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.

Bill S-6—Time Allocation MotionYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 3:55 p.m.
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Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, if this is the 98th time that such a motion has been proposed to the House, it means that this Parliament, our party, our government will have accomplished a lot of work for the benefit of all Canadians.

Bill S-6 is the final legislative step to fully implement the action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes. The bill would complete the northern regulatory improvement legislative agenda. The agenda has included the passage of the Northern Jobs and Growth Act, Bill C-47, and the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, Bill C-15.

I understand the member for the Northwest Territories wanting to keep Yukon on a different playing field than the Northwest Territories. He should be more generous. The bill would level the playing field for all the territories in the north. The regulatory regime would be the same as south of 60, so northerners could benefit from the certainty this would bring to their regulatory regime in that territory.

March 24th, 2015 / 9 a.m.
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Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Minister, I think you would agree that having good strong relations between first nations and the Government of Canada is very important for all Canadians.

Right now we have a situation. This is the third bill that has come forward to the House of Commons. Aboriginal groups in this country had tremendous concerns about both Bill C-47 and Bill C-15 simply because they felt that their rights and powers were being eroded.

Again, we have another bill that is coming forward, the bill we're discussing this morning, and the same accusations are being made by Yukon first nations. They feel a sense of violation of the spirit and intent of the original government-to-government agreements that they have in place. They feel that the amendments here do not defend the language of the treaty that they originally signed. They're expressing huge concerns here, concerns that affect a whole territory.

Minister, why is there persistency on behalf of your government to pass these bills without having proper consensus from first nations' governments? Why is it that you continue to do this and inflame a situation that could really be a consensus-building practice, where governments work together to achieve a stronger language, and therefore, stronger social and environmental benefits in these areas?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / noon
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Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, since 2006, our government has been pursuing the most ambitious northern agenda in the history of this country.

This government has promoted prosperity and development through Bill C-47, the Northern Jobs and Growth Act. It transferred powers to the Government of the Northwest Territories through Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act. Then it had the vision of the Canadian high Arctic research station, which it implemented.

I repeat: no other government in Canadian history has done more than ours to increase health, prosperity, and economic development in the north.

The initiative before the House today, the Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act, or Bill S-6, represents yet another key deliverable of our government’s northern strategy and is the final legislative step in our government’s action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes.

In total, our government has created or amended eight different pieces of legislation in order to ensure that northern regulatory regimes—across the north—are nimble and responsive to the increased economic activity taking place across the north. This is no small feat.

These legislative changes will allow Canada’s north to compete for investment in an increasingly global marketplace, which in turn will lead to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for northerners.

Let me first speak to the proposed changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, or, as we refer to it, YESAA for short.

This legislation first came into effect in 2003 and sets out the environmental and socio-economic assessment process for all projects, including everything from small-scale community infrastructure projects to large-scale mining projects in the territory in question.

The need for improvements to the existing legislation first arose during the five-year review of YESAA, which was required under the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement. The review began in April 2008 and included the participation of all parties to the agreement: Canada, the Yukon government, and the Council of Yukon First Nations.

Speaking of the Council of Yukon First Nations, I had the pleasure earlier this morning of meeting with the chiefs or councillors of a number of Yukon first nations about Bill S-6. I want to acknowledge their important contributions to the development of the bill and look forward to their continued engagement as the bill moves through the parliamentary process.

The review I referred to earlier was extensive and examined all aspects of the Yukon development assessment process from YESAA and its regulations to the implementation, assessment, and decision-making process, as well as process documents such as rules, guides, and forms, et cetera, and was completed in March 2012.

At the end of the review, the parties jointly agreed to 72 out of 76 recommendations, many of which could be addressed through administrative changes. A few, however, required legislative amendments, including board term extensions; the non-application of CEAA, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act; the requirement to take into account cumulative effects when conducting an environmental assessment; the need to take into consideration activities that are “reasonably foreseeable”; the ability to include the activities of third party resource users in the scope of a project when the government is a proponent of forest resource management planning and allocation initiatives.

In December 2012, after the completion of the five-year review and the passage of amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and following our government's announcement of the action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, the Yukon government wrote to my predecessor to request additional amendments to YESAA to ensure consistency across regimes. That was to include beginning-to-end timelines, ability to give policy directions to the board, cost-recovery regulations, and the delegation of authority.

While these amendments were not discussed as part of the five-year review, my department did consult with Yukon first nations on them throughout 2013 and 2014.

The first draft of these legislative amendments was shared with all parties to the umbrella framework agreement, the Yukon first nations and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board for review and comment in May 2013.

Formal consultation sessions followed, which provided the opportunity for the parties to learn more about the proposed amendments, voice their concerns and make recommendations on how to improve the proposals. The feedback we received informed a subsequent draft of the legislation, which was shared with the parties in February 2014.

At each stage, proposals or drafts of the bill were circulated to first nations, the Government of Yukon and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board for review. The department carefully considered all comments and, where appropriate, incorporated them into the next draft. This process resulted in further improvements to the bill before it was introduced in Parliament last June.

As members can see, consultation on this bill has been extensive, and while we know that everyone did not agree 100% with each amendment, this does not mean that consultation was inadequate. It is our view that we met our duty to consult and we accommodated where appropriate. Even the Hon. Grant Mitchell, a Liberal senator and the opposition critic of the bill in the Senate, acknowledged this challenge but noted that comprehensive consultation had taken place when he spoke to the bill at third reading in the Senate. The hon. senator said:

There has been, I think, quite adequate consultation. It's complicated up there in these territories. You have federal, territorial and Aboriginal interests.

So it is very complex, and the fundamental core of this bill gets to that and is an effort to make all of that better and to make processes in the North better.

Let me remind my fellow colleagues in this House that this does not mean that the opportunity for providing input has ended. Indeed, as is the case for all other bills introduced in Parliament, the parliamentary review process provides opportunities to engage with parliamentarians on their views on legislation. The Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources has just completed a thorough review of the legislation wherein the committee heard from numerous witnesses from Yukon and Nunavut, including representatives of the first nations and Inuit peoples. At the end of its review, the committee members endorsed the bill unanimously.

Engagement on this bill has continued right up until today. As I have already mentioned, I met this morning with members of the Council of Yukon First Nations to further discuss their views on the bill and I encouraged them to participate in the parliamentary review process so that they could not only make their views known, but, if possible, correct the bill if it violates, as alleged, the Umbrella Final Agreement.

I also wish to acknowledge the member of Parliament for Yukon and the senator for Yukon, who have been very active on the ground. They have met with numerous stakeholders on this bill and will continue to advocate for the best interests of all Yukoners in their respective chambers.

Further, and contrary to some of the myths that have been put forward, I want to be very clear that all of the legislative proposals contained in Bill S-6 are consistent with the Yukon umbrella agreement and continue to uphold aboriginal and treaty rights.

In fact, some of the proposed amendments would actually strengthen first nation roles in YESAA . For example, under clause 29, which sets out proposed section 88.1 of the proposed amendments, when a project reaches the permit or licensing stage, first nations would be able to add to that permit or license “terms and conditions that are in addition to, or more stringent than” the terms and conditions set out in the project's environmental assessment.

I also want to take a moment to address some of the specific amendments that have been subject to significant debate in Yukon and that the Council of Yukon First Nations discussed this morning when we met.

The introduction of beginning-to-end limits for environmental assessments would align the Yukon regime with the time limits in similar acts within the north as well as south of 60 and would provide predictably and consistency to first nations, municipalities, and industry alike.

Some have argued that the time limits would affect the thoroughness of the assessment process. However, when we look at the facts, we see that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board's own statistics show that the proposed time limits are either consistent with or more favourable than the board's current practice. In addition, the amendments include provisions that would allow for extensions, recognizing that there may be situations in which more time would be warranted to carry out a function or power.

The proposed amendment to section 49.1 would ensure that going forward, reassessments would only be required in the event that the project has been significantly changed. In the past, projects that had already been approved and permitted could be subject to a new environmental assessment simply because a renewal or a minor change in the project had occurred. This amendment would help streamline this process and reduce unnecessary red tape where it was not warranted. The amendment also makes it clear that if there is more than one decision body—which can be a federal, territorial, or first nations government or agency—that regulates and permits the proposed activity, they must consult with one another before determining whether a new assessment is required.

Further, the legislation specifies that in the event of a disagreement, even if only one decision body determines that a significant change has occurred, it must be subject to a reassessment. That is an important point because of what we hear and read in the media. This is also consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement. The Umbrella Final Agreement states, at section 12.4.1.1, at page 107, if I recall, that projects and significant changes to existing projects are subject to the development assessment process. Therefore, the idea of significant changes is embodied in the Umbrella Final Agreement.

Another proposed change is the ability of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to provide policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. The ability to provide policy direction is not a heavy-handed attempt by the government to interfere in the assessment process, nor does it undermine the neutrality of the board. To the contrary, it is intended to ensure a common understanding between the government and the board, helping to reduce uncertainty in environmental assessment decision-making and helping to ensure the proper implementation of the board's powers in fulfilling its role in the assessment process. This is not new. There are also precedents for this power in other jurisdictions. For example, it has existed in the Northwest Territories since 1999, and with the passing of Bill C-15, it was expanded to include all the boards in the Northwest Territories.

As we say back home, the proof is in the pudding. This power has only been used four times in the Northwest Territories. In each case, it was used to clearly communicate expectations on how to address first nations' rights or agreements. For example, it was used to ensure that notification was provided to both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Deline regarding licences and permits in a given region.

I want to assure the House that this power in no way detracts from the board's independence. YESAB will remain an impartial and independent arm's-length entity responsible for making recommendations to decision-making bodies.

The legislative amendment also makes it clear that policy direction cannot be used to influence a specific project or to change the environmental assessment process itself. Another contentious amendment, which is contentious because it is opposed by some first nations in Yukon, is my ability to delegate certain powers in the act to a territorial minister. To the contrary, that again is not at all inconsistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement.

I want to also address the Nunavut changes. The objective is to make the regulatory system in Nunavut consistent with what is taking place south of 60 and in full compliance with the land claim agreement that governs our relationship with northerners in Nunavut.

December 10th, 2013 / 11:10 a.m.
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Tara Shannon Director, Resource Policy and Programs Directorate, Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you.

As the Minister noted last week in his testimony before the committee, regulatory improvement has long been identified as a precondition for long-term growth in the north and a more stable and attractive investment climate from which all northerners can benefit.

The genesis of the regulatory improvement initiative can be found in a number of reports and recommendations. Going back to 2005, there are recommendations from the Auditor General's report. There is the tripartite group's joint examination project. There is Neil McCrank's report, “Road To Improvement” in 2008. This resulted in the action plan of 2010, which was later expanded in 2012. This committee, I believe, also treated a key component of that action plan, which was C-47. It received royal assent in June of 2013.

I think the committee is probably comfortable with the objectives and principles as they were explained last week during the appearances. I will focus on parts 2 to 4 of the bill in front of us today. I will say that there are shared themes across these parts. It's my intent to provide further detail as the specific elements once I get to the final part of the bill, which is part 4, Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

In general, the proposed amendments achieve three objectives. They introduce beginning-to-end time limits on decision-making, including ministerial decision-making for land and water permits and licenses. They reduce the regulatory burden. And they introduce a suite of enhancements to environmental protections. The proposed amendments do not change the existing environmental assessment or water licensing processes.

Part 2 of the bill respects the Territorial Lands Act. Upon devolution, the scope of this legislation will be limited to federal lands. The proposed amendments to the Territorial Lands Act are focused on enhancing environmental protection through increased and modernized fines and the introduction of an administrative monetary penalty regime, which is a civil penalty regime. The amendments to the Territorial Lands Act will come into force on royal assent; however, the administrative and monetary penalty regime will only be operational once regulations are in place.

Part 3 of the bill, and the second component of the regulatory improvement initiative, is the Northwest Territories Waters Act. It is important to note that this act will be repealed by Canada and mirrored by the Government of the Northwest Territories upon devolution. Large components of this act will then be imported into the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to enable the continued issuance of water licenses on federal lands post-devolution.

The amendments to the Northwest Territories Waters Act would introduce beginning-to-end time limits on water licences: nine months for a board to issue its decision, 45 days for a minister to make a decision, and then a potential extension of an additional 45 days. It's being introduced as some amendments to address regulatory burdens. It would allow the water board to issue life-of-water licences. Currently those licenses are limited to 25 years. It would introduce regulation making authority for cost recovery. With respect to enhanced environmental protections, it would, like the Territorial Lands Act, increase and modernize fines and introduce an administrative monetary penalty regime.

The existing Northwest Territories Water Board would be renamed the Inuvialuit Water Board, reflective of its geographic scope and location, and the membership would be reduced from nine members to five.

This brings me to part 4 of the bill, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act would also introduce beginning-to-end time limits. This would be for both water licenses, as those elements would be imported into the act post-devolution when the waters act is imported, and for environmental assessments: 12 months for an environmental assessment without a hearing, 21 months for an environmental assessment with a hearing, and 24 months for an environmental impact review or a joint panel review.

The bill would also introduce elements such as cost recovery and a regulation making authority for cost recovery. It would enable the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board to establish a public registry. That board currently has a registry but it has no legislative source for that registry so introducing this would give it greater clarity in terms of what it can and cannot post on its site.

With respect to the environmental protections, the MVRMA would also have amendments introduced to it to introduce an administrative monetary penalty scheme. This scheme would see fines for infractions by individuals of up to $25,000, and by organizations of up to $100,000.

It would introduce a development certificate, which would be one place for all terms and conditions that a proponent must follow in order for a project to proceed to be published. These development certificates would be enforceable. That is, an administrative monetary penalty scheme could be applied to an infraction or a failure to meet the terms and conditions of a development certificate.

Like the Territorial Lands Act and the waters act, fines would also be increased for infractions related to land. The fines would be increased from $15,000 to $100,000 for a first offence, and there would be an introduction of a second offence with a maximum fine of $200,000.

For water infractions, the maximum fine would be increased to $250,000 for a first offence, and $500,000 for a second offence.

With respect to reducing the regulatory burden, the amendments to the MVRMA would restructure the land and water boards, consolidating the existing four boards into one, with an eleven-member board.

It's important to note that the existing mandate of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board would not change as a result of these amendments.

There are varying coming-into-force dates for the amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. The varying dates have been established to allow for orderly transition to a restructured Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board and the introduction of new concepts such as an administrative monetary penalty and development certificates.

Another element that is being introduced to the act is the regulation-making authority with respect to aboriginal consultation. This is something that responds to comments from industry, aboriginal groups, government, and boards. It would be an opportunity to put in place regulations that would address the procedural requirements of consultation.

I'll leave it there in terms of the scope of the amendments. What I will say is that as a result of the consultations on this part of the bill, we have made a number of accommodations and changes to the bill to respond to comments received. I'd be happy to speak to those during the question period.

Thank you.

June 19th, 2013 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber, His Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to certain bills:

C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials)—Chapter 10, 2013.

C-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code—Chapter 11, 2013.

C-383, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act—Chapter 12, 2013.

S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code—Chapter 13, 2013.

C-47, 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 —Chapter 14, 2013.

C-309, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (concealment of identity)—Chapter 15, 2013.

C-43, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act—Chapter 16, 2013.

S-213, An Act respecting a national day of remembrance to honour Canadian veterans of the Korean War—Chapter 17, 2013.

C-42, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 18, 2013.

S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights)—Chapter 19, 2013.

S-2, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves—Chapter 20, 2013.

S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands—Chapter 21, 2013.

C-63, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2014—Chapter 22, 2013.

C-64, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2014—Chapter 23, 2013.

C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 24, 2013.

C-62, An Act to give effect to the Yale First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 25, 2013.

S-14, An Act to amend the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act—Chapter 26, 2013.

S-17, An Act to implement conventions, protocols, agreements and a supplementary convention, concluded between Canada and Namibia, Serbia, Poland, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Switzerland, for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes—Chapter 27, 2013.

S-15, An Act to amend the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001—Chapter 28, 2013.

It being 4:24 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 16, 2013, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 4:24 p.m.)

Second ReadingFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that is simply not going to happen, whether time allocation occurs or not. The Conservative majority government has chosen not to deal with amendments in a good fashion on the aboriginal affairs committee for the last two years that I have sat on it.

A good example was Bill C-47, a bill that deals only with specific regions of the country. Representatives of those regions of the country put forward 50 amendments. New Democrats brought them forward and the Conservatives chose not only to vote against them but to not even speak to them. Once a bill is written, they do not seem to be interested at all in trying to work with the bill to make sure it is in a good fashion. The consultation is weak. Witnesses now would rather not come to the aboriginal affairs committee because they see it as a waste of their time.

The process is falling apart around the Conservative government, and it keeps pushing forward with these bills.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2013 / 12:05 a.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise in the House to speak on behalf of so many of my constituents and first nations people across Canada who have vehemently opposed Bill S-2.

I stand here on a day, as was noted earlier, five years after the anniversary of the current government's apology to residential school survivors, five years after the government made the most serious commitment to the first peoples of our country in committing to a new relationship, a new way of doing things and a new tomorrow. Unfortunately, all first nations people in Canada have seen since that day five years ago are more colonialist policies, more paternalistic attitudes, more impoverishment and more marginalization.

Bill S-2 is one step along that way. Not only is it not part of a new beginning or a new relationship, but Bill S-2 is part of a pattern of colonial legislation put forward by the government toward first nations. There was C-47 and Bill C-8. Now we have Bill S-6. All of these bills first nations people, their organizations and their leaders have opposed. It was clear during the Idle no More movement. First nations people rose up against the omnibus legislation that would impact their treaty and aboriginal rights, but they also very explicitly indicated that they were opposed to the series of bills, including Bill S-2, the government is putting forward.

I will remind members of the government that the Idle No More movement was started by four women from Saskatoon, who, with many indigenous women across Canada, rose up and said, “enough”. They said enough to the colonial attitudes that have overrun their communities for far too long. They said enough to a government that has sought to impose their assimilationist views on their communities. They said enough to the status quo.

We have heard many references, in government members' feigned indignation, to the 25 years first nations women have waited. Colonialism has gone on for far more than 25 years, and first nations have had to put up with government after government, and the current government is no different, with the kind of attitude that is so unacceptable, so much against what Canadians want from their government, yet it continues on the same path.

The concerns around Bill S-2 are not philosophical. They are very real and very much based on extremely problematic elements of this legislation. First and foremost, there was the lack of nation-to-nation consultation. This is not a choice. According to our Constitution, there must be consultation with first nations.

Let us go further. The government signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Bill S-2 breaks the commitment the government made to the UN declaration. Bill S-2 serves to attack treaty and aboriginal rights. Despite the fact that there are obtuse references to respecting first nations governance, we have not seen the government act on that notion in legislation after legislation. It is pretty rich to hear government members apply impassioned rhetoric when it comes to first nations people when, in fact, it fails to hear from the first nations people who are most directly impacted.

Let me get to some of the other major problems with this piece of legislation, and there are many. Just so we are clear, the NDP put forward reasoned amendments to this bill that involved a series of points, but I will list only a few. We noted that if these points were not recognized, in addition to our concern about the lack of consultation, we could not support Bill S-2. Again, it is not a philosophical discussion. Members will understand from the points I will raise that it is very real, based on factual points the government has absolutely ignored in its process of developing this bill.

Bill S-2 fails to implement the ministerial representative recommendations for a collaborative approach to developing and implementing legislation. The bill does not recognize first nations jurisdiction or provide the resources necessary to implement this law. The bill fails to provide alternative dispute resolution mechanisms at the community level. The bill does not provide access to justice, especially in remote communities. The bill does not deal with the need for non-legislative measures to reduce violence against aboriginal women. The bill would make provincial court judges responsible for adjudicating land codes for which they have no training or in which they have no experience. The bill does not address issues such as access to housing and economic security that underlie the problems on reserve in dividing matrimonial property rights.

It is clear that these points are not recognized in Bill S-2. There is no response to the serious concerns that first nations people raised both in our committee and in prior consultations regarding the bill. Also, it is not to say that this is the first iteration of the bill. The Conservative government has tried this on numerous occasions, and every time it has been clear that first nations people are opposed to the Conservatives' imposition of a paternalistic approach to matrimonial real property rights.

Certainly we heard tonight that, all of a sudden, the Conservative government has real concern regarding violence against aboriginal women, which are great words, but let us look at the actions.

It is no secret, and now we are entering a phase in our history where we are being shamed internationally for our lack of action in putting an end to the epidemic of missing and murdered aboriginal women. Over 600 aboriginal women in Canada have gone missing or have been found murdered in Canada, but the current government has done nothing but deflect the issue.

The Conservatives make these connections between missing and murdered aboriginal women in Bill S-2. Well, aboriginal people know that the current government is trying desperately to change the channel, and no one is buying it.

When we are talking about the issue of violence against aboriginal women, it is serious and it demands far more than a slap-in-the-face piece of paternalistic legislation. It requires real action. It requires sitting down with first nations and working with them. It requires making investments in non-legislative measures. It involves getting to the root causes of the violence that aboriginal women face.

We have heard that if the current government actually wanted to do something, it would respond to the calls for a national inquiry that have been going on for years in our country. Yet, it has not. If the government really cared, it would have responded to the calls for a national action plan to end violence against aboriginal women. But it has not. If the government really truly cared, it would do something about the excruciating levels of poverty that aboriginal women face in Canada. But it has done nothing.

Not only would I argue that the Conservative government has not done anything when it comes to the poverty facing first nations women, it has made it worse. The government has made it worse by the cuts it is imposing in terms of the services that first nations people need. The Conservatives are making it worse by continuing to apply the 2% cap that the Liberal government in the past imposed on first nations. They are doing it now by going after the advocacy organizations, including the tribal councils, that are involved in delivering direct services to first nations, and that make a real difference when it comes to housing and education.

Not only is there a ton of hypocrisy coming from the Conservative government, in that all of a sudden it cares about violence against aboriginal women, it is shameful that the Conservatives would stand in this House and turn to the NDP or whomever else and accuse us, instead of looking to their own business.

This is a perfect case of changing the channel. Aboriginal people have seen this before and they are seeing it in spades with the Conservative government. They saw it when the Minister for Status of Women was quoted in the media as blaming the chiefs and leaders for why the bill was not going forward.

I had the chance to raise that exact point with leaders who came to our committee and some of them were women leaders as well. I read to them the kind of messages that the government was putting forward. I felt so ashamed that a federal government and its ministers, ministers of the Crown, would treat first nation leaders with such disrespect when they were doing nothing more on a bill like this than speaking out on behalf of their people, when leaders, women and men, were speaking out on the very real needs they had to put an end to the violence that first nation women face.

Let us talk a bit about some of those challenges. I reference the extreme levels of poverty.

One of the most recurring themes that came up in our committee was the lack of housing on first nations. Now some members, actually, on the government side in our committee asked what the connection was between housing and violence.

I do not think a lot of the members on the government side have spent time on reserve. I invite them to come to northern Manitoba. I invite them to come to communities like Pukatawagan, Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Gods River, Shamattawa, St. Theresa Point, Garden Hill, Berens River Bloodvein. I invite them to visit the houses where there are 15 people living inside a house, no, maybe even 21 people living inside a house, mould-infested homes.

I invite them to see what is like, to hear about the social tensions that have developed because people simply do not have a place to live. Why do they not have a place to live? Because they live on reserve and because they are under a federal system and successive federal governments, I would note. Currently the Conservative government has sought nothing more than to further impoverish people, than to further fill inadequate housing up with more people, than to limit the kind of opportunities these first nation people have to access the outside world and opportunities that may exist outside their community. Then it turns around and tells us that a document, Bill S-2, would end the social conflict and social tension that they face.

This is beyond insulting. It is beyond reproach. This is the face of colonialism. It is the face of a colonial government that has sought nothing more, time after time, than to further marginalize the first peoples of our country.

The NDP takes great encouragement from the first nation leaders, from the women and the men and the grassroots leaders, I will note particularly, who have stood up and who have stood up through their Idle No More movement. They said that they had enough of the government's attitude toward them. They have had enough of great sounding commitments, like the commitment of five years ago, the new relationship that came directly from the current Prime Minister, only to be followed by legislation after legislation, rhetoric messages that seek to divide Canadians, that seek to pit Canadians of various backgrounds against aboriginal Canadians, that seek to divide aboriginal communities among themselves, that seek to change the channel, instead of actually having a government that would step up, work with first nations, consult on a nation-to-nation basis, work in partnership and make the investments necessary.

These challenges are not going away any time soon. The violence against aboriginal women is certainly not going to go away as a result of Bill S-2.

I think of Joan Jack, the counsellor from Berens River, who so passionately spoke in our committee. She said that the bill would not save one life in Berens River.

I would encourage members of the government to look at the Hansard to hear the messages that we heard in committee, to hear the kind of opposition that exists against Bill S-2.

While we are talking about committee, we have heard government members tonight make various references to consultation and how they have heard from people and all of these things. If they wanted to hear from people so badly, why did they bring closure in on this debate? Why did they cut off debate, not only in the House but also at committee?

We had two weeks to look at this fundamental piece of legislation. I will put on the record that in those two weeks the government made sure we got to hear from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples more than any other national aboriginal organization. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples clearly expressed in its presentation that it does not represent on-reserve aboriginal people. Therefore, the question is this. Why would an organization that does not represent on-reserve first nations people be seen as the ultimate authority on this very piece of legislation?

I will not leave the surprise any longer. It is because it read exactly the kind of messages that the government wanted to hear. However, when it came to organizations like the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations and various band chiefs, various people with legal expertise, grassroots leaders who had real concerns with Bill S-2, who opposed Bill S-2, none of them got as much time to speak to it as the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

The Native Women's Association of Canada got eight minutes to speak to this bill with no questions and answers. It is truly shocking. The Assembly of First Nations got 10 minutes to present, and I am stretching it by saying it had maybe 12 minutes of questions and answers.

The government turns around and uses the word “consultation” and uses the sentiment of indignation. Those of us who are standing in solidarity with first nations who did not have their voices heard or who had their messages cut off because the government was so eager to shut down the debate, we are the ones who are shocked and angered by the government's colonialist approach to first nations.

First nations deserve far better than the current government, which has sought nothing more than to further impoverish, further marginalize and further assimilate them. They deserve justice and respect. They certainly do not deserve a bill like Bill S-2. They deserve real leadership. I end off on that point.

We have heard the government members call on us, hoping we might change course. I would ask them to listen to the many people who they have blocked from the House and committee, the voices of first nations who would be most impacted by this bill. I would ask them to change course and free themselves of the colonialist approach they have taken to heart and start a new beginning, like the new beginning their boss talked about five years ago. It is time.

Bill S-2—Time Allocation MotionFamily Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

June 4th, 2013 / 10:15 a.m.
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Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that this issue has been before this Parliament for many years now. My colleague referred to the majority government. All those families living on reserve in Canada will thank Canadians for having elected a majority government.

This is the fourth iteration of this bill before Parliament. The first bill was introduced as Bill C-47 on March 4, 2008, in a minority Parliament and was debated at second reading and referred to committee. It died on the order paper on September 7, 2008. In all of those months, when the opposition and everybody had a chance to debate the bill, it did not happen.

I will continue with the next question, but the member is going to get the same answer as to why it is time we acted.

First Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2013 / 11:55 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I have the opportunity here, quite late on Tuesday night, to speak to this particular bill.

It has been my viewpoint over the past two years on the aboriginal affairs committee that the Conservatives really have not been consulting in the correct fashion with first nations across the country. They come in with the wrong attitude. What we really need is to have first nations design the legislation that they would like to see enacted for their governments, their people and their nations. We can then take that in Parliament and understand how we can amend it so that it works.

However, we have the opposite way and we saw that with the accountability act, an act that really was an unfortunate piece of goods that came from the government. It was universally condemned by first nations. They did have a couple of supporters there, but they were some very specific people who had problems in their own particular communities. Those who understood the nature of the first nations-Canada relationship rejected the accountability act.

We are now at Bill S-8, the safe drinking water act, which we would think that everyone could get behind and support. However, once again, we see that the method of consultation and delivery of these bills is simply not working. The Conservative government is not providing the first nations with the opportunities to design the legislation so that it works for them. In this case, with the Senate putting forward Bill S-8, we also have the additional problem that we cannot make requirements for resources to ensure that first nations can actually meet standards that they would all want to meet.

The history so far of the majority government has been of one that refuses amendments. I think of Bill C-47, when we put forward some 45 amendments on a bill that only affected Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Of those 40-some amendments, the Conservatives turned down all of them, even though the amendments were designed to make the bill work better. They were not coming from people who had great opposition to the bill. They were coming from people who were concerned that the bill should work right.

In other words, once again the Conservatives failed to provide a methodology of consultation that delivered a product that people could get behind. I see that this pattern is being repeated with Bill S-6. The Conservatives did go into some consultation. They did hold meetings with first nations. They got recommendations from first nations about how this bill should be set up. The problem is that when the bill showed up, those recommendations were not carried forward in the fashion that the first nations had assumed.

We can see that in the problem with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. The first Grand Chief, who was involved in the consultation side of it before the bill was put out, was pretty happy with what was going to happen. He said that, but then when the bill arrived in the Senate, the Manitoba Chief that I quoted in my question to the parliamentary secretary said, "no, that is not what we are after".

The consultation process is wrong. The consultation process does not deliver the goods for first nations. That is the problem here and the government has to change its direction in order to make legislation that truly represents first nations' points of view. The legislation is for the first nations. This legislation does not affect other people in Canada. The legislation is for the governments of the first nations. Therefore, it should really have those elements as the prime elements within the legislation.

That seems to be simple. We are not here to force our way upon other governments. We are here to provide guidance and accommodation and to make the system work.

Conservatives have a different view. They view it from that economic development lens. We heard the parliamentary secretary say that. Implicit within all the work that the Conservatives are doing is the idea that economic development for the first nations is the most important element. The most important element is not what the first nations want, not what the first nations deserve, but what will make economic development work. That is the Conservatives' point of view.

What we see in legislation over and over again is that message. What is important for economic development is the primary thing that we will see in legislation that comes from the Conservatives on first nations issues. If first nations go along with that, and the government can get some to go along with that, those will be the quotations that are used. Those will be the validations that Conservatives seek.

What really is needed? We really need to listen to the first nations. This legislation is for them, it is not for us. It is not telling us how we are getting elected. It is working with the first nations to come up with a system that they endorse, that they want for their very valid self-government efforts.

In the consultation process there was probably a little more give, a little more understanding, but when it came back to Ottawa, the changes were made to ensure that it worked for the government and it plans. That is the reality of what we are dealing with.

We have trouble with the bill. We also have trouble supporting it at second reading and taking it to committee. We have done this over and over again, but we are not getting any results. We are not getting the government to come onside for valid amendments to bills.

That is the process by which we all want to engage in here. This is what we want to do at committees. We want to have the opportunity to take what the people want, take what the government wants, come up with some compromises. We do not want this hard line attitude about the committees and about how amendments are dealt with at committees. That is not working for us. What we are saying is that will oppose this bill at second reading because it does not what the first nations want.

It is a tragedy that we cannot take the bill to committee with some kind of assurance that some of the important elements that need to be fixed in the bill will be fixed. However, when we beat our head against the wall and do not get results, then we should quit beating our head against the wall. That is sensible.

We can fight it here in Parliament. We can go to committee and hear the witnesses who will say that they want amendments and to make the bill work properly. That is what we have heard over and over again. With all the legislation that has come in front of us, it has always been the case that the first nations witnesses who testify want solutions. They do not want to go away empty handed.

It is a tragedy and it is wrong. That is not the way we should do government. Government is for the people. The people who are affected by legislation are the primary concern of the legislation. This is not for all of Canada. This is for first nations. They have the primary say here. If we go against that principle, we are really going against the principle of democracy if we are not allowing the people who are affected by the law to have the dominant say over how the law is put together.

If a law affects all Canadians, then we all have a say in it. The responsibility is different. However, in the case when we are making laws for first nations, first nations that have a constitutional right of self-government, that have been in this land for thousands of years, who signed treaties, they should have a say in it. We did not take the land away from them, we signed treaties with them. The Queen agreed about how these treaties were taken care of in 1763.

That is our history. Do we want to rewrite history? We should write it the way it has been done.

I really would like to get along with the government on legislation for first nations when it starts getting along with first nations and when it starts listening to first nations. This is what the legislation is for. These are the people who are affected by the legislation. It is not for businessmen, not for those who look upon reserves as potential new sources of land and resources. No, it is for those people. Let us remember that when we deal with legislation. If we do not, we are simply not doing the job that, as Canadians, we know we should be doing.

Indian Affairs and Northern Development—Main Estimates, 2013–14Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Chair, the northern jobs and growth act, as members may know, would fulfill obligations flowing from land claim agreements, and it would respond also to economic development and needs of northerners, and it would build on our government's commitment to create jobs, new wealth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

Bill C-47 would establish in legislation the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Planning Commission, which we know stem from those land agreements, as well as systems for environmental assessment and land use approaches in Nunavut. The bill would also establish the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, which would resolve disputes in cases of access to the land.

Importantly for the member asking the question, because it touches his homeland, Bill C-47 would amend the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act, advancing the objective of the northern strategy. A more predictable regulatory regime would allow northerners to benefit from 24 major resource projects worth more than $38 billion. That is huge. There is a lot of potential there and, with the government as an ally of the north, we will see that development occur.

Indian Affairs and Northern Development—Main Estimates, 2013–14Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Chair, obviously we know no government has done more to advance the interests of Canada's north than we have. I know we will certainly continue to do so. We introduced the northern jobs and growth act to allow northerners to benefit from projects in mining, oil, gas, transportation and other businesses across the north and across Canada.

Could the minister tell us briefly how Bill C-47 fits into the broader northern regulatory initiative and what this means for the future regulatory improvements?

Indian Affairs and Northern Development—Main Estimates, 2013–14Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2013 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Chair, I will be using the first 10 minutes of my time to speak and the last 5 minutes to pose questions for the minister.

Before I begin, I would like to congratulate the minister on his position. As a northern member of Parliament, I have had numerous opportunities to speak directly with the minister and I thank him for his availability to his northern MPs and for his willingness to work on northern issues directly with me and my other colleagues.

I also appreciate this opportunity to take part in today's debate. I would like to discuss Canada's northern strategy, its achievements and its benefits to residents of our north.

Since the government's 2007 Speech from the Throne, we announced Canada's northern strategy, which outlined an overarching vision for the north. It focused on four priority areas: strengthening Canada's sovereignty, protecting our environmental heritage, promoting economic and social development and improving and developing governance.

The north is a special and iconic place for Canadians, majestic in its vast geography and magnificent in its wildlife. It is a homeland for many aboriginal people and possesses world-class natural resource wealth.

Northerners are at the heart of the northern strategy. Our government is committed to ensuring that a strong and prosperous north helps shape the future of our nation. Every Canadian can take pride in the progress we continue to make on issues of importance for people living in the north and for the future of our country.

Since 2007, Canada has made significant investments to improve social and economic development in the north, one of the key pillars of the northern strategy. Today I will touch on a few of the significant achievements that allow us to achieve our full potential.

The northern jobs and growth act would contribute to the Government of Canada's plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity by making improvements to the review process for major resource projects. The overly complex regulatory environment in the north has been repeatedly identified as a major source of frustration for those invested in our resources. Northern regulatory processes have often resulted in delayed regulatory decisions. These delays have discouraged new investors and undermined the economic viability of major projects. To be globally competitive, northern regulatory processes need to provide for timely, efficient and effective project reviews. At the same time, these processes also need to ensure strengthened environmental protection and respect aboriginal consultation obligations.

For residents of Nunavut, the northern jobs and growth act would mean improvement to the regulatory regime, which would provide a highly efficient single-entry system and would enshrine the concept of a one project, one review approach for major project proposals. These improvements would add clarity and predictability to the land use planning and environmental assessment process in Nunavut.

In the Northwest Territories, the northern jobs and growth act would mean a new Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board. It would have jurisdiction throughout the Northwest Territories to resolve disputes over the terms and conditions and over compensation for access to land when an agreement cannot be reached by the parties through negotiation or mediation, thereby providing predictable conclusions to reaching those agreements.

The northern jobs and growth act would also respond to the call for action from resource companies and Canadians asking for better coordination and clearly defined time periods for project reviews, more streamlined and predictable review processes, and improved regulatory approvals. Bill C-47 would help make these a reality and in turn would contribute to resource wealth and create economic opportunities for individuals and communities that would benefit not only northerners but all Canadians. Our government's aim is a northern regulatory regime that would be more effective and predictable, while safeguarding the environmental health and heritage of the region and including meaningful aboriginal consultation.

The northern jobs and growth act is an important part of moving forward with the Government of Canada's northern strategy. It would support social and economic development, it would protect the north's sensitive environment, and it would uphold Canada's responsibilities under modern land claim and self-government agreements. With an improved regulatory regime, northerners would have an efficient and effective system now and for future generations.

I would now like to touch on the important work being done by CanNor, the economic development agency for Canada's north. It is also supporting the social and economic pillar of the northern strategy. CanNor works with its many partners to develop a diversified, sustainable and dynamic economy for northerners and aboriginal people across Canada's three territories. It does this by delivering programs, building partnerships and incorporating the activities of other federal departments, particularly as they relate to resource development in the north.

Our government is also continuing its important work under the Arctic science and technology pillar of the northern strategy by demonstrating leadership in Arctic science. As part of his northern tour, the Prime Minister, visited Cambridge Bay, site of the Canadian high Arctic research station, and remarked:

The north is a fundamental part of Canada's heritage, future and identity, and we must continue to assert our sovereignty over Canada's Arctic. This new station will undertake science and technology (S&T) research that will support the responsible development of Canada's North, inform environmental stewardship, and enhance the quality of life of Northerners and all Canadians.

It is estimated that the construction of the station will generate up to 150 jobs locally, across the north and in more specialized sectors in other parts of Canada.

As a part of the governance pillar of the northern strategy, our work in the Northwest Territories over the course of the last year has resulted in the successful negotiation of a consensus agreement on the terms for the devolution of lands and resource management from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories.

The Prime Minister said:

Our Government recognizes that Northerners are best placed to make the important decisions about how to run their economies and how to maximize use of their resources. Once finalized, this historic agreement will provide the Northwest Territories (NWT) with greater decision-making powers over a range of new responsibilities which will lead to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity across the Territory.

Devolution in the NWT will mean the transfer of decision-making and administration for land and resource management from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories. The territorial government will become more responsible for the management of onshore lands and the issuance of rights and interests with respect to onshore minerals and oil and gas. It will also give it the power to collect and share in resource revenues generated in the territory.

With the conclusion of negotiations, the Government of Canada has engaged in a second round of consultations to gather input from aboriginal organizations in the NWT that will lead to a final devolution agreement.

At this time, I would like to speak of yet another example of our government's commitment to our northern strategy. The nutrition north program provides northerners with greater access to nutritious perishable food, such as fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, milk and eggs.

Recently the Arctic Co-op Ltd. announced how nutrition north Canada has enabled them to provide direct 767 super freighter service from Winnipeg to Iqaluit. Duane Wilson, vice-president of the merchandising and logistics division at Arctic Co-op, recently noted that this change represents improved efficiency, innovation and collaboration in the supply chain.

Early efficiencies under nutrition north Canada have seen prices in communities fall and stay below where they were under the former program. Nutrition north Canada benefits 103 remote northern communities in Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories. It is more focused and transparent than the outmoded program it replaced.

What is more, northerners have a direct impact on the new program by voicing their opinions and suggestions for improvement in the way it works. I have certainly been advised on some of those, and we have had direct contact and communication with the first nation communities that are working under and with the nutrition north program in my riding.

Nutrition north Canada is also guided by an advisory board, the members of which represent a wide range of northern perspectives and interests. They provide information and advice to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on the management, direction and activities of the program.

Our government has made the north a top priority, placing it higher on the agenda than it has been in many decades. This government has a clear vision for the north as a healthy, prosperous region within a strong and sovereign nation.

I would like to end by thanking all of our partners who contributed to our significant achievements under the northern strategy. I look forward to continuing our work on jobs and growth across the north.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member who spoke before me. I particularly liked his expression near the end of his last question about drive-by consultation. If the definition of Conservative consultation is lowering the window and asking what people think, then he is pretty well dead on the money.

I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-47, 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. The short title is the northern jobs and growth act.

Why is the member of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador, from the great riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, speaking to a bill for the Northwest Territories? I feel that the Labrador part of my province has a lot in common with the Northwest Territories. Labrador is a relatively untamed land. Labrador is a vast land. Labrador is known as the big land. Labrador is rich in minerals, ore and precious metals. Labrador is under constant exploration and development. Labrador's environment is under constant pressure, be it from renewable hydro development or from new mines. We must be vigilant to ensure that there is balance between development and the impact on the environment. We must ensure that there is balance in everything. The north must also be vigilant.

This legislation is far from perfect. We wanted to amend the bill at committee with changes based on witness testimony, but all 50 opposition amendments were voted down. The Conservatives ruled the amendments out of order. There were 50 NDP amendments and three Liberal amendments. I will come back to that in just a moment.

The bill packages together two bills that should be considered separately. The first bill, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, is pretty well a straightforward implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Simply put, it would improve regulatory regimes in the north. It would create a more efficient, more predictable regulatory regime. The roles, powers, functions and authorities of all parties, including how the members are appointed, would be clearly defined. These parties include the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Inuit groups and governments.

The act requires that Inuit and the Government of Canada establish a joint system to oversee the way resources are managed in the territory. I like the sound of a joint system or joint management. There have been calls in recent years for joint management of the east coast fisheries, for example, but I will not get into that right now. Give me time.

The second part of the bill is the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, and it is more complicated. It would implement sections of three aboriginal land claims agreements, but the board would apply to all parts of the Northwest Territories. The board would receive applications from one or both parties to a dispute when a negotiated access agreement could not be reached. A panel of the board would then conduct a hearing and would determine the compensation, if there was to be compensation, and terms and conditions related to access. The board would then make an order containing the terms and conditions by which access could be exercised and any compensation payable for that access. When making its decision, the board would take into account market value, loss of use, effect on wildlife, damage, nuisance or inconvenience and cultural attachment.

The Mining Association of Canada welcomes this legislation, particularly the inclusion of the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. The association says that it would help spur more responsible mining projects in the territory, which currently has one operating mine. This legislation would result in a framework to determine how environmental assessment and permanent processes in Nunavut will proceed as new land use plans for the territory come forward, and they will most definitely come forward.

I have a quote from Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada:

The legislation comes at a critical time for Nunavut, with its promising mineral potential and opportunities for economic development never before seen in the territory's history.

Here is another quote from Mr. Gratton:

By providing clarity and certainty around the regulatory framework, this new legislation will help give industry the confidence it needs to move forward with development decisions.

The key word there is “confidence”. Over the next decade, the Mining Association of Canada estimates that new mine development across the north could bring more than $8 billion of investment to Nunavut. That could translate into some 4,500 new jobs and a significant increase in local business development.

Mining is the largest private sector contributor in the north, making up 29% of the gross domestic product of the Northwest Territories. However, mining is also a boom and bust industry. The people of Labrador would tell us that.

There are 45,000 northerners in the Northwest Territories. In Labrador, there are just over 26,000 people. They are both vast lands with few people, but we must ensure that the people benefit. We must ensure that the industries thrive. We must also ensure that the impact on the environment is minimal.

Mining has incredible ups and incredible downs, depending on the price of ore or on world markets. I mentioned earlier in my speech about the amendments we proposed to the bill, the 50 NDP amendments, the 50 suggestions from northerners, which were all voted down, each and every one, by the Conservatives.

The proposed amendments included having the bill reviewed after five years. The amendments included creating a participant funding process and having hearings of the various boards and commissions held in public. One amendment in particular tried to change the language around appointments to the boards, which held that representatives must have knowledge of the land, knowledge of the environment and traditional knowledge.

The great MP for Western Arctic, whom we heard earlier today, said that all representatives should meet all three requirements: knowledge of the land, knowledge of the environment and traditional knowledge. That did not happen. Those amendments were not adopted, despite the best efforts of the New Democrats, the opposition. However, we still support this legislation.

There are three points with which I want to wrap up.

Do I have one minute left, two minutes, Mr. Speaker?

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-47, an act to enact the Nunavut planning and project assessment act and the Northwest Territories surface rights board act.

I am going to take a minute to take a personal detour, because someone might ask why the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is so interested in this act. The story for me begins 40 years ago. I almost hate to say that out loud. I was a young university graduate, and my first job was in Yellowknife where I had the privilege of working for the territorial government as the superintendent of treaty Indian band membership and the director of vital statistics. Suffice it to say I was way over my head for my age. I had worked in summer jobs as a health researcher and ended up in this very wonderful job in the Northwest Territories.

At that time, the Northwest Territories included Nunavut and was ruled by a commissioner appointed by the Prime Minister. It was just beginning the process of devolution and self-government. I have to say that any of us at that time would be surprised that we are still dealing with these issues 40 years later. Part of what is important about the bill is that it helps, despite its flaws, to bring us forward on those devolution questions that have certainly been dealt with the entire time of my working career.

I decided to go back to university for a graduate degree and started teaching. Then I was persuaded by a very persuasive member of Parliament to come to Ottawa for two years. I was a staff person here at the House of Commons for two years from 1981-83. I do not usually confess that. At that time it was my privilege to be attached as an NDP researcher to what was called the Indian self-government committee or the Penner committee. In that position, I was privileged to travel the entire country with the committee, listening to first nations talk about self-government and what would be needed, both in terms of laws and in terms of resources and development to achieve self-government.

Again, 30 years ago, those who participated in that commission would be very surprised that we would still be standing here talking about and dealing with the same issues, the same lack of resources and the same lack of respect for first nations self-government in this country. Yes, progress is a long road not yet finished.

After having spent two years in Ottawa, I returned to British Columbia because it is hard to keep a British Columbian in Ottawa for more than two years, and the weather outside certainly speaks to that again today. However, when I went back to British Columbia I was involved with a small non-government organization until the time I was elected to Parliament, called Pacific Peoples' Partnership. That non-government organization attempts to build relationships between indigenous people around the Pacific and first nations in Canada, because indigenous peoples all around the Pacific Rim face many of the same problems. Whether we are talking about Australia, New Zealand or Pacific islanders, many of the same problems exist in getting the outsiders, the colonists, to recognize rights and responsibilities they have to first nations.

One could say all of my life I have been involved as a supporter in these issues, not so directly as some of my colleagues here, like the member who spoke earlier, but certainly I remain very interested in these issues.

When I look at the bill, the first thing I would say is, having separated the two territories and having quite different issues, it is a surprise to find them jammed together into the same bill. That may be efficient for Conservative legislative purposes, but it is not efficient for consulting the public and for getting meaningful input from the communities and for separating out those important issues that need to be debated both here in Parliament and at the community level. We would have been far better served with two bills and with a separate consultation process at the local level for both of these bills.

I am also disappointed at the failure of the government to respond to the many amendments that were put forward. Members on the other side have referred to them as the opposition amendments. Yes, it is true we moved them in the House of Commons, but those amendments came from all across the north. They came from northern organizations, which pointed out significant flaws in this legislation, groups like the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., NWT Association of Communities, NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines and Alternatives North. That is where we got the ideas for these amendments, not things to hold up government business, not things we dreamt up by ourselves, but things that came about from listening to northerners about what needs to happen in the north.

It is hard to understand how many of these very practical solutions could be ignored or rejected by the government. There is an example in this bill of what happens when there is not adequate consultation and when opinions of northerners are not taken account. In 1994, the Yukon land claims agreement was implemented. Now we have amendments in this bill, thrown in with the other two territories, to correct the problems that have existed since 1994 in trying to bring about fulfillment of the federal government's obligations under the Yukon umbrella final agreement.

Why do we have those amendments in the bill? I would argue it is because at that time a different government, a Liberal government, also failed to listen to northerners about all the things that were necessary to implement full recognition of first nations land and treaty rights, and also the devolution of self-government into the territories.

The other reason that I remain interested in this as a member of Parliament is the fact that I have five first nations in my riding. I want to take a little detour into what is happening with land claims and with development issues for the first nations in my riding.

At the far western end of my riding is a first nation called Pacheedaht, led very ably by Chief Marvin McClurg. It is a relatively small first nation, with 259 members. They are in the process, under the B.C. Treaty Commission, of negotiating a settlement to their claims. They are at a common table with the Ditidaht First Nation with whom they share the Nuu-chah-nulth language and culture, but they are not part of the larger Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

These two small first nations, with very limited resources, are attempting to work their way through this treaty process. They are now in stage four of the six-stage process. They are at the stage of negotiating an agreement in principle. They are focusing on things like parks and protected areas, and recognition of the rights of first nations to hunt and fish in those parks and protected areas. They are also focused on wildlife, migratory birds and fish.

The Pacheedaht, in the meantime, while they are negotiating what we hope will be a final agreement, have become very involved in forestry economic development initiatives. Right now they actually run a wood lot licence, in the San Juan River area, which is very close to their reserve.

The point I am making is that it is the first nations who have created the most jobs in that part of my riding. It is the first nations initiatives in forestry that have put people to work. It is not just first nations people but everybody in that end of my riding who have benefited from the recognition of giving back the woodlot to the Pacheedaht First Nation.

In what I would call the middle of my riding, we have three first nations who are working together in an alliance called the Te'Mexw Treaty Association. These three nations were all signatories to the Douglas Treaties, but they decided there would be a benefit for their nation in negotiating a comprehensive and modern treaty that dealt not just with land issues but with governance issues as well. These are first nations with somewhat larger resources, larger memberships, but, again, they do not really belong to any tribal council. They have come together with two first nations from outside my riding, the Malahat First Nation and the Nanoose First Nation, to form the Te'Mexw Treaty Association.

The largest of these is the T'Sou-ke Nation, located near what we in English call Sooke, led by Chief Gordon Planes. Again, while trying to negotiate a settlement and implement a treaty, they have embarked on a very interesting initiative in the T'Sou-ke First Nation. They had a visioning exercise with their leaders, and their leaders said they wanted to go back to the days when they were self-sufficient, independent and able to stand on their own. They have embarked on what I think is probably the largest solar power initiative in the province of British Columbia. They have proceeded to install solar power on the reserve and will eventually, and in not very much longer, take themselves off the grid and be producing their own power.

What they did in doing that was to train first nations people as solar technicians. They are now supplying services to the surrounding community and helping other people make that transition to renewable and sustainable energy. That is another very good example of what we have to learn in this process of recognizing first nations rights to self-government, and to land and resources, and how much all of our communities could benefit from that.

The third first nation in my riding is the Scia'new First Nation, led by Russell Chipps. They are very much involved in attempting to create employment on reserve by taking advantage of the rural economy around them, where many of the non-first nation people are involved in what we might call hobby farms. They are having trouble finding ways to process the products they are raising. Therefore, there is a very good partnership developing between the Scia'new First Nation and the municipality of Metchosin in an attempt to develop agricultural processing industries that will take things being raised on the hobby farms and make jobs on the reserve for both first nation and non-first nation people.

The fourth first nation in my riding, the Songhees First Nation, is the largest and is located very much in the city. It consists of 547 band members who, unfortunately, lost their long-term and very distinguished chief just less than a year ago.

Again, I want to talk about the vision they had. While trying to get a land claim solved and trying to get the resources they need, they have embarked upon the construction of a very large wellness centre. The wellness centre is going to focus on addiction treatments, recreation and all those things to help people recover, in the first nation, both their sense of selves and their sense of culture.

However, to finish the wellness centre, to finish those jobs in the Scia'new First Nation on the reserve and to finish those initiatives that the T'Sou-Ke has taken, they need to get a comprehensive treaty settlement underway.

We were very happy to see, last week, the announcement of an incremental or an interim treaty agreement that has transferred some land in the interim and some resources in the interim. Again, they are at stage four of the six-stage treaty process, but we have those interim transfers of land and resources.

One of the concerns in my riding has been about a very prominent site in the municipality of Esquimalt, a very prominent corner, where that land has now been transferred to the Songhees First Nation under the interim agreement.

I think it is important for people to realize that in the interim the resources that were transferred have been transferred in fee simple, and so the development that is bound to take place on that corner would be under the same zoning laws, the same regulations and, as any other landowner, they will pay municipal taxes and will receive municipal services.

However, once again it is an important spur to redevelopment of downtown Esquimalt, or the Esquimalt village as it is known, and this is being pursued by first nations under the interim agreement.

The last first nation in my riding is called Esquimalt First Nation, led by a chief I very much respect, Chief Andy Thomas. Esquimalt First Nation has decided not to be part of the treaty commission process. Instead, it has pointed to the Douglas Treaty, saying, “We already have a treaty and that treaty has been ignored”. There has been a failure. There was a failure, at the time, by the colonial government to survey the lands promised, to set aside those lands and to protect those treaty lands. Then, as time went on, those lands were alienated to third parties.

There was a second failure under the Douglas Treaty for the Esquimalt Nation, and that was a failure to pay any compensation when those lands were transferred to third parties.

Therefore, for Chief Thomas, the treaty process is not a new process but very much a question of unfinished business.

That brings me back to the bill we have in front of us today. What it is really dealing with is unfinished business, whether it is the Yukon land claims for which the final settlement needs some amendments, whether it is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act or the Northwest Territories surface rights board act.

Despite our concerns about the failures of the Conservatives to recognize the necessity for amendments to the bill, we will be supporting the bill, as we know that would mean a similar bill will eventually come back to the House of Commons and those 50 amendments will eventually be dealt with in this place. They are necessary to implement the treaty agreements; they are necessary to get on with the business of creating jobs and development for everyone in the north, not just first nations but all residents of the north. We know that when the north prospers, the rest of Canada will also prosper.

I am sad to say I look forward to the day when there is a different government that will bring in the bill and bring back the amendments, which will be a chance to listen to the voices of northerners and first nations people and actually accomplish their goals in the House of Commons.

Northern Jobs and Growth ActGovernment Orders

March 4th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are talking about Bill C-47, which has to do with a part of Canada I have not yet visited. I hope to have the chance to visit northern Canada one day.

One of the main roles of government is to represent all Canadians, to make decisions in the interest of Canadians and to work to unite all Canadians. Today, we are seeing the difference between the official opposition, which rises to speak and is interested in northern perspectives, and the government, which remains silent and rises from time to time to read out a question written by the Prime Minister's Office, without perhaps knowing what it is really about.

The first thing that I said today was that it is true that the bill as a whole is relatively good. However, it needed improvements that the government refused to make. We proposed about 55 amendments to the bill, having to do with transparency and consultations, but the government rejected them all. What reason did the government give? I really have no idea. Earlier today, a member tried to make a little public service announcement, but I do not really understand how that explained the rejection of those 55 amendments. I do not think it justified anything.

The economy in the northern regions is cyclical, which is why it often depends on mining development. We need to be aware of this reality. We also have to understand that the economic contribution of natural resources is often limited to where the mining companies are located. So the environmental issue is extremely important because people living in the north, in particular, live in much greater harmony with the environment. We have a lot to learn from how they live with the environment, from how they fish in the ocean and hunt.

The fact that the government just waived all the environmental regulations does not inspire confidence in the government's willingness to negotiate with the territories on mining or other projects. We should ask the government to respect the will of the people who live there. In fact, these territories are part of Canada, but the people who live there have to live with the consequences of pollution caused by mining projects.

For example, my colleague from Western Arctic mentioned the Giant Mine catastrophe in his speech. The government had to use taxpayers' money to deal with the environmental disaster caused by the dumping of 270,000 tonnes of arsenic into the ground. Therefore, it is important to point out that the bill could be improved in order to prevent the government from having to accept responsibility for cleaning up such environmental disasters with taxpayers' money.

Thus, we need serious and rigorous environmental assessments. We are saddling the next generation with a huge environmental debt. Canadians are truly ashamed of this government, which is an international embarrassment. I will come back to that later.

There is also the need for a long-term vision. When we develop natural resources, we should always take into consideration the fact that a mine will not operate forever. It is fine to pass bills that talk about development, but that is taking a short-term view. Do we really invest 100% in these communities? Will a bill that deals with negotiations for mining projects solve all the problems of the people living in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut? No.

For example, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is studying the fact that Canada will take over the chair of the Arctic Council in May 2013, which is only a few weeks away. A number of experts who appeared before the committee talked about the serious lack of port facilities, roads and railways. It is ridiculous.

The government can pat itself on the back and say that it is capable of negotiating with the territories, but that is completely ridiculous because they never do any work. We have very few if any deep-water ports. We do not have any decent roads or trains that go to the north, and people cannot even get food supplies.

In committee, one witness said that, if there were a crisis or a major storm, one of the municipalities would have to be completely evacuated because there would not be any food or medication. That is completely ridiculous. It is all well and good to talk about the government's good faith and its desire to negotiate for the good of the territories, but as long as the government is not making long-term investments or providing infrastructure that will help these communities to develop, nothing will change. These communities have been neglected for decades and now the government is waking up and saying that it might be a good idea to negotiate and do something. In my opinion, that is not how things work, and Canadians do not think so either.

Land claims are extremely important. The communities were abandoned by the Conservative and Liberal federal governments. They have been abandoned for years. The government is not creating any infrastructure and does not have a long-term plan. The Conservatives are relying on band-aid solutions. They are patchworking.

We support what the government is trying to do, but it could do more. A regulatory regime is all well and good, but we know that the government deregulates everything. The government's desire to negotiate to regulate something goes against its habits. The Conservatives are deregulating when it comes to the environment and the financial system, and now they are talking about regulating. In my opinion, that does not make sense. Either the government is acting in bad faith or it does not have any idea what it is doing.

I would also like to talk about the fact that a UN report was published today on poverty in Canada's northern communities, about the fact that these communities do not have access to food, that they live in poverty and that the government has completely forgotten them. I would like to remind hon. members of something: it is all well and good to negotiate with the territories, but this does not change anything. This should have been done about 20 years ago. Whether or not the communities agree to a pipeline or mining project is not the heart of the matter.

The heart of the matter is that the government neglected northern Canada and is now trying to put a small band-aid on a gaping wound. However, this does not hide the fact that the government has been neglecting infrastructure, food security and poverty in northern Canada and that it is still refusing to negotiate with aboriginal communities and the people living in Canada's north in order to resolve these problems.

I understand the purpose of this kind of bill. Regulations can enable northerners to make decisions and negotiate with the government. However, if the government does not negotiate in good faith, what is the point? If the government does not consult people, what is the point? Is this just an empty shell of a bill that the Conservatives hope will appease people? I would really like to know.

Today's UN report states that Canada has neglected the north. The Government of Canada neglected its own country. What do the Conservatives have to say about that? Today, not one of them has stood up and demanded that the government help northern communities. No member from Nunavut or Yukon has said anything in the House of Commons about what the territories need. Neither has the Minister of Health. I am sorry, but when negotiations are not conducted in good faith, there is no point.

We know all about the Conservatives' good faith in negotiations. They take the bosses' side, pass special laws and force workers back to work. They tell aboriginal communities that if they want to solve their problems, just talking amongst themselves should do the trick. But it will not. The government lacks both the leadership and the will to take care of Canada's north. It has no business saying that the opposition is scaring Canadians.

All we want the government to do is consult people and respect the rights of northern residents. I think that is pretty clear. Even the government has to admit that we are right about that.