Northern Jobs and Growth Act

An Act to enact the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act and the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

John Duncan  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

Part 1 enacts the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, which implements certain provisions of Articles 10 to 12 of the land claims agreement between the Inuit of the Nunavut Settlement Area and Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada that was ratified, given effect and declared valid by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, which came into force on July 9, 1993.

Part 2 enacts the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act, which implements provisions of certain land claim agreements. In particular, that Act establishes the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board, whose purpose is to resolve matters in dispute relating to terms and conditions of access to lands and waters in the Northwest Territories and the compensation to be paid in respect of that access.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on her excellent speech.

I would like to ask her why, yet again, the 50 amendment put forward in committee were rejected and sometimes even declared inadmissible. Those amendments were based on excellent testimony from people concerned about the two bills that were merged into one.

Why is the government still rejecting reasoned amendments that are supported by witnesses who are actually living this reality?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would simply say that the bill is more than 150 pages long.

How is it possible that not a single one of the 50 amendments we proposed could improve the bill? They should have at least been studied further.

Naturally, the Conservatives decided to do as they saw fit and did not accept any of the amendments. That is really too bad because the amendments were based on testimony and were meant to help northerners.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Compton—Stanstead just spoke about the rejected amendments.

People asked for more time so that they could make certain amendments in order to improve the bill. That is a good thing.

I would like my colleague to tell us what she thinks about the idea of giving certain groups more time so that they can study the bill some more and have some input on the amendments.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question.

I have here Paul Quassa's testimony before the committee. He is chair of the Nunavut Planning Commission and he said:

This organization has been critically underfunded for nearly a decade. Industry and Inuit have told us that the land use planning process takes too long, and we agree. However, without additional resources, [they are] helpless to respond.

A bit later, he said:

...without appropriate financial and human resources and the expansion of the commission's jurisdiction to include all land, water, and marine areas...the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act...will miss the mark.

They will not be able to achieve their goal.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, these are not new issues. Something could have been done as early as 1990, but we have seen nothing until now. Only the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives have been in government since 1990. Now the Conservatives are in power, and nothing was done until today.

I think this comes a little late. This needs to be done, and it needs to be done fast.

What does my colleague think of the fact that this issue has been dragging on for so long and no one has done anything until now?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his second question.

Since 1993, funding for the commission has been adjusted based on domestic demand implicit price indexes. Taking current funding levels into account, the commission is having a hard time fulfilling its obligations.

Legislative measures will add obligations beyond those imposed by the agreement.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, as you have heard several times in the House today, the New Democratic Party is in support of this legislation. However, we think it is important to bring to the House the concerns raised by the many witnesses who came from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to express some concerns about the legislation. They took the time to make sound, genuine recommendations for improving the bill. Some of the issues were not resolved in the time for consultation. I would like to share some of those, as have some of my colleagues.

I will be sharing my time today with my colleague, the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan.

The bill is a very important one. It is very important that all jurisdictions in Canada have a sound system for reviewing projects, for planning developments in their communities and for environmental impact assessments. This particular legislation has been long in coming, as my colleagues have pointed out. The agreement between the Crown and the people of Nunavut was signed in 1993. Yet here we are, two decades later, and this legislation is only now being brought forward. There have been successive governments in power that have dropped the ball. To the credit of the government, it has moved forward with the legislation. There has been a greater attempt at consultation, but clearly not enough.

Interestingly, in the bill there is reference to the duty to consult. I am not sure that some of my colleagues have raised this issue. In the bill, under part 1, which deals with the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, the minister is obligated to consult closely with the territorial minister, the designated Inuit organization, the commission and the board created under the bill on any amendments to the bill in the future. What is not made clear is whether the minister is obligated to do that consultation in advance of tabling the bill. There are a number of matters that merit improvement. Perhaps the government will listen to my hon. colleagues, who have suggested that it would be wise to have a review of this legislation sooner than 10 years from now so that we might address some of the factors that are missing, particularly in the second part of the bill dealing with surface rights in the Northwest Territories.

Part 1 of the bill deals with Nunavut planning and project assessment. Many of the mechanisms created in this legislation are already set out in the land claims agreement. That is the normal course of what has happened in the modern treaties. The step that was missing was that we needed the federal legislation to actually implement the intricacies of the systems for planning and assessment. To their credit, the people of Nunavut have been proceeding for 20 years to try to deal with these complicated matters without the legislative framework. Now we have a legislative framework.

As I mentioned, I had the privilege of sitting in on the committee for one day to replace one of my colleagues. I had an opportunity to talk with a number of the representatives from Nunavut and with other witnesses who have raised a number of concerns about the bill. They had a number of pragmatic, practical recommendations to improve the bill. Sad to say, none of the recommendations made to the committee, which we brought forward as proposed amendments, were accepted. I think that is most regrettable. It raises questions about how sincere was the consultation on the bill.

One thing I would like to bring attention to, which I am not sure anyone else has mentioned, is relevant to the issues that have arisen with the bill. There has been some suggestion, particularly by the member for Western Arctic, that concerns have been raised by the first nation peoples in the Northwest Territories that the part of the bill to do with the surface rights board is perhaps being rushed through too quickly, for a number of reasons.

Not all of the first nation final agreements include a surface rights board. In some cases they are saying they do not have any issues under the surface rights system, and they are asking, what is the rush? In other cases, some first nations have said that since they have not settled their land claims yet, they will likely litigate.

Therefore, there are a lot of questions about the rushing through and, again, the omnibus nature of it. The personalty of the government when it has dragged its heels seems to be to wrap it all up tight with a ribbon and table it in the House. In this case, these are two very distinct pieces of legislation that cover two distinct territories of our country. It is rather puzzling that it has forced these together.

The matter I want to raise is the series of legal actions, first filed by the Inuit of Nunavut, represented by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, against the Crown, in 2006. They filed that action, very regrettably, because negotiations had broken down on the duty of the federal Crown to actually deliver its side of that modern treaty. A big part of that was passing over the necessary finances for Nunavut to begin acting as a modern government. The action dealt with breaches of the agreement relating to core funding to establish systems of governance; failure of the Crown to act in a manner consistent with the honour of the Crown; and, contrary to the terms of the Nunavut final agreement, failure of the federal Crown to deliver its responsibilities.

Since 2003, proper and adequate funding has not been provided. It is interesting to hear the list of entities within the Nunavut government that the federal government was not supporting, which goes to the very matters under this legislation. It was failing to adequately fund the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the Nunavut Water Board, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal, and the hunters and trappers organizations.

In addition, the action alleged that the federal government was failing to deliver a general monitoring plan, which is required under the agreement. Last year, in June, the court held that in fact the government had erred in law and was required to provide that funding. Guess what happened? The government has appealed that matter. Therefore, instead of simply transferring over the dollars that it signed on to and is constitutionally obligated to transfer, it has simply taken Nunavut to court, again.

They have also alleged no co-operation in the development and implementation of adequate employment and training, which was obviously necessary in order to deliver the functions of all of these boards for planning and assessment. They also advised that there was no Inuit impact and benefit agreement entered into.

There has since been a land claims coalition created, which includes the various Nunavut entities and other governments that have been created under modern treaties. In fact, that coalition of people under modern treaties met in this area just last week and had discussions about the frustrations they are still facing, some progress they are making, and the successes and attributes of working together.

Therefore, the legal actions proceed. Most of their claims have yet to be resolved so they have to continue in the courts, at the same time that they were sitting down and trying to negotiate in good faith. To the credit of the people of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, they did sit down and try to find time, regardless of the lack of appropriate resources and expertise to help them in those negotiations.

It is my understanding that many of these same concerns have been raised regarding the content of Bill C-47. The bill contains no duty or commitment to contribute the resources necessary to implement these selfsame commissions, boards and tribunals established under the first nation final agreements and self-government agreements.

As has been stated by my colleagues, many of the witnesses who came forward said they were delighted that this legislation is finally coming forward after 20 years but they had additional measures they need to make sure it will work properly. Those witnesses are the people who chair and participate on the boards, tribunals and commissions. Among the recommendations that they made are the very ones we brought to the attention of the House. They include the fact that legislation should include a requirement by the government to adequately finance these boards, commissions and tribunals.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague who, as all the members on this side of the House know, does a lot of work with first nations and northern communities. She is doing an amazing job on a file that she knows very well.

As I said in the House earlier today, I am learning more and more about this bill, about how it will work and how it came to be. I was quite disappointed that the 50 or so amendments proposed by the official opposition were all rejected. And yet those amendments were based on important testimony from people who appeared in committee and who had something important to say about this.

I would like to share a thought with my colleague in that regard. Would she not agree that the government showed a lack of respect for northern communities and first nations populations when it refused to listen to them and rejected those amendments? What does my colleague think?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would not like to attribute a particular view such as that to any party in this House. However, I could answer the reverse question. I would have thought that the most respectful thing to do would have been to seriously consider the additional amendments that the representatives of the northern governments on behalf of their northern people came forward to the parliamentary committee to present.

Given the fact that the Conservatives gave short shrift to the amendments and did not consider or implement them, why is that important? Two of the most important measures that my colleagues tabled were that the legislation should include specific provisions to provide for participant funding. When I was in committee that day, it was very clear to me that the witnesses from Nunavut were very supportive of that and very concerned that it would not be included. The other very clear recommendation that came from the witnesses, including Paul Quassa, chair of the Nunavut Planning Commission, was the very serious concern that they are already overwhelmed in trying to deliver the responsibilities under the planning commission, and that with increasing responsibilities coming to them, if they are not given additional resources and expertise, they could not possibly deliver their functions in the manner that is necessary.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think that question would be better directed to the government.

I cannot possibly think of any reasonable reason for a 20-year delay on living up to commitments under a treaty. The current National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations has said very clearly, as have other first nation leaders of late, particularly through the Idle No More movement, that “we are all treaty people”.

It is not just the first nation peoples, but the Inuit and potentially the Métis, who might sign these treaties or first nation final agreements. We, the people of Canada, under the guise of the federal crown, also sign on to these agreements. We all have a responsibility to hold our government responsible to live up to what it signs on to in those agreements. We have a responsibility going forward that the government lives up to the terms of this legislation and provides the adequate resources and expertise, so that the peoples of the north can move forward and in fact benefit from the economic development that the Conservative government is chomping at the bit to make happen in the north.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-47.

I took the time to listen to my colleagues' speeches today and to learn more about the details of this bill because I am not a member of the committee that studied it. I was really interested in the arguments made and the process followed by the committee following the appearance of witnesses and experts who came to comment on the bill.

Before I go into the details, I would like to mention that one of my colleagues caught my attention when they said that we must not forget that the realities in the north or in the regions are often very different than those in the south or in major centres. We often forget that. I represent a riding on Laval Island, the riding of Alfred-Pellan, which is often considered as a rather urban area because it is located in a major metropolitan area. Even though 90% of the riding is agricultural and very rural, we are part of the major metropolitan area.

We often forget that the reality in one part of the country is extremely different from that in another. Today, it is important to point that out and not to forget it. I have family in Canada's far north and in Hudson's Bay. Furthermore, one of my very closest collaborators, who I adore, will be moving to the Yukon in the next few weeks. I will be losing her, unfortunately, but I am very proud of her. She loves the Yukon, and I am happy for her and will take the opportunity to go visit her.

Before becoming an MP, I worked for Quebec's ministry of natural resources and wildlife in northern communities. I mainly worked with them on issues related to outfitters, forestry and anything related to the importance of adding value to and preserving these resources, which was extremely important to these communities. We have to make this the focal point of the bill.

We cannot forget that economic development and jobs in northern regions, in the territories—the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, for example—depend on natural resources. Natural resources are often the main economic driver in these communities. We need to take the time to sit down and underscore that. We also need to take the time to put good legislation into place to support northern development. We need to do a good job with our territorial legislation so that we can properly support these people and so that economic development does not happen at the expense of the environment or northern communities. It needs to happen in a way that is respectful of the people who live there.

We need to put the emphasis on respecting the people who live there. When this bill was studied in committee, the members of the official opposition took the time to listen to witnesses and experts who are directly affected by or who know the subject matter of Bill C-47. We based our 50 amendments on their testimony because is it critical that we listen to those people. What is disappointing is that none of the opposition amendments were accepted.

In hindsight, I am not really surprised. Members of the opposition parties, and even the parties that are not recognized in the House, often talk about what happens and how we can react to the government's arrogance in response to opposition amendments or proposals. We are not surprised that these amendments were refused.

But I am a bit surprised that the government does not take the time to listen to the witnesses and experts in committee. They are there in good faith, to share their concerns and to talk about how they view the situation because it affects them directly.

Witnesses and committees are there for a reason. Committees are there to hear from people and to make the best laws possible. That is an important point when it comes to Bill C-47: have we come up with the best law possible?

For example, the hon. member for Western Arctic spoke a lot this morning about the amendments that were proposed. He wondered whether people were satisfied with the current version of Bill C-47. No one seems very happy with the current version of the bill being presented at third reading. That is really sad because, by listening to what witnesses had to say in committee, we could have fine-tuned and improved this bill. As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to produce the best bills possible, and this bill is, once again, a bit off the mark. We could have produced something better. It is really sad.

Another one of my colleagues raised the fact that most of the first nations who were consulted said that they were not ready and that they needed more time to think about this bill and to see what types of amendments could be proposed. Unfortunately, this point of view was not taken into consideration either. That is also extremely sad. Not enough attention was paid to the witnesses and the first nations needed more time to examine Bill C-47 in order to ensure that the legislation was good for everyone.

Since I am talking about first nations, I cannot help but think of some of the other issues that we have dealt with recently that affect them. I am thinking, for example, of the Idle No More movement, which showed just how important it is to listen to all Canadians. It seems that, at times, the Conservatives are not doing that. We have said it before and we are saying it again, loud and clear. This movement is proof that the government is not listening to the problems of first nations. Bill C-47 could have been a good example of openness, transparency and co-operation with the first nations to help them understand that we are working with them.

When I think about first nations, I am thinking about the Shannen's Dream motion that we unanimously passed several months ago. It had to do with education for all first nations peoples. We all built that together, and we all agreed on it. We also could have used that kind of unity from all parties in the House for Bill C-47, in order to work together here.

These little things make me hesitate a bit. I am a little sad to see that all these amendments were, unfortunately, rejected. But the NDP supports consultations and consensus-based decision-making that respect the independence of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

We in the official opposition are fans of consultation. I like it a lot, as several of my colleagues probably do, as well. I use that approach a lot in my riding. I use in on budgets, on various bills and on all issues affecting the Alfred-Pellan community. Listening to the public and consulting them as often as possible is an extremely important part of democracy.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate that the NDP will keep defending the rights and interests of northerners and promote the long-term prosperity of Canada's northern communities, from coast to coast to coast.

The communities are all different. I think we need to accept the differences of each and every one.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 4:05 p.m.
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London North Centre Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, members of the opposition have made a point today of mentioning the government's reluctance to consider amendments to Bill C-47 that had, in most cases, been recommended by witnesses in the committee. For the record, I would like to address those comments from a different perspective.

Generally speaking, most of the recommended changes have been brought forward in our consultation efforts for both parts of the bill, and we have heard them before. Where accommodations could be made, they were, and there were hundreds of them. In other cases, accommodations were not made, for a variety of very good reasons. As an example, it has been suggested that the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board should have the authority to deny access under certain circumstances. The land claim agreements do not provide the authority for the board to deny access. When a mineral right is issued under an act of Parliament, the holder of the right is inherently entitled to exercise that right and cannot be denied access.

The bill would not change the rights of access or mineral 10-year regime that currently exists in the NWT, nor should it.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for her comments.

If she had listened to my speech, she would have understood the importance of some of the proposed amendments. Among other things, the first nations had asked for more time to review the bill properly. In addition, another good amendment relating to the request for increased transparency for the commissioner could have been studied. It was rejected. I do not understand why the government opposite is rejecting a request for more transparency. I found that strange.

On our side, we like Canadians to be consulted. We most certainly could have taken more time to do that and to do a better job of it.

As my colleague from Western Arctic said, no one is really happy with this bill. No one is jumping for joy at the thought of adopting Bill C-47. We could have fleshed it out more, but the consultations are still a step forward.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for her speech and for clarifying several points.

We know that the north is gaining importance, particularly in terms of the geopolitical perspective of that part of our country. That is why I feel it is important to consider the rights and interests of the first inhabitants of the region seriously.

I know that my colleague has already commented on this, but I would like her to expand on the NDP's perspective on the rights and interests of first peoples, which are critical to this debate.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, our deputy critic for intergovernmental aboriginal affairs.

I would like to point out what a phenomenal job he is doing with first nations. I appreciate his work because it helps and enlightens us tremendously.

He touched on an extremely important point: respect for people in northern communities and first nations. These are the first people to feel the effects of choices made in Ottawa, in southern Canada.

Our choices will affect communities that are now coping with harsh changes with respect to natural resources, land development, jobs, the environment and climate change. This is extremely important.

My colleague raised a very good point. We have some serious work to do in the House together with first nations. They must be included in the process. Consultations must make sense. We have to base our legislation on testimony from experts and the people who will be affected by the legislation.