Last in Parliament October 2000, as Reform MP for Prince Albert (Saskatchewan)
Won his last election, in 1997, with 38.06% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Petitions October 20th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I was interested to hear that the government has just answered 11 petitions.
I am pleased to present a petition signed by the good people of Nanaimo—Cowichan which I am presenting on their behalf at the request of their member. There are approximately 2,700 signatures on this petition.
The petitioners draw the attention of the House of Commons to the genetically modified organism issue. They talk about allowing these foods into Canada, non-labelling, no independent testing, and incidents occurring that indicate genetically modified foods are causing problems. The petitioners are calling on parliament to enforce labelling.
Federal Election October 17th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, it appears that the momentum for an election has gathered a life of its own and that a fall election is now inevitable.
I may not be here after the election to take part in the debates in the House but I do want to go on the record as saying that it has been a meaningful experience.
When I ran for election in 1997, I believed that some of the most important things I could do would be to fight for equality among all Canadians and work toward an egalitarian society, one that did not categorize its people on the basis of race. I also believed that it was necessary to restore respect for all human life from conception to natural death.
I leave without having accomplished either goal, but when I was campaigning I made only one promise, which was to be faithful and to make a good effort. I believe that I have honoured that commitment by contributing to the debate.
Aside from those two larger issues, I have enjoyed serving the people of Prince Albert. I thank them for entrusting their federal affairs to me over the past three and half years. I look forward to what the future holds for me. I wish you well, Mr. Speaker, and all of my colleagues as well.
Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act September 27th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address this bill again. I want to speak on both parts of this bill.
I notice the insertion of the word “right” in the bill, which does not mean much in light of recent supreme court decisions. It was probably requested by Warren Allmand who is a former minister of Indian affairs with this government.
I would like to speak about the process because process matters. The government seems to be under the impression that the end justifies the means, that the government can simply pass legislation to give legislative credibility to its actions and that it can hold a referendum after the fact to almost give credibility to a process that was quite flawed.
We had a lot of people in from Norway House and other parts of Canada who had connections with Norway House and who were really unhappy with the process that they went through. The result may have been inevitable but we had a lot of control over the process and it was not necessary to make a lot of people unhappy. Too much information was given to those people in too little time and it was not given to them in a language that they understood very well. They finally received a translation, if I remember correctly.
There were incentives given to vote for the legislation rather than voting for it based on its own merit. There was a denial of the use of public broadcasting facilities located in the town. Many people mentioned that they were not happy with that. That has created a great deal of bitterness in the community that will take years and years to deal with.
We talk about the honour of the crown a great deal when we talk about Indian affairs. In this case, the honour of the crown was somewhat tarnished by a process that these people had precious little control over.
In 1977, which was 23 years ago, the government signed an open-ended flood agreement that this act was meant to replace. These people have waited 23 years for a resolution to what they felt was their right. How did successive governments behave? They took a generation to deal with these issues. Older people are probably long since gone from the community for whatever reason. Young people grew up not knowing what they had had. A situation like this is unacceptable.
The Liberal government has a record of making big open-ended promises like the NFA which is very poorly defined. Then comes the reality check. Then comes the time when people across Canada or the people in the communities say that this is not deliverable or that the government has not delivered what it was supposed to deliver. It gets cut back, defined down and eventually gets to where it should have been right off the bat. That is not acceptable.
When the Canadian Alliance proposes that land claims, treaties and other agreements should be affordable, that the process should be transparent and that it should be capable of being delivered, the government attacks. The minister resorts to attacks on our party or personal attacks on the person who makes the criticism of the process. That is either myself or members of my party, my colleagues, who are under attack simply because we are quite realistic about dealing with these things.
We can think about a lot of things. In the Marshall decision, the minister made some really irresponsible comments about lumber, oil and gas after the Marshall decision came down. What was the result if it? Burnt Church, which is the current crisis.
We had the Lubicon building a sort of pretend reserve here to air their complaints and to publicize what they felt had gone wrong. I do not know what the total answer is to the Lubicon, but I know that a number of years ago the leader of the opposition at the time, who is now our Prime Minister, made a big promise. It was a promise he could not keep and probably had no intention of keeping.
Who did the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development blame yesterday? It was the Alberta government. If the Prime Minister, who was official opposition leader at the time, did not bother to consult with other governments to find out what their stand was, that is hardly an excuse for the position of the Alberta government.
To reflect on that type of action is ridiculous and it means that the honour of the crown was again tarnished. It means making promises that cannot be kept or that there is no intention of keeping. In the Lubicon, to say that I did not know is ridiculous. They had telephones as far back as 1993. That is some news for the Prime Minister in case he was not aware of that. In Burnt Church big promises were made but there was no delivery.
There is a lack of policy and a lack of progress in delivering what little the Liberals have. When they fail, bad manners is no excuse for action. The crown has other responsibilities but one of the words we never hear when we hear about those things is honour of the crown. Metaphorically speaking, people are always wrapping themselves in the flag.
However, let us talk about the honour of the crown. Does the crown not have an obligation to have honour ascribed to itself by fighting for freedom of speech and making sure that that happens? The people of the Cross Lake community were denied a voice on their own public radio system to broadcast their concerns with what was coming down. Whether they were right or wrong, they had a right to a voice and to be heard.
Does honour of the crown not require that the government to protect the weakest people in our country, our children? I refer to the Sharpe decision where the government sat on its hands for close to a year and did nothing about it. The decision allowed child pornography to be in the hands of pedophiles. Does the honour of the crown not require a strong defence force to protect its territories and its people? Where did the honour of the crown go on that issue?
We are always hearing about health care. The government cutback health care funding then bragged that it brought it back to where it almost used to be. Where was the honour of the crown? Where was the obligation to the people of Canada?
How about reasonable tax levels? Is the honour of the crown not impugned when tax levels are so bad that people are leaving the country, moving out from underneath the so-called protection of the crown and moving to other tax jurisdictions? How about responsible government that listens to the people? How about a working justice system that makes our streets safe through a parole system that works to protect people? How about a case that I am very strong on, a right to life for the unborn? I do not believe that the honour of the crown is much protected in many of these areas.
I would like to tell the government that I want to see it start talking about honour of the crown in many more areas than simply Indian affairs. The honour of the crown can be protected when land claim negotiations have respect for existing private property rights. Affordable and conclusive settlements would also protect the honour of the crown and would state where the government, particularly the Alliance government when it is elected, stood. It would be open and honest and would not raise expectations beyond all reason to then cut them back for 20 or 30 years until finally people gave up or were driven to desperation.
We will see that all stakeholders are involved in negotiations. That is an honourable thing to do. We will protect the democratic rights and freedoms of individual aboriginals on reserves, including private property rights so that people are not driven off the reserves due to lack of housing, lack of money or no private property rights, and where people can protect their families. I remind the government that the honour of the crown requires that this government look after all citizens of this country.
Aboriginal Affairs September 26th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister likes to quote from old letters. He has written a few letters himself over the years. We have obtained the letter that the Prime Minister wrote to the Lubicon band just before the 1993 election. In it he said that the government should act swiftly to settle their land claim.
Today the Lubicon are so sick and tired of waiting that they are setting up a reserve right on the front lawn of parliament. The promise that the Prime Minister made in 1993 was never kept. Why did he make it? Was it just a political promise to win an election?
Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act September 26th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to speak to Bill C-14, the Manitoba claim settlements implementation act. I was in Manitoba when the dams were being built. I was a surveyor and flew many miles over that country in a helicopter on my way to and from work. It is an interesting country and it was an interesting job.
Many aboriginal people in that area were deprived of some pretty nice land, particularly along the river. It is good land, but farther back it contains a lot of muskeg, so the land they lost was among the best. This bill will bring some finality to the issue and will put some money in their pockets so that they can get on with their lives. It is important. Not only is it some money, it is some land to make up for what they lost. It is land of equal value. I see from the bill that it will take about four times as much land to equal the value of what they did lose.
There were many questions raised by many people about the process used to get approval for the flood agreement. Most of those questions were never adequately answered. They were not answered in the community or in committee. It seemed to me that the Liberals spent a lot of time trying to hush up the issue and hurry this bill through. They spent a lot more time on procedural matters and objections to the list of witnesses that many of us in the official opposition and other opposition parties wanted to hear from.
We had more correspondence on this than anything I have seen since I came to the House. Members of the committee received a binder that is probably four inches thick and is filled with letters, briefs and presentations that have been made on this issue over the years. In the length of time we had to look at this bill, it was impossible to do a proper assessment and analysis of the entire situation. Also, the people most affected by this legislation were never really heard from when it was brought to parliament. That is not right.
The first agreement that was signed was so loose and open-ended that it gave rise to absolutely every kind of interpretation. It was not capable of being implemented due to its open-ended nature. Simply to bring some closure to the matter, the government trampled on the rights of a lot of people and overlooked due process.
People should not be deprived of their land without due process, and once deprived through legislative means they need to be adequately compensated. Those rights are available to all Canadians under expropriation acts, whether provincial or municipal. Certainly that right has to be there as well for Canada's aboriginals. They simply cannot be deprived of land and rights just because it happens to suit the political agenda of the party in power at the time. We are not overly happy about many of these things.
We notice the insertion of the word right. I am not sure, given recent court decisions, that the insertion of this word adds anything or that leaving it out will detract from anything. To that extent I agree with my colleague from Churchill. She had it about right there. The courts seem to be playing more and more of a role. It seems the Canadian public, the Canadian government and the Canadian taxpayer are being governed by our courts, much more than by the people who were elected, not appointed, to make the laws. We need to look after that.
Some of the questions I have about the transfer of land in fee simple to the band concern private ownership. Let us remember the bill has two parts. There is also a treaty land entitlement part to the bill. I and my colleagues doubt that any individuals will be able to exercise private property rights over any of that land. It will have to be always dealt with in common.
People who have appeared before our committee have said the lack of private property rights by natives over aboriginal land is one of the biggest barriers to economic development for those people, not just as a group but as individuals. The head of the First Nations Bank is one of those people. The head of the Business Development Bank of Canada is another individual who believes there need to be private property rights for individuals to make any headway in society, and that the communal style of owning property, which means lending institutions have no way to take collateral, is one of the biggest drawbacks to economic development for aboriginals.
These things were never addressed in the legislation. The government had an opportunity to get to work on these types of things.
The treaty land entitlement process does make up for shortfalls in Indian reserves that were established and surveyed at the times the treaties were signed, and it is a fairly generous settlement at that. Individuals will not benefit from it; simply bands will benefit. Many times that means the leadership gets most of the benefit, not the band members.
I have had aboriginal people come to my office in the riding of Prince Albert, I have had people telephone me at home, and I have had people contacting me by phone, letter, e-mail, fax, or whatever in my office in Ottawa, saying they want to be able to exercise private property rights. They would love to get a square mile of land somewhere, anywhere, maybe with some lumber on it so that they could do some logging, build a home, start to farm, or something like that.
Can they do that under the bill? Nothing doing. They are absolutely kept out of the mainstream of the Canadian economy because of legislation such as this and attitudes such as those on the other side, which deny Indian people the same rights that are available to every person in the House.
There needs to be a process to allow native people to take possession of their hopes. I recently spoke to a man on a reserve who had been given six months to get off the reserve and out of the house he lived in. He had been married to an Indian woman. The band said “We need this house for band members. You are not a band member”. His wife had just died and he got a letter from the band saying “You are out of here”. Is that the way to treat Canadians, aboriginal or otherwise? I do not think so.
The lack of rights available to people living on reserve is a scandal and needs to be addressed. While the bill does some good things locally for the people in making redress for land taken from them, it is a far cry from the kind of legislation we need to introduce to ensure that aboriginal women have the protections they need.
I am sure that woman would not have been happy to know her husband was told “You are out of here”. Fortunately he had daughters who were willing to look after him and took him in, but here was a man who was capable of living independently. He was not that old. He was forced to live with his children or else leave his home and his friends. That just does not work.
Under the legislation the federal government will fund Indian bands to undertake land selection studies. In Saskatchewan, where the treaty land entitlement process has been in business for some time, too many bands have been spending too much money doing studies and not enough buying. If any farmer were to spend that kind of money on studies, he long since would have been into bankruptcy, out of business, and working for a living.
There needs to be some accountability for the money that is transferred and held for these people. Certainly we will be watching that. I am sure we will be taking phone calls on that same issue over the years. We intend to form the government, and we will be making certain that this money is well spent on behalf of Canada's Indian people.
Youth Criminal Justice Act September 25th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-3, the youth criminal justice act. I am pleased because it matters to the people of my riding of Prince Albert. They are concerned about youth crime and about this legislation. They are concerned.
We have a federal penitentiary in the city of Prince Albert. We have at least three other provincial jails in the riding. People know about youth crime, adult crime, all kinds of crime, crime committed by people on parole who should not be on parole, the whole gamut. It affects my riding a lot, so I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak.
This bill is meant to replace the Young Offenders Act, as we all know, but that act is so bad that it has been characterized by the Minister of Justice herself as “easily the most unpopular piece of federal legislation”. This legislation, after it comes into effect, will probably get the same title. It will be right in there with the firearms legislation.
When the government announced a new youth criminal justice act, it claimed it would be a top priority. Yet it has taken five years for the government to get this legislation to second reading, let alone to committee, report stage, third reading and proclamation. If that is a priority, I do not know how the government would characterize anything less than that.
Many of the youths for whom this legislation was crafted are no longer youths. They are already into the adult system. They have had no help from this legislation at all, as if it would help. Not only has it taken five years to get here, but all of the problems the Alliance has pointed out along the way are still in there. It comes with all those glaring weaknesses. It pleads for meaningful amendment, not what the Bloc envisages, which would simply be to return to the old Young Offenders Act.
The Canadian Alliance anticipates that the time spent here on debate and on amendments at report stage and at third reading will be thoroughly wasted, as the governing Liberals appear to be deaf to any reasoned arguments to make changes. There are reasons I say this.
How have the Liberals handled this piece of legislation to date? First of all, Bill C-3 contains very little of what witnesses presented during the 1996 and 1997 justice committee hearings. After almost a full year before the committee and after a significant number of testimonies from witnesses, the committee referred the bill back to the House without a single word changed, if one can imagine that. The time and effort the members of the justice committee spent listening to the witness presentations and preparing amendments for committee were thoroughly wasted.
One of the most significant causes of failure of the Young Offenders Act and youth criminal justice to date is insufficient funding to properly deal with young offenders. There is a federal-provincial agreement to deal with that; it is 50:50. They are supposed to split the cost of youth justice, with the federal government picking up half and the provinces covering half. The federal government is responsible for criminal law through section 91 of the constitution. Section 92 gives provinces the responsibility for administration of criminal law. Rather than maintain its responsibility, the federal government has been slowly permitting its participation to erode. Recent estimates of its contribution place the amount in the range of 20% to 30%.
Those in the health field will find this a familiar story. The government will argue that it recently allotted an additional $206 million toward youth justice, but that $206 million is over how long? Three years. That is less than $70 million a year, and that amount does not cover the present shortfall in funding to the provinces and will not cover the cost of this new legislation.
When we turn to the legislation itself, we see that uniformity of youth justice right across Canada is at risk with this bill. Before the Young Offenders Act we had the Juvenile Delinquents Act. One of the major criticisms of that act was that it permitted the provinces to vary the way in which they operated within the criminal law process. If a young person commits a crime just over the provincial border, that young person may find himself in a more difficult situation or an easier situation just because of the location of the crime. That does not make sense.
Because of the complaints about and criticism of the proposed youth legislation, primarily if not solely by the Bloc, Bill C-3 permits many of the problems of the Juvenile Delinquents Act to return to this legislation.
There has been no adjustment of the age categories. Youths of 10 or 11 years old who commit crime are still not to be held responsible for their actions.
Let me make it clear that the Canadian Alliance has never advocated locking up all 10 and 11 year old offenders. What we are saying is put them in a system so that the courts can review the circumstances and decide the proper method of getting each young person who is in trouble back on the right track.
The government continues to leave young offenders to child welfare, and often the welfare authorities do not have the resources to properly deal with children in desperate straits. Some violent children cannot be controlled without more serious and professional treatment facilities.
On Saturday night in my riding I spoke with a young father who is just frustrated to death with the youth criminal justice system. He is at his wits' end. Parents cannot even force their 12 year olds to be accountable to them. If the courts do not deal with them properly and have the proper resources, if the parents do not have any authority and social services let them go, what is the result? It is a young person who has too much authority, no idea of accountability, and no one to account to for his or her actions or for even what the courts lay out as steps to get this kid back on track. It just is not right.
The Canadian Alliance and many Canadians believe a younger age would be an age where the best opportunity for rehabilitation could take place. It will not occur, however, if there is no accountability for that age group, just as this father said. This is the age group that could be helped the most if they were included in the legislation. This would be real, authentic rehabilitation, and it would place young offenders into programs that could have a positive impact on their lives.
As a side benefit, and this father also made this point, it would identify homes where children are not being given the love, support, and structure they need to develop into law-abiding citizens. In fact it was his contention that neglect is a form of abuse. They could get the help they need when they need it and where they need it. Should that not be the desire of everyone here? Our official opposition justice critic has pointed out that society is not being protected and that this piece of legislation will just change nothing.
If we take a look at crimes committed by 16 and 17 year olds, we see it is a huge problem. This age group constituted over 70,000 of the 135,157 cases heard before the courts between 1991 and 1996. That amounts to well over half the juvenile cases. Of those cases, one might expect to see a significant number raised to adult court, but actually only 385 cases were heard in adult court. Perhaps more significantly, only eight of the 163 charged with murder were transferred out of the juvenile system. Should not this government, should not any government, be making a serious effort to address the particular problem in the legislation it brings to the House of Commons?
We will give the minister a little credit. She seems to have taken note of first time non-violent offenders in this legislation, and for that we are grateful. However it is difficult to understand why she chose not to exclude repeat and violent offenders from lesser forms of punishment. Young people who appear before the courts on a regular basis, who are regular clients, need to be dealt with in a serious manner to impress upon them the fact that society does not condone their actions. This is an issue we will have to deal with. We can deal with it here and now before the bill is enacted, or we can wait for the consequences in society and then deal with it here later on.
If we look at the central message of this piece of legislation we see that preventing crime, meaningful consequences for criminal actions, rehabilitation of the offender and reintegration into society are the principles of the bill. The first principle alone could keep a person speaking all day. We could talk about why kids get in trouble with the law in the first place. It has been studied endlessly.
We read in the declaration of principles, subparagraph 3(1)(a)(i): “preventing crime by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person's offending behaviour”.
That is the crux of this piece of legislation. We are looking for accountability and responsibility for an individual's actions on society. The main point is accountability and we are not seeing it in this legislation.
What made the Young Offenders Act unpopular in the first place continues in the new bill. We can hear members muttering about that over there. The final word is that the bill will not serve those for whom we believe it was written.
Fisheries September 19th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I am glad the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans answered for the Prime Minister.
Last year the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development made this statement about the effect of the Marshall decision right off the cuff:
Any fishing rights recognized in the Marshall decision are extended to other resources such as forestry, oil and gas.
I would still like the Prime Minister to answer the question. Is it comments like these from the minister that are the real reason for the escalation of events in Burnt Church?
Fisheries September 19th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, on August 28 the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development issued a statement in which he said:
My colleague, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and I have complementary roles to play in addressing the aspirations of first nations on the east coast.
Two weeks later the minister was touring a museum on the west coast, 6,000 kilometres from the action. I do not believe that the minister of Indian affairs has a complimentary role or one of any other kind.
Would the Prime Minister please confirm for the House that the minister of Indian affairs has no role to play in the Burnt Church crisis?
Natural Gas June 14th, 2000
Madam Speaker, about a month ago I raised a question in the House of Commons with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development concerning a $10,000 grant to the Ottawa Tulip Festival. So far I have not had any answers that I like the sound of.
I asked how the general progress and welfare of poverty stricken people were promoted by making a $10,000 grant to the Ottawa Tulip Festival. The minister replied that every single department, including his, had an education component to make Canadians aware of what aboriginal culture is all about and that is what his department was doing.
First, I doubt that every department of the government is making grants to make Canadian people aware of aboriginal culture. If every department in government is making such grants, then of course that is completely out of line with any common sense.
The $10,000 grant story did not end there. Then there was a contract given to Poirier Communications for $3,538.60 to set up a tent and take it down.
We looked into the price of setting up tents and taking them down and we found that people we knew had two tents set up on the same day, a 40 foot by 70 foot and a 20 by 20, for $3,000. That is a little better price, but it is sort of in the ballpark. We do not know whether this tent was the size of this room or whether it was a pup tent, but it cost over $3,000 to have it set up and taken down.
All of a sudden the cost jumped to $13,000. That was in 1998.
The previous year there was no grant that I am aware of, but there was a $25,000 contract for reservations for a booth at the tulip festival from May 8 to May 18. That is $2,500 a day. I do not know if that is a reasonable price to make a reservation or not, but the reservation for a booth at the tulip festival is a maximum of $650. We are wondering what became of the other $24,350. I wonder if I could get an answer to that.
On top of that, we were wondering, would this not be better spent by Heritage Canada, if it has to be spent at all? Why is the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, whose mandate it is to see to the general progress and welfare of Indians, promoted by the use of this money? Surely Heritage Canada is the agency that should be making these kinds of expenditures.
These are some things for the minister to think about.
I had put another question to the minister concerning the situation on Canada's reserves. According to RCAP, 23% lack water, 65% of on reserve housing falls below standards, and the health of many, many people on reserve is not good. I asked the minister what the people who have to carry water to their rundown houses would think of this grant approval. His answer was that these people are the ones who applied for the grant.
The main question I would like to have answered is: Can the minister table in the House any documentation that will prove to me and to members of the House that it was poor people who live in rundown housing who approved the grant?
Parliament Of Canada Act June 13th, 2000
Madam Speaker, that is a hypothetical question which does not require an answer, I am sure to say, because the government would never do such a thing. If the Canadian Alliance did it, yes, I would support it.
I rather doubt whether we would ever see such a piece of legislation coming from any other party in the House, but the answer is yes.