House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Balanced Refugee Reform Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an area that sometimes has a fine line. We want to establish laws that would not encourage unscrupulous, crooked consultants to exploit the law by bringing in large numbers of claimants who are not really refugees or who face no human terror on compassionate grounds to stay in Canada.

We also want to ensure that people can present their case, including those people who have been tortured, have suffered domestic violence or have been raped. Sometimes it takes a while for people to describe their experiences and sometimes they may end up hiring a person to coach them who gives them the wrong information. Then, through no fault of their own, they end up messing up their case even though at the end of the day they do have a very genuine case.

There is a fine balance as to how important it is that people are given a chance to present the human terror on compassionate ground consideration.

I want to thank the minister for working with all of us and accepting these kinds of amendments which, initially, were not part of the bill. I am very thankful that what we have today allows refugees to have a fair hearing.

Balanced Refugee Reform Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to recognize the minister, the NDP critic and the members of the opposition parties, the Bloc and the Liberals, for accomplishing something very substantial in a minority government.

I want to quote from an article in the Canadian Encyclopedia for the year 2000 regarding comments on the previous Liberal minority government of Pearson just to show what a minority government can accomplish. It reads as follows:

For all its superficial chaos--

Does that sound familiar?

-- the Pearson government left behind a notable legacy of legislation: a Canada Pension Plan, a universal medicare system, a unified armed force, a new flag and a revised transport Act.

I could read another quote but I will not. The fact is that minority government accomplished much more in that period than many majority governments. I hope this will be a new beginning in terms of working in a minority situation to get things done.

Balanced Refugee Reform Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, it is a new beginning and I look forward to the next bill, which deals with crooked consultants, something for which I have been pushing. I am sure the immigration committee will again work with the minister to bring that bill back to the House of Commons. Then maybe we can get unanimous consent on the crooked consultants bill and crack down on them.

Balanced Refugee Reform Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Balanced Refugee Reform Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Balanced Refugee Reform Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Balanced Refugee Reform Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Balanced Refugee Reform Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

First Nations Certainty of Land Title act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

moved that Bill C-24, An Act to amend the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act and another Act in consequence thereof, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

First Nations Certainty of Land Title act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, if there is a single defining feature of our government's approach to aboriginal issues, it is our determination to make a measurable and lasting difference in the lives and livelihoods of Canada's aboriginal people. Bill C-24, the first nations certainty of land title act, provides firm evidence of the government's progress in delivering results.

I thank the members of the House for endorsing speedy passage of Bill C-24. Like me, they recognize that the bill will benefit first nations interested in pursuing commercial real estate development projects on reserve and particularly the Squamish Nation in British Columbia, which is awaiting passage of the bill.

When we launched the new federal framework for aboriginal economic development last June, I noted that it represented a fundamental change in the federal government's approach to aboriginal economic development. It reflects significant, real and growing opportunities for aboriginal people to become full participants in the mainstream Canadian economy as entrepreneurs, employers and employees and it underscores our government's commitment to provide the tools, resources and support they need to maximize this potential.

It also means finding creative ways to get around the Indian Act, the source of many of these problems, in order to unleash the untapped economic potential of countless first nations.

There are several pieces of legislation currently in place that enable communities to achieve their economic development goals. These include the First Nations Land Management Act, the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act, the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act and the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act. This is the legislation we are now amending with Bill C-24.

The First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act grants authority for the federal government to make regulations at the request of a first nation. The act provides for the establishment of project-specific regulatory regimes to allow major first nation economic development projects to proceed. It enables the federal government to replicate the necessary provincial laws and regulations to allow communities to pursue complex, large-scale commercial and industrial development projects on reserve land, projects which would not otherwise be possible.

The First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act was developed with the active engagement of the Squamish Nation of British Columbia, Fort McKay First Nation and Tsuu T'ina Nation of Alberta, Carry the Kettle First Nation of Saskatchewan and Fort William First Nation of Ontario. All of these communities recognize the need for this legislation to help them capitalize on the economic prospects for their lands and resources to generate employment and increase prosperity for their citizens.

First nations are keen to pursue major commercial and industrial projects on reserve lands. However, all too often, such projects are delayed or put at risk due to regulatory gaps. That is because some provincial laws dealing with commercial and industrial activities do not apply to reserves. That is precisely the situation currently facing Squamish Nation as it attempts to undertake a major commercial real estate development project on its land, something not anticipated in drafting the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act that Parliament unanimously passed in 2005.

While the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act is starting to reach its potential, the proposed first nations certainty of land title act would further enhance economic development opportunities for first nations. The Kamloops and Musqueam First Nations in British Columbia, Tsuu T'ina in Alberta and Carry the Kettle in Saskatchewan are monitoring the progress of this legislation with interest.

Bill C-24 is designed to make sure any and all interested communities can take advantage of commercial real estate development opportunities. The bill would add new authorities that would enable some first nations to become major players in the commercial real estate development.

If adopted, it will permit the federal government to replicate provincial land titles or registry systems for commercial real estate projects on reserve, which will create a seamless property rights regime on and off reserve. Whether applying common or civil law, the first nations certainty of land title act would create parity on and off reserve lands when it comes to commercial real estate development, fostering economic development. This, in turn, would encourage self-governance and economic sustainability by providing first nation governments with the financial means to determine their own future.

Equally important, the bill would also build bridges between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.

The Squamish Nation commercial real estate development proposal would clearly enable new partnerships with the private sector. The first nation's business partner, Larco Investments Ltd., is committed to this initiative and has already invested approximately $1 million in the project planning and proposals.

I am proud to stand behind the first nations certainty of land title act, and I am pleased to hear my colleagues in the House will also give it their full endorsement.

First Nations Certainty of Land Title act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to rise in the House to support Bill C-24, An Act to amend the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act and another Act in consequence thereof.

The identical bill was first tabled in the fall and all parties received representation from the Squamish Nation at that time encouraging us to pass the legislation. Unfortunately, due to prorogation, the bill was delayed for some months and reintroduced this spring.

I take this opportunity to thank my colleague, the member for Yukon, who visited with the Squamish people and the leadership of the Squamish Nation and had an opportunity to be personally taken around the reserve, the traditional territory of the Squamish people, to get a briefing in detail on what they intended to do with the tools that the bill would provide.

Therefore, I thank the member for the work he has done and in encouraging the minister to move forward with this bill. The member for Yukon is a wonderful member and we thank him for his work and advocacy on behalf of first nations across the country. As well, I join with him in the fine work that he has undertaken.

The main purpose of the bill is to create a more level playing field off and on reserve to foster sustainable economic development opportunities. As I said earlier, it is an amendment to the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, which was first passed in 2005.

Since that time people have realized that there was a need to fill some of the gaps that exist. First nations that were planning large scale and/or complex development projects were hindered by a lack of adequate regulations for commercial and industrial development. This caused jurisdiction uncertainty for both first nations and industry proponents.

This legislation was developed to address the regulatory gap that existed between lands on reserve and off reserve. The legislation would enable the federal government to replicate the necessary provincial acts and regulations to allow first nations to move ahead with large scale complex commercial and industrial development projects on reserve.

The key component of the bill is the legislation is optional. It is triggered only at the request of a first nation. Regulations developed under the act apply only to a specific project and parcel of reserve land where there are gaps between federal and provincial regulations.

In a brief that was provided to me and in conversation with the Squamish leadership members, they outlined what they felt were some of the benefits for first nations. I will refer to those comments for the record.

They said that it would provide a regulatory tool to more effectively balance economic development and protection of reserve lands and resources for future generations. They indicated it would enable communities to compete for investment opportunities and develop their economies, increase economic self-sufficiency and enhance their quality of life. They went on to say that it would generate revenue that could fund land acquisition and infrastructure for member housing, employment and business opportunities.

As well, they articulated a number of benefits to the federal government in that it would help the federal government to meet its commitments to first nations regarding economic development and continued stewardship for reserve land. It would increase employment, wages, revenue tax base, infrastructure and overall economic output, which is essential to linking domestic markets to world markets, and that it would be a model for other first nations.

As well, they articulated benefits to provinces one of which would be increased economic activity in the region, direct and indirect employment and increased provincial tax revenues from businesses and individuals and benefits to industry. There would be the establishment of regulatory regimes that would be certain, transparent, familiar and well understood to the marketplace.

In short, although there is ongoing debate among first nations about land tenure, the nature of land, the title of land, the one security that this legislation provides is it is optional. They have the ability to opt in if they so choose, depending on the particular circumstances of the reserve.

Having said that, one would hope that in the future legislation will come to us with more time to debate it in a more fulsome manner, as well as with an opportunity to take it before committee.

Given the compressed timeframe, the fact that we had a prorogation which has shortened this particular sitting of the House and the amount of business we could get done, and given that first nations themselves have requested this type of legislation, we are happy to stand in the House and pass it with that particular caveat.

First Nations Certainty of Land Title act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, people will have seen all sides of me today. After discussing two justice bills in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I am now speaking as the Bloc Québécois critic for Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

I am going to talk about Bill C-24, which we think has great merit. The Bloc will agree to the government's request and support this bill without hesitation.

A few months ago, and I say this with all due respect for my colleagues in the party in power, if the government had not prorogued the House, all parties were in agreement to deal with this bill, which was originally called Bill C-63, as quickly as possible.

I will provide an explanation for the people listening to us. The Indians are always being accused of wanting more money, of wanting nothing but money. People say they do not do anything, they want money, they never have enough, they live on social assistance. In the matter before us, we have put the lie to those words. Bill C-24 is extremely important for the Squamish First Nations in British Columbia.

These communities live in the Vancouver region. It is important to note that it was the Squamish nations that hosted the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. We say "Vancouver", but in fact the games were held on the Squamish nations' ancestral land, land that they are claiming and in respect of which an agreement will be made. Bill C-24 will open the door for those lands to be used.

In fact, they are not lands, they are lots. Imagine land in downtown Vancouver being part of their aboriginal land. The aboriginal people cannot use those lands because they are worth less than if they were located outside a reserve. I know this gets extremely complex, but this bill is going to enable the Squamish nations to move forward.

The Bloc had questions. In Quebec, we have the Civil Code, which is different from the common law of anglophones in the other provinces. We wondered how the Civil Code was going to apply in Quebec in connection with this bill. We got answers.

That is why we consulted the first nations of Quebec and Labrador, who asked us to support the bill because it could be to their benefit.

I have two examples. The Essipit nation, one of the Innu nations in the village of Essipit, near Les Escoumins, wants to develop land and build condos with an unobstructed view of the river. With this bill, they will be able to do so and, little by little, they will no longer need to ask the federal government for money to carry out their projects. With Bill C-24, the Innu nation in the Essipit region can go ahead with its plans.

The same is true in Mashteuiatsh, which is in the riding of the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, just outside Roberval. The first nations socio-economic forum was held in Mashteuiatsh a few years ago. The idea of a bill to help develop reserve land and help meet the desperate needs of first nations communities was raised at that forum and everyone agreed.

When Bill C-63—which became Bill C-24 after the prorogation—was introduced, we met with the Squamish First Nation. Since Bill C-24 is exactly the same as Bill C-63, we will not hesitate to ask the House to vote in favour of this bill, which is so important to first nations communities.

I would like to read this:

The First Nations Certainty of Land Title Act would [in fact, will] amend the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act to permit the registration of on-reserve commercial real estate developments in a system that replicates the provincial land titles or registry system.

We know how this works. There is a land registry where our homes in the country or the city are recorded. But this is not true of reserve lands. With this bill, aboriginal communities near and even in major centres could develop commercial projects that comply with the rules of neighbouring cities. I am talking about the Squamish in the Vancouver area, the Innu in Les Escoumins and the Masteuiash area, near Roberval, and the Algonquin in the community of Pikogan near Amos, in my riding.

First nations would not be able to build condominiums and sell them at well below market price to bring down the market, absolutely not. In the case of the Squamish, they could sell condos at market price and become less dependent on government assistance for aboriginal community development.

When a good bill is introduced, we almost always support it. And that is what we are going to do. As I have always said, if it is good for Quebec, we will vote for it; if it is not good for Quebec, we will vote against it. We have studied this bill with the authorities and we have had the time to obtain all the information we need. Consequently, we believe it is a very good bill. I know that the session will end in the coming hours. However, if possible, the bill must be implemented quickly in order to allow aboriginal communities to depend as little as possible on government money.

This is an interesting bill that will allow the sale of property at values comparable to those off reserve. We are familiar with the value of condominiums in the Vancouver area. Why would property on reserves in Squamish territory, in the City of Vancouver, not have the same value? The purpose of this bill is to have the government allow aboriginal peoples to look after themselves. It is probably one of the good bills that have been introduced. There was another good bill to implement the agreement with the Inuit of northern Quebec. It is exactly the same thing.

Aboriginal peoples are capable of creating worthwhile projects. However, we have to lend them a hand and this is an interesting bill. It will allow aboriginal peoples to have much greater autonomy. That is why the Bloc Québécois will be voting in favour of this bill.

First Nations Certainty of Land Title act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act and another Act in consequence thereof. New Democrats will be supporting the bill. There are a couple of really important points about how the bill was developed.

First, the bill was developed in full cooperation, support and consultation with the Squamish Nation. We can see the success of a piece of legislation that has had an appropriate consultation and involvement mechanism in place. We see in the House today a rapid passage of a piece of legislation that will directly impact on the economic well-being of the Squamish Nation.

The second point I would like to make is that many of the nations in this country talk about self-determination and the importance of having a say over how their lands are managed, how their lands are developed. I want to just point to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In that declaration, article 26 says:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

In this piece of legislation we have not moved as far as many of the first nations in this country would like, but I think it is fairly clear from the UN declaration that first nations expect to say what happens on their land.

In this particular piece of legislation, and I want to acknowledge the parliamentary secretary for ably outlining the history of how we got to this place, I want to touch on a couple of points. We are dealing with an amendment to a piece of legislation called the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, which came into force on April 1, 2006.

It is important to note that the legislation was optional. First nations had the right to opt in to that piece of legislation and it is totally within the control of the first nation itself about whether it chooses to use the mechanisms that are outlined.

As well, there are some regulatory gaps which leads us to the piece of legislation that we are dealing with today. The problem with a number of other pieces of legislation that could have been a mechanism for the Squamish Nation to use was that none of those acts had sufficient authority to clear the land title system as contained in the amendments that are before the House today.

Part of the challenge that we are facing is that it is very difficult to do commercial and industrial development on first nations reserve lands. Part of that challenge is because the reserve lands fall under federal jurisdiction and the management of the property rights infrastructure on first nations reserve lands is very different, and I am quoting from some of the briefing documents for the legislation. It says, “--property rights infrastructure on first nations reserve lands is administered by two different federal departments operating under two different statutes”.

We have the Indian Act, which is administered by the Department of Indian Affairs, and then we have the Canada Land Survey Act, which stipulates that Natural Resources Canada is responsible for land survey information on all federal land.

We can see the challenges that would be facing a first nation if it was doing commercial and industrial development. It would have to wend its way through this complex bureaucracy, dealing with two separate federal government departments with two different pieces of legislation.

In addition to that, it was having a direct impact on a first nations ability to do that kind of economic development because again, in these briefing documents, it says that it is estimated that doing business on a reserve pursuant to the Indian Act takes four to six times longer than in adjacent areas.

We have these enormous time delays and this complexity of legislation, so when a first nation was working with a commercial developer, trying to bring forward a project, it was taking an inordinate amount of time to make that happen.

As some members have pointed out, this land was being discounted because of the complexity in getting projects approved and also because some of the issues around title were cumbersome and unclear. Many businesses simply were not willing to develop the partnership because of those issues. This legislation attempts to deal with that.

I want to talk historically about what the Squamish Nation has been developing over a number of years. The briefing document under “Potential Projects” states:

In July 2007, Squamish Nation submitted a detailed proposal to the federal government to use the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act to construct five waterfront condominium towers on Capilano Indian Reserve No. 5. The reserve is located on the north shore of Burrard Inlet at First Narrows, north end of Lions Gate Bridge in West Vancouver, British Columbia. The proposed amendments are integral to this proposal to address the market discount that arises due to title uncertainty. In the case of the Squamish Nation project, the regulatory regimes would replicate the provincial land registry, title guarantee and leasehold strata property rights regime by incorporating by reference the British Columbia Land Title Act and Strata Property Act and other applicable provincial legislation.

This is important because it is an established provincial system that would clearly outline the elements around title and strata. There is no point in reinventing a system when a very good system is already in place, has a proven track record and is well understood by commercial and industrial developers and, therefore, would remove some of the uncertainty.

I want to touch on a couple of sections of the bill because people are concerned that this somehow does something to first nations' rights to the land. I will refer to an explanatory note and not the actual wording of the legislation. The explanatory note around the specific regulation-making power states:

A fee simple interest (or full ownership in the civil law of Quebec) is the most complete form of land ownership that a person can hold.

Some provincial land titles systems permit only fee simple title to be registered. The regulations may therefore need to deem the interest in reserve land held by Canada to be a fee simple title, if the First Nation in question is still operating under the Indian Act. If the First Nation in question is operating under the First Nations Land Management Act, the interest of the First Nation would be deemed to be fee simple.

Deeming reserve land would not turn it into a fee simple interest for purposes other than its registration and would not affect the real, underlying interest of either Canada or the First Nation in the lands in question. The deeming of such reserve land as fee simple would simply be a mechanism to permit the land to be included in a land titles system operated on the same basis as provincial law.

It is this point that is very important. What we have here is a recognition that the land continues to be held by the first nation or the Crown, depending on the arrangement, but it is permitted that the land be registered under the provincial land registry system. This would enable commercial, real estate, industrial and other developers to work in partnership with the first nations to make sure they are able to gain the economic benefits that would not be discounted as they currently are. It is this kind of certainty that the Squamish Nation is looking for in terms of having some of the economic benefits returned to its own nation.

For many people who are not familiar with the particular piece of land that the Squamish Nation is attempting to develop, it is in West Vancouver. This is a prime piece of real estate. It is unfortunate that the Squamish Nation has not been able to gain the full benefit as other landholders in the area have. The Squamish Nation would like to see this kind of return to its community.

The last piece I would like to touch on is the clause-by-clause analysis. The briefing document states:

Lands of First Nations operating under the First Nations Land Management Act will be registered in the name of the First Nation. In order to remove any doubts about the legal status of First Nations operating under that Act to transact business under these proposed provisions and regulations, the regulations may, if necessary, confirm that the First Nation has the requisite legal capacity to hold, transfer and register interests and rights in the lands in question.

It may come as a surprise to many Canadians who are listening to this debate that first nations actually have not been able to use their land to lever loans from banks, for example, for development or for other commercial enterprises because of this uncertainty around the land title.

The legislation before us has been developed in conjunction with the Squamish Nation and will allow them to derive those economic benefits from their own lands. The NDP will be supporting it.

First Nations Certainty of Land Title act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to an order made earlier today, Bill C-24, An Act to amend the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act and another Act in consequence thereof is deemed read a second time, deemed referred to a committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

(Bill deemed read a second time, deemed referred to a committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, and deemed read a third time and passed.)

First Nations Certainty of Land Title act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would seek unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:38 p.m.