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, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Bob Nault  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of May 28, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

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.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this government motion concerning the proposed amendments to Bill C-6.

First, I want to say that this is a sad day indeed for Parliament. This will be remembered as the day the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and most of the Liberal members voted on a time allocation motion in relation to Bill C-6 on specific claims, a very important piece of legislation.

It is a betrayal of our history, a willful and offensive repudiation of everything our ancestors agreed to with the first nations. It is a betrayal, because when we signed these long-standing treaties, we thought we would then be negotiating equal to equal, nation to nation.

With this morning's time allocation motion, the government is telling us that the spirit in which the Indian Act was implemented over the last 130 years will continue to prevail. We will continue with our paternalistic approach to impose our wishes on first nations.

Furthermore, despite the Erasmus-Dussault report tabled a few years ago, which gave the first nations and aboriginal children hope for their future, this future is once again becoming a dead-end, as it has been for 130 years with the infamous Indian Act. This betrays not only the spirit, but also the letter of what we had agreed upon for decades.

For several years now, this government has preferred confrontation over conciliation and healing in its relations with the first nations. Oddly enough, when the Prime Minister rose just now in the House, I felt ashamed. When the other ministers did likewise, I was doubly ashamed. When I saw most of the Liberal members vote in favour of time allocation, I was even more ashamed to see people deny history and misrepresent it like that.

For the past two days, the Samson Cree community has performed the drum ceremony in front of Parliament. The drums represent the voice and heart of Mother Earth. She is trying to help parliamentarians understand the significance of this bill.

Unfortunately, Mother Earth and the beating of the Cree drums in front of Parliament did not work their magic on the government. It has shut its eyes and ears to the unanimous calls of first nations and the opposition of all the parties to this bill, with the exception of the ruling party.

The minister claimed this morning that he had the support of the first nations. That is not true. I just came from the Assembly of First Nations meeting in Vancouver, which was unanimous in its opinion. All the chiefs are opposed this bill. Why? Because it betrays what is represented by wampum.

Wampum is a symbol of ancient treaties under which the parties negotiated as equals, nation to nation, where no nation was superior to another, but each side had rights. These rights, including the inherent right to self-government and rights under these ancestral treaties, should be respected.

Despite the fact that the first nations have appealed to the United Nations, and we here have been condemning Canada's treatment of the first nations for many years, our pleas fall on deaf ears in this government. We are dealing with a minister who, after a fifteen year career—I hope this is his last year, because he has wreaked enough havoc—is being hypocritical in presenting this bill and saying he has the first nations' support. This is despicable.

It is especially despicable to see the Prime Minister stand up and vote in favour of the time allocation motion. Yet, in 1993, he said, and this can be found in the red book, that given how slowly the first nations' specific claims are being addressed, an independent commission should be set up, not a commission that is entirely controlled by the government and is both judge and party. He talked about an independent commission with independent judges, who could assess the damages, specific claims and compensation with all the independence required for appropriate legal treatment.

This rings hollow because members of the two main institutions in Bill C-6, the first nations specific claims commission and tribunal, will be appointed by the governor in council, in other words cabinet, on the recommendation of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, without input or suggestions from the first nations. It is the minister who will make recommendations to cabinet and who, in keeping with the paternalistic approach of the past, will continue to impose rules through people who are both judge and party.

We are far from the recommendations and numerous reports prepared since 1982 that called for an independent commission. We are also far from the 1993 red book promise of an independent commission, with people appointed by both parties, not just one that is both judge and party, but both the first nations and the government.

So we end up with a structure that is totally at the discretion of the minister. He is the one who will appoint people, so of course there will no biting of the hand that feeds. Obviously, then, the minister and the governor in council will have control over these two major institutions. They is being described as impartial, whereas they are totally partial. If people are appointed, it cannot be assumed that they will be torn between the interests of the first nations or the interests of the government, when it is the government that has appointed them. The first nations have nothing at all to say about these appointments.

It can take several years before specific claims are even made, because once again the decision on when to entertain them is the minister's. He is the one to decide whether they are acceptable or not. This is a mechanism put in place to slow things down, and God knows how slow the processing of specific claims is at present. There are still more than a thousand under consideration. Since the process was inaugurated 30 years ago, 230 specific claims have been settled. At that rate, it will take 150 years to get to the end of the process.

That is just the existing specific claims, not the ones that will be added later. As the first nations begin to inform themselves about their rights, carry out research and call upon the services of experts to find ancestral treaties, we are starting to discover treaties that give more and more rights to the first nations. What the government does not get, and what the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Deveopment does not get, because of his usual arrogance and cynicism, is that the first nations are not looking for charity; they are looking for respect of their rights.

They are seek redress for the numerous wrongs of the past, as well as for loss of part of their land, land that belongs to them. As long as the paternalistic and colonial mindset remains, one that appears to be shared by the minister, the parliamentary secretary and all his colleagues, nothing will be accomplished. The first step must be to recognize that there are rights, that there are treaties that confirm those rights, and that justice must be done.

The minister says that the process will be speeded up. How? No additional resources have been allocated to speed up the processing of these specific claims. There are no new resources. How can he say that the process will be speeded up? How can he say that there will finally be harmony between the parties, when he is ignoring the second party, when he is putting in place a system where he will decide, at his discretion, whether a specific claim is acceptable or not?

He will use his discretionary power to appoint the members of the commission and on the tribunals, but not in cooperation with the first nations.

How can he talk about harmony? I think we have to talk about confrontation instead. This minister is the minister of confrontation. All we can hope for is for this man to leave political life as fast as possible, so that someone else can take his place, someone with more competence, understanding and openness of mind. It takes an open mind to recognize that first nations have rights and that these rights must be respected.

It takes a open mind and also intelligence to know that justice must be done fully and not partially. It also takes intelligence to be sensitive to one's environment and to see that all first nations in Canada, without exception, from sea to sea to sea, as the Prime Minister likes to say, are against Bill C-6, as well as against Bill C-7 on governance. All first nations also had the opportunity to express their views on Bill C-19 a month ago. The great majority voted against Bill C-19.

What justification does the minister have, except to advance his personal agenda? This personal agenda is not the future of first nations, or the future of first nations children faced with educational and multiple addiction problems. What matters is not the future of the minister. We could not care less about his future. What matters to us is the future of first nations, and that of first nations children. The future of these children is not very bright. But the minister does not care.

What saddens me this morning it to see that, following the Erasmus-Dussault report, there was great hope. Since the negotiations on self-governance have gathered some speed a few years ago, there has been great hope. But this kind of bulldozer attitude, using time allocation to have a bill that on one wants passed, dashes hopes. That is wrong.

This bill contains not only this extraordinary discretionary power given to the minister but also a totally despicable principle that must be rejected. Since when, in a case that has yet to go before a court, are we already in a position to tell in advance that there is a ceiling on the claims and compensation, on the value of settlements for specific claims?

If that happened to us, if we were in court and a government tried to have legislation passed, whereby any non-aboriginal citizen going to court will be told that, unfortunately, even if he has a $25 million claim, the maximum value is set at $10 million, as provided by the Senate's amendment, I think that we would say that there is has been a miscarriage of justice somewhere. We would not have it.

Before a case is heard, claims are made, and the injury and the value of the granted lands or resources has been assessed, no ceiling can be imposed. Before even hearing a case, one cannot say what it is worth. Unless, of course, the case is settled in advance. I think that, in the mind of the minister and his government, all aboriginal cases are settled in advance. That is not improving their well-being, nor is it doing them justice; this is just controlling the expenditures of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

I have some suggestions for the minister. If he wants to limit the expenditures of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, there is a good way to do that. Every year, for some years now, the present Auditor General and her predecessor said there was shameless waste in this department. The billions of dollars they claim they are spending on first nations go into the pockets of bureaucrats and go to wasteful projects. They go for travel abroad to see how other governments deal with their aboriginal peoples. That is where the money goes. There is a system in this department that operates something like the mafia, where public servants call the shots and do as they please.

You can try to get a breakdown of expenditures in contracts given by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada to communications agencies, for example, or management firms. You can try to find out who profits the most from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, besides the first nations. You will see it is not easy. In fact, it is impossible.

I tried to obtain the list of financial management firms who had co-management contracts with a number of reserves across Canada. It was impossible to get it. Why? Because things in this department are hidden. Someone is afraid, and rightly so, that the situation will be revealed, and we will see that it is not the first nations, nor their children, who benefit the most from the billions of dollars in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, but this is the system, the cronyism of this government.

So far, no one has convinced me that this is not true. I have made repeated calls requesting a breakdown of this department's expenditures and a breakdown of people who have contracts with this corrupt department—let us not mince words. Every time I made such a request, it was turned down.

I mentioned the ceiling that the minister had set at $9 million. The Senate, no more intelligently, set it at $10 million. Great work, great principle, Senate. The problem is the same; not a thing has changed. A ceiling should not be imposed before the case is heard.

If we look at the past 30 years and the 230 specific claims that have been settled, mostly in Saskatchewan, we see that the average is $18 million. And that is not direct compensation, what with all the time this takes at the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development with the current process, which is not going to change, because there are no supplementary resources. It takes several years before a case like that is settled. The $18 million also includes interest and legal fees, it is not the net amount given to first nations.

Consequently, justice is only partially done. Based on our legal system, this is a constitutional state. Either justice is done or it is not, it cannot be done partially.

Earlier, the minister said that we are the only country in the world to have this type of tribunal for specific claims. I can see why. There is not a civilized or industrialized country in the world, in 2003, that would want to implement a system where rights are denied to the first nations and where justice is done partially instead of fully. I can see why there are no such examples.

For the past several years, the United Nations have singled out Canada for its treatment of the first nations. UN envoys have toured the first nations communities in Canada for several years now, to verify the pitiful state of facilities and things like mildew in houses.

People are ill because the federal government is not doing its job. People are ill because the federal government is not investing sufficient resources to resolve problems related to unhealthy living conditions and unsafe drinking water. We are not talking about Africa, but Canada. Many communities have a problem with their drinking water.

Is it not strange to be dealing with a government in name only? The minister, who is a mere figurehead too, is saying that things will be fixed. At this rate, it will take 150 years to resolve currently pending specific claims. What kind of system is this? What will the outcome be? Hopefully, the minister will not be running in the next election, and we will do our best to see that he does not.

This morning, the minister made statements that were quite unintelligent, to avoid using other words that might cause the Chair to force me to withdraw my remarks, since I sincerely and honestly believe it. The minister said that if the first nations are not satisfied, they can go through the regular courts. Well. There is the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the minister's discretionary power, the discretionary power of the Minister of Justice, and a whole bunch of lawyers who will fight the first nations to ensure they are cannot resolve their specific claims.

For all these reasons, I am ashamed today to be here in Parliament with my colleagues opposite who voted to impose time allocation on this bill. This bill was unanimously rejected by the first nations, since it will lock us, over the next few decades, into legislation that is strangely reminiscent of the Indian Act. This is legislation harks back to colonial times, which does not make sense. This is 2003, not 1810.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2003 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Bob Nault Liberal Kenora—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot predict anyone's future, mine nor the member's. We will see how he makes out when he is up for nomination in his own riding or when he is up for re-election.

However, the objective of what we are proposing today is to put forward modern institutions of governance and the ability of the Government of Canada, through an independent specific claims commission and tribunal, to work with first nations outside of the courts to fast track and bring forward outstanding grievances of the past.

I do not understand this rhetoric from across the floor that somehow this diminishes the respect of aboriginal people. If they choose not to use the tool, that is their right; however, the fact is that we do not have the mechanism now to improve the abilities to work with first nations on resolving these claims. That is why Bill C-6 is so important to the long term resolution of grievances of the past.

What we set out to do in this mandate was very simple. We wanted Parliament to enter into a debate for the first time about the important modern institutions necessary for first nations to be part of our country, not sitting on the sidelines, living in poverty, and waiting for us to find some political will to work with them.

That is what Bill C-7, Bill C-19 and Bill C-6 are all about. And I dare say, later on this week, we will see another piece of legislation that also signals the same need for first nations people.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2003 / 10:35 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, during their administration, the Liberals have invoked time allocation and closure a total of 84 times. The record in the previous administration, the Mulroney administration, was a total of 72 times. Therefore, we are already well past the record setting pace of the Mulroney administration.

The government, in all of its dealings with aboriginal legislation, must be known for an absence of sharp dealings and forthright expression of its constitutional fiduciary obligations to indigenous peoples.

Not only does Bill C-6 fly in the face of virtually all commentary received from aboriginal communities, but it also flies in the face of all of the opposition parties in the House.

The minister made reference to the First Nations Land Management Act. I was here when the act went through this place. We had 14 first nations that were strong proponents of that act.

I ask the minister, where are the first nations that are strong proponents of Bill C-6? They do not exist. Is the government invoking time allocation because of the legacy that this minister hopes to leave behind? In others words, the first nations governance act, Bill C-7, has gone sideways, and these are the final days of the minister's mandate.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

November 4th, 2003 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Bob Nault Liberal Kenora—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are not here debating Bill C-7 but I will make a quick comment and that is that Bill C-7 is alive and well and he will have an opportunity to debate that some time soon I am sure.

The reason for that is that no one in their right mind, who knows anything about aboriginal issues, can say that the present Indian Act meets the needs of first nations people. We all know the status quo is not acceptable. We all know first nations people are suffering because Parliament has not acted in modern times to bring forward the kind of institutional changes necessary to improve the opportunities for first nations to be successful.

If the member is having a debate about whether Parliament has the right to move legislation without every first nation leader across the country being in support, then he has a different definition of his role and responsibilities than I do.

I go back to Bill C-6, which is the matter of the debate and on which many members want to ask questions. I will put it to the member again. If the member believes that Bill C-6 is not as good as the present Indian Claims Commission we have before us today he should stand up and say so. My belief is that this legislation is 10 times as good as the process we have now. It will prove to be very effective once it is implemented into law.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2003 / 1:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to what my colleague is saying, this government is very good at alienating a lot of people and a lot of provincial representatives, economically and otherwise. With the three bills it introduced, Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19, the government is above all alienating the first nations.

Some fifty members from these communities are gathered here to express their opposition to these bills, which do not respect the inherent right to self-government, which do not respect ancestral treaties, and which do not respect them as full-fledged members of nations so recognized by the United Nations.

I have a question for my colleague regarding equalization. Does he not believe that it would be a good idea to settle the fiscal imbalance issue, a move which would really give provincial governments and the Quebec government the resources they need to assume their own responsibilities? If this was done, we could slowly proceed to do away with this equalization program, which has been nothing but trouble since its inception because it is too complex to administer and too complex to improve.

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

I rise to defend my Prime Minister. When I say that, you, Mr. Speaker, will know well from your experience in the House that I am one backbench MP who has many times disagreed with my Prime Minister, many times spoken in the House against my leader's legislation, and many times expressed in the most candid way that not always has the government policy been correct, although by and large, obviously, because I am on this side and not on that side, I believe it to be so.

The reason why actually I take some satisfaction in standing here with the motion and defending my Prime Minister is that I believe it is incumbent on a team and the members of the team always to support their leaders, so long as they have confidence in those leaders, and I certainly have confidence in the current Prime Minister.

If I have time I will make allusion to some of his successes in the past, which include reducing the debt by $100 billion, turning back the forces that would split the country apart, the forces of separatism, and most importantly, the position he took on Iraq, which led Canada away from a traditional course and into a new course of independence in foreign affairs that I think will reverberate down through the ages.

It is not easy being a leader. I think one of the characteristics of a good leader is the ability to make decisions knowing full well that from time to time a mistake will be made. It is not easy, sometimes, to make these decisions and be brave. It is easy in hindsight or easy to sit on the side benches or from behind the curtains to second guess the decisions of a leader, but the reality is that to lead is a difficult task. So long as we, the members of the team, have confidence in that leader, then we should be supporting him. I do so now.

Let me address two points that have come up in this debate. One is the question of why the Prime Minister chose to leave in February 2004 rather than at some earlier time. I was there at Chicoutimi about 14 months ago at the national caucus meeting where the Prime Minister announced that he would leave in February 2004. Now, I have watched this person for a very long time and I understand his knowledge of the House, and I have acquired some knowledge of the House myself. You will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that February is a very appropriate time because it is budget month and budgets for the government are prepared 11 months in advance.

So in fact, in February the presentation of the budget marks the end of a year of governance. Reading the current Prime Minister's mind, I am sure he would think that February would be an appropriate time to leave office because he would obviously have the satisfaction of leaving government in very good shape, because as we know from the current finance minister's remarks yesterday, it does appear that we are going to continue with a surplus situation. This means that the current Prime Minister is going to leave the financial situation of the country in good state and I think I can say quite confidently that this would be part of his strategy to ensure that his successor, whoever that might be, will have the best ammunition possible to go forward in the next election.

There is a second reason, which I think came up subsequently to his original choice of February, as to why the current Prime Minister would want to stay on until the new year, even though the convention date at which the party will pick a new leader is in mid-November. I refer to Bill C-24, the political financing act, which kicks in on January 1, 2004. This legislation overhauls and reforms much of the political financing mechanisms that are used at the federal level.

In fact, the federal Parliament had fallen well behind many of the provincial legislatures in terms of the transparency and the rules that should apply to political financing of riding associations, political parties and so on and so forth. Obviously not only would the Prime Minister want to see the next election fought under these new rules, the only way he could be certain of that would be to stay in office at least until the new year.

I am not suggesting that his successor would not want to fight an election under these reformed political financing rules, but the reality is that in the debate on Bill C-24 there were a lot of reservations among MPs on this side of the House and on the opposition side.

The reality is that a new leader chosen in mid-November would come under immediate pressure, no doubt about it, to call an election at that time. By staying on until the new year, the current Prime Minister guarantees that his successor does not have to deal with that type of pressure and that his successor can, in an orderly fashion, work toward preparing himself for his new role as the prime minister.

There has also been quite a bit of debate here that in this sort of interregnum period we are in right now government legislation and government operations are stalled. I think that we on this side of the House have to be candid and admit that this is indeed, to some degree, the case. Some legislation has been stalled. We are not advancing forward as quickly as we should on some bills. I particularly refer to Bill C-7, the Indian accountability bill, which is a very important bill. Also, the citizenship bill is stalled as well in committee, and there are other examples like that.

But I do not think that we can lay the blame either on the current Prime Minister or on his possible successor, because what has really happened is that my colleagues on this side are experiencing something they have never experienced before, and that is a leadership race, which always, I am told, because this is my first experience, activates loyalties, because politics and leadership races are very partisan processes. I think that some members on the Liberal side have indeed had trouble understanding where their loyalties should lie while this debate goes on.

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the weakness that the opposition is seeing is really a certain amount of confusion among my colleagues. That confusion is reflected sometimes in the lack of attendance at question period and sometimes in the lack of participation in open debate.

I am absolutely confident that after November 15 when the question of party leadership is settled and it is very clear that there will be a change in prime minister in three months, I fully expect my colleagues will have no problem then differentiating between the party leader and the prime minister.

I would expect, Mr. Speaker, that you can look forward to an active Parliament, not a Parliament that is dismissed, not a Parliament that is prorogued, but MPs who are willing on this side to continue to tackle aggressively the issues of the day. I am very confident that it has been simply a questionof a new experience where suddenly members of the Liberal caucus have a sense of divided loyalties, but that shall pass.

Finally, I would just like to reiterate that the Bloc motion makes it very clear that even the Prime Minister's traditional political enemies in terms of separatism acknowledge that this Prime Minister has earned the right to go when he chooses. I think the NDP is correct in supporting this side, which will most assuredly defeat this motion.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

October 22nd, 2003 / 7:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill S-7.

I am shocked and astounded by what I just heard. It was like hearing a wish list. Indeed, after some research on the issue, one realizes that it was in 1970 that the federal government decided to abandon the existing lighthouses and replace them with automated ones. This program exists since 1970.

I only wanted to point out that, since 1970, many studies have been carried out and numerous recommendations made. A large number of people have asked the federal government to at least take proper care of its lighthouses.

There is a very good example in my riding, namely the Madeleine-Centre lighthouse. We could say that it is a heritage lighthouse. However, it does not meet the extremely strict criteria established by the board.

My difficulty with Bill S-7 is that it wants these lighthouses to be dealt with by a board that has no money to look after these structures but sets standards so strict that it will deal with the fewest structures possible. Therefore, the lighthouses, not being maintained, continue to deteriorate.

Many people, especially those in Quebec and Canada who care about our heritage, have harshly criticized the government for its attitude, which is why Bill S-7 was introduced. Had the government done its job, we would not need this legislation. After all, we already have all the tools; the only problem is that the federal government has totally abandoned these structures, in the hope that they could be demolished so that it would no longer have to take care of them and spend money on them.

I simply want to quote this from the Auditor General's report of 1983, which was published 13 years after the introduction of the lighthouse replacement program:

Despite the fact that the unmanning program has been under way for 13 years, we had difficulty obtaining satisfactory cost information.

Thus, 13 years after the start of the program, there were still no real data on what was done by the government. I continue:

—we had difficulty obtaining satisfactory cost information. A breakdown of direct and indirect costs for manned versus unmanned lighthouses is not available.

This means that the program was put in place at the time without any idea of how much it would could cost or of what was going to happen to the abandoned lighthouses and to those that were no longer manned. I continue:

Nevertheless, the Coast Guard has indicated that an estimate of annual cost savings of $50,000 per station would be reasonable.

That is an estimate that was never verified, and the Auditor General confirmed this back in 1983:

Thus, unmanning lightstations would result in annual savings of from $6 million (based on the 118 lighthouses identified in the survey) to $12 million (if all 234 manned locations were included).

This means that, for the unmanned lighthouses, it is $6 million and, for the manned lighthouses, the amount is $12 million.

Offsetting these annual reductions in costs is a one-time cost for new monitoring equipment, which the Coast Guard estimates would range from $8 million to $15 million.

So we put in place this program, we abandoned the infrastructures that were there. Instead of using the infrastructures we had, we replaced the historic infrastructures by aluminum structures. In the end, we realized that it was as costly and that there were no savings. This finding dates back to 1983. Now it is 2003 and it seems, according to the information we have, that we will not have the answer before December 2003.

In other words, we will not know what went on from 1970 to 2003 with respect to lighthouses. We are talking about a 33 year period during which the government had no idea what was happening with the lighthouses when it abandoned them and created an unmanning program.

We were to have the answer by December 2003 and find out whether there really were any savings. It is 30 years later. People are asking questions and Bill S-7, the purpose of which is to protect heritage lighthouses, was introduced.

What is a heritage lighthouse? There is absolutely nothing in the bill that describes the criteria for determining that.

On the contrary, it is left entirely to the discretion of the minister and the government to determine which are heritage lighthouses and therefore set out the criteria and, knowing this government, eliminate as many as possible. The stricter the criteria, the fewer heritage lighthouses there are and the less money will have to be invested.

Look at how this government has acted with the Coast Guard, among others, for a number of years now. Since 1983, we know full well that the Coast Guard has been utterly underfunded. After the events of September 11, we woke up and realized that we had a bare bones Coast Guard. It is the Coast Guard that is currently responsible for the lighthouses. It is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that is currently responsible for the lighthouses. Nothing is being invested in the infrastructure, which was completely abandoned.

I would go further. In the bill before us, the normal procedure, when the federal government wants to sell property, is first to offer it to the provinces, to repair the infrastructure and maintain it properly. If the province does not want to acquire the infrastructure, then the federal government can offer it either to the municipality or an independent corporation.

We do not need a bill for this. We do not need Bill C-7 for this. This already exists in procedure. It is already there.

The problem is that the government never invests money. It does not invest the necessary money or offer anything to the communities that want to operate or acquire these lighthouses to maintain them for the benefit of the public.

My main concern about this bill is that it looks as though the minister is being given full discretion. He or she can do pretty much whatever he or she wants and the public has no input because, in the end, despite all the consultation, the criteria have to be met.

If the minister sets the criteria, even if there is a public consultation process, we will have to rely on the heritage board criteria. It is these criteria that have to be changed so as to include a greater number of lighthouses, so that the government will have to invest the necessary funds before it transfers them, if it wishes to do so.

The same principle applies to train stations, airports and ports that the government has transferred in the past. It is the same process. With regard to ports, the federal government made the commitment to repair the facilities before transferring them to the community.

The same thing should be done with lighthouses. They should be repaired and maintained. If the government wants to transfer them, then the community can take over.

I would also add that there are some questions with regard to ports, because it is the same process. Right now, certain communities that have taken over these infrastructures are in trouble because they are unable to absorb the costs of maintaining a port or an airport.

We have a good example of that in our regions. I am referring to the Gaspé airport and to the Mont-Joli airport. We realize today that the communities are unable to assume this responsibility because they do not have the necessary funds.

The same thing should not happen with lighthouses. The criteria should be not be so strict, so as to force the government to maintain these facilities.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

October 20th, 2003 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate the member for Nanaimo—Alberni for his bill. I have long been a supporter and advocate of the private member's bill and motion system. I myself have had some success through my research to bring ideas to this place and to have good debate. The member has achieved that with Bill C-420.

I also want to compliment the member on the efforts he made over a long period of time to educate the House on the issue. A big part of what we do here is to earn support and respect for issues that we bring forward by providing compelling arguments and evidence that this is something that we should look at. I think the member has been quite successful.

Private members' bills do not often make it through the entire process. Our system in the past has made it extremely difficult for good ideas to find their way into the laws of Canada, but from time to time they do, which is why at this stage it is important that we not be too critical of a private member's bill that may have been crafted a year or two years ago in terms of the thinking, but that as we have talked about it, obviously there are some suggestions on how we can improve it. On this particular item, it is a matter of whether it will go further to the next step. Is this an issue that we should be looking at?

I do not think there is a member in this place who is not familiar with the arguments related to natural health products. It has been with us for a long time. It is relevant in probably each and every one of our ridings. I think our constituents would want to know that we are looking carefully at all the possibilities. I know there are concerns about whether or not health related benefits from certain products are valid or appropriate. I am sure there are arguments about whether these products are a food or a drug.

I was on the health committee for four years and had an opportunity to go through the products when I chaired a subcommittee on Bill C-7 on controlled drugs and substances. I know how difficult it can be to get consensus on some of these fine points. We went the same route on genetically modified organisms. I found Health Canada very rigid in dealing with these matters and I do not think that it should have been.

We have to be a little more open to this. I understand that protecting the health of Canadians is an overarching objective but the evidence of the benefits of natural health products is not just anecdotal. It has been proven in virtually centuries of use, which has been handed down from generation to generation, that there really are clear examples.

Could I explain each one of them? Probably not. Are they applicable and helpful to everyone? No, but I am not sure that there is a drug anywhere in the world that is helpful to everybody to the same degree. We are all different. Our circumstances are different.

This, to me, represents an important option that we as legislators should consider. This is an opportunity for us to say that this is an issue that we need to have a closer look at but that we cannot do that unless it goes to the next stage.

I will be supporting the bill because I think the member has given the House a lot to think about. Members have raised some questions which should be explored further and I think the next stage is where that will happen. I would not want to see the bill die simply because in some people's views it is not a perfect bill at this point in time. The substantive issue in what the member has raised is the important part.

I hope that members will give some due consideration to Bill C-420. It is about time we spoke more frankly and deeply about the issues raised by the hon. member about the benefits of natural health products.

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals)Government Orders

September 25th, 2003 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce the debate on the message from the other place insisting on further amendments to Bill C-10B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).

Let me remind the House that we have been on a long journey with this bill. Animal cruelty amendments were originally introduced in 1999 in Bill C-7, a small omnibus criminal law amendment bill.

Bill C-17 died on the Order Paper when Parliament prorogued in 2000 without having completed second reading.

In March 2001 the government introduced Bill C-15, a new and larger omnibus criminal law bill containing the animal cruelty amendments. Some revisions had been made to the amendments to clarify the scope and the intent of the measures. Subsequently, the House split Bill C-15 in 2001 and the animal cruelty amendments and other amendments became known as Bill C-15B. The House passed Bill C-15B in June 2002. It died again when Parliament prorogued that summer.

In October 2002 the bill was reintroduced as Bill C-10 and referred directly to the other place. In November the other place referred Bill C-10 to the committee on legal and constitutional affairs with an instruction to split the bill into two portions. The animal cruelty amendments became known as Bill C-10B.

Committee hearings in the other place commenced in early December 2002 and concluded on May 15, 2003. Bill C-10B then received third reading and was passed in the other place on May 29, with five amendments.

The House debated the amendments on June 6, 2003. The House accepted the amendment to the definition of animal and a small technical amendment to the French version of the bill.

It also accepted the spirit of the amendment that made express reference to the defences of legal justification, excuse and colour of right, with a modification that removed an unconstitutional reverse onus and cross-referenced the currently applicable subsection 429(2) instead of reproducing the defences because this more clearly would indicate to the courts that existing case law should continue to apply to this new regime.

However, the House rejected the other two amendments that came from the other place. One of these was an amendment that would have replaced the offence of killing an animal without lawful excuse with the offence of causing unnecessary death to an animal. The other amendment was one that would have provided an express defence for aboriginal practices that do not cause more pain than is necessary. Both amendments were rejected on the grounds that, first, they were legally unnecessary; second, they were confusing; and third, had unclear legal effect.

The House urged the other place to pass the bill in the form in which the House approved it. A message was sent to the other place to acquaint them with the position of the House.

The other place considered that message and we are now in receipt of its response. The other place is insisting on the two amendments that the House rejected, with a small revision to the aboriginal defence amendment, and would further modify the legal justification, excuse and colour of right amendment adopted by the House.

The government's motion before us today makes clear that the government does not support the amendments that the other place is insisting upon. The House rejected two of them in June and continues to oppose them. As for the proposed change to the colour of right amendment, the government opposes that as well.

These animal cruelty amendments have been before Parliament in one form or another for nearly four years. A lot of hard work and discussions have taken place over that time between the government, and various individuals and groups concerned with the legislation.

In an effort to clarify the law as much as possible, even if the clarification was not required as a matter of law, the legislation has been amended three times already since it was first introduced in 1999.

In the view of the government, the form of the bill passed by the House in June satisfies the remaining concern of the stakeholders that have followed the progress of the legislation. It constitutes a compromise that strikes the correct balance between clarifying the law as it applies to animal industries without diluting the purpose and effect of the legislation.

With the participation of the other place, this hard work and compromise has brought the bill to a form that animal welfare groups on the one side and animal industry groups on the other side can all support.

In short, it seems that no one is asking for these additional changes that the other place is insisting on. The other place may think they are crucial, but this House does not, nor do any of the organizations that represent the people who work with animals.

Let me address each of the amendments in turn. The first amendment would replace the offence of killing an animal without a lawful excuse with the new offence of causing unnecessary death to an animal.

The government is of the view that the defence of lawful excuse is a well developed and well understood defence. The courts have interpreted on many occasions that it is a flexible, broad defence that is commonly employed in the Criminal Code of Canada. It is fairly and consistently applied by courts.

More importantly, since 1953, this defence has been applicable to the offence of killing animals that are kept for lawful purpose. It has a history in the context of animal cruelty offences.

The government is convinced and satisfied that the defence of lawful excuse offers adequate and unambiguous protection for lawful purposes for killing animals. No witnesses who testified at the committee of this House or of the other place testified that this defence was unclear or unsatisfactory.

For all of these reasons the government remains convinced that maintaining the defence of lawful excuse in relation to offences for killing animals continues to be the best and most appropriate manner of safeguarding the legality of purposes for which animals are commonly killed.

Further, the government does not believe that the proposal of the other place would improve the law. In fact, it is likely that the proposal would actually give rise to confusion and uncertainty. The proposal would use the term “unnecessary” to apply to killings, but the term “unnecessary” as it has been judicially interpreted does not logically apply to the act of killing. “Unnecessary” is currently only applicable to the acts of causing pain, suffering or injury. It has two main elements: first, a lawful purpose for interacting with an animal; and second, a requirement to use reasonable and proportionate means when accomplishing this objective.

It is clear that in terms of the act of killing only the first part of the test for “unnecessary” is relevant and logically applicable. The question is, was there a lawful purpose? To ask the question about reasonable means makes no sense. It is not a qualitative assessment but rather a yes or no question about whether there was a good reason for the killing. This is why the defence of lawful excuse works and the concept of “unnecessary” does not.

It is currently an offence to kill an animal without a lawful excuse. It is also an offence to kill an animal with a lawful excuse but in a manner that causes it unnecessary pain. These are currently two distinct and separate offences.

The proposal would fold the elements of these two different offences into each other. This could lead to a reinterpretation of the well developed test of “unnecessary”. In short, this will add confusion rather than clarity to the law. For these reasons the government does not accept this amendment.

With respect to the second amendment, the amendment which would create a defence for traditional aboriginal practices, the government does recognize that a small change was made that removed an element that was overly broad. The amendment would create a defence for traditional aboriginal practices that cause no more pain than is reasonably necessary. The government agrees that this should indeed be the case and in fact already is the case. Therefore, the amendment is not necessary.

By virtue of the way the offence is defined, it is already the law that aboriginal practices, that cause no more pain than is reasonably necessary, are not currently offences. If we cause no more pain than is reasonably necessary, we are not causing unnecessary pain, which is what the offence requires. If we are not committing an offence, we do not need a defence. Nothing in Bill C-10B will change this.

The government believes that the existing law and the bill, without the new and special defence, already achieve the objective sought by the other place.

There is no need to mention aboriginal practices specifically. The law is already flexible enough to consider all situations and contexts. In addition, by adding a new and special defence for aboriginal practices when one is not necessary, this proposal could unintentionally create mischief.

It is confusing to create a defence for actions that are not a crime. The government does not believe that the law would be improved by creating a defence that is legally unnecessary and has the potential to confuse rather than clarify the interpretation of the offences.

The final proposed amendment in the message from the other place relates to the defences of legal justification, excuse and colour of right set out in subsection 429(2). The proposal would remove the phrase “to the extent that they are relevant” from the amendment that was passed by this House in June. The government believes that these words are helpful and should remain.

The defences in subsection 429(2) of the Criminal Code apply to a variety of different offences, including animal cruelty. The inclusion of the phrase “to the extent that they are relevant” is intended to signal to the courts that the existing manner of applying those defences to animal cruelty offences should not change. It makes clear that the intention is to maintain the status quo, not to alter it.

The words are clear and not capable of being misunderstood. The defences are available in any and all cases where they are relevant. The relevance of a defence to a particular case depends on the specific circumstances and the facts of that case. The phrase guarantees an accused access to these defences when they are relevant. It does not limit or otherwise take away a defence that could be raised.

There can be no possible unfairness to an accused person to be denied a defence that is not relevant. That is just common sense. For these reasons, the government does not agree with the amended amendment proposed by the other place.

The government would once again like to thank the other place for giving Bill C-10B such thorough consideration and attention, but the government believes that the time has come to pass Bill C-10B in the form this House approved in June.

This bill already safeguards humane and reasonable practices involving animals and has the support of groups representing hunters, farmers, fishers, animal researchers, and those representing the welfare of animals. There is a tremendous degree of consensus now and a strong desire on the part of these organizations and hundreds of thousands of Canadians to see the bill become law.

I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of the government's message which rejects any further amendments and requests that the other place pass Bill C-10B as quickly as possible.

Privilege

June 12th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on April 11, 2003 by the hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe—Bagot concerning the conduct of the Chair during several committee meetings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe—Bagot for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. Minister of State and Leader of the Government for his intervention in the discussion.

The hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe—Bagot first raised his concerns regarding proceedings of the Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources Committee on April 3, 2003. At that time he claimed that certain procedural irregularities had taken place relating to the use of the previous question during debate. He also raised the issue of the use of unparliamentary language by the Chair of the committee

On April 7, 2003, I delivered my ruling on that point of order and took the opportunity at that time to remind members of our usual practice with respect to procedural irregularities in a committee. Marleau and Montpetit, at page 858, states:

If a committee desires that some action be taken against those disrupting its proceedings, it must report the situation to the House.

At page 128, we read:

Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee, which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual Member.

I went on to state that the matter should be dealt with in the committee. Order and decorum in committee is an internal matter and the judgment of what is or is not acceptable must be made there. I will not review the portion of my earlier ruling relating to the moving of the previous question, since that issue was fully dealt with on April 7 and is not relevant to today’s discussion.

I will instead direct my remarks to the hon. member's concerns related to the conduct of the committee chair, including the use of unparliamentary language.

As members may recall, prior to the delivery of my April 7 ruling, the chair of the aboriginal affairs, northern development and natural resources committee, the hon. member for Nickel Belt, rose in the House to withdraw the remarks complained of by the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and to apologize to all members of the House, especially to members of the standing committee, for the language he used in the heat of the moment.

In my ruling, while expressing appreciation for the gesture made by the Chair of the committee in offering an apology in the House, I pointed out that it was in committee that the issue needed to be resolved and it was there that the relationship between the Chair of the committee and the hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe—Bagot needed to be repaired

Despite the suggestion of the Speaker that members of the committee attempt to resolve the issues previously raised, it would appear the hon. member for St.-Hyacinthe–Bagot continues to have grievances about the committee’s proceedings on Bill C-7.

On Tuesday, June 10, 2003, the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources wrote to the Speaker to provide further explanation on the issues at hand. I thank him for doing so and I have shared the content of his letter with the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Our parliamentary system is predicated on freedom of thought and expression and indeed encourages active debate. I would remind hon. members that conflict and differences of opinion are inherent in the work we do as members of Parliament. On the other hand, members are expected to conduct themselves with decorum and to show respect for their colleagues in committee just as they are in this place. Establishing and maintaining a working environment in committee that respects both these principles is entirely within the responsibility of the committee and its members.

While it is regrettable that there continues to be tension between members of the standing committee, I would point out once again that there has been no report from the committee. Therefore, the matter remains one which, in the first instance, the committee itself must deal with.

The reluctance of previous Speakers, and of myself on earlier occasions, to intervene in the business of committees is procedurally well founded. Accordingly, as was the case the last time the hon. member brought this matter to the House, I can find no basis for a question of privilege, nor am I willing to intervene in matters that ought properly, and indeed still can be, addressed by the committee itself.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2003 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know who writes this stuff, but he or she would be fired right now if I were in the place of the hon. member.

The hon. member should know the legislative program of the government. We have dealt with everything from international agreements, aboriginal self-government in Bill C-7 and the budget implementation bill that transfers the funding to the provinces for the health accord to improve health in every way, and about which the hon. member has just talked.

What party voted against Bill C-28, the budget implementation and health transfers to the provinces to help in health? Hon. members across, who are asking me these preposterous questions, are the same people who voted against giving extra money to the provinces for health and all kinds of other things. They voted against the tax reduction measures and all those other things on which the government had been working so hard.

In terms of the Prime Minister's image, and I want to end on that note, the Prime Minister is at an historical high in his personal popularity. He has led Canadians in an absolutely magnificent way for all these years. In a year from now, or close to that, he will no longer be the Prime Minister, unfortunately in my view, but he will be remembered as being one of the great leaders the country has ever had.

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to make comments on Bill C-15 with respect to lobbyists.

We have heard it mentioned by many people how important it is that lobbyists not be in a position to disrupt the parliamentary process or to exert undue influence on parliamentarians. However I have to observe that lobbyists are not the only ones who do this. Many people exert undue influence on Parliament and disrupt the parliamentary process.

At the beginning of this Parliament, opposition members encountered tremendous difficulty with respect to Bill C-7 amendments due to the draconian measures brought in by the government House leader, and the government's dismissive view of the decisions of the House, ignoring such things as the motion for Taiwan's bid for observer status at the World Health Organization, and the motion respecting the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece from Britain.

Just yesterday the Solicitor General disrespected the sub judice convention, and today the Minister of Transport indicated that he would override the decision of the Standing Committee on Transport and reinstate $9 million to VIA Rail. All of these things disrupt the parliamentary process.

One of the members who spoke recently said that we should do everything in our power to ensure that we stop the exertion of undue influence and disruption in the House. In keeping with that, I move:

That this House do now adjourn.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 5th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, that is a very powerful question. Yes, I have checked my agenda as to what work remains to be done. We all know that there is lots of work to do.

That is why, this afternoon, the House will return to its consideration of Bill C-15, the lobbyist legislation, followed by Bill S-13, respecting census records. We will then return to Bill C-17, the public safety bill.

I am sorry that this morning we were unable to complete our consideration of Bill C-7. Tomorrow, we will begin considering the Senate's amendments to Bill C-10B, the cruelty to animals legislation, and Bill C-35, the military judges bill. If we have any time remaining, I still hope we can finish with Bill C-7, of course.

Next week, starting on Monday, the House will consider Bill C-24, the elections finance bill, at the report stage, and any items from this week that have not been completed.

I wish to confirm to the House that Thursday, June 12 shall be an allotted day.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

June 5th, 2003 / 2 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, we would not remodel our home if the foundation was rotten. That would be wasteful, foolish and illogical.

Yet that is exactly what the federal government is doing with Bill C-7, the $1 billion first nations governance act.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development said just a few days ago that all 634 Canadian chiefs were “self-serving bullies”. If he believes that assertion we would have to ask ourselves why he would then want to give those bullies much more power than they already have.

The bill would entrench the most expensive and least effective model of governance yet tried in first nations.

Meanwhile, the government is preoccupied with the dumb as a bag of hammers Bill C-24, the political financing act.

Rifts have developed. A legacy is at risk. However

the Liberals have resolved the issue by tapping the taxpayers for another $5 million, all because the bill would have an impact on just $1 million of Liberal fundraising.

Meanwhile, Canadian taxpayers are being charged a billion--

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 5th, 2003 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have two points.

First, the member of the Alliance Party said I was doing this for some other reason. That is impugning motives which is against the rules of the House. My motives are to have to a full-fledged debate on the possibility of bank mergers in this country. I hope he would withdraw the allegation that he made.

Second, Mr. Speaker, I hope you follow the advice of the hon. member for Calgary Centre and check the blues. My understanding was that I was getting unlimited time, that the House thought this was a very important debate. It had nothing to do with the debate on Bill C-7 or whatever other issue the member from British Columbia was thinking of.