Public Safety Act, 2002

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

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


Tony Valeri  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

February 13th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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Acting Director General, Global Partnership Program, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Shawn Barber

There are some legal technicalities with respect to Bill C-7, as it has been explained to me by my legal bureau. I'd prefer to undertake to provide you with their response on this. It's more of a legal technical nature, but I'm assured by them that Canada has in place all of the legislative provisions necessary to implement the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention as it currently exists.

My understanding is that at the time Bill C-7 was being brought forward and passed, it contained provisions that foreshadowed the passage or amendment of the BTWC, which in fact never happened. There has been a long-standing attempt to implement within the BTWC a verification mechanism similar to what you have within the Chemical Weapons Convention. Of course, verifying the presence of chemicals is quite easy. Verifying the presence of dangerous biological pathogens is much more difficult. So it's related to the failure to amend the BTWC, which Bill C-7 foreshadowed, and therefore that's the reason it has not been enacted. But that's a layman's non-legal interpretation, and I will undertake to ask my legal bureau to provide you with a more technical legal interpretation of that.

February 13th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Maybe it will for Bill C-7, so that we understand what happens in that case.

February 13th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

When the Minister of Justice appeared before this committee, the bill's implementation was discussed. It was also said that it would be desirable for the bill to move along quickly. At that time, I made a comparison with 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.

Did you know that this piece of legislation has still not come into force? Can you tell us what is behind that delay and whether we will see a similar delay in this case?

April 26th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and Strategic Direction, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Daniel Watson

Okay. Thanks.

In 1977, the act was introduced. In 1985, Bill C-31 made some amendments to the Indian Act, and there was significant discussion across the country at that time and after about some of the provisions in the act that were seen as quite discriminatory.

In 1992, Bill C-108 at the time, an act to amend the CHRA, was introduced. The repeal of section 67 was a part of that. That bill died on the order paper. There was a dissolution of Parliament in 1993.

In 2000, there was the CHRA review panel report, and you referred to that. Mr. Justice Gérard La Forest chaired it, and that again had extensive consultations, particularly about section 67, held across the country with national and regional aboriginal organizations as part of that in-depth process. That panel, as you may know, recommended that section 67 be removed and that the act apply to self-governing aboriginal communities until such time as aboriginal human rights codes applied. The panel also discussed a variety of other issues during the consultations, but again, the summary, going to the question on consultation, is that there was a significant consultation on it at that time.

In 2002, the joint ministerial advisory committee's final report to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development came up with the same recommendations as the review panel report a couple of years earlier.

In 2002 again, Bill C-7, the First Nations Governance Act, was introduced, and it too, as you may remember, proposed the repeal of section 67. That bill obviously was one that was discussed at length across the country.

In addition to that, in 2005, Bill S-45 came forward, again to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. A Matter of Rights was published, a special report of the CHRC on the repeal of section 67.

There have been significant consultations in this context on this issue for nearly 30 years. I would suggest there would not be a whole lot of areas of public policy that have received this level of review on this single issue over that period of time. I stand to be corrected on that, but it is certainly one that has received a significant amount of considered attention.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2004 / 4:05 p.m.
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Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have another opportunity to speak to Bill C-23, but more importantly I would like to speak on the subamendment that has been brought forward.

Being a partial author and seconder of the subamendment, I would like to give the House an opportunity and an understanding of why we should enter into consultation with the first nations leaders and the communities on the impacts and benefits of Bill C-23.

In large part, we would be following the leadership and the vision of our Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, just a few weeks ago, hosted the Canada aboriginal people's round table, and said:

Canada would not be Canada without the Aboriginal peoples.

What that means is that Canada entered into a treaty to create this country. The Crown ascertained these territories by a treaty negotiation, and that process is not finished. There are huge tracts of land in British Columbia and northern Canada that are under negotiation. In light of this, new relationships and opportunities have been negotiated in the interim, but on the understanding that these treaty negotiations will come to a conclusion at some point in time in the future.

However, the Prime Minister understands and recognizes that under section 35 of the Constitution there are the Indians, the first nations of this land, the Métis and the Inuit. At this round table there was full participation of that leadership right across the country. He also mentioned in his speech a premise to ensure success and he set out clear goals: health care, housing, education, business, economic development, accountability, transparency, and capacity building.

Those are very bold and clear goals. In order to succeed, he also said that there has to be a political will. The Prime Minister stated the commitment of his government. This is a new Prime Minister and a new government, with a new agenda, working on a new relationship with the aboriginal leaders. The aboriginal communities and the aboriginal leaders also have an obligation for this new commitment.

The Prime Minister went on to state:

From our vantage point, we will ensure a full seat at the table... No longer will we in Ottawa develop policies first and discuss them with you later.

That statement is probably the most profound reason why this subamendment is being debated in the House now. Bill C-23 is a new fiscal relationship. At no time in the history of Canada, when reserves were created and lands were set aside for Indians, for first nations people, was there taxation of that land. The Crown and the government never intended to put assessment of value on their lands. That was land set aside for Indians. This bill now revisits that fiscal relationship.

There was a fiduciary responsibility defined for the government's responsibility. A lot of it is fiscal responsibility but more importantly, in my studies of the treaty books and the letters of the treaty commissioners in their reports to the Crown and their officials, a fiduciary responsibility of the Crown meant to respect the sovereign nations with which these treaties were being entered into.

The aboriginal nations as nations have to be respected. There is no evidence in Bill C-23 that these nations would be represented or respected. None. It does not even refer to section 35 of the Constitution. In our Canadian Constitution those historic and treaty rights are recognized and respected. This bill does not even base its policies on section 35 of the Constitution.

Let me go back to this. I say that in January Bill C-23 was brought in. There was a throne speech and I want it recognized that in that throne speech, the House of Commons, this Parliament, said it would recognize a relationship with aboriginal people based on historic agreements. Those historic agreements are the treaties. If that happened in February, this bill came before that statement.

Also, on the round table took place in the past month of April, I say this bill should go back; it should go back in consultation with the first nation leaders of this land. They should look at what relationship it is creating, at what is happening here in relation to borrowing money, to borrowing capital.

Municipal governments and school boards know very well about these borrowing powers. They can borrow money for a new school. They can borrow money for a hospital. They can borrow money for water and sewers for new subdivisions. I dare say our government will also push the housing issue to this. If one wants to set up a whole new subdivision with new housing for development, the government will open up an opportunity for first nations to borrow from the financial institutions. These financial institutions are stated in this bill, but one thing that everyone will understand is that municipal governments and school boards they can borrow money: debentures, securities and bonds. They can go to international markets.

There are limitations in the bill: for Canadian and United States markets. Does that mean the Canadian and United States financial institutions are the lobby behind this? Why is the European financial market is not included in this? How come the Asian markets are not included in this? Some day maybe the United States economy will fall away, as it did in 1930. Maybe the European market will be the only one that is secure. Why was that not considered? Why were European and Asian markets not considered as part of this bill? Why limit this to only the Canadian and United States markets? Is it because that is where the lobby came from?

I want to raise this issue because there are a lot of issues and a lot of explaining to do to first nations. This opens up a whole new relationship, a whole new reality of ascertaining a better quality of life on reserve and also off reserve because some of these investments may well include off reserve development. However, this is very limited in the definition of what a financial institution can do and what a tax commission can do. What it is very clear is that the powers are well defined in this bill, and those powers are the powers of the band council.

The powers of the band council were never defined as clearly in the Indian Act or even in the former Bill C-7. Both were very vague on the powers of band councils and chiefs. However, this bill quickly highlights the powers of these chiefs and councils, because those powers will be delegated to the tax commission, to the finance institute and also, I guess, in large part to the tax collector, so to speak, to the financial institution one is going to borrow money from. There will be a delegation of these powers.

In large part, these powers will be creating a property taxation law. That is first and foremost. These are not independent institutions standing on their own. All of them are connected. Even for the statistical institute, it states the reason it is being contemplated is that “accurate, timely and credible” information is “a key element of sound financial planning, management and reporting”.

This all has to do with finances. I would say that statistical institutes should be for cultural knowledge, health knowledge, social knowledge, and education knowledge, so that we would be teaching kindergarten to grade 12 with a curriculum based on a statistical institution, an atlas of knowledge and a traditional land use knowledge. It should be that kind of statistical base.

No, this statistical institute is deemed designed for financial planning, financial management and financial reporting. Money talks. That is what scares me about this bill. Money is dictating the reason for Bill C-23 happening now. It is based on the premise that in regard to the socio-economic disparities of on reserve existence, those opportunities should be equal to other opportunities in other communities in Canada.

However, the municipal and school board structure of this country may not be the panacea for on reserve development. There may be other alternatives. Maybe the alternative is the borrowing powers that a province or a federal government has. Maybe those borrowing powers should be entrenched in this so that the recognition of the nations and the tribes can make the borrowing powers and the credibility to secure those amounts, whatever amount they decide to borrow.

We were told by a speaker earlier this morning that it costs five to six times more for on reserve development. A lot of these communities are isolated, fly-in communities. Hon. members who represent the north know the reality of living there regardless of being on reserve or off reserve. Let us look at the Inuit in Nunavut. Not one permanent all weather road connects that territory, and their costs are 20 times higher than the costs in downtown Ottawa. It costs 20 times more to buy a piece of two-by-four to build their homes, not because they are aboriginal but because of the geographic reality of this country.

As a country we have to address this issue, and not on the finance or the mortgaging of the future of aboriginal children. Why should aboriginal people be paid for the high cost of existence in a country for infrastructure when this country collectively should take that responsibility? This country should be fair and equitable for development in downtown Toronto and also way up in Old Crow, in Inuvik, in Black Lake, and in Ahtahkakoop, a reserve in Saskatchewan.

I want to raise another issue. When the treaty negotiations took place with Treaty No. 6, one of the provisions was a medicine chest. A lot of people say that Tommy Douglas was the father of medicare, but let us correct that. The grandfathers of medicare were the chiefs of Treaty No. 6. They saw a public policy: that the riches of the land would take care of the children of the future. When they secured their treaty by the sacred pipes, they prayed to all four directions and all four races of this country and the nations of this land.

They were not looking at only the children of the Crees, the Dene and the Lakota. They were looking at all the children of this land, and the newcomers' children as well, the children of the settlers. That medicine chest should be afforded to everybody, but in no way did Treaty No. 6 negotiate that there would be land assessment at Ahtahkakoop. At that reserve if we go back and try to push a tax revenue law, I swear that those challenges will take us to the Supreme Court.

I will warn the House that although in the bill there may be an opt-in clause, I know that the opt-in clause is a political ploy. A while back it was used on us as parliamentarians on the issue of pensions. Pensions were “opt in” for certain members, but if we take a measure now of all the members in the House who have full pensions, all of us have signed on, even the ones who resisted. They were challenged on the point that it was an opting in issue. That is what is going to happen to the first nations of this land.

They may not join in. They may resist because of their obligations by treaty or for other reasons, perhaps because of the value of the land or because of their leadership and their vision. But at some point in time, they will be dragged into Bill C-23 and the reference to Bill C-23.

The other issue I raised before was that of consultation. I say that consultation should be with first nation leaders and first nation communities of this land. Proposed section 143 states that a review and evaluation of the bill will take place in seven years. A seven year parliamentary review will come into play. Upon reviewing the bill, the Indian affairs minister will be in consultation with the tax commission, the finance management board, the finance authority, and the statistical institute. Bill C-23 does not provide for any consultation at all with first nations and their communities. So seven years from now when the bill is reviewed, that review will be just a self-analysis of the institutes it has created.

Also, some hon. members have said that substantial amendments have been made to the bill. One of the most substantial amendments brought in by the minister was the inclusion of other aboriginal organizations and aboriginal groups under the statistical institute and the records and data it would keep. Under section 35 of the Constitution, the Inuit and Métis are the only other organizations. There are first nations and then Métis and Inuit. If we are going to have statistical information about the Inuit and Métis included, then why are they not part of the consultation after seven years?

Why can we not consult with the aboriginal groups if we are going to be using this data about them? The data, as pointed out, will be used for financial planning and financial management and reporting. It will not be used for cultural preservation, curriculum development, social analysis or economic comparisons among different communities. It will be specifically for the use and benefit of the financial institutions.

The “national aboriginal institutions” that would be created by the bill “will assist first nations that choose to exercise real property taxation jurisdiction on reserve lands”. That is the bottom line. It is open only to people in first nations who want to exercise real property taxation. It means that they are the ones who will be able to borrow money. That taxation will be for the provision of services, and there will be taxation of business activities happening on reserve. It will also impose development costs happening on reserve and provide laws respecting outstanding taxes. A tax revolt is taking place in Saskatchewan with regard to outstanding taxes. Outstanding taxes are a big part of a school board or of the collectible taxes of a municipal council of a rural municipality. There is also enforcement of charges for outstanding taxes.

This will also create liens. A lien is something foreign on a reserve. Tax liens and property liens are incredible tools that are being provided. They did not exist on reserve before now. Also, there will be interest and penalties. If someone does not pay their taxes, interest and penalties will be added on.

There also will be the powers of “seizure, forfeiture and assignment of interests or rights”. Along with seizure is the sale of personal property. If someone cannot pay their taxes, powers are included in the bill that would give someone the power to seize personal property for taxes they owe.

These are all new financial relationships and new fiscal powers that do not necessarily exist on reserves right now. There is going to be disparity about the value of land on different first nations reserves from northern Quebec, southern Quebec, northern Canada, B.C., and isolated communities. There will be different classes of first nations based on the value of their land.

Today I submit my support for the subamendment and the amendment. We should not pass the bill at this third reading stage. We should be consulting with first nations leaders and communities. Bill C-23, through the standing committee or through the government, should go back for consultation to set up a fiscal relationship that is equal and fair for all on reserve development in this country. My time has come to a close, but I welcome any questions members may have.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2004 / 1:50 p.m.
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Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I never suggested that the number was that which the hon. member said. I only suggested that the basis for the argument in the previous speaker's comments was not applicable. The hon. member can always review what I said. He does not have to believe it. He only has to read Hansard , which presumably he will do later.

The hon. member was asking implicitly, why are we advancing with this bill given that some first nations are not supportive of it? The answer is that delays in approving this bill will be at a significant cost for those communities that are anxious to use it to advance the development of their communities. They have prepared for this; they have been working for this. It places quite a burden on them.

Given that it is elective, the hon. member is not, in my view, correct in his failure to support the legislation. But of course, he is entitled to his opinion, as I am entitled to mine. I will recognize that. Additionally, the government is honouring its commitment to first nations, which have worked long and hard to remove the barriers of development in their communities.

In addition, I want to say to the hon. member that it is not an either/or proposition because it does not preclude the government from working cooperatively with different groups of first nations in order to advance other initiatives.

I want to get back to the resolutions of the AFN in respect of the proposed first nations fiscal and statistical management act since its introduction. There has only been one resolution in which Bill C-23 has been mentioned since introduction in December 2002, and that is the vote that took place on October 8, 2003--perhaps that is the one the hon. member was referring to--at the Special Chiefs Assembly at the Squamish Nation.

He referred to the fact that it had been held in B.C., so presumably that is what he was referring to. It was an omnibus resolution meant to deal with Bills C-6, C-7 and C-19, now modified as Bill C-23.

The resolution called for the Chiefs and Special Assembly to, first, reject Bill C-6. In other words, they themselves produced a motion to reject Bill C-6, reject Bill C-7, and support Bill C-19. The three elements combined were in the same motion.The results of the vote were: 109 opposed; 65 for; two abstained; and 52 did not vote. But that had to do with rejecting two items and supporting one, in the same motion.

For the hon. member to state that all this is somehow equated with Bill C-19, now Bill C-23, is not totally factual. Neither he nor I can speculate as to the exact quantity of votes that there were for each item that we have here.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2004 / 12:30 p.m.
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Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, in large part, the other reason I recommended that this be considered for consultation was that last year, Bill C-6, Bill C-19 and Bill C-7 were considered as a suite of bills in the standing committee that went through public consultation. However, the focus of that consultation was Bill C-7, the governance bill. Bill C-19, now Bill C-23 moved in the shadow of the consultation of Bill C-7. A lot of the consultation took place in Parliament.

Bill C-19 was not taken to community consultation. In the Bill C-7 hearings, some people wanted to talk about Bill C-23, or Bill C-19 as it was, but were not allowed to because the mandate of the standing committee in the community hearings was limited to Bill C-7 only. If we are so proud of this bill and it stands the test of community consultation and first nations leadership consideration, it is time to take it to the communities. Let us make sure that everybody thoroughly understands that this search of fiscal relationship deals with a domestic market. There is an opportunity for borrowing members, and there is a definition of borrowing members among the first nations band councils.

There are also definitions of taxpayers. I find them very amusing because there are different categories of taxpayers. There are commercial taxpayers, residential taxpayers and utility taxpayers. I do not know of any other act, federally or provincially, where these different definitions and categories of taxpayers exist.

There is also an issue of a different type of first nation, a first nation member. First nations members are the Indians of Canada, as defined in the Indian Act. However, there is this other category of first nation member and that is a member who agrees with taxation of land. A first nation member who agrees with taxation can sit on the tax commission and on the fiscal institution.

It defines different types of first nations as well. If we are going to define different types of first nations and different types of taxpayers, why can we not define the different nations and tribes of Canada and allow these first nations, as orders of government, to be part of the security of a first nation? Lets say a first nation member wants to borrow money, say a Cree community in northern Saskatchewan in my riding. However, because of fiscal relationships, member does not pay taxes and cannot pay the debt. Why can the Cree nation, or the Prairie Cree or the Woodland Cree not come in and help the member, instead of the third party management or the co-management provisions in the bill?

That co-management and third party management is delegated to the different institutions: the financial management board, the tax commission, and the finance authority. These authorities will be created because of the risk management when dealing with market realities of borrowing money. Why can we not recognize the nations, the tribal councils that have been created across the country, in the bill as having a significant role in this new fiscal relationship?

Also, I cannot miss the opportunity to say that this is a bold vision by our Prime Minister, who wants to have a relationship with the first nations of this land. Allow that relationship to exist first before we define these in stone, in legislation. Once a first nation opts in, it will be difficult to opt out of the fiscal institution. It will be hard for first nations to redefine themselves as a non-borrowing member because the consensus of the borrowing members will be required before they do that.

There are many strong measures that need to be carefully looked at. Proper consultation and understanding by the first nations and their leaders needs to take place. The government should recognize true aboriginal governance first as nations and tribes. Then this legislation will provide them with security for the future. It is the wrong sequence of events.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 1:25 p.m.
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Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to congratulate the member for his speech. As he pointed out, it is not easy to pick up where one left off after an interruption. However, it is sometimes a matter of time.

I would like to ask him if he generally feels that the current Prime Minister, who says that he wants to establish a new, more harmonious relationship with the first nations, effectively gives the signal of a new relation by introducing Bill C-23.

We know that he met with first nations chiefs during a Canada-wide forum just a few weeks ago. At this forum, everyone seemed to show some goodwill. I was very surprised that, in the Attikamek community of Manouane—which will be in my riding after the election, which should come soon—two projects that the community really wanted and in which it had invested a lot—one on telehealth and the other on high speed Internet—were rejected, either by the Department of Industry or by the Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones, in the days following the meeting between the Prime Minister and the first nations chiefs.

I would like to know whether the member feels that, with Bill C-23, we are heading towards a renewed relationship with the first nations and a true acknowledgement of their self-government; or are we simply taking the same approach Jean Chrétien did with Bill C-7?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2004 / 1:20 p.m.
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is useful to back up a bit and look at the chronology of the evolution of this bill. It did begin life as Bill C-19 as part of a suite of legislation that the former minister of Indian affairs pitched as his vision of the first nations governance act, I guess, or the fist nations governance initiative, as he called it, because it was really three acts.

Bill C-19 was one of the most controversial aspects of that. Bill C-7 was shot down almost unanimously across the country. However, when Bill C-19 went before the committee, no amendments were successful. The committee did not tour and embark on any consultation with communities.

However, what we do know is that the Assembly of First Nations passed resolutions opposed to Bill C-19. A small group of bands and chiefs in British Columbia were in favour of Bill C-19 and are still in favour of this bill, but that numbers approximately 30 first nations that stand in support of the bill. There are 633 first nations that are members of the Assembly of First Nations. There are valid current and recent resolutions at the Assembly of First Nations that oppose this bill.

In my view, that is all we really need to know. For us to go ahead and pass a bill that would affect the lives of aboriginal people without their full consent and without even full consultation with them is, in my view, the height of imperial arrogance, a colonial style imposition of our views as to how they should conduct their affairs.

The optionality issue is key and fundamental to this because the government's only answer to the many criticisms about this bill was to try and convince people that it would have no general harm to the inherent recognition of inherited aboriginal and treaty rights because it would apply to only those first nations that sign on and that it is completely optional.

I heard the minister say that first nations could sign on and sign off. I think that is completely incorrect. Our legal opinion suggests that one cannot simply sign on, drop in and drop out willingly. In fact, as I pointed out, as far as the lending authority, the finance authority, once a first nation has signed on, it cannot leave without the unanimous consent of all the other signatories, and that is a rare thing. If there are 30, 40 or 50 first nations that have signed on, they would have to all agree to allow another first nation to opt out and, arguably, weaken their organization. Therefore, the freedom to come and go is severely limited, if not impossible. I argue that this is not an optional bill. This affects all first nations.

SupplyThe Royal Assent

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


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

May 5th, 2004 / 5 p.m.
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Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for Winnipeg Centre for his question. He is always very enlightened. I was happy to fight alongside him for 55 days, on behalf of the first nations and against Bill C-7, in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources. That was a record in Canadian parliamentary history.

The worst thing is that the government is talking out of both sides of its mouth. If the government is so enthusiastic about this bill, if it thinks this bill represents the future with all the parameters it contains, then it is possible and completely plausible to think that the government—through the back door—has given directives to the officials in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, who are responsible for implementing all these programs for the first nations, to have the first nations conform to the provisions of the bill, a bill they do not want, in order to receive grants or continue to benefit from government programs.

The government is still deciding on behalf of the first nations what is suitable for them and what is not. That is paternalism, pure and simple. What is the difference in attitude between the Indian Act that was imposed on the first nations and a bill like this one? They are the same. There is always this desire to keep the first nations down, to keep the pressure on them, even if they disagree with a bill, to apply the provisions of that bill, which might become law. That is unacceptable.

It is understandable that the first nations who are opposed to this may have their doubts about the government's good will. For decades, they have been promised all sorts of things, and their rights have been trampled on. For decades, they have been told they will be able to live, to develop and to benefit from the growth in the collective wealth, but they are kept on the sidelines.

I was talking earlier about Winneway and Chief Mathias. This same chief is engaged in a dispute with the lumber companies that want to cut wood on his land. His community would not collect any royalties on this harvest—on their own land. That is unacceptable.

Most first nations chiefs saw right through the government's intentions. The federal government is trying to get in through the back door in order to shirk its fiduciary responsibilities toward first nations.

There is also the whole matter of dispossessing traditional lands. Not much was said about this earlier. This is also a risk. At some point, traditional lands could be used as collateral by financial institutions. Is that right? Generation after generation of first nations members and chiefs have fought, throughout Canada's history, for the right to get their land back. Suddenly, this land could be seized by financial institutions. This is also a risk.

Not all first nations communities are prepared for this development, property tax, loans, and so forth. Can we allow this risk? Can we just ignore these risks when the provisions are not clear on this?

So many mistakes have been made in the past. The federal government's management of aboriginal affairs for the past 130 years is nothing to be proud of, not that it has been easy. As I mentioned at the end of my speech, even the United Nations finds that Canada is acting like the Rhodesians in South Africa before apartheid was abolished. Our treatment of the aboriginals is a little nicer, but not any less cruel.

That is why negotiations on self-government should be accelerated and concluded. Since the Erasmus-Dussault commission, since 1997—five years ago—not much progress has been made. Some first nations have achieved self-government. Some have concluded sectoral agreements. Some have reached a true self-government agreement on governance and jurisdiction, but not many.

In Quebec, we set ourselves the objective of speeding up the negotiations. Hon. members have seen what happened with the James Bay Cree, with the peace of the braves. That grew out of the 1978 agreement concluded by René Lévesque with the James Bay Cree. We modernized it, providing additional tools. Everyone knows how the James Bay Cree are developing now.

The same thing goes with the proposed agreement with the Innu. We want to speed things up in order to be able to live in harmony, to share the land and live as two nations on the territory of Quebec. The federal government ought to share that enthusiasm and that concern.

Imagine what an about-face would ensue. After 130 years of the infamous Indian Act, of subjugation, suddenly the federal government steps things up. Firm negotiations. The Erasmus-Dussault report. The first nations took great hope from the Penner report and the report by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Young aboriginal people could glimpse the possibility of identification with their nation, of pride in their nation, of a future with opportunity instead of a dead end.

What has happened since? Some things have been done, but are they things to be proud of? Can we say that we put every effort, every enthusiasm into it? When the government across the way is convinced of something, then it puts in the appropriate resources. When there is a bill it wants to see passed, it makes sure it moves through. Why not the same approach to the first nations? It would not be hard to devote more resources to this. The Prime Minister has surplus funds coming out of his ears, and he is well aware of this, having been the finance minister. Why, then, not put more resources into it, speed up the process, achieve self-government, be proud of this coexistence with the aboriginal peoples?

Aboriginal culture is a treasure. Its history, its languages are rich. Why not take advantage of that wealth instead of blocking the first nations' rights to be themselves, to govern themselves, to enact their own laws on their own territory, to benefit from its resources, and thus to survive? Quebec knows something about preserving culture. It is the most fundamental aspect of any people.

But instead, we are still stubbornly engaged in the divide and conquer approach. That is not the way to improve things.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2004 / 4:40 p.m.
See context


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-23. Earlier, I listened carefully to the reply by the parliamentary secretary to my questions on where exactly in the bill it was clearly set out that all these parameters, all these institutions, and the framework of this legislation, were truly optional, in the following context.

If the federal government wants to slough off its fiduciary responsibilities, can it do so by the back door, using this bill? The answer is yes. Why so? I will demonstrate, if I may, and then will get back to some other essential information.

When I met the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development a few weeks ago, he assured me beyond any doubt that, with the government's amendments, the new provisions in the bill would protect those first nations that did not wish to take advantage of the new framework imposed by Bill C-23.

He told me, “It will be beyond any doubt, and departmental staff will not have the right to use the means at their disposal, even intimidation, as has sometimes been the case in past files. That will be made clear”.

Looking at the amendments introduced by the government, however, we see there is no assurance that, once Bill C-23 is passed, there will be no government directives to the effect that, for example, any first nation's application for funding, or its ability to benefit from established programs, will not be subject to a directive indicating to the recalcitrant nations, “If you want to benefit from the program, or if you want to continue to get the funding to which you were entitled in the past, you absolutely must implement the provisions of Bill C-23”. There is no assurance whatsoever.

My references just now were not to isolated cases. This is, in my opinion, the best tool to relieve the federal government of any fiduciary responsibilities. That will be easy for the federal government, once the bill is passed. I am not saying that it will not benefit certain first nations, but they are the richest ones, the ones with the possibility of levying property taxes and borrowing from financial institutions.

As for the others, I believe we must have confidence in the aboriginal leaders. These are intelligent and thoughtful people. My colleague from Churchill mentioned that 61% of the chiefs of Canada's first nations have come out against this bill. The parliamentary secretary has just told us that, even if there were only one first nation that would benefit, he would fight for it.

That is the best way to divide and conquer, to arrange it so that, among the first nations, where there is usually great agreement on the defence of the basic rights of the aboriginal peoples, in comes a bill of this sort. The first nations are divided; two classes of members of the first nations are created; and they say, “Even if it is only of benefit to a few, we will pass it, despite fierce opposition by the 61% that do not want it”.

It would have been interesting, especially yesterday during the vote at report stage, to see the Prime Minister take a different approach. He brags about wanting to establish a new relationship and harmony between the first nations and the federal government, which has been sorely lacking over the past few years with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, whose mind was made up, who wanted nothing to do with aboriginal claims, who took a hard line and disregarded the unanimous opposition to Bill C-7, for example. Relations between us and the aboriginal people have suffered incredibly as a result of the former minister's attitude to the governance bill, or Bill C-7.

The Prime Minister tells us he wants to establish a new relationship. He even held a first nations summit—quite recently, just a few days ago—where he talked about new directions and self-government and so forth. He stood up yesterday, all smiles and fervour, and gave his unconditional support to Bill C-23, completely disregarding the fact that the majority of these first nations oppose this bill.

Before leaving, he actually greeted first nations members who were sitting in the gallery and who were extremely upset about what was happening. Yesterday, they found out that the new framework for harmonious relations between Ottawa and the first nations was just a smokescreen. The current Prime Minister will do exactly as his predecessor did; he will try to impose his views on the majority of first nations.

This is no way to act. When Bill C-7 was introduced in the House, we argued strenuously against it. Even on an initial cursory examination—we looked into it more closely later on—we realized that what the government wanted to propose was as shameful as the Indian Act that has been in effect for 130 years.

We spoke out against this legislation and we fought it, because the first nations have unanimously asked us to do so on their behalf. Unfortunately, the first nations were not at the table of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

When we are discussing the future of the first nations and redefining relations, it seems to me that first nations officials should be at the table to be part of these discussions. In this regard, the treaties that were signed decades if not centuries ago, were not agreements reached by Europeans, by pioneers who subordinated first nations and looked condescendingly on them. These agreements were reached through a negotiation process.

The first nations never gave up any authority over their lands. They never gave away any part of their lands either. Over time, over the past 130 years, with the Indian Act, we have violated the rights of first nations, we have parked them in reserves and told them “Do not worry, we will give you something to drink and eat”. We deprived them of their resources, of their traditional activities and of their hunting and fishing grounds. We also trampled on their institutions.

What are we doing today? We are proceeding more slowly, in a more polished manner, but we are doing the same thing. The large majority of first nations keep telling us that they are not satisfied with this bill, just as they unanimously told us that they disagreed with Bill C-7. We fought on their behalf against that legislation. We won because Bill C-7 was set aside.

However, have we actually won? This government has more or less the same attitude as the previous government. In fact, this government is the continuation of its predecessor.

It might be interesting to stop imposing things on first nations. It might be interesting to negotiate as equal partners. Such was the spirit of the initial treaties. There was a wampum belt, which was a kind of symbolic but no less real contract in terms of provisions. These treaties talked about two peoples making their way in parallel, each looking after its own affairs, in harmony, sharing the land, not transferring it from the first nations to the first Europeans.

Has our attitude changed? Yes it has. As a Parliament, we feel it is our mission to keep first nations in line. We do not care about harmony. We could have kept on working on this bill until things were perfectly clear and truly optional. For example, it is out of the question for ancestral lands to be used as collateral, or one day become the property of large financial institutions instead of belonging to first nations.

We could have agreed on a way to ensure the development of all first nations in order to do something about their desperate lack of wealth.

We could have agreed to fast track self-government negotiations while at the same time moving to adopt institutions which would have been optional and used only by those first nations ready and willing to do so. First nations that were forced by the government through the back door, against their will, to accept certain parameters of Bill C-23 should have been provided avenues of redress. This could have been done. Why was it not?

How can we allow ourselves to say that, if 40% of first nations agree, we can disregard the other 60%? Those who see this as the path to harmony should realize that they do not have the right attitude.

At a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, I put a question to the deputy minister in charge of negotiations regarding the expression “inherent right of first nations to self-government”, which is to say outright self-government. I asked him what was the status of these negotiations at present and what timeframe he envisaged to reach a settlement, to make agreements. These agreements would allow first nations to benefit from development tools such as government, community-based decision-making related to their identity, their culture, and even to aboriginal institutions which were scoffed at in the past.

I asked him when he thought the negotiations on self-government would end. He could not say. He only said that a lot of resources were needed to finalize the talks. That should be a government priority. We should not put the cart before the horse. We should not create institutions that are not suited to the vast majority of first nations.

My colleague from Churchill was quite clear on that when she asked what wealth the majority of first nations will be able to apply the provisions of the bill to or to benefit from. There is a high level of poverty in the majority of first nations communities. Basic needs are not even being met.

With respect to housing, for example, this year, 450 units will be built in Quebec, when it is 8,700 that are needed. Most of the existing housing stock has problems. There are chronic mould problems.

Where in this bill is there a possibility for these first nations to escape the poverty cycle? There are also socio-economic problems. What have we to offer for the young except a dead end? Does the bill deal with that? No.

The only possible answer is to speed up the implementation of self-government and give back to the first nations the ability to pursue their inherent right to self-government, which is entrenched in our Constitution. First nations need the tools to bring about their own development. Only after that should we consider the use of institutions that will gradually become major tools for the pursuit of that development.

What is our response to the problem of multiple substance abuse among first nations youth? What does a bill like this do about the lack of safe drinking water in many areas? Something is wrong. We are setting up ultra-modern institutions that can meet the needs of the rich, but not the real needs and circumstances of native peoples.

When we consider the situation now, two things should be done, as I said several times. First, we should provide adequate resources. And by adequate, I mean resources that are urgently needed to speed up the conclusion of self-government agreements so that we can eventually leave the first nations alone. They should become equal partners. Let us stop patronizing them and trying to impose things the overwhelming majority does not want. That is the first thing we should do.

Then, we should adopt a contingency plan. As I was saying earlier, there are urgent problems on first nations lands, serious socio-economic problems. Members of the first nations are left to their own devices.

What is happening in Lac Barrière with the unsanitary homes, is nothing new. I have seen the same thing in many aboriginal communities across the country. These people are being left to their own devices. Sometimes there is not enough money to hire a teacher, for example, to keep the school open in September.

We have to fight here, as we did in Winneway for example, for Chief Mathias. We asked for supplementary funds to prevent the school from closing in his community for lack of a teacher. There was a two month delay.

Now, chief Mathias has to deal with forestry companies that want to cut trees on his land. This Algonquin community does not get any royalties. What kind of world do we live in? We are in 2004, and we still have the old colonizing attitudes that existed a few hundred years ago.

We must accelerate self-government and introduce emergency plans to force the communities with the most problems to solve their dramatic social and economic situation.

I wish that the new Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the new Prime Minister had more consideration for first nations. I know that, with my speech, I will disappoint some of the first nations that would like to see this bill passed quickly.

However, we would have liked a renewal. As I mentioned earlier, the government could have reached out to all first nations in Quebec and in Canada and said, “Listen, we will take a few more weeks, but the outcome will be approved unanimously, or with a very wide consensus”. If this project had been proposed at the Assembly of First Nations' convention, the attitude would have been totally different.

I sensed some openness on the part of the new Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I also sensed some openness on the part of the new Prime Minister. However, in view of the facts so far, as of yesterday at least, when we voted on the report stage of this bill, my opinion has changed. The Prime Minister and all the members of the government, including the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, have missed a unique opportunity to demonstrate that perhaps now was not the right time to pass this bill, and that they should review the whole bill so as to reach a consensus.

In addition, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development could have announced—before continuing debate on this bill—that he intended to put more resources into negotiations about self-government. He did not do so. There is nothing there but words and speeches; the attitude and actions are not there; it is just not enough.

A few weeks ago, as I mentioned earlier, the deputy minister responsible for the negotiations admitted it, but not in so many words, by not providing a target date for the conclusion of the negotiations for the 80 self-government and claims tables. He sounded the alarm. Since the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Erasmus-Dussault report, was published there has not been any real acceleration in these negotiations.

The Erasmus-Dussault commission, as hon. members will recall, talked about 20 years for a wide range of things to be put in place so all negotiations on self-government could be concluded and the first nations would finally be able to take charge of their own destiny and develop their communities in terms of what they are and what they want to become.

At this rate, in 50 years, nothing will have changed. In 50 years, our successors will say, “Listen, many negotiations still have to be concluded. There are still first nations living below the poverty line with unemployment rates as high as 75% in some communities; there are substance abuse problems”.

The Erasmus-Dussault commission provided a golden opportunity to change things. Ever since the report was tabled, it is as though it never existed. The attitude seems to be, “Since we have given ourselves 20 years, we can take our time”.

We cannot take our time anymore. It has now become a national emergency. We absolutely have to redefine a number of things. We have even been criticized by organizations like the United Nations. That is incredible. And we are turning a deaf ear.

With the support of my colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, I would like to move the following motion in amendment:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

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, be not now read a third time because it fails to meet the needs of most first nations.”

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

May 5th, 2004 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak once again to Bill C-23, the first nations fiscal and statistical management act, which has been before Parliament for a long time under other monikers. It was previously Bill C-19. This was a bill that was tied very closely to Bill C-7, the first nations governance act. The government tied those two together so tightly that when Bill C-7 was finally buried by the minister, Bill C-19, now C-23, wore a lot of that.

There was a great attempt by the government to try to address concerns that were brought forward in terms of making C-19, now C-23, more palatable. There were a series of amendments tabled and discussed with the opposition critics. The opposition critics, including myself, agreed that tabling could occur.

One of the difficulties that all of the opposition parties are having is that those amendments were amendments that improved the bill. However, for all of us, those amendments did not improve the bill to the point where we are willing to support the bill.

My single biggest complaint with the bill, which I discussed with the previous minister, was the fact that the statistical institute was not decoupled from the fiscal institutes. Everyone agrees that the statistical institute is not essential to the workings of the other three institutes or boards that are enabled by this legislation.

I was expecting those amendments that would decouple the statistical side to be tabled. It did not happen. What we now have is a contradiction in the legislation. I do not see how a statistical institute for first nations can operate on an optional basis. I do not really want it to either because all of this is basically duplicating what Statistics Canada already does.

We already have a report from the Auditor General from December 2002 which clearly states that the amount of paperwork that the federal government demands of first nations at the administrative level far exceeds what is realistic or reasonable. Most of that information is never used by the federal government in any case. Therefore, it seems to me we are piling a problem on top of a problem for no rational purpose.

Even the president of the first nations finance authority agreed with the statement that the statistical institute is not essential to the workings of the other three institutions.

There has never been any attempt on the part of the non-government proponents to say that this is essential or necessary, yet the government, for whatever reason, has made a conscious decision that it is going to keep this in an omnibus fashion within the bill rather than let that other institution stand or fail on its own merits. I fail to understand that. I empathize very much with the criticisms that here is an institution to collect first nations statistics, but if it is not being done on anything more than an optional basis, the statistics are going to be meaningless in any case. This seems like some kind of swamp country that we just as well might avoid. That is my single biggest criticism of the bill.

This has brought a great deal of polarization to the first nations community, and a lot of it is unnecessary. A great deal of it relates to the fact that it was tied so closely to the first nations governance act. We do have about 25% subscription within the province of British Columbia to taxation by the bands in British Columbia and they have endorsed this. However, many of the other groups certainly have not, in a very strong sense of the word.

The parliamentary secretary talked at great length about the endeavours within the House of Commons since the aboriginal summit that was held in Ottawa not too long ago. That hastily prepared $350,000 summit excluded some native leadership. It certainly excluded the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and I am sure it excluded others.

The parliamentary secretary was putting great focus on the amount of aboriginal legislation that has been in the House since that moment. I have quite a different point of view in that really there has been almost no agenda from the government in this place on any subject.

The aboriginal agenda included Westbank, which the government side ended up filibustering, and there is Bill C-23, and not much else has happened in this place. I think one of the reasons even these two bills have progressed along the path to the extent that they have is that the government does not have any other legislation on the agenda that it wishes to pursue.

We can look at this many ways, but the way the government is choosing to look at it is certainly very constructed. It is certainly not the way those of us who have been in this place for many years are viewing the current goings on in the House of Commons.

Unfortunately, some of the difficulties that are inherent in this legislation, and I have given the background, ended up being worn by the proponents of, for example, the Westbank legislation. The Westbank legislation creates the strongest individual property rights on reserve anywhere in Canada, yet it took a lot of heavy criticism. I think a lot of that criticism would have been avoidable had it not been for the baggage that was brought forward as a consequence of the first nations governance act, this bill, and other goings on with the government.

Westbank is a band with significant taxation revenues, revenues that it has been collecting since the early 1990s. It has a strong record on taxation and it has a legitimate ability to use this suite of legislation in a very constructive and productive way.

We know that the bands that are in a good financial situation or have the ability to be there quite readily are very supportive of this legislation. I think it is unfortunate that the government delivered a package that was not much more straightforward and clear right from the beginning. The major criticisms it hastily tried to address after the fact could have been addressed months earlier, but they were not. To this date, all of the criticisms have not been addressed.

I think that covers most of my points. The parliamentary secretary is busy looking through his notes. I will give him the opportunity to ask me questions or to make comments.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

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


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to debate the amendments in Group No. 1 proposed by the government in connection with Bill C-23.

I was extremely disappointed by the government's amendments, not just Group No. 1, but also Group No. 2, which we will also likely deal with this afternoon. The main reason for this is that, when we met with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development a few weeks ago, he assured us there would be one amendment among those he was planning to propose to the House of Commons on Bill C-23 to the effect that the provisions of the bill would not be applied to the first nations of Quebec and Canada that did not want to take advantage of them.

Now, looking at the series of amendments in Groups No. 1 and No. 2, we do not see such an amendment. Yet the minister told us it would be among the government's amendments.

This results is an uncomfortable feeling toward the bill. I remember that the general assembly of the Assembly of First Nations was held in British Columbia a few months ago. Most of the chiefs from across Canada and Quebec were in attendance. The new chief of the Assembly of First Nations asked the assembly to express its opinion of Bill C-23, which at the time was C-19. There were some lively discussions on the scope of the bill, and finally there was a vote. A strong majority, 61% of the chiefs of Canada's first nations, voted against the bill.

Why? Because this bill does not meet the needs of the vast majority of Quebec's and Canada's first nations. It may be worthwhile for the most wealthy ones, the ones that are highly developed and might be able to take advantage of institutions and loan opportunities, particularly for investment in infrastructures.

Basically, however, for the vast majority of first nations, this bill does not live up to their expectations. In particular, it does not solve the many problems they face every day. These are the problems of safe drinking water, infrastructure, lack of or shortfalls in federal funding and housing. I believe I will have the opportunity to return to this important issue a little later.

Another thing this bill does is to arouse fears among the first nations. I believed that it would be different with a new minister who appears more open than the previous one. The previous minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was completely obtuse and impervious to all criticisms made by the first nations and the opposition parties. So much so that for Bill C-7 on governance, my NDP from Winnipeg Centre and I had to keep the government in suspense for 55 days with a filibuster in the committee, to make the point that the first nations did not want that bill.

And now here we are with a Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development who takes exactly the same stance with respect to Bill C-23. He had promised substantial amendments to allay the fears surrounding this bill. These fears arise primarily from the fact that the government may, under certain provisions of Bill C-23, make a clean slate of all its fiduciary obligations and arrange it so the first nations would have to assume, by themselves, all the debt they might enter into, and use their ancestral lands as collateral for such loans needed for infrastructure and other things.

It is a fear that has not yet been allayed. Despite the minister's promises, there is no amendment to reassure the first nations.

If 61% of the aboriginal communities in Canada do not want this bill, the minister's attitude or reaction should have been to say that they would sit down together and rewrite the parts of the bill on first nations financial institutions so as to reach a consensus and not please just 39% of the first nations.

It is quite sad to see that a government is dividing to conquer. Even the new Prime Minister, who met the chiefs of the first nations in a special assembly not so long ago, perhaps one and a half weeks ago, had promised greater openness and flexibility. He held out his hand and all the hopes were there. Once again, these hopes began with the series of amendments in Group No. 1 and Group No. 2.

It is unacceptable that the majority of first nations be served to this extent by legislation. If it had been clear legislation, with no room for confusion, and the assurance that the first nations that do not want to live with the provisions in Bill C-23 can opt out of this obligation, perhaps we would have supported more indepth consideration and our position would have been more carefully stated.

However, it is clear that no assurances are being given to the vast majority of first nations. So, we are unable to support such legislation.

The first nations communities have urgent needs. The fundamental need is for the self-government process to be accelerated. Helping the first nations achieve their inherent right to self-government is the only clear route we should use to guide our relationship with them.

In 1996, the Royal Commission of Inquiry tabled a report. It was preceded by the Penner report. Our time was spent writing reports and quasi-anthropological studies of the first nations before taking decisive action.

In 1996, the royal commission clearly said that this route was the only one possible, the only one that would generate results and ensure that the first nations could take responsibility for themselves. They must do so with their own tools for development and their own institutions. The early Europeans trampled on those institutions when they arrived in America. The first nations must take responsibility for themselves, with their own culture and languages too, their own way of managing their affairs and with the resources they are entitled to.

There have been too many cases, over the past 130 years under the Indian Act, where the aboriginal communities and first nations were put on reserves, on limited land with no possibility for development.

From all we hear, we criticized the first nations for not wanting to engage in their own development. But we took away all their means for development. Often, when land was discovered to have interesting forestry potential, we would displace aboriginal communities and let the major forestry companies exploit this resource. The term exploit has many meanings.

This exploitation by the forestry companies produced catastrophic results. Clear cutting occurred in many regions in Quebec and Canada. This activity violated the first nations ancestral lands where they could have practised their traditional activities, developed their communities and engaged in a reasoned, rational and sustainable exploitation of the forests. However, we often preferred to give concessions to U.S. companies to come devastate their lands. We took the first nations and put them on adjacent reserves and told them we would provide for their basic needs, and that was it.

That has been our relationship with the first nations in 130 years of applying the worst legislation ever created in the West: the Indian Act.

The only course to take is to recognize the inherent right to self-government. This has already been done in the Constitution; now we have to make it happen.

Currently too few discussions are accelerated for achieving self-government and giving first nations the land and resources they need for their own development in order to provide a promising future for their children. There are 80 negotiation tables right now and that is not enough.

I asked questions to the minister responsible for the negotiations. I asked him if, by the deadline established by the royal commission, which is 2018, we might expect that most of the cases will be settled, that the negotiations will be over, that we might be able to live in harmony with our different nations. This is uncertain.

Financial and human resources to expedite the process are lacking, and we are wasting time on bills. For example, last year, on Bill C-7, it was horrible to see the financial and human resources that were invested in a bill that no one wanted.

Group No. 1 of amendments to Bill C-23 is not satisfactory to us, and we will have the opportunity to go back to Group No. 2 a little later.

However, that being said, we must tackle the issue of self-government and speed up negotiations, but, in the meantime, we must also deal with urgent problems.

I mentioned housing at the beginning of my speech. There is a housing crisis in the first nations. There is an incredible lack of housing. Constructions that are done annually do not even represent a quarter of what would be needed, given the demographic growth in the first nations.

There are a number of other very urgent problems that must be solved in several communities, particularly the chronic mould problem. I have visited several aboriginal territories and realized that the problem was quite widespread.

Consequently, we must immediately allocate resources to deal with this problem. We must have an emergency plan, which is appallingly lacking at this time. Even the Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development told me there was no emergency housing plan. If there is no emergency plan, if we let entire aboriginal families live in substandard conditions, as is the case in Lac-Barrière, Winneway and elsewhere, we will not fulfill our duty as fiduciary of the first nations.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

April 26th, 2004 / 4:55 p.m.
See context


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was one week ago today that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and others held an aboriginal summit just down the street from this place. They brought in aboriginal leaders from around the country and told them that from now on the government was going to do things differently, and that there was going to be a whole new fiscal relationship between first nations and the federal government.

Yet, exactly seven days later we are in the House of Commons and the first nations people are faced with the government ramming legislation down people's throats that they have expressly stated they do not want and are not interested in. I wanted to point out this glaring contradiction. This bill of goods has been sold to aboriginal people across the country that things are going to be different. As a cautionary note, we have with us today dramatic evidence that things are no different. Things are exactly the same.

Having said that, let me say that it is the height of Eurocentric arrogance, a European model of paternalism that imposes governance rules and systems of governance on people such as first nations without their full participation and opting into that sort of process. What we have today is the tail end of the first nations governance act suite of legislation that was introduced by the last minister of Indian affairs. This is the rump of that initiative.

We managed to stop Bill C-7 with great effort in the House of Commons and with aboriginal people around the country mobilizing to put the brakes on this ill-conceived first nations governance act. What we have today is an aspect of the FNGA. It is an integral part of that suite of legislation that was so soundly rejected by aboriginal people across the country.

All we really need to know in the House today, as we debate these amendments to a flawed bill, is that the governing councils of first nations in this country, the Assembly of First Nations, have looked at this bill and rejected it. They have done so on a number of occasions.

In November 2002 there was a resolution. The Assembly of First Nations, at a meeting held in Ottawa on November 19 and 20, 2002, looked at the fiscal and statistical management act, and the proposed first nations fiscal institutions bill. I am holding the resolution here. I do not need to read all of the “whereas” and “therefore be it resolved” paragraphs, but members can take my word for it that they overwhelmingly voted down this bill. They reconvened again on February 20 and 21, 2003. In fact, this time it was the AFN's fiscal relations committee. It reconsidered this particular bill and again voted it down.

We either have respect for the legitimately elected leadership of first nations in the form of the Assembly of First Nations or we do not. The Prime Minister cannot on one day, Monday of last week, say that he has respect for the leaders that he brought to the table and then one week later act in a way that clearly shows that he does not have any respect for these particular resolutions, democratically asked at the legislative Assembly of First Nations.

Even more recently, in October 2003, I actually went to the Squamish first nation where it had called a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations to deal with this very bill at that time. The B.C. chiefs, who are actually interested in this bill, felt they had enough interest from the other chiefs to vote in favour of what was in Bill C-19 at the time. When the two day meeting was convened, even the chiefs in B.C., of whom there are over 200, could not carry the day and again it was voted down.

The only thing members of the House of Commons need to know is that the Assembly of First Nations met three times in the last year and half, looked at Bill C-19, now Bill C-23, and categorically rejected it. They were not interested. They go to the basic core of the issue in their objections. They are looking at this from the point of view of section 35 of the Constitution, inherent and aboriginal treaty rights, the inherent right of aboriginal people to govern themselves. This is not in that vein. This misses the boat.

Even if there were elements of the bill that would be helpful and useful, and some first nations may in fact wish to avail themselves of elements of this bill in terms of pooling their borrowing capabilities, even their ability to issue bonds, et cetera, those are things that can be done and are being done even outside of the legislative framework.

What we find here is a growing mobilization across the country to bury the bill altogether. In keeping with the promises and the sentiments of the meeting of last Monday, aboriginal people and first nations across the country are mobilizing to kill Bill C-23.

People from around the country are on their way to Ottawa right now, busloads of people mobilizing to come forward to tell you and to tell members of Parliament through you, Mr. Speaker, that they do not want Bill C-23. Who are we then to dictate to them what they should have and what we think their system of government should look like? We are a bunch of white guys and a couple of white women in suits who are going to once again, in a Eurocentric, colonial style, dictate to them what we think their way of life should look like.

I have a fax here which says “red alert”. Right across the country there is a red alert going out stating that Bill C-23 will be coming up for debate in the House of Commons on Monday and that people should mobilize, come together and defeat the bill. People will be coming to Ottawa and they will tell the Liberal government in no uncertain terms that this is not in keeping with any kind of new fiscal relationship between first nations and the federal government.

The bill is a disappointment. Some hope and optimism was dangled under the noses of aboriginal people just a week ago today. I think it is a cynical gesture on the part of the House leader of the Liberal Party to table this bill today and have us debate the bill at all in the context of those promises made just one week ago. It is not lost on the leadership of aboriginal communities across the country. In fact, people are taking note that we are having this debate today.

The amendments put forward would have members believe that these first nations' fiscal institutions will be optional. Those who are pushing this bill are saying that they do not know what the aboriginal peoples are concerned about because this is an option for which they can avail themselves.

The bill is optional in the same way that a driver's licence is optional. People do not have to go out and get a driver's licence but if they ever want to drive a car they do. That is the same logic that applies to these pieces of legislation.

First nations do not have to avail themselves of the new fiscal institutions and the tax commission but if hey go to the federal government under their formal relationship that they have today, the fiduciary obligation with the federal government, and ask for help for economic development, the federal government will say, “Your options lay over in the first nations fiscal institution. Sign on your community to this new package of four financial institutions and you can borrow money on the open market to build your own sewage treatment plant. Do not come running to me.” That is the fear that small communities have that will happen. This is what the predictable consequences of the bill will be.

Even though the parliamentary secretary has dutifully put forward amendments, we cannot accept them and we cannot accept the bill. We think the bill flies in face and is in direct contrast to the commitments made to aboriginal people last Monday. It is a load of hooey.