to find a solution to this; not an approach that is partisan; not an approach that seeks to divide Canadians one from the other; and not to say, “Hey, we're doing something. You didn't do anything over 13 years”. We got somewhere. We had a new opportunity.

I beg of members, as the member for West Nova did, to say we learn from one another. Let us strengthen our country and our society. Let us work together for our environment, for the traditional roles of our aboriginal people on reserves or in nature, and for the new challenges in our urban spaces. We can also learn that the starting point is, as the chief said in Gitksan, respect; respect for one another and respect for an ability as Canadians to come together to find a solution which is not tolerable in a 21st century country as wealthy, prosperous, privileged and blessed as we are.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, in 1997 I came to this House with the Reform Party as the official opposition. In 1993 we came as the third party, but then we made official opposition under the leadership of Preston Manning. He asked me in 1997 to do some work across the country with aboriginal communities, dealing with grassroots natives from coast to coast.

In 1997, 1998 and 1999, I spent nearly two and a half years travelling the country, locating people in every province from the grassroots level, calling for accountability. The hon. Leader of the Opposition may remember such names as Leona Freid, the leader from a Manitoba grassroots community, the work on Aboriginals for Financial Accountability with Roy Littlechief, and a whole bunch of names I could bring up from every province.

At the end of that period of time, all of the grassroots people got together and filled out a very huge report about the problems on the reserves and the squalor. I want this leader to know that I went into their homes. I spent time sharing bread with people living in squalor. What little they had, they were willing to share.

We begged the government at that time. I asked questions numerous times, as did many of my colleagues, explaining the situation and asking the Liberals to take that report, look at it, and really start dealing with the down to earth problems. In every election, four of them in a row, there was a promise in every throne speech that the Liberals were going to address the squalor that was so terrible and they were going to do it in their budgets, and it only got worse. From 1993 to 2006, it got worse.

Could the member explain to me why they ignored the grassroots people across this country and that beautiful report they put together, which the minister in this party has finally taken down, blown the dust from it and had a look at?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, perhaps one of the reasons, with all due respect, has a little to do with the tone of the member's question that it is our fault, pointing the finger, looking across the House and saying that we have not done this, they did that, and everything else.

What the member for West Nova and I were saying earlier, and what all members have said in the House, is that if we are going to solve this problem, we have to come together as Canadians.

Kelowna, whatever the faults of the past, was an opportunity to turn the page.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

So was that report.