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.


Bob Nault  Liberal


Not active, as of May 28, 2003
(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.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am bound to accept your ruling of course, although I note that the ruling by Mr. Speaker Macnaughton was made before the passage of the charter and before the passage of the Official Languages Act, which is binding upon this House of Commons. However you have ruled on that matter.

However I hope there will be an opportunity at some other time, including by the government House leader who has always shown his respect for the Official Languages Act, for us to ensure that the act applies to this House of Commons regardless of precedents that were established before the Official Languages Act became the law of Canada.

The other point I want to make, and which I believe is of equally great importance in this matter, relates to our fiduciary obligation to aboriginal people. We are not here debating any old bill. We are dealing with a bill that has to do with the rights of a people who exist in a fiduciary relationship with the Government of Canada, with the Parliament of Canada and with the Crown of Canada. They are in a status that is unlike the status of others whose positions we may be debating here.

There is an unusual obligation upon us in the House to ensure that there is a full opportunity for all members of Parliament who have an interest in these issues and, indeed, a full opportunity for the people to whom we owe a fiduciary responsibility, the first nations people, to know what was discussed in committee and to be sure that they are in a position to bring forward appropriate amendments to deal with matters in the House.

On Bill C-7 the first nations community had only a matter of hours, on a question that goes to the heart of their capacity to self-govern, to make recommendations after the committee reported. The reprinted bill containing the committee amendments was available for less than 24 hours before the government's arbitrary deadline for the submission of report stage amendments.

Mr. Speaker, at the heart of your office is the duty to protect minorities and minority rights. You will be familiar with the great words of the distinguished clerk of the House, Sir John Bourinot. I quote from Marleau and Montpetit at page 210 which says:

The great principles that lie at the basis of English parliamentary law have...been always kept steadily in view by the Canadian legislatures; these are: To protect the minority and restrain the improvidence and tyranny of the majority, to secure the transaction of public business in a decent and orderly manner, to enable every member to express his opinions within those limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an unnecessary waste of time, to give full opportunity for the consideration of every measure, and to prevent any legislative action being taken heedlessly and upon sudden impulse.

This is a matter that goes fundamentally to the interests of a minority in the country but a minority that enjoys special protections under our history and under our practice in the House. Regarding no other group have steps been taken by this Parliament to allow them to sit as members of parliamentary committees when matters affecting their future were considered. For no other group was the process of federal-provincial consultation open to include representatives of those peoples during constitutional discussions, as I have cause to know happened during the preparation of the proposals for the Charlottetown accord.

There is no question that first nations people have an unusual status in the country. There is no question that the subject matters here are of great concern to them. We have seen that before committee and in demonstrations across the country. They have not had the time to consider what was being discussed in committee. They have not had the time to make representations to us in the House as to changes or amendments that might improve the bill. First nations people have had about 24 hours to deal with hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of history that could be changed by a quick decision of this House of Commons.

We have an obligation to protect the rights of minorities generally, but certainly to ensure that the people here, to whom we have a fiduciary responsibility and who are most vulnerable to changes that might be undertaken, have the time themselves to bring forward recommendations for amendments that could be considered by the House.

I respectfully hope, Sir, that you will consider the fundamental importance of this issue and not allow the government to proceed with a bill which, as a practical matter, denies the opportunity for first nations people to consider discussions in committee and to make their own representations as to changes that should be made in legislation that would fundamentally affect their lives.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 3:50 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will forgo the details of the committee chair's report, simply to say that he indicated at what great length there were hearings and discussions across the country.

The bill has now been returned to the House. We are at report stage. The government itself has introduced new amendments, which indicate that in its own judgment the original bill was flawed.

We must remember the purpose of report stage. In speaking about committee stage and report stage, the Speaker said on March 21, 2001:

Accordingly, I would strongly urge all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created, namely for the House to consider the committee report and the work the committee has done, and to do such further work as it deems necessary to complete detailed consideration of the bill.

Mr. Speaker, it is impossible for the House to consider the work that the committee has done without the transcripts of the committee debates. The work of the committee extends beyond the passage of amendments.

The committee travelled. It took evidence. The committee debated and deliberated on the record. Why would it keep and publish a transcript if it were not primarily for the reason of assisting the House at this report stage and at third reading?

Members of the House are entitled to have the entire case in front of them before we are called upon to judge the work of the committee. I make this case emphatically. We are entitled to have it “dans les deux langues officielles du Canada”, in both official languages of Canada.

These transcripts are not yet available in both official languages. Members of the House were and are today precluded from being able to examine the work of the committee in their language of choice. If we cannot know the evidence, we cannot decide if amendments are needed at the report stage.

The Speaker should not assume that the report stage is simply a matter of setting out party positions. At the report stage all members of the House, especially those who are not members of the committee, have an opportunity to propose amendments. The Chair should not assume that members are always acting as party representatives. There may well be members, who have an interest in the bill, who may have been shut out of the process by their parties or for other reasons. I think, for example, of the member for LaSalle—Émard who is known to have an interest in this matter.

The report stage is the members' opportunity to suggest amendments. However they cannot do that in an informed way unless the full record of evidence taken by the committee is available in both languages.

All members, regardless of party affiliation and regardless of the language they speak, have that right. The committee blues are not in both languages. They are in the language used in debate, but they are not available in translation. This puts a large number of unilingual members at a disadvantage and makes it impossible for them to consider the work done by the standing committee.

The majority of the committee's discussions were held in English. It was almost impossible for the more or less unilingual francophones to understand exactly what was happening during the committee's debates.

As of yesterday at least six meetings, including the most contentious and important meetings, have not been available in both official languages.

One thing is certain, if committee evidence is withheld from members in a language they can understand it is not likely that they will propose amendments.

Bill C-7 is about the rights of first nations. The government is now infringing on the linguistic rights of the members of the House by calling the bill for House consideration before members have available the full record of the standing committee.

The government is making it impossible for members to do the job the Speaker described in the ruling of March 21, “to consider the work the committee has done”.

I want to quote the Constitution of Canada, the charter of rights--

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 3:50 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order concerning the government's intention to call Bill C-7, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other acts.

This bill was reported back to the House on Wednesday with amendments, in fact, with over two dozen amendments. That is proof that at least in the mind of the committee this bill was flawed when the cabinet approved its introduction into the House of Commons at first reading.

This bill was the subject of considerable committee work. When he presented the report last Wednesday, the chair, the member for Nickel Belt, said the following, and I quote from Hansard , Wednesday, May 28:

The committee held a total of 61 hearings on this bill from January 27 to May 27, 2003, travelled over a period of four weeks from Prince Rupert, British Columbia--

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2003 / 5 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have consulted with all House leaders and I think there would be unanimous consent for the following, which is a request that was made of me by some opposition House leaders, one of them directly and another in an indirect way, supported by the two others.

I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, no report stage amendment to Bill C-7, of which notice is given on June 2, 2003, shall be ruled out of order on account of insufficient notice.

In other words, it would permit report stage amendments to Bill C-7 to be tabled today and to be in order providing, of course, that they are in order. Otherwise, it is the decision of the Speaker.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 29th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, to answer the last question first, as to whether we need to have late night sittings, I suppose it depends on the co-operation on the part of the opposition, which is usually quite good, I must say.

Going to the substance for the next few days, we will continue this afternoon with the opposition day motion. The House does not sit tomorrow because of the Conservative leadership convention.

We are now entering June, the month when we try to wrap up the year's work and we will be consulting other House leaders on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, in order to determine the precise order of bills. However for the next few days we will be dealing mostly with report stages, third readings and consideration of Senate amendments to bills we have already passed.

The bills that will be considered next week will be, and I will start with the one on Monday, although we intend to have a minor conversation about another minor issue later, but generally speaking they will be as follows. We will start with Bill C-25, the public service bill. We will then move on to Bill C-31 respecting certain pensions for veterans and the RCMP. When that bill is completed I would hope to start Bill C-7 respecting first nations governance; and because they are all government days next week we are going to take them probably in roughly that sequence, Bill C-17 public safety; then Bill C-13, the reproductive technologies bill which is presently at third reading.

It would be my intention to then call Bill C-32, the Criminal Code amendments. When the bill is reported to the House, which hopefully will be one day next week, we could then commence Bill C-24, the political financing bill. We also have the amendments from the Senate which I understand might happen on Bill C-15, the lobbyist bill, and Bill C-10B, cruelty to animals.

At some point, we would also like to debate the second reading of Bill S-13, respecting the census, and Bill C-27, the airport bill.

As a matter of courtesy, I wish to indicate to colleagues that it is my intention to call the final supply day on or after June 12. This is not, of course, an official designation of that day at this point but that is why I say on or after, but at least to try and give an indication to colleagues in the event that they will not take other commitments at or about that particular time in order for them to be able to plan their agenda.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 28th, 2003 / 3:20 p.m.
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Raymond Bonin Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources regarding its order of reference of Monday, October 7, 2002 in relation to Bill C-7, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other acts.

The committee held a total of 61 hearings on this bill from January 27 to May 27, 2003, travelled over a period of four weeks from Prince Rupert, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia hearing from more than 531 witnesses. The committee then sat for a cumulative total of 131 hours on clause by clause alone, the longest number of hours in Canadian parliamentary history.

The committee has carefully considered Bill C-7 and reports the bill with amendments.

JusticeOral Question Period

May 28th, 2003 / 2:35 p.m.
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Outremont Québec


Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the member knows very well that we have always dealt with young offenders differently. That is why we have implemented Bill C-7.

The choice that we have is to keep proceeding with the existing legislation where the young essentially receive a verbal warning, or put legislation in place that will enable us to enforce it and impose a fine. A $100 fine for a kid is pretty much, I believe.

SupplyGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2003 / 7:45 p.m.
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Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Chair, I will change the subject. As you know, this was provided for under section 429. I am finding it difficult to follow the minister's logic on this.

Let us now look at a critically important issue in this place for more than seven years. I am talking about the amendment of the Young Offenders Act.

The Court of Appeal has rendered an opinion concerning the new Bill C-7 concerning young offenders and the legislation that has come into force. The problem was raised by the Court of Appeal, but the Bloc Quebecois has been doing so for years. All we were asking for was the opportunity to opt out with compensation.

The government did not appeal the opinion of the Court of Appeal of Quebec. All our young people can thank it for that. The problem is in applying such a complex piece of legislation. We must not forget that the ultimate goal of Bill C-7, with its two unconstitutional provisions, is to do exactly what Quebec is doing and does best: rehabilitation and reintegration of our youth.

What I am telling the minister is, with nearly $1 billion earmarked for the implementation of a very complex piece of legislation, the Young Offenders Act being properly enforced and Quebec's success with reintegration, imagine what could be achieved with the $1 billion that will have to go to other things.

In Quebec, we could ask to keep going as we are. The other provinces will eventually catch up to Quebec in this regard. What we have is working well. What your new bill is seeking to do, we are already doing under the old act. Of this $1 billion, 25% , or $250 million, will go to Quebec; this money will be directed to our young people, to achieve what other provinces are hoping to achieve. They can implement it, but why not allow Quebec to opt out and give it the necessary funding to rehabilitate our youth?

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.
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Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief because I think the point of order has been addressed by the hon. leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in a very thorough, competent and respectful way, respectful of the traditions and procedures of the House.

No one would know better than the member from the Bloc, other than my colleague from Winnipeg North, of that which the hon. leader of the PC Party speaks when he talks about the erratic and arbitrary treatment accorded to hon. members and to first nations people in the conduct of the aboriginal affairs committee in dealing with Bill C-7.

Mr. Speaker, I have full confidence that you will take under serious consideration the quite specific request for clarification that has been put by the hon. leader of the Progressive Conservative Party when he asks for clarification of the guidelines you will utilize in determining the acceptability of amendments at report stage to Bill C-7. This arises, of course, out of an earlier ruling going back to 2001, when similar concerns were raised.

I think one cannot exaggerate the unacceptability of the heavy-handedness and the disrespectful way in which the chair of this committee has dealt with his responsibilities. The point of order that has been raised speaks directly to the fiduciary responsibilities of the Government of Canada, of this place, Parliament, and of each and every parliamentarian in living up to our obligations to first nations people to accord them fair and respectful treatment.

I would simply add my concern along the same lines as already expressed and express my confidence in your ability to grasp why this needs to be something that seizes your attention, Mr. Speaker, and seizes the interest and concern of the House in discharging our fiduciary responsibilities.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2003 / 3:45 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, you will recall that on May 16 I advised you that I would be considering putting certain questions before the Chair relating to proceedings on Bill C-7, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other acts.

The committee stage of the bill has been completed and the House will once again be seized with the bill at the report stage. I want to raise these points before the clock starts ticking on deadlines for the report stage.

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that you take very seriously the view that you are severely limited in your ability to intervene in the committee's affairs. However, I regret to report that the committee has not felt itself bound by the same respect for the rules of this place. You have already been made aware of proceedings that took place on April 2, during which the government majority on the committee voted to take away the rights of members to examine the clauses of the bill that was sent to the committee by the House.

That happened despite a ruling by the Chair that this action was out of order, so the clear intent of Standing Order 116 of the House was consigned to the trash bin. Members of the committee were denied the right to speak to a motion more than once, and the committee imposed time limits.

Standing Order 116 frees committees from those time limits and permits several interventions. That is not the practice in the House but it is explicitly, under Standing Order 116, the practice in committees.

At the same meeting, on a motion moved by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the member for Miramichi, the committee also passed an order that required committee members to give notice of all proposed amendments for the entire bill prior to 5 p.m. on April 4.

Sir, the committee began its study of the clauses of the bill on April 8. During all deliberations after that, regardless of the evidence received, regardless of the testimony, regardless of the passage or rejection of other amendments, it was impossible for any member to submit a new amendment for consideration by the committee.

Yesterday I attended as a member of the committee, as I had two weeks ago. Now that I am going to have a little more time for these matters, I was prepared to contribute to the bill. It is a subject on which I have some experience and some feeling. It is in fact the first committee on which I served in this House.

Again yesterday I was confronted with an erratic and arbitrary committee chair. Frankly, I cannot recall anything to compare with it during my 25 years of parliamentary experience, perhaps with the exception of the table-hopping by the minister of heritage. Members of the committee were systematically prevented from participating and the chair refused to hear points of order. It is because of this constrained and chaotic proceeding that I want to seek your guidance.

There is a real concern on this side of the House over the scope of proposed amendments that can be put down at report stage. My question is whether the Speaker will be enlarging on the guidelines that Your Honour laid down on March 21, 2001. At that time, in dealing with the question of amendments that could have been moved at committee, Your Honour stated:

...motions in amendment that could have been presented in committee will not be selected.

Accordingly, I would strongly urge all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created, namely for the House to consider the committee report and the work the committee has done, and to do such further work as it deems necessary to complete detailed consideration of the bill.

That is the end of the citation of your ruling.

The procedure adopted by the passage of the parliamentary secretary's motion effectively closed off any potential amendments that could have surfaced as a result of debate in committee after the date of April 4. I submit that this action by the parliamentary secretary and the government supporters on the committee has prevented the whole committee from carrying out its duty as described by Your Honour.

Therefore, I am seeking clarification of the guidelines that the Speaker will use in determining the acceptability of proposed amendments at the report stage in a case where the committee to which a bill has been referred adopts a procedure that arbitrarily or peremptorily precludes amendments.

Let me refer back to the words of the ruling on March 21, 2001, when the Speaker said:

...I would strongly urge all members and all parties to avail themselves fully of the opportunity to propose amendments during committee stage so that the report stage can return to the purpose for which it was created, namely for the House to consider the committee report and the work the committee has done, and to do such further work as it deems necessary to complete detailed consideration of the bill.

In the case of Bill C-7, there has been only a very limited ability to propose amendments in committee. There was no capacity, none at all, to take account of new ideas that might have emerged as a result of debate or new evidence or new legal opinions or, indeed, new membership on the committee.

It is clear that there exists in the House, outside of the committee, opinions that have not always been canvassed and concerns that would fall into the description of, to quote the Speaker, “such further work” as the House may deem “necessary to complete detailed consideration of the bill”. The ability of the House to determine its desire to address those other concerns will very much depend on the Speaker's selection of proposed amendments at the report stage. I submit that it would be useful for the House to know if the Speaker is willing to vary the usual practices governing the selection of report stage amendments because of the arbitrary actions that took place in committee.

In doing so, I should make it clear that this is not just a concern for those of us who sit in opposition to the government. The Speaker may be aware that strong supporters of the government have stated that this bill is in need of serious re-examination and amendment. Indeed, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is reported to have challenged the member for LaSalle—Émard to propose amendments to the bill.

Unfortunately, because of the prohibition of consideration of new amendments adopted by the committee on the motion, I repeat, of the parliamentary secretary to the minister, that possibility was foreclosed to the member for LaSalle—Émard just as it was for any other member who might have wanted to bring fresh ideas to the committee. Indeed, yesterday the committee chair said that if the Prime Minister himself proposed new amendments, the chair would reject them.

The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the peoples of the first nations are entrenched and recognized in the Constitution of Canada. The peoples of the first nations have every right to expect that the Queen's ministers and members of the Parliament of Canada would treat any matter touching them with diligence and gravity. That is what is known as our fiduciary responsibility with regard to the first nations peoples. Instead, we have had an erratic and arbitrary committee process that guarantees discord for years to come in the relations between the Government of Canada and first nations peoples.

Therefore, the House and those who would be subject to this bill, should it be enacted into law, would benefit from knowing if the Chair is prepared to grant wider latitude for proposed amendments to the bill, which is widely opposed among the people it purports to govern and has been subject to incomplete examination and arbitrary treatment in committee.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

May 27th, 2003 / 2:15 p.m.
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is not just the Assembly of First Nations that rejects the first nations governance act. Fully 95% of the presenters to the standing committee, including many non-aboriginal representatives from civil society, vigorously oppose it.

All of the mainstream churches, many respected academics, law professors, bar associations, and even a former minister of Indian Affairs, testified that in their opinion Bill C-7 infringes upon constitutionally recognized aboriginal and treaty rights, section 15 of the charter and international conventions regarding the right to self-determination.

Reasonable people who have studied the bill have legitimate concerns about changing the legal status and capacity of first nations and about enhancing rather than reducing the discretionary authority of the minister, but whether we accept or reject these concerns, the only justification I need to oppose this piece of legislation is that first nations from coast to coast have told the standing committee in no uncertain terms that they do not want it.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

May 27th, 2003 / 2:05 p.m.
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Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, historian Camil Girard reminds us how Samuel de Champlain and a French delegation were welcomed with respect and deference by the Innu in Tadoussac 400 years ago. On May 27, 1603, Grand Chief Anadabijou and François Gravé du Pont, representative of the King of France, forged an alliance. From that time forth, the First Nations and the French decided to develop equal partnerships based on mutual respect.

History has not always respected the spirit, let alone the letter, of this alliance with the aboriginals. However, it must be recognized that four centuries later, out of concern for redress and respect for the original treaty, Mr. Lévesque, Mr. Bourassa, Mr. Parizeau and Mr. Landry negotiated the James Bay Agreement, the Braves' Peace, and the Common Approach.

The same cannot be said of the Prime Minister of Canada, who seems never to have noticed this major event and continues, with the Indian Act, to betray the sacred alliance by imposing legislation on governance that no one wants. It is not too late to withdraw the despicable Bill C-7 and allow room for true negotiations on First Nations self-governance.

I am making a solemn appeal to the Prime Minister of Canada to scrap Bill C-7 and come up with better provisions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

May 27th, 2003 / 12:30 p.m.
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Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to speak as loudly and as clearly as possible against Bill C-28, the budget implementation act.

Let me begin by saying it has been about three months since the government brought down its budget. The initial flash of the cash has had some time to wear off and Canadians have had time to take a closer look at the significance of the budget in meeting the pressing needs of Canadians.

The closer scrutiny has not favoured the government. As the hoopla dies down, more and more Canadians have come to the same conclusion the New Democrats have, and that is the government has failed to invest adequately in Canadians and has failed to invest in building the society that we want and need for the future of this country and of our children.

The inadequacy of the budget becomes very clear when we compare what the government has budgeted with what Canadians actually need. When we look at what the government has done with the fraction of the surplus it has left, after its ongoing tax cuts and the billions it continues to spend on paying down the debt, we realize just what a low priority the social needs of Canadians are for the government.

The government could learn from the Alternative Federal Budget process. The AFB builds its budget from the ground up, developing a coherent fiscal strategy toward achieving the social goals of Canadians, and it does it all within a balanced budgetary framework. It does not fudge surplus estimates to accomplish hidden agendas. In fact it has been far more accurate than the government in estimating realistic economic performance and surpluses over the years.

In looking at the budget, every sector of our society has come to its own conclusions. Let me just take a look at the issues pertaining to the status of women as one example.

Shocking to us all, Canada has been recently criticized by the United Nations for not living up to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. What a scathing commentary on a country so wealthy and prosperous as Canada.

The UN has issued a report suggesting Canada has failed to move forward on a long list of measures to improve gender equality. One of the chief areas of concern was the disproportionate impact on women caused by the government's earlier cuts to social programs, cuts that happened under this government 10 years ago, under the member for LaSalle—Émard, and continued on by other members, including the present leadership candidates who are in the race today. The UN report calls on Canada to re-establish national standards in social programming.

The real test of Liberal commitment on this issue is not what the leadership candidates are saying but whether it is in this budget. Does the budget do this? Is the government's $25 million baby step toward a national child care program a sufficient response?

There are 4.9 million children in Canada under the age of 13. Three thousand child care spaces divided across the entire country will obviously leave hundreds of thousands of women without the support they need to work out of the home. Child care advocates have told the government time and again that even to begin building a national child care program about $10 billion will be needed during the first four years; $1 billion in this year alone.

This budget does not cut it. It does not advance the status of women and take us closer on the path toward true equality between the sexes.

The United Nations also has called for improvements to employment and employment insurance to make it easier for women to enter the workforce and stay there at better paying jobs.

What do we have? We have a government that makes it harder to benefit and keeps inflated premiums to the tune of $43 billion in a surplus. Did the government introduce changes to the EI system to help low wage part time working women access that huge surplus by expanding those covered or by bringing in programs to improve their skills and marketability? No. Not only has it not taken those initiatives, but it is still, as we speak, using public money to finance court battles to keep working women, like Kelly Lesiuk in Winnipeg, from getting the EI support they deserve. I am sure that impresses the world community.

The recent census information released earlier this month by Statistics Canada confirms absolutely that we have to do more. After a decade predominant with the Liberal government at the controls, single parent families, headed mostly by women, continue to lag more than 50% behind the national income average.

Violence against women is a very important area if we are to really deal with the status of women agenda and pursue women's equality. It is an area with a devastating impact on the lives of Canadian women and another area where the United Nations has called for action. Yet despite its acknowledgement of the ongoing violence against women, and tragically evidenced again last week in Mission, B.C., it is not a priority in this budget. For example, more second stage housing is urgently needed to help women re-establish themselves after escaping intolerable, violent or abusive situations. Apparently it is not a priority for the government.

There are so many other areas to address in this budget. I know my colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre who has led a heroic battle at committee dealing with Bill C-7's aboriginal self government legislation, will have lots to say about how the government and how the budget fails first nations communities, how it has failed to address third world conditions on reserves and how the money in this budget is a drop in the bucket when it comes to that shameful aspect of Canadian history and society.

There is a gap in this budget when it comes to the rich and the poor, when it comes to first nations communities and other Canadians and when it comes to men and women. There is a gap when it comes to a government providing adequate housing, health care, education and child care. There is a clear gap especially in the area of health care, an area that has been an issue before the House time and time again. One would have thought that this budget would have closed the gap, would have avoided what we now know to be the Romanow gap, a shortfall of some $5 billion in terms of meeting the basic requirements of sustaining a health care system for the future.

We had thought we would get some clearer answers about what the share of the federal government is with respect to transfer payments to provinces for health care. We had thought, in the final stages of the budget process, we would get some answers but still we cannot get a straight answer out of the government on health funding; old money, new money, cash and tax points. This is exactly the situation that the Romanow Commission foresaw and tried to avoid.

We have a lot more to say about this budget and why we oppose it. Health care is one of those critical areas where the budget falls far short of what is required. The government's patchwork approach, whether in health, housing, community infrastructure, the environment, may serve the Liberals' short term political interests but it is ineffectual in providing the social investments Canadians need so critically.

Throughout our examination of Bill C-28, New Democrats have presented constructive alternatives and tried to focus the government on investing in Canadians. We have failed to this point. The government has turned away from us, from Canadians needing housing, women needing better employment support and an end to violence, children still mired in poverty, first nations living in third world conditions, those trying to ensure our very survival on this planet, and the list goes on. It leaves us no alternative but to vote against this budget and this bill.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

May 16th, 2003 / noon
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Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Stephen Owen LiberalSecretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Mr. Speaker, native people across the country have had opportunities to express their concerns, their support and protests against Bill C-7.

This is a normal legislative process. Hundreds of witnesses have been heard by the aboriginal affairs committee of the House. I think all of our congratulations and sympathies should go out to the members of that committee who have spent long hours night after night considering this extremely important legislation.

It will be passed in due course with amendments as suggested, as this House decides. Regulations will also be--

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

May 16th, 2003 / 11:10 a.m.
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Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday thousands of first nations people stood up in Kenora, in the heart of the riding of the minister for aboriginal affairs, to tell the Liberal government to kill Bill C-7.

Jack Layton was there and Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton was there. And the member for Winnipeg Centre, who has fought tooth and nail in committee to stop Bill C-7, was also there.

Other members of the House say they too oppose Bill C-7, but first nations and the NDP worry that the government will do to first nations on governance what it did to taxpayers on the GST: say one thing and do another. We say that is not good enough. Across Canada first nations are speaking loudly against Bill C-7, and after centuries of not listening, it is time the House did.

Clearly Bill C-7 is dividing a Liberal caucus already in chaos and disarray. Why prolong the agony? It is time for a free vote on Bill C-7 so every member of the House can stand up and be clear with first nations where we stand, and that includes the former finance minister.