Mr. Speaker, I will read my prepared statement which is about four more pages. I will try to read fast.
I would remind hon. members that such agreements have been reached with four Yukon First Nations, the Vuntut Gwit'chin First Nation, the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Teslin Tlingits Council. Progress in the negotiations for final agreements with the remaining 10 First Nations are awaiting passage and proclamation of the bill and the coming into force of the Yukon First Nations land claims and self-government acts which members passed last June.
One of the primary objectives of land claim agreements is to bring about certainty of land and resource ownership. This is being achieved in Yukon and it will result in many economic and social benefits to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal residents of Yukon.
Hand in hand with this certainty of ownership comes the need for a known regime for obtaining access to private and public lands. This regime must be responsible and fair to all residents of Yukon and it must put Yukon resource industries on a level playing field with other Canadian jurisdictions.
I am very confident that Bill C-55 will establish such a regime in Yukon. It will establish a common set of rules throughout the territory. It will ensure that all stakeholders have representation on the surface rights board which will hear disputes between surface rights holders and those who want access to the subsurface resources.
It will keep these disputes out of the courts. As my colleagues have already indicated, the proposed Yukon surface rights board will be a cost effective dispute resolution mechanism compared with litigation.
The surface rights board will be an extremely important body in Yukon. It will guarantee that mining companies and others will be able to exercise their legitimate rights of access to holdings of private land as well as crown land. This will ensure that resource development projects will go ahead after many years of delay and frustration.
The board will also ensure that compensation for the use of these lands is fair and reasonable. This is particularly important for First Nations which will own the surface rights of large tracts of land for which subsurface rights have already been granted.
In addition, the surface rights board will be mandated to uphold all existing rights of access across settlement lands for the public and government.
This is on the condition that the use of these rights does not significantly alter the route. Otherwise the consent of the affected First Nations will be required. Consent will also be required for new access routes across settlement lands.
There are many reasons why the House should support Bill C-55 but in weighing all the reasons my colleagues and I have outlined today, we should not forget that most fundamentally we will be fulfilling a commitment made by the Government of Canada to Yukon First Nations and to all Yukon residents.
That commitment was to settle the Yukon First Nations land claims based on the umbrella final agreement and the creation of this board is an integral part of that process.
The government's commitment to settle outstanding land claims was clearly stated in the red book and it is a pledge we intend to act upon at every opportunity.
We have made some excellent progress and established strong momentum over the past year. Most recently, we endorsed the final agreement of the Sahtu, Dene and Metis of the Mackenzie Valley. Negotiations are proceeding well on a number of other claims.
By addressing land claims in a fair and responsible manner, the government will resolve long standing disputes with First Nations and contribute to a healing process between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.
I would urge my hon. friends to participate actively in this healing process by supporting Bill C-55 at second reading.