First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act

An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Andy Scott  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

The enactment provides for the establishment of regulatory regimes for commercial and industrial activities to be undertaken on reserve lands pursuant to agreements with first nations. As Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to make laws in relation to Indian lands, some provincial regulatory laws do not apply on a reserve to the same extent as elsewhere in a province. To provide a means of closing that gap, the enactment authorizes regulatory regimes to be established in federal regulations, whether by the replication of provincial laws or otherwise.

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.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2005 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Cleary Bloc Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-71, An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands.

The purpose of Bill C-71 is to correct what the government calls “regulatory gaps”. This is an expression it uses to cover up the absence of an appropriate legislative and regulatory framework to encourage and regulate economic development on aboriginal reserves.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-71.

Quebec, like the other provinces, moreover, already has a legal framework governing commercial and industrial activities, but the division of powers under the Constitution means that some of those standards do not apply on reserve lands. This results in inequalities that put aboriginal people at a disadvantage.

The purpose of the bill, therefore, is for the federal government to inaugurate on the reserve, at the request of a first nation, regulations similar to the legislation of Quebec or of the province in which the reserve is situated.

Although the genesis of this bill came from five first nations—the Squamish nation in British Columbia, the Fort McKay first nation and the Tsuu T'ina nation in Alberta, the Carry the Kettle first nation in Saskatchewan, and the Fort William first nation in Ontario—none of the first nations in Quebec were consulted. Bill C-71 will have repercussions on Quebec and it would have been better to consult more with the aboriginal peoples concerned.

The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador asked the chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development that the Quebec communities be consulted so that they might examine the bill and analyze the specifics of applying such legislation. It is regrettable that the government once again broke its promise to consult the first nations.

Several years ago, Quebec adopted an approach based on respect for aboriginal peoples. The Bloc Québécois is proud of this direction and recognizes aboriginals as a distinct people entitled to their culture, language, customs and traditions and their right to develop their own identity their own way.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes that in order to do this, aboriginals must have the tools they need to take charge of their own economic development. That is why the Bloc Québécois hopes to review Bill C-71 with the first nations of Quebec, since it affects this important aspect and needs to be analyzed thoroughly with the first nations.

Although passing this bill will engender improvements, the federal government must do a lot more for aboriginals. The housing conditions, education and health of aboriginals are inferior to those of the rest of population.

On the reserves, most families—65%—live in substandard housing. The Bloc Québécois deplores the fact that the lack of affordable housing of adequate size and quality for aboriginals has consequences beyond simple housing standards.

Various medical and social problems are linked to poor housing conditions and quality of life. The Government of Canada must make the effort needed to correct the situation without simply handing over the problems to the first nations.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2005 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill C-71, the first nations commercial and industrial development act.

The reason I feel so privileged to speak to this on behalf of the Conservative Party is because of the work the Conservative Party has done to bring the bill forward in the dying days of what has been a very frustrating legislative period.

We had lots of opportunities throughout this Parliament to bring this forward. The critic for the official opposition, the member for Calgary Centre-North, recognized that this legislation had virtually stalled in the House. It was through his efforts that it has been brought forward and we are likely and certainly hopeful to see the bill passed.

I also need to recognize the amount of effort put into this and the background work done by the specific first nations named in the bill. I will read the names out because I think it is most important to recognize the efforts of the first nations in bringing this forward. These are forward-thinking nations who understand that the present Indian Act is not working for them and not working for any of the first nations in this country. Accolades go to the following first nations: the Squamish Nation of British Columbia, the Fort McKay First Nation, the Tsuu T`ina Nation of Alberta, the Carry the Kettle First Nation of Saskatchewan and the Fort William First Nation of Ontario.

I would like to bring it to the House's attention that the Tsuu T`ina Nation, which is within my riding, is a very proud, individualistic group that have put forward some of the best initiatives that, frankly, we have seen. Not only does it have one of the most beautiful reserves within my riding, it has an incredible view to the west of the Rocky Mountains, second to none in this country, of course.

I have spent a great deal of time working with these people and have a great deal of respect for them. I am very proud to say that they were one of the main proponents of bringing the bill to the position it is at today. They recognize that they have great opportunities ahead of them. Therefore I strongly endorse the legislation so they will actually have the opportunity to seek a better future for their children. We all seek that but this old Indian Act that we are dealing with and have been dealing with for years is outdated. It does not allow these people the opportunity to plan for their future.

The other one that needs to be recognized is the Fort McKay reserve with a $4 billion project in conjunction with Shell oil sands. This is one of the shining lights in Alberta, and I am sure the House is well aware of it. However this opportunity will not be within the reserve's grasp if we do not move the legislation forward, which is why we on this side of the House were so concerned that the bill had been stalled and why we are pushing it forward to actually get it to move ahead. Certainly some other pieces of legislation have not made it quite that far.

We would strongly encourage all sides of the House to support this legislation. It is a great opportunity for all of these first nations to actually seize their future and to control the future of their nations and their children.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
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Barrie Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved that Bill C-71, An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, be read the third time and passed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

(Bill C-71. On the Order: Government Orders)

November 22, 2005--The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development--Consideration at report stage and second reading of Bill C-71, An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, as reported by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development without amendment.

(Bill concurred in at report stage and read the second time)

(Bill C-57. On the Order: Government Orders:)

November 18, 2005--The Minister of Finance--Consideration at report stage of Bill C-57, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to financial institutions, as reported by the Standing Committee on Finance with amendments.

(Bill concurred in at report stage)

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2005 / 4:45 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice, Bill C-71 be deemed to have been concurred in at report stage and read a second time in order for consideration at third reading later this day and Bill C-57 be deemed to have been concurred in at report stage in order for consideration at third reading later this day, and that at the third reading stage of each bill, after no more than one speaker from each party has spoken for not more than five minutes, the question shall be deemed put and deemed carried on division.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

November 22nd, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, first nations across Canada are increasingly developing plans for large scale commercial and industrial development projects. We now have Bill C-71, a first nations led initiative that would enable first nations to increase the number of major commercial and industrial projects on reserves.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell the House how Bill C-71 would improve the quality of life on reserve and help first nations communities build a brighter future?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 22nd, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The committee has studied Bill C-71, an act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands and has agreed to report it without amendment.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2005 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to represent the constituents of Edmonton—Sherwood Park in the debate on Bill C-71. It is an important bill. I think probably most people here will regret the fact that it is being given a rush job. It is very important in these instances to get things right. In general I concur with and support the intent of the bill.

Before I talk about the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, I would like to make a brief comment about the process we are undertaking. I know probably most Canadians who are watching this on CPAC are not aware of the fact that we are doing this under a slightly different procedure from the norm. That is, whereas usually a bill is introduced by the government and then receives second reading, which is called the debate on agreement in principle, in this instance we are debating the bill prior to it coming to second reading. We are debating a motion that the bill will be sent to committee before second reading.

The intent of that is, or at least it is advertised to be, the parliamentary committee will have greater and more flexible input into the wording of the bill. It sounds wonderful in its concept. However, in the 12 years I have been in the House I have observed that more often than not the government has used this to stifle debate. I hate to say that, but that is what has happened.

One of the things that occurs is that we get this debate where we have 10 minute speeches, and it is not really possible to get into the depth of it. Then it goes off to committee and the committee deals with the bill in hopefully a more flexible fashion because it has not yet received second reading in the House.

Unfortunately, in previous occurrences of this process being used, there have been instances where the government has used it to limit debate and the power of the committee to change the different clauses in the bill is not as great as it should be under these circumstances.

On numerous occasions I have been very frustrated in committee. Even though opposition members have tried to make meaningful, reasoned and defensible amendments to bills, they have been shot down by the majority government. Sometimes members on the committee have not fully understood what is being debated and the ones who have given the orders from on high have not been in committee to hear the arguments. That is a potential problem. It is less of a problem when we have a minority government, but it still is a difficulty with which we need to continue to grapple.

With respect to this bill, it is long overdue. I am not sure that it is a perfect bill. In fact, I have a couple of questions about it myself, just in a cursory reading of it. It is a situation that we have in Canada which is unique and it needs to be addressed.

We like to say that we are a nation of equality, that we treat all our members in our society equally. Yet over the last 135 plus years we have had two different sets of rules for different segments of our population. When settlers first came to the country from Europe and other parts of the world, the natives were here already. For some reason, the powers that be at the time during Confederation set up quite a different way of allowing them to run their society from the way the rest of us could, those of us who immigrated to Canada more recently.

I always say that Canada is made up of all immigrants. Any person who has studied the history of our continent will say that even the natives came here from elsewhere, albeit a number of centuries earlier than the rest of us. However we are all immigrants on this continent and those who arrived here first, for some reason, have over the years suffered from a set of rules governing their activities that were substantially different and to their detriment. I for one would like to see this corrected.

I have had a number of really good relationships with different first nation individuals. Way back, when I was teaching at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, I taught a number of first nation students. They were very fine people. If I can generalize, they have a gentle nature. I found them to be very cooperative most of the time, certainly on par with my other students.

It is unfortunate that these individuals had a completely different set of rules and one of them with respect to ownership of their land. There are different rules, such as ownership of mineral rights on lands that are usually separate from surface rights. However the natives on reserves have not had the ability to capitalize on the potential that some of their resources had. If they did, they were under separate rules and this gave, in some instances, an advantage and, in some instances, a disadvantage. In any case, I think it would help to promote the well-being of our country if we treated natives and non-natives alike when it came to the use of the resources they have on the land on which they live.

One of the things not in the bill that has distressed me over the years is that natives generally are not permitted to own their own land. They are on reserves and the land is held in a commune style way. None of us who are used to living the other way would tolerate for a minute not being able to own our own house or the land it sits on, or that the money designated to us by the government would go to other people who then could use it to control our life and determine whether we can fix a broken window in our house.

Unfortunately, over the years we have had too many instances where what I call the grassroots natives have asked for help. They tell us what has happened and they say that they have absolutely no power to influence the outcome. It could be the electrical system in their house that is not right or the plumbing system that is not working but they cannot get the money to fix those things. We hear a lot these days about water and sewage systems. Those things need to be corrected.

This bill in particular deals with the development of natural resources and is rather specifically directed toward oil sands development on reserve land in Alberta and elsewhere. I am somewhat familiar with this. Before the Electoral Boundaries Commission made such a terrible job of re-drawing the boundaries in my riding, my previous riding of Elk Island included, among other things, the Shell upgrader plant just outside of Fort Saskatchewan in the province of Alberta. I know the issues being dealt with here are very important because of the fact that they will allow not only the natives on the reserves but also Albertans and, indeed, all of Canada to benefit from the development of these resources in an orderly way.

I have some serious questions which I hope the committee addresses, especially, as my colleague from the NDP mentioned, questions with respect to regulations that are really wide open. We speak of self-government for our native people and yet these regulations are totally under the control of the minister.

If we had a good, benevolent minister and a good, honest government I know these things could work for the benefit of the natives but there needs to be a system of checks and balances. Even when we form government and we have a Conservative minister of Indian affairs we should have a system whereby there is a great deal more accountability than this particular bill provides.

Unfortunately, my time is up. I had a good introduction, and this is what I am talking about. These 10 minute speeches do not really allow us to develop the thoughts that we want to. I hope the committee will do some good work in analyzing and correcting the few flaws that are in the bill.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2005 / 12:30 p.m.
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London West Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague has been looking at economic issues in the country over many years. I know he appreciates the necessity of this, not only off reserve but on reserve. The partnering first nations have been advocating this initiative passionately and eloquently, both with the Government of Canada and other first nations. They have sent information packages regarding the proposed legislation to all first nations and first nations organizations.

Support material was provided, including a bulletin for first nations, a document on the functional principles of the proposed bill as well as a technical working paper.

First nations were also informed about the 1-800 toll free number, the website address www.fncida.ca for information in either French or English, and the e-mail address info@fncida.ca for additional information.

Following introduction, the bill kits were distributed to all first nations as well. The bill kits also included a cover letter, a numbered copy of Bill C-71, a backgrounder, a bulletin, a press release and frequently asked questions.

Once again, first nations were invited to use the toll free number or the website address or the e-mail address for comments and additional information.

Partnering first nations have conducted presentations, addressing the proposed legislation with officials from the Indian Resource Council and the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business. Similar presentations also were conducted at several national first nations meetings, including the first nations summit in September and the Alberta chiefs summit in October. Information packages were provided at the Assembly of First Nations economic first nations summit in November.

Ultimately, we can always have a first nation that has not read some of the material or has not felt that they have been engaged enough. What we have is legislation that will be an economic business tool for the development, a sectoral self-government.

I know the member has been very much engaged in productivity discussions over the years. How does the member feel about economic productivity and how that allows first nations and their communities to work on the social and cultural activities, that engagement of services within those first nations?

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal Vaughan, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-71, the First Nations commercial and industrial development act. I sincerely hope that members on both sides of the House will support the bill because it is a logical and sensible step forward from a business perspective. Also, essentially many of the issues that we debate in the House really come down to two essential elements: to improve the quality of life of people and their standard of living. There is no question that the bill will also improve the quality of life on reserve and better equip first nations communities with skills and resources to invest in their future.

This chamber is indeed about that. This chamber is about providing and expanding opportunities for individual Canadians to provide them with greater hope for the future, to give them a sense that they can fulfill what I define as the Canadian dream, that tomorrow can indeed be better than today. We collectively in this chamber have a responsibility to make it so. People in Canada need to be given these opportunities.

This bill, the FNCIDA, is a progressive piece of legislation. It will remove significant barriers that are currently denying first nations communities access to major commercial and industrial projects on reserve land.

When we think of public policy, when we think of ways to improve our society, it is very important to remove barriers. That is a very positive step that we as legislators should endorse, to remove barriers for great economic growth, to remove barriers to maximize one's own potential, whether as individuals or as communities.

A significant barrier to this access is inadequate legislation that was put in place under an entirely different economic reality. It is now time to recognize the economic potential for commerce and industry on reserve land and to consider the invaluable benefits to the quality of life that the FNCIDA will help to facilitate.

With existing barriers removed, projects governed by the FNCIDA would mean more active participation by first nations in the economy. The bill would be a gateway to increased revenues that could be reinvested to stimulate further growth and help propel prosperity in first nations communities.

The best example of a project that will benefit from the bill is the multi-billion dollar oil sands mine being pursued by Fort McKay First Nation in northern Alberta. Over the life of the project, direct and indirect economic benefits for Fort McKay First Nation are expected to be $1 billion to $2 billion.

It is easy to see how increased revenue and economic growth are tangible and positive outcomes of this legislation. It is easy to see how really liberating the economic potential of an area can bring about the type of prosperity, the type of renewal of all the energies that exist within a community to improve the quality of life and standard of living.

The projects the bill would enable would do more than bring in just more money. They would improve the quality of life through ensuring industry-wide standards in environmental protection and public health safety, creating more jobs on the reserve and offering opportunities for capacity building for the future.

With new jobs come more education, training and skills development. It is the way to enlarge the pool of opportunity. It is the way to give people the types of incentives that increase the opportunities that exist. With the new jobs there are short term outcomes. Employment and earned income translate in the long term into improved quality of life, a better future and access to other opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.

Essentially the bill provides opportunities that are not present. It is clear to see that the bill improves the situation on these particular reserves. Why is that important? That is what we do here. It is what this chamber does. It is what members of Parliament and individuals try to do in building a better society. It is the raison d'être of parliamentarians.

What is really important about this piece of legislation is that in many ways it is a result of great input from people who will eventually benefit from the bill. The fact that in a democratic process we have people from all over Canada saying that these measures would help them improve their quality of life and standard of living and to move forward with change speaks to the fact that people are engaged. The bill is an example of such action, of what can be achieved when people pool their resources, share in a common vision and bring about positive change to their lives.

For first nations communities like Fort McKay, more active participation in the Canadian economy facilitated by the FNCIDA will mean a significant improvement in the quality of life on reserve in other ways as well. Revenues generated through large scale commerce and industry can be directed toward upgrading road, water and sewer infrastructure, and building playgrounds, schools and medical centres.

The benefits of the bill are self-evident. We have expanded opportunities, generation of revenue that will be directed toward education, which will provide people with skills. We are also building infrastructure necessary for future generation of wealth which in turn will also improve the standard of living, quality of life in many ways, in health and education which I think are elements of our society that people really care about. What about the great improvement we will see when children have access to greater educational opportunities, when we see young people who will look to the future with a sense of optimism because there are jobs available? What do we see when we see playgrounds springing up on reserves where children can play and have a great childhood experience? What does that mean in real terms? To view the bill in isolation would be a mistake.

There are five partnering first nations who have been actively involved in the development of the FNCIDA: Fort McKay; Fort William First Nation in Ontario; Squamish Nation in British Columbia; Carry the Kettle First Nation in Saskatchewan; and Tsuu T'ina Nation in Alberta. They are a perfect example of what can be achieved when we as individuals want to build a society where positive change takes place. For that reason I congratulate the first nations.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will try to summarize my comments on Bill C-71.

The point I was trying to make was that any parliamentarian of any party should be very concerned about the regulations that would be permitted by Bill C-71. Imagine, by regulation the government can “confer any legislative, administrative, judicial or other power on any person or body that the Governor in Council considers necessary”. Can we imagine this being acceptable anywhere else in Canada in any other jurisdiction? It is beyond me. How could a decision ever be appealed? One could not go and appeal this in federal courts.

While some subsections of the bill require that the powers exercised be done in a manner that is consistent with the provincial regulations, other sections seem to give it unbridled power. This is my fear again of this bill being seemingly simple, but actually a Trojan horse seeking to accomplish some secondary objective that is not clear at the front end.

Knowledgeable people have come to us saying that for the five first nations who sponsored Bill C-71 there were ways for them to accomplish what they needed to accomplish to allow the economic development to take place in their communities without this legislative change in Bill C-71. In other words, within the parameters of the existing acts of Parliament that have jurisdiction, these first nations probably could have taken these steps.

I do not have time to go through all of my party's concerns, but subclause 2(o) in Bill C-71 is of concern as well as subclause 2(p) and 2(q), clause 5, and subclause 9(2). I am registering my concern about all of these clauses and subclauses for further investigation when the bill gets to committee.

My party is very concerned that the tone and the content of this bill may take communities to places they do not realize they are going. I simply point to the summary of the bill on the cover which states:

--Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to make laws in relation to Indian lands--

That is worrisome in and of itself because it does not respect section 35 of the Constitution. The preamble states:

WHEREAS existing Acts of Parliament do not provide sufficient authority for Canada or first nations to establish such regimes;

I challenge that because under the Indian Act a first nation could have simply established a bylaw which would incorporate the provincial law as its own and this bill would not have been necessary.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2005 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill C-71.

Let me set the record straight from the get-go. If this bill gets held up or bogged down, I do not for one moment accept that it has anything to do with the opposition parties. In fact I, for one, as the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP have been waiting for three months for this bill to come to the aboriginal affairs committee in order to deal with it properly. We cleared the slate for it to come here. So, if there are any misconceptions out there about our democratic right to call the Liberals to task in the event of an election happening, it certainly does nothing to undermine this initiative.

Having had the fullness in time, now, to deal with this bill, I am glad we are having this debate today. We would not be having this debate today because as of a week ago there was an all-party agreement to fast-track this bill. However, this bill has fallen as collateral damage to other negotiations taking place about fast-tracking other bills. Now we are told that, until we get all-party agreement on how we vote on those other fast-track bills, there will be no cooperation on this bill.

So, let us be clear on what is really driving the lack of progress on Bill C-71.

Speaking to the merits of the bill, let me begin by saying that we have had feedback from some first nations around the country who are concerned about the bill. I agree with my colleague from the Bloc that there is justification to have this bill go to committee and hear some of these concerns. Even the government's own briefing note starts by saying there is some opposition to this bill. I can tell members the Indian Resource Council of Canada is thoroughly opposed to this bill.

Looking at the bill, the summary begins:

As Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to make laws in relation to Indian lands,--

We know that is simply not true in either tone or in content. Parliament's jurisdiction may make provincial jurisdiction ultra vires, but now that we have subsection 35(1), there is a first nation jurisdiction the government wants to squelch. It could be said that provincial regulatory laws do not apply on reserve, so why this preamble? I believe it reveals the true thinking of the authors. This is one of the points that is being made in competition here.

The preamble states:

WHEREAS existing Acts of Parliament do not provide sufficient authority for Canada or first nations to establish such regimes;

There are two concerns I have with that statement. I should point out as a historical note that we would not have subsection 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, were it not for the specific efforts, in fact the stubborn obstinance, of the NDP of that time. I am sitting here with my colleague from Ottawa Centre who as the leader of the NDP at the time made two personal visits to Prime Minister Trudeau imploring and urging the government, emphasizing that we must acknowledge existing and inherent aboriginal and treaty rights in the Constitution Act, 1982, or it would be incomplete and we would have lost this opportunity.

So, we would not have subsection 35(1) were it not for the efforts of people like the member for Ottawa Centre, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, who was fully engaged in that negotiation and debate, the member for Skeena at that time, Jim Fulton, the aboriginal affairs critic, and Jim Manly from Vancouver Island, the NDP critic also at the time. All these members urged and dragged the Liberal government of the day, kicking and screaming, into recognizing the inherent existing aboriginal and treaty rights.

It is in that same context that I am here to defend subsection 35(1)of the Constitution Act, 1982, to ensure that nothing is passed and certainly not fast-tracked in such a way that would undermine or diminish the tone and content of this piece of legislation.

That is the concern that I raise here today. When the bill states that Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to make laws in relation to Indian lands, how is that recognizing the inherent existing rights of aboriginal people to self-determination? We are off to a bad start before we even get to the substance of the bill.

That tone is worrisome because there is a fear in Indian country that we are fast-tracking pieces of legislation through that incrementally diminish the inherent right to self-determination. When such time as self-government does come about for first nations, there will be nothing left to regulate because it will all have been incrementally chipped away and handed over to other pieces of legislation.

The preamble in the legislation states:

WHEREAS existing Acts of Parliament do not provide sufficient authority for Canada or first nations to establish such regimes;

An act of Parliament is not needed to provide this sufficient authority for a self-governing first nation to regulate its own internal affairs such as establishing a regulatory regime. First nations can do that now under self-determination.

There already is an act of Parliament, the Indian Act, which could have been used in this case where there are no secondary motives at play. A first nation could simply establish a bylaw which would incorporate provincial law as its own law. That would have been a simple way under an existing act of Parliament to harmonize the regulatory regime on a reserve to the regulatory regime of a province without undermining or chipping away the right of self-determination or putting another law in effect which could erode that first nations jurisdiction.

It is good that we are having this debate today because I have another concern to raise. These ideas have developed since--

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2005 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the fine work my colleague has done in advancing the cause of first nations, not only the first nations in his riding but elsewhere.

I was a little saddened to hear that comment. This legislation is being dealt with in a non-partisan way, as my learned friend points out. I wish to point out for the record that this Parliament has perhaps been unique because an enormous amount of legislation has arrived at Parliament from the doorsteps of first nations, not legislation developed by the Government of Canada but legislation developed by first nations.

I speak of Bill C-54, the oil and gas legislation that was brought to the House, developed by the first nations themselves; Bill C-71, which we are speaking to today, again developed by first nations; and Bill C-20, the fiscal and management package legislation, also developed by first nations.

All the legislation has been brought to the House and it has been moved through the House expeditiously, with a minimum of partisanship. There has been no partisanship from any of the opposition parties on any of the legislation. That needs to be pointed out because there is an attempt being made right now to suggest that somehow Parliament has blocked the advancement of aboriginal Canadians or that Parliament has not been in favour of the legislation that has been brought forward to improve their economic and social conditions.

Parliament can be very proud of the work it has done. The Indian affairs committee can be very proud of the work it has been done over the course of the last 18 months. There is, at this point, not a single piece of aboriginal legislation backlogged in the House. The opposition parties have not blocked any legislation that the Government of Canada has brought forward on aboriginal Canadians. Therefore, to somehow suggest that the opposition parties are being partisan is unfair in the extreme.

This legislation was brought to the House by the government today. The opposition parties are indicating their willingness to have it moved expeditiously through the House of Commons before any election takes place. At the end of the day, Canadians will be the judge of who is responsible for many of the difficulties and grievances that we see in aboriginal communities. It has not been the opposition parties.

I congratulate the proponents of this legislation, who are in Ottawa today, and they have our support.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2005 / 10:15 a.m.
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Miramichi New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, certainly I want to compliment the parliamentary secretary and the department and the minister for the leadership that he is offering in this initiative.

We know that there are over 600 first nations across this country. From our point of view, and probably from their point of view, it is unfortunate that much of the legislation under which they work and live was developed back in the 19th century. Today we live in the 21st century and across this country first nations leaders and people are attempting to improve their economic activity. I know that for too long they have had to try to promote this in this House, but the new legislation that is being introduced today will enable them to make the best efforts in terms of their own initiatives to develop an economy for their people.

In the gallery today we have some of those people who have led this issue. I have met with them before as the parliamentary secretary. We know that they are very much interested in having this legislation move forward.

We have a great number of very important items before this House, this being one of them, and we know, of course, that there are those who want this House to end. I would hope that in terms of the people who are gathered here today and see this as important that we as a group of legislators can attempt to bring this to a vote and that we can see it through committee, and hopefully not only for the five that were mentioned by the parliamentary secretary, because in my own area of Atlantic Canada we have initiatives there and we have leaders who are doing great work in terms of developing the economy for their people.

As a member of Parliament from Atlantic Canada, I want to join with those in the other parts of this great nation to see that opportunities are created for the first nations people who are the original people, the indigenous people of Canada. It is great to support Bill C-71. Hopefully it will be fast tracked through this House and we can see the results of legislation which we have approved.

First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development ActGovernment Orders

November 18th, 2005 / 10 a.m.
See context

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved:

That Bill C-71, an act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.