House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.


Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

moved that Bill C-208, an act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak about my first bill to be tabled in the House and why it should be adopted. This bill responds to the concerns expressed by many Canadians on MPs' pensions.

We all agree as members we are contributing substantially to our pension plan. It is true that only about one-quarter of the MPs elected will stay long enough to collect a pension. This being said, we should still move forward on this issue.

Is it fair for an MP to collect a pension after six years in the House, even if he or she is not of retirement age? Is it right for a former MP to receive a pension if at the same time he or she is working for the government?

The objectives of my bill are clear. This bill will prohibit former members of Parliament from collecting a pension while employed by the Government of Canada, a government agency or a federal crown corporation. Under this bill a former member could not collect a pension until the age of 60.

I know that the Prime Minister is concerned about the issue of severance pay. Not only did he raise his concerns last April 6 in Kamloops, but he raised them again on March 7 in the House. He said: "There is no security of employment around here. Some people who come to Parliament when they quit find it is not easy to get re-established in private life". This is true, but we all knew that when we ran as candidates. It is also true that a lot of former MPs have problems getting back into private life. However, we are not arguing that issue today.

I understand that a case could be made for linking pension changes to severance packages. I suggest that if the Prime Minister wants to deal with the severance issue he can do it at a later date. Right now we should do something about pensions.

In the speech from the throne our government said: "Measures to reform the pension plan of members of Parliament, including the elimination of double dipping, will be placed before you". The government still has not introduced legislation to do that.

Indeed, there is a strong consensus on this issue from all parties in the House. During the last campaign the former Prime Minister said that she would introduce measures that would preclude any MP from collecting a pension before the age of 55. She also added that there would be no more double-dipping.

The leader of the NDP agreed with that statement in the House last year. The leader of the Reform Party has said that his party is the only federal political party to consistently advocate a change in the MP pension plan in order to bring the benefits in line with private sector standards. The Reform Party has said that it wants to postpone eligibility until at least age 60, and this bill does just that.

In his speech in Quebec on August 16, 1993 the Leader of the Official Opposition said: "Bloc MPs would support the government if the previous Prime Minister, Campbell, were to recall Parliament to pass promised legislation amending the MPs' pension plan and preventing ex-MPs from holding government jobs while collecting their pensions".

On that same day in Burlington, Ontario, our present Prime Minister urged previous Prime Minister Campbell to act quickly. He said: "If Ms. Campbell wanted to do something about it she would have recalled the Parliament and in one day it would have passed".

In response to the Vancouver Sun column ``Ask the Leader'', our present Prime Minister said that he believes such measures are necessary in order to restore Canadians' faith in politicians and to combat widespread voter cynicism, and I agree with him.

The time has come for all members of this House to show Canadians that we all were serious during the last campaign. After the election the Prime Minister said that his government wanted to wait for a report commissioned by Parliament on MPs' pay and perks before introducing legislation.

That report has been released and the government still has not introduced legislation to make the needed reforms to the pension plans of members of this House; reforms that are necessary, that Canadians want and that this government promised.

My bill today would make those reforms and so I urge its passage. Canadians want action and they want it now. Therefore, I would move that not withstanding any standing orders and usual practices of the House, Bill C-208, an act to amend the members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, be made votable and referred after second reading to a committee of the whole instead of to the legislative committee and that, unless otherwise disposed of, no later than five minutes before the end of the time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business today, any proceedings then before the House shall be interrupted and every question necessary to dispose of the said bill at all stages should be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Does the member for Saint John have unanimous consent to propose the motion to the House?

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Resuming debate.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

April 25th, 1994 / 11:10 a.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

As noted earlier, this bill comes at an awkward time. It would have been so much easier to have reviewed this subject immediately after the Conservative leadership race, during the summer, a summer when the then Conservative Leader, the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, British Columbia, crisscrossed the country from Halifax to Vancouver to Newfoundland on a pre-election campaign. It would have been easy to recall the House to give the members of the 34th Parliament the chance to debate fully the question of whether the provisions of a bill can apply retroactively.

It is not in our parliamentary tradition to introduce bills which apply retroactively and, when we do so, it is often only grudgingly, after having examined all of the ins and outs of the matter.

The current members of the 35th Parliament were elected in accordance with the rules that prevailed at the time and, clearly, they have some vested rights. It is obvious on reading Bill C-208 that it affects the vested rights of members elected to serve in the 35th Parliament.

If I understand correctly, Bill C-208 would apply only to members elected to sit in the next or 36th Parliament. This is similar to the decision reached by the Quebec National Assembly when it reviewed the members' pension plan.

Therefore, instead of conducting a pre-election campaign at the height of the summer, I think the party to which the hon. member for Saint John, New Brunswick, belongs should have been calling on its leadership, if there was any, to convene Parliament so that the issue could be debated and pension plan reform proposals could be applied to the current Parliament.

Bill C-208 is brief. It contains one provision with which I know most hon. colleagues will certainly agree, that is the provision which states that a former member who is receiving remuneration in whatever capacity from the federal government cannot at the same time collect a pension. Let us take, for example, the case of a former member who is appointed to a federal court bench. Personally, I feel it is wrong and somewhat contrary to common sense when a person can collect both a pension and a salary from the federal government. I feel the same way about persons working for various federal offices and government or parapublic agencies and collecting a pension at the same time.

In my view, the different levels of government in Canada should get together and agree to ban this practice from one province to another. For instance, there is something a little odd about a provincial deputy minister of justice receiving severance pay just because he is appointed to a federal court of appeal. Representatives of the various levels of government in Canada should sit down together to review the administration of public moneys in this area.

As for the second major provision of Bill C-208, namely the age restriction criteria whereby a former member cannot begin to collect a pension immediately unless that member has reached 55 or 60 years of age, this is indeed another matter.

Many will say that a member has no business collecting a pension of $40,000 or so a year after just two terms of office, that is to say eight, nine or ten years depending on the constitutional limits, if he or she was a member of Cabinet and is making a career change. There is something wrong with that picture, however, and I think we should look at it.

Studies have demonstrated that, by the time some members who sat for two terms, having been elected twice, finish collecting the full pension to which they are entitled for life, they will have cost between $2.5 and $3.5 million to the public purse.

However, the bill introduced by the hon. member for Saint John, New Brunswick, has a flaw as I see it. There is a gap between the proposal for a minimum age of eligibility, whether 55 or 60 years old, as suggested in the hon. member's bill, and

the present situation where one can collect a pension immediately upon retiring.

Many members-with the kind of turnover we have here in the House of Commons, there were 200 new members elected in this 35th Parliament- find themselves in a difficult situation. Many of those members who were defeated in the last election-this is true of any election, but particularly of the last one because of the major changes that took place about six months ago, on October 25, 1993-may be finding themselves in dire straights. Perhaps, in fact very likely, we would need a sort of severance pay to help former members find a new job.

Members of Parliament who held professional positions have to quit or at least considerably neglect their careers to serve their constituents while they are sitting in the House of Commons. When they resume their careers after being defeated or upon retirement, they must rebuild their clientele.

Farmers who had leased their farms will also have to get reacquainted with new technology and take operations back in their own hands. This bill lacks transitory provisions, and there should be such provisions.

Members of Parliament who retire or are defeated often have to regain, pardon the expression, some sort of "political virginity". A member who used to work in communications, in a radio or TV station, would not be allowed to go back on air overnight as a political analyst. The station would say that he or she is too closely associated with a given political party, and should stand back for a while and come back a few months or even years down the road. In the meantime, the former member will be handed assignments in areas not closely related to the political arena that he or she knows well. The same thing happens in several other fields. You are told: "Distance yourself from politics; work on your image and, soon, we will take you back".

That is the time frame this bill does not cover, and that is why I find it very hard to say: Let us immediately stop paying benefits or annuities to members who retire or are defeated in an election; let us stop paying upon retirement and wait until former members reach the age of 55 or 60, without at the same time putting transitory provisions in place. I would have liked Bill C-208 to contain something specific in terms of transitory provisions.

We would do well to use Quebec's legislation, the legislation passed by the Quebec National Assembly, as a model to refine this bill in that regard. This government had indicated in its parliamentary calendar that this issue would be debated in the House and I would recommend that the various points I have made be taken into consideration when a government bill on the subject is tabled.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Essex—Windsor Ontario


Susan Whelan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue

Madam Speaker, we have before us for discussion Bill C-208 which proposes amendments to the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, amendments which seek to end double dipping and delay commencement of pension benefits to a former member until he or she reaches age 60.

I will confine my remarks to the bill's treatment of double dipping. My hon. colleague from Nepean will address the problems raised by the proposed provisions dealing with delayed receipt of benefits to former members and survivors.

When I refer to double dipping I am referring to the simultaneous drawing of both a pension under the Members of Parliament Retirement Allowances Act and a salary or other payment from the Government of Canada. The government has announced that it intends to curtail this practice. Indeed, the right hon. Prime Minister has on several occasions stated that the government is committed to ending double dipping. The bill purports to do this but it must be said that the approach adopted here is seriously flawed.

First, the proposed section 13.1 would remove the re-employed former member's entitlement altogether rather than just suspend that entitlement during the period of re-employment.

Obvious inequities would then result since there is no provision to reinstate the former member's pension when his or her re-employment terminated as inevitably would occur. The bill would appear to impose a lifetime pension disentitlement for a former member. This surely could not have been its intent.

Second, the term "remuneration" is not defined and the proposed scope of the source of that remuneration is very wide. Crown corporation directors' fees and per diems for even short periods of part time service to the Government of Canada would be caught by this very broad definition, as would contract fees, even though receipt of pension had already been taken into account when those fees were set.

As the bill is drafted, receipt of any remuneration no matter how little the amount would disentitle a former member from receiving any pension at all. As I mentioned that disentitlement would appear to be for life.

Third, the bill provides no mechanism to allow the pension administration to monitor possible cases of re-employment. Therefore there would be no way of knowing if and when a former member started to receive remuneration in another capacity from the Government of Canada, especially since there is no requirement in the bill for former members to report their re-employment and remuneration.

This leads to a related problem. No provision is made in the bill for the recovery of overpayments of pension, overpayments which would inevitably arise since the administration would have no sure way of knowing that re-employment had occurred and that the pension entitlement should be terminated. Recovery of such overpayments could prove difficult, expensive and time consuming at a time when government resources must be husbanded very carefully.

In conclusion, the bill would put an end to double dipping but it would not do so in a fair and even-handed way. I wish to state again that the government fully intends to curtail this practice which has attracted so much criticism. However, it wants to adopt a more disciplined and integrated approach taking into account all aspects of a member of Parliament's compensation.

As hon. members are aware, the government has received the recommendations regarding members' compensation from a firm of consultants engaged by the previous government.

These recommendations have been referred to the Lapointe commission which must report to the House by mid-July of this year. Rather than rushing into law seriously flawed legislation such as the bill before us now, the more prudent approach for dealing with the issue of double dipping for persons under the pension plan seems to be to await the deliberations of the Lapointe commission. The recommendations of the commission can then be studied carefully in the course of the government's consideration of its options for reform of the pension plan, a consideration of options which would be carried out in a context of the overall compensation package provided for members of Parliament.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Madam Speaker, after years of abusing the trust of the taxpayer with a pension plan only King Midas could have matched, we have a private member's bill from a Conservative MP.

Although I favour the two issues that are addressed in this private member's bill, as has already been mentioned there are some flaws in it. The best way to evaluate whether the bill is successful is to compare the Liberal approach, the Reform approach and the approach of the private member's bill. I leave it to you, my colleagues, and those watching today to decide which approach is best.

Before I begin this comparison I would like to look briefly at who seriously advocated pension reform in Canada in the past and why all of a sudden here we are in 1994 looking at a very small private member's bill.

To date no action has been taken by the Liberals other than after the recent election five Liberal MPs have been added to the long list of those collecting pensions. The Conservatives have taken no action to date either but if you look at the last election again there were 111 members of Parliament picking up a pension. Then we have the Conservative's private member's bill today. The Reform Party has had a policy in place for a number of years which I will describe a little later.

Let us look at the approach to MPs' pensions that has been taken by the major parties. I would like to go through the government first, the Liberal Party. As I said, five Liberal MPs have recently been put on to this pension plan and are now safely living on government pensions for the rest of their lives along with many other colleagues. In fact there are 397 individuals today on MPs' pensions.

The pensions range from about $28,000 to $84,000. The infamous red book suggests that the Liberals believe reform is necessary. I am not sure whether they are speaking about our party or the reform of the pension plan, probably a little bit of both. They suggest the pension regime of members of Parliament has been the focus of considerable controversy and is now the subject of an independent review which was mentioned here just briefly. The book also talks about the end to double dipping which this private member's bill actually does address. After all these years of milking the system the Liberal Party is now suggesting that it believes that reform of the pension plan is necessary.

The Liberal Party has recently paid for a study on parliamentarians' compensation although it has suggested that the Conservative Party implemented this study and it could do nothing about it. That was incorrect.

The original study was around $150,000. It could have been stopped once the election was over but it was not. Now the cost of this report is approximately $200,000-plus and the commission which was just talked about will cost about $300,000. The report contained some recommendations.

It is important to note that the report stated that MPs actually should get a 37 per cent pay increase. Liberals say it is not going to happen because we have deferred that for two years but it is in there.

The study suggests that MPs should get severance pay and that Senators should get an increase in pay. It also suggests a number of changes to the pension plan. One in particular suggests that the pension plan should be indexed annually to the excess of inflation over 3 per cent which is actually one of the most expensive parts of the pension plan.

This study is going to a commission. Where it goes from there we do not know but I suspect that we will see bits of it in the commission's report.

We have already established that the Liberal government closely mirrors the previous Conservative government in many things, so let us not expect too much. If we look at the Conservative approach we do not need to talk too much about the performance of that group of politicians and their pension reform policy. The Canadian electorate said all there was to say about that in the last election. Since the last election, as I have said, we have 111 Conservative members of Parliament picking up pensions ranging from about $26,000 to $82,000.

This private member's bill addresses double dipping which is now defined as a former member of Parliament who is employed by the Government of Canada, an agency of the Government of Canada or a crown corporation. I am happy to see that defined because there was some question from time to time about what double dipping actually was.

It also covers vesting or collecting the payoff at age 60. There were some problems with that. What is not addressed here is that there are people in the country who could get elected at age 55 and under this private member's bill could get a pension at age 60. They would get it in five years, not six as it is today. We have to look at both these combinations.

This private member's bill reflects a modest attempt to correct the outrageous self-indulgence both Liberals and Conservatives have provided themselves over the years at the expense of the taxpayer. It is ironic after the last two decades when we have been going into debt year after year after year and overspending in our budgets that we are sitting here looking at a private member's bill. These kinds of things should have been looked at some time ago. It is a little bit but it is a little bit too late.

Since the beginning the Reform Party's policy has been to ensure that politicians could not collect a pension until age 60. We wanted to ensure that double dipping could not occur by two means. The first is no vesting of benefits, should a past MP obtain a position with the government or any of its agencies or corporations. The second most important aspect of double dipping is to eliminate all the patronage that is going on in the first place. The only way double dipping occurs is after an MP leaves his or her seat and gets appointed to this board, that board, this corporation and so on.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

The Liberals are heckling me. For those who are watching this debate on camera, they are heckling me. Quite recently we had three patronage appointments, and there is no reason to think that party is going to change that.

We want to end full indexing, to ensure all contribution criteria meet provisions of the Income Tax Act, which is not in here, and to allow an adequate sharing arrangement between government and the member. The current arrangement sees the taxpayer contributing about $5.97 for every $1 by the MP. We ought to ensure that pension benefits for MPs are brought in line with private sector standards.

There is sometimes talk that one of our members is double dipping. The definition of double dipping is an MP who is unelected or chooses not to run and gets a patronage appointment somewhere else. That is where the heckling comes in because they just love patronage over there.

When I signed my papers as an MP I refused to sign the pension papers because I did not want to participate in it. I got this letter back from the government: "However, pursuant to the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, members are required to make pension contributions based on the amounts payable by way of sessional allowance". The fact is that we cannot even stop getting this kind of stuff. Government parties have made it so difficult over the years that they get in the trough and cannot help but stay in the trough. No wonder people in the country are upset.

In conclusion we have to look at whether or not the real intent will be there, whether or not the Liberal government will actually take the steps forward to provide a reasonable pension plan that is in line with the private industry, matches the Income Tax Act, and so on and so forth. We have already seen that it is a party that will not accept the function of recall. It is into patronage. It has moved the NAFTA centre to Montreal and so on. I say it will not do so. If we want real reform in the pension we will have to look to Reformers.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Beryl Gaffney Liberal Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-208, an act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

While I commend the member for Saint John for putting the private member's bill forward, in my estimation it does not go far enough. My colleague dealt with the first part of it and I will deal with the second part.

It purports to deal with two aspects of the pension plan provided for former members of the House and former senators. It proposes amendments to the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act in an effort to provide a quick fix regarding two features of our pension plan which have attracted a good deal of criticism in the country. I am referring to the fact that the act places no restrictions on double dipping and permits a former member to begin drawing a pension immediately upon retirement regardless of his or her age.

At this point I should state clearly that the government is very much aware of the widespread concern of Canadians about the pension plan for members of Parliament. The government is committed to change but wishes to do so in a rational and comprehensive fashion, not piecemeal, which unfortunately is the approach adopted in the private member's bill.

It would be prudent to await the proposals of the Lapointe commission and modify the pension plan for members of Parliament in accordance with a more integrated and cohesive approach to the overall compensation package appropriate for parliamentarians.

My hon. colleague from Essex-Windsor has dealt ably with the issue of double dipping in the context of the amendments proposed in the bill. Therefore I shall direct my remarks to other deficiencies in these proposals, deficiencies which are serious enough that the intent of the bill could not be realized if it were to become law.

The major problem with the bill as it stands today is that it deals only with some of the benefits to which a former member is entitled. As hon. members may know, the amendments made to the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act in 1992 brought the pension plan into compliance with the Income Tax Act registration rules and essentially divided the pension plan into two parts: part I, the registered plan and part II, a retirement compensation arrangement.

The proposed amendments in the bill only deal with part I of the act, the registered plan, and purport to delay commencement of pension benefits under the registered plan until age 60. As an aside, these amendments do not even deal with all benefits to which a former member might be entitled under part I, since they do not address the special joint and survivor benefit which a former member may elect to receive under section 23 of the act in cases where a former member wishes to provide survivor benefit protection to a spouse he or she married after ceasing to be a member.

Not only is the proposed subsection 13.1(2) quite redundant, it fails to achieve its objective of delaying receipt of benefits until age 60. I would assume that is what the hon. member would like it to do since it does not amend part II of the act, the portion of the act which contains the provisions that allow for benefits to be paid prior to age 60.

Further, the proposed amendment seeks to delay commencement until age 60 but does not make any exception to that rule in the case where a former member became disabled after retirement but before he or she reached age 60. Surely it could not have been intended that in no circumstance would a benefit be payable to a former member who was unfortunate enough to become disabled prior to age 60.

Turning to the matter of the proposed companion changes to survivor benefits, hon. members should be aware that delaying receipt of survivor benefits until a deceased member or former member would have been 60 years of age is quite inconsistent with any other federal pension legislation and contrary to the standards set out in any pension benefits standards legislation in the country.

Such a measure could be characterized as regressive at best, not to mention slightly absurd in the case of children's benefits, since few such recipients would still qualify for benefits if they had to wait until their parents reached 60 years old. No provision is made for an intervening disability in these instances either.

There are two further aspects of the survivor benefit proposed in the bill that are problematic. The first of these is that again the bill does not address the survivor benefits paid under part II of the act and does not therefore impose the delay until age 60 for these benefits.

Second, the provision that purports to delay payment until age 60 does not have any transitional arrangements and could have the effect of cutting off the benefits of those persons presently in receipt of survivor benefits who became entitled to them under the law as it now stands. It is far from clear that the proposed section 13.3 would prevent this from happening, given the wording of the proposed new section 24 of the act.

In conclusion the bill may be well intentioned but falls far short of achieving its objectives. Given its structural defects as drafted it could be said to raise questions of equity. As I mentioned earlier the government will be coming out with a report in July of this year.

I would like to quote from Hansard of March 5, 1991. I am on record as speaking in favour of amending the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

I find it hypocritical that someone in the private sector who might get laid off from their job, or might be transferred to another company within the private sector in another area of Canada, does not have the same privileges as we do as members of Parliament under the present legislation.

We have widows and widowers who are living on limited income. We have a country whose economy is very tight today. We have people who are unemployed and I think that we as members of Parliament must show some compassion and some consideration.

I am in support of amending the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act. Parts I and II must both be amended. We cannot look at one in isolation of the other. I am pleased to speak to the bill. Again I commend the member for Saint John for taking this initiative and looking at it, but we need to go one step further to cover all aspects of the bill.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill today.

This bill to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act raised by my friend in the Conservative Party is a positive step and long overdue. The MPs pension plan is part of the reason Canadians are disillusioned with politics and with politicians.

The vote on October 26, 1993 to change the government in Ottawa was as a result of many things, not the least of which was the need to reform the MPs gold plated pension plan. Often in the House when the government enjoys a clear majority, the majority overrides voices in the opposition who are often and only repeating the frustrations of Canadians.

Government members protest constantly against the elected representatives who are only doing what they promised Canadians: to get rid of the obscene MPs pension plan for one. When I hear Liberal MPs protestations I am reminded of a phrase from literature to the effect: methinks thou doth protest too much.

It seems strange to be defending a Conservative motion which in essence has been part of the Reform Party platform over the last few years. It seems strange when other Reform MPs and I were elected on the basis of our promises and MP pension reform was high on the list.

One of the promises I made to constituents time and time again was to fight the current MP pension plan and change the system so that retiring MPs, those whom the voters have stated they have no confidence in, those who lost their jobs in the October federal election, would not be eligible for hefty pensions, at least not eligible until age 60.

Politicians must realize they should have no more rights than other Canadians in the private sector like the employees of Woodward's department store who had to face a changing world with no guarantees and certainly no gold plated pension plan.

Defeated and retiring MPs will cost Canadians close to $2 million per year in pension payments on top of current pension payouts. Is this right? No, of course it is not right. The payouts are obscene. If the government hopes to restore confidence in the political process it must take quick action to scrap this ridiculous pension plan.

Part of our accountability and responsibility as members of Parliament must be reflected in our own pension plan. According to the Liberal Party platform the incoming government supports a review of the lucrative pension scheme with a special look at the age at which pensions begin to be collected. That is a good sign.

The pension plan is indefensible, even in good times when Ottawa's vaults are overflowing and the public is feeling wonderfully generous toward its politicians. In bad times when many Canadians are suffering and the government is hard pressed to find basic programs, this plan amounts to little more than robbery. There are probably east European dictators who never had it so good as retiring Canadian members of Parliament.

MPs should not be setting their own wages nor their own pensions. They should be set by an independent body which reflects a cross-section of Canadians. It could be businessmen, academics, professionals, home workers and many others. No group should police itself in our society or set its own wages when those wages come from the public purse.

It is hoped the Prime Minister will recognize the public hostility to this obscene plan. Premier Ralph Klein recognized the public hostility to a rich pension plan for MLAs in a time of hardship. His decision to kill the Alberta MLAs pension plan was probably the single most important factor in the re-election of the provincial Conservative government. It was also a factor that Prime Minister Kim Campbell fatally ignored when she set up a commission on federal pensions rather than act directly.

The Canadian people who heard former finance minister Michael Wilson promise in 1984 to reduce pensions were not fooled by more promises. Chrétien should take the right example: not Wilson, not Campbell, but that of Klein.

It may be that some form of taxpayer assisted federal pension plan should survive. There may in the end be justifications accepted by the public for a plan to assist politicians in retirement. These can be explored.

This bill does not mention the Reform Party's clause on stopping the indexation of the MPs pension plan. Here we have a pension plan where the Canadian taxpayers have to pay far more than their fair share in contributions. The added insult is in indexing.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Perrin Beatty, only 43, qualifies for a pension of over $70,000 annually until he is 60, at which time it will be adjusted to take into account the preceding 17 years of inflation. The Reform Party which has made MPs pensions an issue estimates that Beatty will collect more than $5 million in pension payments if he lives till 75.

When we become government we will continue as we have started. Even in opposition we have kept our word to the Canadian people. We have taken less in salary or in allowance, forgone other MPs benefits and pushed for changes in many areas, particularly parliamentary reform.

We will continue to fight for changes to the MPs pension plan, but not changes like those made by the previous government in January 1992. Those changes illustrate how excessive MPs benefits are.

One of the changes came about because the MPs benefits exceeded the limits allowed for registration under the Income Tax Act. The federal government therefore had to divide the pension plan into two separate sections to keep it registered. The first section, the retiring allowances account, met the requirements for registration while the second, the compensation arrangement account, fleshed out the plan so the MPs could still receive their lavish benefits.

A 1988 actuarial study of the plan revealed that the contributions made by the politicians, which were matched by the government, would fall $144 million short of paying for the MPs projected benefits. Therefore, in the January 1992 changes the government moved to make the plan self-sufficient.

First, the government provided a cash infusion to make up for the plan's accumulated shortfall, which by that time had risen to $158 million. Second, to ensure no further shortfalls would accumulate, the government had to choose one of a combination of the following scenarios. Either the MPs would have to reduce their pension benefits and/or increase their contributions, or the government would have to increase the amount of tax dollars being funnelled into the plan.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out which route was chosen. Treasury Board decided that Canadian taxpayers would be more than willing to keep making up the difference so the MPs plan could keep its gold plating.

A ratio of one to one, one to two, but seven to one? While MPs contribute $7,000 to their pension plan on their $64,000 sessional allowance taxpayers have to contribute about $41,000 per year on behalf of each MP.

There is another aspect to the pensions which is equally insupportable, the right of retired MPs to go on collecting a pension even as they collect another federal public salary. I repeat federal. Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent is a good example, collecting both a handsome pension and a large salary, because of his appointment by Mulroney to a human rights agency.

I am listening to the frustrations coming from the other side. Another gross example is former Mulroney cabinet minister Benoit Bouchard who will collect both an MP-

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am sorry. I have tried to be very patient. I think the member is well aware that we do not call members of Parliament by their names. We refer to the position or the riding.

The member still has about a minute left, but would she please pay attention.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I thought you were going to tell me my time was up.

I was under the impression that if an MP was no longer an MP it was quite all right to mention their name.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

You did refer to the Prime Minister by name.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Getting back to federal pensions, the very first step in pension reform should be to outlaw that type of double dipping. MPs should not be permitted to collect a pension until they reach an age considered pensionable among the Canadian public, somewhere between the ages of 60 or 65.

Also the pension should bear some relationship to contributions. At present the taxpayer contributes at least five times as much as MPs do to the pension payouts. That is a ratio which is destined to grow.

Finally some leadership has to be shown from the political representatives who endlessly beseech Canadians to cut back, to reduce their expectations. These pleas lose their lustre when the politicians neatly exempt themselves from the sacrifices. Klein realized this. The Prime Minister probably does too. All he needs to do now is act.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to make four short points about the bill under consideration this morning.

The first point is that this is something the public cares very deeply about. I think we are all aware of that; all members who have spoken today on this topic have mentioned it. Because this is something the public cares about, it is something we should seriously consider.

In my experience nothing gets the public more riled than this whole subject of the members pension plan. This is for a couple of reasons.

One is because there is nobody else in the country who is able to command a pension for life after working only six years. Canadians feel it is fundamentally unfair that anyone should be able to do that. Another is that the pension plan is a very rich one, even if you discount the fact it can be earned after only six years. It is fully indexed and is based on 75 per cent of the best six consecutive years of earning. Again it is not something which is available to most Canadians.

Therefore it is fair to say it is something we should legitimately deal with because the public is demanding it be dealt with.

The second point I would like to make is that change is very much needed in this pension plan. Canadian taxpayers are not able to fire us, to put it bluntly. If they lose confidence in us, if they feel we are not competent in the job we are doing and our performance is unsatisfactory, the taxpayers are not able to relieve us of our duties as can happen in private industry and in any other walk of life.

It adds insult to injury in their view when not only can they not get rid of us in between elections but even after an election if our performance has been unsatisfactory they have to pay us forever under a pension plan as long as we had been MPs for six years.

Canadians do feel that change is needed simply on the basis of equity. On the basis of the dollar figure Canadians feel that change is needed. As other members who have spoken have said, for each dollar an MP pays into the pension plan or did in 1993, the taxpayer contributed more than $6. That is a very high ratio of contributions of the person receiving the pension and the employer, who in this case is the public or the taxpayer.

In other words MPs pay about 20 per cent of the value of the plan. This compares to 40 per cent for federal public servants and about 35 per cent for public sector executives. Once again the percentage of contributions in the eyes of Canadians is inequitable.

Other members have also mentioned that of the MPs from the 1988-93 Parliament 134 will receive pensions now. Those will cost $5.5 million each and every year. That is an increase of 56 per cent over what was paid out in pensions to former MPs in the last fiscal year.

Again Canadians see this pension liability as one which is growing very rapidly. In a time when our tax resources are shrinking and the demands on them are increasingly competitive, Canadians are concerned even though it is a minuscule amount in terms of the overall budget. The percentage of growth and the growth of the liability does concern a lot of Canadians.

The average pension for those 134 MPs from the last Parliament is $41,450 per year and that will go up as the indexation goes up. This is true even though a number of those 134 former members of Parliament are not retired. They are working and some of them are even working for the federal government. Canadians do not see any equity in paying pensions to people who are quite able bodied and working and are able to support themselves. They are asking why pensions are paid to people who are working and are well able to work.

The last point I would like to make about the fact that change is needed is that a lot of our pension obligations are unfunded.

I have been contacted, as I am sure other members have, by members of the Public Service Alliance. They are concerned that there is an unfunded pension liability of about $100 billion for federal civil servants. They are concerned that this fund should be managed, should be funded, should be actuarially sound. They are concerned about their future pensions.

When Canadians are concerned about their future, their pensions, their retirement years, it is very difficult for them to feel positive about a group who again seem to be free or not subject to those kinds of uncertainties.

The third point I would like to touch on is what this bill proposes. It proposes essentially two things. One is that double dipping would end. In other words people who are entitled to members pensions but who are working for the federal government or crown corporations would not be entitled to pension moneys as long as they are employed by the federal government or by crown corporations. The second thing it would do would be to end any pension payments until at least age 60.

I think it is fair to say that those are key elements of pension reform for members of Parliament that the Canadian public is asking for, but I very much agree with other members who have spoken on both sides of the House suggesting the bill does not go far enough, that this just touches on the need for pension reform but there are other elements that really need to be brought into a comprehensive reform of members' pensions.

While this is a good start and the two points are valid, there are other elements that need to be addressed.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96(1), this item is dropped from the Order Paper.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement ActGovernment Orders


Sault Ste. Marie Ontario


Ron Irwin LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-16, an act to approve, give effect to and declare valid an agreement between Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada and the Dene of Colville Lake, Déline, Fort Good Hope, Fort Norman and the Metis of Fort Good Hope, Fort Norman and Norman Wells, as represented by the Sahtu Tribal Council, and to make related amendments to another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I rise to address the House on Bill C-16, the Sahtu Dene and Metis Land Claim Settlement Act. I am honoured and pleased to have the opportunity to speak in support of this bill. I urge hon. members to give this legislation their strong support and quick passage so that the Dene and Metis people of the Sahtu region can begin now to build a better future.

This agreement has been many years in the making. The Dene of the Mackenzie Valley filed a comprehensive claim with the federal government in 1976 and the Metis filed a claim the following year. These were among the first claims received after a Liberal government decided in 1973 to end the 50 year hiatus in treaty making in Canada.

This was the right decision. It avoided potentially protracted and expensive litigation. Court decisions have indicated that the best way to resolve land claims is through negotiation. Some 20 years later the settlement of outstanding land claims is an objective this government will be pursuing with a great deal of energy and commitment in the coming months.

The clear definition of aboriginal rights to land and resources is a crucial foundation for the long term success of self-government and the future aspirations and prosperity of dozens of aboriginal communities.

With that in mind we need to move quickly to clarify land and resource ownership in those regions of Canada where aboriginal right to land has not been satisfactorily dealt with, and we are committed to do so both through existing channels and with new approaches to resolve land claims.

We made clear our commitment to address outstanding land claims in "Creating Opportunity: The Liberal Plan for Canada". On page 96 of that document there is a very clear and concise statement of this government's intention toward aboriginal people: "The priority of a Liberal government will be to assist aboriginal communities in their efforts to address the obstacles to their development and to help them marshal the human and physical resources necessary to build and sustain vibrant communities".

Comprehensive land claim settlements take us a long way toward accomplishing this goal. By ensuring certainty of land ownership and providing fee simple title to large areas of land they remove some of the most significant obstacles to the economic development and diversification of aboriginal communities.

By affirming resource ownership and rights and by providing monetary compensation they give aboriginal beneficiaries the means to become self-reliant. By formalizing aboriginal participation in the decision making process, land claim settlement agreements enable aboriginal people, people like the Sahtu Dene and the Metis, to regain a measure of control over their lives and to restore pride and self-respect in their communities.

The Sahtu claim was the second regional Dene and Metis agreement to be signed. A land claim agreement with the Gwich'in was finalized in July 1991, promulgated to December 1992 and is now being implemented.

The fact that we are addressing Bill C-16 today is testimony to the perseverance, strength and character of the Sahtu Dene and Metis.

I am particularly pleased for the elders among these two aboriginal groups. These individuals have suffered the longest, worked the hardest and provided the guidance and leadership that has brought this agreement before the House. They give the younger generations reason for hope.

The result of those years of perseverance is a modern day treaty that fulfils treaty 11, signed in 1921. With second reading debate we are now at a critical stage in the settlement process.

Let me remind my hon. colleagues that this land claim agreement has been overwhelmingly endorsed by the beneficiaries. Eight-seven per cent of the ballots cast by the Dene in the ratification vote supported the agreement and 99 per cent of the Metis who voted supported the agreement. I would also like to point out that this is the first land claim agreement in which the Metis have had a principal role.

This agreement has also been endorsed by the government of the Northwest Territories which was a key player in the negotiations and which will play a fundamental role in implementing the agreement. It has been praised by non-aboriginal residents and business interests in the Sahtu region because it will finally lay to rest issues of land ownership and resource rights that have stymied development in the settlement area.

Now it rests with this House to move the settlement agreement forward. By passing Bill C-16 we will be approving, giving effect to and declaring valid this agreement between Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada and the Dene of Colville Lake, Déline, Fort Good Hope and Fort Norman and the Metis of Fort Good Hope, Fort Norman and Norman Wells as represented by the Sahtu Tribal Council. We will also encourage resource development of the settlement area.

In the simplest of terms, Parliament is being asked to do its part to address the longstanding, legitimate land based claims of the Sahtu Dene and Metis and to help the north realize some of its economic potential.

We are being asked to ensure that their traditional lifestyles will not only survive but will flourish. We are being asked to put into action Canadians' commitment to share the potential of our nation.

I would like briefly to touch on a number of issues addressed in the Sahtu Dene and Metis land claims settlement that I know will be of interest to hon. members.

First, I want to make it clear that Bill C-16 provides that the Sahtu agreement will be a land claims agreement within the meaning of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. This is extremely important because it means that the rights of the aboriginal participants to the agreement may not be arbitrarily affected or altered by any other person. However, this Constitution protection does not mean that the agreement forms part or alters the Constitution of Canada.

On the issue of land title, this agreement will give the 2,000 Dene and Metis beneficiaries collective ownership of approximately 41,000 square kilometres of land in the settlement area. On approximately 1,800 square kilometres of this area they will also own the sub-surface mineral rights. The Sahtu lands will be privately owned lands, not reserve lands under the Indian Act.

The quantum of land that was agreed upon in this land claim agreement is guaranteed to the Sahtu Dene and Metis forever. If any settlement lands were ever to be expropriated, which is extremely unlikely, they would be replaced with an equal amount of land elsewhere in the settlement area.

I can assure hon. members that the lands selected have a great meaning to the beneficiaries.

The settlement agreement encompasses territory that has been occupied and used by many generations of Sahtu Dene and Metis. Settlement lands include traditional hunting and fishing areas as well as lands of historic and spiritual significance to the Dene and Metis. They also include lands which would bring economic benefit to the Dene and Metis. Subject to existing mineral interests, the Sahtu Dene and Metis will decide whether and how to explore and develop any sub-surface resources that they might own.

In addition to these revenue generating opportunities, the beneficiaries of this land claim agreement will seek payments totalling $75 million in 1990 dollars over the next 15 years.

These lands and these funds combined with a share of the resource royalties from projects in the Mackenzie Valley will give the Sahtu Dene and Metis the financial resources to support their own economic development initiatives. The money may also be used to support social, cultural, educational and political initiatives.

Most important, it will be used as the beneficiaries see fit. They, rather than the government, will have an increased say in how their communities are to develop.

A number of provisions of the agreement acknowledge the rights and interests of non-aboriginal people in the settlement area. For example, any third party rights, titles and interests that already exist on Sahtu lands when this legislation comes into force will be protected. As well, because the parcels of settlement lands are so large, there are provisions to allow access to the lands under certain circumstances by persons who are not Sahtu Dene or Metis. For example, members of the public may cross settlement land in order to exercise a right, interest or privilege on crown land that is adjacent to the Sahtu land.

In all cases, however, access to settlement land will be based on the conditions that no significant damage will be done to the land and that there will be no interference with Sahtu Dene and Metis use and enjoyment of their land.

I am pleased to note that the land claim agreement acknowledges the traditional subsistence lifestyle of the majority of the Dene and Metis in the Sahtu region. It guarantees them special wildlife harvesting rights in the settlement area, including the exclusive right to trap. The agreement also provides for compensation where developers cause provable damage to property or equipment used in harvesting wildlife or a loss of income from wildlife harvesting.

It also recognizes the importance of expanding the economic horizons for aboriginal people in the north. Toward this end, the agreement provides for economic development opportunities related to guiding, lodges, naturalist activities and commercial fishing.

For example, throughout the settlement area the Sahtu Dene and Metis will have the first opportunity to obtain new licences for commercial opportunities in wildlife harvesting, guiding and outfitting, naturalist activities and the keeping and breeding of wildlife species native to the settlement area.

The aboriginal beneficiaries will also be looking for employment and business opportunities that will arise once third party resource development projects get under way. The historic involvement of the Sahtu Dene and Metis in the Norman Wells project puts them in an excellent position to take advantage of opportunities that are expected to emerge in the oil and gas sector.

Madam Speaker, the passage of Bill C-16 and the coming into force of the Land Claim Agreement will give the Sahtu Dene and Metis the opportunity to be really involved in the making of decisions which will have an impact on their environment and way of life.

Under this agreement, they are guaranteed a 50 per cent representation on all agencies concerned with renewable resource management, land development, and regulations regarding land and water use in the area covered by the agreement. Moreover, they will sit on the Mackenzie Valley Impact Review Boards.

Federal, territorial and municipal laws will apply to the Sahtu Dene and Metis and their land. However, if there is any conflict between those laws and this agreement, the agreement will apply.

I am pleased to note that an arbitration panel will be established under the terms of this agreement so any disputes that arise can be settled without involving the courts.

The agreement also provides a framework for negotiating self-government. I know that many Sahtu Dene and Metis are looking with hope and confidence to the day when they might exercise jurisdiction in such areas as education, language, taxation, health and social services and the administration of justice.

We are proceeding with this land claim at this time for three basic reasons. The first is that an agreement has been signed on behalf of the crown and we are determined to live up to past commitments and to uphold the honour of the crown. Second, the agreement reflects the aspirations of the Sahtu Dene and Metis and addresses their legitimate claims. This agreement will guarantee a secure land and resource base for economic development and self-government. The third reason we are proceeding is because the resolution of outstanding land claims has become a priority for all Canadians.

This initiative has the support of people from coast to coast, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. Bill C-16 is clearly deserving of parliamentary support. I urge my hon. colleagues to do the right thing for the Sahtu Dene and Metis and the right thing for Canada by ensuring quick passage of this legislation.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to address this House today to inform you that I and the party which I represent, the Bloc Quebecois, will be very pleased to support Bill C-16 for several reasons.

I would like to tell you that since I became Indian Affairs critic for the Official Opposition, this is probably the issue on which I have spent the most time. The procedure followed in this case is fairly typical and representative of what I intend to do from now on with government bills on Indian affairs.

This bill has many implications, and I will come back to them shortly. The people of Sahtu, who are very pleasant to deal with, came to meet me in my office; we went over the whole agreement as such and I was very glad to learn that the government had agreed to support Bill C-16 which would quickly implement an agreement reached on September 6.

Of course, representations were made from many quarters. As I said, those people are very pleasant to deal with and very persistent. This agreement is the result of a long struggle. From 1982 to 1991 or 1992, these people tried to negotiate it, but there were other agreements before, starting in 1921, formal agreements and also less formal agreements between the Whites at the time and the people of Sahtu.

So this agreement is very good for them and for us. The seniors, called elders, were very much involved. For them this agreement is very important for future generations and I think that they will be very satisfied.

The president, George Cleary, also came to my office with his delegation. As I just said, those people were persistent and I think that the agreement they have today is very worthwhile. I also hope that all members of this House will ensure that this bill can take effect fairly soon. Among the local associations that made representations to us are the Déline band of Fort Franklin, the Déline sub-band, the Fort Norman band, the Colville Lake band and the Fort Good Hope band.

Of course, these are important centres of social and economic activity in that region of the Mackenzie Valley and those people have communities within those socio-economic centres and they are all included in the agreement.

Speaking of local associations represented, there are also the Metis Nation of the Northwest Territories, local 60 in Fort Norman, local 59 and local 54; these are Metis groups that worked on this agreement and signed it. The agreement will affect some 1,755 Metis and Dene. The figures vary a little. Some talk about 2,000 but there is a general consensus that the agreement will affect between 1,700 and 2,000 people.

Of course, Sahtu-it is important to know this-is the big lake in northern British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. The word means big bear in the Dene language. So right off the bat it is important to realize the significance of the words.

Earlier I talked about the 1921 treaty. It may have been the start of a more traditional system of management between the Whites and the Natives, and we see that this is now taking the form of a land claims treaty that is not in fact a self-government treaty. I could come back to that a little later.

The territory itself represents about 75 per cent of the area occupied by Nova Scotia. So it is a huge territory, to say the least, and it is already limited by other Native agreements. In particular, the Sahtu Tribal Council's current territory is limited to the northeast by the recently-signed Nunavut agreement and to the north by the Inuvialuit treaty.

I will now tell you the history of the five communities because I think it is important. The Colville Lake community lives on the ancestral lands of the Slave Dene. It was founded in 1962 and it is the only community in the Northwest Territories where everything is made out of roundwood logs, Madam Speaker. It is still typically, a very rustic, very nice, good-sized village. I did not visit it but I saw pictures, and everything is built out of roundwood logs.

Déline, which was founded in 1825 by Sir John Franklin, is also called Fort Franklin. It was Lord Franklin's winter headquarters. When oil was discovered in Norman Wells-I will come back to that later-in the 1920s, it was close to transportation routes and became a major trading post. At that time, the people of Bear Lake were still leading a nomadic existence, following a tradition which is several thousand years old. They travelled across their hunting grounds in pursuit of the animals they wanted to trap and hunt.

It is only since the 1960s and the early 1970s that the Dene have been living in Déline year-round. When these people became a little more sedentary in the 1970s, they built the village of Déline where they now live.

Fort Norman has long had great seasonal importance to the Dene. The Northwest Company was active in the 18th century. The trading post founded at Fort Norman in 1810 has been permanently occupied since 1872. It was then a trading post which became a permanent village in 1872.

Fort Good Hope is the oldest trading post of the Lower Mackenzie Valley. Although it lies inside the territory of the Northern Slave Dene, the Gwich'in and the Mountain, the Mackenzie Delta Inuit used to go there. So another important community is affected by this agreement.

Norman Wells was the first community in the Northwest Territories to depend exclusively on the development of non-renewable resources. It is where the first traces of oil were discovered. It is a place where the oil development reaches its full extent. In 1818 and 1819, oil was discovered in commercial quantities. In 1847, the collapse of oil prices created problems for the village.

Imperial and Canada are joint owners of operating oilfields. The Can Oil trail was laid out during World War II so that Norman Wells could send its premium-quality light oil, a strategic resource, to the Alaska Highway and to southern cities. Norman Wells is also the northern end of the oil pipeline going from the Northwest Territories to Zama in Alberta.

I said earlier that the agreement was signed on September 6, 1993, in Fort Norman. According to our experts and researchers, the agreement is indeed protected by the Constitution as a modern treaty, in compliance with section 35. I said that between 1,700 and 2,000 Dene of the Sahtu region will be covered by the agreement and will be represented by the Sahtu Tribal Council.

In the region where those rights will apply, the agreement was approved by 85 per cent of the Dene and by 99 per cent of the Metis, while the rate of participation was close to 90 per cent.

You can see the efforts made by these people, who live in the very large territory of 280,000 square kilometres covered by the agreement. Such high participation and approval rates demonstrate how important the agreement is to those people, as well as their very positive attitude towards it.

I want to discuss the content of the agreement as regards the use of land and water. The Dene-Metis from the Sahtu region on the one hand, and the government on the other hand, will be equally represented on the land use planning boards regulating the use of land and water, and they will also be represented on an environmental council in the case of development proposals for the region. This is very important to these people.

I explained earlier the importance of traditions such as fishing, hunting, trapping, etc. Now, we also realize that, with the emergence of their new economy, these people want to try to reconcile in an effective way their new and former cultures. I am pleased to see that the government has acted on their claim regarding this aspect and that these people's representation will be equivalent to that of the government regarding any expansion project, and also that, in the field of environment, they will have the opportunity to provide an important input.

I want to point out that it is a land claim agreement-later I might give more details on the territory covered and on the agreement itself-which does not put an end to what are commonly referred to as self-government agreements. These are two very different things. In fact, the annex to the agreement before us today contains some draft agreement on eventual negotiations relating to the issue of self-government.

As you know, a number of things can be the object of a transfer of jurisdiction between the Crown and Indian bands. Very few such transfers are in the process of being made right now, but the agreement provides for that possibility regarding a number of issues, including education, justice, health care and police services. Indeed, now that a land claim has resulted in a formal agreement, once these people have developed their resources and built a solid base for their economic development, they will want to look at what issues eventual negotiations on self-government might include.

Again, this agreement does not put an end to self-government. In fact, I think that it is a starting point for self-government, because if there is no land claim, if there is no land on which to base future claims for transfers of jurisdiction, it is very difficult to look at the issue of self-government. Consequently, this is one thing which is taken care of with the conclusion of the agreement.

We are also pleased to see that the Sahtu Tribal Council will participate in any constitutional conference on the reform of the Northwest Territories' constitution. An arbitration board is about to be set up to avoid having to go to the courts and therefore avoid delays which can sometimes be very long and costly for these nations.

The Metis and Dene now get ownership title for over 41,000 square kilometres, of which 1,800 include mines and minerals. This is very important. This is a territory these people now own exclusively. Some compensation could even be awarded in cases of expropriation.

In other words, should the government decide, although I heard the minister say it was unlikely that the government would be interested in acquiring land and decide to expropriate, but should this ever happen, these people made sure the agreement contained clauses under which compensation would consist of equivalent lands. This is very important to them. If the

government tries to expropriate 2,000 or 3,000 of the 41,000 square kilometres covered by the agreement, it will have to compensate by giving them the same amount of land somewhere else.

This is a very important point. The 41,000 square kilometres are not only part of the settlement but also belong to the Sahtu municipal lands. In other words, the five or six communities I mentioned earlier as well as other groups living in small villages are not only given lands immediately adjacent to their territory or villages but are also given ownership of all adjacent lands within the 41,000 square kilometres. On 1,800 square kilometres, rights to sub-surface resources the mineral rights will be included.

As far as financial compensation is concerned, I think it is a good settlement, both for the Crown and for the aboriginal people. They will receive a tax-free financial settlement in the amount of $75 million annually, over a period of 15 years. Every year, participants will receive 7.5 per cent of the first two million dollars of royalties on resources received by the government for that year, and 1.5 per cent of additional royalties on resources in the Mackenzie Valley.

There is a financial settlement and royalties on resources as well. Of course a percentage goes to the Crown, but the Sahtu tribal council benefits from it as well.

I think this is good for the economic development of the Dene and the Metis in that part of the country. For them, the settlement was a prerequisite for economic development and self-government, and the rest will follow. The financial compensation package is a case in point.

As for the other clauses in the agreement which I intend to discuss, we shall see that, on the economic development side, these people are ready to take control of their lives.

The main focus of the department of Indian affairs may well be to help aboriginal tribes and nations to take control of their lives and get rid of the dependency spirit fostered by the Indian Act.

I think that today we are witnessing a first step by aboriginal people toward economic development and, eventually, self-government.

Incidently, in Quebec we have some very good examples where this has been successful. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity nor, in fact, much time to compare the two agreements, but Quebec has set a good example, with its Cree and Naskapi legislation and the James Bay agreement, and I think we can say quite honestly that we pioneered the introduction of a degree of self-government around land claim settlements. I believe this bill is very similar in its treatment of the Metis and Dene in the Northwest Territories.

As far as the agreement itself is concerned, I will briefly discuss a few important points. I mentioned the wild life aspect and the possibility that these people would be represented on a kind of tribunal and consulted on environmental and economic development issues.

To them, wildlife is extremely important. As I pointed out, for thousands of years, until the beginning of the twentieth century, these people followed the caribou herds and other game. They were nomads. Their life style and habits were based on animal resources. The agreement contains provisions on wildlife, and we are very glad to see the agreement reflects their culture and the position of the Bloc Quebecois on the important jurisdictional aspects that must be included in this kind of bill.

So the Renewable Resources Board will be composed of an equal number of Dene, Metis and government representatives and will manage wildlife in the region covered by the settlement. They will obtain specific rights concerning the management of wildlife, including the exclusive right to trap throughout the region covered by the agreement, the right to hunt, economic opportunities concerning the use of camps, guiding naturalist activities and commercial fishing.

Some people who are neither Dene nor Metis have lived in the region for some time. They will now have to reach an agreement with the band council in order to pursue their commercial activities. The agreement also mentions the importance for the band council of ensuring that wildlife is managed not only for subsistence but also on a commercial basis. Furthermore, the agreement provides that those who harm the environment by taking too many caribou or fish or who misuse the fishing or hunting equipment at their disposal will have to compensate the band council.

The agreement does not infringe on the ancestral political, social or other rights which the Dene or Metis may have. The Dene and Metis living in the region can register under the terms of this agreement. We know that there may be people who have lived on that territory from generation to generation but were not registered under the Indian Act; the agreement contains special provisions whereby these Dene and Metis can register within a certain period-I will not mention exactly any passage or provision, but they are indeed included in the agreement.

As for the native people or Canadian citizens living in the Mackenzie Valley, the valley covered by the agreement, who are not registered and are neither Dene nor Metis, the agreement allows them to register provided that a Sahtu community adopts them. It is important to emphasize that the agreement does not throw out people who have lived on the territory for a long time, as if to say to them: "You are not Dene, you are not Metis, you have to leave the territory". The agreement allows these people

to stay provided that they are accepted by one of the Sahtu communities.

The Sahtu lands will be private, not reserves, and that is important. I mentioned earlier that, since its inception, the Indian Act has made the Indians very dependent. The agreement before us frees the Indians from this dependence and gives them enough economic power and land to exercise their full autonomy. Although the agreement on self-government will come later, we note that this is a step in the right direction. We are pleased to see that the land will be private and not reserves.

Federal, territorial and municipal laws will apply and, in case of conflict, the agreement will prevail. That is important; it is another step to self-government and it says: "The agreement between you and us will protect you". For example, if there is conflict between a municipal by-law and the agreement, the agreement will prevail. The agreement will not set up a hermetically sealed territory. By that, I mean that we are not building a Berlin wall around a territory and saying that no one can go there.

We are pleased to see that, as far as the public is concerned, the agreement contains provisions allowing the public access to the region.

However, if someone has in mind to start up a business within this territory, then naturally this is another matter. Under the current provisions the public will be allowed access to Sahtu land in order to reach an adjacent territory. Dealing with a territory covering 280,000 square kilometres, you cannot expect someone to make a detour around this vast expanse to reach an adjacent territory.

Therefore, members of the public wishing to travel through this region will have no problem doing so. Naturally they will have to comply with the regulations and designated areas. The agreement even contains provisions stipulating that members of the public will be able to hunt migratory birds, provided of course they comply with certain conditions to be determined by the band council.

Regarding access for developers, those who are already in the area will be able to remain there, subject, as always, to the approval of the band council. Indeed, this approval will be required, and even a right to appeal is provided.

One example of this arose when the lands in the Sahtu region were being selected. As you know, outfitters who have long been operating in this region need vast expanses of land to carry out their outfitting operations.

These outfitters renegotiated all of their systems and territories with the Sahtu and Metis band council, and agreements are now in place which allow these outfitters to continue using Sahtu lands.

Federal departments have been represented and consulted on countless occasions during the negotiation process. The same holds true for the government of the Northwest Territories which was part of the federal negotiating team.

As we can see, nothing was taken for granted. All parties, the federal and territorial governments as well as the representatives of the Sahtu band council, approached the task at hand very seriously and no one was left out of the process. The agreement meets with the approval of all parties.

The Sahtu were even consulted when the time came to draft the land claims bill. They told us so themselves. They will also be consulted on the drafting of the future Mackenzie Valley resources management legislation.

The territory in question does not take in all of the Mackenzie Valley. Therefore, it is extremely important, to them and to us, that it be made clear that when legislation, whether economic or social, is drafted for the rest of the Mackenzie Valley, they will be consulted. The agreement states that they will be consulted, that they will be abled to express their views and even participate in the process.

On certain reserves, the Dene themselves make the decision whether or not to allow exploration or resource development. They are not required to follow a particular course of action. Of course, within the 1,800 square kilometres referred to earlier, a band council can decide at any time to allow exploration, the conduct of a feasibility study or a geological study and, if there are resources in the subsoil, mining, quarrying, and so on.

This is all allowed under the provisions of the agreement before us.

As for present and future titles holders, they will have to negotiate with the Dene and Metis the use they want to make of those lands and waters. That is totally consistent with the principle of the agreement before us.

To wrap up regarding the contents of the agreement, negotiations were held from 1982 to 1990 to come to this agreement. Today, to become law, it will require unanimous consent from this House. So, I hope that, for the sake of expediency, we will have unanimous consent.

Other consensus were reached before coming to the product before us and I would like to mention some of the groups that have been consulted and various public consultation processes involved.

So, groups were consulted. Proper consideration was given to this. The people and organizations I am about to mention have taken part in the discussions to some extent. The Northwest Territories Chamber of Mines was one of them, as well as the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the North West Territory Wild Life

Federation, the Mackenzie Mountains outfitters-those who need large areas for their outfitting operations, as I said earlier-and the Ingraham Trail Association. Consultations took many forms. It was mentioned earlier that the agreement was approved by federal government. The agreement was signed by the federal government as well as the territorial government. The public meeting in Yellowknife was held as part of this consultation process.

Communities were toured extensively. I was saying earlier that the agreement applies to an area of 281,000 square kilometres. You can imagine it was no small task to go and see 2,000 people who live in that area. But the results were highly conclusive, as I said earlier, with a positive vote from 85 per cent of the Dene and 99 per cent of the Metis.

Information brochures were distributed. Municipalities were involved in the lands screening process. A serious job has been done.

I would like to open a parenthesis here because the outlay of money required makes Canadian taxpayers jump. In fact, many people have commented to me, and I am sure that similar remarks were made to the hon. minister, that the department of Indian affairs was perhaps one of the least hit by cuts. Not only were there no cuts, but its budget has actually increased.

We must also understand what led to the Indian Act. I often tend to use the same example, namely an Indian village or reserve nearby. How much money goes to the village if we look at who built the town hall? Who built the hospital? Who built the schools? Who is in charge of the roads? Who is in charge of the water supply system? If we look at all this and at the money coming from various departments, we see that the department of Indian affairs looks after the reserve.

Although the amounts may look outrageously high, it must be understood that, as a trustee under the Indian Act, the federal government must look after the quality of life of the Natives who live on these reserves.

There are many other reasons why the budget was not cut. Yes, the budget has grown but so has the Native population. It does not mean that we want to remain a trustee forever. I think we all have an effort to make in this regard and, after listening to the minister's comments on this subject, I feel that he, too, wants to revoke the Indian Act as quickly as possible.

How will we proceed? We have a typical example before us today. Without the Dene and the Metis achieving self-government, which will come later, we can still see that it is a step in the right direction. The money the government was going to spend on these bands should be reduced to allow for its gradual withdrawal and to let Natives control their own economic development and achieve full self-government in the long term.

We now understand why, in a public finance management context, the department may not have been hit by cutbacks. There is also the whole notion that, since the government wants Natives to take control of their own destiny, it will have to invest the amounts resulting from that decision and allowing us to initiate a negotiating process. That is what I tell people to explain why we in the Bloc Quebecois see an increase in the Indian Affairs budget. We must also remember that, historically, we exploited the lands and resources of these people and confined them to parcels of land representing perhaps 1 per cent of the area they used to occupy.

In closing, a last word on their languages and cultures because I think it is important.

The Eskimo and Dene languages are not at all related. Even though these nations have long lived close from one another, we recognize that the two cultures are distinct. Even though these people have been hunting, trapping and fishing forever, we recognize their respective specificity regarding the land they occupied. They have such precise expressions relating to nature that there is indeed a separation between the two languages. For example, the Eskimo language has 60 terms for "snow". That language has all kinds of variations and nuances regarding snow. Because of this degree of specificity, it is understandable that the languages are not necessarily compatible, depending on what part of the territory one lives in.

As for culture, these people are fishermen; they have always been close to nature, and the agreement before us today will bring them closer to an economic development which will enable them to manage their own natural resources. I think that the agreement ensures a happy union between the two cultures, and that it reflects a deep respect for their traditions and heritage. It could be the start of an economic development somewhat closer to our own culture.

For all these reasons, and after a thorough review of the agreement, the legislation and the representations made by the Metis and Dene, I am pleased to say that the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-16. I hope that all members will share our view, so that we can speed up the implementation of this agreement.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, it must be spring. The sun coming through those stained glass windows is taking my breath away.

As spokesperson on aboriginal affairs for the Reform Party of Canada I take great pleasure in opening debate on second reading of Bill C-16, which would have the effect of approving, giving effect to and declaring valid the Sahtu Dene and Metis comprehensive land claim agreement signed September 6, 1993.

This agreement is comprehensive and complex in scope and far-reaching in consequences. Along with numerous appendices it comprises several hundred pages with many clauses and subclauses of considerable complexity.

My party has some very serious reservations about the direction in which land claim settlements in the north have gone in general and specific concerns relating to this agreement in particular. I intend to point out some of them and I am sure that my colleagues will add further to what I have to say. Many of our members wish to speak on this bill.

I want to emphasize at the outset that my criticism is directed to government policy toward the native people. In many respects it is not achieving the desirable result of improving unacceptable social and economic situations in which many of our native people find themselves or providing opportunities which could encourage and assist many of them to take their full place in Canadian society.

At this time I would like to explain a little bit about my background. I have worked in many locations on the B.C. coast in the forest industry. Twenty-two yeas ago I was supervising tree planting and forestry crews in the Chemainus area on Vancouver Island with natives as crew and charge-hand. This connection with native forestry crews continued in Ucluelet and in the Queen Charlotte Islands. The workforce in the logging operation on the Queen Charlotte Islands was very integrated. Individual racial status was often not known nor of consequence, which is as it should be in my view.

When one lives, works and volunteers in these small communities there is sensitivity that respects cultural differences. I have shared joy and grief and I am aware of many of the subtleties of native culture.

I so much remember my Haida friend, on hearing that I was leaving the Charlottes, saying to me: "John, many people have come to the Charlottes, worked, and then left without contributing a thing. I can tell you that you are an exception because you have made this a better place". Madam Speaker, these words meant so much to me. It is so easy to become polarized in society, particularly when this suits someone's political agenda. We all have a responsibility to be constructive wherever possible.

Returning to debate on Bill C-16, every time I set out to analyse this agreement I return to the same question. Will the Sahtu Dene and Metis people be better off after the agreement is in place than before or will they not? The agreement requires surrender of all further land claim interest, creates fee simple ownership without creating reserves, and maintains a tax regime for individual Dene and Metis of the Sahtu the same as that of any ordinary person. They pay tax on income earned. These are enlightened provisions with which I concur.

My primary reasons for speaking in opposition to the bill are threefold. First, there is no legal rationale for this massive fee simple transfer of land. Second, a new bureaucracy is created. Third, the agreement in all its complexity is to be constitutionally entrenched.

We are dealing with very substantial benefits in land and dollars and other rights to a relatively small population over a massive land area. To be specific, the Sahtu settlement area covered by the agreement we are discussing today covers 280,000 square kilometres or 108,200 square miles. It is an area 50 times the size of Prince Edward Island, five times the size of Nova Scotia, or 30 per cent of the size of British Columbia.

A portion within this massive land area will be conveyed outright to the Sahtu Dene and Metis. Specifically they will receive title in fee simple to 41,000 square kilometres or 16,000 square miles. This is an area seven times the size of Prince Edward Island or three-quarters the size of Nova Scotia.

In addition to these land entitlements the Sahtu Tribal Council will receive each year for the next 15 years a sum of money totalling approximately $130 million. The Sahtu Tribal Council will also receive from government a portion of the royalties received from oil and gas exploration within the settlement area equivalent to 7.5 per cent of the first $2 million in royalties each year and 1.5 per cent of all royalties over and above the $2 million.

Non-share or communal settlement corporations are to be established to receive these capital funds and to dispense them for the activities and details and benefits described in detail in schedules I and II of chapter 8 of the agreement. These activities and benefits include education and training, supplementary funding for a wide range of existing government programs, loans or grants to low income people for certain purposes, housing, other public services, heritage preservation, economic development loans or guarantees, recreational facilities, elders assistance, one-time individual grants to all of $3,500 plus consumer price index adjustment to the date of payment, administrative costs, and qualified trusts investments.

In addition to all of this, the federal government is committed to taking measures to support the traditional economy and to assist business development. Moreover nothing in this agreement affects the participant's right to receive benefits from any existing or future constitutional rights for aboriginal people generally.

This is an enormous package of benefits and one cannot help but be struck with the fact there are so few people who stand to receive them. The Sahtu ratification committee has provided us with the most recent count of participants in the settlement area. It numbers 982 adults, that is 829 Dene and 153 Metis, and 773 children for a total of 1,755 people.

I would ask the minister as to the rationale the government has applied in arriving at this huge package of benefits for such a relatively small number. How has the sum of $130 million been arrived at? Is there any indication it is appropriate to the needs of the participants? Will this enormously generous package of benefits result in the regular programs available to native peoples being phased out? There is no indication in the agreement that this is to be so. In fact, the very opposite is said to be the case.

A very disturbing aspect of this agreement is the fact that a massive area of land will be forever removed from the public lands of Canada and conveyed outright. An area equivalent to three-quarters the size of Nova Scotia will be conveyed to a collectivity totalling 1,755 people. In our view, conveyances of this kind are unnecessary, should not be made and are not in keeping with what the courts of Canada have found to constitute aboriginal rights.

The area north of the 60th parallel throughout Canada has always been considered to be a part of the public lands of Canada in which all Canadians share an interest. This is the fourth land claim settlement undertaken by recent federal governments in the territories. It is apparent there is very little left of the Northwest Territories which has not either been conveyed outright to various bands or over which they have a substantial measure of control.

It is apparent it is the intention of successive governments of Canada to blanket all of Canada's north with land claim settlements of this kind. One could understand granting to a sparse northern population traditional rights of hunting, fishing and trapping, subject to third party interests. But it is quite another matter to convey the outright ownership of vast territories of land. It is not necessary and my party opposes it.

It is noted that subsurface rights are also transferred under a portion of the property to be conveyed outright to the Sahtu Dene and Metis under this agreement. I wonder if the minister can tell us if the Government of Canada has any idea of the potential in mineral and oil and gas exploration that exists in respect of these subsurface rights. If not, this represents a potential transfer of unknown proportions.

We do not believe that land claim settlements of this kind should be open-ended or represent a blank cheque. After all, these are the public lands of Canada and the Government of Canada has a duty to all Canadians to administer them in the best interests of all. Massive transfers run contrary to this principle.

The agreement sets out a plethora of new administrative tribunals and other bureaucratic instruments that are going to be established. The same can be said to have been the case in regard to the three previous land claim settlements in the territories. In fact in the case of the Nunavut agreement, a whole new government is proposed to be established: a legislature and a court system including the Supreme Court of Nunavut and the court of appeal.

In the case of the agreement before us today, it is noted that five renewable resource councils are to be established for each of the Sahtu communities of Colville Lake, Déline, Fort Norman, Fort Good Hope and Norman Wells to manage the exercise of harvesting rights.

A renewable resource board is to be established as the main instrument of wildlife management in the settlement area. Six members are to be nominated by the government and three by the Sahtu Dene and Metis.

An arbitration panel is to be established to attempt to settle disputes relating to this agreement without going to court. A land use planning board is to be established to prepare a land use plan providing for the conservation, development and utilization of land, resources and water in the settlement area. Again the Sahtu Dene and Metis can nominate 50 per cent membership on such a board.

A land and water board is to be established to regulate all land and water use within the settlement area. The environment impact review board and the surface rights board established to implement the earlier Gwich'in agreement are to have jurisdiction over the area with special panels established with the Sahtu tribal council having the right to nominate half of the members.

One has to question the necessity of setting up still another plethora of boards, commissions and instrumentalities within the Northwest Territories. The fact of the matter is that most of these functions are now being administered by existing instrumentalities of either the Government of the Northwest Territories or the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

There is no obvious consideration in the agreement given to winding down existing boards. Layer of government upon layer of government in the sparsely populated Northwest Territories is not the way to go. We are in danger of turning a sparse population into a bevy of bureaucrats, yet one of the main stated purposes of the agreement is to permit pursuit of a traditional livelihood and way of life.

Later this year the government is expected to introduce the Mackenzie Valley resource management act which it is said will fulfil the resource requirements of the various regional land

claim settlements in the western Arctic. In addition it will bring a new system of resource management to the Mackenzie Valley. Indications are that this act will create still additional boards to co-ordinate the activities of the others. Where will it end, bureaucracy on top of bureaucracy?

The agreement provides for a most elaborate process of negotiations in the future to conclude agreements on Sahtu Dene and Metis self-government. This framework agreement is set out in appendix B of the agreement. It is important to note this framework agreement contemplates negotiations on the transfer of legislative-making powers to the Sahtu Dene and Metis over a long list of 18 subject matters.

One has to question the necessity of this given the fact the agreement we are debating today deals with virtually every aspect of these people's lives. The real question is: Is self-government necessary or appropriate for so few people scattered over such a wide area? Whether or not a self-government agreement is negotiated remains for the outcome of future negotiations.

I would stress the fact that self-government arrangements or agreements must provide that the laws passed by legislative bodies and governments of the aboriginal peoples and the administrative practices of such governments must comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To be certain this will be the case, it may well be necessary to amend section 32 of the Constitution to specifically provide that the legislation passed and administrative action taken by aboriginal governments will be subject to the charter.

Perhaps the minister could advise the House whether the Minister of Justice has examined this issue and expressed an opinion as to whether or not the actions of aboriginal governments are now covered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or whether an amendment to the Constitution is required.

If approved, Bill C-16 constitutionalizes the agreement within the meaning of section 35 of the amendments to the Canadian Constitution which came into force in 1982. While the full scope of this constitutional protection is not clear, it almost certainly means the agreement can only be amended by resorting to the appropriate part of the amending formula set out in the Constitution. If it be otherwise, constitutional protection means nothing.

When one looks at the amending formula in the Constitution there are no less than six different formulae, only one of which is designed to be used in a particular circumstance. The fact of the matter is that none of them fit the case of an agreement entered into by the Government of Canada and a tribal council of native peoples. When the amending formula was designed there was no thought given to devising constitutionally entrenched land claim agreements between an Indian band and the Government of Canada.

If this had been an agreement between the Government of Canada and a single province then section 43 would apply and the agreement could only be amended by consent of both the provincial legislature and the Government of Canada. However, the Sahtu Tribal Council is not a province and it is unclear how this agreement can be amended.

Section 41, which is the general amending formula, might be the only amending formula available in this case. The irony is that this general amending formula requires not only a resolution of Parliament, but also of at least seven provincial legislatures. Of course this is totally inappropriate.

There are two aspects of constitutional entrenchment that cause me concern. First, this is a complicated agreement. I think it unwise to constitutionalize such detail given the uncertainty as to how it can be properly amended.

I am well aware clause 3.1.26 of the agreement provides that once the agreement is in force it may be amended by consent of the cabinet and the Sahtu Tribal Council. If this is so, it is difficult to see that the agreement has protection under section 35 of the Constitution.

My second concern is to question the wisdom of entrenching all of the detailed provisions of the agreement until it has been in force for a period of time to consider whether or not it is workable.

It would be preferable to constitutionalize the land rights and perhaps the other benefits to be paid. All of the administrative and regulatory provisions should not be constitutionally entrenched to ensure flexibility as circumstances dictate.

Who are we to say we know what is best for future generations in those areas? If there is to be certainty, finality and stability to these land claim agreements, there must be the extinguishment of any claim to other undefined and uncertain aboriginal rights over land that might be put forward in the future.

I am therefore pleased to see under clause 3(1)(11) that in consideration of the rights and benefits provided under this agreement, the Sahtu Dene and Metis release and surrender to the Government of Canada all their claims, rights, title and interests if any to other lands and waters anywhere in Canada.

I am pleased to see such a provision in this agreement. It is rumoured that the minister does not favour extinguishment clauses in agreements of this kind and that he has instructed departmental staff to expunge from their vocabulary the word extinguishment.

I do not know whether this is in fact the case but if it is, I say with the greatest of respect to the minister that it is the wrong course for him to take. I say that because the content of these agreements represents substantial concessions from government to the native people and the most reasonable quid pro quo should be for the final resolution of outstanding aboriginal claims.

To enter into these agreements with the prospect of having to do it again a few years down the road is a prospect that should not be entertained by government. Although there is an extinguishment clause, the agreement provides that it in no way affects the right of the Sahtu Dene and Metis to participate in any benefit from any existing or future constitutional rights extended to aboriginal people or their right to continue to benefit from all government native programs.

What is missing in this agreement is any indication that if it proves to be successful over a period of time, financial assistance and government native programs of a general nature can be phased out. All of this is at the expense of the Canadian taxpayer and surely the objective is to provide self-sufficiency and ultimately the removal of the need for government assistance beyond that available to ordinary Canadians.

I would like to have seen more of an indication that this is the direction in which the government wishes to go. One should also ask what we do if this agreement turns out to be unsuccessful over a period of years.

My final point concerns the tendency of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to take a decidedly advocate role on behalf of the native peoples. I can understand that this is its mandate up to a point but with issues such as conveying large areas of public lands, the actions of the department should be in the best interests of all Canadians.

Too often these agreements are worked out behind closed doors with the ordinary Canadian in blissful ignorance of what is going on. I am delighted that the Sahtu agreement is being debated at some length is this House, unlike earlier north of 60 agreements. In future it would be advantageous to determine a mechanism for debate at a much earlier stage than merely at ratification. I commend this approach to the minister for his consideration.

I regretfully conclude that the major beneficiaries of this agreement are negotiators, advisers and lawyers. I have concerns that the average Sahtu Dene or Metis may be no further ahead in the long run as a result of this agreement. I wish them well.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-16, the Sahtu Dene and Metis Land Claim Settlement act.

As previous members have described, this is a claim which deals with that part of the Mackenzie Valley which involves Great Bear Lake and the area to the west and the bands that live in those areas.

I am extremely pleased to speak in support of this legislation. It is another example of the government's commitment to build partnerships with aboriginal peoples, partnerships based on mutual respect.

The resolution of native land claims is a major part of that commitment. The federal government is committed to significantly increasing the rate of land claims settlement. It has been seeking new ways to resolve impediments that slow that process down.

I would like to give members of this House some background to the Sahtu land claim agreement as an example of the claims negotiation process. I would like to describe what comprehensive claims are and provide some details of the process that is followed to successfully conclude them.

First, I will give a few highlights of the evolution of the concept of aboriginal rights in the context of land claims. Protecting lands occupied by aboriginal peoples from outside acquisition can be traced to the royal proclamation of 1763. With Confederation, Canada assumed responsibility for applying this principle.

The common law concept of aboriginal rights was addressed in 1973 in a Supreme Court case which acknowledged the existence of aboriginal title in Canadian law. Six years later in 1979 a common law test for continuing aboriginal rights was established in another federal court decision.

These two groundbreaking decisions were followed by the recognition of the central importance of the concept of aboriginal rights to aboriginal peoples in the Canadian Constitution, specifically section 35(1). In 1990 the Sparrow case tried before the Supreme Court provided the first analysis of the implication of this recognition.

All these decisions established that the exercise of aboriginal rights could be regulated by government. The court also set out strict tests which were to be applied to determine if government interference with section 35 rights was justified in specific cases. The court has also concluded that rights are unique to each aboriginal group. Given that the rights are common law and not written down their extent and nature have been the subject of considerable debate.

Before these court decisions were enacted defining the special rights of aboriginal groups within treaties had long been an important aspect of the relationship between aboriginal peoples and the crown. As well the evolution and development of the federal government's land claims policy has been closely linked to court decisions, particularly the decisions that I mentioned earlier.

To address any uncertainty created by the decisions the federal government announced that it was willing to negotiate land claims settlements with native peoples. As the policy developed, claims were divided into two broad categories, comprehensive and specific.

Comprehensive claims are based on the concept of continuing aboriginal rights and title which have not been dealt with by treaty or other legal means. The courts have emphasized that the proper way to resolve outstanding land claims is through agreements negotiated fairly by the affected parties.

Specific claims, on the other hand, arise from the alleged non-fulfilment of Indian treaties and other lawful obligations or the improper administration of lands and other assets under the Indian Act.

All these court decisions and constitutional guarantees provided the background within which the Sahtu agreement was negotiated.

To further describe this process I would like to list the objectives of comprehensive claims settlements, of which this is an extremely important example.

The primary purpose is to conclude agreements with aboriginal groups that will resolve the debates and legal ambiguities associated with the common law concept of aboriginal rights and title.

Uncertainty with respect to the legal status of lands and resources created by a lack of political agreement with aboriginal groups has been a barrier to economic development for all Canadians and has hindered the full participation of aboriginal peoples in land and resource management.

The comprehensive claims process is intended to lead to agreement on special rights aboriginal peoples will have in the future with respect to lands and resources. It is not an attempt to define what rights they may have had in the past.

The process of comprehensive claims settlement has five stages. The first is initial negotiation when issues are identified for discussion. The second is substantive negotiation when issues are discussed to produce the agreement in principle that contains all the features of the eventual settlement. The third is finalization when all parties formalize decisions needed in the agreement in principle to produce a final agreement. The fourth stage is enactment of settlement legislation which brings the agreement into force. The fifth stage is the implementation of settlement legislation when the terms of the agreement are carried out by all parties.

During the initial and substantive stages, the first two stages I mentioned of the settlement process, aboriginal groups may obtain loans from the government to hire professional and technical staff to help them prepare and negotiate their claims.

Most of the lands and resources that are subject of negotiations and that are required for the settlement of comprehensive claims are owned by a province. Because of this the federal government feels that provincial governments must participate in the often complex negotiations and must contribute to the provision of claims benefits to aboriginal groups.

In Yukon and Northwest Territories most lands and resources fall under federal jurisdiction. Nevertheless, territorial governments participate fully in claims negotiations and have made commitments to aboriginal groups through claims settlements. This was certainly the case of the Sahtu agreement. The Northwest Territories government was an active participant in all deliberations.

As in all deliberations, including those leading up to Bill C-16, the scope of discussions was defined so as to arrive at a fair and just resolution of the outstanding claim in a manner that would uphold the honour of the crown.

As well, settlements including the one before us today are designed to ensure that the interests of aboriginal groups in resource management and environmental protection are recognized and that claimants share in the benefits of development. A number of these points were mentioned in previous speeches.

To achieve these objectives settlement agreements must define a wide range of rights and benefits to be exercised and enjoyed by claimant groups. These rights and benefits usually include full ownership of certain lands in the area covered by the settlement, guaranteed wildlife harvesting rights, guaranteed participation in land, water, wildlife and environmental management throughout the settlement area, financial compensation, resource revenue sharing and specific measures to stimulate economic development and a role in the management of heritage resources and parks in the settlement area.

The rights and benefits of the Sahtu Dene and Metis in this particular case have been described by the minister and other speakers today.

Members should know that settlement rights are constitutionally protected and cannot be altered without the concurrence of claimant groups. A claimant group may retain any aboriginal rights that it may have had with respect to the lands it will hold following the settlement so long as such rights are consistent with the final agreement. As well those aboriginal rights that are not related to land and resources, or to other subjects under negotiation, will not be affected by the exchange of rights in the negotiated settlement.

Resource revenue sharing is negotiated so that the group can share federal royalties derived from resource extraction throughout the area covered by the group's settlement agreement.

Enhanced aboriginal involvement in environmental management is also provided for. Such arrangements, however, recognize that government has an overriding obligation to ensure resource conservation, to protect the interests of all users, to respect international agreements and to manage renewable resources within its jurisdiction.

If an aboriginal group's traditional activities have extended to offshore areas, their claim settlement may include offshore wildlife harvesting rights.

The House should be aware that in its efforts to clarify the rights of aboriginal people the federal government does not intend to diminish the rights of others. Public and third party interests will be respected in the negotiation of claim settlements and if affected they will be dealt with equitably.

I hope my colleagues appreciate the long and complex process that has brought us to second reading of Bill C-16. I urge members to support the bill. Its passage will benefit all Canadians as well as help First Nations become strong and prosperous. I hope all bands associated with the Sahtu Tribal Council will have a happy and prosperous future as a result of this legislation.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to the hon. member's speech, and I wish he would expand on the five stages and the process around what is referred to in English as a comprehensive agreement. The first two stages the hon. member mentioned were initial negotiations, when issues are identified for discussion, and substantive negotiations to identify all aspects of the issues, the entire process being financed by the federal government.

Earlier in my speech, I said that, to justify raising the Indian Affairs budget, perhaps the government would like to give us a preview of its plans for further negotiations. Could the hon. member tell us whether the Liberal government plans to increase the level and number of negotiations of the kind we are discussing today, which would partly justify maintaining and even increasing the Indian Affairs budget?

I would also appreciate it if he would share with us his views on the involvement of the provincial governments in these agreements, although I am aware that today we have the involvement of the government of the Northwest Territories, which is not quite a provincial government. I would appreciate it if he would explain how he sees the involvement of the provincial governments in the negotiations around land claims.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his interest and his questions. I listened with great interest to his remarks.

I made it clear that the government was very keen to move forward with claims settlements. I am afraid I cannot comment on the details of the budget. Unlike the hon. member this is not one of my specialty areas. However I would be glad to find out the relationship between our plans to speed up negotiations and the budget, if he so wishes.

With regard to the question of involvement of the provinces, in my speech I specifically mentioned that the case of the Northwest Territories was quite special. In that area the federal government still has a great deal of control. Nevertheless, despite that, the federal government involved the NWT government in these negotiations because it was the proper thing to do.

As I also pointed out, if that is proper in the case of the NWT government, where I suppose it could be argued that the federal government need not have involved that level of government, it is even more true in the case of the provinces. The federal government will involve the provinces in equivalent negotiations in the future.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the presentation and I have a couple of questions for the member.

The member outlined two different types of land claims in Canada and how they are dealt with. He explained that the particular agreement falls under the comprehensive land claim policy which states that under the comprehensive land claim agreement entitlement to lands not dealt with under treaty fall in this category.

In my opinion this particular land area is clearly dealt with under treaty 11. Also in my opinion the Government of Canada has fulfilled its obligation under treaty 11 in every way possible. How is this particular land claim justified under that particular area?

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, although I have an opinion on the status of treaty 11 and the outcomes which have not appeared from that treaty, in this case I would like to take the question under advisement.