Evidence of meeting #37 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was amendments.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Tara Shannon  Director, Resource Policy and Programs Directorate, Northern Affairs, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Tom Isaac  Senior Counsel, Negotiations, Northern Affairs and Federal Interlocutor, Department of Justice

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

As per my ruling on the previous amendment that sought to delete a clause, this amendment is inadmissible. It is attempting to delete the entire clause, and that would have the same effect as choosing not to vote for the adoption of the clause, so it would be inadmissible

Now we will move to amendment LIB-2. If this one is moved and adopted, we would not proceed with amendment PV-7 as it's on the same lines.

Ms. Jones, did you wish to speak to amendment LIB-2?

April 21st, 2015 / 9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Yes, please. Thank you.

I'm moving that clause 16 be amended (a) by replacing lines 20 and 21 on page 6 with the following:

56. (1) A designated office shall, after a proposal is

I don't know if the clerk wants to read it back what the amended version would be. Of course, the other part of it would delete lines 4 to 20 on page 7. You can look at that there. Of course, the purpose of that is with regard to the timelines.

Again, this was an issue that was brought forward by nearly everyone who presented to our committee. They had tremendous concerns about this, about the time limits that were being referred to and set, and the role that governments were playing in enforcing these particular timelines. They certainly felt that they were not consulted appropriately about those timelines and they raised a lot of very significant issues about this. They felt that these issues are undermining a process that had been working in their area when it came to the environmental assessment and permitting process for many of the companies they were dealing with.

What I found very interesting was that even when one of the mining companies there was presenting, they also supported amendments to these clauses. They were very supportive of the first nations governments and other Yukoners who felt that this needed to be changed and that there were sections here that would have a significant impact upon the way they were doing business. The other thing I found very interesting is that in a lot of the presentations with regard to YESAA and the process, whether it included timelines or whatever the case may be, there were lots of references made to the fact that this was a unique Yukon-made process and that this legislation was in place because it worked in their particular area and for the players there. There was a lot of discussion around that. Even the Yukon premier made comments with regard to that. I don't think we can ignore what this bill will mean for that process and what impact it will have on the people in the Yukon region. Again, I would encourage my colleagues at the committee level to look at supporting these amendments.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Okay.

Thank you.

Does anyone else wish to speak to that amendment?

I don't see any other hands there.

(Amendment negatived)

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

A recorded vote, Mr. Chair.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

We've conducted the vote already, Ms. Jones.

If you want to request that a little sooner we can do that.

We will then move to PV-7.

Ms. May, did you wish to speak to PV-7?

9:20 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As you can see, we're dealing with a very similar issue to the amendment that was just defeated, but with a different approach.

I turn the attention of the committee to letter received in January; it was tabled with this committee. It was a letter to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs from Grand Chief Ruth Massie. The proposed timelines in this act under the Yukon environmental assessment act will compress reviews.

I think it's important to note the grand chief's point that all stages of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act process are “already subject to fixed timelines that are established in the YESAA regulations and rules established by the Board.”

She goes on to say:

The proposed timelines for screenings by the Executive Committee and panel reviews would not provide adequate time to complete the assessment of complex projects. This means that assessments of large projects that may impact Yukon First Nations' rights and interests may not be thorough and complete. It will also likely reduce the time provided in the assessment for Yukon First Nations' review of proposals and, as a result, reduce the effectiveness of engagement and consultation with the Yukon First Nations.

These are, again, significant intrusions, incursions, and disrespect to first nations' rights as enshrined in our constitution. It violates existing commitments made by the Government of Canada in right of the crown. It violates the fundamental connection that undermines all treaty arrangements between first nations and Canada when we make unilateral changes to agreements previously made with first nations.

The amendment I'm proposing would reduce the impact of time limits and create a greater respect for the existing agreements that we have reached with Yukon first nations.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Does anyone else wish to speak to PV-7?

Mr. Bevington.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

I'd just say, in the spirit of trying to find some compromise here, that we're supporting these amendments, but we really think this whole clause should be excised. As Ms. May pointed out from the letter from Grand Chief Ruth Massie, this is taken care of; it's in the hands of the board already.

This is just paternalism once again. It's just another example of interfering in what should be a process that is governed primarily by Yukoners, and Yukoners have spoken up pretty well on this.

Why is this government taking this turn? This government came in talking about strong provinces and regions, but when it comes to the north, it wants to get its greedy hands on the resources. It's just a little too much. It should just back off a little bit with its paternalism.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

I see no other members who wish to speak to that.

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

Next I have amendment PV-8.

Ms. May, did you wish to speak to PV-8?

9:20 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Sorry, Mr. Chair. I was double-checking with my colleague that the Liberal Party did, in fact, support that last amendment. I'm relieved.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

And I did.

9:20 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

I guess we were on a recorded vote on that one.

Mr. Chair, this amendment is in the same spirit. This again would shorten and eliminate timelines, and the only required timeline would be one in which within nine months of the day the proposal is submitted, there would be a report to the executive committee on the progress of the evaluation of the project. That does create a new timeline. It does create some additional pressures in reporting. But it doesn't violate the existing commitments and existing timelines by replacing everything we find in subsection 56(1), found on page 6, to just above clause 17, which deals with subsection 58(1) of the act.

My amendment would delete all that and replace it with a report to the executive committee on progress.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Thank you, Ms. May.

Does anyone else wish to speak to PV-8?

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

As I see no other amendments, shall clause 16 carry? On division?

(Clause 16 agreed to)

(On clause 17)

We actually have a number of amendments here.

Does anyone care to move an amendment?

The NDP?

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Okay, we'll move NDP-4.

I'll let you do your job.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Thank you.

Obviously, as per my previous rulings on amendments that seek to delete a clause, that would be inadmissible.

We would then move to LIB-3.

Ms. Jones, do you wish to move that?

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Thank you.

The first part of my amendment would amend clause 17 by replacing lines 23 and 24 on page 7 with the following:

58.(1) The executive committee shall, after a proposal

The second part of the amendment would change the clause by deleting lines 10 to 26 on page 8.

I'll speak to that for a minute. Again, it was felt by the people we'd consulted around this particular bill that this section was not conducive to the work they were doing. It was not acceptable in terms of the process they currently had in place. They really felt that these amendments were being imposed upon them. They certainly didn't feel that they were developed in consultation with government. Many of the first nations groups felt it was in violation of their constitutional duties, in violation of their treaty agreements that they had signed. In fact, some of them even talked about the fact that they had retained less traditional settlement lands simply because they were depending upon the YESAA process of land use to guarantee that their interests were protected.

They certainly feel that these amendments that are being proposed right now do not protect their interests in any way. They certainly feel that this is being arbitrarily imposed. In fact, they really feel that in order for them to maintain the agreements that they have in place, their constitutional rights under their treaty agreements, this particular section needs to be deleted completely.

Understanding that the committee does not accept recommendations to delete full clauses of the bill, we are looking at how we can best amend this and delete certain sections of it to be able to further meet the requirements and the wishes of first nations governments in Yukon. I would ask that the committee support this based on what is fair and right and in the best interests of the people who live in Yukon.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Do any other members wish to speak to that amendment?

Seeing none, all those in favour LIB-3?

(Amendment negatived)

We'll move then to PV-9.

9:25 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Again we're in the area of various new sections in Bill S-6 that propose different timelines, this one being: “The executive committee shall, within 16 months after the day on which a proposal is submitted...or referred to it”. It then goes on with various recommendations to decision-making bodies.

What my amendment proposes to do at this stage is that rather than enforce a predetermined project completion timeline, at that point the board would report to the minister on the timeline required for the completion of the evaluation project. This would seek to retain the independence of the board in handling its own matters, and it will of course create a timeline moment. It creates a moment where the executive committee will have a requirement to report to the minister on how things are going and give the minister a timeline.

Again, this is in the context of a situation where there are already timelines and the process has been working well. Bill S-6 proposes to essentially fix something that isn't broken and in the process would violate fundamental commitments to first nations for full consultation, meaningful participation, and treatment with respect, a government-to-government relationship as equal partners.

To try to repair some of the damage of Bill S-6, I propose this amendment.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Does anyone else wish to speak to PV-9?

(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])

We won't proceed with PV-10 as it is identical to PV-9.

(Clause 17 agreed to: yeas 5; nays 3)

(Clauses 18 to 20 inclusive agreed to on division)

(On clause 21)

I see a couple of amendments to clause 21. Does someone care to move NDP-5? Ms. Ashton?

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Again, this is a fundamental demand make by Yukon first nations and Yukoners in opposition to Bill S-6. This clause is seen to repeal the hard work that Yukoners have done to be able to direct their own future in terms of development. We know this to be an issue not just for the folks on the ground but also for companies that are keen to invest with some stability in Yukon. Therefore, we stand with them in proposing the deletion of this clause.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

As per my previous rulings, amendments seeking to delete a clause are inadmissible, so that would be an inadmissible amendment.

We will then move to PV-11.

9:30 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I certainly commend my friends in the NDP for trying to remove offensive parts of this act. It may be that the approach taken by the Green Party is not as robust as attempting deletions, but since deletions aren't possible at this stage, we'd like to suggest with amendment PV-11 that we remove the more offensive parts of proposed section 66.1 all the way through to the following page by changing proposed subsection 66.1(1) to “The executive committee shall establish a panel of the Board, and fix its terms of reference, within the time limit specified by the Board”, thus deleting everything else in that section over to the next page.

Again, this is to ensure that the decision-making power for timelines remains within the purview of the board and is not specified by legislation.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Does anyone else wish to speak?

Mr. Bevington.

9:30 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

I wanted to touch on one aspect of this whole affair, and I think I can do it now.

First nations have a very specific interest in this, but the people of the Yukon in general have a very specific interest. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, people in the north have a right to a legislative assembly and there is equality in this world.

You know, as a person who has lived and worked in this system my whole life, I don't get the same kind of powers and authorities that people could aspire to in the provinces. When you're in a situation where a territory has been given authority through a board—and we see now that that authority is being harnessed, being held back, being moved back into the federal regime—I find this to be abhorrent

We're taking a step backwards from political rights in Yukon. We're taking a step backwards for the people of the Yukon from where they were. It's tough enough living and working in the territories when you don't have the rights, but when you are given something that is your due and then you find later on that somebody wants to take it back, they want to curtail your rights, this is just scandalous in many ways. It's scandalous what this government is doing to the people of the north.

Yes, they can pressure the territorial governments. They hold the gold, and they can pressure the territorial governments to go along with these types of acts. That's what's happened here. It's happened in the Northwest Territories and it's happening now in Yukon. I think it's even more significant in Yukon because they have been taking things away, and that's just not correct.

I wish people across the way would understand the nature of what's going on and how we all are Canadians. We all should have similar rights. Those of us who don't have them should have the expectation of receiving those rights in the future.

This particular act may seem minor to you; it may seem like a minor amendment. It may seem to be not that important. But what people get when they don't have everything is important to people. They don't have all of the rights that you do. When they've had something, it's important that it isn't taken away. In any way that the federal government can consider that they have the moral authority to take something back from us is really unfortunate.

You know, I'm not trying to.... If it doesn't happen today, if you are legislators in the future, it's important that you understand that the goal—

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Mr. Bevington, I have allowed you quite significant latitude here. I think that unless you're going to bring it back to the amendment, then you better—