Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act

An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

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 amends the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act to provide that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 does not apply in Yukon, to allow for the coordination of reviews of transboundary projects, to establish time limits for environmental assessments and to establish a cost recovery regime. It also amends that Act to provide for binding ministerial policy directions to the Board and the delegation of any of the Minister’s powers, duties and functions to the territorial minister, and allows for a member of the board who is participating in a screening or review to continue to act for that purpose after the expiry of their term or their removal due to a loss of residency in Yukon, until decision documents are issued. In addition, it amends that Act to clarify that a new assessment of a project is not required when an authorization is renewed or amended unless there has been any significant change to the original project.

Part 2 amends the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act to modify the maximum term of certain licences, to establish time limits with respect to the making of certain decisions, to allow for the making of arrangements relating to security, to establish a cost recovery regime, to modify the offence and penalty regime and to create an administrative monetary penalty scheme.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

June 8, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 8, 2015 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “this House decline to give third reading to Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Surface Rights Tribunal Act, because it: ( a) was developed without adequate consultation with Yukon First Nations, as per the government of Canada’s constitutional duty, and without adequate consultation with the people of Yukon, as per the government’s democratic duty; ( b) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to unilaterally issue binding policy direction on the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, which undermines the neutrality of the environmental and socio-economic assessment process; ( c) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to delegate powers to the territorial minister without the consent of First Nations; ( d) provides broad exemptions for renewals and amendments of projects; and ( e) includes proposed timelines on the assessment process that will affect the thoroughness of environmental and socio-economic assessments and opportunities for First Nation input on major projects. ”.
June 3, 2015 Passed 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, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
June 3, 2015 Failed
June 3, 2015 Passed That, in relation to 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, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
March 11, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
March 11, 2015 Passed That, in relation to 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, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:05 a.m.
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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 third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, in 2007, this government launched a comprehensive northern strategy focused on sovereignty, the environment, the economy, and governance. Under the leadership of this Prime Minister, for the past nine years we have been providing northerners with the tools they need to take advantage of the vast natural resources at their disposal in an environmentally sustainable manner. By doing so, we are creating jobs and economic opportunities for northerners, ensuring the long-term prosperity of the north for generations to come.

Members can take great satisfaction from our progress in advancing the northern strategy in recent years thanks to extensive federal infrastructure investments, whether it be the creation of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency under the able leadership of the Minister of the Environment, the devolution of the Northwest Territories, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in the eastern Arctic, the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway, Canada's leadership on the Arctic Council, or the extension of protected land and marine areas, and the list goes on.

The bill before us today, Bill S-6, is the next example of how we are delivering on our northern strategy. This bill will complete the modernization of regulatory regimes in the north by bringing Yukon and Nunavut's regulatory regimes up to speed and on par with other Canadian jurisdictions.

This legislative work was started in 2013 with the Northern Jobs and Growth Act and completed in the Northwest Territories last year with the Northwest Territories Devolution Act. Now it is time to finish what we have started.

The proposed amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act are designed to make the regulatory systems in Yukon and Nunavut more efficient and effective, while ensuring sound environmental stewardship.

This is what Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski told senators during hearings on the bill:

We [the Yukon] are now in a position where we are not as competitive with other jurisdictions. Quite frankly, we would like to get back on an equal footing with the other jurisdictions in this country.

Bill S-6 would do just that. It would make the two territories' regulatory regimes consistent with others across the north and in the rest of Canada. This would ensure Yukon and Nunavut remain attractive places to live, work and invest for generations to come.

Let me briefly highlight the many advantages of Bill S-6 for each territory. I will begin by summarizing some facts about updating YESAA.

It is important to underline that the amendments were informed by extensive discussions and consultations in Yukon over a period of seven years. These included the five-year review of YESAA as well as more recent engagement on this legislation.

Bill S-6 is consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement and the individual first nations final agreements signed by the federal and territorial governments and Yukon first nations.

Decision-making powers over natural resources that currently rest with the territorial government or the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board would not change. Neither the federal government nor the territorial government would have the authority to influence, direct, or interfere with an assessment process. It is especially important that aboriginal input and participation would remain central to the YESAA process.

It is important to point out that the Senate Standing Committee Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources completed its review of the legislation last fall. At the end of its review, it endorsed the bill unanimously. I submit that it correctly recognized that the passage of this bill would help foster economic development in the region and would create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity in an increasingly global marketplace.

These are the facts.

Allow me to take a moment to clarify, for the record, a few of the concerns that have been raised with regard to this bill, because as with every bill that comes through this place, there is very rarely unanimity. Bill S-6 would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with the authority to give binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. The minister could also delegate his authority to the Government of Yukon in certain situations, if the need arose.

Including the power to delegate authorities to the territorial government is, I submit, consistent with the northern strategy and its aim of devolving and improving northern governance. It does not conflict with land claim agreements nor does it disrupt the tripartite spirit of the environmental assessment process. Further, and I have made this very clear, the government has no intention of exercising its authority to delegate any powers to the territorial government in the near term. Of course, if any such delegation were contemplated in the future, it would be consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement and would also be in the best interests of Yukoners, including Yukon first nations.

When it comes to the issue of policy direction, there has been a lot of fearmongering about what types of policy direction the minister could issue. Allow to me alleviate these concerns. Not only does this power already exist in the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, but in each and every case when this power was exercised, which was four times, it was to protect the interests of first nations and to ensure that all the parties involved, namely the board, had a common understanding, with the government, of agreements the government had subsequently undertaken. That is important to point out.

Policy direction could only be given within the framework of existing legislation and land claims agreements and after consultation with the board. This amendment would apply to matters such as board conduct, the use of new technology, and satisfying roles and responsibilities regarding aboriginal consultation.

Contrary to the myths that have been spread around, it absolutely does not affect the independence of the board or the board's decision-making abilities with respect to a project under consideration or a completed assessment. The board maintains the jurisdiction, as set out in the agreement, of an independent arm's-length body responsible for making recommendations to decision-making bodies based on their socioeconomic and environmental assessment.

Finally, and I am not sure if my colleagues are aware of it, this authority also exists and is consistent with territorial legislation that allows a Yukon minister to issue policy direction to boards, which has been done on one occasion.

While the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has a clear record of completing reviews in a timely manner, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act does not set out the “beginning-to-end” time limits for project reviews that exist in every other jurisdiction in Canada.

Bill S-6 fixes that problem. The time limits in Bill S-6 are intended to put Yukon on a level playing field with the rest of Canada and the world, minimize investor uncertainty and make project planning more predictable, while allowing for necessary extensions that could arise with more complex projects.

Of course, the time required by the proponent to gather information and undertake any studies necessary for the review would be excluded. We heard repeatedly from government and industry about the time and money spent on assessments for minor changes that had no substantive impact on a project or the environment.

This proposed legislation clarifies that authorization to renew or amend a project would only require a new assessment where there has been a significant change to the project. This would reduce the administrative burden on the proponent and the board and ensure predictability for established projects.

First nations would have a direct role in determining whether there has been a significant change when the project is located on settlement land and the first nation is a decision body for the project.

There has been much debate about the Yukon component of this bill, particularly with regard to the concerns I just mentioned. I think hon. members will have no choice but to agree, after hearing these remarks, that indeed the bill was developed with the best interests of Yukoners in mind, including those of Yukon first nations, and will help us to finally bring this bill into law.

I want to take a moment to recognize the tireless efforts of the member of Parliament for Yukon on this bill. If it were not for him, it would not have been possible, due to the NDP's interminable ban on committee travel, for the committee to have concluded its hearings in Yukon to hear directly from Yukoners, which was significant. I think Yukoners should be grateful for such a hard-working Conservative member of Parliament.

Another aspect of this bill that has not been debated, it seems to me, is the one that concerns Nunavut. For the record, the Government of Nunavut has called on us to take action to modernize the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act.

The hon. Johnny Mike, Minister of Environment in Nunavut stated:

...the Government of Nunavut believes that this bill will make a number of improvements to the regulatory regime in Nunavut....this is an important piece of legislation for the North and will contribute to the environmental protection and economic development of Nunavut.

In developing this proposed legislation, the Government of Canada sought the input of the territorial government and Nunavut Tunnagavik Inc., NTI, which represents the Inuit of Nunavut. We also engaged with the Nunavut Water Board, with industry and other federal government departments prior to preparing the Nunavut related provisions of Bill S-6. We listened closely to the input received during consultation, which is reflected in the proposed legislation.

Residents of Nunavut can look forward to an improved regulatory environment as a result of these efforts. The changes proposed would introduce beginning to end time limits on the issuance of water licences and reduce the duplication and uncertainty of unnecessary reviews. They would also give the Nunavut Water Board the ability, at its discretion, to issue water licences for the anticipated duration of a project. Life of project water licences would extend the maximum duration of a licence from 25 years to the anticipated life of the project. This would enable companies to undertake long-term planning and implement the principle of one project, one assessment.

Bill S-6 also addresses the long-standing disincentive to investment in Nunavut, security over bonding. Over bonding occurs when a company is required to provide more security than would be required to remediate a project at its completion because both regional Inuit associations and the Nunavut Water Board have set security amounts. With Bill S-6, the federal minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development would be given legislative authority to enter into agreements relating to security with Inuit landowners and the project applicant. The Nunavut Water Board would still be responsible for setting the amount of security, but the board would be required to consider any arrangement reached.

Bill S-6 would also implement stronger enforcement provisions to increase environmental stewardship, as well as align the act with other federal environmental statutes. The proposed legislation would increase fines for violations and allow for the creation of administrative monetary penalties to encourage compliance with regulatory requirements and remove the financial benefit of rule breaking.

There is broad support for the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act throughout Nunavut. Northerners recognize that consultation has been robust and that the proposed amendments would foster investor confidence, economic opportunities and growth while promoting sound environmental stewardship in the eastern Arctic.

For example, while giving testimony at the Senate committee, the witness from the Nunavut Water Board said:

...we were very much part of the working group and very much contributed to that working group all throughout and indeed are quite satisfied how well some of the issues we raised were heard.

As well, the President of NTI, Cathy Towtongie, wrote to me, saying, “NTI has no objections to the modest changes proposed to the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act”.

My colleague, the Minister of the Environment, who represents Nunavut, has further reinforced the desire of her constituents to see Bill S-6 passed. As she has observed, the proposed legislation plays a crucial role in preparing for devolution to be successful in Nunavut. It would ensure the water management regime that is eventually transferred from the federal government to the Government of Nunavut would encourage investment and allow the territory to fully benefit from increased resource development.

Of course, our government remains committed to moving forward with the implementation of the legislative changes in a collaborative manner, respecting the spirit and intent of the land claims agreement in both territories.

For all of these reasons, I urge all-party support for this most worthy proposed legislation.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks of the minister today about the debate on Bill S-6 that would affect the people of Yukon so dramatically.

I think it first should be noted, this is the first and only day of debate on third reading for Bill S-6, as the government has decided to, once again in an unprecedented way, use time allocation to shut down debate on legislation in this place.

The minister talked about “broad support” for the bill, and it respecting the spirit and intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement in land claims in Yukon. One of the great accomplishments of Canada was the creation of the Yukon Environmental and Social Assessment Board, YESA. That was a three-legged stool with the equal participation by statute after the Umbrella Final Agreement, of first nations, Yukon government and federal government.

I had occasion to work. I was the legal adviser to the Yukon government during the self-government agreement preceding YESA. With this bill, people of Yukon are saying that this is tilting that three-legged stool in an unbalanced way to the federal government, and Council of Yukon First Nations are talking about lawsuits in order to stop this misguided legislation.

My question to the minister is, how does he say that there is this “broad support” for the legislation when people are talking about lawsuits to stop it and to change the balance that had been created so effectively when YESA was first created?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, to answer the hon. member's question, I would like to point out the fact, which he omits to mention, that the vast majority of the amendments in Bill S-6 to the YESA process stem from the five-year review that took place.

I referred in my remarks to a seven-year process that took place in order to bring Bill S-6 before this House.

When I talked of broad support, the fact of the matter is that there is indeed broad support, total support for all of those measures except four particular amendments. These four particular amendments have also been the subject of consultation with the first nations. As the record will show, all Yukoners, stakeholders, industry, government and first nations participated in the consultation process on these amendments, and the four particular amendments in question are probably most important to level the playing field I referred to.

The Yukon Territory deserves to benefit from the same rules as other territories and those provinces south of 60, and they ensure the certainty required to promote investment into the responsible natural resource development of the territory.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the minister is so confident about the legislation he has brought forward, and yet, as has been pointed out, again through time allocation, is limiting participation, which is somewhat typical of the entire process of the bill.

I was not able to be there at the committee stage to hear the witnesses, but I have heard from a significant number of individuals in regard to Bill S-6. If the minister believes his legislation is so great, why then has there been so much resistance by the different stakeholders in coming on board with the member's legislation?

On the one hand we have the government saying, “Here is this wonderful piece of legislation”, but the communities that it is affecting are obviously offside with the minister.

How does the minister justify bringing forward legislation when he was not able to even come close to achieving any sort of consensus6 To illustrate just how bad it is, the only way the government has been able to pass this thing through to date is through time allocation. If it was not using its majority, it would not be passing the legislation.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the observation of the hon. member, again, is very isolated. The fact of the matter is that this bill is fully supported and asked for by the entire legislature of the Yukon. The Government of Yukon supports this bill, asked for its implementation, and what is more important is that all of the provisions in the bill are fully consistent with the letter of the Umbrella Final Agreement.

This is not news to anybody in the Yukon who has read the Umbrella Final Agreement. All of these measures were contemplated, and I cannot understand why Liberals would want to keep the Yukon on a playing field that is inferior to that of other jurisdictions in Canada so as to prevent investment in the Yukon. That is what this bill would achieve.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the minister mentioned in his speech, last year the NDP acted unilaterally to impose a travel ban on committee travel. This is clearly a case of the NDP not acting in collaboration with first nations and northerners, as our government has been doing.

Thankfully, due to the strong leadership of the member of Parliament for Yukon, who strongly advocated for committee hearings to take place in Yukon, we were able to hear from Yukoners. I lived in Yukon for 28 years, consider myself a former Yukoner, and I know that Yukoners appreciate Ottawa hearing their voice.

This is significant. Could the minister please take a moment to highlight for the members opposite how this government continues to work in collaboration with northerners and first nations?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I briefly want to thank the hon. member for his question. Notwithstanding that he no longer lives there, he has a strong commitment to Yukon.

The hon. member referred to the member of Parliament for Yukon, and I want to pay tribute to that Conservative member, because he rose above politics. Unfortunately, every time he brings a measure that is aimed at trying to do something positive for the benefit of people, other people, especially opposition members, try to score cheap political points.

Let us forget the fundamental of what is aimed for here. The member for Yukon, throughout all of this debate, and it has been tough at points, always rose above politics and addressed the best interests of Yukoners. If there was any doubt in anybody's mind on this side of the House that this is not in the best interests of Yukoners and also of Canada, then the bill would not be here.

This is about promoting growth, creating jobs, ensuring long-term prosperity and creating opportunities for Canadians in the north, Yukoners who love to live there, but would prefer to continue improving their standard of living, which this bill would achieve.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, having listened to the minister's comments, I want him to know that he is completely incorrect when he says that the entire legislature of Yukon supported this bill. I was up there a few weeks ago and spoke on this bill. I met with many people, and I can say that there are members of the legislative assembly in Whitehorse who are very opposed to this bill. They reflected first nations and community concerns, because people believe that this bill would undermine agreements that are already in place.

I would like to ask the minister to withdraw his comment that this bill is supported by, I think he said, the whole legislative assembly. That is simply not true. He can check the record. It is not true.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will admit that when the House of Commons passes something and they vote against it, that does not prevent the statement that the House approved it. The legislature approved it, and that is a fact.

As to the other point the member made about some people being against it, of course they are. However, we have to look at the overall players. There are a few objectors to a few of the provisions of the bill, but the overwhelming majority of the provisions are endorsed by first nations, by the legislature of the Yukon, and hopefully also by this House, because the Senate has already unanimously approved the bill.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in this House to speak to this critical bill. I want to begin by correcting the record. The minister who just spoke characterized support from Yukon first nations in a way that is simply not the case.

I am proud to be part of the NDP, the official opposition that stands with Yukon first nations. We categorically oppose Bill S-6, not as the minister said. We oppose it along with many Yukoners, members of the legislature, members of organizations, environmental organizations, esteemed Yukoners who were part of putting together YESAA, and members of industry. They are all expressing their opposition to this bill. I am proud that we are standing with them today to do so as well.

The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development travelled to the Yukon to hear testimony from those who will be affected most by Bill S-6. We now know that Yukoners do not want this bill. We know that first nations do not want this bill. To pass it would be imposition on their right of self-determination, and in the case of Yukon first nations, it will be a breach of the final agreement.

The callous disrespect that the Conservative government repeatedly shows towards treaty rights is both outrageous and, frankly, illegal. It knows that. It knows that Bill S-6 will send them into the courts, battling against Yukon first nations.

The fact is that Conservatives do not care. We know that the government is currently engaged in litigation with 95 first nations. It has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars fighting indigenous rights in court. Enough is enough.

As I attended the truth and reconciliation closing events this week, I saw thousands of Canadians who are ready to repair the ongoing violence of colonialism. However, we need our government to be a partner in this great task. Knowingly brushing off the Yukon first nations final agreement is illegal, immoral, and it will be expensive. More importantly, this week, it is also opposite to the spirit of reconciliation.

It is perhaps most disappointing in this case that Yukoners of all kinds are in fervent disagreement with Bill S-6. They want to uphold the final agreement. They see it as their agreement as well. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, known as YESAA, is a made in Yukon program, and they worked hard to achieve it. They want to be good neighbours and good business partners with first nations and the federal government.

What is clear, since hearing testimony from Yukoners, is that the territorial Yukon government does not speak on behalf of the people. This is clear, as it supports this legislation.

I remember communicating with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, Ruth Massie, who stated:

This whole process attacks the integrity of our constitutionally protected agreements and Yukon First Nations will stand by their agreements even if it means going to court, they give us no choice. We did not sign our agreements to implement them in the courts but we will protect them.

The people of the Yukon and first nations alike are baffled by the contents of Bill S-6. The YESAA recently underwent a five-year review, through which recommendations were made. However, the four amendments that are the cause of concern appeared nowhere as recommendations in the five-year review.

These four changes are contrary to the intent of the land claims agreement and undermine the neutrality of the YESAA process. The changes are that the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs will be endowed with the authority to provide policy directives to the YESAA board; that the federal minister will be given the power to delegate his federal powers to the Yukon government; that the exemptions for renewal and amendments could work to eliminate requirements for projects that could have major effects on the environment and communities; and, finally, that the condensed timelines on the YESAA assessments will limit the thoroughness of environmental assessments and limit the opportunity for first nations input.

Grand Chief Ruth Massie said this of the amendments in Bill S-6:

Yukon First nations have met with the Government of Canada, specifically [the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada] and have asked them to remove four problematic amendments proposed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act [that was] established in Chapter 11 of the Umbrella final agreement and each final land claim agreement of the eleven Yukon First Nations.

1. Yukon First Nations are opposed to the proposed amendments to YESAA because they undermine our Aboriginal rights, titles and interests.

2. The four proposed amendments were not discussed with the agreement signatories prior to being considered, a complete surprise to Yukon first Nations. This is a direct breach of the constitutionally protected agreements for all eleven Yukon First Nations in regards to consultation and accommodation.

3. Canada's decision to impose the four proposed amendments will likely result in litigation with Yukon First Nations. This will affect the Yukon economy and cause [an impact on] any future resource development. Very unnecessary actions!

The question, why is the current government taking actions that it knows are unlawful and will lead to litigation? Why do Conservatives consistently force first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities into costly, protracted court battles that they will ultimately lose? The answer, I am afraid, lies in the Conservatives' willingness to put the perceived interests of extraction companies above environmental and first nations rights.

As with so much other legislation we have seen in this Parliament, the Conservatives intend to obliterate the environmental assessments and protections that Canada has established. I am speaking of Bill C-45, the omnibus bill that destroyed the navigable waters act; or Bill C-38, which made sweeping changes to Fisheries and Oceans.

What is most interesting about Bill S-6 is that a good portion of the businesses and extractive corporations with interests in the Yukon are also opposed to it. Industry is learning faster than government that in order to have sound, productive business dealings on or affecting indigenous lands, industries must secure meaningful consent and partnerships first.

I would like to read from a letter sent by a CEO of the Casino Mining Corporation, Paul West-Sells, who wrote to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs:

On behalf of Casino Mining Corporation...I am putting forward our company's concerns regarding the fragility of intergovernmental relations in the Yukon surrounding Bill S-6 and the negative impact this is having on the territory's mineral industry.

It is imperative for Casino that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...has the broad support of all governments in order to ensure the confidence of both project proponents and Yukon residents in the YESAA process and to facilitate investments in the territory.

In other words, if there is no confidence that first nations will support the government's environmental assessments, there can be no confidence in the investments that businesses want to make there. Bill S-6 could have disastrous implications on the Yukon economy.

I have been told that Yukon is proud that YESAA is homegrown and serves Yukoners and first nations. It is their tripartite agreement that created it. The current government is focused on destroying the protections over so many local and beloved waters and ecosystems. Yukoners know that YESAA is unique, and that it stands to protect the biosphere and their relationships with the indigenous communities they live with.

One of the repeated concerns that has been raised by Yukoners is that their voices have not been heard throughout this process. I quoted Grand Chief Ruth Massie, and I also want to read into the record the voices of other Yukoners who have been fighting Bill S-6.

Mary Jane Jim, councillor of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, provided testimony before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. She said:

The CYFN and Yukon First Nations assert that the federal government would breach its constitutional duty to uphold the honour of the Crown when it proceeded unilaterally with amendments to the YESAA.

A great friend, Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson, said in October 2014:

Eleven years ago, devolution gave the Yukon government province-like powers for land and resource management. This was an important step in Yukon’s history and crucial in Yukon’s ability to determine our own future, a future grounded in respectful relationships among Yukon First Nation governments and the Yukon government.

With these proposed amendments to what is a made-in-Yukon environmental assessment process, YESAA, it’s no longer ours.

The NDP leader Liz Hansen also said:

What we need, what is sorely missing, is a willingness to engage in an open and honest manner. We need a relationship built on dialogue and respect, rather than on lawsuits and secret negotiations.

A Yukon news editorial in June 2014, entitled “Environmental assessment reform should be done in the open”, wrote:

A long list of people deserve raspberries for this needlessly shady behaviour. At the top of the naughty list are Senator Daniel Lang and [the member for Yukon], who are supposed to ensure that the interests of Yukoners are represented in Ottawa. Instead, they’ve kept the public out of the loop, other than [the member for Yukon] uttering vague generalities about the forthcoming changes without offering any meaningful specifics. Shame on them.

Chief Eric Fairclough, chief of Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, is quoted as having said:

—YESAA originates from and is rooted in our land claim agreements. It manages the use and the development of lands, waters, and resources in Yukon. As a result, implementation of YESAA may affect the exercise of aboriginal treaty rights. In this case, the crown has not acted in accordance with its constitutional duties owed to Yukon first nations. The crown has breached its duties to work with Yukon first nations and take steps to accommodate our concerns. The crown has not acted honourably or fairly. The crown has breached its constitutional duty to act in the honour of the crown.

Chief Carl Sidney of the Teslin Tlingit Council is quoted as having said:

Industry and development come and go, but we are here forever and we carry that sacred responsibility. YESAA is connected to those beliefs and values through our agreements and should not be amended without our consent. We entered into the agreements as a way forward as an expression of who we are as people. An essential part of that vision was the recognition of and respect for our land, our water, and the air we breathe. They are a part of us and we are part of our environment for all time. It is our collective responsibility as a treaty party to ensure these unique relationships will be part of our future.

The amendments in Bill S-6 imposed by Canada at the last minute undermine what we have created together. It is critical to success that we continue to work together as was the vision under our agreements. Canada's stated intention in entering into final agreements was to create certainty about the use and ownership of Yukon land and natural resources. Substantial aboriginal rights, including title, were exchanged for constitutionally protected treaty rights. That was a high price to pay to achieve certainty for all Canadians and the Yukon first nations who have signed agreements and have paid it in full.

I would like to read into the record Chief Angela Demit's words, the Chief of White River First Nation, who said:

We participated in meetings with Canada about the changes to YESAA. Through that experience we have understood that the changes being proposed by Canada have much more to do with an agenda made in Ottawa than with the recommendations that came out of the YESAA five-year review process.

Mr. Tom Cove, director of the Department of Lands and Resources for the Teslin Tlingit Council, said:

If I may, if the bill passes as is, the potential for litigation is a virtual, absolute certainty and is a great concern to Teslin Tlingit Council, other first nations, and a lot of Yukoners, and to investors outside the Yukon who have an interest in investing further in natural resource development, but in many other ways as well. It's of great concern and it is a virtual certainty. I'm not exactly sure, but the last time I looked I think there are five law firms already hired to prepare the work that's necessary in anticipation of this bill going forward. That's a lot of momentum in that direction.

Chief Doris Bill, the chief of Kwanlin Dün First Nation, stated:

Providing a single party with authority to direct the board is fundamentally inconsistent with any legislation that stems from our tripartite treaties. While the treaties obligate Canada to enact YESAA, it does not own YESAA and cannot choose to dictate its own policies on the independent assessment body.

Ms. Millie Olsen, deputy chief of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, stated at committee:

YESAA currently has timelines for assessors to review each iteration. This approach encourages proponents to prepare comprehensive applications that minimize iterations. Proponents who prepare adequate applications quickly are rewarded under the current process because they can proceed quickly.

On the other hand, the Bill S-6 approach of applying a beginning-to-end timeline will reward proponents who prolong the adequacy review phase by using up time with multiple iterations. The approach will penalize assessors and reviewers like first nations because it will shorten the most important public review phase, infringing on our right for comprehensive reviews of projects.

Chief Steve Smith, the chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, testified at committee. He stated:

Bill S-6 is a roadblock to reconciliation. The unconstitutional bill demonstrates the federal government's unilateralism and lack of understanding of the relationships that arise from the final agreements, the federal government's failure to abide by the collaborative development assessment regime mandated by the final agreements, and the federal government's indifference to fostering productive and collaborative treaty relations with Yukon first nations. This is fundamentally unacceptable.

Ms. Wendy Randall, the chair and executive committee member of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, YESAA, stated at committee:

It is important to note that YESAB is not part of government. We are not a regulator. We do not issue permits or authorizations, and we do not make final decisions on projects. We are an independent board that conducts environmental and socio-economic assessments and makes recommendations to decision bodies. Those decision bodies are the three orders of government that have control over land and resources in Yukon, so federal, territorial, and first nation governments....

We have 10 years of experience conducting environmental assessments on projects, from very small projects to very large [ones]. We have flexibility now in timelines that we have established under our rules, which for the most part, I feel, work fairly well.

Certainly there are areas in which things can be improved. We have proponents. We have first nations. We have other groups with sometimes different interests who feel there could be improvements made. I'm unsure until I see how these changes would play out or be implemented whether they would accomplish that or not.

Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president, Lands and Environment for the Kaminak Gold Corporation, stated:

—Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating increased distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment and regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.

I have shared the voices of Yukoners of Yukon first nations who have stood up against Bill S-6. They are standing up against the government's agenda.

As a proud northerner myself, I stand with them, along with my colleagues in the NDP, in solidarity against Bill S-6.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“this House decline to give third reading to 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, because it:

(a) was developed without adequate consultation with Yukon First Nations, as per the government of Canada's constitutional duty, and without adequate consultation with the people of Yukon, as per the government's democratic duty;

(b) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to unilaterally issue binding policy direction on the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, which undermines the neutrality of the environmental and socio-economic assessment process;

(c) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to delegate powers to the territorial minister without the consent of First Nations;

(d) provides broad exemptions for renewals and amendments of projects; and

(e) includes proposed timelines on the assessment process that will affect the thoroughness of environmental and socio-economic assessments and opportunities for First Nation input on major projects.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, our House leader, for that important question, because it really gets to the crux of what we are talking about here today.

Bill S-6 has been a complete failure from the beginning. The fact is, first nation positions were not respected in the deliberations that led up to Bill S-6. There were some discussions, but they do not qualify as appropriate consultation. Certainly when the amendments were made, including the four amendments that are deemed totally unacceptable by Yukon first nations, who said that they are not what they said in their meetings, the government failed to go back to the drawing board and work with first nations to find a solution.

What is clear is that the government fails when it comes to its duty to consult. It fails when it comes to working in the spirit of reconciliation we have been talking about so much over the last few weeks. Fundamentally, it is a failure when it comes to working in partnership with first nations in this country to do nothing more than create certainty and protections that could help support economic development that would benefit first nations, all Yukoners, and all Canadians. This is what is shameful about what we are seeing from the Conservative government on Bill S-6.

As I pointed out in my speech, we have already heard that Yukon first nations, as a result of this failure to consult, are ready to go to court. They are ready to take this to the courts. It did not have to be this way. Unfortunately, this is where the current Conservative government has brought Yukon first nations.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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Scarborough Centre Ontario

Conservative

Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, what I think is shameful is that this member from the NDP voted against giving women living on reserves the same matrimonial property rights that everyone else has across this country, including every single woman in this chamber.

I would like to ask that member how she could vote against a bill that actually put in place equality for women living on reserves.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed that government members, instead of actually owning up to their failure when it comes to Bill S-6, their failure to stand up for Yukoners, and their failure to stand up for Yukon first nations, try to change the channel.

Since the Conservatives have raised this issue of matrimonial property rights, speaking of consultation, they also failed to consult when it came to developing that legislation they put forward a few years ago.

I spent the morning in this House, and I find it passing strange that the Conservatives choose to talk about matrimonial property rights when we raise the issue of the $1.1 billion they left unspent on aboriginal issues, when we raise Bill S-6, when we raise missing and murdered indigenous women, fire safety in communities, and boil-water advisories. It is a long list.

It is time for the Conservatives to realize that, frankly, the vast majority of indigenous people, certainly the ones I have heard from, cannot wait to get them out of government. They are an obstruction to indigenous people in our country moving ahead, and Bill S-6 is a perfect example of that.

Yukoners and Yukon first nations have come up with a solution that works for them and works for their territory, and Ottawa is once again waging its patriarchal, paternalistic force to impose its approach, an approach that does not work, that will only lead to further litigation, and that will stall economic development in this territory.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, my esteemed colleague took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to ask her to comment on the blatant paternalistic attitude of the Conservative government in terms of its dealings with our first nation brothers and sisters, especially in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report about coming together.

I would ask the member if she would comment further on how Bill S-6 flies in the face of the spirit and meaning of the Truth and Reconciliation report.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that important question and for bringing it back to a sentiment that has inspired many of us this week, certainly on our side of the House. It is the idea that now Canada is ready to embark on a journey of reconciliation. However, what is clear is that the partner that is certainly not there and not willing to embark on that journey is the government.

Bill S-6 is a perfect example of how the government is willing to impose legislation that will only lead to it being taken to court by Yukon first nations. It is essentially forcing first nations in the Yukon to spend money they surely could be using on other important priorities to litigate the government, along with the other maybe 95 first nations that are in court right now with the government.

We have heard from members of the government on Bill S-6 that there are only four recommendations first nations take issue with, that basically the government knows best, and that this is about moving forward and supporting resource development. These are the kinds of mistakes of the past made by this government and previous Liberal governments. It is the Ottawa knows best approach. It is the federal government imposing its will on first nations rather than consulting and working in partnership and collaboration where necessary.

At the end of the day, it is Yukon first nations and Yukoners who are going to pay the price. Hopefully, it will not be for too long, because soon there will be a new government in Canada, one that stands with first nations and respects first nations rights and that can truly build a brighter future for all of us in this country.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:20 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about one of the four contentious amendments, and it is on the issue of policy direction.

As the member will know, there are four examples of policy direction having been used in the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act in the Northwest Territories. In each case, policy direction was used to clearly communicate expectations, based on interim measures, with first nations. It was not this government or a previous government. The minister of aboriginal affairs gave policy direction to protect and advance the rights of first nations. When we brought this up at committee when we were in Whitehorse, the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said that for a minister to advance the rights of first nation people was actually paternalistic. Those were her words in the committee hearing.

I am wondering if the member could clarify. She is the lead critic for the NDP. Does she believe that the minister protecting the rights of first nations groups through policy direction is paternalistic, as her colleague does?

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, while I am in the House I want to end off by saying that what is paternalistic is what we are seeing in the House today, which is a government that is focused on bringing forward a bill, Bill S-6, that we know is opposed by Yukon first nations, many Yukoners, members of the environmental community, industry partners, and people who know what is best in their community. These are people who have been part of building YESSA, a made-in-Yukon solution. Yet Ottawa, with the support of the member for Yukon, swoops in to basically stifle all of that progress and place barriers that are about to set Yukon first nations and Yukoners back.

I am proud to stand here with my NDP colleagues in opposition to Bill S-6. I stand along with first nations in the Yukon and with Yukoners as well in saying that Bill S-6 has to go.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of thoughts that I would like to share with the House this afternoon in regard to Bill S-6.

I will start off by reflecting a little bit about the process that we again find ourselves in. Over the last number of years, ever since the government achieved a majority, we have seen a different attitude in the manner in which legislation is passed through the House of Commons. We have had numerous time allocations. I believe it is somewhere around 95, 96, 97 times the government has seen fit to invoke time allocation in order to pass its legislative agenda. Typically, when we invoke time allocation, we limit the number of individuals who would be able to contribute to the debate on a bill. Quite often we will see a very limited amount of time even afforded to members to address important pieces of legislation.

Bill S-6 is an important piece of legislation. We now have the government using that tool to get it through the House of Commons, which I find is most unfortunate. If we look at the manner in which Bill S-6 came into existence to where it is today at third reading, we have seen the government adopt an attitude of “our way or the highway”.

There is no sense that the government has tried to get consensus. Whether it is inside the House of Commons or in Yukon itself, in the committee meetings that have taken place, in the different types of discussions, the government has demonstrated its inability to build a consensus that would ultimately see the type of support that we would argue is necessary when we are passing legislation such as we are in regard to Yukon territory and the impact of the legislation.

I challenge the government. The Conservatives will say they have consulted. When we posed the question to the minister responsible for the legislation, he said that they had the full support of the Yukon legislature. We know that was not the case. I had the opportunity to be in a provincial legislature when something is decided here in Ottawa. If the government has done its homework, quite often there will be unanimous support from a provincial or territorial entity. However, the government was not able to get that unanimous support from the Yukon legislature, which is one thing in itself.

We talk about first nations. The first nations of Canada are of great importance. We in the Liberal Party have argued for that for many years. The way in which governments should be approaching first nations in Canada is one of government to government, of respect. We should look at ways we can better enable the leadership at all different levels to try to achieve the compromises and build on a consensus that would have a far more positive outcome.

Earlier this week we had the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. It has been a long time coming. Let us apply Bill S-6 and what the government is attempting to do to that particular report. How would Mr. Sinclair have responded to the treatment of first nations by the manner which Bill S-6 has been brought forward? I would suggest that the government has once again failed the first nations community.

We could talk about the stakeholders, environmental groups and individuals who live in Yukon who are very disappointed with some of the actions within the legislation brought forward by the government.

The minister talks about wanting to promote growth and jobs, wanting to improve the standard of living. These are words that he has used, and I suspect that the principle of promoting growth and jobs is something that all of us want to see. We all want to see an improvement in the standard of living. Just yesterday, I stood in my place talking about the northern food program and how it was of critical importance that the government get it right, not only putting money into an envelope but getting that money delivered or getting the fresh produce into the hands of the people who need it.

We saw that the Auditor General of Canada was pointing out deficiencies, yet the government tended to close its eyes or put its head in the sand and ignore some of those recommendations, or at the very least deny them in debate yesterday when we had the opportunity to focus attention on that program. There is so much more that government can do.

The Conservatives talk about improving the standard of living in northern Canada. We can do more and we should be looking at how we can work with the many different stakeholders from the north in terms of implementing good, solid programs, ensuring that we have good federal legislation, that we are respectful of treaties and so forth. That is something that should be a far higher priority of the current government, and we should not be settling.

I had the opportunity to do a bit of reading on this issue, and I came across a comment over the Internet. It was by Kirk Cameron, and I would like to share, in his words, some of the thoughts he has in regard to Bill S-6. This is a post from December 5, 2014. In reading this, I believe that Mr. Cameron has encapsulated a great deal of the concern that is there in regard to Bill S-6. I appreciate Mr. Cameron's taking the time to post this article. I like the headline, “When is a Government not a Government?”

He said:

Yukon First Nation Chiefs met with the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs this week in Ottawa. They discussed with the Minister their concerns with Bill S-6, legislation that will change a number of critical sections of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA).

YESAA is the acronym. We have heard a lot of reference to YESAA, not only here in third reading but also in second reading. If we get a really good appreciation of what YESAA is all about, we get a better sense of why so many people feel that the government has let them down in regard to Bill S-6. However, I will get back to the posting:

This Act is one of the comprehensive pieces of federal legislation necessary to implement chapters of the Treaties agreed to in the 1990s between the majority of Yukon First Nation governments and the two public governments, Canada and Yukon.

These Treaties are a big deal; they are recognized and protected as an expression of Aboriginal rights through s. 35 of the Constitution of Canada, the supreme law of our land. YESAA gives presence and authority to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, one of the co-management bodies that were agreed to in the Treaties. The Board conducts assessments on all lands in Yukon, First Nation, Crown and even lands within municipalities.

I will pause there for a moment and just reflect on how important it is that we recognize the role that YESAA has played in the past. We want to recognize the manner in which it was able to carry itself, building on consensus, contrary to what we have witnessed over the last number of years here in Ottawa.

It goes on to say that:

....the changes in Bill S-6 were never discussed with the Yukon first nations despite the status of YESAA as a legal instrument required to implement the tri-party treaties. The first nations view, as I understand it, is that they’re partners to a Treaty that is supposed to build relationships among all three levels of government (federal, territorial and First Nation), and part of that relationship is an understanding that we are equal partners in the co-management of the territory’s resources.

When we think of resources, it is important to recognize how the mining industry plays such a strong role in terms of the development of Yukon, and also the development of Canada. We can think of gold, zinc and lead as commodities that are mined in Yukon. I am not 100% sure, but I believe it is somewhere in the area of 35% in terms of the overall economy affected by those three products.

What comes with this co-management relationship is full discussion and agreement to any measure that changes the legislative foundation to these Treaty bodies.

Imagine how you would feel as a Chief of a self-governing First Nation to be told that you do not represent a “real government”. Just such a comment was made by a federal Minister. As such, Canada does not have to treat you as an equal participant in the process to amend legislation required to implement your Treaties.

And, this is not just any federal Minister. It is the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Canada’s representative with the lead responsibility to look after the “Honor of the Crown” where First Nations interests are concerned (oh and let’s not forget, one of the parties to the tripartite Treaty with Yukon First Nations). You have been elected Chief to represent the interests of one of those First Nations whose government is now in place to honor that Treaty relationship and work for the betterment of your Citizens within a partnership of governments, and you hear this shocking declaration from one of your supposed “partners” in Treaty.

I think the author of this posting really encapsulates one of the biggest concerns in regard to Bill S-6. I have had the opportunity to talk to very strong advocates in Yukon, one of them being my former colleague, Larry Bagnell, who has done a phenomenal job in making sure the Liberal caucus is aware of what is taking place in Yukon so that members will be in a better position to hold the government to account for their actions or lack thereof.

This is a fairly long story and I am not going to read it all, but I do want to comment on the last paragraph of the posting. It says:

Often in the past Yukoners have complained of a distant and uncaring Ottawa interfering in our lives. It is unfortunate that we have this recent experience to reconfirm this suspicion!

This is a genuine concern that has been expressed.

I have had the opportunity today and at second reading to pose a number of questions of the government regarding Bill S-6. The government genuinely believes that it has done its homework on the issue; I do not believe that it has. When we hear the minister say that they have worked on consensus and done the proper consultation and then we hear first nations and other stakeholders say that the government has not done what it says it has, we see there is good reason that the government has not been able to achieve the support that one would like to have when passing legislation of this nature.

As I indicated at the beginning of my comments, the government says that it wants to promote growth and jobs in the north. It says it wants to improve the standard of living. If the government is sincere about that, why has it not garnered the support that it could have been able to acquire prior to the introduction of Bill S-6?

If the government had not used a closure motion to prevent members of the House from debating Bill S-6, this bill would be far from passing. The government might not even have had the support necessary to get it passed before we break. The government has intentionally chosen to use time allocation in order to force this bill through in what could be the dying days of this regime.

I know that many Canadians in all regions of our country are hoping for change. I suspect that change is on the horizon, but the government's determination to pass Bill S-6 in this fashion is most unfortunate.

Whether it is through education in our public school system, through nature programs, or from talking with individuals who are very keen on travelling throughout Canada, Yukon comes to the minds of many Canadians as a great place to visit. For a good percentage of the population, it would be a great place to live as well. Yukon as a territory is vast in size. It has the highest mountain, Mount Logan, and there are beautiful rivers and all sorts of wilderness. The tourism industry has great potential, and when we look at the high demand for commodities throughout the world, we see that Yukon's mining industry could play a critical role in meeting some of those demands.

Whether it is in relation to tourism, mining, or industries that are evolving and developing, we should be creating and encouraging growth and improving the standard of living for the people of Yukon by allowing true consultation to take place. We should strive to get consensus and respect the treaties that have been signed off on. It is an issue of respect.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I find it a bit humourous that this member, who speaks more than any member in the House, is complaining about time allocation. Certainly his right to speak is never curtailed.

However, I want to talk about something he did not talk a whole lot about, which is the bill before us today, Bill S-6. The amendments that really are the crux of the opposition to this bill involve policy direction, delegation of authority, and a significant change in timelines. Every single one of those amendments, all of which were requested by the Yukon government, are envisioned in the Umbrella Final Agreement. The member referred to treaties as kind of an abstract thing, but there is actually a document, the Umbrella Final Agreement, and each one of those amendments complies fully with the Umbrella Final Agreement.

The minister has asked those who oppose the bill to please show him where these amendments contravene the Umbrella Final Agreement. To date, no one has been able to do so. Perhaps the member, in his consultations, has finally discovered the answer to where these four amendments contravene the UFA. Up until now, I have not seen any evidence that they do.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the parliamentary secretary has been here for virtually all of the debate, and that is admirable.

I want to make reference again to the article that was published. When amendments are brought forward at the committee stage, there is a bit of apprehension among different stakeholders, in particular among the chiefs, councils, and local governments. The parliamentary secretary stated that the Yukon territorial government was in support of the amendments, but the issue, as I really tried to emphasize in my remarks, is whether there was any sort of co-operation or consultation with the other partners. On the surface, it appears as if there was none.

I again quote from Mr. Cameron's article, which said:

Ironic that a day after Justice Ron Veale of the Supreme Court of Yukon brought down a ruling on the Peel Watershed calling on the public government to read the Treaties generously as long-term vehicles to bring about reconciliation with First Nations, the federal Minister treats Yukon First Nations so disgracefully!

When the member makes reference to the amendments and even if he believes he has good support for the amendments, how were those amendments worked into what has been suggested in the quote I just shared? How were our first nations consulted? What were their thoughts? Does the government actually feel any obligation to work with first nations, in this case with regard to Bill S-6?

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech in the House on Bill S-6. He spoke at length about real consultation.

In committee, the people of Yukon asked for meetings, hearings and more consultation. Obviously, senators failed to listen and did not ask the committee to go to the Yukon to hold real consultations.

According to my Liberal colleague, why did senators not hold more consultations with the people of Yukon?

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit disappointed that the member would pose a question of that nature in the sense that in the House I have argued, as have other members, particularly from the Conservative side, that there was a need for the aboriginal affairs standing committee to go to remote communities. It was the New Democrats, because they had a bit of a tiff on some issue that was relatively minor, who prevented the standing committee from travelling and doing a lot of the consultation, so they are not all that pure on the issue of leaving Ottawa to conduct consultations. One would want to be consistent.

She emphasized the Senate repeatedly. My understanding of the NDP position is that whether Canadians want it or not, the NDP is committed to abolishing it, even though it is unconstitutional to do that. There would have to be constitutional hearings in order to convince a number of provinces to give in to the NDP's demands, who knows at what cost. Given the current leader's flip-flop on different issues, I do not know if that is in Canada's best interest.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member on Bill S-6, the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act.

As the member well knows, Nunavut was created on April 1, 1999. For many years Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated was frustrated with the lack of implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement under the Liberal government. The result of that was a lawsuit against the federal government for the lack of implementation of the land claims agreement in Nunavut.

Recently our government has worked very hard under the leadership of Minister Valcourt to settle that land claim agreement so that the Nunavummiut can move forward—

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Thank you for the reminder, Mr. Speaker.

Could the member from the Liberal Party explain whether or not Liberals see this regulatory improvement act as a further step in the implementation of our Nunavut Land Claims Agreement?

Second, our government has worked, as I said, to settle the land claims agreement, to move forward in the devolution agreement for Nunavut and put the necessary legislation in place so that Nunavummiut can move forward in making decisions on projects in Nunavut, such as whether they will proceed and under what terms and conditions. We have worked very hard.

In our view, this legislation is very supportive to the devolution agreement that we are now negotiating with the Nunavut government. Nunavummiut want the tools to make decisions for their own future, and I personally see Bill S-6 as another means for empowering northerners to make those decisions.

Do the Liberals not agree that Nunavummiut should have the tools to make decisions on projects of importance to them? Do the Liberals not recognize that this bill is in support of implementing the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement that Inuit, for over 30 years, fought so hard to get with the Government of Canada?

We are doing our part in settling the land claims agreement, which the Liberals failed to implement. We are moving on devolution. We are restoring the cuts that the Liberal government made to the territorial governments. This is another piece of legislation that would empower northerners to make decisions for their projects and set the terms and conditions for them.

Do the Liberals not support that?

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, given the question, it could be a very difficult challenge to keep the answer to under a minute.

Maybe I will demonstrate the type of support that the Liberal Party has traditionally provided. Has it been perfect? No, it has not. We have not been absolutely perfect. That said, I reflect back to when Paul Martin was prime minister and the phenomenal amount of effort that he put in. In a relatively short time frame, he was able to accomplish a great deal in terms of first nations and aboriginal communities by looking at a framework for future decades to deal with issues ranging from education to financing to issues of land claim settlements.

There are different levels of government and different political entities. It is important that we recognize the priority of settling land claims and looking at ways to make a more positive contribution. I suggest the minister might want to reflect on the accord that Paul Martin had—

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.
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Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this bill today. As the member of Parliament representing Nunavut and the Nunavummiut, and as the Minister of the Environment and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, I am especially proud to defend Bill S-6 this afternoon.

The legislation, the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act, would drive economic growth and development across the north. In the process, it would improve the quality of life for all living in Nunavut. It would also improve the quality of life for each and every one of my constituents.

Beyond what it would do to attract investment, and create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, this initiative has two symbolic roles. It is both the latest in a series of developments that would enable Nunavummiut to benefit more fully from all that the territory has to offer, and it is a precursor to the territory of Nunavut inheriting more political and economic independence than ever before.

On October 3, 2014, my colleague, the hon. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, came to Nunavut, and together we announced the appointment of a chief federal negotiator, Brian Dominique, to represent Canada in negotiations toward the signing of a devolution agreement in principle.

Devolution in Nunavut will give control over land, water and resources in the territory to those best placed to make decisions about their future, the Nunavummiut. This is similar to the devolution agreement that exists in Yukon, as well as the one that our government recently signed in the Northwest Territories. The benefits of devolution are significant, and I look forward to the day when Nunavut can access these benefits, thanks to our Conservative government.

In broad terms, Bill S-6 would help Nunavut reach this goal of devolution by creating conditions within the regulatory system to allow residents of Nunavut, from Cambridge Bay to Rankin Inlet to Iqaluit, to unlock the great economic potential of their territory. Bill S-6 plays a crucial role in paving the way for devolution. It would ensure that the water management regime that would eventually be transferred from the federal government to the Government of Nunavut would encourage investment and allow the territory to fully benefit from increased resource development. Given our territory's world-class mines and massive natural resource revenues, it is clear that the economic potential of Nunavut is tremendous.

It is our duty as Parliamentarians to unlock opportunities in this region. This will be achieved by building a streamlined and predictable regulatory regime that entices investors and developers to look to the north while at the same time safeguarding our unique environment.

Along with our government's investments in roads, bridges and education, regulatory improvements will stimulate future exploration and development to the benefit of Nunavummiut and all Canadians. The Nunavut government agrees with us. My counterpart, the Nunavut minister of the environment, the Hon. Johnny Mike, has been on record saying, “the Government of Nunavut believes that this bill would make a number of improvements to the regulatory regime in Nunavut”.

I will speak more specifically to what the minister is referring.

Bill S-6 would ensure more timely and predictable water licence review processes. One of our government's objectives in the north is speeding up regulatory approvals to keep pace with the needs of business. This would allow the territories to maximize the potential of their abundant natural resources, and create conditions for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity north of 60. We were determined to improve the regulatory regimes for land and water management in all three of Canada's northern territories. We wanted to ensure modern and efficient systems for northerners, understanding the demands of a highly-competitive, global marketplace. With Bill S-6, we have the final legislative step to realize this goal and to ensure that the required work is in place for the north to flourish.

Changes to the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act would make the regulatory process stronger, more effective and more predictable. Even former Liberal Senator Graham Mitchell agrees us, who said:

It's designed specifically to enhance regulatory processes, reduce the complexity of these processes, reduce regulatory overlap and, in doing so, reduce uncertainty in the economic development process in these territories.

This would help stimulate jobs, resource development and economic prosperity throughout our great territory. Bill S-6 would provide, from beginning to end, time limits for water licence review and would give the Nunavut Water Board the ability, at its discretion, to issue water licences for the anticipated duration of the project.

These changes would make the licensing process more predictable for proponents, allowing companies to engage in better long-term planning. It would also reduce the duplication and uncertainty of unnecessary reviews. Not only would this provision streamline the regulatory process, but it would do so without undermining environmental protection.

Minister Mike indicated that he is especially pleased that increased fines would be a deterrent to unlicensed water use and applauded the introduction of administrative monetary penalties, as they would provide additional tools to ensure compliance with water licences. He added that the Government of Nunavut believed life-of-project water licences were better tailored to water use and that the timelines for board review would bring certainty and predictability to both Nunavummiut and industry.

Representatives of the Nunavut Water Board told the standing Senate committee that they were generally supportive of the legislation. For example, Thomas Kabloona, Chair of the Nunavut Water Board said, “A number of the specific issues raised by the board through its participation were considered and have been to some extent reflected in Bill S-6, so we are supportive of the amendments in general”.

Moreover, the bill would increase fines for proponents who violated the conditions of water licences and would introduce administrative monetary penalties, another measure designed to hold industry accountable to regulatory standards.

In throwing his support behind Bill S-6, Minister Mike from the Nunavut government said, “This bill will give the board and regulators important new powers that will ensure that water use in Nunavut is sustainable and environmentally safe”.

This is an example of how our government is protecting Nunavut's environmental heritage without resorting to a costly carbon tax, like the Liberals and NDP would introduce. This tax hike would make life across the north more expensive, increase the cost of everything in the north, increase the cost of food in our communities, and would result in job loss for Nunavut residents.

The success of these efforts is evident in support for Bill S-6 in the north.

Minister Mike, who have I quoted before, said that Bill S-6 would provide more flexibility and enforcement powers to regulators, more predictable timelines for assessments, and would integrate with other environmental processes in the North.

Bill S-6 is supported by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, too. Its president, Cathy Towtongie, stated in her correspondence to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development that the organization was comfortable with the changes proposed in the bill.

The wide support that this initiative is receiving in Nunavut does not surprise me. Bill S-6 is an economic and environmental building block for my territory, and is indicative of a broader truth: that no government in Canadian history has done more for northerners than this one.

I urge all parties to join me in supporting and encouraging economic and social development in my riding of Nunavut by ensuring the swift passage of this important bill.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's intervention focused appropriately on Nunavut. However, the other part of the bill before us is the amendments proposed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

The minister's colleague, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, said that this measure was “fully supported” by the Yukon legislature. Notwithstanding, there is enormous opposition to that in the Yukon, particularly among first nations. Apparently five law firms are lined up to challenge this as soon as the Conservative government rams the bill through with another time allocation motion.

Does the minister stand by the statement that there is full support of the Yukon legislature and first nations, as the minister, her colleague, suggested earlier today?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, as a person born and raised in Canada's Arctic, I know how important this legislation is to northerners. Northerners want to advance projects in their regions. We want to advance projects under our terms and conditions. If projects are to proceed, the terms and conditions will be set by northerners on the ground in the Arctic. They are the ones who have the tools to make decisions on whether projects will proceed or not.

I am in full support of this legislation because northerners will then have one more tool to make determinations on what they want for their future, what they want for their communities and under what terms and conditions projects will proceed.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to take advantage of the fact the Minister of the Environment has just spoken and I am going to draw a connection for Canadians who are watching between the whole question of quality of life and economic opportunity in Canada's north, for Canada's northern peoples, and the linkage with this incredibly important crisis we are facing, called climate change.

There perhaps is no more powerful force at play in Canada's north than climate change. The minister knows this. Therefore, I want to give her an opportunity to share with the House today how she and the government will do what they have promised to do. They say that they will reduce emissions by 30% from 2005—

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

I hear on the other side that its does not understand the connection between this bill and climate change, Mr. Speaker. I will restate it again for the members, if they so desire.

However, the whole question for the minister is this. In the United States, the congressional team has put together some 400 pages in a plan to achieve its target. The European Union has a 1,200-page plan.

Could the minister table today, for northern peoples, the operational plan, in detail, to achieve this 30% reduction?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the opportunity to speak to the Liberal record in the north. For 13 years, the Liberal government did not implement the Nunavut land claims agreement. Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated filed a lawsuit against the federal government for lack of implementation of the land claims agreement. Our government settled that dispute out of court recently, and awarded Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated $255 million for the lack of implementation from that government.

Our government is listening and moving forward. The next step we will take is to negotiate a devolution agreement. We are hoping to reach an agreement in principle in the next little while. Again, this legislation would support the implementation of that land claims agreement.

That party and that government cut transfers to the territorial government. The Liberals did not implement the Nunavut land claims agreement, which brings us here today. Northerners want this legislation. Northerners want the tools to make decisions about their future and under what terms and conditions.

As Minister for the Arctic Council, I can also say that the initiatives we undertook over two years of our chairmanship were to address the issues that were important to northerners, hence, our overarching theme: development for the people of the north by incorporating the traditional knowledge of Inuit to science in addressing climate change and by incorporating the traditional knowledge and traditional ways of life of indigenous people in policy work that is done through the Arctic Council. We moved on black carbon and methane for the north, because it was important to the north.

Under the Liberal government, nothing happened.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, before I start, I want to thank the Minister of the Environment for her leadership, both in the portfolio she has been given in cabinet and also for her leadership in the north. It is unfortunate that the member for Ottawa South kept trying to interrupt her while she was speaking. She passionately defends the north, her communities and her territory both in the House and at the cabinet table. We are very proud to have her as the leader of our northern caucus. She does a great job in that regard.

No government in Canadian history has done more for Canada's north than our Conservative government. One can see the legislative steps that we have taken through our northern strategy, the Northern Jobs and Growth Act.

This is the final step to improve the regulatory process in the Yukon and in Nunavut. As the minister has outlined, on the Nunavut side we are protecting the environment by increasing the ability to levy fines. We are giving the people of Nunavut more control over their own territory, which is something we believe in on this side of the House.

It is unfortunate that through this whole debate when we talked about devolution to the territories and giving more powers to the territorial governments, the NDP and Liberals fought against it. They want to keep more power here in Ottawa. We want to give more power to the people of the north and their governments because we believe that the power should be closer to the people.

What have we seen with the bill? Why is the bill necessary? We have seen through independent reports that because of the improvements that have been made south of 60 to the regulatory regime, the Yukon territory has fallen behind in its regulatory environment. It used to be number one in the world in terms of attractiveness for mining companies for resource development. It has fallen to ninth according to the recent Fraser Institute report. Also, in terms of perception of regulatory policy, it has fallen to ninth in Canada. When devolution occurred over a decade ago, Yukon led Canada in terms of its regulatory regime. It has fallen behind and we need to get it back up on par with the rest of Canada.

I want to talk briefly as well, in the limited time I have, about some of the issues that have been raised. The first was raised again by the Liberal Party. It said there has been a lack of consultation, which is demonstrably false. There have been dozens of meetings that have taken place, just on the four contentious amendments alone. There was $100,000 given to first nations groups who participated in those consultation sessions. They submitted receipts to the government saying they had consulted with us and would like to be reimbursed for that. Of course, we have paid those funds. There has been consultation. It has been paid for by the government and those consultations have been meaningful. We certainly believe they have been adequate.

Also, we have seen that this is something that is necessary for the continued economic prosperity of Yukon and Nunavut. We heard from the Yukon Chamber of Mines that said, specifically on the issues of timelines and significant change, we need to bring the regime in Yukon in line with what is happening in the rest of Canada. It is seeing investment decisions and investment dollars leaving the territory because of the uncertainty that its regulatory regime presents.

We have also seen that the bill is completely 100% compliant with the Umbrella Final Agreement. The minister has asked anyone who has a concern with that to point him to the section of the legislation that violates the Umbrella Final Agreement. No one has been able to do that.

This is the final piece of our northern agenda. It is the final legislative step that we need to take to bring about economic prosperity and growth in the north. We are proud to support 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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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation to 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, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said bill; and

That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, this is the 98th time in this Parliament that we have had a time allocation proposal by the government. This one is on a particular bill that is opposed by most of the people in Yukon in four specific areas.

The government has chosen not to go back to the first nations in Yukon that have well-established relationships there based on existing laws and existing environmental legislation. The government has chosen to unilaterally put four new amendments in the bill that were not part of the larger review process. This has led to a situation where both Yukoners and first nations Yukoners are combined in their opposition to these four amendments.

We saw that when we had the committee hearings in Yukon. The room was full. Hundreds of people listened to our committee. Many people spoke to it, including industry. They said not to do it, that it was silly, that it was not correct to break the relationship that existed now and was working quite well.

The time allocation motion is an insult. The government will answer for this in Yukon in the next election, which is five months away. It is a pity that the government has taken this road. It is going to cause disruption and uncertainty in the Yukon economy for the next number of years until we straighten it out.

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.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, for those who watch the proceedings of the House, I am sure they cannot help but be disappointed in the Conservative-Reform style government. It is a government that since it acquired a majority has had a different attitude in the House of Commons. It is one where it feels it does not need to consult with people, that it can just walk over some very basic democratic principles. It is one that does not understand the need for diligence. It is one that does not understand the need for working with people or working with members of Parliament. In dealing with important legislation like Bill S-6 and the northern regulatory regime, the government has failed on so many counts.

The government, by once again relying on a time allocation motion to get its agenda passed, speaks of incompetence. It speaks of a genuine lack of respect for parliamentary procedure and ultimately for Canadians. It continues to try to prevent members of Parliament from being engaged and representing their constituents on the floor of the House of Commons.

My question is not for the minister but rather for the government House leader who is the minister responsible for forcing this legislation through, as he has done on so many pieces of legislation. Why does the government need to use time allocation in such a fashion that it has created a record, which cannot even remotely come close to being matched, as the worst government in Canada's history in using time allocation or closure to get its legislative agenda passed?

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the comments of the hon. member betray his lack of understanding and knowledge of what led to Bill S-6. He says there was no consultation. Improvements to the regulatory system have been contemplated since 2007, and they were informed by a review by Neil McCrank, the federal government's special representative for the northern regulatory improvement initiative. In his review of the regulatory systems across the north, he consulted widely with aboriginal groups, governments, and industry. These consultations resulted in his 2008 report, entitled “The Road to Improvement”.

In 2012, the Government of Canada subsequently announced the action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes, which drew upon recommendations in this 2008 report.

The short answer as to why we have this motion today is that it is to give the northerners the benefit of its impact.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister forgot to mention the 98 times the government has imposed closure and time allocation. It is a record. It is the worst governmental record ever in Canadian history.

It also has the worst record of rejected legislation. The Conservatives bring shoddy legislation into the House, and the courts reject it. A dozen times now the courts have simply thrown out the junk the government has put on the floor of the House and then forced through the House. The government has the worst legislative record in Canadian history.

Now, we are talking about Bill S-6. Here we have a Yukon News editorial from June 13, 2014, which tells us all what people in Yukon think about this bill. It says:

A long list of people deserve raspberries for this needlessly shady behaviour. At the top of the naughty list are Senator Daniel Lang and [the member for Yukon], who are supposed to ensure that the interests of Yukoners are represented in Ottawa. Instead, they’ve kept the public out of the loop, other than [the member for Yukon] uttering vague generalities about the forthcoming changes without offering any meaningful specifics. Shame on them.

That is a voice from Yukon. Those Yukoners should have been listened to by the government. Why did the government not listen? Why is it trying to force a bad bill through the House of Commons?

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, a serious parliamentarian, a serious party, and a serious government do not inform their agenda by headlines in newspapers. They inform their policy agenda by the needs of Canadians.

This government is creating jobs, creating economic growth, and ensuring the long-term prosperity of not only Canadians south of 60 but of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. That includes Yukon, that includes Nunavut, and that includes the Northwest Territories.

The regulatory changes from the action plan this government has put forward are designed to achieve four fundamental and beneficial objectives. The first is making reviews of development projects more predictable and timely. The second is reducing duplication in the review process, something that we know the NDP does not believe in. It strives for duplication. The third is strengthening environmental protection. The fourth is achieving meaningful aboriginal consultations.

This is what Bill S-6 is all about. Throughout this process, we have fully engaged with the first nations, who are our partners under the umbrella agreement. It is with those signed first nations and the Government of Yukon that we will continue to work in partnership to create more wealth, more jobs, and long-term prosperity for all Yukoners.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed today to see that the government is trying to push this bill through the House of Commons and is calling time allocation, not unlike what it has done throughout this whole process on Bill S-6.

This is supposed to be an improvement of the regulatory process for Yukon. While many of the recommendations that were put forward were accepted by first nations and Yukoners, there were four that were not. They were not accepted because they were not in the best interests of the first nations governments, nor were they in the best interests of Yukoners, not did the government consult them in a fair way.

When we went to Yukon and held hearings and heard testimony from the many people who came out, the member of Parliament for Yukon was there. When we came back to Ottawa and sat in committee and made the amendments to this bill that Yukoners and first nations were asking for, their own member was not there to even vote on them or support them, and none of the government members supported them.

There is an injustice being done to the individuals who have protested this bill and have concerns about it. I ask the minister why he is calling time allocation today. Why is he stifling the people who have legitimate concerns regarding Bill S-6, namely the people of Yukon?

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, juste en passant, I would like the hon. member to acknowledge that this is not about amendments to just the Yukon process. Important changes to the regulatory system in Nunavut are also contained in Bill S-6, and all Nunavummiut have endorsed these holus-bolus. I would invite the hon. member to consider that aspect of the bill also.

On the issue of consultation, the member is totally wrong. That is the leadership of the Liberal Party. The Liberals follow the crowd. Wherever the wind blows, that is where they go.

We are a principled party and a principled government. This is about job creation. This is about economic growth. This is about protecting the environment. This is about long-term prosperity.

At the moment, there is an imbalance. The government of the Yukon has asked us to pass this bill, because it wants to get to a level playing field with the other territories and with the provinces south of 60. This is about creating certainty. This is about securing investment in the natural resources sector, where first nations, I wish to remind the House, are co-managing the YESA Board with the Government of the Yukon and the Government of Canada.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to clear up just a bit of revisionist history coming from the other side of the House right now. We hear the members feign interest and concern for northern Canadians, but of course, we all know that I had a study before the fisheries committee to go north to study important cultural, social, and ceremonial impacts on northern fisheries. It was obstructed by the NDP.

I had an important bill on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. We wanted to travel to the north to hear directly from Yukoners and northerners on that important piece. It was obstructed by the NDP.

Of course, the Liberals will sit in this House of Commons and talk about whether their amendments were supported in committee. They did not put any forward, so it is interesting how we revisit that piece.

Let me just read something into the record from the NDP in the Yukon:

once a mine is in operation...the actual procurement of everything from, I would say, toilet paper to lettuce to whatever comes in on big trucks, on pallets, from Outside, and nothing is sourced locally.

That was the Leader of the Opposition and of the NDP in the Yukon. Of course, he completely forgot that $78 million was spent—

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, my point is that this is important to move forward for Yukon. It is important to move forward for the people of Yukon. In the sense of having to allocate the time, the examples I gave were really in regard to the fact that those members have had no problem obstructing things in the past. We need to move this forward, and their history has set the course for the actions we need to take in terms of moving all bills, including this one, forward.

I wonder if the minister could comment on the benefits to the north this bill could bring to all Yukoners and indeed to Yukon first nations.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, let me thank the hon. member for his question but mostly for his work on behalf of Yukoners. He is always at work to ensure that Yukoners do indeed participate in Canada's prosperity.

As I said, our government's top priority is creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity, and this is no different in the north. The reason we must allocate time to pass Bill S-6 as rapidly as possible is that it will establish conditions in both Yukon and Nunavut that will encourage continued investment and ensure that Canada's north remains an attractive place for industry investments in an increasingly competitive global market.

For example, Bill S-6 introduces timelines that will create consistency and predictability in environmental assessments and the issuance of water licences. Another piece of the bill makes sure that once a project has been assessed once, it will not require another assessment unless there has been a significant change to the project, reducing duplication.

Provisions like these will attract investment to Yukon and Nunavut, which will act as a major driver of jobs across the territories.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address a few minor points we heard regarding this 98th time allocation motion, more commonly known as a gag order, because that is what the government is trying to impose on us.

I heard the minister say that the Conservatives are principled. However, people who are principled do not say one thing one day and the opposite the next, 98 times. Principled people do not condemn the imposition of time allocation motions when they are not in government, and then turn around and impose more such motions than any other government. It will be interesting to hear what the minister has to say about that.

The Conservatives are mocking us with these 98 time allocation motions, as though this were a good thing, as though they have proven that they can get things done. What I want to say to people watching at home is that with these 98 gag orders, the Conservatives have instead proven that they cannot convince anyone to get anything done in the House while respecting our existing democratic systems.

As for the member for Yukon, he had the nerve to tell us that we refused to go along, when he is the one who abandoned his own bill, at the government's request, because he did not have the guts to go ahead with it, even though he had the unanimous consent of those people in the House. I will not take any lessons from the member for Yukon.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

This member just made a point about relevance and sticking to the issue of time allocation and then went off onto another issue. I think she should listen to her own words and perhaps stick to the issue at hand before the House.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that the member is saying that the procedures of the House are undemocratic. As far as I know, according to the Standing Orders of the House the government can move this motion if it is in the interest of Canadians.

We know very well that the opposition party's fundamental objective is to prevent the government from moving forward with its political agenda.

If we are creating jobs, if we have reduced the tax burden on Canadian families, and if we have created millions of jobs since the end of the recession, it is because of our political agenda, which translates into legislation. The NDP will rise and try to sabotage our political agenda.

Yukoners' best interests must prevail, and it is for that reason that we must adopt this motion. The bill must pass so that the people of the Yukon can benefit from it.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, mere hours ago, I was in Rideau Hall with the hon. minister for a very moving ceremony for the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Certainly, reconciliation requires, at a minimum, respect for first nations and respect for treaties. Bill S-6 does the opposite.

I would plead with the minister not to use time allocation to limit debate. It adds insult to injury, once again, for Canada's first peoples.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her comments, and I will tell her and tell the House that the Government of Canada has maintained an open dialogue with the Government of Yukon, the Government of Nunavut, NTI, the Yukon first nations, industry associations, and other stakeholders.

As a matter of fact, on the consultation issue, maybe she does not know, but financial assistance was offered to aboriginal groups and boards throughout the consultation process for the review of these legislative proposals. The vast majority of these provisions are being endorsed by the Council of Yukon First Nations. It is true that it has expressed concern about four particular amendments, but it is important to state that these four particular amendments do not take away from the spirit and intent of the umbrella agreement. These amendments are in full compliance not only with the letter but with the spirit and intent of the umbrella agreement.

I want to assure our partners in this treaty, the first nations, the Yukoners, as represented by the Government of Yukon, that we are going to continue to work with them, in partnership, to implement these changes for the benefit of Yukoners.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is going to be an election in the fall. What will the Conservative minister say to his constituents when they criticize this 98th time allocation motion, which is an affront to democracy and Canada's parliamentarians? I am convinced that there will be other such motions before the end of the session.

Will he be able to say to his constituents that he is proud to have adopted so many time allocation motions and cut short speeches and debate? I am convinced that people across Canada are upset by the Conservatives' behaviour with respect to good governance and democracy in the House of Commons.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, we have here another member who is getting all worked up about the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, which we did not invent. I had the privilege of being an MP over 20 years ago, and the same rules were in place then. Canada is still seen as a vibrant democracy that serves Canadians well.

As my colleague said, there is going to be an election this fall. However, Canadians will have been served by a serious government that is committed to creating jobs in our country, growing our economy and making sure that Canadians' quality of life continues to improve.

Thanks to all of the measures that this government has put in place, Canadians have the lowest tax burden in 50 years. Since the depths of the recession, we have created over 1.2 million good jobs. Were it not for this tool that allows us to close debate when an issue has been debated enough, Canadians would not be reaping all of those benefits.

Bill S-6 is important because the people of the Yukon deserve to be on a level playing field with the other northern regions and the rest of Canada.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, it is an undeniable fact that no government in Canadian history has done more for Canada's North than this Conservative government.

Certainly, our northern strategy includes four pillars: two of them protecting our environmental heritage, and promoting social and economic development.

Could the minister explain how Bill S-6 promotes the regulatory improvements that we can build on in the North?

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary, whom I want to thank for his strong support, is absolutely right when he said that it is an undeniable fact that no other government in the history of this great country of ours has done as much for northerners as this Conservative government.

Bill S-6 is just the latest example of how we are delivering on our northern strategy. This bill is about enhancing and strengthening the social, economic and environmental assessment process in Yukon, as well as the water licensing process in Nunavut.

The bill builds on two pillars that the parliamentary secretary mentioned and is intended to both protect the environment and promote economic development in these two regions.

It also ensures that northerners are equipped with an effective, timely and predictable regulatory system that is able to contribute to attract investments into their regions for generations to come.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today on behalf of the people of Alfred-Pellan to debate the time allocation motion on Bill S-6.

In his answers, the minister just said that he had been in the House of Commons for 20 years. This means that he has been in the opposition and he took offence at the time allocation motions moved by the Liberals at the time. Now he is proud to move one in the House.

My question for the minister is very simple. How has Ottawa changed him so much?

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to point out to the member that I have not been a member of Parliament for 20 years. I was a member of the House of Commons from 1984 to 1993, and then I was re-elected in 2011 and have sat here since then. What I said was that 20 years ago, the rules of the House of Commons allowed this type of motion. I have never had the opportunity to sit in the House as a member of the opposition. That is all I can say.

The sole purpose of this motion is to promote the interests of the people living in the Yukon and the companies that want to do business there, in order to create jobs and economic growth and attract investments. This will improve the standard of living for everyone who lives in this beautiful territory.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the question posed by my colleague from Chicoutimi. I do not think he was suggesting that the current government is breaking the rules, but that the Conservatives manipulate the rules. They stretch and they bend, and we have seen that time and time again.

Somebody made a reference the other day to the NHL playoffs in 2009 when Sean Avery, who played for the New York Rangers, stood in front of Martin Brodeur, world-class Hall of Fame goaltender, and screened him. However, he faced the goaltender, contrary to how everybody else screened the goaltender. He stood in front of Brodeur, waved his arms around, shook his stick at him and all of that. The referee did not know what the heck to do. The referee would call a penalty, but there were no rules. It was clearly against the spirit of the game. Therefore, the rules committee for the NHL met the next day and came up with a rule called the “Sean Avery rule”.

The sad part is that the current government makes the rules and abuses the rules. This is just another example of how the Conservatives have abused this chamber, imposing closure 98 times. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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

June 3rd, 2015 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have total confidence in the Speaker and I am sure that if ever any parliamentarian breached the rules, the Speaker would see to it that it did not happen.

Canadians can remain secure in their belief that we have a parliamentary system that is delivering results. Obviously, we can look at the last four years and at the benefits that Canadians enjoy today in terms of lower taxes, benefits for families, increased benefits for seniors, and an improved standard of living for all Canadians.

Our system works well and we will continue working for Canadians with the same vigour, interest and intent.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand in the House today and speak to the motions put forward to the House on Bill S-6. I am going to get to the contents of the bill shortly and in direct respect to the motions that have been tabled here in the House.

Before I do that, I want to quickly express my thanks to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. I was present in the House today listening to many of the speeches and the questions and answers that followed. It was appreciated that he recognized that our government has tremendous commitment to continued trilateral partnerships with both our public governments in the Yukon and with our first nations leadership in our territory.

From that point of view, I am optimistic and confident that the piece of legislation that we have before us, subject of course to continued dialogue and discussion, will be one that will indeed be in the best interests of all Yukoners.

I want to point out a couple of things before I get to the direct pieces of this legislation that are clearly worth highlighting. Some of that came in discussion today, some of it has been in prolonged discussion over the course of the bill, but it is absolutely worthwhile for us drilling right down to these very key pieces so that we can boil away some of the political rhetoric that has been generated by the opposition side.

I do take some offence to the opposition's positions where members have clearly feigned concern for the wants, needs and expectations of the Yukon people broadly and specifically for the Yukon first nations community. I say that, not tongue in cheek, with clear-cut examples that I will give now.

I put forward a study at the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans some time ago where we would travel north and see what was going on with the challenging state of Yukon River salmon in a transboundary relationship with Alaska and those waters. There are some issues that we really needed to seize as parliamentarians in undertaking that study.

However, guess who blocked travel for that study? Guess who voted that it was not important? The NDP. This is a social, ceremonial and traditional way of life for Yukon first nations, with Yukon River salmon of critical importance, and the NDP would not support that travel.

Then I had a study and a bill before the House for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder which is a topic seized by all Yukoners, an important issue to Yukon people and northern Canadians in particular and we wanted to travel for that. Guess who blocked that? The NDP. The members are continuing to block all these things, yet at the same time, they say they have care and concern for Yukon people and northern people. Their record is clear. They really do not.

In this case, I was proud to ensure that as we undertook the study for Bill S-6, I made it clear that we needed to bring the committee to the Yukon to hear directly from Yukon people to allow a balanced story, a balanced perspective and a balanced input, so we could seize ourselves with the concerns of Yukoners, understand them and hear that directly from them in testimony in our territory.

Of course, the NDP members agreed to travel for that, but only for the fact that they thought they might have some political advantage on this. It is a shameful use of Yukon people and northern people for their own political purposes. There is not true care and concern and that point needs to be made crystal clear.

I witnessed that before noon on the first day of committee study on Bill S-6, a member from the Liberal Party and a member from the NDP had clearly chosen a side and it is on record when we were interviewed by the CBC. They said their minds were made up and this was done at noon, before we had even heard from half of the people prepared to testify. Before we had heard a full and balanced perspective from Yukoners on this topic, the NDP members had their minds made up about the direction they were going to go. They said as much on CBC.

The Liberals had their minds made up long before. They say they came to hear from all the Yukoners, but their minds were made up before they arrived in my territory and they tried to drive their political agenda. It is important to me to communicate that very effectively here today; everything to this point from their side of the House has been nothing but politics. There has been no care and concern for the people of the north.

We are trying to bring balance and parity in our territory so that Yukoners have equal opportunities for jobs, growth, and economic prosperity like the rest of Canada, so they have equal opportunities like those shared in the Northwest Territories under its devolution agreements and resource development agreements, which, interestingly enough, the member for Northwest Territories was standing behind. However, when it comes to bringing parity to the Yukon, somehow he is objecting to that.

As we tasked ourselves with the bill and understood the evolution and the process, it has been clear that there are concerns, and our government has seized itself with those concerns. We have heard them clearly, and today we heard the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs say clearly that he fully understands that a trilateral relationship is important with the federal government in the Yukon, the Yukon territorial government, and Yukon first nation peoples. I applaud him and thank him for that, because that will ensure effective implementation of the bill. It will ensure that we honour the spirit and intention of the modern treaties that we have in our territory, those modern treaties that we are very proud of and that will continue to bring prosperity to our territory, prosperity that New Democrats really know nothing about.

People are going to ask if I can prove that statement. Sure I can. On the record, in the Yukon legislature, the leader of the territorial opposition had this to say about mining development in the Yukon:

...once the mine is in operation—has been for some time—but the actual procurement of everything from, I would say, toilet paper to lettuce to whatever comes in on big trucks, on pallets, from Outside, and nothing is sourced locally.

That is what was said by Liz Hanson, the leader of the NDP in the Yukon. She was specifically referencing one mine. That mine spent $78.1 million in the Yukon Territory in 2013 and $58.2 million in 2014 on goods and services, and that was before wages were paid out to Yukon first nation people and non-Yukon first nation people. Then those employees in turn spent that money in their communities, their homes, on goods and services, so the dollars continued to rotate around that community to the benefit and prosperity of all Yukoners.

My point is that if one starts with a fundamental misunderstanding of how mining and resource development actually contribute to our economy, then I guess it makes perfect sense that one would not want development to carry forward. However, the facts are clear. One mine alone contributed $78.1 million in one year to Yukon's GDP, to Yukon's economy, to the socio-economic fabric of our territory.

It was done so, I might add, in an environmentally responsible manner to protect and preserve the environmental heritage of our territory. Why is that? It is because these companies participate in environmental reviews. They have care and concern about reclamation and development. They engage with their first nation communities, and they do not always do that out of a legislative requirement. They do it because they form a social relationship and an important working relationship through IBAs, through direct community engagement and participation in the Yukon with first nation communities, who do indeed invite them in.

The NDP, the no development party, has no fundamental understanding at all of the direct value that resource development brings to our territory, to the north, and to our country, so from that point of view it makes sense that it would want to obstruct these things.

We have heard the concerns of Yukon first nations. Our minister is committed to continuing to work with them in a trilateral relationship to make sure we engage in productive and co-operative implementation to honour the spirit and intention of those modern treaties. The motions I see being put forward would actually do the reverse to many of the things that Yukon first nations, the Yukon government, and Canada have already agreed to in the five-year review of YESSA.

I look forward to any questions and I look forward to the passage of the Bill S-6 and our continued relationship-building with all partners in the Yukon on a very important message and bill.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his interpretation of history. I always find it humourous when people want to interpret history in a way that ignores the facts of the matter. Every politician sometimes falls into that habit.

In this case, he was talking about issues that Yukoners are very well apprised of. I was amazed at the depth of knowledge and the engagement that Yukoners had on these issues when we conducted committee meetings in Whitehorse and 150 people filled the room from morning until night.

My colleague was there to hear Yukoners, but I want to ask him if he was there to listen to Yukoners and understand what they were saying about the nature of the relationship between Yukoners, first nations, and the environment?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, indeed I was, and I was very proud of all of the Yukoners who participated in that hearing, from our first nations right through to our industry. Indeed, it was my intervention that ensured that Yukon first nations were strong participants in that committee.

If the member for Northwest Territories wants to talk about whether I was there to hear them, indeed I was, and I did. I acknowledged that in my speech. I heard their concerns.

However, guess who did not hear them. Guess who was not prepared to hear them. It was the member for Northwest Territories, who by noon that day had said publicly on CBC that his mind was made up. He said that he knew what he was going to do. He knew where his decisions lay, and that was before he had heard from even half of the people invited to testify.

Yes, I was there to hear them, but clearly the member for Northwest Territories was not. That is stamped on the record of that interview on CBC's noon show. He can stand by that deplorable record when it comes to standing up and listening to the Yukon people and the people of the north.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that if you want to hear political platitudes, you will hear it today.

I make no apologies for any remarks that I made on CBC up there, but the member for Yukon should be making a lot of apologies, starting with some to his constituents for, first of all, not even showing up at committee to support the recommendations that they basically drafted and asked members of the House of Commons to put forward on their behalf. They are his own constituents, yet the member for Yukon never showed up to vote on these amendments and his colleagues did not support them either.

If we want to talk about who made up their mind on this bill, it was the government opposite when it went through the Senate with the support of all of the Conservative senators and was forced into the House of Commons without consultation from members in the Yukon and from first nations governments.

I would like to ask the member opposite why he did not support the amendments that his own constituents asked for at the committee stage of the bill if he was so committed to listening to them and doing what they felt was just and right.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, while I would have loved to be there, I am not going to apologize for being in Washington, DC, to represent my constituents when it comes to important issues like the Arctic Council.

The previous member was talking about hearing and listening. Interestingly enough, I acknowledged in my speech the four areas of concern that Yukon first nations have. We heard those loud and clear. I acknowledged that the minister is committed to working in a trilateral relationship with them to ensure that the implementation meets their needs and meets the spirit and intention of their agreements, and this government is very much committed to that. I look forward to that continued dialogue.

However, it is interesting that of the four points of concern, at report stage the Liberal member did not address two of the most significant ones at all. She did not even put those amendments forward. She either did not hear or did not listen. It must be one of the two, but why did she not do that?

Furthermore, it was the Liberal senators who passed this bill out of the Senate and into the House of Commons absolutely unamended and with unanimous consent. She is going to have to square that circle, quit playing politics with this issue, and start listening to northern Canadians.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak with regard to the third reading of the bill before the House. It is certainly a bill that has received a tremendous amount of debate in the House of Commons.

Unfortuantely, the debate has been an exercise that has not really reaped the rewards we wanted to see, nor has it seen the real changes the people of the Yukon and the territorial governments wanted to see. In fact, the whole debate itself has hinged on a tremendous amount of misinterpretation.

I heard the member for Yukon say of New Democrats that they are against mining development and do not support these industries and do not see them bringing benefit into regions like Yukon, but I also want to talk about his government and what it has done in working with aboriginal and first nations groups.

In fact, it was the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development who first indicated that these particular self-government groups in the Yukon were not necessarily governments at all and then had to backtrack and clarify his statement.

If we want to talk about misinterpreting and misunderstanding, first, the minister was not even identifying in a factual way the groups he was dealing with and identifying the fact that this was a government-to-government-to-government relationship of 11 different groups and entities in Yukon and that only one of those governments was entirely supportive of the changes that were happening. In fact, it was the first nations governments that were not. In my recollection, that was the first error.

In addition to that, there were 76 recommendations that came forward in this report. Of those 76 recommendations, 72 were decided upon through a process of discussion, consultation, and consensus. That is a fantastic way to do business. It really is, so why did the same pattern not apply to the other four recommendations within the report that were debatable, recommendations on which people had serious issues and that people in the Yukon wanted to see changed? Why were those four not dealt with in the same way?

When we went to Yukon for public hearings, I sat in that room, as did a number of other colleagues in the House of Commons that day, and we heard speaker after speaker present to our committee. They presented serious, legitimate concerns to us about how the bill was drafted and how those particular clauses were being implemented by the Government of Canada. They had very serious concerns over what these measures would mean to aboriginal self-governance and what it would mean in terms of eroding the powers they have within their own lands and their own governance.

They were very legitimate concerns, and we heard speaker after speaker point them out. The committee asked question after question and received very good and very clear answers.

I came out of that hearing with no doubt in my mind that very legitimate concerns were being presented. I could certainly see the perspective from which aboriginal governments were coming and I could see their need to have these changes implemented.

In a very respectful way, they asked the Government of Canada to come to the table and reconcile with them on those recommendations, which I thought was very reasonable. Speaker after speaker also said that they did not want to fight the government on this and did not want to have to go to the courts to make changes. They wanted to reconcile their differences. They wanted a table to sit at. They wanted a fair hearing at which they could make the changes that were required.

In fact, they did not get that, and they never did.

Unfortunately, none of the changes they proposed to the bill that were taken to committee and that were presented by different members of committee, a number of motions, were accepted by the government members sitting at that committee, the colleagues of the member for Yukon. That is what I found so disappointing in all of this. People bought into a process in which they believed they would present recommendations for change and the government would listen. In fact, the government never did listen. It never acted on any of the amendments that were put forward by the constituents in Yukon. The member for Yukon did not support those amendments. Nor did his colleagues who represented the governing party at that table.

What was the exercise all about? Was it an opportunity for aboriginal first nations and others in the Yukon territory to come out and vent? Is that what we spent all the money on, to go there and hold these hearings so people had a room to go into and vent their frustrations? I can guarantee members that if that was what we advertised, people would not have gone to the hearings. They came because they were sincere. They really feel that this is a violation of their government-to-government agreements with the Government of Canada. They feet it is a violation of their treaty rights. They feel it is eroding their powers.

In fact, they also spoke about when land claims and land jurisdiction were being settled and how many of the aboriginal governments in Yukon gave up certain areas of land and control over that land. They believed that they had a fairer process with a seat at the table, as a government with the Yukon and as a government with the Government of Canada. Because of that, they gave up certain provisions that they did not negotiate because they trusted the process. However, aboriginal governments today in our country do not have trust in the government opposite.

We are here today talking about truth and reconciliation for survivors of residential schools, truth and reconciliation for our first nations, Métis and Inuit. What are we doing on the very day that we are saying there is going to be truth and reconciliation for our indigenous people? We are forcing a bill through the House of Commons that would erode the powers of aboriginal and indigenous governance in our country.

It is unbelievable that the government, or the member for Yukon, could sit there today and get on with such foolishness about who said something on the radio or who made what amendment. The member did not even show up at committee nor even support the motion, yet he is allowing his government to ram a bill through the House of Commons that would impact his constituents and erode the rights of self-governance. That is wrong.

I believe the Conservatives should have to answer to the indigenous people and the aboriginal governments of Yukon as to why they feel the need to rush through the bill and not listen to the very recommendations they have put forward.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would ask my colleague if she heard the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development indicate that he understood a trilateral process, a trilateral relationship between public governments and Yukon first nations, was very much the centrepiece of his understanding and his intentions with this legislation, and indeed all legislation. I wonder if she would set aside all the rhetoric again about who is absent and where. It is pretty clear that I was in Washington, D.C., and would have loved to participate but I had other important business on behalf of my constituents to conduct.

Nonetheless, my question is fairly simple. Would she not at least be encouraged by the minister's comments earlier today where committed to the trilateral relationship, which he knows is so important to honour the spirit and the intention of the modern treaties we have in the Yukon? That was clearly said today. I am encouraged by it and I am supportive of it. I thanked him for that earlier in my address. Would the member acknowledge that and understand that he is committed to do more, not just on this legislation but on all our relationship-building with first nations?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, first, trilateral means three. It does not mean one. It is not just the Government of Canada. It is not just the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. It means that there has to be real decision making and consensus building around how governance is going to occur by all parties. When the treaty agreements and trilateral agreements were signed, that was done by three governments. Why can it now be changed by one government without having consensus and without having the support of the aboriginal entities?

The other thing is that for all modern treaties that exist in Canada today, there should not have to be a statement by the minister that he will uphold those. They are legal documents; they are signed. They are a part of the governance process of our country, and any minister who fills those shoes should honour those treaties if they are in place.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague who, regardless of whatever occurred before, during the time of the hearings in Yukon listened very carefully to what Yukoners said, and I appreciate that. As a northerner, I appreciate that people have the opportunity to say their piece, and certainly that did happen in Yukon.

I would like my colleague to comment on this industry and the mining company that just invested heavily in Yukon. Its representative spoke at the hearings and said that the relationship between first nations and the company was based on the existing legislation, so why should they look for this change, which no one really supports in Yukon other than those who are heavily on the side of the industry.

Did the member not feel that this industry's uncertainty about the legislation should have influenced the Conservatives, who have held this up as something that would benefit industry?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2015 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Northwest Territories was part of the hearings in Yukon as well. He heard the messaging, as I did, the very desperate and justified pleas of many Yukoners on the changes they wanted to see made. The member also brought a number of amendments to committee to be looked at, but unfortunately they did not passed.

On his question with regard to the influence of the governing party and what should have happened, one would have automatically thought that when there was a trilateral agreement or any kind of self-governance treaty that was signed by the Government of Canada, that it would be upheld first and foremost. I believe the Government of Canada has a responsibility to adhere to all treaties and agreements that it signs with aboriginal first nations, Inuit and Métis in our country. We expect no less, no matter what government is in power.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting the long title.

Motion No. 4

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 14.

Motion No. 5

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 16.

Motion No. 6

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 17.

Motion No. 7

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 21.

Motion No. 10

That Bill S-6 be amended by deleting Clause 34.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to put forward these amendments to Bill S-6, a bill that has the ability to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act. It contains many clauses that cannot be amended. Why? They came out of a five-year review of the Yukon Environmental Assessment Act and were agreed to. Many changes to the Environmental Assessment Act were worked out through a process of collaboration, understanding and collaboration between the government and the people of Yukon.

After that process, four very controversial items were added to this bill and then arbitrarily put to the people of Yukon.

The first would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, to which Yukoners are opposed. They had no chance to work with anyone to mitigate that.

The second would legislate time limits for assessments in the face of the fact that the assessment process was working just fine in Yukon, and that people had learned how to deal with very complex issues in an orderly fashion.

The third would allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to delegate any or all responsibilities to the Yukon government without consultation with and approval from the first nations who were party to the whole deal that was set up in the first place.

The fourth would create broad exemptions with respect to the Yukon environmental assessment process for renewals, amendments and permits authorizations, which were in the hands of the boards already.

We can see that the devolution process in the northern territories, which in Yukon started 10 years ago, has been curtailed by this legislation. It has been rolled back in a very significant and deliberate fashion by the government. That is not appropriate.

The other amendments proposed to the act dealt with things that people could see and agree to. They were designed to help move the act forward in a proper fashion so the environmental assessment process could be well-respected and understood.

We have had the same problem in the Northwest Territories. The government agreed to a devolution process and then forced changes to our environmental assessment process. That has now gone to court and there have been injunctions put in place by the court over the actions taken by the government in the Northwest Territories.

We are likely to see the same thing in Yukon, where the first nations will once again have to take the government to court to deal with issues that should have been dealt with in a proper fashion.

Therefore, we have identified four issues and are asking that they be removed from the act through these amendments. It is a request that goes back to the people of Yukon, who have asked for this.

We took the committee to Yukon and had a one-day hearing, which went from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The room was filled with hundreds of people who attended the committee hearing from 8:30 a.m. until it finished in the evening. They were not pleased with the bill.

The support for the bill was almost nil. People were speaking out on it. The Government of Yukon, which will face its own electors over this very shortly, will find out how those people feel about the bill. This will also be the case for the Conservative government very soon.

After the election, which is likely to be in October unless the government decides to try to delay it even more, the new NDP government will be ready to put forward amendments to deal with these contentious issues for the people of the north.

There is no reason at all for this to have happened in the fashion it did. The government has created uncertainty in the environmental assessment process for the companies, people and the first nations of Yukon. It has messed it up.

Let me quote Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice president Lands and Environment, Kaminak Gold Corporation, which has just invested substantial sums of money in the Yukon. She said:

Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating increased distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment and regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.

These are the people who are investing in the Yukon.

This is what Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations, has to say:

CYFN and all 11 self-governing first nations are unanimously opposed to four provisions that are part of Bill S-6.

Here we have it. On the one hand, we have industry saying that it will not work for them, that it does not need it and do not even understand why it is being done. On the other hand, first nations are saying that things are being done against all their agreements and that are really throwing the process, which they worked so hard to set up, off the back of the cart. They want to know why the government has done it and what the purpose is of this kind of action by the government. They want to know if it is simply because the party of one over in the Langevin Block has decided that this is the way it will go, that no one can interfere with that kind of decision making, that no one from the grassroots up can make a difference.

The government is making rules for territories that actually need devolution. They need to control their own affairs. The government has actually thrown that particular process off the back of the cart. It is heading off in a different direction. People in the territories, my territory, Yukon, who have been influenced by these bills, now face the prospect of suing the government, of going forward with litigation in order to get rid of some of these contentious clauses, which nobody really wants, which do not make any sense and which are not part of any reduction of colonialism or changing the way these territories can govern themselves.

We have put forward a number of amendments which deal with the four contentious issues. We would hope that the government, in the end, would come to its senses and would actually listen to the people of Yukon, industry and those who are involved in the actual work of Yukon, rather than sitting over on Langevin Block, and come to an understanding that these need to be removed to make this bill work. Then we could go ahead and all support it.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to hear the member for Northwest Territories speak. Even if I do not agree with him, we spent that day together in Yukon and certainly survived the charter flight as well.

I want to talk about the difference of philosophy. Our government believes that northerners are best placed to make decisions affecting their legislation and their lands. That is why we propose to devolve powers to the local government, to the government closer to the people, to the territorial government. We did it in the Northwest Territories with Bill C-15. We have proposed that provision in Bill S-6 as well, to allow the federal minister to delegate powers to the territorial minister.

I would like a clear answer from the member as to why he believes power should remain concentrated in Ottawa instead of devolved to the people in the north, closer to where they live.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, the simplistic idea that has been proposed by the government is really one that goes against what people have worked very hard on throughout the north, and that is the relationship between aboriginal governments and public governments. This will be the determining factor in our ability to work together.

Northerners have come to the decision that first nations governments have complete relevance in everything that goes on in our territories. In the minds of northerners, we do not separate first nations governance as a lesser force. We accept that these forces have to work together. We accept that the decision making has to involve that kind of jurisdictional sharing.

What the government would do with this amendment is take it away from first nations and impact that kind of delegation of authority. I am sure there would be many things first nations could work very well with the public government in Yukon in this regard, but they need to be there at the table.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it troubling that the Conservative government, with the full support of its members and its senators, did not consult the people of the Yukon and did not strive for social acceptability with these significant changes. However, it had no problem talking to the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada, the Mining Association of Canada and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, among others.

Does my colleague think that we can improve the situation in the Yukon by showing contempt for aboriginal peoples and by only supporting the big mining companies? I am very concerned about the government's contempt for aboriginal peoples.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is a problem with the government. It came up with these four amendments after a complete process of years when it could have introduced them. It could have put them forward over that time. It could have talked about them. It could have tried to find some kind of accommodation within the system. It had the time. It had people dedicated to do that work. These are highly trained individuals. They do not miss these types of items. They do not say that they forgot about these four concerns and that they will throw them into the bill at a later date. This was a fairly carefully crafted little effort to avoid talking about the things that were controversial and then shoving them into the bill later. This is really not the way to do devolution in our territories. It is not the way to come up with agreements that can work for people.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:20 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, since 2006, our government has been pursuing the most ambitious northern agenda in the history of this country. From promoting prosperity and development through Bill C-47, the Northern Jobs and Growth Act, to devolving powers to the Government of the Northwest Territories through Bill C-15, the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, to the vision and implementation of the Canadian High Arctic research station, 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, would represent yet another key deliverable of our government's northern strategy and would be 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. Bill S-6 would continue in this vein.

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

This is an incredibly important aspect of Bill S-6 and one that would act to drive economic development across the territory. Unfortunately, the NDP wants to remove these time limits. I take particular exception to Motions Nos. 5, 6 and 7, which would cause the portions of the bill related to time limits to be deleted. This would prevent regulatory predictability and actually hinder growth and prosperity in the Yukon.

Some have argued that the time limits would affect the thoroughness of the assessment process. However, as the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board's own statistics show, the proposed time limits are either consistent with or more favourable than the board's current practice. In addition, Bill S-6 would include provisions to allow for extensions, recognizing that there may be situations when more time is warranted to carry out a function or power.

A different provision in the act, specifically, the proposed amendment to section 49.1 of YESAA, would ensure that, going forward, reassessments would only be required in the event that the project has been significantly changed.

This is another integral piece of Bill S-6 that the opposition would eliminate. That is why I oppose Motion No. 4. The passage of the motion and the elimination of the clause would prevent the elimination of unnecessary delays and red tape in the approval process.

In the past, projects that have already been approved and permitted could be subject to a new environmental assessment simply because of a renewal or a minor change in the project. The amendment would help to streamline the process and reduce unnecessary red tape where it is not warranted.

The amendment would also make it clear that if there is more than one decision body, which could 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 still, the legislation would specify that in the event of a disagreement, if only one decision body determines that a significant change has occurred, it must be subject to a reassessment. This would also be consistent with the UFA, the Umbrella Final Agreement, which states in section 12.4.1.1 that projects and significant changes to existing projects are subject to the development assessment process.

Another proposed change would be the ability for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to provide policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

This is another amendment that the opposition would like to remove from the bill. Motion No. 10 would remove the ability of the minister to issue policy direction.

It is important to remember that 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. Quite 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.

Moreover, this power exists in the Northwest Territories where it has only been used four times, and in each case it was used to clearly communicate expectations on how to address first nations' rights or agreements. For example, it was used in order to ensure that notification was provided to both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Deline regarding licences and permits in a given region.

By supporting this motion, the opposition would actually remove a tool that the minister could use to ensure that aboriginal rights are protected. Perhaps not surprisingly, during our committee study when we were in the Yukon, the NDP member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said it was paternalistic for the minister to try to protect aboriginal rights through policy direction. The NDP obviously does not want the minister to exercise the duty he has been given to protect aboriginal rights in Canada, calling that paternalistic. It is completely bizarre.

I want to assure members 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 bodies.

The legislative amendment also makes it clear that policy directions cannot be used to influence a specific project or change the environmental assessment process itself.

It is for these reasons that I oppose the passage of Motion No. 10, and encourage other members to do the same.

Another amendment of concern is the minister's ability to delegate certain powers in the act to a territorial minister. Some have suggested that this amendment is an attempt by this government to shirk its responsibilities to the Yukon first nations and is inconsistent with the tripartite nature of the land claim agreement.

I want to be very clear that these concerns are completely unfounded. First of all, any delegation must be consistent with the UFA. Second, the Umbrella Final Agreement permits delegation. Specifically, the definition of “government” includes both the federal and territorial governments, depending on which government or governments have responsibility from time to time for the matter in question. Section 2.11.8 of the agreement states that “Government may determine, from time to time, how and by whom any power or authority of Government or a Minister set out in a Settlement Agreement...shall be exercised”.

Not least of all, this measure is in keeping with our government's objective of devolving responsibility to the territories and moving decision-making closer to home. That is, away from Ottawa bureaucracy and right into the hands of Yukoners themselves.

This legislation is clearly both needed and wanted north of 60. It satisfies calls to modernize northern regulatory regimes and ensure consistency with other regulatory regimes across the north and in the rest of Canada, while protecting the environment and strengthening northern governance.

For all these reasons, I urge all-party support for this worthy act as it stands, and to reject all of the amendments to Bill S-6 that are before the House today.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, who I have spent time with on committee.

When the government put these four amendments in after the fact, after its major consultation process that took place over a considerable period of time, there was such an outcry from first nations. The fact is that first nations have now requested, and have requested over the previous number of months, that the minister sit down with them and see how they can work to come to some kind of agreement on these four amendments. Where has the minister been? Where has the government been in trying to work this out with the first nations?

Why have the Conservatives been so intransigent about these four amendments, which are quite obviously not supported by the first nations who are an important and vital part of any process that takes place in the Yukon?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course the minister takes very seriously his obligation and his duty to consult with first nations. That is why, in the case of the Yukon first nations, there have been dozens of documented meetings where the four contentious amendments, as the member categorizes them, were discussed. In fact, nearly $100,000 was provided to the first nations to help them engage in that consultation process. They submitted receipts to the Government of Canada, which were paid based on their engagement with us on those particular measures.

Obviously, we do not agree with their interpretation of those measures. The minister has met with the first nations and has repeatedly asked them to show him where these amendments contravene the Umbrella Final Agreement. To date, they have not done so.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate many of the comments the member has put on the record. I do not necessarily agree with them, especially when it comes to trying to give the impression that the current government has been very strong in developing and assisting in setting the social framework up north. To try to give the impression that it is the strongest in the history of Canada is somewhat fictitious at best, I would suggest.

When we look at Bill S-6, we see there has been a great deal of resistance. A lot of that resistance is in the community itself that has raised a number of concerns, and the government has not responded to those concerns. It was not that long ago that I was talking to Larry Bagnell and other members who came to our northwestern caucus, in essence saying that they have strong reservations that the government is not being sensitive to the needs of the north, nor is it listening.

Can the member explain to the constituents up north why the government has obviously not listened to our first nations, people of aboriginal heritage or many of our local communities who are trying to get the government to listen and make amendments that would make it better legislation?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy that the hon. member brought up Larry Bagnell. When Larry Bagnell was speaking to constituents when he was the member for Yukon, he said he would go to Ottawa and vote against the long gun registry. What did he do? He came into this House and voted to maintain the long gun registry. Talk about not listening to constituents. That is why he is unemployed and why the member for Yukon now is a strong advocate for gun owners right across the north, a strong advocate for the aboriginal people in his community and the strongest representative that Yukon has had in 25 years.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time I have been given today as we speak about this very important issue. I am not from the north; I am from Newfoundland and Labrador, but I proudly stand here to discuss this particular bill simply because it is very important to people in a land that is so vast and so rich in natural resources. There is a lot to talk about indeed, and it is a very important part of who we are as Canadians.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to S-6, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act.

This particular piece of legislation is the third in a suite of bills aimed at improving the regulatory regime in Canada's northern territories. Unfortunately, like most legislation the government introduces, the bill is being rammed through the House with only a limited debate. It was brought in without proper consultation with local communities and first nations, as has been discussed here in the past and certainly since debate started about 35 minutes ago.

There is a growing feeling in the north that the changes being imposed by the Conservatives through Bill S-6 will endanger the independence and effectiveness of environmental assessments and that it will eventually end up before the courts.

The objective of Bill S-6 is to update the regulatory regime in Yukon and Nunavut and align it with other regulatory regimes throughout Canada.

Among other things, this legislation would introduce legislated time limits for environmental assessments. It would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with the authority to give binding policy directions to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. It would also allow the delegation of any of the minister's powers, duties, and functions to the territorial minister by way of devolution; enable the government to develop cost-recovery regulatory measures; and reduce regulatory burdens by clarifying that a project need not undergo another assessment when a project authorization is to be renewed or amended, unless there is a significant change in the project. It would also introduce time limits for water licence reviews and allow for life-of-project water licences. It would also require the Nunavut Water Board to take into consideration agreements between Canada, regional Inuit associations, and proponents regarding posting of security to address the issue of over-bonding when more than one regulatory agency requires financial security for the same project.

Unlike Bill C-47 and Bill C-15, the two other bills aimed at improving the regulatory regime in Canada's northern territories, this legislation was introduced in the Senate on June 3, 2014, by Yukon Senator Dan Lang.

Some media reports indicate this particular piece of legislation may become a major issue in the next election, and some pundits question why the member of Parliament for Yukon was not the bill's sponsor. I am sure that over the next four or five months, he will have plenty of opportunity to answer that question and explain why the legislation was not amended when flaws were exposed and why there were no proper consultations with first nations, as many of my colleagues alluded to earlier in this debate.

Unfortunately, one of the strongest criticisms of Bill S-6 was on the absence of any meaningful consultation. For instance, the Council of Yukon First Nations, which represents eleven self-governing first nations, has made it clear that the Conservative government's consultations for the bill were not adequate to merit its support.

That is no surprise, as this particular government has a history of pushing through unwelcome changes in the territories.

For instance, with Bill C-15 the Conservatives passed the Northwest Territories Devolution Act. While devolution was started under a Liberal government, and we strongly supported that process, the much larger second part of the bill included the introduction of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which shortened assessment timelines, reduced the role of first nations, and made it easier to approve projects that lacked local support. That was certainly a shame to many of the stakeholders involved and a shame to us here in this House.

The proposed changes in Bill S-6, which we debate today, follow this path of a top-down, Ottawa-centred approach to dealing with the territories. That is the opposite of how Liberals approach northern development.

The Liberal Party of Canada believes that a sustainably developed resource sector is essential to the success of our economy and, if we get it right, will serve as an important foundation for future economic growth and job creation for middle-class Canadians. Our party supports developing resources in the north in a sustainable manner.

Unlike the Conservatives, we recognize that unlocking this economic engine is contingent on environmental sustainability and on impacted aboriginal communities being treated as equal partners. That approach has not been followed in this case. Many people in Yukon and Nunavut believe that Bill S-6 would have a negative impact on their lives and their communities, and they are upset with what the government is trying to pass off as what it considers to be meaningful consultation.

Here is what Grand Chief Ruth Massie of the Council of Yukon First Nations told the committee when it held hearings on the legislation in the north. She said:

The federal government's approach on Bill S-6 is a roadblock to reconciliation. Participants in mining, tourism, and other industries are concerned about how Bill S-6 might adversely affect the future for resource development in Yukon.

Grand Chief Massie went on to say that all eleven self-governing nations on the council unanimously oppose four provisions in the legislation. She said:

We oppose giving the minister full power to issue binding policy direction to the YESAB as proposed in clause 34 of Bill S-6....

On timelines, we oppose the establishment of beginning-to-end timelines for assessments conducted under YESAA.

On exemption from assessment for project renewals and amendments, we oppose the proposed exemption from assessment for renewals and amendments of licences and permits as proposed in clause 14 of Bill S-6.

Clearly there are issues with this legislation and clearly it is not just first nations communities that are concerned. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president of lands and environment at Kaminak Gold Corporation, is worried that Bill S-6 may put a chill on investment in the north. Kaminak, a Canadian exploration company that has owned and explored mineral properties in all three territories, wants an accessible and stable regulatory regime. However, Ms. Rippin Armstrong told the committee that her company is worried that the process through which YESAA would be amended is creating increased distrust and the potential for legal action.

Here is her testimony. She said:

Kaminak is very concerned about this development, because court cases create assessment and regulatory uncertainty in addition to extraordinary delay, all of which erodes investor confidence.

She went on to tell the committee once again that:

Our Coffee gold project has yet to enter the YESAA process. If Bill S-6 is passed and challenged in court, the Coffee gold project and our presence in Yukon is uncertain. Kaminak urges the federal government to resume discussions with the first nations to work collectively toward reaching consensus on the proposed amendments to YESAA and avoid a court challenge.

That is good advice, but it went unheard. Why is the Conservative government not listening to what it is being told and fixing the flaws in this bill? It is obvious that members on the opposite side believe they can unilaterally impose the government's will on the north.

As my colleague from Labrador said when she spoke on Bill S-6, history has already demonstrated that resource development can be environmentally conscious, while also finding trilateral support among aboriginal governments, territorial and federal governments, and the local communities. This, indeed, is the only way to move forward with resource development. It is not just a moral obligation; it is, truly, a legal one.

The member for Labrador was correct when she said:

Unfortunately, despite spending years of working with Yukon first nations on a comprehensive review of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, the federal government blindsided them earlier this year with a number of key changes that are contained in this bill and were not discussed throughout the process.

If the Conservative government persists in ramming these changes through, many observers believe that they will only create more local uncertainty and jeopardize development of the north.

Samson Hartland, the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, noted his organization enjoys a positive, constructive relationship. He told the committee that the chamber's 400 members want all levels of government to move toward a more respectful dialogue.

We must return to the original, respectful, and collaborative partnership with all aboriginal communities, including recognition of their inherent and treaty rights.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member reading his speech which, I am assuming, had some input from the member for Labrador, who was actually at the committee hearings in Yukon.

I am a little perplexed, though. He represented the Liberals' report stage lead speech, and Liberals expressed a number of concerns, but they did not move any amendments at report stage. In fact, amendments were moved by the official opposition and the leader of the Green Party, but those did go forward.

My question is this: why did the Liberals not move any amendments? In committee, they were okay with the ideas of time limits and significant change, two of the four amendments that he referenced.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, the irony is that the member asks his question under the assumption that these amendments are normally approved by the current majority government. Unfortunately, that is not the case. We talked about consultation in the committee process that took place and, of course, about the lack of consultation. There is a duty to consult, which has not been sufficient, by any stretch of the imagination, over the past number of years. Since the Conservatives came into power in 2006, we have seen scant evidence that this was actually happening. Here is yet another case.

I quoted several individuals from the private sector who are quite concerned about this in terms of investor confidence. That is in addition to first nations leaders, who also talked about the environmental regulatory regime that is being undermined. It goes on and on.

Again I go back to the point that if we think about this, what ails all of the people involved in the committee process really could have been dealt with up front. It could have been dealt with in a meaningful conversation or, in this case, consultation could have taken place to justify some of the changes that could have been made.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats share the concerns that my friend has raised about consultation or the lack of it, but what is a little surprising to me is that the people of the north were asking for the Senate committee to go there for consultations, but the Liberals in the Senate did not support it. I am wondering if the member could enlighten us as to why.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party has been a very strong advocate for the economic and social development in northern Canada. My question to my colleague is with regard to the importance of having that development, the impact it would have not only on today's generation but on future generations, and how important it is that we not only work with people who live in the community but actually listen to what they are saying, because they have the first-hand experience and are on the ground. If we do the job right the first time, everyone in Canada would win.

I wonder if the member would like to comment on the importance of working with people.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, there has been some talk lately about devolution, not only in Bill S-6 but also in Bill C-15. We talked about the devolution of powers to communities. In order to truly devolve powers so that it is fundamentally good for the communities, the communities have to be involved and feel that they are part of the process, whether it is government to government or trilaterally, as the member for Labrador pointed out.

Finally, I would like to point out a statement from Mr. Hartland, of whom I spoke earlier and who is with the Yukon Chamber of Mines. He said:

...as an industry organization we would be remiss if we did not articulate a concern from industry that the erosion of intergovernmental relations among parties...over Bill S-6 is creating a level of uncertainty that affects the attractiveness of Yukon as a jurisdiction to invest in.

This particular individual is on the ground. He is in the chamber in Yukon and knows whereof he speaks.

Therefore, as my colleague points out, if we are devolving powers to a group of people, we should probably do it in a manner that suits the people receiving the devolution.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this legislation. After years of review and consultation with first nations and other northerners, with the legislation proposed in Bill S-6 we can now move forward with improvements to northern regulatory regimes. These improvements will yield long-term benefits for individuals and businesses in Yukon and Nunavut.

I am a strong believer that northerners should benefit from the tremendous natural resources found in their region. Bill S-6 contains critical amendments to northern regulatory regimes that would ensure that northerners benefit from their resources. These amendments would bring both Yukon and Nunavut's regulatory systems in line with that of the Northwest Territories and the rest of Canada. This would ensure that the territories remained a competitive and attractive place to work, live, and invest for generations to come and that northern families had opportunities to grow and prosper.

I want to focus on several changes in Bill S-6 that would modernize the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, called YESAA for short, which would enable us to make progress on both fronts.

The goal of the proposed legislation is to consider the potential effects that proposed development could have on Yukon's environment, people, communities, and economy.

The Honourable Darrell Pasloski, Premier of Yukon, said:

...it is becoming increasingly clear that changes to this legislation before you today are essential in order for Yukon to remain a competitive place to do business.

This work is overseen by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, whose mission is to protect the environmental and social integrity of Yukon while fostering responsible development in the territory, responsible development that reflects the values of Yukoners and respects the contributions of first nations.

I would like to focus my remarks today on one portion of the bill. It is the provision that would allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to issue policy direction to the YESAA board.

The proposed legislation would enable the minister, following consultation with the board, to provide binding policy direction with respect to the exercise or performance of its powers, duties, or functions. This has raised concerns in some quarters that it would give the federal government authority to impose its own policies on projects on first nation settlement land. I can assure members that this is not the intention of the amendment nor the way it has been used in practice. In reality, policy directions have been used to add clarity and to ensure that all parties are on the same page with respect to existing laws.

The reason the change is being proposed is to ensure a common understanding between the Government of Canada and the board. For example, the minister could use policy direction to communicate expectations regarding the use of new technologies to mitigate environmental impacts or expectations regarding roles and responsibilities related to aboriginal consultation. This clarification would reduce uncertainty and delays in environmental assessment decision-making.

In recognition of the board's independence, there would be strict limits on the minister's ability to provide policy direction. To be precise, policy direction would have to be consistent with YESAA and with the Umbrella Final Agreement. In fact, YESAA states that first nations' final agreements will prevail in the event of an inconsistency or conflict. Furthermore, policy direction could not interfere with active or completed reviews, again because the board operates at arm's length from government.

To be clear, policy direction could not change the environmental assessment process itself. In fact, Bill S-6 explicitly states that policy directions do not apply to project proposals that have already been submitted to the board.

It is also important to note that the ability to issue policy direction is not without precedent. In fact, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development already holds the ability to issue policy direction to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board in the Northwest Territories. With respect to this board, policy direction has only ever been used four times, and each time it was to ensure that the board respected and upheld interim agreements the Government of Canada held with aboriginal groups.

In short, policy direction has only been used to provide additional protection for aboriginals.

Clearly, this is an important amendment to Bill S-6. The ability to ensure a common understanding by the government and the YESAA board, particularly with respect to aboriginal rights, is essential. Unfortunately, the opposition would remove this power from the bill.

This government understands the importance of protecting aboriginal rights, which is why I strongly oppose Motion No. 10, and I would encourage the rest of the House to join me in rejecting it.

A second, related feature of this proposed legislation I want to comment on is the delegation of federal powers to the Government of Yukon. The Umbrella Final Agreement defines government as:

Canada or the Yukon, or both, depending upon which government or governments have responsibility, from time to time, for the matter in question.

The delegation of federal powers to the Government of Yukon is consistent with the final agreements and with the governance regime in Yukon post-devolution. In fact, section 2.11.8 of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement states:

Government may determine, from time to time, how and by whom any power or authority of Government or a Minister set out in a Settlement Agreement...shall be exercised.

Moreover, the principle behind this delegation, that decisions about northern governance are best made in the north, is consistent with our government's northern strategy. In fact, just last year, our government brought into force Bill C-15, which devolved all responsibility for lands and resources out of Ottawa and back to the territorial governments.

This, in short, is why I believe that the ability to delegate authority to the Government of Yukon is an integral component of Bill S-6 and why I am so disappointed to see the Green Party oppose this clause. I strongly oppose the passage of that motion, and I hope that all members of the House join me in voting against it.

The opposition actually supported that initiative when it was before the House, but now they are opposing the very same principle when implemented in the Yukon.

I remind my hon. colleagues that the amendments to YESAA proposed in Bill S-6 address agreed upon recommendations from the five-year review or have been directly requested by the Government of Yukon so that the act can better serve all residents of Yukon, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. As well, the proposed amendments incorporate suggestions made during the various rounds of review and consultation.

I also want to underline that all parties have improved the legislation before us during the years of consultation and I want to reinforce that the legislation in no way compromises the integrity of YESAA or conflicts with the provisions or nature of the Umbrella Final Agreement.

For these reasons, government members are confident that Bill S-6, including the carefully constructed amendments to introduce policy direction and delegation in YESAA, fully considers the needs and interests of all northerners.

I strongly believe that the ability of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to issue policy direction to YESAB and to delegate authority to the Government of Yukon is an essential portion of this bill. Unfortunately, the opposition would like to see both clauses removed. I am asking all hon. colleagues to join me in defeating the motions and moving Bill S-6 forward as it stands.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Red Deer for his speech, for everything he is doing on aboriginal affairs, and for how he is moving this file forward.

I wonder if the member could explain to the House how this will improve economic development in Yukon as this bill moves through the House.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity a number of years ago, when I was first on the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee, to go to the north. We were in Iqaluit, Yellowknife, and Whitehorse. I had a chance to speak to different groups and different organizations.

The study was on barriers to development in the north. While we were there, this was one of the key, important features people were talking about. They said to give them that opportunity. They said that they had great entrepreneurs there and did not want to be held back. They wanted to be able to have the same advantages as the people south of 60. It was so important for them to be able to do that to help their families.

When we were talking to folks about what these barriers were, these were some of the key components that were being brought forward.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the importance of economic development. I have made reference to that in previous questions. It is something we want to see. However, we also recognize the important role the community itself plays.

Can the member provide some thoughts on the importance of trying to build consensus and whether he genuinely believes that consensus was achieved, given the amount of resistance coming from the community, from what I understand, at the ground level and the many stakeholders being somewhat critical? The aboriginal people and other communities have been very vocal about a number of concerns in regard to the legislation. To what degree does the member believe that the government was able to achieve an actual consensus?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, of course, as the member knows, the consultations were all consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement, so all of the discussions were taking place within that framework.

I remember earlier that the parliamentary secretary was speaking of the $100,000 that was there to help the consultations take place. Critical to this, as well, is recognizing that the Government of Canada, as far as policy directives are concerned, has been in support of our aboriginal groups in the north. That is a critical component. Sometimes we hear that we are giving this opportunity for other things and for negative things to occur, because it is easier to talk that way. However, when we look at the practicality and the actual things the government has been doing with the northerners, it has been to protect. Whether it has been environmental issues or aboriginal wishes and concerns to help their communities, there has been great support from our government.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure and a certain amount of emotion that I speak to Bill S-6. My heart has a soft spot for Yukon and its people.

In 1976, I first went to Yukon to undertake a study on the feasibility of expanding youth hostels. For those of us who remember the late 1970s, it was a time of youth migration across this great country. My task was to see if we could set up a network of centres or hostels to accommodate these young people. That was my first opportunity to visit this magnificent area of Canada. I went for a few months and stayed for five years, perhaps the happiest and most rewarding of my life.

My next job involved working with the Yukon recreation branch, which at that time came under the Department of Education. The minister at the time, a current senator for Yukon, was Senator Dan Lang. I fondly remember spending time in his office trying to get support for various initiatives that our branch was working on. Now we see each other occasionally on flights to and from Ottawa. However, unfortunately we do not agree on Bill S-6.

One of the initiatives that I had the pleasure of working on, an idea that came from the director of recreation at that time, Barry Robb, was that of implementing a network of territory-wide recreation and advisory boards that would be all inclusive. We tried and were successful in involving all communities, with first nation participation as equals, helping to break down some of the barriers that existed at that time.

What is puzzling is that this type of consultation process has apparently been lacking in regard to the bill before us. As I read my notes, I find it very troubling that the Conservative government is once again attempting to ram its ideologically driven agenda through without taking into account the needs of all citizens of Yukon.

Yukon is a majestic area with an extraordinary landscape, wide open spaces unequalled anywhere in the world, and with a dynamic proud people. While there, I spent many hours visiting various communities, from Dawson City to Watson Lake. I even had the pleasure of flying into Old Crow in the Arctic Circle. At that time, we had functioning mines in Elsa and Faro. I even spent a few months working as recreation direction in Elsa.

Bill S-6 would unilaterally rework Yukon's environmental and socio-economic evaluation system, a system which is a product of the Umbrella Final Agreement, which settled most of the first nations land claims in the territory. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, YESAA, is a made-in-Yukon solution to the unique environmental and social circumstances of the territory.

It is clear to see that the changes proposed in Bill S-6 are being driven by what I would call the corporate agenda of southern resource development companies. The bill would dismantle the environmental and socio-economic assessment process developed in Yukon, by Yukoners for Yukon.

In my opinion, it is part of the Conservative ideologically driven agenda to systematically weaken environmental protection legislation, with no public consultation, little or no parliamentary security, and often being buried in omnibus budget legislation. Some examples of weakened environmental laws include the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act, navigable waters protection act, and Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

It is interesting to note that four former fisheries ministers, three of them Conservative, have been highly critical of the gutting of the Fisheries Act by the current Conservative government. I would like to recognize one of these individuals, the hon. Tom Siddon, who continues to serve his constituents as a director with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

As I mentioned earlier, there was incomplete consultation with Yukon first nations before these amendments were made. I find it hard to believe that there was no public process while developing these amendments. At the same time, non-Yukon stakeholders, including the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Mining Association of Canada, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association were allowed input.

It appears as if the Yukon government, with support from the Conservative MP and senator, pushed this deal through in spite of considerable opposition to the changes from Yukoners and the Council of Yukon First Nations. In other words, these amendments favour the Yukon government over the Yukon first nations, the other partner in the YESAA process.

There should not be this kind of division. What is more, the Council of Yukon First Nations has threatened legal action should the bill become law. Ironically, instead of favouring development, Bill S-6 could wind up slowing it down.

Let us listen to what Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president of lands and environment at Kaminak Gold Corporation has to say:

...Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment and regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.

Specifically, the YESAA five-year review resulted in a number of recommendations, most of which were supported by the parties involved in the review, including Yukon first nations. We understand that some of the proposed amendments do not accurately reflect comments and recommendations raised during the five-year review, and as a result, instead of celebrating a historic alignment between the governments and the Yukon first nations on most of the proposed amendments to YESAA, Yukon first nations have expressed a common position that they intend to take the federal government to court, if Bill S-6 is passed as proposed.

Kaminak is very concerned about this development, because court cases create assessments and regulatory uncertainty in addition to extraordinary delay, all of which erodes investor confidence.

In these difficult economic times, why would any government even consider implementing measures that would encourage economic uncertainty? It would seem to me that a stable environment supported by first nations should be a necessary prerequisite to any shift in policy.

Former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell spoke in the House to the original bill creating YESAA on October 21, 2002. He said:

Much of that time has been spent in consultation with stakeholder groups and, as a result, we have a much better bill and much better process than might otherwise be the case. First nations in particular will have a more meaningful role in assessments in Yukon.

It is safe to say that virtually everyone in Yukon had an opportunity to comment on the bill and many did.

Larry talked about how the department released drafts of the legislation in 1998 and 2001 for public review and undertook two separate tours to meet with first nations and other residents to review and discuss these drafts. He went on to say:

This took time, but it was time well spent. Those in Yukon who participated believe the process was inclusive, transparent and worthwhile.

Why is it that a former Liberal majority government made an effort to adequately consult prior to introducing legislation where our current conservative regime has chosen to disregard the democratic process?

Speaking of the lack of respect for democracy, one only has to look at how the Canadian Wheat Board was gutted in spite of support for the single desk by over 60% of farmers, or the complete rejection of over 20 amendments proposed by the NDP and Liberals to strengthen the food safety act, Bill S-11, or most recently the way that Bill C-51 was rammed through, in spite of the fact that knowledgeable witnesses spoke out against these draconian measures. Clearly Canadians are asking for a change. This will happen in October, but sorry for that digression.

Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations said this when appearing before the Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources:

Pursuant to the UFA, the CYFN, including Yukon First Nations, Canada and Yukon undertook a comprehensive review of YESAA. Initially, CYFN, Yukon First Nations, Canada and Yukon worked collaboratively to prepare the interim YESAA review report. In the end, Canada unilaterally finalized the report and systematically rejected the input from the CYFN and Yukon First Nations.

The proposed amendments in front of the Senate today were not discussed in the five-year review process with Canada and the Yukon government.

Mary Jane Jim, councillor, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, said:

...it is our view that YESAA has been operating effectively and efficiently since its enactment in 2003. The federal government now works to unilaterally make additional amendments to the YESAA. We did not request these amendments, nor do we support them. These amendments are not necessary.

Let me close by saying that I believe this is not a good precedent in these difficult times. I urge all members of the House to reject this flawed piece of legislation.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I think we can all agree in this House about the beauty of the Yukon and the potential opportunity for the people who live there, and for economic development, if it is done the right way. What we are proposing in the bill are ways to make that happen.

One of the issues that the member mentioned was policy direction, and I want to hone in on that specifically. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has the right to set binding policy direction in the Northwest Territories. This minister has never used it; previous ministers have used it to protect aboriginal rights.

When we were in Yukon, the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said protecting aboriginal rights, though the minister did it through binding policy direction, was actually “paternalistic”.

Does the member agree that protecting aboriginal rights is paternalistic? Why does he want to take away the minister's ability to protect aboriginal rights by supporting Motion No. 10, which would take away policy direction?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a logical question. However, if we look at the process and see that one group of people, namely the first nations in Yukon, do not agree with that, then in my mind that should trigger that there is something wrong. It then becomes another top-heavy federal government decision that people are not supporting. There is something wrong with it.

Obviously the protection should be there, but it should be worked out and agreed upon by all stakeholders. In reading my notes and discussing the bill, my conclusion is that has not happened, and that is one of the flaws of the amendments on this piece of legislation.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect the member's assessment that it has not happened is quite correct. I posed a question to the former Conservative speaker in terms of whether he felt that the government was successful at achieving a consensus, and he did not indicate that the government had achieved that consensus.

Given the importance of the legislation we are debating here today, would he not agree—and in listening to his comments, I am sure he would, so it would allow him to embellish on some of his earlier comments—on how important this is when we are dealing with regional economic type of bills that would affect the lives of all northerners, and the environment, economic development, and so forth? Has the government missed an opportunity to bring forward legislation in which there could have been a much broader consensus so that everyone would be feeling part of something, as opposed to it coming down from Ottawa?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my Liberal colleague for his excellent question. I have notes here that I have not had a chance to talk about, such as various stakeholders who believe that this consensus, this consultation, did not take place. One of them is Mr. Felix Geithner, director, Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon. He said:

The most pertinent question isn't why Bill S-6 should be prevented from being passed but why was it ever put forward in the first place, in its current form?

He goes on to say:

The reason he provided for introducing a bill that proposes sweeping changes to a fundamental part of this regulatory regime was the need to involve and maintain a competitive and predictable regulatory system.

However, this is not what is taking place. In fact, it is just the opposite.

We have already heard what Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong of Kaminak Gold Corporation said. I did not have a chance to talk about Chief Steve Smith of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, or Ms. Wendy Randall, chair and executive committee member of the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board, or Chief Angela Demit, and we could go on and on.

There is a groundswell of opposition to these amendments and this bill, so why on earth would the current government even consider putting this legislation forward?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today. As chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, it is particularly important for me to have the opportunity to speak to Bill S-6 today at report stage.

As chair of the committee, I had the privilege of travelling to Whitehorse with the committee to hear directly from Yukoners about the legislation. From this experience, it is clear to me that Bill S-6 certainly has the potential to have a profound impact on the economic development in Yukon and Nunavut. I am proud to have a chance to explain to the House why I believe this to be the case.

Our Conservative government takes great pride in our commitment to Canada's north. In fact, our northern strategy has increased funding for infrastructure, protected Canada's Arctic sovereignty and had ensured that we remain a world leader in northern science and technology. A large part of this strategy involves our work to improve northern regulatory regimes.

Improving the regulatory process in the north is something that our government has been working on and accomplishing since we came into office. Improvements began through the Northern Jobs and Growth Act, continued in the Northwest Territories through the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, and will be completed by strengthening regulatory regimes in Yukon and Nunavut.

Bill S-6 would strengthen these regimes by making effected regulatory frameworks strong, effective, efficient and predictable.

Let me quote the Hon. Darrell Pasloski, the Premier of Yukon, who said:

The amended legislation will be more consistent with other Canadian jurisdictions and will put Yukon in a stronger competitive position to achieve more economic growth, jobs and prosperity for all Yukoners.

That is a clear statement.

The changes proposed in this bill will encourage resource development and ensure sound environmental stewardship. In the case of Yukon, Bill S-6 would make a number of improvements to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, commonly referred to as YESAA.

The first of these changes I will discuss is the implementation of the principle of “one project, one assessment”. If passed, Bill S-6 will ensure that a new assessment of an existing project will only be required if there has been a significant modification to the project as it was originally assessed. This will certainly reduce duplication of work for proponents and evaluators, while retaining the integrity of the environmental assessment. This is the sort of practical approach that demonstrates our government is protecting Canada's environmental heritage.

It is for this reason that I strongly oppose Motion No. 4. I encourage other members to do the same. The member for the Northwest Territories who proposes to remove this principle from Bill S-6 only provides further proof that a New Democratic government would hinder future economic development in Yukon and all across the North. .

In addition to the introduction of the “one project, one assessment” principle, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss how the bill would further improve the regulatory system and drive economic development in Yukon.

Bill S-6 would introduce to YESAA beginning-to-end legislative timelines for environmental assessments. This would align the territory's regime with other federal environmental assessment laws across the north and in the rest of Canada.

Regulations under YESAA already set out certain time limits for decision time making, and Bill S-6 would enshrine these in legislation. These legislated time limits are an effective way to provide predictability and certainty for proponents, regulators, governments and first nations, without sacrificing the integrity of the evaluation process and safeguarding environmental protection.

I believe the motions regarding the removal of timelines in Bill S-6, specifically Motions Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8 proposed by the member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories, would actually hinder economic development and growth in Yukon. Passing these motions and removing the associated clauses will prevent important regulatory improvements from coming into force.

Our government understands that timelines will improve proponent and investor confidence, provide certainty and consistency to the regulatory process and will ensure efficiency at all stages.

The time limits introduced in Bill S-6 would improve proponent and investor confidence, provide consistency and transparency to the process and gain efficiency at all stages of the process. We know from other jurisdictions that these are all vital pieces of an effective regulatory regime and that they will help to drive economic development in Yukon. Ensuring timely decision making can have a significant impact on the well-being of northern communities.

In a highly competitive global marketplace, businesses need assurance of when their projects will move from approvals to the construction phase, and not be delayed unnecessarily by the duplication of regulatory processes. Too many delays may make a proponent look elsewhere, which means a community or first nation could see an opportunity pass by.

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources heard these same arguments last fall from industry and territorial government witnesses commenting on Bill S-6. For example, Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, described the introduction of time limits as:

—probably the most important aspect of this bill to our membership. The definitive beginning-to-end timelines create certainty and allow for consistency from coast to coast to coast for proponents, regardless of where they are doing business — in the Yukon or N.W.T. It is so important for proponents to have consistency and regularity when dealing with and preparing for their project activities.

The time limits contained in Bill S-6 would provide proponents with that consistency, which would lay the ground work for economic growth and development in Yukon. This is why I strongly oppose the passage of Motions Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8. Despite being well aware that this legislation would benefit Yukon, the opposition continues to ignore residents in Canada's westernmost territory. Fortunately, the member of Parliament for Yukon is working hard to provide Yukoners with the best representation they have had in years.

While I object to all of the motions that the opposition has brought forward today, I take particular exception to Motion No. 5, which would remove time limits for designated office assessments. Moreover, it would also prevent the inclusion of the concept of reasonably foreseeable activities in the scope of cumulative effects of projects. While this may appear to be a very technical point, it is important to remember that this concept was actually a recommendation from the YESAA five-year review that was agreed to by Canada, the Government of Yukon and Yukon first nations. Removing provisions of the bill that have been jointly agreed to by all three parties to the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement represents a step backward in Canada's relationship with the first nations of Yukon.

These regulatory improvements would create the certainty and predictability needed for responsible resource development projects to proceed. Our government is committed to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity in the north. The legislation before the House today would play a large role in achieving these outcomes by simultaneously driving economic development and protecting Canada's environmental heritage.

I urge members from all parties to support Bill S-6 as it stands now, and to reject Motions Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about support from the people of Yukon, but the director of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon is on record objecting to this legislation, saying that the existing rules have been a model for the country and now we have something going on, which would change the arrangements that have existed for some time. He says:

From TIA Yukon's perspective, Bill S-6 is a shoddy piece of legislation that sows discord rather than the certainty it sets out to create. More than this, the proponents of this bill have set an adversarial tone in Yukon with Yukon first nations and a number of key organizations and businesses through their attempt to ram it through without adequate consultation. Consultation requires twoway communication. If one party doesn't believe that there was adequate consultation, then there was not adequate consultation.

I could read other quotes from industry players from mining operations, people who are quite dissatisfied with this process, that the certainty the bill claims will not arrive and will, in fact, make things worse and not better. What does the member have to say to that?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, the best response I could provide the member would certainly be to ask him the question. What do he and his party have against the idea of greater powers and certainty in the processes and devolution of the ability to make these decisions at the local level? I cannot possibly imagine what opposition they would have to that. Certainly, in my mind, creating better predictability, better certainty and proper timelines around this would give proper confidence to industry and also to Yukoners and first nations alike, an opportunity to make the decisions about what should move forward in their territory at the local level.

Since he wants to throw quotes around, I want to remind him of a quote I have already read in the House, a very important one in my mind, by the premier of Yukon, who was very clear when he stated:

The amended legislation will be more consistent with other Canadian jurisdictions and will put Yukon in a stronger competitive position to achieve more economic growth, jobs and prosperity for all Yukoners

It is a very clear statement and I cannot imagine what the NDP could possibly have against the idea of more economic growth, more jobs and more prosperity for Yukoners.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, those were interesting comments from the member. He tried to turn the question around. If he wants to talk about the issue of devolution, Jean Chrétien did far more in working with the different stakeholders in trying to build consensus toward devolution.

My question for the member is the one that was just posed for the member with regard to consensus. In fact, the government has been unable to achieve a consensus within the community, which would have enabled better legislation. Why has the government been unable to achieve the consensus?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

I will give a two-part response to that, Mr. Speaker.

First, the member made some assertion about the previous Liberal government and what it had done for the north. I know all northerners are quite well aware of the fact that no government in Canadian history has done more for the north than this government under our Prime Minister. This legislation is further proof of that. We are talking about creating conditions that would encourage investment, that would lead to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Yukoners, those in Nunavut, and northerners alike.

I find it really troublesome to hear those kinds of claims from the other side, that they oppose the ability for northerners to see that kind of certainty, predictability, and the opportunities for jobs and growth. It obviously concerns me that all opposition parties would oppose something that would do so much for the north. It is further proof that this government will do what is necessary to ensure the north has the opportunity to have jobs, growth and prosperity.

The member attempted to cast some kind of doubt on the fact that a lot of consultation took place. As the chair of the committee, a considerable amount of time was spent by the committee hearing from witnesses and people through Yukon, a large number of witnesses, and had all kinds of opportunities to consult. A lot of consultation took place prior to that. Therefore, to indicate there was no consultation is an absolute farce.

Our government will continue to work to ensure jobs, growth and economic prosperity for all Yukoners and all across the north.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to 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, which is before this House at report stage.

It is a bill that arises out of fulfilment of the obligation of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement on the one hand and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement on the other hand, because two acts are amended in this legislation. The Nunavut one is less controversial. In fact, there is no serious objection to it, but the Yukon one is quite different.

Let me say first, there is a bad history of the Government of Canada, both Liberal and Conservative, in dealing with agreements that had been signed with aboriginal peoples in the Northwest Territories, in the north in general. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was signed in 1993 by the Liberal government. In very short order, a failure to actually carry out the terms of the agreement ultimately led to a court case that went on for years and years and was only settled in the last month or two by the present government, which had resisted settling that since it has been around in 2006.

We have a history of not honouring the agreements that have been signed. In this case, the Yukon umbrella agreement was signed and part of it was put into place under the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement. The five-year review was scheduled to be held, initiated in 2007 and completed in 2012. The agreement was never made public because of a disagreement. The final consultations took place on this, but the amendments that are put forth to establish an assessment process were never discussed with the people of the Yukon.

We now have what is being called by Yukoners an imposed agreement dismantling the environment and socio-economic assessment process, which was developed in the Yukon by Yukoners for the Yukon. The message we are getting from the people of the Yukon is that the Conservative government, with the full assistance of the Yukon MP and the senator for Yukon, is forcing a pro-southern resource company agenda unilaterally down the throats of Yukoners.

That is the assessment that we have, based on what we are hearing from the people of the Yukon in terms of the level of consultation, the failure to listen to what they were told, the failure to actually consult them and actually running roughshod over the arrangements that had been made between the aboriginal peoples of the Yukon and the Government of Canada in the establishment of this process.

There are significant concerns about the following amendments that are being imposed here, one which would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. This is a supposedly independent board that came about as a result of discussions and negotiations out of the land claims agreement and the Final Umbrella Agreement, and now we would have the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development make binding policy directives.

How does that maintain the relationship between the aboriginal people, the Yukon government and the Government of Canada in this particular process?

It has been said here that it is only to ensure that the aboriginal rights are being protected, but that is not what the legislation says. It says that the minister is given this unilateral power to make this decision.

There is also a provision to introduce legislative time limits for assessments. There is no real necessity for that. In fact, as has been expressed by people who are very familiar with the process, that kind of approach of applying a beginning-to-end timeline was objected to, which is interesting, because we would think that a timeline would actually speed up the consultation and assessment process.

For example, Millie Olsen, Deputy Chief of First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, said:

YESAA currently has timelines for assessors to review each iteration. This approach encourages proponents to prepare comprehensive applications that minimize iterations. Proponents who prepare adequate applications quickly are rewarded under the current process because they can proceed quickly.

On the other hand, the Bill S-6 approach of applying a beginning-to-end timeline will reward proponents who prolong the adequacy review phase by using up time with multiple iterations. The approach will penalize assessors and reviewers like first nations because it will shorten the most important public review phase, infringing on our right for comprehensive reviews of projects.

That is how the distortion and arguments occur, where the proponents of Bill S-6 say there will be timelines for certainty but the timelines actually serve to choke off public consultation and prevent the actual meat of the review process, which is consultation with the aboriginal people. That is obviously nefarious. In fact, Mr. Felix Geithner, Director of the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, called Bill S-6 “a shoddy piece of legislation”. He said it:

...sows discord rather than the certainty it sets out to create. More than this, the proponents of this bill have set an adversarial tone in Yukon with Yukon first nations and a number of key organizations and businesses....

Therefore, when we are talking about legislation that is supposed to be designed to improve things, actually going the other way, which comes from Ottawa, not from Yukoners themselves, then we know there is a problem with Bill S-6.

Why is it called Bill S-6? It is because it originated in the other place. I do not know why the legislation is coming here from the Senate. Why is it not coming from the House of Commons? It is appalling that we have a system where the Senate of Canada is initiating legislation and we get it afterward. It has done the sober second thought first. I am not sure how that works. What are we doing? We are doing the sober second thought on the Senate.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Who elected them, Mr. Speaker? That is a very good question. I think one person elected all of them, or 59 of them anyway. There were various other people who elected the others.

I will not dwell on that, but I just wanted to point out that what we are dealing with here is Senate legislation.

We have heard objections. We had this from Chief Angela Demit, chief of the White River First Nation, who said:

We participated in meetings with Canada about the changes to YESAA. Through that experience we have understood that the changes being proposed by Canada have much more to do with an agenda made in Ottawa than with the recommendations that came out of the YESAA five-year review process.

These are the kinds of comments we are getting.

Chief Doris Bill, chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation said:

Providing a single party with authority to direct the board is fundamentally inconsistent with any legislation that stems from our tripartite treaties. While the treaties obligate Canada to enact YESAA, it does not own YESAA and cannot choose to dictate its own policies on the independent assessment body.

Why is this being done? It is obviously being done to control the board and the process, not to ensure that the agreement has been fulfilled. It would create broad exemptions from YESAA for renewals and amendments of permits of authorizations. Once a permit exemption is granted it cannot be amended, fixed or changed. That is tying people's hands and not giving them the authority they have.

I note that my time is quickly up, but I am prepared to entertain any questions.

If those four provisions were removed from the bill I am told by the critic responsible we would pass the bill. Therefore, it can be fixed. Why do we not just fix it here and pass the bill with the amendments?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:40 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we are interested in economic development and certainly the Yukon has vast mineral resources. We saw a report that came out this year that Yukon has slipped in terms of its competitiveness among the worldwide mining attractiveness jurisdictions. It was first when devolution occurred and is down to ninth now. The report cited that because of an unpredictable regulatory regime, it had fallen behind the rest of Canada even, in terms of competitiveness.

Is that something that concerns the member and if so would he not agree that this bill addresses that and we should pass it as soon as possible?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, of course we agree with having a proper process, but one that allows for development and proper assessment. The problem we have here is that the Government of Canada is taking an approach that overrides the participation of the aboriginal people in this process over their objections, creating uncertainty. It does not solve the problem because it creates further uncertainty. We have representatives of the Yukon industry and communities in general saying that this would create more uncertainty and in fact would hurt what is happening.

The proper solution here is to have adequate consultation to ensure that the process is fixed. If the Conservatives are not willing to do that, then they should not be imposing this against the rights of the aboriginal people who participated in the process to create this board in the first place.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, the member for Wild Rose raised the issue about the significance of any adverse community, environmental or socio-economic effects that have occurred or might occur in conjunction with the project, and that this section was removed by our amendments. However, that is actually clause 9 in the bill and it still remains.

Could my colleague comment on why the Conservative government might be trying to create some kind of doubt about the nature of our amendments at this time and trying to mislead the House about what we have taken out in these amendments?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, obviously that is a common tactic that we hear, one of creating confusion about what is going on. However, we need to know that the common thread of argument in the Yukon is best expressed by Ms. Allison Armstrong who is vice-president of lands and environment for the Kaminak Gold Corporation. She said:

We believe the bill should be held back until there is agreement. We would like to see the federal government come back to the table, talk to the first nations, and resolve these four outstanding contentious amendments.... Our position is that if the government isn't going to come back to the table to address the four contentious amendments with the first nations, they should be removed from the bill.

That answers what the concern is. That is a very clear position. That is the position that we support.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to touch briefly on one of the quotes that the member has used throughout the debate this morning. I do not remember the gentleman's name from the tourism association. He said that if one party says the consultation has not been adequate, then adequate consultation has not occurred.

In the absence of considering the evidence, perhaps that sounds okay. However, when we consider that there were dozens of meetings and $100,000 provided to first nations to participate in the consultation process, I am wondering this. Is the NDP position that there should be a veto given to anyone, any group and any legislative process that says consultation has not been adequate, and that would throw a wrench into it indefinitely? That is what that stakeholder, that witness, said. The member has positively quoted it today.

Does the member really believe that we should examine the evidence of what consultation has occurred, or simply allow one group to say that consultation has not been adequate? Canadians deserve that answer.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I do not think these amendments were a part of that consultation. The consultation was about the five-year review. These were not part of that. Mr. Geithner is the name of the director of the Tourism Industry Association. He started off in his remarks talking about the praise that Senator Lang had given for the assessment process, saying that it was a model for certainty, implementing responsible environmental and social balance while providing certainty to investors. If that was already there, why did it need to be changed?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6 today because we are dealing with a process, and this is extremely important, no matter what members on the other side are saying. In this case, the people who will be affected by these decisions have not been adequately consulted. The government unfortunately has a habit of not consulting people on a number of issues.

It is even more troubling in the case of the Yukon, which we are discussing today. Not too long ago, Bill C-15, if I am not mistaken, gave more powers to the territories, which was in line with what was done in the Northwest Territories a few years ago. We recently adopted the same type of approach with the Yukon.

It appears as though the pendulum is swinging the other way now. The government is bringing the power back to Ottawa and is giving itself more discretionary powers. This bill is a way to push through some natural resource development projects and to once again gut our environmental protection laws, which is another worrisome trend from this government.

Since we started the debate this afternoon, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has been telling us that everyone in the Yukon agrees that the existing rules only delay the process, since it is unpredictable. However, as my colleague from St. John's East just pointed out, the rules proposed by the Conservatives make the situation even more unpredictable, since they simply say that if any communities in the Yukon are unhappy with the result they will have to go to court.

Speaking of trends, that is another one we are seeing more and more of all the time. Instead of being proactive and proposing legislation and an approach to governance that does not require legal proceedings, the government seems to be saying that this is not so bad because these people can turn to the courts. The focus is on the cure instead of prevention. If the government wants to have a real dialogue, then it has to prevent these conflicts where people, particularly first nations, feel that their rights are being trampled. Dragging things through the courts prolongs and encumbers the process, which makes the situation even harder for businesses that want to propose a project.

The interesting thing in the debates on the environment and the economy is the matter of environmental assessments. That came up again today, through this bill. If we took this responsibility seriously, we would not be obstructing those who advocate sustainable and responsible development. However, the government seems to believe that such legislation always gets in the way of development. Instead of trying to come up with better assessments, the government simply wants to get rid of them all. Words like social acceptability often come up when we talk about natural resource development projects.

It is clear that Bill S-6 has failed when it comes to social acceptability. The federal government might say that the territories are different from the provinces, but we must not play political games with the rights of the people of the Yukon and of the Yukon's first nations.

The parliamentary secretary talked about funding that was offered to the first nations, but that is not enough. The dialogue cannot be driven by money alone. There has to be a proactive attitude, a willingness to reach out and some openness.

We can have all the tools and resources in the world, but if we do not believe that they will be useful and that this dialogue will improve things, then it is hard to bring two or more partners to the table.

The parliamentary secretary also said there were many meetings, but that is precisely one of the things that people, including first nations, are upset about. Closed-door meetings do not count as public consultation. It is pretty easy to sit down with select stakeholders, then say that consultations were held and people should be satisfied with that. The problem, once again, is what people are feeling. I want to respond again to the parliamentary secretary's remarks. He just asked if the NDP will be challenging all of the legislation about which witnesses say they were not adequately consulted.

We all know that in politics it is impossible to please everyone, but when it comes to Bill S-6, everything we heard in committee and in the Yukon points to agreement among members of the public and first nations: the consultations were inadequate. That is why the Yukon NDP moved a motion in the legislature there to condemn this bill. Sure, they can pull out quotes here and there to support the argument that this is a step forward, but I am not talking about an exception; I am saying that most people think this.

Consequently, I believe that it is important to recognize that the government's approach is problematic. All too often, people condemn its bills and its approach and the government views them as exceptions. Very often these people are voicing the concerns of the majority, and therefore it is all the more important for the government to listen.

In matters affecting first nations especially, this is happening more and more frequently. One of my colleagues spoke about the government's paternalistic approach in its relations with first nations. That is the problem, more than the bill's outcome. When the government is considering making such a fundamental change to the way a territory is managed—a change that could call into question some rights enjoyed by first nations—telling them to just go to court reflects a paternalistic approach. There is no doubt about that, and we see it all too often with this government.

I made a mistake at the beginning of my speech. I said Bill C-6, but I meant Bill S-6. There again, Senate bills are increasingly common, and that is a problem. This is not a Senate bill, but a government bill that is proposing to make a very important, even draconian change to how the Yukon conducts its environmental assessments. The bill would also give discretionary powers to the minister.

The fact that the Senate passed such a bill and sent us such a fundamental change is very problematic in terms of how our two chambers operate, and it is especially problematic when we consider how long it takes for the Senate to pass private members' bills originating in the House of Commons. Consider, for example, the bill introduced by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca on the rights of transgendered people. The Senate is dragging its feet on passing it. Unfortunately, at this rate, it will not even pass before the election is called. I am using this as an example because Bill S-6 is a government bill, and we know how quickly senators pass government bills and how long it takes them to pass private members' bills. I think this clearly illustrates the problems that arise as a result of how the system works, and this only adds to public cynicism.

I touched on this earlier, but the issue of ministers' discretionary powers is becoming more and more common in government-sponsored bills. This government likes to govern in such a way that ministers are too often allowed to use discretionary powers to adopt certain policies. This is extremely troubling and worrisome when it comes to environmental assessments.

The government prides itself on having a system of checks and balances in place, but those checks and balances are the courts. Everyone knows that the courts are a good tool for protecting fundamental rights, but at the same time, a good government should not settle for getting to that point. I realize I am repeating myself, but this is really what stands out the most on this particular issue.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that we are prepared to work with the people of Yukon. The Yukon NDP is doing a terrific job. The member for the Northwest Territories knows what managing a territory actually involves and how to work with the federal government. We can do this job properly.

Unfortunately, all too often, the federal government is content to just centralize and impose its way of doing things on others. That is not how we believe that things should be done. There must be an open dialogue among the various nations, particularly the first nations. That is the approach that we advocate and this would be an opportunity to implement that approach. That is why we are opposed to this bill.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 3:55 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation to 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, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the Bill; and

That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

It has been 90 times, Mr. Speaker. This is the 90th time for closure and time allocation. This is the worst record in Canadian parliamentary history by far. The current Conservative government shows a marked intolerance of debate and discussion.

What is really bizarre about this is that we are talking about a bill that has not even gone for its first round of debate. Only eight members of Parliament have even been able to speak on the bill. We have the government moving time allocation for the 90th time, when the bill has not even received proper scrutiny.

As members know, the government has another very poor record, which is for the most pieces of legislation rejected by the courts in Canadian history.

When we combine the two, the Conservatives' intolerance of debate and the fact that often they put forward legislation that has not been properly vetted or properly written, we can see that we have yet another case when it is very clear that the bill before us may well be challenged in the courts.

Just two weeks ago, the last piece of legislation the Conservatives forced through the House, Bill C-15, was rejected by the courts. There is now a court injunction.

We are seeing with the bill on the Yukon a growing tide of reaction from people in the Yukon territory who are saying that they are very concerned about the bill, that it deserves appropriate scrutiny, and that there has not been appropriate consultation. In fact, the Coalition of Yukon First Nations has now threatened court action for another injunction.

Is that not the reason the Conservatives are forcing through, for the 90th time, closure and time allocation? Is it because they know the bill is increasingly controversial?

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the member complains about this being the 90th time. Well, that is about the number of times his party has stood up with exactly the same reasons. Every time, it is what they complain about, but he cannot bluff his way around this one.

This is not a bill about the Yukon only. It is about the regulatory system in the north, which affects, in this instance, both the Yukon and Nunavut.

For the information of the hon. member who complains about the bill not having been looked at by enough people, this is a bill that comes from the Senate. It has been before the senators. A host of witnesses have appeared before the Senate committee--

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, we are just sitting in the corner here sort of amazed at what is being said about the hearings that took place in the Senate. Those same senators made amendments to Bill C-377, a bill that attacked organized labour. They did not pay any attention to them. Why the difference now?

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, what he says in that corner is in that corner, all right.

The truth of the matter is that Bill S-6, the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act, is the final legislative step in the government action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes. This bill responds to years and years of calls for less duplication and a less cumbersome, uncertain review process to evaluate projects, one that encourages development, investment, and job creation in the north, and for that matter, in all of Canada.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, here we are again with the government shutting down democracy, for the 90th time. In this case, it serves to silence the voices of first nation peoples in the Yukon.

As Grand Chief Ruth Massie pointed out, this whole process attacks the integrity of their constitutionally protected agreements, and Yukon first nations will stand by their agreements, even if it means going to court. She said, “They give us no choice. We did not sign our agreements to implement them in the courts, but we will protect them”.

It is a disgrace that the current Conservative government is not only shutting down debate but is seeking to silence the voices of Grand Chief Massie and the first nations that are standing up for their rights and have been part of developing the YESSA agreement.

We will stand here in solidarity with them, sharing their voices and their words. We will fight back on this terrible piece of legislation.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

That is nonsense, Mr. Speaker. The fact of the matter is that the Conservative member for Yukon has been pleading with the socialists in neckties to allow the committee to travel to Yukon. We hope that they will abide by the wish of the Conservative member of Parliament for Yukon and allow the committee to travel so that first nations can indeed be heard in the Yukon and so Yukoners have a chance to be consulted and give their points of view on this piece of legislation.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, since he served in the cabinet of previous Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, how the Progressive Conservatives ever managed to get anything done, since they hardly ever used closure.

How was it possible that democracy was allowed in the House of Commons in the Progressive Conservative government and is no longer allowed in his administration?

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the opposition members call this the shutting down of democracy. They sit in the House of Commons and make their case, and this is not democracy? To me it is democracy, but democracy is also about elected members working for the welfare of Canada and the betterment of Canadians.

We are a government that does not consider the north just a trophy. We have decided that northerners will have their place in Canada. The northern strategy is about enabling northerners to be full Canadians, and we will keep doing this.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:05 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, in my role as parliamentary secretary, I have had the opportunity to meet with people at the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C. in Vancouver as well as with the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada.

There is a new report out that shows that Yukon has actually gone from the best place in the world to conduct resource development mining to the ninth over the last number of years, because it is falling behind when it comes to its regulatory regime.

I am wondering if the minister can talk about the need to bring in regulatory reform so that Yukon, which used to lead the way with its mining development regime, can catch up now. I would ask him to talk about that.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a very important point. In fact, from 2011 to 2013, Yukon was rated the single most desirable place in the world for mining companies to conduct business. As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, the most recent report, however, shows that Yukon has actually fallen to ninth place overall. The leaders, communities, and workers in the Yukon are concerned. They see that the regulatory regime in the Northwest Territories has been changed to be in line with the one south of 60, and this is exactly what this would do for Yukon and Nunavut.

It is really important and urgent that we pass this legislation so that Yukoners and the people in Nunavut can get the same benefits as other jurisdictions in the north.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, we just got the truth about why this bill is being rushed through. It was rushed through the Senate, and it is being rushed through the House. It is because the only voice that is being heard by the government is the mining associations'.

What is absolutely outrageous is that the government would limit debate on this bill when, in fact, the very issues we wish to raise are the ones expressed by Yukoners and the Yukon first nations themselves. Ruth Massie, the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, is vociferously opposed to this legislation. Why? It is for two reasons. First, it is substantively eroding their constitutionally entrenched umbrella final agreement and all first nation final agreements that were negotiated between the territories, the federal government, and the first nations. Second, the government is obligated by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Constitution to consult, consider, and accommodate, and it has absolutely refused to hear the concerns of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, this is totally false. The bill was part of a rigorous consultation process with first nations, territorial governments, and industry representatives. Drafts of legislative proposals were shared with stakeholders on several occasions. Comments received on the drafts were carefully considered, and where appropriate, were incorporated in the proposed text—

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, most of these amendments stem from the five-year review of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, which occurred from 2008 to 2012. These people on the other side say that this would completely change the landscape. Most, if not three-quarters or 98%, of these changes were agreed to by the first nations.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, first nations, other stakeholders, and even individuals like Larry Bagnell, the former member of Parliament, have been very clear that the Conservative government has not done any real consultation. Real consultation means listening, and the minister needs to do just that. He needs to start listening to the needs of our northern communities.

The issue before us today is yet again about time allocation, which is closure. It is the lack of respect the Prime Minister has for democracy in the chamber. It is the 90th time the Conservatives have introduced limitations on members of Parliament. Through the House, we represent constituents back in our home ridings.

My question is for either the minister or the government House leader. Can they justify why they continue to deny MPs the opportunity to represent their constituents? Why does the government continue to not listen to what northerners have to say about important pieces of legislation?

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, we are not reinventing the wheel here. What we are doing is updating the regulatory regime in the north so that it is in conformity with that south of 60 to create a level playing field for these communities and territories. Why should they be penalized, because they live in the north, with a regulatory system that prevents investment?

When we look at the construction season in the north, time is of the essence. The sooner they enjoy a regulatory system that is modern and efficient, the more chance they will have to get the investments that will create jobs for northerners.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people watching us today on CPAC can see quite clearly that the Conservatives are trying to muzzle us in our parliamentary work.

First they decided to hold a vote to prevent us from presenting petitions. We had some extremely important petitions to present. I have petitions from Development and Peace that I was unable to present today because the Conservatives put up roadblocks.

Second, the government moved a time allocation motion on a bill for the 90th time, which is preventing us from doing our parliamentary work. Frankly, this is deplorable behaviour by the Conservative government.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, passing Bill S-6 is the final legislative step in the government's action plan to improve the regulatory regime in the north. This bill responds to calls made over many years to establish a review process to evaluate projects that is less cumbersome, duplicative and uncertain. This process will promote development while guaranteeing sound environmental management. That is the intended objective.

As I was saying earlier, I know that the NDP could not care less about whether or not people can work in the north, but it is important to us. Investments will create jobs, which in turn will improve the standard of living of northerners.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we know that the NDP and the Liberals both want to put a carbon tax on the north, a carbon tax on every part of Canada. They want fuel prices going up, heating prices going up, and everything going up because of this carbon tax.

Could the minister tell us if Bill S-6 would actually improve the environment? As well, would it include a carbon tax, or would we leave money in Canadians' pockets?

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, not only would the bill improve the regulatory scheme in terms of investment and time efficiencies, but it would also better protect the environment.

The bill has provisions to increase protection of the environment, and I am very surprised that the NDP would oppose that.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard all sorts of rhetoric about what the bill would do, but this debate is on time allocation being imposed 90 times.

This is the 90th time.

My colleague from Alfred-Pellan asked why this government wanted to delay or stop the work of MPs, and the minister did not answer.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will give him an answer.

It is because we doubt that the NDP can debate this bill expeditiously. As I said earlier, it is important that the regulatory regime in Yukon and Nunavut be updated. The figures support that; I am not making it up. Two years ago, Yukon was ranked second by investors from around the world, and today it is ranked ninth.

I know that economic development, creating jobs and improving the standard of living are not important to New Democrats, but they are to us. We hope that they will join with us and support this bill so that the north can benefit.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, let us hear the voices from Yukon:

The CYFN and Yukon First Nations assert that the federal government would breach its constitutional duty to uphold the honour of the Crown when it proceeded unilaterally with [these] amendments.

That is Mary Jane Jim, from a Yukon First Nation.

We have the Yukon News editorial:

A long list of people deserve raspberries for this needlessly shady behaviour. At the top of the naughty list are Senator Daniel Lang and [the Conservative member for Yukon], who are supposed to ensure that the interest of Yukoners are represented in Ottawa.

Shame on them. The official opposition NDP leader, Liz Hanson, said:

What we need, what is sorely missing, is a willingness to engage in an open and honest manner. We need a relationship built on dialogue and respect, rather than on lawsuits and secret negotiations.

Those are the voices of Yukon that the Conservatives are refusing to listen to. Why are they stifling the debate that Yukoners want to be engaged in?

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member likes quotes, let me quote Premier Pasloski of Yukon, who told the standing committee:

...collectively, these amendments mark an important milestone as they are the culmination of years of hard work and meaningful consultation between all three levels of government....

Let us listen to Johnny Mike, the Minister of the Environment for Nunavut. He said that

This bill is an important step in creating an effective and modern regulatory regime for Nunavut.

[It] will contribute to the environmental protection and economic development of Nunavut.

That is what they oppose. I cannot understand it.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Peace River Alberta

Conservative

Chris Warkentin ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this discussion we are having. I think it is important that we see the bill move forward.

I had the privilege of serving as chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for approximately three years, and it was one of the greatest privileges I have had.

One of the things we heard during some of the hearings was that there was some controversy surrounding the issue of the minister providing policy direction to the Yukon Environmental Socio-Economic Assessment Board under this new legislation. This would allow the minister to give that policy direction.

It is my understanding that other boards have these same provisions. I am wondering if the minister could articulate the circumstances under which the minister has given, or possibly former ministers have given, policy direction to these boards. Under what circumstances was this direction given?

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question, because the policy direction issue is one of the specific points opposed by some first nations advocates in the Yukon in particular.

This exists in other legislation. It has been used before. We are not reinventing the wheel. The record will show that each time a federal minister has used this power with the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board in the Northwest Territories, where it exists, it has actually been to protect first nations rights. It has been used to ensure that the board carries out its functions and responsibilities in co-operation with the Akaitcho Dene First Nation and its pre-screening board. It has provided instruction to the board to ensure that it fulfills its obligations under the Deh Cho interim measures agreement. It has required that notification be provided to both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Denesuline regarding licences and permits.

According to the act, these directions cannot affect a project under review and will be beneficial for first nations and everyone in the north.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very discouraging to hear the Conservatives provide the sort of answers schoolchildren would provide. In fact, the answers they have been giving opposition members for the past 20 minutes are worse than the answers schoolchildren would provide.

We are asking to be able to talk about and explain things and participate in the debate. The Conservatives are cutting short the debate and saying something so terrible that I will not repeat it.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear a question.

Once again, for the benefit of the House, I would simply like to remind members that passing Bill S-6, the Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act, is the final legislative step in the government's action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes.

We know that the NDP has opposed all of these measures since the plan was announced. It is not surprising that it continues to want to obstruct the work of the House of Commons and prevent it from moving forward.

However, because we have a majority, we can pass this bill at second reading and send the committee directly to the Yukon to consult the people who live there.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister has opened the discussion on this. What is so apparent here is that the government, in wanting to bring limitation on the debate, will give us a remaining five minutes to try to be a voice for the people of the north. Instead of spending the time actually hearing from representatives of this place on behalf of the electorate, it is going to limit our time to five minutes.

Why is that serious? It is because the process for the bill is exactly the same failed process the government followed in similar legislation for the Northwest Territories. As a result, the Tlicho and the Sahtu, whom the minister mentioned, have the government in court for exactly the failed unilateral process it followed, which is unconstitutional.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will prefer the judgment of the court on those issues and questions over the judgment of the member. I respect the court, and since these matters are before the court, we will not comment on them.

In regard to the bill, which they want to delay, what they do not realize is they are delaying investment. They are delaying job creation in the north. Also, since as a government our priority is job creation and long-term prosperity, we are going to stick to our agenda and ensure that northerners get the benefit of this legislation.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that is being overlooked here is the impact the bill would have on the economy of Yukon and Nunavut. That is very important. We are talking about resource extraction and mining.

Our government has made it very clear that growth and creating jobs and long-term prosperity for the north are a top priority for us. The bill would have a very prominent role in guiding Yukon to its future success.

I wonder if the minister could talk a little about what the bill would do for the economic development of Yukon.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying again for the record that no government in Canadian history has ever done as much for Canada's north as ours. This legislation is further proof of this. It would create conditions to encourage investment, which would in turn lead to jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for Yukoners and Nunavummiut alike.

Bill S-6 introduces timelines that would create consistency and predictability in environmental assessments and the issuance of water licences. This is a big plus for the north. I implore my colleagues on the other side to see the light.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, Voltaire once said, “I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

My comment is to you, Mr. Speaker. Limiting the expression of members of this House and limiting the diversity of voices that could come during this debate is doing a grave injustice to our democracy. It is hurting the integrity of this House. I ask you to intervene in this to improve our democracy.

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

March 11th, 2015 / 4:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thought you were going to offer him a copy of the Standing Orders so that he would realize that you are not here to answer questions.

The opposition members refuse to admit the very fact that if we let them stand up and talk away on this bill, the House will rise without the northern communities in question benefiting from the bill.

This bill must become law. We want to bring it to the north, go to the Yukon, have the people there give their input on the bill, let the committee do its job, consider the bill, make recommendations, and bring it back to the House.

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March 11th, 2015 / 5:10 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Macleod.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-6. In my role, I have had the privilege of meeting with first nations from Yukon, Inuit representatives from Nunavut, and members of industry from both territories. I am convinced the amendments in this legislation will be beneficial to all parties involved.

Our Conservative government has stood by Canada's north. Our northern strategy has increased funding for infrastructure, protected Canada's Arctic sovereignty and has ensured that we remain a world leader in northern science and technology. A large part of this strategy involves our work to improve northern regulatory regimes.

Improving the regulatory process in the north is something that our government has been accomplishing since it came to office. Improvements began through the Northern Jobs and Growth Act, continued in the Northwest Territories through the Northwest Territories Devolution Act, and will be completed by strengthening regimes in Yukon and Nunavut. Bill S-6 would strengthen these regimes by making effective regulatory framework strong, effective, efficient and predictable.

Let me quote the hon. Darrell Pasloski, Premier of the Yukon. He said:

The amended legislation will be more consistent with other Canadian jurisdictions and will put Yukon in a stronger competitive position to achieve more economic growth, jobs and prosperity for all Yukoners.

The changes proposed in the bill will encourage resource development and ensure sound environmental stewardship. In the case of Yukon, amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, commonly referred to as YESAA, would introduce beginning-to-end timelines for environmental assessments. This would align the territory's regime with other federal environmental assessment laws across the north and in the rest of Canada. Regulations under YESAA already set out certain time limits for decision making, and Bill S-6 would enshrine these in legislation.

Legislated time limits are an effective way to provide predictability and certainty for proponents, regulators, governments and first nations, without sacrificing the integrity of the evaluation process, and safeguarding environmental protection. I would like to note that this predictability and certainty is something that is desperately needed in Yukon right now.

The Fraser Institute recently published its annual report which ranks different jurisdictions by how desirable they are as a destination for mining investment. In 2011-12, as well as 2012-13, Yukon was rated as the single most attractive jurisdiction for investment in the world. In the years since, Yukon's ranking has fallen to ninth place. This is a result of the fact that other jurisdictions have caught up to and surpassed Yukon, once a world leader in terms of regulatory efficiency.

For a territory that receives the majority of its revenue from resource development, this drop has had a significant impact, and our government is determined to ensure that Yukon continues to set global standards with respect to the mining industry.

Bill S-6 contains provisions that will introduce time limits to improve proponent and investor confidence, provide consistency and transparency to the process, and gain efficiency at all stages of the process. We know from other jurisdictions that these are vital pieces of an effective regulatory regime and that they will help drive economic development in Yukon.

David Morrison, the president and CEO of the Yukon Energy Corporation agrees. According to him:

Having screening processes that don't have defined timelines, and strictly defined timelines, makes it very difficult for people who are investing millions and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Ensuring timely decision making can have a significant impact on the well-being of northern communities. In a highly competitive global marketplace, businesses need assurance of when their projects will move from approvals to the construction phase and not be delayed by unnecessary duplication of regulatory processes. Too many delays may make a proponent look elsewhere, which means a community or first nation could see an opportunity pass by.

The Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources heard the same arguments last fall from industry and territorial government witnesses commenting on Bill S-6. For example, Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines described the introduction of time limits as:

—probably the most important aspect of this bill to our membership. The definitive beginning-to-end timelines create certainty and allow for consistency from coast to coast to coast for proponents, regardless of where they are doing business — in the Yukon or N.W.T. It is so important for proponents to have consistency and regularity when dealing with and preparing for their project activities.

Bill S-6 is garnering such support for good reason. Without sacrificing the integrity of the process or protection of the environment, time limits enable all parties to predict how long a review process will take.

In addition to timelines, there are several other aspects of the bill that would improve the regulatory system and drive economic development in the Yukon.

The first is the implementation of the principle of one project, one assessment. If passed, Bill S-6 will ensure that a new assessment of an existing project will only be required if there had been a significant modification to the project as it was originally assessed. This will reduce duplication of work for proponents and evaluators, while retaining the integrity of the environmental assessment. This is the sort of practical approach that demonstrates our government is protecting Canada's environmental heritage, without resorting to a job-killing carbon tax, such as the NDP and Liberals want to impose on northerners.

Another proposed change to YESAA is the ability for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to provide policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. This power would help to reduce uncertainty and environmental assessment decision-making by ensuring that the government and the assessment boards would be on the same page.

It is important to underline, however, that this authority could not be used to influence a decision on a project or to restrict or expand the powers of the board. This power is provided for in both the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act as well as the Yukon Waters Act. In each case, the ministerial power has only ever been used to protect first nation rights.

Taken together, these improvements will create the certainty and predictability needed for responsible resource development projects to proceed.

Our government is committed to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity in the north. The legislation before the House today would play a large role in achieving these outcomes by simultaneously driving economic development and protecting Canada's environmental heritage. I urge all members from all parties to support this important initiative.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

March 11th, 2015 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have heard loud and clear from the parliamentary secretary the perspective of the government on who should be making decisions about Yukon.

I had the privilege of being the first ever assistant deputy of natural resources in Yukon and I know the way Yukoners like to work. They like to work together with first nations and with other Yukoners.

There was a process going on, a five-year review of this statute, which was cut off unilaterally by the federal government. It threw out the issues and preferences of the first nations and brought in three amendments to which the first nations were totally opposed.

I have a simple question for the parliamentary secretary. Who should decide on resource development, environmental protection and socio-economic development in Yukon, Yukoners and Yukon first nations, as per the First Nation Final Agreements, or the southern-based Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

March 11th, 2015 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill S-6 completely respects the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement. The decision should be made by Yukoners, and that is what we are trying to do with this bill, and what the NDP is opposing.

The NDP members oppose the delegation of authority from Ottawa to Yukon. They are standing in opposition to that, because they believe Ottawa knows best, that we should keep the power away from northerners and not give them the same powers that other jurisdictions in Canada have.

This bill was developed in consultation with Yukoners and first nations. In fact, just on the few amendments that the member mentioned, the Government of Canada has reimbursed those first nations up to $98,695 for those consultations that took place. Therefore, for the member to suggest that has not taken place, that we have not consulted with Yukoners, is patently false.

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March 11th, 2015 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member is an important one in this sense.

One of the stumbling blocks going forward over the last several decades in Canada with respect to aboriginal participation in large resource development projects has been the notion of equity participation. Aboriginal peoples, in my view, have a right to have a share of the equity in projects, not simply be the recipients of specific outcomes, be it income benefits or socio-economic benefits, but have full equity participation.

What precisely would the bill do to facilitate, encourage, make as an outcome for our aboriginal peoples in all the resource projects that are contemplated for that region full equity partners?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

March 11th, 2015 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I have heard as parliamentary secretary when I have been at either the Association for Mineral Exploration conference in British Columbia or the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto is that mining is, proportionately, the number one employer of aboriginal Canadians in the country. It is an industry that employs aboriginal Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

As for the equity participation, those are agreements that need to be reached by first nations governments, proponents, and the territorial government. What this bill would do is bring certainty to the territory to ensure that Yukon has the same regulatory regime as the rest of Canada, which would ensure that investment continues to flow to Yukon as opposed to a withdrawal of that investment, because Yukon has failed to keep pace with the regulatory regimes in the rest of Canada.

The bill would encourage that economic development, which would benefit not only the Government of Yukon but first nations in Yukon as well.

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March 11th, 2015 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Yukon first nations group asserting that the federal government would be in violation of its constitutional duty to uphold the honour of the Crown if it proceeded with these amendments to the YESAA legislation. This is according to a councillor with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

If the first nations were to bring a lawsuit and the delay that would incur, is there a plan B to deal with the delay that this litigation would cause?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

March 11th, 2015 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is impossible for the Government of Canada to predict what first nations are going to do, how they are going to react. Any individual or government, for that matter, certainly has the right, as the member has said, to bring an action in court. We believe this bill is fully compliant with the umbrella final agreements. All of the legal advice the government has received has said that.

We believe the bill is in the interest of first nations in Yukon. It is in the interest of Yukoners and in the interest of jobs and long-term prosperity for Yukon. That is why we believe it should be passed.

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March 11th, 2015 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for sharing his time with me tonight.

No government in Canada's history has done as much for the north as ours. From regulatory improvement to safeguarding Arctic sovereignty, our Conservative government has stood by northerners. Bill S-6 is just the latest measure we have taken to ensure the true north remains strong and free. By driving economic development and encouraging jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, Bill S-6 would make sure that Yukon and Nunavut remain attractive places to live, work and invest long term.

Bill S-6 is only the most recent endeavour in our government's plan to improve the northern regulatory regimes. Like all the legislation passed to date under the action plan to improve northern regulatory regimes, Bill S-6 is designed to increase efficiency, clarity and certainty respecting the regulatory processes. At the same time, the act would strengthen environmental protection and enhance consultations with aboriginal people, reaffirming them in their role in this regulatory process.

Let me cite just a few examples to illustrate how Bill S-6 would achieve these objectives. I will start by noting that the act would implement the principle of one project, one assessment. Under the current version of the YESEAA all kinds of small, routine modifications to projects get caught up in time-consuming and costly reassessment processes.

During meetings held this fall by the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, senators heard complaints about this from numerous companies and industry associations. I would like to quote David Morrison, president and CEO of Yukon Energy Corporation from September 25, 2014. He said:

You might get a two-month delay in an assessment process that costs you a year from a construction point of view, because you have missed the construction window. Those things really add up. They add up significantly.

For years there have been calls for a less duplicative and cumbersome review process to evaluate these projects, one that encourages development while also ensuring sound environmental stewardship. This is exactly what Bill S-6 would do.

Consistent with other northern environmental legislation, the act would lead to more predictable and timely reviews, in part due to less duplication and reduce regulatory burden. Going forward, there would be no need for a reassessment, for renewal or modification to a project unless the decision body, or bodies, determine the project has undergone significant change from what was originally assessed.

By retaining the integrity of the initial environmental assessment, but reducing unnecessary duplication, we are protecting the northern environment without resorting to drastic measures, like the job-killing carbon tax the Liberals and NDP favour.

Another example is, Clynton Nauman, president and CEO, Alexco Resource Corp. also told the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, on September 30, 2014, that work was needed to ensure Yukon remains competitive with respect to investment in resource development. He said:

The current uncertainty has had a negative impact on our ability to efficiently plan and operate our business, and by extension, it impairs the competitiveness of Yukon as a jurisdiction to assert certainty in the mine development and production process.

The Fraser Institute's 2014 survey of mining companies confirms this. Since 2011-12, Yukon has fallen from being ranked as the most desirable jurisdiction in the world for mining corporations to invest in, to the ninth. Our government and Yukoners like Clynton Nauman know it is important for Yukon to return to this impressive standing. The measures contained in Bill S-6 would help Yukon regain its previous success.

These measures are essential for the people of Yukon to realize the territory's full potential. It would also meet the needs of investors, developers and employers by providing a clear and predictable assessment process that would allow Yukon to remain competitive in a global marketplace.

As I mentioned earlier, to avoid duplication with respect to environmental assessments in the Yukon, Bill S6 would eliminate the need to reapply for water licences in Nunavut, unless there is a substantive change in the nature of the project. Substantive changes are modifications like diverting the course of a stream, increasing the size or changing the location of a tailings pond, or a large increase in the use of water. Again, similar to the YESEAA amendments found in Bill S-6, this provision would protect the environment without implementing a costly job-killing carbon tax.

Another way Bill S-6 would address the regulatory burden is by providing an extension to the terms of board members under YESAA. This was one of the jointly agreed upon recommendations in a five-year review of YESAA by the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, the Government of Yukon, and the Government of Canada. This will increase predictability and certainty by ensuring that the assessment continues to function smoothly, even as its members transition onto the board.

A further example of how Bill S-6 would reduce duplication is evident in Nunavut. I am referring to amendments related to security arrangements to rectify the situation known as over bonding. Let me first explain briefly what this means and how it relates to posting securities. Securities are monies companies set aside to ensure that at the end of a development project, there are adequate funds to remediate the impact of any project on the surrounding environment. Under the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, securities for future remediation of resource development projects that use or impact the water in any way are paid or posted by companies. This money is held in trust by the federal government until the end of that project.

Where a project is wholly or partially on Inuit-owned land, the regional Inuit association can request that additional security be posted for the part of the development on its lands. In some cases, this has resulted in over bonding, meaning that a company is required to provide more security than would be required to remediate a project at its completion. This is a significant disincentive to development and places an undue burden on proponents.

Proposed amendments in Bill S-6 would allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to enter into agreements with Inuit landowners and proponents. These agreements would recommend the amount of security to be posted on a project situated partially or wholly on lnuit-owned land. When the Nunavut Water Board determined the amount of security required to be furnished by the proponent, it would have to take these agreements into consideration. The introduction of security arrangements to address over bonding would help unlock the economic potential of Nunavut by removing a disincentive to investment while ensuring sound environmental stewardship.

Because Bill S-6 would reduce regulatory duplication and the burden on Yukon and Nunavut, it is little wonder that Bill S-6 has earned widespread support among industry groups and northern governments. From the Yukon Chamber of Mines in the west to the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines in the east, from the Government of Nunavut to the Government of Yukon, we have heard both praise and calls to pass this legislation as quickly as possible.

We want northerners to have the ability to drive economic development in the north. Passing this bill would create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for the north. This is why I strongly urge all parties to heed this advice and vote with us to move this legislation forward.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

March 11th, 2015 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's presentation just now. I understand that many in the Yukon, and Yukon first nations as well, are much opposed to this legislation, because it removes the kind of made-in-Yukon YESAA they had in the past. As I understand it, the amendments would allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to provide a binding policy direction to the environmental assessment board.

Mr. Speaker, through you, how does this increase the level of confidence we should have that this is truly for Yukon, Yukoners, and first nations, if the minister gets to tell them what to do?

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March 11th, 2015 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think what the hon. member missed in my speech was that this is an agreement between the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon, and first nations. There is a consultation process to come to these types of agreements. The proposed amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act would allow the minister, after consultation with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, to give this binding agreement. However, it would be after consultation with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, and those consultations would have to take place before these agreements were reached.

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March 11th, 2015 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member made reference to the importance of consultations that are required to take place going forward, and this is what he is implying. The Liberal caucus has been informed by stakeholders, both directly and indirectly, about the lack of genuine consultation with first nations and other stakeholders in the north.

Does the member not believe that prior to the legislation even coming to Ottawa, there should have been a more thorough and robust consultation so that there was a sense that Ottawa was listening to what was being said up north from the people who would be most affected by this legislation?

There is a great deal of concern and a sense of frustration that the government is just not listening, let alone responding to the need for genuine consultation.

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March 11th, 2015 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the question is coming from a member of the party whose leader, when he was doing his northern tour, did not even both to stop in Yukon. For him to give an opinion on consultation with Yukon I find quite disingenuous.

In saying there has not been consultation, he is absolutely incorrect. The changes in the bill were the culmination of a five-year review process. As my colleague mentioned earlier, $200,000 was put aside to fund the consultations, and $98,000 has been claimed by first nations as a result of those consultations.

I think there has been extensive dialogue between the Government of Canada and the first nations communities of Yukon, and I think that dialogue will continue.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

March 11th, 2015 / 5:35 p.m.
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Essex Ontario

Conservative

Jeff Watson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I should point out with reference to consultation that a duly elected government in Yukon that is responsive to Yukoners is behind this particular measure.

Mining is a long-term investment. It requires due diligence in looking at the factors that would make for a stable investment or a worthwhile investment, so the regulatory environment is clearly very important.

The fact that Yukon is out of sync, if you will, with other jurisdictions right now in being able to have these types of important, straightforward, simple, single-window reviews is critical for them.

I think the member mentioned that Yukon is losing ground in terms of its desirability as an investment location for mining. I wonder if he could comment on that. Is it possible to quantify how much investment is either at risk or has been lost as a result of potential delay in getting to that regulatory environment?

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March 11th, 2015 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly right. I think an issue that has been somewhat overlooked in this debate by the opposition is the impact that passing the bill will have on the economy of northerners.

As a matter fact, I mentioned in my speech that the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, the Government of Nunavut, and the Government of Yukon are all in support of the bill. They understand the importance to their economy and the fact that although Yukon was the number one jurisdiction in the world for mining investment in 2011-2012, it has now fallen down to number nine.

We have to take some very aggressive steps to get Yukon back to where it was before and regain that success as a resource extraction economy.

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March 11th, 2015 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, what a shame it is that we in the opposition have only about five minutes to speak to a piece of legislation at second reading that is critical when it comes to a specific region in the country.

It is a crying shame that the people of Yukon cannot depend on their member of Parliament to bring forward opposing voices to Bill S-6. While we are honoured to do that, I want to point out that it is the Conservative government that is taking away time, time that we could use to share the voices of the people from Yukon, to share the voices of first nations in Yukon, and instead it has chosen to muzzle and silence them in this House.

It is clear that the people of Yukon have not given the mandate or the authority to the federal government to implement Bill S-6.

Bill S-6 will serve to dismantle YESAA which belongs to the people of Yukon, including first nations. It was developed by Yukoners and for Yukon. Yukoners, including first nations and industry, are now saying that they do not want or need the changes imposed on them by Bill S-6. They are actively campaigning against it in astonishing numbers.

In fact, contrary to the rhetoric we have heard in this House, we know that there have been no public consultations on Bill S-6 at any point by the federal government in Yukon.

It does not enjoy first nations consent. For this reason alone, it is incumbent upon the House not to pass this bill. It is unlawful for the federal government to impose regulations upon a regulatory body, such as the YESAA board without the consent of Yukon first nations.

Grand Chief Ruth Massie said, “This whole process attacks the integrity of our constitutionally protected agreements and Yukon First Nations will stand by their agreements even if it means going to court, they give us no choice. We did not sign our agreements to implement them in the courts but we will protect them”.

This speaks to a broader agenda put forward by the government, which is to attack first nations' rights as a result of its failure of consultation and achieving consent, and instead pushing first nations to pursue costly litigation that in some cases is difficult for them to afford, a process that only makes money for federal government lawyers who choose to fight first nations in court.

The people of Yukon and first nations alike are baffled by the content of Bill S-6. Yes, YESAA recently underwent a five-year review through which recommendations were made. However, the four amendments that are the cause of concern appeared nowhere as recommendations in the five-year review. These four changes are contrary to the intent of the land claim agreement and undermine the neutrality of the YESAA process.

Once again, Grand Chief Ruth Massie said, “Yukon first nations have met with the Government of Canada, specifically the Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs and have asked them to remove four problematic amendments proposed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act legislation established in Chapter 11 of the Umbrella final agreement and each final land claim agreement of the 11 Yukon First Nations”.

It is not only Yukon first nations that are opposed to Bill S-6, Yukoners have been coming out to public meetings and showing their opposition in public venues in a significant way. It is also industry and members of industry that have been clear in their opposition.

I would like to read into the record a quote from a letter sent by the CEO of the Casino Mining Corporation, Paul West-Sells:

On behalf of Casino Mining Corporation, I am putting forward our company's concerns regarding the fragility of intergovernmental relations in the Yukon surrounding Bill S-6 and the negative impact this is having on the territory's mineral industry. It is imperative for Casino that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act has the broad support of all governments in order to ensure the confidence of both project proponents and Yukon Residents in the YESAA process and to facilitate investments in the territory.

So there we have it. I also want to make a final comment with regard to the Fraser Institute report that we keep hearing about. This has been proven to be a flawed report. In fact, the day it became public, the extent to which this report was flawed, the Fraser Institute itself removed its data collecting portion on its website.

Finally, this is about standing in opposition to a federal government that is seeking to silence the voices of northern Canadians and northern first nations in our country. I am proud to stand with the NDP. We are standing with Yukoners and Yukon first nations, and saying no to Bill S-6.

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December 4th, 2014 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on 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.

I think the member from western Arctic has clearly outlined the NDP position on the bill, and of course, we are opposing it.

I will focus my speaking time on the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act aspect of the bill, because that is very controversial.

To give a bit of background, in May 2003, Canada enacted the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, or YESAA, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 12 of the Yukon first nations' comprehensive land claim agreements. Yukon first nations agreed to accept less than 9% of their historic land. They accepted this small land settlement partly in exchange for the establishment of a permanent assessment process that would manage all projects in their traditional territories in accordance with the objectives stated in chapter 12. That process is defined in YESAA, which was developed collaboratively by Canada, Yukon, and first nations.

A number of concerns have been raised by the Yukon first nations with regard to this piece of legislation. Following are the the primary concerns.

The Council of Yukon First Nations and Yukon first nations are concerned that the changes proposed in Bill S-6 would be contrary to the intent of the land claims agreements, would undermine the neutrality of the YESAA process, and would reduce the effectiveness of environmental and socioeconomic assessments. First nations' main concerns relate to four amendments that were never raised by Canada during the five-year review.

Number one is policy direction to the board. Clause 34 of Bill S-6 would provide an amendment that would give Canada the power to give binding policy direction to the YESAA board. Canada could choose to delegate this power to the Yukon government. Providing Canada with the authority to issue policy direction would undermine the independence of the board and designated offices. Independence is a fundamental element of the YESAA. During the development of the YESAA, Yukon first nations, CYFN, Canada, and Yukon, discussed this at length.

The following analysis is from a pamphlet called Changes to YESAA Threaten Our Land, Our Economy, Our Yukon. How Bill S-6 affects Yukon. It is a background fact sheet.

Providing a single party with the authority to direct the Board is contrary to the spirit and intent of the YESAA and the provisions of the Final Agreements.

The second piece that is controversial in this bill is the delegation of federal powers to the Yukon government. Providing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to delegate powers to the territorial minister without the consent of first nations would create a bilateral process that would exclude first nations from discussions about the balance of power. I will come back to this particular point.

The third sticking point is exemptions for renewals and amendments. This is a particular concern. It is addressed in clause 14 of Bill S-6. Again, I will quote from the background fact sheet:

This amendment allows governments to approve the renewal or amendment of permits and licences for projects without any YESAA assessment. Renewals or amendments could have serious impacts on the environment, regional economies and local communities.

This amendment will make project assessments challenging. Impacts would need to be identified for the entire project life because renewals would likely not have to go through an assessment. For some projects, effects cannot be foreseen at the time of the initial review. This may result in negative impacts to the environment, our economy and communities.

Under the amendment, governments can avoid assessment for renewals and amendments if they decide that the project has not changed significantly. The proposed amendments do not provide a definition for significant change, but rely on the opinion of the regulators. This will create uncertainty, and the perception of political interference, resulting in conflict and could possibly end up before the courts.

The fourth and final concern and objection is on the timelines for the YESAA assessments. The proposed beginning-to-end timelines would affect the thoroughness of environmental and socio-economic assessments and opportunities for first nations' input on major projects. Of course, we know that in many cases, first nations do not have the resources to drop everything and immediately respond to a project when an assessment is required.

It is very concerning and has the appearance of trying to ram through assessments without first nations having adequate time and resources to review them.

What we have heard consistently from the government is that there was consultation and that it was adequate.

I want to start with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and reference two articles, because it is important to set a context with regard to consultation. Article 18 says:

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.

Article 19 states:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

I want to remind the House that the government signed on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and made a commitment to take some next steps to implement it, but so far it has failed to do anything meaningful or concrete to uphold its international obligations.

I want to address one of the myths with regard to consultation. A paper entitled “Changes to YESAA Threaten our Environment, our Economy, our Yukon” specifically addresses the issue of consultation. This is the myth:

There have been thousands of hours of consultation with First Nations on changes to YESAA over the past 7 years.

Here is the reality:

The Parties discussed the YESAA process for many hours between 2008 and 2011, as part of the YESAA Five-Year Review. It was a review required under the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA). The Parties to the UFA, the Council of Yukon First Nations..., Canada and Yukon agreed to work together to improve the YESAA process through shared decision making and by consensus, when possible.

The amendments to YESAA under Bill S-6 that are of concern were never discussed and were never raised by Canada during the Five-Year Review. The amendments of concern include: giving binding policy direction to the Board; handing over powers to Yukon; imposing maximum timelines for assessments; and not requiring assessments when a project is renewing or being amended. These new amendments were introduced with little opportunity to ensure adequate consultation and accommodation.

I have outlined those amendments before.

The paper continues:

On February 26, 2014, Canada arrived at a meeting and provided paper copies of these amendments and refused to provide electronic versions to the First Nations that were on the phone for the meeting. This stopped them from being able to participate in a meaningful way.

Yukon First Nations had less than 2 months to review and respond to the changes proposed by Canada. That is not enough time to review important changes to the YESAA law. Consultation means providing the necessary information to the Parties. Canada didn’t do that step. Canada failed to meet the test of its Treaty and common law duty to consult and accommodate.

I have heard the government say that it consulted but that the Yukon first nations did not agree with it, so it was going to go ahead with the amendments, even though there was grave disagreement.

We have heard the Conservative government talk in the House a number of times about an agenda around reconciliation. If it has an agenda around reconciliation, does that not mean respect for its partners?

It signed an umbrella agreement with the Council of Yukon First Nations. I would argue that there is a spirit and intent around these agreements that is about a respectful relationship, a willingness to move toward reconciliation, and an unwillingness to unilaterally impose a federal government's will on first nations. It is fine for the government to say that it has consulted, but if it does not actually do anything about the disagreement to try to resolve it, that is hardly consultation.

Representatives of the Council of Yukon First Nations were in Ottawa because of their grave concerns. They we here at the invitation of the minister and had a meeting with him. CBC's headline was, “Ottawa trip on Bill S-6 ends in insult to Yukon First Nations”. In that meeting, Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Chief Eric Fairclough said:

The minister shut us down by telling us we were “not real governments”, and therefore he does not need to make us active participants in changing legislation that arises from our treaties.

The article went on to state:

Fairclough says that's an insult that "flies in the face of recent court decisions that have affirmed the duty to consult First Nations."

At the aboriginal affairs committee yesterday, I asked the minister whether or not he had said that. He put it into context, and I will read his response into the record. He stated that “The point I made is under the umbrella agreement, government is defined as being the Government of Canada or the Government of Yukon, so my point was that this delegation is contemplated under the umbrella agreement and it does not define government as being first nations. Their argument is that, under the umbrella agreement, they should be considered governments, and unfortunately, that was not the deal concluded. The umbrella agreement is clear that “government” is defined either as Government of Canada or Government of Yukon. I said that for the purposes of the umbrella agreement, they were not considered and defined as government. That does not mean they are not governments. They are governments but not under the umbrella agreement...”.

We have a government that talks about how it supports all government agreements with first nations. I am not a lawyer, but I know there are many fine lawyers in the House who will tell us that we cannot outline every single possible detail in any agreement, and that what a lot of it comes down to is the spirit and intent. From many presentations and court cases, I can tell members that the rights of first nations have been reaffirmed.

I want to refer to a document from January 2007. It is not a legal document but rather an interpretation. It is entitled, “Recognition and Implementation of First Nation Governments”. This was put out by the Assembly of First Nations. Under “3.3 Core Functions of First Nation Governments”, it states:

The United Nations Development Programme views “capable government” as a precondition to development. Governments are the primary vehicles for promoting social, cultural , and economic development within a society. A capable government must be the one that makes decisions affecting its citizens. A government works best when it is close to those it governs.

It goes on to say:

Communities need to be able to govern themselves with real authorities and jurisdiction. We have governed ourselves effectively in the past and continue to do so despite external impositions like the Indian Act....All regions agreed that First Nation governments have the inherent responsibility and jurisdictions to legislate on those areas that affect their communities.

Surely the changes that are proposed in Bill S-6 would fundamentally affect economic development, the environment that Yukon first nations live in, and their way of life. If that does not meet the test of what should be considered a government-to-government relationship, I do not know what does.

It is not just first nations who are opposing this legislation. I have a number of letters here, which I unfortunately will run out of time reading into the record, but I will quote a few to give members a sense of their flavour.

The Tourism Industry Association of Yukon wrote to the member of Parliament for Yukon stating the following:

On behalf of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, I am writing to express our support for the Council of Yukon First Nations' opposition to particular amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...by the Government of Canada, through Bill S-6. We believe that these changes will have a negative impact on the tourism industry, and for Yukoners overall.

In conclusion, the TIA states:

TIA Yukon asserts that taking land use planning decisions away from the Territory will ultimately give tourism operators in the Yukon less of a say over land use issues where resource extraction interests conflict with the interests of tourism businesses.

The Casino Mining Corporation wrote to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development stating this:

On behalf of Casino Mining Corporation...I am putting forward our company's concerns regarding the fragility of intergovernmental relations in the Yukon surrounding Bill S-6 and the negative impact this is having on the territory's mineral industry.

It is imperative for Casino that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...has the broad support of all governments in order to ensure the confidence of both project proponents and Yukon residents in the YESAA process and to facilitate investment in the territory....

Casino believes that if the YESAA has the full support of all levels of government, it will provide greater certainty for the mineral industry. To this end, we encourage Canada, Yukon, and Yukon First Nation governments to engage, work collaboratively and find a solution to address the outstanding issues within Bill S-6.

In a letter to the member for Yukon, the Wildlife Conservation Society states:

I am writing on behalf of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada...to express opposition to Bill S-6, recently introduced through the Senate of Canada by the federal government.

I have witnessed the implementation of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...since its inception in 2005, and have been generally impressed by the record of its implementation body....

That is the YESA Board.

It continues:

Bill S-6 proposes various amendments to the YESAA that will undermine the independence and integrity of the environmental impact assessment process currently administered by YESAB. Therefore the social licence for project approvals that YESAB has gained runs a strong risk of being compromised. Bill S-6 has substantial shortcomings, both in the process by which it has been drafted, and in its content.

The process for developing these amendments and compiling them in draft legislation has been flawed. The original YESAA derives from the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) under which Aboriginal claims for rights and title have been settled in Yukon. A review of YESAA was mandated to occur after 5 years of implementation, and that review began in 2008. The subsequent process has been long and ultimately produced Bill S-6. The major problems with the process have been: (i) a number of issues raised by First Nations up to June 2011 were ignored or overlooked without explanation in the Interim Draft Final Report of the review process released by the federal government (March 2012) and in the Final Review Report (October 2012); (ii) some of the stages of the review process were held in camera so there is a lack of transparency and accountability to all the negotiating parties and to the public; (iii) certain stakeholders, notably the non-renewable resource extraction industries, participated in the review process in camera; (iv) Bill S-6 has been introduced by your government without the endorsement of Yukon First Nations which makes it contrary to the spirit and intent of the UFA. In sum, the consultation process has lacked transparency, appears biased, and has not addressed First Nations' concerns which are of equal validity to those of Canada or Yukon in a government-to-government agreement such as the UFA.

There are also reasons for concern about the content of Bill S-6, and I highlight three. First, the Bill provides the option for the federal government (Canada), or by delegation the Yukon Territorial government, to impose policy direction on the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board (YESAB). This undermines a stated purpose of YESAA (5, 2(a)) which is to produce a "neutrally-conducted assessment process" at arm's length from government. The existing YESAA already allows the Yukon Territorial government, through the Executive Council Office, the power to accept or reject YESAB recommendations. There is no need, in practical or moral terms, to further remove power and influence from YESAB and place it unilaterally in the hands of one or other government. Doing so goes against the spirit and intent of the UFA and the First Nations' final agreements.

Second, Bill S-6 imposes specific timelines on YESAB for project review. As a result, complex projects will receive relatively cursory review because of a rushed process. It is unclear why this would be needed other than perhaps that the YESAB review process in operation before Bill S-6 has come under criticism from the mining industry when YESAB requests additional information during the process. Speaking from the perspective of a biologist who is aware of ecological impacts brought about by mining operations, this is not a reflection of a faulty review process, but a reflection of inadequate preparation by industry and its consultants. In other words, there is a strong argument to be made that YESAB's reviews have been working well by uncovering poor planning and preparation by project proponents.

Finally, as I mentioned, they also raise the following concern:

Bill S-6 removes the need for any YESAB review of project amendments or renewals, unless there are "significant changes”.

A number of bodies have pointed out the very serious concern that this piece of legislation does not define what significant changes are.

There are other organizations, including the the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the Yukon chapter of CPAWS, who have also raised very serious objections with regard to the independence and impartiality of the development assessment process. Generally, they are calling on the government to pull this bill and to work with Yukon first nations to make sure that the bill reflects both the spirit and intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement, and the spirit and intent of government-to-government relationships, which would include the Yukon first nations.

Given the number of objections that have been raised by Yukoners, including industry and non-governmental organizations, I would urge this government to take a step back and look at the four key areas where there are very serious objections.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:10 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke quite often about the spirit and intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement. What we have done with the bill is actually respect the text of it. She spoke about a perceived insult that was reported in the news, and which she did bring up yesterday at committee, where the minister simply pointed to page 4 of the umbrella agreement, which says the following in the definition section:

“Government” means Canada or the Yukon, or both, depending upon which government or governments have responsibility, from time to time, for the matter in question.

This is not something we have made up. This is not something that has been pulled out of thin air. This is certainly not an insult. This is a definition in the Umbrella Final Agreement, Council for Yukon Indians, which this legislation certainly respects, and it certainly allows for the delegation of federal powers. It allows for policy direction. It allows for all four amendments that have supposedly invoked the ire of the CYI.

I wonder if the member could speak specifically to what sections of the Umbrella Final Agreement have been violated by Bill S-6, not the spirit and intent, but the text itself, because that is what we deal with here as lawmakers. We respect final agreements and the law, and I would like her to point out where it has been violated.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did address that in my speech and acknowledge that the minister had quoted that. He did not quote a specific section, but he indicated that the Umbrella Final Agreement talked about the Government of Canada and Yukon.

I do not believe we can just brush away the spirit and intent. If we are to move toward reconciliation in this country, then first nations must be recognized as an order of government. When we are putting forward legislation that would have a profound impact on first nations' ability to manage their territories, then we need to have them at the table and not just brush them aside, which the government is attempting to do.

The parliamentary secretary can say that it is not about spirit and intent but about what is written right here, but the Conservatives are the ones who signed on to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which acknowledges that first nations have a right to make decisions about matters, legislative decisions and other matters, that directly affect their ability to govern their communities.

I would argue that Bill S-6 directly affects their ability to govern their communities.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, for the last many years, from 2006 actually, we have continually seen legislation come forward that does not reflect, in many of our views, at least on the New Democrat side of the House, the duty to consult.

The government loves to trot out the fact that it has had eight meetings talking to people. What it fails to address is the fact that consultation actually should be a circular process. We provide information, we provide resources, we sit down with people, we hear what they have to say, and then we actually include them in working toward a solution where there were differences. It is the part where we include people toward working toward solutions where there are differences that the government consistently fails, whether it is on matrimonial real property, water, or education. Whatever legislation has come before the House to which first nations have objected, the government has failed to work to resolve those objections.

I would agree with the member for Hochelaga that it is a very paternalistic approach to working with first nations.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of consultation, I think the member is correct. She has pointed out the number of meetings that we held and the fact that over $98,000 was provided to the first nations in question to debate these very specific four points that were not included in the five-year review.

What would the member suggest when there really are two positions that are not going to change and over which there is disagreement? Does the duty to consult fail when the government does not accommodate differences every time? There certainly has to be a test where there is consultation, but it does not always require accommodation.

What does the hon. member think should be done when there are entrenched positions that are mutually opposed? Does she simply suggest that the government knuckle under every time, or how do we resolve that when the positions are entrenched?

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe I used the words “knuckle under”. What I did say was that, in a respectful relationship, one tries to work toward a solution.

In my speech, I talked about the parts that are the sticking points that are not part of that five-year review process. From the Yukon first nations' perspective, some of their members were not even provided with copies of the documents that were under review at a meeting back in February 2014.

If we are going to have a fulsome consultation process, we have to allow enough time and provide people with the documentation to allow them to review it.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I remind the parliamentary secretary that in the Haida case, which was 10 years ago now, the Supreme Court indicated that the broad spectrum of consultation includes the full consent of the first nations on important issues. I think that the environment is most definitely an important issue to the first nations. I simply want to remind the parliamentary secretary of that.

I have a very simple question for my colleague. I have noticed a common thread in all of the government's actions since it got a majority in 2011. It has been weakening all of the environmental assessment processes to make it easier to develop natural resources. That is unfair to many people—the first nations, of course, but also people who live in the north. They need to be involved in the decisions that affect them, especially when it comes to the environment.

My colleague mentioned a number of important stakeholders in this process, such as the tourism association and mining companies. Are there any others she could mention to show that the first nations are not the only ones who are upset here, but that there are many people living in the north who care about the environment and the economy?

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to touch for one moment on the issue around accommodation. The member cited the Haida case from a number of years ago. However, we also had a recent court decision, the Tsilhqot'in decision, which talked about not only consultation but consent. Consent is missing in Bill S-6. There is no consent to the changes that would be made.

With regard to the environment, there are mining companies that have raised objections, environmental organizations, and tourism organizations. It sounds to me as if there are a number of Yukoners who are really concerned about protecting the wonderful, amazing environment up in the Yukon. People want economic development, but they want it done responsibly and sustainably.

What the bill would do is create more uncertainty. It would not protect the environment and it would create uncertainty for some of these projects.

First nations have already indicated that, if the government is not willing to sit down with them and talk about accommodation and consent, this will end up in court, and that would not provide certainty in terms of development of a variety of projects.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to speak to Bill S-6, a bill from the Senate, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act.

I oppose this legislation. I think it is deeply flawed. I would love to hear from the member for Yukon in the House. I do not see him anywhere.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Unless the member thinks we should amend the rules so the member for Yukon can give two speeches at the same stage, perhaps he should stick to order and not point out the presence or absence of a member. Perhaps he could check back in Hansard, where he can read the speech of the member for Yukon.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will take your good counsel on this matter.

To further debate on this bill, it is very important that the government understand that environmental protection is a fundamental obligation of this House. We need to ensure that our environment is going to be there for future generations. We all want to benefit from its wealth, from the bounty it brings us, but we need to do it in full consultation and full agreement with the people who live on those lands.

The current government has had extreme difficulty in being able to bring forward legislation that brings this consultation process to the fore. We need to recall previous bills that this side of the House certainly had a lot of difficulty with, such as Bill C-38, which gutted environmental protections in this country. We see with this bill that we are again going in the same direction.

Environmental protection is an obligation; it is a duty on our part. We want to ensure that resources remain. We want to ensure that people can continue to benefit from the wealth that this land brings us. It is not simply a theoretical question. In my riding, when we speak to environmental protection, we are talking about the fundamental industries that make my riding economically viable: the forestry industry, the fishing industry, the mining industry. We need those environmental protections so that future generations can exploit those resources and, unfortunately, Bill C-38 scrapped those.

With Bill S-6, we have a situation where those who live in Yukon have challenged this legislation insofar as they have not been consulted adequately. In fact, there have been threats of legal action against this bill. I sometimes wonder if the current government is not simply here to ensure that lawyers have as much work as possible challenging its bills before the courts. Let us remember that the Supreme Court, over and over again, has identified that the duty to consult is not a duty to be trifled with.

My colleague recently mentioned that the courts, in June of this year, came up with even stronger language. The court has made it clear that the government not only has a duty to consult but has a duty to accommodate. The duty increases with the responsibility and the rights of first nations on their land. In the case of this bill, we have a number of first nations representatives who have told us precisely why they do not agree with this bill.

A few representatives of first nations have been very clear. I will start with Mary Jane Jim, councillor from the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. She has already testified and has said very clearly that in her opinion there are concerns regarding Bill S-6. They are subject to the matters raised during the five-year review. It is her view that the Yukon environmental assessments have been operating effectively and efficiently since 2003, but that Bill S-6 would amend this process so that the proposed Bill S-6 would breach the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate with respect to the proposed changes to YESAA.

Mary Jane Jim goes on to point out that:

The CYFN and Yukon First Nations assert that the federal government would breach its constitutional duty to uphold the honour of the Crown when it proceeded unilaterally with amendments to the YESAA. These are matters that were not discussed or raised during the five-year review or, in the case of the amendment that would create exemptions for project renewals and changes, contradict agreements reached during the five-year review.

This is the opinion of one person, a representative of first nations. I am going to bring more testimony that was brought to the fore already, to the other House.

Let us be clear. The representatives of first nations are dissatisfied with this bill. This bill does not go far enough in consulting first nations, nor does it go far enough in protecting the environment. It was done in a secretive way. There are a number of organizations that feel that the five-year review process was not respected and they were not allowed the input not only that they were expecting but also that we are duty-bound to supply.

The Nunavut Water Board, for instance, has a number of concerns. It has already brought forward possible amendments; one of them being the question of anticipated duration, which Mary Jane Jim, the councillor from the first nations, has already brought forward in the testimony I just cited. The question of the anticipated duration of appurtenant undertaking is a very ambiguous statement.

The question from the board's perspective is that there is an absence of regulatory definition of what is an anticipated duration, what it means, and it seems to create confusion regarding enforcement. What is an anticipated duration of any project? One would have a hard time defining that from the get-go.

The difficulty is that, if there had been an adequate process of consultation, maybe these issues would have been addressed in the first place.

The problem, again, with the current government is that it is in a terrible hurry to adopt legislation, it does not take the time to consult, and it comes up with legislation that is often flawed, forcing many organizations to bring legislation to tribunals and, ultimately, possibly even the Supreme Court—a very costly, time-consuming undertaking—when in fact it would have been simpler and much more effective if the consultation had been done properly in the first place.

I would like to comment on an issue that the member for Hochelaga also brought forward, that there seems to be a strong sense, a strong flavour of paternalism in the way we deal with first nations, in the way we deal with our territories. When we do not have adequate consultation, the solutions are made in Ottawa and imposed upon people in the north.

Why would we not take the time to bring their concerns forward and have them properly addressed and accommodated for?

The consultation process is not simply a theory where we put up a website and wait for comments to come in. There is an obligation to bring those concerns forward, to address them, and to accommodate them to the extent we are legally obligated, and more. The obligation here is to respect first nations' rights and respect our environment in the long term.

Unfortunately, we seem to making legislation that brings the possibility of exploiting our natural resources at the first possible occasion and in the quickest way to make a buck. However, that is not a long-term view. That is a view that can only bring us forward for a few months, for a few years, but in the long run, we all end up losers in that process.

We should really be looking at why we put in the YESAA in the first place. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has a reason to exist and it was done through partnership. We brought this legislation forward in partnership with our first nations. We brought it forward in partnership with those who live in the Yukon.

Unfortunately, in this particular case, we have decided that it is much more efficient—and it is certainly not my view, but it seems to be the view of the current government—to just bring down legislation as fast as possible, to use the language of the parliamentary secretary, to “knuckle under”, if we do not allow the process to just be steamrolled forward.

I do not see this as a confrontation. “Knuckle under” sounds awfully violent to me. In fact, we should be looking at a process that is conciliatory, a process that is understanding of people's concerns and that takes the time that it takes to bring legislation that upholds our rights and obligations.

There should not be a massive hurry to exploit our resources. They are not going anywhere. We need to be doing this carefully. We need to be doing this properly. We can only extract a resource once. We cannot extract it over and over again. Let us do it properly, let us do it right, and let us do in full respect of our first nations.

When it comes to what we should be doing, we should have a broad public consultation process, not a process that seems to breach the five-year review that we are legally obligated to bring forward. The YESAA should be operating effectively and efficiently, but at this point it does not seem that the amendments that are being brought forward by this bill would support the process that was put in, in the first place.

When it comes to our NDP leader from Yukon, Ms Liz Hanson, she made a very good point at the Yukon legislature, I thought, where we need a relationship built upon dialogue and respect.

She pointed out that 11 years ago, devolution gave the Yukon government province-like powers for land and resource management, that this was an important step in Yukon's history and that it was crucial to Yukon's ability to determine its own future, one that was grounded in respectful relationships among Yukon first nation governments and the Yukon government.

With the proposed changes that the YESAA brought forward, there was a made in Yukon solution for a made in Yukon economy. It was a made in Yukon proposal that was adopted by those who lived in Yukon. Today we have a relationship that does not seem to be based on dialogue and respect. It seems that we are trying to barrel it through.

There was an editorial in Yukon News in June, 2014, around the same time the Supreme Court came down with the ruling that amplified our duties and obligations to first nations. I would like to quote this editorial from Yukon News on June 13. It said:

A long list of people deserve raspberries for this needlessly shady behaviour. At the top of the naughty list are Senator Daniel Lang and [the member for Yukon], who are supposed to ensure that the interests of Yukoners are represented in Ottawa. Instead, they’ve kept the public out of the loop, other than [the member for Yukon] uttering vague generalities about the forthcoming changes without offering any meaningful specifics.

The newspaper goes on to say “shame on them”.

I have difficulty with a process that does not seem to have widespread support and that does not seem to reflect the obligation of consultation.

Let us go back to some discussions that were brought forward by the leader of the Council of Yukon First Nations. Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, who pointed out, “The Council of Yukon First Nations reiterates that the five-year review has not been completed”. Are we respecting our terms, agreements and the obligations? According to the Council of Yukon First Nations, the answer to that is a clear no.

There are three issues that the Yukon first nations say remain outstanding. It is worth mentioning what they are.

The first is:

Future Review: It is expected that the YESAA process will require adjustments to deal with future circumstances and ensure effectiveness and efficiency. Some provisions have not been operational. Therefore, it would be prudent for the parties to commit to undertake another review of the YESAA process in the future.

We need to have continuous reviews and input to ensure our legislation stands up. We need adequate funding for Yukon first nations. This is something we have heard frequently in the House. The government seems to impose obligations on first nations, especially lately. It seems to be imposing obligations that are very onerous. They are obligations that we do not even impose upon ourselves, yet we do not give the first nations the capacity to meet them effectively.

Going back to the testimony that was brought forward by the Council of Yukon First Nations, it says:

If the YESAA process is to operate effectively and efficiently, Yukon First Nations must have the resources to fulfill their duties and participate fully in the assessment of projects within their respective traditional territories. Due to the significant increase in the number, scale and complexity of projects proposed in certain areas of the Yukon Territory, this issue has been raised repeatedly by the Council of Yukon First Nations.

The third point that the Council of Yukon First Nations wish to underline and address as a strong objection to the bill is the engagement with affected Yukon first nations. It said:

The CYFN has proposed that a territorial or federal decision body must engage with the Yukon First Nation when it is considering recommendations from the executive committee or a designated office with respect to projects that may affect its Aboriginal treaty rights, titles and interests. This engagement must take place prior to the issuance of a decision document.

This is probably the one that is of greatest concern to me. I do not understand, knowing what the Supreme Court has said over and over again about our duty to consult and to accommodate, how it is possible that first nations are coming back and saying, yet again, that we should be consulting with them before we impose a decision upon them.

I thought that was made clear by the Supreme Court of Canada. I thought the government actually listened to the laws of this land. We are certainly very busy legislating in this place, but we do not seem to be taking the time to read in this place.

I would really enjoy hearing from government members as to why first nations of our country continuously repeat that they are not being heard. The consultation process is clearly inadequate. From the readings I make of the Supreme Court of Canada rulings, it agrees with first nations on this point. They simply are not being heard as far as our obligations toward them is concerned. First nations have the right to be heard and they have the right to expect that we will accommodate them. Unfortunately, we seem to be steamrolling decisions that do not accommodate them, making it possible for companies to come in and exploit the resources regardless of local concerns.

It is a poison chalice when companies come in and try to exploit a resource without adequate consultation and without adequate local support. Ultimately, the process becomes flawed and those companies must expend enormous resources to backpedal in order to compensate for the lack of work that was done by the government with its legislation. We should not be imposing that kind of burden on our resource companies. We should help them to adequately, properly and respectfully exploit our resources so that long-term benefits can be had by all.

There is no reason why we all cannot benefit from our resources, but unfortunately the Conservative government insists that it knows better than anyone else and steamrolls legislation through at all costs and with all speed. The fact that today two motions were brought to this place regarding time allocation speaks to the fact that the government just simply does not want to take the time to listen.

Bill S-6 proposes amendments that were not even discussed with the Council of Yukon First Nations. This is reason for deep concern. How is it possible that the Council of Yukon First Nations was not consulted regarding the modifications? The Conservatives say that they consulted hundreds of people in Yukon regarding this legislation, and I am happy they have.

However, the Conservatives seem to have side-stepped consultation when it comes to representatives of first nations. I do not understand their reasoning for this. If the Council of Yukon First Nations is saying that it is not being heard, then I suspect this bill is probably yet another one that will be brought before the courts because of its inadequate consultation process. Ultimately, bad consultation means bad legislation. We are not going to have the proper safeguards in place and we are not going to see the benefits being shared as they should.

We should stop being paternalistic in this place. Yukon has the right to govern itself. We have had that discussion in the House. There seems to be agreement in principle that Yukon should have much more autonomy than it has now. Unfortunately, with Bill S-6, we seem to be turning the clock back to a process where the House will decide for first nations and for Yukoners what is best for them. I do not agree with that process.

It is important that we take time to reflect on this legislation. I would like to hear from the parliamentary secretary. I would like to hear from all members of the House. I would especially like to hear any comments that the member for Yukon might have regarding the legislation.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:40 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my earlier point of order, the member for Yukon has already spoken to the bill during this stage, so he cannot speak again. The member will need to go back and read his remarks in Hansard.

The member should also read the Supreme Court's views on consultation. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that the government has a duty to consult and where appropriate, accommodate. The NDP does not seem to like the part that says “where appropriate”.

The assertion that the CYFN was not consulted on these four issues is demonstrably false. The council received close to $100,000 as reimbursement for the costs associated with the consultation. The grand chief of the CYFN in her testimony before the Senate said, “Although we have been consulted several times...we...have been accommodated”. There absolutely has been consultation.

The Supreme Court has made it clear that there is a duty to consult and where appropriate, where necessary, accommodate. The member is a lawyer. The importance of those words cannot be understated.

Would he not agree that there is a duty to consult, but where appropriate, accommodate? It is not an absolute duty to accommodate.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a reasonable question. That question has been brought to the Supreme Court and other court levels on many occasions. It is certainly an evolving process, but the evolving process is pointing in the direction that we need to be much more forceful and forthcoming in our consultation in order to determine the degree of accommodation that must be had.

I would like to point out that the Council of Yukon First Nations was very clear in its testimony at the Senate. When it came to consultation, Ruth Massie, Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, said that Bill S-6 proposed amendments that were not discussed by the Council of Yukon First Nations. It might have been consulted on some aspects, but it was clearly not consulted on others. Therefore, it is pretty hard to determine the level of accommodation if the consultation never happened in the first place.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

What does he think of the way such bills are being introduced? Common sense would suggest that there should be a consensus among the parties before a bill is introduced in Parliament. Had there been discussions, I am sure that there would have been an even greater chance of unanimity among all of the parties in the House.

Does he think that would be the right way to do things given that the Conservatives did the opposite in this particular case? There is no consensus on the bill they introduced, not even within the community it will affect.

Does my colleague think it would be better to turn things around and try to achieve consensus before introducing bills?

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

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

This bill has triggered a debate that should have been held in Yukon long before it reached the House. The government should have taken the time to hold consultations. Unfortunately, this is not the first time the government has chosen this approach. The government has invoked closure 84 times to limit the time we have to debate bills in the House. That is what it is doing on the ground too: limiting consultation with the first nations and people.

This government has made it very hard to achieve consensus or gain the support of community groups and organizations. Social acceptance is just not in the picture. That is a big problem.

We cannot continue to have a government that disregards its duty to help people and protect our rights. This government is very ideological and does whatever it wants. Unfortunately, that means that, sooner or later, many of these laws will be challenged in the courts and overturned. Then we will have to start all over again. What a waste.

I would sure like to know why the government wants to hand so much money over to lawyers.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe I heard the member say that there was no support for this bill. I would like to read some quotes from the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources by a few witnesses who appeared.

Samson Hartland, the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, indicates the organization is supportive of the bill.

Darrell Pasloski, the premier of Yukon, stated:

In conclusion, Mr. Chair, I believe that the changes to this legislation that Canada has proposed will ensure that Yukon continues to be a progressive and responsible place to invest and to do business, and even a better place to live, raise a family and make a living.

Cathy Towtongie, president of the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., NTI, has no objections to the modest changes.

Why does the member discount those witnesses at committee and only cites the ones who fit the very narrow view of the bill by the NDP?

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I do not think that the bill has no support. It is clear that if the government brought it forward, at the least the government must support this bill, so I will give him that.

If there was a misunderstanding as to that, either I misspoke or he misheard. Either way, the limited support that this bill has will certainly please those it was drafted for. However, regrettably, the first nations have not been properly consulted, as is clear in the testimony. This House has a duty, an obligation to address those concerns, and in this bill, that duty has simply not been reflected.

The member may have a point that some people have been sufficiently addressed and may actually benefit from this bill, and more power to them. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made the legal obligations clear and has stressed them on so many occasions on so many challenges that were brought to its attention. I do not understand why the government has not taken the time to reflect on those decisions of the Supreme Court and wonder if this bill is not going to go down that same path and go down in flames.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in his speech the member was talking about the idea of consultation. At the committee stage we get a sense of the lack of consultation, but we have also heard about the lack of consultation directly, in particular from up north.

We want to be able to reach out to our first nations, our aboriginal peoples, and we should be developing legislation that at least in part takes into consideration many of the leaders of the north. This appears to have not been the case. There does not seem to be a consensus.

The member has pointed out that some factions may be somewhat supportive, but the overwhelming feeling seems to be that the government has not gotten it right. As a result, we should be looking at not supporting the bill.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member brings a fair point to this place.

If this House is going to take its responsibilities seriously, I would encourage all members to start reading the rulings of the Supreme Court that have, over time, become ever more forceful as to what the duty to consult and to accommodate looks like.

I believe the Supreme Court is showing a degree of frustration with this place because we simply are not taking that responsibility seriously. I believe the first nations are living through that frustration. We can see it in their testimony and we can see it in the disagreements that they have with the legislation brought to this place.

We need to take this duty to consult much more seriously. Unfortunately, an ideological government is badly placed to be able to take that role seriously. I think first nations would be much better off with a change in government, and I am looking forward to 2015.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to once again defend the interests of my constituents in Drummond, and across Canada, regarding the environment. It is a topic that is very important to me and to them as well.

I am rising to speak to 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.

To begin, I would like to say that we will be opposing this bill at every stage, as my NDP colleagues have articulated so well already. This bill is poorly put together, it is biased in terms of consultations and it does not meet the needs of Yukoners. However, it is a very important piece of legislation, and I think Yukoners will keep that in mind during the next election.

Looking carefully at the bill, it is clear that it will dismantle the entire environmental assessment process. I will explain that a bit later. However, it is very concerning, once again. The Conservatives have a bad reputation when it comes to the environment, and unfortunately this is no different. They are systematically dismantling our environmental protections.

As I was saying, the Yukon first nations were not adequately consulted, as my colleague from Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine clearly explained. There are major gaps in this regard. The people of the Yukon are upset about this bill.

This bill is very troubling because it will allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to give binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

In other words, we are handing the minister every opportunity to set policy direction for the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. We know about all the mishaps that have occurred over the past few years when it comes to environmental assessments and diminished environmental protections. That is not all.

As if that were not enough, this bill will also establish mandatory maximum timelines for the assessments and allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to download his responsibility. What is more, it will be possible to create broad exemptions in terms of enforcement of the law and project renewals. We can just imagine all the flaws in this bill.

Since we are talking about the environment, this week marks the beginning of the UN climate change conference in Lima, Peru. This has come up a lot in the House of Commons, including during question period, because we want to show that the Conservative government is weakening environmental protections. It is definitely not doing its job in this area.

Furthermore, ever since this government came to power, opposition members have no longer been included in Canadian delegations. The Conservatives seem to believe that there is only one vision of Canada—theirs.

Of course, that vision does not represent all Canadians; quite the contrary. As everyone knows, only 40% of Canadians voted for this government. However, because of the imbalance in our democratic system, that equals 55% of members, but we plan to correct that in the next election.

It is also important to understand that we asked the Minister of the Environment to hold some information sessions so that people could better understand this government's position since it withdrew from the Kyoto protocol, but to no avail.

There was an announcement of $300 million—

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was in the House the other day when the NDP was repeatedly encouraging members to stick to the subject at hand. We are on Bill S-6. I know the member only has a few minutes, but perhaps he could stick to the actual bill and not stray into other areas that he may be concerned about.

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December 4th, 2014 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was in fact talking about the legislation with regard to environmental problems. Unfortunately, the government is considering giving the minister all the power. Indeed, this bill gives the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development certain powers, including the power to establish general standards for environmental assessments and the power to limit them.

Can we trust this government when it comes to the environment? No, because it has made so many cuts that affect the environment. It has laid off 2,000 environmental scientists; it closed 200 scientific research centres; it cancelled 492 environmental impact assessments; it closed oil spill response stations in northern British Columbia; it closed seven out of 11 Fisheries and Oceans Canada libraries; and it has made cuts to research institutes. I could go on and on about this government's abuses.

Bill S-6 continues the trend the Conservative government has established since coming to power. It attacks science and environmental assessments and continues to tear down the basis for environmental protection. That is truly unfortunate. Therefore, we will oppose this bill, which does not have the support of the people of Yukon, aboriginal peoples or Canadians in general.

This bill has shown that this is an issue of concern to many people. I would have liked to quote the testimony of Ruth Massie, the grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, but my time is up. In short, the fact that the Conservatives are again attacking the environment is a problem.

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise in the House. Today we are speaking to Senate 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.

It is interesting that the bill is coming before us the week that the Yukon Supreme Court just struck down the efforts by the Yukon government, another right wing government, to ignore consultation, ignore environmental due process, ignore first nations in its push and attack on the Peel valley watershed. The supreme court said that it cannot do that. There is a social licence issue here when we are looking at development issues, and the court has thrown it back.

This is a pattern, and we are going to talk about it in the bill. The government thinks it can get ahead of social licence by just bringing in omnibus legislation, by stripping regulations, by doing things in the back room in order to kick-start mega development projects on which it has failed to do its basic due diligence and consultation, especially with first nations, who have enshrined constitutional rights under section 35. In doing so the government ends up creating a situation like the one we have now.

The government's militant advocacy of the big oil agenda has created a backlash across the country. It is a backlash where people say “You stripped the waters act of 99.999% of the lakes and rivers in our country so that the pipelines could get through without having to worry that there are basic protections in place.” Then it goes into the communities and they are saying “Are you kidding me? You're going to run bitumen through my town when there are no shut off valves on either side of the lakes and rivers?”

I represent probably one of the largest mining regions in Canada, if not in the world. When I talk to the mining companies in my region they get it. They understand the importance of having what we call “treaties on the ground”. We need to have the support of the local communities. Some of the ways to do that is by meeting environmental standards and through first nations consultation. Talk to anyone in the Ontario mining industry today about the possibility of getting a project off the ground, and they will say that without that consultation, it is not going to happen

We see a bill come forward like Bill S-6 that is unilaterally rewriting Yukon's environmental and socio-economic evaluation system. It is ignoring the issues of first nations consultations. It ignores the incredible economic value of the landscape and natural resource beauty in Yukon. This is another attempt to bypass the people of the country and create consensus on what development should look like. I believe it is only going to end up in another failure and impasse, going all the way back to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline days of these mega projects. If they are not done in a balanced manner, they are not going to get done at all.

Having travelled across the country from one end to the other, having done some of it in the back of a cheap little mini van with a band and other times as a sitting politician, I have never seen a section of the country that has taken my heart as much as Yukon. I love St. John's, Newfoundland, and my family roots—

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:10 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to let the member throw me off. I have been in Cape Breton. However, everywhere I have gone, my wife asks, “Is it as pretty as home?” I say in response, “It's nice but it's not home”. When I went to Yukon for the first time my wife asked me, “Is it like home?” I said, “Well, this is the one place that might actually move my heart”.

Fortunately, where I live in the incredible Cobalt—Temiskaming region, with the beautiful white pines at Temagami, there are incredible opportunities for canoeing—not that I canoe, by the way. If I cannot see it from a car window I do not go there. However, I encourage everyone else to come. I will stay where I am in northern Ontario. However, there is something magical about Yukon.

I say this in all seriousness, because when I am in Yukon and I go to the hotels and see all the people who fly over from Germany, when they come to Canada, their idea of Canada is about these incredible natural resources. They come to Yukon. They fly in from Japan and from all over the world.

Therefore, when we balance the incredible natural resources, we also have to balance the other interests. We certainly know that in my region, which is a very heavy mining region. It has the deepest base metal mine in the world, the Kidd Mine. It was discovered in 1964. It has pretty much the largest gold mines in operation. Hollinger Mines is just reopening now. My grandfather, Charlie Angus, was killed at Hollinger Mines. It was the largest gold mine in the western world. After a hundred years, it is being reopened. Dome Mine is still running. No matter how rich they are, these are finite resources.

We have to find ways to ensure value added. We have to ensure that when we develop these resources, it comes back. I have to admit that in Ontario, the Conservatives have not been very bright on this. Their idea of the north is that it is some kind of colony: the north gets the money and it goes down south. When a mine shuts down, they tell us in the north, it is too bad, so sad, we were never meant to stay.

However, we can do things better. In Yukon, with the spirit of the people there, the incredible natural resources and their sense of community, they have a right to have an active say in whether development will occur, and whether it will occur in mining, hydro development, in oil and gas, or if the land will be maintained in its natural state. That was the fight about the Peel valley watershed.

Bill S-6 would dismantle the environmental and socio-economic assessment that was developed in the Yukon, by Yukoners, for Yukon. There has been a complete lack of consultation with first nations, which is not surprising for the current government. The Conservatives just do not understand that these are constitutional obligations; they cannot get over it and they cannot get under it.

The Conservative government, with the full assistance of a local Conservative MP and the senator from the Yukon, is forcing a pro-southern-resource agenda down the throats of Yukoners. That is what I heard when I was last in Whitehorse regarding what was happening in the Peel valley. Conservatives see this watershed and they know that there is incredible value in it.

Yukoners do not like that they are being sold down the river for the benefit of companies that are going to be fly-by-nighters, which might be here today but could be gone tomorrow.

There are a number of amendments in the bill that the people of the Yukon we have been talking with have been discussing and certainly the incredible workers of the New Democratic opposition in Yukon as well. The amendments would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. Yukoners are like northerners, so the idea that a minister in his office gets to decide what they are going to do is just not on.

Here is another one that is just typical of these guys. It would introduce legislated time limits for assessments. Conservatives wonder why their pipelines are going nowhere. Regarding public assessments, now people have to write and apply to be able to be part of the public consultation, and the government gets to decide whether people will be accepted. No wonder the National Energy Board is coming up with big blanks time and again. Using the same strategy they are using with the National Energy Board, the Conservatives want to be able to introduce these legislated time limits for assessments. We have certainly seen in northern Ontario that when they do that and ignore due process, there will be a backlash, because they are not respecting social licence.

It would allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to delegate any or all of the responsibilities to the Yukon government. There are federal responsibilities here because these are federal lands, and also because of the fundamental legal obligations that the federal Crown has to first nations. They cannot delegate those away just because they figure that the local government is going to be more amenable to ignoring their legal and constitutional obligations.

It would create broad exemptions for renewals, amendments, permits, and authorizations. I have seen that with the attempted development of resource projects. In our region in northern Ontario, we have seen that once they get a permit and it becomes a rubberstamp, they can vastly expand an operation and its impacts. They need to be able to go back to the people and say what the impact is.

The people of Yukon have lived there. The newcomers feel as passionately about it as the original people of the land. This is their land. They will always be there. The mining companies are going to come and go. They will change ownership and some of them will make money and go on and become another company or go bankrupt, but the resource they are playing with is the resource of the people of Yukon.

We have seen a number of really strong voices on this issue. I have enormous respect for Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson and her passion for the people of Yukon. What is sorely missing is a willingness to engage in an open and honest manner. We need a relationship built on dialogue and respect rather than lawsuits and secret negotiations, which again is the fundamental pattern that is undermining development projects across Canada.

Conservatives believe that if they ignore consultation and public processes and do things through backroom regulations, lo and behold there will be all these pipelines and mining projects. I can say, from being on the ground in northern Quebec and northern Ontario, that if there is no social licence, that project is not going ahead, full stop. That is the end of it.

I have an editorial from the Yukon News. The title is, “Environmental assessment reform should be done in the open”. This is from June 13, 2014. It states:

A long list of people deserve raspberries for this needlessly shady behaviour

—that is not parliamentary, but I am just reading it—

for this needlessly shady behaviour. At the top of the naughty list are Senator Daniel Lang and [the] MP [for Yukon] who are supposed to ensure that the interests of Yukoners are represented in Ottawa. Instead, they’ve kept the public out of the loop, other than [the member for Yukon] uttering vague generalities about the forthcoming changes without offering any meaningful specifics. Shame on them.

That is a direct quote from the Yukon News.

We need binding policy direction, and we need it from the federal minister to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. We need to make sure that the Conservatives are not undermining the basic rights of protection and consultation through the devolution process.

The government always brags about consultation but ignores the voices of the people who are mostly directly impacted. We have heard the Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Ruth Massie say there was not adequate consultation and that if there is not adequate consultation before this bill is passed, the council will take legal action.

Once again, we see a government that decides that if it ignores its legal obligations, it somehow just might get away with it. The Yukon supreme court this week said no way, that it is not going to happen, so the Peel planning process has to start again.

There have been numerous pieces of legislation that the government has been warned do not meet the constitutional requirements of this country, but that have been forced through anyway and turned back. This is not how to develop resources in this country.

Before the election in 2004, I had the great honour to work with the Algonquin Nation in the La Verendrye park region of Quebec and up through the Abitibi region. At that time, the communities watched as millions and millions of dollars of development, hydro resources, forestry, and mining left the territories. No one local was ever hired. The only way they ever got attention was through blockades, threats of injunction, and protests.

The people in the community asked what would happen if they could put their resources into negotiating and building a relationship with the forestry companies so they could benefit from their territories and have them recognized as unceded lands. No treaties were ever signed, including for the Algonquin lands in northeastern Ontario. They said that if they put their efforts into consultation and building a relationship, communities and the regional economy might start to develop.

That conversation took place 14 years ago in northern Quebec and northern Ontario in the Algonquin communities I worked in, and in the 14 years since I have seen how dramatic the change has been. The mining companies get it. They will now go to communities and have discussions. It is not always easy. We have a long way to go and a lot of problems to work out, but we are a lot further down the road than we were.

I see northern communities like Timmins, Kirkland Lake, and Black River-Matheson that are dependent on mining resources. They get it that if they are not talking in partnership with the Mushkegowuk Cree, the Wabun Tribal Council, and their Algonquin neighbours, the development will not happen.

I ask my hon. colleagues on the government side why they are ignoring the pattern of the refusal to consult, the undermining of environmental regulations, and the stripping of local authorities and local people of consultation in order to pursue a mining, fracking, or oil agenda that is going to be defeated in the courts, just as it was defeated this the past week in the Yukon supreme court, and just as it has been defeated with Kinder Morgan and Burnaby Mountain. It is the issue of a social licence.

I want to go back to Bill S-6. There are parts of this bill that are largely housekeeping, which can be part of any bill. The fact that it would dismantle the environmental and socio-economic assessment process developed in Yukon for Yukoners is a non-starter for the New Democratic Party. New Democrats are not going to go there, because we are on the side of ensuring sustainable development, development that is long term and based on the principle that we have been given.

We have incredible resources in our country, and these resources have to be treated with the respect they deserve. Instead, we see this kind of gambler's economy.

I was talking with a Yukon MLA about the attitude of the Yukon government and the similarity with the Conservative government on the belief that if it could get the resources as fast as it could and get them out of the ground as fast as possible, and these are finite resources, that somehow everything would be better off and that we should not worry about the economic impact or the environmental impact. That is not a reasonable way to do development.

I would like to point out, as well, that in my region we have the Ring of Fire. It is part of the great region of Timmins—James Bay. It is another incredible resource. The Ring of Fire is sitting there among some of the poorest fourth world communities. There is Webequie on one side, with Marten Falls and Ogoki Post on the other. These communities have been left out of the economic development plans from the beginning.

We have an enormous resource to do it right, but it has to be done in consultation. Nothing will happen in the Ring of Fire without the input of the Matawa people and then down river from them the Mushkegowuk people. Then I go into the non-native communities, and I hear the same message, that they want this thing done right.

Coming from a mining family on both sides and representing mining towns and living in a town where half the men in my community travel around the world working in mining, if we asked them about the Ring of Fire, they would say that if it is not done right, then we should leave it in the ground. If there is no value-added plan, it should be left in the ground. One miner said to me that this was the capital for our children's future. He asked why they would strip the bank account now to make some easy cash.

Instead of moving on in a nation-to-nation relationship on the idea of respect, the government believes that it can just change the regulations and everything will be fine. It might get taken to court. If the government does get taken to court, it will lose.

If we look at the legal precedents in terms of all the decisions about the legal rights of the first nations people in this land, it is an unbroken string of victories. It defines more and more, from Taku River, with the second Haida decision, and the Delgamuukw decision. We have been moving on.

Each of these rulings make it clear, and they are boxing government in more and more. Part of the reason the courts are acting in this way is because of the lack of good faith from the Crown. The honour of the Crown is continually undermining and abusing its fiduciary responsibilities.

I will go back, before I go on to Yukon, to my region and Treaty No. 9. When Treaty No. 9 was signed, it was to share the land. There was a promise of education. At the time of the signing, Ontario was an economic backwater and Toronto was just a little town then.

Treaty No. 9 resources turned Ontario into an international economic powerhouse. It was the hydro, gold, copper, iron and the forestry from Treaty No. 9 that created the Ontario economy, which was the juggernaut of the 20th century.

What did the people who signed the treaty get out of that? They got put on these internal displacement camps. All their economic rights were stripped. It does not say anything in the treaty about having their economic, cultural, religious and education rights stripped, or that they would be made wards of Duncan Campbell Scott who came north to sign the treaty.

There needs to be a day of reckoning on this. The communities I am in say that the reckoning is the respect that we move forward with. We cannot fix the past. None of us can. Knowing what has happened and knowing our obligations, we can move forward.

When I look at a bill that will fail the fundamental test of legal duty to consult, that treats the people of the region as though their voices will be less valued than the voices and interests of southern mining, I am seeing another bill that will be challenged in the courts. Like the Peel Watershed decision in the Yukon court, it is another bill that is eventually going down in defeat, and we will be back at square one.

The only thing that will come from this is bad faith. People I know in the resource industry do not want bad faith. They want peace on the ground. I hear that all the time. They want negotiations. They get the idea that if people in the local regions are not happy, then the project will not move forward.

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I noted the member quickly corrected the record when he said that he liked Yukon more than his own riding, and I will give him credit for that.

He said that there was no consultation with the Council of Yukon First Nations. This is demonstrably false. I have a list here of all the meetings that took place. The council received over $98,000 to compensate it for consulting with government on this legislation.

Perhaps the member was not aware of that or perhaps he would like to correct the record and not leave the false impression that consultation did not take place on this bill.

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really thank my hon. colleague for that. I definitely would like to correct the record. I am so glad he stood up on this issue.

I will refer back to the testimony of Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations. I did refer to her earlier, but the parliamentary secretary might not have heard. She said that in the end:

Canada unilaterally finalized the report and systematically rejected the input from the CYFN...The Council of Yukon First Nations reiterates that the five-year review has not been completed, and three key issues identified by Yukon First Nations remain outstanding....The proposed amendments in front of the Senate today were not discussed in the five-year review process with Canada and the Yukon government.

Consultation is not just about holding a meeting. Consultation is about listening and understanding.

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Timmins—James Bay understands first nations, works with them, and knows what the word consultation means.

Over 12 people who were invited by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs came to Ottawa, but they felt it was a waste of time. Ruth Massie said, “We went to actually talk to him, hoping...It didn't matter to him. 'It's too bad about your treaties. This is what we unilaterally have decided to do and that's that”.

Could my colleague explain if consultation is telling them “too bad, so sad”, after having invited them to come all the way here and they put everything aside for this?

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it shocking that any minister of the Crown in 2014 would say “too bad about your treaties”.

As I said, we have been dealing with one court decision after another and the idea that somehow these fiduciary obligations will be extinguished by just continual underfunding or ignoring. The courts are strengthening those rights. Coming from a resource area, I would think that we would be a lot better off if we negotiated in good faith rather than having to turn to the courts to bring in these decisions.

I would like to also point out the millions of dollars the government spends every year ignoring the courts. When court decisions are made, the government just goes to the wall. This is not just about treaty rights. This goes right down to individual families trying to get service for their sick children. The government will fight them every step of the way.

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a couple of points on what the member commented about.

Being am first nations, I realize what duty to consult is, but it has not been clearly defined by the courts.

One of the things that really upsets me is when a colleague across the floor states a fact that is not correct. I would like to clarify that.

Let me go over Bill C-15, the McKenzie Valley resource management act, which was before the House. The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development travelled to the Northwest Territories to hold public hearings.

The NDP talks about stalling the process. What is the best way for people to be heard? It is for committee members to travel to listen to the constituents in that region, Yukon. Unfortunately, the member across the floor is being hypocritical in that the New Democrats are not letting committee members travel to Yukon to hear what people there have to say. The government wants to hear what is going on, but the NDP is stalling the whole process. When is that party going to wake up and allow members to travel to hear from people across Canada?

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think I heard a few personal insults there, but I will not engage in that. I believe this is an august institution, with my deference to you.

However, what I would like to say in response to my friend who said he feels insulted. The Canadian Press headline of December 3, 2014, reads in part, “Yukon chiefs say Valcourt”—sorry—“[the the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs] insults them”.

Ruth Massie—

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, there were some directional approaches, which is unacceptable, and I apologize for that.

However, the one thing I want to know, being first nations, is a simple yes and no. Will the NDP members allow the aboriginal affairs committee to go up to the Yukon to hear other first nations?

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

No, Mr. Speaker. It is a different point of order. It has to do with the rules of the House.

The hon. member facing here, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, has much more experience in the House than I do. He should know that one of the things we cannot do here is name other members of the House by their own name. We cannot do it directly and we cannot do it indirectly. That is exactly what he did, and that actually caused disorder in the House. He should know better and he should retract. When he speaks of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, he should do it with a certain level of respect and not foam, using his own name.

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I want to honestly respond to my colleague who started off with a question before we got sidetracked, but it was a question on a yes or no. Therefore, how about yes; end of story on that.

With respect to the issue of being insulted, I was reading the Canadian Press headline, “Yukon chiefs say [Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development] insults them over environmental concerns”. This was yesterday, December 3. Ruth Massie said the “amendments...were drafted in secret after a meeting between the government and five industry groups”.

The article goes on:

[Grand Chief] Massie said she and her fellow chiefs hoped to make headway with [the minister] in a face-to-face meeting on Tuesday. Instead, she said, [he] told them he didn't need to consult them.

“We went to actually talk to him...” said Massie. It didn't matter to him. 'It's too bad about your treaties. This is what we unilaterally have decided to do and that's that.'”

I think the record of an aboriginal affairs minister in 2014, saying “too bad about your treaties” is absolutely scandalous and I would be ashamed to be in a House where someone had such a disrespect for their legal obligations.

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, to clarify the record, I was also in that meeting, and no such words were spoken.

If we can get back to the crux of the bill, the member talked about policy direction. There have been four examples where the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development used the policy direction he has for other boards in the Northwest Territories. Each and every time, he used that policy direction to communicate expectations based on interim measures agreements with first nations. He provided instruction to the Mackenzie Valley board regarding its obligation under the Deh Cho First Nations Interim Measures Agreement. He ensured that the board carried out its functions and responsibilities in co-operation with the Akaitcho Dene First Nations and the pre-screening board. He required that notification be provided to both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Denesuline regarding licences and permits in a given region.

When the minister has been given the authority to direct the board, he has used it to protect the interests of first nations. Does the member not agree that this is exactly what the minister should be doing with this policy direction?

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard my hon. colleague contradict Grand Chief Ruth Massie. I do not want him to get into a fight with her, so I will refer to the CBC News article from yesterday, entitled, “Ottawa trip on Bill S-6 ends in insult to Yukon First Nations”, wherein Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Chief Eric Fairclough stated, “The minister shut us down by telling us we were not real governments, and therefore he does not need to make us active participants in changing legislation that arises from our treaties”.

Talk about banging one's head against a legislative wall and thinking that the wall will come down. That is what the aboriginal minister has done. He is telling first nation people, who have inherent constitutional and treaty rights, that they are not real governments and that he does not have to consult them, as if mining companies are real governments.

What is interesting is that Vancouver-based Casino Mining Corporation, which has a large interest in copper and gold, is encouraging the government to back off on this and to work collaboratively and find a solution, because even the mining industry knows that if the minister has a disrespectful attitude, this bill will go nowhere.

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December 4th, 2014 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to participate in the discussion on Bill S-6.

I am concerned about the way the government is moving forward in its dealings with first nation communities throughout this country. It is frankly embarrassing to me as a member, as a Canadian, that the government does not recognize its constitutional responsibility, its fiduciary responsibility, to deal with first nation communities on a nation-to-nation basis, as it has committed itself to doing.

My colleague from Timmins—James Bay just mentioned a moment ago a meeting that was reported on yesterday. Representatives of a first nation community in Yukon met with the minister. They felt that they were insulted, because he suggested to them that they were not government, that in fact, participation in the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act agreement has somehow taken away their status as a government. Now it is only necessary for him to deal with the Government of Yukon. It is hard to fathom that a minister of the crown would have that kind of approach to first nation communities.

I am troubled by the direction the government is going. At every opportunity, it seems to get more focused on trying to find ways to quickly allow southern mining companies or national and international oil companies to go into the north, to frankly go anywhere in this country, to develop those natural resources and get them out of the ground and off to market as quickly as possible, regardless of the inherent dangers to the environment and the communities that will be affected by that development and regardless of the question of ownership of those natural resources. In this respect, I refer to the responsibility of the government to negotiate with first nations communities.

This is a classic example, really, of the way the government is approaching these issues, the ham-fisted way it is dealing with these issues as they relate to first nations treaty rights and responsibilities, land title, and the responsibility to not only consult but accommodate. The government has failed at every turn, it seems, in its responsibility to fulfill the directions provided by the Supreme Court again and again.

We can talk about oil and mining and talk about fish. As the critic for Fisheries and Oceans, I deal with first nation communities on our coast repeatedly. They are frustrated by the lack of responsiveness of the government in accepting its responsibility under the constitution, which has been reiterated, clarified, and enunciated by the courts time and time again at different locations around this country. The government has failed to act.

Then we have issues like this. We have issues like the government trying to impose changes on the education system in first nation communities. It created such a firestorm that the government finally had to withdraw that legislation. First nations leaders and communities across the country responded in such a negative way to the unilateral imposition of something that is clearly the responsibility of first nations communities that they had to back off.

With respect to the changes to the Fisheries Act that began in 2012, the grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations went before committee and was utterly insulted himself and on behalf of other leaders across the country. Some 640-odd first nations were required to be consulted on matters like this that affect their rights, and the government completely ignored them. It went ahead and brought forward changes that affect those rights without any consideration.

It is that kind of disrespect and unilateral action that resulted in Yukon chiefs coming to town. Nine representatives travelled to Ottawa over the weekend to meet with the minister. What they said has been quoted. I think it is important to quote the article again:

The minister shut us down by telling us we were not real governments," says Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation Chief Eric Fairclough in a news release, "And therefore he does not need to make us active participants in changing legislation that arises from our treaties."

The government brought forward the Federal Accountability Act, and yet there is very little, if any, consultation. It has been threatening the leadership of first nation communities, telling them that they either go by the government's law or the government will be exercising unilateral punishment. That not only impedes the work of first nation communities and the efforts by many of the leaders to move their communities forward but is clearly an example of the government getting in the way of fulfilling its responsibilities in dealing with first nation communities.

Dare I bring up the reluctance of the government to deal with the issue of the 1,100 missing and murdered aboriginal women in this country? The government seems to be able to understand that the despicable act of killing a Canadians Forces member and a reservist and threatening other people in the House is a terrorist act. It has been able to clearly identify that as a terrorist act. Yet it does not recognize and will not commit to making the changes and bring in the programs necessary to deal with why aboriginal women and their families have to fear for their lives each and every day in this country. It is unconscionable that the government seems to have this kind of attitude as it relates to the first nations.

Let me delve a little deeper into Bill S-6. It would change the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act. This is an act that was established in 2003 in fulfilment of an obligation under the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement. The Umbrella Final Agreement is a consultative process among first nation communities, the Yukon government, and the crown.

First let me add that there was a requirement in that agreement that there be a review after five years. The government decided that it did not like that review so it did not release it. It decided to impose its own changes, along with the government dealing directly with the government of the Yukon, excluding any substantive consultation with the first nations communities. The amendments were developed through a secretive process. The non-union groups—the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and Canadian Energy Pipeline Association—were all allowed input. However, there was no public process, and there continues to be very significant opposition not only on the part of Yukoners but also on the part of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

Why is the Conservative government moving forward in this fashion? What is the Conservatives' purpose? We have heard them talk about resource extraction repeatedly. What they want to do is speed it up and they want to get rid of the regulatory processes. They have changed the Environmental Assessment Act. They have changed the Fisheries Act. They have changed a number of pieces of legislation that deal with the protection of our environment and controls over resource development: the Navigable Waters Protection Act; the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

That was an interesting one right there. In the NWT, the Conservatives decided to get rid of all the local and regional water and resource boards that had the local first nations representatives on them and had the territorial and federal governments represented. There were a number of them throughout NWT, as is the case elsewhere, recognizing the particular interests of the first nations community in the area that is under discussion. The process that those boards used to follow was that a mining company or otherwise would present a plan to the board and the board would begin to review that proposal and ask questions.

Most importantly, and something that we could learn a lot from, is that they would go out into the community and meet with local first nations and hear from people directly about exactly what the impact was going to be. It was not the case that there was always huge opposition. There is no question that people in many communities are looking for work and for economic development opportunities and opportunities to generate wealth in their community that will benefit them, their children, and future generations. However, they understand how to look at things in terms of generations, not months or years; they had the long vision.

It was always important that they understood and that the development plans laid out how the development was going to happen and what the impact was going to be and that proper mitigation measures were brought to bear in order to ensure there was as little impact as possible in order to meet the particular objectives of extracting the resource, generating the jobs, and ensuring that some of the revenues were poured back into the communities and elsewhere. However, it was also important that, given whatever the stated life of that particular development might have been, there was built-in reclamation of the site or other ways that the particular site would be returned as closely as possible to its natural state.

That is the kind of process that was undone. It became apparent, and I had the opportunity the summer before last to visit Yellowknife and meet with representatives of some of these boards. I met with the Tlicho First Nation and learned a bit about their culture and about their approach to the management of natural resources to best benefit their community. I learned a great deal.

It was interesting. When I met with representatives of the boards, one of their concerns was that even then—and this was a couple of years ago—the federal government was increasingly withdrawing some of the supports that had been there. For example, if it was a development that would affect a particular watercourse, a lake or a river, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans biologists and officials in that local office would be involved. They would get involved, engage in consultation, and be able to go out and talk to citizens on the basis of their understanding of the land, the environment, and the fisheries. They were able to respond in a concrete, factual way about what the impacts would be.

What they were finding even then, in 2012, was that as a result of the massive cutbacks at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, there was not the same number of officials, in Yellowknife for example. Rather than eight or ten scientists and managers who would work with these boards, they were reduced to two. They had to go to Burlington, Ontario, or Winnipeg, Manitoba, to try to bring that kind of expertise in. It was not local expertise, but they could bring that expertise in.

My point is that they were beginning to see that things were beginning to break down under the government as it related to local control over resource development.

Then we dealt with Bill C-15, I believe, which created a superboard for the Mackenzie Valley, because the government thought it would take less time and be less cumbersome, and companies would only have to deal with one board, and they would be able to get the job done a lot more quickly, get at the resource, move it out, and make their money.

Speaking of that, there was just a story in the news this morning about how the Tlicho First Nation has taken the government to court because it believes the superboard ignores the intent of the self-government agreement. What the superboard does, in fact, is get rid of that local first nation control, and the Tlicho are fighting it.

I know we have heard the minister say, repeatedly, to first nations communities that if they do not like it they should take the government to court. We also know that costs hundreds of millions of dollars, federal taxpayers' dollars, to continue to fight against the rights of first nations communities in this country that are clearly defined by the Constitution. I do not believe that is right.

I do not believe that Bill S-6 is going in the right direction. I am disappointed in the direction the government is going in relation to its dealing with first nations communities.

As with the Peel watershed land development case that was struck down by the courts, if it keeps going in this direction, unfortunately, everything the government does is going to get struck down by the courts.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech, much of which was on Bill C-15, which the House has already passed.

I would like to talk about consultation. I have corrected the record several times, but there have been consultation meetings on the specific issues with which the CYFN has taken issue. From April 2013 until June 2014, over a year, a number of meetings took place. Those first nations requested and received over $98,000 from the government to compensate them specifically for consultation. Clearly, it demonstrates that consultation took place.

The court has also said that the government has a duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate. The NDP does not ever reference the “where appropriate” part, and that is my question for the hon. member. Is he suggesting that after consultation has occurred, which it clearly has in this case, and there is no agreement, that first nations have a veto over any development that takes place in this country and over any legislation that takes place in this country, if there is no agreement? If he believes that, he should state it very clearly.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the parliamentary secretary gets up and says “we have consulted” and “look, we have had all of these meetings”. The Conservatives do that every time they go to the Supreme Court or to the appeal court. They do the same thing. They say they have talked to them.

What happens when we dig into it is that we realize that the government has not consulted. It may have had a few drive-by meetings where it presented some of the things that it plans to do to a group of people. It could be a group of hunters and fishers, a group of environmentalists, or a group of school teachers or health care workers, and the government says it has consulted.

What often happens is that the government talks at people and it does not listen to them. It does not take into consideration the opinions and the interests of the people who are participating in that process. It has been found by the courts on numerous occasions—and not just with the Conservative government, but the Liberals adjacent—that the responsibility to consult is much greater than being able to show that there was an appointment one day.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated the presentation by the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. It is always interesting to hear him speak about the issues that have been brought up in today's debate.

I heard the parliamentary secretary talk about consultations again. Must we remind him that in addition to the constitutional obligation to consult first nations, there is also an obligation to accommodate them with respect to the concerns they have raised during those consultations? The Conservatives are often content simply to hold meetings, but it does not work that way.

In the 2004 Haida Nation case, the Supreme Court said that the duty to consult can go as far as full consent of the nation on very serious issues. The Supreme Court did not go into detail about what constitutes serious issues, but in my opinion, the environment is a serious issue to first nations.

Having read the Supreme Court ruling in the Tsilhqot’in Nation case, I believe that at least nine paragraphs are about consent and at least 11 paragraphs are about control of first nations' traditional territories. We need to take another look at those issues.

Why does my colleague think that the government has not taken an approach that includes partnering, co-operating and collaborating with first nations? Every time it has the opportunity, it fails to meet its obligations.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the question from my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyouand his leadership on this file, the wisdom he brings to bear as he represents his constituency and brings forward the years of wisdom and experience he has gained from first nations leadership in this country and internationally. I appreciate what he does and the counsel he provides.

I want to indicate to him that I do not understand why the government fails to accept its responsibility in dealing with first nations communities in this country. Conservatives indicate they are trying to make things work better for the companies that are extracting our natural resources, but in talking with the people who lead those corporations, we learn they would rather see a respectful, dependable, responsible process than the kind of confrontation that follows the kinds of approaches the government takes at these negotiations.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the question I will ask will be very simple.

On September 25, Grand Chief Ruth Massie appeared before the Senate committee on aboriginal peoples and clearly stated that they had been consulted multiple times.

Will the hon. member answer a simple yes-or-no question? Is he saying that this person was providing false information to a committee? Is he stating that she is misleading the committee and that she was not consulted? It is either a yes or a no.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings out a quote and reports that somebody said something somewhere. That is all good. I have also read testimony in which that same person said something different. All I can do is report here what I have read and what I understand to be the position of an individual, and that is what I present to this House.

If the government has any other information it wants to table, if it wants to call witnesses back, or if it wants to stand the bill and have a special committee look at it again, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision as it related to the umbrella agreement and the Peel land development decision, I think that will probably have an impact on this particular piece of legislation, but maybe that is what we need to do in order to clarify and deal properly with a piece of legislation that inevitably, once again, will be challenged by the people who are affected by it.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is not just about consultation. Yes, there has been some consultation, but in other areas there has not been.

The whole thing is about the honour of the crown and respecting treaties and respecting agreements that are currently in place. Maybe my colleague could just explain how much the honour of the crown is at risk here, and the fact that we have heard from mining companies that have indicated that the government needs to ensure that they work together to get it right.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the point is whether the people who participated in the process feel that they have been consulted and whether the process meets the definition clearly laid out by the Supreme Court on the responsibilities of the crown. It has been done. The responsibilities have been laid out.

However, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary a quick question. On September 18, the member for Yukon said that he agreed with the idea of having public meetings and public consultation on this matter. Why is it the government did not fulfill his request for having public consultation?

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on this bill. I met with the group of Yukon representatives yesterday, who raised a lot of concern about the fact that the government put in amendments that they had not agreed to. Not only did they not agree to them, but there was no discussion about them.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

The member may be saying that is false, Mr. Speaker, but this is exactly what has occurred.

Let me first talk a bit about the bill. I am going to inform the House that New Democrats are opposed to the bill because there has been a flawed process. I am assuming that if my colleague wants to speak, he will have his turn later or can ask me a question.

Basically, the bill was developed behind closed doors. It actually originated out of the Senate, but it should have been a government bill. That is the lack of respect we see from the government when it comes to treaty obligations and constitutional rights.

There has been a lack of public input because of this. I can say that my colleague from the Northwest Territories actually held a meeting on this issue in Yukon, and there was very little standing room at this meeting. That is how important this issue is to the people in Yukon.

I should provide a bit of background on the bill itself, because it has been a little while since we have talked about it and some people may not be familiar with it. Bill S-6 is an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act. The short title is the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act. It was introduced in the Senate on June 3, 2014.

The objective of Bill S-6 is to change the regulatory regime in Yukon and Nunavut. The bill is composed of two parts. Part 1 proposes a series of amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and Part 2 proposes amendments to the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act.

The problem that needs to be emphasized is that the bill unilaterally rewrites Yukon's environmental and socio-economic evaluation system. The system is actually a product of the Umbrella Final Agreement, which settled most of the first nations land claims in the territory. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, the short form of which is YESAA, is seen by most residents of the territory as a made-in-the-Yukon solution to the unique environmental and social circumstances of the territory.

The changes proposed in Bill S-6 are seen as being imposed from the outside to satisfy southern resource development companies. Again we can see that the issue is that the government is listening to industry as opposed to doing it from the ground up, which means starting with the people who actually live and work on these lands.

New Democrats are opposed to this bill, of course, because it was developed without adequate consultation with Yukon first nations and residents of the Yukon and is not supported by the majority of them. Although Part 2's amendments to the Nunavut legislation are largely housekeeping, the Nunavut Water Board did raise some concerns with this part as well.

It is extremely important for us to recognize that Bill S-6 would actually dismantle the environmental and socio-economic assessment process developed in Yukon by Yukoners for Yukon. We can see why people are actually up in arms about what the government is trying to push through.

There has been incomplete consultation, as I have indicated, with Yukon first nations before the amendments were made, but there must be consultations before such amendments are actually proposed. As New Democrats have indicated over and over again, the fact of the matter is that the government has put in amendments that nobody has actually talked about, and it is not the first time that we have seen the government do that. It is grabbing them out of thin air.

The Conservative government, with the full assistance of the Conservative MP and the senator from Yukon, is actually forcing a pro-southern resource company agenda down the throats of Yukoners, so we can see why people are really up in arms about this situation.

As I mentioned, my colleague, the member for Northwest Territories, held hearings on this issue. However, the fact of the matter is that there are four changes that really upset Yukoners.

This is what my colleague said:

One of them is providing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. This is something that was established in the NWT and there were real concerns with it there. The Yukon, which has been dealing with a different system for the past 10 years, is looking at anything like this as an abrogation of its rights and hard-fought authority over the lands and resources.

However, we have seen this over and over again with the current Conservative government when it tries to give rights to a federal minister to unilaterally make decisions. I think this is of great concern to these people.

On the second change, I will again quote from the speech of my colleague, the member for Northwest Territories:

The second change is the introduction of legislative time limits for assessments.

The third change is allowing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to delegate any or all responsibilities to the Yukon government. That is an issue of huge concern to first nations, and Yukoners as well. Yukon has worked out an arrangement between first nations and public government that is critical to the future of the Yukon territory. I do not think anyone would deny that. That relationship is one that the provinces are having more and more trouble with every day. The failure to deal on a nation-to-nation basis at the provincial level is causing all kinds of grief in all kinds of projects right across this country. Therefore, there is concern about how the delegation takes place.

Again, I am quoting from the speech of my colleague from the Northwest Territories when this issue first came before the House:

Then there is the question of creating broad exemptions from YESAA for renewals and amendments of permits and authorizations. People look at that and ask what is going on and wonder how they we make sure it is correct.

Additionally, these amendments favour the Yukon government over Yukon first nations,

—members can see why there are challenges there right now—

the other partner in the YESAA process. The Council of Yukon First Nations has threatened legal action should the bill become law.

As my colleagues have mentioned throughout the debate, the Conservative government is putting forth legislation after legislation that ends up in the courts, and guess what? They lose over and over again. I think when it comes to first nations, the Conservatives have lost something like 200 cases, so we can see that it is not in the best interest of Canadians to table legislation that people are so opposed to.

There is a quick fix here. We can listen to what the changes are, make those changes, and the problem would be solved. It does not cost us a lot of money to do that. However, going through the courts is a different story.

As I mentioned, my colleague held a meeting on this in the Yukon. Talking about the environmental assessment process and having discussions such as this do not normally tempt a lot of people, because a lot of people sometimes do not understand it, but Yukoners do get it. They get it so much that they actually packed that room. Therefore, I think that it is important for the government to listen to the debates that we are having here today, to listen to the comments that were made, to go back and listen to the testimony that was presented, and say, “Hey, maybe we should take a step back here. We can get it right.”

The Conservatives can get it right. All they need is the will to do it.

It is important for me to read some of the testimony that was given before the Senate committee. Grand Chief Ruth Massie of the Council of Yukon First Nations was glad to be there because she wanted to make sure that the council's concerns were heard, in the hope that the government was listening in good faith. She talked about the Council for Yukon Indians that represented Yukon first nations in the land claim negotiations and signed the Umbrella Final Agreement, the UFA, in 1993. The UFA directed the CYFN, Canada, and Yukon to develop legislation to implement the objectives and principles set out in the development assessment found in chapter 12. This is the legislation in the YESAA. They are prepared to do that, but the only thing is that the government has thrown a wrench in there.

I quote from Ruth Massie:

The CYFN has a membership of nine self-governing Yukon First Nations and we work in collaboration with the other Yukon First Nations, including the three unsigned First Nations, with respect to specific projects and initiatives.

This is an organization that has already built a foundation to be able to work together and has been able to move forward on working with mining organizations. It is willing to do that, but it needs to make sure that at the end of the day, mother earth is going to be protected.

She went on to say:

In particular, the CYFN and Yukon First Nations have worked cooperatively to deal with matters relating to the YESAA over the past fifteen years, including its development, implementation and review. The UFA directed the CYFN, Canada and Yukon to complete a comprehensive review of the YESAA in 2008. This is known as the “five-year” review since it was directed to take place five years after the federal enactment of the YESAA. Despite the claims of the federal officials, this review has not yet been completed.

Hold on here. The government put forward this bill, yet there was supposed to be a review and it has not been done yet. There is a problem here.

Grand Chief Massie continued:

For several years during the five-year review the federal officials maintained that no legislative changes would be made to the YESAA in order to implement any recommendations of the five-year review. Canada now proposes that Bill S-6 would amend the YESAA pursuant to its Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes. It is our position that certain amendments to the YESAA proposed by Bill S-6 undermine the spirit and purpose of the YESAA that implements treaty rights of Yukon First Nations and their citizens. These proposed amendments fundamentally alter the operation of the YESAA process. In some cases, these proposed amendments relate to matters that were never discussed during the five-year review or, in other cases, contradict agreements reached by the CYFN, Canada and Yukon during that review.

The government is actually contradicting agreements. We know that is true because we have seen it over and over again.

She went on to say:

If the amendments proposed by Bill S-6 are proclaimed, the Crown will have breached its duty to consult and accommodate owed to Yukon First Nations and its constitutional duty to uphold the honour of the Crown.

In our view, these amendments would infringe rights under our land claim agreements, including the right for independent assessment of certain projects to be carried out in accordance with Chapter 12 of the final agreement. These amendments would also serve to undermine the integrity and effectiveness of YESAA.

Imagine trying to put some legislation in place that undermines the integrity and effectiveness of the act itself. This means that the amendments proposed by Bill S-6 must be rejected or revised. That is why we on this side of the House are standing today to reject this legislation and asking that there be a revision.

There is much more documentation here that I do not have time to speak to.

However, I think it is important to reiterate the fact that representatives came to Ottawa yesterday to raise the issue, to ask that there be some revisions to a bill that will impact their lands and their ability to move forward in certain areas, and on the protection of their environment. Yet we have a minister who has basically shut them down.

I will quote Eric Fairclough, the chief of Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, from a news release from the CBC, dated yesterday. He said:

The minister shut us down by telling us we were not real governments, and therefore he does not need to make us active participants in changing legislation that arises from our treaties.

If the government side of the House is trying to tell me that that is not what the government said, then there is a problem. However, I cannot see anyone saying that the minister told them they were not a real government. They would not just grab that out of the air. That is a serious allegation.

He went on to say that it “...flies in the face of recent court decisions that have affirmed the duty to consult First Nations.”

Again, it is not just this chief who has actually made the comment. I could go on with respect to another northern aboriginal group that governs a New Brunswick-size chunk of the Northwest Territories, who has already asked the Territory's supreme court for an injunction against a similar federal law to the one we are speaking about today. They indicate that it violates their hard-won treaty. That is the Tlicho. They say:

....the law, to take effect next April, would dilute local decision-making by replacing environmental regulators created by land-claim settlements with a single board controlled from Ottawa.

Critics have said the superboard was the price the—Conservatives—exacted from the territorial government in exchange for rules transferring resource royalties to the territory, which were contained in the same bill.

It is not just in Yukon. It is not just in Ontario. It is not just in New Brunswick. We are seeing this in every province and territory where the government is tabling legislation, pushing it through despite concerns about it, with the result that we find ourselves yet again before the courts.

It is imperative for us to indicate that for legislation to work properly and to foster good relationships, and not just good relationship but great working relationships with our first nation, Inuit, and Métis people, we need to make sure that we have that proper dialogue. We need to make sure that we actually listen to changes that they know will impact them negatively. We need to make those changes before we pass the legislation and end up in court.

Another important thing is that we know that our leader would approach resource development in the north in a respectful and consultative manner, unlike the Conservative government. We need to recognize that that nation-to-nation dialogue is extremely important. We need to ensure that any steps taken in northern development are done with the full participation of northern communities.

It is also important to note a few more things. This is from Grand Chief Ruth Massie and Chief Eric Fairclough. The first nations have four concerns: policy direction to the board, delegation of federal powers to Yukon government, exemptions for renewal and amendments, and timelines for YESSA assessments.

I will close by saying that we must emphasize the fact that the government needs to recognize the necessity of making these changes to the bill. I know that the leader of the Yukon NDP has been working very closely with first nations and supports the position taken by them in calling for these amendments to be made to the bill.

With that, I will close and wait for further questions.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:35 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I want to deal specifically with the issue of policy direction that the member raised in her speech. There are four examples of policy direction provided to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, which she referenced. In each case, policy direction was used to clearly communicate expectations based on interim measures agreements with first nations.

I asked this of the member for Timmins—James Bay, who refused to answer, so I will ask this member. On which of the following does she think the minister erred when he issued policy direction: when he required that notification be provided to both the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Denesuline regarding licences and permits in a given region; when he provided instruction to the board regarding its obligation under the Deh Cho Interim Measures Agreement respecting lands withdrawn from disposal; or when he ensured that the board carried out its functions and responsibilities in co-operation with the Akaitcho Dene First Nations and their pre-screening board?

The minister has issued policy directions solely to protect the rights and interests of first nations. Which of those directions would the NDP not have given? Why is the minister wrong to be issuing policy directions that protect the interests of first nations?

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, in any legislation there are some good parts, just as there are some good parts in the budget. However, that does not mean that we have to swallow the bad parts with it.

In looking at this I must reiterate the fact that the majority of the first nations in Yukon have indicated that they are not supportive of this and feel that some changes need to be made to it. They are not against the whole bill, but only against some of the changes the government has made. The government is not listening to the changes being requested.

Again, one of the changes falls under the delegation of federal powers, on which the CYFN has expressedd the following view:

The CYFN opposes any amendment that would allow the AANDC Minister to delegate any or all of his or her powers, duties and functions under the YESAA to the territorial Minister. The CYFN has several concerns relating to this proposed amendment. There is no requirement for the AANDC Minister to obtain the consent of Yukon First Nations before delegating any powers, duties or functions. The AANDC Minister only has to provide notice to the Yukon First Nations.

That is not me saying so, but Grand Chief Ruth Massie of the Council of Yukon First Nations. As I mentioned before, that organization represents a variety of first nations.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by my colleague from northern Ontario. However, one of the things I noticed that the government has done over the past few years, particularly since the 2012 budget, is to attack environmental legislation and environmental assessments, starting in 2012, when the budget implementation act eliminated the Environmental Assessment Act and rebuilt it in such a manner that it was a sham. As a result, there are portions of that bill that have not yet been enacted. There are regulations that were to come later that have not yet been enacted some two years later.

When the government did that, it said that it was just to avoid duplication because the provinces and territories would be doing their own assessments and it did not want to duplicate those with federal assessments. Of course, we know that the end result is that federal issues do not get assessed at all, because the provinces do not have the right. Now we see the government, through its own actions, taking away or diminishing the right of the territories. It is not allowing the territories themselves to amend this legislation. Instead, the government is taking it away from them and reducing the environmental assessments in the territories.

I think it is appalling that this is happening. Would the member like to comment on that?

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly why we had that visit yesterday with respect to those concerns.

Here is an article by Kirk Cameron of CBC News about the fact there was a meeting with over a hundred people, who packed a small room at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. It states:

In the crowd were people from around Yukon, about one half of First Nation ancestry and the rest equally concerned Yukoners. Most, if not all, were of the view that the amendments, known as Bill S-6, violate the fundamental relationship secured between First Nations, Yukoners and Canadians through land claims agreements, modern treaties that have been in place (at least the first four) since 1993.

It goes on to say:

Most of the crowd saw the amendments for what they are—an affront not just to the aboriginal people of Yukon who spent 20 years in treaty negotiations, but to all Yukoners.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing spoke quite at length about how dialogue is extremely important. I could not agree more. It is important that we engage first nations, learn what some of the issues are, and have feet on the ground to discuss them. Unfortunately, it is the member's own party that is stopping us from doing just that.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, I would like the opportunity to go to Yukon and discuss first hand with the residents there some of these issues. I would like to hear the member's response and why the NDP is blocking us from doing those important jobs.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am telling them right now. Book the travel. We are on our way.

Here we are. This is from CBC News, posted yesterday, on December 3. It says:

The news release points out that the Yukon First Nations have the backing of at least two mining companies in Yukon, "which have sent letters to Minister Valcourt warning that regulatory reforms without meaningful consultation will create tension and uncertainty and urging the government to find a solution."

I am going to add as well that, during the treaty negotiations, first nations actually agreed to retain less than 10% of their traditional territory in exchange for the partnership and management of all Yukon land and resources, and this is what they get from the government.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to listen to this debate today and hear the member relay the news that her party was somehow going to change its view on committee travel and travel for members of Parliament to go out to first nations and actually find out.

I am chair of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, and we were doing a study on first nations about job opportunities for them. We had our travel planned and booked, but it was not allowed to proceed because of the NDP's position.

Could the member explain that to the House please?

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have always been willing to meet at committees. It is just that the government did not call the meetings until just this week. We are willing to travel. We are willing to travel to Yukon to hear these witnesses.

With respect to all that is going on here, at the end of the day, with this type of legislation, the government has basically said it is a take it or leave it package, and these people are against the taking of it at this point, the way it is.

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December 4th, 2014 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill S-6, a bill that would have a significant impact upon us all, no matter what region of the country we happen to live in. Obviously, it would have a larger impact in our northern region, in particular, Nunavut and Yukon.

I would like to start off by, first, acknowledging and welcoming the suggestion, the possibility of a standing committee being able to travel to get direct input on issues such as this, as it would have a very positive effect in certain situations. We will have to wait and see, through the critics and the minister, whether or not that will actually take place. I was under the impression that the official opposition party was not allowing for committees to travel, but I would hope that position has changed, when in fact there is legitimacy for committees to travel. We will have to wait to see.

One member across the way made reference to the aboriginal affairs committee. I, for one, would welcome the aboriginal affairs committee doing something more tangible on a very important issue, which we saw raised inside the House today; that is, the hundreds of murdered and missing aboriginal women and young girls.

Having said that, I will go right back to Bill S-6.

When I think of Bill S-6, a number of thoughts come to mind. I have been listening very closely to a lot of the questions that have been put forward to the New Democrats, in particular, with respect to the whole issue of consultation. I have had the opportunity to ask some questions, again, with respect to the idea of consultation. I recognize that the bill itself would make some very significant changes. Consultations were in fact warranted, and I think there is a huge question mark in terms of to what degree the government did, in good faith, go into the consultation process.

What I do know is that I have had the opportunity to receive some feedback from a couple of people in particular, from the north. One individual who I had known very briefly when I was first elected in the byelection was the former member of Parliament from Yukon, Larry Bagnell. He was sure that we had an understanding that it would appear as if there was a genuine lack of consultation that had taken place and raised a number of concerns that we felt were important, and one would question why the government was unable to build the consensus that was necessary to get more of a consensus in passing the legislation we have here today. I do not think they have achieved that.

We start to get wind of that, whether it was individuals or stakeholders making contact with caucus critics or caucus offices, but we get that sense in terms of the way in which the government also responds to the legislation.

We have Bill S-6, which has already been time allocated. That says something in itself. It means there will be a limited number of members of Parliament allowed to speak on this legislation. I suspect there might be keener interest from certain members of Parliament, quite frankly, over others, but at the very least, I think that all those who would like the opportunity to share their thoughts on this legislation should in fact be afforded the opportunity. However, like other pieces of legislation, Bill S-6 was time allocated

It does seem, on the surface, that the government uses it as a form of process, that the way it gets its legislation passed in the House is to bring in the time allocation tool.

The unfortunate aspect of that is that we have legislation before us that, ultimately, would have been much better had the government been successful in being able to consult in good faith—and I underline the words “good faith” for the simple reason that many of the answers from the government side are that it has consulted. I have even heard quotes from the government side saying that it has consulted. I suspect that, to a certain degree, it has conducted some form of consultation, but obviously the type of consultation the government espouses has not been effective because of the response we are hearing, that there seems to be a genuine need for the government to go back to the drawing board.

What would Bill S-6 actually do? When we read the summary of the bill, we find that it would, in essence, establish time limits for environmental assessments and a cost recovery regime. It further states:

It also amends that Act to provide for binding ministerial policy directions to the Board and the delegation of any of the Minister’s powers, duties and functions to the territorial minister, and allows for a member of the board who is participating in a screening or review to continue to act for that purpose after the expiry of their term or their removal due to a loss of residency in Yukon, until decision documents are issued....

Part 2 amends the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act to modify the maximum term of certain licences, to establish time limits with respect to the making of certain decisions, to allow for the making of arrangements relating to security, to establish a cost recovery regime....

Very substantial things would be applied through Bill S-6 to two pieces of legislation.

Issues have been brought forward. When I say that there was lack of consultation, a few points were specifically brought to my attention. The government is now proposing some new measures through Bill S-6, and it is questionable as to whether there was consultation to the same degree on these new measures.

The bill would provide sweeping powers for the minister to issue binding policy direction to the assessment board; the minister could unilaterally hand over his power to the territory without the consent of first nations; and there could be exemptions of assessment renewals and amendments to projects. There is also the issue with regard to timelines and whether they are unrealistic. These are some of the areas. The general feeling is that there was no real, genuine consultation on those points, and I suspect others.

In terms of the potential development in the north, it would be wrong for us as a nation, as we continue to evolve and develop, not to recognize the potential of the north, in terms of how Canada as a whole would benefit if it is done properly and well under good stewardship; we can all benefit. That benefit goes beyond just finances. Quite often, when there is legislation of this nature or when we talk about the north, we do not put enough emphasis on the environment, the natural beauty, and how we can help the north become that much more alive for people who have a desire to get the northern experience. There is so much more we can do.

The Liberal Party supports assessing resource wealth in the north in a sustainable way. Unlocking this economic activity is contingent on environmental sustainability and on the impacted aboriginal communities being engaged as equal partners.

The government as a whole has fallen short when it comes to the development of our natural resources. That does not necessarily apply just up north. If we look at the Prairies or any other region in Canada, there has been a vacuum created by the Prime Minister in terms of leadership. We have not seen leadership coming from the Prime Minister's Office on the development of our resources.

We could come up with a number of examples. We could make reference to the legislation before us today or to the controversial issue of our pipelines, where one province is negotiating with another province and the Prime Minister is just standing at the side, not providing any form of leadership to bring the different stakeholders together to try to build consensus.

If we want to develop and promote our resources, we need to build that social contract. Ottawa has a responsibility to be engaged with the different stakeholders and to demonstrate strong leadership. That has been lacking for the last number of years, at a great cost to our community, both economically and socially in terms of development. Opportunities have been lost because the Prime Minister has not seen fit to demonstrate strong leadership in building that social contract.

I have had the opportunity to speak on a number of occasions on legislation affecting our first nations and our aboriginal peoples. If there is a common theme, virtually on anything affecting our first nations or aboriginal peoples, it has been the issue of consultation. That is one of the biggest criticisms, once again.

How can the Conservatives expect an opposition party to get behind legislation if the stakeholders are saying that they were not adequately consulted? We are getting feedback that there are legitimate concerns about the legislation and the impact it would have on development. The government seems to have the attitude that it knows best and does not necessarily need to consult. It wants to say that it consulted, but is it genuine consultation that has taken place?

Eleven self-governing first nations have made it clear that the federal government has not held enough adequate consultation on the bill to merit support. That is a substantial statement. They do not feel that they were adequately consulted. The government has brought things into the legislation that they had no idea were going to be incorporated into the legislation. Were they in fact consulted on all aspects of the legislation that has been brought forward? Based on information we are being provided, that has not been the case, and it has been at a great cost.

I have had the opportunity to fly over, and on one occasion be in, Yellowknife. I used to be a serving member of the Canadian Forces, and what a privilege it was. I was posted out in Lancaster Park, just north of Edmonton. We had the C-130 Hercs, and we would do that northern run for the char up north. Everyone loved having that beautiful fish.

Flying over Yellowknife, one gets a good sense of just how vast our country is. There are so many opportunities there. We can talk about gold, silver, copper, zinc, and many more that are being mined in the north. The potential development there is overwhelming.

The entire population of the north is probably somewhere around 100,000 or maybe a little bit more. We need to play a role, but we need to be working with the territorial governments. We need to be working with the Inuit, our first nations, people of aboriginal heritage, and the communities, those who actually have intelligence on the ground on how we can best develop the north for future generations. It is not just about extracting; it is where we might be able to have additional value.

If we want to move forward, the first priority in bringing in legislation of this nature should be to build consensus. I do not think the government has been successful in building consensus.

I do not think the Liberal Party and the member for Labrador would oppose the idea of the standing committee going to the north to get a better understanding and see first-hand some of the things that are taking place.

At the end of the day, Bill S-6 would have a significant impact. We are looking to the government to deal with the issue in a conciliatory fashion and to respect consultation. That is a word I might have said a dozen times in my speech.

If we are not prepared to do the work, we should think twice before bringing in legislation. If we fail on consultation and force through the legislation, what can happen is more confrontation and problems in the future. It is better to get it right the first time and work in co-operation. If that means taking the extra month or two to get it right, let us take the extra month or two. The attitude the government has demonstrated, even by passing this legislation and bringing in time allocation, speaks volumes.

I realize that my time has expired, so I will leave it at that.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member suggests that perhaps another month or two would solve the problem. We have already conducted consultations for over a year, with meetings taking place and, as I stated previously, over $98,000 provided to first nations specifically to consult on the four issues they have raised. They have been reimbursed over $98,000 to compensate them for their time and expertise in participating in that. I would argue that, if over a year of meetings has not solved the issue and brought us to an agreement, another month or two is not going to get the job done.

The member referred to the delegation of federal powers. I want to refer back to the actual umbrella final agreement. The concern seems to be that this violates that somehow. The delegation of federal powers is specifically addressed in section 2.11.8, which says:

Government may determine, from time to time, how and by whom any power or authority of Government or a Minister set out in a Settlement Agreement...shall be exercised.

I have addressed some issues of concern previously in the debate. One of the issues is the delegation of federal powers specifically contemplated and laid out in the umbrella final agreement. Would the member not agree that the delegation of federal powers is already part of the final agreement? The final agreement takes precedence over any legislation that is being contemplated here, so why would that not be acceptable to the hon. member?

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December 4th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect the member might be somewhat missing the bigger picture here. He makes reference to the fact that the government has done some consultation, and I am not saying that the government has done no consultation. It is an issue of how effective the consultation has been.

If the Conservatives take an approach of saying what they want and what they expect and then go to the table and start consulting but have no flexibility, they can do all the consultation they want, but at the end of the day they will not get that consensus unless they are prepared to be flexible and open to other ideas and thoughts. Maybe that was part of the problem. Maybe they should sit down and listen in some of these consultations that have taken place. I still do not think there were enough consultations, by the sounds of it. Based on what I have been told, it seems as if they cut it off, but it does not seem as if the consultation was one of genuine exchange in which the government was actually listening.

Based on what has taken place in the House in my short period here, I have seen the Conservatives take an attitude of saying what they want, and that it does not matter what we say.

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December 4th, 2014 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the member for Labrador feels about this issue, but the member for Winnipeg North kept on referring to “our first nations” when speaking about aboriginal peoples. I just want to remind the member for Winnipeg North that I am nobody's Indian here, nobody's first nation here.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, if that is the way the member inferred it, I would apologize to him. It was not meant to be expressed in that fashion whatsoever. I am a very proud Canadian and I recognize the important role of our first nations. Maybe the member can enlighten me on how he would rather I had made mention of it, so I could avoid making that same mistake in the future.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important debate that we are having around Bill S-6, and I do not think we should lose focus of what is happening here.

This is a perfect example of where the government members opposite are ignoring what first nations people in this country are saying. They are ignoring what aboriginal self-governments in the Yukon are saying. We only have 24 aboriginal self-governments in this country. They have very specific, special legal rights, and there is an obligation by the Government of Canada to honour those rights. What Bill S-6 would do is violate it and disrespect it.

I would ask if my colleague could speak to that particular issue in terms of how these first nations governments have such a legal constitutional right in our country to have every bit of the say that they currently have. Why is that being stripped from them at this time by the government opposite?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question by my colleague. The member for Labrador has been a very strong advocate for the north and first nations, not only here in the House of Commons but also at the provincial level. She has an excellent understanding of just how important it is that we do consult.

One of the comments I made in my speech was on a common theme in the government's dealings with first nations and aboriginal peoples, namely that it has not done and is not doing anywhere near the type of consultation it should be doing. That pretty closely applies universally to all of the legislation the government has brought in dealing with first nations and aboriginal people.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Labrador just asserted and the member for Winnipeg North also mentioned in his speech that the bill somehow violated the Umbrella Final Agreement.

I would invite the member right now to point to the section of Bill S-6 that violates a section of the Umbrella Final Agreement. To date, no one has been able to do that.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in regard to the stripping of the rights of first nation governments, the member can stand up and wave the agreement, and I appreciate that he has a copy of the agreement in his hand. However, as I pointed out earlier, there is a bigger issue that supersedes it, which is the attitude of the government in dealing with issues of this nature. This is where the Prime Minister and his ministers have been caught falling short.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 4th, 2014 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, to my friend from Winnipeg North, there are numerous times in the House when we have not agreed on things, but this is one of the times that we are in agreement.

When the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board was first envisioned and put together, there was 60 to 70 days' worth of hearings across the north. I have to give credit that it was under a Liberal government when that took place.

Bill S-6 is coming from the Senate. However, the Senate did not do any travel for it. However, if the committee chooses to travel, the NDP will support that travel. I would ask the member very clearly, would he support such an idea by the Liberals?

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December 4th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. Given the significance of this, I know that the Liberal Party would be quite supportive of it. My colleague, the member for Labrador, has been fairly clear in explaining that to me. We believe that this is something that would be of great benefit.

Therefore, we have two parties in the House that are saying that we should move forward and do that. Maybe in response to the next question, the government will make that commitment, and so there would unanimous approval by the three major political parties in the House today.

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December 4th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course, it was the member for Yukon who first asked that the aboriginal affairs committee travel to the north. We have been quite willing to do that.

Yesterday, the member for Northwest Territories was quite clear that this was not on the table. I guess he has been told that he did not speak for the party, which is not the first time that has happened.

However, yes, I will leave the comment that it was this party that brought it forward. We are glad to have the opposition on board for travel to Yukon.

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December 4th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Well, Mr. Speaker, you heard it first.

We now have unanimous support among the three major political parties. I suspect that the Liberal Party critic will follow through. Hopefully, we will see the committee actually go up north to Yukon and explore other potential opportunities.

At least the debate is coming to a close on a very positive note.

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December 4th, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, in light of your comment, I will try to wrap up this debate on a positive note. I hope I can. As always, I am very honoured to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-6.

I am honoured in the sense that I always have the opportunity to raise issues that are important to me as the member for the northern riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, which is home to a diverse population. I would like to point out that the riding includes 14 Inuit communities, nine Cree communities—soon to be 10, I hope—and two Algonquin communities. In addition, the cities in the riding depend heavily on natural resource development.

It is therefore always a privilege for me to rise to speak to these issues that are important to the constituents in my vast and magnificent riding.

I am particularly honoured to speak to this bill because I would like to raise two critical issues relating to the debate that I am wrapping up. The first is the fact that, in a way, Bill S-6 dismantles the environmental assessment process developed by and for Yukoners. The second is about the whole issue of consulting and accommodating first nations, which has been debated at length this afternoon.

I keep telling the House that these issues are constitutional obligations that we have as a country and that the government has towards first nations. We cannot ignore these very serious issues. They are not fluff and, in fact, I think they are very important.

This very morning, I introduced Bill C-641 in the House. The bill would ensure that the laws of Canada's Parliament are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That international document is the only one that specifically covers the rights of the 370 million indigenous people around the world. I believe that we need to find a way to embrace this important document in the House.

When the declaration was adopted in 2007, the UN Secretary-General spoke of this document as the path to reconciliation between states and indigenous peoples. I wholeheartedly support this declaration. It would keep us from going through the kinds of situations we are seeing right now concerning the whole issue of consulting and accommodating aboriginal peoples when legislation is studied in the House.

Article 19 of the declaration states that indigenous people must be consulted and accommodated, in addition to providing their consent, when legislation that would directly affect them is being considered.

I introduced Bill C-641 this morning, and I am very proud of it. It would put aboriginal people and all Canadians on the path to reconciliation, which is so desperately needed in this country right now.

What will happen remains to be seen, and I hope the House will support and pass this bill. I also hope for the support of every Canadian, as this affects us all.

In the Delgamuukw case, the Chief Justice clearly indicated that we are all here to stay. That is a statement I believe in, so let us try to find a modus vivendi so that we can live together in peace and harmony.

I can speak from experience about the environmental assessment process we are talking about in this bill. I chaired the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment, which is provided for in section 22 of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. This committee oversees the implementation of the environmental and social protection regime outlined in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Having chaired this committee for many years, I could speak at length about it because I currently understand the importance of having a clear, independent and impartial process.

The James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment for the southern part of the James Bay area is made up of Cree representatives, members appointed by the federal government and others appointed by the provincial government, the Government of Quebec in this case. It is therefore a clear process.

In this regard, when the environmental assessment process and the powers and mandates of the assessment committees are clear to everyone, development goes well. Development in northern Quebec is going well because people know what to expect. They know the rules and standards set out in the the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. When these things are clear, everyone understands the rules and knows what to expect, whether it is the aboriginal people who are directly affected or the natural resource developers, particularly in the territories. Everything goes well.

Since I will be concluding the debate, I would like to quickly address the issue of consulting and accommodating aboriginal peoples. That is an essential point that has been discussed all afternoon. I was here all afternoon and I listened carefully to both the speeches and the questions and answers on this topic. It is important to consider all of these issues.

My colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan quoted a few examples of the objections expressed to this government concerning the changes it wants to make with this bill. First, she quoted the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada. She also quoted the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, which expressed its opposition to the bill and its support for the aboriginal peoples in the context of the changes to be made under Bill S-6. I want to quote that tourism association, which is in the territories:

TIA Yukon asserts that taking land use planning decisions away from the Territory will ultimately give tourism operators in the Yukon less of a say over land use issues where resource extraction interests conflict with interests of tourism businesses.

I would also like to read from a letter written by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon Chapter. This letter was sent to the government and to other members here in the House, including some opposition members. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says it is against some of the proposed changes in Bill S-6, and mentioned four points in particular. The first is, and I quote:

...providing the federal minister new powers to give binding policy orders to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board as this amendment undermines the independence of the Board....

I just talked about the independence of these processes.

I will close by saying that the first nations directly affected by this bill complained that they were not properly consulted and that their concerns were not reflected by these changes.

We must never forget that we have a constitutional obligation to the first nations. We cannot deny that obligation, simply say that the first nations were consulted and then do nothing to address their concerns. We have a dual obligation to consult them and accommodate them. We must never forget that.

Again, our fear is that these matters will end up before the courts yet again and that once again the courts will side with us. That is our concern.

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.

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December 1st, 2014 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his presentation today on this bill, a bill that really has two parts. One part went through an extensive consultation period. The record of that consultation over five years and the resulting recommendations are not really in the public to the degree they should be.

The second part, as the minister has outlined, for the Yukon side of the bill, had a number of amendments put forward. The minister indicated that there was consultation on these particular amendments, which are the controversial parts of this bill for Yukoners, to a great degree.

What the Yukon first nations are saying is that on February 26, 2014, Canada arrived at a meeting and provided only paper copies of these amendments to the people at the meeting. The first nations who were on the phone could not have electronic copies. To look at this and say that there was consultation on these very vital parts of the bill is not correct.

Could the minister show how this is adequate consultation on these major changes to the bill?

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December 1st, 2014 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, some people have a strange interpretation of what consultation means.

In this case, in December 2011, after the five-year review process, where we agreed to 72 out of 76 recommendations, the government announced its responsible resource development in the north initiative. We held a video conference on it. Then we had a teleconference in April 2013 with the Council of Yukon First Nations on the way forward for amending YESAA.

In May 2013, we had a mail-out to the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Government of Yukon on a first draft legislative proposal, with a request for written comments. In June 2013, there was a mail-out to industry of a first draft legislative proposal with, again, a request for comments.

The consultation process was so long that I am being stopped and do not have time to lay it all out. There has been ample consultation, as attested to by a Liberal senator in the Senate.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister.

Once again, it seems that the government has succeeded in being offside of what first nations groups in the country are asking for when it comes to enacting legislation for partnership in moving forward with development projects.

The minister talks about consulting, but when you consult, you normally listen. When you listen, you normally put forward a partnership to arrive at legislation and policy that works for all involved. What we are seeing here this morning is that there is consultation on some parts of the bill that is before us, and on some other parts there is not consultation.

The minister talked about meeting with first nations groups this morning. Did they tell the minister what they have been telling all of us, which is that if this bill passes, they will have no other choice but to take legal action against the government?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

December 1st, 2014 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's question and her words at the end.

That is the genius of this great country of ours. Yes, indeed, I met this morning with the Council of Yukon First Nations. I explained the bill and those four provisions they opposed. I am still waiting for anyone to show me where these violate the Umbrella Final Agreement. To the contrary, those amendments were all completed in the Umbrella Final Agreement.

The member is talking about the consultation process. If there is agreement by those who were consulted, like there was for the 72 out of 76 they agreed to, it is fine, because they were accepted. That is consultation. That is what the member just said. However, if one does not agree, although we have listened and explained, then it is not consultation. That is the genius of Canada. If the first nations claim that we have failed in our duty to consult, the court will determine the issue, and they are welcome to use the courts.

I know, and I can show clearly, that first nations in the Yukon were comprehensively and substantially consulted on all of the four amendments they oppose.

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December 1st, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, we heard from a number of groups at the Senate committee that supported this legislation. There is some great news, from their perspective, about what these changes to YESAA would do. However, I would like to touch on the concerns of Yukon first nations.

There are four points, but I would like to focus on one of the concerns we have heard. The Yukon first nations are concerned that some of the legislation would supersede the provisions of the Umbrella Final Agreement. I wonder if the hon. minister can provide assurances to the House, Canadians, Yukon first nations, and indeed, everyone in the Yukon who has an investment in the Umbrella Final Agreement, first nations treaties, and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act that the legislation we are putting forward will respect the Umbrella Final Agreement. If he could point to any of the sections to demonstrate that to Yukoners and Yukon first nations, it would be greatly appreciated.

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December 1st, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely. In Canada, the crown is fully aware of its obligations under the Umbrella Final Agreement to the Council for Yukon Indians. Each and every measure proposed in this bill would be subject to the act.

Section 4 of the act makes it clear that if ever there was an inconsistency between the position of the final agreement and a law passed by the federal government, the Umbrella Final Agreement would prevail. This is repeated in section 4, in chapter 2, and again in YESAA itself.

Therefore, I think Yukoners can have the assurance that none of the legislative measures proposed today could supersede the Umbrella Final Agreement, which has precedence over the bill.

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December 1st, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, to that point, this is what the Yukon First Nations said, and they were speaking to the clause in the agreement:

Although the reference to the clause is accurate, and the Final Agreement shall prevail in any inconsistency or conflict, the only way to resolve this when it arises would be to take the matter to the courts.

I would like the minister to comment, because we are ending up with another bill that will end up in the courts to deal with inconsistencies between the treaty and the agreements that have been signed and what the Conservative government wants to pass into law.

Why is the government moving in that direction? Why does it not recognize the nature of the issue it is dealing with and put forward legislation that will not be challenged in court?

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December 1st, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the record will show if this ever goes to court. Someone would have to show where these changes would violate the agreement.

Let us talk about, for example, the exemption from reassessment unless significant changes have occurred. Under the Umbrella Final Agreement, at chapter 12.4.1.1, it says, “Subject to this chapter...Projects and significant changes to Existing Projects” will be “subject to the development assessment process”. This is the law of the land. This is a constitutional obligation of Canada and the first nations.

We did not invent this. It is in the agreement. If this is opposed by the first nations, we cannot, with an act of Parliament, change a constitutional arrangement between Canada and the first nations.

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December 1st, 2014 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the bill in front of us, which has found its way here through the Senate, a completely inappropriate way to bring forward legislation. It should have come here first and should be a government bill, but the government chose that pathway. That way it can move things through the House in a fashion and build a case using its witnesses in the Senate, which it controls, and take away the real responsibility for debate in this place.

This bill deals with northerners' rights and first nations' rights. First nations' rights are constitutionally protected, and northerners' rights have constitutional issues attached to them as well, which I will go into as I go forward. Bill S-6 would amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act, known as YESAA, and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act. I will deal mostly with the changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act. The changes to the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act are much less profound and not as controversial.

There is a high level of opposition to these changes. In September, I was in Whitehorse and conducted a public hearing on these bills, with the assistance of the Yukon NDP. There was standing room only in that meeting room. People wanted to understand the bills and were concerned about their impact. Yukoners are sophisticated in their knowledge and understanding of legislative changes. They have been through it to a greater extent than perhaps the other territories. It is a territory that has achieved the highest level of devolution prior to this bill. People are on track in understanding what their rights are and what they see as their future.

However, of course, the Conservative MP, the Conservative senator, and the right-wing Yukon Party government are not listening to the people, not conducting public hearings, and not allowing the people of Yukon to have a say on this bill. They are doing their stakeholder consultation and fulfilling their obligations to first nations for consultations, but where are the public hearings? Where is the engagement of the public at large? They will not do that because they know very well that if they did, the real opposition to this bill would coalesce with the first nations and say no to the bill and the changes.

Why would people in Yukon who are concerned about their livelihoods and futures be concerned about these changes that the minister has presented as simply ways of increasing economic activity in Yukon and making things work a little better? There are four changes that really upset Yukoners. One of them is providing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development the authority to provide binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. This is something that was established in the NWT and there were real concerns with it there. The Yukon, which has been dealing with a different system for the past 10 years, is looking at anything like this as an abrogation of its rights and hard-fought authority over the lands and resources.

The second change is the introduction of legislative time limits for assessments. That is another issue that I will bring up a bit later.

The third change is allowing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to delegate any or all responsibilities to the Yukon government. That is an issue of huge concern to first nations, and Yukoners as well. Yukon has worked out an arrangement between first nations and public government that is critical to the future of the Yukon territory. I do not think anyone would deny that. That relationship is one that the provinces are having more and more trouble with every day. The failure to deal on a nation-to-nation basis at the provincial level is causing all kinds of grief in all kinds of projects right across this country. Therefore, there is concern about how the delegation takes place.

Then there is the question of creating broad exemptions from YESAA for renewals and amendments of permits and authorizations. People look at that and ask what is going on and wonder how they we make sure it is correct.

Additionally, these amendments favour the Yukon government over Yukon first nations, the other partner in the YESAA process. The Council of Yukon First Nations has threatened legal action should the bill become law.

YESAA was established in 2003 in fulfilment of an obligation in the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement, which has settled many first nations land claims in that territory. In October, 2007, the five-year review of YESAA was initiated and then completed in 2012. The findings of the review were never made public.

Unlike the provinces, the legislative powers of the territories are determined through federal statute rather than through the Constitution. What we have in the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut is what Parliament gives us. While section 3 of the charter of rights, which is part of the Constitution, guarantees that every citizen in Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein, the remainder of the Constitution describes the territories as lesser partners in Canada than the provinces.

We in the three territories have a problem in that we would remain without the authority of this body, the House of Commons, giving us our full due under Confederation. We would not have those powers under the Constitution.

Because of this reliance on the federal government to devolve the legislative powers and authorities that the provinces take for granted, it is really unfortunate and duplicitous that the Conservatives are taking away powers through these amendments to the act 11 years after they were granted.

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December 1st, 2014 / 12:35 p.m.
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