Evidence of meeting #32 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was fnpo.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clarence T. Jules  Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

4 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

But not the private lands....

4 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

Well, they do. If you don't pay your taxes, they'll come and take it.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

I think that's helpful in terms of drawing out some of these discussions, but we do have to constrain ourselves as much as can possibly do to our seven minutes.

Mr. Clarke, we're going to turn it over to you for the next seven minutes.

Mr. Jules.

4 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

Just quickly, I want to read statements on Attawapiskat by two of your colleagues.

This is Charlie Angus:

Thanks to the provisions of the Indian Act, workers who may want to build their own house in Attawapiskat are unable to do so because they can't get a mortgage on a reserve.

Another one of your colleagues, Gilles Bisson, argued that the act should be overhauled to allow first nations to own their homes as private property, something the legislation currently prohibits.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you, Mr. Jules.

We'll turn it over to Mr. Clarke now, for seven minutes please.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you.

Mr. Jules, if you want to continue, go right ahead. I don't mind. Again, thanks so much for coming in. Do you have any more points you want to clarify?

4 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

There are lots, but I'm here to facilitate discussion with parliamentarians, and I welcome this opportunity.

April 3rd, 2012 / 4 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you.

You mentioned 25 million Saskatchewans and $440 million in TLE land—the framework. Then you mentioned about Manitoba and the money being spent there.

What I see in what you're trying to say—and I'll try to say it in simple terms—what we're seeing are the non-aboriginals. It's easy for non-aboriginals to go out to the countryside, purchase land just like the first nations is doing for TLE land, but it's easier for the non-aboriginals to go and buy some property, subdivide it, and start small municipalities, which then become economically self-sufficient. What we're seeing with the first nations are the barriers that the Indian Act is creating, even for the purchasing of a TLE land.

What you're mentioning with the first nations property ownership is getting into the non-aboriginal communities in that structured framework, is that correct?

4 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

That is correct.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Mr. Clarke, I have to interrupt here, and I do apologize to everybody around the table, but I have to suspend the meeting unless people concur and there's unanimity that we continue. I don't know why the bells are ringing. We're seeking confirmation.

So there is consensus to move along. We'll move along.

Mr. Clarke, we'll turn it over to you. We'll try to update colleagues as things go.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Jules, I have a couple of questions here. What steps must first nations communities undertake in order to opt into the first nations property ownership?

4 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

The first step, obviously, is to get the legislation passed through the House and through Senate, and then receive the royal assent. Ultimately what we foresee is that there will be a vote firstly with the band council to engage in a process to educate their members because the members have to know all of the pluses and minuses of moving towards this piece of legislation. Then there would be a vote within the community to opt into the legislation.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I understand the fee simple method you're saying. What I'd like to ask you further is why is first nations property ownership needed?

4 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

When I started to think about these issues, it was obviously in relationship to my experience in Kamloops and what I saw there. I started to read some of my dad's statements in 1968 about the consultation process called “Choosing a Path”, which was undertaken with Jean Chrétien and the Trudeau government and was about abolishing the Indian Act.

At that time, in 1968, my community said that we didn't elect the bureaucrats of the Department of Indian Affairs to be our counsel, that we elected our government, and they should be the ones governing us and our lands. We have to be able to move at the speed of business, they said, and if there is no provision in the Indian Act for land title for the federal government, we want indefeasible title ourselves. This was said in Kamloops in 1968. So the reason that I feel we need legislation, which is called FNPO right now, is to begin to create an entrepreneurial middle class within the first nations.

Yes, there have been communities that have been geographically blessed and that have taken advantage of FNLMA and other processes to benefit from their location, within the restrictive framework of delegated lands authorities and using the Indian Act deed system, but I want to move beyond that. I want to move so that we can have indefeasible title to our lands, so that individuals can go, like every other Canadian, to the Royal Bank or a bank of their choosing and be able to secure a mortgage based on the same principles that every other Canadian would have to follow.

This isn't going to be a program where it's a social housing approach. There is still a need for social housing. This doesn't do away with that. This also doesn't do away with all of the other sections of the Indian Act. There are still going to be a lot of other sections that have to ultimately be dealt with.

My view is that first nations have to be able to have a choice. I'm hoping that they will ultimately move to a choice that empowers the individual. This is amongst the first individually aimed pieces of legislation that empower individual people to be able to free their imagination.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you.

What I'm seeing with the Indian Act is that it treats first nations almost like second-class citizens. With this modernization, with the FNPO you're proposing, I'm just wondering what benefits first nations property ownership will have.

4:05 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

As I hinted at in the document, I think it will lead to better education. Right now in the federal budget there is a commitment for some $270 million for education and another $300 million or so for infrastructure to build schools. Education is an important component of a strategy for us to break the cycle of dependence.

But if you can't instill in our youth another way, the federal government is going to have to reinvest another $500 million in the next five years to again catch up in education, whereas if you begin to empower the individual and free them from the dependence that we all have right now in the social policy area—depending on the federal government to finance schooling, as an example—that means individuals will have a future. They're not going to be looking at the so-called grey markets of economic activity. They will be able to participate in the free market system that we have here in Canada, and in all of those avenues, really, that we've been legislated out of.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Clarke and Mr. Jules.

Ms. Bennett, we'll turn to you for the next seven minutes.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Thank you.

You say that you've been consulting with other first nations who were interested in this approach. Could you let the committee know what are some of the first nations that have expressed interest so that we might be able to talk to them?

4:05 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

There is my community of Kamloops, Little Shuswap, Shuswap, Whispering Pines, Kitselas, and Brokenhead in Winnipeg. So there are a number of communites that I've talked to.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

We've heard a lot of positive things about the first nations land management regime. What does your proposal do that you can't do under the land management regime?

4:10 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

You have to realize that with the FNLMA, it's still Indian reserve lands. The title to those lands are still vested in Her Majesty, so they don't move us away from the Indian Act. I'm not here to buttress and to continue to hold up the Indian Act. I want to find ways and means to get away from that, so that's one component.

It also still relies on the Indian Lands Registry, which is a deed system. In one leasehold interest in my community, we have a lease that's in excess of 500 pages—that's a book. When a lawyer comes in and begins to look at a lease or a deed system, it goes back maybe 45 years, whereas a Torrens system is one page, and you can go to the bank with it.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

What would be the acceptable threshold for a community to decide to do this? Because some of the concerns that we've heard and the recent documentary on CBC Radio.... I remember Gary Merasty describing that if there's reserve land that then falls out of the ownership of a community member, it's like a paper-punch going through it—the checkerboard that everybody's worried about. It can become a very lacy-looking piece of property that eventually is no longer owned by the community.

4:10 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

It's like Canada, or the provinces. Do we say that Ontario is lacy? Do we say that Ottawa, because it has a lot of different tenures, is lacy? I don't think so.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

What would happen, then, if the future leadership wanted to get out of fee simple?

4:10 p.m.

Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Tax Commission

Clarence T. Jules

Then they'd have to—like they do right now—buy the interest.

I'm not proposing that we move to what happened under the Dawes Act in the United States. I've studied that extensively. The whole notion behind the Dawes Act, after the western expansion by the United States, was to open up lands and take them away from the Indians. So most of the land was taken away, and given to individual settlers. Some land went to individual tribal members. I'm not proposing to do that.

The title will always be vested in the collective interest of the community. It will always have jurisdiction over those lands, no matter who would have interest in those lands. The vote is going to be the same as Quebec's right to secede from Canada.