House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was communities.

Topics

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two points on this procedural issue. The first one deals with the procedural acceptability of the committee's report on this subject matter. If one were to look at the Standing Orders, one would see that the subject matter jurisdiction for ethics of members of Parliament is assigned to the procedure and House affairs committee and oddly enough, not to the access to information, privacy and ethics committee. That was a decision made by the House some time ago. In terms of pure subject matter, the ethics committee is actually not the primarily assigned committee to deal with the ethics of MPs and conflicts of interests of MPs.

However, I submit that there is another perspective on this and I am going to suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, consider that the committee, while not having a subject matter jurisdiction, may well have had a procedural jurisdiction in that one of its own members was, by reason of the decision of the ethics commissioner in the report introduced in the House, handicapped or obstructed in his work in the committee, which reported.

In a procedural way the committee itself said it had to do something about the failure to accord full rights and privileges to this member of Parliament, the member for West Nova. There may be some procedural mandate here in the hands of the committee, the colleagues on the committee, in reporting to the House the problem.

The fix of the problem, however, may not reside with the committee and I will leave that to you, Mr. Speaker, to figure out how we might do a fix if there is a fix. I submit that there was some procedural jurisdiction here that the committee has responded to and it is not so egregiously out of order perhaps as the government House leader suggests, although I do accept the jurisdictional subject matter point that he made primarily.

The last point I want to make is that I did give notice to the Chair of my intention to raise this as a matter of privilege as an individual member and under the circumstances the best thing for me to do is to await your decision on the procedural acceptability of the report from the committee. I am prepared to stand and deliver my remarks and submissions on this subject matter as a matter of privilege at your convenience, at the earliest convenient date for you, Mr. Speaker.

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be very quick. I have a few points that I want to add to this discussion and to your further deliberation on this matter.

First of all, I would like to point out that it is more than a little bit ironic that the chair of the ethics committee suggests that it should be acceptable to bring forward a report back to the House outside of the mandate.

He fully admitted it and in fact ruled that way, that this report was outside of the mandate of his committee, but he uses as an excuse the fact that the procedure and House affairs committee currently is not sitting. He uses that as an excuse.

I would point out the irony in the situation. The procedure and House affairs committee is not sitting because, as he stated, the imposed hijacking by the government. The procedure and House affairs committee is currently not sitting because the tyranny of the majority at that committee ruled a sound ruling by the chair, the member of Parliament for Cambridge, out of order, and tried to overrule it and ultimately remove that chair from his position.

The government members on that committee are determined to support the member for Cambridge and his chairmanship. It was a sound ruling when he ruled against an investigation into what opposition members called the so-called in and out financing of the Conservative Party of Canada in the last election campaign. They wanted that committee to be seized with an investigation and the chair ruled that it was beyond the mandate of the committee.

That issue, as you know, Mr. Speaker, is before the courts. There is an ongoing dispute between the Conservative Party of Canada and Elections Canada on the interpretation of the election laws and the chair, the member for Cambridge, ruled that out of order.

Subsequently, the majority, made up of opposition members, overturned his ruling. It is exactly the same situation that happened to my hon. colleague, the member for Mississauga South, when he ruled something out of order and as he fully admits it is out of order, it is beyond the mandate.

So the very thing that you, Mr. Speaker, warned about in your ruling is coming about more and more often, that the tyranny of the majority is alive and well in committee. Sound judgment, sound rulings by the committee chairs are overturned by the majority because they do not like them for partisan political reasons.

There are other options. The member for Mississauga South asked what are the other options without the procedure and House affairs committee sitting? It is the rightful committee that should have dealt with this issue or should be dealing with it is perhaps a better term. A party could obviously bring forward an opposition motion and get a vote that way. There are votable opposition motions if this is really of such huge importance that we have to deal with it immediately. We could deal with it that way.

The member from Bathurst, a few moments ago, said that we need to find a solution. I agree with him that we need to find a solution. I think the solution is quite simple. When the chairs of committees make a sound procedural ruling that is supported by the clerk of the committee, the committee has to uphold and respect that ruling. That is not too difficult. That is what happened in the past. The solution is simple. All committees should follow the rules and respect the rules, the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Then we will not have this problem.

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

We are getting a little beyond the point of order that was initially raised and that deals with the admissibility of this report.

What goes on in the procedure and House affairs committee, in my view, is quite irrelevant to the argument that is currently before the House as to the admissibility of this committee report.

The hon. member for Mississauga South in his argument admitted that this committee report appeared to be beyond the scope of the committee because the Standing Orders give the powers to another committee, but because that other committee was not functioning therefore this committee did the work.

In my view that does not sound like an argument that is going to work with me. Because of the fact that a committee is not functioning or is not doing its job or is not filing a report does not mean others then get jurisdiction just because the committee that has the jurisdiction did not do it.

If the committee had done a report that was unpopular with the ethics committee, that does not give it jurisdiction to then come in with another report on the same subject and say “we don't like this one, so here's an alternative”. That is not the way the rules in my view ought to be interpreted.

However, I am not going to give a final ruling on this matter today. I will review the remarks that were made by all the hon. members who contributed to the discussion.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, the Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip and the hon. member for Mississauga South for their comments.

I think they have all been very helpful in this case. I will review them all and then come back to the House in due course with a ruling as to the propriety of this committee report and its acceptability as such in the House, given the Standing Orders. I will say right off, it will be a tougher one, I think, to argue that this is in order than not, given the state of the Standing Orders on this point. I do not think we need to get into a lengthy discussion about what is going on in the other committee, because in my view it is irrelevant to the point before us.

Is the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst rising on another point?

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

On another point, Mr. Speaker, just for the record, at the committees we have the right to challenge the Chair. That is what we have done and that is in the rules. It is not because the chair decides one way that he is the master of the committee, because the committee is its own master, and the decision was taken by the majority of the committee. That is directly in the rules. I want to set the record straight.

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no argument on that. The rules of the House used to allow for appeals from the rulings of the Speaker, and the House in its wisdom many years ago got rid of that provision, and I am very thankful for that.

I agree, committee chairs' rulings can be appealed. It is part of the rule and the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst is quite correct in pointing that out.

Is the hon. parliamentary secretary rising on this point also, or is this another point?

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale
B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I just want to point out that a moment ago the member for Scarborough—Rouge River suggested that it might be appropriate for the ethics committee to have ruled on this particular matter, because the member for West Nova, over whom this matter was first raised by the Ethics Commissioner, was a member of the ethics committee.

I simply want to point out that the member for West Nova was not and is not a regular member of our committee, the ethics committee, so I think that should be set aside.

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for the clarification. As I say, I will examine all these matters in coming to a decision on this matter and will come back to the House shortly.

The House resumed from May 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C-47, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-47, the act respecting family homes situated on first nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves.

Some people who were speaking to this yesterday brought a lot of dimension to the very difficult situation that exists on first nations reserves. This legislation is necessary because at the moment there is no legislation to which people can turn when there is a need for matrimonial real property laws. This is also an issue of human rights for women and children who live on reserve. Really, it is a human rights issue for the families.

The Liberal Party is certainly a great supporter of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and we do support this measure to extend matrimonial real property rights to first nations. While the Liberal opposition supports the intent of the bill, we do not support the unilateral process taken by the federal government to introduce this piece of legislation.

I am going to speak more on matters of governance and capacity building, also in support of why we would like the federal Conservative government to listen to the people and take the road of real partnership and consultation. What we have been trying to say for the last two years as members of the aboriginal community, members of the aboriginal affairs committee and our party is that if we want to see real solutions in our aboriginal communities, there has to be real partnership and collaboration, and that they not be token gestures.

For me, real partnership is going to be based on respect, collaboration, courtesy and compromise. The negotiations would be on the level of diplomacy that I think most of our communities are very good at. All our aboriginal communities are interested in seeing their communities move forward to being healthier and safer for everyone who lives in those communities, whether they are on reserve or off reserve. These are our homes, our lands and areas of great historical connection. These are communities in which we are going to continue to live.

Of course we want to look for solutions that will see healthier communities able to take care of their own and offer solutions. In order to take steps that will move our communities forward, we need to also look at the governance issues. We need to give people an opportunity to be part of the solution, and to offer solutions to issues that are coming before us, in particular for reserves that have been under the rule of a 130-year-old law, the Indian Act.

We know that none of the solutions is going to be quick. History has a way of coming back and making it very difficult for our people to move forward, especially with people who have lived under the Indian Act.

We were reassured when the government came into power and sought the advice of the aboriginal community, especially by appointing Wendy Grant-John to engage in consultations with the people. NWAC was involved. The aboriginal communities were involved. She came back with a report that many people were comfortable with as the basis from which some legislation would come forth. I am sad to say that none of that seems to have made it into Bill C-47.

NWAC and the AFN have put out press releases giving their opinions on Bill C-47, and they have not been complimentary. They feel that all the work they did in helping with the consultation was not taken into consideration. The communities feel that they have been let down. As with the specific claims process, there was praise given to the government for allowing them to be part of the decision making and working with them to produce the act.

We all know that any legislation that comes to this House will not have the support of each and every person out there. However, as a government and having been in government, we feel that we can move forward with a piece of legislation when many people acknowledge that it is a work of collaboration and good consultation. People feel it is one which they can live with and support, given that they will be given a chance to report on it in three to five years, depending on what is in the legislation and that there will be some opportunity to make some improvements to it. Once there is that kind of feedback from the people who are going to be impacted by the legislation, then we know that there is an opportunity that the legislation will actually be implemented and supported by the communities. However, that is not the case with Bill C-47.

I remember when we worked on the First Nations Land Management Act, some bands were quite skeptical that another piece of legislation was dealing with a tiny piece of the Indian Act instead of an overall deletion of the Indian Act.

I have been a member of Parliament for almost 11 years now, and I am proud to say that I am probably the only member of Parliament who has stayed on one committee for the whole term. I have the good fortune of being able to remember how many pieces of legislation have gone through our committee and the number of witnesses that we have heard from all over on the different pieces of legislation that have come before our committee.

When the First Nations Land Management Act came in, there was some skepticism, but after it was implemented and people started to see the benefits for their own bands, they were very open to trying it out. It was voluntary, but more people were applying to go into that regime than the act was capable of taking on. If we do that type of work with the communities and try to help them in their capacity building and in their own governance, I think we will see more success with legislation being put forth that concerns aboriginal people in this country. Because there was cooperation and less conflict, people were open to suggestions. That is what we want to see with legislation that comes forth. We want people to feel that they can contribute, try something out and see whether it will work for their communities.

We do not want to see intimidation. We do not want to see heavy-handed approaches, which is how a lot of decisions were made in the past, especially in the 1960s and even before that, where someone in Ottawa made decisions and told the community what would have to be done. We had no say in any of that. It does not produce good governance or cooperation from the people. It alienates everyone who might have wanted to cooperate to make his or her community a better place to live.

I am sure most Canadians know now that most of the land in our communities are communally owned. I know we are not bound by the Indian Act in Nunavut, but our land is community owned. We have to always take this into consideration when we make any legislation that deals with how one disposes of property, homes or, in this case, matrimonial real property.

Because of these special situations, we need to have an understanding of what solutions will work. This is why it is so important to have the members of a community behind any legislation that will affect their lives.

We know violence affects many homes, whether they are aboriginal communities or not. Unless we have programs to help people, we will not see a lessening of that. Having strictly legal measures to deal with this issue is not the answer. There has to be non-legislative measures also alongside legal measures. That was a very strong point put forth by NWAC, the National Women's Association of Canada. Not only do we need the legal measures and the law that people can go to for assistance, but we also need the measures in the community that will help women usually and children in these cases.

As I said, when I started this debate, we very much support seeing legislation that will help these communities, but how we go about it is fundamental in whether it will be accepted and implemented to the extent that it could help people more if there were more collaboration with the community.

We live in a day and age now where we want to solve more conflicts in the world peacefully and by involving the very people who are in the conflict. We cannot just go in, take over and decide this is the way things should be done. That certainly does not exclude our aboriginal communities. This is what we want to see. We are not saying that there should not be legislation to help families, especially the women and children, but we want to do it in a way that will work.

We are beyond the days of someone saying that they know best how to deal with our communities. It is very sad that we cannot take an opportunity like this to work with the people and have them help Parliament to address the very issues that sometimes end up putting a lot of children in care and our aboriginal people in jail. I do not think families get a real chance to stay together and work things out.

When these children go into care, or some other facility, or jail, it creates another breakdown where one loses their language or their culture, and it is very difficult to heal from that. We cannot keep inflicting damages on communities when we are still trying to recover from mistakes made in the past, such as residential schools, community relocations, people who lost their status and were reinstated, but with no resources for a smooth implementation. We cannot expect communities to move forward in a healthy and safe way when they do not have the capacity to deal with other social situations.

If we do not take into consideration the fact that we have to give the bands the ability to work together with different levels of government, then surely the legislation will fail in the key point, and that is to help women and children live safer and healthier lives.

We all want that. I do not think anyone here will argue that we all have the same goal, but it is how we do it. I cannot emphasize enough that we have to do things the right way with collaboration from the people, with solutions from grassroots. Surely we should know by now that the way we have done things in the past does not work.

I want to see the legislation in committee so we can hear from different witnesses, good experts in this matter, and hopefully see amendments that will improve it.

Committee work is all about that. It is about trying to improve the legislation that comes before us. In the past at committee our experience has shown that the government takes these as attacks, not opportunities to improve legislation. As parliamentarians, our job, as we sit in these chairs inside this chamber, is to provide the best laws and policies we can for our country, to improve it and make it a better country.

Canada is the best country in the world to live. I have seen that as I have travelled a few times internationally. We have a lot to offer, but we also have a lot to learn. The fact that we are open to different ideas and ways of doing things gives a lot of hope to Canadians. They have seen actual changes happen in committee as a result of our listening to witnesses.

We cannot please everyone and come up with the perfect piece of legislation, but at the end of the day, if we all work together, we can come up with legislation with which everyone can live. In a country as diverse as we are, to produce legislation that a lot of people can actually support is a great accomplishment.

I look forward to seeing the legislation in committee. I look forward to hearing from different witnesses. Hopefully we can improve it and make it legislation that communities will be proud to implement.

All those bands will welcome the opportunity to have this type of legislation to work with on their reserves. I do not think we will hear people say that they do not support some kind of legislation, or some kind of rule, or tools or capacity building that will make their reserves healthier and safer communities for their women and children.

When the legislation goes to committee, I strongly urge the government to be open to witnesses and to amendments. No one is arguing that this is not the time for the legislation. It is how we do it, how we implement it and whether we put the resources with it to ensure the communities can work with it in a positive way.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

4:15 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 appreciate the intervention of the member for Nunavut in this regard as she has a long career of advocating on behalf of first nations, Inuit and Métis people throughout Canada.

I would like to explore a few of her comments. She indicated that, as a government, we had not included any of the ministerial representative's recommendations in the bill. In fact, a number were incorporated in the bill, including providing basic protections for individual residents on reserves during and after the breakdown of a conjugal relationship, balancing individual rights with collective rights, including the opportunity for first nations to exercise their law-making responsibility in this area, as well as providing for an initiative that will bring about a centre of excellence.

The member comes from a territory within Canada, where individuals have full access to matrimonial real property, as do I, as a Métis citizen from Winnipeg. The people of my community in Manitoba, who live off reserve, have this opportunity. It is something I know she believes needs to be extended.

In light of the fact that the bill provides first nations with the opportunity to develop their own codes on this matter, does the member not believe this is basically the ultimate opportunity to opt out of what we provide as legislation should a first nation believe it needs additional requirements within its code? Does she not see that as a great reason to support the bill?

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge that maybe I should not have said “any”. However, the overall feedback we are getting from the communities that are going to be affected is the government is being selective in the points it is putting into the legislation. One of the comments is the legislation does not recognize first nations governments, which is fundamental. If we are going to recognize and give credence to the bands as the law-making, or the band having the power to make rules and laws for their reserves, then I go back to my first statement of doing token measures.

If we are not going to recognize people as having the jurisdiction to make changes in their community, then we are only going halfway. The way the bill is written, they feel this could intrude on their jurisdiction and law-making practices. There is no planned transition period and support for first nations capacity building and development. If we are to give them the ability to make their own codes, then we have to give them the resources to do the research, to be able to implement them properly. It is fine and dandy to say to people that they can do a certain thing, but not give them the capacity to do it, or to have the people know what their rights are. If they do not know their rights, they will not exercise them.

If we give the law-making ability to make their own codes, and I know some of the land claims agreements have their own codes but they built into them the capacity and the resources with that, then we can work with the first nations to produce those codes. However, they need the money to research them. They need the money to consult with the people as to what those codes are. I know some of those codes are even higher than some of the provincial legislation, so it has been done. It is not like we have to reinvent the wheel.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Valley Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague serves the largest riding in Canada and serves with distinction. Anywhere in her riding is a long way from Ottawa.

Some of the points that she just made have a direct impact on my riding. In her riding, she must fly everywhere. I represent 21 first nations in northern Ontario and I must fly to them all the time. Roughly one-quarter of all the fly-ins in Canada I serve in the Kenora riding.

One of the things she talked about just recently was the capacity. Even the most sophisticated urban reserves that have communities on them have resources or have access to resources. When we get to the remote sites that she serves and that I serve in northern Ontario, those challenges can be escalated. They do not have any resources and they have no information. They know nothing or very little of what is going to happen. We can feel the apprehension in these communities when we travel to them.

I would suggest that the hardest areas to serve are the remote sites, the fly-in sites, because the resources are not there. Unless they are specifically identified, these people will not have the opportunity to participate or to have the information and they will not be able to move this issue forward in any way. I think they will be afraid of this legislation.

I would like to hear her thoughts on those comments on the remote sites.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for pointing that out. In this country we expect a certain level of services, whether it be in education, health, corrections or legal aid. We all have the expectation that every Canadian has access to services but in some of the smaller communities, such as those in his riding and in mine where there could be only 300 people, they do not have the services in that community to meet the needs of the people.

In many of those cases, the women and children are flown out, usually to a southern municipality, away from their home, their school and their work, in order to deal with a marriage breakdown. That is a reality.

We need to have an understanding of the special needs that are going to be inflicted on these small communities. Unless they are given the resources and the capacity building, it will be very difficult to offer any services that are required by this legislation.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

May 14th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my Liberal Party colleague for her presentation on Bill C-47. She is obviously well versed on this subject given that she has sat on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for a number of years.

I would also like to point out that she was part of the previous government when an agreement was made with first nations stating that each time legislation concerned them and could change their way of life, the government had to consult them.

In this regard, be it with Bills C-44, C-21, C-30 or C-47, is the current government consulting and respecting this agreement?

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, that topic of the duty to consult is an area that every government needs to take to heart. If the people feel that they were not part of the decision making, the policy making and the drafting of legislation, it will be very difficult for any government, no matter which party is in government, to get full cooperation on implementing a piece of legislation if the people feel they were not part of it. One of the key points to introducing any legislation is that there must be proper consultation.