Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act

An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

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 Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

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.

Votes

May 26, 2008 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

June 4th, 2008 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I know that members of Parliament are independent and that, in some matters, they can vote according to their conscience. Still, I was surprised to see that two members from your party voted against this bill. Even more surprising was the fact that one was the member for the constituency in question. I have a problem with that. Well, perhaps it is not going to be a problem for me, but it certainly is for you. I did not understand why that member voted against the bill and I still do not understand it, despite the explanations that I have been given.

How are you going to ensure that rights are respected by the local community? What are you going to do to make it clear that the First Nation had and continues to have the right to reap the rewards of Bill C-34? It seems to me that it might be difficult, especially within your own party.

June 4th, 2008 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Welcome, Mr. Minister.

Of course, I have carefully read the bill and the records of all the debates. I know that, for some people, this bill is not as important as others. But I see it as probably one of the most important bills of this session of Parliament, because it is going to open doors.

In that context, you said: "This is the first urban treaty south of the 60 th parallel in Canada..." Clearly, it is a first step. I have always said that it is easy to negotiate a treaty over uninhabited land containing nothing but lakes and mountains. At least, it can be. There are factors to take into consideration, of course.

Without asking you to break the seal of the confessional, could you tell me if any other negotiations with First Nations south of the 60 th parallel could be based on Bill C-34? Could we use this bill with the Mohawks in Caledonia, the Mohawks in Châteauguay or the Hurons in Wendake in Quebec, and, if so, in what way?

June 4th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

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

Thank you.

I'm joined here by officials who will be pleased to help the committee and me answer any questions.

It's a delight to be here today, Mr. Chairman and committee members, and I want to thank the committee members from all parties for their support for this landmark legislation.

The fact that committee members of all political stripes recognize and endorse the merits of this act speaks volumes about our shared commitment to complete the unfinished business of settling treaties with First Nations in British Columbia.

This same spirit of reconciliation characterizes the negotiations over the past 14 years. Some confusion seems to exist as to whether or not the broader public has been consulted on this legislation. In fact, I'm happy to report there were more than 70 public consultations and 28 information sessions conducted as we worked our way toward this settlement. This process has enabled everyone to have the opportunity to make their voice heard. The agreement has received widespread support among local governments, the business community, the media, and citizens.

This success underscores that comprehensive treaties are possible when all parties work together in good faith. The final agreement reinforces that reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians is best achieved through negotiation rather than through litigation and conflict, and this is the only way we can hope to establish a new relationship based on mutual recognition, respect, and trust.

Mr. Chair, despite the strong support for this legislation, there are lingering misconceptions about it, which I would like to correct today. These misconceptions do a disservice to the Tsawwassen First Nation and the governments of Canada and British Columbia, all of whom negotiated in good faith to achieve this settlement, and to all Canadians committed to justice and reconciliation with first nations.

For instance, it should be clarified that under this agreement the rights of non-members who live on leased land on the reserve will be protected. The final agreement includes numerous provisions that ensure that the rights and interests of non-member residents are protected. Non-members who live on treaty lands will be consulted on decisions that affect their interests. They will also have the same right of appeal and review procedures as first nation members. The result is that non-members living on treaty lands will have considerably more influence in Tsawwassen governments than they have had in the past. Similarly, the rights of Tsawwassen members living off-reserve are fully protected under this bill. They have the same democratic rights and the means to exercise their individual rights as resident members.

Not only are these assurances enshrined in the legislation, they are guaranteed under the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both of which apply to the Tsawwassen First Nation government in all matters.

Likewise, there have been misleading interpretations of the tax provisions of this bill. For the record, the legislation will only provide the Tsawwassen government with tax authority over Tsawwassen members living on treaty lands. It is true that leaseholders will continue to pay property taxes to the first nation, but that is already the case now, and most of these people have done so for years. However, other tax matters covered in the legislation will not in any way affect the rights of non-members or their access to public services and benefits.

Mr. Chair, while it is important to set the record straight, it's critical that we not lose sight of the countless benefits of reaching a fair and final settlement with the Tsawwassen First Nation. As you and your members have examined this bill closely, you are aware of the very real and meaningful improvements it will make in the lives of the Tsawwassen people and their neighbours in the surrounding areas.

The greatest advantage of Bill C-34 is the certainty it achieves related to Tsawwassen authorities, land and natural resources. Outstanding questions about the place of the Tsawwassen First Nation within the province are settled once and for all.

With this certainty come solutions to long-standing problems that have prevented the first nation from building a sustainable economy, creating jobs, and enhancing living standards for its members. Once it is finally free of the antiquated Indian Act, the Tsawwassen government will be able to put the settlement funds to work by investing strategically in social and economic development projects that create opportunity and increase self-sufficiency.

As Chief Kim Baird has said of the treaty, “It gives us the tools to build a healthy community and the opportunity to participate fully in the Canadian economy.” I can think of no one more capable of seizing this potential than Chief Baird. She is a remarkable young woman of vision and talent. It's no surprise that her name was on the Caldwell Partners 2007 list of the top 40 achievers under 40 in Canada for her many impressive accomplishments.

Ultimately, the Tsawwassen treaty is fair to all Canadians, as it has carefully considered and balanced the interests of all parties with a stake in this settlement. Take the example of the fishery. The agreement ensures that the first nation will have access to fish for food, social, and ceremonial purposes. But this provision is subject to conservation, public health, and public safety considerations. It's a balancing act.

The treaty provides for the integration of Tsawwassen First Nation into the metro Vancouver regional district. Tsawwassen will participate in regional planning and decision-making, and will contribute financially to regional district operations. Tsawwassen land use decisions will be bound by the same obligations that apply to other local governments.

The final agreement contains provisions related to overlapping claims by other first nations. The treaty contains specific provisions to safeguard the rights of other first nations, and this has led to widespread support among them for the Tsawwassen final agreement.

This historic settlement is truly cause for celebration. It represents an important step in restoring the proud heritage of the Tsawwassen people. Just as crucial, it's a giant step forward in aboriginal and non-aboriginal relations. This is the first urban treaty south of 60 in Canada--something that would have been inconceivable even a decade ago.

It wasn't always easy. But at the end of the day, all sides demonstrated a genuine desire to put the past behind them and discuss a broad range of issues of mutual concern in an open, cooperative fashion in order to achieve a better future.

As much as the provisions contained in this bill bring the promise of opportunity and prosperity to the first nation, the Tsawwassen final agreement is testament to the renewed respect and spirit of reconciliation on the part of the Tsawwassen people, British Columbians, and all Canadians, as we discover new and productive ways to live in harmony together.

This is an extraordinary accomplishment that deserves the full backing of all parliamentarians. I hope that I will be able to continue to count on your support as we move this groundbreaking legislation forward.

Thank you.

June 4th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to this, the 32nd meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

For those of you who have been waiting since 3:30, I apologize for the delay from the members. We were busy voting in the House. We got here as quickly as we could.

Minister, I appreciate that you initially were scheduled from 3:30 to 4:30, but if we could push that another 15 minutes until 4:45, we could have 45 minutes for you and then 45 minutes for our next witness as well. That would allow us to finish by around 5:30.

Today we are meeting, pursuant to the Order of the Reference of Monday, May 23, 2008, regarding C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I would like to welcome the minister, the Honourable Chuck Strahl.

I understand you have an opening statement, sir. The floor is yours.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 26th, 2008 / 6:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-34.

Call in the members.

The House resumed from May 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to committee.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2008 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-34, the enactment of the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement.

I listened with great interest to some of the debate on this legislation. I stand rather reluctantly, I guess, because this is like déjà vu for me. I am hearing the same statements and arguments being made that were made for the Nisga'a treaty. We have people asking why people should still be bound by a 132-year-old Indian Act and yet we are trying to give an opportunity for bands to get out from the Indian Act, move forward and create a more positive future for their people. Each time a Parliament has tried to get Indian bands out of the rules of the Indian Act, we see resistance everywhere, even from some of the people who are affected by the land claims agreements.

I know we will never have one land claims agreement that every member will agree with. It saddens me greatly that people are looking for only negative consequences of these agreements.

Again I go back to the days when we were trying to get the Nisga'a treaty passed in this House. We heard many arguments from the same members who are speaking against this one in the House of Commons and yet, democratically, this agreement was passed by its members. If a bill is passed or an agreement is ratified by its members democratically and the majority approve it, then people argue that it was not done fairly, that it was not done in a way that passed the scrutiny of fairness. It is difficult to convince naysayers because they will never agree that this can benefit people.

I have been to some of those communities where they have absolutely no hope of getting out from the oppression of poverty. We have heard sad stories from across this country about what is happening on reserves that we would not tolerate anywhere else in the world.

We have people fighting in Afghanistan to create opportunities for the people there to receive good education and for women and children to participate in education, opportunities that we in our own country would never consider denying anyone. People in our Canadian Forces are dying fighting for the rights of the people of Afghanistan and yet here in Canada we continue to hold people under the thumb of the Indian Act and allow them to live in poverty, with no hope for the future. They live in conditions that we would not tolerate anywhere else and yet we find ourselves in the House of Commons today debating the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement that would give opportunity for a band to move forward, to take advantage of economic opportunities and create hope for their children.

Some people have asked what we see in this agreement that would lead to the social improvement of the people. I have said this before and I will say it again. We cannot bottle the hope that we give people. We cannot put a dollar figure on the improvement in people's well-being when it is in their heart. We cannot say that it will cost x number of dollars to see someone finish high school and become a contributor to their society instead of landing in jail and becoming a statistic or becoming a statistic in suicide.

We can count all the negatives that happen to people. We can do statistics on how much money we are spending on welfare. We can see numbers for the amount of money spent for children in care among our aboriginal people and yet we cannot put a dollar figure to the positive lives that we have been able to see from the different land claims that have been achieved in this country.

As a beneficiary to our Nunavut land claims agreement, I can tell the House what that means for me, for my parents and other people I encounter in our communities. However, I cannot give the dollar figure and the statistics of what that means for people in that they are finally able to be part of the decision making process that governs our lives.

As Chief Kim Baird said, ”every land claims agreement is a compromise”, but it must be if we are going to get all parties at the table agreeing to a settlement or an agreement. At the end of the day, we all need to be able to walk away from that table feeling that we have made some contribution and that everyone worked together to come up with the best agreement that people can ratify, support and move on with their lives.

Many people do not realize just how much the Indian Act controls people's lives, which we would never be allowed to happen anywhere else. Just because it has been around for so long and people have started to accept it as a normal way of life, does not excuse the governments of the day for not improving how we deal with aboriginal lives on reserve. We are dealing with different pieces of legislation. We have Bill C-21 , which tries to remove section 67 of the Human Rights Act. We have the legislation that is before us now. We already spoke to Bill C-30. Those are all the different pieces of legislation that try to make improvements to an Indian Act that has controlled the lives of a group of people who were one of the first peoples of this country.

I have a story here about this agreement that was written in the Canadian Geographic. One of the stories talks about how, when the provincial government broke ground for its ferry terminal in 1958, the first anyone knew about it was when a foreman knocked at the chief's door at six in the morning asking where his crew should park their trucks. This was a statement by Kim Baird, the current chief of the Tsawwassen. Because there was a long house in its path, the government contractors unceremoniously tore it down.

This might not seem that significant to people, but I ask members to visualize someone coming through our communities and tearing down a longhouse or a very important part of a community and the uproar that would happen today if any of us saw that happen in one of our communities. It is very difficult to speak of.

I have stories from my own history of people coming in and deciding that they knew better than we did how to run our lives. They just took control and took action that we would never tolerate today. Those different standards for many situations are not tolerable today but were acceptable in the past.

However, to completely break down people and expect them to rise above all of that without any assistance is asking too much of people.

We see natural disasters happening all over the world, where everything in a community is destroyed. The generosity of people in helping rebuild those communities is something that we can all strive to help with. The human part of us always wants to help those whose lives have been devastated by circumstances beyond their control.

Why we would not apply that same generosity to people who live among us in this country is beyond me. If only most of us really knew what conditions people live in. Then we would not just hear about it, have it fly over our heads and say that we have heard about this for so many years that the story is getting old. We would not be saying that we should move on to something else.

It is very sad and troubling that we have to keep advocating on behalf of people who want to control their own lives. It is very sad that we have to see obstacles all the time when people want to accept responsibility for their communities, move on, make their own decisions and create a future for their people.

The history of this country is built on people overcoming great adversity. The history of our country is that people have had to overcome great challenges to build this country up to where it is today. We aboriginal people are no different. We want to overcome our history and become contributors to society and to this country and its economic development.

We want our children to finish high school, go on to post-secondary education, provide for their own families and live in healthy, safe communities. This is no different from any person born in this country or who comes to this country as an immigrant.

If we do not provide the basic and I feel fundamental assistance to people who want to rise above the poverty and the social challenges in their communities, I do not know what more to say to convince people. We have to support people who want to move on.

I know there are many details that I am sure my colleague across the way will ask me about in trying to convince me why we should not support the legislation. However, at the end of the day it is about people who democratically voted to support an agreement that they know will create some uncertainty for their members and may give them uncertain times in the future, but it does provide certainty in the realm in which they can work.

The Indian bands that are operating under the Indian Act cannot even go to a bank, ask for loans and carry on with economic development opportunities in their communities. They cannot participate in any of the benefits that are happening on the very lands to which they have an attachment, because there is no obligation for many of these private companies--or even provincial governments--to come to an impact and benefit agreement with them.

It is very sad that the people who most need the economic development opportunities and who most need the jobs and the training do not benefit from the prosperous activities happening on the very lands that are in question.

That is why we went ahead with Bill C-30. That will take care of some of the specific claims, which will help bands come to some economic opportunity, or it will settle claims where they feel they have been wrongly treated, although I am having difficulty with the words for this. However, I know that in the specific claims process people will be able, hopefully, to settle the very issues that are hindering them from moving forward.

I am in support of the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement because I see it as one way of settling some of these long outstanding issues that have plagued many first nation bands across this country. I have been a member of Parliament for almost 11 years. I have seen great strides in bringing to a close some of the longstanding issues. I have seen many land claims agreements signed and put into place in the time that I have been a member.

I am very proud that all Inuit in Canada have now settled their land claims. Of course, this is not the be-all and end-all or the only solution for improving the lives of aboriginal people in this country, but it is a fair step that we can move forward from.

I am not saying that since we have signed our Nunavut land claims agreement every problem has been solved, but it certainly has given hope and an opportunity to people who feel that they now have a role to play in helping make decisions that concern their lives.

Yes, it was a compromise, as is this very agreement that we are talking about for the people of Tsawwassen. No, it is not going to solve every problem for them, but it gives them a framework that they can work in and they will know that they have the legal opportunity to help make decisions in their area that affect the lives of their people.

I urge people to support this bill so it can be sent to committee. I look forward to hearing from witnesses there. Hopefully we will move this file forward to the Senate and see a conclusion for the long hours of work that people have done on this agreement.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2008 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

When we were last discussing Bill C-34, there were 10 minutes left under questions and comments for the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca and the hon. member for Delta—Richmond East has a question.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2008 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-34. I compliment the member for Delta—Richmond East for his fine speech on this complicated issue. Perhaps one of the most important things I can do is reiterate that people ought to go to his website to see the extensive analysis he has done on this bill because it is a landmark bill. It is the first urban treaty in Canada.

I think everyone wants to see an end to the land claims issue. Aboriginal people definitely need these treaties to be negotiated and completed. They have gone on for far too long. Moneys have been drawn to areas where they should not have been and away from the absolute needs of aboriginal people living on and off reserve. Unfortunately, there is an area of the bill where there are some deep concerns.

I want to reiterate what this bill is about. It deals with about 160 band members and 500 non-resident members on the reserve. The bill would actually give $20 million to the band reserve and would distribute about 334 hectares of land.

In part, this a good thing because it would remove members of the Tsawwassen band away from the shackles of the Indian Act, a 132 year old act that, in my view, is a major obstacle to aboriginal people being masters of their destiny. The Indian Act, as governed and executed by the Department of Indian Affairs, spends about $9.2 billion a year for about 640 bands and those moneys are distributed through a staggering 1,200 organizations. As a result, only a small amount of money trickles down to the grassroots aboriginal people.

Aboriginal people are also encumbered by a structure where they are not the masters of their destiny. Do members know that aboriginal people living on reserve cannot own that land? Do members know that the lack of ownership impedes the ability of individual aboriginal members, band councils and chiefs to go to banks and borrow money. If they could borrow money, they could use it for economic development. It is heartbreaking to see band members, councils and chiefs, who desperately want to develop their land, to be hamstrung by the Indian Act which prevents them from moving forward.

Do members know that a chief on a reserve must go through a shocking six different federal departments to move forward on a plan? Why does an aboriginal chief councillor or band member need to go through six federal departments, through a period four times longer than a non-aboriginal person and are then confronted with a whole raft of rules and regulations if they want to develop? That is fundamentally wrong and it is racist.

The structure we have right now is appalling because it creates a two tiered situation. It separates aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people, not in a positive way but in a horribly negative way.

We should, in my view, have a place in our country where aboriginal and non-aboriginal people can come together in the sharing of cultures, language, art and history, and can come together in a beautiful way. In sharing those things, it enriches all of us. Unfortunately, however, there are very few opportunities for this.

Some people are trying to do this, such as Arthur Vickers, a very famous aboriginal artist in my province of British Columbia. He is now trying to lead on the pulling people together. He is building a centre where aboriginal and non-aboriginal people can come together and share their histories, their past, their future and come together as one race, and that is the human race. People like Arthur Vickers are trying to do that but it is very difficult.

Another person, Chief Russell Chipps of the Beecher Band Reserve in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, is reaching out to a community that has been devastated by sexual abuse and violence. It is a small community where many of the children have been sexually abused and many of the adults have fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects. Out of this swamp of devastation, we have the leadership of Chief Chipps and the men and women on his reserve who are trying to build something. They are building a canoe out of a very large log and are inviting aboriginal and non-aboriginal people to come to their reserve and share in the building of this canoe. What will they do with it? They will get in the canoe this summer and take it out to another part of Vancouver Island.

The beauty of this is not only in the canoe but in the wisdom of Chief Chipps and the people in his community in Beecher Bay who are trying to reach out, in the midst of the devastation, destruction and horrible socio-economic situation, with love and affection. They want to share what they have with all of us, which is the beauty of their history, their culture and their language.

Those acts of heroism should be applauded, embraced and encouraged.

The bill has some good parts but there are also some other fundamental issues that my colleague, the member for Delta—Richmond East, and people like Bertha Williams, have articulated. I did not know this, but I cannot imagine why $15,000 in bribes were given to band members to vote for this particular agreement. That is not democratic.

What are the checks and balances to ensure that members of the Tsawwassen band, those who live on the land, work the land, build for the future and build the socio-economic conditions for their people, for themselves, for their children and their grandchildren, are the people empowered to do what they need to do to share in the bounty and benefits of the land and of this country?

That is not necessarily happening. Bertha Williams and others have deep concerns and those concerns must be responded to factually but those concerns are not being responded to. I have not seen any evidence, quite frankly, that those concerns have been responded to. If they are not responded to, what does this mean for future treaties? What does this mean for aboriginal people living on reserves where these treaties are negotiated but where their rights may be trampled upon, unbeknown to most of us?

This bill is a well-meaning treaty. I know what is intended but I wonder whether our intentions will marry up with the future outcomes?

We have all seen, on too many reserves, where band leaderships have taken it upon themselves to engage in acts of nepotism that leave certain groups within their reserves completely disarticulated from their communities. The level of abuse that takes place is horrific. Could this happen? What are the checks and balances in the bill to prevent this from happening? People like Bertha Williams and the members who did not vote for this treaty, and the people on the reserve who will be confronted by this need answers. It is the responsibility of this House to ensure those questions are responded to.

People like the member for Delta—Richmond East must be at the centre of the consultation, with people like Bertha Williams and members on the reserve who have these questions. We would be abrogating our responsibility as elected people if those people who are at the heart of this did not have their say.

The bill can go forward in a constructive way or it can go forward in a way that conditions could be put in place and the law of unintended consequences could occur so that people who want to live their lives and enjoy in the bounties of their land would not be able do that.

The member mentioned a fundamental violation of rights, which is to pay taxes but not be able to vote. Could anyone imagine that we would pass legislation in this House enabling people to pay taxes but depriving them of their vote? That must be in some way be a violation of the charter and it should be challenged.

Those are the questions that need to be answered.

The other issue concerns control over housing and jobs. If this bill is passed, what would be there to ensure that band members who live on the reserve will have fair and equal opportunity for housing and job opportunities? Will that be there or will it be subject to a degree of nepotism that could run amok? We have seen that before and we cannot allow that to happen. It is too important for this to occur because of the downstream implications of this.

The other issue concerns people who are not living anywhere near Tsawwassen, or even living in other countries, but are receiving economic benefits because they are members of the band. Is that fair, reasonable and responsible? This gives money to people who have no connection whatsoever with the land in practice and takes money away from those band members who live on the reserve and who need money desperately for economic development, housing, economic opportunities and health care.

My colleague, who spoke eloquently yesterday about the aboriginal peoples, is an aboriginal woman. I am sure most Canadians do not know this but aboriginal people fall between the cracks on health care. The federal government has a fiduciary responsibility in health care but it downloads it to the provinces. The provinces say that it is not their responsibility, that it is the responsibility of the federal government. What happens to an aboriginal person who is a patient is that he or she frequently falls through the cracks. Aboriginal people are in no man's land, limbo. At a time when they are sick and they need surety in where they are going so they can receive the care they need, they fall through the cracks.

When the bill goes to committee I would strongly encourage the government not to fast-track the bill. I would ask committee members to travel to Tsawwassen to meet the people on the reserve and listen to the community, not just the community leadership, but to people like Bertha Williams on the reserve. We need to ensure the process is fair and that the voices of all the people are heard. It is our responsibility to ensure their concerns are addressed.

I also would strongly encourage the committee members to ensure that the member for Delta—Richmond East is on the committee, that they go to the reserve and that they listen to the people on the reserve who want to be in a situation where they will be the masters of their destiny.

I have another fundamental question with respect to this. Are treaties the panacea, the magic bullet, that will enable aboriginal people to truly be the masters of their destiny? Is the model of collectivism that this bill entrenches going to enhance the ability of individual aboriginal people to be the masters of their destiny or would it impede the innovation and dynamism that aboriginal people have shown for thousands and thousands of years, which is their historical birthright?

If treaties were the magic bullet, then where treaties have been negotiated one would assume that the socio-economic conditions for aboriginal people would be markedly improved, correct? If we were to use the Rocky Mountains as a dividing line, which is where those treaties were negotiated, east of the Rockies versus west of the Rockies, one would think that the socio-economic conditions for aboriginal people would be markedly better, correct? The answer is no.

The spine of the Rocky Mountains is quite an intriguing dividing line. If we look at the lives of aboriginal people east of the Rocky Mountains and look at the conditions west of the Rocky Mountains, whether we are dealing with urban or aboriginal people who live on reserve, we find the same horrific conditions that are far too prevalent: the level of sexual abuse, violence, unemployment, lack of housing, the whole incidence of FAS/FAE, the list goes on and on.

The number of aboriginal men incarcerated is 11 times higher than the number of non-aboriginal men, while the number of aboriginal women versus non-aboriginal women is a staggering 250 times greater. Can members believe that? One does not see a difference on either side of the spine of the Rocky Mountains. Both sides are the same whether there are treaties or not.

We all want to ensure there is finality to land claims. We all want to work with aboriginal people to ensure that their land issues are dealt with in a fair and secure fashion. We recognize and honour fully the importance of land to aboriginal people. We know what it means for their culture, their history and for their soul. We understand that.

Who speaks for the men and women living on reserve who cannot get employment or health care? Who speaks for the men and women living in houses that are falling down because whoever built those lousy homes essentially acted in a fraudulent fashion? How are those people going to get out of those situations? Their children have to travel nearly two hours to get to school and then another two hours to get home. Is it any wonder the dropout rate is what it is? The children are fatigued. They are wiped out by the time they get home. They cannot do their studies. They cannot participate in the extracurricular activities that children need for their development.

What do people who cannot get clean water on reserve do? Aboriginal people living on the Pacheedaht reserve in my community do not have a secure water source. The water is poisoned with iron. Six groups have been tasked to do the work on the reserve. Non-aboriginal consultants went to that reserve, did lousy work, took the money and ran. They saddled the reserve with a huge debt. Now the Department of Indian Affairs has said it is not going to give the band any more money to fix the water problem until the band finds out where the other money went. We know where the money went. It was stolen by fraudsters. Can 160 people living on reserve afford to retain a lawyer to get that money back? No. They are stuck in a situation they cannot get out of, and that is fundamentally unfair.

How can we allow this to happen? How can we allow a reserve that is desperately poor but has great economic potential to be saddled with structures that do not enable the people on the reserve to move forward? It is immoral and criminal to allow that to happen. That is not fantasy. That is happening right now. It is not only happening in my community, but it is happening in communities in many other parts of the country.

In Fort Ware, north of Prince George where I used to fly in to do medical clinics, the chief is begging for help because of the destruction to the forest caused by the pine beetle infestation. Aboriginal people are living in a tinderbox. This summer when the temperature rises they will be living in a significant fire hazard. A 200 metre barrier needs to be plowed out around Fort Ware and other communities now. If that does not happen, those aboriginal communities will be faced with a significant health hazard. They risk being burned to death.

There is an urgent need for firebreaks in communities in British Columbia. This is not an option. It is urgent because the risk of a fire is going to increase as soon as the temperature starts to rise. A spark alone could cause a fire which could raze the reserves. Where would these people go? Who would evacuate them? How would they be evacuated? Who would save their lives? They do not have any place to go.

I strongly recommend that the Minister of Indian Affairs embrace this issue wholeheartedly. This problem will occur in the coming months. All of us will work with him to ensure that the lives of these people are not put at risk, but the interventions that must occur, must occur now.

In closing, while this bill has some very good parts, there are some significant concerns. Let us send it to committee. Let us take our time. Let us work with the members of the Tsawwassen, the members who are living on the Tsawwassen reserve. Let us make sure this bill works for the benefit of the aboriginal people on the Tsawwassen reserve in a way that is fair, reasonable and just.

The House resumed from May 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2008 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When the House returns to the study of Bill C-34, there will be three minutes left for the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and I would hope that the Speaker at that time would recognize again the hon. member for Delta—Richmond East so that he could ask his second question.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2008 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. New Democrats will be supporting this very important piece of legislation.

This piece of legislation is the culmination of many years of negotiation. As other members of the House have pointed out, this is not the end of the road. I would say it is actually the beginning of the road.

This agreement will provide some economic certainty to the Tsawwassen people and to the surrounding community. It will promote autonomy for Tsawwassen. It will also provide compensation.

As we well know, this final agreement covers everything from the use of the land through to parks, migratory birds, taxation, eligibility, enrolment, dispute resolution, and so on. It is a comprehensive agreement.

I would offer congratulations to Chief Kim Baird and the Tsawwassen people for their patience, courage, wisdom and their ability to continue to stay at a very difficult process. It is important that we recognize the historical context around these kinds of agreements.

British Columbia has a very long and sad history in not moving forward on agreements. The Tsawwassen First Nation has a history of determined people. It is a lengthy history, and I am not going to go through every step of it, but it goes back to 10000 BC where there is evidence of aboriginal civilizations in North America. There were hundreds of thousands of people living in North America at that time.

I am going to skip ahead several thousand years to 1865. At that time the Tsawwassen chief wrote a letter to the colonial lands department asking for land to be set aside for the people of Tsawwassen First Nation.

Other members of the House talked about it being unfortunate that the Tsawwassen First Nation had not signed an agreement. There was certainly no lack of effort on the first nation's part. We can see the history going back to 1865 asking for an agreement. In 1866 there was new legislation that prohibited land pre-emption by Indians. The size of the reserves were actually reduced, allowing only 10 acres per Indian family on new reserves, and that was further eroded over the years. In 1871 Indian people were not allowed to fish commercially. In 1872 the right to vote in B.C. elections was withdrawn from Indians. In 1894 federal regulations restricted Indian fishing devices, and permission was required to fish food. Of course throughout this sorry time many of the cultural practices were taken away, including the potlatch.

This brings me to 1920 when Arthur Meighen as superintendent-general of Indian affairs introduced and Parliament passed a bill authorizing land cut-offs without Indian consent. Simultaneously, officials conducted a wave of potlatch arrests and some chiefs were convicted and jailed.

In 1927 the Indian Act prohibited raising money or hiring lawyers to pursue land claims. This stayed in place until 1951. When people talk about the fact that there was a failure to sign land claim agreements it was very difficult to do it when people actually were not allowed to hire lawyers to pursue their agreement.

In 1956 the Tsawwassen bluff lands were sold to a developer. In 1959 the George Massey tunnel was opened. Some of this will not be familiar to people who are not from British Columbia, but these are significant events in British Columbia.

In 1960 construction on the Tsawwassen ferry causeway began. The Tsawwassen First Nation's traditional long house was torn down to make way for Highway 17. In 1976 there was an agreement between Delta and Indian and Northern Affairs to provide the Tsawwassen First Nation water for domestic purposes only. The Tsawwassen First Nations pay for it by the metre, which is twice the cost of what Delta residents pay.

Finally in 1993 the Tsawwassen First Nation filed its statement of intent with the B.C. Treaty Commission meaning that the Tsawwassen First Nation was ready to negotiate a treaty.

We can see that over a lengthy period of time, right after right was taken away from the Tsawwassen First Nation. I want to bring it into the present day so we can see what this erosion of rights and access to the economic benefits and the resources of the land has resulted in.

This is a quote from the Tsawwassen First Nation about who they are:

Our population is young and growing fast. We number 328 today; 168 live on our reserve. About 60 per cent of TFN people are under 25 years old, compared with neighbouring Delta, where 36 per cent are under 25 years old.

On our reserve, the average family income is $20,065, compared to Delta, at $67,844. Sadly, about 40 per cent of our people are on welfare or some other form of social assistance. Our unemployment rate is 38 per cent, compared with neighbouring Delta at 7.4 per cent. Our high school graduation rate is 47 per cent; Delta’s is 77 per cent.

Members can see the sad state that this continuous erosion of access to the benefits of a very rich and bountiful land resulted in the kind of poverty that we see on Tsawwassen and many other reserves in British Columbia and throughout Canada.

I want to turn for a minute to the speech that Chief Kim Baird made in the provincial legislature, which is titled “Making History, Tsawwassen First Nation, First Urban Treaty in Modern-Day British Columbia”. I am going to quote from a couple of different parts in her speech because Chief Kim Baird's words are very powerful. They are the words that should be read into the record in this House because they are the words that come from the people.

She was addressing the legislature. The rules are quite different in the provincial legislature. She was able to be in the legislature and address the members of that House. It is unfortunate that our rules here do not allow that. That is why it is important that I read some of her words into the record. She said:

For the Tsawwassen people, this is a time of great hope and optimism--a challenging, yet exciting time. It is a time for revival and renewal. It is a time when we will take back our rightful place as a community, equal to others, through our treaty.

I say “take back our rightful place” because we have a long and proud history that predates the birth of this province. For thousands of years, we used and occupied a large territory that was abundant in fish, shellfish, wildlife and other resources

I do not have time to read the entire speech so I am going to skip through it. Further on, she talked about some of the challenges her people had to face before they got to this historic moment of signing the treaty. She said:

We can’t underestimate the impact European contact has had on our communities. Over the past century our lives were much diminished by newcomers who first took our labour for furs and fish, but then later took our lands and resources, and considered us a nuisance when our labour was no longer desired. Residential schools forever changed the face of our communities due to the apprehension of our children and discouragement of our culture and language. These impacts will face us for many more generations and as a mother of two small children, I cannot tell you how distressed I feel when I think of what happened to our ancestors.

One of the things that she talked about in this speech is the language. In these agreements there is a provision for when the Tsawwassen people want to have documents in the Hun'qum'i'num language. That is a very positive step because that is one effort in terms of revitalizing and keeping the language healthy. She went on to say:

...tools of land title and other rights of newcomers were mapped over our territories--effectively erasing our presence and marginalizing us to the fringes of our territory, and broader society.

She went on to say:

Critics choose to ignore Tsawwassen's history of being victims of industrial and urban development to the benefit of everyone but us. The naysayers do not seem to care that they are calling for the continued exclusion of Tsawwassen from opportunities everyone else has enjoyed.

In her conclusion, she said:

Our treaty is the right fit for our nation. More land, cash and resources provide us the opportunity to create a healthy and viable community, free from the constraints of the Indian Act. We now have the tools to operate as a self-governing nation, for the first time in 131 years since the first Indian Act was introduced.

The Tsawwassen treaty, clause by clause, emphasizes self-reliance, personal responsibility and modern education. It allows us to pursue meaningful employment from the resources of our own territory for our own people. Or in other words, a quality of life comparable to other British Columbians.

Surely, that is a goal we would wish for our own children and grandchildren, and it is certainly a goal that should be honoured for the Tsawwassen people.

This agreement has not been without challenges. The leader of the opposition in British Columbia, Carole James, addressed part of that in her speech in the legislature. I want to quote from her speech because this is an important context, as well. She said:

Another challenging issue that we hear a great deal about is the issue of overlap. All B.C. first nations have competing claims to lands in their traditional territories. One first nation might have used a river valley for one purpose; another may have used it for entirely different ends. One may have hunted it; one may have fished its waters. To successfully conclude treaties, both nations' interests must be addressed.

There's nothing new in any of this. All treaties deal with this issue, as did the Yukon land claims settlement, as did the Nisga'a. In fact, the Tsawwassen treaty section on overlapping claims is the same as the text of the Nisga'a agreement. It's interesting to look at the history of other areas that have dealt with first nations claims. In the Yukon, first nations had to resolve their overlapping claims before signing treaties.

In British Columbia that hasn't been resolved, and here's an area where I think improvement could be looked at. This is a situation in which the B.C. Treaty Commission could actually play a much larger role.

When the Treaty Commission was established in 1992, many hoped that it would extend its facilitation activity into the area of mediation. Many governments resisted. However, I think the issue of overlap and overlap areas is a perfect subject for active mediation by the Treaty Commission.

In this particular treaty there are some challenges, and I would say that there are some unresolved issues. In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, the Cowichan people, Coast Salish people have had thousands of years of traditional use of some of this territory, the Penelakut people who have been relocated to Kuper Island, the Sencoten, the group from the Saanich Peninsula; there are overlaps with different uses. There certainly does need to be more work done in order to adequately resolve these issues.

In fact, the Auditor General herself pointed that out. In chapter 7 of her 2006 report, on the B.C. treaty process, she talked about the overlaps, but there were a number of other issues that were identified in this report that are very important to talk about in the context of treaties.

The Tsawwassen agreement is a celebration for the Tsawwassen people, but there are many other nations in British Columbia that are not remotely close to this step. In particular, before I talk about the Auditor General's report, I want to talk about the unity protocol.

There are 60 bands that have signed a unity protocol in British Columbia because of the lack of progress on treaties. I am going to quote from a press release of August 2, 2007 from the Globe and Mail regarding what they want:

Specifically, they want governments to end their insistence that all treaties must include the ceding of further aboriginal rights and land claims, an agreement to pay government taxes and a switch of native land ownership to the provincial system of fee simple.

They go on to talk about the fact that this lengthy period of treaty negotiation is resulting in lands being developed from underneath first nations while these negotiations go on and on.

The unity protocol itself highlights six key issues and the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group's Robert Morales has played a key role in this. The Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group covers the nations from my riding. It includes certainty, constitutional status of treaty lands, governance, co-management throughout traditional territories, fiscal relations, taxation and fisheries.

These are critical issues. Chief Kim Baird said that the Tsawwassen treaty cannot be used as a template, as a cookie cutter for other nations. Other nations have the right to their own self-determination and the right to negotiate their own treaties.

In that context, the Auditor General identified a couple of key problems. One of them was the differing views. She said:

Successful negotiations require that the participants share a common vision of their relationship and of the future. Our two audits found that the participants have differing views on the nature of the treaties being negotiated. For example, the two governments base their participation in the treaty process on their own policies, and do not recognize the Aboriginal rights and title claimed by First Nations. Many First Nations base their participation in the process on the assertion that they have Aboriginal rights under Canada's Constitution and that these rights should be acknowledged before negotiations begin.

Many times the parties to the negotiations are starting from a place that is very far apart. It is little wonder that there is such little progress.

In the same report the Auditor General talked about what was found:

While some treaties are expected to be signed in the near future, most negotiations are either inactive or are making limited progress. Moreover, about 40 percent of First Nations (Indian Act bands) are not participating in the treaty process, and there is a growing number of activities outside the process that are being used to deal with questions related to Aboriginal rights and title.

Although the policy process has been able to respond to some issues raised during negotiations, several other issues remain to be addressed. For example, due to changes in the legal environment, dealing with overlapping claims may make concluding treaties even more complex.

In this kind of context what we see is a long process that is extremely expensive, that has first nations borrowing against their final settlements. What is happening is that they are racking up a debt of thousands and thousands of dollars in order to get to a treaty, and they are really caught in a bind because if they should withdraw from that treaty process, the money that they borrowed becomes due and payable. Therefore, they are forced to stay within a treaty process that may not be working for them and they really do not have any other option.

For nations that have chosen not to get involved in the treaty process, they have a couple of options. They can do nothing and continue to see their lands developed from underneath them and continue not to have access to the resources, and not to develop their economies, or they can litigate, which is hugely expensive and can take years. Often, by the time a decision comes out, again they are in the same situation of having their lands developed from underneath them, or they can enter this treaty process. Either way, it does appear that they are caught between a rock and a hard place.

In conclusion, I believe that it is important that we do celebrate the Tsawwassen people getting the treaty that they have negotiated and voted for. I believe it is important that we celebrate the fact that they will have some self-determination, that they will have access to resources, that we can expect to see their economy grow, and that we can expect to see their children graduate from high school.

It is a long term plan. I believe that band members will be engaged in that process, from everything I have seen, but we need to encourage this government and the provincial government in British Columbia to come to the table in a meaningful way and settle treaties that are going to work for the nation that is involved.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2008 / 4:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the bill to give effect to this agreement.

We are basing our support on three fundamental principles. First, our party has always embraced the idea of the right to self-government for aboriginal peoples, and this agreement makes that right a reality. If only for this reason, we should support the principle underlying this entire agreement.

Second, a majority of the Tsawwassen—70%— voted in favour of this agreement in a referendum. It would be inappropriate for sovereignists to oppose this.

Third, the agreement is a fine example of self-government.

More generally, the Bloc Québécois is concerned about aboriginal claims for self-government. It acknowledges the aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples with a right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions, and a right to decide for themselves what path to take in developing their own identity.

Bill C-34 is the last stepping stone in giving effect to the tripartite agreement between the Tsawwassen, the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada.

In view of the nature of the bill giving effect to the final agreement, it seems to us that the role of Parliament is to debate and accept or reject this bill. There is no need for us to amend this bill. It was duly endorsed by the three parties who negotiated it. To amend it would be to patronize it, and that we refuse to support.

We would point out that the Bloc Québécois endorsed the essence of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Erasmus-Dussault commission. It set out aboriginal self-government as a level of government with jurisdiction over matters of good government and public well-being. In addition, the report as a whole was based on recognition of aboriginal peoples as autonomous nations occupying a unique place in Canada.

The Bloc Québécois traditionally stands behind aboriginal peoples in their quest for justice and the recognition of their rights. The Bloc Québécois recognizes Quebec's 11 aboriginal nations for what they are: nations. The Bloc Québécois recognizes the aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples who have a right to their cultures, their languages, their customs and their traditions, and a right to decide for themselves what path to take in developing their own identity.

In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples—the Erasmus-Dussault commission—released 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. Since then, the Bloc Québécois has pressured the federal government to act on the recommendations made in the Erasmus-Dussault report.

The Bloc Québécois believes that aboriginal peoples must have the tools to develop their own identity, namely the right to self-government and the recognition of their rights.

The Bloc Québécois has for many years recognized aboriginal peoples’ right to self-determination. As far back as 1993, the manifesto of the Forum paritaire québécois-autochtone recognized the right to self-determination as the basis for relations between Quebeckers and aboriginal peoples. In fact, we have recognized this right since the Bloc Québécois was founded.

The Bloc Québécois is of the opinion that there is no universal instrument that protects the rights of indigenous peoples, who continue to be among the poorest and most marginalized people in the world.

Our party understands that the draft declaration represents a compromise between member states and indigenous peoples, but it is an acceptable compromise, and we feel it should be supported. Quebec already has a number of positive agreements with first nations and has everything to gain from the signing of the declaration.

Our party believes that the aboriginal communities in Quebec must have adequate housing, decent public infrastructure and the human and material resources they need to improve social and health conditions.

The Bloc Québécois believes that Ottawa must shoulder its responsibilities and respond to the “10,000 possibilities” project, which is aimed at creating 10,000 jobs, encouraging 10,000 dropouts to return to school and building 10,000 housing units. The project was unveiled by the first nations of Quebec at the forum in Mashteuiatsh.

The Bloc Québécois is also proud to be working with the first nations of Quebec to organize the first day of awareness of the first nations of Quebec, which will take place in the House of Commons on December 10.

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.

This bill would give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. Once ratified, the treaty will provide a comprehensive and final settlement of the ancestral rights, including title, of the Tsawwassen First Nation. It defines the Tsawwassen First Nation's rights under section 35. It specifies the geographic area where those rights apply and the limitations on those rights set by agreement by Canada, British Columbia and the Tsawwassen First Nation.

The treaty can be amended after it has been ratified, but the three parties—Canada, British Columbia and the Tsawwassen First Nation—must agree on any amendments. Once the treaty is ratified, it cannot be amended unilaterally. “This treaty, the first in the Lower Mainland, abolishes the Indian Act through self-government, not assimilation,” said Chief Kim Baird. “It gives us the tools to build a healthy community and the opportunity to participate fully in the Canadian economy.”

Obviously, because 70% of the community ratified the agreement, we must accept it as presented to the House of Commons, without amendment. Why? It serves as an example for other aboriginal nations, including other nations in Quebec. It is the first modern, urban treaty.

Thus, it is important to the aboriginal communities listening. This agreement is estimated to be worth $120 million, including land worth $66.7 million, $16 million in compensation, and other royalties worth $37 million. The agreement gives them 724 hectares of land. They will have municipal-style self-government, with the ability to levy taxes. The Indian Act will no longer apply to this first nation, except when it comes to designating Indian status.

Tsawwassen First Nation members are Coast Salish people who belong to the Hun’qum’i’num linguistic group. In their language, Tsawwassen means “the land facing the sea.” Historically, they have travelled and fished the waterways of the southern Strait of Georgia and the lower Fraser River. Tsawwassen First Nation has approximately 358 members, about half of whom live on reserve in an area situated on the southern side of the Lower Mainland, between the BC Ferry Terminal and the Deltaport Container Terminal and Roberts Bank Coal Port. The community straddles Highway 17, along the Georgia Strait shore.

The Tsawwassen have a long history that dates back to 2,260 B.C. The occupation of the land has been demonstrated by carbon-14 tests. It has taken some time to regain the autonomy they had back then. This treaty has a lot of history behind it.

In 1791, the Spanish and the British explored the coast. Epidemics killed between 80% and 90% of the Coast Salish population. In 1851, the Tsawwassen territory was split in two when the border was established with the United States. Point Roberts is now in the state of Washington. The first contact with the Catholic church took place when the Saint Charles mission was established in 1860.

In 1871, the reserve was created and by 1874 the reserve had an area of 490 acres. In 1906, a delegation of Salish chiefs travelled to England to claim their ancestral lands. In 1958, the nation's longhouse was torn down to make way for the ferry terminal and the highway. At the same time, the reserve was again cut in two.

In 1993, a formal claim was filed with the province. In 1995, construction of the longhouse began almost 40 years after the first one was destroyed. In 2003, the Tsawwassen First Nation, British Columbia and Canada reached an agreement in principle, which was signed in 2004. On July 25, 2007, 70% of the nation's members voted in favour of the agreement. Debate in the British Columbia legislature began on October 15, 2007. On December 6, 2007, the agreement was signed in Ottawa.

Given that the Tsawwassen nation dates back to 2260 B.C., it has been waiting a long time for self-government.

The general idea of the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement is to eliminate the uncertainty that has surrounded the ancestral rights of this aboriginal nation to land that it claims as its traditional territory and which covers 279,600 hectares, including the waters of the southern Strait of Georgia.

This agreement will give the Tsawwassen First Nation modern governance tools enabling it to establish solid and viable relations with the federal, provincial and municipal governments and to support an atmosphere of certainty and economic prosperity for the entire Lower Mainland region.

The final agreement covers approximately 724 hectares of treaty settlement land including approximately 290 hectares of the former Indian reserve and 372 hectares of provincial Crown land. Tsawwassen First Nation will also own in fee simple an additional 62 hectares of waterfront land comprised of the Boundary Bay and Fraser River parcels. This land will remain under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Delta, known as the Corporation of Delta.

Tsawwassen First Nation will have the right of refusal for 80 years after the treaty takes effect to purchase approximately 278 hectares of lands north of Tsawwassen lands—known as the Brunswick Point lands—if the people currently leasing these lands choose not to buy them or decide to sell them later.

If Tsawwassen First Nation purchases land within the Brunswick Point lands within 50 years after the effective date of the treaty, these lands may be added to its “treaty settlement lands”.

Following this 50-year period, Tsawwassen First Nation can add land within its territory to its treaty settlement lands, but the federal, provincial and municipal governments must consent to the addition.

Federal and provincial laws, as well as Tsawwassen laws, will apply to Tsawwassen lands. However, the provincial agricultural land reserve designation continues not to apply to the former Indian reserve lands and will apply to about half of the additional former provincial Crown land that will become Tsawwassen lands. The agricultural land reserve designation will apply to the Boundary Bay and Fraser River parcels.

This agreement also has a financial component. It is important that our viewers understand this.

First of all, it includes a capital transfer of approximately $13.9 million over 10 years, less any outstanding negotiation-related loans.

There will also be funding of $15.8 million to support all one-time start-up and transition costs, as well as $2.8 million in funding for programs and services and the incremental implementation of governance activities.

In addition, Canada will pay $2.0 million in consideration of the release by Tsawwassen First Nation of the rights to the mines and minerals under previously-surrendered reserve lands. Furthermore, $100,000 will be paid for forest resources to compensate for the fact that Tsawwassen First Nation will have no access to economic forestry activities in their territory.

As for wildlife, migratory birds and forest resources, this agreement guarantees the right to harvest wildlife and migratory birds for food, social and ceremonial purposes within specified areas, subject to conservation, public health and public safety.

The federal and provincial ministers will retain authority, within their respective jurisdictions, to manage wildlife and migratory birds and their habitats.

Tsawwassen First Nation will manage the designation and documentation of Tsawwassen First Nation hunters.

With respect to fish, under the treaty, Tsawwassen First Nation will have the right to harvest fish and aquatic plants for food, social and ceremonial purposes, subject to conservation, public health and public safety.

The final agreement provides for Tsawwassen First Nation’s treaty allocations of salmon for food, social and ceremonial purposes.

The following quotas would be established under food, social and ceremonial fisheries: 12,000 sockeye, 625 chinook, 500 coho, up to 2,000 chums, and other advantages.

A harvest agreement, separate from the final agreement, provides for economic access to salmon for the Tsawwassen First Nation.

With respect to culture and heritage, Tsawwassen First Nation can make laws to preserve, promote and develop culture and language, conserve and protect heritage resources on its lands, and deal with archaeological materials, sites and ancient human remains.

With respect to governance, with the exception of determining Indian status, after a transition period the Indian Act will no longer apply to Tsawwassen First Nation, its land or members. Instead, constitutionally protected self-government provisions will enable Tsawwassen First Nation to make its own decisions on matters related to the preservation of its culture, the exercise of its treaty rights and the operation of its government.

The final agreement requires Tsawwassen First Nation to have a constitution that provides for government that is democratically and financially accountable to its members.

Tsawwassen First Nation will consult with non-members who are resident on Tsawwassen Lands about decisions that directly and significantly affect them. Tsawwassen First Nation will provide those non-members an opportunity to participate in decision-making processes that significantly affect them.

There will be non-member representation on any government or public institution that makes decisions relating to matters that directly and significantly affect non-members, including taxation. The non-member representative will be selected by non-members and have the ability to participate in discussions and to vote on matters that directly and significantly affect non-members.

As far as taxation is concerned, the government of the Tsawwassen First Nation will have the ability to levy direct taxes on its members within treaty settlement lands, known as Tsawwassen lands.

The tax exemptions for transaction taxes and other taxes under section 87 of the Indian Act will be phased out after 8 and 12 years respectively.

British Columbia will share with Tsawwassen First Nation 50% of provincial income tax and sales tax revenue collected from Tsawwassen First Nation members. British Columbia will share with Tsawwassen First Nation 100% of real property tax collected from anyone residing on Tsawwassen Lands.

In terms of local government relations, the Tsawwassen First Nation will become a member of the Greater Vancouver Regional District and appoint a director to sit on the GVRD board. The Tsawwassen First Nation will pay for core mandatory services, such as air quality, strategic planning, 911, regional parks and general government services.

Tsawwassen First Nation and the Greater Vancouver Water District may enter into a local water services agreement and Tsawwassen First Nation may enter into service agreements with other local governments.

The agreement gives the Tsawwassen the tools to achieve financial independence. The agreement also gives them more power to protect their lifestyle, stimulate economic growth and improve the welfare of their community.

It is for all these reasons that the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-34. Our support sends a message to all of Quebec's aboriginal communities that may want to achieve self-government. They can always count on the Bloc Québécois's support.

What is happening with the Tsawwassen nation is easy to understand. Its land, which is now defined and belongs to them, will be governed as a municipality. It will be able to levy taxes and have a seat on regional organizations.

For example, a community in Quebec that wants to be part of a similar agreement could be considered as a municipality, which would allow it to sit on the board of the regional county municipality.

I am thinking of the Papineau regional county municipality in particular, where I was reeve for a number of years—some might say too many years. If by chance a reserve located in that region had had a style of governance like the one suggested in this agreement, then the reserve would have had a representative at the table of elected members, the council of mayors of the Papineau RCM. The representative could have taken part in the debates and benefited from the available programs to which this community could have belonged. That is just an example, of course.

The Bloc Québécois fully supports this agreement. Again, we will not accept any amendment since this agreement was accepted without change by 70% of the community. We therefore expect there to be no change and for Bill C-34 to incorporate this agreement exactly as it was adopted by the people and representatives of the Tsawwassen community.

This example could be used by other aboriginal communities we support.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2008 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am very excited, as I always am, to speak when a new land claim, after many years, comes to Parliament. It is a very exciting time for the Tsawwassen people, who are part of the Coast Salish people, and the people of Delta, Richmond, the people of Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada when one of our ancient historic grievances is resolved. Many countries in the world have land claims with aboriginal people, but Canada is leading the world in innovative solutions with them, like with this agreement. It is following on some of the others that have had such amazing success and are indeed a model for the world. We can only hope that we can hurry up decisions on the backlog of claims so we do not have to deal, on a daily basis, with the symptoms and the problems that come up because we have not dealt with the overall picture.

Therefore, I am delighted to speak today to Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

This is also very exciting, historically, because it is the first land claim in an urban area south of 60°. The first one in Canada was in Whitehorse, Yukon, of which I am very proud. I remember that day, when I signed the agreement. It was a wonderful time.

For those who do not understand why it is even more challenging in an urban area, land claims involve land and providing land as part of the settlement. If one is in an urban area, most of that land is owned by someone, which makes it very difficult. There is competing overlapping interest. Therefore, it is very exciting when everyone can work together.

As the parliamentary secretary said, there was some give and take, which there would have to be when there are all the overlapping interests. To come out with a glorious solution like this is wonderful for everyone concerned.

Therefore, I commend the minister. I am not sure if his support came on the road to Emmaus, but for whatever reason, I commend him for the tremendous agreement he has brought before Parliament.

I have to though condemn the government for such a large break from first reading on December 6, which I will not bring up again if the government gets it through before an election. We certainly should not jeopardize such a wonderful project that could have come to second reading a lot closer to December 6.

The Tsawwassen people, who are part of the Coast Salish, were living in an area that was traditionally a lot of Richmond, Delta and some of the Gulf Islands. Then another culture came in and impinged on that. It would be much better to have a nice peaceful negotiated agreement as to how everyone could live together. In fact, they have the legal right to that from the royal proclamation, stating that it would be their land until an agreement is made with Canada.

Therefore, this is a very exciting day. They traditionally used in the order of something like 280,000 hectares of land, which is massive. As I said, it is a big chunk of Vancouver, but in this agreement they have certain rights in that area, but the land transferred to them is a tiny amount of 724 hectares, as well as a tiny financial contribution of $10.4 million.

We have had many debates in this Parliament about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and when it does or does not does not apply to aboriginal people, that it is not fair when it does not apply and so on. Those people who are concerned about this will be very happy to know that, as in other modern treaties, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will apply to the people of Tsawwassen.

What is very exciting for some people, and my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca keeps raising this, is the Indian Act will no longer apply.

It is lovely any time we can have people go back to governing themselves and not under the Indian Act, with the exception of determining who is a status Indian and who gets certain benefits from Canada. As they define their membership, they will have rights. The courts have already decided this, so it is not for us to say.

The members, wherever they are, will have their rights as a member. There are a lot of Canadians living in Lebanon. We saved them by ship one time because of the recent catastrophes. Wherever people go, they do not lose their Canadian citizenship and their rights. Tsawwassen people, if they travel or live somewhere else, will not loose their rights of membership.

The self-government provisions are constitutionally protected as well as the land claim, which is also another huge step forward in the progress. If we get a new government that does not like the idea, it cannot throw the government out. We could not throw out the government of Ontario or the government of Quebec at a moment's notice because some government came in that did not like them. For this reason, it is a constitutionally protected government.

Now that they are a government, they have to be responsible to their citizens. They have to therefore have a constitution and that constitution has to show that it is a democratic constitution, democratically responsible to the citizens and financially responsible to their citizens.

There is always the question of non-Tsawwassen band members living on the land and in the area. Some people would think that they would lose their rights, but that is not the case, just as it was not the case in the Tlicho agreement, which we signed a couple of years ago. Non-member representatives will be on any Tsawwassen First Nation public institution that makes decisions relating to taxation. It cannot be said that there is taxation without representation. If they decide to continue living there, they have that representation.

As has always been an aboriginal right, the Tsawwassen people will be allowed to continue to harvest wildlife and migratory birds for food, social and ceremonial reasons. They can also harvest fish and aquatic plants, which is big for a first nations that is on the ocean.

There are some controls on the fishing, which people would think are reasonable. They can be controlled if conservation becomes a problem, or if there is a problem with public health or safety. It is in a distinct limited area related to their claim. Not only that, unlike some aboriginal rights in harvesting, there are allocations for certain species related to conservation, and that is the chum, the sockeye, the chinook and the pink salmon. These are traditional aboriginal rights under section 35 of harvesting food. I think Canadians pretty well understand that this has been occurring for a long time.

However, there is also a commercial fishing aspect in this claim. it. The parliamentary secretary made it quite clear that there was no section 35 right in the claim related to commercial fishing. It has nothing to do with it. In fact, a court case recently stated that there could not be one. Commercial fishing is not even in the claim itself. It is in a side agreement and it is related to commercial fishing licences. They are given out as other licences expire, so they do not increase the pressure on the fish. In fact, there is even a percentage of catches of certain species. They are just like any other licences and agreements. It is not an aboriginal right. If the fisheries is open for two days, then they can go out for the two days, just like anyone else. If the fishery is closed for, the year they cannot go out, just like other fishing boats.

I would also like to talk about how the Tsawwassen First Nation fits in with governance. When there are four orders of government in Canada, first nations, federal, provincial, territorial and municipal, people have to work together. There are certain things in common, such as shared service agreements. In this case, Tsawwassen is in the greater Vancouver regional district, which was involved in this negotiated settlement.

The Tsawwassen First Nation will appoint a director in that district. The people in the district will be delighted. The new government will pay a share of the planning in the GVRD. It will pay costs toward air quality initiatives encompassing the whole area, costs for serving 9/11, as well as some costs toward regional parks and governments. People in the whole greater Vancouver regional district, not just the in the tiny land claims spit, will accrue benefits from this new cooperation.

The financial package is roughly $13.9 million. That is spread over 10 years. It is a very small amount of money and, in fact, the first nation will not receive all of it. It has to pay back close to $4 million, the amount it used to negotiate the claim.

I now want to go on to some of the financial provisions of the agreement so people understand the major, salient points in that respect. Once there is a government, just like the government of Ontario or the government of Yukon, money is needed to run that government. Some of that money comes from taxes and some from other orders of government. That will be no different here.

In order for Tsawwassen to run its government, it will make some revenues on its own, like every other government, but to the extent that it does not, it will get help from other governments, in this case the signatories to the agreement, being the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia. It will be provided with a fiscal financing agreement, which will be renegotiated every five years.

It will start out with $15.8 million and then $2.8 million per year of ongoing funding. People who have been involved in government, at any level, know it will not be easy to run a government with only $2.8 million a year, but it is for the types of services it has to provide. As I said, it will have a number of its own source revenues.

This represents a fundamental change in the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the Tsawwassen First Nation. Tsawwassen First Nation will have to raise funds and be accountable to other governments for the funds it gets. In particular, it has to be accountable to its own people for the way it spends the funds and delivers the services.

It will contribute to the funding of agreed upon programs and services from its own source revenues, and I will talk about some of those later. Although this is a very tiny segment of land, it is in a valuable urban centre and there will be some areas where it can make revenues to contribute to the programs. Therefore, it will not have to be totally funded by the government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada.

Something else that a lot of people would not be aware of is that the Indian Act tax exemption for Tsawwassen citizens will be phased out after eight years for transactions like sales. Right now they are tax exempt when they buy things. All that will be phased out and they will pay taxes like everyone else after eight years. Other types of taxes will be phased out for 12 years.

The Tsawwassen government, like is the case in other land claims agreements signed recently, will have the ability to levy direct taxes on its members within Tsawwassen lands. The percentages will be levied by other levels of government.

The interests of the broader community are fairly represented. Over the past decade there have been consultations. This has been a decade in the making. We do not create these things without all sorts of consultations. Over the past decade there have been consultations on a wide range of subjects with local and regional governments, third parties and community interests. Since 2002 over 20 public meetings have been held, including public information open houses and open round tables in the communities.

If people are worrying about the harvest agreements I talked about earlier for harvesting fish and wildlife, I would note that these are not exclusive. Other first nations and the general public may hunt and fish there as they do now on provincial Crown land.

This agreement was heartily endorsed. It is exciting in the sense that there is a much greater buy-in, so they must have done a great communication job with people and explained the understanding, because it is of course very difficult to change at any time, and to make a major change like this is a huge challenge.

There was a huge majority. Something in the order of 80% of the people voted in favour of this agreement. There is always a higher threshold than just the simple vote. Looking at the polls right now in Canada, there is not a party in the House that could form a government with more than 30% or so. To have 80% approve of this deal is very exciting and bodes well for the future.

Of course there will be evolving relationships. With a new government, there are all sorts of challenges, but there are even more opportunities as they become these major contributors to the economy, to governance in the GVRD, to working with and helping their neighbours and to providing opportunities in economic development in the area.

What is so exciting about this is that I come from an area where this has occurred. Land claims in Yukon have been some of the first and most innovative in the country and 11 of our 14 first nations have signed such agreements. It is a success story. The difference is like night and day when people once again are in charge of their own destiny.

They successfully governed themselves for thousands of years and had their own system and cultures. Now they can return, in a modern environment, to being responsible for their own government, with decision-making in their own hands, and to dealing with social problems in social and political systems they design themselves.

The systems may not match ours, but they do not have to match ours to be successful. They will have systems where they are accountable, but to themselves, systems that they design themselves, just like governments around the world from the smallest villages and towns to the great nations of the world.

In my riding where this has occurred, it is like night and day. I remember going around 20 years ago to small band offices. I might not even have found an employee there. There may have been a secretary. That office was there basically just to get calls from officials from Indian Affairs who would tell people what to do.

Now they have full scale professional bureaucracies delivering programs to themselves, dealing with the healing their people need and having to listen every day to the people as the local politicians. It must be one of the hardest jobs in the world being an aboriginal politician, because every day they have people coming into the first nations offices telling them what they would like changed.

It is just a remarkable building of capacity, with remarkable contributions, whether it is in the economy or other areas. One of our success stories owns half of the biggest airline.

This is just a great success story. I want to congratulate the negotiators in the federal government, the Tsawwassen and the B.C. government, the people of Tsawwassen and the Coast Salish people, the federal government and everyone else who brought this great day to this state.