An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Jim Prentice  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 21, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment repeals section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and provides for a statutory review, within five years after the enactment receives royal assent, of the effects of the repeal by any parliamentary committee that may be designated or established for that purpose. It also contains a transitional provision with respect to aboriginal authorities.

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.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2008 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak in support of the amended Bill C-21.

Members will recall that the bill was first introduced into the House in the 39th session of Parliament as Bill C-44. It has been re-introduced into the House as Bill C-21 and has gone through a very lengthy committee process. It has now come back to the House in its amended form for final conclusion.

To recap, members will remember that the act would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which excludes Indians who live or work on reserve from filing human rights complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in respect of any alleged human rights violations that relate to any action arising from or pursuant to the Indian Act.

I want to make it very clear from the outset that this party, this official opposition, has supported the intent of the bill. The repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act has been a long time in coming and it is something that we support very much.

What we did not support was the manner in which the bill was brought forward, both in its initial introduction and in its subsequent introduction as Bill C-21. It was brought forward without any consultation with first nations communities. We heard that there were significant concerns about the legislation, but there seemed to be absolutely no will, commitment, effort or respect on the part of the government to address some of those concerns.

I am repeating myself, but I want to make it very clear. I said, at least 18 times, in the House or in committee, as did my colleagues, that we supported the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act. We did not support the process in which the government chose, as one of the chiefs from Alberta said, to ram it down their throats.

We are proud to support the amended legislation. We are proud of the process that went on in committee. We heard from a host of witnesses who came before the committee. I emphasize that this is not a substitute for consultation; it was about hearing witnesses and their concerns. Out of the 21 or 22 witnesses we heard, only 1 witness supported the legislation in its original form. We heard learned presentations from academics. We heard from leaders in the aboriginal community. We heard from individuals in the aboriginal community. We heard concerns from the men and women who the bill would affect.

We were concerned that there was no interpretive clause. We were concerned that there was no non-derogation clause. We were concerned that there was no attention given to the fiscal capacity. We were most concerned that the transition period was very short. We were also concerned that no study or analysis had been done on the impact the legislation would have on first nations communities. We know an analysis was done on what the impact would be on INAC, but no study was done to determine what the impact would be on first nations communities.

The amended legislation was a model of cooperation by the opposition parties, listening to the representations we heard from individuals, working together to amend the bill to make it a stronger, fairer bill for aboriginal people in our country.

Many times we heard in the House that we had gutted the bill. Far from it. Misrepresentations were mailed out to every household in my riding, misrepresenting my position and the position of my party as it related to the bill.

We proposed a number of important amendments to the bill. We proposed and passed through committee, a non-derogation clause, an interpretative clause, an extension of the time for implementation for three years. This is important. The government originally proposed six months. It was willing to extend it to 18 months, but not beyond that. I am pleased to see the government has allowed it to go in at three years now.

The implementation period of three years will allow first nations to determine their capacity and to look at the implications. It will allow them to prepare their communities for the actual final implementation of the bill.

As the House may recall, the government tried at one point, through a point of order, to remove the non-derogation clause and the interpretative clause. We are pleased that it has come back with amendments. Although they are not what we would have preferred, we will accept the amended non-derogation and interpretative clauses in the bill. They deal with the intent and the protection of the collective rights of first nations communities. We do, however, prefer the amendments put forward in committee, but as an expression of good faith and a desire to get the bill passed, we will support the amendments put forward by the government.

With the amendments, we would be able to grant human rights to first nations people in a way that balances their collective rights with individual rights as well as maintaining all existing aboriginal and treaty rights, as recognized under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

With respect to the transition period, first nations will now have an adequate amount of time to prepare for the legislation. In doing so, the government will have a chance to properly consult with all affected first nations peoples. I sincerely hope the government will take advantage of the opportunity to do this. I hope it will not just tell them but engage them in a meaningful consultation process whereby it will listen to them and work with them to implement the bill.

Once the bill comes into effect, first nations will work with the government to undertake the extensive preparation, the capacity, fiscal and human resources required.

The important part of this is the amended legislation, and it was amended not without acrimony or without challenge, is an example of parliamentarians working together to fix flawed legislation and amend it to reflect the best interests of first nations people.

As I said at the beginning, the Liberals have always maintained our support for the repeal of this section. It was not done in a way which we supported. Since the bill is now in front of us, we are proud to say that we improved flawed legislation to reflect the views of first nations communities throughout the country. They will be able to work with this legislation, and we are proud to support it.

Motions in AmendmentCanadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2008 / 1:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-21, which seeks to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

First, I would like to thank my colleagues who sit on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue and the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who have worked very hard and provided some background on all the various stages Bill C-21 has gone through before reaching this House today.

After first reading in this House, Bill C-21 was referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on November 13, 2007. It is identical to Bill C-44, which died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued on September 14, 2007.

Bill C-44 was referred to the committee after second reading in February 2007. From March to June 2007, the committee met 16 times to review Bill C-44 and hear witnesses. My colleagues from Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou worked very hard on this.

The witnesses the committee heard almost unanimously supported the repeal of section 67, but nearly all the witnesses except those from the government, including national, regional and local first nations organizations and communities, the provincial bar associations and other legal experts, also expressed various reservations about one or more aspects of the implementation process and the substance of the bill.

The main sources of concern were the shortcomings in the consultation process preceding the drafting of the bill, the lack of an interpretative clause, the short transition period preceding implementation of the bill and uncertainty over the resources that would be assigned to implementing the bill.

On June 19, 2007, the committee adopted a Bloc Québécois motion proposed by the members I mentioned earlier, recommending that the debate on repealing section 67 be suspended for up to 10 months to allow the government to hold extensive consultations on the matter and that the debate then resume, but that first nations representatives be allowed to testify on the results of the consultations.

On July 26, a majority of the members attending the special midsummer meeting for a clause by clause study of the bill voted to have the committee suspend the study until the government held the consultations called for in the June 19 motion.

The motion was overridden by the committee's November 20 decision to begin a clause by clause study of the new Bill C-21 on December 4, 2007.

Despite the concerns expressed by the witnesses during the study of Bill C-44, the government reintroduced the very same bill, which is now known as Bill C-21. In December 2007 and January 2008, the committee completed its clause by clause study of Bill C-21 and the opposition made five significant amendments to it in response to first nations' demands.

Once again, aboriginals can be proud of the work of Bloc Québécois and other opposition members because the government had reintroduced the bill despite the generalized protest, criticism and scathing comments of witnesses appearing before the committee.

The government insisted on reintroducing the same bill with no amendments. Opposition members worked hard. My colleagues from Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou worked very hard, along with other opposition members, to propose five significant amendments.

The Bloc Québécois supports each of the amendments agreed to in committee because they are in line with specific demands of the first nations and of most of the witnesses who appeared before the committee.

In principle, repealing section 67 would give aboriginal people access to all of the rights guaranteed under the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, merely repealing the section could result in the loss of first nations' traditional rights and could be onerous for the Canadian Human Rights Commission because of the anticipated high volume of complaints against band councils and the federal government, which have not previously been allowed.

That would be a good thing when it comes to access to clean drinking water, for example. That is very hard to understand. I hope that all members of this House realize that, as we speak, some aboriginals still do not have access to potable water. That is astonishing.

We hope that once all these amendments have been adopted, these citizens protected by the charter of rights will have access to safe drinking water and will be able to ensure their quality of life.

To guarantee this, the committee suggested other amendments to Bill C-21. That was the Bloc's objective. With the help of the other opposition parties, we managed to introduce amendments that, once the bill is passed, will ensure that aboriginal men and women and people who live on aboriginal territories have direct access to safe drinking water.

It is important to note that the government proposed two amendments, which are now before the House. Many representatives from first nations and other groups who appeared before the House committee said that, despite the two amendments, Bill C-21 needed to be changed to take into account the real situation of first nations.

The Bloc Québécois, along with the other opposition parties, helped improve Bill C-21. The amendments proposed by the government today will also receive the support of the Bloc Québécois. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that we must pass a comprehensive bill, including the amendments adopted in committee, proposed by the Bloc Québécois and the other opposition parties, to ensure that aboriginal men and women will be entitled to the same protection as provided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We specifically suggested adding an interpretive clause that would balance individual and collective rights and interests in cases where a complaint was filed against a government or first nations authority under the Canadian Human Rights Act. A number of witnesses also wanted to add a non-derogation clause to Bill C-21, so that the repeal of section 67 would not end up abrogating and violating the ancestral and treaty rights of aboriginal peoples protected under the Constitution.

Consequently, the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of the following amendments. The first is:

1.1 The repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the First Nations peoples of Canada, including

(a) any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763;

(b) any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired; and

(c) any rights or freedoms recognized under the customary laws or traditions of the First Nations peoples of Canada.

The second amendment we are supporting is:

1.1 In relation to a complaint made under the Canadian Human Rights Act against a First Nation government, including a band council, tribal council or governing authority operating or administering programs and services under the Indian Act, this act shall be interpreted and applied in a manner that gives due regard to First Nations legal traditions and customary laws, particularly the balancing of individual rights and interests against collective rights and interests.

As everyone knows, Bill C-21, introduced by the government, is identical to Bill C-44, parts of which were criticized by the aboriginal peoples themselves. That bill, whose text was very limited, was eventually improved, specifically by the two paragraphs I just quoted.

The work done by the Bloc Québécois, with the help of the other opposition parties, definitely added some scope to this bill. The bill seeks to protect aboriginal rights, while guaranteeing all aboriginal men and women individual protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, in order to improve their lives.

Motions in AmendmentCanadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2008 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the government's motion to amend clause 1.1 of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, standing in the name of the member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians.

As hon. members will know, Bill C-21 proposes to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and in the process, eliminate a source of injustice that has existed for more than three decades.

The repeal of section 67 has been a cornerstone of this government's aboriginal agenda throughout its mandate. Our government first committed to the repeal of section 67 as part of our electoral platform. In December 2006, Bill C-44, the precursor to Bill C-21, was introduced. Although Bill C-44 died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued in September 14, 2007, our government committed to its reintroduction in the Speech from the Throne delivered on October 16, 2007.

In November 2007, Bill C-21, identical to former Bill C-44, was reinstated. There is ample evidence of strong support among key stakeholders for the repeal of section 67. In the 17 committee hearings devoted to Bill C-44 of the previous session, testimony came from dozens of witnesses, chiefs, members of band councils, representatives of national and regional aboriginal groups, legal specialists and public servants. Although these men and women came from remarkably diverse backgrounds and represented a broad variety of interests, the support for the repeal of section 67 was virtually unanimous.

While this government took a clear and unambiguous approach to the repeal of section 67, on February 4, 2008 the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development reported Bill C-21 to the House of Commons with several amendments. They included the addition of a broad non-derogation clause, clause 1.1, and an interpretive clause, clause 1.2.

Other proposed amendments included: a new requirement for the Government of Canada to undertake with organizations representing first nations a study to address the fiscal capacity and resource requirements of first nations associated with the repeal of section 67; a change to the review of the effects of the repeal within five years so it could be conducted by the Government of Canada working with organizations representing first nations rather than a parliamentary committee; and finally, an extension of the transition period for the application of the repeal to first nations to 36 months, rather than the 6 months originally proposed by government. These amendments do not affect the immediate application of the repeal of section 67 to the federal government upon royal assent.

This government's preference remains a clear approach to the repeal of section 67. However, in light of committee testimony in which most, if not all, groups expressed concern about how the repeal will be implemented and called and for a further extension of the transition period, the government will support all of the committee's amendments, with the exception of clauses 1.1 and 1.2, the subject matter of today's debate.

Clause 1.1 is a very broad non-derogation clause. As hon. members will know, a non-derogation clause is a statutory provision that indicates the statute is not to derogate or abrogate from the aboriginal and treaty rights as protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. In our view, such a clause is unnecessary given that the Constitution takes precedence over all other federal laws. Previous governments have supported the inclusion of a non-derogation clause which clauses are currently found in several federal statutes. Clause 1.1, however, is much broader than any of those existing clauses.

Given the broad and unprecedented nature of clause 1.1, our view is that it has the potential to reintroduce some of the sheltering of discrimination provided by section 67.

In fact, in its most recent report entitled “Still a Matter of Rights”, in which the Canadian Human Rights Commission reiterated its call for the repeal of section 67, the commission indicated concern that clause 1.1 could “have the unintended consequence of shielding first nations, in whole or in part, from legitimate equality claims, thus reinstituting section 67 in another form”.

It would be illogical for the opposition, who, on principle, favour repeal of section 67, to intentionally support the inclusion of a provision that would have the unintended effect of sheltering discrimination. As a result, we cannot support clause 1.1, as adopted by the standing committee.

Therefore, notwithstanding our concern for non-derogation clauses, generally, we propose to replace clause 1.1 with the non-derogation language most recently used in existing statutes, namely, the same that was added to the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act.

Regarding Motion No. 2, clause 1.2, our government shares the view that the Canadian Human Rights Act should be applied in a manner that is sensitive to particular circumstances of first nations communities. However, the fact is that it is difficult to find fail-proof language that would address all of the competing considerations for handling a Canadian Human Rights Act complaint in such a context.

This was the basis for our decision not to include an interpretive provision in Bill C-21. We have always maintained that the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is the expert in administrating the Canadian Human Rights Act, is best placed to develop an interpretive provision jointly with first nations outside of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This could be done by way of guidelines, a directive, or regulations, which would be binding on the commission.

In spite of these concerns, the committee chose to insert an interpretive clause in the bill. We recognize that many witnesses called for such a clause, so we are willing to accept this provision.

However, as with clause 1.1., we have concerns with the broad language of the interpretive clause adopted by the committee and the potential for discrimination to be sheltered. We are particularly concerned that women might inadvertently be discriminated against as a result of this clause.

Therefore, we are proposing to include a provision to ensure the principle of gender equality applies to this clause. Such an amendment would be in keeping with the 2000 Canadian Human Rights Act review panel report, which noted, specifically, that an interpretive provision should not justify discrimination on the basis of sex or condone other forms of discrimination.

As well, the previous government's last attempt to repeal section 67 included an interpretive clause with a similar provision related to gender equality.

The government is committed to improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians and to the repeal of section 67. We are committed to creating, for the first time since the Canadian Human Rights Act was enacted 30 years ago, a right of complaint for first nations in relation to the Indian Act.

Therefore, I urge members to vote in favour of these necessary motions.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

May 14th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my Liberal Party colleague for her presentation on Bill C-47. She is obviously well versed on this subject given that she has sat on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for a number of years.

I would also like to point out that she was part of the previous government when an agreement was made with first nations stating that each time legislation concerned them and could change their way of life, the government had to consult them.

In this regard, be it with Bills C-44, C-21, C-30 or C-47, is the current government consulting and respecting this agreement?

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2008 / 3:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Bloc Québécois, I joined my colleagues in voting in favour of consideration of this bill for which, as usual, this government did not consult first nations, despite the many reminders it was given during consideration of Bill C-44.

We also had some concerns about some of the consequences to the first nations communities in Quebec and to certain municipalities, not to mention our concerns about the flexibility of the Government of Quebec's involvement.

The lack of consultation caused some disagreement about the procedure and some of the claims that could otherwise have easily been settled in respectful meetings with the nations.

Establishing a specific claims tribunal that makes binding decisions is a progressive step compared to the usual legal games the first nations have been subjected to so far. However, improvements could have been made to how quickly the claims are processed. It will be a shame to have to come back to this in a few years in order to complete this exercise, which requires a lot of energy, time and money from the taxpayers and from the first nations, when there are other matters to deal with.

The current 784 claims could be processed more quickly and a number of others might be added to the ongoing process, even though the Indian Claims Commission itself has not accepted any new claims since the end of 2007.

Of course there has been consultation, but only after much insistence. Furthermore, it is important to note that a number of communities were not consulted because there was not enough time. There has never been enough time to resolve first nations issues.

The most worrisome thing in all this is the possible accumulation of small agreements here and there into increasingly complex legislation. That is caused by this patchwork approach that has no continuity and will only serve as an excuse not to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People that has been signed by 144 countries.

A number of world leaders are putting Canada in the hot seat and in an embarrassing position on the international stage, which shocks us as representatives of the Quebec nation in particular, to be associated with this country that we do not identify with at all when it comes to its culture, its economic vision or its recognition of individual and collective rights and freedoms.

Despite the repeated calls for consultation that have been made to this government as Bills C-44, C-21, C-30, C-47 and C-34 have been tabled, the government has remained indifferent to what the vast majority of United Nations member states want.

It is truly shameful to see this government in the very small minority that is opposed to this declaration, and it is even more shameful to see members of the governing party from Quebec who lack the courage to go against such a vision.

Hon. members will certainly understand why Quebec is in such a hurry to join the community of nations and why the various communities distrust this government's interference in the legal system.

That is why the chief of the AFN reacted so strongly to the speech the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development gave at the United Nations. I want to quote the various statements the minister made at the United Nations. In a press release, the Minister of Indian Affairs said:

The Government of Canada continues to address a number of key areas for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, including fundamental human rights through Bill C-2... For 30 years, section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has exempted First Nations communities governed by the Indian Act from human rights protection. We believe this has gone on too long—

I would like to digress a moment and remind this House that Bill C-44, which sought to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, was vehemently denounced by all the first nations, as well as by the AFN women's council. The first nations were not prepared to welcome a law or be excluded from the Indian Act when they did not have the means to enforce the Human Rights Act, with all the duties it imposes on the various communities.

Canada has long demonstrated its commitment to also actively advancing indigenous rights abroad. But that is not what happened at the United Nations. The minister also highlighted a number of areas where the Government of Canada is making substantial progress: education; resolving specific claims; safe drinking water; protection for women and children; and matrimonial property rights on-reserves

In addition, the minister talked about the important step in the Government of Canada's commitment to the Indian residential school settlement agreement, with the naming of Justice Harry LaForme as the chair of the truth and reconciliation commission. This may be the only good thing this government has done to date. The minister said this:

“Canada remains committed as ever to deliver real results for our Aboriginal population...We believe in moving forward for all Canadians with results that are not simply aspirations or non-binding.”

In response, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, had this to say:

The Conservative government’s sustained opposition to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has tarnished Canada’s international reputation and branded Canada as unreliable and uncooperative in international human rights processes. It is clear that the Conservative government’s domestic political agenda is taking precedence over the promotion and protection of human rights for Indigenous peoples in Canada and worldwide. The federal government’s stance is a particularly regressive and limiting basis upon which to advance fruitful Indigenous-state relations in Canada and abroad. It seems that this government has been unwavering in their resolve for a weak Declaration and weak human-rights standards in Canada despite their rhetoric to the contrary.

The Conservative government’s opinion regarding the UN declaration is contrary to widespread legal expert opinion. In an open letter issued yesterday, more than 100 legal scholars and experts noted that there was no sound legal reason that would prevent Canada from supporting the UN declaration. The same conclusion was drawn by human rights and legal experts, ... and experts within the UN system have echoed the same opinion. As a result, Canada is becoming increasingly isolated on the international stage for adhering to an unsubstantiated position against the declaration and for using their position on the Human Rights Council to achieve their own political goals in Canada. Canada cannot cherry pick which international human rights instruments they will choose to respect. These short sighted decisions have serious long term implications for Canada's international standing on human rights.

Moreover, the Conservative government's decisions have failed to address fundamental fiscal inequities in education, housing, health and other social and economic conditions that are the source of the poverty in first nations communities, despite this government’s claims “about getting the job done”. The National Day of Action on May 29 will draw national and international attention on the shortcomings of the federal government to make meaningful investments or address the serious quality of life issues our communities and people face. Such important policy decisions must be made in consultation and with the consent of first nations.

The UN Declaration is a foundational document that sets out “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples” (Article 43). With an overwhelming majority of 144 states and only 11 abstentions, the UN General Assembly adopted on September 13, 2007 a Declaration which upholds the human, political, spiritual, land and resources rights of the world's Indigenous people. Only Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States voted against the Declaration. Australia has since reversed its decision and has declared its support of this unique human rights instrument to advance Indigenous rights in Australia and abroad.

That is what the first nations national chief thinks of our minister's statement at the United Nations.

Immediately after that, Chief Conrad Polson, from Timiskaming, submitted a text to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. A press release from the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador explained:

Speaking on behalf of the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), he delivered a message about the precarious funding conditions of First Nations education in Canada.

Year after year, the Canadian government continues to close its eyes on the recommendations of more than 35 years of studies, consultations and various working groups, most of which it has contributed to. In refusing to consider these recommendations, the Canadian government keeps First Nations institutions in a highly precarious position.

Our schools and post-secondary establishments are underfunded. A number of our students cannot undertake their post-secondary studies because of a lack of finance.

This is why, on behalf of the Chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, I regard it as my duty to denounce this situation loudly and clearly, stated Chief Polson.

“It was important for us to call on the United Nations so that all can be done to put an end to this situation. We must ensure that the wrongs we have suffered do not worsen so we reach the point of no return,” declared Ghislain Picard.

As stated in a press release issued in New York on May 2 and distributed by CNW, at the end of the seventh session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Mr. Picard declared that Canada had lost all credibility. He attended the session with an important delegation that spoke. At the meetings, they were “able to give a clear picture of first nations' situation in Canada. Today, the Canadian Government has lost all credibility in this respect on the international scene,” he said, reiterating Mr. Fontaine's comments on this subject.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development claims he did everything he could for education. The following is from a Radio-Canada article:

For months, Mashteuiatsh, Essipit and Nutashquan chiefs have been trying to meet with the Minister of Indian Affairs...The chiefs want to move forward the negotiations that were the result of the Agreement-in-Principle of a General Nature concerning Innu self-government, signed in 2004 by the government—

The process has been stalled since the appointment [of the minister] last fall.

However, the minister...has declined the offer. “He told us that for the time being, he is not able to meet with us, despite our insistence. We need to speak with the federal government about the main issues of the negotiation,” said Mashteuiatsh Chief Gilbert Dominique.

[The minister] said that he did not have enough time for a meeting that he did not deem necessary.

Gilbert Dominique said that he doubted the Conservatives had any desire to sign territorial agreements with aboriginals when they were elected in 2006. He wonders if the fact that the Innu signed the first-ever agreement in Canada to protect the ancestral rights of an aboriginal community has not put the brakes on the government.

The Innu have called on Premier Jean Charest to try to convince Stephen Harper—

I am quoting the article; I am not naming the Prime Minister

April 28th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome.

Ms. Archibald touched on an important point earlier when she spoke of the government's duty to recognize native women's associations. Her comment called to mind Bill C-44. The Assembly of First Nations gave its opinion of this bill and of native women, while the Native Women's Council of the AFN issued a different opinion of the bill. We also saw how opinions differed in the course of the debate on the sharing of matrimonial interests. We also hear talk of aboriginal gender equality.

Do you not get the sense that we are stuck in the mud, spinning our wheels? Canada has not even acknowledged the equality of first nations and non-natives. How do you expect it to recognize gender equality? It defies logic, to my way of thinking. I think first nations have to start by recognizing gender equality in the context of self-government. If Canada is incapable of recognizing that first nations have the same rights as non-natives, then how do you expect to make any headway at all?

I will turn the floor over to you for a response.

December 6th, 2007 / 4 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am going to show our colours right away, just as we have done previously. The Bloc Québécois is here with the goal of representing the interests of all Quebeckers, whether they be First Nations or not.

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador has come out strongly against Bill C-21 which reproduces Bill C-44word for word. Discussions on Bill C-44 had been suspended in order to allow the government to consult First Nations. All stakeholders asked for this, except one. Ten months were allowed. Instead of holding the consultations, the government called together the committee again in an attempt to break that motion that has been confirmed not once, but twice.

Now they come to us with Bill C-21. Even if the government were to do a complete about-face tomorrow and offer all of Canada to the First Nations, we would say no, because First Nations have not been consulted. Under section 35 of the Human Rights Commission, there is a commitment to consult First Nations.

When the Human Rights Act was put into effect, a section was included requiring consultation with people. This is also why section 67 has been put on hold as First Nations wait to be consulted before the act is changed completely, which has never been done.

For this reason, the Bloc will be voting against.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of my party, the Bloc Québécois, about motion No. 296 from the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should immediately adopt a child first principle, based on Jordan's Principle, to resolve jurisdictional disputes involving the care of First Nations children.

The Bloc Québécois supports the motion in principle. However, it is important to remember that Quebec and some provinces have already put in place legislation and assistance procedures. The federal government must therefore do its part by helping to fund services for first nations children. We must understand that the principle of this motion is based on shared jurisdiction between the provinces and the federal government.

Jordan's principle is the name given to the child first principle, which puts the interest of the child before constitutional conflicts when it comes to access to services. The Canadian Constitution does not specify which level of government is responsible for providing services to first nations children.

There are multiple jurisdictional disputes involving child protection. Who has the constitutional, fiscal and moral responsibility for first nations children? The answer to that question has repercussions on the availability of programs and services for aboriginal families and children.

It is important to mention that the average Canadian gets almost two and a half times more services from federal, provincial and municipal governments than first nations citizens, according to the review by the McDonald-Ladd commission in 2000.

According to a number of stakeholders, the best way to manage jurisdictional conflicts is to prevent them. Jordan's principle is more of a provisional measure, while waiting for the federal and provincial governments to reach an agreement on jurisdictions. If Quebec were a country, this problem would have been resolved a long time ago.

As far as jurisdictions are concerned and who is responsible, I will try to provide a brief overview of the jurisdiction problem that Motion M-296 addresses. The motion seeks not to resolve the problem, but to place first nations children and families on an equal footing with Canadian children and families when it comes to receiving social and health services.

As stated in the report of the Joint National Policy Review on First Nations Child and Family Services, the different levels of government are passing the buck with respect to jurisdiction.

The federal government has said that the provinces are responsible for providing child services to first nations, in accordance with section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867. Participation by the federal government in the provision of programs and services, in its view, is quite simply discretionary.

I will read section 92:

92. In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

13. Property and Civil Rights in the Province.

16. Generally all Matters of a merely local or private Nature in the Province.

As for the provinces, they believe that the federal government is responsible for native people and reserves, pursuant to section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867:

91. —the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

24. Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.

That is the text the Government of Canada used.

The provincial and territorial governments are worried that the federal government is offloading its responsibilities with respect to aboriginal peoples onto them and they argue that “the federal government has the constitutional, historical, and fiduciary responsibility arising from the treaties with aboriginals who live on and off reserves”.

According to a report published in 2005 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the first nations have adopted the same position as the provinces.The first nations therefore support what the provinces and territories are saying.

The first nations are the only peoples to suffer from the lack of responsibility and accountability of the federal government and are asking that it maintain “its tutelage and its fiduciary duties towards the first nations, including its children, families and community services”. Moreover:

The federal government funds first nations child and family support agencies pursuant to Directive 20-1—hence a matter of administration—and not, in its view, because of its fiduciary responsibility. The federal government refuses to change its position and has stated that the delivery of programs and services to first nations is discretionary.

That is always the big problem: the federal government does not want to recognize that it has responsibility for the services provided for first nations.

I would like to give some background on Directive 20-1. The current funding formula was developed in 1989 in an effort to standardize funding levels for first nations child and family service agencies in Canada. The directive was issued and requires that agencies operate under provincial legislation when it comes to child protection, but does not include any funding to help agencies adjust. It includes a guiding principle whereby services must be comparable to those provided for children living in similar circumstances off-reserve, but it does not contain any mechanism to ensure that this can happen. Once again, the federal government issued the directive, but did not provide any money to go along with it.

In Quebec, the Youth Protection Act contains provisions that apply specifically to aboriginal youth. In fact, Quebec has always been in the forefront in this area. The fifth paragraph of section 2.4 stipulates that the socio-cultural characteristics of the community in which the young person lives must be taken into consideration:

5) of opting for measures, in respect of the child and the child's parents, which allow action to be taken diligently to ensure the child's protection, considering that a child's perception of time differs from that of adults, and which take into consideration the following factors:

a) the proximity of the chosen resource;

b) the characteristics of cultural communities;

c) the characteristics of native communities.

Quebec's Youth Protection Act therefore ensures protection for aboriginal communities. Furthermore, agreements between the Government of Quebec and aboriginal communities can be reached in order to promote the protection of young people in those communities, by adapting the legislation to their reality.

Of course, we feel it is important to consult first nations. The Bloc Québécois believes that the future does not lie in pointless opposition, but rather in constructive partnerships that respect the legitimate interests of all parties. On the federal scene, the Bloc Québécois makes aboriginal issues one of its priorities. With regard to future relations between the government and aboriginal peoples, we recommend a more comprehensive approach, one that recognizes the aspirations of aboriginal peoples and favours negotiating agreements nation to nation. The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec is a nation, and that we must negotiate, nation to nation, with aboriginal peoples.

In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples submitted a comprehensive report that proposed far-reaching changes over a period of 20 years leading to self-government for aboriginal peoples by respecting their customs, cultures, languages and ancestral institutions.

Our party, the Bloc Québécois, believes that in order to develop harmonious relations with Quebec's aboriginal peoples, we must first listen to them and understand them by taking an interest in their reality, their differences and the challenges they face. The Bloc Québécois maintains an ongoing dialogue with the first nations. Our party is suggesting that the government should follow our lead when considering future bills. It has not done so with Kelowna, Bill C-44 and all the others.

In closing, the main issue in this debate is determining who will assume the cost of protecting children. Quebec's Youth Protection Act already contains provisions whereby first nations communities can play an active role in youth protection. Motion No. 296 allows for the protection of children, based on the child first principle, while waiting for the federal and provincial governments to reach an official agreement on various terms and conditions for services, and the payment of services, provided to children in first nations communities.

We support the principle behind the motion. However, we must remember that Quebec and some provinces already have legislation and assistance procedures in place; the federal government must assume its share of the responsibility by providing some of the funding for services provided to first nations children.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2007 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

I would like the NDP members to be more attentive and less distracting.

If we just look at Bill C-44, there too, the Conservatives said that they had consulted the first nations. But when the bill was published, there was an outcry from aboriginal women from Canada and Quebec, the leader of the Canadian Assembly of First Nations and the leader of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador in protest against this lie.

They have introduced a bill and now they are saying once again that they have consulted. Many people are unsure whether this time that is the truth.

December 4th, 2007 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Okay.

If I can comment, Mr. Chair, I think we're in this conundrum that we're in because....

Well, let me back up. I don't think there is anybody around this table who opposes the repeal of section 67. I certainly don't, and my party doesn't. I don't think there is anybody here who does, and we have said that countless times. The issue is the manner in which it is being done.

What I'm hearing right now reaffirms the importance of an interpretive clause, the importance of responding to the twenty-plus groups we heard from, who came before the committee, and the importance, as well, of further consultation.

For me, the sadness of it is that the opportunity was lost when the House prorogued. When I first met with the new minister right after we reconvened, and he indicated that he was reintroducing the old Bill C-44, he didn't at that time tell me that it was exactly as we had it before. My hope was that there would be some consideration and accommodation by the committee from the various representations we had before us.

When I listen to Mr. Hendry, it reaffirms even further for me the importance of responding to the communities' anxieties, fear, perhaps their lack of trust--I'm not sure whether that plays into it as well--but the need for as much detail as we can have within the bill.

I'll conclude with that.

Canadian Human Rights ActRoutine Proceedings

November 13th, 2007 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-44 at the time of prorogation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

November 2nd, 2007 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, we have actually been quite clear in relation to the UN draft declaration. It is something that we did not support because we believe that Canada actually is one of the most progressive countries in the world, in terms of acknowledging aboriginal people. They are right in our charter.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms acknowledges first nations people, Métis people and Inuit people. This ambiguous agreement actually does not impact aboriginal people in Canada like extending the Canadian Human Rights Act would. This is something that this member is against and is not supporting.

Hopefully, we will bring forward Bill C-44 very soon and hopefully she will support it this time.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue with this line of questioning as well. It is, as the member said, a human rights issue. I was a little confused by the Conservative question because it seems to me that the Conservatives are saying that if we do not agree with Bill C-44, then they will not agree to provide health services for first nations children on reserve.

I want to know how the hon. member understood that question.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In regard to the parliamentary secretary's question, it is always interesting when we start to talk about hypocrisy in the House. I also want to make a small correction. The repeal of section 67 applies only to the Indian Act. First nations, both on and off reserve, already have the right to appeal outside of the Indian Act under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

It is really interesting that the Conservatives are talking about hypocrisy when they are also members of the party that has asked for leave to appeal in the Sharon McIvor case in British Columbia, in which a first nations woman who was being discriminated against won her case. The Conservatives said, “Wait a minute, we are going to make this woman wait even longer around her status and we are going to ask for leave to appeal”. If we are going to talk about hypocrisy in the House, we should be consistent.

The other issue around this is that when we are talking about Bill C-44, if we are going to respect first nations' inherent right to self-government and self-determination surely what we should do is institute an appropriate consultation process, which the government has failed to do on Bill C-44.

Aboriginal AffairsPrivate Members' Business

October 31st, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Health

Mr. Speaker, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan raised the issue of human rights. Certainly everyone in the government feels that human rights should be extended to all first nations people, yet the other parties in the House are preventing the government from bringing forward Bill C-44, which would include first nations people in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Currently, and I think most Canadians find this shocking, first nations peoples on reserve are excluded from human rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-44 would include all Canadians, first nations and others, within the charter.

It seems hypocritical that on one side the member brought forward the motion but opposes including first nations people under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government believes that human rights come first, yet the NDP member and her party oppose doing the right thing and bringing human rights to everyone.

Could the member address that issue?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

October 18th, 2007 / 5 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, congratulations to you on your reappointment. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for West Nova.

On Tuesday evening we had the opportunity to listen to the government's vision for Canada. It was a Speech from the Throne that was vague, offering little new hope for Canadians and indeed, offering little new, claiming success of failed programs and often the rebranding of old policies and programs.

However, I want to speak tonight about a number of things in the very short time I have. I want to touch on some of the issues that impact on my community, and I want to talk on matters that are related to first nations, Inuit and Métis.

What can Manitobans really take away from the throne speech? The government said it has given real choice for families through the taxable child care benefit, but has forgotten to speak on the reality of child care in Canada. On September 27, the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press read, “Tories say they made a child care boo boo”.

The Minister of Human Resources and Social Development admitted his government could not live up to its commitment to deliver 125,000 child care spaces. Millions of dollars were cut from child care in Manitoba, from $176 million under the previous Liberal government to only a $9 million annual direct payment to the province. In Winnipeg there are more children's names on wait lists than there are children who receive child care in the city.

How can the government say that a taxable monthly $100 allowance gives parents a real choice when indeed there is really no choice for them: no places for children; no opportunities for their mothers to go back to school, to enter the workforce; or often, indeed, to remain in the workforce?

Yesterday, in a speech in Winnipeg, Dr. Fraser Mustard linked the outcomes of early childhood education to the reduction of criminal activities and positive mental health during adolescence. He said that the annual cost to individuals and Canadian society of poor early childhood development is estimated at $120 billion for crime and $100 billion annually in mental health and behaviour.

What will this also mean for the federal spending power? We know that great national cost shared programs brought us together as citizens, regardless of where we lived: medicare, Canada pension plan. The list is long; the list goes on.

In the last session of Parliament the members opposite introduced 13 crime and justice bills. The official opposition supported a majority of these bills and offered to fast track eight of them. Despite their mantra that their government is getting tough on crime, the Conservatives decided to delay their own legislation. There was no obstruction by the opposition. Indeed, on March 21, an opposition day motion would have immediately resulted in the passage of all stages of four of the bills. Again, there was no cooperation.

The government has also failed to act on its campaign commitment to hire more police officers. Now we see this commitment reannounced once more. This time we hope the government will follow through.

Over the past months I have met with many community groups to discuss community safety. Over and over again we have heard the need for more community policing, but a lack of resources and not enough policemen to assign there.

Also, from the young people at Macdonald Youth Services, I heard about the importance of programs: programs to rehabilitate, programs to support, and programs to keep young people out of the justice system.

Last month I attended here in Ottawa when a Manitoba delegation, led by the Premier, met to discuss issues of crime and safety. I want to assure them that I want to see their concerns met, most particularly making auto theft an indictable offence.

The throne speech said a new water strategy will be implemented to help clean up our major lakes and oceans. What about Devils Lake? Between June and August, North Dakota turned the Devils Lake outlet on and off three times, breaching the agreement the previous government negotiated with the White House. Again, there was silence from this government. Where is a realistic plan and where are realistic resources to act on the clean up of Lake Winnipeg?

There was nothing about education in the throne speech, nothing about the alleviation of the debt load for post-secondary students, and nothing about increasing access to post-secondary education for students who have less. There is a $13 billion surplus and no investment in young people.

We know the Conservatives have silenced the court challenges program. The government has silenced those who cannot speak for themselves. Yesterday we celebrated the accomplishments of six women who received the Governor General's award for the commemoration of Persons Day. These women made a difference in their communities by working for the advancement of women in significant ways.

The government has taken away the tools for advocacy dollars for women. Equality seeking is not acceptable.

In my riding individuals and organizations are calling on the government to take action on Darfur. In my own riding, not far from where I live, the Shaarey Zedek synagogue is next week having a large gathering calling on the congregation to mobilize and speak out on the genocide in Darfur, and from this government there is not a word. It is not in its neighbourhood.

I want to touch on the issues of aboriginal peoples. We know that with aboriginal peoples relations were at an all time high under the previous Liberal government with the signing of the Kelowna accord and then they reached an all time low on June 29 of this year with the national day of action provoked by the inaction of the current government.

I acknowledge the Prime Minister's indication that he will apologize on behalf of Canadians for the legacy of residential schools. I support that. I salute that. As the Leader of the Opposition said, we all support the decision but it is long overdue. Members on this side have been asking for this apology for over a year. There is still much to do to repair the damage that has been put upon the aboriginal peoples.

It is imperative that the government treat aboriginal peoples with respect, that members of the government speak about aboriginal peoples with respect today and in the future, and that they treat their concerns about legislation and the legislative process with respect.

The government brought shame to Canada with its actions on the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people. Not only was it one of four countries voting against the declaration but its active lobbying against it, against the advice of the officials of three departments, was a blemish on Canada's international reputation.

The declaration fortunately was adopted by 144 countries. Indeed, it was an embarrassment for Canada. Aboriginal people want respect.

The throne speech indicated that it would be reintroducing legislation that would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. I have said it many times in the House, and in committee, and I will put it on the record once more, the official opposition supports the intent of Bill C-44, but what we do not support is the process, the lack of consultation, the lack of consideration, and the lack of respect shown to aboriginal peoples.

I want to add that human rights also means clean water, safe communities, a house to live in and an opportunity for education. We look forward to the introduction of legislation to deal with the outstanding specific claims. We look forward to it with optimism and are hopeful that in this case with consultation and cooperation there will be a positive result. We acknowledge the intent to take action on behalf of the Inuit, but the throne speech was silent on the Métis and there was no mention of an urban aboriginal strategy.

Closing the gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians remains a number one priority for Canadians. First nations people face a horrible injustice when the level of poverty in their communities is staggering. The future for aboriginal Canadians is Canada's future. More than half of first nations people in this country are under the age of 23.

Education is critical for aboriginal people, the first nations aboriginal children in the cities and Métis children. It is the government's responsibility to act now to stop first nations poverty from perpetuating into future generations.

As I said, the throne speech offered little new for Canadians. It continues to bring forward old news. I will continue to speak up for the interests of my constituents and for aboriginal, Métis and Inuit Canadians.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

October 17th, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and colleagues, for allowing me to reply to the Speech from the Throne delivered yesterday by Her Excellency the Governor General.

In 2006 Canadians went to the polls and voted for change. Our government ran on a clear platform. We received a clear mandate and we are delivering what we promised.

Now, a mere 21 months later, I believe we can say with pride that the government is clean, the economy is strong, and the country is united.

In the eyes of the world, Canada is back. This change, after years of scandal, inaction and threats to national unity, brings home to us the strength of Canada’s foundational values.

We have a love of freedom, a commitment to democracy, a reverence for human rights, and an adherence to the rule of law. Notwithstanding our imperfections, we have built a society that genuinely aspires to the highest ideals of civilization.

We balance the rewards of individual initiative with a collective commitment to help those in need.

We value people for who they are and what they contribute, and not for who they know or where they come from. We leave the conflicts of older worlds behind to live together here in harmony and we reach beyond our shores to help resolve those conflicts.

The generations that came before us set our country on this noble path: the Aboriginal people who established Canada’s first settlements, long before the arrival of Europeans; the French adventurers who laid the foundations of the Canadian state on the shores of the St-Lawrence nearly 400 years ago.

The British settlers brought their democratic ideals and institutions that we have modelled into our own and of course the immigrants from every corner of the earth have enriched our society with their traditions and ambitions.

Canada is their legacy to us. Enriching this heritage for future generations is our duty to them. Every day millions of Canadians are doing just that. They are setting the nation's moral compass by teaching their children right from wrong. They are building our economy with their hard work and they are making our communities better by giving more than they take.

In return for all that they give to this country, Canadians expect one thing from their government: principled, focused and effective leadership so that they can confidently plan for their future in a prosperous, safe and united country.

We titled our first Speech from the Throne “Turning a New Leaf”, reflecting our mandate for change. We have delivered on that mandate.

Now that we have turned a new leaf, it is time to fix our sights on Canada's longer term horizons, on where we want to go into the 21st century and how we will get there. That is why, for the second session of the 39th Parliament, our throne speech is titled “Strong Leadership. A Better Canada”. Strong leadership delivers more than it promises rather than promising more than it can deliver. We promise Canadians simply this: a better Canada for all of us.

We take inspiration from the great explorers of our true north Radisson and Des Groseilliers, Hudson and Franklin, Bernier, Amundsen and the rest. Just as they were guided by the North Star, we will be guided by a five point agenda for Canada. Our plan is principled and focused. We will strengthen the Canada of tomorrow while delivering real benefits to Canadians today.

For this session of Parliament, our government has five core priorities for a better Canada. We want to strengthen Canada’s sovereignty and place in the world; protect our environment and the health of our fellow Canadians; steer our economy toward long-term prosperity; modernize our federation and democratic institutions; and make our streets and communities safe again.

I do not intend to elaborate on everything included in the Speech from the Throne, but allow me to touch briefly on some aspects of the government’s agenda.

I would be remiss if I did not begin by addressing briefly the comments of the Leader of the Opposition. I, of course, take him at his word that he does not intend to force this Parliament to an election and that he will allow, indeed, the throne speech to pass and the government to proceed with its agenda.

As I listened to the Leader of the Opposition, it reminded me a little of the professor who goes through our term paper, marks all over it everything he disagrees with and then passes us anyway.

I have a bit of a different interpretation than the leader of the NDP on the remarks of the leader of the Liberal Party. While there was much criticism, I thought there was, if we actually cut through some of the verbiage, a fair degree of agreement, or at least apparent agreement, on the main priorities.

I note on Afghanistan that the main problem of the Leader of the Opposition seems to be calling it a combat mission rather than a military mission. I did not hear a claim or a call for Canada to simply leave cold turkey and abandon the Afghan people.

On crime, the Leader of the Opposition said that he would now consider passing all the government's crime legislation. Of course, we will be watching to see that happens in both Houses.

On the economy, I did not hear anything that differed substantially from the government's main lines of approach to the economy. In fact, I think he praised the very strong record that the Minister of Finance had created on the performance of the Canadian economy. I know he would like to take credit for that, but he has to be in power to do that.

On the federation and on democratic reform, whether it was the spending power of the Senate, I was not clear whether he was against those things or they were his ideas in the first place.

Most important, the Leader of the Opposition did not repeat his claim today, as he has so often in the past, that he could actually meet the Kyoto target, because we know that he could not and cannot.

Most important, of all the things I take note of, the Leader of the Opposition said that I was in fact his role model as the Leader of the Opposition.

Let me begin in terms of the substance of the throne speech with Canada's place in the world.

It is an understatement that we live in a global village where the economy, the security, the ideas and ideology and even the diseases of any one part of the world can be immediately linked or transmitted to another part. Canadians have always understood the critical nature of our connections to the rest of the world. We have never been an isolationist country.

Whereas in the past Canada participated in the world through its membership in the French and British empires, today we are a fully sovereign country. For the federal government, there is nothing more fundamental than the protection of this country's sovereignty.

Our most important potential sovereignty challenge is on our arctic doorstep.

Our most important potential sovereignty challenge today is on our Arctic doorstep where retreating polar ice, rising global demand for resources and the prospect of year round shipping are creating new challenges and exciting opportunities for the north. As Stan Rogers once sang, Franklin's dream of tracing “one warm line through a land so wild and savage” to “make a Northwest Passage to the sea”, seems about to be realized. However, it must be on our terms.

To ensure this we cannot just point at a map and say it is ours. Protecting and inserting our sovereignty in the Arctic and elsewhere requires real effort, expense and sacrifice. We cannot go 10 years without sending a single ship to the passage as our predecessors did. We have to use the north or we risk losing it.

Conservative governments going all the way back to Confederation have understood the importance of Canada’s true North.

John A. Macdonald, who oversaw Canada’s acquisition of our vast lands to the north and west, was the first to apply the “use it or lose it” principle of sovereignty.

Macdonald said, “were we so faint-hearted as not to take possession of it, the Americans would be only too glad of the opportunity and would hoist the American flag”. And so he assured our possession over the Arctic claims of Britain, just as he had created the Northwest Mounted Police to assure our sovereignty in western Canada.

Half a century ago, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker extolled his northern vision. He foresaw that Canada's future development and prosperity would depend on efficient transportation networks linking northern resources to southern markets. “Roads to resources” he called them. Therefore, he built, among others, our northern most road, the 700 kilometre Dempster Highway from Yukon to the Mackenzie River delta.

The opposition of the day has always dismissed such initiatives as unnecessary, fanciful and even wasteful, and history has always proven it wrong.

That is why our government established a strategy for the North, and why we have already taken a number of steps to affirm our presence and sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic.

In our first two budgets, for example, we have taken strong measures to strengthen the ability of our territorial governments to deliver services to northerners, with particular emphasis on northern housing for first nations and Inuit.

We are expanding our military and coast guard presence into the high Arctic and improving our surveillance capacity, including strengthening the Arctic Rangers.

We are stepping up our environmental activities and increasing the number of protected areas, as reflected in our recent announcement concerning a massive expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories.

And to mark International Polar Year, we are enhancing research in the High Arctic.

These research activities will help confirm our unassailable ownership of the Arctic Archipelago and the waters around them, including the Northwest Passage, along with the resources that lie beneath the land, the sea and the ice.

We will proceed with the first ever comprehensive mapping of Canada's Arctic seabed as well as the establishment of a world-class research station to be located in the Arctic itself. It will become the hub of our scientific activities in the north, gathering knowledge that will support our sovereignty and assist with resource development and environmental protection. The other Arctic nations of this planet already have most or all of these capabilities. Under our watch, Canada will not be left behind when it comes to the Arctic.

I should add that many of my colleagues will be working on these northern initiatives. They will be led by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, who has done such a terrific job of getting Canadian agriculture back on track.

Of course, our role in the world is not just about our own sovereignty. It is also about effective action beyond our borders, in concert with our friends in the international community.

And we cannot be completely effective in either of these respects without solid, well-led and well-equipped armed forces.

That is why our government will continue rebuilding our long-neglected Canadian military. We want to ensure that our men and women in uniform are able to do the work that we ask of them at home and abroad as safely and as effectively as possible.

I have visited our troops in Kandahar twice in the past 21 months. The Minister of National Defence, the Minister of National Revenue and former national Defence minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, the Minister of International Cooperation, and several other colleagues have as well.

I have also attended Red Friday rallies and other events where communities, friends and others show their support. I have spoken to many of our soldiers and to their families, including some who have lost loved ones.

The soldiers who are serving this country in Afghanistan and the families and the friends who are supporting them back home rank among the finest Canadians I have ever known. Their compassion for the people of Afghanistan, their resolve in the face of a barbaric opponent, their manifest skill and professionalism and the diplomats and development officers they work with are a credit to our great country.

Our mission in Afghanistan is a noble and necessary endeavour. It is making a difference in the lives of men who were victims of Taliban oppression, for children forced to live in ignorance, and for women who had no human rights.

Remember, all of us, that these are ordinary human beings like ourselves, the vast, vast majority of whom just want to live in peace, give their families hope and build a future for their communities.

Parliament will have to make some decisions on the future of the Afghan mission post-2009 within the next year. I hope all parliamentarians will pay attention to the analysis and advice, which the former deputy prime minister, John Manley, and this panel of eminent Canadians will share with us in the near future.

For our part, both in and out of power, this party has faithfully supported our military and their mission since it began in Kabul in 2002 and, of course, since our forces were sent to Kandahar in 2005 by the previous government.

We cannot understate the responsibilities we have undertaken to the Afghan people, to the international community, and to the men and women of our diplomatic, development, and defence forces who have made such enormous sacrifices on behalf of all of us.

Once again, we cannot understate the responsibilities we have undertaken to the Afghan people, to the international community and to the men and women of our diplomatic development and defence forces who have made such enormous sacrifices on behalf of all of us. This Parliament must not let those people down, Mr. Speaker, and I can assure you we will not let them down.

The mission in Afghanistan reflects our conviction that Canadian foreign policy must promote our values and defend our interests. This philosophy is at the very heart of all our international policy initiatives. It was behind our call to confer honorary Canadian citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi, who has waged a heroic struggle to bring democracy to Burma. It is seen in our participation in the United Nations mission in Haiti. It guides our international assistance programs, which will be refocused and strengthened over the coming weeks.

Our conviction that foreign policy must promote our values and serve our interests drives our effort to renew Canada's engagement in the Americas. Many nations in Latin America and the Caribbean are pursuing market reforms and democratic development, but others are falling back to economic nationalism and protectionism, to political populism and authoritarianism. That is why it is so important for countries like Canada to engage in their own hemisphere, to demonstrate that there are alternative models that can meet people's aspirations. Their choice is not simply between unfettered capitalism and cold war socialism.

The Canadian model of democratic freedom and economic openness, combined with effective regional and social support, offers a middle course for countries seeking democratic institutions, free markets and social equality.

Canada can make a difference in the world.

I do have to respond to a couple of things that were said earlier on Africa. This government is the only government among the G-8 that is meeting its commitments in Africa. It has to be said.

In Darfur, a brutal, brutal tragedy for so many people, this government has been involved in assisting the United Nations and the African Union. When I met last month with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, I made it clear that he can expect Canada's help in any way that the United Nations requires that help in Sudan.

We can make a difference. But we will not make a difference by returning to the days when the government lurched from one fashionable international cause to the next, never pausing to assess whether we were making an impact or whether we even had the necessary capabilities to do so. In short, we will not be returning to the days of a government with an announcement on everything but a plan for nothing, as was the case with the previous government, most notably on the environment and climate change.

I met with leaders who helped draft the consensus climate change statements at the G-8 and APEC. They were not asking me how we were going to achieve our Kyoto target. They had figured out a long time ago, when Canada's last government spent a decade raising emissions year after year after year, that that government had no intention of meeting the Kyoto target.

What those leaders want to know is simply what target we are going to achieve and do we have a plan to achieve it. The Minister of the Environment has been clear. The targets he has set, a 20% reduction by 2020 and a 60% to 70% reduction by 2050, are among the most aggressive in the world going forward and have been recognized internationally to set the stage. He is moving now to implement the plan to achieve them.

And thanks to his efforts and those of his colleagues, we are engaged in a major effort to establish an international protocol that is to include all large emitters, including giants like the United States and China. The government will move forward with its plan for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.

There is no time to lose arguing about yet another “new plan” that will never be implemented.

It is time. We have heard enough from the Leader of the Opposition with his seventh, eighth or ninth plan. It is time to pass the throne speech and let the Minister of the Environment get the job done, just as it is time to let the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Industry and all of their colleagues get on with the job of strengthening the position of the Canadian economy for long term prosperity.

I am pleased to report, wherever I go in the world, that Canada's economic fundamentals are very strong.

The Minister of Finance just announced one of the largest paydowns of federal debt in Canadian history, the direct result of which will be a reduction in personal income taxes under our Tax Back Guarantee legislated in Budget 2007.

Canada continues to enjoy one of the longest periods of economic growth in its history.

Unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in nearly two generations. Inflation and interest rates remain low. The real disposable income of Canadian households has been increasing strongly since this government took office, but we cannot be, and are not, complacent about the continued growth of the Canadian economy.

Recent volatility in financial markets emanating from the U.S. sub-prime market may be with us for some time to come. There is weakness in some of our export markets. Good jobs are threatened in some of our traditional industries and cost pressures in some parts of the country are creating their own pressures on the budgets of working families. Our government is aware of these challenges.

We have responded and, in this session, we will pursue our action in struggling sectors such as the manufacturing, forestry, fishery and tourism industries. We will also continue to take steps to bolster Canadian agriculture.

Speaking of agriculture, this spring when it looked like there would be marketing choice for western barley farmers, prices went up. When marketing choice was swept off the table, prices went down. The Canadian Wheat Board is supposed to be getting the best prices for farmers. That is what marketing choice will deliver and we will not rest until we deliver the choice that western farmers voted for.

Just as we will not stop defending producers in supply-managed industries.

The Minister of Finance will soon be presenting the fall economic and fiscal update, which will report on our progress. Our plan for Canada’s future prosperity is clear.

We are undertaking the largest public infrastructure investments in this country in over half a century. We are strengthening policies on science and technology, research and education. We are helping the disabled and those in poverty move into the workforce.

As the 20th anniversary of our free trade agreement with the United States approaches, we are reinvigorating our trade negotiations to open more markets to Canadian products, as we have done with EFTA. Of course we are dedicated to paying down debt, keeping spending focused on results and reducing taxes for Canadians.

We have cut the GST by one point, cut corporate taxes, and provided specific tax incentives for families, students, children’s sports, tool expenses, and public transit.

We will also be bringing forward a further long term plan of broad-based tax relief in this session.

I notice that the Leader of the Opposition, after voting against every single tax reduction this government has introduced, has now become outspoken in calling for tax cuts for large corporations. They cannot contribute any more. Let me assure you, Mr. Speaker, we will reduce taxes for all businesses as well as for all individuals and families in this country. Because in this country, there is only one party which, over the long sweep of our history, has been consistently committed to low taxes, direct benefits for families, fiscal discipline, and a free and fair market powered by the energy and creativity of the private sector, and that is the Conservative Party.

One of the intangibles that has recently been working to the advantage of all Canadians and to the advantage of our economy has been the clear improvement in national unity since our government took office. I know the Bloc is not happy but that is the idea.

One of the important steps along this road was the recognition that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada, a measure widely supported in this House last year. That was a controversial act and some predicted, and I know they genuinely believed, that it would lead this country in the wrong direction. I have spoken in various parts of our country and outside our country in French and English, not just Quebec. I have urged, and I continue to urge, all Canadians to look at the beneficial effect that this historic recognition has had on the national unity of this country. Canada is more united today than it has been at any time since our centennial 40 years ago.

I believe that the results of the last election and reaction to the action taken since then—action on UNESCO, the nation, fiscal balance—are sending a very important message to us all.

Canadians, and Quebecois in particular, want to move forward. They have had enough of the old quarrels. They are fed up with the bickering between centralists and separatists, between those who would keep all the power in Ottawa, and those that would give all the power to an independent Quebec.

George-Étienne Cartier, MacDonald and their colleagues created a federation that, although not perfect, has served Canadians well for 140 years. In fact, the federation of 1867 created one of the most solid political institutions in the world, unbroken by tyranny or conquest, unbroken by social disorder or economic chaos.

And we mustn’t forget that Canada—a country born in French, a country with two languages and a multitude of cultures, which will soon be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of its first capital, Québec—is one of the biggest success stories in history.

Of course, I do not argue that Canada is perfect, and so we are committed to reforming it for the better. Our government has worked hard to respect the federal division of powers, to strengthen long-neglected federal jurisdictions, and to work cooperatively with the provinces.

In the next session, in accordance with our government practice, we will be introducing legislation to place formal limits on the use of federal spending power with respect to new programs in areas of provincial jurisdiction without provincial consent and to provide for opting out with compensation.

This is a historic measure, one that has already been welcomed by the government of Quebec.

I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition talked about why this would be a bad thing. One of the reasons he stated for how this would be a bad thing is that this might prevent him from trying to take the child care allowance from Canadian families and instead give it back to lobbyists, to researchers, to advocates and to other politicians. We are going to make sure we get that money directly to Canadian families.

We will also act within the federal jurisdiction to strengthen Canada's economic union, which is a fundamental responsibility for the national government, one that it must take in the interests of all Canadians.

When I say that Canada is not perfect, I think most Canadians recognize immediately that the Senate, as presently constituted, is one of its obvious imperfections.

I must admit to being rather disappointed that the Senate chose not to adopt the tenure bill, even after an excellent report on the subject prepared by the former Speaker of the Senate, Dan Hays. The government will reintroduce in the House, in a slightly amended form, the bill to shorten senators' tenure from a maximum of 45 years to eight years. I am tempted to say that such a reform should be a no-brainer, but I have been surprised before.

On the other hand, the government, while still supportive of allowing for the direct consultation of voters in the selection of senators, does recognize that this is a complex and controversial measure for some members. As such, the government will, upon reintroducing this bill, ask that it be sent to committee before second reading in order to get as wide-ranging a parliamentary input as possible.

Let me just say that I remain convinced the country deserves a reformed Senate, and an elected Senate for that matter, but the country needs the Senate to change, and if the Senate cannot be reformed, I think most Canadians will eventually conclude that it should be abolished.

In terms of reform, let us also hope that the opposition will see fit to stop delaying the adoption of the former Bill C-44. In this country, we are long past the time when the rights of aboriginal people living on reserve should be fully protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I noted with great interest, of course, the leader of the Liberal Party talking about compassion and help for the less well off, but I do have to point out that ours is the government that signed the residential schools settlement and that is now implementing it and preparing the apology; that has cut the right of landing fee to people who have come to this country; that has increased funding for official languages communities across this country; that has redressed finally, after so many years, the Chinese head tax; that has established the Air-India inquiry which was so demanded; and that has concluded a settlement with the sufferers of hepatitis C. These are our proudest moments and they show the difference between talking and acting.

Last but not least, I would like to draw attention to the fifth part of our government’s long-term agenda for a better Canada, a point that affects many Canadians.

Canadians have always been proud of their safe streets and communities—something that long distinguished us from our friends across the border. Today, however, crime is erasing the promise of our Constitution, the promise of peace, order and good government.

Canadians want their safe streets and communities back. They want leadership that is tough on crime and reliable on national security and that is exactly what they are going to get from this government. Under our government, the protection of law-abiding citizens and their property is once again becoming the top priority of our criminal justice system and this will be the agenda we will pursue if Parliament adopts this throne speech. In short, the opposition cannot allow it to pass and then obstruct our core priorities.

That brings me to our first piece of legislation. Last year, our first bill was our historic anti-corruption law, the Accountability Act. This year, our first bill will be our comprehensive justice reform bill, the Tackling Violent Crime Act.

Just as the accountability act cleaned up corruption in government, the tackling violent crime act will be a first step in cleaning up crime in our streets and communities. And it will be a matter of confidence, because the time for talk has passed and the time for action has long since arrived.

Canadians are fed up with a criminal justice system that puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens, fed up with a revolving door bail system and soft sentences for serious offenders, and fed up with feeling unsafe in their homes and public places.

In the first session of Parliament, our government introduced 13 justice bills. Seven have been passed into law, but six, which included several key policy measures, were held up by the opposition.

Though we accommodated many opposition amendments, the bills were held up in opposition-controlled House committees or by the Liberal majority in the Senate for a grand total of 976 days. That is simply not acceptable.

Canadians are losing patience, so Bill C-2, our tackling violent crime act, to be spearheaded by the Minister of Justice, will reintroduce the key elements of those bills. It will, for example, take action on sentencing for gun crimes. Too often, people convicted of violent crimes involving firearms do little or no time. That is unacceptable. Under our law, serious gun crime will mean serious mandatory prison time.

Furthermore, in too many cases bail has been granted to people charged with serious weapons offences, and while on bail some of them have committed appalling new crimes. That is also unacceptable. Our bill will make it tougher for accused gun criminals to get bail.

The Tackling Violent Crime Act will also crack down on sexual predators. For far too long now, these predators have gone after our children. That too is unacceptable. This legislation will protect our children by raising the age of protection.

Our legislation will also crack down on drug- and alcohol-impaired driving. Too many innocent people have died at the hands of drunk or stoned drivers. Again, that is unacceptable. The tackling violent crime bill will give police and prosecutors more tools to get impaired drivers off our roads and keep them off.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, too many of the most violent, repeat and dangerous offenders in this country wind up back on our streets where they can offend again, again and again. Each time they do, Canadians look at their records, their rap sheets, and ask, “Why on earth was this person ever let out of prison?” There is nothing more unacceptable than that.

Again, let us be clear. We are talking about a few dozen of the most violent, dangerous individuals in this country. Our bill will make sure they stay behind bars, where they belong.

I have no doubt that some people will say we are being too aggressive. From high up in their academic ivory towers or from the boardrooms of their law firms, they will look down on the streets they never set foot on and say things like, “Criminals are really just victims of injustice, oppression and social exclusion”.

Try telling that to their real victims. Tell it to women who do not feel safe walking in their neighbourhoods at night or having their children in those neighbourhoods during the day. Tell it to the innocent teenager killed in a gang shootout on the streets of Toronto.

Tell it to the young girl in Quebec who was out riding her bike when she was struck by a drunk driver.

Tell it to the two Prairie boys who were kidnapped and horribly abused by a serial pedophile.

Tell it to the police, the prosecutors and the elected politicians of all stripes at all levels of government, including municipal and provincial, who have been clamouring for these laws for years.

There is no good reason for the official opposition to oppose or to delay Bill C-2. In fact, the official opposition campaigned in favour of virtually all of these initiatives in the last election and has had enough days, weeks and months, and in some cases over a year, to delay their passage. That is why we are making the tackling violent crime act a matter of confidence. We will be seeking timely passage of this legislation and, as is the case with confidence measures, the government will not accept amendments to the substance of these initiatives.

July 26th, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

I open this Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Thursday, July 26, 2007.

I will ask the media to discontinue recording, as this meeting is being recorded by the House of Commons. Thank you.

Committee members, you have the orders of the day before you. Today we'll be dealing with Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, February 21, 2007.

Technical witnesses with us today are Douglas Kropp, senior counsel, resolution strategy unit; Martin Reiher, senior counsel, operations and programs section; Jim Hendry, general counsel, human rights law section--

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

June 20th, 2007 / 2:40 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we are supporting the delivery of drinking water to first nations communities, but let us talk about human rights because for 21 years first nations women on reserve in this country have not had access to matrimonial property rights. For 30 years first nations women on reserve in this country have not had access to Canada's human rights legislation. The member, together with the Liberal Party, is supporting that sad state of affairs by blocking Bill C-44.

Yesterday in committee she said, “It doesn't matter whether first nations women's rights are postponed for six months, eight months or a year. It makes no difference to them”.

June 19th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

With haste I'll just quickly respond to the argument that was put forward by Mr. Russell and Ms. Neville in relation to the consultation that's being called for on new legislation being brought forward to bring about independence at the Indian Specific Claims Commission. This was something the minister has been calling for for a number of years. There's no question he had; it's been on the records for years when he was a commissioner at the Indian Claims Commission. That's an argument we don't need to make.

The point I will make, though, is that this is new legislation that hasn't been debated in the past. This is a new piece of legislation that will make an important change to the Indian Specific Claims Commission, and he has suggested that he's going to be consulting with the Assembly of First Nations and others. That's something he's going to be doing over the summer.

However, in relation to Bill C-44, and this is where I argue your point, there's been a multitude of debates, discussions, consultations, a word that is without definition—there is no definition to the word “consultation”. I know Ms. Neville just suggested there wasn't consultation. Unfortunately, there isn't a definition of “consultation”, on what that is. I'm arguing that it was consultation and you're arguing that it's not, but there's no arbiter who's deciding what the word is. So as such my argument is that over 30 years there was consultation, and that's the difference. We now have the opportunity to move forward with legislation. We have heard a multitude of opinions.

Again, I will offer up that we must go to clause-by-clause. We need to put this behind us, because, as was mentioned by Mr. Albrecht, this House might not sit forever. We are on ground that we can't say is strong, because this is a minority government. It could go to an election at any time. Priorities change.

June 19th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to speak to the motion, and in favour of the motion.

The motion is predicated on the fact that we will repeal section 67. The motion speaks to consultation. On those two very basic premises I support this particular motion. It is based on repealing section 67 and it's based on consultation.

It should be noted, I believe, that when we talk about consultation, the government seems to have the notion that we could never come out of consultation with any positive impact or any positive recommendations, that consultation is some process that leads nowhere, but in fact that is not the case. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that this is the law and the government has a duty to consult. In fact, I would say that the government is a bit hypocritical on this particular point, because they say we don't need consultation on Bill C-44 but we will consult in the drafting of new legislation when it comes to specific claims. That announcement was made last week.

Without having an argument about the two pieces of legislation, or the two directions we're going in, I would think that this particular bill or this repeal requires consultation just as much as consultation is required on the drafting of a bill to deal with specific claims or a specific claims tribunal and process.

At the end of the day, if we're going to respect human rights, we have to respect the duty to consult. We have to respect self-government. We have to respect the impact it's going to have on communities. If you don't, you're in essence trampling on human rights themselves when you don't do that. You can't separate the individual from the aboriginal community and the duty that the Crown owes to both the community and individuals. You can't separate them in such stark contrast.

This is why we are in the conundrum in which we find ourselves after just a few short months of the Conservative government. The relationship with aboriginal people has been very tense. We all know that. We have had a number of blockades already. There is a call for a day of action. The government is trying to put in place some mechanisms to cool this down, but the essence of this, Mr. Chair, is a relationship issue. It is a relationship issue. If the government proceeds in the way they want on this particular bill and in other venues, the relationship will only deteriorate.

What we're asking in Mr. Lemay's motion is to try to heal that relationship in some way by respecting what the aboriginal voices have said at this committee table and in public, and ten months seems to me to be a reasonable amount of time in order to hold a consultative process.

What I like about this particular motion is that it's not too prescriptive in terms of how that consultation process would take place or what would be involved in the consultative process because, again, if we're going to be respectful, and if the government would honour the direction the committee may give today, then they would sit down with the respective organizations and design a consultative process that is, in itself, respectful and doesn't prescribe too much.

For all those reasons, I would certainly support this motion.

June 19th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I remember that as soon as the press release came out from the minister announcing the introduction of Bill C-44, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, the Assembly of First Nations of Canada and the Native Women's Association of Canada immediately responded, saying that they agreed that section 67 be repealed and that Bill C-44 be passed.

However, since that time, some people have said that the lack of consultation was unacceptable. I understand the principle that one nation should demonstrate respect towards another. It is not up to us to shove something down another person's throat that we wouldn't want to have shoved down our own throats. So I don't believe that delaying the bill would be bad for Canada, in terms of our standing at the United Nations or internationally, contrary to what the government fears. Perhaps a delay would even be more favourably received. In our capacity as parliamentarians, perhaps we have found all the solutions to truly implement the bill in a respectful manner. However, it is not up to us to decide by ourselves whether or not to consult people. They will perhaps come to the same conclusions that we did. At least, we will have respected the First Nations. They are entitled to such respect. Then, even if there is not unanimous agreement, we could propose the repeal of section 67 in the most reasonable manner possible. There will no longer be protests that people were not consulted. And so, Mr. Chairman, the consultations would be justified.

June 19th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I share my colleague's concern with the procedural correctness of what we're doing. However, we haven't had a ruling on that at this point.

I just want to go back to a comment Ms. Karetak-Lindell made. I think she said something to the effect that 99% of the people who were here were not in agreement with Bill C-44 in its current form. I just want to remind all of us that the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples represents a very large constituency of aboriginal peoples. Just to quote directly from their statement: “Does the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples support the repeal of section—”

June 19th, 2007 / noon
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Chairman, I fully understand the position of the department, the Conservative Party and those who will vote against this motion we tabled. I do not agree with it, but I can understand it.

Over the past few weeks, members of the Assembly of First Nations told me that they had waited 30 years and that they were prepared to wait another 10 months. The ten-month period mentioned in my motion isn't an arbitrary thing. I wasn't the one who thought of it and who said that if everyone displayed some good will, 10 months from now, the consultation process with First Nations will have been completed. If we comply with subsection 1(a), (b) and (c), if my motion is passed, the ball will be in the government's court.

The problem is that the department has not done any study of the impact of Bill C-44. This has been clearly stated to us on two occasions: at the beginning of the hearings, when representatives and the minister appeared, and at the end, when representatives of the Department of Justice and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development informed us that an impact assessment had not been done.

I think that we can move forward, but we will need to show some good will. I am here to pass legislation that will make things better in Canada and especially in Quebec. If we were to pass Bill C-44 today as written, I do not think I could face First Nations in my riding and tell them that I have properly represented them.

However, if we adopt the motion that I tabled today—and I swear that I will not score election points with First Nations—I could tell them that the ball is now in their court and in the government's court as well, and that they have 10 months as of today. I am prepared to say “as of today” to show that real consultations on Bill C-44 and on the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act have been undertaken.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Thank you.

Just to comment on what you said about how we'll never know all the implications of any policy or legislation, that doesn't mean that we don't go with what we know. We've heard from enough witnesses using Bill C-31 as an example of what can happen when you don't try to mitigate some of the consequences that are going to definitely come about, and you know that hasn't been done.

Going back to some of the comments that Mr. Storseth made about being procedurally correct, I'm not a lawyer and I don't follow court cases, but sometimes a case can go exactly by the book, all the right procedures, the people in the courtroom following everything. But is justice done at the end of the day when you don't take into consideration the people who are involved?

Let's use child custody cases as an example. I sat on a special committee on child custody cases. Talk about hearing painful witnesses' stories. It's never easy when parents are fighting over children. But if the court just said parent A gets the child without any conditions whatsoever, do you then feel justice is done, because it was a very simple statement—parent A gets the child? That's as simple as you can get. Mr. Bruinooge talked about the very simple—This is just stating a fact. Well, just stating a fact like that does not take into consideration all the conditions you should apply, whether it's visitation, whether there's money for child support, whether the grandparents can visit, whether the children can travel outside the province or state they live in. There are so many other situations that you have to take care of that making just a simple statement like that does not take care of the people who are affected by that decision.

This is the same. You can't just say this very short bill is going to take care, if you don't look at how it's going to impact the people. Again, as Ms. Crowder said, how can you as a member, including myself, not listen to 99% of the people who said there have to be other considerations? There have to be resources. There has to be a longer time to implement this. You can't take any of those and just disregard them and say this will solve everything, because that is being irresponsible.

I go back to what I used to say when I used to be chair of this committee. Don't do things for the wrong reasons, because the consequences are too high. If the members opposite want to be able to say over the summer that they took care of human rights for people on reserve as far as the Indian Act is concerned, then they should want to be able to do it feeling good that they did everything possible to make sure that it did not result in dire consequences for people who are affected by it, not because they just want to be able to say they passed Bill C-44.

Let's not do it for cheap political points, because that is going to have such serious consequences, as we've already seen with our history. Why add more to the list of things that have caused aboriginal people grief and despair? Why add to that? This is what passing Bill C-44 will do, because we don't know what the consequences are going to be. We don't have any resources to go with it. I just can't see how we can not listen to all these people saying that Bill C-44 does not take care of them because it doesn't take care of all the possible consequences after that.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Chair, I want to respond to my colleague. When we began our study of section 67, my initial impression was that everything had already been said and done, and that we would quickly pass the bill. In all sincerity, I admit that my first surprise was seeing Phil Fontaine, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, representatives of the Human Rights Commission, the Assemblée des Premières nations du Québec et du Labrador, and the Native Women's Association of Canada appear before us. They came to tell us that certain steps had not been taken and that they were not ready.

I had a long discussion with representatives of the Assemblée des Premières nations du Québec et du Labrador. They told me that even though we've been hearing about this for 30 years, nothing had ever been done to prepare First Nations for the repeal of section 67.

However, I do not want—and I say this in all sincerity— the House of Commons to oppose a bill that has the support of First Nations. They want section 67 to be repealed, but they are telling us that the groundwork must be laid and consultations must be held.

I will conclude on that note, because I want my other colleagues to have an opportunity to speak. The last person who testified before the committee was Grand Chief LaBoucane-Benson, who was from Saskatchewan, I believe. I will remember this for some time to come. She confirmed what I feared: today, June 19, 2007, First Nations are simply not ready for section 67 of the Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to be repealed until such time as mechanisms are put in place to deal with the situation.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Well, Mr. Chair, I know that a number of the opposition members have highlighted the fact that some people who have come before us have called for a repeal of section 67, yet they believe they haven't been as interested in Bill C-44.

The argument I had hoped to make in the previous round was that there isn't a bill that is more in tune with a repeal before the government currently. This is the repeal of section 67; that's exactly what this bill is. It isn't something grander than that. It's simply the repeal of section 67. So it's illogical, in my opinion, to suggest that it's anything but a repeal of section 67, which everyone has universally called for. That's what we're delivering here in this committee.

I know that the member opposite has received various viewpoints and is calling for this suspension, but this is outside of our ability as a committee. We can't just put off work on this important bill for ten months. I just can't see how this is possible.

We need to proceed. We've been commanded by our House. The parties all agreed, sent this bill to committee. Mr. Lemay's party sent this bill to committee to be worked on, amended, sent back for a vote. Send it back to the House, and then you can vote it down and you'll have a longer delay of the implementation of this section of human rights to first nations people.

That's where I'll leave it.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Chairman, you do realize that I have already tabled a motion that we will need to debate today.

However, while I find Ms. Crowder's motion to be complete, I must tell you that everyone who has appeared before us has been in agreement about the need repeal section 67. They all agreed that Bill C-44 should be passed, except that—and this is the difference between the government and those of us who are here at this table—the vast majority of witnesses who appeared before us asked for consultations, within the meaning of Supreme Court rulings, before this bill is passed.

I don't want to go over the list of witnesses, but if you look at the blues, the testimony, you will see that the vast majority said that they wanted adequate consultations to be held before Bill C-44 is adopted.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

I think we have to come back to the basic principle of what we're trying to accomplish here in Bill C-44 and ask whether we are in favour of repealing section 67 or not. We've agreed around this table that this needs to happen, and the majority of the witnesses have said that. So I think we need to answer whether we're ready to end discrimination against a particular group of citizens that's been going on for at least 30 years.

We've also had individuals approach us, either by letter or in person, asking us to please pass Bill C-44.

Back to the question of consultation, I agree with your statement, Mr. Chair—and almost every witness agreed—that it would be almost impossible to have a degree of consensus, as it's referred to in this motion, or any degree of consensus.

Another point I'd like to make is that the motion we're dealing with right now is longer than the bill, yet we're expected to deal with it within a committee meeting or two.

There is no definition of consultation, and there is no definition of what is meant by degree of consensus. As I mentioned last time, even the Canadian Human Rights Commission does not agree with the inclusion of a non-derogation clause. There are no costs indicated here, so it would be out of order for us as a committee to approve a motion that would add unknown costs to the House.

So there are multiple reasons why I cannot support this motion before us today.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Chairman, I listened very carefully to the member opposite. He and I have had conversations beyond this table over this bill. I guess where I differ from him.... He just commented now that we've heard a multitude of opinions. We have heard many, many opinions here, from legal experts to first nations leadership to individuals who have come before the committee. Overwhelmingly we have heard the need to consult with first nations, to talk about the impact that the repeal of section 67 would have into first nations communities, to deal with first nations communities with respect.

I don't believe that the majority of those who came before the committee are opposed to the intent of Bill C-44, which is the repeal of section 67, and that has been our position from the outset. We support the intent of Bill C-44, which is the repeal. But I sat on the committee, as did my colleague beside me, when we dealt with Bill C-7, where we also spoke about the repeal of section 67 and the importance of it. The major flaw of Bill C-7 is the major flaw of this process and this bill.

Bill C-7 was brought forward with only a token gesture to consultation in a meaningful way, and it didn't succeed. I would say that the same is happening with Bill C-44. I don't even think there has been a token gesture to consultation, and the processes of it. We know from all of the expert testimony we've had and we know from all of the individuals who have come before the committee, whether it's been from national leadership or local leadership, that this can't happen without understanding what the impact will be on collective versus individual rights, what the impact will be on the capacity of communities to respond to it.

I think it's important that we look at a delay. Members opposite have talked about 30 years of consultation. I would argue that it's not been consultation. It's been discussion and it's been looking at the issue, but there has never been a meaningful consultation on this bill. If we've waited 30 years, what difference does a number of months more make to do it properly, so that it's not challenged in the courts?

I have here, and I've been carrying it around, the Supreme Court of British Columbia judgement on the Sharon McIvor case. We see the implications of bad legislation. We see the implications of people having to go forward and appeal. I can't help but say it: the McIvor case was done under the court challenges program. I despair for anybody else who wants to take an issue forward.

Six months, ten months, a year, I don't see what the difference is, and particularly in light of the McIvor decision and Bill C-31. We talk about protecting women and children. The minister indicates that he's going to appeal this decision, which is a protection of women and children. So there's no need to rush it, and I would certainly support some delay.

June 19th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

The chair would like to make a statement about the motion, as the chair feels that the motion is out of order. I'd like to give the reasons that follow.

The committee is at the pleasure of the House. The purpose of the committee is to review and suggest amendments to bills through debate based on relevant information supported by witness testimony. The action recommended by this motion does not relate to the substance of the bill, and the motion also recommends department expenditures, which is ultra vires to the committee's mandate.

Second, the motion does not specifically mention Bill C-44, so it is questionable if it is relevant to the legislative process.

Third, the chair also believes that the House is the appropriate body to debate the essence of bills. The committee is to debate the substance of bills. This motion, in my opinion, crosses the line and alters the integrity of the bill. The purpose of the bill is to amend section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, not to define the duty to consult. The motion is addressing the principle of the duty to consult, yet that question is very abstract and, the chair determines, too vague to resolve.

For these reasons, the chair determines the motion is out of order.

Do you wish to challenge the chair?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 18th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. I certainly like working with her on the aboriginal affairs committee. I know that she has a desire to see the lot of aboriginal people in Canada improved, as we all do.

However, I do take exception to some of the statements that she made to the effect that some of us do not want aboriginal people to become educated or to succeed. I need to say that one of the reasons that I requested to serve on the aboriginal affairs committee was from exactly that kind of motivation: to see the lives of aboriginal peoples improve. I would ask her not to imply in comments about being insensitive or something that simply because we approach the topic from a different perspective we do not have a concern equal to that of members opposite.

Our government has implemented a lot of key measures in the past year to improve the lives of aboriginal people. There has been $308 million for post-secondary education and $105 million for the aboriginal skills and employment partnerships. We have Bill C-44 and also the recent announcement that deals with specific land claims and a process to speed up that entire system.

I have two questions. Should the government fund 100% of post-secondary education for aboriginal students and other Canadians? If it did, how much of a budget would it require to fund that kind of request?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 18th, 2007 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have much to say on this matter. It is true that Bill C-44, which we are currently studying in committee, contains only nine operative words. Those nine words, however, will have serious repercussions on first nations people. Once the Canadian Human Rights Act applies in a community, this means that, immediately, anywhere in Canada, legal action can be taken against a band council or against the department any time there is no water, no hospital nearby or if people are not receiving the same level of care as anywhere else in Canada.

Earlier, in my response to another colleague, I said that real consultation is absolutely essential. The government must go to first nations communities to hear how first nations people want to repeal this retrograde legislation. Everyone wants to repeal it. We must find the mechanisms to ensure that this is done in full respect of the wishes of first nations people.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 18th, 2007 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my presentation, the amount of $300 million is something that I believe can be more efficiently allocated. I think that efficiencies are the most important part of making this allocation work better for first nations people. I know that some of those recommendations are in the report and hopefully possibly will advance this outcome.

In relation to human rights violations that might be occurring in Canada, I think that as a government that is one of the reasons why we are bringing forward Bill C-44. We are not going to stop because there might be a flood of complaints. We do not think that is going to be the case, but that is no reason to put off such important efforts.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 18th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on this important topic before the House. The member who has called this concurrence debate is a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and is a passionate advocate for aboriginal people throughout Canada and, of course, students.

This was an important study that was the first that I took part in as a member of Parliament and, as such, was not only a study on education but was very much an education for me.

We received many submissions and it was an extensive study. We also, in my opinion, found important information about the process for which aboriginal students across Canada are learning.

If there is one thing that everyone can agree on, it is that the path for individuals to succeed, for communities to escape poverty, for societies to flourish and for economies to prosper lies through education, education and more education.

Despite heroic efforts by thousands of students, parents, teachers and educators and many green shoots of progress, we all must admit there has not been enough of that progress. Too few aboriginal children finish high school. Too many schools lack the labs and libraries or the access to extra support services that make a difference. They have little measurement, no real system and no education act, just schools, lots of funding, agreements and people trying to make it work by throwing money at a system that may not work in the short term but suffices for the here and now.

However, it will not last. We need deeper renovation. We must do better. It is essential for all students across Canada and especially aboriginal students. We cannot wait.

Thankfully, we have seen a process begin in British Columbia. First nations people have led the way by forging a unique three-way partnership with the two levels of government. This partnership marries old ideas of first nations people along with new models of clear accountability for results in interconnection to the provincial standards for students and teachers.

Parliament passed this law to support the partnership last December. It is something that all members of the House were very proud of. We are moving swiftly, not just to implement it in B.C., but to offer similar partnerships in other parts of the country.

We have also learned from successes in Nova Scotia and the James Bay coast of Quebec. We have forged solid working relationships with experts in provincial ministries and universities.

We are still not sitting in a way that is urgent to press forward on these problems but we will in fact move forward and invest more than $50 million in important new school projects and extend the SchoolNet program that supports these schools with the Internet connections that they need to become the schools that everyone expects in this modern age.

This fall we will be doing a lot more as well. We cannot let this story end with an improvement in high schools. We also know that it is crucial to build bridges from these secondary schools to the labour markets and how important these further skills can be, whether that means university, college or accreditation for trades.

That is why our budget presented in March made an investment of an extra $105 million over the next five years. It is more than double the size of the aboriginal skills and partnership initiative which will fund skills training for thousands of aboriginal people.

That is why we sign partnership deals, bringing together first nations with private sector firms like EnCana and Siemens. We have renovated and extended for another five years the urban aboriginal strategy with a tighter focus on employment.

I have visited many communities throughout the north, including the community of Thompson. I know we have the member of Parliament from the Thompson area here today. I witnessed some of the work that was done with the aboriginal strategy in that fine city in which I was born and I can say that it has worked for the citizens of that community.

The one thing we learned in our study was that it is essential for post-secondary students to actually graduate. Perhaps the most important point that I personally learned as part of that study is that first nations students on reserve, in fact all aboriginal students throughout Canada, when graduating at the high school level are just as likely to proceed to post-secondary education and achieve success as other students in different demographics in Canada. This is an important fact that was learned by myself and other members of the committee during that important study.

As a government, we feel that we must focus much of our energy on improving the standards of secondary education throughout first nations communities. Unfortunately, there is a patchwork of systems in place that governs education. I know British Columbia has moved forward with an important initiative but many other provinces in Canada have yet to embrace these models. This is something that we as a government must do.

I want to highlight some of the other things we learned in the study since today we have been called upon to have this debate. One of the areas that I particularly focused on was the area of funding provided to first nations communities and how that funding is then further allocated. There is debate in relation to the amount, which is roughly $300 million. Some have argued that there should be more and some have argued that this amount needs to be more efficiently utilized. Of course, I believe there could be new efficiencies brought about to improve the outcome of that $300 million.

That is an area that I believe needs more work. There is really no general accountability on that $300 million. In fact, it is invested directly into the bands' general operating funds. If there were a new system that allowed for these communities to specifically allocate those funds to universities, I think new efficiencies could be found.

Of course, if an individual on reserve wanted to complain about the fact that there is not necessarily assurance in the way that $300 million is spent, they currently cannot do so within the Canadian context but, thankfully, we are bringing an important bill before the House, Bill C-44. I know the member for Churchill is not interested in this topic.

Bill C-44 extends the Canadian Human Rights Act to first nations people on reserve and that is important.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

June 15th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to further highlight from earlier this week the fact that the Prime Minister announced a new process which will extend $250 million a year to settle specific claims.

Further to that, right now we have the opportunity to extend human rights to first nations people with Bill C-44. The only thing standing between first nations people and human rights on reserve is the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I will be happy to address that in the affirmative in a moment but there is more that we should know about in terms of the business we are doing.

We will continue today with Bill C-42, the quarantine act, Bill C-58, the railway transportation bill and Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (non-registration of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted).

Tonight we have the emergency debate pursuant to Standing Order 52 that the Speaker has determined should proceed.

On Friday we will call Bill C-33, the income tax bill and Bill C-6, the aeronautics bill.

Next week is got the job done week when the House has completed the nation's business for this spring's session. During the got the job done week we will continue and hopefully complete the business from this week, as well as some new legislation and legislation that will be out of committee or the Senate.

The list of bills that are currently on the order paper, in addition to those I have identified for this week that I would like to see completed by the House before the summer recess are: Senate amendments to Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act.

There are also the following bills: Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts; Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Bill C-53, An Act to implement the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention).

Another bill includes Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to loans).

By the end of next week, Canadians expect that the Senate will have completed its consideration of budget Bill C-52 without any amendments so that they can relax for the summer with the knowledge that $4.3 billion in the 2006-07 year end measures will be in play.

If there are amendments, we will have to be here in the House to respond and protect measures that might otherwise be lost, such as a $1.5 billion for the Canada ecotrust for clean air and climate change; $600 million for patient wait times guarantees; $400 million for the Canada infoway; $100 million for the CANARIE project to maintain the research broadband network linking Canadian universities and research hospitals; $200 million for protection of endangered spaces; and much more.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

June 14th, 2007 / 2:40 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I find it bizarre hearing this logic from the member opposite. We have before the House of Commons Bill C-44 which actually extends human rights to first nations people in Canada. This is something that has been historically unjust.

We have the opportunity today to move forward and extend human rights to first nations people. I would ask that the opposition parties come on board with the government and bring human rights to first nations.

June 14th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Chairman, I certainly don't want to second-guess my colleague's motives, but I have a number of problems with the motion that's before us.

First is the sheer size of the motion; it is much longer than Bill C-44. To expect us to engage this motion with any degree of vigour and come up with a reasonable solution within a two-hour period is rather unrealistic.

There are a couple of comments, words, or phrases used here that I think are problematic. For example, under number 1, it refers to “a degree of consensus”, and I think that gets to the heart of what we talked about with a number of our witnesses. Virtually every witness who appeared before us admitted that getting a consensus on this would be a pretty tall order. There are really no degrees of consensus; either we have it or we don't.

She refers to a non-derogation clause. When the Canadian Human Rights Commission appeared before us, they did not support including that.

There is no addressing of the timeline or costs of the steps that she proposes. What would the timeline be? What would the cost be?

There are too many unanswered questions for me to give any degree of support to this, so I'd definitely be voting against it.

June 14th, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Well, I'm not sure that I'm in question period yet, but I will try to give you an answer.

As we've discussed, and as I have chatted with some of the members opposite on ways we can move forward with this important legislation, I think this committee is the master of its own destiny and we will be able to find solutions to rectify any situations that are perceived to be preventing Bill C-44 from proceeding. In that sense, there is no question that we can have those discussions, and we will do so over the next few hours and days—hopefully, preceding summer.

But getting back to the motion, it flies in the face of our being able to do that, as it calls for a different process to begin. Just trying to take this debate back to the motion, I would suggest that we as a committee have to vote against this motion and continue our work to bring forward a repeal of section 67.

June 14th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

I didn't speak to the motion in my last submission, but I will speak to the motion right now. Again, I think one could predict at least where I'm going to start.

In Madam Crowder's motion she compares matrimonial property study to the fact that there was a process that was set up. You're indicating that's somewhat of a precedent. I feel that the types of consultations and discussions that have occurred in the last 30 years—and it can't be denied that over the last 30 years there have been a lot of attempts to do what we're doing today—are quite dissimilar from the current initiative of the minister and Ms. Grant-John on matrimonial real property.

I think there is no direct comparison of consultation, but we must remember the fact that what we're doing here through our repeal of section 67 is to bring the opportunity for individuals, for people who currently don't have a voice, to express their human rights cases. It puts a challenge on me as a legislator, and I know on everybody on this side, to further delay that.

I think we've been given a number of submissions from many of the leaders within the aboriginal communities—first nations specifically, but others as well. I believe we have received considerable information to be able to actually do the work we're currently doing.

In light of the fact that we're in a minority government, there is no guarantee that we're going to be here forever. We have that opportunity now to be able to do something historic. Therefore, unfortunately, your motion would cast some doubt on what we would be doing as a committee. You don't specifically reference Bill C-44. Likely, you did that for the reason I just mentioned—that you didn't necessarily want to influence the discussion of the bill. Nonetheless, this motion is still in our discourse right now. It will influence what we're doing. Naturally, as a member of the government side, I can't support it.

June 14th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

My challenge with this, Mr. Chair, is that there are a couple of issues. One is that there is no assurance that we will actually be sitting next week. If we are not sitting next week, then if my motion—which would encourage the government to move forward with consultation—were passed by the committee, then consultation could start fairly soon and take place over the summer, instead of there being no action whatsoever taken over the summer.

My motion, specifically, does not reference Bill C-44. It references a consultation process around the repeal of section 67, so it could proceed whatever the discussions are around the bill. In fact, it would be a good-faith gesture on the government's part if they would agree to consultation while we sorted out what other proposed amendments should be in the bill.

June 13th, 2007 / 9:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, of course the member raises the issue of human rights and hopefully we will be able to soon pass Bill C-44, which would extend human rights to first nations people on reserve.

She also raises the point of throwing money at a broken system. This is something that our government has taken major issue with, because we feel the systems are broken. Investing money in broken systems is not the right approach for delivering to people on the streets of first nations communities.

This is one of the reasons why Canada's new government is moving forward for first nations people, thankfully, and bringing about system change to the Indian Specific Claims Commission as well as system change to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which would extend human rights to first nations people. Hopefully the member will help us in fixing the system.

June 13th, 2007 / 9:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to follow up on my question posed to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on May 18. Similar to other responses I have received from the government, the answer I was given that day was empty, unsatisfying and entirely rhetorical.

However, providing adequate responses is not the only thing the Conservative government seems to be struggling with lately. In recent weeks it has grown increasingly evident that the government continues to struggle with maintaining strong partners within the Canadian federation.

It began by abandoning the historic Kelowna accord and ignoring first nations health, education and poverty issues, which has led to a deterioration of the government's relationship with first nations communities. We have seen the true colours of members opposite in their style of government as they have turned their backs on first nations and now they have turned their backs on Atlantic Canada and other provinces. Rather than working together in a collaborative fashion, we are witnessing a divisive and appalling approach to government. I encourage those sitting on the government side of the House to consult with Canada's first nations, Métis and Inuit on what true consultation actually means.

I would like to point out that the member referred to the Kelowna accord as a “quasi-plan”. The member opposite used that term when he responded to my question on May 18. It reflects that party's inability to understand the issues facing first nations.

The Kelowna accord was the result of 18 months of aboriginal round tables, including all aboriginal groups in Canada. This was not to satisfy a legal obligation on consultation, which we know the Conservatives know nothing about, but was a good faith process.

If the Conservatives could deviate from their slogans for a moment, maybe they could hear what first nations are saying on such issues as matrimonial real property, Bill C-44, the anti-poverty campaign and even the human rights complaint they have been forced to file against the government on first nations child welfare. First nations want change but not in the paternalistic manner of decades past in the days of the Indian agent.

In my question to the minister I cited Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine when he commented on the Kelowna accord. He said, “for the very first time, we had...a plan...based on reason, thoughtful consideration”. He said, “That deal was set aside, dismissed”.

Under the previous Liberal government, the Kelowna accord was built on a foundation of respect, accountability and shared responsibility. It outlined five year targets in the areas of education, health, housing, infrastructure and water.

What will it take for the government to take all issues relating to first nations, Inuit and the Métis nation in Canada seriously? Why does the Conservative government treat our partners within our federation with such disdain? When will it work with aboriginal leaders on all issues to improve the quality of life for first nations?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

June 12th, 2007 / 2:55 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question. If the Bloc members say they are in favour of human rights, they should support Bill C-44 dealing with the rights of women and children. We still have not heard from the hon. member on this matter.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

June 12th, 2007 / 2:50 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the hon. member could devote some of this new-found enthusiasm and fervour for human rights to the subject of first nations, particularly first nations women in Canada.

Bill C-44 has been before a committee of the House, including before the hon. member, for 83 days at this point, I am told. It is nine words long, including complicated words such as “is” and “the”. To this point, not a single amendment has been proposed by the hon. member or anyone else.

Perhaps she could dedicate the same enthusiasm to protecting first nation women in Canada.

June 12th, 2007 / 1:15 p.m.
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Candice Metallic Legal Counsel, Assembly of First Nations

I think the position of the Assembly of First Nations has always been that in an ideal world, consultation takes place first. I had the benefit of listening in on your question to the representatives from the Native Women's Association about this point. I agree with your proposed approach to consultations, and the law certainly points to that very process as well, with consultation at the beginning. But the Crown has an ongoing role to consult, and I think that's very important. They have an ongoing duty to consult throughout the various processes and stages of legislative and policy development.

In the circumstances in which we find ourselves with respect to Bill C-44, we gave it a lot of thought when we were looking at the position the Assembly of First Nations would take. We structured our amendments to extend the transition period to 36 months. And we tried to build in a consultation element. That's the reason we extended it to 36 months. It was to have a review period between immediately and within 18 months so those consultations can take place and so there will be this operational review and assessment to ensure that first nations have the necessary capacity to bring their buildings, their policies, and their laws up to the standard that would withstand the scrutiny of the Canadian Human Rights Act. But it was also to look at ways in which first nations governments can sustain the protection of human rights in general.

So there's a two-stage process here that we have to consider, and the way we have structured the amendments takes into account all of that.

June 12th, 2007 / 1:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

National Chief, there is no way that Bill C-44 will be passed as presently drafted. We are going to propose amendments. With your agreement, we will use yours. Would that meet with your satisfaction?

June 12th, 2007 / 1:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

My colleague was very concise. I am going to be even more so. I have your proposed amendments in my hands. I have just read them in French and English. If they were included in Bill C-44 and it was amended accordingly, would it satisfy you? That is what I want to know.

June 12th, 2007 / 1:05 p.m.
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National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

Chief Phil Fontaine

Very quickly, Mr. Chairman, if the proposed amendments fairly represent the consensus view of the witnesses who appeared before the committee, and you share their concerns that Bill C-44, as drafted, is flawed and would not give fair protection to our people, because our governments wouldn't be in a position to deliver, due to lack of capacity, then that will be okay. But if it's obvious that we need more time to give you ample opportunity to reflect on the validity, legitimacy, and appropriateness of our proposed amendments to make this bill as good as it ought to be, then that's what we would ask the committee to consider.

It's important that we note some of the technical considerations regarding this bill that make it extremely difficult for us to accept as is.

Richard.

June 12th, 2007 / 1 p.m.
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National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

Chief Phil Fontaine

I'll give you the general overview and then call on my able support team to speak to the technical details of your question.

It's clear that most recognize that our communities are in a very difficult situation. In an ideal situation, these communities ought to be in a position to protect the interests of all their citizens, whether we're talking about housing, water, health, education—you name the program or the service—that these programs and services be delivered in the most appropriate and effective way possible.

Given the situation we're in, the crisis we face with housing, the fact that there are too many first nations communities operating under a boil water advisory, and the fact that we're still struggling with attaining success rates in education equivalent to the mainstream, we need to ensure that the capacity within our first nations communities is such that all of our first nations governments will be in a position to deliver effective, fair, and just government services to all of their citizens.

That should be an overriding concern on the part of this committee, and in fact the House, when they consider the effects and impacts of Bill C-44 on our communities. It's pretty clear that if it were to pass as is, it would cast our leadership in a completely unfair position and we would be judged on standards that are completely unfair. Canadians believe in fairness; Canadians are fair-minded people. If they knew the dangers inherent in this bill as it is cast, they wouldn't support it.

June 12th, 2007 / 12:50 p.m.
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Chief Phil Fontaine National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

Yes, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, and my thanks and appreciation to committee members for giving us another opportunity to present on a matter that we consider of vital importance to all of us. There should be absolutely no question or doubt that first nations leaders are concerned or committed to protection of human rights for all of our citizens. We are all very committed. We are all very interested. We all want to see the most appropriate protections be afforded all of our citizens: women, men, young people, and elders. We will do whatever we can as a national organization to ensure that these protections are in place for all of our citizens, on and off reserve.

I think there was some question or doubt about whether we were in fact committed. I want to underline that it's very important for us, and it's very important for you to know that we are committed. We've pushed very hard to ensure that all of the right and appropriate steps are taken so that Bill C-44 reflects all of the interests of all first nations citizens, and that whatever decision is ultimately taken on Bill C-44 it will not result in further jeopardizing the rights and interests of all of our people.

We've already made it very clear that we're very concerned about impoverished first nations communities. We're very concerned that too many of our communities can't access safe drinking water; that too many of our communities lack good schools; that there is a tremendous backlog in housing; that we can't access quality health care; that suicides are still far too high; and that there are too many children in care—27,000 now, mostly in western Canada. All of those matters are directly related to the human rights of our people.

Water, for example, is a human right. That right has been violated, not because chiefs and councils are corrupt or not sensitive or caring about all of their peoples. We didn't contaminate the water to begin with, so I don't know why people continue to blame leadership for those conditions. We didn't create the housing crisis that our communities face. We didn't insist that our people be unemployed to the levels they are. The list goes on, and it's completely unfair to keep pointing the finger at first nations chiefs and councils for being the cause of all of what challenges our communities.

So dispel the notion that we are somehow not concerned about human rights or committed to the human rights for all of our people; we are. But we need you to help us ensure that these rights are protected to the same degree that the human rights of all Canadians are protected. That shouldn't be too much to ask. In our view, it's a very straightforward and simple proposition.

That is the preamble to my speaking. I had a more detailed presentation, but I know you're pressed for time. I apologize that we arrived here late, and I know that some of you have to leave. I don't know how you want to proceed.

If you'll permit me the time, I want to make three points. These points are very important for the discussion you're having here.

I'll quickly summarize the key amendments that we advanced in our submission. I'm also tabling a list of amendments that we feel best address what we heard as a consensus of concerns raised about Bill C-44 from the witnesses who appeared before this committee in the last little while.

The first issue that underlies this whole discussion is the duty to consult. Inherent in this is the duty to accommodate and mitigate adverse impacts on aboriginal and treaty rights or undue hardships on first nations. We note this is completely absent in this bill.

Second, there is the need to amend Bill C-44 to include safeguards for the unique collective inherent rights and interests of first nations.

Finally, the last point relates to the need for effective and appropriate transition and implementation measures.

I should note that we've been following the presentations of the various witnesses who have appeared before this committee. It's pretty clear, from our perspective, that there's agreement on the need to address the human rights of first nations, as well as the need to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. There's no hesitation on our part to advocate for that. However, it's also become very clear that Bill C-44, both in process and substance, may not have been the best way to do this.

I'll leave it there.

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

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Okay. And the current minister is well aware of your proposal on consultation on the repeal of Bill C-44?

June 12th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I have read the Supreme Court of Canada decisions.

If an amendment to the bill says that Bill C-44, which repeals section 67, will come into effect after—, it is vital that there be an interpretive clause which must be defined in conjunction with the first nations. I do not have the exact words. This is why I was rereading the clause, and I am going to read it to you: “In relation to a complaint made under the Canadian Human Rights Act against an Aboriginal authority, the Act is to be interpreted and applied in a manner that balances individual rights and interests with collective rights and interests.“

This is what the Human Rights Commission suggests to us as an interpretive clause. Is this what you disagree with, the clause I have just read to you, that is?

It protects rights and interests of both types.

June 12th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Good morning.

Good morning, ladies. I appreciate you being here.

I have listened carefully to what you said, and I have one very specific question, more or less. I will try to speak generally. The issue that concerns us today is the reason we asked you to come back to see us, and we would like to hear what you have to say. The issue is as follows. The question is a fundamental one. I assure you that we will ask the Assembly of First Nations the same thing. Several groups have come before us and have asked for consultation within the meaning of the Supreme Court decisions before Bill C-44 is passed. Perhaps I did not understand very well, I do not know, but I really want to be sure. You say that you would be ready to see the bill passed on the condition that it was amended to contain an interpretive clause, a delay in implementation, etc. We can look at the amendments again, and evaluate whether they should be included in the bill. My question is simple. We are torn at the moment. Should we interrupt our work so that another consultation can take place, or should we pass the bill—or recommend that it be passed—with very specific amendments? That is the issue at the moment. This is why I am asking for your opinion. You understand that it is very important in the context of the debate that will be taking place over the next few hours.

June 12th, 2007 / 11:55 a.m.
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Yvonne Boyer Legal Advisor, Native Women's Association of Canada

Thank you very much for the time considerations.

My name is Yvonne Boyer. I am one of the legal advisers to the Native Women's Association of Canada. My colleague, Mary Eberts, is with me. I will be making the opening statement, and together we can answer questions following my presentation.

President Jacobs and Ellen Gabriel were before you not that long ago and gave you a fairly detailed outline of where the Native Women's Association stands on these issues. Just to recap, I have eight points that I would like to clarify that came out of their presentations. I'll start with those, and then we would like to comment on the position of Indian and Northern Affairs and also the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

First of all, in relation to the repeal of section 67, we want to state that there is full agreement that this is long overdue. But there must be meaningful consultation as a strong first step in an evolving and collaborative process.

Capacity-building and education are necessary, and these are key factors in communities when they're implementing their own mechanisms of protecting human rights. What we're looking at as a timeframe is a minimum of 36 months from the repeal of section 67 to the coming into effect. This is to provide adequate consultation and to put into place capacity-building and education.

There has to be a balance between collective rights and individual human rights, without jeopardizing either set. A core of this issue is to address conflict through various forms of indigenous legal traditions that allow the communities to decide how best to address the conflicts themselves.

An interpretive mechanism is also very important to guide the application of Bill C-44. The process for deciding what would be included in the interpretive provisions would be addressed during the 36-month period before the act came into force.

In relation to INAC's position on some of the key areas, the Native Women's Association disagrees with INAC's stance that there already has been consultation because of various initiatives in the past to repeal section 67 and respectfully disagrees with the statement that there have been significant consultations in the past 30 years.

Further, the position that INAC has taken that there has been no direction from the Supreme Court of Canada regarding a duty to consult before passing legislation is directly contrary to the recent ministerial representative's report on matrimony and real property and the legal opinions she garnered—

Do you want me to slow down? I'm getting excited.

In relation to her ministerial representative's report on the duty to consult, Wendy Grant-John garnered legal opinions on this important issue. In fact, the result of these legal opinions was that she strongly stated that Canada needs to develop a policy on consultation and hasn't done so.

In their presentation, INAC minimized the potential impact on first nations of repeal of section 67, while also admitting they had done no real analysis of that impact.

In sharp contrast with its present position, the government expressed a number of concerns to the La Forest commission. This is recorded by the commission in its year 2000 report, and it's on page 129. These included: that the lifting of section 67 might lead to retaliation against claimants and extra costs to aboriginal governments called to defend their actions; that a period of transition would allow aboriginal governments to review their practices; that new litigation against the department might have an adverse effect on resources available for aboriginal programs; and that aboriginal people, especially women, will need to be educated about asserting their rights. Those statements that were made by INAC are in direct contradiction to their present position.

The Native Women's Association has made a well thought out proposal dealing with all of these issues, including consultation, capacity-building, education, and the bridging of indigenous legal traditions as a foundation and implementation of human rights after the repeal of section 67. To date, the government has not responded to the Native Women's Association's proposal.

NWAC's opinions on submissions made by the Canadian Human Rights Commission are as follows.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has recommended that the minimum of 18 months before the act applies to first nations should be extended to a significantly longer period. NWAC agrees with this position but prefers a minimum of at least 36 months.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission would like to see an interpretive clause, as recommended by the La Forest review in 2000. NWAC agrees that an interpretive clause is necessary.

On June 7, 2007, the Canadian Human Rights Commission suggested wording for this clause. NWAC, however, disagrees with that approach and believes the final wording should be settled during the consultation phase that NWAC has called for.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission points out that to date no new resources have been allocated to support the commission's initiatives to engage with first nations stakeholders or to plan implementation. NWAC considers the need to provide resources for capacity-building and consultation is very urgent and must be attended to promptly.

Thank you.

June 12th, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

I would like to convene the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Tuesday, June 12, 2007.

Committee members, you have the orders of the day before you. We're continuing our study on Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. We'll have two sets of witnesses today. The first witnesses are from the Native Women's Association of Canada. With us today we have Mary Eberts, legal adviser, and Yvonne Boyer, legal adviser. After, we will be entertaining the Assembly of First Nations, the national chief, Phil Fontaine.

I apologize to the witnesses that we were interrupted by votes. I would ask the committee if they would like to extend the meeting past the one o'clock time set, if we can.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 11th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not play politics. I will quickly ask my question.

I am very surprised to hear the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons talk to me about Bill C-44 when he is not familiar with the file. In fact, he is talking about Bill C-34 instead of Bill C-44. He should come to committee to see the work we are doing.

I have a very specific question. We have an all-party agreement on Bill C-51 on lands in the far north claimed by the Inuit, who have been waiting for 10 years. There is also an agreement on Bill S-6. We have an agreement among all parties, including the government party.

Why not put these two bills to a vote tomorrow? It would be done and resolved. There is no need for a study, especially since everyone agrees on fast-tracking these two bills.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 11th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, our way of operating is very simple. We are trying to deliver results for Canadians on the things we committed to do in the last election. Unfortunately, some other parties are more interested in political gamesmanship, or advantage, or delay or obstruction.

The hon. member for Yukon referenced Bill C-44, which has an operative clause of nine words. The bill's real effect is to give human rights to our first nations people, human rights they have been denied under the Canadian Human Rights Act. We are ready to proceed with that, we want to proceed with it and we would love to proceed with it. Opposition parties are intent on delaying the bill at committee. They would rather go on a summer vacation than give first nations human rights, and that is a shocking thing to me.

I cannot share the member's sentiment at all. We are determined. We are trying to get things done. We made commitments to Canadians in the last election, and now we are delivering on those commitments. The budget implementation bill is an important part of that.

The overall budget does great things for Canadians. In two budgets, in two years, we are paying down $13 billion and $9 billion on the debt, $22 billion paid down on the debt. That is a real benefit for every Canadian.

Canadians elected us to do these things. They elected us to keep spending under control, to help families make ends meet on the things—

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

June 8th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, before question period I talked about the dire need in the country for affordable housing and for a range of housing. I talked about the fact that an organization in Nanaimo said that housing was a part of a stable community. In the south end of my riding in the Cowichan Valley we also know that affordable housing is a crisis.

Homeless shelters have opened up. We have had some tragedies where people were squatting in buildings and the building caught fire. We desperately need affordable housing and not only in Nanaimo—Cowichan or British Columbia.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report said:

Increasing income inequality has further aggravated housing affordability issues for many Canadians. The rental market has stagnated in terms of supply, with a net increase of only 2,000 units across all of Canada between 1996 and 2001

The CCPA recommends the development and implementation of a national housing strategy which should be drafted in consultation with first nations and aboriginal groups where appropriate.

The budget does not contain the kinds of long range fundamental solutions to our affordable housing crisis and money that has been earmarked for housing is often flowed through the province with no accountability measures put into that flow through of money.

The budget also does not do enough to address questions of improving infrastructure of Canada and B.C. in particular. The federal and provincial transfers have declined by 37% in the past decade. Not only does the Conservative government have responsibility for this, so does the previous Liberal government.

As a result, Canada's municipal infrastructure debt is estimated at $60 billion and growing by $2 billion each year. An additional $21 billion is needed to improve urban transit. When we talk about infrastructure, that infrastructure includes roads, sewers, water treatment plants and also important heritage items.

In my riding we have a very important heritage item called the Kinsol Trestle, which spans the Koksilah River in the southern Cowichan Valley. It is one of the largest and highest wooden trestle bridges in the world. It was built in 1921, though there was an unfortunate fire and a number of years of neglect of this important artifact. That kind of infrastructure money is part of a trail system and infrastructure money has not been earmarked. We can designate things like the Kinsol Trestle as a heritage site, but there is no money to maintain it.

The budget also does not provide money more broadly on other infrastructure items. I point specifically to the flooding that is going on right now in British Columbia. There is a long term need for dealing with the dike system in British Columbia. That has been neglected year after year. This year flooding is removing people from their homes and cutting communities off. I encourage the government to take a look at that longer term need.

I will talk about forestry for a moment. My riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan has been reliant on the forestry sector for its economy for a number of years, and has been in transition. Over the last several years, between softwood lumber and raw log exports, we continue to see jobs lost in many communities in Nanaimo—Cowichan and Nanaimo—Alberni. I mentioned earlier that 185 jobs were cut last week. We continue to see lack of adequate attention paid to the forestry sector in British Columbia.

When we talk about economic prosperity, we need to ensure that we foster economic prosperity and make the kind of strategic long term investment. I would argue that British Columbia's forestry sector deserves that strategic long term investment.

When we talk about the pine beetle in the House. We have had nothing but hollow promises to deal with the pine beetle epidemic, which is decimating forests in B.C. Although there have been promises, that money still has not flowed. I will to read from an article dated Friday, June 8, entitled “We say when will the feds give a damn about beetle?”. In this article it says, “This is a disaster that directly affects the finances and pocketbooks of individuals every bit as much as other natural disasters like floods and ice storms”.

It goes on to say, “This is the case no matter how we might quibble over the definition. People struggling with the pine beetle devastation aren't asking for a free ride. They would simply like an indication that the federal government gives a damn. They would be grateful to receive even a small percentage of the cost”.

The article talks about the fact that there are $62,000 from the federal government toward the continuation of the Kamloops beetle wood pickup program, and that is it. We know we need to have a long term view of what is happening in British Columbia. Forests are being cut because they need to be, but what is the long term economic survival of the community? What is the transition plan for workers in those communities? We must pay attention to that. Thousands and thousands of hectares have been impacted.

It is clear when we look at housing, the forestry sector, fishing, health care and seniors in British Columbia, many of these issues critical to the health, safety and well-being of our communities, that they have not been a priority in this budget. It is also clear that citizens in British Columbia have not been a priority for the government.

I will turn my attention for a moment to an issue that confronts us on a national scale, which is the aboriginal peoples of our country. As the aboriginal critic, I was particularly interested in what the government saw fit to put in the budget. When it comes to first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples,we see there is very little commitment in the budget.

Close to one million Canadians identify themselves as aboriginal peoples, including over 600,000 first nations, 300,000 Métis and 50,000 Inuit. The aboriginal population is young, incredibly diverse and growing much faster than the rest of Canada, yet the government continues to miss the opportunity to pursue programs that benefit both aboriginal peoples and ordinary Canadians.

A budget is, at its core, a set of numbers that demonstrate a government's priorities. Canadians expected fairness toward first nations, Inuit and Métis people to be a priority, but as this budget clearly shows, it was not.

When adjusted for inflation and population increases, the INAC budget has dropped in real terms by 3.5% since 1999-2000. As a result of the discriminatory 2% cap, core services, which include education, social development, capital facilities and support of self-government for first nations people, have declined by 13% in real terms during the same period.

There are more numbers. Aboriginals make, on average, only 60% of what ordinary Canadians make. They are two to three times more likely to be unemployed. They are three times as likely to live in poverty. Aboriginals are two to three times as likely to suffer chronic health conditions and live in inadequate, crowded housing. This is an embarrassment for Canada. It is time we refocus on the issues that are central to Canada's aboriginal communities, good housing, good jobs and a bright future for their children.

When we talk about this we often forget there is a natural face. In a speech that National Chief Phil Fontaine gave on Tuesday, May 15, he put a face to the conditions in Canada. I will quote from his speech. He said:

We must admit that First Nations People in Canada live in the most disgusting and shameful conditions imaginable in any developed country.

In...Northern Manitoba, Chief Shirley Castel tells us that some two-bedroom homes have as many as 28 people living in them. People are forced to sleep in shifts and many parents often go without sleep to ensure their children are able to learn and play.

The Conservative answer to that is to put $300 million into market housing, but no additional money into on reserve affordable housing and no additional money into off reserve affordable housing. The fact is that $300 million in market housing only addresses one small part of what is needed in first nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

Further in National Chief Fontaine's speech he says:

The UN Human Development Index ranks Canada at about sixth in the world. First Nations on reserves rank somewhere around 63rd, according to Indian and Northern Affairs...

The Department's own officials have warned the federal government that First Nations' socio-economic status will continue to worsen and the gap widen—yet these warnings have not been heeded.

Later in Chief Fontaine's speech, and I noticed that the Ottawa Citizen ran a story on this very sad tragedy that took place in Ottawa, he says:

And so where is the public outcry about the loss of Kelly Morriseau...especially now with the Robert Pickton trial underway in B.C.

It's estimated that more than 500 First Nations women have disappeared or died violently during the past 30 years.

That is a litany of the tragedies facing many first nations communities in our country.

When the Assembly of First Nations put out a report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, it gave an overall grade of meeting their recommendations in that report as F. In one section of the report called “First Nations Homes”, and I talked a little about homes, but I will read the statistics. It says:

In addition to a higher rate of overcrowding, First Nations homes are about four times more likely to require major repairs compared to Canadian homes and mold contaminates almost half of First Nations homes.

1 in 3 First Nations people consider their main drinking water unsafe to drink, and 12% of First Nations communities have to boil their drinking water.

Six percent (over 5,000 homes) are without sewage services, and 4% lack either hot water, cold water or flushing toilets

I remind the House that this is in Canada. We would not expect that many citizens in Canada are living in third world conditions. When I talk about the international stage, I want to turn to a report that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination published in March, pointing out Canada's shameful record in a number of areas in dealing with first nations, Métis and Inuit people.

Under Item 21, it talks about the commitments made in 2005 by the federal, provincial and territorial governments under the Kelowna accord. It goes on to say:

—the Committee remains concerned at the extent of the dramatic inequality in living standards still experienced by Aboriginal peoples. In this regard, the Committee, recognising the importance of the right of indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their lands, territories and resources in relation to their enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, regrets that in its report, the State party did not address the question of limitations imposed on the use by Aboriginal people of their land, as previously requested by the Committee. The Committee also notes that the State party has yet to fully implement the 1996 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

In the same report we have heard Conservative members talk about the fact that Bill C-44 will address human rights on reserve. What they fail to acknowledge is that Bill C-44 does not allocate any additional resources to the things that might arise in human rights complaints around water, housing, adequate education. There is no remedy and this report cites, in fact, that without those remedies, human rights cannot be addressed on reserve.

We have often heard talk about the 2% cap. Again, I want to turn to the government's document. In a cost drivers report it indicated:

The rationale is that after nine years of a 2 percent cap the time has come to fund First Nations basic services costs so that population and price growth are covered in the new and subsequent years. Over the period of the 2 percent cap departmental per capita constant dollar expenditures for basic services have declined by six percent.

This is the context of the fact that population both on and off reserve continues to grow. Aboriginal population in the country is the fastest growing of any population in the country, and yet we have seen a net decline of 6%. This is the government's document.

I would suggest that when this budget was developed, surely the government would have received advice from its own departments in developing a budget that would adequately address even a minimum standard of care in the country.

Later on in the same cost drivers report, it talks about socio-economic influences. It talks about the fact that:

The real costs associated with First Nation schools implementing programs that assist those students affected by adverse socio-economic conditions, in achieving school success, however that may be defined.

It says that is a problem.

It includes things like remedial programs relating to basic skills, nutrition programs, extracurricular programs associated with sports and recreation, after school programs and so on.

It talks about the fact that when we compare the services of on reserve schools with off reserve schools, there is a funding gap of $64 million in the band school system for the year 2004-05. We know that the gap has continued to grow.

I could continue to talk about the overcrowded housing, the lack of clean drinking water, the lack of mould remediation programs and the lack of education. The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the spring completed a report on post-secondary education. The committee called upon the government to recognize the 2% funding cap, to address the serious shortfalls in post-secondary education. There was no new funding.

We know that one of the ways that economic disparity can be addressed in first nations communities, Métis communities and Inuit communities across this country is by making sure that education is accessible.

With our aging population, it is really important that we invest in the skills and labour shortage. Although there was some money in the budget for the skills and labour shortage, I would argue that it was not nearly sufficient to meet this country's needs. If we fail, as this proposed budget does, our economy and society will not only forego this great potential, but also continue to incur large social costs. I have called for more funding for skills and development training, but it has to be a much broader base than what is in the current budget.

Justice Thomas Berger's report on Nunavut's education system pointed out that indigenous language training is vital to developing a skilled workforce. There is no money for indigenous language training in this budget. In fact, the program was gutted by $160 million. Many of the indigenous languages across this country are in serious trouble, so it is important that we continue to support language training because it helps the health and well-being of communities.

Perhaps one of the most important elements of any community is the hope that it has for its children. Yet, this budget robs aboriginal children of this hope.

There is no funding to provide child welfare on reserves to meet provincial standards. It is $109 million short. In fact, there has been a human rights complaint filed because of that funding gap.

We continue to see a 2% gap on programs and services, a 3% gap on health care, and there are countless other ways that this budget nickels and dimes aboriginal people. There is no additional funding for friendship centres. There is not the kind of support for infrastructure that is required for water or housing.

We have seen many broken promises over the years. This budget is just a continuation of the broken promises to first nations, Métis and Inuit people in this country.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

June 8th, 2007 / noon
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Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the aboriginal affairs committee the opposition parties continued to block Bill C-44, further preventing Canada's aboriginal people from enjoying the same human rights protections as the rest of Canadians. Even though they have run out witnesses to hear, they are trying to continue the delay by calling the same witnesses back again.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs please tell the House why after 30 years it is time to take action on delivering human rights to aboriginal Canadians?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 7th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, today we will be continuing with the business of supply.

Tomorrow we hope to conclude third reading of Bill C-52. In answer to the question on priorities, I would point out that Bill C-52, the budget implement bill, is the number one priority of this government. We can talk about other priorities after we see an indication that it will be heading for royal assent. If we do not have it, it will result in the loss of $4.3 billion in 2006-07 year end measures which include: $1.5 billion for the Canada ecotrust for the provinces; $600 million for patient wait times guarantees; $400 million for Canada Health Infoway; $200 million for protection of endangered species; $30 million for the Great Bear rain forest; $600 million for labour market agreements for the provinces; $30 million for the Rick Hansen Foundation; $100 million in aid for Afghanistan; $100 million to Genome Canada; and so on. It is a long list of important priorities financing that will be lost if the bill is not passed by the end of this session in June. That is obviously our number one priority.

Next week will be getting things done for all of us week when we consider a number of bills that are in their final stages of the legislative process.

The following bills will be placed under Government Orders for debate: Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which the Senate reported with amendments and which is now back before the House to receive the approval of the members, and Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments).

We are awaiting the Senate's report with amendments on Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act.

Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, including amendments in relation to foreign investment entities and non-resident trusts, and to provide for the bijural expression of the provisions of that Act, Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act and Bill C-47, An Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and protection against certain misleading business associations and making a related amendment to the Trade-marks Act, will probably be passed by the House at third reading.

Discussions have taken place with the opposition parties, and there may be consent to fast-track some or all of the following bills: Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie), Bill S-6, An Act to amend the First Nations Land Management Act and Bill C-51, An Act to give effect to the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

There is also a possibility of quick passage of a new bill entitled “An act to amend the Geneva Conventions Act, an act to incorporate the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Trademarks Act”, which appears on today's notice paper.

There are a number of other bills I am still hoping we could get included in getting things done for all of us week, provided that they get reported back from committee, in particular, Bill C-6 aeronautics; Bill C-27 dangerous offenders; Bill C-32 impaired driving; and Bill C-44, the bill to grant first nations people the human rights that every other Canadian enjoys. First nations people expect the House to get things done for them as well, so I urge the aboriginal affairs committee to stop delaying Bill C-44 and report it back to the House early next week. It is a priority for this government.

June 7th, 2007 / 12:45 p.m.
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Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission

David Langtry

As you know, we did launch a national aboriginal program, and that was prior to Bill C-44 being introduced. It took a long time to develop because we recognized that we don't have, and have not had, a relationship with many first nations because of the existence of section 67. We have developed an aboriginal outreach program or strategy, which is to enter into that engagement and dialogue, from an educational...to describe the work of the commission, as well as to learn from first nations communities.

When the chief commissioner indicated that we've embarked on that in a modest way, it's only because of not having additional resources. But it is our intention to continue to do that, to develop that, to work in partnership with a number of communities, whether or not Bill C-44 passes or doesn't pass. So we want to engage in that education, and as you know, section 67 is not an absolute bar, and we deal with complaints coming to us from reserves.

June 7th, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I want to thank the witnesses.

I have two brief comments, and I have a question about the Indian Act.

One is that we are actually missing an opportunity. I would argue that we should do the consultation before Bill C-44 is put in place. But we would also be missing an opportunity if we didn't provide the commission with some appropriate resources to undertake education and awareness right now. As we all know, the Canadian Human Rights Act does apply on reserve for non-Indian Act issues. So there would be an opportunity to do some work there.

The other point I want to quickly make is about the remedy. It is outside your mandate, but there has been a lot of concern expressed by the witnesses that if complaints are filed, they do not have the resources to actually address the remedy.

The piece I wanted to deal with was the Indian Act. The reason I wanted to raise it was because it wasn't just witnesses; there were also some experts in the area that raised concerns related to the Indian Act. One was the Bar Association. Their submission, on page 8, which I will not quote, quoted Justice Muldoon of the Federal Court of Canada, who speculated on the fact that the repeal of section 67 could have some substantial impacts on the Indian Act.

The second piece I wanted to bring to your attention was from the Native Women's Association of Canada on access to justice and indigenous legal traditions--it's on page 11 of that brief, in English. They actually quoted from the commission's own report. The commission indicated that they urged the repeal of section 67, but they actually went on to say, “However, the Commission would prefer that the Government take a proactive approach to preventing potential discrimination and not wait for complaints to be filed”, and so on. And it says:

The Commission, therefore, urges the Government, in consultation with First Nations, the Commission and other relevant bodies, to review provisions of the Indian Act and relevant policies and programs to ensure that they do not conflict with the Canadian Human Rights Act and other relevant provisions of domestic and international human rights law.

Although that doesn't talk about necessarily dismantling the Indian Act, it does address the fact that there are some serious problems with the Indian Act. So I think there was enough concern being raised about the potential one-off impacts of the Indian Act.... A number of people have talked about the fact that they feel a much more comprehensive review is needed.

I wonder, in light of this, if you could comment on your comment.

June 7th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

We might say that Bill C-44 is very important since it is going to change the life of the First Nations. Can you tell us if they have been consulted by the government since it made the commitment to consult them, on May 31st, 2005, two years ago?

Furthermore, I am quite sure that you were here when the department officials testified before us. You probably heard Mr. Watson's presentation. You have said that after repeal and in the implementation of Bill C-44, an interpretation clause would be necessary. You heard Mr. Watson express a contrary opinion. Do you maintain your position despite Mr. Watson's statement?

June 7th, 2007 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

We're happy with five minutes, Mr. Chair. We're anxious that everybody have a chance as well.

I will ask a brief question and hope there's time for Mr. Russell to pick up on it.

Thank you for your presentation. You've addressed a number of important points of clarification, and I certainly appreciate it.

Mr. Pryce, who was here before, indicated that this bill has a broad impact, in spite of the nine words that are constantly referred to, and it is important that we do it well.

As you know, we met yesterday with the Human Rights Commission, and an interpretive principle was proposed to us. I am aware that aboriginal communities have suggested that you include the words in your principle, “indigenous legal traditions and customary law”. For some reason you're choosing not to include that in the interpretive principle.

You referenced in your closing, Ms. Lynch, that you respect the legal traditions, customary laws, and systems of dispute resolution. Why would you not include it, and could you tell us how those apply to those first nations that currently would not fall under Bill C-44--those that are currently exempt from it in your dealings with them?

June 7th, 2007 / 11:55 a.m.
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Senior Counsel, Aboriginal Law and Strategic Policy, Department of Justice

Charles Pryce

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Again, to sound a little indecisive, in the Supreme Court case of Haida, there was definitely a very fact- and site-specific claim to aboriginal rights over title, dealing with a specific first nation, the Haida Nation or the Taku Tlingit First Nation. This current bill, Bill C-44, is a very different animal, if you can put it that way, in what the legislation is intended to do. It has broad impact across every first nation.

You mentioned fact- and site-specific, but that is how the jurisprudence on aboriginal treaty rights has evolved or exists. Different groups have different rights, so as far as how exactly this legislation will impact on particular first nations goes, it will vary. It is a very different animal.

The Supreme Court has not addressed the issue, first, of whether the duty to consult applies to the passage of legislation and, even if it does, whether it's engaged in this particular kind of legislation, which is about amending the Human Rights Act.

There would certainly be some difficulties or challenges if the court wanted to go down the path of finding the duty to consult in the legislative process. You know, there are well-established traditions of parliamentary supremacy, and the courts generally get involved once legislation is passed rather than during the passage of legislation. So it would require some deep analysis or thinking by the Supreme Court if they were to move in the direction of saying, in this particular context, that there is a duty to consult.

June 7th, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Thank you.

I want to reiterate that on page 9 of your presentation there seems to be a section missing. When you say that all witnesses testified that they support the principle, many of them said, “but not Bill C-44”. I think that's very critical to the discussion, and also to answer what Mr. Storseth was insinuating, that we're stalling because we don't want to give rights to people who live on reserve and are under the Indian Act. I think that is very misrepresentative.

You're asking people to trust a government that with those nine words says the impact will be minimal and that there will be new resources to deal with these complaints. We've already heard from many chiefs that they don't have enough resources to offer the very benefits that people across the way are saying they're entitled to. Already they don't have enough money to give proper housing. They don't have enough money to give education to all the people who are applying. They don't have money to give proper health care.

These people are supposed to trust a government that says there will be resources to be able to deliver those very services that they will most likely receive complaints about for not receiving, while at the United Nations, Canada is one of the two countries that is not supporting the declaration for the rights of indigenous people. They are supposed to trust a government that on the one hand is fighting to get Bill C-44 through and on the international level is fighting against the declaration for the rights of indigenous people.

These people are supposed to trust a government that is still calling itself “new” after 16 months. They are indicating, “Give us time to learn to run a country. Give us time to learn to work on a new relationship with people.” I feel a government should not have to be legislated to be respectful to people who are going to be impacted by legislation, and they should not have to be legislated to form a good working relationship with people.

I'm really puzzled as to how people should trust the good word of the government without an interpretive clause, without a non-derogation clause, and without legislation stating there will be resources and capacity-building. They're supposed to take the words--as I say, nine words in a bill--and assume that all good trust is going to come after that. It's very hard for me to believe that.

Thank you.

June 7th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

One moment, please.

I am a lawyer, you are a lawyer. I have asked you a direct question. I am quite sure that you have read the Corbiere and Haïda decisions of the Supreme Court. So, do you believe that the government has the duty to consult in accordance with the rules of the Supreme Court, well before the implementation of Bill C-44? My question is clear.

June 7th, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

On behalf of the 600 members, I noted that there does not seem to be any trust between the department and the Assembly of First Nations. I do not know if you have noticed the same thing but this is what I have concluded after having heard all the witnesses.

There is a matter on which I would very much like to hear you and I will put the question to you. All the witnesses from the First Nations, men and women — because some female chiefs have also appeared before us — talked about a lack of consultation. I suppose that there is around this table someone who has read the Corbiere and Haïda decisions of the Supreme Court.

How would you define consultation in the context of Bill C-44? Have there been consultations or not?

June 7th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Okay. That's important to know. Thank you.

I'm also struck by your comments--and we've had so many discussions on the impact of the implementation of Bill C-44 and the repeal--that you don't think it's going to be significant. What we are struck by, or what I am struck by, is the lack of any kind of impact analysis. You haven't been able to take some community as a model and try to do some analysis of what the impact would be. We've heard from some delegations that have come before the committee that the impact is going to be far-reaching, that they don't have either the capacity or the resources to deal with it, and that there's no attention to enhancing capacity or resources. So I'd like a little bit more comment from you on the impact, because the views we've heard have been widely divergent.

June 7th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you very much, and thank you again to all of you for being here today and to those of you who have returned. Your presentation raises more questions, I fear, than it provides answers--at least to me it does.

You note at the end, Mr. Watson, that with the exception of two witnesses, all witnesses have indicated that they support the intent of Bill C-44. You did not note the many, many concerns they had, whether with substance or process, which they expressed. I think their expressions of intent have very significant qualifications with them, and I think that has to be acknowledged.

I don't know where to begin. Let's talk about the interpretive clause to begin with.

What I'm hearing is trust the government, trust the Human Rights Commission. You know the Human Rights Commissioner is coming before us to present an option of an interpretive principle as opposed to an interpretive clause. Can you comment a little further on the whole issue of an interpretive clause? Then I have many other questions.

June 7th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Daniel Watson Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and Strategic Direction, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

I've timed it, and I think I can keep it to a bit less than 10 minutes.

My colleague, Monsieur Ricard, has been unavoidably detained, but he should be here very shortly.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It is a pleasure to be here once again to discuss Bill C-44. Today, I would like to comment on some of the testimony you have heard, and then my colleagues and I would be pleased to answer your questions.

As you are fully aware, Bill C-44 addresses an important principle. Simply put, this Bill will ensure all Canadians share in the right to be free from discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. This Bill responds to repeated calls for repeal of section 67 and would remove a discriminatory provision which was originally intended as a temporary measure.

Let us talk about the difficult matter of balance. Mr. Chairman, your committee will soon have the extremely important work of determining how to deal with clause-by-clause study of Bill C-44, a task that will no doubt be informed by the vast testimony provided.

Witnesses have addressed the wide range of issues and offered many different perspectives. I think it would be fair to say that there are many areas in which testimony provided has not pointed to a clear consensus. On some issues, greater clarity may be useful to assist you in your deliberations.

In particular, we could highlight the discussions on the question of whether or not there is a need for an interpretive or a non-derogation clause. This is clearly a key issue for which there is no simple or consensus-based solution and around which there are many different conceptions.

Some witnesses have called for a non-derogation clause. Others have proposed interpretive clauses. Still others have proposed both or have used the terms interchangeably. Some witnesses have suggested that a provision be included in the Canadian Human Rights Act, while others, most notably the Canadian Human Rights Commission, have proposed that guidelines be developed outside the act, in concert with aboriginal communities.

It is important to distinguish between these two kinds of provisions. A non-derogation clause is a provision that sets out the relationship between a statute and the aboriginal and treaty rights protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The CHRA, like all other statutes, is automatically subject to the operation of section 35.

As the commission indicated in its report on the repeal of section 67, a non-derogation clause in the CHRA referring to section 35 of the Constitution would be redundant. In addition, such a clause may be problematic, as courts may treat the provision as giving additional protection to aboriginal and treaty rights beyond that provided by section 35.

In contrast to a non-derogation clause, an interpretive provision is a substantive clause that directs officials or tribunals to apply or interpret the statute in a particular way. In the context of the CHRA, in complaints against first nations it could be a provision that ensures that discrimination and defences under the CHRA are interpreted in a way that respects the collective and cultural interests of the first nation.

There are differing views about whether such a provision should be inside or outside of the CHRA and whether it should be a statement of principle or a substantive provision, and there have been various formulations proposed with differing effects. We have seen from experience that in an attempt to reach some consensus, interpretive clauses inevitably end up with language that is general and rather vague. The job of determining the precise meaning to be given to an interpretive clause will therefore fall to the tribunal, resulting in litigation to ultimately determine the issue on a case-by-case basis.

In our view, for the reasons l've just set out, including a statutory non-derogation or interpretive clause may result in legal challenges with uncertain or unintended consequences, including a possible weakening of the protection that the repeal of section 67 would bring.

Moreover, we don't believe a non-derogation clause is required. Rather than including a statutory interpretive provision, the commission could work with first nations and other aboriginal communities to develop appropriate guidelines, regulations, or policies to ensure that the CHRA is applied in a manner that is consistent and sensitive to the particular needs of those communities.

The commission's aboriginal employment policy is a key example of how the CHRC has already exercised its authority to address the needs of aboriginal people.

The other topic I would like to comment on today is the preparation for and impact of repeal. Many concerns have been put forth to this committee. It is certainly not the Minister's or the department's objective to further burden the First Nations as a result of repealing section 67.

The application of the Canadian Human Rights Act to federal programs and to First Nations is not entirely new. As Professor Chartrand pointed out in his testimony, the Commission and the courts have interpreted section 67 narrowly. Many activities that take place on reserves or are administered by the Department are already subject to the Act. So, while the repeal of section 67 is extremely important, we should not overstate the potential impacts.

Chief Commissioner Lynch testified that the Commission currently handles over 40 cases per year and Professor Chartrand concluded that the impacts would be “moderate” following repeal. We do not anticipate a huge influx of complaints. But we all knowledge that it is not possible to accurately predict the number of individual human rights complaints that would be directed to band councils, as these would be fact-specific, driven by whether an individual chooses to lodge a complaint if, for example, they feel that they have unjustifiably been denied a job or service.

Safeguards have been provided to give first nations time to adjust and to help them prepare, that is, there will be the six-month delay of the coming into force of the repeal and guidance from the commission.

As you are aware, the commission's funding is being adjusted to support its extended responsibilities following the repeal of section 67. It has established a national aboriginal program and is committed to the introduction of human rights redress mechanisms in a manner consistent with the diverse cultures and modes of decision-making of first nations in Canada.

You may wish to question commission representatives further on this matter during their appearance today and to also discuss with them the work they plan to undertake under their program. I'm certain that their testimony will go a long way towards alleviating some of the fears expressed by first nation groups and individuals that they will be alone in shouldering the impact of repeal.

Bill C-44 also includes a means to address unintended consequences, should they result, by way of clause 2 of the bill. This mandatory review of the effects of the repeal must occur within five years but could occur earlier if the designated parliamentary committee so chooses. The committee could also request a comprehensive response from the government on its findings.

Your committee has heard various views on the length of the transition period. Although six months has been viewed by many as insufficient, I would suggest that it is an adequate amount of time for first nations to begin to prepare for full implementation and for the commission to work with communities. And of course work with the first nations does not end after the transition period. Rather, work will be ongoing as the effect of the repeal becomes more clear and as we gain experience. On this and other issues, Minister Prentice welcomes the recommendations the committee will reach after hearing such a broad scope of witnesses.

In closing, Bill C-44 committee hearings have provided witnesses with an opportunity to express their concerns about the need to ensure Aboriginal rights, traditions and cultures are protected. This testimony has been passionate at times. I would like to acknowledge the concerns raised. I would also note that with the exception of two witnesses, all witnesses have testified that they support the principle of repealing section 67, further demonstrating the overwhelming desire to eliminate this exemption. I would respectfully suggest any considered changes to Bill C-44 need to be assessed against this important principle and the urgency of taking action.

Once again, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for your invitation to reappear before you today. My colleagues and I are prepared to answer your questions.

June 7th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

I'll open this Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Thursday, June 7, 2007.

Committee members, you have the orders of the day before you. We're continuing our study of Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

We have two panels today. The first witnesses are from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. With us today are Daniel Watson, senior assistant deputy minister, policy and strategic direction, and Daniel Ricard, director general, litigation management and resolution branch. From the Department of Justice we have Douglas Kropp, senior counsel, resolution strategy unit; Charles Pryce, senior counsel, aboriginal law and strategic policy; and Martin Reiher, senior counsel, operations and programs section.

Welcome, witnesses.

We will begin with a 10-minute presentation. Mr. Watson, are you going to do it? Then we'll move into our question period.

Thank you.

June 5th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Louise Mandell Mandell Pinder, Barristers and Solicitors

Thank you very much.

I'd like to begin by thanking the panel for inviting me here, and also by stating what I believe to be obvious: that aboriginal organizations unequivocally support in principle the repeal of section 67.

The topic I'd like to address briefly is the process engaged in Bill C-44, which basically makes a unilateral amendment to the act and then engages consultation later.

I'd like to address you briefly on the legal point—that is, the point as to whether this is contrary to the principles of reconciliation and the honour of the Crown that have been articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada. It will be my submission that the whole process of amendment and then later consultation is contrary to the basic principles that have been articulated since 1977, when Parliament enacted the Canadian Human Rights Act unilaterally and then deferred this discussion to now, this date, as to how to incorporate the problems associated with the Indian Act and how we're to deal with it.

What has happened in the jurisprudence since 1977 and with the entrenchment of section 35 is that there has been a wholly changed legal landscape, and the movement in the jurisprudence is away from governance under the Indian Act and towards the general principle of reconciliation, which the Supreme Court of Canada has said is at the heart of aboriginal-Crown relations.

In terms of reconciliation, what is being reconciled is the pre-existence of aboriginal societies, including their legal systems and their laws, with the assertion of crown sovereignty. There's been a general recognition in the courts at both the lower and the higher levels that the assertion of crown sovereignty didn't extinguish the sovereignty of aboriginal people, so the reconciliation involves both the recognition of the aboriginal rights of governance and subsequently, with the recognition, the reconciliation of them. Corresponding duties have arisen on the Crown; they have been articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada, most notably in the Haida case, in order to achieve reconciliation. The duty of germane interest to your panel is the duty of consultation about accommodation.

I'd like to briefly address some of the major elements of the duty, because it does impact greatly on the issues of consultation engaged in this case.

The leading case is the Haida case, and I want to make it clear that this case didn't arise in the context of amending legislation; it arose in the context of crown conduct, in a situation in which the Crown granted a tree farm licence to a large forestry company up in Haida Gwaii—the Queen Charlotte Islands—to basically engage in a multi-year large-scale logging project on the island, and there had been no consultation with the Haida. The issue was whether, in the absence of proof of title or in the absence of concluding a treaty, the Crown was obligated to consult. In the landmark case in the Supreme Court of Canada, the court held that yes, there was a duty on the Crown. This is the duty that is engaged now; it's a government duty. I'll just go through some of its basic parameters.

The court considered where the duty to consult arises. Well, the duty to consult with aboriginal people, they say, is grounded in the honour of the Crown. It arises from the assertion of crown sovereignty, says the court. It continues into the process of treaty-making in all actions between the Crown and aboriginal people. They say the honour of the Crown is always at stake in its dealings with aboriginal people, but in particular the duty engages—and I'm going to read you what the court said:

But, when precisely does the duty to consult arise? The foundation of the duty in the Crown's honour and the goal of reconciliation suggest that the duty arises when the Crown has knowledge, real or constructive, of the potential existence of the Aboriginal right or title and contemplates conduct that might adversely affect it—

In this case we have an act that is definitely going to affect the governance rights of aboriginal people—not just the band council governance, but also the aboriginal governance rights, which are broader than band council rights. Many band councils, in light of the Indian Act, do exercise both rights that are considered to be more traditional in nature—not arising from delegated authority under the Indian Act—and also rights arising from the delegated authority.

The content of the duty—and it is to this point we say this committee must pay attention--is in proportion to the assessment of the strength of the case and the seriousness of the potentially adverse effect on the right or title claimed.

In all cases, the honour of the Crown requires the Crown to act in good faith to provide meaningful consultation appropriate to the circumstances. So we have in this instance the courts signalling a movement now away from the Indian Act and a movement toward reconciliation being the goal, with the duty to consult being part and parcel of how that reconciliation will occur. The court describes elements of the duty as including an obligation to consult as early as possible in the process of decision-making, providing all relevant information to the aboriginal people, flexibility and willingness to consider alternatives or make changes to its proposed action based on information obtained through consultation, and not promoting but listening with an open mind.

So applied to this legislative amendment you have Parliament being very aware of the potential existence of governance rights and that the constitutional recognition and affirmation of aboriginal rights is meant to reconcile indigenous and Canadian legal systems. Parliament is considering amending legislation in such a way that there is a potential to interfere with these governance rights. Prior to actually passing Bill C-44 and amending the act, the honour of the Crown suggests that Parliament should engage with first nations to determine what the potential effects are and to discuss options for avoiding or mitigating infringements and for reconciliation. Consultation should consider whether the process in the Canadian Human Rights Act is the right one for human rights complaints against a band council or whether a different indigenous institution, perhaps different legislation, might be more appropriate.

Before finishing on this, I'd like to also stress the fact that in 1977 there was a political commitment made by the federal Crown to first nations leaders that there would be consultation that would precede the application of the act, and that commitment directly engages the honour of the Crown.

We turn to the question, then, of who should be consulted. I know there's been some consultation about this, but because first nations across the country are organized according to different levels and types of power and authority, many have their own means of dealing with human rights issues, and all are affected by the operational framework of the Indian Act. So because of the very strong interference and the great impact, which I'm sure this committee has heard about, expressed by aboriginal people across the country as to what could happen and will happen, once human rights complaints are able to be adjudicated in respect of band councils in particular, there will be a great impact on aboriginal communities. So it suggests, because of the test, that merely canvassing the views of aboriginal organizations is not going to meet the test of consultation for all the aboriginal governments and governance issues that will be affected by this bill.

I wanted to briefly touch upon the Corbiere case, which was an analogous kind of situation in the sense that subsection 77(1) of the Indian Act, which excluded off-reserve members of Indian bands from the right to vote in band decisions, was held by the court to be inconsistent with subsection 15(1) of the charter. So it raised the question of how we are going to amend subsection 77(1), which was unconstitutional, in light of the fact that band members who lived off-reserve would be affected, or could be affected, by the regulations that needed to now get brought into being in order to repair the constitutional problem caused by the Corbiere case.

What happened in that case was that having concluded that there was a violation of the Constitution, the court suspended the implementation of the decision for 18 months in order to allow consultation with on-reserve and off-reserve band members before amending the legislation. Canada then engaged in a two-stage consultation process, first with aboriginal organizations, and during that time Canada funded the four national aboriginal groups to consult with their membership. So there was a mandate given by the membership to the organizations to represent their views, and INAC regional offices were funded as well, so there could be meetings and workshops.

Then there were reports. After about nine months of consultation in the first stage, draft amendments to the regulations were released. These were the subject of consultation. Then there was further communication with the chiefs and councils who were invited to comment on the draft regulations. And after input was received, the regulations were revised. Then after the regulations came into force, a second stage of consultation took place. It involved broader discussions on the Indian Act, governance, and accountability.

We think the issues involved in repealing or amending section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act are similar to those in Corbiere. In Corbiere, there were important difficulties and costs associated with trying to set up a system that balanced on- and off-reserve membership. Similarly, the cost of setting up systems and changing current systems to bring them into compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Act could be large, and defending challenges would be expensive.

I'd like to spend the last few minutes of my discussion to suggest that the real initiative, right now, in light of the jurisprudence, needs to include, in our view, not just a discussion focusing on the narrow issue of whether and how the Canadian Human Rights Act should apply to band councils making decisions under the Indian Act. To keep current with the jurisprudence and also current with the issues that are actually fully engaged by the negotiation of land claims agreements, self-government agreements, and the evolving jurisprudence that is forcing the recognition of pre-existing legal systems by the legal system of the Crown, what is required is a broader discussion on how to move away from the Indian Act towards aboriginal governance within the Canadian federation based on the recognition of the inherent right of aboriginal people to govern themselves.

If we simply focus on the Indian Act and on making the changes that are engaged there, there are innumerable problems with the Indian Act and innumerable problems in trying to sort out the problems of the Indian Act. But more importantly, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and others that have been looking at the law and looking at the evolution of how to create reconciliation, have strongly recommended that the impetus for any move to self-government must include a movement away from the Indian Act towards the full potential and realization of aboriginal laws and legal systems and aboriginal institutions that co-exist with those of the Crown in a federation. It would be based on a reconciliation. It would not be based on the unilateral imposition of legislation, especially legislation, as the Indian Act is, that is almost 100 years old and that carries the colonial baggage of requiring, in the legislation, a particular kind of government, and in addition, a particular kind of federal imposition as to how that government, over time, is to become civilized. These are problems that we now know to be problems created by the past but that we are really trying to move away from at this point.

Thank you very much.

June 5th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

I open the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Tuesday, June 5, 2007.

Committee members, you have the orders of the day before you. We're continuing our study of Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

As witnesses today, we have Jerome Slavik, a lawyer from Ackroyd, Piasta, Roth & Day; Louise Mandell from Mandell Pinder, barristers and solicitors; and Professor William Black from the University of British Columbia's law faculty.

Welcome to our witnesses.

We'll hopefully proceed with a 10-minute presentation from the witnesses, and then we'll move into a question period from the members of the committee.

I'd like to begin with Mr. William Black, please.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

June 4th, 2007 / 2:45 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am not entirely sure what the hon. member is speaking to but perhaps he could direct some of the same vigour, enthusiasm and zeal toward Bill C-44, which is currently before the aboriginal affairs committee of the House.

The operative clause of the bill is nine words long. The bill has been at the committee for 20 weeks which has allowed the committee, on average, 10 days to study each word, including complicated words such as “is” and “the”.

The member and others have had 20 weeks to study the bill. Perhaps he should get on with protecting human rights.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

June 1st, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand why the Liberals will not support Bill C-44. Why do they not want aboriginal Canadians to have the same human rights that other Canadians enjoy? Shame on them. Get on the program and support the government's initiative to bring human rights to first nation Canadians.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

June 1st, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the minister has contacted Chief Phillip. We remain committed to building positive working relationships with first nations, Métis and Inuit groups, but nobody is fooled by the Red Green comedy hour across the way.

The Liberals are trying to change the channel because they say they support our troops, they say they support tough on crime legislation, and they say they support aboriginals, but they keep voting against it. Support Bill C-44 and bring human rights to aboriginals.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 31st, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the last point, we have already addressed that.

However, with regard to the balance of Thursday's statement, I am pleased to respond that today and tomorrow we will continue with Bill C-55, the expanded voting opportunities bill; Bill C-14, the adoption bill; Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and Bill C-45, the fisheries act.

In the last Thursday statement, we indicated that we were hoping to have this week as “enhancing the quality of the life of first nations people week” but this was cancelled by the opposition parties when they did not release Bill C-44 from committee, the bill that would give the first nations protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Not only is it being held up now but, as early as this morning in this House, the opposition obstructed our efforts to get the bill dealt with forthwith so that first nations people could have the human rights that every other Canadian enjoys. We know that if all parties would agree to proceed with that, as we saw when we sought unanimous consent, it could proceed, but some would prefer to obstruct it.

Next week will be welcome back from committee week, when we welcome business that has been at committee, including some that has been stalled there for some time. We will deal with Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill, which will begin report stage on Monday and, hopefully, we can get third reading wrapped up by Tuesday.

Following the budget bill, we will call for report stage and third reading of Bill C-35, bail reform. After that, we will call Bill C-23, the Criminal Code amendments. I hardly remember when Bill C-23 was sent to the committee by this House. That took place long before I was even House leader 228 days ago.

Thursday, June 7, shall be the last allotted day. There are a number of other bills that we would like to include in our welcome back from committee week. I still hope we can see Bill C-44, the amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act, to which I just referred; Bill C-6, the amendments to the Aeronautics Act; Bill C-27 dealing with dangerous offenders; Bill C-32 dealing with impaired driving; and Bill C-33 dealing with foreign investment, if the opposition parties will release those from committee.

May 31st, 2007 / 12:45 p.m.
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Okanese First Nation, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations

Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier

I cannot comment on what the impacts would be. Right now, our communities need to understand what's going to happen with this legislative process. In my community, nobody knows what Bill C-44 is.

What they want to know is, are they going to get proper housing tomorrow? Are we going to have clean water? Are we going to have good sanitation? That's what they want to know. But to connect that to human rights, in our traditional ways of thinking, we've always been keepers of our human rights as first nations people, as community people in our communities. We've always done that through our oral history.

We need to ensure that what's coming from here needs to get to the community, needs to be understood, and needs to be communicated properly. We need to ensure that the understanding from our perspective is also included in how you understand us.

Thank you.

May 31st, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome, Chiefs.

I read Bill C-44 at second reading. I had spoken against the way it was presented. I looked at other agreements signed by the government and I disagreed with the fact that you had not been consulted.

If I remember correctly, there was a political agreement on May 31, 2005. In 1977, section 67 had been promulgated to protect the Indian Act. In 2005, after various disagreements and a lack of negotiations with First Nations, there was a political agreement aimed at improving the collaboration between First Nations and the Canadian government. There was also a statement indicating that First Nations would be consulted on any piece of legislation applying to them or that could have important consequences for them.

The parliamentary secretary said something very important a few minutes ago. He said that 18 communities had negotiated government rights. They had negotiated. Did the government sit down with you, if only for a day, to negotiate anything relating to repealing section 67?

According to the Canadian Human Rights Act, you have to provide drinking water, water systems, as well as minimum levels of adequate housing, education and healthcare. Would you be able in six months to provide all those services as you would be required to under the Bill? What would be the financial consequences for your communities if some of their members were to sue you because you did not provide such services?

Chief Day Walker-Pelletier, let us take the example of the First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan. Could you have received the type of education that you hoped for since it has been established and been operational? I will let you answer.

May 31st, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to each of the witnesses for being here.

I want to underline the fact that all of us around this table are here because we do want to see improvements made in how we deal with aboriginal people's concerns. I personally requested to serve on this committee. And I don't question the motivation of my colleagues across the table to try to work at workable solutions, but we will disagree on process. I hope that regardless of where we come out of this meeting, we will not cast innuendo on each other, implying that we don't care, because that simply wouldn't be factual.

The questions that Mr. Merasty asked were rather easy to say no or yes to, depending on the question. I think the harder question, and I don't think we'll be able to answer it, is who then is responsible. If it isn't your fault, whose fault is it? There's enough blame to go around for many centuries.

Ms. Day Walker, you mentioned that you support Bill C-44 in principle. You said that it would decrease the gap between the first nations people and the rest of Canadians. I think, if I'm correct, you said that you would be, as first nations people, in a better position to lobby government because they will have to follow their own laws. So there are a lot of ramifications to any changes to this bill.

I think another statement that one of you made, and I'm not clear on which one, was that no one in your community knew what Bill C-44 was. I can accept that. Is it not true, though, that there have been a number of attempts over the last 30 years to deal with section 67, which isn't Bill C-44, but it was dealing with the heart of this matter of having first nations people excluded from the ability to file human rights challenges? So can you say that no first nations communities were aware that in the last 30 years there have been attempts to deal with section 67? I think that's the real heart of what we're after here today.

Can you address that, one of you?

May 31st, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Do you feel that fair and reasonable consultation has occurred in unrolling Bill C-44 forward?

May 31st, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Just as some further background, and this doesn't necessarily apply to the future, the amount of human rights cases that might come after Bill C-44 is put in place is somewhat unpredictable.

There are about 18 first nations communities that have negotiated self-government agreements, where their communities live under the Canadian Human Rights Act. According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, they have not seen a disproportionate amount of violations coming forward.

Over time, as the opportunity becomes known to first nations people, they will know that there is this vehicle for them to consider.

As background, this is the evidence that was brought forward in this committee.

May 31st, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.
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Erica Beaudin Executive Director, Saskatchewan First Nations Women's Commission Secretariat, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations

Thank you very much.

The consultation process that has been discussed in Saskatchewan is that before Bill C-44 goes any further in the legislative process, a fair and considerate consultation process that builds on a respectful nationhood must occur.

We believe the topics that follow must be thoroughly considered when analyzing implementation.

First of all, there is the role of culture, language, and traditions. When undertaking a comprehensive consultation with first nations, the government must understand that our cultures, spoken languages, and traditions, including our oral history, must be an essential component.

What is an understanding on a topic in one language is very much different in another. Also, our oral history may have an ability to approach the subject and define human rights in a way that may not be considered in foreign world views and languages, such as our two languages of French and English.

In terms of an operational analysis, in order for first nations to meet, at the very least, the minimum standards that will be required in first nations communities once the CHRA applies, what we're looking at is an operational analysis that considers that financial, capacity-building, and human resources are needed. In this process it's important that first nations and the federal government work together to provide a joint analysis that is agreed upon and that both are committed to fulfilling.

In order to look at the financial resources and capacity-building, the operational analysis needs to provide a foundation for further financial resources to build capacity in first nations. If first nations and the federal government work together, they'll have a greater chance of meeting the requirements of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In terms of the first nations institutions, historically we as first nations have had mechanisms in place to adjudicate when a person or party has felt aggrieved. The application of the CHRA on first nations is an opportunity to strengthen and support our justice institutions and the processes and decisions they make that are relevant and meaningful to their community members.

In terms of document language and definitions, currently Bill C-44 narrowly defines aboriginal authority. It would be wise to have the language and the definitions in Bill C-44 discussed at length at the community level to ensure relevancy, understanding, and clarity. It's common sense that if people understand the language and the meaning of the language, they will understand and support its importance.

May 31st, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier Okanese First Nation, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations

Good morning, and thanks for the opportunity to be here today. I have Erica with me, who will discuss the consultation process, but I'll deal with the other issues.

I'm Chief Day Walker-Pelletier from the Okanese First Nation in Saskatchewan Treaty Four area. I have been chief of my first nation for 26 consecutive years. During my tenure I have witnessed many changes and many challenges within our first nations community—within my own community and within other communities that I'm from and that I represent.

I'm here to discuss my perspective on Bill C-44 and the repeal of section 67. I also bring common themes from my colleague Chief Sarah Gopher from Saulteaux First Nation, who was unable to be with us here today because of pressing commitments in her community.

I first want to state that I support the ideology of the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act on first nations land. I believe and, further, act every day to support our first nations processes that carry out just decisions for everyone.

In fact, there is potential for me as a leader to have greater access to funding from the federal government. This act may enable me to provide opportunity for my members in a way that I cannot do right now with the resources that are available. In the event that the Canadian Human Rights Act becomes applicable, additional resources for drinkable water, more housing, sustainable schools, and health centres now seem a possibility.

Further, as a leader I'll be in a better position to lobby the government to fulfill their obligation to us as first nations, because they will have to follow their own laws.

I have several concerns about Bill C-44 as it is presented and communicated.

First, I feel that the government is using a negative perception of first nation women living on reserve. I hear their lives have few rights and, further, little opportunity. As a woman who has grown up and lived on reserve all my life, other than leaving for schooling, I know this is not the case. We have issues that do affect women differently; however, these are part of the greater social considerations on the reserve. As a woman chief, I am more concerned about the vulnerability of all my members and believe that every situation is unique and must be considered differently.

Further, I feel that Bill C-44 is a premature bill to go before the House for further approval. If the intent is to bring federally legislated fairness and equality to our first nations and our members, then the government must ensure proper diligence be given to a first nation process for community input and guidance, and additionally, that once first nations have spoken, the government will respect that voice and enact their own recommendations, protecting our inherent and treaty rights.

In Saskatchewan, apart from our inherent rights as first nations people, we also have six other treaty areas and the rights that were negotiated with them. In fact, it is our belief that our inherent rights and the rights of the land treaties and the promises the Crown made to our ancestors must be paramount. We as chiefs hold the responsibility of keeping these promises alive in our present-day lives.

We believe that any legislation that will impact our collective inherent and treaty rights must go through a thorough review and recommendation process with our elders. This must happen before we as leadership even entertain endorsement or rejection. It is with their teachings and memory and guidance that they will provide an understanding and world view that must be considered.

Further, we believe that the government must give serious consideration to and take action to support our governance processes in trying to accommodate new mainstream legislation, especially if it is not first nation contrived. This is one of our inherent rights.

Finally, any legislation that is meant to protect individual rights of first nations must include language that will protect our collective rights. This is our unique status that we, as first nations, hold in this country. This language right must include provisions to guide and support the adjudicators who are entrusted with the interpretation of the Canadian Human Rights Act for first nations and their communities.

As for consultation with first nations, we have several issues to reference that demonstrate the negative impacts on first nation people when legislation is passed that does not have first nation approval for process, analysis, and implementation. We only have to mention Bill C-31 to see the lasting impacts on communities and how communities are still torn apart by that legislation.

As the chief of my individual community, which is part of the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, I know that the consultation process from the community level to the provincial level has been next to nil. In fact, when I mentioned to my community members that I was going to Ottawa to sit before this committee, not one of my members had even heard about Bill C-44. However, 20 years later, if you ask my members about Bill C-31, they still have much to say about its many effects—mostly negative—on our community. It is the general consensus that Bill C-31 created more inequalities than any measure of equality for our first nations women and children, despite it being purported to eradicate these inequalities.

Apart from the promise of the government in 1997 to exempt the Canadian Human Rights Act from being applicable to the Indian Act, without full consultation with first nations, my fear as a chief is that if a proper public education and communication process is not done, the impact will create a misinformed membership that will be further confused about their rights as well as their responsibilities.

Currently, the transition period that is referenced in Bill C-44 is six months. If a conscious, cautious, and respectful process is to be carried out, including elders, women, and the disabled in the community, then the six-month process is not realistic. I would suggest that the transition period be extended by at least 30 months. It would also be prudent to say that the consultation process should be adequately funded to ensure a comprehensive community voice.

On the process of consultation, I will turn it over to Erica to describe the process to you.

May 31st, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Chief Rose Laboucan Driftpile First Nation

Good morning to everyone. I thank you for the opportunity I almost didn't have, but in saying that, I don't feel I should have any more drama than my plane ride and the responsibility and accountability to be here to speak on behalf of first nation women and children in my community, and that's the reason why I'm here.

I want to say that when I initially took this opportunity to speak, I didn't want anything in writing, because I think from my oral history I'm able to voice my concerns without having to write them down. So I didn't pass out any documentation.

The one thing that I saw in this process, the first flaw I saw, was that no genuine consultation occurred. In 1977 there was a promise broken, because the federal government said they would engage prior to the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act regarding any changes that were to be made. That was not my promise; it was the promise that was made.

So even from that point of view, I don't know how I'm going to be able to say that my human rights and my benefit are being reassured by the changes that are going to occur on section 67.

As the leader of a small community in northern Alberta where the collective rights when it comes to the land base supersede the human rights, I have no other option but to protect that small piece of land that has been designated to me as a reservation. And knowing that and knowing that the collective and individual rights issue is going to be an even bigger burden to us than you will ever know, I can't begin to say how the matrimonial real property rights issues and the other issues stemming from the land management act.... All of these are connected to the repeal of this bill, and I want to be consulted. I want to know what the future outcomes are going to be in this process. I want to know how to address those prior to that.

When Bill C-31 was imposed, no one looked at the future and the impact of that bill. In this case, I definitely want to be reassured that any financial burdens are not on me, because when you look at individual human rights and issues that will come forth, you can see there will be a financial burden to that. There's no way anywhere in my budget that I can accommodate that.

Do not get me wrong. I am for the women. I am for the children and the protection of the children. I'm a mother, I'm a grandmother, so no one can deny me that opportunity and say that this is not about those rights. It definitely is.

As for the principle of Bill C-44, the repeal of section 67 I don't have a problem with, but let's talk about the process and what has to occur prior to that, instead of ramming something down my throat again. I say that as a first nations person who has had to live under the Indian Act all my life.

I just want to say that there are other things I would like--definitely the transition period. There are other accommodations that could be made to this bill before it's passed in the House, but number one and foremost, without consulting me you have already violated my human rights as an individual. You can't have both, You can't have your cake and eat it too, and say collective rights are only this part of me, and individual rights are only this part of me. No. It's either that they encompass me as a whole individual or not. And don't strategize so that I'm isolated on one part of my human rights and not the other.

I know it's a really big issue, so when we look at it and we look at the land base and we look at the collectivity of our way of life, I need more time. I need to talk about this more openly and discuss all the alternatives and strategies that I could bring forth in this process.

It is from that perspective that I chose to come to speak to you today. Hopefully when there's a question and answer period, we'll get into more detail about it.

That's where I'm coming from. I just want the opportunity to have these discussions and move forward.

Thank you.

May 31st, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

Welcome to this meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for Thursday, May 31, 2007.

Committee members, we are continuing with our study of Bill C-44, an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Today as witnesses we have Chief Rose Laboucan from the Driftpile First Nation; Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations; and Erica Beaudin, the executive director of the Saskatchewan First Nations Women's Commission Secretariat.

Welcome to our witnesses.

We're going to provide time for our witnesses to make presentations, and then we will move into questions. I'd like to start with Chief Rose Laboucan.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 31st, 2007 / 10:45 a.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, a similar motion was moved and adopted on October 3, 2006, concerning Bill C-24, the softwood lumber bill. That motion was challenged and the Speaker ruled the motion in order. The Speaker said at that time:

In fact, the effect of the motion is not unlike the effect of adopting a motion under Standing Order 26, which provides for the continuation of debate on a matter before the House, which is to say that it provides for an open-ended extension of the sitting for purposes of continuing debate on a particular matter. This, it can be argued, can be seen as the House managing its business and arranging its proceedings.

As I read the motion moved by the hon. the government House leader and adopted by the House, every member wishing to speak to the amendment and the main motion, who has not already done so, will be able to participate. The motion does not set a deadline for completion of the proceedings, as would be the case under time allocation or closure. Instead it simply extends the sitting of the motion then before the House. That is a significant difference. The precedents available to me, including my own previous rulings, are therefore insufficient in my view for me to rule the motion out of order on this occasion.

The motion the government House leader has moved is not unlike the motion moved on October 3rd. The only difference is that it concerns a bill that is before a committee. There is no deadline dictated to the committee as a time allocation motion would propose. Members are free to sit as long as they wish to consider Bill C-44. There is no deadline for reporting the bill back, except to direct the committee to report the bill back when it finishes its consideration of Bill C-44. The motion does not presuppose that the committee is going to adopt the bill. It simply says that if the committee adopts the bill, that it ought to report it back. That is what would normally happen.

With respect to committees being masters of their own destiny, that principle does not preclude the House from giving committees some direction. Committees are subordinate to the House. In fact, the House is the sole source of direction for committees through the Standing Orders and other motions. This is covered on pages 805 to 809 of Marleau and Montpetit. In part it says:

Standing committees are permanent committees established by Standing Order. They are mandated by the House to oversee a government department or departments, to review particular areas of federal policy or to exercise procedural and administrative responsibilities related to Parliament...other matters are routinely referred to them by the House for examination: bills, Estimates, Order-in-Council appointments--

It also says that the House can give an order of reference including “--conditions that the committee must comply with in carrying out the study--”.

I submit that Standing Order 56.1 is the proper means to achieve the objectives outlined in the motion. I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to section (b) of the Standing Order which says that Standing Order 56.1 is to be used:

--for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the management of its business, the arrangement of its proceedings, the establishing of the powers of its committees, the correctness of its records or the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment

As with the motion that dealt with the second reading stage of Bill C-24, the motion dealing with the committee stage of Bill C-44 can be seen as the House managing its business and arranging its proceedings.

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 31st, 2007 / 10:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting the parliamentary secretary. I do not mean to interrupt his speech. He will have an opportunity in just a moment to continue, but this has to do with another matter that occurred in the House earlier today at the beginning of the session.

I rise on a point of order concerning the government's use of Standing Order 56.1 to dispose of the committee stage of Bill C-44. This occurred earlier today.

I would like to refer specifically to a ruling by the Speaker on September 18, 2001, in which the Speaker said the following:

The expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 since 1997 causes the Chair serious concern. The government is provided with a range of options under Standing Orders 57 and 78 for the purpose of limiting debate. Standing Order 56.1 should be used for motions of a routine nature, such as arranging the business of the House. It was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages, certainly not for bills that fall outside the range of those already contemplated in the standing order when “urgent or extraordinary occasions” arise. Standing Order 71 provides in such cases that a bill may be dealt with at more than one stage in a single day.

Mr. Speaker, that appeared in Hansard on September 18, 2001.

Therefore, in light of this ruling that is already provided, and referenced, I might say, in Marleau and Montpetit, acknowledging that the committee stage of a bill is a stage of consideration, the government can use Standing Order 78 to limit debate at this stage or at any other stage.

As indicated by the Speaker in the quotation that I referred to, Standing Order 56.1 “was not intended to be used for the disposition of a bill at various stages”.

I would therefore, Mr. Speaker, respectfully request that you look at the motion adopted by the use of Standing Order 56.1 this morning and rule explicitly that the motion is out of order in relation to Standing Order 56.1.

I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that the aboriginal affairs committee is meeting very shortly and that is why I have raised the matter at this time. Your ruling in a timely manner would be most welcome on this issue so that the standing committee can know where it stands.

Canada-Portugal Day ActRoutine Proceedings

May 31st, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I hope you would find unanimous consent for the following motion: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development convenes a meeting, it shall not be adjourned or suspended until it completes the committee stage of Bill C-44, except pursuant to a motion by a parliamentary secretary and, provided the bill is adopted by the committee, agrees to report the bill to the House within two sitting days following the completion of the committee stage.

May 29th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for coming forward to discuss the main estimates with this committee today. I have to admit I think the committee is a little disappointed. When we first arranged to have you here for two hours, I believe all members were hoping to have Bill C-44 passed. Hopefully your presence will inspire some renewed invigoration of this file.

Minister, I want to say that in my constituency people are very impressed with the leadership you have shown on this file; leadership in going to places like Pikanjikum and seeing these issues first-hand and being willing to tackle these things first-hand when other members of Parliament, quite frankly, aren't willing to go there to do some of this dirty work.

Minister, water safety is an issue that is all too often taken for granted by average Canadians. In my area, however, having access to safe drinking water is unfortunately something that many of our first nations people on reserve have long been denied. The department's main estimates include a sizeable increase in funding for water safety initiatives.

Could you please outline for our committee, Minister, the direction you are taking to ensure safe water for first nations people living on reserve?

May 29th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. With your indulgence, I shall answer in English.

The Inuit-Makivik legislation, Bill C-51, is at the House. The issue is whether there's going to be a clause-by-clause review by this committee, and if so, when it is going to happen—or whether it is, frankly, necessary.

There is a second bill, which relates to the province of Quebec, that has been working its way through the Senate: Bill S-6, which relates to the bijuralization, if you will. It's an extremely important bill. It's inexplicable why it has not happened to this point, but all of the modern self-government legislation that has been put in place over the last number of years was not put in place for Quebec first nations at the same time. We wish to rectify that.

I anticipate that both of those bills will be before the House in the way that you anticipate, hopefully very quickly, so that we can deal with them and move forward. That's something that you and I and Monsieur Lemay and others will continue to work together on. I wish to see those two bills enacted as law as quickly as possible. I think we can achieve that.

With respect to Bill C-44, I must say this is a piece of legislation that gives to first nations citizens the protection of Canada's Human Rights Act. I don't think the parliamentary committee should study it endlessly. The operative clause of the bill is only nine words long. It says: “Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is repealed.”That would lift a barrier that prevents a first nation woman, for example, who's not satisfied with the quality of education her child is receiving from filing a complaint, a grievance, either against the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, whoever it happens to be, or against her own council, if she feels that's where the issue isn't being dealt with.

This is one of the elements of modern governance that clearly has to be available to first nations citizens as we move forward to self-government. I think it's wrong that first nations citizens in Canada do not have the right to file human rights grievances the way other Canadians do. I think it will advantage women and children significantly, and I ask for the committee's cooperation.

The committee has been studying this subject now for 16 weeks, and I think it's time the committee moved this bill back to the House of Commons. If at that time the opposition parties do not support the concept of Canada's first nation citizens having human rights protection, you'll be afforded an opportunity to stand up and cast a vote. But let's get this issue back to the House of Commons and move forward. This committee has much other important work to do.

May 29th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Minister, I would like to begin by acknowledging your support with regard to the Quebec Pavillon des Premières Nations. Unfortunately, you have not been quite as impressive in other areas. I do not know whether you recall the commitment made in 1977 by the department and the then prime minister to consult first nations before introducing any changes. On page 1 of your report, you refer to Bill C-44 and, on page 7, you mention the repeal of section 67.

This is what I want to discuss first. Everybody agrees that first nations ought to be subject to the same laws that govern other Canadians. However, when we impose obligations upon first nations, we must also give them the means to meet these obligations. For some time now, people have been voicing their concerns about primary education. The study on post-secondary education revealed a problem: young people are not finishing primary school because the primary school system is inadequate. There is not enough money to build schools and there is a shortage of teachers.

Even today, first nations people have to fight for schools and struggle to find qualified teachers. How can we possibly ask first nations leaders to take on the same responsibilities as their non-first nations counterparts?

Let us now turn our attention to Bill C-51, which deals with the Nunavik land claims. You tabled this bill in the House quite some time ago. The committee unanimously supported fast-tracking the bill, we were in favour of fast-tracking the bill because it represented a commitment by your government to the Inuit. It was a laudable commitment. Everybody supported it.

Given that this bill falls under the purview of your department, could you please explain why it has not even got to second reading in the House?

May 29th, 2007 / noon
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Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for being here, and also to everyone who's here to listen today.

I have a lot to cover in our second round with only five minutes. I'm just going to take your comment about the residential schools having gone so well as actually a compliment to the previous government, which I think pretty well settled it, and all you need to do is carry it through.

Because everyone else has asked questions on other areas, I'm going to focus more on economic development. As I look through some of the planned spending, I see a lot of decreases in the areas that have something to do with economic development: the clarity of title to lands and resources, economic development for aboriginal people, and economic development, northern land and resources, even community infrastructure. Those I see as all key parts of fostering good economic development in our communities, and I see a very big drop. I know you've transferred Aboriginal Business Canada from Industry Canada, which I don't necessarily agree with either, because the expertise was in Industry Canada, and I thought we were moving to a phase where economic development was economic development, not that just because it's aboriginal people it has to be under Indian Affairs.

So could you explain why there is such a drop in that? Aboriginal Business Canada is only $49.1 million on the next page; it doesn't account for all the different reductions in that.

Could you also talk little bit about your relationship with organizations that represent aboriginal people in Canada? We're hearing a lot through our Bill C-44 witnesses that they're not getting an opportunity to really work with you on priority issues. I see a drop in cooperative relationships too, that the funding has gone down in that, so I don't know if that explains part of it. I have a group called the Land Claim Agreement Coalition who have come together--all the different land claims organizations have come together, and it's a rare thing for them to be able to come together and work together--and they haven't been able to get cooperation on the government side to really implement land claims organizations.

I know I don't have that much time. I'll leave the rest with you.

May 29th, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would be pleased to do so.

I'd like to say good morning to you and to the members of the committee. Thank you very much. I look forward to our dialogue here today.

I thank you for the opportunity to discuss the main estimates of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development with you and your colleagues this morning. I'm grateful for the attention this committee has given to my department's agenda over the past year—I guess to our collective agenda. I appreciate your consideration of these important issues, including post-secondary education and housing, as well as legislative initiatives such as Bill C-34 and Bill C-44, which are now before the committee.

I know we all share the same objective, which is to say improving the quality of life for aboriginal people and northerners.

You heard from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's accounting officer, Deputy Minister Michael Wernick, a short time ago regarding the department's supplementary estimates. I would like to speak today in the context of this year's main estimates, the next step in the financial planning cycle, and we are determined to move forward to make a real and positive difference in the lives of aboriginal people and northerners.

The current 2007-08 main estimates include $6.3 billion for our department. This represents a net increase of $36 million from 2006-07.

One point I would like to emphasize, particularly for Monsieur Lemay, is that the main estimates are of course simply the first step in the fiscal cycle, the starting point. They do not include resources that will be allocated through supplementary estimates.

Mr. Chairman, funded by the main and supplementary estimates, we are determined to move forward in clearly defined ways through approaches and initiatives that will effect real change in aboriginal communities and furthermore will give aboriginal people the tools and organizational structures they need to take charge of their own future.

I have felt, from the time I became the minister, that we need to effect structural reforms, in particular to protect women and children and to ensure that women are in a position to move forward and advocate on behalf of their children.

First, we need to effect structural reform to protect women, children and families. Whether the reform is legislative, as is the case with the repealed section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, or a change in policies and programs, we must ensure that aboriginal women, children and families have the same rights and have access to the same quality of services as all other Canadians.

Our continued work to address the issue of matrimonial real property and our recent partnership with the Province of Alberta and Alberta first nations to implement a new approach to child and family services are recent examples of new and innovative thinking, new approaches to the existing challenges in first nation communities. I'm confident that, working in partnership with the provinces, territories, and aboriginal groups, we can build on successes such as these.

Second, we have to consolidate economic development tools to obtain the maximum efficiency from our programs and services, and so that we can enable first nations to take charge of their own economic development. That is why the Aboriginal Business Canada program and the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board were unified under my department in December 2006. This is an important initiative, and there will be more said about it in the future. It is one of the important structural changes that needed to be made to ensure that the department has the tools to deal with economic development, which I think we all would agree is a significant part of the way forward.

Furthermore, under the aboriginal workplace partnership initiatives, we have formalized partnerships with local governments, influential businesses, and trade unions to promote the employment of an aboriginal labour force. I'm especially proud of the agreements that have been signed in the past several months, agreements such as those with Siemens Canada Limited in Saskatoon, the City of Edmonton, the Calgary Health Region, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, and the Nova Scotia Trucking Human Resource Sector Council. All of these agreements will bolster the number of employment opportunities available to aboriginal people.

To give you another example, this government allocated $300 million in budget 2007 for the establishment of the first nations market housing fund. This fund will enable first nation families and individuals to purchase, build, and renovate on-reserve housing that meets their specific needs and tastes. I think everyone in the room is familiar with the fact that a key aspect of this is the leverage that is available from the $300 million, leverage that would be in the nature of four or five to one. So it's not simply $300 million; it accesses private mortgage capital in excess of $1.5 billion, which will be available over time for first nations housing.

The program is expected to help finance the development of approximately 25,000 new housing units over the next 10 years, but the First Nations Housing Market Fund will not only encourage housing development, it will also help first nations people living on reserve to obtain bank loans, build equity and generate wealth through home ownership.

Third, there is a desperate need to address the existing approach to the resolution of aboriginal land claims. I'm happy to point out that there have been some marked recent successes. The Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement, for instance, was signed in December of last year, resolving this country's last major Inuit land claim, Bill C-51.

Bill C-51, which ratifies this agreement, has recently been introduced in the House, and last year three treaties were also initialled in the province of British Columbia. These were the first to be initiated under the B.C. treaty process. However, much more needs to be done.

I know all of the members here today are eager to discuss these plans and to address the current untenable situation presented by the specific claims process. Although I'm not in a position to elaborate at this time, I'm pleased to note that we have committed to and intend to announce a new approach to the resolution of this long-standing national issue.

Fourth, we have to work to enable the participation of aboriginal people in major resource development opportunities. The close proximity of our first nations communities to resource development presents opportunities, allows people to participate in these projects in a meaningful manner, and to share in the social and economic benefits that are generated by these initiatives.

I know we've all seen examples of this sort of success in the past. I observed that in the context of Voisey's Bay, for example, close to 50% of the workforce at that facility are first nation citizens. If you go to the diamond mines in the Northwest Territories in the Tlicho area, you'll find that, as I recall, in excess of 30% of the people working at those facilities are first nation citizens.

So we are making progress.

This government recently passed regulations under the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act that will enable the Fort McKay First Nation, in partnership with Shell Canada, to develop a multi-billion dollar oil sands mine in northern Alberta. This is the first initiative of its kind. The project will attract investors from around the world and create hundreds of meaningful, well-paying jobs for community residents.

And we have also dedicated $500 million to the Mackenzie Valley Socio-Economic Impact Fund. Committed in budget 2006, this fund will assist those communities whose development is affected by the proposed Mackenzie gas project, should the project proceed.

Fifth, my colleagues, we continue to work forward addressing the residential schools matter. I'm pleased to report to the committee that the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement has received final court approval, and now former students and their families must choose whether to stay in the agreement or remove themselves from it. All parties to this historic agreement have agreed to a fair resolution of this sad legacy and chapter in the history of our country.

Our new government recognizes the importance of achieving a fair and lasting resolution of the Indian residential schools legacy and of moving forward in partnership with aboriginal communities across Canada. You will be aware that in my early months as minister, I brought the closure, along with Minister Oda, to the negotiations surrounding the Indian residential school settlement. That's also why we supported the motion for the House of Commons to apologize for the legacy of the Indian residential school agreement. The apology took place a month or so ago.

We are moving forward with the implementation of the agreement at this point, potentially as early as September of this year, once the opt-out period is finished. In particular, we look forward to the important work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is an element of this historic agreement and which will provide a complete historic record of the unfortunate legacy of which we speak.

Not only is this department responsible for first nation, Inuit, and northern issues, I'm also the federal interlocutor for Métis and non-status Indians. My official work with Métis and non-status Indians and urban aboriginal people is to assist them in realizing their full economic and social potential. In this capacity, we recently announced a refocused urban aboriginal strategy in Edmonton, concentrating on job training and entrepreneurship for the nearly 50% of aboriginal people who live in cities and towns across the country.

The approach to the urban aboriginal strategy is based upon a focus on the larger metropolitan centres--12 in number, as I recall. The strategy unites federal, provincial, and municipal governments as well as aboriginal communities and organizations and invests $68.5 million over five years to improve life and employment skills, to promote entrepreneurship, and to provide support to aboriginal women, children, and families.

Mr. Chairman, you and your colleagues are quite aware that the north is an important part of my mandate. Canada's New Government is committed to working with Canada's three northern territories to develop the north's natural resources, and create jobs and prosperity for northerners and indeed for all Canadians.

The north holds a significant percentage of Canada's energy resources. They present an immense opportunity for exploration and development--investment for generations to come. Resource-based projects in the north include diamond mines, oil and gas exploration, and other mining activity. They've contributed to increased economic growth in the north over the past number of years.

This economic growth, besides being the means of improving quality of life for northerners, also serves to bolster Canadian sovereignty in the north, raising the profile of Canada. As an Arctic nation, we must do what we can to ensure that the current boom in the north continues, to the benefit of northerners and other Canadians alike.

The International Polar Year, 2007-08, was also launched on March 1. This will be another enabler of growth and development in the north. We expect that the research by Canadian and international scientists, funded through the International Polar Year program, will lead to new knowledge, environmental, health, and economic benefits to Canadians in the north and across our nation.

The two key themes for International Polar Year science—climate change impacts and adaptation, and the health and well-being of northern communities—will be important to many nations, given the global effects of climate change.

In closing, I feel it is essential to note that while funding is a crucial element in the success of our programs and initiatives, it is not the only significant factor. I have said before that continuing to fund existing programs without considering their validity or efficiency is not good enough. We must continue to consider whether the means by which we currently deliver services is truly producing the best results for aboriginal peoples and northerners. The funding provided in the main estimates is essential to maintain and advance programs to improve the quality of life for aboriginal people and northerners.

I welcome any questions or comments you may have.

Colleagues, I welcome any questions or comments you may have. It is a pleasure to be here. I know that we have a reservoir of knowledge at this table concerning aboriginal and northern issues, and I look forward to an opportunity to discuss this.

Thank you.

May 28th, 2007 / 6:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am fully prepared to stay here until the job is done. Of course what we are talking about with Bill C-44 is actually the repeal of section 67, which allows people to file complaints against the Indian Act. First nations on reserve already have access to the Canadian Human Rights Act. In fact, the Assembly of First Nations has filed a complaint under the Canadian Human Rights Act about the serious underfunding of 22% for child services.

I still am looking for an answer about how much money actually ends up in first nations communities and in the hands of the people who live in those communities. We have seen this over and over, and again, from the government's own documents such as the government's cost driver report, which talks about the fact that “after nine years of a 2 percent cap the time has come to fund First Nations basic services costs so that population and price growth are covered in the new and subsequent years”. The report goes on to talk about the very serious needs around improved comparability. When will the--

May 28th, 2007 / 6:30 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question because in fact this is one of the very reasons why I got involved in politics. For the first time in my life I was able to join a party that was interested in actually reforming the very system that prevents the money needed by first nations people, aboriginal people, in order to improve their lives, from reaching them.

It is our party that actually sees this system as the very barrier this member talks about. Thankfully, our government has been able to begin to chip away at a system that has suppressed first nations people for a very long time, going back over 100 years as we look back to the Indian Act, a document that was prepared from pre-Confederation documents. Of course everyone realizes it is an antiquated piece of legislation that only suppresses the very people it espouses to help. This reform is something that our government is very interested in pursuing.

Some have suggested that more money is necessary to fix these problems. I would argue that although more money may need to be invested at some point, it is actually the system itself that needs to be fixed. Before we can invest more dollars, we need to ensure that the money is actually going to make a difference in the lives of the people it is meant to help.

One of the things that we are doing as a government is bringing forward Bill C-44, an important piece of legislation. The bill actually begins to target this system and actually will extend human rights to first nations people.

Most people in Canada do not realize that the Canadian Human Rights Act does not apply on first nations reserves. This is a shameful fact about our history. Canada, one of the best countries in the world to live in, has not extended human rights to first nations people. We have an excellent record on human rights, yet we have not extended these benefits to first nations people.

Thankfully, right now our committee has the opportunity to bring forward this important and historic piece of legislation. I would sure like the member to endorse extending human rights protections to first nations people. I know the member wants to head home as soon as possible to her summer estate. That is why she has put off extending the Canadian Human Rights Act to first nations people on reserve until some time in the fall. I challenge her to change her mind and actually endorse extending human rights to first nations people.

Document for Committee ChairsPrivilege

May 28th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member for Halton wants to continue to heckle, perhaps he can add to the debate after I am done instead of just shouting out his nonsense.

The reality is that this is a similar document that all parties produce to help train their individual members. I note that this internal document, as I say, is not a government document. It is something that was produced by the Conservative Party to assist our chairs.

Since the NDP members are so concerned about this, perhaps they could reveal to us their playbook or explain their tactics when they were delaying and continue to delay Bill C-45, the Fisheries Act; or Bill C-44, the amendments to the Human Rights Act; or their earlier extensive delay in filibustering Bill C-24, the softwood lumber act. In all of those things they employed tactics to delay passage of government legislation.

What about a chapter from their playbook dealing with moving concurrence motions to obstruct government legislation from following the due process and the procedure that we have become accustomed to in passing through the chamber? Instead, they resort, almost daily, to moving concurrence motions to delay that legislation.

I have remarked that the further training of our chairs, our committee members and, indeed, all of our caucus is to ensure that we are well aware of any procedural tools that we might have as a government, recognizing that we are a minority government and that we are outnumbered, not only in the chamber but at each and every standing committee. When we are confronted, as we have been by the opposition parties, which have become increasingly obstructionist, with a lot of legislation, we need to ensure we use every possible tool at our disposal to get our legislation passed through the committees, passed through the chamber and ultimately passed through a Liberal dominated Senate to become law in order that we can keep the promises that we made to the Canadian people in the last election campaign.

I have been noting that the people of Canada did not elect a coalition government of opposition parties. They elected a minority Conservative government and we have been trying to govern as such.

It is certainly my contention that this is an internal party document and that all parties have similar types of documents. It is beyond the pale that we would start out this final week with this bogus question of privilege.

Bill C-44Points of OrderOral Questions

May 18th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, if I said that, I misspoke. Of course the provision in the statute is as the member said, one that right now denies to first nations on reserve the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The purpose of Bill C-44 is to give them the rights that that act provides to every other Canadian. It was not under the charter. It is indeed the Canadian Human Rights Act that we are trying to restore their rights under Bill C-44.

When I was referring to the efforts by the opposition to delay that legislation over the summer, it was not with regard to the charter. It was with regard to denying first nations people the human rights code protection.

Bill C-44Points of OrderOral Questions

May 18th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House the government House leader was talking about Bill C-44 and he indicated that the bill was going to actually provide access to human rights under the Canadian charter of human rights.

I hope the government House leader would correct the record by indicating that Bill C-44 is actually a repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 18th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I assure the member opposite that this government and our Minister of Indian Affairs have been in discussions with National Chief Phil Fontaine since we took office.

However, I also need to point out that unlike the previous government, which simply wanted to throw dollars at problems, we believe there is a systemic issue here, a system that needs reform. It is something that we have begun and that we are going to continue to do, such as we are doing, for instance, with Bill C-44, which the Liberal Party is not supporting. This extends human rights to first nations people on reserve. We would like to see that happen.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 17th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I would not do that.

Tomorrow is an allotted day.

Next week is constituent consultation week, when the House will be adjourned to allow members to return to their ridings and meet with constituents to share with them the activities of Parliament since the last constituency break.

For the interest of members, I will quickly review our plan for the context of our overall legislative agenda.

As he requested, this is currently strengthening the economy week, where a number of financial bills moved forward. The budget bill was sent to committee and, hopefully, it will be reported back tomorrow, or soon, so we can deal with it at third reading when the House returns after the break.

Bill C-40, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, was read a third time and sent to the Senate. Bill C-53, an act to implement the convention on the settlement of investment disputes, Bill C-33, the sales tax bill and Bill C-47, the Olympics symbol bill were all sent to committee and we all would like to see those back in the House for report stage and third reading.

In an earlier week, Bill C-36, the bill that makes changes to the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act, was made into law after receiving royal assent.

Strengthening accountability through democratic reform week was a success with the consideration of Bill C-43, Senate consultation. We had three new democratic reform bills introduced that week: Bill C-55, to expand voting opportunities; Bill C-56, an act to amend the Constitution Act, democratic representation; and Bill C-54, a bill that would bring accountability with respect to loans. We hope to continue debate on that particular bill later today.

Bill C-16, fixed dates for elections, was given royal assent and is now law, which I think is the cause of the commotion now in all the committees where Liberals are using procedural tactics. Now they feel they can do it with a free hand.

Two other democratic reform bills are in the Senate, Bill C-31, voter integrity, and Bill S-4, Senate tenure. I really would like to have the term limits bill from the Senate for an upcoming democratic reform week if the opposition House leader can persuade his colleagues in the Senate to finally deal with that bill after 352 days. We may get 352 seconds in a filibuster, but they have had 352 days so far. They have been stalling for a year.

During the consultation week, I will be interested in hearing what our constituents think of the plight of Bill S-4 and the irony of those unaccountable senators delaying it.

We dedicated a good deal of our time focusing on making our streets and communities safer by cracking down on crime. Now that we have had the help of the NDP, we restored the meaningful aspects that the Liberals gutted in committee to Bill C-10, the bill to introduce mandatory penalties for violent and gun crimes. We are continuing to debate that bill today at third reading.

Bill C-48, the bill dealing with the United Nations convention on corruption, was adopted at all stages.

Bill C-26, the bill to amend the Criminal Code with respect to interest rates, was given royal assent.

Bill C-22, the age of protection, was given final reading and sent to the Senate, although it did spend close to, if not in excess of, 200 days in committee where the Liberals were obstructing and delaying its passage.

We made progress on Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders legislation. We would like to see that back in the House.

Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) and a host of other justice bills are working their way through the system.

Members can advise their constituents that when we return, we will be reviving two themes, back by popular demand. Beginning May 28, we will begin again with strengthening accountability through democratic reform with: Bill C-54, political loans; Bill C-55, additional opportunities for voting; and Bill C-56, democratic representation.

Up next is a second go-round on strengthening the economy week with Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill, which will be called as soon as it is reported back from committee.

In the near future, we will have the improvement of aboriginal people quality of life week with Bill C-44. This bill will grant first nations residing on Indian reserves access to the Canadian charter of human rights. They have been denied this right for 30 years. Unfortunately, Bill C-44 is being delayed by the opposition. This is another bill being delayed by the opposition in committee.

After Bill C-44, I intend to debate Bill C-51. The agreement establishes the use and ownership of land and resources and will foster economic development. This bill illustrates Canada's commitment to the North and to settling land claims.

I wish all members a productive constituent consultation week and look forward to more progress on the government's legislative agenda when the House returns on May 28.

May 17th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I want to come back to a presentation the Canadian Bar Association made. In it they talked about the effect of Bill C-44 on the Indian Act and presented a case that has been cited by Justice Muldoon of the Federal Court of Canada, that without any kind of coherent approach, the repeal of section 67 without looking at broader impacts could actually result in the piecemeal destruction of the Indian Act.

I wonder whether you've thought about that at all and whether you have any comments on it.

May 17th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Chair, I will be splitting my time with Mr. Blaney.

I'm just going to continue with Mr. Russell's logic here for a moment. He posed the question of whether the government has broken the law. Of course I have an opinion on that.

I perhaps would like you, Ms. Cornet, to pursue, theoretically, what would happen if the government has broken the law. In this case, on Bill C-44, what would the process be for dealing with the fact that the government had broken the law? What would it look like? If Bill C-44 were passed, what would happen after that?

May 17th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you for being here. I really appreciated what I have heard and I would like to tell you about it. I will not go over everything that you have said. I believe that you are really knowledgeable about these communities. My question will be simple and direct. As my university teacher used to say, it is a question that is short but that deserves a long and developed answer.

Do you believe that as we speak, today, on May 17, that the native communities are prepared and ready to face the repeal of section 67 of the act? In other words, are the communities addressed by Bill C-44 ready to deal with this bill today? If the answer is yes, why? And if not, why not?

I want to give you as much time as possible to answer.

May 17th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much for your interventions, both of you.

You touched on a couple of sections that I have been very worried about throughout these deliberations on Bill C-44. You talked about the duty to consult; Wendy, you also talked about negotiations on conflict management, and Larry, you talked about jointly drafting legislation. Those are very critical bases, I think, of what defines a relationship between aboriginal people and the federal government, because, as I have repeatedly said, we can no longer do things as we used to in the 1960s. I refer to that because that was the time when everybody just made decisions on our behalf without any of our input whatsoever.

I would like to think, as you do, that in 2007 that's behind us, but it's very difficult from where I sit to tolerate how Bill C-44 came about, because we're had numerous witnesses before us who really feel the same way of doing things has come back--that someone in an office in Ottawa decides what policies and legislation are good for us without our input.

I'll come back to specific questions. Negotiation on conflict management is one of the areas I'm really worried about; I'm worried that we're not going to be prepared in those aboriginal communities to deal with the way of resolving conflict. In my culture, for example, as I was mentioning to Wendy, we like to look at win-win situations. We're very uncomfortable with the current court system, which results in a winner and a loser. Because our communities are small, we can't have winner and loser situations all the time, because it divides communities. What we want to be able to see is a win-win situation and a compromise; maybe that's why we have our consensus style of governing.

What I'm worried about with this legislation is that if there isn't enough proper consultation and not enough capacity-building at the communities, we're going to be dividing communities with win-lose situations, whereas we have an opportunity to do win-win if we go about bringing this legislation the right way. Could both of you please comment on that?

May 17th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

I open this Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Thursday, May 17, 2007.

Committee members, you have the orders of the day before you. We're continuing our study on Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Appearing today, from Cornet Consulting and Mediation Inc., we have Wendy Cornet. Welcome. And from the University of Winnipeg we have Larry Chartrand, director, aboriginal governance program. Welcome.

We'll be asking the witnesses to make submissions of ten minutes, or roughly that amount of time, and then we'll move into questions.

Madame Cornet, would you like to speak first?

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2007 / 9 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Chair, at a recent Status of Women committee meeting, Ellen Gabriel, president of the Quebec Native Women's Association said:

The value of aboriginal women in our society today has diminished to where, as Amnesty International has stated, we have become a commodity in society in general.

Aboriginal women have told members on this side that they have felt used by the Minister of Indian Affairs and that the implementation of Bill C-44 as is and as presented will create more problems for them.

Why has the minister not spoken up on behalf of the status of aboriginal women to her colleagues?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 16th, 2007 / 2:55 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question. We have already said that we must protect the interests of aboriginals, youth and women. However, here is the real question. Why does the Bloc Québécois refuse to support Bill C-44?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

May 16th, 2007 / 2:20 p.m.
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Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, this government certainly has nothing to learn from the Liberal Party in the area of rights.

This is the government that dealt with the issue of the Chinese head tax, which the previous government refused to do. This is the government that is trying to get matrimonial property rights for aboriginal women. This is the government that is trying to toughen up laws to protect women and children in Canada.

We have an important bill before the House, Bill C-44, to give aboriginal people, under the Canadian human rights code, equal status for the first time. The Liberal Party should stop blocking it and support it.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 15th, 2007 / 2:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, who is the golf player?

Aboriginal people and women feel used by the minister. Over and over again we have heard about the lack of consultation on Bill C-44, but the government has yet to apologize to the victims of residential schools.

It is a double standard. The government is willing to consult and wait five years to apologize, yet it will enact new legislation without a shred of consultation.

That father knows best approach simply does not work. Why did the government not consult with first nations before enacting this legislation?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 15th, 2007 / 2:50 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals will have to make their decision. They will have to decide if they will go back to their tennis clubs and golf clubs for the summer or if they will get Bill C-44 back to the House, so that first nations citizens will no longer be second class citizens in Canada without the protection of a human rights code.

For 13 years the Liberals did nothing about this. It has been 30 years in this country, which is long enough. That is enough consultation. The government intends to act with or without them.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 15th, 2007 / 2:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Assembly of First Nations has serious concerns with the limited scope of Bill C-44.

The Ontario chiefs feel the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is like throwing a grenade into collective rights. The Canadian Bar Association said the repeal has the potential to undermine the protection of collective rights.

We have to get it right. Why does the minister feel he knows best when it comes to aboriginal peoples, when they themselves do not agree with the government's position?

May 15th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

As you said, Dawn, the result is not to give zero people an opportunity for consultation. There should be consultation, and however many choose to show up, they've had the opportunity. It's never 100% of anything.

You raised a very interesting point we haven't talked about yet. It's about the potential different laws in different areas. For instance, the way the government is dealing with matrimonial rights is to suggest that there'll be a national law, but when self-governing first nations make their own laws, then they can have a law in their area to fill that capacity, which would result in one law here and one law there.

Some people propose that this be the model used for human rights under Bill C-44, so that there be the national system available to people. But when a first nation decides to create its own law, as Ms. Young has suggested—defining your own laws on human rights—then each first nation would have human rights protection, but it would be defined by themselves.

My question is, and I think you raised this question, what happens if you have a number of first nations in the same area that all have different laws? Is that a problem, or is it not a problem? Or is it a minor irritant but not as important as getting it right?

May 15th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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Researcher, Aboriginal Language Institute, University College of the North

Esther Sanderson

I would like to comment on that first.

At one time in our communities, we had our own membership. We were allowed to have members join our communities, and they were put on the band list. Somewhere along the line, something happened. I guess it started with the Indian Act, regarding who could be an Indian and who couldn't be. That's when the injustices began in our communities.

Given the opportunity, we could do that again with the human rights in our communities, because it was done fairly. It was done as a process as to who could be a member and why they should or shouldn't be a member. In my mind, it would be the same process. The issues will probably come out the same in terms of membership, and that's what we were talking about in Bill C-31.

I'm also someone they call a Bill C-31, and I hate the way we define ourselves in our communities, where we're numbers and initials instead of people.

That's what Bill C-31 has done to us. It was a termination clause for all of the Indian people. Those consequences were bad. I would not like to see something like that happen again with Bill C-44.

We're adamant that we want a consultation process, so that our voices can be heard in Parliament and adequately addressed.

May 15th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I want to come back to Bill C-31 for a minute.

One of the points that have been made is that under the current Bill C-44, in five years' time we would be able to take a look at it. Bill C-31, I think, was passed in 1985. In 1986 there was a report out by a couple of people called Clatworthy and Smith. These researchers did a bunch of projections, based on section 6.2 of Bill C-31, and demonstrated when key communities across the country would actually have no status Indians left in their community as a result of section 6.2.

I've raised a couple of times the issue of the impact of Bill C-31 and what we can do about it. What I've understood is that no action will be taken until some court cases have unfolded. Anecdotally, there are already nations in Canada where the last status person has been born.

When we're asked to trust that a five-year process on Bill C-44 would enable us to examine unintended consequences, I just see that with Bill C-31, here we are, however many years later—22 years later—not able to currently address the impacts it is having on communities.

And it's not only the impact of people's loss of status; all of you talked about resources. One of the things that happened with Bill C-31 was that there weren't adequate resources in the communities to allow women to return to the community and have access to adequate housing and adequate education.

I wonder whether you could comment on that.

May 15th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Ladies, thank you for having made the effort to come here. You really have to love what you are doing to do so. You may say that I am paid very well to love it, but I do it out of love as well.

I remember having heard a prime minister say that you would be consulted in the future and that significant changes to the act would be discussed with you. I think that this is a significant change. Just as we have done with other witnesses, I would like to draw you attention -- I do not want to force or pressure you -- to the fact that we now have a minority government.

I would like this bill to be passed and to be sensitive to the situation of first nations people. I wonder if you have looked at the changes that could be made to Bill C-44, an application protocol with an interpretation clause, in order that it could go into effect gradually. Other witnesses have mentioned a notwithstanding clause. If you suggest the time necessary for the bill to come into effect, we will see if it is feasible.

I will give you the floor.

May 15th, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to each of you for appearing here today. You've certainly outlined for me some very important issues that we as a committee need to consider. While this is not considered full consultation, I would be disappointed if the government didn't at least take into consideration the people who've appeared before this committee.

You've also pointed out some of the barriers that aboriginal women face. I think the one that you mentioned, Ms. Harvard, about the double barrier of race and gender is particularly pertinent, and also the negative impact of previous legislative changes. You mentioned Bill C-31, with the second-class citizen issue. Certainly that is a very real issue that we should all be concerned about.

But I think we need to realize that in spite of all of the attempts to create a perfect bill, that probably will never happen. I think we need to remember that this bill does include a clause that mandates a review within five years, and it doesn't have to wait five years if there are unintended negative consequences that appear. I'm sure we're all eager to address those.

Both of you and other previous witnesses have also mentioned the need for more consultation on Bill C-44, and while I'm not in a position to say whether that should go on for another six months or six weeks, I do think we need to remember that this is not the first attempt to repeat section 67.

In 1992, Bill C-108 died when Parliament was prorogued; and in 1999, another attempt, by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in its report, recommending that section 67 be removed. In 2002, there was Bill C-7, another attempt; and in 2005, Bill S-45. In 2005 again, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, in its report, A Matter of Rights, strongly recommended the repeal. And then again, just most recently, in March 2006, the United Nations commission criticized Canada for our failure to repeal section 67.

In light of all those previous attempts, my question is this: have you or any of your groups taken any steps over the years to inform your people, first nations women especially, about the potential impact of not Bill C-44—admittedly, that wasn't there yet—but the potential impact of the repeal of section 67? Has there been any dialogue? I would have thought there may be some dialogue, and I'm sure there has been.

I'd like you to outline that.

May 15th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Researcher, Aboriginal Language Institute, University College of the North

Esther Sanderson

Thank you.

I also believe that consultation ought to be from the community level, and that if we don't have that consultation process at the community level, to repeat what was said earlier, our people aren't going to use that. Bill C-44 is supposed to protect us, but right now we live in discrimination. In almost everything we do, because of the Indian Act and, right now, section 67 the way it stands, human rights do not protect us, and they haven't for a long time. I think that women are feeling that to wait for another three years, if it takes that long for us to get it right this time, then they are willing to do that, but they are not willing to jump into something that is not ours, that we do not understand. And that's a message that was given to us by the women to bring here.

Thank you.

May 15th, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.
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Esther Sanderson Researcher, Aboriginal Language Institute, University College of the North

Good morning. My name is Esther Sanderson. I'm from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation as well, and we're sisters. The issues that have faced both of us have been tragic in a lot of cases, but I want to say a little bit about the language with the Canadian human rights.

We come from Cree territory, and most of the people in the northern part of Manitoba still speak Cree, an aboriginal language. In terms of having people understand what is presented before them, the laws and the legalities that come into our communities are often not understood. So the process in itself with the Canadian Human Rights Act and section 67, or Bill C-44, are not understood simply because of the language difference. In terms of resources we would need, we would like translation services in order for our people to understand what is before them, so that they will also be able to make informed decisions.

There are a lot of words in the English language that the Cree language does not have—for instance, the word “guilty”. We have no word in our Cree language for guilty. So how do we explain those kinds of concepts and those kinds of words to our people? So it's a matter of translation that's really important to us,and to get the concepts right. Those are the kinds of services that we will require.

May 15th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Doris Young Advisor to the President, University College of the North

Good day, everybody.

[Witness speaks in Cree] I'm saying greetings to all of you in my language, which is Cree.

My name is Doris Young. I'm here to talk about this very important section of Bill C-67. I am a first nations woman and a member of the Women's Advisory Council of Manitoba; of the Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin, or MKO; and the Opaskwayak Cree Nation Women's Council, which is my community. I understand the MKO was here last week speaking to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development about this issue. I work at the University College of the North, in The Pas, Manitoba, as adviser to the president, and I live on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation.

First of all, I want to say that the government's plan to repeal immediately this section 67 without a commitment to ensure that there is adequate consultation and engagement of first nations is something that we cannot support, because if it's repealed without proper consultation it impacts on the lives of first nations communities, and in particular, native women. It will impact us in a negative way more than it would benefit us.

We believe, as northern first nations women, in our right to be protected against discrimination, and we also support the idea of empowerment, which is what this bill is designed to do. But empowerment really means to us the ability to make decisions on relevant information, which we don't have. We haven't received any information, there was no consultation with first nations women in Manitoba, and no information has been provided to us about this bill. We are therefore not able to make an informed decision about it, and that's why we can't support it.

I want to say a little bit about this colonization process and the residential school experience, which I myself have been affected by, and we've been personally harmed by both of these--first of all, colonization, and then residential schools. These laws that were passed were not really ours, but nevertheless we were forced to accept them, and it's caused us a lot of misery. Possibly this section 67 will have the same consequences if no consultation is made and no input on our behalf is given to the government about the effects.

We do believe that discrimination should not be occurring to native women, and neither violence nor abuse, because it harms our families and it harms our communities. We are dedicated to our families and we know collectively what is good for them and for our communities. We have the strength, courage, and of course the resilience to continue fighting for our place in society and to plan for the enjoyment of a good future for our children and our communities. This is why this issue is so very important for us.

One of the issues that need addressing is that it's really imperative that measures are in place so that our collective and human rights are protected, and they include our customs, our practices, and our languages. There must be assurance that our ability to create our own human rights laws and decision-making bodies is enhanced, not weakened. There must be provisions in place to ensure that first nations women are meaningfully engaged in the development and implementation of first-nations-driven human rights mechanisms, and there must be adequate resources available to us to be involved in this process.

Twenty-two years ago, in 1985, when Bill C-31 was passed, we did not have the knowledge of or insight into its impact on our future generations. We were so happy that at last the prospect of discrimination would end. Of course it didn't happen.

Now 22 years later, in 2007, the Canadian government is imposing a bill, Bill C-44, that is designed to empower first nations people when seeking redress against discrimination. Those of us living and working on first nations territories are not permitted to seek redress under section 67 of the Human Rights Act. We have no protection against discrimination under the Indian Act.

Bill C-44 is theoretically designed to end that situation. Once again, when we heard that, we were hopeful, but we're really more cautious about this today because of the unintended consequences that resulted from Bill C-31.

The intent to end discrimination is a sound idea, but there's no process in place right now to assess the results of repealing section 67. Native women are the ones who will most likely feel the results. We're the backbone of our communities; we're the daughters, the mothers, and the grandmothers. Whatever decisions are made impacting our community, it's always the women who bear the greatest amount of work in maintaining familial kinship and communal systems.

As noted earlier, we have experience stemming from Bill C-31 and are now beginning to feel its impact. Today we are fearful of its consequences because of our inability to continue to pass on our legal rights to future generations. You heard Dawn mentioning some of the direct impacts on her family. This inability to pass on our rights has a domino effect on the legal and political future of all first nations and its impact on our governments, our lands, our housing, our education, and our other rights. We don't want to enter into another situation that will jeopardize us.

There's another issue that's related to discrimination and first nations women living on first nations territories, and that's accessing protection against discrimination through the Canadian human rights legislation. We can say at this time that this present legislation does not serve us well. It's not a good option for a number of reasons.

It doesn't provide us with adequate due process.

The problem is in the way the tribunal currently operates. Decisions made by the tribunal take too long. It's too cumbersome, too expensive, and the tribunal process will be removed from first nations areas.

The tribunal decisions that are made are not made by first nations and generally are not related to relationship building, which is really an important value for first nations. This results in more alienation, resentment, and very often does irreparable damage to families and the kinship system.

The process is also not understood by first nations women on the reserve, and therefore they'll likely not use the Canadian human rights legislation.

That's another fundamental injustice that needs examination, the fact that there is no safe place for us to get redress from any government. For example, Bill C-31 and the Canadian human rights legislation: first nations women sought redress, and the result did not end discrimination, as stated earlier. On first nations territories, discriminatory practices are prevalent against women in areas such as housing, education, and the right to remain in the family home when a relationship breaks down or when the death of a spouse occurs. In this particular area, lack of adequate community resources often perpetuates these unfair situations.

In spite of all these obstacles, first nations women continue to strive to be involved in the system so we will be able to maintain healthy communities and a balance and justice for all of us.

We need education, resources, and time. We need to educate ourselves about this issue so that we can make informed decisions. We need resources in order to educate ourselves and to be able to meet. We need time to consult with first nations women on the reserves so that their human rights are protected and the discrimination is properly addressed.

Given the opportunity, we could be involved in developing first nations human rights legislation that would help resolve discrimination in our communities. We believe that this process would give us the opportunity to reflect our time-honoured values and beliefs in fairness and justice. Also, this process would not compromise first nations jurisdiction.

Finally, first nations women must be part of this important process. We must be part of the solution to end discrimination.

[Witness speaks in her native language]

I'm saying thank you for the opportunity to come and speak to you on my relations.

May 15th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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President, Board of Directors, Ontario Native Women's Association

Dawn Harvard

We do our best.

I wanted to briefly start off by letting you know that the Ontario Native Women's Association began back in 1971. This date was actually very historic. If we look back at that era, that was the particular timeframe when aboriginal women across the country were working to end the discrimination against aboriginal women under the Indian Act when they married a non-aboriginal man and were cast out of their communities. That's how a lot of our associations came to be, as those women came together.

Here we are, many years later, still fighting discrimination specifically based on gender, and this is why we are here today.

The Ontario Native Women's Association exists to give voice to the aboriginal women in Ontario. We're located in Thunder Bay and have at least 80 different local chapters throughout the province of Ontario. Each chapter has its own local membership and autonomy, so we have a very wide distribution of perspectives from aboriginal women across Ontario. Over the course of the year, we estimate that we provide services and programs to 10,000 aboriginal families—children, women.

As I'm sure everybody here is well aware, the Human Rights Act created back in 1977 was put in place at a time when the question of those women who were cast out of their communities was still up in the air. My own mother, in fact, was Jeanette Corbiere-Lavell, who was the first woman to challenge the Government of Canada on the discrimination against her, specifically based on gender, because she lost her status when she married my father, a non-aboriginal man.

She eventually lost at the Supreme Court, and the Human Rights Act came into place, and then eventually we all know that Sandra Lovelace took it to the United Nations, and things were changed with Bill C-31.

Unfortunately, what a lot of people don't realize is that through Bill C-31, these women were taken back to their communities, but they were not restored to their original status. They were returned as reinstatees, which is a second-class position. They have fewer rights and less ability to pass status—the rights of their heritage—on to their children and their grandchildren.

In my own family, I have one daughter who's a full status Indian and another who's completely non-aboriginal, although these are both my own birth children—simply because of the discrimination, because of the way these women were put back into place in second-class positions, simply because of their gender.

I give you all of this background because this is a very important example of why we need to look at removing section 67 and why people see it often as a women's issue. Even though it affects both genders equally, discrimination based on gender is primarily a problem for women. Aboriginal women specifically face discrimination based on both race and gender, so they have double barriers when trying to provide for their families, trying to give their communities and their children the quality of life they deserve.

The poor translator--I realize I've completely gone off what I told her I was going to say.

Before we can move forward, we must understand our past in order to understand our present situation as aboriginal citizens.

My mother always said it was quite a trick to have gone into the church an Indian girl and come out a white woman. She said, “That place had real power back in those days.”

Again, this discrimination continues. In families like mine, we are still faced with these divisions under our own roof. How do we look at one child and say, “You are a member of our community”, and look at her sister and say, “You're not”? This is the kind of division that it's creating.

Unfortunately, oftentimes when questions of gender discrimination come up, there's a lot of fear-mongering in our communities; that if we recognize human rights.... I've heard people say, “We will have some man from Iran come, and they will be taking over the reserves if they have matrimonial property rights. We will have men coming in and taking over our communities.”

I don't think this is the right perspective. Aboriginal women, aboriginal people are human. We deserve human rights.

But our position with Bill C-44 is that we need to be very careful about the process, about looking at the long-term consequences of what is going to happen.

Like Bill C-31, which everyone thought was a wonderful solution, many women were returned to their communities, but in the long run, it's endangering our nationhood because it doesn't guarantee the ability to transfer status to our children past the second generation. So now we are coming into situations where a lot of our communities are declining in membership because of this. We need to be careful.

We support this in principle. But we want to make sure there's an appropriate consultative process to ensure that those visions we have not yet been able to think of, those consequences and those potential problems, are well thought through so we protect our communities, our land base, and our rights while ensuring that aboriginal people are no less human than any other citizen of this country.

Thank you.

May 15th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

I'd like to open this meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Tuesday, May 15, 2007.

Committee members, you have the orders of the day before you. Today we're going to continue our review of Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Today the witnesses who will be appearing are, from the Ontario Native Women's Association, Dawn Harvard, president, board of directors; and from the University College of the North, Doris Young, adviser to the president, and Esther Sanderson, researcher, Aboriginal Language Institute.

Welcome to the witnesses.

The chair would invite each of the witnesses to make a 10-minute presentation, and then we'll move into question time.

To begin, we can start with Madam Harvard, please. Are you ready?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 14th, 2007 / 2:55 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the Senate is not the only place where the opposition is denying justice to Canadians.

The operative clause of Bill C-44 is only nine words long but the House of Commons standing committee has been studying these nine words for 14 weeks and the opposition MPs have now decided to continue their searching analysis into October.

Therefore, first nations Canadians, who have been deprived of human rights in this country for 30 years, will remain so for another summer while the opposition members retire to their golf clubs and tennis clubs.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 14th, 2007 / 2:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government is proudly moving forward with human rights protection for first nations citizens through Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, while the government is looking to rectify this long-standing inequity, the opposition parties continue to dither and delay.

How much longer do first nations citizens need to live without the protections that are taken for granted by all other Canadians?

Could the Minister of Indian Affairs please highlight the importance of the bill now before the committee?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 11th, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the member from the Liberal Party is interested in matrimonial property. Of course we as a government want to pursue that matter very vigorously. That is why we brought forward Bill C-44.

Some people in Canada might not realize this, but in fact the Canadian Human Rights Act does not apply to first nations people on reserve. It is a shameful situation that has been left with us by the Liberal government.

The Liberals, with all the other opposition parties, have just chosen to put off extending human rights to first nations people until after the summer. They want to go back to their cottages and their country clubs first and maybe think about it a little further.

We are ready to act. We are ready to bring human rights to first nations people.

AfghanistanOral Questions

May 11th, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, the facts related by the member from British Columbia are not accurate in any way, shape or form. The NDP's concept of a delay and filibuster is a meeting where there is a vote taken and decisions are made. I do not understand that at all. It is certainly, as I said, different from the way the opposition conducts itself in delaying legislation.

In fact, when we talk about that, I could ask the member from the NDP why it is that it supports the notion of not dealing with Bill C-44 that is going to give human rights to first nations people and give them the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Why does her party support the concept of that not being dealt with at committee and delaying that over the summer?

May 10th, 2007 / 1:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

I am a bit nervous. Following Ms. Gabriel's answer, my colleague asked me if I had any further questions.

At the outset, when I made a statement on Bill C-44, before even hearing what the Quebec Native Women, the First Nations Assembly of Quebec and of Labrador, or the Native Women of Canada had to say, I noted that this bill was a ''white'' piece of legislation. It is not because I recognize aboriginals to be of a different colour, but this seems a somewhat discriminatory way of differentiating aboriginals from the rest of the Canadian population. Let us just say that this bill is a non-aboriginal approach that does not take into account the culture and living situation of the first nations. This struck me from the very start.

Today, what is striking is Ms. Jacobs' statement on the implementation plan. In the plan she is suggesting, I do not know if there's going to be some sort of protocol at each step during discussions with the government. The plan would not come into effect unless there was agreement on the implementation mechanism. I don't know if we can work this way. If we can, Ms. Jacobs, I would like to hear you elaborate on the plan that you are suggesting.

Ms. Gabriel, before allowing Ms. Jacobs to answer, I wish to ask you the following question. Would you agree with such a plan, with the timeline to implement Bill C-44 that Ms. Jacobs is suggesting? Would this be in keeping with your own vision?

May 10th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

So you're suggesting, then, that a repeal should happen. We're in a process now. I know that you know a large amount about how the parliamentary system works. We're in a minority government right now. It seems that there are only small opportunities any time an attempt at bringing forward a repeal of section 67 happens. It happens for very small moments. People need to get around this opportunity and make it happen—that's my opinion.

In light of the fact that we're in a minority government and that opportunity is so finite, would you suggest that it's more worthwhile to put this off because you don't believe in the vehicle of Bill C-44, which is amendable? You would rather put that off in light of what I said about the finite moment or hope for the future?

Just remember, we just went through 13 years of a previous administration, the Liberals, who did nothing on this front, on the system itself. There's no doubt about that. It's a matter of fact; it's not opinion.

May 10th, 2007 / 1:25 p.m.
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President, Quebec Native Women's Association

Ellen Gabriel

First of all, I want to correct you. I said I would promote or support the repeal of section 67, but not Bill C-44, because of the lack of consultation, because of the lack of research, and basically because your minister is pushing the wonderful skills of the Canadian Human Rights Commission but at the same time ignoring the report and recommendations of that commission. So I just want to clarify that.

I'm supporting the repeal of section 67, because if we have a Criminal Code that applies to our communities, then why not a human rights code?

The difference between Chief Picard and me is that they're talking about sovereignty. They're talking about what I mentioned before--membership codes, matrimonial real property, some of the issues that I know the chiefs in Quebec are very adamant at trying to keep hold of as part of their authority.

If we didn't have all the problems in our community, I would not—I can't remember the right word—agree to have some of my principles negotiated, because as a longhouse woman and as a speaker for my community during the Oka crisis, in which the Conservative government dealt with us, I probably would not agree. But if I look at what's happening to the children, what's happening to the women, and coming from a community where my cousin's house was burned and nothing could be done, coming from a community where the International Federation of Human Rights criticizes the Conservative government for the numerous abuses that happened, of men who were arrested and burned with cigarettes, and yet nothing could be done because the Canadian Human Rights Act does not apply to reserves, then yes, I will compromise some of my principles as a longhouse woman.

May 10th, 2007 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just have to go back to a comment made by Mr. Russell. If the Liberal Party wants to mock our government for highlighting the issues facing first nations women, it's welcome to. You're welcome to raise that at any opportunity. If you want to mock us for that, it's fine.

Now, having gotten that off my chest, I would like to perhaps go back to some of the comments you made, Ms. Gabriel.

Compared with your counterpart from Quebec, Ghislain Picard, who is very much against Bill C-44, who is very much against this repeal and in fact called for us to just basically rip it up and go on with some other business of this government, you obviously have a different perspective. You're saying we do need to move forward with the repeal.

You're calling for some amendments, which is part of any parliamentary process. We have a committee here today, and obviously the opposition members are considering options that they want to bring forward, and the government here is looking forward to making this bill happen. But you have actually recommended that we proceed.

Why do you think there's a difference between your perspective and the male counterparts that we see in your province?

May 10th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank you both for coming back before the committee again. I appreciate your making time in your very busy schedules after that last hearing.

We've heard consistently about consultation from almost every witness who came before the committee, and it seems to be the central point. Mr. Lemay's question was around whether you consult after you pass legislation or before you pass legislation. Of course I would argue you need to consult before you pass legislation.

Matrimonial real property has come up as an example of a consultative process, and I've heard you speak about it. I am not going to read all of this, because I read it into the record before, but Wendy Grant-John's report says that her process was not consultation; in fact, her recommendation 18 outlines a number of factors that need to be considered in terms of consultation.

What we have before us, in my view, is a box that people are attempting to force people into, saying that this is appropriate consultation--if you support human rights you're going to support Bill C-44; don't worry, trust us; we'll consult after the fact.

You've talked about the steps that you've outlined, but right now, what would you recommend that the committee do next?

May 10th, 2007 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Good afternoon to each of you, and welcome back for the second time.

I find some of this pretty remarkable. The government has raised this issue around consultation, and they continue to ask questions of the aboriginal witnesses we have in front of us: What's your view of consultations? How much is enough? Do we have to talk to every aboriginal person out there? My comment might be that at least you should talk to somebody within the aboriginal community, not necessarily everybody.

In terms of timeframes, I find one thing very hypocritical on the part of the government. In order to get an honest and sincere apology around Indian residential schools, we have to wait four to five years for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to do its work. But in order to implement Bill C-44, we're saying let's do it in six months, without any consultation. So I think there's a double standard, to say the least, when it comes to the government's response.

The government has also held out aboriginal women as the poster child for moving very quickly to pass and to implement Bill C-44. But what I've observed and heard is that aboriginal women have similar, almost identical concerns to the other witnesses we have.

How do the women you represent feel about the approach being taken by government? It almost seems to be a little bit of a divisive strategy, holding out one segment of the population, because human rights run the gamut, not just on gender, but on different circumstances.

So I would just like to know how you feel about that.

May 10th, 2007 / 1 p.m.
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President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Beverley Jacobs

Good afternoon. Thanks for the opportunity to come back.

I think where I left off was talking about the responses to the consultation issues. In the committee's report on Canadian human rights, they recommended an immediate repeal with a transitional period of 18 to 30 months, and Bill C-44 provides for a six-month transitional period.

As you know, we do support the repeal, but there has to be at least 36 months. That is what we have put together as a transitional period. I think it's an unreasonable expectation for communities to be prepared for a drastic change in legislation, and so far, the way the legal process works, it's far too complex to reconcile anything within six months. We have to be aware and sure that there are adequate resources available in the communities to ensure that this issue is addressed properly.

In the work that we've done, we wanted to make sure there was meaningful consultation. It was apparent during the matrimonial real property process that this was something that really needed to occur. There were serious and validated concerns that there wasn't enough time to ensure that there was a meaningful consultation process, since we only had three months to do that.

So as a minimum, in the early stages of the discussions, NWAC did ask for at least a year of consultation. The aboriginal women we talked to voiced this concern and felt a great deal of skepticism in the process underscoring the fundamental nature of consultation where important legislative change directly affects aboriginal peoples.

In the report of the special representative on the protection of first nations women's rights, a key recommendation was free, prior, and informed consent. This is absolutely crucial when individual and collective rights of aboriginal women are being impacted. The report elaborated that aboriginal women find legislation difficult to understand, that they would have greater capacity to offer constructive feedback if they were informed about the laws that affect their collective and individual rights.

The focus group recommended that an education and awareness strategy be implemented, where aboriginal women's organizations provided tools and resources to educate aboriginal women about their legal rights.

Then in June 1998, INAC acknowledged that there was no explicit departmental policy or directive to guide consultation with first nations. Although the broad, flexible approach used by the department has been advantageous in meeting the diverse needs, there has been a lack of consistency regarding the principles and the sharing of best practices.

The Auditor General's report in 2006 contends that meaningful consultation will reflect positively on aboriginal and governmental relations. Good governance and a trusting relationship between aboriginal communities and governments are essential in improving the quality of life for aboriginal people.

If the Canadian human rights mechanisms are to have any weight in aboriginal communities, full and meaningful consultation must occur. Since aboriginal women and children are most affected by human rights violations under the Indian Act, it is imperative that they are also included in this process.

As I said at our last meeting, we did develop a whole five-year implementation plan. The implementation plan would involve INAC, the Department of Justice, and the Status of Women. We also had formal discussions with the former Law Commission of Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

We have also had discussions with the president of the Indigenous Bar Association with respect to specific indigenous legal traditions that need to be respected in our processes.

From the proposal that we developed, we heard nothing back from any of the federal departments. We do believe it is a sound plan and that first nations communities have to be actively engaged in implementing the repeal.

This implementation plan addresses many of the concerns expressed about Bill C-44 and the immediate repeal. There needs to be some building upon the previous research with a goal of ensuring the recognition of indigenous legal traditions and exploring the best way to reconcile the domestic legal principles in the charter as well as in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Canada has been proactive in advancing integration of indigenous legal traditions in some first nations communities with the implementation of various aboriginal restorative justice initiatives. We think that together with first nations, government parties can build upon that approach to also address human rights protections.

We believe there has to be an acknowledgment of the emerging knowledge base of elders in our community relating to indigenous legal traditions as well as looking at the responsibilities within the communities themselves and the leadership in the communities to respond to those issues.

We think there needs to be a bottom-up approach taken by engaging first nations through capacity-building. This will provide communities with the practical means to control and access justice and resources.

That's about it. There was a plan, with year one, year two, year three, year four, year five within our plan. We were hoping that with the development of this, we would work directly with first nations communities, with whom we developed very positive relationships through our MRP consultations. Also, there are best practices out there already that are addressing this issue seriously.

We believe human rights protections require much more than changing the black letter of the law. The implementation process and the allocation of resources are essential to success. There have to be meaningful consultations with all of the NAOs, first nations communities, and individuals throughout the process.

We need to ensure that there is a 36-month transitional period. Anything less would not account for the long-term impacts and root causes of human rights violations.

We undertake on the government to immediately undertake an open, transparent process for assessing the impact on individuals and first nations communities and to commit to an implementation plan that is collaboratively developed by government and first nations communities, including full and meaningful participation of aboriginal women. Through this plan, it will enable a meaningful engagement process to prepare for the impacts of the repeal of section 67.

Thank you.

May 10th, 2007 / 12:45 p.m.
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Six Nations of the Grand River

Chief David General

Thank you, Mr. Lévesque, for the question. You present us with a whole Pandora's box of possibilities.

I'm very fortunate to have Richard Powless here and a number of my council, who have engaged in this whole discussion of Bill C-44. They're up here on the Hill.

I think that if we were to move forward with this piece of legislation--again I would hold up the jurisdiction as being the major achievement--in the time that you have as the government, I think maybe that would provide some peace of mind. But in the larger scene, I think the wisdom would be that we should take a step back, look at all that's been achieved right now, and realize that maybe we are again--I'm probably saying nothing that hasn't been said before--moving too fast with this. We're trying to address it too soon. There needs to be more discussion. There needs to be more information. As for talking about implementation and not knowing what the impacts, negative or positive, are going to be, as a leader, I feel that providing endorsement for continuing with the process would be a foolhardy approach.

Although one alternative may be to put jurisdiction and a longer timeframe in an amendment to the wording of the legislation right now, I think all 633 first nations need more time on this.

I can tell you, and I won't take too much time, that Six Nations is the largest first nations group, and I'm very proud of the capacity that we have, the minds that we have to put to this item, but even that is not enough. I have tremendous respect for Chief Balfour and his community and other communities across the country who do not have the time and have not had the time to put minds to this issue.

By saying we should move forward, I would be doing them a disservice. We all need more time.

May 10th, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Welcome, welcome.

The interests of the first nations are of great importance to me; these are my brothers. It is clear that your culture and your way of seeing things are different from ours. My colleague asked you if you would prefer striking out section 67 in favour of discussions and negotiations with the government to adopt measures that would streamline the application of Bill C-44.

Some point to the fact that article 25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is often referred to as a protective provision. It is said that the fact that the Charter guarantees certain rights and freedoms does not adversely affect ancestral rights and freedoms flowing from treaties or other similar documents. Moreover, section 35 of the Constitutional Act, 1982, acknowledges and confirms existing rights.

Grand Chief General, you have been well advised by Mr. Powless. For the good of your nations, do you think that recommending delaying the application of the act while negotiations take place with the department or the government with a view to mitigating certain difficulties would be better than running the risk of having a majority government? Such a government could at some point enact the legislation as it stands currently, and this would give your nations nothing, aside from more difficulties.

May 10th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

You made a comment about the Indian Act. When the Bar Association came before us, in their submission they actually talked about the fact that Bill C-44 could be used as a piecemeal approach to take apart the Indian Act without any appropriate look at the comprehensive picture. I wonder if you could comment on that, because you raised the Indian Act.

May 10th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank you for coming to present your views to the committee today.

On a point of clarification, there is no reason why Bill C-44 cannot be put on hold until appropriate consultations have taken place.

But I think you've both addressed a far larger issue. We've heard consistently from witnesses who have come before the committee that they support the repeal of section 67. But it is the process. I know certainly that some of my colleagues and I have spoken about the need to repeal section 67.

Chief General and Chief Balfour, you've both touched on the larger problem. It doesn't matter whether it's Bill C-44, matrimonial real property, housing, or what bill comes before the committee; the larger issue is the lack of recognition of a nation-to-nation status. If we were talking to any other treaty signatory as a Canadian government, we would not present them with a fait accompli; we would not present them with a bill and ask them what they thought. If we wanted to change a treaty in which we'd already engaged, or change some rights that we had agreed to through a treaty process, we would engage in dialogue and consultation before we drafted any kind of legislation or treaty changes.

I think that comes to the heart of the matter of this. Once again we have a government that presents you with a proposal and asks what you think, instead of coming to you first and saying, “We think we need to do something about the repeal of section 67. How do you want to do this?”

I wonder if you could comment on that.

May 10th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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Norway House Cree Nation

Chief Marcel Balfour

Thank you.

I'm not a parliamentarian, but there are particular tactics you could probably employ. That would be pushing this bill through as quickly as possible and then voting against it. If you are in a minority position, then arguably you would be able to have the support of your three parties to be able to vote it down, based on very succinct and well-established precedents in Parliament in the recognition of aboriginal treaty rights.

But if you're asking me, I don't know. I've never contemplated that before. I can't necessarily say that on the one hand I should like to see some amendments so that I agree with this process. I specifically spoke in front of you guys before with FNGA because I wanted it on the record that Norway House was not involved in that process, that Norway House was not agreeing to that process. I think that's really important.

That's why I'm here today, because Norway House is not agreeing with this process. It's a parliamentary process. As with Chief Balfour ten years ago, you supported Bill C-44 and you suggested some amendments. So what's so wrong about doing whatever may be up someone's sleeve ten years from now, right? It sets a very dangerous precedent for me, as chief of Norway House Cree Nation, to be able to say I support a bill that I think doesn't meet the criteria and respect my people.

May 10th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you for being here. I was not sleeping; I can assure you that I was listening to what you were saying quite attentively. Grand Chief, I wish to welcome you, and especially the aboriginal women from your six nations, who are here with you today. I had the opportunity and honour of meeting these ladies this week. Welcome to the committee.

Chief Balfour, I'm also very pleased to meet you and to understand your position. I've taken notes. I practised as a lawyer, you see. I have only one question, and I'd like an answer. You may take all the time you need.

We are in a minority government. Across the way, are the Conservatives. On this side, members come from the Liberal, Bloc and NDP parties. We are considering Bill C-44. We can propose significant amendments. My colleague, Mr. Merasty, has described the amendments quite eloquently. I will not go over them again, but I believe that we are heading down that track.

Would you be willing to run the risk of having us suspend the committee's work so that we can hold adequate consultations? This may take between six months to one year, and there's a possibility of an election. This is an entirely far-fetched hypothesis, but it is possible that the Conservatives will form a majority government, that they will once again table the bill and adopt it without any consultation. Or rather, would you prefer that we make the amendments that you have proposed, Grand Chief General?

I've read your submission. I would like to know your position. What do you really want? Now is the time to say so. I can assure you that I do not consider that the work of this committee constitutes the type of consultation referred to in the Supreme Court's rulings regarding Bill C-44. I know, and we all know what a true consultation should be. I would like to hear your comments on this matter.

May 10th, 2007 / noon
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Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

First of all, I want to thank you for your presentations here today. I think they were done extremely well, and you were very analytical in the way you presented them.

I've heard many different views from the aboriginal community on Bill C-44 and on human rights. I respect Chief Balfour for his comments that sometimes we have to split the repeal itself apart from the act, because they are two different things. You said you'd support the repeal, but not necessarily the act, and I think that's a very valid and worthwhile statement. From what I've heard over the last number of months with this issue, there is tremendous support for human rights issues and so on.

Now, in 1985 the Conservative government--at the time, of course--rushed into an amendment to the Indian Act, the tinkering you talk about, Chief Balfour, and ended up with Bill C-31. It was rushed. It was done in the name of protecting women. I think at the time the Conservative government believed it was the right thing to do. I hope there weren't any alternative motives; I don't think there were. However, Bill C-31 ended up being much more discriminatory and is actually more unfair to women and children in many respects, and many studies have said it will lead to there being no status Indian people within a few decades. So it was a very problematic piece of legislation that was rushed into in the name of ideology.

Today, in 2007, we see the same rushing into Bill C-44. It's rushed. Again, it's in the name of protecting women and children. I truly believe that my colleagues across believe this is the right thing to do. In many respects I agree, because we need to do some work in this area.

Women's groups, other aboriginal organizations, witnesses have appeared before this committee and have expressed their concerns. I want to summarize some of them.

Very logically, as you've presented this morning, we've heard people talk about the need for an interpretive clause, a non-derogation clause or a notwithstanding clause; a longer transition period than what is currently allowed; a more detailed impact analysis done from a legal perspective, because this will have consequences on other legislation as we move forward, including the Indian Act itself; and analysis of the balance on the collective rights of our people, treaty rights and aboriginal title, and so on.

Now, these arguments and these positions sound fair to me. I have not heard anybody say we're against human rights, and I think it's important to state that if you're against Bill C-44--I'm repeating again what was said here--you're not against human rights. That is an unfair painting of people who speak to concerns about Bill C-44.

I've also heard some concerns that the Conservatives have said that this process is consultation. I don't know if it is, because consultation usually occurs before a bill is drafted and worded and so on.

In essence, all these concerns fall under two umbrellas, as I look at it. The first umbrella assumes that we scrap the bill and that the government immediately engage in consultation to address this gap in the provision of human rights, balanced against all other issues--the collective rights, the impact on the Indian Act, all these other things--so that we can begin to address this fairly and reasonably.

The other bunch of concerns fall under the assumption that if the bill is not scrapped, then we need a longer transition period, we need more study, we need the non-derogation or interpretive clause, and so on.

I'm hearing from people out there that there's support, but that Bill C-44 is not the vehicle to get us there. Is that a fair statement? What do you think of what I've laid out here?

I don't know who wants to start first.

May 10th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Chief David General Six Nations of the Grand River

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen of this esteemed committee, sekoh, sge:no. Sekoh is Mohawk for hello. Sge:no is Cayuga for hello.

I first want to acknowledge the Algonquin Nation, on whose territory we are meeting today for a very valuable discussion about nations, and this discussion of human rights falls right into the whole discussion of nationhood.

We have provided a short background on Six Nations in our formal brief, which we have tabled with the clerk. I want to start this presentation by stating clearly that this presentation and our participation in this committee process is not to be taken or referred to as consultation. There has been no consultation on this current bill, which I will speak about later. I'm referring to the fact that there have been no formal discussions with Six Nations of the Grand River on this particular topic.

The passage of the proposed Bill C-44 will once again be an imposition of an external law on our community, which is a violation of our treaty relationship with the Crown in Canada. Canada was peacefully settled because of the treaties with first nations and the treaty relationship that followed. These are solemn agreements viewed by many first nations as sacred.

It should be noted that none of the treaties before current day examples ever mentioned the rights of self-government. This is not something that we ever negotiated. It continues to this day. Let me be clear on that point. We still consider ourselves governing bodies of those we are responsible for.

Six Nations has one of the oldest treaties with the Crown in North America, called the Kahswentha, the Two-Row Wampum treaty. This treaty recognizes the equal but separate status of our respective governments and forms the basis of our current relationship. It means our governments and nations are equals. The Two-Row Wampum treaty means that in the same way as the two rows do not intersect, our respective governments also agree not to interfere with each other. Human rights is a jurisdiction of Six Nations. Six Nations has the inherent right to self-government, and only Six Nations is best placed to balance the rights of individuals with the collective rights of our citizens.

We are proposing that any legislation would recognize first nations jurisdiction in this area and would only be in place until first nations enact their own human rights legislation codes. It is important to state that any new federal legislation that has the potential to affect our aboriginal and/or treaty rights may trigger the duty to consult, accommodate, and obtain our consent. This duty is recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. However, it is also a pre-existing duty based on our treaty relationships and alliances with the Crown as part of our Two-Row Wampum treaty. The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that the honour of the Crown mandated the duty to consult with first nations, and the principle is grounded in the honour of the Crown, which is also at stake in its dealing with the aboriginal peoples.

The federal government's duty to consult has clearly not been met with Bill C-44. You have heard from sponsors of the bill that section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has been discussed for 30 years. However, much has changed in that time including the relationships, history, and Canadian law. During that time a constitution has been enacted in Canada that protects the aboriginal and treaty rights of aboriginal peoples of Canada. The specific wording in this bill is different from previous attempts.

It may be true that previous governments consulted native organizations in the past in other attempts to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, the duty today is to consult the rights holders. This means that the government must consult with first nations communities represented by their governments, not with the aboriginal organizations. It means consultation must be held with over 133 first nation governments in Canada that will be affected by this legislation. Only Six Nations speaks for Six Nations. Consultation with anyone else claiming to represent us is invalid.

We submit that the consultation must be done before the legislation proceeds any further. A six-month delay in implementing the legislation will simply not do; the horse is already out of the barn. A six-month delay is meaningless if the ultimate result is the abrogation or violation of our constitutionally protected rights.

Any consultation must provide us with a full and informed analysis of potential impacts of this legislation. No one can say with any certainty what the impact of this legislation will be on our communities. Therefore, impact studies must be completed so that we have the best information available.

These studies must be completed before the legislation proceeds. This means that the timeframe for consultation must be increased to at least a year. We cannot see how the federal government could consult with 633 communities in a short timeframe. It also means resources must be provided to first nations so they can effectively participate. To be clear, consulting with first nations organizations will not meet the duty to consult.

Government sponsors of this bill have stated that any more delays in this legislation will lead to more human rights violations in first nations communities. Yet I would strongly argue that there is no pressing or immediate need for this legislation. The Canadian Human Rights Commission itself has cited only 20 examples per year of complaints amongst first nations. This is not a significant problem given the millions of first nations citizens across Canada.

The implementation and transition period provided in Bill C-44 must be extended. If it took the government 30 years to take action on this issue, surely they can take a few more to do it right.

It is important to note that when section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was passed, three years were given before implementation. First nations deserve the same treatment and timeframe, 36 months, for implementation and transition and to ensure a grave mistake is not made.

This extra time should be taken at the beginning of the process, and following consultation, the legislation must be amended to reflect the results of the consultation.

The Canadian Human Rights Act primarily deals with individual rights. Like other federal legislation, it was developed from the different systems of law, traditions, and history and reflects a world view not shared by first nations, with the emphasis on individual rights over collective rights. Our histories, customs, traditions, and rights are based on collective rights, and they are reflected in our unique cultures, practices, traditions, and languages.

To be clear, we are fully supportive of individual human rights, but they must be balanced with the collective rights of our communities, cultures, and societies. We want to ensure that this legislation will not affect or interfere with how our traditional governments function. This would not only be an injustice but contrary to the international documents that recognize and protect our rights to our culture, traditions, and practices.

No other governments or people have the right to impose their cultures and cultural imperatives on our nations and societies—again, ladies and gentlemen, that two-row concept.

Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that persons belonging to ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities “shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language”. Indigenous people are numerically a minority, so the rights of minorities apply to us. However, it is important to emphasize that we have the legal status of people...and the right to self-determination under international law. It is the obligation of the federal government, under international law, to respect and protect article 27 rights.

Six Nations is also concerned that non-supportive groups and organizations hostile to first nations rights could use the Canadian Human Rights Act to challenge existing first nations specific programs and services, such as education, housing, and tax exemption, etc., based on discrimination against non-Indians. If successful, this could unravel the entire basis of the social programming among first nations communities and create more poverty among first nations communities. I'm sure this is not the intent of this bill. This would impose a levelling agenda of the white paper of 1996.

This speaks to the need for both the interpretative clause and a non-derogation clause in the legislation that will balance individual rights and collective rights and protect the treaty and aboriginal rights of first nations. All first nations must be able to continue to provide first-nations-specific programs and services to their citizens without being charged with discrimination by outside interests.

The proposed legislation would impose unfunded, unforeseen, and potentially massive costs on all first nation governments. First nation governments will be required to participate in expensive tribunals. The current funding base is totally inadequate, and we've been subjected to a 2% funding cap, in place since the early 1990s. It is impossible to know the short- and the long-term impacts. However, we do know Six Nations does not have the existing resources to respond to potentially major costs resulting from this legislation.

For example, it is likely that the disabled or handicapped citizens will be the first to come forward and lodge complaints for the lack of accessibility to our facilities, yet we have never been adequately funded and we do not have the resources to make our facilities accessible to the handicapped. This is a very real example of where resources for first nations will be required immediately. Training in the entire process will be necessary. When you factor in 633 first nations communities, you can see it will take a much longer time than the six months' transition timeframe proposed.

The federal government has stated that international pressure led it to this action now, and we find it indeed ironic that the government, which is attempting to portray itself as the champion of human rights, is currently blocking the approval of the United Nations draft declaration on the rights of indigenous people.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, the former Canadian Supreme Court judge, stated she does not understand why Canada has such a problem with the declaration. As a former Supreme Court judge, she sees no threat to Canada in the declaration, and she has said so to the Government of Canada. Perhaps this committee could persuade Canada, at a later date, to stop their hypocrisy and withdraw their opposition to the United Nations draft declaration, which is simply attempting to protect the international human rights of indigenous people.

Six Nations also is concerned with indigenous human rights and reminds Canada and this committee that human rights include the rights to safe water and adequate, decent housing; the rights to be employed, to clean air, and to good health; the right to culturally appropriate education, and the right to raise our children in their own first nations culture and language.

That concludes my comments to the committee today. I look forward to any questions you may have. From our territory, I say niawen ko:wa, which roughly translates into a big thank you.

Niawen ko:wa.

May 10th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Norway House Cree Nation

Chief Marcel Balfour

Okay. I won't go faster, but I'll cut out a lot.

My people have expressed fear with regard to Bill C-44. As I said, the small working group I had and I discussed this--for on-reserve only, never mind my off-reserve members--and some members of the band expressed fear that they might be excluded from housing on-reserve. Others expressed concern that the band might have to start providing services such as health care for people off the reserve. Other band members stated that they did not understand or know what the Human Rights Act is or what available remedies there are. Others were worried that the implementation of Bill C-44 would diminish our treaty and aboriginal rights, and others felt that it was leading to further assimilation.

I should like to perhaps just quickly identify three areas that I've thought about but I haven't really.... I sat down to present this, but I haven't thought about everything.

One of the ideas with respect to this particular bill--or an approach to a bill, if you wish to proceed on it at another time when there's actually consultation with those who are on-reserve who will be affected as well as those off-reserve and bands-- is maybe a first nations notwithstanding clause.

Now, I know you've listened to a number of presentations, and they're well considered. Certainly from AFN there was some good analysis.

The provision of a notwithstanding clause in the CHRA itself would allow first nations to override the equality protections of the CHRA, but of course such a clause would rather obviously require careful wording and might be objectionable in the eyes of many.

While the notwithstanding clause is controversial, history has shown us that its existence has not provided an insurmountable barrier to the protection of human rights in Canada. Federal and provincial governments have this, so why don't first nation governments have this?

The second consideration, another option that might be considered, would be a saving or justification clause serving a function similar to section 1 of the charter, that would allow restrictions on CHRA rights by first nations to the extent that such restrictions are demonstrably justified. There are a number of things of course that need to be considered. The wording would definitely have to be well thought out, and again, consultation would definitely be a key on this.

And third, as presented by AFN--and we are cautiously thinking about this--is an independent first nation mechanism, which of course leads to what we can actually do ourselves.

I look forward to questions, and I'm sorry for taking so much time and speeding along at too fast a pace at the beginning.

Thank you.

May 10th, 2007 / 11:35 a.m.
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Norway House Cree Nation

Chief Marcel Balfour

While Bill C-44, perhaps admirably, increases protection of equality of rights for aboriginal people under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it does not address the question of balance between individual equality rights and protection of other individual human rights. This a central consideration that I think you've been hearing a lot about from other witnesses.

I guess when I take a look at this, it's informed also from an international perspective. Looking at the international context, one might cite from an equality perspective articles 2 and 3 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These provisions, which are often cited as being violated by section 67, protect individual equality rights by requiring states to ensure to all individuals within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction the rights recognized in the covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, sex, colour, or religion, and requiring states to provide remedies for violations. However, at the same time, the covenant also provides that these individual equality rights may be limited to protect the existence of the states, i.e. the collectivity, for example, in cases of public emergency as set out in article 4.

Further, and quite significantly for first nations, article 1 of the covenant sets out important collective rights, namely, that all peoples have the right of self-determination, and that by virtue of that right, they may freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.

The Canadian Constitution, within the Canadian context, also recognizes the importance of individual rights, including individual equality rights and collective rights. You've heard analysis on section 15. From a broader perspective it also, of course, protects collective rights. The charter, though, does not limit the protection of human rights protected therein to individual equality rights. In direct reference to collective rights, the charter recognizes and protects, in addition to the collective rights of first nations, collective rights of linguistic communities with regard to the official languages of Canada.

For example, the charter recognizes that members of English or French linguistic minorities have the right to have, in certain circumstances, their children educated in their own official language. In this connection, the collective rights afforded to the English and French language communities in New Brunswick are particularly striking.

Sections 16 and 16.1 of the charter specifically recognize that the English linguistic community and the French linguistic community in New Brunswick have equality of status and equal rights and privileges, including the right to distinct educational institutions and such distinct cultural institutions as are necessary for the preservation and promotion of those communities.

While I recognize that there are limitations to any analogy that may be drawn with the situation of Canada's first nations, I believe that the wording in the charter with regard to New Brunswick's linguistic communities provides an interesting example of the important role of collective rights.

Similarly, one must also consider that the charter, as well as the Indian Act, mandate that first nations be empowered to take action to preserve their existence, identity and culture of their communities.

When I take a look at this, I think there might be a tendency to characterize opponents of Bill C-44, if there are any, in its current form as being anti-human rights. But that's not where I think this argument is coming from, or where I'm coming from at all. The diversity of rights protected in both the charter and international instruments demonstrates that the concept of human rights extends far beyond the equality of rights promoted by Bill C-44. Given the broad spectrum of human rights recognized in both Canadian and international law, as well as the recognition that equality of rights also can apply on a collective basis, I think that characterizing Bill C-44 as pro-human rights versus anti-human rights is both counterproductive and misleading.

Secondly--and I believe this point to go to the heart of many of my reservations about Bill C-44 in its current form--the broad concept of human rights also recognizes rights of the collectivity, and that collective human rights and individual rights must be reconciled.

While I do not want to address the various pros and cons of the Indian Act--and I find it kind of funny because the last time I was here I was speaking on the FNGA and we were talking about, “Don't tinker with the Indian Act” --it's kind of ironic that we are actually promoting an application of human rights law on race-based legislation. In effect, what we're doing is tinkering with the Indian Act.

So if I say yes to this, it means I say to the Indian Act, and I can't. It's just an untenable position I find myself in as chief.

There are at least areas recognized in the Indian Act as well as the charter that are exercised by bands with a view for protecting culture, language, and welfare, and there are specific powers within the act as well. And of course you know this already. There are always problems with the Indian Act in terms of bylaw-making power, and land designation, and the role of the minister. There is something there, weak as it is.

May 10th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Chief Marcel Balfour Norway House Cree Nation

Thank you.

I regret that I don't have a presentation for you. I pulled this together at the last minute, and hopefully I will be able to highlight some of my speaking notes here and provide you a copy later.

Tansi, distinguished members of the committee. My name is Marcel Balfour. I am the chief of Norway House Cree Nation, or what would be referred to under the Indian Act or Treaty 5 as the Norway House Band of Indians. We are located on the Norway House Indian Reserve, or on the Norway House Cree Nation reserve land, which is located in mid-north Manitoba, about 850 kilometres north of Winnipeg. We have a population of over 6,000 people now, with about 4,500 living on-reserve and about 1,600 living off-reserve.

Over time, we have been referred to by many as one of the more progressive first nations in Manitoba.

By way of background, I was elected chief in March 2006, and from 2002 to 2006 I was elected Norway House Cree Nation councillor. From that experience, I have a personal understanding of human rights on reserve, or the lack thereof, because during my term in office, I had to go to court to be able to carry out some of my elected duties.

In February 2006, the Federal Court found that I was subject to influence peddling and blackmail by the then chief and some of my fellow members on the council. The Federal Court also noted that the rule of law was not being followed in Norway House. Luckily, with time things changed, and some members of my council and I have remain committed to human rights, to ensuring accountability for the spending of band funds, and to protecting aboriginal and treaty rights.

It is within this context that I have both concern and measured enthusiasm regarding the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, as set out in Bill C-44. In my presentation, I should like to first deal briefly with human rights and aboriginal and treaty rights; second, identify the need to balance individual and collective rights; third, share with you some concerns identified by my people in Norway House on reserve, when we met to discuss Bill C-44; and finally, identify some possible avenues to address the shortfalls of the bill.

I should like to encourage the efforts of Canada’s current government to further human rights for Indians and bands of Indians, as defined under the Indian Act. It is well known that section 67, enacted in 1977, was originally intended as a temporary measure. I believe it is long past due to address the inequalities imposed by section 67.

Unfortunately, however, over time with respect to this issue, things have not changed much for Norway House. For the last 30 years, there has been no consultation with the Norway House Cree Nation, neither with the Norway House Band of Indians nor with individual Norway House Band members. This includes not working together with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the federal government, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Assembly of First Nations, NWAC, or any other aboriginal organization that has been talking to you or working on this particular issue.

I find that I'm being pressed here to present on something that has been looked at over the years and is something that really needs to go forward. I believe the Canadian Human Rights Commission presented to you and asked, why is the repeal so urgent? They were saying that it's long overdue. I would say, why is it so urgent now? I haven't had a chance to take a look at this stuff. This legislative agenda is extremely fast for me as a chief, but also for my band. Ironically, we have not been informed or consulted.

I asked the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Indian and Northern Affairs to please come and do a presentation at Norway House, at least to inform my people as to what's going on. Both said they didn't have enough resources to be able to do that. Luckily, I had the benefit of a technician who came from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to try to explain what's going on here, which was really hard to do.

When I had that session—and it was only last week—we had 30 people discuss it. I kind of forced my staff to attend, because I knew people probably wouldn't be too interested. Of the 30 members of my band on reserve, 17 of them are women and 13 are men. It became clear to me that I should present to you that while a repeal of section 67 is supported, Bill C-44 is not.

Both the CHRA and the implications of Bill C-44 are not necessarily well understood by my people, who have not been consulted. I would wholeheartedly agree with the revocation of section 67, but I cannot support the bill.

My rationale for this position is based on two interrelated factors: my belief in the fundamental importance of human rights, aboriginal rights, and treaty rights, and the crucial role of consultation in the democratic process.

Canada’s first nations, both individual Indians and Indian bands, who are living under the Indian Act have their own long-standing customs of governance, many of which pre-date those of Canada itself, and which have traditionally provided an harmonious balancing of both the collective human rights of the community and the human rights of the individual.

I go further in my presentation, but I think I could probably address the issues more appropriately in questions and answers, because I'm sure you've heard them before from other presenters.

The way I look at this, the CHRA, in its current form, embodies an essentially western or Euro-American notion of one aspect of individual human rights, notably, equality rights, and western or Euro-American remedies and dispute resolution mechanisms to ensure protection of those rights. The CHRA offers little with regard to protection of other human rights, whether collective or individual, of the community, such as constitutionally protected treaty rights and inherent aboriginal rights.

May 10th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

I open the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Thursday, May 10, 2007.

Committee members, you have before you the orders of the day. We're continuing our study of Bill C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

We'll be going for three hours. We have two panels, so we'll deal with the first panel of witnesses now.

From the Norway House Cree Nation, we have Chief Marcel Balfour. From the Six Nations of the Grand River, we have Chief David General, and Richard C. Powless, consultant.

Welcome, witnesses. Thank you very much.

We'll be asking for a presentation of 10 minutes from each of the representatives. Then we'll be asking questions.

I apologize for the delay.

Mr. Balfour, do you want to begin?

May 10th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Tom Wappel

The committee that is waiting for the use of this room is the committee on aboriginal affairs. It is considering legislation, Bill C-44.

Consequently, it seems to me that I have to give priority to that committee. So what we will do is suspend this meeting and look for another room in which to consider carrying on our debate.

I ask all members to hang around until such time as we see whether the clerk can find us another committee room.

I apologize to the members of the other committee that we interrupted their meeting.

Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

May 8th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, clearly the member is very ashamed. For 13 years, her party had the opportunity to remedy so many of the issues about which she is talking. At the last moment of their dying regime, the Liberals brought forward their press release on Kelowna. Of course it was not something on which they could deliver. Of course it was something that they never intended to deliver. They made so many promises before that and they always broke them.

We are moving forward. We are making systemic changes, changes that will bring important new rights to aboriginal people. Specifically, I talk about Bill C-44. It would be nice if the member would perhaps bring her party to support human rights on reserve. Instead, she is exiting the House, afraid.

May 8th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am so glad that the parliamentary secretary mentioned the $65 million commitment that the past Liberal government made to aboriginal youth suicide. Indeed, on the issue of suicide, if we look at international studies, the single most key factor in terms of health and well-being for any people is self-determination.

Self-determination is the key. As the government moves forward, it has refused to work in a conciliatory fashion. This was reflected in the Kelowna accord, which it has absolutely dismissed, and also reflected in the past government's commitment to first nations in the first nations-federal Crown political accord. Recognition and implementation of first nations governance is the key.

In fact, when we speak about matrimonial real property, there is no consultation. First nations women have voiced emphatically that they are against this. Bill C-44 does not include consultation. We know there is a duty to consult.

Regarding the $6 million family violence strategy that he talks about, I would like to say that I have one shelter for first nation women in my riding which has not received one phone call, not one response regarding this money. It receives about 27% of the funding that the provincial program would receive, so--

May 8th, 2007 / 6:40 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I find it remarkable, coming from the hon. member opposite, to hear her speak about the current government's ways and means for dealing with first nations people when really, truly, she knows that we inherited the shameful situation from the party that she represents.

I have to speak proudly of our record on aboriginal affairs. We are very much committed to moving forward where her party did not.

As recently as April 27, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced a new partnership approach involving the province of Alberta and Alberta first nations, with the implementation of the Alberta response model.

This approach will explore healthier alternatives such as enhanced prevention services to addressing child and family services in first nation communities in Alberta, children holding such tremendous potential for the future of first nations communities. It is essential that we continue to work together to ensure that children enjoy a safe, secure home environment.

On the national stage, we are working with first nations organizations, first nations child and family services agencies, and provincial and territorial leaders to design the first nations child and family services program.

Furthermore, last fall we provided an additional $6 million to the family violence protection program to help ensure that the network of shelters, primarily for women and children who are trying to escape family violence, are better equipped to serve women and children on reserve.

Among our various initiatives on childhood well-being, Canada's new government has committed $65 million to the aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy.

In the area of first nation education, we have made major progress. In December of last year, this House passed historic legislation, at the centre of which is the agreement signed in July 2006 by Canada, the province of British Columbia and the first nations education steering committee.

This agreement is truly groundbreaking, since it will not only create better learning opportunities for first nations students in British Columbia, but will also offer a model for improvements to first nation education in other provinces.

We know that education is the foundation for social and economic progress. It is in this area that first nations communities and new investments can truly make a real difference. We recently announced the investment of more than $50 million in school infrastructure projects in first nation communities across Canada.

There are some initiatives and systemic reforms that directly benefit first nations children, but this government recognizes that children are also affected in one way or another by the pressures that are facing their families and their communities.

It is for this reason Canada's new government recognizes that the need to act on wider issues can have a real impact on day to day life, so we have taken action to advance legislative solutions to two important issues: discrimination permitted under section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and on reserve matrimonial real property, or MRP.

Bill C-44, introduced last December, proposes to repeal section 67. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development intends to bring forward legislation to resolve the difficult question of matrimonial real property.

Where the Liberals delayed and dithered, making empty promise after empty promise, there can be no question that this government is acting vigorously and in partnership with first nations, Inuit and Métis to build a better today and a brighter tomorrow for aboriginal children in Canada.

May 8th, 2007 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

That's great.

We have finished the round of questioning. I want to thank the witnesses very much for being here today, for informing the committee on your views and for giving us some insights into other areas having to do with Bill C-44. Thank you very much.

The meeting is adjourned.

May 8th, 2007 / noon
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

So that's two years after a Supreme Court decision came down. I use it as a point, when people say sometimes the transition period is too short or...well, some people say it's too long if we go to 36 months. You know, it takes time for communities to adjust, once you repeal a law or bring in a law. I simply use that as a point, that the government itself doesn't even have its own vision of consultation down, but then it demands of aboriginal people to define what their vision of adequate consultation is.

I think there needs to be some coming together of that.

I would like to ask Mr. Schulze a question. The government has said, “Well, we don't need this sort of non-derogation clause, or we may not even need this interpretive clause, because people can always appeal to section 35 of the Constitution.” They're referring to the existing aboriginal treaty rights and that type of thing, subsections 35(1) and 35(2), but the government has fought every single one of those in court. Every time an aboriginal group or individual has brought an action based on section 35 rights, the government has fought that. It has usually taken 10 years, on average, at the cost of millions of dollars.

How do you see section 35 as part of this whole debate around Bill C-44?

May 8th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I will wait until Ms. Archibald comes back before asking my next question. I will give her time to get her coffee. I feel that I ought to wait, because I have an excellent question for her, and for you, Chief Beaucage. Take the time you need, Ms. Archibald. It's an important question.

I have two very specific questions for the two chiefs that are here with us today. Our committee also feels that a minimum transition period is required. In my opinion, the time frame needs to be extended to 36 months. We should have both an interpretive clause and a non-derogation clause.

That being said, would you be prepared to ask us to suspend our study of Bill C-44 until your communities have been directly consulted?

Secondly, could you explain in your own words what you understand by satisfactory consultation with your communities?

May 8th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

As a representative of the Quebec Bar, would you be prepared to recommend that we suspend our study on Bill C-44 and come back to it later after having evaluated how it would impact first nations, or would you prefer that we continue our study, but introduce your amendments?

May 8th, 2007 / 11:35 a.m.
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Anishinabek Nation - Union of Ontario Indians

Grand Council Chief John Beaucage

Thank you very much.

The thoughts on that are quite complex and probably go back many years, as to what band councils have to do to set policies and procedures in their communities for housing, post-secondary education, and any of the services that are provided to their members. All of these policies have been developed over the years to look after traditional customs and processes, and not to take into account the specific aspects of human rights legislation. They look at a local community dispute resolution process.

If there were opportunities for band members to dispute decisions made by the band council, say for housing, where there are not enough resources to look after all of the housing that most communities require.... You may have a situation where a band council chooses one family over another, for whatever reason. The family that doesn't get a house says their human rights are being violated. It might occur dozens of times in many communities. Maybe there is a good reason for the decision, but the basic thing is that we don't have the resources and a decision has to be made.

The same could be said for post-secondary education. There isn't enough money for post-secondary education, so band councils have to decide who gets it and who doesn't. The people who don't get it say their human rights to education are being violated. This can be multiplied in community after community.

I mentioned having our own human rights legislation. If we have our own local dispute resolution process, rather than going to a human rights commission or a court of law outside of the communities, these disputes can be looked after within the community context and at the local level where there's understanding by elders, by community people. These disputes can be worked on in a community milieu where everybody understands what's going on.

As we look at communities that have too few resources and too much demand on community services, there could be concepts of human rights violations in many different aspects. I think our community members, our community administration people, need to understand what a human rights violation is and what it isn't in the context of Bill C-44. We also need to have the resources to make sure we can look after it.

May 8th, 2007 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you.

Grand Chief Beaucage, I wonder if you can also give us your thoughts on the impact of Bill C-44 in your communities.

My other question is to the Quebec Bar Association. When members of the Indigenous Bar Association were here they raised a number of concerns. One overriding concern was that this piece of legislation was the beginning of the dismantling of the Indian Act by chipping away at it. I welcome your comments on that.

On the occupational requirements provision of the Human Rights Act, sections 15 and 16, the special programs provision, one member said:

I think there's some doubt that those provisions would be adequate to address the kinds of balancing that would be required to recognize the specific historical and constitutional place that first nations occupy within the Canadian legal framework.

I wonder if you can comment on that as well.

May 8th, 2007 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you very much.

I have questions for everybody, but I'll start with you, Deputy Chief Archibald.

When you outlined the seven teachings, you talked about respect. You talked about being given the opportunity and the forum to explore how it will affect your lives.

We heard when the department was here that no impact analysis had been done on it. I wonder if you could elaborate on how you anticipate Bill C-44 might affect your lives, or the lives of your communities.

May 8th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Lawyer, Hutchins, Caron & Associés, Barreau du Québec

David Schulze

Thank you, Ms. Dufour.

I will give my presentation in French, but I will be pleased to answer your answers in either English or French, depending on the language of the question. You should all have received the letter on Bill C-44 signed by the President of the Quebec Bar.

Before I start, I simply want to make it clear that I will be speaking on behalf of the Bar and not any clients I represent in my law practice.

May 8th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Deputy Grand Chief RoseAnne Archibald Nishnawbe Aski Nation

Thank you, committee members, for the opportunity to make this presentation today. I'd like to say some of my introductory remarks in my own language.

[Witness speaks in Cree]

What I said in Cree was greetings to all of you. My name is RoseAnne Archibald. I'm from a community called Taykwa Tagamou, formerly known as New Post. I'm here to say a few words because our Grand Chief, Stan Beardy, was unable to make it to the committee today.

I feel it is important to speak some words in my own language, ininimoyan, as my presentation has more to do with linking the human rights issue with the natural laws and teachings of our people.

First let me reiterate that the 49-member first nations that belong to Nishnawbe Aski Nation honour the human rights of every citizen and have continually fought for social justice, individual rights, and the collective rights of our first nations citizens.

This standing committee has undoubtedly heard many presentations on Bill C-44 that have highlighted the need for proper consultation, or how we must balance individual and collective rights, or the need to protect women's rights, or the impact of this proposed legislation on first nations jurisdiction and self-government.

At Nishnawbe Aski Nation, we concur with other first nations and aboriginal organizations on these matters. Further, Grand Chief Stan Beardy has expressed support in principle for the repeal of section 67, as long as it becomes a means to gain access to universal rights that will in turn vastly improve the socio-economic conditions of our first nations.

So why aren't all first nations embracing the proposed legislation? The introduction of Bill C-44 insinuates that an external law is required to force first nations to honour the human rights of its own citizens. No such force is required because, first, we have a deep desire to improve the circumstances of our communities, and second, we have our own teachings to guide us in relation to human rights.

I want to talk briefly about the seven grandfather teachings, or the seven sacred teachings, as they relate specifically to Bill C-44. The seven sacred teachings form the principles upon what could be described as our own human rights code. The seven sacred teachings are: wisdom, truth, humility, bravery, honesty, love, and respect. Healthy and harmonious individuals, families, and communities are a natural result when individuals and groups follow the standards of behaviour as outlined in the seven sacred teachings.

Due to the limited time given for my presentation, I will highlight three main teachings as they relate to Bill C-44: wisdom, honesty, and respect.

Wisdom is about more than only acquiring knowledge. It is the proper use of knowledge to gain deeper insight and understanding of the world around us. Through our own wisdom, we can pass these teachings on to the next generations so that they can survive and thrive. One measure of wisdom is to reach your highest human potential by living a good life. When there is a proper consultation with first nations, we will have shared knowledge to make wise decisions on Bill C-44. To have real insight into human rights issues for first nations people, we must ask ourselves, “What are the real barriers to achieving justice and human rights for first nations people in Canada?” The answers will reveal more complex solutions than simply repealing one section of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Wisdom and insight can only be achieved through the thorough examination of Bill C-44. Moreover, rushing first nations through a six-month consultation/implementation process is not only unwise, it is unfair.

Honesty is more than simply speaking truth. It is embracing each person based on their true nature rather than projecting our own expectations onto them. It is a test of vulnerability that is achieved through our forthright acceptance of self and others. To honestly embrace who you truly are leads to a life of integrity.

For our people, we must honestly tell you that we will never be like everybody else in Canada. Our core values as nations, as Mushkegowuk, Ininew, or Anishinabe, are built around themes of collaboration and the balance between collective and individual rights. Despite your efforts to colonize and assimilate our people, we remain a society that, at our very best moments, understands our spiritual connection to everything; therefore, we will always place the well being of others equally to individuals. We must respectfully move forward with coexisting beliefs, which may mean modifying the current trajectory of your government in relation to Bill C-44.

The third sacred teaching I want to touch on is respect. Respect comes from within and it is always earned. When we conduct ourselves with dignity, we earn respect and goodwill in all of our relationships. Actively listening to others leads to respect. Respect and the golden rule are linked: treat others as you want them to treat you. In order to gain the respect of first nations peoples, we must be given the opportunity and forum to explore how Bill C-44 may affect our lives and our future generations.

Goodwill can be achieved between first nations and your government by actively listening to each other's concerns. As previously mentioned, social justice and human rights for our people are equally high priorities for our leadership. Let's be productive by cooperating to find comprehensive solutions to human rights issues. Through respect we can create an environment of trust where we can find common ground on our shared goal of a just society for first nations.

In conclusion, I respectfully request and recommend that we use the seven sacred teachings as the basis for future discussions on Bill C-44 and for all matters related to human rights.

Gitchi-Meegwetch. Thank you.

May 8th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Grand Council Chief John Beaucage Anishinabek Nation - Union of Ontario Indians

Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.

I'd like to start out first by saying that the Union of Ontario Indians, the Anishinabek Nation, supports the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. There is a process that we must follow. Overall, we don't support the timeframe or some of the aspects of Bill C-44, in that it doesn't protect some of the aboriginal and treaty rights in a way that we would like to see done, in terms of the collective and individual interests of first nations. It fails to provide first nations with the capacity and training dollars to make sure that the implementation of Bill C-44 is carried out in a way that looks after some of our traditional and customary aspects of community life. We would also look at having a non-abrogation and a non-derogation clause included in Bill C-44. That would actually provide greater certainty for aboriginal and treaty rights, but then we would want an interpretive clause as well on the individual and collective rights of first nations.

Overall, we would look into perhaps going further than what Bill C-44 is purporting in terms of a first nations human rights act, which goes even beyond what we have in Bill C-44, and something that we can call our own. It's something that we can go further with in terms of looking after customary and traditional aspects of our communities right across the country. We would look at taking Bill C-44 and maybe stretching it out beyond the six months, looking at maybe a 30-month phase-in. Part of the phase-in would be the development—and a consultation process to create our own first nations human rights act, which would be enforced or worked for by our own process within our own community context on a region-by-region basis.

I think that's something the committee probably has not heard yet, but I haven't seen all of the information you've had. I think it's something new, but it's also something that is somewhat exciting: having first nations jurisdiction and first nations buy-in to the entire process of making sure that human rights take a very high place within the context of law in Canada, aboriginal law, and first nations traditions and laws.

We would look at having this process ongoing after a three-year period. That's one of the other things I wanted to talk about as well: the six-month timeframe that's currently within Bill C-44 does not give us enough time to institute and train our people for the human rights legislation, nor are there any resources there to make sure we have the appropriate capacity to look after this change that is encompassed within Bill C-44. So we do need to have those resources available to us. We do need a little bit of extra time.

I think eventually we will need to move on towards a first nations human rights act and a first nations human rights commission. There will be a written presentation that will have a summary of a number of recommendations on Bill C-44, and also recommendations on a first nations human rights act in summary. That will be provided to the committee as soon as the document is translated.

I don't think I've taken my full five minutes, but I'd like to thank you all for listening.

Gitchi-Meegwetch.

May 8th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

Welcome to this meeting of Tuesday, May 8, 2007, of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Committee members, you have the mandate in front of you. We're continuing our study of C-44, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Today as witnesses we have, from the Anishinabek Nation--Union of Ontario Indians, John Beaucage, grand council chief; from Barreau du Québec, we have David Schulze, a lawyer with Hutchins, Caron & Associés, and Nicole Dufour, a lawyer in the research and legislation service; and from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, we have Deputy Grand Chief RoseAnne Archibald.

Welcome, witnesses.

We will begin with the presentation by Mr. Beaucage.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 4th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, just last week the Minister of Indian Affairs made an important announcement in Alberta. It actually was about the Alberta model for child and family services, which looks into bringing about measures that go right to the heart of the problem in terms of prevention. It is a method that has been proven time and time again.

I would like to ask the member if perhaps she could get behind our efforts to actually bring human rights to first nations people on reserve through our Bill C-44.

May 3rd, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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Co-Chair, Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat Inc.

Chief Lawrence Paul

I'm quite worried about the whole effect of this Bill C-44. I think it's going to have drastic effects on the community life of our first nations and our local governments.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

May 3rd, 2007 / 12:25 p.m.
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Co-Chair, Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat Inc.

Chief Lawrence Paul

Thank you for your little bit of praise. I certainly appreciate it.

First of all, when I look at the big picture, as I've done ever since I've been in politics—that goes way back to the sixties, that's why I mentioned earlier that I went through a lot of prime ministers in my tenure as chief and councillor in native politics—I've seen a lot of changes. One thing I never did like and I still don't like is that when I talk to this committee I like to talk to the committee members as equals. I don't like talking to a committee where it's a parent-child relationship—we know what's best for you.

My accomplishments in my first nation are based on my own people and my economic development committee. We decided we would do our own thing. We had a department tell us what to do for years, and it always went belly up. It was a miserable flop. So we said we'd take control, we'd look at free enterprise and economic development and how we'd go forward in the modern day, and we're successful.

In answer to the honourable members on matrimonial property, you have to give some credit to first nations, that we have intelligent people on our councils. For instance, I have six college graduates on my council.

As for matrimonial property, we've seen that issue coming, so we have our own policy. If there's a marriage breakup in our first nation, then of course it has to go through the family court process. Whoever gets custody of those children automatically, whether male or female, gets custody of that home.

A non-Indian mom or dad has the responsibility of a guardian, so they're able to live in a band-owned home until the eldest child reaches the age of maturity—19, I believe it is now—then it's up to that child whether they still want their non-Indian parent to live with them or not; they're in control now. That would be up to the family. We think that's equal.

I don't like the idea of using matrimonial property, beyond all comparison, to give that protection and eliminate section 67 by Bill C-44, because we look at too many things. There are going to be so many court challenges against chief and council. I've often said it takes two of us, and then of course we have to sue the federal government. You know there are $22 billion worth of court cases against the previous federal government in the court system now. That's going to double to $44 billion before this is over, because when they sue us, we have to sue the government. We have no other avenue; we have to go that route.

At this time, I can see the Human Rights Act is going to disrupt everything else. Right now my band has 60% mixed marriages on- and off-reserve. My band members stretch from B.C. to Prince Edward Island, from Florida in the United States to California, Massachusetts--they're scattered all over. Under the Corbiere decision, they vote for us.

My colleagues and I are here today to ask the standing committee to listen to what we are telling MPs. We know what's best for our people. We live there. We know the society on a first nation is quite different from a society in downtown Truro, where I live. We have a different society, a different way of handling things.

I guess what we're asking is for you to listen to us on this particular issue of the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act. It's going to cause more poverty. It's going to be a drain on the limited financial things that we have now. It's going to cause headaches, not only for us but for the municipal government, the provincial government, because then it's wide open.

Is my time up, sir?

May 3rd, 2007 / noon
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Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Since 1977, section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has contained an exemption in respect of provisions of the Indian Act. Section 67 was adopted in 1977 because negotiations were under way between First Nations and the government over the reform of the Indian Act.

Representatives of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and of the Native Women's Association of Canada argue that section 67 should be repealed. More consultations are needed. Minister Prentice informed the committee that negotiations have been under way since 1977 and that numerous discussions and consultations have taken place on section 67. All have helped shaped this bill. In his opinion, the general consensus that has emerged from the discussions and consultations is that section 67 should be repealed.

The repeal of section 67 was recommended by the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel in 2000, as well as by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in its 2005 special report and by the Native Women's Association of Canada.

Unlike previous government bills that called for an interpretative clause, Bill C-44 contains no such provision.

How, in your opinion, could an interpretative clause facilitate the application of the act in communities and help balance individual and collective rights? I'm all ears.

May 3rd, 2007 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair;

I'd like to thank everybody for their presentations. They were excellent. And I would like to especially thank Mr. Lawrence Paul for sharing with us his long history in terms of these issues.

I would like to ask this, following on what Mr. Paul just said. We are talking about human rights here and ensuring human rights.

Mr. Anderson, you talked about a couple of big items that are issues across the country for first nations--housing, water, and the list goes on and on. It seems to me that if we're talking about ensuring human rights, we're starting in the wrong place. This doesn't seem to be the right way to go about it, because we don't have a level playing field to begin with. There's a lack of services. There's a lack of adequate programs. Children are suffering.

So could we speak to that, about where it is we should be starting in terms of ensuring human rights for first nations? Is this the right place to be starting a bill like Bill C-44? Or is there somewhere else we should be starting in terms of ensuring human rights for first nations in Canada?

May 3rd, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Grand Chief Chris Henderson Manitoba Southern Chiefs' Organization

Yes, and thank you, Mr. Chair.

First and foremost, I want to apologize for my lateness. I had a prior meeting with one of the respected senators.

I'd like to say good morning to the distinguished members of the standing committee, and I of course want to say good morning to my colleague chiefs and to my colleague grand chief, Dr. Sydney Garrioch, who's also from Manitoba.

I won't offer too much by way of a submission, because I believe you've heard it all. My colleagues have offered compelling and eloquent statements, and I believe that is more than sufficient. Therefore, I will keep my submission very brief to allow for an exchange of questions and answers.

Within Manitoba, we have 66 first nations represented by three organizations. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs represents all the first nations of Manitoba, and then two regional bodies represent the regional first nations broken down by regions. Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin, or MKIO, represents the northern first nations, and then in southern Manitoba the Southern Chiefs' Organization represents the first nations of southern Manitoba. I am here representing the southern first nations of Manitoba.

Concerning Bill C-44and the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, I would respectfully offer a view differing from that of our national organization, the Assembly of First Nations. I know they are in support of the repeal of section 67, but at this point in time I would be inclined to support the position and view and submission of MKIO, our northern brothers and sisters in Manitoba. They are rejecting Bill C-44 in its current form and composition. At this point in time I would also support that position on behalf of our southern first nations in Manitoba.

This is primarily because, first, there has been no meaningful consultation and allowance for accommodation regarding this proposed legislation. As well, if this bill were to be passed and enforced as law within Canada, I do believe and I do take the position that the negative ramifications concerning our inherent aboriginal and treaty rights would be far too great. I believe there has to be a delicate balancing act concerning the rights of the individual versus the collective rights that are held by our indigenous peoples in Manitoba.

At this point in time I would support the position of MKIO. The SCO, the Southern Chiefs' Organization, therefore cannot support Bill C-44 at this moment in time because of those two primary reasons.

Again, the first reason is lack of consultation and meaningful accommodation with those affected first nations that are purported to be served by the legislation. As well, there are the potential negative impacts and consequences on our inherent aboriginal and treaty rights, again concerning the individual rights and collective rights of our first nations.

I don't want to say too much more than that. As I said earlier, you've heard it all from my colleagues. I do appreciate the opportunity to be invited here by the standing committee. I say thank you, and I do apologize again for my lateness. Please accept my sincere apologies.

I look forward to the respectful dialogue between the distinguished members and my colleagues on this side of the table.

Thank you. Kitchi megwetch.

May 3rd, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Chief Lawrence Paul Co-Chair, Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat Inc.

I bring greetings from the Mi'kmaq, the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy in Atlantic Canada. Good morning, committee members.

Our organization fully supports the recommendations made previously by the Assembly of First Nations in its submission on Bill C-44 to this committee, including that consultations are legally required. First nations have not been consulted on this bill. In order to be consistent with various court rulings, first nations must be properly consulted on the proposed repeal of section 67 of the CHRA and, more specifically, on the development of an interpretive non-derogation clause, on the potential impacts on aboriginal and treaty rights, and on implementation issues before any legislation is tabled to repeal section 67.

As for the development of an interpretive non-derogation clause, there should be no repeal of section 67 until a non-derogation clause has been included to protect the constitutionally protected rights of first nations from further erosion.

We should also address some of the implementation and capacity issues. There should be no repeal of section 67 until suitable arrangements are in place to provide first nations with adequate resources, mechanisms, and institutions to fulfill new responsibilities and manage these new risks.

And we should conduct a constitutional analysis of the impact on aboriginal and treaty rights. So there should be no repeal of section 67 until the federal government conducts an impact assessment to determine the potential impacts of that repeal on aboriginal and treaty rights.

The federal government should recognize and/or establish first nations institutions to consider complaints against first nations governments, agencies and institutions.

Also, the federal government should not proceed with any repeal of section 67 until an analysis of operations is completed.

So it's our position that the federal government should not proceed with a repeal of section 67 until first nations have been adequately consulted.

In respect of the proposed repeal of section 67, we wish to thank the committee for giving us this opportunity to express our concerns on issues with C-44, and we strongly urge you to seriously consider the significant legal and financial impacts of this bill on both the Government of Canada and first nations governments and not have it pass into law.

I have appeared before the standing committee on many occasions down through the years, going back to Lester Pearson, the Diefenbaker era, the Trudeau era, the Mulroney era, the Chrétien era, and now this other era. Our batting average so far, in coming before this committee and bringing our complaints to it, is zero. I hope this time we will go down in history as having our concerns on Bill C-44 heard, and that we will have an impact in having our concerns listened to before this is passed into law.

I would make a recommendation, personally, that if C-44 is going to be passed into law, it only pertain to our first nations people, our governments, chief and council, and our first nations band members.

We know that the fiduciary or trust responsibility, and the land set aside by Her Majesty through the federal Government of Canada, is for a band and its membership. We foresee many problems, many court challenges. We see more poverty for our first nations.

We have land: the British North America Act was enshrined in the Canadian Constitution by way of section 35. The first part of the federal statute called the Indian Act states that there is land set aside by Her Majesty, the Queen, to the federal Government of Canada, for the benefit of the band and its band membership.

I'll give you one example. If this bill is put into law, if a non-Indian or non-first-nation comes to the chief and council and wants a house on our first nation, and we say, “No, this land is protected by a trust and fiduciary responsibility by the federal government”, they will say, “Yes, it was, but now it isn't, so we're going to lodge a complaint against you to the provincial and federal human rights tribunals and take you there, because you're discriminating against us.”

These are the fears that we have, and I hope this committee takes into consideration these concerns of ours, because we do not have the resources or the financial ability to constantly fight these kinds of complaints at either the provincial or the federal human rights tribunal.

Thank you very much.

May 3rd, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Executive Director, Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat Inc.

John Paul

Thank you for giving us the time to come.

My name is John Paul. I'm the executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs, and I'm here today with our co-chair, Chief Lawrence Paul, from the Millbrook First Nation in Nova Scotia, to address Bill C-44.

Our organization represents 37 Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy communities and one Innu first nation community, in five provinces, down into the United States, in Atlantic Canada, and in the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec. Our organization shares a mandate to do research and analyze and develop alternatives to federal policy affecting its first nation members.

As you are aware, Bill C-44 seeks to repeal or remove section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which states, “Nothing in this Act affects any provision of the Indian Act or any provision made under or pursuant to that Act.”

Our position is that our communities don't support this as it currently stands. Our chiefs recently, in January of this year, passed a resolution expressing our non-support for the bill due to our serious concerns on its potential impacts.

Our chiefs' primary concerns are as follows.

No meaningful consultations have been held with first nations, as required by recent Supreme Court rulings.

It conflicts with principles in law, outlined in rulings of the Supreme Court, that protect our collective communal interests and rights.

It will have significant impacts on first nation governments in Canada. The Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Innu peoples have long-standing tradition, cultures, and laws and seek to protect and rejuvenate them. Any solution must take into consideration this very unique situation with our first nation governments.

The effect of the bill would make individual rights take precedence over collective aboriginal and treaty and other rights of first nations.

No interpretive clause is included in the bill. It does not reconcile individual versus collective rights.

With six months, the proposed implementation or transition phase is totally unrealistic and far too short.

First nations currently are underfunded and lack resources to manage this new exposure to serious financial liability or undertake measures to minimize potential risk. For example, first nations would face exposure to liability as a result of significant housing shortages, programs, and services for the disabled, land allotments or rights, membership rules, residency bylaws, and the provision of basic programs and services on-reserve to all residents, not just band members.

Examples include things like non-insured health benefits provided by Health Canada, including post-secondary student support provided by INAC.

There is a high potential for complaints to be brought by band members on the basis of various grounds with regard to the existing housing policies and other such decisions made by band governments. It's not likely that the housing backlog and these other issues are going to be resolved in six months.

There is no capacity development funding for first nation communities regarding the application or implementation in the bill. The bill allows for a six-month window of immunity. However, without a significant influx of additional financial resources to minimize potential exposure to risk of complaints, it is irrelevant whether the immunity period is six months or longer. Unless first nation capacity and other implementation issues are addressed before this bill is passed, first nations will be flooded with complaints, with no resources to effectively manage or address them.

It violates principles set out in the UN draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples on cultural genocide, and it will have many, many unanticipated consequences like those that came out of Bill C-31 and the Corbiere decision. And it's unclear about the constitutional impact of this repeal.

I'd like to turn it over to my co-chair, Chief Lawrence Paul.

May 3rd, 2007 / 11:25 a.m.
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Michael Anderson Research Director, Natural Resources Secretariat, Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin

Thank you, Grand Chief.

Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.

In respect to Bill C-44 the Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin must advise the committee that after analysis and review we believe Bill C-44 does not recognize the inherent sovereignty of the MKIO first nations as described by Grand Chief Garrioch.

Bill C-44 does not reflect the sacred and joint relationship established by treaties entered into between the MKIO first nation and Her Majesty's government.

Bill C-44 infringes, interferes with, and does not recognize the contemporary systems of government, decision-making, and community organization established in accord with the customary law, principles, values, and beliefs of the MKIO first nations and which systems we continue to exercise and develop on our own terms.

Bill C-44 does not recognize and leave room for the exercise in further development of first nation government authority, as reflected in the existing system of laws established by individual MKIO first nations, through government-to-government agreements involving first nations and through the continuing development of Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin.

Bill C-44 represents an unjustifiable infringement of rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982, in part through the Crown's failure to engage in a Crown consultation in accordance with the doctrine established by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Bill C-44 will impose Canada's vision of human rights and Canada's standards for reconciling human rights with government and corporate actions. It will arbitrarily narrow timeframes during which the elected leadership of first nations must prepare for consideration and resolution of complaints by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and tribunal. It will impose an uncertainty in first nation authority and community decision-making processes through the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal over matters that would otherwise be addressed by elected first nation leadership and through community-based decision-making processes. Bill C-44 will impose a review of customary laws, beliefs, values, and principles of first nations by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal without a statutory requirement to take into account how the MKIO first nations perceive individual and collective human rights as well as concepts of transparency, access, and accountability.

Bill C-44 also fails to recognize that a source of many human rights issues of importance to first nations arise directly from federal government policies, including the significant and persistent underfunding of social services, housing, and infrastructure that are administered under the authority of first nation governments and are beyond the capacity of first nation governments to remedy.

An example of this that I'd like to share is the Supreme Court's consideration of the critical housing shortage in first nation communities when it examined the case in Corbiere. The Supreme Court realized that in order to address the housing shortage sufficiently for first nation electors to go home and live on-reserve and vote would require instructions to government that the Supreme Court wasn't prepared to provide.

In order to reconcile that conundrum, it developed an analogous ground of aboriginality residence to recognize that it was not possible to resolve the shortage of housing on a first nation community within the current policy framework, and it developed an analogous ground for the determination of discrimination under charter cases. That's one example of many where the Supreme Court itself has been unable to visualize a pathway to reconcile many of the issues that may give rise to complaints that might be brought to the attention of the commission, and then from the commission to the tribunal.

We also would note that when the expert panel on water was considering the issue of the adequacy of resourcing for first nation water and waste water systems and was in fact instructed by the minister not to consider the matter of funding in their terms of reference, the expert panel persisted in its report to discuss that the Government of Canada must place a priority on adequately resourcing water and waste water systems on-reserve in order for adequate services to be provided.

Those are two examples we wanted to bring to the committee's attention in respect to this particular issue.

Grand Chief.

May 3rd, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Grand Chief Sydney Garrioch Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin

Mr. Chair, bonjour, good morning to everyone. I'd like to thank the standing committee for having us present in regard to proposed Bill C-44, an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

We did give a written submission to the clerk and we apologize for not having a translation. I'd like to introduce Mike Anderson from MKIO, as well as Richard Hart, executive director, Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin, who is here as an observer.

We are representing the 53,000 first nations in the 30 northern Manitoba first nations communities as an MKIO presentation. I must say at the outset that the MKIO first nations oppose Bill C-44. MKIO does not accept that the Canadian Human Rights Act should apply to the review of the acts and decisions of the first nation governments, their people, officials, and our employees.

MKIO also rejects the principle that the Canadian Human Rights Commission or the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal should have jurisdiction over the actions and decisions of the elected leadership on behalf of their first nations governments.

MKIO wants to share four principles that are important to the committee's consideration of Bill C-44: the treaty relationship and the joint commitment to nation-building; our laws are in our language; Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin; and consultation and consent.

The treaty-making process acknowledges and recognizes our Creator-given sovereignty and authority within our traditional homelands. Each MKIO first nation continues its jurisdiction on the law-making process in accordance with its customs, traditions, principles and beliefs. MKIO first nations have also entered into other treaties and agreements with governments, including a modern-day treaty known as the Manitoba Northern Flood Agreement.

MKIO first nations and MKIO are working to fully implement the intent, the terms and provisions of those treaties and agreements and to establish the governing process and its structures provided for within these treaties and agreements. MKIO first nations exercise community decision-making processes based on our customary laws, culture, and beliefs. For example, the Pimicikamak Cree Nation and other MKIO first nations have passed very comprehensive laws regarding elections, development, passage of laws through direct community involvement, the management of lands, wildlife, and other things.

Collectively, the MKIO first nations exercises its authority of the Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin, which translates from the Cree language as “northern people's government”.

MKIO first nations cannot and will not accept that Her Majesty or the Government of Canada has or ever had the capacity to unilaterally alter or terminate our sacred relationships through subsequent domestic legislative and constitutional enactments. The MKIO first nations do not recognize that the Government of Canada acquired any rights through the treaties or Constitution of Canada to make or impose a system of foreign laws upon our people, whether through the courts, commissions, or tribunals. Her Majesty consulted with our nations in order to reconcile our aboriginal titles and sought our consent to share ancestral lands and resources with settlers.

Consultation must take place and our consent is required before changes to the terms of our treaties or the imposition of Canada's domestic laws will be accepted by our nations or our people. Consultation and consent are the binding principles of the treaties, and the treaty relationship can only be modified or affected through following consultations with the joint consent of the treaty signatories.

I will pass this to Mike, and I will finish with the recommendations on the last page.

May 3rd, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
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Canupawakpa Dakota Nation, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Chief Viola Eastman

It's my 10-minute presentation, okay. That's good, thank you.

[Witness speaks in Dakota Sioux]

It's a great honour for me to be here today on behalf of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Grand Chief Ron Evans. I'm here representing my people, and I carry with me timeless values, the teachings of my culture, my language, and the laws to guide me in my role as chief of my community and my role as co-chair of the AMC First Nations Women's Council.

Today I bring a message to convey both concern and optimism: concern for the limits of the draft legislative amendment as it is, which raises a range of issues for first nations people, and optimism that the recommendations spoken today are heard, listened to, and respond to our concerns so that improvements be made.

AMC's presentation seeks to honour the Crown. Crown-first nations relations recognize that we each hold benefits together with responsibilities in order to sustain lasting nation-to-nation relationships. Our nation-to-nation relations have been formalized by some of the nations by treaty and formalized by others who have not concluded treaty, because as Dakota nations we didn't sign treaties with the Crown.

Canada's legislative review must discuss a balancing of first nations' individual and collective rights on the issue of human rights, and full and meaningful consultation with first nations. First nation fundamental and natural laws include our world balance for the individual and collective in spirituality, culture, language, society, lands, government, justice, and all other relations. We are party to Crown and first nations law-making relations. To proceed otherwise is to repeat historical mistakes. Unilateral actions have ended in disasters. Canada's laws and policies for justice and human rights have not made positive change for both of us. This submission raises serious concerns and also brings ideas on ways and means to seek redress, to resolve differences, and to move forward.

Now I have the submission. Everybody has a copy of that. I'm going to turn to certain sections of our submission.

First of all, AMC is a politically representative organization of first nation citizens, regardless of their residency, whether they're living on-reserve or off-reserve or in rural areas in Manitoba. In accordance with the AMC constitution, the AMC grand chief, who is Ron Evans, is elected spokesperson by the chiefs of the 64 current first nation member communities situated in Manitoba by the vote of each member chief, who in turn is duly elected by the citizens of their first nations.

Treaties and continuing nation-to-nation relations exist in the spirit of coexistence, mutual benefit, and full respect. However, this relationship remains at risk due to continued unilateral actions by the Crown's federal department through the adoption of legislation and policies by its federal cabinet without consultation with indigenous first nations in Canada. Canada's unilateral efforts have failed miserably.

During our early nation-to-nation history and relations and treaty negotiations, the parties considered the question as to which nation's law would apply. The understanding of the elders is that each nation and their governments, the indigenous governments and the new Canadian government, would pass laws together, not against each other as adversaries. It is clear that in the beginning there was a true nation-to-nation partnership. These interpretations are based on oral history, documented recordings of treaty negotiations, court cases, and Canada's legislation.

I'll just skip now to AMC's position.

Man-made laws on fundamental human rights must be consistent with a first nation world view, for without acceptance they will not be successful. Canada's laws on human rights must be consistent with customary international law in order to be valid. Indigenous human rights laws that are consistent with customary international law cannot be extinguished by Canada and cannot be displaced or repealed by either the CHRA or the charter.

Notwithstanding that the CHRA and charter are Canadian laws, the repeal of section 67 requires free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous first nations peoples. AMC agrees with the Canadian Bar Association's observation that the application of the CHRA to the Indian Act should not prevent a full-scale and properly funded first nations-directed replacement of the entire Indian Act regime—this is linked to page 8 of my submission in the legal review—and should support the transition and the consultation for 18 to 30 months. That prepares a solid foundation for the first nations and the governments in terms of the Canadian Human Rights Commission administration of the act and the Human Rights Tribunal adjudicative functions.

AMC supports deferred legislation with a first nations consultation period of 18 months that prepares a solid foundation, with a six-month transition period to first nations and governments, on the Canadian Human Rights Commission administration of the acts and the Human Rights Tribunal adjudicative functions.

The interpretative clause must be part of the legislation, not a policy or guideline to the CHRA, to guide its application to the actions or omissions. Capacity-building and resources need to be confirmed

From there, we'll go to consultation.

AMC agrees with the findings of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. On March 9, 2007, it stated the following:

The Committee urges the State party to engage in effective consultations with aboriginal communities so that mechanisms that will ensure adequate application of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) with regard to complaints under the Indian Act are put in place following the repeal.

AMC developed an approach to consultation—set out in the position paper—that is meaningful and constructed in the context of equality and respect for both parties in all decisions, policies, and legislation that affect the Manitoba indigenous population and its lands, territories, resources, and communities. AMC is supportive of a consultation that adheres to free, prior, and informed consent relating to first nations peoples.

On human rights, AMC indicated its concurrence on many of the recommendations proposed by the Human Rights Commission report, recognizing that first nations have a unique status and constitutionally protected rights and interests, and that a statutory interpretive clause relating to the application of CHRA in a first nations context is required for both first nations individuals and the first nations governments.

With regard to implementation issues, the proposed federal amendment right now is short and vague, which raises a large range of issues of concern as to the meaningful implementation of the legislation intent as is.

I know at home the concerns raised by the First Nations Women's Council, of which I am co-chair, during the information forums on the perspective of first nations on matrimonial real property on reserves. They were not being consulted. These concerns, communicated to the Department of Indian Affairs minister in a letter of January 10, illustrate as well the need for a well-thought-out implementation.

As expressed in the March 5, 2007, letter from the AMC grand chief to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the Manitoba first nations women gathering on MRP and Bill C-44 does not support the tabling of legislation without prior first nation consultation.

The AMC analysis in part reads as follows: “The scale of this fundamental change nationally requires immediate joint Canada-first nations oversight and ongoing collaborative review during the first 18 months, and phased stages during the remainder of the five-year period.”

Given the decreased regional allocations and operations of the department, there should be a financial commitment identified. Reliance on the CHRC to address all necessary implementation elements will overextend the role of the CHRC.

On aboriginal authorities, the meaning of that is silent. The term requires a definition specific to first nations institutions.

Capacity and financial support are essential for first nation governments to be able to establish that institution, and capacity and financial support are essential for first nations individuals. We require enabling development of an interpretive clause in consultation with first nations.

An independent body needs to be created to review the impact of INAC challenges that might negatively affect first nations individually and first nations governments collectively.

AMC supports the application of the CHRA to first nations and related institutions, with a transitional period of between 18 and 30 months in order to allow consultation on and enact the proposed interpretive provision; and preparatory actions to ensure that first nations and the commission have in place the measures necessary to do the following: effectively, efficiently, and quickly resolve complaints within 30 months; review policy implications for first nations; take preparatory measures required; and perform a legal review of the implications to the Indian Act itself.

Duty to consult. First nations participation will be included as a distinct and separate process that is first nation specific on any consultation processes generally, and consultation respecting the interpretive provision, to achieve a sustainable solution for all first nation citizens.

Collective and individual rights balanced. The amendment must not undermine inherent rights or abrogate or derogate from the constitutionally protected individual and collective rights. AMC supports consultation that will address the proper balancing of collective and individual rights through community-based solutions that strengthen first nations institutions.

The interpretive clause. AMC agrees with the AFN's recommendations that Bill C-44 be amended to include an interpretive clause so that the Human Rights Commission tribunal and court will be guided in their application of the CHRA to the unique collective inherent rights, interests, and values of first nation peoples and communities. An interpretive provision is necessary to more specifically guide an adjudicative analysis in order to strike an appropriate balance between individual and collective rights.

Confirmation of first nation institutions. Human rights are fundamental to first nation societies. Therefore the function of human rights institutions should be governed by first nation institutions and peoples jointly engaged from time to time.

In conclusion—I'm finally concluding—the AMC, on behalf of the first nation citizens and governments, looks forward to fundamental human rights access to all in concert with individual rights and traditional collective and constitutional rights of first nations people.

That's my presentation, Mr. Chair and committee members. Thank you.

Opposition Motion--Indian Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a few questions but perhaps I will talk a bit about the comment the member for Etobicoke North made a little earlier in his speech.

In reference to various international bodies, he said that in his opinion the international community was not looking at Canada in a good light in relation to aboriginal matters.

I am not sure if the member is aware of what is currently going on at the aboriginal affairs committee but we have brought forward Bill C-44, which would bring about the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It would exempt first nations from falling under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

If the member could tell his committee members from the Liberal Party to get with the program and support human rights on reserve, perhaps the international view on Canada might be improved.

The member and members of his party continue to reference that somehow our government has held up this settlement agreement. Could he explain to me what holding up is defined as according to him because this is one of the very first things that we did as a government? If he could define that it would be appreciated.

Opposition Motion--Indian Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2007 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

I will begin today by saying that the government agrees with the member opposite. We must address the sad legacy of Indian residential schools. We have stated this on many occasions already.

That is precisely why we are working toward the implementation of the settlement agreement that includes elements, such as a truth and reconciliation commission, a common experience payment, an independent assessment process, commemoration and funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which received final court approval on March 21, 2007, will bring resolution to this sad chapter of our history. This historic agreement will foster reconciliation between aboriginal people who resided at these schools, their families, their communities and all Canadians.

This agreement is a crucial milestone. We cannot move forward without addressing the past and it is crucial that we move forward. We need to take positive, concrete action to address the challenges that confront so many aboriginal people and communities in this country.

We are committed to making consistent progress in the areas that have the greatest impact on improving the quality of life of first nations people. It is particularly important that we place a special emphasis on improving the lives of children. As the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, this is an issue that is close to my heart.

For example, on April 27 in Calgary, Alberta, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was pleased to announce a new partnership with the province of Alberta and the Alberta first nations that will see significant improvements in child and family services for first nations in Alberta.

Based on the Alberta response model, this new approach to child welfare in first nations communities will provide families living on reserve with better access to community resources to help them before a crisis occurs.

The Alberta response model stresses prevention by intervening early and making community resources available to families in difficulty. When children need to be removed, we must ensure they are placed in a safe, nurturing environment, in permanent homes, preferably with family members in their own communities.

This approach sets a high standard because it is based on ensuring stability and permanency for the child . It also has been recognized as an innovative approach to delivering child welfare services to first nations children. The Alberta response model has already proven successful with the number of children in care having decreased by 22% since its introduction in 2004.

In addition to delivering better results for first nations children in Alberta, this partnership serves as a model for other provinces and first nations agencies. Our government looks forward to having exploratory discussions with provinces, territories and first nations organizations that are seeking to introduce enhanced early prevention programs to their child and family services on reserve.

Children are the future, in first nations communities as in everywhere else in society. We have a moral duty to protect them and to work together to ensure they enjoy a safe, secure home environment.

However, we also recognize that support and services must be there when women and children are obliged to leave that environment.

Last fall, this government provided an additional $6 million to the family violence prevention program to help ensure that the network of shelters, primarily for women and children who are trying to escape family violence, are better equipped to serve women and children on reserve.

Among our various initiatives on childhood health and well-being, Canada's new government has committed $65 million to the aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy.

In the area of first nations education, we have made major progress. In December of last year, this House passed historic legislation, at the centre of which was the agreement signed in July 2006 by Canada, the province of British Columbia and the First Nations Education Steering Committee. This agreement is truly groundbreaking, since it will not only create better learning opportunities for first nations students in British Columbia but also offer a model for improvements to first nations education in other provinces.

Because we know that education is one of the foundations for social and economic success and is an area in first nations communities where new investments can truly make a difference, we recently announced the investment of more than $50 million in school infrastructure projects in first nations communities across the country.

Those are some of the initiatives and systematic reforms that directly benefit first nations children. However, this government recognizes that children are also affected in one way or another by the pressures that face their families and communities. For this reason, Canada's new government recognizes the need to act on the wider issues that have a real impact on the day to day lives of aboriginals.

Therefore, we have taken action to advance legislative solutions to two important issues: discrimination permitted under section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and on reserve matrimonial real property. Bill C-44, introduced last December, proposes to repeal section 67 which currently prevents first nations citizens from bringing forward a human rights complaint. We believe that aboriginal citizens are entitled to the same access to rights protection as every other Canadian citizen.

This government also strongly believes that aboriginal women should have access to the same rights as every other woman in Canada when a relationship breaks down. That is why the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development completed a consultation process and intends to bring forward legislation to resolve the difficult question of matrimonial real property this spring.

There can be no question that this government is acting vigorously and in partnership with first nations, Inuit and Métis to build a more hopeful future for aboriginal children across the country.

Through the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, we have come to terms with the past and, through our initiatives to further the interests and well-being of aboriginal women and children, we are looking to the future, a brighter and more positive future for the first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Opposition Motion--Indian Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2007 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to begin with a story, but first I want to talk about what happened in the 1960s.

In 1960, I was living in Amos, where I am from. It is a small municipality that, at the time, was the regional centre for education. In Abitibi—Témiscamingue, Amos was where students went to learn the liberal professions. They were going to be lawyers, priests, notaries and so on.

Not far from Amos was the little town of Saint-Marc-de-Figuery. Around the 1950s—I am not sure of the exact date—the federal government decided to build what we called the Indian residential school there, on the edge of a lake.

We here are all young. We can remember when, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we played with the Indian children, and that was okay. Near Amos there was an Algonquin village called Pikogan. We wondered why the Indian children were taken to the residential school in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery instead of to Pikogan, close to Amos, which also had schools. We did not know. I did not know.

But not knowing is no excuse for not acknowledging today what happened at that little residential school. This is what happened there.

At the residential school in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery, the students were Indians. They were called that. They were even called redskins. They were taken from Obidjuan, an aboriginal village closer to Lac-Saint-Jean. At the time, the Grand Trunk railway connected Cochrane, Ontario, to Quebec City and Montreal. The railway passed through the Gouin reservoir, where the Algonquin people fished and hunted.

What happened in the 1950s and the 1960s? At the end of the summer, someone from the Department of Indian Affairs would travel by train, arrive in the villages, collect the Indian children and take them to the Indian residential school in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery.

They even collected the Indian children from Pikogan, an Algonquin village five kilometres from Amos, and took them to the residential school so that all the Indians would be cared for and educated at the same place and in the same way.

What happened to the Indian children when they were taken to the residential school in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery? I can attest to that, because I saw it. We were young. At that time, in the 1960s, I was in scouts. We would go to the residential school to see the Indians and talk to them about scouts. When we arrived we saw that they were all Indian children. They all had black hair and it was short. The first thing that happened when they arrived at the residential school in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery was that their hair was cut off, under the pretext that they had lice.

Their heads were completely shaven and kept that way for the entire school year. These children were taken to the residential school in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery in August or September and they stayed there until the end of the school year. That was where they were educated.

Here is what used to be done. First their hair was cut. Then their traditional clothing was taken away—because the authorities at the time felt this needed to be done—and they were given white man's clothing. What else happened? They were prohibited from speaking Algonquin. I am talking about the residential school that I knew, the one in Saint-Marc-de-Figuery, near Amos. Their Indian clothing was taken away and they were formally prohibited from speaking Indian, as it was called at the time. They had to speak French. All the classes were in French. They were taken away at age five or six from the Obidjuan community or whichever community they were from along the railway line. There were Indians in Senneterre, Amos and all over. The Algonquin were taken to these residential schools to be educated. Their hair was cut, they were prohibited from speaking their language and, most of all, they were prohibited from thinking like Indians. From the age of five they had to think like white people because apparently we were intellectually superior and we, the whites, had to educate them.

I hope the picture I have just evoked here in this House—a picture that is true—will call to mind certain events that happened in Europe just a few decades ago. I would not go so far as to use the word “genocide”. I will not use that word, although I could not be blamed for thinking it. In fact, the Kistabish, the Mohawks, the McDougalls I now know have all lost their language and their culture. They were subjected to things that I will not describe here in this House, horrible things, such as rapping their knuckles because they ate with their fingers.

When they were in their communities for the entire summer with their parents and elders, they learned to hunt and fish. They learned how to gut a fish, how to trap a rabbit, hare, deer or moose, or how to feed wolves, because they learned from the wolves where to find the deer. Yet, they lost all of this as soon as they went to the residential school.

I am sure you can imagine what happened. The children were five, six, seven or eight years old, and we know this happened every year. What happened? Horrible things happened in that Indian residential school. Here in this House, I will not talk about the sexual assaults endured by the Kistabish, the Mohawks, and the McDougalls, and I could name others. They went through some tremendous difficulties, which they hid for the most part. They could not talk about it to their parents.

What did Jackie Kistabish say when she returned to Pikogan? She said everything was fine, that it was not so bad. Her mother and grandmother were surprised to see Jackie or my friend Kistabish come home with their hair cut up to their ears. That was not the aboriginal way. At that time, they typically had long hair, although the children lost their hair in September. Their hair was cut off or shaved. When they returned home in June, they did not even understand their parents and, worse, their parents did not understand them. That is the worst of everything that was done.

I am talking about children of five or six, but this went on for about 10 years, until they were 15 or 16. They lost their whole culture, say the Anishnabe Algonquins from Pikogan and Winneway and Lac-Simon and Obidjuan.

I could name them all, and I will tell you why. I grew up to become a criminal lawyer. It is strange, but my clients included the Kistabish, McDougalls, Mohawks and many others. They wound up in court, and no one could understand why they had become alcoholic and violent. They could not go back to their home communities, places like Pikogan, Obidjuan or Pointe-Bleue.

Some time ago, I asked a question of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I received the answer today. These are recent statistics. In 2001-02, 738 aboriginal people were admitted to penitentiary to serve sentences of more than two years; in 2002-03, there were 775; in 2003-04, 752; in 2004-05, 802; in 2005-06, 891. These individuals are generally in their thirties and are serving their first sentence. Why? Maybe because they were unable to live in their home communities. Imagine their parents. We are talking about the 1950s and 1960s. These people were deprived of their rights and their culture. They were no longer able to communicate with their own parents because they were forbidden from speaking their own language.

Since 1876, 150,000 aboriginals have experienced what I just described and suffered the hell that was residential schools. Today, there are just 87,000 survivors of these residential schools. Unfortunately, they are disappearing at an average of 30 to 50 a week. Today these people are 70 to 75 years old. Some, but very few, are slightly younger at ages 55 to 60. Most of them are between 65 and 85 and they remember.

I have had the opportunity to meet with a number of these seniors—because they are seniors now—and they congratulate this House for taking provisions to resolve the residential schools issue by financially compensating the communities, and more specifically the aboriginals who experienced this hell. However, I think we need to go further. I am making an appeal in this House today. I am asking that we stop thinking in terms of political parties. Indeed, I am from the Bloc and yes, there are Liberals, our friends the New Democrats and the Conservatives. However, in light of this terrible experience aboriginals had, I think we could pass the motion today.

The motion of the Liberal member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River asks that this House apologize to the survivors of Indian residential schools for the trauma they suffered as a result of policies intended to assimilate first nations, and so forth.

In my speech, I do not want to blame the government for its inaction nor blame the previous government, which may have done nothing for 13 years; that is not what we are debating. Today, the issue is that the first nations experienced horrible things on our soil. We must not only recognize that fact and compensate them for it, but I believe we should also apologize. We did not know. We did not think this was going on. We never believed that this could have gone so far.

Unfortunately this went as far as complete assimilation of a people and as far as offensive sexual assault against children between the ages of 5 and 10. One of them told me that at the Indian residential school he saw a young boy—whom I will not name, but whom I know personally—leave the brother superior's room bleeding from a place that decency prevents me from naming in this House. But we are old enough to understand that what he experienced was appalling. This went on night after night for days and months.

How do we think these people survived for all these years? For they are people, despite the fact that for many years, right into the 1950s, some believed that Indians were not people.

Enough is enough. The Bloc Québécois and I think that the House should say enough is enough.

Apologizing will not erase what happened, nor will it make these communities forget what they went through. Suicide rates are high. One man told me that his father committed suicide and that he did not understand why until his mother told him what his father had told her—until his mother told him that his father had gone to the Saint-Marc-de-Figuery Indian residential school.

This kind of thing happened all over Canada. We have to acknowledge it, and I believe the day will come when Canada will admit that it made a mistake. Canada must apologize for what it did to the first nations, and I think the time to do so is now.

I think that with all due respect, the first nations now have everything they need to take charge of their future and to grow. The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, of which I am a member, is studying bills, such as Bill C-44. It is not perfect, but are working to improve it.

We acknowledge the rights they have won. They had to fight the government for their rights.

I will end by saying that overall, the report submitted to the committee was based on recognizing aboriginal peoples as self-governing nations that occupy a special place in Canada. However, before we can truly acknowledge that, the House must apologize sincerely to residential school survivors for the trauma they experienced.

Opposition Motion--Indian Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the previous speaker's comments. One of the statements he made is that this government has shown a blatant disregard for aboriginal people. I find that ironic coming from a member of the Liberal government that was in power for 13 years and could have addressed many of these issues.

I want the member to know that I requested to serve on the aboriginal affairs committee out of a desire to see improvement in the lives of all of our aboriginal peoples. How can the member indicate that we have a blatant disregard for aboriginal people considering the number of initiatives that the minister has already implemented?

There is the home ownership concept where aboriginal people will begin to build their own equity and have a sense of pride in ownership and investment, and the initiative to reduce the number of high risk communities. Recently, we received a report that showed that the number of high risk contaminated water communities has been reduced from 197 to 93 in the space of one year. There is the initiative to implement Bill C-44 which will end 30 years of discrimination on reserve.

There are these and many others I could outline indicating our support for aboriginal peoples. How can the member honestly say to the Canadian people that this government has shown a blatant disregard for aboriginal peoples?

Opposition Motion--Indian Residential SchoolsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of the motion of the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Peace River.

Under the watch of Canada's new government, the Indian residential schools settlement agreement received its final court approval on March 21. This historic agreement will foster reconciliation between aboriginal people who resided at these schools, their families and communities, and all Canadians.

It was the current Minister of Indian Affairs who challenged the former Liberal government to take real action on achieving resolution to this sad chapter in Canadian history. It is that minister who has shepherded the agreement to where it is now.

I believe that it is most important at this time to take all the steps necessary to ensure that the agreement is implemented as soon as possible so that former students and their families who decide to remain in their settlement may benefit from it. That is why we are working hard toward the implementation of the settlement agreement, which includes elements such as the truth and reconciliation commission, a common experience payment, and funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

While I agree that this specific initiative requires immediate and sustained attention, I also believe it is essential to look beyond this one issue to the wider array of challenges that face all aboriginal people and communities in Canada. I can point with pride to the significant progress that Canada's new government has made in working in partnership with aboriginal groups and it is making progress in these areas to address a number of challenges.

For instance, let me discuss Bill C-44, an act to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The bill was introduced in the House on December 13 last year and is currently being considered by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, of which I am very honoured to be a member. Bill C-44 would end an exemption included in the original legislation when it was put into force 30 years ago, a measure designed to be temporary. Here we are 30 years later and this temporary measure remains in place. This needs to change.

In order to investigate and adjudicate alleged acts of discrimination, the Canadian Human Rights Act established two bodies: the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Over the past three decades the Canadian Human Rights Act has served to strengthen democracy in this country. Unfortunately, not all Canadians enjoy access to the legal instruments provided by the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act states:

Nothing in this Act affects any provision of the Indian Act or any provision made under or pursuant to that Act.

This simple sentence effectively denies some Canadians access to the remedies granted in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Section 67 shields the Indian Act and any decisions made or actions taken under the Indian Act from the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Under section 67, potentially discriminatory decisions made by agencies mandated by the Indian Act, such as band councils, school boards, as well as the federal government itself are exempted from the Canadian Human Rights Act. These decisions often touch on crucial aspects of day to day life, such as education, housing, registration, and the use and occupation of reserve lands. In effect, section 67 puts into question our claim to be a fair and egalitarian society.

As a consequence of this exemption, individuals, mostly residents of first nation communities, have had limited recourse under the Canadian Human Rights Act should they feel that their rights have been violated. This fundamental injustice is a blemish on Canada's democracy. Section 67 clearly permits discrimination against particular groups of citizens.

The exemption creates an odd irony of sorts. Legislation designed to promote equality effectively sanctions discrimination. Under section 67, thousands of Canadians cannot fully avail themselves of the legal instruments that combat discrimination. What is particularly unsettling is that section 67 affects many of Canada's most vulnerable citizens, the residents of first nation communities.

Support for the repeal of section 67 comes from a wide variety of groups, including the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, which called for the repeal of section 67 in its 2005 report on matrimonial real property on reserves, “Walking Arm-In-Arm to Resolve the Issue of On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property”.

Support for the committee's position on the matter at that time was based largely on the testimony of representatives of several key groups, including the Native Women's Association of Canada. Over the years, calls for the repeal of section 67 have come from several other groups, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

It is a simple issue of human rights. Canada must not perpetuate the discrimination inherent in section 67, and nothing will change unless action is taken. The time has come to ensure that all Canadians are treated equally before the law. Bill C-44 proposes a fair, realistic approach to ending nearly three decades of sanctioned discrimination. We must seize the opportunity before us and ensure access to full human rights, ensuring that those rights are provided to all.

Now is the time to act and to end the injustice that was created as a so-called temporary measure 30 years ago. The repeal of section 67 is just one of many examples of Canada's new government's commitment to resolving the challenges that face aboriginal people in Canada and to improving the quality of life in aboriginal communities.

The member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has touched on a subject of equal importance today: the fair and expedient implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. It is through this agreement that the healing and reconciliation needed will in fact be fostered.

As I stand in support of the member's motion, I urge his party to stand up for the rights of all aboriginal Canadians and support human rights on reserve. I urge the party opposite to support Bill C-44. Aboriginal Canadians are counting on us to do the right