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.


Chuck Strahl  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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.


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.


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.

The House resumed from June 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 third time and passed.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2008 / 6:15 p.m.
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Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Before we proceed to that item, in view of the general support that has been expressed in the House earlier with respect to Bill C-34 dealing with Tsawwassen, I wonder, in the interests of expediting that matter, if we might, now by unanimous consent, deem that bill read a third time and passed?

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2008 / 1:50 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to stand today in relation to Bill C-34 and speak at third reading.

This is important legislation, which culminates after much time, in relation to the B.C. treaty process, the first historic modern treaty out of British Columbia. Our government is very proud to have achieved this incredible treaty.

I thank all the opposition parties for their support on the bill and we look forward to sending it to the Senate for final ratification.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

June 17th, 2008 / 1:50 p.m.
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Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 5:15 p.m.
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Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-34.

The Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement was negotiated by Canada, the Province of British Columbia and the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Tsawwassen treaty negotiations began 15 years ago in 1993. Tsawwassen members ratified the final agreement through a community vote, with 70% of eligible members voting in favour. In October 2007, the Province of British Columbia introduced and subsequently passed settlement legislation to ratify the Tsawwassen final agreement.

The majority of the clauses in Bill C-34, which have been proposed for deletion, are fundamental to the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. The effect of removing these clauses would render Canada unable to fulfill the commitments it has made in the final agreement. In fact, deleting these clauses would effectively result in Canada not ratifying the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement.

Canada negotiated the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement in good faith and we are fully committed to implementing this agreement with all its provisions and commitments. To delete these fundamental clauses of Bill C-34 would be unacceptable, unfair to the parties and to the agreement, and a dishonour to the Crown.

When Tsawwassen chief, Kim Baird, addressed the provincial assembly in November, she said that one of the most important things the Tsawwassen treaty achieved was a new relationship between the Tsawwassen, British Columbia and Canada, that it achieved reconciliation, that true reconciliation signified real action and tangible change and that true reconciliation was the product of this treaty.

I am proud of the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement and all Canadians can be proud of this treaty. It represents a positive and tangible step forward in building a new relationship with the Tsawwassen First Nation and the Crown.

I would like to take this opportunity, however, to address concerns that have been expressed about the possible impact of tax sharing arrangements on non-member residents of Tsawwassen First Nation lands. No such tax sharing arrangements have been concluded and may not be concluded for many years.

However, the Government of Canada supports the exercise of tax powers by first nations and has a well established policy approach for negotiating tax sharing arrangements with aboriginal governments. About 40 such arrangements have already been concluded under existing legal frameworks, such as the First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act enacted by Parliament in 2003.

Such GST and personal income tax arrangements are outside the treaty and would not change the amount of tax that non-member residents of first nation lands would pay, how they pay their taxes or what they receive in the way of federal services or benefits. These tax arrangements will not affect the ability of resident non-members to vote in federal or provincial elections or to make their views known.

The Tsawwassen treaty itself does not give the Tsawwassen First Nation the ability to impose taxes on non-members of the first nation. The first nations tax system only applies to non-Tsawwassen members through government to government agreements outside the treaty. Canada will only answer these arrangements under conditions that would protect non-members' interests, such as full harmonization and coordination with the corresponding federal tax.

There would be no additional tax burden on non-members. GST and income tax would continue to apply in exactly the same way as enacted by Parliament in federal tax legislation, using the same rates, the same rules and the same Canada Revenue Agency forms, administration and recourse processes.

Based on delegated, discretionary and terminable tax arrangements, Parliament retains ongoing political accountability for the application of the tax to non-members and for its decision to share tax room. Under these circumstances, these arrangements do respect the principle of representation.

Tax sharing arrangements would also include mechanisms to contain the amount of forgone federal revenue where, for example, non-members of the first nations account for a significant proportion of the first nation tax base. For instance, if such a tax arrangement were in place now, the Department of Finance estimates that about 40% of the total personal income tax derived from all residents of Tsawwassen lands would be shared with Tsawwassen and Canada would retain 60%.

Finally, I would stress that these taxes would apply equally to members of the Tsawwassen First Nation. The Tsawwassen treaty will end the existing Indian Act tax exemption following an agreed upon transition period. It, therefore, encourages the first nation to exercise its tax powers. These taxes would generate revenues that would help to fund the first nation's programs and services. They would contribute to the shared responsibility for funding self-government and reduce dependence on federal transfers. They would also encourage greater accountability between the first nation and its citizens and thereby promote better governance.

It is clear that it is important that Parliament pass Bill C-34 in the form in which it was ratified by Tsawwassen members and by the British Columbia legislature.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 5:05 p.m.
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Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-34 and to denounce the amendments that the member for Delta—Richmond East has brought before the House.

They are not simple amendments that would change a small bit of a bill or certain specific aspects of the bill. They are so broad that they would gut the bill, in essence, and there would be no treaty. The amendments attack everything from the taxation provisions to the provision of fish and wildlife for food and ceremonial purposes.

The amendments attack the provision that would provide for some economic development and some participation in the resources of the Tsawwassen people. That would be the commercial sale of salmon.

The amendments denounce or take away the issue of financial assistance that the Tsawwassen people would require in order to implement the provisions of the treaty. They also say that the Tsawwassen people should not have the ability to make laws for themselves, which is the essence of land claims and the issue of self-determination.

The amendments talk about the issue of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms not applying. That is totally misleading. It would apply. It says so in the treaty. It says so in this particular act, which purports to implement the treaty.

The amendments also talk about the provisions of the bill that would basically stop businesses from starting on the reserve.

All of those things fly in the face of what the Minister of Indian Affairs testified at committee on June 4. Indeed, he used language to say that there are “misleading interpretations” of provisions in the act and that he wanted to set the record straight.

I am just wondering if the member for Delta—Richmond East has had an opportunity to have a chat with the Minister of Indian Affairs. I wonder how the two could be so diametrically opposed.

We have the minister saying one thing. We have a government bill that has been presented to the House. It has taken years and years of hard work, if not decades, in order to reach this particular point. Then we have a couple of members, the member for Delta—Richmond East and the member for Calgary Northeast, saying something that is the total opposite.

I find it remarkable that this seems to happen only on the aboriginal file. Perhaps people can find or others can point to other instances in the House, but it seems like it is only on the aboriginal file that the Prime Minister allows people to oppose the government's own legislation.

Why is it that one can stand in the House on one day and make an apology based on historic grounds, on a tragic episode in our country's history, and call for a new day of reconciliation, of tolerance, a reconciliation of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, and then tolerate what the Minister of Indian Affairs himself said are “misleading interpretations”?

We need to reflect a little. I want to quote from some of the notes that were prepared for us in the committee.

The notes are about the Tsawwassen people and the Tsawwassen First Nation, who are “a Coast Salish group whose historical use of the southern Strait of Georgia and the lower Fraser River and their environs is well documented”. It is well documented because the Tsawwassen people, like so many indigenous and aboriginal peoples around the country, have been there from time immemorial, but then it is noted, “Over time, [the Tsawwassen First Nation] lost the use of all but a fraction of its claimed traditional territory”.

Therefore, we have indigenous people with indigenous rights, aboriginal people with aboriginal rights, living in the historic lands that they have always occupied. They have lost much of it by the encroachment of others, and now we have arrived at a place where we are trying to reconcile that.

Believe me, there is no way that one can look at the traditional land use and occupancy of the Tsawwassen and think even for a second that the band members are getting that land back. They are getting only a fraction of that land back under this particular treaty.

To say that we should not have modern treaties, which is basically the essence of what a couple of members on the other side are saying, is to fly in the face of longstanding policy in this country. I think back to Labrador, where we have had a land claim accepted for the Innu Nation since 1978, one that has not been fully negotiated out and finalized. I think about the Labrador Métis Nation, which filed a land claim in 1990 and is still awaiting a decision from the federal government on whether it should negotiate or not.

The longstanding policy in this country is based on mutual respect, the recognition of the law and the many court cases that have gone to the Supreme Court of Canada which state that aboriginal people have rights and they have rights to their land and resources. For the member opposite to introduce these amendments is to fly in the face of the treaty itself and the comprehensive land claims policy that we have been working with since as early as 1975. Of course, there have been many variations on it.

The Tsawwassen treaty itself points to the need for certainty. The various provisions of the treaty point out the specifics that have been agreed on. It is not what everybody is happy with, but it is a compromise. It is something that people can live with. It is a treaty whereby people on the reserve lands and also those outside those lands can see some hope in terms of where the Tsawwassen people should be and want to be in Canadian society.

It brings back a bit of a déjà vu time. I recall watching the ratification of the Nisga'a treaty. It happened in the House. The minister of Indian affairs at the time, who had been the opposition critic, introduced 471 amendments to that particular treaty, trying to kill it.

So as for the voices I hear from the two particular members on the other side, they are not voices that have not been heard in the Conservative Party or the Reform or Alliance parties. Indeed, they are consistent with the voices and the objectives of certain individuals in whatever manifestation that particular party had at the time.

I want to close on a positive note. I want to quote Chief Baird, who appeared at the aboriginal affairs committee. She stated:

--I have to say this treaty is a good deal for Tsawwassen First Nation. My responsibility was to negotiate the best treaty I could for my community. I had to be pragmatic and accept things that weren't palatable, but the overall impact will transform my community.

We could not afford to wait for the perfect agreement. The world is changing, and we have to change as well. The poverty and inadequate governance structure of the Indian Act is not sustainable. I refuse to see another generation lost.

She went on to say:

We recognize that the treaty is only a tool box. Hard work is still required, but at least it can be done with tools that can make a difference. We will have to work on poor education rates and underemployment and...[get rid] of poor socio-economic conditions. We have never fooled ourselves that a treaty would be utopia with a bow on it.

It is with great pride, optimism, and determination that we face our destiny. We have already turned all our energy toward implementing the treaty, and for us there is no turning back.

This is not just about the technical or legal issues that the member opposite likes to raise. It is also about a future for the Tsawwassen people, their children and their grandchildren.

June 16th, 2008 / 5:05 p.m.
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Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I am sorry to be late. I wanted to be here for the beginning of the meeting, but a Conservative member of Parliament decided to cause some problems in the House, by tabling motions against his own government on Bill C-34. I find that unacceptable, but it is not important.

Having said that, Statistics Canada's definitions of aboriginal populations seem clear to me: aboriginal descent, aboriginal identity, registered or Treaty Indian, member of an Indian band or a first nation. I find it is both easy and clear. However, I think there is a real problem when we are talking about the Métis. No one here is going to make me believe that there are 27,000 Métis in Quebec.

How does Statistics Canada define the Métis? Is it as specific as it is for first nations? If so, I would like to know what the definition is, because if not, anyone could tomorrow morning—for example myself, Marc Lemay, member of Parliament—declare himself to be Métis. Is that correct?

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 4:45 p.m.
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Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-34, specifically to indicate that New Democrats will be opposing the proposed amendments. I want to put this into context.

The Tsawwassen first nation treaty is the first urban treaty in modern day British Columbia. In the address that Chief Kim Baird gave to the provincial legislature, she outlined many reasons why British Columbians and all Canadians should support this treaty. I want to use a couple of her words. Chief Baird said:

Critics choose to ignore Tsawwassen's history of being a victim 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. “So what of Tsawwassen First Nations legitimate economic needs? So what of Tsawwassen First Nations land base needs? Let's just continue to ignore Tsawwassen First Nations needs”.

I try not to become too disheartened, and I hope the members of my community take the same approach, because the facts speak for themselves. Today we have a tiny postage stamp of a reserve, a small fraction of a percentage of our traditional territory fronting a dead body of water trapped between two massive industrial operations. Our land and aquatic ecosystems have been fouled beyond human comprehension.

Later on in her speech, she says:

I think I can say on my and my community's behalf that true reconciliation requires this treaty receive broad support. I want our treaty to have the support of as many parties and individuals as possible. To have it become a political football due to various specific public policy issues, in my view, sullies the whole point of true reconciliation.

Compromises are indeed difficult but also very necessary....

This treaty has been under negotiation for many years. In fact, over 14 years of negotiation have gone into this treaty.

In the Tsawwassen treaty summary and key benefits, the Tsawwassen people talk about a new relationship. They say:

The treaty, signed on December 6th, represents a new relationship between Canada, British Columbia, and Tsawwassen First Nation. It begins the process of reconciliation, and sets TFN on the path towards self-sufficiency. Tsawwassen First Nation becomes a full partner with its provincial and federal counterparts, and undertakes the rights and obligations of its section 35 responsibilities. The treaty is not a windfall, nor is it perfect. It represents a compromise borne out of difficult and complex negotiations. It also represents a significant challenge to Tsawwassen First Nation: the responsibilities of treaty present a set of policy and operational challenges that TFN recognizes and is preparing for.

In any agreement that is developed there are often differences of opinion. Because this treaty has been in negotiation for many years, has gone through the provincial legislature and has now come to the House of Commons for ratification, I argue that there has been much discussion and review, especially in light of the historic apology that happened last Wednesday in the House. I think for many people it signals a step forward into a new era of recognizing nation to nation respect and status. This treaty is a way to signal that intent is truly there.

I want to also put it into a couple of other perspectives and one is an international perspective.

Under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, article 26 says:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Tsawwassen grandmothers and grandfathers and great grandmothers and great grandfathers for centuries have lived on the Lower Mainland and in areas around there, using the land and the sea to feed, clothe and house their people.

Many of us in the House support the UN declaration in terms of recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and territories and to their economic self-sufficiency. This treaty would be an opportunity to signal, although Canada has not acknowledged the UN declaration, that at least we acknowledge the Tsawwassen people have the right to a small part of their traditional territory.

I want to go back, also in terms of historical context, to the report by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in volume two, “Restructuring the Relationship”. The commission spent a fair bit of time covering and talking about the importance of treaties.

The commission talked about the historical need for justice and reconciliation. It quoted Josephine Sandy from the Ojibwa Tribal Family Services. She said:

Our people have always understood that we must be able to continue to live our lives in accordance with our culture and spirituality. Our elders have taught us that this spirit and intent of our treaty relationship must last as long as the rivers flow and the sun shines. We must wait however long it takes for non-Aboriginal people to understand and respect our way of life. This will be the respect that the treaty relationship between us calls for.

In this context, this treaty is a very important piece of having Tsawwassen and its neighbours move forward with some certainty, whether it is economic or social. It allows both the Tsawwassen and the surrounding community to establish that forward looking relationship, which will allow all to benefit economically and socially.

The same report talks about the need for reconciliation as being a way to move forward. Again, I know Chief Kim Baird talked about reconciliation. She talked about the fact that the treaty was compromised. The report states:

By reconciliation we mean more than just giving effect to a treaty hunting right or securing the restoration of reserve land taken unfairly or illegally in the past. We mean embracing the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship itself, a relationship of mutual trust and loyalty, as the framework for a vibrant and respectful new relationship between peoples.

New attitudes must be fostered to bring about this new relationship. A consensus will have to evolve that the treaty relationship continues to be of mutual benefit. New institutions must be created to bring this relationship into being. At present, the relationship between the treaty parties is mired in ignorance, mistrust and prejudice. Indeed, this has been the case for generations.

In 1996, 12 years ago when the RCAP report came out, there was a signal that the need for reconciliation was so important, both to the first nations and to the non-first nations communities. It is a call for us to find ways to build collectively together to move forward, to establish some trust, to establish those long term relationships that can truly make a difference for both the first nations and the non-first nations community.

In the conclusion of the recommendations, although some of these have been covered, it talked about fulfillment of historical treaties. In this case we are talking about the signing of a treaty and not the fulfillment. Under the recommendations, the commission recommends:

The parties implement the historical treaties from the perspective of both justice and reconciliation:

(a) Justice requires the fulfilment of the agreed terms of the treaties, as recorded in the treaty text and supplemented by oral evidence.

(b) Reconciliation requires the establishment of proper principles to govern the continuing treaty relationship and to complete treaties that are incomplete because of the absence of consensus.

I think the treaty is an opportunity to heal some of those long-standing wounds that exist with the first nations. It is an opportunity to recognize the contribution that first nations make to this country and will continue to make. It is an opportunity to truly move forward.

In the conclusion of Chief Baird's speech to the legislature, she talks about the fact that:

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 territory for our own people or, in other words, a quality of life comparable to other British Columbians.

The NDP will not support the amendments as proposed. We encourage members of the House to move quickly to ensure this treaty moves through the House and on into the Senate.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.
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Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about the present file and particularly about the amendments proposed by the member for Delta—Richmond East.

From the outset, I should say that the Bloc Québécois will not support these motions, and I hope that all of the members in the House, with the exception of the two Conservative members, will vote against these motions. The two Conservative members—the member for Delta—Richmond East and his colleague—will perhaps be the only two in the House to vote against an agreement that has been reached between aboriginals and the governments of British Columbia and Canada.

Why is this bill so important for the Bloc Québécois? Because it talks about autonomy and negotiation between nations.

I think that my colleague, the member for Delta—Richmond East, missed some history classes. If he thinks that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, for which I am the Bloc Québécois critic, did not adequately study this bill, I must tell him that not only did we study it very carefully, but we also received documents to prove what I am about to say. I am sure that my colleague was not alive, nor was his grandfather, nor his great-great grandfather when, in 400 B.C., reference was made to Tsawwassen being in the Vancouver delta. I think that they have a right.

Better yet, there is more, because my colleague thinks that all rights are to be taken for granted. He thinks that because white people came along, the Indians should make way. That is what my colleague opposite wants. In 1851—and I did not make this up, this is from the research results we were given, results that were double-checked—Tsawwassen territory was split in two by the establishment of the Canadian territory and the United States. That predated 1867 and, unfortunately for my colleague opposite, unfortunately for the member for Delta—Richmond East, that was long before he, his parents, his grandparents, or his great-grandparents came into this world. So I think that the aboriginals have some long-standing rights.

The Tsawwassen reserve was created in 1871. That was four years after Canada became a country. To my knowledge, British Columbia did not even exist then. See how the facts have been twisted. When talking about what is going on now, we have to remember that in 1874, the reserve included 490 acres in the Vancouver port and the delta.

The surprising thing is that they are now telling us that it does not exist, that the Indians can be shoved aside. That is bizarre because in 1906, the chiefs went to England—there is evidence supporting that—to ask for their traditional lands back. How would the member for Delta—Richmond East solve the problem? He would solve it by sticking the Indians in the lake or the river, anywhere at all, as long as he could get rid of them and make room for nice white people. He should be ashamed.

The member is part of the government. His government is responsible for this bill. The member is taking issue with a bill introduced by his own government. Not only is he challenging it, but he is introducing amendments that, if passed, would rob Bill C-34 of everything that was agreed to, of everything that was discussed and addressed in the treaty between the Tsawwassen and the governments of Canada and British Columbia. So much for self-determination. Bizarre actions like these lead us to believe that his government's apology was nothing but lip service. The member for Delta—Richmond East is part of the government that apologized just last week.

The ink on the documents is not even dry yet. It was only a week ago Wednesday that the government issued a formal apology for the ethnocide of aboriginals. It was indeed an ethnocide, that is, causing a people to lose their status, thus destroying their culture. That is exactly what was done to aboriginals on reserves who were sent to residential schools. It would certainly make things easier for the member if we could do the same thing to the people of Tsawwassen. If we could get them out of the way, that would take care of the problem. It would done with, one could say.

But my hon. colleague should know that aboriginals, especially with this treaty, will probably take much better care of the salmon. Actually, he seems to care more about the salmon issue than he does about first nations. That is not to say that I am not concerned about the salmon. In fact, with this agreement, the first nations peoples will be able to take much better care of the salmon than the white people that some would like to replace them with.

Furthermore, the agreement also proposes that the Tsawwassen nation, which negotiated nation to nation with British Columbia and Canada, be able to sit at the same table as the regional committee in the Delta and Vancouver area, in order to allow the same developments.

I saw the stocks. I went to see for myself. I find it exceptional, and I say this out of respect for the current government. Once again, I would like to repeat to my hon. colleague from Delta—Richmond East that negotiations began on this agreement in 2003. It has not been merely a couple weeks or a couple months. They have been going on since 2003 and even earlier. An agreement was reached with British Columbia and Canada around 2003 and, since that time, people from the Tsawwassen nation have come to Ottawa several times. They have met with the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development several times to move this file forward.

For once, a file is finally making some progress in this government and I find it appalling that a member—a government member, at that—would put forward such a proposal to destroy his own government's bill. It makes no sense.

It is important to look at what they are claiming. At first, I thought they wanted half of British Colombia. I thought to myself that this made no sense. But no, it would give them 724 hectares of land. Sure, maybe the land is a prime location, in a commercial area. It is true that the Vancouver port will perhaps not be able to expand as it wanted to. It will just need to come to an agreement with the Tsawwassen First Nation. That is it. Finally, they can deal with each other as equals. The objective of the agreement, of the treaty, is to be able to negotiate as equals, as nations.

That is why the Bloc is in favour of this. The Tsawwassen agreement is the first of its kind below the 60th parallel. We think it could have a significant impact on other land claims.

I realize I am running out of time. I urge all of my colleagues in the House to vote in favour of this bill, with the exception of those two members. I would like to teach them a lesson so that they understand once and for all. I would like us to all vote in favour of this bill. Thus, the aboriginals of Tsawwassen will be able to finally reclaim their land, to get back what is rightfully theirs.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 4:10 p.m.
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Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat surprised, and in a few minutes, I will explain why. I am stunned and disappointed. My colleague opposite's position is unacceptable, and I hope that other members of his party will vote against these motions that—I will try to choose my words carefully here, but it is hard for me—seem to me to be infused with paternalism, smugness and disrespect despite the fact that not even a week ago—the ink is still wet—the government apologized for what was done to aboriginals in Indian residential schools.

I studied Bill C-34 very closely, from all angles. The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development also studied it thoroughly.

The final agreement covers approximately 724 hectares of treaty settlement land including approximately 290 hectares of former reserve lands. These lands belonged to the Indians, not to the whites, because the Indians were there first. The aboriginals will get 372 hectares of provincial Crown land belonging to British Columbia back, and the first nation will also own in fee simple 62 hectares of waterfront land comprised of the Boundary Bay and Fraser River parcels.

I do not understand what gives them the right to say that the aboriginals, under this agreement that took five years to negotiate, do not have rights to these lands that belong to them. I would really like him to explain that.

Speaker's RulingTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I must first share with the House a ruling by the Speaker on Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

There are nine motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-34.

Motions Nos. 1 to 9 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

June 16th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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The Vice-Chair Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell

I call to order meeting number 34 of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

We had decided that we would have Statistics Canada and Indian Affairs come before us today. We're going to start with Statistics Canada and then go on to the Department of Indian Affairs.

First of all, I hear that congratulations are in order for one of our colleagues on this committee. Mr. Chris Warkentin and his wife have just had a baby girl, so that's why he's not in today. We're very happy for him.

I know that some members are waiting to speak on Tsawwassen and Bill C-34, so that's why some of them aren't here. I think some members will be coming and going, so no offence, but we have some rotating members who are on the speaking list.

I think we'll start with Ms. Badets. Go ahead.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I would like at this time to move the standard motion that can be made only today. I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), commencing on Monday, June 9, 2008, and concluding on Thursday, June 19, 2008, the House shall continue to sit until 11:00 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated last week in answer to the Thursday statement, this is we have work to do week. To kick off the week, we are introducing the customary motion to extend the daily sitting hours of the House for the final two weeks of the spring session. This is a motion which is so significant there is actually a specific Standing Order contemplating it, because it is the normal practice of this House, come this point in the parliamentary cycle, that we work additional hours and sit late to conduct business.

In fact, since 1982, when the House adopted a fixed calendar, such a motion has never been defeated. I underline that since a fixed calendar was adopted, such a motion has never been defeated. As a consequence, we know that today when we deal with this motion, we will discover whether the opposition parties are interested in doing the work that they have been sent here to do, or whether they are simply here to collect paycheques, take it easy and head off on a three month vacation.

On 11 of those occasions, sitting hours were extended using this motion. On six other occasions, the House used a different motion to extend the sitting hours in June. This includes the last three years of minority government.

This is not surprising. Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard to advance their priorities. They would not look kindly on any party that was too lazy to work a few extra hours to get as much done as possible before the three month summer break. There is a lot to get done.

In the October 2007 Speech from the Throne, we laid out our legislative agenda. It set out an agenda of clear goals focusing on five priorities to: rigorously defend Canada's sovereignty and place in the world; strengthen the federation and modernize our democratic institutions; provide effective, competitive economic leadership to maintain a competitive economy; tackle crime and strengthen the security of Canadians; and improve the environment and the health of Canadians. In the subsequent months, we made substantial progress on these priorities.

We passed the Speech from the Throne which laid out our legislative agenda including our environmental policy. Parliament passed Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, to make our streets and communities safer by tackling violent crime. Parliament passed Bill C-28, which implemented the 2007 economic statement. That bill reduced taxes for all Canadians, including reductions in personal income and business taxes, and the reduction of the GST to 5%.

I would like to point out that since coming into office, this government has reduced the overall tax burden for Canadians and businesses by about $190 billion, bringing taxes to their lowest level in 50 years.

We have moved forward on our food and consumer safety action plan by introducing a new Canada consumer product safety act and amendments to the Food and Drugs Act.

We have taken important steps to improve the living conditions of first nations. For example, first nations will hopefully soon have long overdue protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and Bill C-30 has been passed by the House to accelerate the resolution of specific land claims.

Parliament also passed the 2008 budget. This was a balanced, focused and prudent budget to strengthen Canada amid global economic uncertainty. Budget 2008 continues to reduce debt, focuses government spending and provides additional support for sectors of the economy that are struggling in this period of uncertainty.

As well, the House adopted a motion to endorse the extension of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, with a renewed focus on reconstruction and development to help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country.

These are significant achievements and they illustrate a record of real results. All parliamentarians should be proud of the work we have accomplished so far in this session. However, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.

As I have stated in previous weekly statements, our top priority is to secure passage of Bill C-50, the 2008 budget implementation bill.

This bill proposes a balanced budget, controlled spending, investments in priority areas and lower taxes, all without forcing Canadian families to pay a tax on carbon, gas and heating. Furthermore, the budget implementation bill proposes much-needed changes to the immigration system.

These measures will help keep our economy competitive.

Through the budget implementation bill, we are investing in the priorities of Canadians.

These priorities include: $500 million to help improve public transit, $400 million to help recruit front line police officers, nearly $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, and $100 million for the Mental Health Commission of Canada to help Canadians facing mental health and homelessness challenges.

These investments, however, could be threatened if the bill does not pass before the summer. That is why I am hopeful that the bill will be passed by the House later today.

The budget bill is not our only priority. Today the House completed debate at report stage on Bill C-29, which would create a modern, transparent, accountable process for the reporting of political loans. We will vote on this bill tomorrow and debate at third reading will begin shortly thereafter.

We also wish to pass Bill C-55, which implements our free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

This free trade agreement, the first in six years, reflects our desire to find new markets for Canadian products and services.

Given that the international trade committee endorsed the agreement earlier this year, I am optimistic that the House will be able to pass this bill before we adjourn.

On Friday we introduced Bill C-60, which responds to recent decisions relating to courts martial. That is an important bill that must be passed on a time line. Quick passage is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of our military justice system.

Last week the aboriginal affairs committee reported Bill C-34, which implements the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. This bill has all-party support in the House. Passage of the bill this week would complement our other achievements for first nations, including the apology on Wednesday to the survivors of residential schools.

These are important bills that we think should be given an opportunity to pass. That is why we need to continue to work hard, as our rules contemplate.

The government would also like to take advantage of extended hours to advance important crime and security measures. Important justice measures are still before the House, such as: Bill S-3, the anti-terrorism act; Bill C-53, the auto theft bill; Bill C-45 to modernize the military justice system; and Bill C-60, which responds to recent court martial decisions.

There are a number of other bills that we would like to see advanced in order to improve the management of the economy. There are other economic bills we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-7, to modernize our aeronautics sector, Bill C-5, dealing with nuclear liability, Bill C-43, to modernize our customs rules, Bill C-39, to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers, Bill C-46, to give farmers more choice in marketing grain, Bill C-57, to modernize the election process for the Canadian Wheat Board, Bill C-14, to allow enterprises choice for communicating with customers, and Bill C-32, to modernize our fisheries sector.

If time permits, there are numerous other bills that we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-51, to ensure that food and products available in Canada are safe for consumers, Bill C-54, to ensure safety and security with respect to pathogens and toxins, Bill C-56, to ensure public protection with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods, Bill C-19, to limit the terms of senators to 8 years from a current maximum of 45, and Bill C-22, to provide fairness in representation in the House of Commons.

It is clear a lot of work remains before the House. Unfortunately, a number of bills have been delayed by the opposition through hoist amendments. Given these delays, it is only fair that the House extend its sitting hours to complete the bills on the order paper. As I have indicated, we still have to deal with a lot of bills.

We have seen a pattern in this Parliament where the opposition parties have decided to tie up committees to prevent the work of the people being done. They have done delay and obstruction as they did most dramatically on our crime agenda. They do not bother to come and vote one-third of time in the House of Commons. Their voting records has shown that. All of this is part of a pattern of people who are reluctant to work hard.

The government is prepared to work hard and the rules contemplate that it work hard. In fact, on every occasion, when permission has been sought at this point in the parliamentary calendar to sit extended hours, the House has granted permission, including in minority Parliaments.

If that does not happen, it will be clear to Canadians that the opposition parties do not want to work hard and are not interested in debating the important policy issues facing our country. Is it any wonder that we have had a question period dominated not by public policy questions, but dominated entirely by trivia and issues that do not matter to ordinary Canadians.

The government has been working hard to advance its agenda, to advance the agenda that we talked about with Canadians in the last election, to work on the priorities that matter to ordinary Canadians, and we are seeking the consent of the House to do this.

Before concluding, I point out, once again, that extending the daily sitting hours for the last two weeks of June is a common practice. Marleau and Montpetit, at page 346, state this is:

—a long-standing practice whereby, prior to the prorogation of the Parliament or the start of the summer recess, the House would arrange for longer hours of sitting in order to complete or advance its business.

As I stated earlier, it was first formalized in the Standing Orders in 1982 when the House adopted a fixed calendar. Before then, the House often met on the weekend or continued its sittings into July to complete its work. Since 1982, the House has agreed on 11 occasions to extend the hours of sitting in the last two weeks of June.

Therefore, the motion is a routine motion designed to facilitate the business of the House and I expect it will be supported by all members. We are sent here to engage in very important business for the people of Canada. Frankly, the members in the House are paid very generously to do that work. Canadians expect them to do that work and expect them to put in the time that the rules contemplate.

All member of the House, if they seek that privilege from Canadian voters, should be prepared to do the work the rules contemplate. They should be prepared to come here to vote, to come here to debate the issues, to come here for the hours that the rules contemplate. If they are not prepared to do that work, they should step aside and turnover their obligations to people who are willing to do that work.

There is important work to be done on the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. I am therefore seeking the support of all members to extend our sitting hours, so we can complete work on our priorities before we adjourn for the summer. This will allow members to demonstrate results to Canadians when we return to our constituencies in two weeks.

Not very many Canadians have the privilege of the time that we have at home in our ridings, away from our work. People do not begrudge us those privileges. They think it is important for us to connect with them. However, what they expect in return is for us to work hard. They expect us to put in the hours. They expect us to carry on business in a professional fashion. The motion is all about that. It is about doing what the rules have contemplated, what has always been authorized by the House any time it has been asked, since the rule was instituted in 1982. That is why I would ask the House to support the motion to extend the hours.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 5th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.
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Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. In accordance with the order of reference of Monday, May 26 the committee has considered Bill C-34, the Tsawwassen first nation final agreement act, and has agreed to report it without amendment.

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


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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.
See context


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.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

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


Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary a question on the issue the member raised around band membership.

I am not that familiar with B.C. and its treaty making process. Was it up to the band itself to accept membership? Did people come in under Bill C-34? Could they possibly have been on a registry at the federal government level or did they have band membership status? Was it a decision of the band itself?

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2008 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg South Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, it is 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.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2008 / 3:40 p.m.
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John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 15th, 2008 / 3 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, in keeping with our theme for this week, which is strengthening democracy and human rights, today we will continue to debate Bill C-47, which is a bill to provide basic rights to on reserve individuals to protect them and their children in the event of a relationship breakdown, which are rights that Canadians off reserve enjoy every day.

We will debate our bill to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement, Bill C-34, and Bill C-21, which would extend the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act to aboriginals living on reserve.

We will also debate Bill C-29, which is our bill to close the loophole that was used most recently by Liberal leadership candidates to bypass the personal contribution limit provisions of the election financing laws with large personal loans from wealthy, powerful individuals, and Bill C-19, which is our bill to limit the terms of senators to eight years from the current maximum of 45.

Next week will be honouring our monarch week. Members of Parliament will return to their ridings to join constituents in celebrating Queen Victoria, our sovereign with whom Sir John A. Macdonald worked in establishing Confederation, and honouring our contemporary head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The week the House returns will be sound economic management without a carbon tax week. The highlight of the week will be the return of the budget bill to this House on May 28.

This bill proposes a balanced budget, controlled spending, investments in priority areas and lower taxes, all without forcing Canadian families to pay a tax on carbon, gas and heating. Furthermore, the budget implementation bill proposes much needed changes to the immigration system. These measures will help us ensure the competitiveness of our economy. I would like to assure this House that we are determined to see this bill pass before the House rises for the summer.

We will start the week by debating, at third reading, Bill C-33, our biofuels bill to require that by 2010 5% of gasoline and by 2012 2% of diesel and home heating oil will be comprised of renewable fuels, with our hope that there will be no carbon tax on them.

We will debate Bill C-55, our bill to implement the free trade agreement with the states of the European Free Trade Association.

This free trade agreement, the first in six years, reflects our desire to find new markets for Canadian products and services.

We will also debate Bill C-5 dealing with nuclear liability issues for our energy sector; Bill C-7 to modernize our aeronautics sector; Bill C-43 to modernize our customs rules; Bill C-39 to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers; Bill C-46 to give farmers more choice in marketing grain; Bill C-14, which allows enterprises choice for communicating with their customers through the mail; and Bill C-32 to modernize our fisheries sector.

The opposition House leader raises the question of two evenings being set aside for committee of the whole. He is quite right. Those two evenings will have to be set aside sometime between now and May 31.

With regard to the notes that were quoted from by the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, they were their notes and referred of course to announcements that clearly have been made about the need and the imperative of restoring our military's equipment and needs in the way in which the Canadian government is doing so.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 15th, 2008 / 10:35 a.m.
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Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have one more question for the member for Churchill. I myself understand her background of being a first nations woman. I also understand her view of women's shelters. Having been with the RCMP for 18 years, I have utilized many shelters for victims of domestic violence. It is quite a need and it has to be looked at. I believe that we in the government are looking at it.

Today, the Tsawwassen First Nation's final agreement, Bill C-34, is to be debated. With us being first nations, we have to progress one step at a time to get everything done or try to meet everybody's needs as first nations, but what I see here today is an attempt at filibustering, at stalling. Are we going to go on with the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement? Why is she delaying this bill today?

May 14th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.


Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It is a pleasure to be back before the committee, and I appreciate the work you've done since we last met. It's nice to see this committee working through its agenda.

I welcome this opportunity to discuss the Main Estimates of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

There are a couple of things I want to do in my time before you this afternoon. I want to discuss the main estimates, of course, but I also want to expand on some of our recent progress on issues of real importance to aboriginal people, and emphasize for committee members how vital it is that we continue to pursue our collaborative and results-based approach.

These main estimates reflect this government's determination to make tangible progress on aboriginal and northern issues through genuine collaboration and resolute action. We're working to address the fundamental obstacles that stand in the way of greater prosperity for aboriginal peoples and northerners. Our approach involves working with willing partners to design and implement fundamental solutions that reflect real results--for example, solutions for particular challenges such as unsafe drinking water and ineffective specific claims resolution processes.

This collaborative approach has already produced several important breakthroughs. Significant progress has been made in overcoming the challenges presented by the provision of safe drinking water to first nations communities, the improvement of child and family services, and improvement in the supply of housing, to name only a few.

These and other results demonstrate the advantages of working in good faith with willing partners to formulate distinct plans, establish clear priorities, and dedicate adequate resources. The main estimates now before this committee are part of this government's practical approach to planning. They propose the strategic investments needed to support further progress.

Although the total amount in this year's main estimates is smaller than that of last year, year-over-year changes must be interpreted in the context of the entire budget cycle. As the first step in the fiscal cycle, the main estimates do not include resources to be acquired through the supplementary estimates. In fact, supplementary estimates A, tabled in the House yesterday, result in an increase of approximately $483 million in my department's budget for 2008-09.

This set of main estimates does increase the funding allotted to Indian and Inuit programs and services such as education, housing, community infrastructure, and social support. This increase also includes funding for the family violence prevention program, the new first nations infrastructure fund, and a transfer from Industry Canada for Aboriginal Business Canada.

The north is also part of my mandate, so I want to touch briefly on progress made here as well. As you know, I am also responsible for leading the advancement of the government's integrated northern strategy. This strategy supports the government's vision of a new north by focusing on four integrated priorities: sovereignty, economic and social development, governance, and environmental protection, and since 2006 we've moved forward across government in all four areas.

In fact, to cite just a few examples, we've announced plans for a world-class Arctic research station. We're pursuing devolution in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. We are advancing the northern regulatory improvement initiative. We're also acting on Budget 2008 commitments that build on these priorities with key measures to protect and secure Canada's sovereignty and create more economic opportunities for northerners. Many of my cabinet colleagues are moving forward with their own northern initiatives, and that's good to see as well.

But there is more to the story than just numbers and spending.

I firmly believe that money alone—no matter how large the amount—will not enable us to achieve our larger goals.

Similarly, no single player acting alone can effect the changes needed. To make meaningful, sustainable improvements in the lives of aboriginal people requires broad collaboration, careful planning, and effective action. All three feature prominently in this government's strategy on aboriginal issues.

We formed productive partnerships to make headway on issues that matter to aboriginal people. We have worked with first nations leaders from across the country on water, education, child and family services, and settling claims. To cite a recent example, a few weeks ago I signed an MOU with the Province of New Brunswick and New Brunswick first nations to improve the quality of education for first nation learners in that province. I'm very excited about that proposal as well.

Let me talk a bit more about what we have been able to accomplish with our partners. As I think I mentioned the last time I was before committee, we've made considerable progress since 2006 in improving drinking water systems in first nations communities. Budget 2008 committed $330 million over two years to the first nations water and waste water action plan, which I announced last month. This is the next step in ensuring that first nations have the clean, safe water they deserve.

We have also committed $300 million to the first nations market housing fund, which is now open for business. This innovative program will provide first nations people living on reserve with more housing options so that people can build home equity while at the same time respecting the tradition of communal ownership of reserve and settlement land. Initiated in partnership with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the program aims to make home ownership a realistic option for first nation families who live on reserves. Over the next ten years the fund is expected to add some 25,000 new housing units for first nations communities. It was a pleasure to introduce the board members and make that announcement just a week or so ago.

This government has also launched a collaborative plan to overhaul the processes used to resolve specific claims. I know you are very familiar with that. We believe that the negotiated settlements of specific claims produce a wealth of benefits for all Canadians, not just aboriginal people.

The creation of a specific claims tribunal, proposed in Bill C-30, is the centrepiece of a larger plan to overhaul specific claims processes. The plan, designed in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations, commits Canada to resolving specific claims in a fair, timely, and open manner. l'm convinced that improvements to specific claims processes will benefit all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. I appreciate the committee's work on Bill C-30, and I'm looking forward to its swift passage through the Senate. I know that discussions with senators have already started to take place.

l'm also delighted that Bill C-47, the legislation to safeguard the matrimonial real property rights of first nations women and children living on reserve, has begun second reading in the House. I hope this committee will soon have the opportunity to consider this important piece of legislation.

We also remain committed to legislation to ensure that first nations on reserve are finally fully protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act. I look forward to that bill coming back here as well.

Bill C-34 is also before the House. This legislation proposes to enact the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. I hope that it, too, will be here before committee for its consideration before long. That landmark agreement is the result of another remarkable collaboration between first nations, Canada, and British Columbia, and negotiations that stretched over 100 consultative sessions with regional governments, community groups, and other interested parties. It was a real collaborative effort to put forward an excellent agreement, which I hope will go quickly through the parliamentary process.

Under the terms of the final agreement, the Tsawwassen First Nation acquires not only land and a financial component, but also a seat on the metro Vancouver regional board. This arrangement means that the first nation, municipality, and board will work together to create and execute plans that serve the interests of all residents. I trust that members of this committee will appreciate the significance of this collaboration once they begin their review of Bill C-34.

I would like to take a quick moment to provide an update on the implementation of the historic Indian residential schools settlement agreement. The Government of Canada has received over 91,000 applications for the common experience payment, and it has processed more than 81,000, totalling $1.23 billion. At the same time, the important work of the independent assessment process has begun, and that's well under way as well.

As you are aware, on April 28 I had the great pleasure of announcing the appointment of Justice Harry LaForme as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The work of Justice LaForme and the historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be instrumental in building a renewed relationship with aboriginal communities. It was a pleasure this week to announce the final two commissioners, Claudette Dumont-Smith and Jane Brewin Morley, who will complete that commission so they can begin their work on June 1.

The next step in the process of healing and reconciliation is an apology to former students of Indian residential schools. Preparations are progressing on that, on what I'm convinced will be a very fine moment, a very respectful, meaningful apology that will be great for our government, our country, and for aboriginal people across Canada.

I will depart from my text here for just a minute to express my appreciation to Peter Harrison, who has spearheaded the Indian residential schools settlement and the work that has been done to date in making sure we came to what I think is a very good moment. He's going to be moving on to other things. I think Queen's University may be in the mix. I'm not sure. This may be his last committee appearance.

I'm not just saying this so you'll have mercy on him. I'm actually saying this because I think the entire country owes a big debt of gratitude to Mr. Harrison. He has done his work in a way that's garnered the respect of successive ministers, but more importantly, or just as importantly, of the entire aboriginal community. I just want to say, if I can here, that I respect all these people here with me today, but I say a special thank you to Mr. Harrison for the fine work he's done, and I hope you'll ask him the right kinds of questions to reflect that as we move forward.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2008 / 3:25 p.m.
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Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 8th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, the government took a major step forward this week to maintain a competitive economy, our theme for this week, and I am happy to advise the House that yesterday the Standing Committee on Finance agreed to report the budget implementation bill back to the House by May 28.

This is excellent news. The budget bill ensures a balanced budget, controls spending, and invests in priority areas.

This week also saw the passage of Bill C-23, which amends the Canada Marine Act, and Bill C-5 on nuclear liability at report stage.

Today, we are debating a confidence motion on the government’s handling of the economy. We fully expect, notwithstanding the minority status of our government, that this House of Commons will, once again, express its support for the government’s sound management of Canada’s finances and the economy.

Tomorrow, will we continue with maintaining a competitive economy week by debating our bill to implement our free trade agreement with the countries of the European Free Trade Association. It is the first free trade agreement signed in six years and represents our commitment to finding new markets for the goods and services Canadians produce.

If there is time, we will also debate Bill C-14, which would allow enterprises choice for communicating with customers; Bill C-7, to modernize our aeronautics sector; Bill C-32, to modernize our fisheries sector; Bill C-43, to modernize our custom rules; Bill C-39, to modernize the Grain Act for farmers; and Bill C-46, to give farmers more choice in marketing grain.

The government believes strongly in the principle of democracy and the fundamental importance of human rights. Next week we will show our support for that with strengthening democracy and human rights week. The week will start with debate on Bill C-30, our specific land claims bill. The bill would create an independent tribunal made up of superior court judges to help resolve the specific claims of first nations and will, hopefully, speed up the resolution about standing claims.

We will debate Bill C-34, which is our bill to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. We will debate our bill to provide basic rights to on reserve individuals, Bill C-47, to protect them and their children in the event of a relationship breakdown, rights that off reserve Canadians enjoy every day.

As I said, we are committed to strengthening democracy in Canada. Yesterday, I had an excellent discussion on Senate reform with members of the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee. That discussion will continue in this House next week when we debate our bill to limit the terms of senators to eight years from the current maximum of 45, as foreseen in Bill C-19.

We will also debate our bill to close the loophole used by leadership candidates to bypass the personal contribution limit provisions of the election financing laws with large, personal loans from wealthy powerful individuals and ensure we eliminate the influence of big money in the political process.

With regard to the question about estimates, there are, as the opposition House leader knows, two evenings that must be scheduled for committee of the whole in the House to deal with those estimates. Those days will be scheduled over the next two weeks that we sit so they may be completed before May 31, as contemplated in the Standing Orders.

There have been consultations, Mr. Speaker, and I believe you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, on Friday, May 9, starting at noon and ending at the normal hour of daily adjournment, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActRoutine Proceedings

December 6th, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.


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

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

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