Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act

An Act to give effect to the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Chuck Strahl  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment gives effect to the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement. It also includes a consequential amendment to an Act.

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.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2009 / 11:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to talk about Bill C-291, which seeks to implement an appeal division for refugee claims, introduced by my Bloc Québécois colleague, the member for Jeanne-Le Ber.

It goes without saying that I wholeheartedly support this Bloc Québécois bill. It is a fairly simple bill, but it is important because it would implement the refugee appeal division. Once Bill C-291 has been passed and has received royal assent, three sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, sections 110, 111 and 171, will come into force. These three sections would come into force one year after this bill receives royal assent.

The Bloc Québécois has decided to introduce a bill to ensure full enforcement of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

A proper appeal process for refugee claimants ought to have been put in place as soon as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2002 took effect in 2002. This is one of the significant changes required to ensure that asylum seekers are treated fairly and equitably.

The creation of the refugee appeal division is a matter of justice. To persist in not making this change, as the two most recent governments have done, is to allow a situation that is unfair to asylum seekers to continue.

When the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was drafted, the refugee appeal division was seen as a fair compromise to satisfy the desire to move from two board members responsible for examining asylum claims to just one. Yet now we have the worst of both worlds. There is only one board member, not two, to examine the files, and there is no refugee appeal division.

The arbitrary aspect of the system is being magnified by the government's inaction and the piecemeal approach to implementing the new legislation. For four years now, the federal government has been stubbornly postponing the establishment of the refugee appeal division, as called for in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It is time for the Conservative government to comply with the legislation and implement the refugee appeal division.

The federal government claims that a safety net already exists, consisting of the opportunity to request a pre-removal risk assessment—also known as a PRRA—a judicial review by the Federal Court, or permanent resident status on humanitarian grounds. However, unlike a refugee appeal division, they do not offer any protection for refugees. The Federal Court provides only for a judicial review and does not provide for a review of the facts of a case.

There is also a flagrant lack of political will to establish the refugee appeal division, or RAD, which, I would remind the House, is already enshrined in the legislation. After their own legislation came into effect, the Liberals avoided establishing the RAD. Now that the Conservatives are in power, the former immigration minister still has not established the RAD, despite the positions his party took in the past.

In 2004, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration adopted a motion calling on the then Liberal government to establish the refugee appeal division or rapidly come up with a solution. Yet the government has consistently refused to comply with the committee's motion.

The Bloc Québécois tabled an almost identical bill in the 39th Parliament. Our bill was passed by the House on October 16, 2007 and sent to the Senate to be studied. The bill passed third reading stage in the other chamber. However, because of the elections in the fall of 2008, our bill did not receive royal assent and died on the order paper.

Many groups in civil society in Quebec, Canada and the international community are demanding that a refugee appeal division be established. These include the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Committee against Torture, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Bar Association, Amnesty international, the Civil Liberties Union, and the KAIROS group.

There are four reasons why the refugee appeal division should be established: efficiency, consistency of the law, justice, and political reasons that I will explain.

A specialized refugee appeal division is a much more efficient means of dealing with unsuccessful claimants than the Federal Court, an application for pre-removal risk assessment or requests on humanitarian grounds. The refugee appeals division can do a better job of correcting errors of law or fact.

The second reason is consistency of the law. An appeal division deciding on the merits of the case is the only body able to ensure consistency of jurisprudence both in the analysis of facts and in the interpretations of legal concepts in the largest administrative tribunal in Canada.

In other words, an appeal mechanism helps the system to make decisions by establishing precedents that will be applied to lower court rulings when the facts are exactly the same.

The third reason has to do with justice. The decision to refuse refugee status has extremely serious consequences, including death, torture and detention. As in matters of criminal law, the right to appeal to a higher court is essential for the proper administration of justice. Because human error occurs in any decision-making process, it should be standard practice to have an appeal process, especially to offset the fact that decisions are now made by a single board member.

As I said earlier, the fourth reason is political. By not establishing the refugee appeal division, the federal government is going against the will of Parliament—which is a serious matter—and of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which has called for such an appeal division. As I said, this is a serious matter.

The Bloc Québécois is dismayed by the lack of justice shown by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration when dealing with refugees since the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came into force in 2001.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to place this bill in context.

In 2001, during the first session of the 37th Parliament, the Minister of Immigration introduced Bill C-11 in this House, concerning persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger who apply to enter Canada and receive refugee protection.

Bill C-11 was designed to update the former Immigration Act, which had been passed in 1976 and amended more than 30 times.

Unlike Bill C-11, which was passed in 2002, the Immigration Act, 1976, did not provide for a refugee appeal division. To make up for the fact that there was no refugee appeal division, two board members examined refugee claims.

Claims were granted if one of the two board members ruled in favour of the claimant. However, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act cut the number of board members from two to one.

The refugee appeal division makes up for the absence of one board member and offsets the arbitrary power the remaining board member has in ruling on refugee claims. The Bloc Québécois considered this an acceptable compromise under the new act.

Why was the number of board members reduced from two to one? It would seem it was for the sake of efficiency.

On March 20, 2001, the former chair of the IRB, the Immigration and Refugee Board, Peter Showler, told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that:

In contrast to the present model, where claims are normally heard by two-member panels, the vast majority of protection decisions will be made by a single member. Single-member panels are a far more efficient means of determining claims. It is true that claimants will no longer enjoy the benefit of the doubt currently accorded them with two-member panels, and I think that should be noted. However, any perceived disadvantage is more than offset by the creation of the refugee appeal division, the RAD, where all refused claimants and the minister have a right of appeal on RPD decisions.

According to the former chair of the IRB, the presence of the refugee appeal division justified moving from two members to one for asylum claims. However, we still do not have an appeal division.

The act contains three sections to create an IRB-administered refugee appeal division. Citizenship and Immigration Canada briefly defines the refugee appeal division as follows:

The refugee appeal division will provide failed refugee claimants and the minister with the right to a paper appeal of a decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board. Unsuccessful refugee claimants have the right to apply for judicial review in the Federal Court.

More specifically, the three sections that create the refugee appeal division are as follows:

110. (1) A person or the Minister may appeal, in accordance with the rules of the Board, on a question of law, of fact or of mixed law and fact, to the Refugee Appeal Division against a decision of the Refugee Protection Division to allow or reject the person’s claim for refugee protection, or a decision of the Refugee Protection Division rejecting an application by the Minister for a determination that refugee protection has ceased or an application by the Minister to vacate a decision to allow a claim for refugee protection.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that these arguments have persuaded members of other parties, particularly the governing party, to vote in favour of Bill C-291.

June 3rd, 2008 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Hence we have the problems with this bill, Bill C-11, with regard to protecting consumers. They have been well flagged. We've heard the parliamentary secretary on the status. The status is as simple as this: they're going to meet again informally. “Informally” is the key word here. I don't know the extent of where that work goes. The substance of the motion is really in the word “extent”.

We have the minister coming before committee for estimates, so I guess these questions can be asked of the minister then. But we have to decide whether we're going to pass this motion or not. Unfortunately, there probably won't be time before the minister comes to committee and prior to the break for the summer. I know that the real substance of this is very weak in the sense that we really can't compel, unless we want to stay for a special session. We can do that. We can have that as an option. But we're going to have to find another window of opportunity if we sincerely want to have the minister here on this particular file before the summer break. So we need to hash that out and decide.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2008 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate today from a Liberal Party perspective on Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence. This bill is mainly comprised of technical changes and amendments.

Normally, when the House receives bills of this technical nature, members of Parliament will often rely on the bureaucrats to highlight deficiencies in the present act or acts. In this case it is my understanding that the transport committee has made changes based on consultation with all stakeholders and this bill has everyone's support.

It is common knowledge that transportation in Canada is essential. And when I talk about transportation, I am talking about all types of transportation, including water, road, air transportation and so on.

Transportation has always been an essential part of building this country from the beginning, when our forefathers came here by boat and continued to use seaways as a primary mode of transportation until the invention of airplanes.

Furthermore, let us not forget that water was one of the few efficient ways of travel in Canada's formative years. And then, how can we forget, the building of Canada's railway from east to west which was the cornerstone of unifying and keeping this country together.

Things have evolved and our way of doing things has changed, but the transportation sector is still essential to this country's economy. The Liberal Party has always been a part of the transportation sector's evolution.

There is no denying that the Liberal Party, whether in government or in opposition, has always been a part of laying the groundwork to ensure that we have a network of infrastructure and transportation to allow this wonderful country to reach its fullest economic potential.

Our Canadian ports are fundamental to the development of trade. They enhance the opportunities for every Canadian to access our abundant natural resources across the country, so that they can be sold to foreign markets that can utilize the product for value added or for direct consumption.

Trade is a key factor in the Canadian economy and without the necessary infrastructure and means of transportation, Canada would be unable to reach its maximum potential to benefit all Canadians.

With that being said, as parliamentarians we cannot afford to miss opportunities to promote our Canadian ports. These kinds of initiatives would compel us to utilize portions of our infrastructure funds, in addition stimulate our rail network and a pan-Canadian road network to encourage growth, and to develop an economy that goes beyond a micro-economy and expand it to a regional and national one.

In 1998, under 13 years of successful Liberal government, the Canada Marine Act received royal assent. The Canada Marine Act was the first comprehensive piece of legislation to govern several aspects of Canada's transport legislation.

The Canada Marine Act was a component in the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the framework for a strategic gateway and trade corridors, and included provisions for the further commercialization of federal ferry services.

In 2003, a review of the legislation was compiled to ensure that the government continued to make all the ports in Canada economically competitive, specifically ports in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

May I remind the Conservative government that the bill before us comes from a Liberal bill, formerly C-61. I am pleased that the Conservatives have the ability to recognize good fundamental pieces of legislation that are beneficial to the Canadian economy and place partisanship aside.

If it were not for the NDP and the Bloc forcing an election, good pieces of legislation such as Bill C-23, Bill C-7, Bill C-3, Bill C-11 and Bill C-8, all based on Liberal transport bills which died on the order paper, could have been passed much sooner.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities heard from port authorities, other stakeholders and read written submissions to the committee on Bill C-23. An overwhelming consensus between stakeholders seems to exist, indicating that the committee should move forward and adopt Bill C-23 which is why we are debating this in the House today.

Some of the benefits of Bill C-23 include access to contribution funding. The fact that access to contribution funding will now be permitted, the Canada Port Authority can apply for contribution funding for infrastructure and security for environmentally sustainable projects.

The bill also addresses governance. With the changes in the governance policy in the Canada Marine Act, the port authorities would now be more in control of their destiny as they would have the ability to promote a more stable, long term management framework.

Bill C-23 would also allow for borrowing limits. With this act, the port authorities would now have the ability to borrow and, thus, would directly allow the Vancouver Port Authority, the Montreal Port Authority and the Halifax Port Authority to move to a commercially based borrowing system.

Bill C-23 would also allow for amalgamation. In the act, the Fraser River port, the North Fraser Port, would be allowed to amalgamate with the Vancouver Port, which would allow for a centralized body and would, in turn, be beneficial to all British Columbian ports in terms of efficiency, whether it be financial resources, human resources or other benefits that would arise from centralization.

The bill also addresses enforcement. Bill C-23 would also give the port authorities the ability to enforce minor violations by having the ability to impose monetary penalties, making it easier to enforce and manage minor violations.

Again, it is my understanding from members of the transport committee, and I cannot stress this enough, that all the stakeholders appearing before the committee spoke positively toward the bill. Members in the House should not confuse the positive aspects which came out of the committee that considered, deliberated and debated Bill C-23.

I urge all members to support the legislation for the good of the Canadian economy.

March 5th, 2008 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

I have a couple of comments quickly, because it has been referenced a couple of times.

I want to touch on Bill C-47. I invite committee members to have a look at it. I realize it's not at this committee as yet, but it has been tabled by committee members. It really was an extensive effort to get the best bill we could for aboriginal women particularly, and families, who right now don't have any rules, if you will, that govern the distribution of matrimonial property in the case of a marriage break-up.

This bill was put together. We had extensive consultations with the AFN, with the aboriginal women's groups, and a special ministerial representative travelled the country. I think they had over 97 meetings to consult on this bill. There were a lot of recommendations that I think strengthened the bill. Just like Bill C-30, it's a better bill now because of those consultations.

I think it's a very good package. I realize there was reluctance to pass it today at all stages, but I'd urge all members to have a good look at it. I think it does an excellent job of balancing the collective rights of first nations, which is common land management and things held in common, with the rights of individual first nations who have to live on that land.

It is a bit of a tricky balance, but I think we've done a good job, with the help of a lot of first nations organizations and people who helped us craft a very good bill.

I'd urge all members to have a look at that, even before it comes to committee. If you have any advice for me, please let me know. I think it's a very good bill, which was made better by that consultation process.

With respect to Bill C-11, again, I was in Quebec City for a ceremony on that. This is a very good move toward self-government for the people in the region. One of the first meetings I had was in Kuujjuaq. I think it was the first week I had in this new job. We had discussions about moving it ahead. It was held up for a period of time in the Senate, but it's now moving ahead. All parties are supportive, and I think all concerns have been addressed.

Again, we're moving ahead. Really, all Inuit claims have now been settled. When you think of it, that's quite an accomplishment. I thank honourable members for their help to get that bill through. It's been a very good process for the Inuit and in working with the Province of Quebec.

As far as the actual estimates, Michael, could you address that?

March 4th, 2008 / 9:05 a.m.
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Cree Nation of Chisasibi

Chief Roderick Pachano

I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to appear before this committee. Our main purpose today is to outline the problem of eelgrass decline along the eastern coast of James Bay and its impact on our community. We will also provide you with some brief explanatory background.

We represent about one-third of the Cree population on the eastern coast of James Bay and Hudson Bay. Our area is the part of James Bay that has the most eelgrass.

From different perspectives--public health, nutrition, and our desire to protect our own culture and traditions--we consider the coastal ecosystem to be something that will play a key role in our survival as communities and as a people. This is our major motivation for appearing before you today.

Within the last 30 years, the freshwater flow of Chisasibi, meaning “the great river” in English, la grande rivière in French, has doubled in size as a result of diversions for hydroelectric development. It will increase again by nearly 20% when the Rupert River diversion is completed three years from now. Much of this fresh water is being added during the winter period when fresh water forms a length a few metres thick under the coastal ice shelf.

Now, when you consider all this, this is a major diversion, one of the most significant and important in North America, and we think it has received far less attention than it deserves.

As we see it, there are good reasons to be concerned about the long-term survival of our coastal waterfowl hunt and fisheries, because of the impact of a change of this magnitude in the flow of rivers, in the winter particularly. The managed flows in the winter from the hydroelectric project can multiply the discharge by a factor of roughly 10, which is bound to affect fish habitat and the coastal ecosystem generally.

The eastern James Bay coast is home to extensive marine grasslands. These eelgrass beds, as they are known, grow in a fully marine environment in water depths of one to two metres, which is accessible to waterfowl. The eelgrass is also sometimes referred to as seagrass. It is not a weed; it is an essential part of the marine environment. The eelgrass flowers, pollinates, and sets seedlings in sea water. Growth is related to salinity as well as to other factors that affect the penetration of light into the sea water.

These beds are a key element in a coastal ecosystem. They serve as feeding grounds and nurseries for coastal fish species-- whitefish, cisco, and trout--and shellfish. And they are grazed by brant, Canada geese, and ducks.

We believe that eelgrass beds are sufficiently distinctive in this region that they should be considered by Canada as part of its international commitment to the protection of biodiversity. These beds have undergone a major decline along the coast since the river diversions for the La Grande hydroelectric project and the operation of the powerhouses, which concentrate the river flow during the winter period.

The community has seen sharp declines in waterfowl numbers along the coast in recent years and a corresponding decline in hunting success. There are also concerns about fish stocks and the rest of the food chain along the coast because of the changed flows and the loss of the eelgrass beds and the fish habitat they provide.

We have been working with specialist Dr. Frederick Short from the University of New Hampshire to try to understand what is happening. With his help, we have been conducting our own environmental surveys.

Hydro-Québec has also been carrying out surveys but does not believe that the declines are related to the hydroelectric project. However, when the changes to the project were planned in the 1980s, the possible effects on the eelgrass beds were considered in a document submitted to the Quebec government, and a dieback was predicted at that time.

Hydro-Québec thinks that a wasting disease, the result of an organism known as labyrinthula zosterae--excuse my Latin--is affecting the eelgrass beds. We have looked into this, and with the help of Dr. Short, we have come to understand that the wasting disease is not the cause of the eelgrass decline. Instead, we believe that the changes in the seagrasses are well explained by the measurements of low salinities resulting from the river diversions and the managed flow regimes during the active eelgrass growing seasons. We also understand that there are other factors involved, such as turbidity resulting from erosion and landslides along the La Grande River after the development.

We have been handicapped, though, because we have not been provided with the information by Hydro-Québec on the year-by-year monthly flows, which we need to investigate this matter further and more closely. As we understand it, the only way to mitigate this effect of freshwater flow is to reassess and redirect the seasonal distribution of flows.

Because we believe the federal government has a direct interest in and responsibility for these matters, we are pleased to have this opportunity to explain our concerns. We will provide the standing committee with maps and photographs to explain the distribution of the eelgrass beds and why we are so concerned.

We therefore propose to the standing committee that there is a need for a fresh federal perspective on the impacts of development on James Bay and Hudson Bay. In making this statement, we are echoing a recommendation made by a federal panel that in 2006 studied the diversion of the Rupert River towards the La Grande River and Chisasibi.

We enclose at the end of this written presentation a recommendation that deals directly with the subject of federal involvement and the need for a concerted effort to deal with the gaps in scientific knowledge of the James Bay and Hudson Bay region during this time of environmental change, which includes climate change.

There are several related issues. The coastal and offshore environment of Chisasibi is now included in the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement, which has recently received royal assent with the passage of Bill C-11. It includes an overlap agreement between the Cree and the Inuit, which incorporates much of the area of declining eelgrass beds.

We note that there are efforts being made by the first nation and Inuit communities around Hudson Bay and James Bay to use the International Polar Year as a framework and as a stimulus to develop local capacity for monitoring environmental change in this region.

It is important that both Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada understand and appreciate why these steps are being taken. We would like to see the federal government pay much closer attention to the effects of environmental change in the James Bay and Hudson Bay region, including the effects of hydroelectric development.

We found that the federal government largely ended its involvement in the study of fish and waterfowl, including the eelgrass beds, when the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was concluded in 1975. This certainly was not what we expected or intended when the agreement was signed. This has left a great gap in the knowledge of many aspects of James Bay and Hudson Bay.

Chisasibi certainly does not consider that it is responsible for this situation, but it is interested in participating in monitoring aimed at a better understanding of environmental change and, where possible, at remedial action. However, this can be undertaken only if Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada both show a much greater commitment to investment in relevant research in the James Bay and Hudson Bay region.

We encourage the standing committee to recommend to both government departments that they act on the issues raised in this brief, and in particular on recommendation 34 in the Eastmain-1-A Rupert River review. We also propose that the standing committee remind both Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada about the importance of the implementation of the wildlife management regime in section 24 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, including in particular the principle of the guaranteed level of harvest.

I would like to thank you very much.

February 14th, 2008 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

February 14, 2008

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 14th day of February, 2008, at 9:42 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Sheila-Marie Cook

Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bills C-11, An Act to give effect to the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement and to make a consequential amendment to another Act—Chapter 2; C-3, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (certificate and special advocate) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act—Chapter 3; and S-220, An Act respecting a National Blood Donor Week—Chapter 4.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2008 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question will be very short. I do not understand how my colleague, whose remarks were very interesting, by the way, arrives at the same answer. Everything is blocked in the Senate. Any reforms the current government wants are blocked in the Senate. Bill C-11, about the Inuit in the far north, which we worked on in committee, is being considered in the Senate.

Why does he not recommend the immediate abolition of the Senate instead of trying to change it? Because it will stay the same in the coming years if it is not abolished.

November 29th, 2007 / 10:15 a.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I must say, you folks are a pretty punctual bunch.

I am pleased to be here, obviously, to have this opportunity to appear before the committee to discuss not only the supplementary estimates but the government's larger view and the challenges facing aboriginal people and the initiatives we are undertaking to address those challenges.

Although this is my first appearance as minister before this committee, I have been a member of various committees for many years. I am very conscious of the important role that committees play in the parliamentary process and I appreciate the work that you are doing.

My remarks today reference the supplementary estimates of the department. My predecessor, the Hon. Jim Prentice, appeared before you several months ago to discuss the main estimates for the current fiscal year. We're now in the next phase of the budgetary cycle.

As you may recall, this government's inaugural budget in 2006 adopted a new strategy to address aboriginal issues, targeted investments to resolve quality of life issues. This commitment was reaffirmed in Budget 2007.

This government's larger aboriginal agenda was articulated by the Prime Minister in an address in Halifax earlier this month. I was pleased to be in attendance. It focused on five areas: economic development; education; empowering first nations and protecting the vulnerable; land claims; and reconciliation governance and self-government.

To effect a real change in these areas, our approach is to build a record of results through concrete, tangible actions undertaken with willing and able partners.

The supplementary estimates helped us to achieve these results. In total, these estimates commit, through Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, $209 million in additional investments that aim to improve the lives of aboriginal people and northerners. Another $25 million is committed through Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada.

Mr. Chairman, since my appointment as minister, I have crossed the country, meeting with provincial and territorial ministers, aboriginal leaders, and private sector stakeholders, and I have visited northern communities and first nations reserves.

I am proud to note that, with our partners, this government is making real progress—and that aboriginal people and northerners are beginning to reap the benefits.

Let me address the reconciliation first. One of my first actions as minister was to meet with the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and a group of former residential school students in Winnipeg.

I realize that addressing the legacy of Indian residential schools is personally wrenching for many of these folks, and it is extremely complex, but it is the right thing to do, and we will do it right.

Let me be perfectly clear on the point that contrary to a recent and incorrect media report, the full $1.9 billion in support of the common experience payment for the settlement agreement is available for former Indian residential school students. The $1.9 billion in funding is managed through a trust account, minus the advance payments of $82.6 million that have already been made to 10,326 former students, which this government provided in advance of the implementation of the agreement to former students who were 65 or older on May 30, 2005.

This government is also moving to fulfill its lawful obligation to first nations through a significant retooling of the specific claims resolution process. On Tuesday, I had the honour of introducing Bill C-30, the Specific Claims Tribunal Act in the House. This progressive legislation will establish an independent tribunal to make binding decisions on specific claims that have been rejected for negotiation, or when negotiations have failed. It is the critical element in the implementation of the broader specific claims action plan announced by Prime Minister Harper on June 12.

This government recognizes the importance to first nations of the timely resolution of both comprehensive and specific claims. For instance, the single biggest amount in the supplementary estimates involves nearly $31 million to support implementation of the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement. Bill C-11, the bill to enact the agreement, is now before the Senate.

In addition to this legislation, we are working in partnership with Inuit and Quebec leaders in other areas of interest. In August I met with Inuit and provincial, federal, and local government leaders at a conference in Kujuuaq, with a view to opening new horizons in the development of Nunavik. We agreed to set up a tripartite working group to ensure that the spirit of working in partnership established at that meeting continues to guide the future development of Nunavik.

I am also pleased to highlight that we are making great strides in the treaty land entitlement settlements. When I met with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in August, I was pleased to note that more than twice the amount of land in that province was converted last year than converted since the TLE agreements were signed in the 1990s. The addition of these lands will help foster stronger first nations economies and bring economic benefits to surrounding areas as well.

The funding provided by these supplementary estimates will assist my department in delivering on another of our priorities: protecting the vulnerable. Earlier this year, a tripartite agreement was signed in Alberta allowing for the use of a prevention-based service model to deliver child and family services to Alberta first nations. The supplementary estimates allow $15.3 million toward the delivery of these services.

Let me also note that just under $9 million will go toward enhanced spending for shelters for victims of family violence and prevention-related community-based programs.

Economic development is another cornerstone of our prosperity initiatives, so we are working to create a more coherent and practical approach to increasing aboriginal participation in the economy. The National Aboriginal Economic Development Board will be assisting us with implementing this approach. In April our government named new members, and a new chairman, Chief Clarence Louie. They will provide invaluable advice in such areas as investment strategies, business creation, and access to business capital.

Since my appointment as minister, I have had the opportunity to speak with the board, and I met recently with Chief Louie in Vancouver to discuss these and other important issues.

Of course, the north is an extremely important part of my mandate as well. I have made a number of trips north of 60 in the past months, talking to territorial and Inuit leaders about their plans and aspirations. Every time I visit, I am impressed by the immense potential of this region and its people.

Our government is working to achieve real progress in the north in four priority areas: strengthening arctic sovereignty, promoting social and economic development, protecting our environmental heritage, and improving and developing northern governance. The actions we take in support of these priorities will benefit not only northerners, but all Canadians. We are establishing a Canadian Forces training centre in Resolute Bay, and a deep-water docking and refueling facility in Nanisivik provides some of the infrastructure needed to exercise sovereignty.

We have also taken other significant action. For example, further investments in the International Polar Year are included in these supplementary estimates; we will get the job done on seabed mapping; and a world-class arctic research station will yield the knowledge we need to make sound decisions on environmental, social, and economic policies.

The final point I would like to raise concerns the food mail program, in support of which the supplementary estimates call for an investment of $20 million. I discussed food mail with northern officials when I was in Kuujjuaq. I want to emphasize that although there are cost and delivery issues concerning this program—and we are working to address those and make the program more cost-effective—the food mail program should play a vital role in ensuring that people living in northern communities have access to healthy, nutritious food.

Mr. Chairman, I have outlined what I believe were some impressive accomplishments, but this government does not plan to stop here. Our parliamentary agenda is also a full one. For instance, I am looking forward to working with this committee on Bill C-21, currently before you, and on the Specific Claims Tribunal Act, which I have also mentioned.

Also, the B.C. legislature recently passed legislation to implement the Tsawwassen agreement. I will be introducing federal legislation in the near future to bring this agreement into full force and effect.

The investments outlined in the supplementary estimates and the initiatives I have talked about this morning demonstrate this government's determination to address the whole range of aboriginal and northern issues.

Assisted by the addition of $209 million to my department's total budget from the supplementary estimates, we will help strengthen aboriginal and northern communities in this country, and work with our partners towards a rich and rewarding future for all Canadians.

I will do my best to answer any questions committee members may have. I am pleased to have officials with me to help if necessary.

November 20th, 2007 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Chair, of course this is a challenging topic. However, the perspective I would bring is that Bill C-51, the former bill, which has now been reintroduced to the same point that it was previously as Bill C-11, was endorsed by all parties. I think there are a lot of people in northern Quebec who are expecting this to occur. It is our hope that there is nothing that stands in the way of that.

It would be our suggestion not to meet at this point. I know that Mr. Lévesque has brought this up a number of times. It sounds like the committee may in fact endorse his motion. Should that be the case, we would like to recommend that the Makivik Corporation also be allowed to provide some balance during this discussion.

Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActRoutine proceedings

October 29th, 2007 / 3:05 p.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-11, An Act to give effect to the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to special order previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-51 at the time of prorogation.