House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


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4:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to committee.)

The House resumed from October 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-55, an act to establish a board having jurisdiction concerning disputes respecting surface rights in respect of land in the Yukon territory and to amend other acts in relation thereto, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Yukon Surface Rights Board ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on Bill C-55, the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act. I join with the government speakers who have spoken before me today, including the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, in urging support for the bill. It is time to conclude the debate by giving our unanimous support for Bill C-55.

As hon. members have noted, it is a complex and technical bill and there is a good reason for it. The objective of Bill C-55 is to put in place a comprehensive surface rights regime that will apply throughout Yukon. This is not something that can be achieved without a detailed setting out of rights, obligations and responsibilities. However the impact of Bill C-55 will be far more significant than the creation of a new institution of public government, as important as it is.

Essentially the bill is saying that economic growth and job creation in Yukon will now become real priorities. Often when we come from urban ridings we tend to forget about Yukon and the Northwest Territories; we tend to be so focused on our own activities.

During my experience as an opposition member it seemed as though I had a little more time to see parts of the country. I had the privilege in my first term as a member of Parliament of visiting parts of our north. As many members would know, it is an area of the country that most Canadians know very little about other than looking on a map. That is about the only time we focus on the north. During my first term in office our leader organized a caucus in Iqaluit in the eastern Arctic. Our colleague from western Arctic took some of us to James Bay. Later in our

term in opposition we went to the western Arctic where we visited the various local communities.

Until one goes there one cannot imagine what is going on. Because they are out of sight they are out of mind in our agenda in the House. The issues and concerns are as important to them as our concerns in our communities, in our big cities or in our rural areas.

The bill is about giving Yukon the ability or the instrument to start generating some of its own economic activity. Members know that everyone in the north supports the bill. It is not as if the bill will put in the hands of people in the north, whether they be governments or businesses, the ability to do whatever they want. As I read the bill there are a couple of very specific points I want to mention. They have to do with the environment and are found in clause 47 which talks about terms and conditions. I would like to read it into the record:

On application made by a Yukon First Nation that does not reach an agreement with the minister in respect of terms and conditions for the exercise by any person, on the settlement land of the Yukon First Nation, of a right of access described in section 2 of schedule II that are additional to any application, terms and conditions-

There are conditions. Clause 48 reads:

Unless the Yukon First Nation and the minister agree otherwise, terms and conditions may not be established pursuant to an order made under section 47 for a purpose other than

(a) protecting the environment;

(b) protecting fish or wildlife or their habitat;

(c) reducing conflicts between the exercise of that right and the traditional or cultural uses of settlement land by the Yukon First Nation or a Yukon Indian person; or,

(d) protecting the use and peaceful enjoyment of land used for communities or residences.

This bill has very specific reference to ensuring that the environmental concerns in the north which we all care about are addressed. Any transactions taking place there have to fall within the concerns specified in the act.

I hope all members will support this bill. As we focus on our own economic activity and our own cities, let us not forget there are many Canadians in the north who are hoping that with this bill we can give them the instrument to develop their own economic activity in a whole range of sectors, from mining to tourism. With this bill we will give them the stability to make those decisions.

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4:15 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Broadview-Greenwood talked about many different issues.

With regard to the surface rights board although it is designed to operate solely within the Yukon with two sets of representatives designated by the Yukon Indians as well as by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the whole concept of the board is that it will be paid for from federal funds. This is a particularly obnoxious part of the bill.

If we want to give this board long term stability and something that is locally responsive, then I firmly believe we need to ensure those groups that are benefiting from the existence of the board are the ones who are paying for it. I would not mind having a response to that comment.

Additionally, when we talk about northern communities, it is very important to recognize that Whitehorse is a very modern community. It contains 90 per cent of the population of the Yukon. There are 25,000 people, a modern airport, modern highways, modern housing. It has many more facilities than equivalent or smaller sized communities in my province of British Columbia. When I was in Whitehorse this summer I had a tremendous golf game. We cannot treat these communities and these areas as somehow being subject to a whole different set of rules than communities south of 60, certainly not in the case of the Yukon. That is my belief.

There was also a statement that everybody in the Yukon supports this bill. As we know, this bill flows from Bill C-33 and Bill C-34 that went through the House earlier this year. The member for Broadview-Greenwood knows very well how the Reform caucus felt about those bills. Bill C-55 is required as companion legislation in order to implement Bills C-33 and 34, even though they have already received royal assent.

At the time of considering Bills C-33 and C-34 we were given that very same statement that everybody in the Yukon supported those two bills. As a matter of fact everybody in the Yukon did not support those bills but certainly the filtered message we received in Ottawa was that everybody in the Yukon supported those two bills.

Given that Bills C-33 and C-34 have already received royal assent and we are currently looking only at Bill C-55, the degree of support in the Yukon is to just get on with business. It is a much higher degree of support. I am the first one to admit that is the case, but I did not want to holus-bolus let that remark slip by without making a comment on it.

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4:20 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by addressing the remarks about the support for the bill. I did not mean to suggest that every single person was behind the bill holus-bolus but generally speaking I think people are in favour of it. That is what I was trying to communicate.

As far as the board being funded by the federal government, the member mentioned he had some problems with that. I do not have any problem with that. I happen to be a member of Parliament who believes passionately in making sure that the Government of Canada presence is alive and well in every region of this country. In fact there are times when I think we devolve things too quickly around here. The fact that we are paying for this board would certainly give us some relationship with it which in the long run could be very important for all members of this House.

What is more important are the fiscal concerns that all members of this House have. Quite frankly the Reform Party has done a very good job in focusing our attention on grinding every ounce of fat out of the system. What we have to look at in this bill is the fact that we are going to set up a framework for generating real economic activity. It will turn this community into a more vibrant economic unit with more jobs, more taxpayers and less cost on the social security system.

We have to look at the total economic equation. The fact that we have to fund some administrative costs and board members to get the rest of the economic engine going in the north, in the long haul this bill will create a more fiscally responsible and productive environment for all of us.

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4:20 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-55 today. Before I start my remarks I must address a couple of points made by the hon. member from across the way.

The business community in the Yukon and northern British Columbia of course is supportive of this bill, but it really has no choice. What this bill is doing is mitigating some very bad legislation that was passed through the House in the spring of this year. The mining industry felt this would be the only way it would have an opportunity to stay in the mining business in the Yukon after that legislation was passed. I had to bring that up right off the top and say that is the reason there is some support for this bill. It is not because the business community loves it, it just feels it has no choice.

What is this bill? It is an act to establish a board having jurisdiction concerning disputes respecting surface rights in respect of land in the Yukon territory and to amend other acts in relation thereto. It sounds like something out of the Income Tax Act.

What it really means is that there will be a board made up of a chairperson and not less than two or more than ten other members to be appointed by the minister of Indian affairs. Half of the members other than the chairperson will be selected from nominations by the Council of Yukon Indians and the other half and the chairperson will be appointed by the minister. The only qualification is that every member must be a resident of the Yukon.

This bill relates to Bills C-33 and C-34. The passage of this legislation is needed as a last step to fully enact the Yukon self-government and land claims umbrella final agreements which were rammed through Parliament in June and given royal assent on July 7 of this year. Bill C-55 will establish a Yukon surface rights board which is deemed to be needed for the implementation of Bills C-33 and C-34 as an arbitration panel.

I would like to talk for a minute about Bills C-33 and C-34 and the land claim agreements that have been reached up in the north in general in the Northwest Territories and in the Yukon. In the last three or four years we have had four agreements: the Gwich'in; the Sahtu, Dene and Metis agreement which was passed this spring; Nunavut; and the latest is the Yukon land claim agreement.

Those land claim agreements encompass 560,000 square kilometres of land in the Northwest Territories and in the Yukon. The four land claims will cost the taxpayers of Canada $1.5 billion. The existing aboriginal programs that are in force today in Canada are guaranteed in perpetuity under the agreements that have been reached. There are 46,932 natives affected by these four agreements for a land mass of 560,000 square kilometres, a land mass roughly equivalent to the size of France, and a cost of $1.5 billion.

Of course the Reform Party took exception and takes exception to these land claim settlements because we feel they are too generous. Also the ongoing obligations of the federal government with respect to aboriginal programs is in no way affected by these agreements. They go on in perpetuity. Further, new bureaucracies are created as a result of these agreements. This is what we were saying in June and now we are seeing the realization of that in this Yukon surface rights board.

We recognize that land claim settlements have to be dealt with and we recognize there will be a land component as well as a cash component. I do not think any thinking Canadian doubts that. However, we do have a problem with the size of the land transfers and the amount of money involved. We think that for the population involved it is extraordinarily high and will affect Canadians in the future. Right now there is not a hue and cry because there are not very many non-aboriginals living the area. However, it is the future we are thinking of. It is the future opportunities in mining, forestry and other resource uses that we have concerns about when we are in opposition to these bills.

Going on to the bill itself because half of the members other than the chairperson will be appointed from nominations by the Council of Yukon Indians and the other half will be appointed directly by the minister of Indian affairs, patronage appointments will be rampant.

We all know what happens historically after every election when we get a change in government from the Liberals to the Conservatives. It will be the Reform the next time around. When we get a change in government, we see harbour boards and transportation boards, all kinds of boards that are stacked with political appointments automatically, mysteriously overnight all the faces change. We saw it after the last election in October of last year.

A great deal of partisan political manoeuvring goes on with these appointments. As much as our friends on the other side of the House will hasten to say there will be no partisanship here, of course there will be. That is the way it works.

We would like to see local business people submit a list of names to the minister. From that list of names the minister could make his appointments. At least that would remove some of the partisan opportunities or the partisan influence that this board might have in the future. It is very important for the mining industry and it is very important for people to believe that this board is going to be impartial.

It is a requirement that three people sit in judgment of each individual case that is arbitrated by the board. One of these people must be from the Council of Yukon Indians. However it is not a requirement that one individual be from the business industry or from the mining industry.

This board has the potential to be skewed and could give decisions that are not based on the proper representation that we think should be required.

The board will mediate disputes as to who may cross land. What will happen on undeveloped settlement land is something that is also a concern of ours. What will happen to non-settlement lands? The board has a fair bit of influence over lands which are not directly included in the land claims agreement. This is something that we are concerned about and I am sure the mining industry is as well.

This board parallels the work of other boards that are already in place. We say therefore that it is duplication. Each board member is allowed to use contract workers such as advisers who are also paid on a per diem basis. Board members are paid on a per diem basis. A multiple array of experts at DIAND are sitting around fully capable of acting as contract workers, already being paid by the taxpayers.

Why not select from these people who are already employed rather than hiring contract workers at an additional expense to the taxpayers?

Furthermore, because the work of the board is going to be on a per diem basis, there is a possibility that the board's deliberations will drag out far longer than they need to, especially when the board members are being paid between $200 and $300 a day.

We would like to see some kind of a mechanism to make the board accountable for the length of time that it engages in deliberations and to make sure that its actions are kept at an absolute minimum.

The potential for conflict of interest is also there because claims are not assumed to be reviewed by the entire board but by a panel of three. At least one must be a member appointed to the board from the Council of Yukon Indians and two others are to be chosen by the chairperson. Could this not end with a blatant bias or conflict if all were from the Council of Yukon Indians? There are no rules to the contrary.

If the government is so concerned about allowing aboriginal peoples to have a say in surface and subsurface rights or subsurface uses of the land-I believe there is room for that-I have to question the government's concern over the ability of aboriginals in the Yukon to have a say in land use decisions. This concern apparently does not apply to the Champagne and Aishihik peoples whose traditional territories include the Tatshenshini-Alsek area of northwest British Columbia.

The Champagne-Aishihik people live primarily in the Yukon, but their traditional territories are the Tatshenshini-Alsek area and what is now the Kluane park. Economic opportunities were lost to these peoples when the Kluane national park, also a part of their traditional territories, was created in 1943.

They are now facing the prospect of seeing the Tatshenshini-Alsek designated a world heritage site by the United Nations. This proposal has been submitted to the United Nations, and is supported by the B.C. and federal governments. Our information is that the vote will be on December 14 of this year. If it is adopted by the United Nations it is going to take away Canada's sovereignty and ability to make decisions or reverse decisions on this land for all time.

I recently came into the possession of a letter written by Chief Paul Birckel who represents the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations. He writes to the premier of British Columbia expressing his concern, disappointment and frustration over the fact that the province of British Columbia has designated this area as a class A provincial park, without any consultation whatsoever with the Champagne-Aishihik people.

Now the federal government has come on board by agreeing to support the province of British Columbia having the area designated as a world heritage site. I would like to read a small bit from the letter that Chief Birckel has written to Premier Harcourt:

Therefore, I am requesting that you withdraw the support of your government to the establishment of a world heritage site nomination for the Tatshenshini-Alsek wilderness park area in British Columbia. Until some mutually satisfactory resolution of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations aboriginal rights, titles and interests in the area are dealt with. This area was initially established as a class A provincial park in June 1993. This was done without any consultation with our First Nations. This is a breach of the fiduciary responsibility that is owed by your government and by Canada to our First Nations. Therefore I am appealing to you to withdraw your support for the world heritage site nomination in our traditional area in northern British Columbia.

I believe these people should have as much opportunity to be involved in land use decisions in northern British Columbia as the Council of Yukon Indians is in the Yukon territory. This does not seem to be the case. I urge members on the other side of the House to talk to their heritage minister and the Prime Minister, and get them to agree to withdraw the nomination for the Tatshenshini as a world heritage site at this time. There is no support for it.

In conclusion, this bill is vague in its rules and regulations concerning its principal responsibilities. It mentions minimum requirements for Council for Yukon Indians involvement, but none regarding its maximum. The notion of sufficient negotiation as a pre-requisite for mediation is misleading and has a great potential for favouritism and unfair treatment of some cases and not for others.

The idea of a per diem rate of pay for board members and their contracted staff, while mediating a case, may mask the reality of the formation of another level of bureaucracy for some, but it is the same old game from where I stand.

Nothing is stopping members from dragging out mediations for the benefit of more pay. As well, I am appalled that the government, which preaches democracy, is willing to let the minister of Indian affairs appoint half of the board members from a list of nominees submitted by the Council of Yukon Indians, but not let a similar list of nominees be submitted by the business industry. After all, is this board not meant to fairly mediate the claims of both aboriginals and non-aboriginals? Why then should the business community not be included on the same basis? Why was the business community not consulted on this bill and allowed to state their feelings on it before it is implemented? As I said earlier, they are forced to agree. They have no choice.

The government seems to be finally waking up to the reality that the national debt must be dealt with. We hear more and more talk about it all the time, particularly from the finance minister, but not from everybody else I might add. Since the board adds another level of bureaucracy to the already top heavy government, why then should not the now duplicated positions be abolished?

This is what the Reform Party has been asking of the government since day one, since we first came here last October. Stop duplication. We cannot afford it. Be responsible with the taxpayers' money.

Since the Yukon aboriginals want-and with closure invoked on Bills C-33 and C-34-and have now attained a certain level of self-government, why then do they not assist with the payment for this board which will be mostly made up of and hence representative of their interests? This would be too logical for the government to understand.

I would like to end by urging members who believe in fairness, honesty and accountability to oppose this bill as it portrays the epitome of patronage and racial bias for which Canadians should never be known.

I would like to remind the House that such land claims, self-government and racially segregated mediation boards will set a precedent for future negotiations with aboriginals which Canadian taxpayers will be hard pressed to pay for.

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4:40 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this very important legislation, Bill C-55, the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act.

I would like to clarify, since there might be some misunderstanding, particularly with regard to the previous speaker's comments, that this is companion legislation to Bill C-33, the Yukon First Nations Final Land Claims Settlement Act and Bill C-34, the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Agreement Act. Both of these bills were passed in Parliament in the spring session but will not come into force until Bill C-55 is passed in the House of Commons.

As someone who has represented Yukon for seven years and who previously has been very involved in land claims settlement in the Yukon, I urge all members to speedily pass Bill C-55 to ensure that all Yukoners, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, have the tools to move forward with the certainty that is necessary for business, the respect and dignity accorded to First Nations in the Yukon and that will lead toward self-sufficiency of the Yukon territory.

This is a technical bill establishing a Yukon surface rights board which will resolve dispute between parties, guaranteeing access to holdings of private lands. That is an important and key factor here. This board only comes into effect if there are disputes that cannot be reconciled other than through this process. However, there must be a process in place prior to that which will attempt to settle disputes.

This legislation will settle disputes between persons holding surface rights and those holding subsurface rights. It is obviously very important in an area where mining is an extremely important part of the economy. The board will also deal with the amount of compensation for the expropriation of settlement lands and the amount of compensation for pockets of government lands retained within settlement lands.

A number of comments were made previously about the composition of the board. If I recall, the previous speaker said: "it is a racially segregated board".

The previous speaker from the Reform Party is quite wrong. This is a board which attempts to reconcile and to bring together, not to divide as I believe the previous speaker would do, peoples in the territory.

The composition of this board as of many other boards under the land claims legislation passed last spring in this Parliament will include representation by First Nation's people.

Both in consultation on the land claims and self-government legislation and on this legislation, many groups have been consulted and approved of this legislation: the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Yukon Territorial Government, all political parties within the Yukon Territory, the Council for Yukon Indians and the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

There have been a number of consultations with a wide variety of business interests, private interests and with the aboriginal people of Yukon.

As with the self-government and land claims legislation, this piece of legislation, Bill C-55, is supported by a number of groups in Yukon that want to see us move forward, that want to see Yukon have the respect and dignity that we should be accorded and to do something very significant not just for Yukon but for Canada.

What we are showing can be done within Canada is that we can respect the languages, the cultures and the historic traditions of all peoples within a certain territory, and we can do it under the flag of Canada.

In this time when there is discussion about the future and integrity of this country surely it should be a source of pride to all members of this House to have participated in this historic piece of legislation, of which this forms the third piece, to resolve these differences, to accommodate, to respect-let me underline respect-all of these factors and do it within a united Canada. This is historic.

I must address an issue raised by the previous speaker I believe from Skeena who made the point and came to the defence of Chief Paul Birckel from the Champagne Aishihik Band. The Champagne Aishihik Band is one of the bands noted in the land claims and self-government legislation. I must assure the member for Skeena that I am aware of a number of meetings that have taken place between the Champagne Aishihik and the Government of British Columbia. He can rest assured that the Government of British Columbia is taking very seriously the issues raised by the band of the Champagne Aishihik.

Where was the member for Skeena when his colleague in the Reform Party stood in this House last spring and called the people of the Champagne Aishihik Band lazy children and called the people of Yukon and aboriginal people peoples who were living in the south sea islands and conditions similar to that? Where was the member from the Reform Party in defending Chief Paul Birckel and the people of that band at that time?

It really is ironic that the member stands in this House today supposedly defending the people of the Champagne Aishihik Band yet last spring stood in this House voting against this very legislation that would enable the people of the Champagne Aishihik Band and other First Nation bands in Yukon to become more self-sufficient and to recognize their historic and traditional rights.

This kind of double talk certainly does not foster the future of our country. We are talking here about how we as a country from diverse regions with diverse languages, cultures and traditions live together. The United Nations has said in the past that we are one of the best countries in the world in which to live. Some in this House would dispute that. Most would not.

This particular piece of legislation completing the land claims and self-government legislation for Yukon respects and fosters the future of Canada, a united Canada and one that respects all peoples.

Pursuant to this legislation there have been some concerns raised, I mentioned earlier the one by the member for Skeena, in implicating that this piece of legislation contains an area of bias. That illustrates the profound difference between the philosophy of the New Democratic Party and the philosophy of the Reform Party. We feel as New Democrats that it is our job as elected representatives in this House, representing Canada as well as our own ridings, to bring people together in a positive way rather than find ways to divide people.

If our country is to move forward in the 21st century the responsibility we as legislators hold in this crucial time leading up to that period we must find ways for provinces, territories, different groups in this country to come together. It is shocking to me that there are people in this House who would undermine that objective.

I believe that the consensus that has been developed in Yukon around this piece of legislation and the companion pieces, Bills C-33 and C-34, illustrates that it is possible to achieve great things in this country. It does not come easily. This has been 21 years in negotiation. There have been many changes. There have been many people from all parts of the community who have been involved, some sadly who are even no longer with us.

With the passing of this legislation and the support of this House we will see a real step forward for Yukon and I believe for Canada.

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4:50 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the hon. member representing Yukon, and I know that her discourse was passionate and heartfelt, is it better in her estimation to pretend problems do not exist, to consider everything that is done in this House on behalf of the Indians of Canada since the beginning of our recorded history, if the perpetuation of that and the situation that the aboriginals in our country live in today is representative of the kind of compassion that this House has afforded them, if this is worthy of continuing, or perhaps some of the foundations and some of the ideas that this House taken as a self-righteous mantra should be questioned.

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4:50 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, if I understand the member's question correctly I think it is an appropriate question. It is true that this Parliament historically has not respected the First Nations people of this country, historically has implemented legislation which resulted for example in Indians not having the vote until the 1960s. It has passed legislation in the past that has made a distinction between who and who is not an Indian through defining status Indians.

Historic wrongs can be righted. What is being acknowledged in this legislation is the right of First Nations people who were not defeated in a war, who were not a conquered people, to the lands which they occupied before both the hon. member's and my ancestors came here.

The honour in this form of legislation and the honour that comes to this Parliament with this legislation is that we can acknowledge that those were historically wrong decisions made in the cultural context of the time and that it is possible to address those in a way that benefits First Nations people, acknowledges their rights and responsibilities, but also, as do this legislation and the companion pieces, Bills C-33 and C-34, serve to enhance the rights and responsibilities of all Yukoners.

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4:55 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a couple of comments and then I ask a question of the hon. member for Yukon.

I would like to say that because the Reform Party and I in particular was against the legislation that was in front of the House, it does not mean that we are against resolving land claims. We are against the kind of land claims that have been brought in front of this House today for the reasons that I outlined: the generosity of the agreements, the fact that it created more bureaucracy and the fact that entitlement to existing programs was guaranteed in perpetuity under those agreements.

If the hon. member is as concerned as she appears to be for the welfare of native people, maybe she will join with me and go and talk to her friends in Victoria who have designated the Tatshenshini-Alsek area a world class park, a class A provincial park. Then maybe she will join with me in trying to convince our friends across the way that we will withdraw the nomination to declare that area a world class heritage site.

I ask the hon. member will she join with me in those efforts?

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4:55 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, certainly I again think it ironic that the member for Skeena has suddenly discovered the interests of the First Nations people of Yukon. I can assure the member that as the representative for Yukon, representing all of the people of Yukon, Chief Paul Birckel has been very effective in making his views known to the British Columbia government. The British Columbia government has responded.

While I am the representative of the Champagne Aishihik band in this House, I have always been extremely impressed and respectful of the ability of Chief Paul Birckel and the Champagne Aishihik band to very effectively represent themselves. Again I underline this is one of the four bands in the legislation that came before this House in the spring. I think it would have made the argument of the hon. member for Skeena much stronger had he supported the Champagne Aishihik band at that time.

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4:55 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week in this House the minister of Indian affairs indicated that the Reform caucus had never supported an aboriginal bill in this House. Last week we had already supported Bill C-36, the Split Lake Cree agreement in northern Manitoba. That went through third reading and we supported it at third reading last Friday.

The member for Yukon stereotyped our caucus in her speech and the member for Yukon would be the first one to complain if anyone else were to do any stereotyping. I would like the member for Yukon to answer to that.

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4:55 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I think the people who were stereotyped here were the First Nations by the member who called them lazy children and their treatment being like a south sea island. I am greatly disappointed in the leader of the Reform Party who then promoted that member to the front benches.

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway-Human Rights; the hon. member for Chambly-Customs Brokers; the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-VIA Rail; the hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster-Ethics.

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4:55 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour, maybe with a bit of hesitation, to speak to this bill today.

As I was listening to the hon. member from Yukon, I threw a few pages from my speech away. I thought I probably did not have the insight into native land settlements or land agreements, but I do have some insight into what division means and I do have some insight into what co-operation means.

As a farmer I must say I have never seen any farm operations succeed when they started dividing and becoming independent. When a father owned all the property and all the machinery and had control of the situation, the family usually worked together very well. There was very little infighting. However when some of the members felt that their wisdom was probably greater than that of the founder who had built the corporation or the company and they wanted to divide and become separate little nations, it seemed to run into problems.

Sooner or later the governor was neglected. They were setting up boards which consisted of neighbours trying to settle disputes in the farming operation. Generally there was conflict. There was hurt. Usually it wound up that family members did not even want to see each other or recognize each other as being in the same family.

It really worries me when we start addressing our problems by creating separate little nations. We have talked so much about the Quebec issue. I have explained very often in this House that unity cannot be created by division. That seems to be so contradictory. That is one thing we are missing with these bills.

I was very much opposed to Bill C-33 and Bill C-34 for one very simple reason. I did have those bills analyzed by some of my native friends. I asked them to give me direction on how I should vote on those two bills. The feedback I got was: "If you vote for Bill C-33 and Bill C-34, I will lose my hunting rights. I will lose my fishing rights that I had in this great country of ours. From now on I will have to go and ask each individual nation to have those privileges". That really hit home to me. How is that type of feeling going to solve the problems of what happened probably a century or so ago?

The other problem I had with these bills was the way they were debated and the way they were rammed through this House. When true democracy is neglected it generally is the beginning of human rights violations and the beginning of unrest and civil disobedience which in a lot of cases ends in revolt or revolution. That is happening now in eastern bloc countries.

After being in the Soviet Union in 1990-91 and looking at the conditions some of the native people enjoy today, I wonder what we are grumbling about in this country. No matter where we live in this great country of ours today, we have nothing to complain about. We have not got people starving. We have not got people freezing to death for lack of clothing. We have not got people killing each other just so they can get to the food supply.

We have a federal government today that has a great desire to treat everybody equally. The government in previous years has not only passed laws that are supposed to work against discrimination, it has passed laws that are going to be guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When I see that now we are creating separate nations and these laws that work so well are not going to be applicable, what are we getting into?

When I look at this bill that is setting up a board with 50 per cent of the people appointed by the Yukon natives council and 50 per cent by the federal government, I wonder why. I own property and there are all kinds of acts that protect my rights should the mining companies or oil drilling companies want access to that land. If I am not happy with the decision these acts force upon me I have the full right to go to the Supreme Court of Canada but I am also liable for the costs that are incurred through that. That is one deterrent I think is very effective in avoiding a lot of disputes we would probably otherwise have.

It seems to me that this board will have the power to make some decisions. If the First Nations do not feel the decision is right, they can appeal to the Yukon courts. If the First Nations feel that ruling has gone against them, what happens then? Do they go to the Supreme Court of Canada? Are the laws enforced by the native law enforcement agency or the Canadian law enforcement agency? This is something that really bothers me because I am sure there will be disputes where the resolution will not be acceptable to either side and law enforcement will have to be used.

I listened to the hon. member for Churchill the other day when he said: "My people have made a commitment that we want to live in peace and enjoyment of the land and the resources with generations in the future". How does that pertain to these land settlement claims or independent nations? "We want to live with each other, we want to co-operate but we want to separate". To me that is a recipe for disaster.

When I try to analyze these bills in light of my own experiences with other situations, I must say we are binding our future generations to dispute after dispute after dispute. It does not seem possible that these boards under the conditions in which they are set up will ever be able to be disbanded. We will continually have problems in developing these huge tracts of land.

We in the Reform Party are so often classified or stereotyped as not being beneficial to other people. Personally I would rather donate half of my resources to the next generation than to find out in later years that my children or their children are fighting and forcing a settlement on each other.

We see that happening today in the former Yugoslavia. All of a sudden they have decided they can live better as separate little nations. It takes foreign countries to come in and try to solve the disputes.

I would never be able to rest in my grave if I were party to some agreements that in the future should have to be resolved by military force or by some other type of unlawful activity as I would call it.

I think back to the 1940s. I can remember the situation right after the 1930s and how the white people in our community and the native people shared their assets and their food because everybody was in a tough situation. If we could get back that type of concern I do not think we would be talking about these huge land settlement deals.

It worries me when I see $8 billion to $10 billion being paid to our native brothers every year and we are not being given one little bit of recognition for that.

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5:10 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

We have sisters.

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5:10 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Well sisters, brothers, whoever it is. I would think that the government has never been able to print money. The government's money comes from the taxpayers and it only comes from taxpayers who are working and sharing it with other people. If that $8 billion to $10 billion is not sharing I would like to know how much it would take before it was called sharing.

Right now with the attitude of the sharing that our government has had, we are in debt to the tune of $550 billion which some day either the native children or my children will have to repay. How this is going to be accomplished I do not know, but I wish the hon. member for Yukon could give me some suggestions. I would surely support her in any way that we could resolve that issue so that it could be settled in some better way.

Eventually when financial disaster does come upon a nation it creates a lot of other problems. That is one thing we have to realize with all these settlements. If we are going to be fair to future generations we had better be fair to the generations here today. We will be forcing them to pay something we were not willing to pay.

With that I will close my remarks. I wish this House would make some decision that would not just benefit us today but that would also benefit future generations.

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5:10 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about "laws that worked so well over the years". I wonder if the member was talking about the laws that established residential schools, or the laws that resulted in aboriginal children being taken away from their parents. Would it be the laws that prevented aboriginal people from voting? Would it be those laws that took away the right of aboriginal people who fought for their country or became a doctor or a lawyer to be identified as a status Indian?

The member is so much against this bill and its dispute settlement capabilities. As a member of the Reform Party that supported, ill advised I would suggest, the U.S.-Canada trade deal and NAFTA, does he think we should do away with the dispute settlement mechanism in that trade deal?

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5:10 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am quite convinced there were laws and institutions that abused our native brothers and sisters. It makes me very sad that I lived to pay testimony to that.

I think through some of the law reform that we have had we are at a stage now where that should not happen, not nearly as easily.

I would also like to remind the hon. member for Yukon that the white people were not always here. I read in history where there was self-government by these native people. They did also have problems. They had a right at that time to live very peacefully. They had a right to live without starvation. When we read the history books it did happen.

I am not blaming them for that but we have to realize that through history there have been problems. As we have learned from these problems I think we have become wiser. That is what we have experienced through the thirties and the forties probably where a lot of abuse was happening to these First Nations and it makes me very sad that it did.

I also note that if we are going to pass laws and make commitments which we have to honour with future generations' wealth we are asking for severe problems and a lot worse conditions in this country than we have today.

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5:15 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member is against this bill which has a dispute settlement mechanism. Would he also say that because the trade deal between Canada and the U.S. has a dispute settlement mechanism it should be done away with as well?

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5:15 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would say if we had one government and the same laws we would not need that trade dispute settlement mechanism. Here we are creating more governments, more laws and we are forcing more dispute settling mechanisms on our society.

If we were one nation with the United States we would not even have trade laws. This is a very good example. If we were a North American community we would probably have some of these problems resolved before they ever happened. Because we are different nations we fight for each right. It is only natural.

That is why I tried to explain that when a father allows his son to go into different operations usually it brings problems with it. That is what I have been trying to point out. Division does not create unity and unity does not create division.

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5:15 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this bill. Considering that we supported Bill C-33 and Bill C-34 on self-government and land claims in the Yukon, it will come as no surprise that we will also support Bill C-55.

I want to use a different approach regarding this issue. I have my own way of dealing with native issues. I do not claim to have a new approach, but I do think it is important to go and meet those who have been the victims of injustices for a long time.

Consequently, I have been to the Yukon and I would like to tell you about the attitude and the atmosphere which prevail there following, among other changes, the passing of the two aforementioned bills in the previous session, as well as the anticipated passing of Bill C-55.

It was my first visit in the Yukon, and I was accompanied by my 13-year-old daughter, who was discovering the western and north-western regions of the country. We were both amazed at the beauty of this place and astonished to see how people had settled here well before we came and shared such a lovely country. The Yukon River, for instance, is extraordinarily beautiful. When I went there, during the summer, the glaciers were melting, and this produced a kind of blue I have never seen in our rivers here in Quebec. It was fascinating to see the beauty of the countryside and also the wonderful atmosphere of the way of life in the Yukon.

I had read about the gold rush in the Klondike, and about what today is called Dawson City, and I had a chance to go there and see how mining operations destroyed some of this lovely countryside when they ruthlessly extracted the riches that were there, riches that did not necessarily benefit the First Nations.

I also discovered what was for instance the midnight sun, something we do not have here, but they do over there. The native people took me to the top of a mountain, The Dome, and at 11.30 p.m., I saw the sunset. I was both impressed by the sight and touched by the people's gesture.

Another surprise was the warm welcome I received. We saw this tremendous capacity of Canadian native people and aboriginal people throughout the world to share what they have. These people do not feel they have been conquered. They see themselves as the first occupants and consider that the arrival of the Europeans was an opportunity for them to share their territory and their wealth.

Unfortunately, as a result of the greed of the Europeans, because that is what it was, what we did at the time was to establish a kind of social contract with these people: We will take care of you, we will take 95 per cent of your wealth and confine you to reserves and we will pay for whatever you need. This caused a lot of problems, and I will get back to this later on, but in any case, we can say that this was a case of blatant injustice which we are now trying to remedy here in the Yukon, to some small extent.

We started with the two bills I mentioned earlier, and now Bill C-55, which will make the two other bills operational, so that we are now waiting to pass Bill C-55. As I said before, C-55 makes the two other bills operational and also brings a measure of justice to these people.

In fact, people have recognized for decades, for centuries even, that there was an injustice. The native peoples realized that there was an injustice, and 21 years ago they began a process of negotiation leading to the adoption of two bills prior to this session and to the consideration of the bill before us, Bill C-55, which as I have said will make the two earlier bills operational.

I think it worth reflecting for a few moments on the first two bills. What exactly is self-government? Many are seeking a definition, but is an exact definition important, when it can mean different things to different people? I turned to the dictionary and found that self-government has to do with the importance of being politically independent to direct one's own destiny.

We have several examples, at the present time, of the non-performance of the Indian Act. Lengthy speeches are not necessary. In terms of socio-economic development, native peoples are probably the most disadvantaged group of people in Canada. And this morning I was present when the health committee noted the seriousness of the health and social problems they face.

The simple fact is that the social contract that existed at the time to take responsibility for native peoples and their wealth is no longer tenable and never was, and we are correcting the situation. Do aboriginal peoples want to take part in this process? I believe they do. If we are speaking about Yukon, there is a desire to take responsibility for their own lives, and I would say this is the case in most of Canada. Native peoples are themselves realizing that the government can no longer effectively pay for them and provide paternalistic protection, while at the same time respecting their particular conditions and values.

I believe that in the Yukon, as elsewhere, native peoples are realizing that the solution to their problems is through self-government.

The will of the natives to assume responsibility for themselves is there. The feeling I get from the government of Canada is one of wanting to withdraw from the Indian Act. I think the minister did make announcement to that effect also. Of course, this is not going to happen overnight. Pilot projects are under way, in Manitoba for example, to examine the possibility for First Nations to withdraw from the Indian Act.

But resolving the self-government issue would go a long way toward solving the problem of withdrawing from the Indian Act, so that the government can go ahead with the dismantling as soon as possible. On this subject, the minister and the government have referred to their intention to put an end to their trusteeship over Indians. The Bloc Quebecois will keep a close eye on this. The government has ventured to say that it should be abolished. Now, we in the Official Opposition will make sure that this is done properly.

It has to be done with respect for the cultures involved. On our side, we are from a European background originally. The aboriginal peoples were the first inhabitants of this land. How do we reconcile all of this? Our self-government negotiation process actually leads to this. It leads us to say: "What can be devolved in terms of autonomy, level of activity, legislation?" Such choices should allow them to live in harmony with us and be in keeping with our legislation.

I think that the kind of agreement we have before us indeed provides a middle ground that enables the First Nations to steer away from the Indian Act, to assume responsibility for themselves and to live in perfect harmony with our laws. They also attach a great deal of importance to gaining control over their own administration because their health system, for example, is not the same as ours. They have a much more holistic approach to health. They are more prone to using healing circles, a much more gregarious approach than the curative approach we currently have in Canadian society.

The same with justice. We note that, in extremely remote communities, they often have their own law enforcement system. Healing circles take charge of young offenders or individuals with adjustment difficulties. They solve the problems they encounter themselves. We are not even aware that when we barge in with our way of looking at the situation it often is inappropriate and just makes the problem worse.

All this to say that, to deal with self-government, we have this bill and it is important to have such a bill. It will also be important to implement it.

How do we go about it? The hon. member who spoke before me said, "We give them $8 billion a year". It is not quite $8 billion; I think it is around $6 billion. But if we want this to end, we must help them take control of their own destiny.

We need a territory that is large enough and contains enough resources so that we can stop spending millions of dollars on education, health care, etc., and let them take control of their own destiny. That is why we will allow them to tax or collect royalties from all their lands. Giving them land in the Yukon is a solution which, I think, will allow them to develop their own territory to compensate for the shortfall due to the withdrawal of our financial assistance.

Compensation in the order of $242 million will enable these people to make their decisions now. These people will no longer have to deal with federal officials trying to impose their programs. They will create their own programs, which I think is something worth mentioning.

We must, of course, have confidence in these people. I have confidence in them because I have seen them in action. I have seen how serious they are about taking control of their own destiny. I think that we must simply recognize that the First Nations will be in a much better position than federal officials in Ottawa to implement programs and that we must trust them.

Quebec is in a good position to help in this regard. The James Bay Agreement and the motion passed by the National Assembly show that Quebec can be proud of being a pioneer in the transfer of powers to aboriginal nations. I see Quebec's James Bay Agreement as a model which, in my opinion, has been used for many existing agreements on self-government.

I remind you that this model was entirely financed by the Quebec government. The takeover and the relationship between the native community and the Quebec government are getting closer. This is demonstrated by the way Quebec's current government is handling joint management with the natives. Important and judicious negotiations are continuing in this regard.

Before moving on to the content and clauses of Bill C-55, I must mention a few things that I find regrettable. I do not want to appear overly critical to my friends from the Reform Party, but it must be noted that immigrants, in my opinion, are not very respectful of Natives. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that there are financial and territorial implications to be looked at, as we are doing in committee and right here, but we know at the outset that they have no respect for natives taking control of their own destiny or for their ability to do so.

I listened to the speeches made by some members, including the hon. member for Okanagan-Shuswap, who does not think that any native group should be given self-government rights

exceeding those of municipal governments. I am sorry, but they were here first. They are more than municipal governments.

In our parliamentary guide, we in the Bloc Quebecois say that these people are entitled to self-government. They are nations, just as there is a Quebec nation, an Anglo-Saxon nation, an Acadian nation; there are native nations and it is important to point that out.

The previous speaker said that he was afraid for his fishing and hunting rights. We can all say that the arrival of Europeans here upset their hunting and fishing rights as well. It is the wrong approach to say that reviewing the rules of the game will prevent us from hunting and fishing in the Yukon. I myself have gone there and I invite the hon. member to go there too.

I was taken fishing. It did not prevent me from being very well received on native territory. I could well have been told that those resources belong to the native people and that I was not welcome. On the contrary. As we have seen over the centuries, native people know how to share and I was glad to be invited to go and fish there. I think that fishing and hunting rights will be maintained.

I also heard Reformers call them spoiled children. I heard the Reform Party compare them to people on southern islands. I gave you some statistics and opinions a while ago: that is false. People who live near the 60th parallel are not vacationers. They are not on a holiday, when you realize that unemployment is 50 per cent. People on holiday do not care about the unemployment rate, they can afford a trip south.

Many of these people cannot afford as much and I think that the kind of example put forward by the Reform Party does not help the debate. I admit that there may be reasons or financial arguments but it is harder for me to accept arguments based on mistrust of native people.

On Bill C-55 as such, what is interesting in this bill is that a board is created to settle disputes. Settling disputes is important because there are issues involving trappers and mining and forestry companies. These people will certainly have disputes at some point. Bill C-55 will give the native people, who will be well represented on the board, a means to settle such disputes. It is much better than what we have in the rest of Canada. I think that the failures elsewhere in Canada must have inspired the bill now before us.

The example of Split Lake comes to mind. Indeed, even if an agreement was reached with one of the nations, the whole water system of that part of the country was affected and these people have practically no recourse, except arbitration. If there was a board located closer to them, such disputes would be solved much more quickly.

The Bloc Quebecois will pursue its work in committee. Obviously, we support Bill C-55, although there may be room for improvement regarding certain provisions. We will do our work seriously. We will review the bill and we will examine it more in detail at the committee level. At this stage, the Bloc Quebecois can only support that legislation. After all, we made speeches to support these people in Yukon who, for generations, put all their hopes in a successful negotiation process, before finally seeing their dream come true in the last session of this Parliament. Under the circumstances, it would be very inconsistent to now oppose Bill C-55.

I want to say that both myself and my Bloc colleagues have confidence in native people. We do recognize, for example, that they were the first ones here, that they deserve more respect, and that they should have full control of their destiny. And to recognize those things implies a great deal of confidence. But we do have total confidence in native people.

Programs which, until now, were run in Ottawa will now be administered much closer to native communities, and I hope to never again hear negative, if not nasty, comments about natives. These people follow the debates of the House of Commons and I think that they sometimes have a wrong impression of parliamentary democracy. Their own approach is based on reaching a consensus but, more importantly, they are guided by a profound need for respect.

I am among those who have the greatest respect for native people. I do recognize that they were subjected to many injustices and these have to be corrected. The previous bills corrected those injustices, and Bill C-55 will confirm the autonomy of 14 First Nations in Yukon. Four of them have reached agreements, while ten others are in the process of doing so. They will be heading for self-government and I know they will take care of their communities, because I trust them on this issue.

I think the federal government will be able to save some money by granting the native people a land base that will help them grow and become much more self-sufficient.

Of course, since I am from Quebec and well-versed in independence issues, I fully understand why a First Nation or some First Nations would want their independence, and this is why we are extremely pleased to support Bill C-55, although we will want to clean up the legislation to ensure that the bill reflects our vision. As far as the substance of the bill is concerned, we think that self-government for the people in Yukon and elsewhere is very important and we are pleased to tell the Yukon residents who are watching us, the native peoples in Yukon, that the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-55.

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November 1st, 1994 / 5:35 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, my Bloc colleague from Saint-Jean who just spoke in my view painted some scenarios essentially that do not exist and painted scenes of conflict where it does not exist.

We have talked on many occasions about a municipal style of self-government in committee and in this House. I also talk about it quite publicly.

We have a living example in the province of British Columbia with the Sechelt band. That form of self-government has proven for that particular band to be very progressive. It is what the people want and they are thriving under that form of self-government.

There is no reason to suggest that form of self-government would not be a very appropriate form of self-government in many other jurisdictions. I want to set the record straight in that area.

What we have heard here is the Quebec provincial agenda being promoted on the rest of Canada. The Bloc is not proving to be the steward of federal or other provincial resources. When I heard the member talking about James Bay what I heard was a promotion of 100 per cent provincial involvement in these issues. I find that to be a contradiction in terms as to what we are talking about today. Perhaps my colleague could offer some clarification in that area.

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5:40 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell my colleague who also sits on the aboriginal affairs committee that what I quoted the hon. member for Okanagan-Shuswap as saying is not intended to indicate that there is no possible application of the municipal model. I merely quoted the hon. member for Okanagan-Shuswap as saying that no aboriginal group should be given rights to self-government exceeding those of municipal governments.

If a municipal government model applies, as it seems to be the case with Sechelts, then it is fine. But I do not think it is appropriate to put First Nations on the same level as municipal governments. That is all. I did not reject the municipal model. I only rejected the terms used by the hon. member for Okanagan-Shuswap.

As for the James Bay case, I must reiterate that it continues to be a model according to me and to the Bloc Quebecois. The Canadian government did not invest any money in it. This was promoted directly by the Quebec government and I do not think we have some secret agenda that we would want to hide from the Reform Party. As we know, the Quebec government has close ties with them. They have their own way to deal with issues. Here, at the federal level, we do things differently.

We examine all proposals and legislation before us on their merit and, of course, sometimes we suggest amendments and sometimes we support some bills. We even sometimes reject legislation. But this does not mean that we have a secret agenda. We only want to work with the aboriginal people and to get the best results possible, based on mutual trust.