First Nations Governance Act

An Act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.


Bob Nault  Liberal


Not active, as of June 17, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

First Nations Governance Review ActPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2002 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak tonight to Bill C-399. I feel very comfortable with the debate and the discussion because I have a close relationship with a first nations band in my riding, the Millbrook Band, whose chief is Lawrence Paul.

First, I want to compliment the hon. member for raising the issue of the auditor and the ombudsman proposal. Many first nations bands have problems with negotiations and controlling money. I believe we do have an obligation to ensure that all first nations people are treated fairly, have access to justice and have a fair approach to dealing with the finances of the first nations. Not all do, so the hon. member's proposal may have some merit.

I also want to mention the new Bill C-61. I congratulate the minister for taking a courageous step. This is a very difficult issue to deal with. For years and years not a lot has been done but I believe the bill on the table now deserves a lot of consideration. I applaud the minister for his courage in bringing it forth because it is not an easy subject and not an easy issue to deal with.

I have often felt that not enough has been done. We often deal with first nations issues as they happen. We deal with the symptoms not the root causes of the problems. I believe the new bill starts to do that. I know it will come under a lot of criticism, scrutiny and opposition, but fundamentally it is a good direction and a good start. It will be very interesting to see how it unfolds, how first nations people deal with it and how they respond.

I want to talk for a minute about the Millbrook Band. One of the previous speakers mentioned the Westbank Band and how it could be used as an example for other first nations. I believe the Millbrook Band outside of Truro, Nova Scotia could also be used as a model. Chief Lawrence Paul has done a great deal in economic development to bring a higher standard of living to his people. He has worked very hard to attract businesses and use every asset that he has at his control.

Chief Lawrence Paul and I do not always agree, in fact, quite often we disagree, but I admire him for his spirit, his initiatives and his determination to help his people. He has recently developed what he calls a huge power centre along the Trans-Canada Highway at a very high traffic area in Nova Scotia, and perhaps the highest traffic area. He has attracted a Tim Horton's, an A&W, theatres and an Ainee's Convenience Store to the centre and has plans for many more developments to create jobs and employment for his people. He has also installed an entertainment centre at this location which is a form of entertainment where his band takes in a lot of revenue.

He has also developed a Millbrook fishery. He has two approaches to the fishery. One is that he is involved in the fishery on the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean. He is also involved in the fishery through an agricultural project which is just beginning. This is very innovative, dynamic and very imaginative for a first nations band.

I believe the Millbrook Band has managed its funds well. It has been able to return money to all its residents in the form of scholarships and housing assistance, and in many other areas. Therefore I think the Millbrook Band could be used as a model. It is certainly not perfect but it has done a lot of things right and has done a lot to help its people.

The challenge in the future will be to bring all of the first nations together to agree on this new governance model. It will be difficult because there are over 600 first nations and many are governed under different models and in different ways. The circumstances are completely different from first nation to first nation. Some are very small, some are quite large, some are prosperous and some live in poverty. It will be difficult to find one formula that fits all. Each first nations band will need the flexibility to develop in its own direction. Each band must be transparent and accountable to its people.

The bill we are debating today goes in the direction of ensuring there is accountability and transparency for all first nations people, not just the leaders. This is a critical part of the future for first nations.

Whether it is through Bill C-399 or through the new Bill C-61, we in this party hope the circumstances for first nations people improve. We hope they gain more ability to govern themselves, more control over their own destinies and able to use their resources and their ingenuity, like they have in Millbrook, to improve the quality of life for all natives.

First Nations Governance Review ActPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2002 / 5 p.m.
See context


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it will be hard to follow the hon. member's act of statesmanship and debate. I will do my best to be diplomatic.

I would like to make a few remarks concerning Bill C-399 to establish a first nations ombudsman and first nations auditor to assist with administrative and financial problems. While I appreciate and commend my hon. colleague's intentions, or at least some of them in the bill, I have no choice but to express concerns about his proposed solutions to the problems facing first nations and aboriginal communities.

Bill C-399 was drafted with perhaps the best of intentions but does not include all the aspects and solutions of the government's proposed legislation, which was recently referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources for review.

The government's proposal is the product of consultations with thousands of Canadians, analysis by financial and constitutional experts and refinement by a ministerial advisory committee. My esteemed colleague's bill is the result of a more limited approach and, as a result, clearly does not reflect as much in put of aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

The hon. member's bill proposes to establish two new offices, a first nations ombudsman to assist with conflicts that arise concerning first nations and a first nations auditor operating under Canada's auditor general. Creating these offices is clearly in some respects not in the best interests of aboriginal people and could in fact generate more problems. For instance, the proposed bill provides no mechanism for first nations communities to shape the mandates of these new positions.

Under Bill C-399 the roles and responsibilities of a first nations ombudsman and auditor are ambiguous. Consequently, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development could be obliged to intervene directly in the affairs of first nations. The history of ministerial control over the affairs of aboriginal people is not in many respects a happy one. It is clearly in the interests of all Canadians that first nations communities direct their own affairs.

I would also like to point out that the ombudsman model does not allow for the resolution of situations where responsibilities lie with other jurisdictions, such as provincial and territorial governments. Nor does the proposal address areas where responsibilities are shared. We believe that these shortcomings could lead to years of expensive constitutional wrangling.

Finally, Bill C-399 does not provide a framework for increased accountability for first nations governments. Under the proposal, complainants would be encouraged to bring their problems to the attention of the ombudsman, instead of to band councils.

For all those reasons, I have no choice but to choose Bill C-61 instead of my esteemed colleague's proposal. However my decision is easy because the issues of my colleague and more are dealt with in Bill C-61, the first nations governance bill. I will now explain this in more detail.

The proposed act is more comprehensive and would ensure that first nations improve their accountability and transparency in their governance structures and develop impartial mechanisms for redress and disclosure.

The process that led to the government's proposed legislation began more than a year ago and included consultations involving more than 10,000 aboriginal people. Throughout 2001, thousands of Canadians shared their ideas and opinions at community meetings, via a toll free phone line, in letters and through e-mails.

To provide overall guidance, a joint ministerial advisory committee was established, comprised of first nations representatives and government officials. This committee presented its report to the minister for review three months ago.

The legislation now before the committee would overhaul the fundamental relationship between first nations and the Government of Canada. The act would provide tools for first nations governments to manage their communities effectively and become more accountable to their memberships. Impartial, community based redress mechanisms will be established.

As a result, first nations communities will build self-sustaining communities, and ultimately increase the prosperity of all Canadians. In the words of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development “This legislation puts the power to handle community governance affairs where it belongs, in the hands of first nations people”.

I believe the minister captured the essence of the government's proposal. First nations communities will decide how to govern themselves, how to track their finances and how to development their economies.

The proposed legislation offers guidance to first nations communities and includes a series of templates on governance and accounting systems. Should a first nation be unclear on how to avoid a conflict of interest for example, it can adopt the legislation's template quickly and easily.

Bill C-61 enables first nations to design codes for leadership selection, financial management and accountability, and the administration of government, all according to the will of their communities. I am sure everyone recognizes that the key to effective democracy lies in representing the wishes of constituents.

The proposed act establishes standards for the administration of government. Leadership selection for instance must include provisions to ensure majority rule. The act stipulates the number of band council meetings that must be held and indicates how the notice of those meetings must be provided to facilitate the participation of community members. Budgets must be presented and approved annually. The act sets out rules pertaining to conflict of interest, protection of privacy and access to information.

Bill C-61 grants first nations peoples the right to vote on governance codes regardless of whether they live on or off reserve. All band members must have the right of appeal on matters pertaining to band elections and enjoy equal access to band information such as budget documents. They will have an impartial method of redress for administrative decision making.

Of course the proposed legislation is not only about granting rights; it also places obligations on first nations governments. Councils for instance would need to establish impartial methods to deal with complaints about the administration of government and the actions of council. For the first time, the Canadian Human Rights Act would apply to first nations governments.

Aboriginal communities have long struggled to develop prosperous economies. Often the biggest obstacle in their path has been access to capital, startup investment, seed money and new business loans. The proposed act would provide first nations with the legal authority to enter into contracts, acquire property, raise, spend, invest and borrow money.

In short, Bill C-61 would remove the barriers to economic development and would promote self-reliance.

Today first nations administer budgets that often run into the millions of dollars. The Indian Act is silent on financial management and includes no sound fiscal models for aboriginal people. Instead, first nations and aboriginal communities have followed financial models imposed by various government departments and programs. Funding agreements often include requirements to manage money in specific ways. Under the proposed legislation this would change dramatically.

Bill C-61 is just one component of the government's three-pronged legislative agenda to overhaul Canada's relationship with aboriginal people. Other components include the amendments to the First Nations Land Management Act and implementation of the first nations fiscal and statistical infrastructure initiative. All three components are necessary to ensure the ability of first nations communities to fulfill their destinies.

The first nations fiscal and statistical infrastructure initiative will enable first nations communities to establish financial institutions, raise capital for infrastructure projects and collect property taxes. These infrastructure powers are similar to those granted to other governments and would enable first nations to build and maintain roads, water and sewage systems and other types of infrastructure. There are successful precedents in this area.

Under the leadership of the Westbank first nation for instance, a First Nations Finance Authority was created in 1995. Since then several communities have relied upon the finance authority to use debentures and gain access to long term affordable financing. The finance authority has benefited from a partnership with an expert in the field, the Municipal Finance Authority of B.C., which has 30 years of experience and a triple A credit rating.

Aboriginal communities across Canada are keen to follow in the footsteps of the Westbank first nation. All Canadians want to see first nations, aboriginal and northern communities contribute to the prosperity of our nation. We want every Canadian to have both a dream and the ability to make that dream come true. We want every Canadian to be able to control his or her destiny. Bill C-61 is designed to ensure that aboriginal communities can access the resources they need to fulfill their dreams.

I am convinced that all Canadians will benefit, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. I am also sure that all would agree that the government's proposed legislation is a more comprehensive option than is Bill C-399.

Earlier this week members of all parties spoke eloquently in support of sending the government bill to committee. Many hon. members indicated they were keen to help improve the bill. I urge all hon. members to become involved in the review process.

In conclusion, I reiterate that the goals of Bill C-399 are covered more comprehensively in Bill C-61. Therefore, I encourage everyone to vote for Bill C-61 instead of Bill C-399.

First Nations Governance Review ActPrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

moved that Bill C-399, an act to establish a first nations ombudsman and a first nations auditor to assist with administrative and financial problems, be read the second time and referred to committee.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of grassroots natives across the country and grassroots action committees in all provinces that are calling for accountability, equality and democracy I am pleased to once again bring forward a bill that they and I feel would address the serious problems that exist on many of our reserves.

To prevent the rhetoric from flowing from that side of the House I would point out that I recognize, as do many grassroots people across the country, that a number of reserves are doing an excellent job of looking after the welfare of their communities. We commend them for that. However a great many, far too many, are suffering a great deal of problems. That is what my bill is attempting to address.

Part one of the bill would establish the office of first nations ombudsman to assist persons dealing with first nations, first nations dealing with each other, or first nations dealing with the Government of Canada if they felt they were being dealt with unfairly, unreasonably or with unreasonable delay. The ombudsman could investigate complaints and report to the minister on complaints that were not satisfactorily resolved. The ombudsman could propose changes to first nations administrative policies and practices. If a first nation failed to change its policies and practices at the suggestion of the ombudsman, the ombudsman could make a report to the minister which would then have to be laid before parliament.

Part two of the bill provides for an official from the office of the Auditor General of Canada to be appointed as first nations auditor. This individual would carry out audits of first nations communities that were insolvent or in which impropriety in fiscal management was alleged.

The first nations auditor would not be responsible for auditing all first nations. His or her duties would be limited to the terms of this paragraph of the bill. The auditor could propose changes in first nations financial management practices and make reports in the same manner as the ombudsman.

As many members know, I spent the better part of a couple years travelling across the country and in virtually every province in the land. I visited with grassroots people and watched the coalition calling for accountability grow under the leadership of some very fine people throughout the country. They included people like Leona Freed of the coalition from Manitoba, Laura Deedza from Alberta who worked hard to try to bring about accountability, Roy Littlechief and Greg Twoyoungman. I could go on and on. There is a long list of grassroots aboriginal people who absolutely deplore the conditions of the reserves and whose cries and pleas are going unheard. They are looking for someone to come to their assistance.

Why put forward a bill like this? These people are calling for equality. We should look at it from this light: If members of the House have a grievance against any business or government we always have an avenue in which to go. An ombudsman is at our disposal to look into our grievances or concerns and try to do something about them. This is true for every citizen of the country except natives living on reserves. They do not have such an avenue. That is total inequality. I am sure all members would agree they should be able to go to someone.

What do they do in the meantime? The actions that take place on a lot of these reserves remind me of the actions that takes place in this establishment. Leaked documents are provided through some of the people providing services in the administrative buildings on these reserves. They get their hands on some of these documents. They would like to do something about it.

They will not go to the chief and council because of fear of reprisal or fear of being punished for having brought it to their attention. They could go to the Indian affairs department to raise these concerns but Indian affairs quickly washes its hands of any responsibility and advises them to take it to their chief and council. They go round and round with no one really addressing the problem. Then every once in a while some of these documents are serious enough that they might warrant criminal investigation.

Let me give an example of that and it is one that I brought up before. It amazed me that this episode did not go anywhere.

Documents that came out of the welfare department of a particular reserve were provided to two individuals from that reserve. The documents listed the welfare payments made to people who lived on the reserve. As we looked down the list, several welfare payments of $300, $400 and $700 were made. Then all of a sudden there were two that showed up, one for $9,000 and one for $8,000.

I thought it was rather unusual that there would be that big of a spread so I asked who was getting paid the big dollars and for what. That is when they produced the other documents that went along with this. The documents were death certificates for individuals whose names had been on that welfare list. They had been dead for 13 years but payments were still being made to that name. That sounded a little suspicious to me. I am not a rocket scientist, and I am certainly not a policeman, but I thought “Good grief, dead people are receiving welfare cheques. Isn't that amazing.”

I convinced the people from the reserve who brought these documents to me that we should present them to the police. We went to the local detachment and presented them. The sergeant and some of his staff went over the documents and agreed with us that this was very suspicious and would probably warrant an investigation. However they said it had to go to the police force that looked after commercial crimes. That was the category it came under. We left it with the commercial crimes department, believing there would be some action.

About four months later I personally received a call from the sergeant of the detachment where I had taken the documents. He said that he had been informed by commercial crimes that all investigations with regard to that matter were being dropped. I was a little concerned about that so I got hold of the commercial crimes department. I asked if somebody from the department could please explain to me why it was being dropped. I said that it seemed to me a lot more was happening.

These are the exact words I heard over the phone, “You don't me, you don't know my name but I'm going to tell you this, Mr. Thompson. I've been with this department for a long time, I'm going to retire in a couple of years and I'm not going to do anything to hurt my pension. But we have received orders from the ivory towers in Ottawa that we are to not pursue this matter any more, we are to drop it and we have to follow our orders”.

In other words someone from the solicitor general's office told the Indian affairs office or the Indian affairs office told the solicitor general's office to pull these people back and to stop the investigation. These people went to a lot of work to provide information. Something should have come of it but it was stopped dead in its tracks. This is just one example of story after story.

Members of parliament who have Indian reserves in their ridings have heard those kinds of stories from grassroots people on the reserves. If members are not doing anything about it, they should be ashamed of themselves.

That is the purpose of the bill. It would provide an avenue for grassroots ordinary natives who live on a reserve to get the kind of help they deserve because every other citizen in the land receives it. They deserve it too but they have no avenue.

Then we have Bill C-61. The government says that it will solve the problem. The complaints from the reserves are of corruption, mismanagement, stealing of money and councils not looking after what they are supposed to be looking after. We are calling on that mob over there to address that kind of a problem? Every day we see example after example of corruption, mismanagement, wasting tax dollars and that mob of people say they will look after the first nations where the very same complaints have arisen. What a joke. Good grief a person who has had 15 divorces might as well be a marriage counsellor or cat might as well babysit an aquarium full of a bunch of tropical fish.

Nothing is taken seriously over there but yet they say that they will do something about these problems. Does the House know why this is not going to work? Because there are two sides every time an ombudsman is involved. If one side appoints the ombudsman or the auditor general, guess who that appointed person will go to to seek advice. They are not independent or arm's length. They are appointed by the power. Above all things, just like the Liberal Government of Canada, it must protect the power. That is why it acts like it acts. That is why the Liberals do what they do. It is not for the benefit of Canadians. It is because of their egos and their selfishness.

There will be a commission to see that this all goes well. Who will be on the commission? None other than those who are appointed by our fine Prime Minister who has set such good examples over the last nine years. He will appoint the members, just like he appoints the parole board and the refugee board. That is more patronage. The first requirement is, “Are you a good Liberal? Have you paid your dues? By the way, if you are a Liberal, what can you do or what do you know?”

What a farce to call on a government like this to look after what has been living conditions of squalor for literally decades and decades. Nothing has ever happened. Four years ago I first introduced this kind of a measure. Even though I had a lot of support from backbenchers from all parties, nothing happened. They were supporting it because they had reserves in their areas and they knew what I was talking about. They wanted to see it fixed. It was a votable motion and almost carried.

This bill is not votable. Why is it not votable? Are native issues not serious enough? Do they not deserve some accountability? Do they not deserve equality? Do they not deserve true democracy on their reservations when they have elections instead of the farces that so many of them go through? Who are we to deny that to these people?

We have this great wonderful government that never does anything wrong. Even the Prime Minister has said “If you steal a few million dollars here and there and it is for the unity of the country, then it is okay”. What a rotten attitude.

I only hope that all the voters and taxpayers, whose pockets are being emptied day in and day out, will wake up some day and see to it that that kind of a government will never have a chance to sit in front of them again and be responsible for their money. It is absolutely disgraceful.

The reserves are in squalor. Even the United Nations has recognized them as third world conditions. I call on the members in the House who know what I am talking about to do the right thing. I would request that the bill be made votable and I would ask for unanimous consent to do that at this time.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2002 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the purpose of Bill C-60 is to create an independent centre that would provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims.

It has been a longstanding opinion of a number of people throughout the country that these claims should be dealt with in a speedy fashion and in a fashion that will once and for all resolve the issues that surround the purpose of settling these claims.

The Canadian Alliance has strongly supported getting these claims settled in the best and speediest way possible. However I am not convinced in the slightest that this particular bill would achieve that. It seems like it is pretending to address the problems but I really wonder exactly where this will end up in the long run if it is approved. I am sure it will be approved because once again we have some legislation brought forward by a majority government and in this country the majority government always has its way.

I hope government members have listened and will continue to listen to the debate that is going on and that they will take into consideration some of the things that are concerning a number of people.

Although we are moving in a direction that is supposed to resolve long lasting problems, problems on reserves go on every day according to the individual people with whom I have met. Again today I received an e-mail from a fellow by the name of Keith Chiefmoon. Keith has written to the minister directly requesting immediate help for a flooding situation in Stand Off, Alberta. The situation has become desperate. The reserve has lost its drinking water and there are problems with sewage.

We need to learn to respond to these individual needs because the tragedies and grievances that these people are suffering on these reserves are absolutely pathetic in many instances. We have continued to lag in addressing the problems that surround the reserve issues to the point where even the United Nations has recognized most of the reserves to be no better than other countries in the world that have been classified as third world conditions.

Some of the people on the reserves are living in squalor and are struggling with difficulties simply because of the lack of accountability and lack of concern for anything other than regulations that enhance the needs of a few but do not look after the needs of the many.

I wish this legislation, which would create a centre to deal with land claims, would address the real down to earth problems. We need to give assurances to the many mothers and grandmothers on the reserves, who have contacted me and who I have met with personally in my travels across the country over the years, that their families can grow and achieve the prosperity that so many Canadians enjoy. They want to be part of that through whatever process or means we try to achieve. We need to give them some hope, which they do not have today, and give them some help which they feel is not available. They do not know where to turn.

I have met many times with ministers of Indian affairs over the years, including the present minister and the one prior to him. It just does not seem to happen that we address the real issues at the heart of the difficulties that surround the people who are affected. We seem to concentrate on the larger picture of establishing claims and making changes to the Indian Act.

These are the things we must address and look to in the future. We are putting the cart before the horse when we do not start at the bottom where the problems exist. The problems are with individuals in many of our reserves across the country.

I do not know how many times individuals have contacted me and said that they do not know who to turn to. If they go to their chiefs and councils regarding the issues that mean the most to them they are told to go home and that they will be looked after, but they never are. If they continue to make a fuss, then there are reprisals against them. There are problems that come their way because they speak out too often. They are told to go to the indian affairs department. I attended many meetings with them in Edmonton.

These people have pleaded with the indian affairs department to help them in their dire situations and the department's only answer is that it does not get involved with these problems. It is an internal problem. They are told to take it to their chief and council. Around and around it goes. It seems that is the way it has been going for years and years.

I see that a committee would be struck. There would be a centre and it would create a commission or tribunal. All the commissioners and adjudicators would be appointed by the Prime Minister. That bothers me right from the start. He has not had much luck in his appointments over the last few years that I could account for.

The claims process would then proceed as follows. There would be an intake and a preparatory stage. The first nations would submit claims to the commission which would arrange research funding for the first nations. It would notify interested parties of the claim and would facilitate preparatory meetings.

Exactly who would be involved in those preparatory meetings? Would it be the hundreds of grassroots natives who are constantly crying out to the minister and the government, who have been crying out since they were young and are now elders in their communities? Would they have a voice? Would they be heard with regard to where this would all lead? Would it address the cares and problems that these mothers and grandmothers in particular are trying to point out day in and day out through their many efforts? Or would it go to the upper echelon authorities?

I look at the validity stage where the crown would decide whether or not to accept the claim. If the crown were to refuse the claim, then the first nations could ask for a dispute resolution led by that commission. All these other people would sit on the sidelines while the elite would sort out the problems of settling these claims. Where are the first nations voices in all of this?

What about the taxpayer? I have never met any taxpayers in this country who are not willing to help the situation that exists in our country with regard to the livelihood and welfare of our native people. If only they knew where their dollars were going and what they were going to achieve.

Year after year the auditor general reports to the government about how it is failing to address the seriousness of the problems that exist in the hearts and minds of these people and their lives. Taxpayers become disillusioned when they look at millions and billions of dollars that goes along with running the indian affairs department. Yet they see their neighbours on reserves living in third world squalor conditions.

This is all fine and wonderful. We earn triple digit figures in salaries and all the big shots throughout the country will come together and make these great settlements, but who will truly benefit? Will there be any guarantee from the commission that at last the people who have been suffering for years on the reserves will have some relief? Will the taxpayers of Canada for once in a number of years say their dollars were well spent and that the Government of Canada and first nations did a good job? When will that day come? Will it be because of Bill C-60 or Bill C-61? I think not, not until there is a willingness to accept the challenge of taking care of our citizens, especially the aboriginals of Canada.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2002 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-60, the specific claims resolution act, on second reading, representing the PC Party of Canada as an independent Conservative member of the House. It is rather unusual to debate two bills on aboriginal affairs back to back. As we know, yesterday we debated the first nations governance act, Bill C-61.

I made reference during yesterday's debate on Bill C-61 to the fact that the member for Winnipeg Centre made a recommendation to the minister that aboriginal representation be included during the hearing process of the standing committee. I can certainly say at this time that the PC Party of Canada supports that recommendation. In fact, we would suggest that the recommendation be extended to Bill C-60 as well.

We all know that the land claims issue in Canada has been longstanding and has not been easy. Aboriginal treaties and land claims are part of Canada's history. I believe that Canadians want these outstanding land claims to be resolved in an expedient manner. It is in the best interests of all Canadians, including aboriginal Canadians. Bill C-60, in the PC Party's opinion, is a progressive step.

My first involvement with land claims was in 1995 with the Rolling River first nations band in my riding of Dauphin--Swan River. The then chief, Dennis Whitebird, who is now the grand chief in Manitoba, was one of the leaders involved in the entitlement land claims initiative in Manitoba. As the mayor at the time I learned a lot about land claims through the process and supported the Manitoba entitlement claim initiative. In fact, Dauphin--Swan River is fortunate to have 13 first nation communities as well as 88 other municipalities.

The land claims process, as I found out, is not as simple as it sounds. At this point I would like to relate some of the basic information that I had to learn to understand and I believe it would be in the interest of the viewers following this debate.

First nations in Canada have signed agreements with the crown that are called treaties. There are three groups of treaties: pre-Confederation treaties, numbered treaties, and modern treaties, which we designate as land claims. In July 1817 the Selkirk Treaty in my own province of Manitoba was signed by the Saulteaux and the Cree First Nations and the Government of Canada.

The pre-Confederation treaties include King George III's royal proclamation of 1763. Those treaties were negotiated in Canada before Confederation. Also included are the Robinson Treaty of 1850, Treaty No. 13, and the additions to the Robinson Treaty which are known as Treaty No. 12 and Treaty No. 14. Numbered treaties are the treaties numbered 1 to 11, which were negotiated between 1871 and 1877 with first nations people across Canada.

The third group of treaties is known as the modern treaties, or land claims as we know them today, which consist of land claims negotiated according to Canada's land claims policy established in 1973. The land claims policy recognizes two broad classes of claims: comprehensive claims and specific claims.

I will explain briefly what comprehensive claims are. Comprehensive claims are based on the assertion of continuing aboriginal title to lands and natural resources.

Comprehensive claim settlements are negotiated to clarify the rights of aboriginal groups to lands and resources in a manner that will facilitate their economic growth and self-sufficiency. Settlements are intended to ensure that the interests of aboriginal groups in resource management and environmental protection are recognized and that claimants share in the benefits of development.

These rights and benefits usually include: full ownership of certain lands in the area covered by the settlement; guaranteed wildlife harvesting rights, which I will come back to later and discuss in a little more depth; guaranteed participation in land, water, wildlife and environmental management throughout the settlement area; financial compensation; resource revenue sharing; specific measures to stimulate economic development; and last, a role in management of heritage resources and parks in the settlement area.

I would like to speak about how guaranteed wildlife harvesting rights has impacted both aboriginal and non-aboriginal individuals in Dauphin--Swan River this past winter.

No one disagrees that aboriginal Canadians have the right to fish and hunt on a sustenance level. In real terms, sustenance means putting food on the table, in the absence of aboriginal commercial rights to fish.

This past winter in Dauphin--Swan River we saw a small group of aboriginal net fishers net fishing on an unlimited basis in stocked lakes under the guise of sustenance. That is wrong. This illegal activity is not supported even by aboriginal people. Most of this illegal catch ended up on the commercial market through the Manitoba freshwater fish marketing board, which is a creature of the federal government.

Unfortunately this issue is still unresolved. Manitoba has no provincial regulations pertaining to unlimited net fishing by aboriginals. In fact, the Manitoba conservation minister is himself an aboriginal Canadian. He wants band bylaws on resource management to be applicable outside the boundaries of the reserve. This goes against the Sparrow decision.

The issue of unlimited net fishing by aboriginals in stocked lakes will not go away unless all stakeholders in Manitoba meet and come up with a solution. The provincial minister currently picks and chooses who should sit at the table. If humans do not agree, fish and game will be the big losers. We will all lose if we lose our wildlife resources.

Most specific claims are related to land other than a loss of reserve lands without lawful surrender by the band concerned or the government's failure to pay compensation where lands were taken with legal authority. Other specific claims arise with respect to the administration of Indian moneys and other assets such as timber and mineral rights.

This brings me to Bill C-60 dealing with specific claims. Before I talk about the bill I would like to put forth the Progressive Conservative position. We would respond energetically to the co-operative settlement of outstanding land and other claims with aboriginal people ensuring that they have full opportunity to grow, develop and prosper within Canada.

The position of the Progressive Conservative Party differs from the Liberals in that we would work with aboriginal people to expressly define aboriginal rights as a matter of public policy in a non-confrontational balance and interest based negotiations. We believe that the ineffective, paternalistic, colonial approach of the Indian Act must give way to greater self-reliance through effective education, economic development, social justice and local control.

The PC position is very clear. We do not share the position of another party in the House that believes special rights for any targeted racial group is contrary to the principle of equality and that they should be indistinguishable in law and treatment from other Canadians.

The minister said in committee that something was wrong when legal fees outstripped settlement targets. In principle the PC Party supports Bill C-60. On the matter of litigation we support the policy that Canada will not entertain a claim or participate in negotiations if first nations have active litigation on the claim.

The existing claims process has been criticized by many over the years. These are some of the criticisms. This was a backroom process hidden from the public. There is a lack of fairness and transparency in the area of research and assessment. It does not provide a level playing field for negotiations. Finally, there is a lack of independence and partiality and accountability. The new bill, Bill C-60, hopefully will address these concerns.

Canada's specific claims policy was first established in 1973. Over the years this policy has been amended several times to reflect the evolving legal and policy environment. Despite its shortcomings, it has settled many claims. In fact, 232 claims were settled, totalling $1.2 billion, averaging $5.3 million per claim and adding 16,000 square kilometres to the reserve land base. Approximately 580 claims, with an estimated contingent liability of $2 billion, have been added to the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada inventory of unsettled claims.

Calls for the government to establish an independent claims body have been numerous over four decades by three parliamentary committees: the parliamentary joint committee 1946-48; the joint committee of 1959-1961; and the Commons standing committee on aboriginal affairs in 1991. There was also draft legislation introduced twice in the House in 1963 and 1965. They all failed.

Three independent reports made similar recommendations for an independent claims body: Gérard La Forest in 1981; the Canadian Bar Association in 1987; and the royal commission on aboriginal peoples in 1995. There are other advocates who recommended the same point of view: the Indian Specific Claims Commission in 1991 and the first nations Canada joint task force created in 1996.

All stakeholders agree that establishment of this independent body is long overdue. The centrepiece of Bill C-60 is the establishment in law of the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims. It will be comprised of a commission division to facilitate the negotiation of claims settlements between the parties by providing a range of dispute resolution processes and a tribunal division as a last recourse to adjudicate the validity of and compensation for claims where negotiations and dispute resolution processes have proved unsuccessful.

The commission and the tribunal will establish neutral arm's length claim facilitation and adjudication bodies, enhance transparency, remove the funding of first nations to participate in specific claims process from the minister's jurisdiction, simplify the existing structure and bring greater rigour to the process and provide an effective alternative to litigating specific claims, which are expensive for both parties, by actively promoting negotiated settlements and/or exercising its authority to render binding decisions.

One area in Bill C-60 which calls for debate is the fear of patronage appointments process. Why does the government get to pick all the commissioners in both divisions? How can it operate at arm's length and be impartial and away from political influence if this occurs? Does the aboriginal community have representation on those commissions?

June 21 is an important day as we celebrate National Aboriginal Day. Aboriginal history is a part of this country's history. How many Canadians know that during the war of 1812-1814 the aboriginals in central Canada, through their efforts in aiding the British, basically prevented the takeover of this country by the Americans?

Two weeks ago I had the privilege to help open the first annual parkland aboriginal festival in Dauphin, Manitoba. I am sure the festival will become an annual event and will continue for many years to come. I applaud the Dauphin Friendship Centre for taking the initiative to organize the event, with the full support of the aboriginal community.

In closing, Bill C-60 is needed. The PC Party supports the bill in principle. I look forward to the upcoming hearings by the standing committee.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2002 / 4:25 p.m.
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Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to debate an issue that is critical to our country. The preamble of Bill C-61 states:

Whereas governments in Canada have certain capacities and powers facilitating good governance, accountability and economic development--

The opening statements of the preamble should exemplify how the country was created. The crown of England negotiated by treaty with the aboriginal nations of Canada to create a country. Why is that preamble not in the bill? Immigrants or anyone else who declares themselves to be Canadian must realize that the country was created by negotiation and treaty, a sacred covenant. It was sacred because it was held in high regard. It was held with the sacred pipes of our nations to secure a nation which shared the land among all Canadians. That preamble is missing from Bill C-61.

When immigrants become Canadians they must learn the country's history. They must realize that the aboriginal nations willingly shared the land to live a peaceful and harmonious existence. It started as a colonial relationship but we must now throw the colonial cloaks away, as the minister has said.

How do we travel forth? This morning an hon. member across the way brought up the issue of the two row wampum. I commend his perspective. However the two vessels he spoke about are here on Parliament Hill. This vessel, created under the British parliamentary structure, has a Senate and a House of Commons. The other vessel, the Library of Parliament, is round and shaped like a teepee. An aboriginal council could take its place there and we could collectively govern the country.

There are three Houses. They are like mind, body and spirit. We could stand together in security for the certainty of the country. The senators could be our sober second thought. They could be our elders, our wisdom. They could make their decisions on journeys such as this law.

The House of Commons represents all jurisdictions and constituents of Canada, but our aboriginal nations have been missed in governing the country. The crown has been selfish in governing the country on its own. The crown must recognize the original nations and come together with them. We must create a united Canada made up of all our nations. We are a river of nations and a nation of rivers.

When we speak of a nation of rivers we need only look at the river maps. The river basins are based on treaties. In the region I come from, Saskatchewan Treaty 6 includes the entire North Saskatchewan River. Treaty 10 includes the entire Churchill River system. Treaties 8 and 11 include the entire Mackenzie River basin system. It was through treaty that Canada acquired the lands to govern the country. Let us go back and respect those treaties. If we visit any first nations community that has signed a treaty the elders will say time and time again that our relationship flows from the treaties signed by their people. Chiefs such as Mistawasis, John Iron of Canoe Lake, and Chief Apisis from English River all signed treaties. Canada cannot forget its own history.

Everyone here is afforded a treaty right. It is by treaty that Canadians have a country to govern. I have a treaty right to be here as a member of parliament. Without a country called Canada I would not be the member of parliament for Churchill River. Treaty rights flow both ways. Aboriginal nations are not the only ones with treaty rights. It is through treaty rights that we as Canadians have a land to live on and call home. That preamble is required in the governance bill.

The other challenge I will make is to our aboriginal nations. Madam Speaker, I hope you will allow me to express myself in my language because that is how I must address them.

[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]

We have been given a great responsibility as aboriginal people. The aboriginal nations have inherited the gifts of mother earth that we call Canada. The creator has given us gifts that are so immense we must share them with the world. Many nations have come from many directions: from the east, the south, the west and the north. The nations have converged and call Canada home. Their children have come here. We all want to raise our children together. Let us raise our children in peace and harmony. Peace and harmony can be found if we gather as nations and represent ourselves as one country.

It is time to take this debate to the aboriginal nations. I beg the aboriginal nations to gather as nations. If they gather as nations in this country we call Canada we will find peace and a harmonious relationship with our country. The country is too beautiful to neglect. Our responsibility as nations is critical at this point.

The bill is a default bill. If we do not get our self-government models in place to rectify our inherent and aboriginal rights we will have two years before the default comes into play. The debate needs to take place now. The call for the gathering of nations should be made now for the benefit of the country and of the world, because the world is on a slippery slope to war. We see atrocities happening worldwide.

Here on mother earth we have been given a sacred gift that we call North America or Turtle Island. The aboriginal nations of the island have been given a gift called peace. It is called the great law of peace. It is based on the Iroquois confederacy, a union of five original nations which now includes six. When the United States needed a model of democracy it took a Xerox copy of the great law of peace to create its own constitution. The U.S. constitution is only a replica of that law. Canada has a chance to bring the real law of peace here and nurture it for the world. That is where we will find true world peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, hon. members:

[Editor's Note: The member spoke in Cree]

Let us rise to our responsibilities. Aboriginal peoples and their leaders have a responsibility to gather, and the crown has a responsibility to recognize first nations when they come together. Let us find a meaningful relationship so we can journey on this river we call Canada together as nations, united to create one beautiful country.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2002 / 4:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-61, which deals with the Indian Act. Like most Canadians and like most people in this parliament, I feel that the it is long past the time when the bill needed to be revisited. We are happy to see the government has introduced the bill and has finally made an attempt to address many of the concerns, the issues and the paradox that exists in Canada in regard to first nations.

Let me go back one step. I will not say that I am new to the country now because I have been here for 25 years. However in the last 30 years most of the immigrants who have come to this country from other parts of the world have looked at this issue and have been absolutely puzzled by what has happened. A huge amount of money has been spent on treaties and whatever by the Government of Canada, under this act, to address our first nations people. Yet report after report has indicated that something is seriously wrong because our first nations people are living under third world conditions, conditions that are deplorable.

One would say shame on Canada, a country that has been judged as the best in the world, a country that is rich within the exclusive clique of G-7, the richest in the world, yet people are living under such deplorable conditions. It is very difficult to comprehend. Many new immigrants have been puzzled by this.

I have not seen much debate by the new immigrants who have come here. Hence I feel it necessary for me to stand in the House of Commons today to speak on behalf of these people. We cannot have these conditions. The question is who is to blame? Fingers have been pointed left and right and accusations have been flying around. About three weeks ago I had a town hall meeting. I alluded to the act and an accusation started flying around the room, which I felt was inappropriate and not informative. However it was out there. Somehow someone and the department have failed.

One can say that the failure lies with the way reserves have been run, with the way leaders and with people pointing fingers. One can say we have a huge bureaucracy under the Indian Act which has been meddling in the affairs of the reserves and that the people of the first nations have not been allowed to use their full potential to be productive citizens of our nation.

When I look at the history of the first nations, I take my hat off to them. Their communities have learned to live very well with nature, with the environment and have adopted a lifestyle that is very impressive and conducive to living in conditions with the environment. They deserve that credit. Subsequently of course many of us have heard about residential schools and the reservations. We feel saddened about the fact that as we move forward in the 21st century we have not addressed this issue.

Therefore, it is very good, I would say, and the Canadian Alliance, as my colleagues have indicated, is prepared to support the bill going right now to the committee, because we want to start the debate. The nation has to debate these deplorable conditions. We must debate this issue.

As the bill moves forward through the committee I am sure the committee will hear the views of everyone, which I hope will include the aboriginal leaders as well. My colleague from the NDP has wrongly, I must say, tried to accuse us of fearmongering but that is not the case. It is better to bring out the issues, talk about them and address them than it is to push them under the carpet. This is coming from a party that is telling us we are wrong, but at least I am glad we are going to talk about it.

My concern that I would like to raise, and I heard my colleague from the Liberal Party dwell on it, is that past experience has shown the tendency of the government, the Prime Minister and the ministers to ignore the work of the committees. Will this committee also be a rubber stamp or will this committee's recommendations make an impact on the bill to make it an effective bill? Or are we once again embarking on an exercise that the government will ignore but will love saying that the committee discussed it, as it wants to do on this one?

We in the Alliance Party want to discuss this issue. We want Canadians to engage in this debate. We must engage in this debate. Everything should be on the table in this debate. Let us not sweep anything under the carpet, because in the longer term we are doing an injustice to our first nations people as well as to the Canadians of our future. It is incumbent on us. I could go on to talk about the many things that are wrong with the bill, but I am sure we will get a tremendous amount of opportunity in the coming years to discuss this issue.

Once again I hope that all Canadians can put their differences aside and bring the issues to the table that need to be resolved so that the first nations can become citizens of this country.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2002 / 3:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate. It is not very common for the debate to take place before second reading stage.

We support sending the bill to committee before second reading, although we do have some concerns about that. When this procedure was first tried as a result of some prodding on our part, we thought it would be productive, that changes would be made before a bill went to committee and there would be more input from all parties in the House. We were quite hopeful that would happen. That is not what has happened. However we still support sending the bill to committee before second reading. We hope we will be listened to today and that the input we give in other ways will be heard. We are supporting that.

We do have concerns about the legislation as it has been presented to date. I want to take some time today to compare the legislation that has been brought forth to some work I did back in 1997-98, mostly throughout 1998 shortly after I was elected to the new constituency of Lakeland.

I was elected in 1993 to the Vegreville constituency. In 1997 the boundaries were changed and Beaver River and Lakeland, about two-thirds of each, went together into one constituency. With that constituency came eight Indian reserves and four Metis settlements.

As the elected representative I got lots of calls from reserves, from aboriginal people living in communities near reserves and from Metis settlements. Some very serious issues came up. They were issues that are dealt with in the legislation, or at least are mentioned in the legislation, although I am not convinced the solutions are there. That is why a lot of changes are needed before the bill actually becomes legislation which will be debated and passed by the House.

When these calls came in I dealt with them individually. Then there were so many of them that I got together with some aboriginal people in a town in the constituency and we set up the Lakeland aboriginal task force. I have talked about that task force, its results and the report that was produced on several occasions since 1998 when the report was completed. When the report was completed members of the task force and I met with the minister of Indian affairs at that time. The current human resources development minister was the minister at that time. We took some time to sit down with her and talk about the report.

The issues that came up from the report are worth talking about today. I want to go through them and make some comments on whether they have been dealt with effectively from what we can see at first glance in Bill C-61.

The first group of recommendations that came from the task force were not recommendations of the Reform Party which has since become the Alliance Party. They are not necessarily Alliance supported recommendations, although in some cases they are, but they are issues that have to be dealt with and recommendations which could be productive.

The first group called for more transparency in financial reporting on reserves and in settlements. It goes beyond the scope of the federal government in some cases, but the problems were very similar. The legislation talks about that. There is a start in that it talks about that, but the bill has to go to committee. The legislation that comes from committee has to ensure open financial transparency. Until that happens there really is very little meaningful change that can take place.

The second group of recommendations involves democratic reform on Indian reserves and settlements but settlements are outside the purview of the federal government.

The second group recommended the use of a third party monitor, such as Elections Canada, to monitor elections on reserve. I presented private members' bills and motions on the issue and at least one has been debated. I do not remember whether it was a bill or a motion but unfortunately, the item was not made votable so we could not even determine the will of the House when it came to having Elections Canada monitor elections on Indian reserves. It makes sense that it would. Indian reserves are the responsibility of the federal government.

The aboriginal grassroots people have expressed concerns about the way elections are conducted on reserves. They asked for some independent monitors. From what I can see in the bill, that is not dealt with. Certainly, let us take it to committee and have all parties involved in some serious discussions on the democratic reform issues.

The next group of recommendations that were made were very interesting. I had a process in place to gather information from aboriginal people which involved one on one private meetings. These took place with members of the task force over a period of five days in a time span of about two or three months. We heard from a lot of individuals at these meetings.

We put out a questionnaire to anyone who wanted to give input on any issue they wanted. It was a directed questionnaire. We mentioned certain issues which were brought forth by the task force. Others were brought forth by individuals who filled out the questionnaires. We put the results of the questionnaires together. The final part of the process was public meetings.

At one public meeting there were about 70 or 80 aboriginal individuals. Some came from reserves, others from communities near reserves. They expressed concern about moving too quickly to some type of self-government. There was a vote put forth by one member at one of the meetings just to see what the response would be from the attendees as to whether the group supported moving to self-government as the Liberal government and the leadership had been presenting it in quite a few cases.

The vote was almost unanimous against self-government. People said they were not ready for it. The accountability would have to be in place. The electoral reform would have to be in place so the elections would be fair. An ombudsman would have to be in place. I put forth a motion or a bill which was debated in the House on putting in place an effective ombudsman, not one who reported to the very people who hired him but one who was independent.

We know what there is in the government. In spite of what the Liberals promised in 1993, to put in place an independent ethics commissioner, the government chose to put in place a counsellor who answers to the Prime Minister. They are two different things entirely.

It is that kind of corruption and lack of ethics that we are seeing the results of, with all the various corruption that comes up in the House every day, one day after another. It seems to be only the tip of the iceberg because we keep finding more and more. It gets broader and deeper. Certainly it could not be solved by putting an independent ethics commissioner in place but it would be a start.

Corruption in government or anywhere can only be ended by having people who are determined not to take part in it. No amount of law can completely eliminate corruption. There has to be ethics in the group before corruption can be ended. I digress in talking about the government. I want to get back to the bill that we are sending to committee.

What was clear is that none of this can effectively be put in place until fiscal accountability is dealt with in an effective way. It has to be open. We have to put in place a democratic system. Part of making it democratic certainly is to have Elections Canada monitor elections on reserves as it does across the country. That is what the Lakeland aboriginal task force recommended.

When the checks and balances are in place, then and only then can we talk about an effective type of self-government beyond what is in place already. That is what the ultimate goal has to be but we cannot jump from where we are now to that without ensuring that these other things are in place. I look forward to my colleagues dealing with this issue in committee.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2002 / 3:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this afternoon and speak to Bill C-61.

At the outset of my brief comments I have a comment for the member for Halifax. If that is the extent of her enlightening comments in response to this particular legislation in the Chamber this afternoon, then I for one do not regret her decision to step down as leader of her party. She used words like revulsion and repugnant.

I have quite a number of reserves in my riding of Prince George--Peace River, and I say that with a great deal of regret because I do not think the reserve system has been at all beneficial to the aboriginal men, women and children of our nation. What I find particularly revolting is the fact that a large percentage of people who live on the reserves in my riding and indeed in ridings all across the country continue to live without hope. I cannot imagine a worse fate for any Canadian than to live without hope. They try to get by without any hope. The system is to blame, not the aboriginal people.

I want to begin my remarks by doing something I very rarely do and that is congratulate the minister for at least attempting to address this serious problem in Canada by bringing forward Bill C-61.

Do we as the official opposition have concerns about it? Of course we do. However we, as I believe all parties do, support the idea of sending the bill to committee. We look forward to making our concerns, not only on behalf of aboriginal men and women but on behalf of all Canadians, known as it goes through the committee process. We will certainly take a hard look at the various clauses in the legislation and will be bringing forward what we believe to be constructive and helpful amendments to the legislation.

I thank the minister for addressing a situation that seriously needs redress. I thank him for showing the courage to bring forward legislation. Has he done it in the manner in which we would have liked it done? Probably not. We probably would have done it differently. We would have tried to have a more open and widely consultative process. I think all parties have been somewhat critical of that but at least the minister has brought forward a bill that contains some clauses that we can discuss and debate. Hopefully aboriginal people themselves will be part of the process and be encouraged to come forward with their alternatives.

As the member of parliament for Prince George--Peace River one of the things that deeply concerns me is what I call the growth of the Indian industry in Canada. The last number I saw that was spent annually trying to address the problems facing our aboriginal people was around $9 billion. That is nine thousand million dollars when combined with what is spent at the local, provincial and federal levels of government. By anybody's estimation that is a lot of money.

When I drive down a back alley in my home town of Fort St. John, British Columbia and see aboriginal people being reduced to climbing into dumpsters for their supper, I would suggest that there is something seriously wrong in the country.

When we as a nation can spend that kind of money, it is obviously not reaching the people who need it. These people continue to live without hope. They live in abject poverty. They face incredible difficulties on the reserves.

Before question period my colleague for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca spoke passionately about his role as a rural doctor in the city of Prince George in my riding, about how he treated many aboriginal men, women and children and about coming face to face on a daily basis with the tragedy of our aboriginal people. He talked about the horrendous suicide rates; the daily violence; the murder rates on reserves; the alcohol, drug and sexual abuse; and fetal alcohol syndrome that puts so many aboriginal children at a disadvantage before they even begin. The living conditions are worse in many cases than in third world countries and yet we as a nation are spending adequate amounts of money on this, by anybody's standard. Where is the money going?

How is it that we can spend $9 billion a year and still drive to a reserve and see the poverty of the people we are attempting to help? Something is clearly wrong. There are far too many lawyers and consultants becoming incredibly wealthy while the people continue to suffer.

We have some concerns about Bill C-61. It has a great summary at the start of the bill. It reads:

This enactment provides governance tools to bands operating under the Indian Act in matters of leadership selection, administration of government, financial management and accountability, legal capacity and law-making. It makes a number of related amendments to the Indian Act.

It sounds like something I think all Canadians would want to support. Despite the comments by the member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Halifax, there are serious problems on our nation's reserves and members of the NDP are burying their heads in the sand if they do not recognize that.

Those members have said that we are fearmongering. The member for Winnipeg Centre basically said that the minister, by bringing forward the legislation, was trying to incite violence and protest from the aboriginal people. If that is not fearmongering I do not know what is. Yet they point to the Canadian Alliance and say that we are somehow responsible for what has transpired. What absolute nonsense.

We and, in particular, the member for Wild Rose have had countless consultations across the country with grassroots aboriginal men, women and children. The member for Wild Rose reached out to those people and found an audience that was just waiting for someone to ask the question of how we can help and give some hope for the future.

Members of the NDP say that the Canadian Alliance has raised these concerns but these concerns were heard directly from the grassroots aboriginal people when we and the member from Wild Rose travelled across the country .

We will continue to raise those concerns. We welcome the opportunity to address some of those concerns within the confines of this legislation. There are clauses, though they may be flawed, that we can work with, amend and improve so that we can bring that degree of accountability to the reserves of Canada which is what the grassroots people themselves have been asking for.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

June 17th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, the biggest criticism of Bill C-61 is over the consultation process. A Progressive Conservative government would have worked with all aboriginal people as a matter of public policy in a non-confrontational, balanced and interest based negotiation to come up with new legislation.

My question is for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. After spending $10 million on consultation, why is there so much opposition to Bill C-61 from the aboriginal leadership?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

June 17th, 2002 / 2:40 p.m.
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister of Indian affairs what specific steps he will take to ensure that first nations leadership will participate in the committee hearings on Bill C-61 and not boycott them as they did the first round of consultations.

The Penner inquiry was a joint committee. As a gesture of goodwill and to ensure the participation of those representatives, will he allow a representative of the Assembly of First Nations to sit as an extraparliamentary member of that committee so that at least first nations will have the assurance that their views will be valued and that they will participate in the committee hearings on Bill C-61?

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

June 17th, 2002 / 2:10 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, at a time when all politicians of the country are perceived in a negative vein, the cry of the day is the call for accountability and ethics.

On the surface Bill C-61 would appear to create a governance model calling for transparency and accountability in leadership, administration and financial management. Aboriginal Canadians want accountability from their elected officials. The minister says the first nations governance act would give aboriginals the tools to improve the quality of life in their own communities.

There is consensus that the 126 year old Indian Act is out of date. Does it need to be changed or does it need to be abolished? That is the question. Should the Liberal government have taken a top down approach to amend the Indian Act or should it have followed an inclusive process to create new legislation outside the act?

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2002 / 1:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-61 representing the PC Party of Canada.

Let me begin by saying that the PC Party supports the motion to refer Bill C-61 to committee before second reading, in the minister's own words, for extensive consultation from coast to coast.

The status quo is not acceptable. We have heard that mentioned many times and certainly it has been echoed on numerous occasions by the minister himself. Most Canadians would agree with that statement. Most Canadians believe that it is time for change.

The key words that we find in the first nations governance act are transparency, accountability, leadership, administration and financial management. The minister also says that the new act will give aboriginals the tools needed to improve the quality of life in their own communities. If that is the case, who could disagree with that? These intentions are certainly principled and democratic.

We are also reminded that the Indian Act is 126 years old. It is antiquated and should be thrown out according to many Canadians, including aboriginal Canadians.

Bill C-61 in my opinion should be separated into two components, content and process. Both components need to be evaluated very closely and thoroughly.

I will begin by looking at what most aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians would agree on concerning the subject of governance. Essentially the bill is about governance by aboriginal communities.

The first point I would like to make is that elected officials should be accountable to the electorate. What is preventing that from happening in aboriginal communities? Some say that the Indian Act is preventing that from happening because band councils are only accountable to the minister or his agents.

Second, the funds spent by the elected officials belong to the communities, not to the leaders of the communities and the band councils. On this point the Liberals need to be reminded that the tax money they spend belongs to the people of Canada, not the Liberal Party.

Third, all elections should be honest, fair, open, transparent and by secret ballot.

Fourth, the business of governing should be open, transparent and accountable to the electorate.

Most Canadians, including aboriginal Canadians, would agree with these four basic democratic principles.

I do not believe that the opposition to Bill C-61 is based on content. Most of the content of the bill is acceptable in a democratic society. My opinion is that the opposition is over the process that the Liberal government is following. The minister says that he consulted high and low to the tune of $10 million.

This spring two consultation meetings were scheduled to take place in my riding of Dauphin--Swan River. I was looking forward to attending them, but as it turned out both were cancelled for lack of participants.

The Assembly of First Nations believed that the consultation process the minister followed was faulty. In fact it stated that more than $10 million was spent on consultation which attracted less than 3% of the first nations population. Entire regions of the country refused to participate. Manitoba literally refused to take part in the consultation process. Participants were not representative of the Indian population directly affected by the proposal. In Ontario the Ontario Metis Association whose members are not under the Indian Act co-ordinated the consultations.

The consultation report distorts the findings by emphasizing comments relating to the first nations governance mandate. It virtually ignores comments about the vast array of issues many of the participants found to be of greater importance, such as housing, land and aboriginal rights. Many participants felt they were ill-informed about the issues.

Another concern raised by the Assembly of First Nations was that the joint ministry advisory committee, called JMAC for short, did not reach a consensus. JMAC was established to provide the minister with technical advice for possible amendments to the governance provisions. Yet after dozens of meetings its members are still far apart on key areas targeted for change. The fact that a group of first nations participants motivated to make the process work could not reach more agreement with their government counterparts demonstrates that much more work needs to be done. It suggests that the amendment should not be constrained to the arbitrary and flexible timelines imposed by the government.

I would like to briefly point out the position of the PC Party regarding the issue of aboriginal affairs. Our position will certainly contrast with that of other parties in the House.

There is virtually no more complex a public policy issue facing both government and the people of Canada than establishing policies to deal with the issue faced by aboriginal people in Canada. The Progressive Conservative Party has endorsed the inherent right to self-government within Canada for Canada's aboriginal people.

There are many issues facing aboriginal people in addition to the task of achieving self-government through negotiations with the federal and provincial governments. These include determining a sound economic base for aboriginal people to grow, flourish and benefit from being part of Canada. The legal and cultural roles of aboriginal women need to be addressed, especially in the movement toward self-government.

Among the most pressing concerns to be addressed are the complex issues facing aboriginal youth and those aboriginal individuals who live in cities and do not have a land base. More than half of the aboriginal population of Canada is under 25 and live in cities. Most often they experience poverty and function alone without direction. Without significant steps being taken by governments in partnership with Canada's aboriginal people, these young people will become a generation lost to Canada.

Government must respond more energetically to the co-operative settlement of outstanding land and other claims with aboriginal people ensuring that they have full opportunity to grow, develop and prosper within Canada.

Here is where the Progressive Conservative Party differs with the Liberal government. A Progressive Conservative government would work with aboriginal people to define and express aboriginal rights as a matter of public policy in non-confrontational, balanced and interest based negotiations. We believe that the ineffective, paternalistic, colonial approaches of the Indian Act must give way to greater self-reliance through effective education, economic development, social justice and local control.

We believe that in order to ensure fairness and equality the charter must apply to aboriginal self-government. We also believe that aboriginal self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada.

The Progressive Conservative Party believes that the performance and accountability of aboriginal self-government is enhanced when those who are receiving services contribute to the cost of those services. Giving aboriginal people the power to raise their own revenues will also reduce the cycle of dependency.

My constituency of Dauphin--Swan River has 13 aboriginal communities. Over the last decade I have spent much time working closely with many of the bands. For the record, I want to read some of the communications I have received from the aboriginal community in my riding of Dauphin--Swan River.

The first communiqué was received from Chief Dwayne Blackbird. This is what he thinks about the minister's consultation process:

The Minister's remarks to you and the Standing Committee about consultation lack honesty. He spent $10 million money--not counting the time of his officials--to end up with a consultation process which his officials admit is useless and discredited. The Minister prescribed the narrow issues he wished to discuss and refused to permit discussion of the broad agenda required to bring about change.

At this time I would like to read into the record part of a speech given by Chief Roberta Jamieson in Winnipeg on March 12 on the topic of colonial thinking:

This is the kind of simplistic jingoistic thinking that is behind the government's fixation on a “new” Governance Act as its contribution to the legacy of colonial thinking. Sure--too often there is a lack of accountability out there. What else would one expect of a century of an Indian Act which held chiefs and councils accountable only to the Indian Agent and his successors? The last thing that government wanted then were chiefs and councillors accountable to their own people.

The PC Party believes that in an inclusive process, no matter how important the grand plan may appear, people must always have a say. Is this not what democracy is all about?

I also received a communiqué from National Chief Matthew Coon Come. This is what he had to say about the first nations governance act:

From the outset of the process launched by [the minister], First Nations leadership have expressed concerns on both the process and content of the proposed FNGA. In addition, the First Nation leadership expressed a willingness to engage in the process as meaningful partners starting with the development of the cabinet mandate, design of the consultation process, and drafting of the proposed bill on mutually acceptable concerns.

First Nations support the need for accountability, transparency and leadership selection. The majority...of the First Nations comply with auditing requirements contrary to the negative media reports over the past year. Political accountability is also paramount. We are however, greatly concerned with the issue of legal standing and capacity that will have fundamental implications to our relationship with the Crown, including the diminishment of the fiduciary obligations, amongst others.

It appears that the process which created the first nations governance act is under attack. National Chief Matthew Coon Come raised an interesting question last week: Why is it that the minister chose to amend the Indian Act over writing a separate piece of legislation dealing with aboriginal self-government outside the act? Indeed it is an interesting question.

Let me bring my portion of the debate to a close with a few additional comments. The Liberal government has pushed aside the conclusions of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples seen by all as a good first step and has replaced them by a consultation process tailored to say what the minister wants to hear. There are a number of ways to deal with the first nations governance and amending the Indian Act is probably the worst. Piecemeal changes likely would do more harm than good. A one size fits all approach to policy and legislation does not work for first nations.

Let me also say that the Liberal government is in no position to talk about greater transparency and accountability when its credibility has been stained by scandal after scandal. As I said earlier, the Liberal Party and the Liberal government have to realize that the money they take from the people really does not belong to them. It belongs to the people of Canada.

The bill does not address the most important issues facing first nations across Canada, namely the poor standard of living in first nations communities, health, housing, clean water and education. I have visited many of the aboriginal communities in my own riding and some of the living conditions are deplorable.

The minister is practising the politics of confrontation, not consultation. This appears to be where all the opposition to his bill comes from. It is the process the minister and the government is following. It is not one of inclusion but one of exclusion. The minister has also cut funding to the Assembly of First Nations. After the group positioned itself against amending the Indian Act the minister made it a policy of handpicking or even creating groups who said what he wanted to hear while shutting the others out.

The PC Party supports the motion to refer the bill to committee before second reading. The committee looks forward to visiting this country coast to coast and we invite all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to express their opinions, apply to the committee throughout the summer, and take time to study the bill. We hope that many amendments will be made to this piece of legislation.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2002 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Simcoe North Ontario


Paul Devillers LiberalSecretary of State (Amateur Sport) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions between all parties and there is agreement pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) for the following motion. I move:

That if a recorded division is requested on the motion to refer Bill C-61 to committee before second reading, it be deemed deferred to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18, 2002.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2002 / 12:45 p.m.
See context


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this important debate. The bill that is before the House today is the outcome of a long and protracted process that began several years ago to fundamentally change relations between the federal government and first nations.

This bill, whose short title is First Nations Governance Act, is the result of in deep reflection on the management and consideration of the numerous claims made by various aboriginal nations in Canada and in Quebec, and particularly on the increasingly complex dispute settlement mechanisms.

The First Nations Governance Act primarily seeks to replace the current Indian Act, which is 126 years old, so as to adapt to today's context the legal framework governing relations with aboriginal peoples.

As I mentioned, this legislation is the outcome of a long and protracted process marked by what had become almost systematic confrontation between the federal government and first nations, regarding their land, cultural, social and economic claims.

The long-awaited action by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is laudable in various respects, but includes a number of irritants which it would have been preferable to avoid so as not to needlessly detract from this major initiative. Of course, the main irritant is the refusal of the vast majority of aboriginals, as well as the Assembly of First Nations, to take part in the consultation process. This is particularly unfortunate because modernizing relations between aboriginal peoples and the federal government lies at the very heart of this legislation.

During the months preceding the drafting of this bill, the department of Indian affairs introduced a series of initiatives designed to consult first nations about their expectations and their needs. But the approach used in organizing the consultation process was the very approach which the government was proposing to change and restructure. I will explain.

Everyone agrees that the Indian Act has become outmoded and unworkable because it no longer corresponds to the reality of the 21st century concerning the place of aboriginal peoples in our modern society and particularly the increasingly autonomous role they are entitled to want to play.

For 126 years, the federal government has displayed a deplorably paternalistic attitude to first nations by unilaterally prejudging what ought to be good for their development. This approach by the federal government is nothing new and is part of the heritage left by the founding fathers, who mistakenly believed that they knew what would be good for aboriginal peoples at the time of Confederation.

Ironically, the offhand and arrogant “Ottawa knows best” attitude, which we criticize almost daily from this side of the House, goes back much further than one might think. All one has to do is take a quick look at the terms used to designate the various aboriginal peoples over the years. Their often inferior, subservient, scornful character is quickly apparent.

The central government's tendency to think that it had the magic solution to the problems of first nations held the latter back in adapting to life with non-aboriginals, to the now necessary cohabitation of nations of equal status.

The social crises that have marked the history of first nations could have been avoided if there had been a attitude of openness toward first nations' people from the outset. However, the attitude of the day dictated, almost instinctively, the mean and insidious paternalistic attitude that whites had toward any groups they considered to be inferior to them, or underdeveloped.

To come back to the crux of my argument, Ottawa's attitude throughout the consultation, which culminated in the introduction of the First Nations Governance Act, has been riddled with problems which must be corrected if we hope to come up with a permanent framework for relations with first nations. Once again, this must be on the level of nation to nation.

From the outset, the government biased the consultation process with native bands by proposing an operating framework that met its own needs.

What the government should have done was to let first nations organize amongst themselves and then listen to their long list of expectations. However, the government imposed its own framework instead of taking into consideration the cultural and social differences, which could have allowed for a much better and much more indepth discussion from the outset.

The best example of this is without question the fate that awaited the famous report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The commission, also known as the Erasmus-Dussault commission, did an admirable job of drafting what should have become a redefined relationship between first nations and the federal government.

However, the political and partisan approach prevailed and the report was quickly shelved at the National Archives without the government bothering to follow up on it. Interestingly enough, the current government made the status of aboriginal peoples a central component of its recent election platform, without ever following up with any real action, something that we in the Bloc Quebecois find deplorable.

The federal government, headed by the Prime Minister, has wilfully side skirted this key issue, which has undermined the development of first nations and given rise to crises that may take generations to solve.

It is disturbing to note, once again, this attitude that can be best expressed as “Ottawa knows best. We want what is good for you, and we want your goods as well”. Thousands of people are feeling its impacts. Worse still, this approach to problems undermines, right from the start, any initiatives to remedy the injustices of which aboriginal peoples have been victims right from the start.

As for the Bloc Quebecois, from the very start it has always supported an equal-to-equal, nation to nation approach with the aboriginal peoples. Following the example of the Government of Quebec, discussions and negotiations relating to the various claims, regardless of their nature, must be based on a common and accommodative approach so as to be as advantageous as possible to both sides. A historical agreement such as the peace of the braves between the Cree and the Government of Quebec is probably the best example.

The process of consultation called for by Ottawa in the wording of this bill is not the right one and does not in any way meet the expectations of the first nations. I trust that the Prime Minister and his minister will listen to reason and heed the arguments of the first nations, and that he will deign to admit that it was a mistake to impose his views on the future of these communities.

As I have said, Bill C-61 contains a number of irritants, and the approach the federal government is taking is absolutely the wrong one.

The First Nations Governance Act, as it has been conceived—in other words, through a flawed process—will harm relations between aboriginal peoples and non-aboriginals. So, what should we do?

First—and this is the reason we support the motion to refer this to committee before second reading—we need to launch the broadest consultations possible, in order to hear as many first nations opinions as possible.

As for the second point—I hope the federal government and the minister will take good note of this proposal and adopt it—the Bloc Quebecois proposes that one or several aboriginal community leaders be appointed to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, in order to make the most of the consultations.

This is a suggestion that I hope the government will adopt, particularly since this is something the minister himself seemed open to considering a little over a year ago.

This governance bill should not be used as a tool to delay treaty negotiations with aboriginals.

In closing, we hope that the government will listen to reason, resume negotiations with aboriginal leaders and come back with a bill that was developed jointly by the federal government and first nations.

This is what the Bloc Quebecois hopes to see as a result of the consultations the committee will be holding across Quebec and Canada. This is also the only result that will lead to productive, friendly and equal relations in the future.