House of Commons Hansard #189 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was terrorism.

Topics

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I that agreed?

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion.

First Nations
Private Members' Business

November 30th, 2012 / 1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand in the House again and speak about an issue and a motion that is important. Today, I will speak in opposition to the motion brought to the House by the member from Toronto Centre.

The beginning of the motion is pretty straightforward. It expresses views that are shared by many in the House, including myself, and many first nations throughout the country. The beginning of the motion states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Indian Act is the embodiment of failed colonial and paternalistic policies which have denied First Nations their rights, fair share in resources; fostered mistrust and created systematic barriers to self-determination and success of First Nations...

After that is where I and the member for Toronto Centre begin to part ways. In the part of the motion that follows he says that the House, should: first, undertake a process to eliminate these barriers; second, take two years to complete this process of discussion; and third, take two years to present a series of concrete deliverables for the government to act upon. Therefore, what the member proposes is two years of talking and no action. That is why I so strenuously oppose the motion.

It has been 136 years since the Indian Act was first brought into force. I wonder how many more years need to pass before we begin to build a process to replace it? The motion is nothing more than flowery rhetoric that we have come to expect from the Liberal Party and it is entirely consistent with the Liberals' track record of inaction when it comes to first nations' issues.

Instead of proposing concrete action to enable first nations to move forward and finally begin to escape the shackles of this paternalistic and colonial legislation, the member opposite has suggested that we further delay any concrete action and take two more years to simply talk about the devastating impacts of the legislation.

When the member opposite brought forward the motion, did he not consider that 136 years was long enough for first nations people to wait? Maybe he should listen to first nation leaders who have said that they have waited long enough. Having listened to the speeches at the Assembly of First Nations elections in July of this past year, I heard all the candidates state unilaterally that the Indian Act must go.

Clearly, everyone agrees that changes must be made to replace and to modernize the sets of laws that provide first nations with the same rights and opportunities that every Canadian enjoys.

I urge all parties in the House to reject the motion and instead support the private member's bill that has been brought forward by my colleague and my friend, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. Bill C-428 is an act to amend the Indian Act and provide for its replacement. What my colleague proposes is real action and tangible results that would make a difference for first nations people.

The bill would do a number of things. First, it would provide greater autonomy for first nations people. Second, it would lessen the role of ministerial involvement in the day-to-day lives of first nations citizens. Third, it would give back the responsibility for key areas, such as bylaw making powers and the administration of wills and estates over to the first nation, where it rightly belongs.

I wonder what the members opposite have against providing greater autonomy for first nations and lessening the federal government's paternalistic role in the day-to-day lives of first nations citizens.

About a month ago I had the privilege of speaking in support of that private member's bill during the first hour of debate. Second reading of my friend's bill concluded this past Wednesday evening, and we are now waiting for the bill to be referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. I am really disappointed that the Liberals did not even bother to stand in the House and speak to the bill during the second hour of debate last week, particularly when it has to do with some of the same material they suggest needs to be discussed in the bill they brought before the House now.

First Nations
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

An hon. member

We already spoke to the bill.

First Nations
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

I hear calls from the opposite side suggesting that they did speak to the bill. They did at one point but not when it came to the House the last time. I am not going to suggest if the members were even here or not in the House when the bill was brought forward, but I wonder if members opposite really do have the same passion they suggest they have if in fact they did not bother to contribute to the debate when the bill came back to the House.

The heckling from the other side continues to demonstrate that they want to talk and not act.

I am certain that anyone familiar with the Liberals' track record of inaction on first nation issues will recognize this familiar pattern. The Liberals believe that they need more talk, more plans, more proposals and reports, more suggestions but no action. We on this side of the House disagree. There is heavy lifting to do but action must be taken, and the time to act is now, not two years from now.

Even members of the Liberal leader's own party disagree with the motion. When the member for Papineau was asked about the Liberal leader's motion in Victoria last week, it was reported that he denied that the Liberal leader had even brought this motion to the House. He said that he opposed this type of motion and that it would be a “bad idea”. That is interesting. The future or wannabe future leader of the Liberal Party denied this motion had even been brought forward and said that a motion like it would be a bad idea.

It is also interesting to note that even last month the hon. member for St. Paul's clearly stated her disapproval of the introduction of private members' motions and bills addressing first nation issues. She said, “This kind of change must be undertaken by the Prime Minister in a government-to-government way”. Now today the leader of her own party introduced a private member's motion. I wonder if there are members in the Liberal Party who find this completely ironic.

I will conclude today by quoting the member for Toronto Centre. In speaking to a group in Regina last month, he said:

I think there's a lot of agreement in the country—including among the aboriginal leadership—that the current Indian Act is a relic of our colonial past. It was originally introduced in 1876 and some of the language is very paternalistic and, frankly, completely out of date.

I agree with the Liberal member and the Liberal leader that it is important to begin to act and not simply talk, like his motion suggests. As members of Parliament we need to consider if it is time for us to simply talk like the Liberals suggest, or is it time to begin to act like members of the Conservative caucus have done in bringing forward legislation to undertake exactly that?

First Nations
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is also my pleasure to rise and speak to Motion No. 386 by the member for Toronto Centre.

Contrary to the submission by the previous member, I have quite a different understanding of what the member for Toronto Centre is proposing. Regardless of the details therein, he is pretty straightforward. What he does say, as have first nations and the government itself, is that the Indian Act embodies failed colonial, paternalistic policies. Individual members of the House have said that.

What this motion calls for is the opposite of what the government has been doing, despite what Conservative members are saying. What the government has been doing, including through private members' bills, is unilaterally bringing new legislation to the House, including rescinding the Indian Act, before it has delivered on its constitutional responsibility for advance consultation with the very first nations who will be impacted.

Indeed, I support the intent of this motion, as does my party. The motion is essentially not to move forward on significant changes to the Indian Act. Frankly, I would hope that this would include any legislation impacting first nations' lands and peoples, until there has been a formal process of direct engagement with first nations. That is precisely what the Prime Minister promised almost a year ago.

I could not agree more that the most important action, which seems to be the one that the government fails to comprehend, is to reach out and finally initiate this process of direct consultation. Sadly, one thing that seems to be missing is any commitment of dollars to realize that. I will speak to that in a moment.

We have witnessed a number of initiatives by the government, including legislation on safe drinking water, financial accountability and land management. We have had private members' bills proposing to rescind various provisions of the Indian Act.

In all of those cases, there was no intensive advance consultation and consideration of the views of the impacted first nations and peoples, and the effects on their lands. That is a break from the very promise made by the Prime Minister at the summit he held this January between the Crown and first nations. At that summit, as well, the Prime Minister stated:

To be sure, our government has no grand scheme to repeal or unilaterally rewrite the Indian Act. After 136 years that treaty has deep roots, blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole.

He then said that there were a number of creative, collaborative ways to go forward.

We have witnessed in the House what their so-called creative, collaborative ways are. They are incredibly paternalistic or they are incredibly shallow, for example, the safe drinking water bill with its great promises but zero content and no dollars committed in the budget this year to actually moving forward on the substantive regulations.

I took the time in my job at committee to review Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development's supplementary estimates (B). In looking at the plans and priorities for 2012, I was delighted to see the department actually claim to be moving forward with developing the very promises of the Crown-first nations summit. However, regrettably, when one looks at the department's main estimates and supplementary estimates (A) and (B), there are zero dollars committed to delivering on this promise. In committee, the response to me by the deputy was that this was actually being done between the lines as the department moved forward with the specific initiatives. However, I am hearing back from the first nations that they do not think that approach is very satisfactory.

The first thing I would certainly recommend to the member who tabled the motion and the government is that it is time to step up to the plate and put some dollars on the table to deliver on the actual promises made. That is what action is; that is what putting money where one's mouth is.

I concur with the member that the list is mounting of the commitments and obligations of government to move forward on this new, touted more respectful nation-to-nation relationship.

We have the obligations under section 35 of the constitution, the historic and modern treaties, the fiduciary duties under law, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Again, as I raised yesterday, article 18 requires Canada, because it has endorsed this declaration, to recognize that:

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.

Article 19 says that:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

Clearly the motion is recommending to the government and to this place that we finally step up to the plate and adhere to the very declaration that the government signed on to.

What is the key to a respectful process? As I mentioned, the string of laws that have been tabled in this place, frankly, according to the first nations, has not followed that new protocol.

In closing, I would like to share the words of the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who has spoken out very clearly about his perspective on whether the government is in fact delivering on its promises at the Crown-first nations summit. In the words of National Chief Atleo:

Recognizing and implementing Aboriginal and Treaty rights takes us back to the very founding of this country—a country founded on our lands and politically on peaceful agreements based on respect, recognition, sharing and partnership.

Since 1982, successive governments have shown little interest in the real and hard work of reconciliation. There has been talk, but we know the equation of empty initiatives: talk minus action equals zero....

We’re taking action. For decades now we’ve been putting forward positive plans for progress and change, plans aimed at breathing life into the promises we made to one another and plans that will ensure a better future for our children.

Government’s response has often been limited, narrow, piecemeal and unilateral.

In the absence of the honour of the Crown, much of the ground that’s been broken has been through the courts.

The National Chief goes through a long litany of litigation that he regrets first nations are forced to take because of the failure of the government to live up to these commitments and obligations.

The National Chief then goes on to say:

But clearly change does not come easily and all of these efforts are hampered by what First Nations see as ongoing unilateral attempts to affect our rights and intensified pressures on our lands and resources.

Current policies and approaches too often only serve to stall negotiations. It prevents First Nations from benefiting from their collective rights. It impedes the economic and political development that would take us forward to become fully self-governing nations....

It’s clear that the current federal policies, fiscal arrangements and negotiation processes are not up to the task.

The chief of the Assembly of First Nations said very clearly he would disagree with what the government is saying to us today. He is saying that the processes right now for developing these new laws and policies are not up to task.

Shawn Atleo continues:

We can find a path forward—a path that starts with our earliest relations—the Royal Proclamation, the Treaties of Peace and friendship, the pre-confederation and numbered Treaties—the absolute foundation of Canada’s growth and progress as a Nation to section 35 and to the standards set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples....

First and foremost, First Nations need to be directly and fully involved in any process of change. This is consistent with our historic relationship as partners in Confederation and as Treaty partners, and it is consistent with the spirit of section 35. It is high time that the government stops trying to do things for us and starts doing things with us.

I closing, I think the first nations have been clear. We have heard the responses of the first nation leaders and peoples to the string of legislation the government has brought forward. If we have heard one consistent response, it is that they have not been properly consulted, and that is what the Prime Minister promised at the summit.

It is time to move forward to support the motion, begin the consultation and commit the dollars to make it happen.

First Nations
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour to speak to the important motion of our leader today. It proposes a path forward to move the Crown–first nations relationship beyond an outdated and fundamentally flawed piece of legislation. Unlike my Conservative colleague suggested, this is not a prescription and it is not top-down. This is a blueprint of a process that the Prime Minister needs to undertake about how this would get done and actually defines what real leadership would look like.

First nations have rightfully objected to the inherent paternalism of the Indian Act, which is an instrument of assimilation and external control by the federal government on the rights of first nations peoples. Today, and despite a number of legislative changes, the original framework of the act remains largely intact, as the principal vehicle for federal jurisdiction over first nations in areas not covered by treaties, agreements or parallel legislation.

Furthermore, the Indian Act defines who is considered first nations. It also governs band membership, band governance, taxation, the definition of reserves and the management of funds and resources.

There is broad consensus that we need to move away from the Indian Act, which is the embodiment of failed colonial and paternalistic policies that have denied first nations their rights and fair share in resources, fostered mistrust and created systemic barriers to the self-determination and success of first nations. However, first nations have been unequivocal that any plan to move away from the Indian Act must be led by first nations, must be pursued in ways that work for first nations and their communities, and must respect and fully adhere to first nations' rights as well as the outstanding promises and historic commitments of the Crown to first nations.

The Liberals fully agree. We believe that the relationship with first nations must return to the path of mutual respect, true partnership and co-operation, which was established in the original treaty relationships between first nations and the Crown.

That is precisely the approach taken by the Liberals during the nation-to-nation negotiations that led to the Kelowna accords in 2005. That is the same approach we are taking with the motion before us here today on how to replace the Indian Act.

The Conservatives have promised to consult with and work with first nations in a more genuine partnership. This was the basis for the Crown–first nations gathering in January, yet little has been delivered by the Prime Minister or his government. In fact, the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has recently noted that the anticipated progress report due this January will not contain anything of substance reflective of the opportunity and commitment to change.

Instead, the Conservatives continue to pursue unilateral changes to the Indian Act and other legislation, for example, on water, education, environment and accountability, which affect the rights of first nations and their traditional territories, without meaningful consultation or accommodation. As National Chief Shawn Atleo said earlier this month, “Yes—the Indian Act and the Indian Act bureaucracy must be fundamentally and finally eliminated. But here too any attempt to tinker or impose will not work”.

Yet, we have a government MP currently moving legislation through Parliament, with the support of the government, to unilaterally change various portions of the Indian Act with no prior consultation. The member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has introduced legislation that would repeal or amend sections addressing wills, education and band bylaws. This was the legislation that was opposed by the member for Papineau.

This ill-advised approach only repeats some of the unsuccessful attempts made in the past, which caused only anger and frustration instead of allowing room for respect and partnership.

I repeat that first nation leaders have been unequivocal in stating that any plan to move away from the Indian Act must be led by first nations and done in ways that work for first nations and their communities, and that respect and fully adhere to the inherent constitutional and treaty rights of first nations.

Motion No. 386 would establish this precise process.

The motion calls on the federal government to work directly with first nations to create a formal nation-to-nation process of engagement that focuses on replacing the Indian Act with new agreements between the Crown and first nations across Canada.

The motion makes it clear that these new agreements must be based on the constitutional, treaty and inherent rights of all first nations; the historical and fiduciary responsibilities of the Crown to first nations; the standards established in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, including the principle of free, prior and informed consent; respect, recognition, reconciliation and support for first nations; partnership and mutual accountability between the Crown and first nations; and the stability and safety of first nations as defined and prioritized by first nations.

The motion calls on the government to begin this process within three months of being passed by Parliament. It also calls for a mutual accord to be reached in order to examine how to go about replacing the Indian Act within two years of being passed by Parliament.

Implementing such a process has the potential to truly reset the relationship and move us beyond the unrealized promise of the Crown-first nations gathering that too many chiefs are now referring to as a photo-op.

The government's current handling of the relationship is not going well. Just yesterday, Manitoba's three grand chiefs expressed exasperation that the first nations have had little or no say in any of the legislation being rained down upon them, despite constitutional guarantees to consult and accommodate them. Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs stated, “I'm tired of seeing our people run over by all of this”.

The Conservative government has not been accountable to first nations on the transfer of deeply discriminatory funding for things such as health care, child welfare, housing and education. The education gap is widening in terms of both funding and outcomes. Housing shortages are becoming more acute. Water and waste water systems are in crisis. The tragic gaps in terms of first nations health outcomes are continuing unabated.

The national chief has written the Prime Minister expressing the frustration of first nations leadership with the lack of progress on the commitments made at the Crown-first nations gathering as well as with the government's broader legislative agenda. It is a legislative agenda that could have detrimental effects on first nations in terms of environmental regulation, fisheries policy, criminal justice and a host of bills directed specifically at first nations, without prior consultation.

Canada's aboriginal people are the youngest and the fastest growing segment of our population. However, the Conservative government has effectively turned its back on this tremendous resource and a potential source of future prosperity for all Canadians.

National Chief Atleo recently noted the upcoming 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, in October 2013. He also noted that renewing the relationship must be the basis of our work today to achieve fundamental change for first nations in Canada.

Today's motion would create a process for replacing the Indian Act that would be led by first nations and done as partners with first nations, not for first nations. The royal proclamation articulated how the Crown and first nations would share this magnificent land together, government-to-government, and move forward in a respectful way, as articulated in the motion. I urge all members of the House to support the motion as a way to truly reset the relationship with first nations in Canada.

First Nations
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the motion brought forward by the member for Toronto Centre. Our government certainly recognizes the Indian Act as an outdated colonial statute and that its application results in first nations people being subjected to deferential treatment. We recognize that it does not provide an adequate legislative framework for the development of self-sufficient and prosperous first nations communities.

The Indian Act was originally enacted in 1876, more than 136 years ago. Clearly, this is not modern legislation. Despite some changes over the years, the act still includes archaic, outdated and colonial provisions that continue to prevent first nations communities from participating equally in and contributing fully to Canada's economic, social and cultural development.

Everyone in the House would agree that the Indian Act stands in the way of the success of first nations communities and continues to prevent first nations communities from becoming full participants in Canada's economy. However, this motion proposes an ill-conceived process to get rid of the Indian Act that would jeopardize current progress being made by the government and its first nations partners.

The motion introduced by the member for Toronto Centre also ignores the fact that the government has been engaging directly with many first nations communities and organizations for the past six years to conclude agreements and develop legislation that provides tangible, workable alternatives to the Indian Act. These agreements and legislation respond to the goals and reflect shared priorities that we have set with our first nations partners.

At the historic Crown-first nations gathering, held at the beginning of this year, the Prime Minister reiterated our commitment to working together with first nations communities and encapsulated our approach in this quote:

Our government has no grand scheme to repeal or to unilaterally rewrite the Indian Act: After 136 years, that tree has deep roots; blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole. However, there are ways, creative ways, collaborative ways, ways that involve consultation between our government, the provinces and First Nations leadership and communities, ways that provide options within the act, or outside of it, for practical, incremental and real change.

The historic Crown-First Nations Gathering was the result of a shared desire to see a Canada where all first nations people would participate fully in a social, economic and cultural prosperity, a Canada where strong, healthy, self-sufficient first nations communities would be full participants in Canada's economy and benefit all of us.

We acknowledge the many challenges still before us and we are actively working to move past these barriers by finding solutions to specific obstacles, working together with first nations. This approach is practical, realistic and effective.

One thing we know for certain from past experience is that proposals to significantly overhaul the act do not work. Our government's approach is to bring about incremental change in our consultation with first nations through new measures, investment and legislation that provide alternatives to the Indian Act. This approach will lead to the development of strong accountable and prosperous first nations communities, where first nations citizens have access to the same rights as all other Canadians.

Regarding health care, I would like to give an example from my own background. Back in the eighties, as a new nurse, one of my first employment opportunities was a band employed nurse. I was the first band employed nurse in Canada. Prior to that, the federal government put nurses into communities and the communities had no choice. It was truly rewarding to be the first band employed nurse where I was part of that team with the first nations communities.

I look with pride to British Columbia and see what a long way we have come. As the communities are ready, as the provinces have the conversations and, just recently, the signing of the tripartite agreement, the creation of the First Nations Health Authority, the First Nations Health Council, it shows how we can move forward through incremental changes in a very positive way to create new structures and new governance models that are really truly going to be effective. As of 2012, I believe we are looking at full transfer to this new governance structure for health care services.

Members will notice that the motion fails to acknowledge the important work currently being done by the government in collaboration with first nation people. I just gave a prime example in the area of health care, which is one that has and continues to produce significant results. Instead, this motion is calling upon the government to start over with a new process.

For the past six years, our government has been taking concrete steps to provide first nations with the tools they need to get out of the Indian Act. We have taken concrete action to address specific issues, such as education, economic development and drinking water.

In recent years, this government has negotiated and implemented initiatives in collaboration with first nations and other parties, such as provinces and aboriginal organizations. These initiatives have led to progress in a number of areas to address the barriers to social and economic participation currently faced by first nation people. Again, I would like to look to the First Nations Land Management Act in building a stronger first nations land management regime.

I am privileged that the First Nations Tax Commission is located in the riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. I am particularly proud of the work that Manny Jules has done as a leader for many years in moving forward and taking the opportunity to leverage the value of the land.

The finance committee met with Manny Jules and a number of chiefs two years ago. He talked about his vision, the opportunities, and the specific concrete steps that we needed to take to get out of the way of the opportunities for economic development. It is a pleasure to see the phenomenal movement forward in economic development in Kamloops. They have an award-winning Sun Rivers resort community, golf courses, industrial land development, and a huge portion of the income of the Tk’emlúps Indian Band is now derived from own-source revenue. I know that Mr. Jules has practical ideas. We need to get out of the way and remove those barriers. I know there are a number of specific things around leveraging land that we still need to move forward on to ensure an equal playing field.

As members can see, the government's strategy has been to focus on finding solutions to the specific obstacles and on working together with first nations. This incremental approach to reform is practical, realistic and effective. It is part of a larger strategy that includes targeted investments and partnerships, enhancements to programs and legislative initiatives.

The government continues to identify, develop and implement solutions to help unlock barriers to first nations' participation in the economic, social and political development of Canada. We are achieving this by working with first nations and other stakeholders. The strategy is making steady progress. It would be misguided to abandon the strategy in favour of a vaguely defined process with a seemingly impossible deadline.

I encourage my hon. colleagues to join me in opposing the motion before us.

First Nations
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Motion No. 386, which asks for the House's support in initiating a formal process of direct engagement with the first nations that would replace the Indian Act with a series of new agreements.

These consultations would begin and end according to a precise schedule. They would lead to the writing of a report that would establish specific, meaningful elements on which the government could take action once the consultations are complete.

The repeal of the Indian Act will not be a sad occasion. It is a completely outdated, irrelevant, heavily bureaucratic tool for oppressing the first nations.

We are nowhere near having an act that meets their needs. In fact, the opposite is true. This issue deserves to be treated seriously. It is a call for action to eliminate the government's trusteeship over the first nations.

We must put an end to their status as wards of the federal government. This is one of the most pressing problems facing Canada. It is time to change things once and for all. It is time to put an end to the old habit of settling each dispute on a piecemeal basis. According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the act not only includes discriminatory elements, it is discriminatory in itself.

The Indian Act is full of paternalistic and discriminatory policies with regard to the first nations. I will not go into details and enumerate its many provisions, but we must recognize the incalculable consequences of this interventionist and controlling attitude on the lives of all first nations.

The act is typical of all the government's attempts to maintain the marginal status of the first nations. Now we must think in terms of renewal. We believe that the Indian Act must be replaced with new legislation, in an equal partnership with the first nations, a real nation-to-nation collaboration.

The fact is that the current legislation is completely outdated, discriminatory and must be replaced by modern legislation. This government has never tried to do that. We in the NDP want the first nations to be able to prosper, and this involves replacing the current legislation with modern legislation.

It is important to understand that the very existence of this legislation hinders progress for first nations communities and is not viable on every level, especially in terms of the relationship between the first nations and the government. This is precisely what the first nations have been saying for years now.

Why is the government so stubbornly refusing to listen to those who are most affected and to really respond to their interests? By governing practically every single aspect of the lives of people living on reserves, this legislation has adverse effects on progress by first nations.

The government claims it is overflowing with goodwill, but its claims are false and misleading. It sees amendments to the legislation as the answer, even though it is clear that the legislation is outdated.

How can they claim to be modernizing an act that they know is completely out of date and has only been used to marginalize first nations for the past 136 years? The process has to be led by the first nations, in keeping with the principles set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the concept of their free, prior and informed consent.

The process must protect treaty rights and inherent aboriginal rights. The first nations do not have the legislation they need for health, education and funding at their disposal. This is a vacuum that must be taken into account in drafting modern legislation and setting up a timeline for the process. Modern legislation could then guarantee an improvement in the first nations’ economic and social circumstances.

This legislation undermines the efforts made by first nations to improve their living conditions. On this, we have the support of the Assembly of First Nations, which is entirely in agreement with us. The National Chief called on the government to take action months ago, but the government chose to drag its feet. It is not as though there is a shortage of cases.

I am thinking of economic development, self-government and the sustainability of communities. There is every indication that we have cause for concern. What will spur the government to action?

The NDP would not amend the Indian Act by replacing certain elements. We believe that this would be futile and unwise. However, everything leads us to believe that that is the government's intention. Just think of the declarations that came out of the Crown-first nations gathering last January. The government said that it wanted to work with the first nations to change things, but that did not last very long.

Private member's Bill C-428 sparked shock waves. It includes amendments to several sections of the Indian Act, but first nations were not consulted about this bill. This unilateral action makes no sense. It shows contempt for the first nations. And this is not the first time that the Conservative government's contempt has surfaced, which indicates that it is deeply rooted.

For example, if we go back to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada used all kinds of poor excuses to delay adopting the text and then it voted against its adoption, in 2007. It was not until 2010 that Canada ratified the declaration, after being so damaging to the work done by the UN to adopt the text.

What is surprising in all this, to say the least, is that the Liberals are responsible for a large part of this legislation, of its irritants and of the lack of consultation when attempts were made to impose changes. Remember the infamous 1969 white paper, whose author was none other than Jean Chrétien. This was a pure and simple attempt to assimilate first nations.

Motion No. 386 also does not mention the absence of distinction as to sex. Yet, it is crucial to deal with this issue in the context of gender equality, and it should be part of the basis for future consultations. The rights of aboriginal women were violated, particularly when they would marry outside their first nation reserve.

Despite the fact that the law was amended in 1985 with regard to women's rights, discrimination against women continues unabated. That was the finding of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which pointed out in its 2003 report on Canada that aboriginal women continue to be the victims of systematic acts of discrimination in all aspects of their lives. The consultation process would thus give us the opportunity to harmonize the individual rights of aboriginal women with their collective rights as members of first nations.

I am asking all my colleagues to think carefully about this issue, which is of the utmost importance to first nations and Canada as a whole. This is a basic issue that involves guaranteeing real respect for the rights, needs and priorities of first nations, which are too often overlooked in this country. This is also an opportunity to make Canadians aware of the discrimination faced by first nations people. This is not a matter of making changes to the Indian Act but of replacing it with new, modern legislation. Consequently, the first nations communities that worked with the government will be able to help to determine what the next steps will be in promoting the development and well-being of their communities.

This co-operation is part of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the purpose of which is to get the states to consult and co-operate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned. Any commitment in this regard must be based on real co-operation among equals. We must implement a real consultation process and establish a real partnership. By so doing, we will finally be able to focus on reconciliation and harmonious relations between nations.

Unilateralism can lead only to failure, as it has always done in the past. So, let us revoke the Indian Act and scrap this 19th century law that has led to so many problems and discontent once and for all. Let us start fresh with new legislation.

The NDP wants to work with the first nations to develop modern legislation that will help these communities to prosper.

First Nations
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

First Nations
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

First Nations
Private Members' Business

2:05 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?

First Nations
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.