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.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

April 28th, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indian Affairs has said that he was not afraid of protesters, that he was immune to them. He encouraged them to go back home because he will impose Bill C-7 on them.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

April 28th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.
See context

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, there you have it. What the member is basically articulating is the fact that they want assimilation. They do not believe in the unique rights of aboriginal people. They do not believe in the treaty rights or aboriginal rights of first nations people. That is not the policy of the government. It is not the policy of our Canadian citizenry.

Quite frankly, the enabling legislation of Bill C-7 is an interim step toward the inherent right of self-government, which is what this government believes in.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

April 28th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.
See context

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, it is amazing how a member can be a critic and never read a piece of legislation himself.

First, the Indian Act is very much a paternalistic, prescriptive piece of legislation.

Bill C-7 is an enabling piece of legislation that would do three things. It would allow a code for electoral purposes. It would allow the Financial Administration Act. It would allow for administration as a code to allow first nations to improve their fundamentals of governance with the idea of allowing first nations to develop that on their own, using their traditions and their cultures. That is very different from what has been described by the member.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

April 28th, 2003 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, this is such an important matter that I think everyone in the House would agree that the status quo first nations people find themselves in today is totally unacceptable.

The objective of the consultation and work of the government, and all parliamentarians, is to improve the quality of life of aboriginal people. We cannot do that by backing off every time someone disagrees. We have to come to the table, work with each other to come up with better improvement and better laws, and the way to move ahead is with Bill C-7.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

April 28th, 2003 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, aboriginal people from coast to coast have made it perfectly clear that they do not accept the first nations governance act and yet the minister continues to plough ahead ignoring their concerns, and it is not just first nations who oppose it. All the mainstream churches, constitutional experts, the Canadian Bar Association and other representatives of civil society all agree that Bill C-7 infringes upon constitutionally recognized aboriginal and treaty rights.

Would the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development listen to first nations, withdraw Bill C-7, send it back to the drawing board and come back with a piece of legislation that first nations and parliamentarians can support?

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

April 11th, 2003 / 11 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development conducted a charade of consulting with first nations on Bill C-7. He then made a big show of providing the bill to the standing committee after first reading with the pretense that the committee and the witnesses would thereby have “greater opportunity for open discussion”.

Within three days of completing cross-country hearings we were required to submit all amendments. That left committee members precious little time to analyze and synthesize thousands of pages of briefs and committee transcripts. Can members understand why people get their back up? The minister intended to have the clause by clause work completed and the bill reported back to the House by the following week.

Does the minister not understand that ramming this bill through at such a breakneck pace will cause first nations to further mistrust the Liberal government?

Privilege

April 11th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the 36th Parliament, parliamentary privilege has been increasingly and repeatedly attacked. Privileges are defined as follows by Joseph Maingot in his book Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , on page 11, and it is very clear:

Parliamentary privilege is a fundamental right necessary—

Later, on the same page, he goes on to state:

It is obvious that no legislative assembly would be able to discharge its duties with efficiency or assure its independence and dignity unless it had adequate power to protect itself and its members and officials in the exercise of their functions.

I would like to give a few examples of how these privileges are being completely disregarded.

We need only think of the pre-eminence of Parliament in terms of the rights of parliamentarians to be the first informed. Committee reports are leaked before they can be tabled in the House. Statements are being given outside the House, which means that the media are quite frequently more up to date on the work of committees than parliamentarians are.

This is not the first time that this matter has been raised. I already condemned this disturbing situation when I raised a question of privilege on December 12, 1998, about information leaked from a report on prebudget consultations prepared by the Standing Committee on Finance. I stated at the time that leaked committee reports are becoming common occurrences.

I will name a few instances that occurred during the 36th Parliament: the report on nuclear non-proliferation by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs; the report on amateur and professional sports in Canada by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage; and the report by the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access.

This kind of leak is still happening on a regular basis. Recently, the chair of the Standing Committee on Industry himself expressed the committee's viewpoint as set out in a draft report. The same thing happened with the Standing Committee on Health. In fact, on December 11, 2002, the supplementary report of the Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs was leaked. Since the beginning of the 36th Parliament, almost 15 leaks have undermined the privileges of the House and for only a few of these were the culprits admonished.

And what about the government motion on the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-10 that deals with animal cruelty? Let me remind the House of that motion.

That, in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, this House concurs with the Senate's division of the bill into two parts, namely, Bill C-10A, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firearms) and the Firearms Act, and Bill C-10B, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals), but

that the House, while disapproving any infringement of its rights and privileges by the other House, waives its rights and privileges in this case, with the understanding that this waiver cannot be construed as a precedent; and

that a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours therewith.

It has become so commonplace to infringe upon the privileges of parliamentarians that we have no qualms about referring to it in a motion. It does not matter if we say in a motion that it cannot be construed as a precedent. When we abuse someone, whether it is verbally or in any other way, we cannot argue afterwards that it never happened. These things hurt and are not forgotten.

The same applies to the privileges of parliamentarians. When can we expect another motion like that one, where we are told that it is not a precedent? Putting up with this kind of abuse, although we might not acknowledge it, does undermine our position.

Parliamentary privilege is not some sort of flexible concept. It is fundamental and essential to the work we do. To play with parliamentary privilege in such an odious way is to discredit the institutions in which we work.

Nevertheless, let us return to the case at hand and your ruling on Monday. The procedural irregularities that took place on April 1 and 2 in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources are yet another instance. We have a committee chair who permitted the moving of the previous question, despite this passage on page 786 of House and Commons Procedure and Practice :

The moving of the previous question is prohibited in a Committee of the Whole as it is in any committee.

You said, in your ruling on Monday:

—committees are also expected to adopt any such limits in a regular and procedurally acceptable manner.

Moreover, you quoted Speaker Fraser's ruling given on March 26, 1990:

—I would urge all chairmen and members of committees to try and strive mightily to ensure that the general rules of this place are followed as far as is sensible and helpful in those committees.

He also stated:

—chairmen ought to be mindful of their responsibilities and make their decisions and rulings within the bounds of the fine balance provided by our rules.

How can we expect the Chair of this committee to maintain order and decorum, pursuant to Standing Order 117, when he is the one creating disorder? He even invited a member of the government party to appeal his ruling with respect to the previous question, as if to say, “Go ahead and contest my ruling. You have the majority. We will hold a vote and you, with your majority, can reverse my ruling. Then you can move the previous question. And to hell with the Standing Orders”.

A committee chair who openly invites a committee member to contest a ruling based directly on the Standing Orders, and on a point of order into the bargain, is issuing a direct invitation to circumvent the rules that govern us, not once but twice, to serve his own purposes. That is, to put it plainly, dictatorial.

What is the implication of contravening the Standing Orders for members who are insulted in this manner? Let me quote once again page 786 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice :

—the moving of the previous question would prevent Members from proposing amendments and considering the legislation to the fullest extent possible.

To deliberately prevent a member from having the tools required to do his job is a breach of his privileges. I know full well, as you said in your ruling on the point of order that I raised last Monday, that committees are the masters of their own proceedings. This committee is led by a tyrannical chairman who decisions show no signs of fairness. In this case, the committee, particularly its chairman, through his actions, has shown that he must be brought into line because he very clearly contravenes the Standing Orders, preventing members, as the previous quotation shows, from appropriately and effectively doing their job.

Once again on the matter of order and decorum, the committee chairman assumes an arrogant and contemptuous air when some opposition members speak, when we try to ask for clarification on certain decisions. He also assumes an indifferent air during committee proceedings, slouching in his chair and even joking with his Liberal colleagues, detracting from discipline while opposition members are speaking. His attitude is quite different when his Liberal colleagues are speaking.

I would like to share with you another breach of my parliamentary privileges. At a committee meeting, I asked the clerk to clarify a decision the committee was preparing to take. The chair of the committee came between the committee clerk and myself in order prevent her from answering me directly, and by that very fact stopped her from providing me with an answer. The committee chair himself provided me with a cursory answer, with no explanation, as he stated this was not necessary.

Quoting from page 834 of Marleau and Montpetit;

The clerk of a committee is the procedural advisor to the chair and all members of the committee and also acts as its administrative officer. The role of the committee clerk is analogous to that which the Clerk of the House has with respect to the Speaker and members of the House. As a non-participant and independent officer, the clerk serves equally all members of the committee as well as representatives of all parties; clerks discharge their duties and responsibilities with respect to the committee in consultation with the chair. The clerk also acts as the committee's liaison with other branches and services of the House of Commons.

It is clear that, once again, my rights and privileges have not been respected and I have not been able to properly perform my duties as a member of Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, I am calling upon you today because I have been unsuccessful with all the recourses you invited me to call upon in your ruling this past Monday. I came to you with a point of order and complied with your request to return to the committee with a motion calling upon it to report on the procedural irregularities of April 1 and 2. This was disdainfully refused with cynicism and arrogance by the committee chair and the Liberal members.

Consequently, the entire matter remains unresolved. Yet it is very urgent to take action because the committee is still in operation. I am appealing to you as the guardian of my rights and privileges, because the chair of my committee has not been able to protect them, and on more than one occasion moreover. You, Mr. Speaker, are, to quote House of Commons Procedure and Practice page 26:

—the guardian of the rights and privileges of Members and of the House as an institution.

In addition, on the previous page, we see that your duties:

—require balancing the rights and interests of the majority and minority in the House to ensure that the public business is efficiently transacted and that the interests of all parts of the House are advocated and protected against the use of arbitrary authority.

We expect no less. This latter quote captures the essence of parliamentary privilege as well as of your role and duty to preserve the delicate balance between the power between the government party and the opposition.

You said you wanted to rule on my point of order in a timely fashion since:

—it may have some bearing on the work that the committee intends to take up this week.

Referring us to committee resulted in our being subjected to an illegitimate gag order, which breaches our privileges as parliamentarians. Of course, the chair of the committee did not allow a motion to censure the disorder in that committee.

How can a chair who ignores the procedure and practice of the House be expected to allow me to move a motion to report to the House what happened in committee?

Discussing the matter at the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons is inappropriate. The suggestion by the government House leader was dishonest. This matter must de decided now.

What is at stake today is respect for the privileges of parliamentarians and the rights of opposition members to do their job properly without the sword of arbitrariness being held over their heads.

If the procedural irregularities that took place during the consideration of Bill C-7 at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources are allowed to go unchallenged, this will create a dangerous precedent. How can we trust after such a affront that it will not happen again? How will the work of the committee be managed from now on?

These questions are all the more pressing because since you handed down your ruling in response to my point of order, the work of the committee has been done in a permanent climate of tension that has been exacerbated by the smug and contemptuous attitude of the committee chair, an attitude that even affects the public that attends the meetings.

On Tuesday, the day after your ruling, the attitude of the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources provoked a strong verbal reaction from two first nations representatives who were present. The chair abruptly ordered their removal, and had it not been for my intervention, these perfectly peaceful women would have been subjected to the humiliation of being forcefully expelled by four security guards. When I was heading out the door with the two women, the committee chair hurled abuse at me and ordered me to mind my own business, using language that was disrespectful, irreverent and unworthy of a member of Parliament.

Since your ruling on my point of order, the Chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources has also demonstrated bias and used a double standard in his decisions. For example, on Tuesday he would not allow first nations members to take photographs in committee, and then on Wednesday, he was quite happy to let constituents from his riding take all the pictures they wanted, even extending an invitation to two students to sit at the table during the committee's hearings.

Given the importance of the issues being examined, it is imperative that the committee chair be rigorous, have decorum, be professional and especially impartial. I wonder how the House would have reacted if this type of behaviour or these types of injustices had occurred here in the House.

Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I am asking you, since the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources has violated the Standing Orders by his cavalier management of debate and his complete lack of decorum, to recognize that there has been a prima facie breach of my privilege, of my right to do my job properly. I am therefore prepared to move the appropriate motion.

First NationsStatements By Members

April 3rd, 2003 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Liberals imposed a gag on the future work of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, in order to prevent opposition members from freely expressing their views on Bill C-7. This bill is liable to create a dramatic and devastating situation, in that it is offensive to the dignity and rights of first nations.

While the government claims to have consulted the first nations before drafting this bill, the majority of witnesses we have heard say the opposite, and see Bill C-7 as an attempt at assimilation akin to the 1969 white paper.

This same government claims that this bill improves the situation of the aboriginal people, whereas in reality it offers no response to any of the serious problems with which they are confronted.

We now know that the Prime Minister, once Minister of Indian Affairs, wants to end his career the way he started it, that is by listening to no one but himself, totally thumbing his nose at the first nations, and realizing his old dream of 1969, that is presiding over the extinction of the rights of the first nations, and their assimilation.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

April 3rd, 2003 / 2:10 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to the member for Winnipeg Centre. For more than 23 hours the member kept up his fight in the committee to stop the arrogant Liberal government from ramming through Bill C-7, the first nations governance bill.

The bill is bad enough, but preventing opposition parties from doing their job in committee is absolutely disgusting. The only thing stopping this bill from being rushed through committee is the stand being taken by the member for Winnipeg Centre. That is why the Liberals tried to shut him down.

In the wee hours of this morning the committee tried to cut the member off as he took a stand for democracy and first nations.

Although Liberal members tried to stifle the member for Winnipeg Centre, they cannot stop the fact that this bill is fundamentally flawed and that they will be hearing about this for a long time to come.

I hope the member for Nickel Belt lost some sleep last night. He certainly should have after chairing the fiasco to ram the bill through.

On behalf of the NDP caucus and the first nations of Canada, I say congratulations to the member for Winnipeg Centre. Keep up the fight.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

April 1st, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadians value the various mechanisms for seeking redress available to them when they feel they have been treated unfairly.

Tragically, first nations individuals have not had the same kind of mechanisms available to them. Both the Indian Act and the federal government have failed to provide grassroots natives with an impartial trusted process designed to resolve grievances with band leadership and with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

The first nations governance act which revises the Indian Act, provides a window of opportunity. Written properly, Bill C-7 could provide first nations individuals with a truly independent ombudsman who would be genuinely trusted by grassroots natives. The ombudsman would be empowered to obtain the information needed to complete timely investigations and to provide that redress.

This would be an important step toward holding band governments and the federal government to account and would contribute to bringing justice and hope to Canada's aboriginal peoples.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

April 1st, 2003 / 1:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-28, the budget implementation act of 2003. This is another budget brought forward by the Liberals that has failed Canadians. In fact, in my address in the reply to the budget on February 26, I enumerated several reasons why the budget has failed Canadians.

I spoke of the government's complete refusal to address GST fraud, which we all know is quite a large issue. I looked at the government's failure to address security concerns at our airports as well as the steps it has taken to punish those saving for their retirement through RRSPs. Payroll taxes such as EI and exorbitant income tax rates continue to kill the Canadian economy.

Still, the government claims that the budget is a success. It is not. The government should be ashamed of itself.

We are debating a bill that if passed will implement this failed budget. Needless to say, I, along with my colleagues from the Canadian Alliance, will be voting against this.

Why will I be voting against it? As I have already expanded in my previous speech on the macro reasons why this budget is a failure, let me instead focus today on one specific department within the government and on why the budget has failed that department and hence failed to protect the security of Canadians.

Specifically I would like to talk about the members of the Customs Excise Union, who do a great job at Canada's borders as front line customs officers and inspectors. Customs inspectors are part of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency but do much more than the average CCRA employee. The fact is that our customs officers do a tremendous job, especially when we look at the number of statutes they are charged with enforcing, their limited resources and their inability to protect themselves from the potential dangers inherent in border protection.

We believe that Canadians and our customs officers would be better served by moving Canada Customs out of the tax collection agency it now falls under into a new law enforcement department or under the Solicitor General of Canada. Just as Canada Customs now enforces the statutes of several departments, it will continue to enact National Revenue's policies of trade liberalization.

The revenue minister has announced more money and the hiring of customs officers. She has fallen very short in addressing the deficit that existed prior to September 11, never mind today. The customs union is calling for 1,200 new officers. It is getting 130, but these new officers still will be unable to adequately protect our border because they will lack the tools to do their job.

It is evident that CCRA is a department focused on streamlining accounting systems and collecting revenues. It is not focused on security. The logical question is why the government continues to treat our border guards, Canada's first line of defence, as bean-counters.

Mr. Speaker, you are a logical person. If you witnessed a crime in progress would you call the police or your accountant? Clearly you would call the police. Why? Because they have the training, the knowledge and the tools to protect society and enforce the laws.

What do our customs officers need to do the job? They need full authority as peace officers to enforce the statutes they are charged with. That includes a need for side arms for their protection. The first step is to move customs away from revenue and create a police force at our border. Canada Customs enforces over 70 federal statutes from numerous government departments, including the justice, health, agriculture, immigration and finance departments, and the Solicitor General's department. The recent focus on Canada's porous border is not necessarily a reflection of Canada Customs as much as it is a deficit of legislation, mandate and resources focused on security and protection.

Bill C-7, passed in the 35th Parliament, moved the Canada Customs Agency under the jurisdiction of Revenue Canada, thus creating the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. We were opposed to this move to facilitate trade and tourism while expediting the remittance of revenues to the Crown because of the lack of focus on security and protection.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security believes that its primary function is law enforcement, whereas unfortunately Canada Customs claims to have a dual mandate: processing revenues and border security.

A greater focus on security is required to harmonize customs standards with those of the United States, which cannot be achieved under the current CCRA. The Canadian Police Association proposal of a national border protection service should be considered seriously as legislation. The association is calling for a border protection service to provide strategic and coordinated protection and enforcement across Canada's borders and points of entry, separate from the Department of National Revenue. Such a service must be endowed with full peace officer status and equipped with the required technological aids, including CPIC and FOSS computer systems as well as NCIC and Interpol and access to vital statistics.

Right now, and the House will be shocked, 45% of our borders do not have access to these law enforcement tools. Customs officers have no way of knowing if the person in front of them has a criminal record or is on the terrorist watchlist. There should be an immediate network hookup of all computers and all customs software at all ports of entry across Canada. It is unacceptable for some customs officers in ports across Canada to have limited or no access to electronic customs systems that provide intelligence and support to customs officers who must undertake interdiction and detention decisions and actions.

Indeed, the current attempt to share information with our government departments has been a complete failure. There should be an agreement among immigration, RCMP and CSIS to share information daily. Information should then be further shared with our American neighbours regarding exit and entrance data and criminal background checks.

The government must provide customs officers with the authority, support and equipment necessary to do their jobs. One piece of equipment that is necessary is side arms so that customs officers can protect themselves and Canadians. This should be done regardless of whether Canada Customs becomes its own separate agency or stays a part of CCRA. This is an issue of safety for these customs officers. I have already outlined how these officers are basically police without the formal title. They are police without the protection of the law.

The Canadian Alliance takes this issue seriously, but unfortunately the Minister of National Revenue does not. In the past she has called these agents nothing more than glorified bank tellers. As recently as March 26 she said to the House, “...giving guns to customs officers would be like giving 3,000 accidents an opportunity to happen”.

On March 28 I asked her to clarify her remarks in the House, and her response was to call me “Charlton Heston”. I do not mind being compared to Moses nor do I mind living here in what seems like the Planet of the Apes , especially with the government across the way, but to have the minister making light of the issue was an insult to customs agents. In fact, my office has received numerous e-mails and letters from irate customs agents asking me how the minister can make so much fun of them. My answer, unlike that of the Liberals, is that the Canadian Alliance has always believed and will continue to believe in respect for these people.

This issue of firearms is not one that the Canadian Alliance has invented on its own. It actually comes from a report by ModuSpec, which was commissioned by the government to examine this very question. The interim report called for an armed presence at our border and especially at some higher traffic border crossings where our customs agents are at higher risk.

What does this all boil down to? I will use four points to conclude.

First, there are not enough people, as I have outlined. There are one-person ports when there always should be two people working together. Currently there are ports that close at 10 p.m. and we argue that they should be open for 24 hours, especially some of the more remote ports where proper barriers are not even put in place once they close down in the evening. There are chronic staff shortages and not enough staff to accommodate shortages if training needs to be done.

Second, we often do not have the right people. Students do not belong at the front line without proper supervision and/or proper training.

Third, there is not the right equipment. There is no CPIC at the front line and there are no computers at 45% of our border crossings. As well, some facilities need rebuilding. For example, in Victoria they are working out of a 30 year old trailer at the ferry terminal, where almost a million people travel yearly.

Finally, they do not have enough pay. CCRA admits that its job classification system is archaic and fails to fully assess the value of jobs. CCRA is moving to a new classification standard. What about the fact that customs officers have been underpaid for years, up to and including today?

All these issues still have failed to be addressed by the minister. Quite frankly I think the minister has been an embarrassment because she has not represented the interests of security and protection for Canadians at our border.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2003 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, you took me a bit by surprise. I thought that the government had a bill to defend, especially when it is its own bill. However, we find that even the government's own members are not willing to defend a bill such as Bill C-19.

We can see why. Bill C-19 is part of a major federal offensive, along with Bills C-6 and C-7, against all the traditional land claims and the rights of Canada's first nations, such as the inherent right to self-government, the right to a land base, the right also to compensation for the 130 years during which they were subjected to the Indian Act—the most retrograde law ever conceived by man, and this law was created right here in Canada 130 years ago. All these rights, as well as the respect to which our first nations are entitled, are being trampled by Bill C-19. And, of course, Bill C-19 is part of a whole scheme that also includes Bills C-6 and C-7.

We always come back to the same basic problem. When the government came up with Bill C-19, it had not even bothered to adequately consult first nations. This is an attempt to shove a bill they do not want down their throats. This is an attempt to undermine their credibility, to say for example that the Assembly of First Nations does not represent all first nations in Canada, which is false. There is even a federal law that recognizes the Assembly of First Nations as the spokesperson for first nations in Canada.

But, as the old saying goes, divide and conquer. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has taken this old adage to heart and is being quite machiavellian in how he applies it.

They are even going to bypass the Assembly of First Nations and choose some Liberal Party sympathizers. The selected individuals picked by the Liberal Party of Canada and by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development will then say that they agree with the government, that everything is great and that everything in the bill is great.

We tried to amend Bill C-19. We tried to convince the minister that this bill was not quite right, that first nations had very legitimate claims, that they wanted to be consulted and that they wanted to be respected for who they are. The minister turned a deaf ear.

Many representations on Bill C-19, C-6 and C-7 were made. Currently, Bill C-7 is at the committee stage. Each time we have proposed amendments to improve the contents, to ensure that the rights and demands of the first nations of Canada are respected, the minister has turned a deaf ear and said, “I know what I am doing. I consulted, I have held 400 meetings since last year and this is the result of those consultations”.

What the minister forgets to mention is that those 400 consultations were probably each about five minutes long. How can the first nations, under such circumstances, make positive contributions? Because these bills are for them. How can they satisfactorily contribute to replacing the much-hated Indian Act with legislation that recognizes and respects them for who they are?

We had supported the principles in Bill C-19. Given that the minister does not want to hear about the major changes that need to be made, we are forced to change our minds. We will oppose Bill C-19, which is part of a broad offensive to get first nations to accept the unacceptable, which no Canadian, and certainly no Quebecker, would do.

Bill C-19 creates a statistical institute, a tax commission and a first nations financial management board.

As if aboriginals needed three additional ultra bureaucratic entities. The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's speciality is bureaucracy, cumbersome administration and piles of paperwork. Aboriginals do not need any of this. They want nothing to do with it. These are not their real problems.

This is not what they talk about when they appear before us in committee or when we meet with them individually. They want us to address the real problems in the aboriginal communities, such as land claims that have been on the back burner for decades, compensation for the harm caused to them and aboriginal health issues.

In terms of health, there is no need to draw a picture. Across Canada, aboriginals' health is worse than anyone's. They contract infections that no longer even exist in our communities. For instance, there is a high incidence of tuberculosis among the Lubicon in Alberta.

These communities are struggling with substance abuse problems in young children. Recently we saw young children 6 or 7 years old behind homes sniffing gasoline fumes or glue. These are real problems.

There are major problems with drinking water across Canada. Imagine, that was a discovery for me. Some regions of Canada are in the same situation as the developing countries. I thought drinking water problems were mainly in Africa, where CIDA is doing such excellent work.

I think we need to look a little closer at ourselves and stop thinking that underdevelopment is something foreign to us. The reality is that the first nations have been marginalized. They do not have drinking water. Considering the importance of safe drinking water for health, and particularly for child development, I hardly need say how ashamed this makes me feel. This is a problem that must be addressed.

Moreover, to dispel any old prejudices that may still be lurking in the minds of any of my colleagues, what the Auditor General said was not that there were administrative problems in the first nations communities, but that those problems lay within the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

I see these three new entities relating to taxation and statistics as a way for employees of that department to hang on to their jobs. The right thing to do today would be to abolish the despicable Indian Act, which treats aboriginal people like children and kept them on the reserve for so many decades. This legislation has been around for 130 years now and has stripped them of their resources.

If we abolished the Indian Act, we would at the same time abolish some, if not most, positions at Indian and Northern Affairs. But they will do as they did at Fisheries and Oceans. There are no more fish, but there are hundreds of employees. Why? Because the changes in the fish stocks must be monitored. SInce these people have been monitoring the situation, fish stocks have decreased. But that justifies jobs at Fisheries and Oceans.

It is worse at Indian and Northern Affairs. I met some of the employees when they appeared before the committee. Some had that typical attitude that is so despised, people for whom what is important is to hang on to their jobs, not to work for the well-being of the aboriginal community or to help it break out of the vicious circle that has been in place for the past 130 years and has the first nations mired in chronic underdevelopment, which gets in the way of their future development and their children's future development, and strips them of pride and dignity.

But officials are not there to work on these problems. Of course not, they are there to create bureaucratic entities. The Auditor General said that first nations are overadministered.

Almost all aboriginal communities are required to fill out 168 lengthy forms every year on their administration, on how they operate, down to the last penny. One hundred and sixty-eight forms, do you know what that represents? That is three government forms per week in every aboriginal community. Keep in mind that there are some communities with about 100 people.

It is the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development that requires this. The Auditor General did not criticize aboriginals for being sloppy when it comes to the administration of aboriginal affairs; she criticized the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for being sloppy and ineffective and for its excessive bureaucracy.

That is who she criticized. Not only has the government failed to rectify the situation, but it has added to the problem. First nations will now have to produce even more reports and fulfill the requirements of even more administrative bodies.

What about the real problems facing aboriginals, that we in Parliament should be solving? What are we doing about drinking water? What are we doing about health problems? What are we doing about education problems?

There is a few million dollars here and a few million dollars there. The government will point to the budget. True, some tens of millions of dollars were given for health, as well as for education, but that is completely inadequate. Particularly since Bills C-6, C-7 and C-19 impose additional administrative requirements. But the resources are not forthcoming. Put plainly, first nations are given the same resources, and they have to fight to keep their heads above water to assert their rights, to fight the federal government in the courts, to build their case and to solve community problems with what little resources they have. These same resources will now be used to fulfill the requirements of these three new administrative bodies and also the new provisions that are contained in the governance legislation, Bills C-6 and C-7.

All of this is outrageous. It really is ignominious. I asked to be given the first nations file because it was a very interesting one, even if it was one we very seldom heard about. I asked for this file because there were things that I wanted to resolve and understand. I have a hard time understanding why a country like Canada, that prides itself on being a country where rights and freedoms are respected, a country that even adopted a charter of rights and freedoms, a country that includes in every throne speech an explicit reference to the aboriginal people and to respect for their culture, their language etc, does not do anything in this regard. It talks a lot, but the disgrace is that not much is happening.

Now I understand why. After the Erasmus-Dussault commission, everything was in place for the Canadian nation and the first nations to negotiate solutions to problems as equals. The report was lengthy. Consultations had been held. But no. Our fine Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, a follower of Machiavelli, divided and conquered, and rammed through new measures that were supposed to improve the act, the infamous Indian Act. There was a flurry of protests and all first nations representatives opposed these bills. However, the minister bragged about the fact that he could count on the support of his friends. He has a few aboriginal friends. It looks good to have a few aboriginal friends when you are the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

We are lucky. We are really lucky—and I see that there is agreement here—that aboriginals have not revolted more than they have up to now. Because if I were an aboriginal and I had been treated like that, I would have dumped the standing committee. I would have come to Parliament a long time ago together with all 638 first nations. I would have come to Parliament a long time ago and mobilized numerous resources to say, “That is it. We have rights. You put us in reserves 130 years ago. You crushed us. You took away our dignity. You tried to get rid of us. Now, that is it. You will not repeat the past with Bills C-6, C-7 and C-19”.

They appeared a few times before the United Nations. Their claims were even successful. There are, for example, the Alberta Lubicon. They are in the news now because, several decades ago, they had been promised their territories, which they are entitled to, and they were also promised compensation.

What happened in the meantime? There are rich oil and gas companies in Canada. They have the support of the Minister of Industry even if they are hurting the economy now and even if the price of heating oil has gone up 30%. The minister is on their side. He is siding with the oil and gas companies. This is not the first time that the government has sided with them.

As soon as major oil deposits were discovered on the land claimed by the Lubicon, we started hearing that they might not have any right to them, that the land might not be theirs. In the 1930s, official papers were even falsified. What a fine reputation. If you do not believe me, the matter was taken all the way to the United Nations, where the Canadian government was criticized for its lack of respect for the human rights of the Lubicon Lake Indians.

Quite clearly, the Lubicon no longer had any territorial rights. As soon as these rich oil fields were discovered, the matter of profits for large oil companies arose. These companies cozy up to the government, and this has been going on for decades.

The government was both defendant and adjudicator, collecting royalties on the oil resources developed by the big companies. So, the Lubicon were ignored. And this injustice has been going on for 70 years. Even a UN resolution was not enough to shake the government.

Government representatives go around the world presenting Canada as a supporter of rights and freedoms, talking about our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, while within Canada there are these injustices. After 130 years of the Indian Act, the government is spreading the injustice and making matters worse with bills that no one wants, namely Bill C-6 and Bill C-7. The aboriginal nations do not want these bills because they do not respect who these people are; they do not respect their cultures and traditions.

It is totally unacceptable to be presented with such bills, especially since there is a common thread linking the three we are debating, when we include Bill C-19: an attempt to erode the rights of aboriginal people. The federal government is trying to shirk its fiduciary responsibility.

Why I am making such a statement? Because there is no non-derogation clause in Bill C-19, in Bill C-6, or in Bill C-7. A non-derogation clause would reassure first nations by guaranteeing that, despite the provisions found in Bills C-19, C-6 or C-7, their aboriginal rights, their inherent rights to self-government, their land rights, their rights to compensation, and their rights to pride and dignity are not beign threatened. This is what a non-derogation clause is all about. There is no non-derogation clause in these bills even though, in the past, such clauses were included to reassure aboriginal nations about the fact that even though a bill brought about some changes, even though it included new provisions, their claims and their rights were not in jeopardy. A non-derogation clause does not give them anything, it simply gives the assurance that their rights will be respected.

Over the past 30 years, in a number of rulings, the Supreme Court has consistently come down in favour of respect for aboriginal nations and their inherent right to self-government. These decisions compelled the federal government to settle numerous disputes that had been going on forever.

All these rulings were in favour of aboriginal nations and, today, we fare faced with a situation where, instead of following up on the rulings of the Supreme Court, instead of implementing the recommendations of a royal commission of inquiry that tabled its report a few years ago, the government is repeating its past mistakes. Instead of treaties written in archaic language over a century old, we have modern bills that are every bit as insensitive and cruel to aboriginal nations.

For all these reasons, we will strongly oppose Bill C-19. We will also strongly oppose Bills C-6 and C-7, which are utterly objectionable.

The members of the Bloc Quebecois members will fight for the aboriginal nations of Canada and Quebec, not to give them more rights than we have, but to ensure respect for the rights that they do have, and to settle disputes once and for all, in a climate of respect and dignity, nation to nation. Equality between nations must go beyond words; it must be a concrete reality, and it must be based on respect and dignity.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2003 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased on behalf of the New Democratic Party to join the debate on Bill C-6 at third reading.

I would like to compliment the speech made by my colleague from the Bloc Québécois, a member of the aboriginal affairs committee. His speech contained very thoughtful remarks and a well researched analysis of this very flawed bill.

We intend to emphasize many of the same points as would have been heard from the Canadian Alliance when it opposed the bill and from the previous speaker from the Bloc Québécois as he opposed the bill. Virtually everybody associated with aboriginal claims issues is opposed to the bill, as the hon. member from the Bloc pointed out, with the possible exception of the minister and his immediate staff.

I will mention some of the organizations and communities that have contacted the NDP to express their very strong dissatisfaction with the bill. They include the Assembly of First Nations, as has been pointed out before; the Alliance of Tribal Nations from New Westminster, B.C.; the Saddle Lake First Nation of Saddle Lake, Alberta; the Adams Lake Indian Band from Chase, B.C.; the Lucky Man Cree Nation from Saskatoon; Long Lake Reserve No. 58 from Longlac, Ontario; Eagle Lake First Nation from Ontario; The Society for Threatened People from Austria; the Tlowitsis First Nation from Campbell River, B.C.; the Battlefords Tribal Council from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; the Blueberry River First Nation from Buick, B.C.; the Boston Bar First Nation from Boston Bar, B.C.; and the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council from Prince George, B.C.

There is also the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. from northern Manitoba. I believe MKO represents some 50 communities in northern Manitoba. There is also the Opaskwayak Cree Nation from The Pas, Manitoba whose chief, Oscar Lathlin, is currently the minister of aboriginal affairs in Manitoba.

Also on the list are the Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Research Centre of Manitoba Inc. from Winnipeg; the North Shore Tribal Council from Cutler, Ontario; the Six Nations of the Grand River from Ontario. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, a plenary umbrella group from Saskatchewan is on the list.

The list also includes the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte from the Mohawk Territory, Ontario; the Pasqua First Nation from Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan; the Okanagan Indian Band from Vernon, B.C.; the Nanoose First Nation from Lantzville, B.C.; the Tsuu T'ina Nation from Alberta; the Halfway River First Nation from Wonowon, B.C.; the Northwest Tribal Treaty Nations from Terrace, B.C.; the Nipissing First Nation from Garden Village, Ontario; the Union of New Brunswick Indians, Fredericton, New Brunswick; the Seabird Island Band from Agassiz, B.C.; the Algonquin First Nation of Timiskaming, from Notre Dame du Nord, Quebec; the Wolf Lake First Nation from Quebec; the Buffalo Point First Nation and Chief John Thunder from Buffalo Point, Manitoba; the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, Kamloops, B.C.; and the Barriere Lake Algonquin First Nation from Quebec, just bordering the city of Ottawa.

That is a partial list of the groups that have come forward. Some made representation to the committee and some simply contacted our offices, appealing to the opposition parties to do all they could to stop Bill C-6 because it does not meet their needs. It is not what they are looking for. It is not what they desire in terms of a truly independent claims commission as claimed by the minister.

The most compelling thing I bring to the House today is a petition that was brought to my office. Unfortunately it is not in a format which I could present to the House of Commons. I will not be formally tabling the petition because unfortunately, my office was not contacted first to get the proper format.

Those people went to a great deal of trouble. There are over 50,000 names on those sheets of paper which are in boxes in my office as we speak. I would like to read into the record at least the preamble of that petition, even though I know full well it cannot be presented formally.

It is a petition by the Jubilee Petition on Aboriginal Land Rights called “Land Rights, Right Relations”.

Dear Prime Minister,

In keeping with the Jubilee theme of Renewal of the Earth, we the undersigned call for a renewed relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples based on mutual respect, responsibility, and sharing.

As part of this ongoing process towards a new relationship, we are seeking justice for Aboriginal peoples.

We join the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the United Nations Human Rights Committee in calling on the federal government to act immediately to establish a truly independent commission with the mandate to implement Aboriginal land, treaty and inherent rights.

The signatories are from all over Canada. I should point out that they are not primarily aboriginal people. The vast majority of the signatures on this 50,000 name petition are not of first nations people. In fact, the sample I am holding are people from downtown Guelph, Ontario: Debbie Armstrong, Cindy Donafeld, Erin Stather and Mike Elrick; these people all identify themselves as being from fairly suburban urban Canada.

Perhaps it was long-winded but I wanted to share with everyone the depth and breadth of the opposition we are learning about to Bill C-6. There are ordinary Canadians as well as first nations communities who do not accept that Bill C-6 is what it is touted to be, the long awaited and much ballyhooed bill that was looked for with great optimism.

Many aboriginal people I met, leaders through the Assembly of First Nations, authorities in the field of land claims, worked on the joint task force for years leading to the formation of an independent claims body. Many expressed their dismay as soon as the hon. minister of aboriginal affairs presented the idea two years ago that he would be introducing this new claims commission by legislation and advanced preliminary sketches of what the bill might look like.

The Assembly of First Nations made it clear at that time that the government had missed the point, that it did not fold in the important key recommendations of the joint task force. That round table met for, I believe it was 18 months, leading up to the development of its position paper which called for a truly independent Indian claims commission.

There was advance warning. The minister cannot feign that he was somehow blindsided by this. He was advised from the very outset that the bill being contemplated and proposed would miss the mark and did not satisfy or pass the test of the truly independent claims commission that was being called for by first nations leaders.

With that as a preface, I suppose I will outline once again some of our objections to Bill C-6 and give an overview and legal analysis of Bill C-6. I do not think we need to get too technical because it is the position of the New Democratic Party when it put forward umpteen amendments at the committee stage. Every single one of them was rejected. It is now our position that the bill is not redeemable.

The bill in its current form unamended is not worthy of our support and will not be getting our support. Therefore I am not going to bore the House of Commons or anybody watching at home with the gritty details of the minutiae, the technical details. That was done by the Canadian Alliance for 40 minutes half an hour ago.

Our initial review of Bill C-6 identified a number of departures from what was agreed upon in the 1998 joint task force report. We believe this compromises the ability of the new body to assist in resolving claims in the expeditious, fair and impartial manner that was contemplated by the task force. Bill C-6 fails the test of being able to introduce a commission that is truly fair, impartial and expeditious.

There is deep concern, and we expressed it from the very outset, with the conflict of interest in the minister's role in managing the independent claims board process. This point has been made over and over again, and not just by opposition critics in the House of Commons but by authorities who have studied this issue for decades in civil society, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal.

How can the commission be truly independent when the minister's discretionary authority is enhanced in the bill rather than diminished and when the commissioners are appointed by the minister? We believe the independence of the commission and the tribunal are undermined by the retention of the unilateral federal authority over appointments and by the unilateral federal authority over the processing of claims. This is the key fundamental point upon which Bill C-6 falls short of introducing a truly independent Indian claims commission.

As many people were, we were shocked and disappointed to see that appointments would be made upon the recommendation of the very minister charged with defending the Crown against such claims. How can anyone not see the blatant conflict of interest? The minister would get to appoint the commissioners, and it would be the Crown against which these claims would be made. Can people not see what is fundamentally wrong with this picture?

We have tried to articulate it as clearly as we can and still we get no relief from the minister or from the Liberal majority on the standing committee. Our representatives on that committee, using the rules of the House of Commons, legitimately tried to have that amended and corrected. Had we achieved that amendment, we would be supporting the bill. Just as no one in their right mind could fail to see the blatant conflict of interest, no one in their right mind could fail to hope that some of the 550 outstanding specific claims could be settled expeditiously, at least in our lifetimes.

I share in the frustration of aboriginal people, many of whom have waited 30, 40 and 50 years for resolution, not to a general land claim but to a specific claim, which I should explain. Let us use an example.

There have been cases where a military air force base expropriated a certain amount of land from an Indian reserve for a specific purpose. When that function was finished and it came time to return that land to the band, it gave back less than it took. The aboriginal people involved said, “Wait a minute. You borrowed 100 acres and gave us back 85. What is going on here?” They filed a specific claim. I am pulling that abstract out of my head. There are about 550 of those.

Here is another example. The amount of money transferred to aboriginal communities is based upon a per capita basis. There may be a dispute between what the first nation says is its membership and what the federal government has counted as membership. A claim would be filed to address that grievance. That is the type of very specific issue with which we are dealing, but unfortunately without a satisfactory resolution mechanism, the band has no recourse but to clog up the courts with these claims.

As I said, no one in their right mind would not want to see a speedy and expeditious settlement of these outstanding grievances to give remedy to these, in many cases, historic injustices.

We are frustrated and we share the frustration of aboriginal people. It has yet to be determined if all the claims are legitimate. Hopefully, a fair and impartial arbitrator will decide that. However now we will not have that mechanism. The long awaited and much ballyhooed mechanism to finally give satisfaction to these outstanding claims is not forthcoming. These people will have to go forward with what they perceive to be a biased mechanism, a mechanism that is tainted and clearly prejudiced, or at least there is a conflict of interest. It remains to be seen if fairness can still be achieved.

There are no effective timelines provided under the commission process. We believe that this is a shortcoming of the bill. We would be far more likely to achieve satisfactory resolves, if people could not play the waiting game. Certainly the government has been playing with many claims for all these years.

Using timeliness as a delaying tactic is reprehensible in my mind. There is a phrase “justice delayed is justice denied”. It is even more unkind when the government throws it back in the face of aboriginal people by saying that they are always clogging the courts with all of these claims.

The reason the claims are in the courts is because the government refuses to sit at the table and resolve these issues. It takes two to tango. It takes two to create an impasse. Aboriginal people want these claims settled. The government has a vested interest in stalling and delaying because if the claims are resolved, as they are in most cases, it will cost the government money.

If we stipulate ourselves to a dispute mechanism that is supposed to be fair and expeditious, then timelines should be imposed so that these delaying tactics could no longer be used as a tool by the federal government. There are far too many opportunities for federal delay built into this process.

From where did the $7 million cap figure come? It was pulled out of the air. I cannot say whether it should be more or less for specific claims, but anytime a line like that is drawn there will be cases that fall right on the line. I will give the House an example of a worse case scenario.

Let us say a first nation has been waiting 30 years for satisfaction on a specific claim and it has spent $2 million on legal fees. The claim is worth $10 million. It could carry on in the courts, because this is optional, and spend another $2 million fighting for what it knows to be right, or it could go before the independent claims body and have it settled to a maximum of $7 million. This may coerce, out of necessity, first nations to accept less than what they deserve and what they have coming because they cannot afford to fight for another 50 years.

As the previous speaker mentioned, this generation of aboriginal people may not be quite as patient as their forefathers were in achieving justice. They need it and they want it now. However because of the cap the maximum that will be handed out will be $7 million. We believe this is a cost saving measure contemplated, vented and executed by the federal government in imposing this cap into the bill.

My party is further critical of the definition of a specific claim that has been narrowed from the existing policy. Believe it or not, we are supposed to be moving forward toward resolution of these outstanding grievances with the bill. Instead we are going backward. The definition of what constitutes a specific claim for treatment under the independent new commission is narrower than things that could go under the existing independent claims commission.

The bill does not provide for a substantial financial commitment and is more about limiting federal liability than about settling claims. That is the simplest way I can express our objection to the bill. It does not provide for a substantial financial commitment. It is more seized with the issue of limiting federal liability than it is about settling claims. Bill C-6 offers little hope for addressing the growing backlog of specific claims in the foreseeable future.

I appeal to the minister to step back and look at the whole suite of legislation he has introduced, namely, Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19. There are those of us on opposition benches who would like nothing better than to enthusiastically support legislation that will amend the Indian Act because we think the Indian Act is fundamentally evil. We believe it is responsible for 130 years of social tragedy. If I do nothing else in my time here as a member of Parliament, I would like to say that I moved the issue of aboriginal people one step forward.

I appeal to the minister to take a step back and rethink why the entire first nations community is opposed to these measures. I appeal to him to introduce something again, in a co-operative manner, something of which we can all be proud. The government will then have the enthusiastic support of the New Democratic Party instead of the opposition we have expressed toward the bill.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

February 7th, 2003 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, first, I would suggest to the member that if he cared about aboriginal people, he would stop stalling all the bills in the House and let some of them go through so we can work on improving the fundamentals of governance of the first nations people.

Second, he should read Bill C-7. Bill C-7 directly says, if he has read it and I do not think he has because he would not make this comment, that the human rights code will apply to first nations for the first time.

Antipoverty ActAdjournment Proceedings

February 4th, 2003 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Madam Speaker, we would like to admit that we in the department are aware of the problems in terms of moneys being paid to local and provincial school systems.

I want to say to the House tonight that we have never had an Indian band yet that did not meet its financial obligations. I know we do have certain situations where there are problem in terms of management and control. However we do have before the House Bill C-7, which talks about governance. It talks about assisting and working with first nations peoples to see that they meet their obligations.

I can assure the hon. member that certainly in the long run our Indian bands have not only met their obligations, but in terms of the province of British Columbia, interest is being added to those bills. In most cases, when satisfactory arrangements are completed, the obligations to our first nations peoples are met with the various people with whom they do business.

I hope all this will improve and we will see better education and more first nations people being well educated in their own schools and in the schools of our nation.