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.

March 4th, 2014 / 6:55 p.m.
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NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

People in Winnipeg...? There you go. Everything can be made better. That was 2001. Who was the government then?

Anyway, moving on to my third.... In the 37th Parliament, second sitting, the aboriginal affairs committee studied Bill C-7. Thirty meetings, thirty, and we can't get any. They got 30. From March 17, 2003, to March 26, 2003, and March 31, 2003, they went to 30 meetings. They went to 18 cities. Which ones you ask? I knew somebody would ask me which ones.

So that would be Red Deer, Alberta, lovely place; Nanaimo, B.C., good committee; Prince Rupert, B.C.; Prince George, B.C.; Fort McMurray, Alberta—you'd think there'd be some appeal from the other side there, they'd want to hear from Albertans but I guess not—Slave Lake, Alberta; Prince Albert, Saskatchewan; North Battleford, Saskatchewan; Regina, Saskatchewan; Sudbury, Ontario; Thompson, Manitoba; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Thunder Bay, Ontario; Toronto, Ontario; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Fredericton, New Brunswick; Montreal, Quebec; and Val-d'Or, Quebec.

That is a serious consultation. It's also very relevant because if you look at those cities, they are either areas where there are first nations reserves and therefore first nations people, or they are communities, urban centres, where aboriginal Canadians are living, first nations people.

I'm sitting beside someone who is an expert compared to what I might know about this. However, the issues for first nations people on reserve and in cities, while there are some overlaps of concerns in terms of ID and some of the formula there, a lot of it has to do with their rights in two different geographical settings. If I live on the reserve, it's one set. If I leave the reserve and I live in an urban setting, the rules are very different. Certainly my society around me affects me in a different way.

So that's why they went there. They could have made the argument the government is making here and said it's aboriginal affairs but we can bring in Chief Atleo and we can bring in everybody else we need and get a video link. Why do we need to go there? Why? Funny, nobody made the...and if they did make an argument then it wasn't the prevailing thought. The majority of them said no, are you crazy? We have a bill here about aboriginal affairs. It makes all the sense in the world that we better go out and talk to the Canadians that this affects. That's what they did. My colleague says respect. I said that word earlier and that's what's missing. That committee showed respect to the Canadians they visited. The government right now is not showing any respect.

Am I done, you ask? No. There are more examples—and all need to be mentioned to support my motion—that go on to explain and hopefully convince my colleagues why there are times when it is good for democracy for committees to travel. This is one of them. Another one was in 2003, citizenship and immigration again studying Bill C-18 and they held 29 meetings. They visited a dozen cities.

March 4th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Daryl Kramp

Please, perhaps the witnesses would come forward and be available.

Thank you very much.

Just a little point of clarification, there was an expression of concern with regard to the validity of proceeding without having the translation. The chair was obviously uncomfortable, as well as some of the members, and we were advised by the clerk at that time of the ruling that we would be proceeding, so the clerk has provided a raison d'être for that ruling. I'll just read it in here briefly so that the chair and future people can be also guided by that, because the chair was uncomfortable as many other people were, and hopefully we just won't have that again.

It was from a study on Bill C-7 on June 3, 2003. It says:

I really do feel uncomfortable when hon. members do not have the transcripts. However, I am guided by the precedent of Mr. Speaker Macnaughton. I am guided by the fact that the rules are silent as to the form of printing. Therefore I must decline to accede to the suggestion of the right hon. member that transcripts of proceedings in committee must be available before the House can proceed with a bill. It is not uncommon for bills to be called before committee proceedings have been completely transcribed and are available in both official languages let alone one. Accordingly, while I have great sympathy, and I know there are dozens of members of the House who want to read these proceedings of this committee, I am afraid that I am not able to accede to his request. Accordingly, it would not be out of order for the House to proceed with the bill at this time, barring some other problems that may arise.

I just felt that the committee deserved to have an understanding of the reasoning behind that, of course provided by our excellent staff, because the chair was as uncomfortable as some of the other members. On the point of consideration that was put forward, I thought you were owed that response. I just table that for you here. I guess we don't have to table it, but it is here for your consideration.

We will now go right back to where we had left off on the clause-by-clause study.

We had discussed clause 4, and we were at the point of calling a vote for clause 4.

The chair will proceed.

(Clause 4 agreed to)

(On clause 5)

The government has put in an amendment numbered 6437853.

Yes, Ms. James.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2012 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the privilege of talking about an issue as important as the one addressed in Bill C-428. I believe that this bill is important because it tackles the horrible Indian Act of 1876. There can be no doubt that this bill is one of Canada's most archaic colonial legacies. That is why I commend the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River on his initiative. However, it is not enough. It is too little, too late. The Conservative government should consider a much farther-reaching rewrite of the Indian Act and a much more open process.

As a New Democrat, I believe that a complete overhaul of this cursed bill should be led by aboriginals. If the changes are imposed unilaterally, then what, really, has changed? That is why Bill C-428 seems inappropriate.

I will explain why this bill is not likely to go down in history. I do not claim to have a plan to make up for 136 years of colonialism, but I can say that ideally, new legislation should be drafted in collaboration with aboriginals, be introduced by the government and honour the goals of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Because Bill C-428 does not satisfy any of these conditions, I cannot support it.

I want to begin by pointing out that the goal of the 1876 act was the assimilation of all aboriginals and their forced integration into what was then a fledgling Canadian society. When I visit Manawan, people there are still speaking Atikamekw in 2012. In that respect, the act failed. It also includes many provisions that make life difficult for aboriginals. The government will have to do better than a private member's bill to fix it.

In 1969, the Liberal Party tried to get rid of the act in order to integrate aboriginals into Canadian society. That was supposed to happen without compensation, without special status, and with no respect for treaties signed in the past. As one, aboriginals rejected the idea, but that does not mean they wanted to keep the Indian Act. Quite the contrary.

In their red paper, aboriginals stated that it was neither possible nor desirable to abolish the Indian Act. They said that a review of the act was critical, but that it should not happen until treaty issues were resolved. Some 45 years later, that issue is still outstanding.

Other attempts were explored in this House. In 1987, a list was made of discriminatory provisions in the Indian Act, and this led to a bill. Later, in 2003, the Liberals introduced Bill C-7, which, once again, was heavily criticized by first nations. The Conservatives are now bringing forward Bill C-428, a private member's bill, which seems just as irrelevant as other attempts.

In the words of Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In my opinion, this quote points to what is clearly lacking in Bill C-428: a different approach. Perhaps this flaw is the reason why there is very little support for the bill outside the Conservative caucus. The chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, said that this bill is along the same lines as the policy espoused in the 1969 white paper.

Had the Conservatives listened to Mr. Atleo, they would have understood that what to do with aboriginals is no longer the question. In the 21st century, the question is: what do aboriginals want to do with us?

Bill C-428, which the Assembly of First Nations has said came out of nowhere, does not reflect the current reality. During the Crown–First Nations Gathering, the Conservative Prime Minister spoke at length about how his government would work with the first nations.

Aboriginal peoples were not consulted about Bill C-428, or about Bill C-27 or Bill S-8. When the government promises something—and especially something so important—it must follow through. It is shameful to see that this government is not keeping its own promises.

Speaking of broken promises, the government committed to removing the residential school provisions from the Indian Act. We can see that the government preferred to hide the clause in a private member's bill. The NDP thinks that something so important should come from the government, and with apologies, no less. The government must take responsibility and come up with a real, serious solution to replace the Indian Act.

Bill C-428 contains some clauses that seem to be chosen at random, when they are not downright negative. For example, the elimination of the provisions dealing with wills and estates could put aboriginal people in a very frustrating legal void. Does the bill's sponsor understand its implications?

Finally, we must recognize that the living conditions of aboriginal people are getting worse all the time. While the first nations communities are experiencing an ongoing demographic boom, their social services budgets are increasing by only 2% a year, thanks to the Liberals. The fact that the social services budgets for other Canadians are increasing by 6% a year does not seem to bother the government at all.

Malnutrition and education problems are hitting first nations communities hard. I am afraid that the Prime Minister will have to do more than give a medal to Justin Bieber to make young aboriginals forget about this sad reality. When the government decides to really tackle the problems resulting from the Indian Act, I will be there.

Furthermore, I expect that the proposed measure will be very much in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This declaration, which Canada ignorantly refused to support, recognizes the specific needs of aboriginal people. It recognizes their right to be consulted about the use of resources on their land. Do we not owe at least that to those who played key roles in our history and the development of our economy?

If the government does not change its attitude toward the first nations, they will understand that the NDP is the only party that can offer them a truly open consultation process. We want to help them to govern themselves. Other Canadians need to know that the excellent social services they receive must also be provided to aboriginal people, in a spirit of sharing and recognition.

The Indian Act needs to be revised, but not without real consultation, clear objectives and a detailed plan of steps to follow. Unfortunately, Bill C-428 does not meet any of these criteria.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2012 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that. When the member was giving his speech, we allowed him the time and space to deliver it without the heckling and the noise.

I want to point out how serious this is. We have a private member's bill that is attempting to dismantle the Indian Act. I think there is agreement that the Indian Act is an archaic piece of legislation that needs to go, but the question is how it should go. Should it be through a private member's bill? Absolutely not. That does not recognize the nation-to-nation relationship that exists in this country.

There have been two other major attempts that ended in dismal failure, I might point out, and they were government bills, not private members' bills. There have been two major attempts at removing the Indian Act in the past. The first was a white paper authorized by Jean Chrétien in 1969 that sought to assimilate first nations into mainstream Canadian society by scrapping the Indian Act and reserves. We can see from the kinds of legislation that have been tabled in the House in the past that it is no wonder that first nations from coast to coast to coast are nervous about any attempt that does not involve meaningful consultation. People do not know what the end result of this is going to be because they are not involved and not at the table.

Harold Cardinal, another first nations leader, in response to the 1969 white paper, published a red paper titled “Citizens Plus” that outlined in reply:

It is neither possible nor desirable to eliminate the Indian Act. It is essential to review it, but not before the question of treaties is settled. Some sections can be altered, amended, or deleted readily. Other sections need more careful study, because the Indian Act provided for Indian people, the legal framework that is provided in many federal and provincial statutes for other Canadians. Thus the Indian Act is very complicated and cannot simply be burned.

In 2003, the Liberals introduced Bill C-7, the first nations governance act, which was widely panned by first nations who questioned if it was consistent with the rights, needs and priorities of Canadian first nations. Sadly, there was a news release on October 18 that indicates that the government would be supporting Bill C-428. The question then, of course, comes back to the new relationship that was promised at the Crown-first nations gathering back in January and how unilaterally introducing a private member's bill on some serious matters constitutes a new relationship in this country.

If the government were serious about a new relationship, it would go back to reports like that of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. A couple of years ago, the Assembly of First Nations issued a report card and, essentially, it almost gave an F across the board for what had been implemented. The royal commission process was a comprehensive one that many people had some faith in, but most of the recommendations have been completely disregarded by various governments since 1996. If it were serious, the government would go back to that, and if it were serious about consultation, it would go back to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that very important clause about free, prior and informed consent. This bill does nothing to address any of that.

I want to go back to a paper that was published back in 1987 entitled, “Aboriginal People: History of Discriminatory Laws”. This paper states:

It is generally accepted that the often conflicting goals of “civilization,” assimilation, and protection of Indian peoples that have been pursued throughout the history of federal Indian legislation have their origin in (primarily British) colonialism. Throughout the colonial and post-Confederation periods, governments vacillated between two policies. The isolationist policy held that assimilation could be best achieved by isolating Indians on reserves, with Indian agents gradually preparing them for integration with the dominant society. (Alternatively, isolation was viewed by some simply as a protective measure until the Indian people should become extinct). The policy of immediate assimilation, on the other hand, favoured immediate placement of Indians among non-native people and removal of special protective measures and legal status. The isolationist policy has predominated but, as some observers have noted, it has had the unintended result of preserving Indian cultures and providing a means for the Indian people to resist assimilative pressures. Accordingly, Indians have fought to retain their reserves, treaty rights and special legal status as a way of maintaining distinct cultural or national identities.

While Indian people view reserve and treaty rights as a quid pro quo for giving up a good part of their traditional lands, federal and provincial governments have frequently taken the view that the Indians’ refusal to abandon their distinctive cultures, government and identities is a refusal to take up the ways of a more “advanced civilization” and accordingly, a refusal to take up the “responsibilities” of full citizenship. In the result, the history of native policy, particularly Indian policy, in Canada is replete with examples of legal bars to the exercise of fundamental civil, political and cultural rights.

That continues to this day and this bill does nothing to address the problems that first nations across this country are facing, whether it is human rights or the ridiculous number of aboriginal women who are in prison.

One-third of women in federal prison are aboriginal. We had the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which talks about the dismal failure of aboriginal policy to keep children out of prisons. We have the current government still fighting at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on child welfare.

If the Conservatives are serious about a new relationship they will withdraw this bill, go back to the drawing board and work with first nations to fully implement a consultative approach to eliminating the Indian Act.

I want to add that there was a man named Leo Baskatawang, who—

March 8th, 2011 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you again for being here, Ms. Block.

Let me just say at the outset that I take great exception to your characterizing those who did not support this bill coming to committee as being opposed to transparency. I speak for myself as one who sat for days, 24 hours around the clock, to deal with Bill C-7 in 2002, which dealt with many of the issues related to transparency, and as one who advocated very strongly for the Kelowna accord, which very much advocated and had the tools and the infrastructure and had followed the processes of consultation that many of us value in developing legislation related to aboriginal people.

What I am most concerned about is how you reconcile this bill calling for transparency with your own government's unwillingness or inability or blockage of transparency of many other issues that are coming before this House. I just find the hypocrisy of it breathtaking.

June 12th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to both of our witnesses for being here today.

I don't think I need to remind anyone around this committee of the number of attempts there have been to repeal section 67, going back to 1992. And then there was this extensive review panel of the Canadian Human Rights Act in the year 1999 and 2000. All of the groups that represented aboriginal women at that point strongly supported the repeal of section 67.

Then again in 2002 there was Bill C-7. One of the major criticisms of Bill C-7, as I understand it, was the vagueness of the interpretive clause that was to have been included in that bill.

You mentioned, Ms. Eberts, that there is lots of wisdom in indigenous legal traditions, and I certainly agree with that. I certainly would not argue that for a moment.

But in terms of the number of first nations groups that exist across Canada, is it realistic for us to be able to achieve a one-size-fits-all interpretive clause when we're representing such a diverse group of first nations across Canada? That would be one of my concerns, when already a previous attempt was targeted with that criticism. How can we surmount that obstacle?

March 22nd, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

I'll speak first, Mr. Chair, with your permission. Then I'm pleased to answer any questions.

I know that Mr. Lemay is anxious to have a dialogue on this, and I always enjoy that.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to discuss Bill C-44. I'm pleased that the committee members are undertaking a review of this important projet de loi. It is human rights protection legislation that will repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill C-44 proposes to end an exemption that was included in the original legislation when it was enacted some time ago, actually in 1977.

As a result of this exemption, individuals, mostly residents of first nation communities, have had limited recourse under the Canadian Human Rights Act should they feel their rights have been violated. This fundamental injustice represents a black mark on Canada's democracy. I would draw to your attention a number of reports to the United Nations that have singled this out and recommended change.

Section 67 clearly permits discrimination against a particular group of citizens, and Bill C-44 proposes to ensure that the laws of the country will apply equally to all Canadian citizens.

This is not the first time that Parliament has tried to repeal section 67. Bill C-108 was introduced nearly 15 years ago, only to die on the Order Paper. More recently, attempts to repeal section 67 through Bills C-7 and S-45 suffered a similar fate. Parliamentarians now have an opportunity to see the job through.

Support for the repeal of section 67 comes from a wide variety of groups, including this very committee. In its report on matrimonial real property on reserves, Walking Arm in Armto Resolve the Issue of On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property, members of this committee called for the repeal of section 67.

Your committee's position on this matter was based largely on the testimony of representatives from several key groups, including the Native Women's Association of Canada. In fact, I would point out that Beverley Jacobs said this before your committee at that time, as follows:

—many first nations women have no recourse at all when their rights are being violated in their communities. They have no recourse to challenge their band councils for discriminating against them and for forcing them out of their own communities. We demand basic human rights for our women and children.

As minister, I take that statement to heart. Nothing will change unless action is taken, and that is precisely what we have done with this legislation.

Over the years, calls for the repeal of section 67 have come from a wide variety of sources, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself, and other independent commentators who have filed reports with the UN.

The fundamental injustice engendered by section 67 has also attracted international attention, unfortunately earning Canada censure from the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Mr. Chairman, in my opinion, it all boils down to a simple issue of human rights. Canada must not perpetuate the discrimination inherent in section 67.

I appreciate that some groups have raised concerns about Bill C-44, despite its noble goal. Most critics focus on three points: a perceived lack of consultation, the absence of an interpretive clause and concerns about the potential impact.

Today, I will address each of these criticisms in turn.

On the perceived lack of consultation, I would contend that in fact there's been a significant amount of discussion and consultation on the repeal of section 67, all of which has informed the bill that is before you today. There have been, really, 30 years of discussions since 1977 about the repeal of section 67.

Perhaps the most comprehensive consultation was launched in 1999 as part of a formal review of the Canada Human Rights Act. As you know, the Canada Human Rights Commission itself has spoken on this issue.

Among the many regional and national aboriginal organizations to participate in the review were the Native Women's Association of Canada, Alberta's Aboriginal Human Rights Commission, and New Brunswick's Aboriginal Peoples Council.

The final report issued by the review panel in 2000 recommended the repeal of section 67, and two years ago consultation with aboriginal groups informed a special report on section 67, completed and filed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself. Again, repeal was the recommended option.

In 2003 section 67 was also discussed as part of the committee's hearings into Bill C-7, the controversial First Nations Governance Act. During these hearings, several aboriginal groups lobbied for the repeal of section 67, a position restated during hearings that were held in 2005 on matrimonial real property on reserve. The Assembly of First Nations has also expressed its views on the public record.

While not every stakeholder and aboriginal person has had the opportunity to participate in consultations, there can be no doubt that a determined effort has been made to gather relevant opinions. And that the consensus was and continues to be clear: section 67 must go. Thirty years is long enough.

A second criticism of Bill C-44 concerns the absence of an interpretive clause. In this regard, an interpretive provision is required in the Canadian Human Rights Act to balance the interests of individuals seeking protection from discrimination with aboriginal community interest. That is the argument put forward.

I share the view that the Canadian Human Rights Act should be applied in a manner that is sensitive to particular circumstances of aboriginal communities, but the truth is that three factors preclude the need for an interpretive clause in the legislation. The first is that laws already exist that provide for a balancing of individual and collective rights. I refer to the constitutional protection already in place for the recognition of collective aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, which remains as the paramount authority in our legal system.

Given these protections, members of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the body that will adjudicate complaints under the statute, are required by the act to be sensitive to human issues as they pertain to aboriginal and treaty rights. They can also be expected to interpret the existing defences in the act, bearing in mind these concerns. With these protections in place to help guide the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the commission, there's no need to add an interpretive clause to Bill C-44. In effect, the Constitution Act provides that overall interpretive umbrella itself.

The second factor has to do with the critical role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself. The commission is charged with the administration of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which means that it not only processes complaints but also engages in educational activities concerning the act. Since it was created nearly 30 years ago, the commission has acquired unsurpassed expertise in interpreting and in resolving cases involving discrimination—that is what they do, and they're good at it. The commission's efforts to prevent discrimination have also been remarkable.

Rather than relying on a specific statutory interpretive clause to safeguard theirs interests, aboriginal groups can discuss the future operation of the Act with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In fact, many aboriginal governments have had experience with complaints under the Act, situations where section 67 has not applied.

The commission has vowed to work directly with aboriginal groups on implementation. In fact, the commission's aboriginal program is already established and a series of regional workshops are planned. The workshops will provide guidance and support to aboriginal groups that need help to exercise and carry out the new responsibilities under the act. Additionally, the Canadian Human Rights Act already grants the commission the power to establish guidelines or regulations on how the act should be applied to a particular class or group of complaints. These guidelines are statutory instruments with the same legal weight as regulations, but they are flexible enough to be adapted as required. I have full confidence that, given its mandate, its track record, and in dialogue with first nations, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is best placed to offer advice on how the act should be applied, and to do so over time. With passage of Bill C-44, this work will begin formally.

Thirdly, we know from experience with the interpretive clause, which was originally proposed in the First Nations Governance Act, Bill C-7, that it is extremely difficult to capture in a single clause fail-proof language that would address all the competing considerations for handling a Canadian Human Rights Act complaint in a first nations context. To attempt to distill the interpretive power of the Human Rights Commission into a single clause, I submit, is quite problematic. Additionally, an interpretive clause, if passed into law, would have to be interpreted by the commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, in any event, in specific cases, and would obtain clarity really only after the litigation of many complaints and conflicts, undoubtedly, with the charter.

In summary, with the protection offered by Canada's legal framework, the support provided by the commission, and the scope that already exists within the Canadian Human Rights Act and the powers of the commission, I'm personally convinced that the full application of the Canadian Human Rights Act can be implemented in a manner that is sensitive to aboriginal communities. I have confidence that the Human Rights Commission is best able to provide that oversight and that interpretive responsibility.

Other aspects of the legislation are helpful to consider. The mandatory review included in Bill C-44, for example, offers additional protection for those who are concerned about its impact. The legislation proposes that a parliamentary committee undertake a comprehensive review of the effects of the repeal of section 67, within five years. I think this is a useful fail-safe.

On this point, I would like to draw to the committee's attention that it is within Parliament's authority to undertake such a review earlier. I would respectfully caution against so doing, but this remains the prerogative of Parliament.

I acknowledge that the repeal of section 67 will have a significant impact on many groups, including First Nations and federal departments. To ensure that First Nations have time to prepare for these impacts, Bill C-44 proposes a delayed application to First Nations' governments six months after royal assent is granted.

With the support of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which has already begun to engage and to raise awareness of human rights legislation with representatives of national and regional aboriginal organizations, I believe this period provides the appropriate balance between, on the one hand, proceeding with repeal in a timely fashion while on the other hand allowing first nations to take measures to prepare for full implementation.

The question of resources has been raised, but until the bill is passed, these costs remain hypothetical. Yes, it will be important to assess what resources might be needed, and I invite your advice on that topic.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee—and we have a knowledgeable group of parliamentarians at this table today—the time has come to ensure that all Canadians are treated equally before the law of this country. Bill C-44 proposes a fair, realistic approach to ending 30 years of sanctioned discrimination in this country. This committee, in a non-partisan way, can seize the opportunity before it and ensure access to full human rights protection as provided to all. Now is the time for us to act to end the injustice that was created as a so-called temporary measure against first nations citizens 30 years ago. This is an historic opportunity for this Parliament, for all the parties in this House of Commons at this time, to accomplish something very significant. I urge you, as committee members, to review Bill C-44 and to support it.

Thank you. I will do my best to answer the questions from Mr. Lemay and others.

Indian ActPrivate Members' Business

November 22nd, 2006 / 7:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Pallister Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the argument is specious that somehow putting interim rules into place is in any way, shape or form going to delay action. If we have a desire to take action as a result of the consultations that are under way, we will take it, but I have listened to arguments being made for 20 years that there is a process under way. There was a process with the AJI. RCAP was a very extensive process.

Many of us here were part of Bill C-7 and remember the consultations around that. People have argued for many years and some chiefs always will argue that this is not any of our business. I do not think the arguments that this is somehow going to delay action coming from those sources have any credence whatsoever.

However, the argument that an interim action to provide rules for matrimonial property division until this or a subsequent government decides to take action is very strong, because it is either interim rules or no rules. If members knew the women who have been impacted by the absence of rules as I do, they certainly would support having interim rules as opposed to none.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

November 6th, 2003 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it should be noted that we are debating a group of amendments at report stage of Bill C-19, but 54 out of 56 amendments put forward by the NDP have been disallowed and will not have the benefit of debate. We will not have the opportunity to re-craft the bill with language more acceptable to first nations on whose behalf we speak today. We were hoping the minister would stay and listen to our arguments because he did not listen to first nations in crafting this legislation.

I can say categorically that first nations across this country oppose Bill C-19 just as they oppose the rest of the minister's suite of bills, Bill C-7, Bill C-6 and Bill C-19. They viewed it as the reincarnation of the 1969 white paper which is something with which the current Prime Minister is very familiar.

We are debating two amendments to a bill that we in the NDP fundamentally oppose and that is the least crucial point. First nations oppose the bill as well.

I have in my hand a letter dated October 31, 2003 from the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He is prepared to admit and concede and put on the record that he too opposes Bill C-19 on behalf of first nations across the country. I will read it because it is important. To hear the minister and the parliamentary secretary tell it, the Assembly of First Nations wants the bill but we and a few first nations are somehow blocking it.

I would like to read from this recent letter from the legitimately elected leadership of first nations. He said simply:

As many of you know, an AFN Special Assembly was held in October at Squamish First Nation.

I was there, as was the member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot. During that meeting, a resolution was put forward concerning the AFN's position on Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19. The resolution which the chief endorsed called for the rejection of Bill C-7, the rejection of Bill C-6, but proposed to support Bill C-19. I quote:

The resolution failed to receive support from the Chiefs.

In other words, the chiefs voted down support for Bill C-19. I want to be perfectly accurate here because this is critically important. The letter continues on:

We must, as an organization, remember that unity is often best measured.... And while we do not support Bill C-6, Bill C-7, and Bill C-19, the AFN's view respects and gives dignity to those First Nations who disagree.

Fair enough. It is as clear as the writing on the page that the Assembly of First Nations oppose it. Therefore it is the height of colonial style arrogance for the Minister of Indian Affairs, in the last days of his being the Minister of Indian Affairs, to shove the bill down the throats of aboriginal people. We have seen this consistent pattern with Bill C-7, Bill C-6 and now with Bill C-19.

Will those members never learn? Will they never listen to first nations people across this country who have said categorically and unanimously that they oppose this suite of legislation? They are offended and insulted by the manner in which it has been rammed down their throats without consultation. They reject it and we in the House of Commons should reject it as well.

I have been denied the right to move 54 significant amendments which were drafted not by me and my researchers, but were drafted by people in the Assembly of First Nations. Leadership in the aboriginal community fed us material. They provided us with changes that they found acceptable. We are not even going to get to debate those amendments.

I regret that this will probably be the last time I will have a chance to share my thoughts with the House on this very flawed bill. In the few minutes that I have, I want to pay tribute to the courageous leaders in first nations communities who have dedicated months and months, actually years now, standing up for their rights and opposing the strategy of the Liberal government.

I have to begin with Chief Roberta Jamieson of the Six Nations of the Grand River. She has tirelessly led a campaign to coerce the government into respecting aboriginal and treaty rights and to bypass this flawed package. Also, the vice-chief for Ontario for the Assembly of First Nations, Charles Fox, representing all of the first nations in Ontario, is vehemently opposed to this bill. The vice-chief for the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec, Ghislain Picard, is vehemently opposed to this legislation and has said so categorically in print and verbally.

The vice-chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Manitoba, Grand Chief Francis Flett, is opposed. The grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Dennis Whitebird, is opposed. The grand chief for the Southern Chiefs Organization, Margaret Swan, is opposed. Stewart Phillip, the grand chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is opposed. Stan Beardy from the Nishnawbe Aski nation in northern Ontario is also opposed. Leon Jourdain represents the treaty 3 people in the minister's own riding, the 54 first nations in the minister's own riding. They are unanimously opposed. They do not want it.

What is so difficult to understand? Where do the Liberals get off being so arrogant in thinking that without consultation, without cooperation and without the participation of first nations they are going to fundamentally change the way the first nations are supposed to govern themselves? It is the very antithesis of self-governance to impose government structures on a free, independent and sovereign people. It makes me mad just thinking about it.

I attended the Assembly of First Nations national assembly in October and the Squamish first nation of British Columbia and I saw the debate. There are, legitimately, first nations leaders from British Columbia who support Bill C-19 which is fair enough. However there is nothing stopping them from moving forward with the issues we find in this bill without national legislation because of the 633 first nations, the majority of which are overwhelmingly opposed.

I also would be remiss if I did not mention the courageous battle and the energetic, enthusiastic actions of my colleague, mon frère autochtone, my brother in aboriginal issues, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Both of us had the honour of being recognized by the Assembly of First Nations for the positions we have taken on this bill. Both of us were given spiritual names, which is an honour that I will never forget and an honour that I will value all of my life. I could not have been more proud if I had received the Order of Canada when we were brought before the Assembly of First Nations and thanked.

We were told it is a rare thing when non-aboriginal people actually get it for a second, actually understand the issue of sovereignty and self-governance and the inherent rights of a people to be independent and sovereign. My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has no problem with that concept. I learned that concept more recently perhaps. We were both very honoured and very proud to work hand in hand with the people in the Assembly of First Nations.

I also want to recognize some of the elders, the clan mothers of the Oneida, the Cayuga, the Mohawk and Six Nations who came out night after night to represent the interests of their people. They reminded us that frankly the eurocentric view of the government does not honour and respect tradition, culture and heritage. The clan mothers reminded us that we must think seven generations back and seven generations forward before we introduce this kind of change. My thanks go to them. They have my never-ending respect for the work they have done in their representations.

We should defeat this bill in its entirety. We should go back to the drawing board. We should work with respect and cooperation to craft self-governance legislation, as the emancipation of aboriginal people is the civil rights challenge of our time.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

November 6th, 2003 / 5 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on Bill C-19.

I wish to thank the member for Perth—Middlesex for his work in the aboriginal affairs committee. Having been a former member of the committee, I do have a few things to say. My riding of Dauphin—Swan River has 13 bands and a significant population base of aboriginal Canadians.

It was mentioned earlier that it is so unfortunate that on a day when we pay tribute to the Prime Minister, his biggest failure in 40 years of public life is on the aboriginal affairs file. I know that he always had good intentions in terms of helping the aboriginal community, but unfortunately, the process is fatally flawed. I could say the same thing about our current minister. I am sure the minister is well intentioned to help people, but the problem is that the system does not work.

Having been a former critic for the PC Party going back almost two years, Bill C-19 was already on the Internet. Members of the committee and members of the aboriginal community did not know anything about it. It is a good example of the flawed communication process. We cannot force or expect people to do things unless they sit down at the table and discuss issues.

Bill C-7 is about governance. The change of governance for the aboriginal community which supposedly was to work toward self-government just did not work out. It was well-intentioned. The topic made sense, but the process was flawed.

The aboriginal community opposed Bill C-7, even though there are many good things in it. It is about setting up governance vehicles and making people accountable.

Unfortunately, unless the stakeholders are there, the people who this bill is going to affect, they are not going to buy into it. No more than if the federal government decided that all of a sudden it would dictate how municipalities should operate. People at the grassroots level would not take it sitting down because they want input.

In fact, that is one of the weaknesses of the government as we have heard in this House. Cooperative federalism in terms of relationships between the provinces and this place can certainly be improved. We know there can be huge improvements in terms of the relationship between the federal government and the aboriginal community. It is a terrible relationship which is so unfortunate. We go from a national chief to a national chief. It is poor planning and in no way does it deal with people.

We spend a great deal of money on this file, over $7 billion, and yet people still live in third world conditions. It just does not make any sense. Aboriginal communities and aboriginal people of this land are living in third world conditions.

In a rich country like this where everyone in the world wants to come to Canada because of the opportunities here, our first nations communities are living in squalor in many places. I have 13 reserves and many of them do not have running water. They have probably 10 to 12 people living in one house. It is just pathetic how the majority of people live.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of accountability, there is no accounting for how the money is spent. Again, I blame the federal government.

The Indian Act seems to have the attitude that father knows best. It is just as the Bloc member said. They are just like modern Indian agents; they decide how the money is spent and to whom they should give the money. I guess the band councils learned from their masters at this level about rampant spending and not having to account to anyone. It is very frustrating. It is frustrating for the people who live on reserves. They do not know what to do.

I have many contacts with the people who are on reservations in my riding. I forward them on to the minister and I am not even sure what happens, even on the issue of third party debt. There are millions and millions of dollars of third party debt incurred by what I say is the federal government but the minister said it is not his debt, that it is the bands' debt. Unfortunately someone gets hurt and it is usually the third party. There is no fairness in this.

The biggest irony is that this country believes in democracy and human rights. We travel all over the world promoting democracy, transparency and accountability. I met with Mr. Roy of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development which was established in 1988.

We do this yet at home we do not look at what we are doing in our own backyard. One would think that in 2003 as rational people in this place we would try to figure out a solution. After a contribution of 40 years to the country by the Prime Minister, surely it is time to sit down and work this out so that the aboriginal communities, the first nations of our land, have an opportunity to grow and to create wealth like other Canadians. Otherwise we are not going to go anywhere.

We have heard about the self-government initiative. It is not going to happen. It is not going to work as long as the Indian Act is in place. The Indian Act is a millstone around the first people's necks. The only way to have true autonomy and self-sufficiency is to let people manage their own affairs.

We are a country of regions. We are a country of first nations, distinct francophones and distinct anglophones. The strength of the country is that we have many differences and many regions. They can all learn to work together, not only the east, the west and the centre but also the north.

The government has a lot to learn. I will close by saying it is so unfortunate on the day we have been praising the Prime Minister for his contribution to the country that a file in which he has great interest is a total failure.

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November 6th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to the amendments to Bill C-19 proposed by my colleagues in the New Democratic Party.

I was very disappointed to see that, of all of the proposed amendments, you have only selected two for debate. It seemed to me that while we were examining this bill—and a controversial one it is—we would have been able to revisit the debate on some of the truly problematic elements.

First, as we begin, I would like to point out that, contrary to what the hon. parliamentary secretary said a few moments ago, there is no unanimity on this bill, none at all. There are positive things, but there are so many negative ones. It was the minister's responsibility to convince the first nations that the positive elements could outweigh the negative ones in this bill, or else show some openness to substantive amendments. In fact, there are many problems in this bill. It has missed its mark.

A few weeks ago, I attended the special chiefs assembly, held by the Assembly of First Nations in Vancouver. This bill was the subject of a heated debate. Some of the first nations supported the bill because it might mean an improvement. Others, the vast majority in fact, rejected the bill. The results of the vote were clear. If my memory serves me, 103 first nations chiefs were opposed and 59 were in favour. When there is more opposition to a bill than support for it, it is because the minister did not do his job in several respects.

First, he tried to convince some first nations, the most developed ones, that this bill might have merit. He forgot about the others. He forgot that most of the 638 first nations in Canada are experiencing real problems on a daily basis, problems such as poverty, multiple addictions, the lack of management and development resources, and access to drinking water. These problems are major ones. Young aboriginals are also experiencing social problems.

Ten years ago, when the Liberals talked about improving the status of first nations, something should have been done. However, instead of talking about it, instead of proposing concrete measures, they chose to engage in petty politics, to try to convince some at the expense of others; in short, to divide and conquer. Now, the vast majority of the 638 first nations in Canada do not want this bill to pass.

They do not want it primarily because this bill is part of a trilogy. There was Bill C-6 on specific claims resolution. Then, there was Bill C-7. No one knows what happened to this bill or where it is. I hope it stays lost. Then there was Bill C-19. The minister himself appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources to tell us that this was a complete package.

When he did present us with Bill C-7, it was the most odious bill possible for the first nations. He claimed to be replacing the odious Indian Act, which has been in place for 130 years. In the end, all that was accomplished was to retain the Indian Act, which treated the first nations like children, while adding on some elements of colonialism. This was not a good start to any demonstration of the virtues of the trilogy.

Then he turned up with Bill C-6. Yesterday, convinced of his inability to sell us on its validity, he imposed it on us. He is imposing upon the first nations the amendments proposed by the Senate on specific claims, which are now subject to a $10 million ceiling, whereas they average out at $18 million, judging from the situation in Saskatchewan in recent years.

He is using time allocation to shove this bill down our throats, once again thwarting the legitimate aspirations and ignoring the legitimate objections of the first nations. Here we are faced with Bill C-19, which is an attempt to push through something that no one will buy.

Why not focus the same amount of energy, courage, perseverance and political savvy on moving real things ahead? In the case of the first nations, this means speeding up negotiations on self-government. Enough of the apartheid mentality, enough of colonialism, let them speed up negotiations on self-government. That is the only way to ensure that the first nations can develop in keeping with what they are, what they want, and what they aspire to. Is that clear enough?

In order for a nation to develop, it must possess one main tool: government. The first nations have been calling for that government for ages. Their entitlement to it is recognized not just nationally but internationally. Even the United Nations have said that the first nations constituted nations. As nations, they therefore have the capacity to determine their own futures, to put in place their own government, to determine their own policies, their own way of doing things in accordance with their culture, their language and their traditions.

There still exists this paternalistic, colonial, condescending reflex. We thought this reflex had disappeared years ago with the elimination of apartheid in South Africa. We thought that was a thing of the past. Here we are with a bill that would still have us control the first nations.

The minister, in his quest to exercise control, is so driven that he forgets some things and says whatever comes to mind. On Tuesday, in response to questions I had asked him, he said, “We appointed the present national chief to the commission that exists today”. They appointed the head of the taxation commission. The minister thinks he has such extraordinary powers that he told us, here in this House, just check Hansard, “The national chief himself was appointed by the government”. He said that Phil Fontaine was appointed by the government. It takes a narrow-minded, power-hungry megalomaniac to think like that.

He is so power-hungry that in Bills C-6, C-7, and C-19, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is vested with all the discretionary power. He can appoint the members of commissions or institutions, he can reject or accept first nations specific claims. He can also say to first nations, “You have decided one thing, I will decide another”. He is so self-important he thinks this power is fully and completely his. He says, “I myself appointed the national chief of first nations”. Who does this minister take himself for? He has been in politics for 14 years, and it is time that he left.

This man wreaks havoc. He has become a megalomaniac. Everyone knows that the chief of the first nations is elected by the chiefs of the 638 first nations. He is elected by his peers. Neither the government nor the minister has anything to do with it. He must be really full of himself.

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November 4th, 2003 / 5:10 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, the member said that the AFN has opposed the bill. Certainly the AFN has opposed the bill. The Senate also opposed the bill. It is not the type of bill that looks after the interests of our aboriginal people.

Our aboriginal people are saying once again, and they have been saying it for many years, that they have not been treated fairly and equally.

When the member states that the national chief is opposed to Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19, all of them, that tells us that the bill itself is an injustice to the aboriginal people. That is how the aboriginal people feel.

Does the hon. member not think it is about time that we sat around the table and we listened to the recommendations of the aboriginal people? Should we not open our minds to that for a change instead of closing the door on them every time?

For years and years we have been closing the door on the aboriginal people. For once we should open the door and let them speak. Let the aboriginal people have an opportunity to have their say. It is about time.

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November 4th, 2003 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, on October 31 the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations stated that the AFN must and will vigorously oppose the enactment of all three bills, referring to Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19.

In her presentation the hon. member emphasized the relationship of the aboriginal people and the aboriginal nations of this country. I would like to ask her if she would agree with the terminology that Canada is a treaty nation. This nation was created by peace treaties. These peace treaties may have the gift to give world peace, because the world is looking for peace. That gift might be here. It might be embedded in the very treaties on which this nation rests its laurels and its certainties.

We go to bed every night as proud Canadians. However it was the aboriginal nations, through their agreements with the crown after its differences with France and Spain, which engaged by treaty to create a treaty nation based on peace and friendship.

Is the member aware that the national chief stated on October 31 that the AFN must and will vigorously oppose the bill?

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November 4th, 2003 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, there has always been controversy ever since Bill C-7 was introduced, also Bill C-6, Bill C-19 and Bill C-19, which took 10 years of development by the first nations people. They agreed to it and then things changed dramatically.

As far as that party is concerned, there is direction from a leader and the major critic on Indian affairs in misguiding the members of his community. What he is really advocating is that the status quo be maintained with the first nations people organizations. He says that there are--

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November 4th, 2003 / 4:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member says is all very well, but the least one can say is that his crystal ball is very cloudy.

He has painted a very limited picture of reality. This matter is causing tensions between communities. No conciliation is possible in such an environment. As we speak, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and the Native Women of Quebec are meeting in a general assembly in Rivière-du-Loup, and they are angry.

They have just sent us a resolution in which they confirm the opposition of the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. They also say in their resolution that they are formally informing the federal government that the first nations of Quebec and Labrador will take all political, legal and administrative measures necessary to ensure that Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19, do not interfere with the autonomy and development of the first nations.

Let us stop talking about conciliation: the ink is not even dry on the resolution from the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Native Women, a document we received just moments ago. They are reaffirming their strong opposition to the three bills, especially the government's attitude as demonstrated in Bill C-19.

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

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Nault Liberal Kenora—Rainy River, ON

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

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

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

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

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

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

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

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

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

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

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

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

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

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Bob Nault Liberal Kenora—Rainy River, ON

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

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

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

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

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

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

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

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

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

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

SupplyGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heritage Lighthouse Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Privilege

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

The Speaker

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

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

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

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

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

At page 128, we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2003 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

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

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

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

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

Lobbyists Registration ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

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

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

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

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

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

That this House do now adjourn.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 5th, 2003 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

June 5th, 2003 / 2 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

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

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

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

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

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

Rifts have developed. A legacy is at risk. However

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

Meanwhile, Canadian taxpayers are being charged a billion--

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

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

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have two points.

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

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

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 5th, 2003 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I may have to go back a long way before I can find a member of Parliament has had the House of Commons put on record that someone is not one of his good friends.

I know Mr. Orchard ran against the member for Prince Albert the last time around and perhaps that is why he is referring to it. That is very strange. He runs the risk of losing Mr. Orchard's vote the next time around if he happens to move into the new riding of Prince Albert.

I mentioned the importance of access to capital. I am surprised to hear a so-called free enterprise party such as the Alliance not being concerned about the big banks and how they sometimes pull back on providing capital to small business. I have seen many cases over the years where banks have withdrawn from the market of providing adequate small business equity financing to small businesses.

One thing that has happened many times is the credit union movement has moved into that void and provided capital for small businesses. That is another concern I have. That is why we should have a full fledged debate in this country about capital.

The other thing I have noticed about small business capital is that there are more and more first nations people who are interested in small and medium sized businesses. I think of my province of Saskatchewan and some of the small business activity by first nations people. They need access to capital as well. I think this really ties into the debate on Bill C-7, where first nations people really want to run their own affairs. They want respect to determine what kinds of institutions they want to govern themselves. They want to ensure that more of their people get training and skills and get professions where they can develop their own communities and people. They want to give their own people jobs that are well paid. They want their people to be entrepreneurs, professionals, teachers and social workers.

One way of doing that is to ensure we have more capital from banks for first nations people, for community development, for their own cooperatives and small businesses. I think for example of the First Nations Bank of Canada that is based in Saskatoon and some of the work it is doing.

An area we have to look at when we talk about bank mergers is the access to capital, if there is a big merger among two or three big banks for small business, for first nations and for farmers across Canada? These are some of the very important things about which we should talk.

I was reminded of this just a minute ago when the member for Churchill talked about access to reasonably priced services by banks. She mentioned that these services should be reasonably priced. She was talking about going to an ABM machine and hearing people complaining about the high prices. We see this now in bank service charges.

I do not have my files with me today. If the House wished to extend the time I am allowed to speak, I could go on for a couple of hours and tell members about the horror stories I have heard about ordinary citizens who have been charged time and time again by banks for service charges. These are ordinary citizens who cannot afford this kind of hidden taxation.

There should be a certain number of transactions that any citizen can have, be it 20 or 30 or how many per month, without charge. Then low income people and people with modest incomes would not be penalized when they have to use a bank a couple of times a week.

First Nations Governance ActRoutine Proceedings

June 5th, 2003 / 10:55 a.m.
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The Speaker

The Chair does have considerable reservation about the motion. I called the motion because the hon. member indicated he wanted it called.

The government House leader has pointed out what I think is a certain problem with the motion. The only reason I did not rule it out immediately, and before I even called it, was because of the wording of the motion, which is ambiguous.

However I note that Standing Order 10 of the House of Commons provides:

The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum, and shall decide questions of order. In deciding a point of order or practice, the Speaker shall state the Standing Order or other authority applicable to the case. No debate shall be permitted on any such decision, and no such decision shall be subject to an appeal to the House.

What we have here is a motion that says that the House respectfully disagrees with the ruling of the Deputy Speaker. It does not say that it is seeking to overturn it, which is why I did not throw it out immediately. However it does say that it disagrees with the ruling of the Deputy Speaker and gives some reasons for that. In addition, it does then mean that there will be a debate on the ruling of the Deputy Speaker given on Bill C-7.

Accordingly, it strikes me that this is completely contrary to the specific words in Standing Order 10 and therefore, unless the right hon. member for Calgary Centre can convince me that this is not a debate on the decision, I must rule the motion out of order.

I think he has an uphill battle there but I am prepared to hear him further on the point if he thinks he has something that would allow him to argue that this debate is not a debate on the ruling itself, because the words of the motion suggest that it is.

First Nations Governance ActRoutine Proceedings

June 5th, 2003 / 10:50 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

moved:

That this House respectfully disagree with the ruling of the Deputy Speaker disallowing amendments at report stage of Bill C-7 on the basis that the proposed amendments could have been moved in the standing committee since the standing committee was conducted as a disorderly proceeding.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 7:25 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Madam Speaker, we have had an interesting run over a number of weeks and this has been no doubt recounted over the course of the speeches thus far. We started this cross-country caravan in every province across Canada. We had video conferencing from some of the territories. We heard some interesting testimony. A lot of it was coming at us from the same point of view. The point was clearly made that there was strong opposition throughout the country to the first nations governance initiative as we have it in Bill C-7.

I guess in fairness we should say there were individuals who said there were aspects of the bill that they thought might be a good thing for the country, but there were definitely problems. As we approach any bill, we want to look at ways to either salvage it, improve it or have it in a form that is helpful to the people it is intended to be of help to. I do not think anyone would disagree in the House and certainly not in first nations territory across our country that changes are necessary. No one is denying that.

In fact, the Indian Act is pretty much universally acclaimed as being a problem. It is outdated and needs to be changed. We need to have discussions and exchanges to make changes to the Indian Act in order to bring it up to date and modernize it. This would allow first nations people across our country to do well, succeed and have all the other rights and opportunities that other Canadians assume and take for granted.

The process was flawed from the very beginning for a couple of reasons. There were individuals who were supposed to be heard across the country. However it was done over a period of time where a real big percentage of individuals did not come forward because in some cases their leaders had indicated to them they did not think it merited support, so they just did not become engaged in the process.

In other cases it was more of an information sharing at suppers and so on across the country. Those numbers were counted up as those who were engaged in the process when in fact they were there for a meal. They watched a video and shared information. It was certainly not a two way dialogue.

Out of that process we got back to this place, the House of Commons, and had committee work done over a period of weeks. It dragged on and on, as everyone knows, because of the strong objections of different people. The committee members were not particularly enamoured with the piece of legislation. We had late nights: 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., and 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. The last couple of days we sat from 9 p.m. until 11 a.m. the next day.

In my short six years of being a member of Parliament--and I thought it was just because I had not been around the block long enough and that this was a pretty common occurrence--I am told by a third term member of Parliament that this is only the second time this kind of long, protracted and drawn out process has occurred.

There are a lot of myths surrounding the first nations governance initiative. Certainly the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has contributed in part to some of the myths that have grown up in respect to this piece of legislation. He stated that the FNGA would provide aboriginal Canadians with “real measures to seek redress and to hold their governments accountable”.

As I look at it, there are no serious foundational changes in this particular bill that need to occur. In fact, it seems to be in many respects formalizing some failed accountability practices of the past. We were told repeatedly or at least on a number of occasions that bands currently complete 168 reports a year. I am not of the view that more forms or more paperwork will necessarily enhance the accountability if it is not the right kind of reporting and done in the manner that is going to be of most help to first nations people so that they can press accountability on their reserves.

Accountability can only occur if individuals are empowered with the rights and freedoms to hold their governments accountable. It comes from the bottom up and it has to be there. The tools and mechanisms must be given to individuals.

It is not an imposition from above, but we must begin with the people. There needs to be a buy-in and ownership. Over the course of time as they own the process and these mechanisms and so on, then we can get true accountability.

The only redress mechanism available to reserve residents is a band and chief appointed ombudsman or redress officer. Some have called it a “mini-me” ombudsman, kind of like the Prime Minister's ethics counsellor. If I were a chief or a band council member, I am not so sure that I would even want the kind of local ombudsman appointed by myself and my other colleagues on a council. If there was ever an issue and somebody said there was a problem with something which I had done even when I was quite clean on the matter, and I was the individual who had appointed that particular redress officer, I am not sure that even if there was a clearing of my name, a clearing of me as a chief or a councillor, that there would be that perception that things had been done right because I was the individual who hand-picked or appointed that person.

We have reserves across our country and bands that are as small as a couple of dozen people, and many that are in the range of 100 or 200 people, all related by family. I do not really know that we would have the perception of impartiality and evenhandedness if a chief and council were to appoint a local ombudsman of that sort. We obviously have a problem with that.

People who are often beaten down with life and are not easily able to get through in terms of having their issues addressed would have to go to their chief and council. If that does not resolve it, then they would have to go from there to the local redress officer, the ombudsman on the reserve appointed by chief and council. If they have the guts and the gusto, and they push to get through that level and it is not adequately addressed there, then they would have to go on to a national ombudsman. We think there are too many layers and tiers. Justice will be greatly delayed if people persist to get through. As a result we will not have proper redress.

The minister said that the bill would help to build a strong foundation for a first nations economy. Many economists would strongly disagree with the minister because there are continuing barriers in the Indian Act that have prevented economic growth and those would remain. Those are not dealt with or done away with in Bill C-7. For example, aboriginal Canadians would still not be able to mortgage their homes and secure credit or financing.

I had the privilege to talk to a first nations entrepreneur who is an aggressive businessman. He is assertive. He employs other first nations people. He was lamenting to me a couple of days back about the situation on his reserve. It concerned the issue over control of the resources by chief and council. He has a certificate of possession for his home and he has a store right on the edge of the reserve, but there is still the issue of the certificate of possession. He can only sell it to somebody there. It does not have true market value. It is determined by others, the chief of the band and the council, as to what kind of business comes his way. He is a contractor as well. This is a first nations person who is lamenting the difficulties and that things are not greatly changing with this particular bill.

I see that my time is about to expire. I have much to say and I will do so at future stages of the bill. I appreciate the opportunity to initially indicate our concerns, our distress, and our opposition to the bill as it comes before us, even in view of the amendments. We do not believe it mitigates nor will it be of real help to first nations people across our country.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I have been sitting here listening to the debate on Bill C-7, the first nations governance act, and I have been thinking about what our role is as members of Parliament. Our role is to create legislation. We actually create our own rules in terms of how we govern ourselves. I have been sitting here tonight thinking how we parliamentarians would feel if another body, divorced and separate from us, had the power to create the rules under which we govern ourselves.

We should remember that the British North America Act was repatriated to Canada and the Canadian Constitution was made here in Canada. It was a very significant day historically for Canada because it was something that was made in our country by our governing body. There is a very important parallel to be drawn here. Tonight we are witnessing a very sad day in Canada's history. We are debating a bill which basically will dictate how first nations shall govern themselves in this country. I really believe that I do not have the right to do that and I do not believe that the Government of Canada has the right to do that.

I along with many other members in the House participated in some of the committee hearings. What struck me about the committee hearings and going through the bill clause by clause, and the 200 or so amendments that the committee went through, was how incredibly prescriptive the bill is.

If the government is true to its word that this bill is somehow about liberating and freeing first nations to take their rightful place in Canadian society and to govern themselves, we only have to look at the bill to think otherwise. Every single little thing has been spelled out, such as fines, and who is appointed to what, and what can and cannot be done. It is the kind of legislation we would have expected 100 years ago.

If we are being led to believe that somehow this is bringing us into the modern age, and it is bringing first nations into the modern age in terms of self-governance, I really am quite stunned. What we actually see in the bill, which is so prescriptive and patronizing, is a far cry from the political rhetoric we have heard from the government.

I want to pay tribute to our member for Winnipeg Centre along with other members of the committee. They have done an incredibly heroic job in trying to expose the fundamental flaws in the bill. Night after night the committee sat through the night. I see other committee members are here. They spoke on and on. Many members from first nations communities also came to the committee to witness what was going on. All they could do was bear witness, because they could not speak at that point. They could not say anything about the very thing that was being done to them by Parliament, by the government.

I want to pay tribute to the incredible work that was done by the opposition members in the committee. They used every single thing they could think of in a parliamentary sense to show their utter contempt for the bill.

Now we are being forced to do that in this chamber as well. We are quite frank about it. We will do everything we can to hold up this bill and to see that it does not go through, because of the very strong message that has come from across the country from first nations communities. They believe that this bill is something which cannot be imposed upon them. The bill is describing a system of governance which in many ways is completely contrary to what has been the practice in first nations communities.

I am proud to be one of the many members of the opposition who are standing up to Bill C-7. We are saying shame on the federal government for what clearly is its intent to ram this piece of legislation through before the House recesses in the middle of June.

Another thing that strikes me about Bill C-7 is the huge issue in terms of form and substance. One thing I have learned over the years is that when somebody does not want to deal with substance, it is very easy for him or her to deal with the issue of form or structure. That is really what this bill is about.

I represent the urban riding of Vancouver East. I represent a community that includes the downtown east side which probably has among the highest residency levels of urban aboriginal people, people who have come off reserve. We should be looking at issues of substance and actually devoting to them the same kind of time, energy and resources that have gone into this horrible bill. If we devoted even 10% of that energy and government resources into the real substantive issues that are facing first nations and aboriginal people in this country, then we would be doing our job and the government would be doing its job.

I feel absolutely sick to my stomach when I see young aboriginal women living on the street, destitute, involved in the sex trade. I feel sick that 63 women have been murdered in the downtown east side. I feel sick when I see young people who have been forced into a life of complete destitution and drug use. I feel sick when I see the misery and the desperation that takes place in that neighbourhood. I feel sick when I see the pathetic response from the government with all of its press releases, with all of the agreements that supposedly are there are and still there are people who are dying on the streets.

Aboriginal people are dying on the streets in the downtown east side and in other communities. My colleague from Winnipeg Centre faces a similar situation in what is happening to first nations people in his neighbourhood. That is the reality of what is happening to aboriginal people.

The government should be making it a priority to focus on those issues. It should be looking at homelessness and making sure that there is adequate, well-maintained, safe, appropriate, affordable housing. It should be making sure that there are adequate treatment programs for people with addictions. It should be making sure that there are programs to help people exit from the sex trade. Those are the kinds of issues we should be dealing with in the House.

The committee should be dealing with these issues instead of having to spend, as the hon. member said, 55 days and 55 nights of merry-go-round hearings. Everyone but the government could see the writing on the wall that the bill was completely unacceptable.

I want to register my deep concern and indignation that we are now debating the bill in 10-minute segments. We never had a proper second reading debate of the bill. I raised this earlier today. Even within our own little parliamentary world and the rules that we live by, we have completely violated the regular procedures that we go through for dealing with legislation.

Because the bill was considered to be of such magnitude and scope, it was referred to the committee to have a broad discussion. In effect we bypassed second reading stage. The bill is now at report stage which is the stage when the House usually would deal with amendments. As the member from the Conservative Party pointed out, there are some 107 report stage amendments. There were 200 or so amendments that were already dealt with and disposed of in the committee. Here we are at report stage and we have not yet properly debated the bill in principle.

Not only is it a travesty from the point of view of parliamentary procedure, it is also a total failure from the point of view of living up to what I believe are the legitimate expectations that first nations people have about their own governance and about their own expectations for their communities.

This is probably a done deal but I want to end by saying that we on this side of the House will use everything we can dream up, every procedural trick we can think of to try to stop the bill from going through. We feel so strongly that it is a flawed piece of legislation that it should be stopped and it should be sent back. We will continue until the very last moment to try to stop the bill.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 7:05 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Madam Speaker, when I sit in the House as I did yesterday and listen to speaker after speaker, it is sometimes amazing to hear what members say.

I noticed that 104 amendments were submitted on Bill C-7. Probably a half or a little more than half of them will be accepted. It is like the transportation committee, with 175 or 180 amendments. If there are that many amendments to a bill submitted, the bill should basically be scrapped and started over. Basically this bill loses its whole intent, its purpose of trying to bring in good legislation for our first nations. With so many amendments, how can we trust the government to make sure that the intent of the bill is what the bill will do? When we have so many amendments and when we have it being rushed through, we on this side of the House know that the bill is not going to be for the good intentions of first nations.

As for the reasons for this, the real problems of first nations have to do with many things. Of course we hear from day to day in the media that the first nations peoples are struggling with poverty, their suicide levels are higher than the Canadian average, and they struggle with discrimination, illness and despair. These are the things that the government and we as parliamentarians should be making priorities for the first nations groups.

Instead, all the government wants to do is to control them. I do not think anyone wants to be controlled. We see throughout the country, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and other provinces, that provinces are fed up with the interference of the federal government in the provinces being able to run their own affairs, and all this bill is doing is interfering in the rights of first nations people to govern themselves.

How could the government expect any less from the first nations than it would from any people? The first nations are their own people. They have the right to make decisions, good, bad or indifferent, and they have the right to build their own nations to their own liking and for their own people, because they are the ones who understand their people. They know what is best for their people.

The right hon. member for Calgary Centre is one of the members in the House who is most experienced in dealing with first nations concerns. He has been there. He understands. When the right hon. member stands up and says there is something wrong with Bill C-7, I think we need to take a serious look at it and say that there really must be something wrong, because the right hon. gentleman would not say things if they were not true, or maybe they are intended for the wrong reason, and I apologize if I am saying that there are falsehoods, Madam Speaker, but the thing about it is that first nations people have a right to govern themselves for their people and of course this bill does not do that for them.

First, with any government trying to have self-government for its people, no matter if it is a province, a band council or what it is, what we will find is that there are going to be growing pains. There will be problems and people will sometimes do things that they should not, but we do not just decide to say that we are going in to take them over. They have to learn from their mistakes.

We have to be with them to help them go through the challenges they face and be there for support, but we should not be there as the Government of Canada to impose things on them for the sake of imposing them. That then becomes a controlling of power, and as parliamentarians we should not stand for that. It is important to let the first nations people grow themselves so they will become superior in their own right, so they can govern themselves for their people.

Second, Bill C-7 will not work. Constitutional experts say many of the provisions of the bill will be thrown out, and if they are not, they are going to require the cooperation of the first nations people themselves and we know the first nations oppose this fiercely. They will not cooperate. There is a reason, I feel, why they will not cooperate. Why would they cooperate when they know that Ottawa is meddling in their affairs? It goes back to letting them govern themselves for the right reasons and for their own people, because they know their own people.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Conne River Indian Band Council has self-governance and does a tremendous job of taking care of its people's needs. The government assists them with money. The band has its own council and power of governance for its own people. It is working out extremely well with no interference from government. If members have a problem they work it out through cooperation. They sit down like any government would do and work out their own problems for their own people, and we should be doing the same thing here.

In my riding there are two area band councils. They have put a lot into society. They keep their heritage alive, but they do it in their own way without interference. That result shows us that there should be no government interference. As I said before, we should be there to assist them to move forward so they can direct their own problems in their own way and in a professional manner.

Third, this bill pretends to give the first nations more power. The government seems to think that by doing certain things they can have their own say for their own people, but instead it is all about power for Ottawa. Everything is to be centrally located, with a power base in Ontario, all in the main hub of the country.

But as we know, first nations people do not have the power to take care of their own needs and Ottawa should stop meddling. Ottawa should give them the right to deliver their own programs. There should be assistance from Canada, but it should let them do their own thing for their own people so that first nations people can have pride in what they are doing.

One of the government amendments gives the government the power to interfere in band affairs without evidence. All the minister needs is a reason to believe something is wrong. The bill gives the minister the power to force band councils to change. There is no judge and there is no jury, just raw power from Ottawa. That is not democracy. Where are we living? We are living in a democratic society where people make decisions and choices and, as a result, they move forward from the decisions they make, good, bad or indifferent, but they have the power to make their own decisions. For government to jump in on a minute's notice because it feels there is a problem is wrong. Let the people decide themselves. If something is happening, let them decide.

Fourth, the bill was steamrollered through the committee, which was shameful. The government, once it gets something in its claw, seems to just move forward. The overwhelming majority of first nations witnesses strongly opposed it, as was said earlier by the hon. member, and there was no time given to prepare amendments. It seems like we can go to committee and present true facts, figures and statements, but no one is listening. I do not know why.

We are elected to serve the people and elected to serve the people in a manner that is right for the people. People come to us as members and tell us their problems, but for some reason or another members do not listen. I do not know why members on the other side are not listening. Sometimes a person has to use his head instead of going with the norm and sometimes a person has to say, “There is something wrong with this and we have to change it”. Instead, those members will just vote in the normal way and as a result we will have chaos in the first nations communities.

There is an old saying back home: if you meddle too much in the kitchen with your finger, eventually something is going to happen to your finger. I guarantee members this. The first nations people have made it quite clear that the bill is unacceptable, and if the country wants demonstration after demonstration, the first nations people are not going to put up with what the government is doing, and they are going to rally the people behind them to protest like we have never seen before in the country. We have seen it happen to fishermen in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have seen it happen with fishermen in New Brunswick. I can guarantee right now that the first nations people will not stand idly by and let the government do things to their councils that will have a major effect on their people.

We need to have cooperation. The only way to have cooperation is to let the first nations people do things their way because they know best. If we interfere, then of course we are just as bad as any other government, because we would be imposing our will on a minority group of people for no reason at all.

Let the first nations people do the things they like their way. When they do it their way, the people they represent will come to respect them and will have pride in what they do. If they do not have pride, then of course when it comes to election time they will get rid of that group of people and put in people who are going to work for their people, and they will know that they have the best representation of all.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 6:45 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by objecting in the strongest possible terms to the process with which we are dealing with this bill, up to and including today. I have 10 minutes to address over 12 amendments that have been grouped together. Many of those amendments I have only seen for the first time short hours ago.

For the record, this entire process of dealing with Bill C-7 has been a sham from the beginning, from the consultation process to the government ramming the bill through the committee stage. Now we find ourselves at the report stage in the House of Commons without adequate time to either prepare or consult with first nations or do justice to the many serious issues that the bill faces, as it pertains to the lives of first nations and the way they conduct their affairs in their communities. It is completely inadequate.

However I am not going to waste what few moments I am allocated on that any longer. Suffice it say, and by way of introduction, Canada's treatment of first nations is this country's greatest failure and surely this country's greatest shame. I believe firmly in my heart that the emancipation of aboriginal people is the great civil rights challenge of our time, and the House of Commons should be giving it the attention that it deserves. It is only once in a generation that a government seems to find the political will to address the terrible shortcomings in the relationship between the federal government and first nations.

Imagine the optimism on the part of first nations when it was suggested that the Indian Act would be abolished and then the profound disappointment when the contents of the bill became known. Profound disappointment was on the faces of the many first nations witnesses who came before the standing committee. They implored the government to listen and to pay attention to their issues and to implement the recommendations they were bringing forward instead of tinkering with the Indian Act, an outdated colonial instrument of oppression, which is what the Indian Act is. It is an instrument of oppression that has been responsible for 130 years of social tragedy. We finally had an opportunity to deal with that bill.

Rather than deal with the Indian Act, do away with it and recognize and acknowledge the inherent right to self-government of aboriginal people, the minister has brought forward measures which tinker with the administrative details of micromanaging in an even more paternalistic way, the most minute details of how first nations govern themselves.

We have to start by addressing some of the misinformation surrounding this. First is the name. It is called the first nations governance act. It is the most incredible misnomer that I have encountered since I have been in Ottawa. We moved an amendment in fact at committee to rename it the “first nations micromanagement act” because that is what it seeks to do. Rather than diminish or reduce the discretionary authority of the minister, it expands the authority of the minister to interfere with the lives of first nations. It has nothing to do with self-governance because it contradicts the very idea of self-governance to impose codes of government on people who have made it abundantly clear that they will not accept them. That is colonialism and nothing else.

The only thing that we need to know in this chamber is that first nations from coast to coast are overwhelmingly opposed to the bill. It would be the height of colonial arrogance for a bunch of white men in suits, with my apologies to the white women in suits who are also here, a bunch of non-aboriginal people to put in place the very rules by which first nations shall be mandated to govern themselves. It is so fundamentally wrong that I ask everyone here to reflect for a moment on what is so tragically wrong with this picture.

I was very pleased to hear the intervention by the right hon. member for Calgary Centre. He hearkened back to a time when there was a more sincere approach taken toward addressing the terrible shortcomings in our relationship with first nations, and that was most recently in and around the time of the Charlottetown accord.

I was honoured to take part in those five ordinary Canadian sessions they had. I also was invited to attend the aboriginal round of the Charlottetown accord. At that time, I saw the former prime minister, the current right hon. member for Calgary Centre, have almost daily meetings with the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ovide Mercredi. I recently thought what an incredible contrast this was, where the current Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development refused to talk to the legitimately elected leadership of first nations in the country.

In fact when the legitimately elected leadership of the first nations opposed Bill C-7, or did not jump onboard the bandwagon, he deliberately circumvented them, bypassed them and refused to deal with them. He claimed he would talk directly to the grassroots. He also claimed there was overwhelming desire to implement the administrative tinkering details; that is the first nations governance act.

It is absolutely fundamentally false that there is support for this bill. In fact the government itself could not find anybody who supported this bill unless it bought and paid for them. In other words, it created brand new aboriginal associations and organizations and co-opted them into it because the legitimate and long-established aboriginal organizations did not want anything to do with it. That is how cynical this whole process has become.

I will not get a chance to address this group of amendments, even though many of them were put forward by the NDP which sincerely wanted to address them. However within 10 minutes I cannot even introduce the subject with which we are dealing. I cannot even give it a proper preface, never mind truly consult with first nations to see if they are in support of these amendments and then bring their opinions and views back to the House of Commons. It is impossible and the government knows it is impossible. It is impossible by design because it is the way the government wanted it.

Members can sense the frustration I feel. I have been trying to faithfully represent some of the input which we have had from first nations people all through this process. Let me quote one of the presenters. I should point out there were 191 presenters opposed and 10 presenters who spoke in a qualified way in support. Those were the numbers of witnesses we heard at the committee.

One of those witnesses from the Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation, Treaty No. 2 of the Riding Mountain Band, stated:

It is simultaneously obscene, ridiculous, and totally unacceptable that at the dawn of the 21st century we would have to be here as supplicants, defending ourselves from colonialism. It is obscene that our children would have to witness us having to protect ourselves in this way, that they will have to live their lives as we have, knowing that they must constantly have to be on the defensive, alert for impositions, and that our elders would be subject to this indignity.

That is one of the profound comments we heard from first nations across the country, and the government is turning a deaf ear to these very real and honest concerns.

It is a missed opportunity of the most tragic epic proportions because we have it in our opportunity to do something about Canada's greatest chain. Instead, we are forfeiting it in favour of more administrative tinkering and more interference in the lives of first nations who have an inherent right to self-determination. It is a travesty.

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June 3rd, 2003 / 6:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, today we are dealing with Bill C-7 at report stage and second reading in a combined format, as the House gave its consent last year to send the bill directly to committee after first reading. I know from the Canadian Alliance perspective this was agreed to in order to ensure a detailed review of the bill in committee to hopefully result in many needed changes to the original format.

I understand from our party representatives on the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee that the extensive travel, the many witnesses and their detailed testimony have proven to be a strong representation of how the legislative process should work, particularly when dealing with such sweeping changes as are proposed in the bill.

I would also like the House to know that I am particularly pleased that the committee agreed to travel to my riding of Skeena. I would like to thank Mary Dalen, Roberta Van Doorn and Theresa Wesley for appearing as individuals. I would like to thank Mr. Gerald Wesley of the Northwest Tribal Treaty Nations, Mr. Robert H. Hill of the Tsimshian Tribal Council, as well as Mr. Clarence Nyce and his team from the Skeena Native Development Society for taking the time to appear as witnesses representing groups.

I truly believe that it is only through open and honest discussion on ways to improve legislation that we will ever effect positive change for Canadians and, in this case in particular, for aboriginal Canadians.

For the benefit of those Canadians watching the debate, I would like to take a moment to summarize the intent of Bill C-7 before I speak to the specifics of the grouping before the House today.

The first nations governance act attempts to address three areas: leadership selection, financial and governance administration. As opposed to popular perception, the bill will not improve much needed governance problems on Canadian reserves.

Bill C-7 would, however, increase the powers of chiefs and councils to appoint their own police force and redress officers, create a two tier human rights regime in Canada, cost taxpayers millions of dollars and do very little to address the inequities that exist between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

I believe the first nations governance act is another example of a Liberal top down, expensive failure. The federal government ignores the fact that good governance can only begin with empowered and equal individuals who will hold their elected officials to account. Bill C-7 instead concentrates power in the hands of a few and further pushes first nations members to the margins of Canadian society.

There are a number of problems with the bill and some are as follows.

The first nations governance act would further exacerbate the power imbalance between governing band elites and marginalized band members.

Good governance can only be achieved by empowering the individual rights, freedoms and responsibilities of members so they will hold their leaders accountable.

Enforcement officers would be appointed by chiefs and would have broad search and seizure powers and powers to levy fines. These officers would be answerable only to chief and council.

Chiefs would be able to appoint their own mini-me ombudsman, similar to the Prime Minister's totally ineffective ethics counsellor.

Aboriginal Canadians would continue to be denied human rights protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The government has provided a collective defence for band councils to trump individual rights and protections. Bill C-7 would create a two tier human rights system in Canada.

The bill threatens the security of an already precarious group in Canadian society. Change for the sake of change will only lead to future problems.

This is the most expensive and least effective model of governance ever proposed. There would be 600 different financial codes, possibly 600 mini-me ombudsman and possibly 600 band enforcement officers created as a result of the bill.

The Auditor General has said that the government should provide a complete cost analysis for the bill but it has not.

The Canadian Alliance believes that the Indian Act is archaic and should be left in our past. Sustainable aboriginal governance solutions are attainable and are in every Canadian's best interest.

The Canadian Alliance believes in equality driven governance and that empowered individuals are the best means to ensure accountability.

Future legislative initiatives must focus on removing barriers, restoring equality and empowering individual aboriginal Canadians to determine the direction of their government.

All Canadians should enjoy the equal protections of the Canadian Human Rights Act, but section 67 of the act exempts first nations governments. Therefore first nations members cannot seek redress or file complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The Canadian Alliance supports the full and equal protection and benefits of the Canadian Human Rights Act for aboriginal Canadians.

Aboriginal Canadians should have the same economic choices and opportunities as non-aboriginal Canadians. Barriers in the Indian Act prevent the equal economic participation among aboriginal Canadians. The Canadian Alliance supports the removal of the personal property protections for mortgage, seizure and levy that are in the Indian Act. Removing these protections would enable aboriginal Canadians to obtain long term financing.

Neither the Indian Act, the first nations governance act nor the First Nations Land Management Act adequately address the issue of matrimonial property. If there is a breakdown of a marriage on the reserve, provincial and territorial laws regarding the use, occupancy and possession of land, as well as a division of interests in that land, are not applicable. Due to this legislation gap, interests in matrimonial real property are not always divided fairly, equitably or in a timely fashion. The Canadian Alliance submitted amendments at both committee stage and report stage to address this issue but unfortunately unsuccessfully.

To promote economic opportunity and individual freedom, the Canadian Alliance supports initiatives that extend and enhance property ownership in aboriginal communities. Some reserve communities have innovatively used the certificate of possession program to enhance individual property ownership. These communities have witnessed a reduction in property crime and vandalism, resulting in better property maintenance and longer housing life. The Canadian Alliance will work with first nations communities to create an environment that gives individuals the opportunity and responsibility for home ownership.

The first step to achieving good governance is equal and empowered individuals. The FNGA fails to recognize the importance of individuals in creating accountable governance. It does not address the rights, freedoms, protections or responsibilities of community members and instead focuses upon the powers of the chief and council.

The Canadian Alliance agrees that change must happen in first nations communities but it must be the right kind of change if it is to be sustainable and successful.

As far as an ombudsman goes, many individuals feel there is no check on the power of chiefs and council and would like to see an independent, impartial body available for complaints of a local nature. An ombudsman's office would deter many abuses of power, since leaders would know that members could appeal to the ombudsman for ruling.

The Liberal approach to redress forces individuals to endure a marathon of hearings and appeal processes. There would be three stages in seeking redress for a complaint. First, band councils may write into their codes an appeal process that individuals can use. What that looks like will depend on the band council code.

Second, if someone's complaint is not dealt with to their satisfaction using the first avenue, the person can go to the person or body appointed by each band to hear complaints. Section 11 of the bill provides for this. That means there could potentially be over 600 complaint bodies among first nations in Canada.

The third and last stage of the redress process involves a national ombudsman. This third stage has been added by the Liberals only now at report stage.

The process is too cumbersome. It will take a long time for any redress to be won. People will give up because of the lengthy process.

The first of the two stages in the Liberal approach will not be truly independent. Redress mechanisms within the band will be open to bias. The committee heard from many witnesses that the ability of a local ombudsman to remain independent and impartial is severely restricted and almost impossible in smaller communities.

The Canadian Alliance has led the way in consistently calling for a single national ombudsman for aboriginal people.

The Liberals at report stage are adding a national ombudsman to the bill but they are robbing the office of effectiveness by not guaranteeing confidentiality to complainants. Their version of the ombudsman would allow the report to Parliament to contain information that might disclose details of a complaint. Newspapers that picked up on this report would be shielded from libel and slander laws. In essence, an aboriginal person cannot be sure that his or her concern would be kept confidential by the ombudsman. This would open the complainant to retribution and persecution. As a result, people will not want to use the ombudsman for redress, which means that the one potentially independent form of redress available to aboriginal persons will be off limits to many.

I will conclude by saying that Canada is at a crossroads. Our path leads us to equality and inclusiveness. The Liberal's path entrenches difference, subordinates individuals to collectivities and forever disengages aboriginals from the rest of Canada. The first nations governance act is one step closer to a third order of government, which our policies do not support, therefore we must reject the act.

I would like to finish by quoting from the testimony of one of my first nations constituents, Mrs. Mary Dalen, at the Prince Rupert committee meeting on February 20 of this year, when speaking about the overall problem with the current system, all the while explaining that the new FNGA is not fixing the fundamental problem. She said:

--the money or funding for programs does not get down to the grassroots Indian people.

I wholeheartedly agree and would suggest that she hit the nail on the head.

We in the Canadian Alliance have suggested many amendments to the bill, both in committee and at report stage, and unless those amendments are incorporated in this bill, we will be opposing the passage of this legislation.

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June 3rd, 2003 / 6:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, like my colleagues, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-7. At the outset, I wish to commend my hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who held the fort all the time the government was bulldozing, trying to ram down out throats this bill, which makes a mockery of the very essence of first nations, their values, their integrity and their way of life.

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, and others with him, have put in many hours, days, evenings and nights to hold the fort to at the very least minimize the damage. However, after committee stage, we have before us a bill that is a disgrace. As it stands, it is a disgrace. It is a terrible bill for the first nations.

When a bill is put forward, when so-called consultations are held, the basic premise, and it is a clear one, is to try to find a solution to an existing problem.

First, let us consider how a solution can be found to an existing problem. The problem has to be well defined. This requires a comprehensive analysis of the situation and diagnosis.

A situation existed and still exists in the aboriginal community. In principle, the government's intention was to remedy the situation through this bill. There is a governance problem. It has been said repeatedly, it is a fact, the Indian Act dates back to 1867. It was corrected ever so slightly at the time when the Constitution was patriated, but its very essence has its roots in the Constitution Act, 1867. Our communities have evolved and, consequently, the legislation must now be updated. It must better reflect the reality and change the relationship between the federal government and the aboriginal nations. That is what was inherent, implicit in the bill.

To make a diagnosis, to have a clear picture of the situation, it is essential to consult, to observe, to go in the field. If we listen to government members, they will tell us that there has been consultation.

As my colleague from the New Democratic Party was saying a little earlier, 10,000 people were consulted or have answered the questions. But when you use a generic 1-800 line or a website to consult people, we all know that it does not qualify as a scientific or extensive consultation. Those of us who have watched the TV show Star Academy know that anybody can push the button many times to vote or give an opinion on a bill. This is not considered as a consultation that strives to address a real and serious problem. It is true that 10,000 people have been consulted, but consulting10,000 people via the Internet or via a 1-800 line does not seem worthy of a consultation held by a national Parliament. If we are going to talk about consultations, we have to be serious.

There were also some consultations during the meetings held in the major cities. Why did we not go where people actually live? No, we met in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg or Vancouver. We should not only have been meeting there. It is true that we can hear some important representations in those cities, but there is also a reality that we have to see firsthand, where it exists. There were no such consultations.

Asmall cross-country tour was organized, and now they tell us that we have to hurry and pass a bill that is unacceptable for the opposition in general and for first nations communities.

There had already been a previous consultation. It lasted more that six years and cost more than $50 million. It led to the Erasmus-Dussault report.

In this study, why have they not taken into account the information and solutions provided to us by the communities, the aboriginal communities that were really consulted? But no, they decided to shelve it and start all over again, when there had been clear meetings with the community, with the first nations, discussions, decisions, recommendations for a long-term action plan, a clear action plan, a specific action plan with set objectives. But no, back to the drawing board they go, for a new form of governance.

As for consulting people over the Internet and through toll-free numbers, I would be curious to know how many people in the aboriginal community are connected to the Internet, and if these are the ones we want to consult. Why not use another means of consultation? If they have to file between 300 and 350 reports a year—as the Auditor General pointed out in her last report—why not use the same procedure to consult the first nations? Why not have one single, significant and effective report, instead of reports for small communities with a population of 400 or 500? This comes to just about one report a day, and then they talk about consulting the communities over the net in order to find out if what is being proposed is of interest to them, and then these reports just get shelved.

I think that the problem with Bill C-7 has been the lack of desire to achieve a clear diagnosis and the lack of consultation of the populations concerned. As a result, it is like building a house on an unstable foundation. If the foundation is not solid, the rest will not be either. In this case, the foundation of Bill C-7 we have before us is a shaky one from one end to the other; there is nothing good about it. There were no serious consultations, there was no consideration given to previous consultations, to the Erasmus-Dussault report, not to the means and formulas in use for consulting first nations. Now they tell us, “We possess the truth,and we are gong to tell you what is needed to reach a solution”.

Are there any agreements with first nations that have been successful? Might what is presented to us today take inspiration from something that has worked? I believe so.

Let us take the case of the agreement signed by the James Bay Cree. Following that agreement, Ovide Mercredi, who was then the chief of the Cree nation, stated that this agreement was really a model to be followed in future agreements between first nations and white people.

Under the agreement signed with the Cree people, they were not granted municipal or local rights, but rather the right to have a true government. It gives the Cree community the right and the capability to manage its own economic development on its territory, that is to manage and develop its own territory; it gives the Cree nation the right to international representation and to a say on its culture, its social affairs and education.

Bill C-7, rather than giving the first nations a true government, gives them the authority granted to municipal or local governments, namely the authority to deal with waste management, and cleanliness in restaurants and in public places.

To show respect to a nation, we must first hold serious consultations with people in order to find out what their needs and aspirations are. After that, we have to listen. We could set up, as has been requested , a joint committee with first nations to come up with a solution. At least we could ensure that, following consultations and discussions, the constructive amendments we want to make are at least considered and not rejected by all the members of the government party.

As has been done before, I once again urge my colleagues on the government side to be open-minded and to make improvements to this bill, or at least to set it aside and hold real consultations with the nations concerned before passing it.

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June 3rd, 2003 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the amendments at report stage of Bill C-7, the first nations governance act.

I wish to recognize the ferocious and passionate work of the member for Winnipeg Centre and the number of hours, days, weeks and nights that he has worked and burned the midnight oil to draw attention to the flaws in the bill, and also to bring some kind of quality to this legislation.

The question remains though, what quality does the bill hold? How can we do justice to the bill or any of the amendments when they are grouped in such a complex and nonsensical fashion, when they have been dumped into the House despite the very eloquent and well reasoned protests of some members from different parties.

We are dealing with a piece of legislation which will fundamentally affect the lives of aboriginal people. The committee had only a matter of hours to look at 40 or 50 amendments. It defies reason. It seems so unfair to expect anyone to decide on whether they can support or not support some of these amendments given the fact that they have had no time to reflect.

I would have to say that the word reflection is not a word that I would in any way use with this disastrous piece of legislation.

I will speak to two of the motions which are in the first grouping. Motion No. 1 was put forward by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre. It reads:

That Bill C-7, in the Preamble, be amended by replacing lines 15 and 16 on page 1 with the following:

“nance that are in accordance with their individual traditions and customs”

The preamble was amended at committee stage to include reference to effective tools of governance that could be adapted to individual traditions and customs. This change to the preamble would assert that Bill C-7 is intended to provide first nations with effective governing tools that respect their individual traditions and customs, not the other way around.

There has been no attention to first nations values and traditions throughout the entire bill. Some first nations may wish to adopt codes or elect their leaders by following traditional aboriginal methods. However, Bill C-7 would not allow them to do so.

The government's initiative does not address the real challenges faced by aboriginal people: unemployment, insufficient housing, dismal education statistics, inordinately high suicide and infant mortality rates, and the lack of safe drinking water in many places.

Bill C-7 represents the analysis and speculations of non-aboriginal consultants and the wishful thinking of federal bureaucrats. It is not in any way in accordance with the individual traditions and customs of aboriginal people.

I have had the opportunity in the last months to sit on the subcommittee for children at risk. I have been working for the last several months on a study on aboriginal children from ages zero to 12 in the city. It is so clear to me from what I have heard in the committee that the bill does not address the real challenges facing aboriginal people, such as unemployment, fetal alcohol syndrome and such as just incredible poverty that passes through generations, such as the problems inherent in coming out of families which have been crippled by the residential school system, by a system which never allowed families to actually pass on their traditions to their children, never allowed people to know how to be parents, how to relate as parents to their children or their children to parent. It is cutting off at the core the fundamental essence of aboriginal society, which is value for children.

The focus of much of the discussions in that subcommittee was how to overcome the crippling socio-economic conditions facing the first nations people. At the same time, there was such a sense of pride. They are a people who have integrity, strength and richness, and they simply want to work with us. They do not want us to formulate their rules or communities and how they are structured.

One of the main things that I heard from witnesses at the subcommittee was the need for aboriginal-centred support programs. Collectively, aboriginal peoples have led a different life than most Canadians, mostly because of the oppressive treatment by the Canadian government. Time, resources and support are needed to heal. One of the witnesses described it as the “multi-generation grief resulting from colonization”. That is the legacy which the government and this society have visited upon native people.

That is why it is so important for culturally relevant programming, and it is also important to realize that one size does not fit all. This bill in fact cannot impose on all native people a method of governing themselves or of being governed. None of the witnesses spoke of government dependency, but rather of partnership and horizontal collaborations to create an integrated policy framework. Things like aboriginal head start programs were good examples of the type of programming needed.

I would like to point out that this bill does not really address any of the needs of aboriginal people who live off reserves, even though this is increasingly the case. The so-called consultation process that this bill undertook did not in any way take into account the aboriginal customs and traditions, and we have heard that over and over. We heard it in committee and we are hearing it now in the House. We also heard it from native groups. The consultation program was fundamentally flawed and insulting to native people. Almost every single organization and individual to appear before the committee strongly denounced the bill, and yet the government continues to force it through Parliament.

The government claims that it consulted over 10,000 people. This includes Internet consultations and 1-800 numbers. However, the first round of the consultation process held in the winter of 2002 had an extremely low turnout at the consultations, and most people who came out to these meetings last year really came out to talk about basic, immediate poverty issues like schools, water and housing. First nations did not want to deal with a massive document that they did not understand. They had come out to talk about bread and butter issues. To say that a widespread consultation occurred on this is a fraud and denigrates the entire process.

The RCAP report, the royal commission on aboriginal people, is a document that native people in this country felt strongly about. It had extensive and legitimate consultations with first nations and experts within their communities and public across the country. It provided a blueprint for a new era of respect and cooperation between the Government of Canada and the first nations people. What happened to those recommendations? Why we are not seeing them as the overlay of the blueprint of this piece of legislation defies reasoning.

I would like to move on to Motion No. 14 which is put forward by the NDP and it reads:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 34 on page 4 with the following:

“least 30 days before the vote is conducted”

This is an amendment concerning the issue of the amount of time bands have to make codes available to their band members before adopting them from 15 days to 30 days. The amendment would allow for more time to contact band members living off reserve, but does not make it impossible for bands to adopt codes rapidly in case of emergencies.

In conclusion, when it comes down to imposing it through a specific--

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June 3rd, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of the amendment to subclause 10(3) of Bill C-7, the proposed first nations governance act.

As members may be aware, as tabled last June, subclause 10(1) of the bill requires band councils to identify, advise their members of and resolve significant breaches of their financial management and accountability codes or the fallback regulations.

Under subclause 10(3), the minister would retain discretion to do assessments of the band's financial situation. The bill does not currently limit when these assessments may be conducted. However, the minister would, and I emphasize this, only as a last resort also retain discretion to require remedial measures in the following circumstances:

(a) a deterioration of the band's financial health that compromises the delivery of essential programs and services;

(b) the failure to make financial statements...available...; or

(c) the denial of an opinion, or an adverse opinion, by the band's auditor on the band's financial statements.

Financial accountability is an important component of all democratic governments. It is therefore one component of the proposed first nations governance act.

The proposed act will help ensure that first nations governments involve their members when adverse financial circumstances arise in their communities. During the first phase of consultations, many first nations citizens said they wanted more information about their communities, including information on financial matters. The existing provisions of the bill respond to that input.

During public hearings conducted by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, first nations expressed concerns over the scope of the minister's powers under subclause 10(3). During its review of the bill, the committee examined subclause 10(3) more closely and made significant recommendations that respond to those concerns.

The committee is recommending that the bill contain authority for the federal government to develop regulations defining what constitutes a “deterioration” of a band's financial health and the nature and scope of the minister's power to intervene and implement remedial measures.

Another amendment would provide the minister with the authority to delegate the assessment of a band's financial situation to an external person or body, such as a first nations institution, which would then report back to the minister on appropriate remedial measures.

The committee also paid particular attention to the fact that assessments could be carried out at any time. The government agrees that subclause 10(3) should provide more clarity with respect to when these assessments may be undertaken. This amendment will therefore ensure that these assessments can only be done under the same extreme circumstances, already mentioned, that apply to the implementation of remedial measures.

As members of the House are aware, a first round of consultations took place to help inform the development of the proposed first nations governance act. A second round, led by the standing committee, took place to examine the contents of Bill C-7 and to obtain input from first nations in order to improve the bill.

Once the proposed first nations governance act receives royal assent, a third round of consultations will begin, this time dealing with regulations and implementation issues. As mentioned, these consultations will include the development of the regulations defining the nature and scope of the minister's powers under subclause 10(3). These consultations will ensure that these and other regulations passed to support the proposed act respond to the needs and aspirations of first nations communities across Canada.

In closing, let me say that the government appreciates the work of the standing committee in strengthening subclause 10(3) and encourages the members of the House to support this worthy amendment that builds on this excellent body of work.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and take part in this debate today because this is a such a vitally important issue. Unfortunately, I am truly disappointed with the way the government has handled the bill and this issue. I thought perhaps there really would be a change in the way the government was going to handle these affairs of aboriginal governance and that it would move forward with a more cooperative attitude, not only toward first nations but toward members of other parties in the House of Commons.

However, it truly looks like the government intends to handle this piece of legislation as it has handled the whole Indian issue for the last 150 years, and that is to make a mess of it in the worst possible way. Aboriginal people living in aboriginal communities across Canada will continue to suffer because of it. The government had an opportunity to do some things here that truly would have improved the lives of aboriginal people, but unfortunately the further we get into this it looks more and more like the government has no intention of seriously making an effort to accommodate anybody's views but its own, in spite of what the minister said when he introduced the bill and as he travelled across the country talking about introducing it at committee stage.

The minister said he would allow all parties to introduce amendments to make it a better bill, to come forward with a bill that would solve some problems and make life better for Indian people. In fact, it very much appears that this was not his intention at all. It appears that the only amendments accepted by the government are amendments put forward by the government itself, other than some minor tinkering around the edges. It was not particularly honest with regard to the parties in the House or to aboriginal people, the Assembly of First Nations and others, who protested the bill, to mislead them in the way that the government has. I am so disappointed with that, because I thought we had a chance to make some changes here.

The ombudsman clause is one example, and we will get into more depth on that in a later group of motions. Certainly I was led to believe that the government was going to listen to opposition parties and in fact introduce a national aboriginal ombudsman who would be effective and would fulfill a need for people having trouble dealing with their local aboriginal government. It appears that what we have in this bill will not do that in any way.

Right from the very beginning, the government has done what it has done for the 10 years I have been here. It moves to tackle an issue, but instead of solving problems as they appear it has a tendency to identify controversial issues and then avoid dealing with those issues.

Bill C-7 could have been a good bill had the minister lived up to his commitment of allowing changes, but it also could have been a good bill had he solved the real problem behind the bill before introducing it. The real problem, of course, is the conflict in our Constitution between the inherent right of aboriginal people and the right of the Government of Canada to legislate on behalf of aboriginal people. That is the source of the conflict behind the bill. Instead of dealing with this, the minister bypassed it and asserted his constitutional right as a minister of the crown to legislate on behalf of aboriginal people while completely disregarding the inherent right of aboriginal people. I do not know how can he possibly expect to have any kind of success in dealing with the legislation if he approaches it in that way.

Inevitably this piece of legislation, if it is rammed through this place as it inevitably will be by the look of it, without any substantive change, will end up before the Supreme Court at some point in time. I am sure that at least parts of it will be struck down by the courts and will have to be changed. On top of that, it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars for both sides to engage in that process, whereas that money could have been better used to improve the lives of aboriginal people out in the communities.

It is so unnecessary. If the government and the minister would simply sit down in an honest and open way and engage in debate to resolve those outstanding issues that need to be resolved before we can proceed to this kind of legislation, we could have some success here. Unfortunately the minister did not do that. There will be a debate some day in this country on that issue. Just as there was a debate on the sovereignty association of Quebec with the rest of Canada, there will be a debate on the issue of aboriginal sovereignty and the definition of inherent right to self-government.

In the meantime, we keep stumbling along and poisoning the well, so to speak, in our relationship with aboriginal people, to the point where it is almost impossible to accomplish anything meaningful with first nations across the country. That really is unfortunate.

Anyway, having rambled on about the general meaning of the bill, I would like to make a few comments about this group of amendments. There are a couple of points that need to be made about these amendments.

The first amendment was proposed by the government itself. The bill originally required the band codes to be presented to the band membership 15 days before a vote so the members could look at the codes and make a decision, before the vote was prepared, to accept or reject the codes. The minister himself removed the entire clause in this amendment. There were other amendments to extend the 15 days, but it kind of blew me away that the minister took out what I saw as a chance for accountability to band members. The minister totally removed the clause, which does not make a lot of sense to me.

An amendment was proposed by our party to delete clause 11 in its entirety. It deals with the creation of a band appointed ombudsman. As I suggested earlier, from the very beginning the government promised the creation of a national office of aboriginal ombudsman, which would hear complaints from members who were having trouble dealing with their band and band bylaws and so on and so forth. The government apparently intends to introduce such an office, but with such restrictions that it will be totally meaningless.

For one thing, the government's version of the created office would require band members to go through the process of approaching the locally appointed ombudsman and then proceeding through a series of hoops before they can get to the national ombudsman. That would make it totally ineffective, simply because if that has to happen that particular member will be so intimidated by that time there is no way it is going to be effective. Of course the office of the national ombudsman in the legislation as it now stands will provide an opportunity to actually hide any complaints rather than make them public and deal with them.

I certainly will talk a lot more about the office of the ombudsman in another group of amendments, because it is my big issue in the bill. I thought it was vitally important, but now I think it has been totally neutered in the bill and will be useless.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Gérard Binet Liberal Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take part in the debate on this amendment to the First Nations Governance Act.

When a new code is proposed, this amendment will require band councils to advise all members and residents of the reserve within 15 days for the code to be adopted.

As my distinguished colleagues know, this amendment was put forward and accepted by the committee. The government cannot support this amendment.

Before addressing the specific problems that this amendment raises, I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources for their work.

As my distinguished colleagues know, this legislation was sent to committee for review before second reading. Our objective was very simple: take every opportunity to improve the legislation as much as possible. I believe we reached our objective.

The first stage of the consultations on the First Nations Governance Act was, for aboriginals, the first clear opportunity in our entire history to influence the development of legislation and to profoundly change the direction of the Indian Act by establishing a solid foundation for a transition to self-government.

Sending Bill C-7 to committee before second reading gave us another opportunity to consult first nations people on improvements to be made to it. As members know, when a bill is submitted to committee before second reading, significant changes can be made.

That is precisely what happened and I would like to commend the members of the committee for their careful and meticulous review of the First Nations Governance Act.

Although the government does not support the amendment that we are talking about today, that does not diminish the value of the numerous improvements made to this legislation in committee. For instance, the committee put forward several amendments on the provisions of Bill C-7 in reaction to the concerns of first nations witnesses who wanted us to clarify the matter of search and seizure powers.

Through its work, the committee helped draft amendments that had been suggested at report stage. Those amendments respond to the concerns of first nations in matters of acquired rights by bands that have already adopted codes.

Although I applaud the excellent work done by the committee and I readily acknowledge the underlying good intentions of this amendment—in other words the desire to give communities enough notice about proposed new codes to be ratified—this amendment inadvertently causes true problems for first nations.

This amendment will limit the government's ability to make regulations on ratification votes and will limit the first nations' ability to express their views on these regulations in the third stage of consultations, which will take place after the bill is passed. As my distinguished colleagues know, a regulation may not conflict with a law. Consequently, criteria established by law cannot be changed by regulation.

Moreover, this amendment does not allow the drafting of regulations that would fully respect the rights of members living off the reserve. This would be in direct violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Corbiere decision. A fifteen-day notice will probably be too short to enable all members living off the reserve to take part in a ratification vote in an informed manner.

One of the problems with this amendment is that there is no provision allowing an extension of the fifteen-day period. Amendment CA4 would not allow any flexibility with regard to the notice period, contrary to what the first nations could request during the third stage of consultations.

The amendment uses the expression “non-member residents”. This is not consistent with the language used in the First Nations Governance Act nor is it consistent with current practices. Non-member residents of a first nation do not have the right to take part in a ratification vote on a code.

Finally, the expression “all members of the band” includes minors who are not entitled to vote on a code proposed by a band.

For all these reasons, this amendment, despite the good intentions of those who wrote it, does nothing to improve Bill C-7; it takes away from it.

If, as the amendment proposes, the purpose is to provide early notification to the parties involved in a ratification vote, I would like to assure my distinguished colleagues that this position will be taken into consideration in the regulations now being drafted.

Furthermore, these regulations will be strengthened through consultations and will reflect the needs and interests of Canadian aboriginal communities.

Before closing, I would like to encourage all of my distinguished colleagues to support Bill C-7, the First Nations Governance Act. This bill is based on several principles, including transparency, the requirement for accountability and reparation. These principles are the pillars of democratic governments. They are also the pillars of the right to self-government for Canada's first nations.

Once Bill C-7 has been passed by the House of Commons and has received Royal Assent, it will mark the beginning of a new relationship between first nations peoples, their administrations and the Government of Canada.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. I would have liked to have seen one a little longer and a little more democratic, to be frank.

When a bill like this one is referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, and when it comes back to the House and goes through report and second reading stage at the same time, there is one very important stage of debate missing.

That said, the Chair has had this issue raised with him and a ruling has been made, until further notice. I will, if I may, comment on the amendments you have consolidated into one group, ours in particular. The purpose of these was to ensure that the wording of the bill really constitutes an expression of self-government for the first nations, or in other words, their inherent right to self-government.

As has been seen from clause one to clause fifty-nine, certain powers cannot be given to the first nations. Moreover, we ought to think twice before giving them what they already have, because they have an inherent right to self-government, and this has been recognized in a number of decisions by Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as by the United Nations. All that we need to do is help translate this inherent right to self-government into real power and real government, in other words, a third level of government.

Bill C-7, however, does not do that. On the contrary, it is so “prescriptive” and restrictive for the first nations that it ends up being a kind of Indian Act, modernized 2003 version, when it is universally acknowledged everywhere in Canada, and even elsewhere, that the Indian Act and its application over the past 130 years has feudalized and infantilized the first nations and led to the belief that they were incapable of managing their own affairs.

Incidentally, I was surprised to see an article in La Presse today by a columnist who trotted out, one after the other, the government's demagogic rhetoric, as presented by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In her column, she tried to convince readers, first, that aboriginal communities have widespread management problems on reserves, when in fact, the Auditor General demonstrated last year in her report that the problem is not at the reserve level or among first nations communities, but that the problem was at the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

This department lacks transparency. Try to find information on the $6 billion part of the budget that is used for payments that could very well be made to Liberal cronies or to people called co-managers, who earn up to $60,000 working part time on reserve management. If there are five of them, you can do the math, Mr. Speaker.

I tried to get a breakdown on the figures from the budget for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to see exactly where these billions of dollars are going.

First, the door is closed in your face; you have to use the Access to Information Act. Second, the Auditor General said it last year, more than 90% of first nations communities have external audit reports. Try to find that level of transparency anywhere else, including here. Third, the bill tries to have us believe—and that is what the amendments we introduced touch on—that there is no accountability among first nations. However, this is not true.

The current Auditor General and the one before her said it, and repeated it, “We are asking too much of first nations. They have to produce about 300 reports every year”. This is just about one report per day that they have to send to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. What do they do with these reports in the department? Most of the time, they take them and throw them out.

That is the reality for first nations. When people say that first nations have management problems, or that there is a lack of transparency or accountability, they are trotting out prejudices, which is what happened today in La Presse , and which is what several members of the government continue to do.

On the basis of isolated cases of mismanagement and incidents that can happen in any good society, they would have us believe that Bill C-7 is necessary, because of a widespread problem in terms of management, transparency and accountability.

Bill C-7 was presented as a necessary step toward abolishing the Indian Act and speeding up the advent of aboriginal self-government. It is not true.

Witness the fact that, in many first nations communities in Quebec as well as in the rest of Canada, the pace of some negotiations in connection with self-government picked up. Self-government has been successfully implemented and it is the only way to go.

Negotiations with the first nations must pick up speed to, first, settle their land claims and, second, assert their inherent right to self-government on this land, which they will negotiate with the federal government, because of its fiduciary responsibility. That is the only way to go.

The Erasmus-Dussault commission made this point merely five years ago. Over the next 20 years, a big project must get underway, where everyone works toward speeding up the process to restore dignity to the first nations and ensure that a real third level of government is established. That is what needs to be done.

There is no need for this kind of bill, which further subjugates the first nations even though the language is that of 2003. The way to go is self-government and settling specific claims faster.

There are 500 such claims now in progress—and they are making no progress. Why not? Because energy, time and money are being spent—and the first nations will be asked to spend some in the near future as well—to create a bill that is completely useless in terms of advancing relations between the federal government and the first nations. It is completely useless in terms of improving the social and economic conditions of Canada's first nations. It is also completely useless in terms of accelerating recognition of the first nations' inherent right to self-government.

It is scandalous that we are still stuck here, after 55 days of debate in committee, 136 hours of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill—clause by clause. The opposition has moved amendments that were all rejected, even though their purpose what to recognize the inherent right to self-government and recognize that common sense must apply in the things we do to advance the cause of the first nations in Canada and the things we do to improve the relationship between us.

We find ourselves in a situation where, currently, our relations have not been improved by this bill. This bill has been unanimously condemned across Canada. This is another criticism I would make to minister, who said that he held consultations and that there were people who supported this bill. In his opinion, only the leaders who want to retain their powers are opposed.

I went to Kenora, which is in the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's riding, where people were protesting in the streets. Some 7,000 to 8,000 first nations representatives were marching against Bill C-7. Let us do the math. Surely there are not 7,000 aboriginal leaders in Canada. The aboriginals do not want this bill. It is not just the chiefs.

There were 30 to 50 first nations representatives who took part in our deliberations, day after day, evening after evening and often night after night, because the chair had turned up the heat and kept us working at all hours to analyze Bill C-7. Apparently, this is the brainchild of the Prime Minister, who is the former Minister of Indian Affairs and who wants to reproduce his 1969 white paper.

Bill C-7 is truly a carbon copy of that white paper. There is a desire to municipalize the powers of the first nations, when they should be a third order of government, with real powers over the fate of first nations peoples. Second, the federal government wants to free itself of its fiduciary duty. This concern is in the bill. Third, there continues to be a lack of respect for the first nations, which are nations, even according to the UN.

We are going to try to get our amendments adopted, which will restore some dignity to this debate.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 17, be amended by replacing line 28 on page 13 with the following:

“products, fish and wildlife;”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 16, be amended by deleting lines 15 to 20 on page 13.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

moved:

That Bill C-7 be amended by deleting Clause 11.

That Bill C-7, in Clause 16, be amended by replacing line 23 on page 12 with the following:

“of the band and the charging of reasonably and fairly set fees for”

That Bill C-7, in Clause 16, be amended by replacing line 35 on page 12 with the following:

“for and powers of eviction, and a schedule of shelter fees for band-owned dwellings;”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing line 20 on page 9 with the following:

“necessary, the Minister may require, only with the consent of the members of the first nation, that”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing lines 16 to 18 on page 9 with the following:

“(3) The Minister, or an independent and impartial person or body designated by the Minister, may at any time carry out an assessment of a band’s financial or other”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing lines 16 to 23 on page 9 with the following:

“(3) The Council of a band shall, by band law, authorize an impartial person, or an impartial body established under section 18 to carry out an assessment of a band’s financial position and to require that remedial measures be taken when any of the following circumstances become known”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Edmonton Southeast Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing lines 16 to 32 on page 9 with the following:

“(3) The Minister, or a person or body designated by the Minister, may carry out an assessment of a band's financial position, and require that remedial measures be taken, where

(a) the Minister has reason to believe that a deterioration of the band's financial health compromises the delivery of essential programs and services;

(b) financial statements have not been made publicly available within the period specified in subsection 9(3); or

(c) the band's auditor has denied an opinion, or has given an adverse opinion, on the band's financial statements.”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 7, be amended by adding after line 20 on page 8 the following:

“(2) The council of the band shall make available to the members of the band and the residents of the reserve a copy of the budget referred to in paragraph (1)(a) at least 14 days before the budget is presented in accordance with the financial management and accountability code.”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing line 12 on page 7 with the following:

“members of a first nation of the first nation's law-making powers and, in”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 34 on page 4 with the following:

“least 30 days before the vote is conducted”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:35 p.m.
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Edmonton Southeast Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 4, be amended by deleting lines 31 to 34 on page 4.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

moved:

That Bill C-7, in the Preamble, be amended by replacing lines 15 and 16 on page 1 with the following:

“nance that are in accordance with their individual traditions and customs”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:25 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

There are 104 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-7.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 31, 32, 36 through 40 and 86 since they require a royal recommendation.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 2, 3, 7, 12, 15 through 20, 22, 24, 33, 41, 44, 50, 51, 72, 73, 75, 81, 83, 89, 100 and 101 because they could have been presented at committee.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 25, 34, 35, 47, 77, 87, 95 and 97 because they were defeated at committee.

All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.

The motions will be grouped for debate as follows:

Group No. 1, Motions Nos. 1, 13, 14, 21, 23, 26 to 30, 42, 43, 45 and 46.

Group No. 2, Motions Nos. 4 to 6, 8 to 11, 48, 49 and 52 to 70.

Group No. 3 is Motions Nos. 71, 85, 93 and 99.

Group No. 4, Motions Nos. 74, 76, 78 to 80, 82, 88, 90, 91, 94 and 102 to 104.

Finally, Group No. 5 is Motions Nos. 84, 92, 96 and 98.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

I shall now propose Motions Nos.--

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege.

Is it normal that in a Parliament where the use of both official languages is promoted, that one of the two official languages is not available for debate on an issue as important as Bill C-7? Even first nations have not had all of the privileges needed to assess a bill as important as this one which will shape their lives.

Is it not to be expected that here—

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will add to what my colleagues have already said by passing on a message at the request of my Bloc Quebecois colleagues.

In order to debate a question like Bill C-7 properly, it is important for all proceedings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs to be available in both official languages. Some of my colleagues wish to be involved throughout the debate, that is at the report stage, and even more so on second reading, if you allow a debate on principles, and they do not have access in French to the bulk of the deliberations on matters of importance in connection with Bill C-7. The bulk of the deliberations were in English only.

Even the Chair, who is a francophone, spoke almost exclusively in English throughout the deliberations. In order to facilitate debate—

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly echo the comments of the hon. member from the Conservative Party. I would argue as well that not only have first nations representatives not had adequate time to deal with the fundamental aspects of this bill and how it will affect their communities and their lives, but members of Parliament as well have had inadequate time to deal with the bill.

What I would draw your attention to, Mr. Speaker, is that in the order of business today we are about to go to Bill C-7, and you will note that it says for Bill C-7, the first nations governance act, that we will be dealing with both report stage and second reading concurrently, that is, we will be dealing with them together.

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to you that about a year ago the bill was very briefly debated in the House and then it was immediately sent to the committee on the basis that it had such a broad scope and such a magnitude and impact on all of the first nations in Canada that the committee would undertake very broad consultations to get people's reactions and so on. The bill subsequently was bridged over a prorogation and in fact, as we know, for the past year the committee has had sometimes very acrimonious debates and discussions about the bill, and now here we are back at report stage.

Even at the committee, in fact, there were something like 200 amendments. Now we are here at report stage with 104 amendments, two of which, I might say, are very substantive changes to the bill. One of them deals with the creation of an ombudsman. Another deals with the establishment of a first nations governance centre.

What I really want to address here is that we are short-circuiting the established procedure for how we deal with a bill in each of its particular stages. I would refer you to the stages in the legislative process as laid out in Marleau and Montpetit on page 625, where it is stated quite clearly, in referring to the stages of a bill:

These stages “constitute a simple and logical process in which each stage transcends the one immediately before it, so that although the basic motions--that the bill be read a first (second or third) time--ostensibly are the same, and seem repetitious, they have very different meanings”.

I would certainly agree with that, but in this particular case we are already back at report stage and second reading when we have not yet had an opportunity to debate the bill in terms of its principle, especially given that this bill is now likely to be changed substantially in terms of government amendments that are coming forward.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to consider this and to make a ruling that when we have dealt with report stage, that is, when we have dealt with all of the amendments that are before us in the groups that exist and so on, at that point afterwards we would then go back to second reading, which properly we should have done before, to debate this bill in principle. Only then will we be following the logical steps that have been set out in the practice of the House for many years.

To circumvent that is an injustice not only to first nations people, who have had a great deal of concern about this bill, but also to members of Parliament who want to have due time and adequate opportunity to debate and discuss each stage of the legislative process on 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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

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.
See context

Liberal

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.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

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.
See context

Bloc

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.
See context

NDP

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.
See context

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.
See context

NDP

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.
See context

Bloc

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.
See context

NDP

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
See context

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

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.
See context

NDP

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.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

May 16th, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the most recent budget brought down by the Minister of Finance.

There would be a lot to say about this last budget, but I will try, in the next 20 minutes, to stick to the basics and to the most fundamental aspects of the Minister of Finance's presentation.

First, let me tell the House that, since 1994, every year, before the budget is brought down, the Bloc Quebecois holds some consultations with the Quebec people to complement the ones made by the Standing Committee on Finance, to determine exactly the needs and the priorities of Quebeckers in the budget, in addition to those of Canadians.

Until now, we have not been very mistaken on the priorities given to some budget items, but that the government has not been able to follow up on in the many successive budgets since 1994. I will get back to those priorities for Quebeckers and Canadians.

In addition, let me point out a certain exercise the Bloc Quebecois has been engaging in twice a year since 1995. It involves a very sophisticated device, but one which has become very familiar to most taxpayers, namely a calculator, a little pocket calculator on special this week or $3.95 at Jean Coutu. Taking the figures for government revenues and expenditures—in the first quarter, for example—we simply extrapolate, using the rates of growth provided by the major financial institutions. This could be the Mouvement Desjardins, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank or Wood Gundy—any of the outfits who deal with economic growth.

So, we simply extrapolate with certain adjustments that come from our observation of the trends in budgetary revenues and expenditures year after year. As for the state of public finances, in calculating the budgetary surplus—something the former Finance Minister and potential successor to the current Prime Minister made forecasting errors about, in the size of the surplus and deficit, at the beginning, of around 200% per year, on the average—we have every reason to be proud, because our forecasting errors are around 3 to 4%, which is the margin of error one usually expects when making this type of forecast.

And yet, it was the $3.98 pocket calculator and a few connections, especially in the major financial institutions, that enabled us to get these results. I am always shocked to see the forecasts and results from the Minister of Finance, year after year. He must be doing this on purpose, presenting us with such fantastical figures as those he has been dealing in since 1995.

It began with the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard as finance minister and continues with the current finance minister, who is also hoping to become Prime Minister. I wonder whether or not being able to count is a prerequisite to standing for election as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, that is as a potential Prime Minister. Moreover, the first sizeable deficit leading to debts that accumulated year after year within the federal public service was created by the current Prime Minister, who was once, himself, Minister of Finance. It makes one believe that history repeats itself with all these successions, that is, succession as finance minster and succession as Prime Minister, too.

The same thing happened again this year. My colleague, the member for Joliette, who still uses the pocket calculator bought at Jean Coutu for $3.98, was right on in estimating that the surplus for the 2002-03 fiscal year would be somewhere around $10 billion. It so happens that we have just been told that, indeed, the surplus for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003, would be just over $10 billion.

When my colleague took over as finance critic, I gave him the pocket calculator, and it is still working just fine. We have been using the same $3.98 pocket calculator since 1995.

How can we obtain such accurate results when, just a few months ago, the Minister of Finance was telling us that the surplus for the previous fiscal year would be around $3.5 billion or $4 billion? He was wrong again. It is not $3.5 billion or $4 billion, but $10 billion, just as we had predicted.

What does that do? What it does is that the government, which should be addressing the real priorities of Quebeckers and Canadians, is not meeting these priorities, claiming as an excuse that it does not have the money to do so. That is what we are seeing year after year.

Since memory is not infallible, when the Minister of Finance opens his mouth and says that we must be careful because the surplus will not exceed $2 billion, $3 billion or $4 billion, people believe that they do indeed have to be careful. We are always afraid of going back into a deficit, and rightfully so.

If anyone is being responsible about the management of public funds, it is the Bloc Quebecois. It is the only party that told the former Minister of Finance, some five years ago, it would support anti-deficit legislation, balanced budget legislation, requiring him to be accountable. It is a matter of being accountable for the aboriginals. It would perhaps be a good idea to include the management of public accounts too. The system is far from being as transparent and as accountable as we are being told.

The Bloc Quebecois is responsible with regard to the management of public funds. But being responsible does not mean accumulating astronomical surpluses. Does the House know what an astronomical surplus is? It means that the federal government is taking more money from taxpayers than it needs to face its challenges and administer its programs.

This is serious, because people are overtaxed, particularly in terms of federal tax. I have often compared federal taxation to Quebec's taxation system and Ontario's, for example. We could also talk about Nova Scotia's tax system. The Bloc did a comparative analysis of all these income tax systems. As a result, we see that Quebec taxpayers, like those in the rest of Canada, start paying federal income tax when their income exceeds $12,000 or $13,000. The poverty line is nearly three times as high. There is no provincial income tax for those earning less than $12,000 or $13,000. Yet, taxpayers do pay federal income taxon such amounts.

For example, a family of four would pay no provincialincome tax on earnings under approximately $23,000 or $24,000, but this is the base amount for families to start paying federal income tax. Under Quebec's income tax system, this same family of four would start paying income tax only on earnings over $43,000. That is a huge difference.

Does this mean that the federal government is taking too much tax money from a middle income family of two adults and two children? It should not be taking as much, particularly from a family like that with an income of $23,000. It makes no sense.

The federal government is amassing huge surpluses. It is a matter of billions, whereas the forecast was—how convenient—a maximum of $4 billion. It is the same every year. Does this also mean that what the Minister of Finance has been doing to the employment insurance fund—theft, pure and simple—with the federal government's blessing, every year for the past six years, is unjustified? Mosat definitely, because this is theft, since the federal government does not contribute a cent to that fund. The money in it comes from the workers and the employers, who pay into it in order to insure those who had the misfortune to lose their job, not in order to line the pockets of the Minister of Finance.

Does this mean that there is not only no ethical justification, but probably no legal justification as well. The CSN has a case before the courts at the present time. Does this mean that not only is it unjustified on these bases but also unjustified on the very basis of the federal government's arguments, which are that we would be running a deficit again if not for the surplus? That is not true.

With a $10 billion surplus, the government would not have needed to steal this year's forecast surplus of $4 billion from the employment insurance fund. It also means that more than only 39% of EI applicants could have qualified for benefits. That figure is quite low. It means that 61% of applicants who have lost their jobs or who are in regions with seasonal employment and who have to cope with the infamous gap could have collected employment insurance. However, because of the Minister of Finance's greed, and the government's greed, and because of the lack of expertise in managing public finances, which are being hoarded year after year, these people are still being refused EI. The same will hold true for this year.

Incidentally, there is a protest movement that is starting up again across Quebec, and we hope that it will catch on in the Maritimes and the rest of Canada. The Maritimes are also hit harder than most other regions in Canada. There is a movement that goes by the name “sans chemise” that has started up again; it is based in the Charlevoix region. At one point, the government wanted to reorganize the regions to set the number of weeks of work needed for people to qualify for EI.

The “sans-chemise” said, “No, you cannot do that”, because it would exclude about a third of EI applicants if the government went ahead. So there was a demonstration and the “sans-chemise” were born.

The movement has started up again, because people find the whole situation unbelievable. So far $44 billion has been pilfered from the EI account, and the tradition has been maintained in the latest budget; $44 billion has been stolen and could have been used, in part, to ensure that more than just a minority of applicants qualify for EI benefits.

Some of this $44 billion could have been used to help softwood lumber workers, for example. On Wednesday I heard the Minister for International Trade say that the government has already done a great deal. Of course, we agree with the minister, but success still eludes the government. And employment insurance could have been a catalyst with regard to the impact of this international trade decision.

I heard the secretary of state for economic development and member for Bruce say “Quebec did nothing”. Quebec has done a lot in this area even though it does not come under its jurisdiction. The government is very good at talking about jurisdiction when it suits its purpose, but when it does not, when the time is not right, it does not talk about it. However, international trade is an area of federal jurisdiction and the federal government is responsible for any proceedings relating to countervailing duties imposed by the Americans or sanctions against our exports.

One would have thought that the federal government would have taken part of that $44 billion to help the hardest hit workers and to broaden eligibility criteria. When the situation is such that only a minority of the targeted clientele can benefit from a policy, it means that policy is not working, because any given policy is meant to benefit the clientele as a whole. If it does not, changes are needed.

Three years ago, members a House committee unanimously agreed to change the insurance employment plan. Even the Liberal members voted in favour of doing that. That mollified somewhat the coalition of the “sans-chemise“. They thought, “If a committee of the House of Commons is unanimous in this respect, it means the employment insurance plan can be changed and that we can count on at least some of the 15 recommendations being acted upon, particularly the recommendation asking that restrictions on eligibility be reduced”. But no. Three years later, we are back to square one. Nothing has changed. It is business as usual with this budget. Of course, premiums have been lowered and we are very happy about that. However, there is always a way to find balance in life. And that also goes for managing the employment insurance plan.

Contributions may have been reduced, and this qualifies as an indirect tax cut, but at the same time benefits must be increased. The government must take a good hard look at itself and say, “The plan is no longer working; it is time to change it”. But no, someone stands up in every day this place and sings the same tune every time we ask questions—I would almost feel like saying plays the same broken record—and tells us, “We have done a lot; the EI plan is much improved”, and sits down. Then, that someone stands up again and says, “This is unwarranted; the criticism is unwarranted”, and sits down again. Meanwhile, 61% of the unemployed are not eligible for benefits.

This is one of these situations. We are told that the $44 billion has been spent. We know very well what it was spent on, but it should be entered in the government's books as a debt to the workers, employers and unemployed, who have not been able to rely on employment insurance for the past six years and continue to be penalized because of the federal government's inaction.

Once again, the budget ignores the humanitarian considerations that should guide all parliamentarians, and government members in particular, out of concern for serving the people we are supposed to be representing, and serving them well.

Many references are made in the Speech from the Throne to aboriginal issues. I would like to clarify a few things. This is my third throne speech since 1993, and it is still fashionable, it still looks good to state in the introduction that the first nations have needs that must be recognized, that the good federal government will do everything in its power to help its aboriginal people. Putting things that way smacks of colonialism.

In the last budget, there is practically nothing for the first nations. In the past 10 months I have been able to observe how much the first nations are suffering all over Canada. There was even a UN observer who came here for about a week and a half. He went around to a number of reserves in Canada and he was completely flabbergasted. He thought that situations like that could only arise in Africa, for example. He found that even within Canada, one of the G-8 countries, one of the eight most industrialized countries, there were many reserves that did not even have running water and drinking water. He also saw that people were living in unhealthy housing. He also noted that underemployment could reach 95% in certain first nations communities. That means that only 5% of the people are working, if we look at it the opposite way. Such situations prey on the mind.

Despite all that, at the present time, there are 500 specific claims negotiations with first nations that are pending. There are 500 more coming along. For example, the negotiations on self-government could have been completed with a few million dollars more in the budget for the first nations. Unfortunately, the money is not there.

Another 500 claims will be filed over the next two years. Instead of concentrating on improving the first nations' socio-economic conditions and tackling the real issues, we are being handed garbage like Bill C-7, which no one wants.

I have just come back from Kenora, in the riding of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. There were 8,000 first nations representatives. It was not the chiefs, as this minister claims when he says that only the chiefs oppose the legislation on governance. No, there were 8,000 aboriginal children, adolescents and adults, who were not chiefs. They spontaneously took to the streets in the riding of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to ask for his head.

He does not get it at all, and his attitude harks back to colonialism. The bill reeks of racism, and the government continues to claim that this will relaunch plans for self governance, thereby accelerating the process by which the first nations obtain this right. I did not say that the minister was racist. I said that the bill was racist, with all due respect.

Much more could have been done with this budget. Unfortunately, the other side of the House has no imagination and is unable to show openness and above all to recognize the inherent right of the first nations to self governance.

As a result, Bill C-7 continues to hurt communities which have already suffered for 130 years under the Indian Act and which are continuing to suffer also from unqualified prejudice that cannot withstand ten minutes of analysis. People still think that aboriginals do not have the right to want more than the federal government is willing to give, although all the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada and the United Nations, have said that they are nations and, as such, entitled to respect. It is our duty to negotiate with them on an equal footing.

I am completely opposed to this budget for these reasons.

Aboriginal affairsOral Question Period

May 14th, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a despicable piece of work and that will be made clear tomorrow in Kenora, where thousands of aboriginal people will show their opposition to this bill. No one in the aboriginal community wants this bill.

I ask the Prime Minister the following question: Is it not true that this stubborn insistence on pushing Bill C-7 through the House and shoving it down the throat of the first nations is a reflection of the Prime Minister's desire for vengeance against those who dared to challenge his policies as minister in 1969? He is saying to them, “I am going to stick it to you before I leave”.

Aboriginal affairsOral Question Period

May 14th, 2003 / 2:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister tells us that the purpose of Bill C-7 is to replace the infamous and racist Indian Act and improve the lot of native peoples, but this is not true. What this bill does is continue to treat native peoples like children and make his equally despicable 1969 white paper—issued when he was the Minister of Indian Affairs—into reality.

Faced with fierce opposition from the first nations and from his most likely successor, will the Prime Minister agree to drop Bill C-7 and let others start over on new foundations that will be more respectful of the native peoples?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003Government Orders

May 12th, 2003 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I certainly did not want to jump ahead of one of my colleagues from the opposite side who I know have been following this legislation very closely and who I think have been contributing mightily to this debate.

I did want to involve myself on two points, Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, Motions Nos. 14 and 15 that deal with the disability tax credit. What the government was trying to do by sections 74 and 75 of the act was to clarify the eligibility for the disability tax credit in the context of individuals being able to feed and clothe themselves.

One of the things that was very noticeable when the government moved on restricting access to the disability tax credit was that quite a few people came into my constituency office and reacted negatively to it. There are two categories of these individuals. The first is that category of individuals who I could see really were unfairly affected by the tightening down of the definition of what constitutes eligibility for the disability tax credit.

For example, I remember vividly one lady who came into my office. She was arthritic and quite crippled. Her hands were completely twisted around. She had a lot of difficulty just moving, but this was an individual who had tremendous joie de vivre. She did not let this crippling illness prevent her from doing as much as she possibly could, but because she was perceived by the bureaucracy as being mobile and able to move around, she was declared ineligible for the disability tax credit. The reality was that because of the very twisted condition of her hands in particular, she genuinely had a real difficulty in feeding herself and she had to have assistance. So it was very important for her to be brought under the disability tax credit even though in every other sense she was mobile in society, or as mobile as she could be.

On the other hand, there were people who came in and complained that they were eliminated from the disability tax credit because they had a food allergy. This food allergy caused them to spend all kinds of time searching for the right foods, as a matter of fact, so much time that they could not effectively work or hold down a job and this kind of thing. Not wanting to categorize all of those people, there was a reality. One gets this sense when one is a member of Parliament in one's constituency office and deals with a lot of people. There was a sense that this category of individual was willing to surrender to their disability rather than fight it.

In comparison to the lady with the severe arthritis, these people seemed to be, to all appearances, very capable of moving about and contributing to society and contributing to their own care and looking after themselves. But there was a Federal Court ruling pertaining to the disability tax credit which basically suggested that people who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to look for the foods that they need in order to satisfy their allergies should be brought under the disability tax credit.

The government, in amending the legislation we see before us now in clauses 74 and 75, attempts to distinguish between these two realities, one a disability that genuinely does make it impossible to feed and dress oneself. I can assure members that it is very difficult, and I know this from experience, to do the most elementary things when one's hands are crippled.

Just briefly as an aside, I should say that I have some passing knowledge of this because on my 21st birthday my friend and I jumped the neighbour's hedge and I came down on my hands on a concrete sidewalk. While neither of my hands were fractured, all the ligaments on either side were strained. For about six weeks I could not use either hand, so I can sympathize with people who might have severe arthritis about how this makes it very difficult to do simplest things like feeding and dressing oneself.

While the original amendments in this section make this distinction, and they are good amendments, unfortunately the motions that are proposed would scrap both clauses 74 and 75 eliminating, in my view, this very necessary distinction between being physically crippled to do something that is essential and being what I suppose one could call emotionally disadvantaged or even emotionally crippled. Sometimes it is not wise to use the government's ability to assist people financially to address issues that are basically emotional. Sometimes it is better if these people delve into their own resources to find their own ways of dealing with these emotional disabilities.

I will leave that for a moment and take advantage of the few minutes that I have to comment on something else in the bill which I have not had an opportunity to comment on before. That is the introduction in this legislation of a first nations goods and services tax.

It is ironic because of course the goods and services tax is one of the most hated taxes in Canada. Although it is not being debated very much these days, I guess after almost 12 years in which it has been in place, people have given up on it and it is no longer the source of negative comment that it once was. However it is a very important method of raising revenue for the federal government.

Bill C-28 brings the goods and services tax into native self-government. It is a very positive step in that the government has been attempting, as a matter of policy, over the past five or six years, to bring in aboriginal self-government and make aboriginal communities as independent as possible. One of the ways to do that is rather than aboriginal governments, Indian governments and band councils being totally reliant on money coming from the federal government, they should be able to raise money by themselves within their own communities. This legislation introduces the ability among first nations to raise money through a goods and services tax within their own communities.

What is so relevant and so timely about that is the government has before Parliament, as we speak, a complementary bill called Bill C-7, which brings in self-government, provisions of transparency, accountability and standards of governance to some 600 Indian bands and communities across the nation. This legislation has been somewhat controversial because I realize some of the opposition parties are opposed to it. However most of the country, most aboriginals and anyone who has any familiarity with the problems that exist on our Indian reserves will appreciate this is extremely important legislation.

I point out that if one is to enable Indian bands and communities to raise money on their own, one has to have a coherent scheme of transparency, accountability and standards of governance in those band councils. It is all part of a package, Bill C-28 and Bill C-7. These are two very positive things on the part of this government.

Aboriginal affairsOral Question Period

May 9th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
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Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-7 is proceeding through committee. It will come back to the House and be voted on. There will be regulations put forward and established over the next three years after the bill has been passed. There will be many opportunities for aboriginal people as well as people in the House and across the country to express their concerns about it or their support for it.

Aboriginal affairsOral Question Period

May 9th, 2003 / 11:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first nations governance bill has provoked an unprecedented outcry, which is increasing tensions daily between the federal government and aboriginal peoples. Most of the witnesses who appeared before the committee rejected Bill C-7, not to mention the opposition of the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Will the current Prime Minister recognize that the only sensible thing to do, given the circumstances, is to immediately withdraw Bill C-7 and leave it up to others to—

Criminal CodePrivate Member'S Business

May 8th, 2003 / 5:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, you are obviously well aware of how equally frustrating and gratifying the work of parliamentarians can be. The frustration comes when we work tirelessly on something very important to us, but when the results, for one reason or another, are slow in coming or, sometimes, never materialize. The gratification comes when these same efforts, no matter how long it takes, produce results that improve the quality of life of our constituents. For the past several years, the Bloc Quebecois has been intensely experiencing both emotions with regard to the young offenders issue, a subject directly affected by Bill C-416, which we are debating today.

When the federal government decided to go forward with Bill C-7, the Bloc did not waste any time in advising the federal government of the inherent dangers of such legislation for Quebec. Once again, I want to salute the untiring efforts of our former colleague, the former member for Berthier—Montcalm, the hon. Michel Bellehumeur, a Court of Quebec judge.

Quebec's system of dealing with young offenders is recognized as the most effective in the country. Since 1991, the crime rate among young Quebeckers has dropped by 23%. Everyone involved in the system in Quebec agrees that our approach, oriented toward reintegration rather than repression, should not be modified by any federal legislation.

Nevertheless, as we know, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. Unfortunately, that too often describes the federal government which, once again has chosen to ignore our party's objections and reject the consensus from Quebec. Despite all our efforts, the Minister of Justice has decided to proceed with utter disregard for our recommendations. That is, in short, why we are so frustrated with this issue.

We had to wait two years before receiving any gratification or recognition for our considerable efforts. Recently the Quebec court of Appeal agreed with the Government of Quebec in a unanimous opinion concluding that certain provisions of the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act, formerly the Young Offenders Act, are contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Last week, the federal Minister of Justice decided not to appeal this decision, thus recognizing that he must amend his legislation, as the Bloc Quebecois suggested two years ago. It is easy to imagine the time, energy and money that we could have saved if this government had had the wisdom to recognize the relevance of our arguments. And to think that some people still question the relevance of the Bloc Quebecois.

While we were celebrating this victory, another political party in this House, the Canadian Alliance—the official opposition, to top it off—demanded that the government appeal this judgment. According to them, the decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal weakens the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Far be it from me to speak ironically—it is not my style. Still, their position on this issue confirms that they are not yet ready to make inroads into Quebec. I can predict in advance that the next electoral struggle in Quebec will be between the Bloc and the Liberal party.

It is therefore not surprising that we are here today debating a private member's bill, C-416, which is one again trying to tighten up the young offenders system. This time the Canadian Alliance is deliberately targeting aboriginals by trying to amend both the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The purpose is to deliberately deny the particular conditions in which a number of aboriginal youth live. Let us see specifically what Bill C-416 proposes to amend.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act states the following at subsection 3(1)( c )(iv):

within the limits of fair and proportionate accountability, the measures taken against young persons who commit offences should

respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and respond to the needs of aboriginal young persons and of young persons with special requirements;

Now, in Bill C-416, this would read as follows:

(iv) respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences;

You heard right: the specific needs of aboriginal youth are deliberately excluded from the factors the judge will take into consideration. Yet the bill does recognize that certain differences do have to be taken into consideration, but those differentiating aboriginal youth do not seem to be important enough.

Could we have an explanation as to what that political party has against the aboriginal community and the recognition of the specific nature of certain nations in this country? Hard to explain, and even harder to understand.

How can a party with its main base in the west of this country ignore the particular living conditions, often very precarious ones, of the native communities? According to the 1996 census, over half of the aboriginal people in Canada live in the western provinces and territories. Why then act as if they knew nothing about the living conditions of aboriginal people and how radically different they are from those of non-aboriginal people?

The census I referred to also reported that the average annual income of Canadians over the age of 15 years was $25,196, while for aboriginal people it was $14,283. I need hardly point out that such poverty generates violence and despair. It would, therefore, be normal for a judge to be required to take this into consideration when reaching a sentencing decision.

Another example shows the distress frequently facing young aboriginals, starting at a very early age. I am referring here to the haunting images of young Innu from Davis Inlet sniffing gas. The federal government had to implement a special assistance program to remedy this serious dependency that hinted at much greater problems, such their lack of hope, poverty, social isolation and its effects.

In a legal sense, the amendment contained in Bill C-416 has no logical justification, particularly under the case law developed under paragraph 718.2( e ) of the Criminal Code. In the R. v Gladue decision [1999], later confirmed by the R. v Wells [2000] decision, the court determined that this section does not alter the fundamental duty of the sentencing judge to impose a sentence that suits both the offence and the offender, but that the sentence must include a consideration for the community context of the aboriginal offender.

The judge is obliged to consider the unique systemic or background circumstances or aboriginal heritage. Furthermore, in section 36 of the R. v Wells decision, Justice Iacobucci stated and I quote:

—that sentencing judges should pay particular attention to the fact that the circumstances of aboriginal offenders are unique in comparison with those of non-aboriginal offenders.

In conclusion, it is important to clearly understand that the sections in question do not give preferential treatment to aboriginals as the Canadian Alliance is claiming, but rather propose an individualized treatment for each specific case, which must not be taken out of context. If this continues to be applied in a mandatory fashion when it comes to ethnic, cultural, linguistic and gender differences, why should there be a double standard when it comes to young aboriginals.

As the Bloc Quebecois has been saying from the start, there has to be an individualized approach, based on reintegration rather than repression. Obviously, we will not support Bill C-416, and we will be voting against it when the time comes.

Canada Airports ActGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-27 because as the House is aware I have been a long proponent of increasing transparency and accountability in the financial administration of government and crown corporations. Indeed, it is a principle that I would apply to any kind of institution that is charged with looking after the public trust, whether it is a private corporation, a crown corporation or a government.

This business of transparency and accountability has come to be rather accepted in this day and age, particularly after the public collapses in the United States of large corporations like Enron. The idea that institutions should be foremostly transparent and accountable is somewhat novel in comparison to the situation of just 10 years ago.

When I first came to this House in 1993 and started this crusade to bring transparency and accountability to everything the government touched, part of that crusade was to reform the Access to Information Act and to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, and do a number of things including bringing transparency and accountability to charitable institutions.

I guess I was a voice in the wilderness originally but as time went on the government, I am happy to say, has bought more and more into the principle that there must be legislated transparency and accountability wherever taxpayers' money is being spent or wherever the public trust is being looked after in a way that involves finances.

In 1994, the first year of the government's mandate, the government took over a program that had been initiated by the former Tory government. It was the implementation of the national airport policy. That involved taking federal airports and transferring them through specific agreements to local authorities who in turn often hired or came into agreements with private operators to run these airports. This legislation deals with these entities. In the grand sense the entity that runs, for example, Pearson airport is an airport authority in this legislation. There is also a smaller category of airport operator which by and large applies to John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport in my riding in Hamilton.

When those agreements were struck across the country that basically semi-privatized the federal airports, the principle of ensuring that there was a single standard of corporate governance, a single standard of financial reporting, and a single standard of disclosure to the public was not implemented at that time. These airport authorities and airport operators were set up with different types of standards. Over the nine years since these airport authorities and airport operators have been operating, it has become apparent that the level of disclosure and the level of transparency has been uneven across the country. There have been some concerns expressed about the management of some of these airport authorities and airport operators.

In 1996 the government embarked upon a similar program to transfer the federal marine assets over to port authorities. In my riding the Hamilton Harbour Commission was replaced by the Hamilton Port Authority. The difference between 1994 and 1996 was that the government inserted into the legislation, creating the port authorities, excellent standards of corporate governance, transparency and accountability. I was very proud at that time because I would like to think I had some role in that because I was pestering the minister of the day about the necessity of bringing that type of standard in with the port authorities.

We now have Bill C-27 which, nine years later, is the logical step to take after bringing the regimes of corporate governance to port authorities and bringing them to airport authorities and airport operators. It is a good thing to do.

I have been following the debate in the House and I cannot fail but note that even on my own side there have been colleagues who have criticized Bill C-27 and have spoken against it. I must cite the member for Hamilton West who is a colleague of mine. On an earlier day of debate he gave a speech on the bill in which he castigated the government for this legislation. I must note that nowhere in his speech did he actually cite a single criticism of the legislation. He decried it in general but not in specifics.

It is important for people watching to know that even on this side of the House there is great freedom of opinion and we are able to debate openly. I do not begrudge my colleague's opinion about the legislation, but it was his remarks that prompted me more than anything else to set the record straight in my view, and remember, Madam Speaker, it is my view.

I would like to take members of the House through a bit of the legislation to give them an impression of what the legislation actually does and why I think everyone in the House should support it. There may be areas that could use some technical amendments, but by and large, I think it is excellent legislation.

I draw the House's attention to part 5 of the bill under the heading “Disclosure and Accountability”. Clause 120 would require all airport operators to prepare financial statements annually. In those financial statements there must be a statement of revenues and expenditures, a summary of capital expenditures, and a statement of revenues from passenger fees. This is important information because we must remember that these airports, even though they are operated locally, are institutions of the public trust. In other words, every airport is derived ultimately from the Crown, so the public would expect to have access to that kind of information.

Clause 123 would require every airport operator to submit a business plan for the upcoming five years. I am probably a bit fanatical about the need for financial disclosure with the public and institutions, including private corporations. The legislation would require that the airport authority or airport operator provide annual financial statements. The legislation goes into great detail about what is required in these financial statements. It says, for example, that financial statements must disclose the revenues derived from landing fees, terminal fees, other aeronautical fees, passenger fees, and from car parking concessions and general rental.

This is a very important part of understanding the success of an institution, a business enterprise in this case being operated in the public interest. It is very important because ultimately these airport properties are a resource of the nation. It is very important for the public to be able to see for themselves through audited financial statements how effectively the airport operator is carrying out its task. I submit that this detailed requirement is an excellent provision to put in the legislation.

This is not to say that many airport operators are not providing this kind of information already. The important thing is that it is a standard that goes across all airport operators including the one in Hamilton and many others. Therefore, it is a very positive thing.

A little further in the bill we would expect to see and indeed we do find that there has to be an auditor's report of the financial statements. That of course should be a given. I am sure it is in most airport agreements, if not all, but it is very important to put it in legislation.

There is also a provision for regular annual meetings. A very good idea, that was derived from the port authority legislation which incidentally was Bill C-44 in its day, is this idea that every so often the airport authority must submit itself to a performance review. That performance review of its operations and everything that it is doing and the way it is carrying out business is to be done by an independent agent. That again is a very positive thing to do. I think the public must be satisfied that there is transparency and accountability.

However, realizing that not everyone is going to be scrutinizing the financial statements of the airport operator every time they come out, we must assure ourselves that there is something built into the system to ensure that there is an annual independent assessment of how well management is performing its task.

It is something that the government is very used to. We certainly have a system in the government where the performance of various departments are subject to annual review and indeed we apply it to many pieces of legislation. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is a good case in point because it was just in the House this week. This is legislation that comes up for review every five years. The Lobbyists Registration Act is another example. In the operation of government itself various departments have mechanisms in place to review performance from time to time. Therefore, I think this is very positive.

There is also material here regarding the mechanism for setting airport fees. Again, that is very important because we do not want a situation where an airport operator can arbitrarily set fees that may help generate revenue but may have a negative impact on passenger travel or access to the airport or whatever else. Airports like ports are not simply business enterprises. They are enterprises that have great national significance and they cannot be administered totally in isolation of national policy. This is why Bill C-27 has come forward.

Obviously I quite support the bill and I would like to put it also in the context of another piece of legislation that is coming before the House; it is in committee. That is Bill C-7, which is a bill that will bring financial transparency and accountability to the administration of Indian reserves. Some 600 bands and reserves are going to be covered by this legislation. What it basically does is put standards where none existed before, national standards pertaining to the election of officers of bands, their requirement to disclose their proceedings to their band membership, the need for audited financial statements and so forth.

The reason why I mention it is that this is part of where the government has been going in the last few years and I am extremely pleased that it is going in this direction. More and more, we see the government moving toward patching up areas of the national fabric that have existed for many years without adequate oversight. Because when we talk about transparency and accountability, what we are really talking about is public oversight of enterprises that are in the national interest.

Bill C-7, Bill C-27 and the bill on the port authorities represent very important progress on the part of the government in this direction. That gives me an opportunity to encourage the government to carry on in this direction, because there is much more to be done. I remind the House that I have been campaigning very hard over many years to persuade the government to reform the Access to Information Act. That would bring greater transparency, accountability and scrutiny, shall we say, to the administration of government. This was pioneering legislation in its day. It needs overhaul very desperately and I hope the government will move in that direction very shortly. I would rather it did it immediately because time is running out on this particular government's mandate.

There is another area that I really wish the government would move forward on. It has been very slow and I find it very unfortunate. It is the whole idea of bringing in standards of accountability, transparency and corporate governance to charities. It is just like port authorities, just like airport authorities. Charities are large enterprises that spend billions of taxpayers' dollars.

I believe the charity sector in this country, which we can rightly call an industry, has revenues and expenditures in the order of about $100 billion a year. This is a huge amount. These charitable institutions, be they large hospitals or the small charity that gets on the telephone to us, or usually to our aged parents who cannot think very clearly for themselves, and solicit money and spend that money, these organizations are still not under meaningful, legislated standards of corporate governance and transparence. I know that sounds incredible. Canadians listening probably think it is absolutely amazing that a $100 billion a year industry should be without the basic standards of corporate governance that exist in this legislation.

Finally I would say in conclusion that the government is moving in the right direction. This is what Canadians want. This is what society wants. I think it is very clear from the catastrophes in the financial market, particularly in the United States, that we cannot rely on trust alone to ensure that enterprises that are acting in the public interest are living up to their commitments. So we must bring in legislation that defines standards of corporate governance and deals with transparency and accountability. I think Bill C-27 is a good step in that direction, but there is much, much more to be done.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2003 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill now before the House is to replace the Transfer of Offenders Act, which has been in force for over 20 years. The basic objective of the solicitor general's proposal is still the same as the one pursued by the old act that would be replaced, with the exception that the list of countries with which the Canadian government has entered into agreements would be updated.

Thus, Canadians convicted abroad would still be allowed to come back here to serve their sentences and foreigners convicted in Canada would still be allowed to return to their country to serve their sentences.

The foundation of this bill is to set out how the transfer of offenders to Canadian correctional institutions would be done, while ensuring the compassionate nature of the process. It is important to mention at this point that the Bloc Quebecois supports such a measure.

The bill also deals with with the equivalency of foreign and Canadian sentences. In this regard, it will be interesting to follow the progress of this bill, particularly in light of the justice minister's decision, last week, not to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec concerning the new Youth Criminal Justice Act.

At this time I would like to point out that the Bloc Quebecois agrees in principle with Bill C-33. Nevertheless, this support should not be considered carte blanche for the government. As is customary, we reserve the right to present amendments to the bill in order to improve it.

As an example of a constructive amendment the Bloc might suggest, I give you the delicate issue of human rights and the unhealthy conditions in the prisons of certain countries. From this point of view, it seems obvious that we should repatriate criminals who otherwise would have to serve their sentences in inhumane conditions.

These transfers must be carried out in a spirit of collaboration with the states that are signatories of treaties and administrative agreements. It is essential to establish a quick, simple administrative framework for transferring criminals. The same would be true for foreign nationals serving a sentence in Canada.

Nevertheless, we have serious reservations when it comes to enforcing certain provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Despite the recent opinion of the Quebec Court of Appeal in this matter, the federal government has decided to go ahead and sentence young people of 14 and 15 as adults. This is a concrete example of our reservations with respect to this bill, and we intend to explore this further when the bill is examined in committee.

Thus, the bill proposes major changes in the current act, particularly with respect to simplifying the administration of justice, rehabilitation and social reintegration for criminals who are serving sentences in Canada or their countries of origin. It also clearly describes the conditions and implementation mechanisms. It is entirely commendable that the bill aims at simplifying administrative procedures and the Bloc Quebecois will support this principle.

It is also important to mention the provisions related to the notion of the consent of the foreign entities under the legislation. In addition to the eligibility criteria outlined in clauses 4 and 5, clause 8 clearly stipulates that the transfer requires the consent of the foreign entity, Canada and of the offender. Similarly, clause 9 states that certain rules will apply in terms of the consent of Quebec and the provinces. Accordingly, Quebec or the other provinces may and must express their consent before any steps are undertaken.

The minister responsible for implementing the act, the Solicitor General, is given a considerable amount of responsibility with respect to assessing the factors to ensure transfers are carried out properly. As such, several elements must be taken into consideration and recent events shed some very relevant light on this matter. One of these elements to be considered is the assessment of the threat to security that the transfer of a criminal to Canada may pose. The reverse seems to be the case when it comes to the—let us call it accelerated—extradition of Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel to Germany. The government's actions must be guided by a multitude of factors, and in the case of foreigners who are found guilty in Canada, the minister must take into consideration the risks involved in their detention and future release when considering and assessing transfers.

In order to avoid the transfer procedure being used to shorten or even cancel sentences, the bill contains specific provisions to ensure the continuity of sentences imposed on offenders. Thus, the rule of law will be respected and will be sufficiently consistent with the criminal law of the countries involved.

The case of young offenders is also dealt with specifically in the wording of the bill. Specific provisions apply in the cases of the transfer of adolescents. In terms of these cases, the comments of certain experts could certainly shed some needed light, particularly given the recent judgment of the Quebec Court of Appeal.

It is our hope that the Solicitor General, as minister responsible, will make the necessary changes to the bill to reflect the requirements of the charter, pursuant to the decision rendered by the Court of Appeal.

As I mentioned in my introduction, it is also important to raise the sensitive issue of human rights and the humanitarian considerations that we must keep in mind. These issues are so important that we find it curious, to say the least, that there is only one clause dedicated to the issue in the bill.

What are the purposes of such transfers? First, social reintegration. With the development of increasingly sophisticated means of communication and transportation, it becomes simpler to implement a new administrative framework for international transfers. Criminals also benefit from our increasingly open borders and the porosity of our various systems, and we therefore congratulate the government on developing modern methods in response to these specific issues.

Rehabilitation is as important an issue as reintegration, and both are at the core of this bill.

Criminals are also transferred for humanitarian considerations. The countries involved will take into consideration communication difficulties related to language, the alienating effect of cultural differences and local customs, as well as the lack of contact with family. We can therefore deduce that repatriation of criminals has a certain interest both for offenders and governments.

The second objective relates to sovereign equality. Another issue relating to the transfer procedure consists in respecting the rights of states. There is a recognized principle that the sovereign equality of states must take precedence. Moreover, article 2 of the United Nations charter stipulates that the organization is based upon the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members. This is, moreover, the reason why the agreement of the countries involved is required by this bill and the transfer also requires the agreement of the offender.

The Council of Europe adopted its Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons in 1983 at Strasbourg, a place where I have lived, you will be glad to know, Mr. Speaker.

Certain parallels might be drawn between the Council of Europe convention and the bill before us here. First, there is the need for collaboration between the states and the necessity to facilitate the social reintegration of offenders.

It is also important to point out that the convention rigorously respects the national law of each member country. Article 13 of the convention states that the sentencing state alone shall have the right to decide on any application for review of the judgment. Thus, the humanitarian aspect is clear in the provisions and the explanatory passages of the convention.

Let us also talk about mental disorders. Several provisions of the current bill are related to procedures concerning the transfer of people declared not criminally responsible on account of mental disorders. We will have to pay particular attention to this part of the bill to ensure that these provisions reflect as best as possible the sensitive nature of the sentences handed out to these particular criminals.

The Bloc Quebecois still has some reservations concerning the bill, particularly about clause 18, which says:

A Canadian offender is deemed to be serving an adult sentence within the meaning of the Youth Criminal Justice Act if (a) the Canadian offender was, at the time the offence was committed, from 14 to 17 years old; and (b) their sentence is longer than the maximum youth sentence that could have been imposed under that Act for an equivalent offence.

We believe that it is very likely that 14- or 15-year-old youths would receive far too heavy sentences compared to the ones that they would have received in Canada.

I repeat that the Court of Appeal of Quebec gave its opinion in the case of the Government of Quebec's order regarding the reference concerning Bill C-7 on the youth criminal justice system. During the hearing of this case, Quebec's Attorney General said that the breaches of freedom and psychological welfare that result from criminal charges against a minor are exacerbated by the system that presumes subjecting youth to adult sentencing. This procedure would violate the presumption of innocence, guaranteed under paragraph 11( d ) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and recognized by the Supreme Court as a fundamental principle that is protected by section 7.

Paragraph 11( d ) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms establishes the rightto be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

Quebec's Attorney General also argued that:

The procedures involved would be similar to those used in declaring someone a dangerous offender, in that they cause similar harm.

The attorney went on to say:

The Youth Criminal Justice Act would therefore violate the freedom and safety of adolescents, which contravenes the principles of fundamental justice in that it does not specifically require that the factors the court must weigh when determining whether an adolescent should be subject to adult sentencing must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt.

This refers to subsection 73(1) of the act.

The Attorney General of Canada argued that:

The new legislation, which is an exception to the adult criminal system, is in line with an approach that balances the interests of society and those of adolescents in such a way as to make the taking into account of the specific situation of adolescents a major consideration.

In response to the question raised by the Attorney General of Quebec, whether the elements set out are indeed principles of fundamental justice, the five judges of Quebec's Court of Appeal agreed that they were.

On page 63 of this opinion, we read the following:

The expression “fundamental justice” in the context of section 7 is not limited to rules of procedure, but includes substantial principles. This means that to withstand charter scrutiny, any psychological security violation must be fundamentally warranted not only procedurally but also in relation to the objective, in accordance with the basic tenets of our legal system.

The Quebec Court of Appeal judges added that there is a wide consensus about these elements because of the essential role they play in the Canadian legal system. Their vital importance has been recognized ever since the very first legislation on the subject-matter. Over time, the details were worked out to meet the particular situation and needs of adolescents more and more specifically.

In the decision in R. v. M. (S.H.) (1989), 2 S.C.R., on page 446, Justice L'Heureux-Dubé wrote:

[This brief legislative history of] the provisions of the Young Offenders Act amply demonstrates that for nearly one hundred years Parliament has committed itself to the separate treatment and rehabilitation of young persons involved in the criminal process. The underlying philosophy has been from the beginning that it is in society's interest to assist young offenders “to strengthen their better instincts”. An attempt is made through the legislation to “prevent these juveniles from becoming prospective criminals and to assist them to become law-abiding citizens”.

Unfortunately, this government has chosen to ignore this legacy and expertise by doing away with the Young Offenders Act and replacing it with a piece of legislation that is pretty shaky in terms of its wording, as demonstrated by the Court of Appeal of Quebec, and questionable where its rehabilitation objectives are concerned.

As the members are aware, the Bloc Quebecois took a clear stand against this new legislation, which disregards nearly 100 years of history and practice, and opens the door to challenges, and the Court of Appeal of Quebec recently proved us right. We have continued to be vocal opponents of this poorly worded legislation whose sole purpose was to clumsily reassure the public.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeal stated:

Although the presumption may be set aside and the court may retain greater discretionary powers with respect to the appropriateness of imposing such a sentence rather than an adult sentence, it is no less true that the legislator has clearly indicated in sections 62 and 72 that the usual sentence applicable to designated offences is that imposed on adults guilty of the same offences.

It also sends a clear message to the population as a whole that, in general, adolescents are dangerous criminals if they are 14 years of age or older when they commit certain offences. In other words, applying adult sentences has the effect of stigmatizing the adolescent guilty of a designated offence.

Bloc Quebecois members have spoken many times on Bill C-7, the young offenders legislation, questioning its real purpose. We have questioned the relevance of the purpose of this legislation. It was surprising to find that the government really thought it could deal with juvenile crime by giving the public a false sense of security, when the real issue was to lower the crime rate among young people.

At the time, Bill C-7 had its objectives backwards. The government had completely forgotten whom this bill was for. Should we rehabilitate young offenders or should we give an illusion of protection to society, based on the leveling of the enforcement of the adult legislation?

However, if we consider clause 18 of Bill C-33 that we are discussing, the same questions remain.

The Quebec Court of Appeal has provided several responses that, it must be said, rankle the Liberal government. The Court of Appeal is categorical. The imposition of an adult sentence is not essential to achieving the goal of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

On page 69 of the opinion, the Court of Appeal judges analysed these provisions and concluded, and I quote:

—in this respect, clearly, the new legislation presumes that adult sentences be applied as a general rule. From now on, this legislation places upon minors the onus of demonstrating why an adult sentence should not be imposed. Supreme Court case law is however clear: Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that, during sentencing the onus is on the Crown to establish beyond all reasonable doubt the aggravating circumstances surrounding the commission of an offence. Paragraph 724(3) (e) of the Criminal Code requires the prosecutor to establish, by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of any aggravating fact or any previous conviction by the offender. Subsection 72(2) of the WCJA, therefore, violates the rights guaranteed under the section 7 of the Canadian Charter in that it places on the young offender the onus of proving the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence, the lack of a previous record at the time of the exemption, as well as the other factors listed in subsection 71(1). The onus should instead be placed on the prosecutor who wants the court to impose an adult sentence to show the fitness of such claims in terms of the factors set out in subsection 72(1), once a request has been made. The prosecutor should also have to prove the existence of facts justifying the imposition of an adult sentence. Once this has been done, the courts could decide whether to impose such a sentence on a young offender.

The judges added that even the presumption of this imposition, and I quote:

—is a violation of the right to freedom and the psychological freedom of adolescents, which does not conform to the principles of basic justice.

In conclusion, I will say that the Bloc Quebecois will obviously work very hard in committee to make sure our various concerns are dealt with and also that the recent opinion of the Quebec Court of Appeal on the Young Offenders Act is taken into consideration.

We support the bill in principle but we ask the government to be open. We want criminals to be returned, especially knowing what the conditions are in prisons in some countries. But such transfers must be done in a spirit of close cooperation between the states signatories to treaties and administrative agreements.

I thank you for your attention and I am looking forward to the committee review.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

May 5th, 2003 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Right Hon. Prime Minister.

Given that the member for LaSalle—Émard has said that if he became the prime minister he would not proclaim the first nations governance act, and given that a majority of the Liberal caucus are supporting the member for LaSalle—Émard for the leadership, why would the Prime Minister not just permit a free vote on Bill C-7 now so that we can kill this thing instead of pushing through a piece of legislation that will be dead on arrival anyway?

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

April 30th, 2003 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday nearly 50 representatives of the first nations attended—until the wee hours of the morning—the debate on Bill C-7 regarding first nations governance.

In recognition of his convictions and his determination to defend their basic rights, my hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot was given their highest honour, an eagle feather, presented by the shaman himself.

This great honour is given to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the betterment of the first nations. According to traditional first nations beliefs, the eagle is the messenger of the gods and, from high in the sky, it has a view of the whole world, and of the past, present and future. This bold and visionary bird is a symbol of power and strength for the first nations.

These same attributes could be applied to our hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

The Bloc Quebecois is proud to have among its members a man who values identity and culture so highly.

International Transfer of Offenders ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

I was well aware of that, Mr. Speaker, but it was disrespectful to us.

Now, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-33, An Act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences. I am pleased to speak as the Bloc Quebecois critic on matters relating to the solicitor general.

We are in favour of this bill—in principle, and I emphasize “in principle”. The aim of the bill is to establish procedures for transferring offenders to Canadian correctional institutions for humanitarian purposes, and we agree with this.

Nevertheless, we have reservations when it comes to implementing the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Despite the recent opinions of the Quebec Court of Appeal in this matter, the federal government has decided to sentence young people of 14 and 15 as adults. I will take a closer look at this a little later in my speech.

Naturally, we are in favour of bringing criminal offenders back here, when one considers the prison conditions in some parts of this planet. These transfers, therefore, should take place in a spirit of close cooperation among the countries signatory to the treaties and administrative agreements. These transfers take place within a specific and comprehensive administrative framework. The guidelines for implementation are specified in the present bill.

A standard agreement would be set up, with a quick, simple administrative framework for transferring persons found guilty of criminal offences in a foreign country. The same would be true for foreign nationals in Canada.

The aim of the bill is to facilitate the transfer of foreign offenders to their country of origin, and Canadians imprisoned abroad back to Canada, in a quick and simple way.

Modern means of communication and transportation clearly make it easier to set up an efficient administrative framework in order to achieve the humanitarian objectives of this bill. As access to means of communication and transportation become easier, crime also becomes more international and that is why we must find transborder methods to meet these specific needs.

Increasingly, criminal policy refers to social reintegration as the key factor in offence resolution, and that is why it is increasingly necessary and essential to transfer offenders to achieve this goal.

There are also humanitarian considerations when transferring an offender. So, the parties will take into account communication difficulties resulting from linguistic barriers, alienation from culture and local customs and the lack of family contact. All these factors have a negative effect on offenders with regard to their sentence.

We can, therefore, conclude that repatriating offenders holds a certain interest for both offenders and the government, as well as for society.

Respect for the sovereign rights of states must take precedence. That is why the consent of the parties is required under the bill. Convicted offenders must also consent to being transferred. Bill C-33 is therefore solely a procedural instrument. Furthermore, much of the bill deals with the congruency of sentences handed down abroad and those handed down in Canada. The Council of Europe adopted its Convention on the Transfer of Convicted Persons, in 1983, in Strasbourg.

There are various parallels between the Council of Europe's convention and the bill before us. First, there is the need for states to collaborate and, second, the need to ensure the social reintegration of offenders. I should add that the convention fully respects the national laws of each member state.

In fact, article 13 of the convention states that the sentencing state alone shall have the right to decide on any application for review of the judgment.

Earlier I mentioned that the Bloc Quebecois has some concerns about certain provisions of the bill. I am thinking of clause 18, which stipulates:

A Canadian offender is deemed to be serving an adult sentence within the meaning of the Youth Criminal Justice Act if

(a) the Canadian offender was, at the time the offence was committed, from 14 to 17 years old; and

(b) their sentence is longer than the maximum youth sentence that could have been imposed under that Act for an equivalent offence.

We do not support this provision. We believe that the chances are high that 14- and 15-year old adolescents are serving sentences that are far too heavy.

I mentioned that the Court of Appeal of Quebec gave its opinion in the case of the Government of Quebec's order regarding the reference concerning Bill C-7 on the youth criminal justice system. According to Quebec's Attorney General, the breaches of freedom and psychological welfare that result from criminal charges against a minor are exacerbated by the system that presumes subjecting youth to adult sentencing.

This procedure violates that presumption of innocence, guaranteed under paragraph 11( d ) of the Charter and recognized by the Supreme Court as a fundamental principle that is protected by section 7.

Paragraph 11( d ) of the Charter establishes the right:

to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

Quebec's Attorney General also argued that the procedures involved would be similar to those used in declaring someone a dangerous offender, in that they cause similar harm.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act therefore violates the freedom and safety of adolescents, which contravenes the principles of fundamental justice because it does not specifically require that the factors that the court must weigh when determining whether an adolescent should be subject to adult sentencing must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. This is found in subsection 73(1) of the act.

The Attorney General of Canada argued that the new legislation, which is an exception to the adult criminal system, is in line with an approach that balances the interests of society and those of adolescents in such a way as to make the taking into account of the specific situation of adolescents a major consideration. In response to the question raised by the Attorney General of Quebec, whether the elements set out are indeed principles of fundamental justice, the five judges of Quebec's Court of Appeal agreed that they were.

On page 63 of this opinion, we read that the expression fundamental justice in the context of section 7 is not limited to rules of procedure, but includes substantial principles. This means that to withstand Charter scrutiny any psychological security violation must be fundamentally warranted not only procedurally but also in relation to the objective, in accordance with the basic tenets of our legal system.

The Quebec Court of Appeal judges added that there is a wide consensus about these elements because of the essential role they play in the Canadian legal system. Their vital importance has been recognized ever since the very first legislation on the subject-matter. Over time, the details were worked out to meet the particular situation and needs of adolescents more and more specifically.

I also want to draw attention to what Justice L'Heureux-Dubé wrote in the 1989 Supreme Court decision in R. v. M. (S.H.), 2 S.C.R., on page 446:

[This brief legislative history of] the provisions of the Young Offenders Act amply demonstrates that for nearly one hundred years Parliament has committed itself to the separate treatment and rehabilitation of young persons involved in the criminal process.

I read further:

The underlying philosophy has been from the beginning that it is in society's interest to assist young offenders “to strengthen their better instincts”. An attempt is made through the legislation to “prevent these juveniles to become prospective criminals and to assist them to be law-abiding citizens”.

Unfortunately, this government has chosen to ignore this legacy and expertise by doing away with the Young Offenders Act and replacing it with a piece of legislation that is pretty shaky in terms of its wording, as demonstrated by the Court of Appeal of Quebec, and questionable where its rehabilitation objectives are concerned.

The Bloc Quebecois took a clear stand against this new legislation, which disregards nearly 100 years of history and practice, and opens the door to challenges.

The Bloc Quebecois opposed the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and the Court of Appeal of Quebec recently proved us right. We will continue to be vocal opponents of this poorly worded legislation whose sole purpose was to clumsily reassure the public.

In the reference in question, the Court of Appeal of Quebec reviewed the provisions giving effect to the presumption of adult sentences for designated offences.

It is clear that the provisions of the new legislation on youth offenders broaden this assumption, in that it will now apply to adolescents aged 14 and 15. On page 67, the court said:

Although the presumption may be set aside and the court may retain greater discretionary powers with respect to the appropriateness of imposing such a sentence rather than an adult sentence, it is no less true that the legislator has clearly indicated in sections 62 and 72 that the usual sentence applicable to designated offences is that imposed on adults guilty of the same offences. It also sends a clear message to the population as a whole that, in general, adolescents are dangerous criminals if they are 14 years of age or older when they commit certain offences. In other words, applying adult sentences has the effect of stigmatizing the adolescent guilty of a designated offence.

I still remember my remarks on Bill C-7 on young offenders, when I wondered about the real purpose of the bill. I remember that I said the bill was clear on one issue, that Canada did not want young people any more, only adults.

They were presenting us with a bill that completely eliminated one segment of our population in order to comfort society and give it a false sense of security, by saying that there is no more juvenile delinquency, because it would be transformed into adult delinquency, much tougher and much more punitive.

I also asked myself why society was the intended target of this bill, when the true client group for the bill ought to have been young offenders. Did the government really believe that it could deal with juvenile crime by giving the public a false sense of security, when the real issue was to lower the crime rate among young people?

Bill C-7 had its objectives backwards. The government had completely forgotten whom this bill was for. Should we rehabilitate young offenders or should we give an illusion of protection to society by lowering the age at which adult law applies?

Now, in reading this bill, and clause 18 in particular, I realize that my questions are still valid.

The Quebec Court of Appeal has provided us with several responses that, it must be said, clearly rankle the Liberal government. The Court of Appeal was categorical. The imposition of an adult sentence is not essential to achieving the goal of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

On page 69 of the opinion, the Court of Appeal judges analyzed these provisions and concluded that, in this respect, clearly, the new legislation presumes that adult sentences be applied as a general rule. From now on, this legislation places upon minors the onus of demonstrating why an adult sentence should not be imposed.

The Quebec Court of Appeal added that Supreme Court case law is, however, clear. Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that, during sentencing, the onus is on the Crown to establish beyond all reasonable doubt the aggravating circumstances surrounding the commission of an offence. Paragraph 724(3)( e ) of the Criminal Code requires the prosecutor to establish, by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of any aggravating fact or any previous conviction by the offender.

Subsection 72(2) of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, therefore, violates the rights guaranteed under section 7 of the Canadian charter in that it places on the young offender the onus of proving the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence, the lack of a previous record at the time of the exemption, as well as the other factors listed in subsection 72(1).

The onus should instead be placed on the prosecutor who wants the court to impose an adult sentence to show the fitness of such claims in terms of the factors set out in subsection 72(1), once a request has been made. The prosecutor should also have to prove the existence of facts justifying the imposition of an adult sentence. Once this has been done, the courts could decide whether to impose such a sentence on a young offender.

The judges add that even the presumption of this imposition is a violation of the rights to freedom and the psychological freedom of adolescents, which does not conform to the principles of basic justice.

However, the problem posed by various provisions of Bill C-33, under debate, is that the 14-year-old or 15-year-old adolescent who has been sentenced abroad automatically falls under this imposition provision, no matter what the circumstances.

Not only does the adolescent fall under the adult sentencing system, he cannot even propose any evidence to the contrary that would limit application of this presumption.

Automatic application of this presumption is discriminatory in that it creates different categories of adolescents. Some will therefore feel the effects of the presumption, and will present evidence to the contrary, and others will not be able to do so, since they were convicted in another country.

There is one interesting point to which I would draw your attention. At the time of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, the Government of Quebec followed the minimal rules for detention according to the rules adopted by the first United Nations Congress on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders, held in Geneva in 1955, and approved by the Economic and Social Council in Resolutions 663 C (XXIV) of July 31, 1957 and 2076 (LXII) of May 13, 1977.

Among the preliminary observationswe read:

The following rules are not intended to describe in detail a model system of penal institutions. They seek only, on the basis of the general consensus of contemporary thought and the essential elements of the most adequate systems of today, to set out what is generally accepted as being good principle and practice in the treatment of prisoners and the management of institutions.

As well:

In view of the great variety of legal, social, economic and geographical conditions of the world, it is evident that not all of the rules are capable of application in all places and at all times.

They should, however, serve to stimulate a constant endeavour to overcome practical difficulties in the way of their application, in the knowledge that they represent, as a whole, the minimum conditions which are accepted as suitable by the United Nations

I would also draw your attention to one specific rule which addresses the treatment for children, It is 5.2, which reads:

The category of young prisoners should include at least all young persons who come within the jurisdiction of juvenile courts. As a rule, such young persons should not be sentenced to imprisonment.

This in an international principle we are in the process of reshaping to suit ourselves, in order to be able to work around it. It is inconceivable that someone could not be aware that this was what was being done. We must not lose sight of the fact that we are all answerable to the public.

I would like to know how the Liberal government could justify such a discriminatory and harmful application of these provisions regarding adolescents, without feeling any public backlash.

We cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the public like this just to please the government. The impact is far too great to be ignored. I would therefore ask the government to review certain provisions of Bill C-33 to allow for a fair and equitable application for everyone, including adolescents aged 14 or 15.

We have an established principle here whereby everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Yet, this principle of equality before the law would not apply in the present case. How would sentencing be determined when some of the criteria are not admissible?

Members must carefully study all of the provisions contained in Bill C-33 in committee. The scope of some of these provisions is enormous and they must be paid careful attention, which is what we will do in committee.

As I mentioned at the outset, we support the humanitarian principle of this bill, and as I have just demonstrated, we need to make the necessary amendments to ensure it is applied fairly and equitably and that it respects the principles of fundamental justice set out in the charter.

A second aspect that concerns me is that of the availability of resources. Individuals must not be refused a transfer simply because the entity that will hold them does not have the money needed for transportation and to accommodate them in a correctional centre.

Like the firearms program, we believe that the federal government must make a clear funding commitment that is appropriate, so that Quebec and the provinces can act accordingly when it comes to carrying out transfers.

Not only does the presumption that we are denouncing not meet the requirements of fundamental justice, it has negative consequences when it comes to reintegration. Clearly all legislative provisions from now on must respect the requirements of the charter, both in their implementation and in setting goals.

We must not wait for the courts to correct this glaring shortcoming. The decision must be a legislative one, and it is up to us as parliamentarians to rectify the situation before it gets any worse. This is one aspect of the issue that we can discuss in more detail in committee.

The bill proposes substantial amendments to current legislation in that it clearly states in clause 3 that the first objective is to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.

Bill C-33 then lists the conditions of application and mechanisms of application for this worthwhile objective.

I have had occasion to handle requests from constituents in connection with this purely administrative operation. In each case, the motivation behind their requests was humanitarian, health-related, or harsh conditions of detention.

The fact that this bill is directed towards facilitating of this administrative procedure is totally desirable and the Bloc Quebecois will be supporting the guiding principle. I must reiterate that we plan to study this bill thoroughly in order to make the essential adjustments to bring it in line with charter requirements, in compliance with the recent Quebec Appeal Court opinion.

Clauses 4 and 5 list the criteria for eligibility to make a request for transfer.

We feel the consent requirement set out in clause 8 is essential to the smooth operation of this procedure if it is to respect the principles of fundamental justice.

It is clearly stipulated that the transfer requires the consent of the foreign entity, Canada and the offender. Clause 9 sets out the rules governing the consent of Quebec and the provinces. It is specifically stated that consent must be given before any transfer for which Quebec and the provinces will be responsible.

I am returning to the necessity of having sufficient financial and human resources to make this transfer procedure efficient and timely. We will be addressing this in committee but we hope the minister responsible will commit to eliminating that uncertainty before long.

The assessment criteria are set out in clause 10 of Bill C-33. It is up to the minister to assess the factors related to the transfer. The primary one is whether the offender's return would constitute a threat to the security of Canada. The minister will also take into consideration the offender's intentions of residence, and finally whether family ties are sufficiently strong to warrant granting the request for transfer.

If a foreigner has been found guilty of an offence in Canada, the minister must also take into account the likelihood of the offender's subsequently committing acts of terrorism.

Subclauses 3 and 4 of this clause address factors relating to assessing requests from young offenders.

Clause 11 stipulates that consent or refusal of consent must be justified. The minister is responsible, under clause 12, for ensuring that the consent was given voluntarily.

Clauses 13 to 15 deal with the continued enforcement of offenders' sentences, with the purpose of complying with the criminal law of foreign countries.

Clause 16 sets out conditions for probation and the related equivalency.

As for clauses 17 to 20, they deal more specifically with the terms and conditions for the transfer of young people. The Bloc Quebecois is of the opinion that special attention ought to be paid to these, as I demonstrated earlier in my presentation. Expert advice can certainly enlighten us, especially in the context of the opinion of the Court of Appeal of Quebec.

The Bloc Quebecois will be vigilant when these clauses are considered at committee stage. We hope the minister responsible will make the necessary changes to ensure these provisions reflect charter requirements.

Clauses 21 to 29 have a more technical and mathematical side, in the sense that they set out the criteria for determining equivalent sentences for Canadian nationals abroad who wish to serve their sentences in Canada.

I am quite amazed that only one clause in this bill addresses humanitarian considerations. I would have liked such considerations to be at the heart of this bill. Once again, I think that at committee we will be able to determine the full scope of this clause.

Clauses 31 to 36 deal with procedures for increasing the number of entities participating in these exchanges. The final clauses amend other acts affected by the bill's provisions.

There is one more aspect that ought to receive our full attention. A number of provisions in the present bill deal with implementation of the transfer procedures in cases where a person has been declared not criminally responsible because of mental disorder.

I took an active part in the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights when it studied the Criminal Code provisions respecting such persons. The witnesses made it clear that these persons should receive particular attention in that their cases should be dealt with appropriately, and especially in a timely manner.

I believe that the provisions in the present bill ought to reflect the distinctive character of everything having to do with persons who have been declared not criminally responsible because of mental disorder.

I conclude by repeating our agreement in principle with this bill, especially with respect to the humanitarian motivation behind decisions to make a transfer.

However, I emphasize that the Bloc Quebecois will be closely following the work of the House and the committee, in order to ensure that there will be changes made in the provisions relating to adolescents.

These provisions must satisfy the requirements clearly set out by the Quebec Court of Appeal in its opinion on the reference concerning Bill C-7 on the youth criminal justice system.

As I mentioned earlier, offenders must be returned to Canada when the conditions in prisons in some parts of the planet are examined. These transfers must, therefore, be done in a spirit of close collaboration with the states that are signatories of administrative treaties and agreements.

In closing, I would remind the members that, according to the Quebec Court of Appeal, imposing adult sentencing is not necessary to achieve the purpose of the Youth Criminal Justice Act; for this reason, each provision of Bill C-33 must be carefully reviewed, which the committee will duly undertake to do.

The Bloc Quebecois will represent the interests of Quebeckers and Canadians, and especially the interests of our young people, during consideration in committee of Bill C-33.

We support the humanitarian principle behind this bill, but we have serious reservations about the specific applications of some of its provisions. We believe that the bill's humanitarian objective can be accomplished during consideration in committee, while protecting the rights of all individuals, in particular, obviously, of our young people.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

April 29th, 2003 / 2:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development bragged about his so-called consultation on Bill C-7. The fact is that out of 89 individuals and 175 organizations appearing before the standing committee on the FNGA, only 10 were in favour of the bill, and that includes the minister and his officials.

The minister ignored this consultation and ignored the thousands of protesters across the country yesterday whose signs of FNGA NFG clearly showed that first nations leaders and members do not want this legislation.

The minister says that the status quo is unacceptable. That status quo was a Canadian government plan. Why is the minister--

First NationsStatements By Members

April 29th, 2003 / 2:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, several hundred first nations leaders and representatives came to Parliament Hill to voice their strong opposition to Bill C-7 on the governance of first nations.

They vehemently protested the attitude of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development toward them and the statements he has made.

Bill C-7, which must pave the way for a new relationship between the first nations and the federal government, and one day replace the infamous Indian Act, is, in fact, under the cover of modernity, worse than the legislation it is replacing. It treats the first nations like children. It keeps them subservient and ensures the continuation of the dominant-dominated relationship that has existed for over 130 years.

Our relationship with the first nations must be rebuilt, but on a new foundation of true partnership between two nations, with respect for who the first nations are.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

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

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, today there is a demonstration on Parliament Hill to make the government aware of the aboriginal people's indignation and opposition to Bill C-7 on governance.

Does the minister intend to repeat his cynical and arrogant words or will he instead take advantage of this opportunity to put aside for once and for all Bill C-7, which no one wants, and instead lay the foundation for a true nation-to-nation partnership with the aboriginal people?

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Foundation for Individual Rights was established in B.C. by Greg Hollingsworth, the staff representative of the member from Okanagan who left his job on the Hill to go to British Columbia to set up this racist organization. It is well known to have links with the Heritage Front. It can be seen from FIRE's website that it has a direct link to the Heritage Front which no one can argue is the racist, white supremacist neo-Nazi organization in this country.There are direct links, so I am not making any comment on the Canadian Alliance party directly or the member of Parliament who used to employ Greg Hollingsworth. I am simply pointing out that there is a connection that one cannot deny.

More specifically, we can look to comments from previous critics on aboriginal affairs from the Reform Party. I do remember the famous quote by a former member of Parliament, the Reform Party critic for aboriginal affairs, who said that living on an Indian reserve was like living on a south sea island and being supported by one's rich uncle. That is a statement from the Hansard of this place. I only point it out to say what a contrast it is for me to hear the current critic for aboriginal affairs trying to sell the Canadian Alliance as being committed to the best interests of the aboriginal people when the track record of that party is so shameful on this subject.

The current member for Athabasca made the comment that just because we did not have the defeat of aboriginal people in Indian wars in this country like they did in the United States does not mean that they are not vanquished people. Otherwise, as he mentioned, why would they be living on those God forsaken reserves if they were not vanquished to those reserves.

It is that Eurocentric mindset that has become associated with the Canadian Alliance. When we dig a little deeper into the speech that we just heard from the current aboriginal affairs critic, the member from Portage--La Prairie, we can see that he really is opposed to the idea of self-governance. He really is opposed to moving forward with the true moves that might lead to the self-determination. He is more committed to the assimilation model that we saw either in the 1969 white paper, which really spawned a generation of activism among aboriginal people, or this current suite of legislation.

I think that they will really be able to embrace what we believe is the underlying tone of this current suite of legislation, which is to see through to its final end the initiative that was in the 1969 white paper. The current minister seems so committed to ramming it through, even though he is meeting stiff opposition at every turn with the legitimately elected leadership of the Assembly of First Nations right across the country.

The standing committee on aboriginal affairs is currently listening to witnesses coming before it on Bill C-7, the first nations governance act. We cannot talk about Bill C-19 in isolation because it certainly constitutes a key and integral part of the suite of bills that constitutes a package which, as I say, is meeting strong resistance across the country.

One of the problems, other than the top down imposition of this legislation that is being cited by the leadership of the assembly and one of the underlying apprehensions that the leadership has is that it leads to the municipalization of first nations. It contemplates a third level of government that is comparable to the incorporation of a municipality.

There was a witness before the standing committee yesterday who is an authority on this subject and has researched examples in the United States where this led to great difficulties. A first nations community incorporated essentially as a municipality would then of course have the power to borrow money on the open market because it would then be identified as a legal entity.

That sounds all very well and good except for, let us say, if a community borrowed $10 million to build a sewage and water treatment plant and somehow defaulted on the loan. The equity it used for that loan may have been its own land base. The fear is the gradual erosion and deterioration of the historic land base of the aboriginal communities and the inherent risk in that measure.

This is one of the things that has been cited as a major concern regarding not just Bill C-19, the institutions we are dealing with today, but again the entire package.

Two days ago we also heard Matthew Coon Come, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, comment on Bill C-7 but he did not limit his remarks to Bill C-7. He spoke very broadly again of the inherent risks of this general package. He pointed out a number of the concerns regarding specifically the first nations fiscal and statistical management act. In the form of questions and answers, I would like to deal with some of the questions that have been dealt with at the national assemblies of the Assembly of First Nations when this subject has come up.

There are some misconceptions that they would like addressed and made clear in the House. I am glad the minister is here to hear them.

Some people would ask whether the proposed fiscal institutions act already has been approved by the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations. To listen to some people speak, one would think that were true, but the answer is no.

What the chiefs originally approved and what they are interested in talking about is the development of new fiscal arrangements with Canada, nation to nation negotiations between first nations and the Government of Canada. Unfortunately we are further away from that than we ever have been before. The heavy-handed tactics of the current minister of aboriginal affairs have so alienated, so offended and so upset the leadership that I would say that relations have been set back 50 years in terms of true negotiations on a nation to nation basis that they contemplate.

The chiefs' committee that was formed, the Implementation Committee on the Protection of Treaty and Inherent Rights, and which concentrated on this issue, made it very clear that they needed to deal with this in a detailed way and with the fullness of time, so it was not approved. In fact the contents of the bill were not known by them until August 2002. When dealing with sweeping reform to a complex act like the Indian Act, that is not a great deal of time.

I attended the Halifax assembly of the Assembly of First Nations in 2001 where there was a misconception that there was broad interest and acceptance of this fiscal institutions bill. The support for the bill was not established at that convention. It was put off until the Ottawa assembly on November 20, 2002. I have the resolution from that assembly here and I will enter it into the record at a later moment.

Here is one of the key concerns, one of the common themes, throughout the three pieces of legislation that constitute this suite of bills. Does the proposed bill guarantee first nations that it will not diminish or change treaties, aboriginal rights or the federal government's fiduciary responsibilities? That is a key and paramount question. The fact is no, there is no guarantee in this package because there is no non-derogation clause.

Those of us who have been dealing with legislation as it pertains to aboriginal people in recent years know that every piece of legislation dealing with aboriginal people must contain, and there was agreement on both sides that there would be present, a non-derogation clause to assure the parties that nothing in the bill would diminish or derogate existing rights. The very absence of a non-derogation clause in this bill, in Bill C-7 and in Bill C-6 leads us to believe that there is a strategy here, a systematic effort to diminish and erode established current treaty rights or the federal government's fiduciary responsibility.

Adding to and fueling that fear of the absence of a non-derogation clause was the fact that the First Nations Land Management Act that passed in the last Parliament was the first time we noticed this trend. There was an attempt on the part of government to alter the wording in the non-derogation clause. It was not bold enough to eliminate it altogether because that would be seen as a flash point and people would notice what was going on. However it did attempt to alter it. We raised it in the debate at that time. After years of consistent, common language in a non-derogation clause, why was the government seeking to alter the language? We choose our language very carefully in legislation. There had to be some motivation or reason why the government would seek to alter it. That was the first hint.

We now learn that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs in the Senate is dealing with an omnibus bill that will delete completely the non-derogation clause from all pieces of legislation as it pertains to aboriginal people and instead assume that such a non-derogation intent is deemed to be a part of every bill.

Why would we take that positive, proactive step to diminish the very clause that gives comfort to those people on whose behalf we are passing legislation?

I have proposed language here that would not only satisfy those who are concerned about a non-derogation clause. It actually enhances the existing non-derogation clause. I would be happy to read that into the record at a later time.

How can we blame people for being apprehensive or suspicious of the motivation of government when it takes the active step to delete the non-derogation clause?

This is a question that I have addressed. Some people assume that the fiscal institutions act stands separate and alone from the minister's governance act. I have made it clear that none of these bills can be dealt with in isolation. They are integrally linked as a package and they are not the package with which aboriginal people want to be dealt.

I should perhaps back up for a moment and make it abundantly clear that I do not think there is a political party in the House of Commons that believes the status quo is acceptable and believes the Indian Act should not be substantially amended with the goal of ultimately eliminating it. We have heard the minister himself indicate that the ultimate goal is the elimination of the Indian Act because it is an evil document. It is a document that has been responsible for 130 years of social tragedy. It is incumbent on all of us to do everything we can to find an alternative way of relating to first nations people and allowing them their self-determination and self-governance.

None of the issues dealt with in the first nations governance suite of legislation deals with the fundamental problems, the urgent, pressing social problems facing aboriginal people today. When there was a round of consultation to supposedly get input from aboriginal people, those people who showed up at those meetings did not show up to talk about accounting practices or whether their audits were directed to this person or that person. They showed up to talk about health care, housing, clean water on their reserves and education. They wanted to talk about basic needs, which are so lacking in these communities. Instead, the minister in his wisdom, decided to address administrative details and tinkering with a flawed Indian Act instead of going at issues of substance that would have meaningful impact on the lives of aboriginal people.

I link it to the Canadian Alliance. I link the whole package with which we are dealing and its skewed priorities to the fact that for two years straight the Canadian Alliance launched a campaign to try to link together isolated incidents of financial problems on certain aboriginal reserves into a common theme that aboriginal communities were corrupt, or incompetent or both, and it tried to sell this package. I had to sit as a member in the House of Commons and listen day after day as Alliance members scoured the countryside until they found some misuse of funds or some band council that failed to submit its audit on time. They would stand up as if this was outrageous, that all aboriginal communities were corrupt, that we had to do something to clean up this terrible thing and that we were flushing billions of dollars down the drain and wasting it on aboriginal people who were squandering it and misspending their money. It was not based on fact.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources we get the facts. We know that 96% of all first nations communities, of which there are 633 first nations, submit their audits on time, keep their bookkeeping in accordance with the Indian Act, post those audits so that all band members can see them and have no problem whatsoever at managing their funds.

This is the first time we have opened the Indian Act for 50 years. Why are we dealing with issues of financial accountability and how people elect their officers when those are not the priorities with which aboriginal people want dealt? Because we have been sold a bill of goods and the public has been pulled around and led by the nose by this campaign on the part of the Canadian Alliance to try to convince people that aboriginal people are unaccountable or not transparent in their financial dealings. ay, It simply is not true and is not based on fact.

We are disappointed to be standing here. When the minister presented this to the standing committee on Monday, I made it clear to the him that as the member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre, with the highest aboriginal off reserve population in the country, many of them concentrated in my core area riding, that there was nothing that would make me more pleased, in what short time I have as a member of Parliament, than to deal with meaningful amendments to this fundamental evil that we knew as the Indian Act. I would love to enthusiastically support amendments to the Indian Act. It would be very satisfying for me on a personal level and on a professional level because I owe it to the people that I represent.

Unfortunately, we are not being given the opportunity to address meaningful amendments. We will be tinkering with a flawed document. This is not a step toward social justice. This is administrative tinkering and administrative details that are not based on fact.

When people went to the consultations across the country, they did not show up to complain about how they elected their band council. They did not show up to complain about their accounting practices or their auditing practices. They came out to express the desperation and the desperate, abject poverty under which they lived and they wanted a meaningful change to their lives. I am disappointed to have to use this speech to address bills that I do not think are of great consequence.

There are misunderstandings about this bill, the financial institutions act. Some people think that the fiscal institutions act will be optional. In fact, the proposed bill does not state that it will be optional, that first nations communities can opt in or out. Neither is there any protection for a first nation against being forced into the act.

The other bills that are a part of this suite have these default positions. People can choose to change the way officers are elected and the way bookkeeping records are kept. If people do not choose to do so in compliance with the standards that are set out, these standards will be foisted upon people, imposed upon their communities. It is not much of a choice. We can say it is optional but if they do not opt to do it in two years, it is imposed upon them anyway. I do not know who would understand that as being truly optional.

The fiscal institutions act could, for example, be made a condition of a funding arrangement that a deduction would be made if a first nation did not acquire its own source of revenues through taxation under the proposed bill. In other words, if a band has the ability and the opportunity to impose its own taxation regime within its community and it chooses not to for whatever reason or fails to implement it, there could be deductions dollar for dollar in the revenue streams in the current fiscal relationship from the federal government to the community. This is certainly one of the reservations that has been raised.

I should also point out, and the previous speaker did mention quite rightly, that many first nations communities are 100 or 150 people. They are already over-audited and over-bureaucratized. This will be a further level of bureaucracy, a further level of financial expertise that, without a lot of training and resources allocated to them, a lot of first nations communities would find it really difficult to avail themselves of these new fiscal institutions. When the Auditor General came before our standing committee just the other day, she made the point quite rightly that, if anything, first nations communities are over-audited.

A first nations community has to file approximately 168 forms per year to keep the revenue stream coming from the four or five different federal agencies that provide funding to a community. The Auditor General recommended streamlining these things so as not to put such an onerous task on first nations communities. There is so much room for error in there. No wonder the Canadian Alliance could find cases where papers were not filed on time or people were in arrears filing their documentation. Over three official documents have to be filled out correctly and submitted every week to add up to 168 per year. With the new provisions of Bill C-7, the first nations governance act, there will be more accounting and it will become more onerous.

The Auditor General of Canada commented that first nations communities were over-audited as it was. The real problem lied with the lack of accountability of those who accumulated the data and did nothing meaningful with it. They were supposed to jump through hoops every week and submit these forms into this vortex that was the bureaucracy of INAC and DIAND. Those were her observations and her criticism, and we share that view.

A common question that is asked of people dealing with this fiscal institutions act is whether first nations will be able to handle their own revenues as an inherent right even if they do not opt in to any of these institutions. No. By our understanding, if the proposed bill becomes law, it will mean that Parliament intends the inherent right of self-government not to include the collection and management of first nations revenue.

Is this not an infringement or a derogation of the status that aboriginal people enjoy today? Perhaps that is why the government had to eliminate the non-derogation clause. Perhaps that is why the government and its advisers felt that, in all good conscience, they would have to eliminate it or they would be subject to a challenge even if a non-derogation clause was part of the preamble of the legislation and then they made this fundamental change to take the inherent right away from them. Even if it is one minor detail of an inherent right, it is the diminishment of an inherent treaty right.

When the national implementation committee on the protection of treaty inherent rights, a standing committee of the Assembly of First Nations, dealt with this, to its credit and with its reduced staff and resources, it identified this as a serious concern.

I referred earlier to the heavy-handed punitive retribution that comes down from the minister to any organization that will not fall into line with his view of the priorities and amendments to the Indian Act. The Assembly of First Nations has suffered the worst. The minister cut its funding by 50% because it would not play ball and would not hop on the bandwagon with this legislation. At the very time it was facing the most complex and detailed amendments to the Indian Act in 50 years, the minister cut its funding by 50%. This forced the assembly to lay off 70 to 80 researchers and staff who were authorities on this subject. This is like sending a person to court and denying them legal counsel.

This one bill alone is a thick document. It is an overwhelming amount of legalese. At the very time first nations need to defend themselves or at least represent themselves adequately in the face of this bombardment of legislation, the minister has undermined its ability to do so substantially by cutting its budget and forcing it to reduce its staff by 70 people. It is to the credit of the Assembly of First Nations that it can still do its research to defend the interests of the people it represents.

Can a first nation opt into one institution and not another within the fiscal institutions act? The answer again is no. The proposed institutions are interlocking. Each one functions in conjunction with the others. For instance, the statistics institute collects data about a first nation for the use of the other institutes.

A first nation cannot borrow money from the finance authority without the consent of the tax commission and a certificate of good management from the management board. In other words, it is a whole package deal. It is all or nothing, so first nation communities could not avail themselves of one of these, set up a board and establish one and not the other because they cannot operate in an independent way.

It makes us wonder how a small first nation community could do this. We are not dealing with municipalities in the Eurocentric western sense. We are dealing with a small village of 100 people or dealing with a place, as in the case of Buffalo Point, where there are 12 residents who live on the reserve and another 100 who live off the reserve, and only have their input by virtue of the Corbiere decision to be able to participate. How does the new fiscal institutions act benefit them in any way? Where would they get the administrative capacity to establish and operate these complex legal institutions?

It is mind boggling to me and it certainly must be to the many people to whom this is happening. I say “to whom this is happening” because it is being imposed in a top down manner. It is the House of Commons of Canada that will change the way aboriginal people live, not the input of aboriginal people who are deciding how they should establish and conduct their own affairs.

It begs the question then, with all these new institutions in place, will at least a first nation be free to pass bylaws and laws of its own choice? The answer again is, no. A first nation would not be able to pass certain kinds of laws and bylaws without obtaining the approval of the proposed tax commission. Band councils would see their authority diminished and relegated to the establishment of some of these new commissions.

I should also point out that it has been a recurring theme throughout this whole suite of legislation, Bills C-6, C-7 and now C-19, that the discretionary authority of the minister, instead of being diminished, would actually be enhanced. It is a pattern, a theme, of which I have been taking note ever since I came to Ottawa five years ago. Virtually every piece of legislation we come across actually enhances the discretionary authority of the minister and diminishes the authority of the executive or of Parliament. We are critical of that.

It is not a realistic and legitimate step toward self-governance and independence. If anything, Parliament and DIND would still have an active role to play in all the real decision making. It is like the joke we used to hear in the lunchrooms of warehouses and workplaces. We might get to decide what colour to paint the lunchroom, but the boss will still decide the speed of the assembly line. That is a good analogy here.

With the new institutions in place, will the first nations be able to pass bylaws regarding licences and other locally raised revenues without getting approval? In other words, as it is hoped that we would be passing over more control over natural resources et cetera to first nations communities, would they then, in a hypothetical situation, be able to pass bylaws regarding licences without getting the approval of the new commissions?

No, first nations laws regarding the collection and expenditure of revenue, especially where non-Indians may be involved--an American tourist who may want to fish on a lake in a community--would not be able to make that choice without the approval of the proposed tax commission whose members are not elected by the band council. The members of the tax commission would be appointed by the minister or by Indian Affairs, but essentially by the minister.

This opens the door for a whole raft of jobs. There would be a board, a commissioner and a bureaucracy set up. It is the germination of a civil servant, I suppose. It adds a whole level of bureaucracy. There are people who want more red tape, I suppose, and may see a personal benefit to being one of those commissioners or members of the board of directors, but ultimately it would choke and strangle the legitimate intentions of the first nations community and the elected band council. The commission, in a case like this, would have to have the power to ensure that the rights of non-Indians were protected.

This is established within the acts. In making its rulings, the commission would have to take into consideration the well-being of the non-Indian over whom it would have taxation rights. The commission would also ensure that first nations tax laws are in harmony with those of surrounding municipalities. In other words, what kind of independence is that if the newly established tax commission is in charge and has the authority to dictate tax policy within the first nation? It cannot exceed or go beyond what exists in the surrounding municipalities. Is that not harmonization? It is the very assimilation in practice, if not in name, to which first nations pointed and found so abhorrent in the white paper of 1969.

We keep coming back to this. It almost seems like the government, or at least the Prime Minister, left one job undone in 1969 with the catastrophic failure of the white paper on Indian affairs and it wants to finish that job now in the twilight of this career, and the current Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has been charged with the responsibility to see that through.

I pointed out earlier that the white paper of 1969 was met with such derision and opposition that it spawned a whole generation of aboriginal people to rise up and protest. It spawned a generation of activism and that activism is still there today. The only difference is that there are a lot more people who are trained legally and who have been to university who can put up a genuine fight-back campaign now in the courts, if not in the streets by conventional activism.

It begs the question, if the newly formed tax commission has the right to generate revenue, can a first nation then do whatever it wishes with the revenue that it raises? Is it free to spend in accordance with its needs? The answer is no again.

Under the proposed legislation a first nation would be constrained by the proposed governance act, the twin sister, the other side of the coin and the proposed new institutions bill, to spend local revenues only on local infrastructure as approved by the tax commission whose members are appointed by the federal cabinet. What kind of independence is that?

First nations would be allowed to be the tax collectors, but would not be free to spend the taxation any way they want. Any other level of government would be furious. It would be taking to the streets objecting to this heavy-handed imposition, really the will, of the minister. It is a model of which I just cannot imagine anybody approving. First nations would not even be free to spend as they see fit the revenues without the approval of the tax commission, and the commission could veto any bylaw passed by a first nation. Let us remember who the commission is: 12 people hand chosen and appointed by the minister.

First nations would also be required to ask the tax commission for approval of their annual budgets and expenditures. They would be held to a higher standard than the federal government. They would be held to a higher standard than any level of government in the country because as we know, the federal government does not even operate on estimates and expenditures. It is only accountable to what it spent when the Auditor General has time to review the spending pattern of the previous year.

Some provincial governments, to their credit, operate by submitting estimates first, getting them approved and then having their expenditures reviewed. That is the standard to which the federal government would hold first nations. They would have to go before the commission to approve the budget or estimates first, and they would also have their expenditures reviewed and audited by the same tax commission who are appointed by the minister. It is a striking denial of the right of first nations to govern themselves.

It is the antithesis of self-government. It is instituting a Eurocentric colonial view of managing affairs for them because the legislation finds its origins in the premise of the argument established by the Canadian Alliance, that first nations cannot and should not be allowed to do it themselves, that they need the great white father to supervise them because they are incompetent or criminal in their activities, corrupt. That was the pattern being painted by the Canadian Alliance and unfortunately it was bought by the government.

I will close by saying that Bill C-19 cannot be dealt with in isolation. It must be viewed in the context of the whole package of first nations governance legislation that has been coming at aboriginal people like a whirlwind. It has been an overwhelming bombardment of changes to the way they live and do business, and it is all being done from here. It is not being done in cooperation and in conjunction with their needs and legitimate demands. It is being imposed on them. It is the same mistake; it is history repeating itself once again. And the government will not listen.

If the minister was sincere about garnering support, I would be willing to join him to make meaningful change if he would take one step back and start over. Let us move forward with meaningful amendments to the Indian Act, not this language we are dealing with today.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add the point of view of the New Democratic Party regarding Bill C-19.

I begin by saying that we really cannot address Bill C-19 in isolation. It forms part of a suite of bills that have been introduced lately to amend the Indian Act and which are now being dealt with by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources. They are Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and now Bill C-19, all of which really are interrelated and form a package to address certain problems with the Indian Act which, in the minister's opinion, have priority.

I should point out that this opinion is not shared by the leadership of the aboriginal community, by the Assembly of First Nations and by the legitimately elected leadership of first nations in this country. In fact in garnering support for this package of reforms to the Indian Act, the minister has had to go to extraordinary measures, some would say heavy-handed and even bullying measures, to try to solicit support. This has been done by either punishing those who would not co-operate with the amendments, who felt that they were not the priorities that needed to be dealt with and by rewarding those who were willing to participate in consultations and development of the bills, even though many of them have expressed reservations about the misguided prioritization of the minister. We have really seen financial and political retribution used as an instrument by the government to try to sell this reform package to the Indian Act.

I would also like to preface my remarks by saying it was galling for me to listen to the previous speaker from the Canadian Alliance citing Martin Luther King in a very romantic and grandiose style. In my opinion, the Canadian Alliance and the former Reform Party lost their right to quote Martin Luther King when they hired the Heritage Front to be their security at their conventions, et cetera. They certainly have no moral authority on this subject to quote the Reverend Martin Luther King.

I sat in this House while the Canadian Alliance launched a campaign to stop the Nisga'a people from achieving self-governance. It was a comprehensive and longstanding, vicious, bitter campaign to try to withhold that first nation from achieving independence.

They also lost the moral authority when they sent one of their staffers, Greg Hollingsworth, to British Columbia to establish the organization Foundation for Individual Rights and Equality. It sounds like a reasonable organization except it is the anti-Indian movement of British Columbia. The movement has been pulled together by citizens groups who are vehemently opposed to any form of self-governance for aboriginal people. It is a racist organization. It is an anti-Indian organization. Unfortunately, that poison has spread to Ontario now in an equally vile organization called On FIRE.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment ActGovernment Orders

October 21st, 2002 / 5 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased on behalf of the NDP to join the debate on Bill C-2 and, unlike the previous speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the bill because the NDP caucus is very much in support of Bill C-2.

We have watched with great interest and great care as we have gone through the various aspects of Yukon governance for aboriginal people, the first nations communities in Yukon. We see this as a logical next step as we implement the first nations self-governance in Yukon and give them greater control over their resources, their land base and the issues for which they very much deserve to have a voice.

Bill C-2, otherwise known as the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic assessment act, is a proposed federal statute that has been developed pursuant to chapter 12, the development assessment process, of the Yukon first nations final agreement, the umbrella agreement that was arrived at in the process of negotiating first nations self-governance. This is something we have been looking forward to and welcoming for quite a number of years.

The purpose of the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic assessment act is to ensure that the potential environmental and socioeconomic effects of projects are assessed prior to any level of government, federal, territorial or first nations, deciding whether it should be or should not be allowed to proceed.

For clarity we should know what we are talking about. I am not sure that the previous speaker from the Canadian Alliance actually ploughed through the very lengthy briefing book that we have here. He seemed to be raising issues that had very little to do with this important bill.

The process of assessing the effects of a project will be referred to as the assessment process while the process of deciding whether a project should go ahead will be referred to as the regulatory process. We should have those two avenues clear in our mind as we go into greater depth in our analysis of the bill.

It is actually critical to note that the leadership of the Council of Yukon First Nations wholly supports the bill at this time. This should be all that we need to know as parliamentarians in the federal House of Commons. Once we are satisfied that broad consultation took place among the stakeholders and once we are satisfied that the very people who would be most directly affected by the bill are satisfied with it, who are we to stand in the way of the bill moving through the various steps and being implemented into law? We could view it as arrogance to do otherwise and certainly as cheap politics to score political points for things that are entirely unrelated.

We would do a great disservice to the people of Yukon and certainly the first nations of Yukon if we were to ignore the representations they have made and the work they have done to put together Bill C-2 and to get it to the stage where we find it today.

I mentioned that we wanted to be satisfied that there has been broad public consultation, which is something I will deal with in more depth later, but we are satisfied in this case. In fact we could almost use this as a template model for how consultations should take place if we are serious about garnering real input and real representation from various groups. If we look at what they have done in Yukon over the past five or six years leading up to this particular bill, that is a process that we should be using for other legislation as well.

I note that there were two major rounds of complete touring consultation throughout Yukon. There was one for 90 days that went to every community and first nations village throughout the whole Yukon. Every first nations community not only had an opportunity to send in written submissions on draft one but each community had an opportunity to have an open public hearing in its community.

Taking what they had heard in that initial consultation process, the drafters of the legislation, the tripartite committee that was struck to put this together, took back what they heard, implemented those changes and went for another exhaustive tour around the whole territory two years later with draft two, which I believe was a 60 or 70 day exhaustive tour.

I do not think anyone here could safely say that there was not adequate consultation, nor that the input during those sessions was disregarded or not treated with the respect that it deserved. We are satisfied in this case that genuine consultation did take place and led to what we think, as I have said at the outset, is a very worthy document.

As I mentioned earlier, we have two separate routes here. We are dealing first with the regulatory process and the assessment process. Dealing with the assessment bodies, as to who will make the assessment, the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic development act would establish the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic assessment board. It would also establish six designated offices located throughout Yukon. Again, what could be viewed as a model of decentralization, this board would not be concentrated solely in Whitehorse. There would be an opportunity to have fully staffed offices spread throughout the Yukon in the regions of the north.

The board would be made up of seven members, three of whom would make up the executive committee. The Council of Yukon First Nations and Canada would each nominate one member to the executive committee. The hon. member from the Canadian Alliance, the Indian affairs critic for the Canadian Alliance, said that this could make room for patronage appointments, that there may be an opportunity for abuse in the composition of this board. This was dealt with in the early stages. How this board will be struck will be critical for the ongoing success of the operations of the board and how it will be constituted has been set out in Bill C-2.

The CYFN, the Council of Yukon First Nations, and Canada would each nominate one member of the executive committee. The Minister of Indian Affairs, after consulting with the two other executive committee members, one of which, as I have said, would be nominated by the Council of Yukon First Nations, would select the third executive committee member who would be the chair of the board. I do not see room for abuse in this process unless the hon. member from the Alliance sees something that I am not seeing.

Two of the four remaining board members would be appointed also by the Council of Yukon First Nations, while the others would be appointed, one by Canada and one by the government of Yukon. If there is room for abuse or a patronage appointment, it would be for one member of the seven member board. I am not here to say that kind of patronage appointment never happens. Maybe the Government of Canada or the ruling party of the day will use some kind of a patronage appointment but it will only be for one board member because the possibility has already been contemplated and it has been nipped in the bud. It has been eliminated given the structure of the committee that is laid out in Bill C-2.

I admire the Alliance member for raising the possibility of patronage appointments but our caucus is satisfied that there is no such room for abuse in this particular process. Therefore that is not one of the justifiable grounds for trying to block or to stall this important bill.

Under the Yukon environmental and socioeconomic development act, the board may establish panels to conduct panel reviews. These panels must be made up from board members. Again, I do not understand where the room for abuse comes from.

One of the features that I particularly like about the bill is that six small communities would have designated offices, although I am not sure which six communities would have them. I presume Dawson City would be one and possibly Old Crow, Teslin, Tagish and Mayo the other ones. I am not sure which communities would get these various offices but they will be located in each of the assessment districts.

It is easy to say that Ross River and area could be considered one development area. Certainly the Dawson City area and the gold fields, et cetera, is another with the mining interests in that area. Haines Junction and the far western part of Yukon might be considered another area. However the boundaries of the assessment districts and the location of these designated offices would be worked out in the implementation phase of the YESAA.

On the board's recommendation, the number of designated offices and the assessment districts can be increased or decreased to meet operational requirements. In other words, flexibility is built into the bill so that we can increase or decrease the number of regional offices to meet the various application demands that may be put forward.

The logical question is: What sort of activities would be subject to assessment? I believe the Alliance member was fearmongering when he said that some business venture may come forward and have its project nipped in the bud by this new authority in Yukon that may scare away investors and turn down their applications. If the member had read the briefing book or perhaps listened he would know the sorts of projects that would be subject to assessment and what project's assessment would be waived, deemed unnecessary or exempted from the assessment process.

The project list regulator will be the body that will determine which activities are subject to assessment and which ones are not. The goal of the PLR is to catch those projects which pose a potential risk to the environment and/or socioeconomic impacts while ensuring that activities which do not pose any risks are exempted.

In other words, if there is no environmental or socioeconomic risk to the activity that is being proposed, it does not have to be subject to an assessment review. It is only activities or enterprises which do pose an environmental risk or a socioeconomic impact on Yukon that would be subject to the assessment. I do not see how that differs from the current status quo, which is the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as it stands today, which this bill will supercede once it is implemented.

Under declarations, the parties recognize that there may be some activities that do not pose any risk under normal circumstances but, because of special conditions, the risk may be increased and therefore the activities should be assessed. The type of things they are getting at there are culturally sensitive issues, issues that have a social impact as much as an economic impact and as much an environmental impact.

To address that, Bill C-2 provides for exempted activities to be declared where any level of government with authority for the activity is of the opinion that there is a risk of impact. This again is contemplated and a clear course of action is laid out within Bill C-2 that might be dealt with if necessary.

If several governments are decision makers for a project, they must all consent before an activity is declared to be a project. This is intended to allow an activity that would not normally require an assessment to be assessed if there are particular concerns. For example, if it were to be carried out in a sensitive area or if there were issues of cumulative impacts that were not part of the original activity or enterprise.

The entry point also is pointed out or itemized and assessed in Bill C-2 that most projects will enter the assessment process at the designated office level in the region in which the enterprise will take place. A small number of large or complex projects will enter into the assessment process directly at the executive committee and will not undergo any assessment by a regional office. This would have seemed logical, quite straight forward and easy to follow had the people debating the bill today actually gone through the briefing notes.

When the designated office makes an evaluation on a project, it will be subject to further review from the central board as to whether it should immediately go ahead, whether it should go ahead with specific terms and conditions, whether it should be barred or whether it should be referred further to the executive committee for its recommendation as well. The executive committee has an alternate screening role. The projects that are submitted to the executive committee will be screened again for the same four tests. The committee ultimately can order that perhaps the project should go to a public panel review or some other form of public consultation review.

As members can see, this is perhaps why the bill took a number of years to get to this stage. It is very complex and it is difficult to foresee all the possible implications or possibilities that might come forward and to deal with those eventualities.

The boards and the bodies can issue documents allowing a project to go ahead without any further review. I do not think I will deal with those technical aspects any longer because I am aware of the time limitations.

I will try to answer the question in which most people in the House should be interested, which is this. What will the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act mean for Yukon first nations? That ought to be the ultimate question with which we should be dealing today and with which we should be seized.

We believe that Bill C-2, or the YESAA, will fundamentally change the role of first nations in environmental assessment in Yukon. Perhaps that is really more to the point to which the member from the Canadian Alliance was objecting. We have noticed a pattern with the aboriginal affairs critics from the Canadian Alliance systematically opposing every move toward true self-governance for aboriginal people and systematically trying to cite reason after reason why aboriginal people should not be given the next stage in their own self-determination.

We believe this will change the role of first nations in environmental assessments in Yukon because under the current assessment regime, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, first nations have had very little opportunity to participate in any meaningful way with these environmental assessments. Under Bill C-2 they will play a much larger and more significant role.

Some of the issues of serious concern to first nations such as the socioeconomic and cultural effects, which were not given any consideration under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, will be a very important part of every assessment under the new YESAA.

For further clarity, under the YESAA, assessments will now be conducted by neutral assessment bodies rather than by self-assessment by government alone. This is a fundamental change. This will be an independent board made up by stakeholders nominated by first nations and the other players, the federal and territorial governments themselves. These issues will be dealt with by the board rather than by the government itself, which obviously led to a certain conflict of interest.

The assessment bodies must seek the views of any first nation that will be affected by the project. In other words, the mandatory consultation process is built in here. It will not be left subject to the courts. It will not be required to be heard. A first nations community would have to seek legal redress and demand to be heard. That process is built into Bill C-2, much to the satisfaction of the people involved.

Also integral part of Bill C-2 is that every existing project must consider as an aspect of going ahead the need to protect first nations rights under the final agreements, under the umbrella agreement. In other words, there can no longer be any doubt, and we do not have to go to the courts again, that any developer must consider first nations' rights when they undertake an enterprise.

We have had recent court rulings like the Haida ruling in B.C. dealing with forestry issues. For the government to do any development affecting first nations and treaty rights, the consultation process is necessary. However up until today third parties, business enterprises, did not necessarily have to take into full consideration treaty rights of first nations people that might be affected by the economic enterprise being undertaken. Now, under Bill C-2, for any future development of Yukon, it is mandatory and binding that the need to protect first nations' rights under final agreements, or first nations' special relationship with the wilderness environment or first nations cultures, traditions, health and lifestyles must be taken into consideration before a permit will be issued for that development or that enterprise within Yukon.

Also within Bill C-2, one of the biggest changes for first nations people in Yukon, is that both assessment bodies and other bodies must give full and fair consideration to traditional knowledge. The words traditional knowledge show up in Bill C-2, as do references to culture, tradition, health, lifestyle and first nations' special relationship with their wilderness environment. There has never been a document so culturally sensitive when it comes to first nations people as this bill, so it is shocking to me to hear any major party in the House of Commons speak openly that it cannot support it.

This is breaking new ground. This is forging a whole new path for our relationship with aboriginal people and economic development. If we hear every party in the House of Commons saying that the answer to the atrocious conditions is economic development, well here is the acceptable road map as negotiated between the affected stakeholders in Yukon by which such economic development can and shall take place with sensitivity toward the special relationship to the wilderness environment, the cultural, the economic, the traditional, the health and the lifestyle issues that any such enterprise might affect.

As well the assessments of every project and existing project must consider the potential environmental and socioeconomic effects which include effects on economies, health, culture, traditions, lifestyles and heritage resources of the project. In other words, if a mining enterprise might interfere with a traditional fishery, even if one is of a much larger magnitude than the other, the traditional enterprise must be taken into consideration before the new economic development enterprise is given a permit and allowed to go forward. That was not the case.

That might seem like common sense but up until today, until we pass Bill C-2, that has not been the case. That is why we have a backlog of 200 such cases before the courts today. The only redress aboriginal people have, if they want consideration of those cultural issues, is to go to court and fight for it, unless someone voluntarily recognizes their right to have those traditional issues recognized.

Another effect of Bill C-2 is that the participation of Yukon Indian people in the assessment process is guaranteed. It is not something that will be granted when it is not an inconvenience and be withheld when it is inconvenient. It will be guaranteed.

Federal and territorial decision bodies much consult with the first nations without final agreements. In other words, those first nations within Yukon that are not members of the Council of Yukon First Nations, and there are some, must be satisfied as well. They are being folded into this umbrella deal. Maybe that is the wrong term because we refer to the Yukon self-government act to this day as the umbrella framework agreement. However those first nations who are not currently members of the Council of Yukon First Nations will have their concerns dealt with as well. I think they are the Kaska and the Kwanlin Dun, and there may be others. I believe that 9 out of the 14 first nations are members of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

Some, for whatever reasons, are not currently members of that plenary organization. They may be in the future but in the interim federal and territorial decision bodies must consult with the first nations that are not part of any final agreements so far, before issuing decision documents for projects that will affect their traditional territories. In other words, some activity or enterprise could take place on areas where current claims are in effect. That would be wrong and might jeopardize future negotiations and the settlement of those claims. We all believe that it is in everyone's best interests to have those claims settled and nothing that takes place should interfere with the progress being made as we work to finish those negotiations.

Self-governing first nations will be decision bodies with respect to projects on settlement land. This is a whole new status. This contemplates that we have to get our minds around a whole new way of dealing with economic development on first nations land, and that is where Bill C-2 breaks new ground. It really shows us a template, a model, which has been arrived at through an exhaustive consultation process and it shows us perhaps a template for future settlements in other parts of Canada. Maybe it is a good thing.

Earlier today I met with the representatives of the Council of Yukon First Nations and said that perhaps the reason that we arrived at such a civilized, thorough, comprehensive and almost unanimously accepted document is that Yukon is kind of a nice, manageable size. Yukon is almost a microcosm of the rest of Canada when it comes to relationships between first nations and the federal government. Maybe because the population is small and manageable enough we have done it here as a template, as a pilot project, and perhaps this model will work in future negotiations as well.

The implementation of the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act or Bill C-2 is structured in such a way that part 1 will come into force on royal assent while parts 2 and 3 will come into force up to 18 months later. This will allow the parties to make appointments to the board early on so that the board can begin to develop and put in place rules and bylaws, hire staff for the board in designated offices, et cetera. After 18 months or less the actual assessment process will come into place. Therefore, it is fair to say that no new projects will be developed in Yukon under the rules of the new assessment act until some time in 2004.

I began my remarks by saying that Bill C-2 finds its origins in chapter 12 of the umbrella framework agreement. It is instructive to those who perhaps have not dealt with this bill very much to realize what tests have to be met for Bill C-2 to truly reflect the details of chapter 12 of the umbrella framework agreement. The chapter was to provide for a development assessment process that recognized and enhanced, to the extent practicable, the traditional economy of Yukon Indian people and their special relationship with the wilderness environment.

The directive was to put in place a development assessment process that provided for guaranteed participation by Yukon Indian people and utilized the knowledge and experience of Yukon Indian people in the development assessment process. Does Bill C-2 meet that test? I argue, upon reading the bill, that yes it does.

Does Bill C-2 meet the test that we need a process which protects and promotes the well-being of Yukon Indian people and their communities, of other Yukon residents and the interests of other Canadians? Does it meet that test? Again we are satisfied that, after an exhaustive consultation process of all stakeholders, there is unanimous consensus virtually that yes in fact Bill C-2 does promote and protect the well-being of not only Yukon Indian people and their communities but of other Yukon residents as well and the interests of other Canadians in general.

Does Bill C-2 protect and maintain environmental quality and ensure that projects are undertaken in a manner consistent with the principles of sustainable development? That is what the bill is about. The very substance of the bill is that it must be in keeping with the principles of sustainable development but with special consideration of the cultural, traditional and unique relationship that first nations have with the land.

Does Bill C-2 protect and maintain heritage resources? Bill C-2 specifically refers to heritage resources. Again, it is groundbreaking and precedent setting legislation that takes into consideration those intangibles, things that do not necessarily have a large market economy value, but have value in the traditional lifestyles of aboriginal people.

Does Bill C-2 provide for a comprehensive and timely review of the environmental and socio-economic effects of any project before the approval of the project? Contrary to what the member from the Canadian Alliance was saying, yes it does. It has guidelines and time frames. We will not have cases where a development application is held up for years and years. That is the status quo. That is what we have now. We might have a mining enterprise that wants to start an operation 60 miles outside of Dawson City and it might wait five years for all the various assessments to take place such as the water surface assessments, the transboundary assessments and the exhausting assessments that need to take place.

What would take time, what would bog down and bury a number of economic development projects in Yukon is if Bill C-2 were to wind up in the courts. What if the first nation community that is close by says that this enterprise fails to take into consideration its historic right to have input into this project and it takes two or three years for the courts to deal with that case?

That is when venture capital runs scared because venture capital seeks stability and a process that it can trust and rely on, with a known timeframe to get an answer of whether the project will be reviewed or not.

Bill C-2 would give that satisfaction and that comfort to investors, that at least there is a mechanism in place that would not be challenged in the courts and that within a specific timeframe they would get an answer as to whether the project should or would go ahead or not.

Does Bill C-2 provide for a comprehensive and timely review of the environmental and socio-economic effects of any project before the approval of the project?

Again, to meet the tests of finding its origins in chapter 12 of the umbrella framework agreement it has to. The experts in the field, many of whom are in the gallery watching today, the people who have spent the last seven years developing this, are satisfied that Bill C-2 would meet this test, that it would provide for a timely review of the environmental and socio-economic effects of any project before the approval of the project.

Will Bill C-2, upon its introduction, avoid duplication in the review process for projects? This is an issue that was put forward on behalf of the developers and business interests that may be affected.

Does this avoid duplication in the review process for projects and, to the greatest extent practicable, does it provide certainty to all the affected parties and project proponents with respect to procedures, information requirements, time requirements and costs?

These are key questions that need to be answered before economic development venture takes place in Yukon.

We are satisfied again that Bill C-2 is comprehensive enough in its scope and its mandate that these pressing questions would be addressed, the business community can feel comfortable that these issues are addressed and that all affected parties and project proponents would be satisfied that the duplication of procedures, information requirements, time requirements and costs would be of be avoided with Bill C-2.

Will Bill C-2 require project proponents to consider the environmental and socio-economic effects of projects and project alternatives and to incorporate appropriate mitigative measures in the design of projects?

I will leave that one up to the experts who have reviewed these cases. They are satisfied that Bill C-2 would address that concern and that those are the objectives of chapter 12 of the umbrella framework agreement that must be met in order to call Bill C-2 an accurate reflection of that chapter.

We in the NDP caucus believe that a large part of the success of reaching consensus with Bill C-2 is due to what we are pleased to point to as the most comprehensive consultation process that we know of in issues dealing with aboriginal affairs.

It is a point of legislation that with any government legislation implemented that may affect or may have an impact on treaty rights, or traditional rights, or the constitutional rights, or even the common law rights of aboriginal people, there must be a round of consultation. However the confusion has come, and it has again come to a head under the first nations governance act, or as the aboriginal affairs standing committee deals with the first nations governance act, just what is broad consultation? What is the definition of broad consultation? What satisfies the tests of having been fairly and adequately consulted if that is what is mandated in the legislation?

I would like to speak to that briefly because we believe if the fruit of genuine consultation is a quality piece of legislation, such as Bill C-2, then what can we anticipate with Bill C-7, the first nations governance act, with a consultation process that all parties agree is largely flawed, incomplete and less than comprehensive?

It is instructive to look at the principles of consultation and see if they were met in the consultation leading up to Bill C-2. Can we look at the methodology used for consultation in Yukon and find the formula, the recipe, and the methodology that could be implemented elsewhere?

I should start by saying that aboriginal people, through their first nations plenary organizations, such as the Assembly of First Nations, have some specific and definite thoughts as to what constitutes genuine consultation. In their view it is key and paramount and fundamental, in a true consultation process, that there be no predetermined agenda brought to the table. In other words if it is a genuine consultation, if one is really seeking the input of the people that one is asking their opinion of one does not put an agenda on the table and say, “How do you like it?” The agenda is developed jointly. The parties, together, fashion the agenda.

I believe that is one of the things that was met in the Bill C-2 consultation process because they did not shop a finished document around. They took draft documents to the people, they listened to the input that they received, they took that input back and they implemented it into draft 2, draft 3, et cetera.

Another basic tenet for fair consultation is that the parties comprise federal and first nations governments meeting on a nation-to-nation, government-to-government basis. In other words, the historic imbalance in the power relationship between those two parties must be set aside for the consultation to be viewed as genuine, sincere and meaningful.

A third basic tenet would be that the parties exchange information, views and comments as equals and conduct their business with mutual respect and in good faith. There have been books written on what it means to negotiate in good faith. I do not have to cite the leading authorities on those legal definitions. In the House we all know what good faith means.

With regard to Bill C-2 and the consultations leading up to it, I have not heard anything in my experience after meeting in Yukon with the Council of Yukon First Nations and now meeting today with representatives from the Council of Yukon First Nations that would indicate that there was anything but good faith in the consultation process.

These consultations should be open and agreements be openly arrived at. In other words, there should be no selective or private side meetings, for example. If we are comparing a good consultation process with a flawed consultation process, like we saw in the first nations governance agreement, that is exactly what happened.

When the minister was finding that he was not hearing what he wanted to hear at the open consultation meetings, a bunch of side deals were made and groups were split off and hived out of communities. They were offered financial incentives to cooperate with the consultation process or even threatened with financial punishment if they failed to cooperate with it. That should stand as an example of what we do not want to see in present or future consultation processes.

Another basic requirement should be that first nations obtain and be given the fullest information to enable them to make sound and reasoned judgments.

The NDP caucus is satisfied that Bill C-2 is a bill that is worthy of our support. We see it as another step toward the realization of a dream for aboriginal people, for first nations communities in Yukon who are seeking self-determination and true self-government. The management of their own land and resources is key and integral to true self-government. Bill C-2, by putting the board in charge of the environmental assessment of developments, would go a long way to putting them in charge of the actual development of those resources.

First Nations Governance ActRoutine Proceedings

October 9th, 2002 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-7, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other acts.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is in the same form as Bill C-61 from the first session of this Parliament. In accordance with the special order of this House of October 7, I request that it be reinstated at the same stage that it had reached at the time of prorogation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)