- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament May 2004, as Canadian Alliance MP for North Vancouver (B.C.)
Lost his last election, in 2004, with 36.36% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Supply May 13th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, the minister says he invites people to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing. I think the government is living to regret having repeated that so often because there are people coming forward with more and more evidence of wrongdoing.
In my own case, for example, I received an e-mail from a person in Ontario just last week telling me about problems with the tax credits and grants used for the film and television industry, particularly associated with Telefilm Canada. There is some suggestion that there are two sets of books being used, and that grants are being funnelled to Liberal friendly firms for work that is not done and productions that are never produced. I have the suspicious feeling, because that information has been sent to the Auditor General, that we are soon going to learn that there are big problems there.
Then we have departments like the SSHRC and NSERC. The Auditor General has already found problems in those departments. I wrote to the Auditor General recently about SSHRC and she confirmed that she has seen projects at that agency that look an awful lot like vacations rather than deliberate studies or useful studies for Canada.
Then we have the $1 billion HRDC boondoggle. There were hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on the gun registry. There were up to $7 billion a year poured into the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development without producing even an incremental improvement.
The fact is that there is a waste of taxpayers' money and it is systematic from the government. It is sad indeed to see the minister, a person who had an ethics job in British Columbia, standing as an apologist for the actions of the government. I wonder how he can look himself in the mirror in the morning knowing what is going on there, knowing about the abuse of taxpayers' money.
I would like to ask him that. How can he look himself in the mirror every morning knowing that he has been dragged into this whirlpool of Liberal mismanagement of taxpayers' money?
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act April 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, the last 40 minutes or so in this House has had the appearance of the government filibustering its own bill.
I would like to ask the member who just spoke, did he write his own speech, and if not, who did? Is there a filibuster going on here to hold the bill up because nobody else in the whole place is putting up speakers except the government side who are even asking themselves questions? Maybe the member could answer those questions.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act April 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, how easily the minister cast aside the concern about scrutiny of regulations simply by saying “we can think about it and maybe we will incorporate it at some point”.
Then he cast aside the concern about the inability to run for council by talking about a completely different agreement. What use was that to the debate?
Then he talked about challenging in the courts if goodwill disappears and suddenly someone is wronged, but these things cannot be challenged in the courts without a huge amount of money. The situation that is being fought in the courts by my colleague from Delta—South Richmond regarding the aboriginal fishing rights took 8, 9 or 10 years and half a million dollars. The average person cannot fight that sort of thing. It is completely impossible.
The minister has not adequately responded to these things. It is a shame that time is up.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act April 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I could probably make the same comment that the minister did, which is that it is little hard to know where to start here.
I guess I could start by saying that we should look at the government's structure. At the meeting yesterday with the band representatives I asked why we were not allowing non-aboriginals to run for council because that really would be democracy.
I will compare that to a situation in my own riding, an example that has been mentioned to me by more than one constituent on more than one occasion. Let us imagine a situation where a Squamish Band member or a Burrard Band member arrived on voting day for the voting of the municipality of North Vancouver and was told that he or she could not vote because he or she was a native Indian and had no right to vote at the polling station. If we turn the tables it looks pretty ugly.
This is the type of situation that concerns people in my riding, both native and non-native, that it separates us based on race and that it is not a healthy situation.
As I have already said, I believe the agreement will work for the Westbank Band as long as there is that goodwill that is there right now. It relies entirely on the goodwill of the people who are running the council. It would be very difficult for Westbank to turn back the clock at this stage. There is a culture there of wealth creation, entrepreneurship, and it is really improving things for everyone.
However that is not the case in other parts of the country, which is one of the reasons I expressed that I was opposed to this on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of other Canadians. This is much more far-reaching than just an approval by the council for Kelowna or the people who live in the immediate area who at the moment see no problems. This is a much more wide-ranging consideration when we think of the implications if the goodwill was not there and we apply the same agreement to some other band council somewhere else in the country.
One thing I did not mention in my speech earlier but mentioned during an earlier stage of debate on the bill was on the first page of the agreement itself. It states that the regulations created by this council will not be subject to scrutiny.
As a member who sits on the Joint Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, this really bothers me. One of the things we have found in the Joint Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations is that government departments often make mistakes and errors when they create regulations. Sometimes they create illegal situations and sometimes they improperly take money from people. It is a very healthy situation to have someone scrutinizing these regulations, pointing out the problems and getting them fixed.
It is very worrisome when we have a situation where we are going to have regulations that are concealed from scrutiny. In British Columbia, where we have more aboriginal bands than anywhere else in the country, if they all had this type of agreement and they could all have regulations not subject to scrutiny, no one would know what law applied where. Going from Westbank into a part of North Vancouver there would be no consistency.
For me that is troublesome. It is something that probably no one else thinks too much about. I mentioned it because I am on that committee. Maybe the minister could think about the things that I have brought forward in my response to his question; namely, race based government and the implications that it has for all of Canada, and secondly, the scrutiny of regulations.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act April 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, that was a very interesting interchange which perhaps was at a more legalistic level than my speech will be.
I rise today to mention something that took place following our caucus meeting this past Wednesday. I attended a meeting with representatives of the Westbank band, all of whom I think have been in the public gallery listening to our speeches on the bill. I also had the pleasure of meeting with Chief Louie in the opposition lobby yesterday.
I mention this context because I want to put into perspective my opposition to the bill. The fact is there is not universal agreement that this is a good bill and those with opposing positions do have a right to speak in this place without name calling or getting too upset. I believe it is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that opposing concerns are put into the record in this place.
My contact with the band members yesterday was very pleasant. We had an excellent discussion after the caucus meeting. There were many questions answered and there was no personal animosity whatsoever. There was a sharing of ideas, answering of questions. It was very healthy.
I attended because I needed some questions answered, but I also wanted to gauge their reaction to the opposing perspective that I had been expressing at earlier stages of the debate on the bill. In that respect, it is important to note that there was no hostility but rather what appeared to be a genuine interest in and respect for a difference of opinion.
The representatives even volunteered the information that there was far from unanimous support among band members themselves. That was just referred to by my colleague from Vancouver Island North. There were a variety of opinions among band members that did make it in some respects, from what I understand from the contact yesterday, a bit of a struggle to get the agreement through some stages and to pass the various votes along the way, but that those who have brought it this far truly believe in democracy and they consider it very healthy to engage in the type of debates that certainly took place at the band level. They have not been upset by the differences of opinion that have been expressed here.
I do congratulate them for that because I genuinely believe, as my colleagues have expressed, that this agreement will work well for the Westbank band. It is going to work well because of the very different attitude that we see expressed by this particular group of band leaders from that which we see in many other bands.
It is also a very different attitude from what we have seen in the House from some Liberal members and the NDP who have yelled insults across the House and words like “shame” at those of us who have been giving voice to concerns of others. Their attitude is so close-minded that it completely fails to recognize that a sizeable percentage of Westbank members have themselves for one reason or another expressed opposition.
Whether we consider that to be valid or not is another debate for another day but the fact is there was disagreement. It was not a 100% vote at every level for everything that is in the bill. It would be wrong for us to leave the public impression that therefore in the House there was 100% agreement on every aspect of the bill. I actually think it is a shame that some government members and the NDP have not seen fit to represent some of the concerns of band members who voted against the bill.
One of the concerns that we had explained to us yesterday by the band representatives was that some members were concerned about the allocation of land resources, in particular certificates of possession which we on off reserve lands do not have to worry about, but it is similar to getting title to a piece of property. There are always concerns on reserves surrounding these certificates of possession and the right to use a particular house or piece of land.
In my riding there are three aboriginal reserves. I receive expressions of concern weekly from band members who are worried about their right to pass on a house when a husband dies, if there is a divorce, or a disagreement with band leaders. This seems to be a constant worry and threat being held over the heads of band members certainly in the area where I live.
In the case of the Westbank, all of the evidence indicates that this agreement will work well. The attitude is that those at the top clearly favour democratic processes, wealth creation, private property rights and open governments; but as I also said, band members on reserves in my riding do not believe that this type of agreement would be helpful to them.
I received an e-mail yesterday confirming that my election lawn signs will once again appear on the lawn of a Squamish elder because of my support for their positions on issues of self-government. They have very real concerns with this type of self-government agreement.
In order for similar wealth creation and private property rights to exist on, for example, the Squamish reserve in my riding, band members tell me that there would first have to be a major change in attitude by the band chiefs, so that there could be truly democratic processes on the reserve.
As it stands, and again I say band members tell me, votes and meetings are stacked by the purchase of votes with alcoholic beverages, promises of home renovations or some other favour. Sometimes band members claim that they are not informed about meetings or that secret meetings take place to approve things which are later hoisted upon them. They wish they were part of a band system like the one found in Westbank but they are not. They are worried that any support I show for this type of agreement would automatically translate into support for a similar agreement for them.
I therefore owe it to them to express their concerns and to vote against the bill on the principles that they have expressed to me.
On another issue, the lawyer for the Westbank band, who was at the meeting yesterday, acknowledged, as my colleague from Delta—South Richmond said, that there are differing legal opinions as to the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, despite what the minister says. He stood up a few minutes ago and said that lawyers say that there is no problem here. Some lawyers say that there is no problem while plenty of other lawyers say there is.
I believe we will have decades of litigation as a result of this agreement. In fact, it is my understanding that a legal challenge is already underway.
We also do not know where this will lead because of the way laws apply on reserves. For example, there was a front page article in the National Post yesterday labelled “Get Your MRI on a Native Reserve”. The story told of a Saskatchewan band that is planning to offer for profit medical services on reserve because the Canada Health Act, it claims, does not apply to those on a reserve.
In that respect, I am surprised that the NDP members, who constantly harp to the Liberal government on allowing for profit medical services to be run by corporations, are not attacking a Saskatchewan Indian band for wanting to do the same thing. Perhaps it is part of their way of being close-minded about differences of opinion on bands and they never see anything wrong with anything that is done on an Indian reserve.
However it is because of the unpredictable nature of the way that laws apply on and off reserve that leads us to the possibility of decades of litigation on this particular bill. This could have been avoided, at least in part, or reduced significantly if we had adopted the amendment proposed by my colleague from Delta—South Richmond and which, unfortunately, did not pass in the House.
Also at the meeting yesterday I asked a band representative whether consideration had been given to a model of land ownership along the fee simple basis, similar to what we have off reserve where we actually own our land and register with a land titles office and then amalgamate with the existing municipalities.
The answer given was that the band members on balance wanted to protect their culture. I respect that decision, but doubt still remains behind the scenes whether this idea really was dismissed because it is about the dissolution of an existing bureaucracy within the band and amalgamation with another bureaucracy.
I hear those types of discussions in my own riding where there are three municipal councils, the North Vancouver district, the North Vancouver city and the West Vancouver council. There really is no reason for having three different councils on the north shore of Vancouver. We could probably operate very well with one.
Every now and again we get the suggestion that maybe there should be an amalgamation, that it would save costs and that it would be simpler just to have one council to deal with all the issues. Then, of course, these special interest groups, being the council members themselves, argue against it and prevent it from ever going to a public vote. This is just human nature. I do not mean it in an unkind way, but I do believe that this type of power situation always goes on in the background.
One of the band representatives did admit at our meeting that race based law is a reality in Canada. That is my final reason for continuing to oppose this bill on behalf of my constituents, both native and non-native, I would say.
With three reserves in my riding, there is strong opposition to government based on race or ethnic background. The overwhelming position is that everyone should be treated equally as Canadians, subject to the same laws and opportunities with no distinctions based on race.
Many of my constituents believe that this self-government approach is badly flawed, is akin to apartheid and is completely unacceptable in a civilized country in the year 2004. They also believe that our aboriginal neighbours in North Vancouver would have a much better life and a far better standard of living if they were set free from the shackles of the Indian Act and the threat of self-government.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act April 20th, 2004
One of the government members yelled out that Gordon Gibson is not a layperson. I agree. That is correct and my comment could have been interpreted incorrectly. What I meant was that for a layperson to read this article, that layperson would get a really good feel for what this whole thing is all about. Mr. Gibson wrote, and I agree with his first line wholeheartedly:
Ottawa continues to blunder its way into the future in its British Columbia operations.
There is absolutely no sensitivity whatsoever to the fact that in British Columbia we have more native Indian bands than anywhere else in the entire country. We have a huge issue in the settlement of land claims and treaties here. It is simply not good enough to do this one by one, with different procedures creating different governments.
A study that was released yesterday by the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation described the problems on reserves despite the huge amounts of money that have been pumped into the system. In the decade since I have been here, I have heard so many promises from that side of the House, from the members sitting opposite, about how things will be improved, that we just need more money, we need another program, and we need to do more of this. The problems have gotten worse. The things we have done have made it get worse.
Australia has just abandoned part of its aboriginal strategy. It is cancelling the commission on aboriginal affairs in Australia, after spending billions of dollars and having the problems get worse. We should be learning from these examples in other countries and from our own example. It is a disgrace that in Canada, right in my own riding in the third largest city in all of Canada, the living conditions on reserves are disgraceful. It is not for lack of money because the band earns more than $30 million a year from its investments, right in the third largest city in Canada.
By passing this type of legislation, all we do is perpetuate the problems. We do not fix them. We do not help people get jobs on the reserves. We do not help them be part of Canadian society. We cause them to live separately and to perpetuate the problems.
I had my own little rant there, but I am going to return now to Mr. Gibson's article. The latest example of blundering, according to Mr. Gibson, is the Westbank first nation government act. He states:
At first glance, this is a minor piece of legislation for a small community outside Kelowna. But in fact it cements the legal basis for a constitutionalized parallel system of Indian governments across the country. It also means that much of [the Prime Minister's] promised fundamental review of Indian policy is dead on arrival.
The legislation also has important negative implications for the democratic and Charter rights of the 8,000 non-Indian citizens of Westbank who, voteless and denied self-government for themselves in this allegedly “Self-Government Act,” will be ruled by the roughly 400 members of the band.
In the agreement implemented by this bill, Ottawa, for the first time, explicitly “recognizes that the inherent right of self-government is an existing right within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982”.
Then, astonishingly, the legislation declines to define what the “inherent right” means or contains, and indeed states that “the parties to this agreement acknowledge that they may have different legal views as to the scope and content of an inherent right of self-government”.
That was the point I made right at the beginning. This is fodder for lawyers for decades to come. We will not know where we stand on this agreement for decades because of the disagreement of what it truly means in terms of charter rights. He goes on to state:
Think about it. We all have an “inherent right” to govern ourselves, each of us. But to collectivize this on the basis of ancestry?
That is what this bill does.
Section 35 is the part of the Constitution which protects aboriginal rights.
By virtue of section 35, the Supreme Court of Canada has displaced Parliament as the final maker of Indian law in Canada. The word “displaced” is used intentionally. The framers of the 1982 constitutional amendments avowedly intended nothing like the judicial adventurism which the courts have shown in making Indian law since then.
But most unusually in this Westbank agreement, Ottawa has moved farther out into left field than the Supremes have yet dreamed.
He goes on to describe a single court case in British Columbia where Justice Paul Williamson of the B.C. Supreme Court found, and he is the only person, any basis for a third order of government of the kind stipulated in this agreement.
That particular judgment involved a case that was brought by the Liberal Party of British Columbia prior to it becoming the government in British Columbia. It was related to the Nisga’a agreement under which the Liberal Party was challenging the constitutionality of that agreement. Unfortunately, when the Liberal government was elected in British Columbia, it decided not to appeal this rather unusual and alarming ruling. The unusual finding was never appealed, but no other court in Canadian history has found anything like this. Indeed, a century of jurisprudence disagrees, including the B.C. Court of Appeal, which in the Delgamuukw decision found exactly the opposite concerning a third order of government.
As I started out saying at the beginning, the real problem with this bill is the third order of government. The establishment of an order of government that can set its own legislation and regulations, which are not open to scrutiny, and extrapolating that to the total number of Indian bands in British Columbia and giving them all the same structure would be a nightmare in British Columbia. There would be multiple governments all operating independently with their own sets of regulations, uncoordinated in any way and not open to any scrutiny or challenge by anyone.
It is wrong. We should not be passing a law like this. We should be concentrating our efforts on improving the living conditions for aboriginals on reserves by helping them become part of Canadian society, not by isolating them and consistently making them different from mainstream Canada. It is unacceptable to me and I could never vote for a bill like this.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act April 20th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, if this bill were ever to pass through this House, it would provide a livelihood for lawyers for decades into the future.
We hear disagreement just in this House among those of us who have actually read the agreement. I wonder if the NDP member who had a rant in here earlier, calling people's names, had actually read the agreement. If so, he would have seen that there are plenty of areas for disagreement. Certainly, among the legal profession there is huge disagreement about how much of the charter applies and how much it does not.
One thing that everybody seems to be agreed upon is that this bill, if it were to pass, would establish a third order of government in Canada, and with that would come tremendous problems. This is a country that argued actively against apartheid in South Africa which had race-based governments. Here we are talking in this House about perpetuating a system of government that does not treat everybody in Canada as equals. It treats people separately based upon their race. That is a fundamental problem that I see with all of the legislation that has been coming through this place to do with aboriginal affairs.
I will not accept it as the right thing to do, to separate people based upon their ethnic background and create governments based upon ethnic backgrounds. I know that many of my constituents feel the same way and I simply cannot vote for things that would do that.
I will stand up for the equality of all Canadians at all times in this place. We should be working together with governments to provide services for everyone in Canada. For example, in the underlying agreement of this bill, there was one thing that jumped right off the front page at me. The regulations that would be created under this legislation by the band are exempt from scrutiny.
If we were to extend this to a number of other bands in B.C.--if they were to adopt the same sort of approach and get it approved in this House--we would end up with dozens of different governments completely isolated from one another, all passing regulations which are not open to scrutiny and cannot be challenged in any way whatsoever. That is a fundamental problem with this agreement as well and I have a major problem with that.
We can talk all day in this place, using legalese which many of our constituents may not understand. I would like to reduce this to a little bit of plain language. Perhaps one of the best ways to do that is to read into the record an article that was written by Gordon Gibson in the Vancouver Sun on March 22, 2004. It gives a very good description from a layperson's perspective of what is wrong with this bill.
Organ Donor Awareness Month April 2nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, April is organ donor awareness month in B.C. and the British Columbia Transplant Society is making a special effort to urge more British Columbians to register as organ donors.
Unfortunately, more than 400 British Columbians are currently waiting for life-saving or life-enhancing organ transplants. Last year, 29 people in B.C. died while waiting for an organ transplant.
These needless deaths could have been avoided if there had been more names on the B.C. organ donor registry, but B.C. is not alone as a province with a shortage of pre-registered donors. All across Canada there is a critical need for more people to pre-register as donors.
It is for this reason that I rise today to urge everyone who hears or reads this statement to call 1-800-663-6189 to ask how they can pre-register as organ donors. That is 1-800-663-6189, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that you will do it this afternoon.
Canada Elections Act March 26th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, one thing that jumped out at me in the speech that my colleague just gave was a bit of a discussion about bureaucrats and their influence on what happens with bills and in this place, and probably happened in this case with the bill.
Although the minister appeared to be unwilling to do anything to change the bill, after having told us it would go to committee for serious consideration, I suspect he was really being persuaded by bureaucrats that it was not necessary to change the bill and he was being fed the line that he then passed on to us.
Although my colleague went to great lengths not to criticize bureaucrats, I would like to ask him to expand just a bit. Does he not find that in the committees, when we are dealing with these bills, there is this overwhelming feeling that the bureaucrats are driving the ministers' presentations, that the bureaucrats are really deciding behind the scenes what will be approved and what will not, that it is not the minister at all who is deciding these things and that in some respects these bureaucrats seem to think that they are in charge? I guess they are, by default.
I have noticed that in a committee that I am on, the Joint Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. Sometimes we find dreadful problems with some of the regulations that have been conjured up by these bureaucrats. They just ignore our requests for clarification or to fix these things until it gets to the point where we have to subpoena them to appear before our committee because they treat us with such disrespect. They truly think they are the gods in charge of everything and that Parliament is just this annoying thing on the sidelines that occasionally pricks them with a little pin.
Could the member perhaps expand a little on his experience with the bureaucracy and how it tends to interfere with our job as parliamentarians?
Canada Elections Act March 26th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his intervention and for his interesting points expanding on much of what has already been said.
I would like to ask the member a couple of questions as I make comments about what he just said. One of those questions would be on the point of whether or not the member found it surprising when this bill went to committee that the minister revealed no effort had been made either by him or by his department to make those affected by the bill aware that it even existed.
That came as an absolute surprise to me. I just could not believe it. When we actually contacted Mr. Figueroa, he expressed such surprise. He did not even have the faintest idea that the bill had been produced.
With respect to the number of persons required to constitute a party, the number two, as suggested, was of course suggested in a ruling of the courts in Ontario. The courts there used much of the same logic that the member who just stood has used in justifying two as the number. Had he been able to get his amendment onto the floor today, we could have had a good discussion about that and determined whether that was a much better solution than the single person.
Unlike the minister, I am not afraid to try amending this number upward, because most laws are to a great degree based on good faith. If the people who wanted to challenge the legislation previously are no longer interested in challenging it because there is a number that suits everybody, then the courts will not strike it down because they will not get the opportunity to do so. So that is a shame.
In closing, I do just want to mention that unfortunately, as the member indicated earlier today, we lost an opportunity during the committee hearings to amend the bill to the number 12. I feel quite bad about that. I usually sit on that committee. Unfortunately there was a critical situation away from Ottawa which I did have to attend and the government refused to postpone the meeting for me. There was some confusion with the substitute and unfortunately a situation arose that we feel bad about. Anyway, that is water under the bridge, but I did want to get that on the record just so that the member did not feel there was some ill will toward what was being proposed at the time.