House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rights.

Topics

The House resumed from May 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, on July 25, 2007, less than 200 Tsawwassen Indian Band members participated in the referendum on the terms of its treaty with Canada and British Columbia. A majority of the band approved of the treaty in a vote that was tainted by promises of $15,000 cash payments, free trips and other enticements not permitted by law in any other jurisdiction in Canada.

None of the million or so non-band residents in the area the treaty refers to as Tsawwassen territory, an area stretching from the Gulf Islands to Langley and Maple Ridge, will have an opportunity to vote on their treaty. Equally disturbing, the terms of this agreement were negotiated behind closed doors with next to no meaningful consultation with those most impacted by the treaty and, significantly, no formal direction from either the provincial legislature or the federal Parliament.

There was no careful consideration of the terms of this agreement before the passage of the bill by the B.C. legislature. In fact, there will be no real debate in this House. We will be setting a precedent for a new relationship between our longstanding elected governments and a new order of government created by the treaty, all without serious public discussion or parliamentary debate.

Amazingly, this treaty does not create real opportunities for aboriginal people. It will simply transfer dependency from the federal government to the new band government, but without any safeguards to ensure an equitable distribution of benefits and opportunities.

This treaty will create a company town, where the band government controls or owns virtually all the jobs and resources. This treaty bears little resemblance to the traditional free democratic governing systems by which we govern ourselves and under which a free enterprise economy allows us all to flourish.

Nowhere in this treaty are there provisions for individual rights and initiatives. We will find out too late if the structures created by this treaty will withstand the pressures of corruption, be resilient enough to provide opportunity, and ensure the protection of political and civil rights, all the while coexisting in the larger world where individual rights and a free enterprise economy are at the heart of our democracy.

Once ratified, the treaty settlement will have constitutional status and, as such, will be virtually impossible to change. We will only be able to watch as trial and error exposes the failings of a collectivist model for economic and political rights embodied in this treaty. We all know that such experiments have proved disastrous for the freedoms of people in other countries that have put collectivism ahead of individual rights and initiatives.

Moreover, the lack of serious scrutiny and open public debate about this first of a kind urban treaty, the Tsawwassen settlement, will mean that non-aboriginal people will never be able to ask the serious questions about the value of the trade-offs made to reach this settlement and their long term cost to our way of life and the kind of country we leave our children.

We will not have had the opportunity to consider the disenfranchising of the 500 or more non-Tsawwassen living on the former reserve lands now to be governed by the new Tsawwassen government, a government in which they cannot fully participate. These non-aboriginal residents on reserve lands will no longer have the opportunity to vote for those to whom they pay their municipal taxes.

We will not have had the opportunity to explore the impact on the rights of the million or so non-Tsawwassen band members living in the area designated by the treaty as Tsawwassen territory.

We will not have had the opportunity to consider the overlapping claims from other bands to the area that now forms the Tsawwassen territory.

We will not have had the opportunity to consider the impact on the Fraser River fishery, as this and future treaties largely exclude all persons without treaty rights.

We will not have had the opportunity to consider whether the loss of farmland and wildlife feeding areas will be a tipping point, leading to further destruction of farmland and wildlife.

We will not have had the opportunity to consider if the treaty was more about providing an easy way to expand the Vancouver port, with its road and rail corridor, than providing a just and final settlement of aboriginal claims.

These are some of the fundamental questions that need answers now, questions which our children and grandchildren may answer with some regret generations from now, and they may question where we stood when the mistakes were made.

Some may be surprised to know that as the member of Parliament representing the area most impacted by the treaty, my input was not sought when the treaty was being negotiated, nor has any effort been made to convince me of the worth of the final agreement.

To vote for this treaty would be to do a disservice both to my constituents, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, and to the people of my province and my country. I will not do that.

While the treaty allocates 1,772 acres to the Tsawwassen Indian Band, the band's rights under the treaty extend over the whole of their claim territory, defined in the treaty as the Tsawwassen territory. The Tsawwassen territory covers some 1,079 square miles and is home to nearly 2 million people.

The territory covers all or parts of 16 B.C. municipalities, stretching from, as I said, the Gulf Islands to Langley and Maple Ridge, including South Vancouver and Pitt Lake. In this vast territory, the band may have considerable say on matters thought the exclusive purview of municipal, provincial or federal governments.

The proposed treaty establishes a recipe for deadlock and confrontation throughout the 16 municipalities that form the Tsawwassen territory. Decisions cannot be made or work initiated on a wide range of federal, provincial and municipal matters until the consultation mandated by the treaty is completed.

There are about 30 different places in the treaty where consultation is necessary.

In the treaty, “consult” means more than merely asking someone's opinion. Its meaning and use in the context of a constitutionally protected Tsawwassen treaty borders on “asking the band's permission” and can conceivably be used as a stick to make demands on other matters long thought settled.

In the memorandum of understanding signed by the Vancouver Port Authority, the band agreed not to raise issues that would derail the environmental assessment of the container port expansion at Roberts Bank. In return, the band got a commitment from the Vancouver Port Authority to fund a container handling facility on agricultural land reserve protected farmland, as well as other concessions.

With the power to require consultation, the band acquires the power to make demands and interfere in matters in which it has no real interest. It is not inconceivable that it might want to block the expansion of a national park or a highway simply as a bargaining chip to get other governments to concede on some matter of importance to the band.

As will be demonstrated, this is a band government that is controlled in part by members living elsewhere who have only a tenuous connection to the reserve residents, a band government that will conceivably be able to block developments in Delta, Richmond, Maple Ridge or even the Gulf Islands.

Who are the beneficiaries of the treaty? Band members live in California, Washington state, Oregon, Manitoba and Ontario, as well as elsewhere in British Columbia. For many, their only connection to the Tsawwassen band is that one of their grandparents may have been a reserve resident.

No one has satisfactorily explained why Parliament should accord in perpetuity untold millions of dollars in special rights and privileges to persons who are not Canadian citizens and who have no appreciable connection with the Tsawwassen reserve or its long-time residents, and whose children and their children will in future generations have even less connection.

Payments to these new band members will mortgage the future of long-time reserve residents who Canadians assume are the primary beneficiaries of this Tsawwassen treaty. Many long-time residents will actually be in a worse position as a result of the treaty.

Bertha Williams' family has lived on the Tsawwassen reserve for generations. In a recent speech, Bertha stated:

A lot of our elders...are new to our community...They lost their status years ago. They went off, got married, they didn't want to be labeled as native...These elders...don't know our history...don't know our culture.

I have never surrendered my birthright.... I have never left my homeland....

[But] we are outnumbered...The majority of those who are voting members live off the reserve.

These are people that live in Alabama, Los Angeles...across the Prairies...They are band members but they have no intention of ever living on the reserve. Yet they are voting on our business.

A lot of them have never even visited the reserve. It is just ludicrous how they have so much to say on our livelihood...I see it as the demise of my people.

Let me take a moment to explain why Bertha Williams is upset.

In 1982 the band undertook to develop part of the reserve known as Stahaken on a 99 year lease basis. In 1982 the band had 62 members, 43 living on reserve and 19 off.

In 1985 the band distributed the proceeds from the development to existing band members. They each received some $23,000. There were then 69 members, 50 on reserve and 19 off. In June 1985, Parliament passed Bill C-31. By 1998, membership had swelled, leaving the original band members in a minority.

In 2003 it was decided that 116 new band members were entitled to the same $23,000 payment the original band members had received for the Stahaken project, plus $15,000 in interest. The cost was $3.5 million. The new members, now a majority, had no hesitation in voting themselves the $3.5 million even though it indebted and mortgaged the future of long-time members like Bertha Williams.

From that commitment to pay $3.5 million to the so-called Stahaken claimants came pressure to develop reserve land for commercial purposes, including port related development. The main proponents of the treaty and related port developments have been the Stahaken claimants.

But what about Bertha Williams?

Bertha has recently been advised that the property her family has occupied for generations is likely to be used for port development, apparently to pay off those Stahaken claimants and those band members living in California and elsewhere, whose first concerns are not about how the treaty will maintain Tsawwassen traditions but how much money it will put in their pockets now and in future years.

Prior to the initialling of the treaty in December 2006, the Vancouver Port Authority inked a deal with the band leadership that could only be seen as an enticement to okay the treaty for the new non-reserve resident members of the band.

In exchange for the long term use of the reserve lands for a rail marshalling yard, container storage and warehousing, the band would receive $47 million. The affront to long term residents like Bertha Williams is that at best their homes now would be immediately adjacent to up to 500 acres of a busy, 24/7 international port, a rail marshalling yard and all the disturbance that would entail.

A person in Bertha's place would see the property that she lives on, and which her family has owned since the reserve was created more than a century ago, expropriated for port development.

So who really gains from the port deal? Not Bertha Williams. Not the farmers who lost the best farmland in the Fraser delta. And not the hundreds of thousands of migratory birds that depend on the land for forage.

The only real winners are the new band members who live in Los Angeles or elsewhere and who may have had a grandparent who was a band member. For them, the cheques will roll in and nothing else matters.

We are now being asked to bless this environmental and human tragedy.

Canadians have been told repeatedly that after the Tsawwassen treaty is signed Tsawwassen band members will pay taxes to our federal and provincial governments just like they do. According to the Department of Finance and the B.C. Treaty Commission, the answer is no.

Tsawwassen band members will not start paying taxes to the federal government like the rest of us, nor was it ever intended that they would do so. When the Tsawwassen band members eventually pay income taxes, the money will be paid to the Tsawwassen band government, not to the federal government.

The B.C. Treaty Commission states:

--the income tax of any person (First Nation or non-First Nation) who resides on Treaty Settlement Lands will flow to the First Nation government no matter where they earn their income. The First Nation government will also receive 100% of the GST generated and 50% of the PST generated on Treaty Settlement Lands. And all First Nation government-run businesses will be exempt from income tax on profits earned on treaty lands.

When the 500 or more “non-citizens”, meaning non-band members who reside on the reserve, pay their income taxes, the money will go to the Tsawwassen band government, not to the federal government.

The Department of Finance, in a closed door briefing to band members, advised them that Canada was not seeking to gain tax revenues as a result of the treaty. Furthermore, according to the Department of Finance, most of the band's tax revenue will not come from band members, but from non-citizens living on the reserve or members of the public who might shop at stores located on the reserve. Finance estimates that the band will collect three to four times more from non-citizens than from its own band members.

Canadians have been misled. The Tsawwassen treaty is not about ensuring band members start paying taxes like other Canadians. The taxation provisions of the treaty are about the band government getting its hand on income tax, on GST and PST revenues, most of it paid by non-band members.

The Tsawwassen file agreement removes the right to vote for the majority of residents on the Tsawwassen Indian reserve. There are approximately 160 registered band members living on the reserve and about 500 persons who are not band members.

For local government purposes, the non-band members have been considered residents of Delta, and vote and pay their taxes there. These non-Tsawwassen band members, or non-citizens as they are called by the Department of Finance and the federal treaty negotiator, will now pay taxes to the Tsawwassen band, even though they have lost their right to vote and effectively participate in their local government.

The Department of Indian Affairs, in a briefing document prepared for members of Parliament, states, “The power to tax is a basic feature of governments...[I]t also serves as a means of the government's accountability”.

That is unless one is a non-citizen living on Tsawwassen lands.

There is no democratic accountability for the majority of Tsawwassen residents. How is it that this democratically elected House would even consider ratifying a treaty that would strip the overwhelming majority of residents of their full rights of citizenship?

Under the Tsawwassen treaty, the Tsawwassen band is the recipient of two allocations of sockeye salmon: a trade and barter allocation of roughly 13,000 salmon per year, which is more than double the food allocation in 2006; and a commercial allocation of 0.78% of the total allowable catch on the Fraser River, which averages out to approximately 30,000 fish per year. The combined allocation of 43,000 sockeye per year divided among the 273 band members provides approximately 157 sockeye per person per year.

In 1993 the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans and Indian Affairs undertook a study for treaty negotiators that assessed the coastline implications of the Nisga'a treaty allocation of 26 sockeye salmon per person. The study concluded that an allocation of 26 salmon per person would utilize about 30% of the available sockeye in B.C. However, the allocation in the Tsawwassen treaty is about 157 sockeye per person, or about 6 times greater than the Nisga'a allocation.

The math is pretty simple. It follows that an allocation of 157 sockeye per person would take about 180% of the available sockeye. Thus, based upon the government's own study, the Tsawwassen treaty, if replicated coast-wide, would mean the entire Fraser salmon fishery would be insufficient to satisfy Indian acclaims. Remember, the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Sparrow and Van der Peet clearly rejected the trade and barter of food fish in any claim of an aboriginal right to sell salmon.

The treaty gives the Tsawwassen government power to make laws that prevail over federal or provincial law in at least 28 areas, including child protection services for both band and non-band children living on the reserve and kindergarten to grade 12 education, including home schooling for all children.

Does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect Tsawwassen residents with regard to the actions of the Tsawwassen government? The answer, quite simply, is no.

There are also 10 outstanding, competing claims to the Tsawwassen territory. Chapter 49 says that if the government enters into another treaty that adversely affects the treaty rights of the Tsawwassen band, the government is required to provide additional or replacement rights and other appropriate remedies.

This is not a final agreement. The final agreement is a two volume document of over 460 pages and there are 7 side agreements. The House should be carefully examining its implications, and it is not.

Let the record show, the real beneficiaries of the treaty are the new band members, many living outside of Canada, and the Vancouver Port Authority, which was able to get port expansion without environmental objections from the band.

The treaty negatively impacts long standing band members and reserve residents like Bertha Williams. It will means the destruction of valuable farmland and loss of habitat for migratory birds. Its legacy will be a more segregated and divided nation.

To vote for this treaty would be to do a disservice to my constituents, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, and a disservice to the people of my province and my country. I will not do that.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Delta—Richmond East for demonstrating the courage to stand up for his convictions and to speak out and say things that may be politically incorrect, but that get to the heart and the root of some fundamental issues and values that aboriginal and non-aboriginal people embrace.

He gave a very eloquent speech. It should be required reading for anybody who is interested in this issue. He presented a very well researched assessment and analysis on this. He has done an extraordinary amount of work on it and there is a lot of background information to it. Anybody who is interested in the issue, I am sure could contact his office or look on his website, as we have, and receive that information.

For those of us in British Columbia, it is a fundamentally important issue. About one-third of the bands in Canada are in the province of British Columbia.

What is needed to change and amend the bill to enable the aboriginal people living on the reserve to really be the masters of their destiny, to have the control and accountability mechanisms that seem to be lacking in the agreement?

The hon. member eloquently spoke about the plight and the concerns of people like Bertha Williams, a band member of the Tsawwassen, that after the treaty is signed, there will be a lack of accountability.

She has spoken about the fact that many families will be excluded from the benefits of being members and that there is not necessarily an adequate and fair distribution. The checks and balances that occur between the grassroots aboriginal people and their leadership may be wanting.

What is needed to ensure that grassroots aboriginal people on the Tsawwassen reserve will have the checks and balances so their leadership can be accountable to them and they can have a fair share in what will be accrued to the reserve?

Also, there is the issue of the non-aboriginal people living on the reserve. As the hon. member said very eloquently, they pay taxes but they cannot vote. That is a fundamental violation of a person's basic rights. Could the member expand on that issue as well?

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the kind comments from my friend.

On the issue of what goes on the reserve, in any municipality in Canada one must be a resident if one is going to vote for a council which puts in place zoning by-laws. That should prevail on native reserves as well. If we are to establish local government and responsibility for local government, then the responsibility should be local. The only people who should vote on land use plans on any reserve in the country should be people who are actually resident on the reserve.

One of the issues, and it is an issue that needs addressing by Parliament, is the impact of Bill C-31. It is quite clear, when we look at membership lists, and it is very difficult to get hold of those membership lists, and talk to people on the Tsawwassen Reserve, many of them, who have lived on the reserve all their lives and whose families have never left, are offended by the fact that some who left generations ago are now reserve members and will share the benefit.

Birth is instant and with the instance of anyone living on the reserve, they are the people who, since the beginning, have put up with the noise, light and air pollution from the existing Roberts Bank terminal of the Vancouver port. It is right off the shore of the reserve. They are the ones who over the last 50 years have lived with the disturbances caused by that port. Yet the benefits of the arrangement that has been cut with the port will accrue to people with the name of Martinez who live in Los Angeles or people who live in Ottawa or Winnipeg. They are not the ones who are suffering because the port was built. It is the people who live there. Therefore, the very basis for this treaty, in fact, is undermined.

The other question about the non-aboriginals living on the reserve is a special case. This instance happened with the Westbank arrangement a couple of years ago. My view is that these people need to have the same rights as any other citizen, that if a band wants to set up an enclave where non-band members live, then those non-band members need to have the same voting rights on their taxes as other Canadians do. There can be no other way. If that must be somehow physically separated from the rest of the reserve, then so be it.

However, people should not lose their democratic rights in this way because the fallback will always come to Parliament. In the future we will be asked to justify why we allowed that to happen, and it is an explanation that I would not want to have to give.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a couple of occasions, the member in his presentation referred to the agreement and said that it was not a final agreement, that should the agreement pass, it would not be an end to the issue. If he feels this is the case, would the member explain, in some detail, why that would be the case?

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of reasons why this will not be a final agreement, but let me focus on one, the competing claims.

Eight bands have filed with the B.C. Treaty Commission with claims which overlap Tsawwassen. Two bands have not filed any treaty documents, but they also have claims on that territory. This poses a serious problem. In the treaty document it says that if any concessions are made to these bands, and eventually there will be because these bands will conclude treaties as did Tsawwassen, I am sure, the Tsawwassen will be entitled to compensation. There is no defining what that compensation means There are no limits put on it in the treaty, so it is an open-ended compensation. That in itself is troublesome.

The other implications are that with these overlapping treaties, the bands have this right to consult built into the treaty. We assume other bands will have the same and they can impact on developments in municipalities that municipalities thought were their purview. Now we will have this overlaying number of bands that will be able to ask to be consulted over matters that should be municipal.

I think the treaty will be very troublesome for local municipalities and it is one that I do not think the municipalities have really come to grips with yet.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-34. I compliment the member for Delta—Richmond East for his fine speech on this complicated issue. Perhaps one of the most important things I can do is reiterate that people ought to go to his website to see the extensive analysis he has done on this bill because it is a landmark bill. It is the first urban treaty in Canada.

I think everyone wants to see an end to the land claims issue. Aboriginal people definitely need these treaties to be negotiated and completed. They have gone on for far too long. Moneys have been drawn to areas where they should not have been and away from the absolute needs of aboriginal people living on and off reserve. Unfortunately, there is an area of the bill where there are some deep concerns.

I want to reiterate what this bill is about. It deals with about 160 band members and 500 non-resident members on the reserve. The bill would actually give $20 million to the band reserve and would distribute about 334 hectares of land.

In part, this a good thing because it would remove members of the Tsawwassen band away from the shackles of the Indian Act, a 132 year old act that, in my view, is a major obstacle to aboriginal people being masters of their destiny. The Indian Act, as governed and executed by the Department of Indian Affairs, spends about $9.2 billion a year for about 640 bands and those moneys are distributed through a staggering 1,200 organizations. As a result, only a small amount of money trickles down to the grassroots aboriginal people.

Aboriginal people are also encumbered by a structure where they are not the masters of their destiny. Do members know that aboriginal people living on reserve cannot own that land? Do members know that the lack of ownership impedes the ability of individual aboriginal members, band councils and chiefs to go to banks and borrow money. If they could borrow money, they could use it for economic development. It is heartbreaking to see band members, councils and chiefs, who desperately want to develop their land, to be hamstrung by the Indian Act which prevents them from moving forward.

Do members know that a chief on a reserve must go through a shocking six different federal departments to move forward on a plan? Why does an aboriginal chief councillor or band member need to go through six federal departments, through a period four times longer than a non-aboriginal person and are then confronted with a whole raft of rules and regulations if they want to develop? That is fundamentally wrong and it is racist.

The structure we have right now is appalling because it creates a two tiered situation. It separates aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people, not in a positive way but in a horribly negative way.

We should, in my view, have a place in our country where aboriginal and non-aboriginal people can come together in the sharing of cultures, language, art and history, and can come together in a beautiful way. In sharing those things, it enriches all of us. Unfortunately, however, there are very few opportunities for this.

Some people are trying to do this, such as Arthur Vickers, a very famous aboriginal artist in my province of British Columbia. He is now trying to lead on the pulling people together. He is building a centre where aboriginal and non-aboriginal people can come together and share their histories, their past, their future and come together as one race, and that is the human race. People like Arthur Vickers are trying to do that but it is very difficult.

Another person, Chief Russell Chipps of the Beecher Band Reserve in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, is reaching out to a community that has been devastated by sexual abuse and violence. It is a small community where many of the children have been sexually abused and many of the adults have fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects. Out of this swamp of devastation, we have the leadership of Chief Chipps and the men and women on his reserve who are trying to build something. They are building a canoe out of a very large log and are inviting aboriginal and non-aboriginal people to come to their reserve and share in the building of this canoe. What will they do with it? They will get in the canoe this summer and take it out to another part of Vancouver Island.

The beauty of this is not only in the canoe but in the wisdom of Chief Chipps and the people in his community in Beecher Bay who are trying to reach out, in the midst of the devastation, destruction and horrible socio-economic situation, with love and affection. They want to share what they have with all of us, which is the beauty of their history, their culture and their language.

Those acts of heroism should be applauded, embraced and encouraged.

The bill has some good parts but there are also some other fundamental issues that my colleague, the member for Delta—Richmond East, and people like Bertha Williams, have articulated. I did not know this, but I cannot imagine why $15,000 in bribes were given to band members to vote for this particular agreement. That is not democratic.

What are the checks and balances to ensure that members of the Tsawwassen band, those who live on the land, work the land, build for the future and build the socio-economic conditions for their people, for themselves, for their children and their grandchildren, are the people empowered to do what they need to do to share in the bounty and benefits of the land and of this country?

That is not necessarily happening. Bertha Williams and others have deep concerns and those concerns must be responded to factually but those concerns are not being responded to. I have not seen any evidence, quite frankly, that those concerns have been responded to. If they are not responded to, what does this mean for future treaties? What does this mean for aboriginal people living on reserves where these treaties are negotiated but where their rights may be trampled upon, unbeknown to most of us?

This bill is a well-meaning treaty. I know what is intended but I wonder whether our intentions will marry up with the future outcomes?

We have all seen, on too many reserves, where band leaderships have taken it upon themselves to engage in acts of nepotism that leave certain groups within their reserves completely disarticulated from their communities. The level of abuse that takes place is horrific. Could this happen? What are the checks and balances in the bill to prevent this from happening? People like Bertha Williams and the members who did not vote for this treaty, and the people on the reserve who will be confronted by this need answers. It is the responsibility of this House to ensure those questions are responded to.

People like the member for Delta—Richmond East must be at the centre of the consultation, with people like Bertha Williams and members on the reserve who have these questions. We would be abrogating our responsibility as elected people if those people who are at the heart of this did not have their say.

The bill can go forward in a constructive way or it can go forward in a way that conditions could be put in place and the law of unintended consequences could occur so that people who want to live their lives and enjoy in the bounties of their land would not be able do that.

The member mentioned a fundamental violation of rights, which is to pay taxes but not be able to vote. Could anyone imagine that we would pass legislation in this House enabling people to pay taxes but depriving them of their vote? That must be in some way be a violation of the charter and it should be challenged.

Those are the questions that need to be answered.

The other issue concerns control over housing and jobs. If this bill is passed, what would be there to ensure that band members who live on the reserve will have fair and equal opportunity for housing and job opportunities? Will that be there or will it be subject to a degree of nepotism that could run amok? We have seen that before and we cannot allow that to happen. It is too important for this to occur because of the downstream implications of this.

The other issue concerns people who are not living anywhere near Tsawwassen, or even living in other countries, but are receiving economic benefits because they are members of the band. Is that fair, reasonable and responsible? This gives money to people who have no connection whatsoever with the land in practice and takes money away from those band members who live on the reserve and who need money desperately for economic development, housing, economic opportunities and health care.

My colleague, who spoke eloquently yesterday about the aboriginal peoples, is an aboriginal woman. I am sure most Canadians do not know this but aboriginal people fall between the cracks on health care. The federal government has a fiduciary responsibility in health care but it downloads it to the provinces. The provinces say that it is not their responsibility, that it is the responsibility of the federal government. What happens to an aboriginal person who is a patient is that he or she frequently falls through the cracks. Aboriginal people are in no man's land, limbo. At a time when they are sick and they need surety in where they are going so they can receive the care they need, they fall through the cracks.

When the bill goes to committee I would strongly encourage the government not to fast-track the bill. I would ask committee members to travel to Tsawwassen to meet the people on the reserve and listen to the community, not just the community leadership, but to people like Bertha Williams on the reserve. We need to ensure the process is fair and that the voices of all the people are heard. It is our responsibility to ensure their concerns are addressed.

I also would strongly encourage the committee members to ensure that the member for Delta—Richmond East is on the committee, that they go to the reserve and that they listen to the people on the reserve who want to be in a situation where they will be the masters of their destiny.

I have another fundamental question with respect to this. Are treaties the panacea, the magic bullet, that will enable aboriginal people to truly be the masters of their destiny? Is the model of collectivism that this bill entrenches going to enhance the ability of individual aboriginal people to be the masters of their destiny or would it impede the innovation and dynamism that aboriginal people have shown for thousands and thousands of years, which is their historical birthright?

If treaties were the magic bullet, then where treaties have been negotiated one would assume that the socio-economic conditions for aboriginal people would be markedly improved, correct? If we were to use the Rocky Mountains as a dividing line, which is where those treaties were negotiated, east of the Rockies versus west of the Rockies, one would think that the socio-economic conditions for aboriginal people would be markedly better, correct? The answer is no.

The spine of the Rocky Mountains is quite an intriguing dividing line. If we look at the lives of aboriginal people east of the Rocky Mountains and look at the conditions west of the Rocky Mountains, whether we are dealing with urban or aboriginal people who live on reserve, we find the same horrific conditions that are far too prevalent: the level of sexual abuse, violence, unemployment, lack of housing, the whole incidence of FAS/FAE, the list goes on and on.

The number of aboriginal men incarcerated is 11 times higher than the number of non-aboriginal men, while the number of aboriginal women versus non-aboriginal women is a staggering 250 times greater. Can members believe that? One does not see a difference on either side of the spine of the Rocky Mountains. Both sides are the same whether there are treaties or not.

We all want to ensure there is finality to land claims. We all want to work with aboriginal people to ensure that their land issues are dealt with in a fair and secure fashion. We recognize and honour fully the importance of land to aboriginal people. We know what it means for their culture, their history and for their soul. We understand that.

Who speaks for the men and women living on reserve who cannot get employment or health care? Who speaks for the men and women living in houses that are falling down because whoever built those lousy homes essentially acted in a fraudulent fashion? How are those people going to get out of those situations? Their children have to travel nearly two hours to get to school and then another two hours to get home. Is it any wonder the dropout rate is what it is? The children are fatigued. They are wiped out by the time they get home. They cannot do their studies. They cannot participate in the extracurricular activities that children need for their development.

What do people who cannot get clean water on reserve do? Aboriginal people living on the Pacheedaht reserve in my community do not have a secure water source. The water is poisoned with iron. Six groups have been tasked to do the work on the reserve. Non-aboriginal consultants went to that reserve, did lousy work, took the money and ran. They saddled the reserve with a huge debt. Now the Department of Indian Affairs has said it is not going to give the band any more money to fix the water problem until the band finds out where the other money went. We know where the money went. It was stolen by fraudsters. Can 160 people living on reserve afford to retain a lawyer to get that money back? No. They are stuck in a situation they cannot get out of, and that is fundamentally unfair.

How can we allow this to happen? How can we allow a reserve that is desperately poor but has great economic potential to be saddled with structures that do not enable the people on the reserve to move forward? It is immoral and criminal to allow that to happen. That is not fantasy. That is happening right now. It is not only happening in my community, but it is happening in communities in many other parts of the country.

In Fort Ware, north of Prince George where I used to fly in to do medical clinics, the chief is begging for help because of the destruction to the forest caused by the pine beetle infestation. Aboriginal people are living in a tinderbox. This summer when the temperature rises they will be living in a significant fire hazard. A 200 metre barrier needs to be plowed out around Fort Ware and other communities now. If that does not happen, those aboriginal communities will be faced with a significant health hazard. They risk being burned to death.

There is an urgent need for firebreaks in communities in British Columbia. This is not an option. It is urgent because the risk of a fire is going to increase as soon as the temperature starts to rise. A spark alone could cause a fire which could raze the reserves. Where would these people go? Who would evacuate them? How would they be evacuated? Who would save their lives? They do not have any place to go.

I strongly recommend that the Minister of Indian Affairs embrace this issue wholeheartedly. This problem will occur in the coming months. All of us will work with him to ensure that the lives of these people are not put at risk, but the interventions that must occur, must occur now.

In closing, while this bill has some very good parts, there are some significant concerns. Let us send it to committee. Let us take our time. Let us work with the members of the Tsawwassen, the members who are living on the Tsawwassen reserve. Let us make sure this bill works for the benefit of the aboriginal people on the Tsawwassen reserve in a way that is fair, reasonable and just.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Given the time, I suggest that we defer the questions and comments consequent on the member's speech until following question period. I believe it is time to proceed with statements by members.

I therefore call upon the hon. member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.

Maple Ridge Citizen of the Year
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to my friend and Maple Ridge citizen of the year, Margaret Kury. Margaret received the honour on May 1 at a gala event organized by the Maple Ridge Community Foundation.

Margaret is a very active member of Branch 88 of the Royal Canadian Legion. She is a winner of the legion's Meritorious Service Medal for her tireless dedication to the community through this organization, having served several terms on the board of directors, many of them as president, and all of them as an active fundraiser and supporter of the legion's various charitable activities.

As I can attest, when Margaret is asked to volunteer for a task, everyone knows the job will be done with enthusiasm, efficiency and excellence. And I can state from personal experience that when Margaret comes to anyone's door to raise funds for various charities, people cannot say no.

I ask all members of the House to join with me in congratulating Margaret Kury, Maple Ridge's 2008 citizen of the year.

Pontian Greek Genocide
Statements By Members

May 16th, 2008 / 10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to remember the deaths of over 350,000 Greeks between 1914 and 1922. I also remember the 500,000 individuals who were made refugees during this time.

This coming Monday, May 19, the international community will mark the 94th anniversary of the Pontian genocide.

During World War I and in its aftermath, the Pontian Greek population of the Ottoman Empire faced persecution, massacres, expulsions and death marches from the historic region of Pontus, the southeastern Black Sea province of the Ottoman Empire, by the Young Turk administration.

I am a grandchild and a survivor of Pontian refugees. My grandparents were forced to flee from Pontus.

On December 15, 2007, the International Association of Genocide Scholars recognized these events as genocide. I remember all those who were victims of the Pontian genocide.

I remember those who have gone before, and those who suffered at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Long live their memories.

Environmental Organization
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, Héritage Saint-Bernard, an environmental organization in Châteauguay, won the Conscientia award presented by the Montérégie regional environmental council. This organization has already won 12 awards for its environmental achievements.

The award is in recognition of the successful school recycling program Écolvert, a green initiative the organization introduced to promote awareness among young people of future environmental problems and to encourage a civic-minded approach to nature and sustainable development. This initiative alone has helped schools reduce waste by nearly a third and triple their recycling capacity. Using innovative and original methods, Héritage Saint-Bernard wants to find more ways to reduce the waste produced by schools, while saving the environment.

I congratulate Héritage Saint-Bernard on its Conscientia award and its success in helping to make the Montérégie a sustainable development region.

Canada Post Corporation
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, nobody from Canada Post bothered to tell the senior citizens of Timmins that the local post office is no longer in the business of serving them.

Parcel post pickups have been moved out to drugstores along the highway, so senior citizens without cars can no longer go down to the post office that served them for years and get their mail.

It is not the fault of the local post office staff. They have had their hands tied. Serving the public is what they do and they do well. But under Canada Post's decision to start privatizing rural post offices, there are senior citizens in Timmins who are losing access. The Sturgeon Falls post office has closed. The Iroquois Falls post office has closed. Many other post offices are being moved and shipped off to little boxes in local corner stores.

In whose interest is this? Good local jobs are being traded off. Public service is being impacted. The vital links of a national post office system that was second to none in the world are being carved up and traded off.

It is the short-sighted rip-off of rural Canadians by that ideological driven group of buzzards known as the Conservative Party.

Museums
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, May 18 is International Museum Day. The theme for this year's celebration is “Museums as agents of social change and development”.

This year's theme is fitting because on March 13, the bill that established the Canadian Museum for Human Rights received royal assent. It is the first national museum outside the nation's capital.

In budget 2008 our government announced an additional $9 million over two years to assist the operating and infrastructure needs for the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canada Science and Technology Museum and the Canadian Museum of Nature.

International Museum Day gives us the opportunity to show our pride and celebrate Canada's heritage. This rich and multifaceted heritage is preserved in our museums and galleries across our country.

I encourage everyone to see an exhibit, take a guided tour and experience the wonders that our museums have to offer.

Gideon Qitsualik
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, it is with deep regret that I must inform the House that Gideon Qitsualik of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, passed away on April 24, 2008, at the age of 83.

Mr. Qitsualik helped launch the negotiation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and went on to serve for many years with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association. Gideon Qitsualik was very active in politics and was a council member of the Gjoa Haven Council when he passed away.

The loss of Gideon is a great loss for Nunavummiut, as he was a well respected source and strong defender of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, which is Inuit traditional knowledge. His great contribution to Nunavut's educational curriculum will be his legacy, along with his conviction that Inuit knowledge is fundamental to good governance.

I would ask the House to join me in expressing condolences to his wife, his children and grandchildren. Our thoughts are with them at this sad time.

Law Enforcement Officers
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week marks the occasion of National Police Week. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank all of the men and women in policing for their outstanding professionalism and dedication to their work.

As a former police officer and along with my four colleagues on this side of the House, who were also police officers, I am proud to belong to a party that believes tackling crime and strengthening the security of Canadians is one of its paramount responsibilities. The days of being soft on crime are over.

We have taken action to demonstrate commitment by working with the provinces and territories to provide police officers with the tools and resources necessary to do their job. As part of this commitment, a $400 million police officers recruitment fund was established to hire an additional 2,500 police officers across the country.

Policing is an extremely challenging and often dangerous occupation. Every day police officers across the country put their lives on the line for our safety. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the continuing excellence of our entire law enforcement community.