Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today in relation to Bill C-34 which would give effect to the Tsawwassen treaty. It really is a bill to be celebrated.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the Tsawwassen people can trace their roots back thousands of years, demonstrating a rich history in the Vancouver region. Yet, for the last 130 years or more, the lives of their descendants have been dominated by the Indian Act.
This outdated legislation limits their rights. Unfortunately, the first nation and early settlers to the region did not negotiate treaties to clarify their relationship. This created uncertainty about the ownership and management of their lands and natural resources.
In the intervening years, the city and province grew up on and around the lands. Newcomers to the region prospered. But the first nation struggled to remain self-sufficient and keep its culture and language alive.
For the past century Tsawwassen members have not been capitalizing on the economic growth and social development taking place around them.
The legislation before us is a chance to give exceptional new opportunities to the Tsawwassen. It will enable us to achieve a just and reasonable agreement accompanied by full accountability. With this treaty the Tsawwassen First Nation will once again feel at home on its ancestral lands.
After years of hard work at the negotiation table, we have reached a final agreement with the Tsawwassen First Nation and the government of British Columbia to resolve the longstanding issues regarding undefined aboriginal rights and title.
This comprehensive modern day treaty, the first final agreement to be negotiated under the British Columbia treaty process, defines the Tsawwassen First Nation's rights regarding the ownership and management of its lands and resources. It also provides a cash settlement and self-government provisions that give the Tsawwassen law-making authorities over its lands.
Once this final agreement receives Parliament's endorsement, it will give effect for the Tsawwassen people to the constitutional rights of aboriginal people enshrined in section 35 of Canada Act 1982.
These new powers and responsibilities, along with the financial and other resources provided under the treaty, will enable the Tsawwassen people to take control of their affairs and will provide opportunities for them to build a sustainable economy, create jobs and enhance living standards for all their members.
Before I highlight the key elements and many benefits of this legislation, let me first congratulate our important partners who have helped make this possible. I would like to thank Chief Kim Baird, whose vision, perseverance and passion to see justice observed have served her people so well.
I would also like to praise British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell, and B.C. Minister Mike de Jong, as well as former chief commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission and now Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Steven Point, for their steadfast commitment to the negotiations which laid the groundwork for this legislation.
Thanks to the dedication and determination of these leaders, and the long years of hard work on the part of the negotiators for all three parties, we have been able to achieve this honourable settlement. The final agreement reinforces that reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians is best achieved through negotiation rather than through litigation and conflict.
This is truly a historic agreement. It is the first comprehensive treaty set in a major urban setting in Canada, in this case a booming metropolis of nearly two million people. This is also the first ever treaty in British Columbia's Lower Mainland and the first to be brought into effect under the B.C. treaty process.
By virtue of its location in a large Canadian city, this treaty presents a profound opportunity to demonstrate that aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities can work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
We already have a clear illustration of the advantages of this new working relationship. Under the legislation, the Tsawwassen First Nation will become a member of metro Vancouver and a Tsawwassen representative will sit as a member of the metro Vancouver regional board.
Thanks to this new era of cooperation, the first nation, municipality and board will now all be able to participate in planning processes that directly affect their respective jurisdictions to ensure that they are in the collective best interests of all.
Let me briefly highlight some of the other key components of this final agreement that demonstrates the benefits of modern treaties for first nations and all Canadians.
The first is the infusion of new resource funds with which the Tsawwassen First Nation could build a stronger economy and society. The agreement would provide a capital transfer of $13.9 million, shared by provincial and federal governments over 10 years, less outstanding negotiation loans, to compensate for the surrender of the first nation's rights to mines and minerals under previously surrendered reserve lands. The Tsawwassen would also receive an additional $2 million for that.
To finance programs and services, it would assume as a result of self-government and to fund ongoing incremental implementation and governance activities, the first nation would receive $2.8 million per year for five years. As part of this agreement, the Tsawwassen First Nation must contribute to the funding of programs and services from its own sources of revenue as its financial successes grow through own-source revenue.
There would be further funding to support startup and transition costs. This money would help to cover such things as operational expenses for ongoing costs for parks, migratory birds and treaty management, and for the preservation of the Tsawwassen First Nation culture, heritage and language.
To provide for a land base, the first nation would receive roughly 724 hectares of treaty settlement land. This includes approximately 290 hectares of former reserve land and 372 hectares of former provincial crown land. The latter allotment involves a transfer of land from the provincial agricultural land reserve. In addition, British Columbia will issue two water lot leases to take care of the water lots.
The Tsawwassen First Nation would also own outright an additional 62 hectares of other land comprised of the Boundary Bay and Fraser River parcels. However, this land will remain under the jurisdiction of the Corporation of Delta. It should be noted that the Highway 17 corridor and Deltaport Way are not part of Tsawwassen lands and will remain provincial land.
To sustain their heritage, Tsawwassen members would have the right to harvest wildlife and migratory birds for food, social and ceremonial purposes within their territory. Given the limited wildlife harvest opportunities and the likelihood of even fewer in the future, the federal and British Columbia governments will provide the first nation with $50,000 to establish a wildlife fund.
The Tsawwassen people would have the right to harvest fish and aquatic plants for food, social and ceremonial purposes, and this is of particular importance to them. This is always subject to conservation, public health and public safety considerations. These activities will be confined to designated areas known as the Tsawwassen fishing area and the Tsawwassen intertidal bivalve fishing area.
In addition, the final agreement provides treaty allocations for domestic purposes of several species of salmon based on annual abundance. The catch limits will be determined by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans every year. A separate harvest agreement provides for fishing licenses to be issued for a specified commercial catch for several salmon species in the Fraser River as well as up to five commercial crab licences.
Hon. members may be aware of a recent decision from the Supreme Court of British Columbia wherein the court ruled that the Lax Kw'Alaams First Nation did not have an aboriginal right to harvest fish for commercial purposes.
The Tsawwassen treaty does not provide any commercial fishing rights. Any commercial licences issued to Tsawwassen are outside the treaty under its harvest agreement and will be under the same rules as all other commercial fishers in the fishing area are subject to.
When the commercial fleet is subject to closure on the Fraser, so are the Tsawwassen's commercial vessels. I would like to also add that the Tsawwassen commercial fishing capacity will be provided by licenses being retired from the existing fleet and does not increase the present commercial pressure when stocks are available.
As much as this legislation is about reconciling the past, it is equally about building a brighter future. Once the bill is implemented, the Tsawwassen First Nation will become self-governing, able to assert its independence, and will have additional tools and resources that provide opportunities to become self-sufficient.
The first nation will 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. These are keys to increased prosperity.
Economic development and social progress depend on first nations taking the lead in determining their destiny, identifying and implementing solutions to their challenges, and seizing opportunities that benefit their members and our country as a whole.
The legislation requires that the Tsawwassen First Nation have a constitution that provides for a government that is democratically and financially accountable to its citizens. Each member of the Tsawwassen legislature will be elected to their position from within the community of members. This democratic aboriginal government will be recognized as a local government, compatible with other local governments in Canada.
Bill C-34 would also ensure that residents on Tsawwassen lands who are not members will be able to participate in the decision making process. These residents will have an input on any activities that significantly affect them, including tax matters, through Tsawwassen institutions such as school or health boards.
Non-members will be able to vote in and stand for election as a member or select a representative of a Tsawwassen institution. They will have the same rights of appeal as community members. Negotiators for the parties are continuing an ongoing dialogue with the non-member resident leaseholders to ensure the orderly transition after the effective date for all matters pertaining to registration of leasehold interests and representation on Tsawwassen First Nation institutions which make decisions which significantly affect those interests. Tsawwassen First Nation has assured its non-member leaseholders that they are a valued asset and has committed to work with them in their mutual interest.
This balanced approach speaks volumes about the give and take involved in these negotiations to ensure the needs and interests of all parties are met under this legislation.
Over the past six years, negotiators participated in over 70 consultations and at least 28 public information events. Extensive consultations were held with Delta and Lower Mainland regional governments, third parties and community interest groups covering a wide range of subjects. As the negotiations unfolded, all sides got something, and gave up something in return. The result is a final settlement that deserves our support and which ultimately benefits everyone.
One of the greatest benefits of this agreement is the certainty it creates, which sets the stage for increased prosperity for the Tsawwassen people and their metro Vancouver neighbours. Now that it is clear how the first nation and surrounding communities will coexist, there will be an incentive for investors to explore opportunities for economic growth in partnership with the Tsawwassen First Nation.
Taken together with new governance tools and financial resources provided under this act, the first nation will be able to improve the education and health of its people, build houses, create jobs and encourage members who have left the reserve to come back to build a better future together. That is in the best interests of all parties to this agreement. Everyone is stronger when each and every member of society is able to achieve his or her potential and contribute his or her talents to his or her community and our country.
Ultimately, the Tsawwassen treaty is fair to all Canadians. It brings certainty and finality with respect to the Tsawwassen's rights and title. It provides new tools and resources that will increase economic opportunity for the first nation and the entire region. It establishes new government to government relationships that respect the rights and responsibilities of all jurisdictions. It clearly demonstrates the Government of Canada's commitment to complete the unfinished business of settling treaties with first nations in British Columbia.
Much more than jurisdictional considerations, legal definitions or sums on a balance sheet, this final agreement is fundamentally about building a new relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. It is a relationship built on mutual respect, understanding and the protection of the rights of all citizens, a strong and equitable relationship that will result in a better future for all of us.
I trust I can count on my colleagues' support to pass this worthy legislation. As we do, we will duplicate the success of this treaty and demonstrate that progress is not only possible but inevitable when we work for a common cause.