Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act

An Act to give effect to the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

Sponsor

Andy Mitchell  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now 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.

SupplyThe Royal Assent

May 6th, 2004 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order please. Before we hear the next speaker, I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

May 6, 2004

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 6th day of May, 2004, at 10:00 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The Schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-7, An Act to amend certain Acts of Canada, and to enact measures for implementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to enhance public safety, Chapter 15; Bill C-17, An Act to amend certain Acts, Chapter 16; and Bill C-11, An Act to give effect to the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement, Chapter 17.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2004 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that I have already spoken to the Group No. 1 amendments. I am supporting all the amendments that have been tabled, those in Group No. 1 and in Group No. 2.

I would like to take this moment while we are talking about the first nations financial authority. Yesterday in my constituency a young woman was found dead in the community of Zeballos. She was a very popular 13 year old girl. The community of Zeballos is obviously in great shock. It is a very tight-knit community of about 200 people. The Ehattesaht band and the community of Zeballos are essentially one community, Zeballos being the smallest incorporated municipality in the province of British Columbia.

A lot of things have become apparent with twenty-twenty hindsight. I was in the community on December 16 with RCMP representatives from Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo and Port McNeill. We met with community advocates and the mayor. What has become very apparent is that the rule of law, the whole enforcement of laws and the policing presence are all very difficult questions now in some of our communities that have been hard hit, those small communities with a financial situation that is not as good as it was.

I know that everyone at home feels very bad about this. No one is pointing fingers, but on the other hand I think it is important that we in this House all recognize some sensitivity to the fact that resource allocation for these kinds of issues for those smaller communities is something that should be receiving some real priority. They are sometimes overlooked when we look at dislocations from softwood restructuring and other things. In actual fact, it may not be infrastructure that is our crucial need. It may very well be a continued presence of the traditional medical, police and other government institutions that are so very important.

I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about that and now I will also of course address Bill C-23.

In my view, the group of amendments we are discussing deals with some fairly straightforward items. Obviously there are some motions to correct errors in French. How long can we talk about that? That is very straightforward.

There is a decoupling from the first nations governance act, which now has been killed and buried by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. That was an essential move. There were some clarification amendments dealing with borrowing laws, the debt reserve fund and the credit enhancement fund. They are all quite supportable.

The last time I spoke, on the first grouping of amendments, I chose to spend some of my time dealing with the whole issue of property rights. I did that in the context of this bill, because the bill tries to take us from a situation where band level governance cannot effectively be master of its own house as long as it is operating under the Indian Act. This is one more of those measures that attempts to change all of that.

Last time, I pointed out a publication produced by the Skeena Native Development Society and called Masters In Our Own House , which makes it very clear that its analysis comes to this very same conclusion. “Economic mastery” is simply not available under the Indian Act. The society has come to some very clear conclusions, which I happen to share and which I think are essential in the development of what many would probably call civil society.

Civil society requires entrepreneurship, individual freedoms and good governance, and it requires the ability to develop long term plans that are deliverable from the status of owned revenues as opposed to dependency on the federal or other authority, whose priorities can change from month to month or year to year. We are all quite aware of that.

It has been a breath of fresh air to realize that there actually are source materials, literature and analyses that have come to these kinds of conclusions and have done some very good research background material. And it is coming from within the native community itself. I have found this material to be a very strong bit of background material that I enjoy quoting at some length.

I have talked about certificates of possession, the closest thing to fee simple on reserve lands in Canada. Even the traditional certificate of possession, which is in current wide use, is not even formulated under the Indian Act. It is left to ministerial discretion. Therefore, the certificates are changed by the changing policies of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, policies that in turn are affected by changing judicial interpretations.

These are not sufficient property rights to facilitate entrepreneurship. That is why there has been a move to go beyond that. That is what was so important about the private property precedent set within Bill C-11, the Westbank agreement, which received third reading approval in the House this week.

That is something that was anticipated but not clear at the time of the publication of this document, which was last May, 11 months ago. These are very powerful things when individual property rights can be acquired on Indian lands outside the Indian Act. There are actually five ways in which that is occurring in this country right now.

One is through these customary holdings on reserve, the COP, certificates of possession. The second is the Sechelt agreement in British Columbia, in which fee simple title was transferred for the entire reserve land base in 1986. Another is the Westbank first nation agreement, which creates the strongest individual property rights regime in Canada under a certificate of possession, completely managed by self-government as opposed to the minister. Under the Nisga'a treaty there is a very strong, small land component in that category as well. Those are the main categories that I wanted to address.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 27th, 2004 / 6 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to a deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading of Bill C-11.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the public is perhaps wondering what we are talking about here. Bill C-23 is designed to strengthen first nations real property tax regimes, create a first nations bond financing arrangement and in the process would create four institutions: the first nations tax commission, which would replace the Indian Taxation Advisory Board; a first nations financial management board; a first nations finance authority; and a first nations statistical institute.

There were 18 amendments tabled by the minister. We are speaking to one grouping of the two groupings that were created by the Speaker.

They accomplished several things. One thing they did not accomplish was that they did not separate the statistical institute from the rest of the bill. That was a significant request that had been made by a broad range of interests, including the Conservative Party. I find that somewhat unfortunate.

We will be supporting Group No. 1 amendments because there was widespread concern and desire to have this act ascertained as an optional exercise for the band level governments and this clearly specifies that. We are in pretty good shape that way.

I have been speaking about private property and have been looking at quite a bit of literature in relation to private property on reserves in Canada. There has been some very good literature produced recently. I will specifically make reference to a publication called Masters In Our Own House , published by the Skeena Native Development Society in May of last year.

The book talks about three cornerstones that are required in the way of bringing success and prosperity to first nations. We are making great progress on this front from the standpoint that there is some real leadership that is starting to be exhibited. Sometimes this cannot be one gigantic step but a series of smaller steps.

It is worth referencing that we have had taxation power available to bands across the country for about a dozen years or so. Today, 25% of the bands in British Columbia are exercising the authority and about 10% nationally. When we include the fact that British Columbia has almost a third of the bands in Canada, we can see that very few of those bands that are taxing are outside British Columbia. It is something that has led us to things like the bill we are discussing today.

The authority has been delegated to the bands under section 83 of the Indian Act and it would allow them to carry out this taxation scheme.

There are three cornerstones of successful governance; first, the market system must be allowed to function, it must be enabled; second, there must be an ability for the people to control the use and development of their lands to enable capital formation; and third, entrepreneurial thinking needs to be enabled for effective entrepreneurship to flourish.

I found this publication, produced by the Skeena Native Development Society, to be pragmatic and practical in terms of pursuing those three cornerstones within the context of the Indian Act and the other sort of albatrosses that have pre-empted that from occurring. The Indian bands are trying to go somewhere important, and I think we went somewhere important last week when we talked about Bill C-11 in the House, the Westbank first nation self-government agreement. This publication talks quite a bit about that and I want to shed a little light to that whole subject at this time.

When this group looked at the problems inherent in developing the first nations, they actually talked about going from a command economy to a market-based economy. The Indian Act has created a command economy where the Government of Canada, through the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, has been the one that was entrusted with all of the decision-making in almost every way. One can view that, as they did, through the lens of communist China. I will quote right from the document which states:

They were struck by the parallels between the economic development problems experienced during theChinese transition to a market-based economy, and those presently confronting native communities.

This brought them to some not startling but pretty important conclusions because they were coming to those conclusions themselves. They were not conclusions that some academic or someone else in some other community was imposing upon them. These were conclusions they arrived at themselves and it was leading to major progress that would have major economic consequences downstream. They went so far as to quote from Hernando de Soto that:

The single most important source of funds for new businesses in the United States is a mortgage on the entrepreneur's house.

They went on to say:

Without this fundamental capability, will the financial institutions continue to avoid providing mortgage funds to First Nation entrepreneurs? In many ways, the ability to mortgage is the litmus test of property rights.

The irony is that in Canada we now have many native individuals with the earning power to afford to carry a mortgage and build a home off reserve, but they cannot get the banks to lend them funds because they cannot collateralize the loan on the reserve because of the lack of simple title. There is a clear recognition about the concern about clear and enforceable property rights, which is compromising transactions both on and off reserve.

I would like to conclude by saying that this concern has been addressed partially by the first nations land management act, more wholly by the Sechelt agreement in British Columbia, more wholly again by one small part of the land allocation to the Nisga'a, and almost completely by the Westbank agreement, Bill C-11, before the House.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, in case this member was not here, I sat in here most of the day watching the Liberal government filibuster Bill C-11, which we have agreed should be hurried and should get done, and then she dares to accuse me of suddenly getting up to speak on this bill, which I have not spoken to since it was initiated.

I am going to take the opportunity to speak to it because this is my first kick at it and I want to express some things. There is one thing I really want to express to the member, who must be a lawyer, because only a lawyer would stand at her seat and constantly agree that we need a clause like “public good”, because I will guarantee that this clause will bring case after case to the courts. It will be a lawyers' haven. Boy, will they have a lot of work to do to determine if there is any public good in child pornography.

I would like any member, any lawyer in the country, to tell me that it is worth spending hours and hours and tons and tons of money to determine whether a piece of garbage like we have witnessed, and like what the police are going through, is for the public good of any kind, of any nature.

All I am asking for, and all we have ever asked for from the beginning, is some legislation that would remove the defence from these people who exploit children.

Maybe I left it out, but the member knows very well that it was in the motion: to eliminate “all defences”. Also, if she was listening, I suggested that we protect our law officials, doctors, medical people and educators.

What are her priorities? Her priorities appear to be to get everything in the proper legal terms, which most people will not even be able to understand, to make sure that the courts will be filled with people who are going to make claims so they can be protected under the public good while they are exploiting our children. The police are going to have continue to spend hour after hour going through all this material to determine if there is any possibility that there is any public good, like they had to do for the artistic merit work. It is no wonder that people like John Sharpe, along with other pedophiles across the country, cheered when this legislation came through.

The trouble is that this particular member, as well as too many members in here, lives on a higher plane, above average Canadians, because 90% or so of average Canadians would say, “For heaven's sake, get rid of that garbage and get rid of it in the firmest way you possibly can”.

And yes, my suggestion might even go against the charter of rights, because it would take away the right of some idiot out there to use this material for his own personal use or whatever.

I am telling this lady and this House and this country that it is time today to stand up and say they are not going to use the charter to exploit our children or to protect themselves and that we are going to put in laws that will protect children. That is more important than protecting the rights of these idiots who would produce, distribute and use this to damage young people.

The government needs to get firmer and not give me any more legal garble and babble-gabble about what may happen. I know what is going to happen. It is going to be in the courts constantly because the government does not have the fortitude to put the law in place and mean business about it.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly, the vote on Bill C-11 is deferred until the end of government orders next Monday.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I noted with some interest that the member said that she was asking for the support of the House. I think she would know that in the vote last evening indeed there was overwhelming support for this bill.

Therefore, could she help me understand if there is some kind of strategy that her government is presently undertaking with respect to this debate that perhaps she could enlighten us on? I do not know if it is correct or not, but I should mention that I believe we have some people even in this chamber who are watching us who are very interested in seeing this bill go ahead.

What we find perplexing is that in spite of the overwhelming support of the House for this bill, the fact that there is very limited opposition and indeed any of those issues have been fully vented in the course of this debate, that the government continues to filibuster its own bill. We are rather confused about that, particularly when I for one happen to agree with the member that we should be getting on with the business of the House.

Would it have anything to do with the fact that the Prime Minister and the government are not prepared to govern at this particular point? For example, let us look at the other bills that will immediately follow this bill should debate collapse. Bill C-10, the marijuana bill, is at third reading, which means that we could have a debate on that and get that through. Bill C-11, the Westbank bill, certainly is one that we could dispose of right now. Bill C-12, child protection, is a bill that is at third reading and could be disposed of fairly quickly. Bill C-15 concerns the transfer of offenders.

The House is trying to get these bills through. Indeed in ordinary procedure one would have the opposition trying to stop things, or the opposition trying to bring forward particular points of view, which is just fine. That is what the parliamentary process is about.

Considering that the Liberals' legislative cupboard is completely bare as a result of the Prime Minister having no idea of where he wants to take Canada, is that the reason, in the judgment of the member, she herself, unimaginably, would actually be part of the filibuster of this very important bill that the people of Westbank want to go ahead?

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Western Arctic Northwest Territories

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew LiberalMinister of State (Children and Youth)

Mr. Speaker, today I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-11, the Westbank First Nation self-government act.

I want to begin by offering my congratulations to the Westbank First Nation people who have worked for so many years to arrive at this very practical and workable agreement.

In a very broad sense, in response to the candid language in the Speech from the Throne, the government's objective is to close the socio-economic gap that exists between aboriginal people and other Canadians.

I must say that this has been a banner week for aboriginal people, starting with the round table where all aboriginal peoples' leaders or representatives participated in a round table that dealt with education, health, social development, political leadership and moving the agenda forward for aboriginal people in general. It also included women and all the representative groups, as I mentioned.

We have also brought forward Bill C-31, the Tlicho agreement, which is an agreement for the Dogrib people of the Northwest Territories, 3,000 people who have achieved their claim. The agreement embeds self-government within the body of the claim. It is the first time that this has ever happened, and it has many other features as well. Before that, we introduced the Westbank self-government act, which I think is very comprehensive and very complementary to the objectives we have in working with aboriginal people.

This is the direction in which we want to go. We do not guide ourselves by the words of other people who have their own academically inclined opinions or biases. This is government policy we are dealing with. This is very deliberate and very intentional. This is something we mean to do and this is something that we, with the aboriginal people, mean to implement.

As a country we see too often what the Speech from the Throne called “shameful” conditions faced by too many aboriginal people in this country. This situation is not something over there or removed from our experience as Canadians. It is something within the fabric, may I say, of the family of Canada. When I say that the situation faced by aboriginal people is not something removed or distant, I mean that the situation is one that touches all of us. We all share a responsibility.

As part of our response, we need to change our perceptions and approaches.

I am going into my 17th year as a member of Parliament and always have been part of a committee, either in cabinet or as an ordinary member, on the Constitution and whatever front there was to advance the aboriginal agenda. I take a great deal of pride in that. I meant to do that and I have done that with so many of my colleagues on all sides of the House over the years.

I know that we need to take a collaborative approach with first nations people and Inuit and work in partnership on shared goals. We also need to change our thinking that the answers to longstanding issues will be found exclusively in Ottawa or in a provincial or territorial capital. That is not the case. Rather, we need to come together. Governments, parliamentarians, aboriginal people and others need to come together in common cause to find solutions to what we agree are unacceptable conditions. Speaking on the bill before the House today I think gives clarity to the fact that we have come together as individuals to share our views on this. We are not necessarily of the same mind in terms of policy, but we all have opinions on where we should go.

I am convinced that enacting this self-government agreement will benefit not only members of the first nations but also the people of Canada overall. Strong, self-reliant first nations have much to contribute to Canada, economically, socially and culturally.

When a community undertakes a self-government agreement or finishes a claim, there are many beneficiaries. Many of them do not belong to those groups or those nations. There is a shared prosperity in the completion of claims and in the arrangements that aboriginal people make for themselves.

This agreement gives Westbank leaders the tools they need to develop their community. It will enable the Westbank First Nation to create government structures that are both effective and representative.

It will foster economic growth in the community by helping local entrepreneurs continue to attract investors and business partners.

Close scrutiny of the self-government agreement reveals how it will foster accountability and self-reliance for the Westbank First Nation. Under the terms of this agreement, key decisions will be made by the people most familiar with and most affected by local issues. I am convinced that this will lead to further improvements in housing. There is a huge housing crunch, a fact that was brought forward on Monday by aboriginal leaders, and it has been brought up successively. It is a major challenge.

What is the best approach to this? Obviously the best way is partnership and collaboration. Involving aboriginal people in the design and the implementation of any policy or any major project is the only way that we will be able to resolve this issue. I am convinced that it will lead to improvements in employment and in the quality of life in general for aboriginal people.

Westbank is confident that these improvements are best accomplished by governing themselves with a representative and effective government capable of exercising law making authority and assuming new responsibilities.

There are those who have concerns within the context of this discussion about how all people within Westbank will be represented. Let us look at the section that talks about the self-government agreement gender issues. The Westbank First Nation self-government agreement negotiating team received direction from a committee composed of Westbank members and elders, et cetera, of whom approximately 70% were women. The committee, acting at arm's length from the chief and council, also provided direct input into the development of the Westbank First Nation constitution.

The Westbank First Nation has been cognizant of gender related issues and the importance of having them addressed in the negotiation process. The Westbank First Nation sought the representation of women in key aspects of the decision making process. Their input in both the negotiations and the development of the Westbank First Nation constitution has been sufficient to ensure that gender issues have been considered.

The broader Westbank First Nation membership, including those off reserve, has also had the opportunity to raise gender related issues throughout the negotiation process. Perhaps it is because their experiences have been a bit coloured by things that may have happened in the past.

Public information sessions, town hall meetings and direct mail-outs to homes and businesses formed part of an intensive information campaign. I think that this is really important. Westbank First Nation has in the past been a focal point for gender issues. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled on a case. I think the leadership, in its vision and in its direction, has taken the direction of those people and has been visionary in accepting and designing a process that would include those issues. Most of all, I am convinced that this self-government agreement will lead in dealing with sensitive issues such as that.

Westbank is confident that these improvements are best accomplished by governing themselves, including all people, and having an effective government capable of exercising law making authority and assuming new responsibilities.

Provisions were made for municipalities that are very much like those that were made here, but there are those who would say that the Westbank people are getting preferential treatment. That is not so. Treating everybody the same does not spell equality. It spells sameness, not equality. Sometimes we have to take extra measures to ensure that equality is reached because people are at different levels.

The bill now before the House would help to establish precisely this kind of government through enactment of this agreement. The Westbank First Nation would become self-governing, assuming jurisdiction over and responsibility for its own affairs.

Not only are our policies our own, but our policies are designed to empower people, not to weaken them, to empower them and make them a force that can be self-sustainable economically, socially, culturally and politically. That is the goal of every community across this country.

Let us look at the association of municipalities. The goal of the municipalities is to take more power, apply it locally and make it work for themselves. Why should it be different for Westbank? Westbank should have the same opportunity to be self-sustaining, to be economically viable, and to assume political responsibility.

In short, Westbank will establish and maintain a democratic government within the constitutional framework of Canada. People should hear those words: “within the constitutional framework of Canada”. This government will respect Canadian law and recognize that all members of the first nation, like Canadians everywhere, are subject to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In order to foster better relations with non-member residents on Westbank lands, Westbank First Nation will create a mechanism to ensure that non-member residents can have input into laws that affect them directly. This marks a significant improvement over the Indian Act situation. This is no different from the way aboriginal people have traditionally welcomed outsiders to their lands, the way they welcomed the first Europeans to join them in this country. There is no difference. This is an accommodation of the same kind in another era.

Under this self-government agreement, the first nation will have a range of powers. Eventually the first nation will enact laws in areas such as land and resource management and aboriginal language and culture. This is so important: we are our culture and we are our language. I speak my own language. I am not from Westbank, but I admire those people. In fact I almost killed myself getting over here when I was in my office and the time had almost expired and I thought I would not lose another opportunity to speak on a bill that affects aboriginal people. It really goes to show I would do almost anything for the people of Westbank. I made it here but I am actually a bit out of breath.

I want people to know about these priorities. To have jurisdiction over and responsibility for managing land and resources is huge. It is empowering. That is the way it should be. If we do not deprive people of their language and culture but instead enhance them and preserve them, that is an even better thing. It is especially good for the children, and for the elders and of course everyone else too, but I think of it that way because I was a teacher in a previous incarnation.

It is in these areas that a key feature of the agreement lies. With these new powers, Westbank assumes control of its resources. The first nation powers under the agreement include the right to grant interests and licences on its land. This is a good thing. My grandparents and I lived on a piece of land that became Norman Wells. Imperial Oil had resources there for over 75 years. My family never benefited from that. My family lost its property to those companies. We still live in the vicinity but our families were moved. We were never compensated, and that is fine, but it should not be that way. It should not happen that way. It does not happen that way with farmers, and if it does, it should not. It should not happen to anyone.

Under the agreement, the community gains the freedom to establish partnerships and conduct business according to its own needs while at the same time respecting the interests that already exist. Westbank First Nation already has demonstrated that it knows how to manage its affairs responsibly and profitably. After all, this is one of the most prosperous and successful aboriginal communities in Canada, and one of the most beautiful, I must say.

Westbank of course is blessed with a spectacular natural beauty, located as it is on the shores of Lake Okanagan adjacent to the city of Kelowna. The first nation is ideally situated to benefit from the region's booming economy and Westbank has made the most of these advantages. It is a tourist's dream. It is a place where tourism and ecotourism should bloom and prosper.

The first nation and its members have opened lands to development, making the first nation a busy land manager. Today, Westbank's commercial district features a number of shopping centres that generate substantial rental income and provide job opportunities for band members.

Westbank has established a reputation as a fair land manager, a trustworthy partner and a reliable neighbour. People have nothing to fear from this agreement. We should not be fearmongering. We should not create paranoia where there is none, where there is a willingness to include, where there is a willingness to engender a good relationship and partnership. People should not work at making it something negative and to be paranoid about.

What is perhaps most striking about Westbank's success is that much of it was accomplished under the limitations of the Indian Act. Now the first nation wants to establish a new relationship with the people of Canada, a more equitable relationship that will enable Westbank to realize its full potential.

The people of Westbank are clearly ready to fulfill their obligations. They have been working toward this agreement for more than a decade. They have staged more than 400 information and consultation sessions. They have secured the support of the municipal and regional governments, chamber of commerce, labour unions and a broad range of special interest groups whose concerns and goals are closely linked to those of the first nation itself.

Westbank also drafted and approved a constitution that sets out governing structures, assigns duties and clarifies band memberships. I am convinced that the community consultation process that produced Westbank's constitution will lead to stronger, more effective self-government. Community leaders, after all, participated in every phase of the constitution developed and will contribute to its institutions.

The constitution and the self-government agreement will also establish a valuable reference point for treaty negotiations between the governments of Westbank, Canada and British Columbia. Of course we all know that B.C. has one of the most complex set of arrangements, or in some cases lack of arrangements, that exacerbates the situation.

Enacting the Westbank agreement would certainly have a positive impact outside the province. Although it is British Columbia's third self-government agreement and the 17th in Canada, it is the first stand-alone self-government agreement under Canada's inherent right policy. This is an important milestone. The agreement demonstrates that the Government of Canada can work with first nations to arrive at agreements tailored to the specific needs of a community.

I want to say that I will do my share, my utmost to make sure that a decade's worth of hard work will not be in vain, for we are entrusted with the aspirations of these people. We are entrusted with their goals and dreams. It is not that they want to work against Canada; they want to be and work with Canada.

Today I ask the members of the House for their support in providing the tools needed to build the community envisioned by the Westbank First Nation. Clearly the progress Westbank has already made on governance has put the community on a path toward self-reliance and prosperity.

I have to refer to the documents. There is a section for almost everything in this agreement. One section talks about protection of other Okanagan first nations and non-members. It is a very accommodating document. It talks about Westbank government, the application of laws, agriculture, self-government agreement within the Canadian legal context, gender issues. It also talks about government to government relationships. It talks about culture and language, education, environment, health services, lands and land management, licensing regulation and operation of business. It talks about membership in Westbank First Nation. It talks about public order, peace and safety, prohibitions of intoxicants, public works, community infrastructure and local services resource management, traffic and transportation, wills and estates, enforcement of Westbank First Nation law, financial arrangements, financial management, and implementation of the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement.

This will not be done on an ad hoc basis. This is systematic. This is planned. This is deliberate. This is an awesome document. This is an attempt by a people to be what they should be: equal with the rest of Canadians and have the opportunity to be self-sustaining and prosperous. We should all support this document.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to speak in favour of Bill C-11. In large part we have heard the debate take place and opposition members not rising. The bill is worthy of being discussed. We need dialogue on the Westbank situation not only in this chamber but throughout Canada.

This region of the country, as I mentioned in previous debates, is unsettled territories. These are treaty lands that the entire country has negotiated for the territory to become a country as a Canadian crown, or what we call crown lands. However, in this region the treaty process has not been complete. The treaty process would need partnership between the province, the federal government and the first nations themselves. We hope that process will come to its conclusion in the very near future.

My colleague who spoke previously mentioned that this was a self-government deal that was needed now so the community could have the law-making powers on education and culture, finances, land use policies, land lease policies and on resource development within their lands.

This self-government deal is an opportunity for Canada to look into other opportunities. There are many other arrangements, as we experienced yesterday with Bill C-31 and the Tlicho in Treaty No. 11. This is another self-government agreement within the treaty boundaries of an existing treaty. However, this is a self-government deal without a treaty. It is an historical point in our country to reach out to these first nations that wish to seek a better administrative structure and a better decision making structure away from the Indian Act.

I welcome any opposition to speak against this. This is the time and place to debate it, not collapse the debate. Let us hear it out. Let us find out what the opposition is.

This also is an opportunity to look at statements that have been made by some individuals who were opposed to the bill. They talked about taxpayers' rights and representation. I believe the country should have citizens' rights.

Many of our young people may not be deemed or labelled taxpayers. What rights do they have? Is it the level of taxes people pay that measures how much influence they have? I dare say that is a totally wrong definition of democracy and not what the world should be looking at. Democracy should be based on the rights of citizens. We are all Canadians. All Canadians should have a right in the House of Commons, not only the tax paying public. This is an opportunity for us to have this type of a debate in the House.

I also think it is an opportunity for young people who may not be taxpayers because they are unemployed. They may be people in hard times. They may not be contributing toward taxes because they have been unable to afford property and then pay property taxes.

There is a whole different realm and reality in Canada that should be taken into context as a true nation.

When the debate comes as a taxpayers' federation dialogue or mantra or lobby, that is the wrong perspective of democracy. Democracy should be based on equal citizens no matter where we are. The original nations presided on this land way before any crown or any other European country discovered the new land called North American or Turtle Island, as it is perceived in our stories.

The whole story of the self-government deal in the Westbank First Nation is an historical time to reflect on Canada's history and its future. It has been deemed that there were two founding nations of France and England which came to terms to create a country. I say the treaties that came into being created this country.

There were original treaties with the French nation. There were original treaties with the English nation. They knew that to ascertain this territory, they had to make agreements, sacred accords with the original nations. They were the keepers of this land. They were the true owners of this land.

I dare say the definition of ownership because, in large part, it is our belief that this land was a responsibility for us, not a right. To exercise that responsibility, here is a self-government model where these people will be electing their leaders. There will be 7,000 or 8,000 non-members of the Westbank First Nation living among them.

There will be laws and provisions to help guide them in their decisions for the future. The House should be making provisions for the first nations or the original nations to be part of the decision making of Parliament. That is why I speak about a third house of Parliament where the real first nations, the original nations of this land, not the band councils as defined by purview of the Indian Act. would sit. I am speaking of the Okanagan Nation, the Cree Nation, the Mohawk Nation, the Wyandot Nation, the Haida Nation. All these nations are missing today in 2004. They are not being respected or properly recognized.

I think the indigenous decade is coming to a close. Canada has an opportunity to pay respect to this, as my region did in Treaty No. 6 and Treaty No. 10. They celebrate their treaty every year when a day is set aside as treaty day. Canadians should be celebrating the existence of the treaty in our country, like we celebrate Canada Day. The country was created by a peace and friendship treaty.

Today we have a very renowned visitor, the Dalai Lama, within the realms of the House. He has been spreading the word of peace and friendship throughout the world. I think he celebrates and feels the peace and friendship on which Canada was founded. I think he feels at home here because we have the peace and friendship initiatives of our nations. They want to live among us. There is no need to fight. There is no need for opposition. There is a need for consensus and a need to find ways to live among one another.

I always coin it as a river of nations. We are here from all corners of the world, as well as the original nations. We have to find ways to live together as one nation, as one country. This is an opportunity where the people of the Westbank First Nation can be given the self-government tools and means to make their own decisions on issues such as finances, culture, education, social well-being and the future of their children, and to find a place within the community of Kelowna, within the province of British Columbia and within this nation of Canada.

Let them speak for themselves. Let them express themselves on the world view, with the gifts that they have as an Okanagan nation. Let them express themselves in their language, in the way they have been brought up. There are harsh realities within that parched, semi-desert region. However, there is also the beautiful aspect of orchards, the river and the sacred responsibility to life that will continue in the future. All this comes into play.

This is a time for Canada to debate this, to share this world view of our country. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this. I commend the leaders of the Westbank who have brought this forward. I commend the democratic process that they have chosen. It is not perfect. There is no perfect democracy that we can find as an example in this world right now. We are trying to push democracy in other regions of the world, the war conflict countries of this world. Maybe through the self-government practices of the original nations of Canada, they will start practising the original governance models.

As we live in Ottawa, there is the Algonquin nation to the south, from where the hon. Speaker comes. The original six nations of the Iroquois confederacy live within the Great Lakes. We should let the original governance structures be practised. Let them be celebrated. Let them make their mistakes. If mistakes are made, they will correct them. However, these models of governance may some day transform the House into a new governance model.

Maybe some day the Westbank experience will bring forth an enlightenment to the legislature in British Columbia to change its governing structure within British Columbia. Maybe their governance structure or governance model might supercede what the Kelowna mayor and council are practising right now under the municipal governments of Kelowna.

Those governments may have the perfect opportunity of a well-described democratic community governance. Maybe Kelowna will adopt these models of governance. Maybe the model of governance by the central Okanagan regional district that surrounds the communities is imperfect. Maybe the people of the Westbank First Nation will be practising a governance model that will improve all our lives.

We all must have faith that these people will make their decisions appropriately for their people and that they will incorporate their decisions with the people who will live among them. This self-government agreement is certainly a vehicle that they wanted and one for which they have strived. We must allow them that.

This is a democratic country. They have democratically spoken with their voices. I believe the true nature of the original making of this country, a peace and friendship country under treaty, was through our sharing and teachings of the two row wampum, where the vessel of the original peoples was bound together with the vessel of the newcomers.

This self-government model is their vessel. We must allow them this journey of life, this river of life, with the vessels in unison with the municipal, provincial and federal governments. We may eventually have three orders of government that will parallel what we call our three orders of government: federal, provincial and municipal. Maybe they will have a national, tribal or first nation community band level government.

This is an opportunity for them to practise and show us their ways but without example how can we judge? Let them show us by example.

I challenge the members of the House, if there are any conflicts or arguments they have on the self-government deal, to please express them in the House and allow other Canadians to digest a different perspective.

Here is an opportunity to allow a first nation, which has duly negotiated through the proper processes under the government's policy of self-government, under the auspices of section 35 of the Constitution, the inherent right to self-government, the opportunity in a modern context to govern themselves in the ways they wish.

At the same time, those ways of governance are not in any way to be judged lesser or greater but maybe a sharing of those forms of governance might transform our country into a better and greater place where more people of the world, as they discover our bountiful gifts, our resources and water, may also discover Canada has bountiful gifts of knowledge and that knowledge is carried by the original nations.

Those original nations have a great responsibility and great respect that this can be carried and nurtured by them, not to be given away to somebody in their caring, that they can find their way under an Indian agent away from the Indian Act, that they can bring that responsibility home.

This is what the Westbank First Nation is all about. It is an exercise of its right to govern itself. It is an exercise of international respect of an original nation within the boundaries of a country to exercise, in its language and its world view, a way of governance that may some day influence our system of governance, as imperfect as this House is and as imperfect as the provincial houses are.

Maybe allowing these first nations to govern themselves under these structures, under their laws and their ways, is a way for Canada to mature into the truly beautiful nation that was envisioned between the original founders, the crown and the French nation that came in. It is a river of nations and a nation of rivers.

This is their opportunity and we must allow them. I beg all my members to support the bill and give these people a proud place in this corner of Canada in a beautiful part of British Columbia. Allow them to exercise their way of governance as they have negotiated. Allow them to make the changes that they will make into the future and allow them to seek assurances and certainty through the treaty-making process that they are continuing to strive for, that the treaty process will take precedence very soon. I hope it takes formality and finalization in all of British Columbia.

The nation must rest assured that we can live among each other and that it is no longer a battle of us and them. Let us come together as one nation.

I will conclude my speech by saying that this is one time that I can beg for the support of all the members. Allow the Westbank First Nation to seek its way of governance by passing the bill into law.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Sarnia—Lambton Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I too stand to speak in support of Bill C-11. The first thing I will note is that I have been here much of the day and have heard many of the speeches, and I think we must be careful to acknowledge that this is in fact what I would characterize as a pilot project. We ought not to engage in hyperbole to say that this is the answer, because the answer is very complex and the situation in many first nations across the country is radically different from what it might be in the Westbank region.

Having said that, let me say that Bill C-11 would give effect to the Westbank First Nations self-government agreement. This agreement is the first stand-alone self-government agreement negotiated under the government's inherent right policy, and this is a process which has come to the House after some 14 years of discussion on the ground.

This is a policy that attempts to reach decisions on a local basis because it is local decisions which best reflect what people want and what people need. As a result, this agreement would lead to improvements in many areas for the first nations people of Westbank, certainly including housing and certainly including employment.

In this place many of us will know of the history of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. From a historical perspective, we know about what were called Indian agents who were there to supervise bands, who were there in fact to superimpose the view of the Indian affairs department on first nations people. This agreement does away with that. In fact, this agreement is 180 degrees in the other direction.

Crucial to the ratification by members of the Westbank First Nation was a comprehensive negotiation process, which has resulted in this agreement and for which many of the speakers here today have indicated there is real support. We have to emphasize that this was negotiation. In fact, the negotiation started out in certain quarters, I am told, where there were many people who were hostile to the agreement, some of whom have come on side. Like it is with any other agreement, there are always those who at this time will remain opposed to this agreement, but what is certain is that it was a real negotiation process.

We have a word that we toss around in this place, but I am trying to avoid it. That word is consultation. I am trying to avoid it because I must say that I have arrived at the point where I no longer know what consultation means. In fact, it is my belief that consultation has no meaning whatsoever. We have a lot of consultants running around consulting through consultations and what it all means in the end I do not know. But this is about negotiations, about real people sitting down and having a framework for negotiating, and over a period of time in fact coming to an agreement.

This negotiation process has ended positively. It has clarified the relationships between the provincial government and the federal government and the first nations with respect to laws, and it has set up public advisory and accountability to members provisions.

As I said earlier, the negotiations between the Westbank peoples and the Government of Canada began in 1990 and continued through the tenure of two band councils and, as we would say here, through the tenure of two governments.

Westbank brought people together from many communities, many lifestyles and many occupations to try to come to some common understanding of where they were going.

It is interesting to note that there was an advisory council set up to represent the 7,500 or 8,000 people who live on the reserve but who are not aboriginal people. In cooperation with this council, Westbank is in the process of developing a law to formalize the advisory council as a permanent institution under the legal regime of Westbank.

This first nation also worked hard to achieve strong and cooperative partnerships with neighbouring communities. Memoranda of understanding have been signed with both the Regional District of Okanagan and the City of Kelowna. Westbank has also met with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, a treaty negotiation advisory committee, organized labour groups and homeowners' associations. What is clear is that there were a lot of discussions that this was not the imposition of a “deal” on attractive land. Westbank went out into the surrounding areas to contiguous communities and contiguous landowners and had discussions so that there was a level of comfort.

That does not mean there is complete agreement. It does not mean that everybody is happy, but there is clear understanding as to where this is going. In fact, I have been told that there were more than 400 information sessions and discussion sessions which were held to talk about the details of the agreement and what it would mean, not only for the aboriginal people, the Westbank First Nation, but for the 7,500 or 8,000 non-aboriginal people on Westbank lands and for the neighbouring communities, the contiguous communities.

Information was distributed in many ways, through the media, through local radio and discussion sessions, and through meetings such as those that are often held by groups such as a chamber of commerce. They allowed people to ask questions, receive answers and put forward their ideas.

Once again this is not to say that the events leading to the signing of this agreement on October 3 of last year were smooth. These things are never smooth. Sometimes the discussion was heated. I will say that sometimes people disagreed, because it is clear that not everyone was or is in favour of the agreement. What is certain is that in terms of these public meetings where discussions took place, everyone had an opportunity to speak, and not only to speak but to be heard. Those people who wished to appear and speak were allowed to, whether they were band members or from neighbouring communities.

What is clear is that this is an open process and it is a democratic process in that sense. It encouraged many of those who either voted against the agreement or were in fact from a neighbouring community and were in opposition to the agreement to accept the outcome in an open way.

I think that is because this is a cooperative community in Westbank. Westbank allows people to speak. People can disagree but they understand that they can still reach some form of consensus or agreement. Westbank has been described, for members from that part of the world, as one of the most progressive first nations in Canada.

It is through this process that the Westbank First Nation has shown us that there are many forms of democracy and that this process can in fact be democratic in that it allows wide and open participation. Everyone who wants to is allowed to have their say, and not only to have their say but to be heard and to have some possibility of impacting the outcome of this agreement. It is my belief that such a process can only be good for governance structure, particularly around first nations, because I think that first nations government structures, as is often referred to in this country, have had a long history that is often characterized as tortuous.

The self-government agreement also calls for a Westbank constitution which was ratified by members at the same time as the agreement. Constitutions are the cornerstones of a legal regime. In this case, it will determine the community's governance for everything from the election of officials, budgets and how laws are made, and it sets out a set of core, or in this case, community principles.

I believe that the constitution that has been worked out in the case of Westbank is significant because it was developed locally and it has local application. The constitution, as constitutions must, reflects the wishes of the people rather than having it imposed by a bunch of consultants, lawyers, or worse yet, by a bunch of people from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

This constitution is a product of the Westbank First Nation's approach. It is a group of community people who worked for almost a decade to draft the core laws. Community meetings were held to discuss issues. They worked through problems and they put forward ideas. It is not complete.

I understand that the issue of matrimonial property has not been resolved at this point, but the fact is that they have a mechanism in place. They have enough goodwill that they are going to arrive at a point where the business or issue of matrimonial property will be worked out.

It is also important to understand that those who live on the reserve but are not aboriginal also shared their views. They got involved. When an agreement was reached and a draft constitution was ready, it was distributed, and once again, everyone was able to have his or her say, to be heard and to impact the outcome.

This form of agreement building or deal making has strengthened their constitutional outcome and will ultimately improve the way they are governed because people are, and this is not a very profound observation, more likely to respect and obey the laws, and participate in organizations that they intimately know because they were there and were part of the creation of both these laws and institutions. People in this case have a distinct sense of ownership.

A constitution formulated locally in this way will only lead, I would think, to improved governance of this first nation and will in turn lead to a better local municipal structure. It has important impacts, if this is a success, on other first nations.

Through their constitution the Westbank First Nation people have shown that what seemed like impossible, or maybe I can characterize it as difficult issues, could be overcome. I think this is a case of a community demonstrating that an agreement can be tailored and should be tailored to fit local circumstances, that agreements that are national in scope and that are imposed locally often, or perhaps one could say usually, fail because they do not fit local circumstances. In the end, the rights, and more importantly, the interests of everyone who is local can be respected because they were part of it.

The negotiators from the federal side recognized the potential, and I would like to think the value of this pilot project, of the Westbank approach. And that in fact the agreement that was reached was fair and had widespread public support in that part of the world.

In conclusion, I would like to say that there is widespread local support. There are people, still today, in that part of the world who are opposed to it, but what is clear is, even from the members who represent abutting ridings or who represent a riding where this property is, there is agreement.

The agreement has been built on foundations of discussion and consensus that have been driven locally, not by Ottawa. We are told that it meets the needs of the first nation's people there, but equally important, it meets the needs of this 7,500 or 8,000 non-first nation people who live on this first nation's property. It also meets the needs of members in abutting contiguous communities.

As I said in the beginning, I like to think of it as a pilot project. It is a first time agreement under the policy framework which was laid out more than 14 years ago. An agreement of this nature, where it is driven locally, has buy-in and cross-community agreement, will lead to a good local governance, to a strong local community, and of course, to what I think all Canadians want, wherever they are, which is a good local economy where there is economic opportunity, where there are jobs, and where there is local harmony among all the communities.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lawrence O'Brien Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is the second time in two days that I have had the opportunity to speak to a first nations agreement. Yesterday we voted and today I am speaking to the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement, Bill C-11, which is enabling legislation.

The bill has two main features: it gives the force of law to the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement; and it makes consequential and coordinating amendments to other federal acts.

At the outset I would like to emphasize that this agreement is not a treaty. In other words, it is very similar to what I am used to in Labrador. We have the Labrador Inuit agreement, which is going for ratification this spring and, hopefully, will become law in the next 12 months. We have the framework and the ratifications of another agreement coming forward with the Labrador Inuit Association, and we have a pending claim with the Labrador Metis nation. Therefore I am very familiar with this subject area of first nations agreements.

This agreement is the first stand-alone self-government agreement negotiated under the federal government's inherent right policy to be presented to Parliament. This policy recognizes the inherent right of self-government as an existing aboriginal right under section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. The policy and the agreement based on the policy do not, however, define the inherent right to self-government, as only the courts may determine its nature, scope and content.

In this regard, the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement sets aside the debate regarding who has such a right and the scope and content of such a right and focuses rather on setting forth practical arrangements for a number of jurisdictions where Westbank First Nation may exercise law-making authority.

The agreement clearly states that the parties do not consider the agreement to reflect any definitive legal views with respect to how the inherent right of self-government may be defined in law. Further, for greater certainty, section 8 of the agreement states that “nothing in the Agreement shall be construed as recognizing or denying any aboriginal right, recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982”.

This agreement does seek to change the relationship between Canada and the Westbank First Nation, representing a break with the existing Indian Act regime which has created a dependency relationship with first nations and has undermined the relationship between the first nation leadership and the band members. I think that is a very important point because I believe the Indian Act is greatly outdated. Putting terms into the agreement that are different from some aspects of the Indian Act shows that we are in the mode for modernization.

Under the terms of the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement, the Westbank First Nation would act as a government primarily accountable to its members. The federal government would be removed from the day to day operations of the Westbank First Nation and its reserve lands.

The agreement requires the Westbank First Nation to establish a constitution that would provide for a democratic and legitimate government and institutions that would be fully accountable to Westbank First Nation members. The Westbank First Nation constitution must provide for, among other things, democratic election of council members, conflict of interest rules and appeal mechanisms.

The Westbank First Nation developed and ratified its constitution in May 2003. Upon implementation, the constitution would be a law of Westbank First Nation and, as with any other Westbank law, would not be approved by Canada.

The agreement sets out rules applicable to the Westbank First Nation government, its constitution and the exercise of law-making powers in a number of agreed upon subject matters, including: agriculture; culture and language; education; environment; health services; lands and land management; licensing, regulation and operation of business; membership; prohibition of intoxicants; public order, peace and safety; public works; resource management; traffic and transportation; and wills and estates.

Except for membership in the Westbank First Nation, the law-making authority would only extend to matters on reserve and would not include matters that are not specifically addressed in the agreement, such as social services, child and family services, policing and creating a court. Also, the agreement specifically excludes criminal law, protection of health of all Canadians, intellectual property regarding all matters under federal jurisdiction, as well as broadcasting and telecommunications from the jurisdiction of the Westbank First Nation.

The agreement is a bilateral agreement between Canada and the Westbank First Nation that replaces most of the provisions of the Indian Act. As the Westbank First Nation exercises its law-making power over a subject matter covered by the agreement, the corresponding provision of the Indian Act will no longer apply. However, certain elements of the Indian Act, such as Indian status, taxation and certain regulation-making powers of the governor in council, were not the subject of negotiations and are therefore retained. For example, the agreement does not confer any taxation powers on the Westbank First Nation and, accordingly, existing property tax related bylaws will continue in accordance with section 83 of the Indian Act.

Upon implementation of the agreement the fiduciary relationship would be maintained but, as the Westbank First Nation exercises its jurisdiction, Canada expects that its fiduciary obligations would diminish.

Canada's full legal framework is reflected throughout the agreement, which is premised on the concurrent application of federal laws and first nation laws passed in accordance with the parameters of the agreement. Provincial laws of general application will also continue to be treated in the same fashion as they are under the Indian Act. The Westbank First Nation government will be bound by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The Westbank First Nation represents an unusual profile in that, in addition to its 386 members living on reserve, there are approximately 8,000 non-member residents living on Westbank First Nation lands. Non-members will continue to be protected by the charter and the Canadian Human Rights Act. The agreement stipulates that leases to non-members created, granted or issued pursuant to the Indian Act would continue in accordance with their terms and conditions.

The agreement also requires that, following the effective date, the first Westbank First Nation law must establish a mechanism providing non-member residents with a formal statutory right to provide input into matters that significantly and directly affect them. With this future obligation in mind, the Westbank First Nation consulted with non-members and established an interim advisory council in 1999.

Furthermore, the agreement requires that the Westbank First Nation constitution establish an appeal mechanism and provides that the Westbank First Nation may establish administrative bodies to resolve administrative disputes under Westbank law, including landlord and tenant issues.

In closing, the current Indian Act regime tends to undermine the relationship between the Westbank First Nation chief and council and band members. Implementation of the agreement would modify the relationship between Canada and the Westbank First Nation such that the Westbank First Nation would assume increased responsibilities and develop governance structures outside the Indian Act that respond to the individual needs and aspirations of the Westbank First Nation.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

April 22nd, 2004 / 3 p.m.
See context

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, tomorrow and Monday, we will continue with the business listed, namely third reading stage of Bill C-11, an act to give effect to the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement, this reading of Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, third reading of Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences and third reading of Bill C-10, an act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

We will also continue with the report stage of Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as well as debate on the motion to refer committee before second reading Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Tuesday shall be an allotted day.

On Wednesday, we hope to be in a position to take up the final stages of Bill C-9, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act. I understand that there are some discussions under way that could make it possible to deal with this bill a bit earlier. The government would be prepared to cooperate with any such desire.

I hope that my colleague across the way, and all of his colleagues, are in excellent shape, because we have a lot on our plate.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Aboriginal Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying that I am very pleased with the level of discussion in the House and certainly with the tremendous support the agreement is receiving.

Let me also congratulate Chief Robert Louie and the councillors for their hard work. I know this must be a fairly emotional moment for them and for the people they represent.

Bill C-11 is an act to give effect to the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement. The agreement at the heart of the bill is the first of its kind and sets a valuable precedent for future relationships between Canada and the aboriginal people.

The agreement focuses on self-government. It is not a treaty or a land claim settlement. Pursuant to this agreement, Westbank First Nation will exercise a specific set of legislative powers and assume new responsibilities, putting the Westbank First Nation firmly in control of its economy, culture and community.

I believe that Bill C-11 represents an important step in the history of relationships between the Westbank First Nation and Canada. To appreciate the significance of the bill, one first needs to understand a bit of Westbank history.

Long before Canada became a country, several communities of the Interior Salish people, known as the Okanagan, lived on a large tract of land in south-central British Columbia and northern Washington. When white settlers began to farm in the region in the 1800s, they lived peacefully alongside the local aboriginal population. The Government of Canada established reserves in the region in the early 1900s.

Westbank First Nation, across the lake from Kelowna, split from the Okanagan band, an amalgamation of several tribes, in 1963. Westbank leaders felt they could better meet the particular aspirations of their community by working independently.

Since then, the city of Kelowna has grown and prospered, presenting several economic opportunities to Westbank. The first nation's ability to capitalize on these opportunities is limited, however, by the Indian Act, which requires the band to secure permission from the federal government before it negotiates leases or other agreements. The Indian Act limits not only the power but also the accountability of Westbank's band council. In essence, councillors cannot be held legally liable for their actions.

This combination of weak local government, resulting from deficiencies in the Indian Act, and growing prosperity led to a series of scandals and troubles in the 1980s. Charges of conflict of interest were levelled at some councillors and a climate of mistrust hampered Westbank's ability to grow.

These problems prompted the Government of Canada to order a formal investigation in 1986. This resulted in the Hall commission, which found that the problems of Westbank arose because the governance of the Westbank Indian band had been that of “a government of men and not a government of laws”.

In seeking to resolve the problems and to establish a government of laws, the commission made recommendations for change and ultimately recommended the pursuit of self-government legislation for Westbank. The Westbank First Nation self-government agreement reflects most of the recommendations of the Hall commission, including the requirement to establish a constitution providing for democratic and legitimate elections of government, internal financial management and accountability to members, and conflict of interest rules.

Since then, the people of Westbank have worked hard to realize their aspirations. Formal negotiations between Westbank and the Government of Canada began in 1990 and proceeded throughout the tenure of successive band councils.

While this process continued, Westbank moved to improve the local economy and enhance social services. To foster economic development, the band started two businesses, WFN Development Corporation and Nu-Arc Construction. Under government supervision, the first nation has also become a busy landlord, leasing lands to hundreds of businesses and homeowners. In the 1990s, the band began to collect property taxes in accordance with the Indian Act.

Westbank's growing prosperity has benefited all members of the first nation. The first nation owns and operates its own school and community centre, a provincially licensed day care and early education centre, and an intermediate care facility for the elderly. Westbank also maintains several recreational facilities, including beaches, campgrounds and baseball diamonds.

Westbank has successfully negotiated several agreements with the private and public sectors. Sewer services are provided through a partnership with regional government. The Bank of Montreal collaborates on a loan program for homeowners.

The first nation's approach to self-government followed the same cooperative approach. Westbank leaders worked long and hard with members to develop a community constitution, with non-members to address the creation of an input mechanism, and with neighbouring communities to achieve strong and collaborative partnerships.

Memoranda of political relationship were signed with both the Regional District of Central Okanagan and with the City of Kelowna. Westbank, along with the federal government, also consulted with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, labour groups and homeowners' associations.

During the past few years, more than 400 information and consultation sessions were held to communicate details of the self-government agreement and what it means for the first nation, for the Okanagan Nation Alliance, to which Westbank belongs, and for non-member residents and neighbouring communities. People were encouraged to ask questions and suggest ideas. These consultations inspired a number of improvements to the proposed agreement, such as the strengthening of the provisions regarding non-member residents.

The agreement was ratified by Westbank First Nation in May 2003 by a double majority. This is a higher threshold than the members of the House of Commons must meet at the ballot box. A majority of Westbank First Nation voters also approved a constitution for Westbank that sets out electoral procedures and governance structures.

The agreement between Canada and the Westbank First Nation is now in our hands. I believe we must ratify the legislation because it gives the people of Westbank access to modern, effective government.

Together, Bill C-11 and the agreement represent a vast improvement over the Indian Act and will strengthen democracy in the community. Councillors in the first nation's government will be subject to much more stringent accountability requirements, established in Westbank's constitution. Under Westbank's new constitution, voters can recall elected officials and councillors who spend money without authorization can be held personally liable.

In addition, Westbank's government will no longer be exempt from civil action, as it was under the Indian Act. Under the provisions of Bill C-11, Westbank's government becomes a legal entity that can sue and be sued. Other improvements include strict accounting and financial management practices. Westbank's books will be open to public scrutiny.

For the first time, people residing on Westbank lands who are not band members, approximately 8,000 in all, will have a formal statutory mechanism to influence decisions made by the first nation government. The agreement calls for the establishment of an input mechanism for non-members to safeguard their interests. The agreement requires that the first Westbank law following the effective date of the agreement establish this input mechanism.

The agreement also provides a number of other protections, both for members and for non-members. Westbank First Nation's government and its institutions are bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Further, any decisions or laws of the Westbank First Nation may be challenged in the Province of British Columbia's courts.

The net result of all these provisions will be greater public trust in government and a clearer decision making and dispute resolution process. This will help to attract additional investment in band projects, leading to more opportunities for Westbank.

In short, by putting the first nation firmly in control of its destiny, Bill C-11 will enable Westbank leaders to realize the band's goals of self-sufficiency and transparency. In the words of Chief Robert Louie:

Self-government is about the future; it is about... creating a stable community where hard work and initiative are rewarded. The objective is to create a safe and vibrant community with a clear [idea] of who we are and where we are going.

The legislation before us today carries the principled and worthy aspirations of a people. I urge my hon. colleagues to lend their support to Bill C-11. I think this is a realization of a long term project that is going to benefit not just the Westbank First Nation but all Canadians.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to express, on behalf of the NDP caucus, our enthusiastic support for the bill at this stage of debate in the House of Commons today.

As the spokesperson on aboriginal affairs issues for the NDP caucus, it is a pleasure to deal with such a positive issue in the House of Commons when so often we deal with issues that are controversial. This is one bill that we should all be able to feel very good about. If we are about to wrap up this Parliament and go into an election, perhaps we can conclude this 37th Parliament on a positive note and on something for which we can all be proud.

I will begin my remarks by paying tribute to and recognizing the patient, hard-working and dedicated chief of the Westbank First Nation, Chief Robert Louie, and some of the councillors who I met personally in their patient lobbying on the Hill. They were always available as a resource to all of us. Councillor Larry Derrickson was one of them. I also want to thank the negotiators who patiently steered the process through the various stages in what must have seemed like an agonizing and painstakingly slow pace. I do admire the patience and dedication they showed, specifically Mr. Tim Raybould and legal counsel, Micha Menczer. Without the passionate and enthusiastic participation of those individuals, I think it would have been very difficult to navigate the bill through some of the obstacles, not the least of which is a seeming wilful blindness on the part of some people to see this bill for what it is.

I would like to explain in the short time I have, not only the positive aspects of the bill but to try and put to bed some some of the myths that have grown up around this bill by the very small minority of people who do still find fault with it.

I feel that we should have been a lot further along with the bill. The government side sought unanimous consent for the bill to proceed last November but consent was denied by one individual who I do not think was even objecting to the specifics of the bill so much as he had problems with the aboriginal B.C. fishery. It really was not fair to the people of Westbank to delay the bill because of some grievance on another aboriginal issue that was not even related.

By way of prefacing some of the things I will be raising, I would like to recognize that this Westbank self-government agreement is groundbreaking, in a way, for several reasons.

First, it represents a major milestone in the effort to negotiate a self-government agreement in that it is the first stand alone self-government agreement. I say that because there is no land claim element to this agreement. It is the first time that a self-government agreement of this nature has been negotiated under the 1995 inherent rights policy. This is what makes this a significant and noteworthy day.

By moving closer to self-government, we believe the Westbank First Nation will have a stronger governance regime and, contrary to some of the speakers who we have heard from on this bill, it will be more accountable and transparent to its members.

If the theme and the buzzwords of this 37th Parliament are “transparency” and “accountability”, this is something that members in the House should be able to celebrate. I think the jury is in and there can be no doubt that under this new governance regime there will be more transparency and accountability to not only the members of the Westbank First Nation but the non-member residents of this geographic region and other interested parties, frankly the business community, the town council, the mayor of Kelowna, and the many speakers we heard who were not actually status Indians and supported the bill.

I will be happy to debate any member of the House, in any setting or forum, on the subject of accountability and transparency. We know the bill enables transparency and accountability.

The agreement has the solid support of Westbank's neighbours and on-reserve residents who are not first nation members. They recognize that the agreement will provide greater certainty in the exercise of governance and jurisdiction for all levels of government.

With the introduction of the Westbank First Nation self-government act, parliamentary approval is being sought to bring the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement into force and effect. What we are doing today is only giving the enabling legislation to finally put into full force and effect an agreement that already was ratified through an exhaustive consultation and ratification process by all the affected parties, the first nation members being only one of them.

I believe there is broad agreement in the House that the Westbank agreement is local democracy at its best. At the signing ceremony in October 2003, local members of Parliament from the Okanagan and Kelowna area were there and spoke favourably. The former Progressive Conservative minister, Mr. Tom Siddon, who was responsible for getting the negotiations going, was there. It was nice that he could be there to observe the ultimate fruition of this long 14 year process.

We believe that many aspects of the agreement are positive and clearly outweigh any objections that might be raised. Misinformation does abound, however, so I want to dispel one or two of those points.

We have heard from some critics that this is a copycat of the 1999 Nisga'a agreement. I would like to point out that this agreement is fundamentally different from the Nisga'a agreement. I will be able to explain that better when I go through some of the legal arguments that have been made.

I want to start with the inherent right of self-government. As I noted, this is the first agreement negotiated under the 1995 inherent right of self-government policy which finds its origins in section 35 of the Constitution. It must be understood that this agreement was negotiated in the context of the aboriginal inherent right of self-government. The agreement was negotiated by Canada based on this 1995 policy which clearly states:

The Government of Canada recognizes the inherent right of self-government as an existing Aboriginal right under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

The policy calls for negotiations with first nations leading to agreements that will recognize the jurisdiction and authority of first nations governance.

Notably, not all self-government agreements are required to be in a treaty as the policy contemplates non-treaty self-government agreements. This Westbank First Nation self-government agreement is clearly not a treaty. This should be established and recognized right at the outset.

The aboriginal right of self-government is recognized by the Canadian legal system under the constitutional common law of Canada and also under section 35. While section 35(1) is an inherent point of origin, as a matter of current status it is held in Canadian law.

Those who do oppose the legislation, like Mr. Mark Milke who has written his opinions in the Calgary Herald , and Mr. Gordon Gibson who has expressed his reservations in an article in the Vancouver Sun and elsewhere, cite Campbell, the British Columbia Liberal government's appeal or challenge to the Nisga'a treaty.

Those who oppose Bill C-11 base much of their analysis on the general assumption that no aboriginal right of self-government can exist because all legislative powers are divided between Canada and the provinces under the Canadian Constitution.

While the Campbell ruling categorically throws out this point of view, aboriginal rights and in particular the right to self-government, akin to legislative powers to make laws, survived as one of the unwritten underlying values of the Constitution outside of the powers distributed to Parliament and the legislatures of 1867.

Mr. Milke and Mr. Gibson object to that legal ruling in the Campbell case. Given their view that all legislative powers then rest with Canada or the provinces, they see only mechanisms for a first nation jurisdiction as flowing from the delegated form of jurisdiction. In other words, a first nation jurisdiction can only stem from those powers delegated to it by the Government of Canada or by the provincial governments.

We, in the NDP, oppose that point of view. We feel it is far too narrow and we believe it is legally inaccurate. We embrace the opinions expressed by the royal commission on aboriginal people. Our interpretation, I suppose, is more in keeping with the federal government's in that we uphold and support the inherent rights policy as articulated in the 1995 policy, at least until such time as true meaning and definition can be given to section 35 of the Constitution.

I am one of those who believe that this is a necessary first step to a broader cross country settlement of outstanding self-government issues. I believe that rather than leaving it up to the courts to tell us what aboriginal and treaty rights mean, it is the role of Parliament and the House of Commons to take one step back and give meaning and definition to section 35 so we do not have this divisive struggle and expensive process, sometimes a 20 year process, to find a definition on a case by case basis.

I want to comment on some of the aspects of the Westbank First Nation self-government act on which I believe there has been some misunderstanding. An agreement we believe should be celebrated, is actually being criticized more by misinformation than by any solid and tangible reasoning.

Under this bilateral self-government agreement, Westbank will assume jurisdiction for most matters now regulated under the Indian Act. If there is one thing on which we can all agree, it is that the Indian Act is an outdated, obsolete and fundamentally flawed oppressive piece of legislation that we should all be committed to eradicating at the earliest opportunity. These jurisdictions will be phased in over time and as they are exercised, the related provisions of the Indian Act will no longer apply. In other words, this is the emancipation of the first nation of the Westbank region from under a colonial piece of legislation that has no business existing in the modern context.

In the category of laws, Westbank will have the jurisdiction to make laws in such areas as land management, aboriginal language and culture, resource management, the environment, et cetera. We should make it abundantly clear, if there is anyone under any misconceptions here, that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms shall, will and does apply in the context of this self-government agreement. I do not know how we can express it any more clearly. Those who are spreading this misinformation are those who may oppose the bill on the grounds that somehow the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply. I point out and I urge those members to look at section 32 of this agreement where clearly the opening lines of the section says:

The government of Westbank First Nation and Council in respect of all matters under its authority are bound by the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms....

I do not know how we could be more clear to satisfy anybody who has any concerns about whether or not the charter applies. For additional clarity and certainty, the final part of that section reads:

--the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter are enforceable in respect of the government of Westbank First Nation and the Council.

These statements in my view make it absolutely clear that the charter applies. Yet we find one legal opinion arguing that. Mr. Harvey, acting on behalf of some people who oppose the bill in the Kelowna area, points to the reference in section 32 of the agreement to section 25 of the charter, which deals with having regard to aboriginal and treaty rights in the interpretation of the charter. However, he fails to acknowledge that section 32 of the agreement is merely a statement of what is already in the charter, and the charter must be read and understood as a whole, not cherry-picking isolated sections. I hope that is the last we hear about it in this debate. I do not see how anyone could in any way argue that the charter does not apply.

Regarding non-members of the band, the charter states:

Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.

Therefore, individuals can always have recourse to the courts in that case. I hope we have satisfied some of the misconceptions that exist regarding the application of the charter.

I will not dwell on this very much longer. I think we have clearly stated why the NDP is firmly in favour of the bill. We look forward to the speedy passage of it.

In closing, it has been said by people wiser than I that aboriginal nations whose rights and interests in this bountiful land predate the treaties are in fact Canada's foundation. Canada's complexity and diversity derive not only from its array of people who have arrived from other lands, but also from the original inhabitants with their many cultures and languages.

To view Canada merely as a shelter society, ignores and denies the important and lasting roles of aboriginal people in Canada's legal and political foundation. There is no need for reminders of our tragic past, but that past can be put behind us with a philosophical shift acknowledging the mistakes made in the past and moving forward with progressive self-governance initiatives such as the Westbank First Nation self-government act.

Therefore, I am very proud to say that the NDP caucus will be voting in favour of the bill. Again, I wish to pay tribute, honour and recognize the herculean task it has taken on the part of Chief Robert Louie, his councillors and the negotiators to bring the bill to the stage it is. I extend my congratulations to them and I hope we can unanimously pass the bill at the appropriate time in the House.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to Bill C-11 at third reading.

I will paint a little picture for members. The Westbank First Nation is adjacent to the city of Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. As a band, it has rightfully gained a reputation as one of the most progressive bands in the country. There is some opposition to the self-government agreement. However, that opposition flies in the face of the evidence.

There are 7,500 non-band members, and one-quarter of all non-band member residents in Canada who live on reserve live on the Westbank reserve. These residents, as well as 200 businesses, have chosen to locate on Westbank land because they view the Westbank First Nation government as being competent, predictable and stable and, therefore, is a very secure place to invest.

The Westbank First Nation has been collecting property tax since 1990, and non-band members have full access to the financial reporting of these property tax accounts. Westbank has implemented a system of independent property assessment and assessment appeal mechanisms similar to off reserve municipalities. The B.C. assessment authority has been contracted to carry out these functions and this has made it very easy to translate for the real estate industry. Therefore, it has a very simple process. It can recommend Westbank investments, and it does.

The implementation of this taxation policy 14 years ago, under the provision of section 83 of the Indian Act and the subsequent opting into the First Nations Land Management Act, was instrumental in the rapid growth of non-band members residing on Westbank land. None of this property tax regime under section 83 of the Indian Act will change as a consequence of this agreement. The self-governance will actually improve the ability of individuals to manage these transactions under that self-governance because it will not require the extra step and impediment of the Department of Indian Affairs.

Elsewhere in British Columbia we have a shining example. The Sechelt Indian band achieved self-government and taxing power in the 1980s. Virtually, without exception, it is held up as a successful model for self-government and economic development. The Sechelt and Westbank agreements share a provision that non-native residents are represented by an advisory group to chief and council.

Critics of the agreement also like to point to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, claiming that the Westbank agreement will change this application as it applies to the Westbank government and residents.

We have had some debate in the House on this and it is the full intent of this agreement that the charter apply. It is my very strong opinion and the opinion of many in the legal profession that any difficulties there might be in that area are due to the Canadian Constitution and the charter, certainly not due to a piece of legislation such as Westbank. We all know that our charter and our Constitution are supreme, so I need say no more.

The net effect for non-band members living on Westbank lands is that the application of the charter is the same whether the Westbank First Nation is operating under the provisions of the Indian Act, as it is now, or operating after this agreement receives royal assent.

The Westbank band is on course to be responsible for its own governance and its own future. The bill creates a government which is a legal entity that can sue or be sued. In contrast, Indian Act chiefs and councils are protected from legal liability. To me, it is quite surprising that the democratic and financial accountability provisions and the private property provisions so central to the Westbank agreement have virtually been ignored by the critics of the bill.

Critics also complain that Westbank laws may prevail over federal and provincial laws. In reality, current chief and council bylaws across Canada prevail over provincial legislation as a consequence of section 88 of the Indian Act. The Westbank agreement adopts the same provision. Westbank laws prevail over federal laws only in some specific areas.

We have to recognize also that because these are federal lands there is a vacuum in some areas that are normally under provincial jurisdiction, such as landlord tenancy and some other areas. The Westbank band, either prior to now or as a consequence of this agreement, has taken care of those vacuums in the law, and this has added to the certainty and security for investors.

I find it very interesting that the Westbank band has done very enlightened things because of a vacuum in the law, yet it has been criticized for occupying that vacuum. However, the real reasons were never associated with the criticism. I thought I would point that out.

One example that people should be aware of deals with the area of intoxicants. Westbank may create a dry reserve. It has priority over federal law in relation to Okanagan language and culture, K to 12 education, the practice of traditional Okanagan medicine and Westbank law enforcement procedures, as long as they are comparable but not greater than those set out in federal or provincial legislation on similar subject matters. Business licensing, traffic and transportation, public works and wills and estates of Westbank members are all areas that are largely without criticism.

Once again, it seems to be the principle that is attacked but the specifics are not attacked. I think once we look at the specifics, that these are actually areas that are non-controversial.

In addition, the Westbank First Nation has jurisdiction over the renewable resources on Westbank lands, excluding fish and fish habitat. Jurisdiction is also extended to non-renewable resources such as minerals and gravel. The Westbank band can manage resources on Westbank lands as if it is a private property owner, although ownership resides with Canada. There is some difference between the Westbank and Sechelt. In the case of the Sechelt band, its lands were transferred in fee simple title. They are no longer federal lands.

The adjacent city of Kelowna, British Columbia's third largest city and according to many of the residents, British Columbia's most important city, and the regional district that encompasses Westbank First Nation have endorsed the agreement.

The Westbank agreement should be looked at in its entirety. It should be supported and encouraged as the model for other bands.

I have had some significant history with self-government and other legislation. This bill was tabled in the House last November, I believe. In January I had meetings with the regional district representatives, the mayor of Kelowna, the chief and council from the Westbank, and the Westbank advisory group. This gave me a very good feel not only for the legislation but for the communities.

As part of my background in aboriginal affairs, I will go back to 1997, two ministers ago. At that time, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development had been minister for the entire 1993-97 Parliament. As that Parliament was winding down, there was a First Nations Land Management Act for which, in typical government fashion, an attempt was made to rush it through at the last minute. I resisted that. That bill did not pass until 1999.

I would like to say at this time that I was wrong about that piece of legislation. That legislation has turned out to be very important and progressive legislation. It has brought many of the merits of self-government, without necessitating self-government, to the leasing of lands. Fourteen first nations were part of that, I think, and Westbank was a signatory. This ability under the First Nations Land Management Act was responsible for a significant amount of the growth of non-native residency at Westbank.

Also as a part of my history I did represent the Sechelt area on the British Columbia coast for that 1993-97 Parliament. That was prior to a rearrangement of my riding as a consequence of the 1991 census. It was very clear when I represented the greater community there that there was great support for the Sechelt Indian band self-government agreement, which has been in place since 1986. I am sure that this will be mirrored in the experience with Westbank in the Okanagan.

There is one area that I think is very significant for many people. They have very strong feelings that this area needs to be addressed. It is another one of these vacuums in legislation. The question relates to matrimonial property. Matrimonial property law in Canada is a provincial jurisdiction. Each province deals with this in its own way.

In the case of federal reserve lands, there is no matrimonial property legislation. There is no legislation dealing with marital assets after death or divorce or marital separation. This is an area that has been brought forward repeatedly over at least the last 20 years in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and in other venues. I know the Senate is looking at this issue and has been for quite some time. We have had native women's organizations tackling this area and pushing for change. I think everyone wants to see it fixed, but it is a difficult area and it has not been fixed.

I want to say that the first people living on reserve in Canada who will be covered by matrimonial property law will be the Westbank, almost undoubtedly, because another part of the agreement specifies that within 12 months of the agreement coming into effect this area must be covered off. There must be law brought into place to cover the Westbank membership and that law must not discriminate on the basis of gender.

I know that there has been some preliminary work done and some consultation has been done and that will proceed. I think that whatever occurs with the Westbank on that front will be very useful as a model for others to look at and perhaps will expedite the resolution of that issue for the other 632 bands in Canada. I am certainly hopeful that this will be the case.

Recently there has been a suggestion that because the Westbank First Nation ratification vote required three attempts in order to locally ratify this agreement, it somehow means that we have a community divided unto itself and it taints this whole exercise. I want to make it clear that if we want to form a municipality, for example, and incorporate in the province of British Columbia, what we require in order to express that will is 50% plus one of those who turn out to vote yea, by referendum or by ballot.

In the case of the Westbank, there were three votes. All three have expressed a clear majority who want to see this ratified, but in their idealism in the first attempt they wanted a super majority, in other words, 50% plus one of people on the voting list, thinking that it would be very achievable. Of course it did not happen. And on one of those first two occasions, it did not happen by two ballots, I think.

What it means is that everybody who does not show up or is incapacitated or cannot get to the ballot box is counted as voting no. Westbank basically has put its voting system in line with what everybody else does. It is a simple majority of those who vote. So I do not think this process it tainted at all, quite the contrary.

My time is up, so I will wrap up by saying that this is a very enlightened agreement. It is an attempt to achieve all of those things that will be good for the people and good for the residents of Westbank. I think they have valiantly succeeded.