Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-16.
I have particular interest in the proposed legislation, having lived and worked among the people of this area. Perhaps I have a better understanding of this part of Canada and its people than someone living in suburban Ottawa, Toronto or Edmonton.
As I have repeatedly said, I strongly support the right of Canada's aboriginal peoples to self-determination and self-reliance. Therefore when representatives of the Sahtu Tribal Council first presented the agreement to me I was supportive. There are many elements of this proposal that moved the aboriginal people of the Mackenzie Valley toward the objectives I support. I am referring to the rejection of the objectionable apartheid principles of the reservation system of more southern parts of Canada.
The co-operative approach to resource management and free access to their traditional lands for traditional purposes is positive. The requirement to contribute to the tax system to help support their own government and the preservation of the social safety net system so essential to all Canadians including aboriginals is also a positive step. In my view the taxation provisions of the agreement are very complex and no doubt will be the subject of legal interpretation.
On these points and in the hope the cash payment and the share of the resource revenue would end the devastating cycle of welfare dependency which has robbed these once independent, hardy people of their self-esteem and initiative, unfortunately the closer I examined the agreement the more I came to realize these positive things would never be achieved through the agreement.
More and more I began to question the motivation and objectives of those negotiating on behalf of the people of Canada. When I contacted public affairs of the department of Indian affairs and Northern Development and inquired as to the objectives of this process, I was told it was to right the injustices of the past and to supplement rather than replace the provisions of treaty 11.
Immediately I have to ask what injustices are we trying to right. If one is familiar or cares to study the history of the area north of the 60th parallel, one would discover that there is a substantial difference from the history of more southern neighbours.
To begin with, life for aboriginals in the land north of 60 has traditionally been a subsistence existence, harsh and unforgiving. From the earliest encroachment into this land by European settlement, the federal government has recognized its responsibility to the people living there and made efforts in spite of the vast wilderness and harsh climate to provide, where possible, help through RCMP outposts and local missions.
I will not accept the popular myth spread by certain self-serving interests that the encroachment of European settlers constitutes an injustice against the aboriginal people here or anywhere else in Canada.
At the turn of the century western and northern Canada was a vast, mostly uninhabited land in real danger of being annexed to the United States. The aboriginal people living in this vast territory were eager for the technology which the Europeans brought with them, in spite of the problems that came with them.
It was under these circumstances that the then Government of Canada, through a series of grossly distorted and overly optimistic ads, invited Europeans from all parts of Europe to come to western Canada with the promise of 160 acres or a half square mile of land for the sum of $10 and a freer, richer lifestyle, but
all the time having the real objective of asserting sovereignty over western and northern Canada.
It was under these circumstances that my grandfather along with thousands of others came to Canada, not to perpetrate an injustice upon the aboriginal people but to accept the opportunity being offered.
In spite of the great disappointment upon arriving in a bush covered, swampy, fly and mosquito infested homestead in northern Alberta, my grandfather and grandmother built a home with the trees on the land, cleared the land with only an axe and a team of horses, and built a farm in spite of the injustices of hail, frost, depression, injury, disease and government misrepresentation. That is how to build self-esteem and self-worth.
I cannot and will not be held responsible for the actions of the past political leadership of this country any more than the aboriginal people can be held responsible for their past leadership. Therefore I will not accept the guilt or support compensation for my being here or my helping to develop industries which now support us in the best standard of living in the world. However I would support any agreement or effort to help the aboriginal people of this area to participate and enjoy the benefits of life enjoyed by all other Canadians.
I believe this agreement entrenches in the Constitution commitments on the Government of Canada that may not be in the best interest of all Canadians or responsibilities that Canada can no longer afford.
The richness of this package should shock even the most liberal Canadian. The agreement gives $100,000 in financial entitlement over 15 years plus title in fee simple to eight square miles of land per capita counting children, plus a share of resource revenue amounting to somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000 per year.
In my view the settlement would be acceptable if it would then cause to end the financial responsibility of the federal government to these people. The truth is far different. Clause 3.1.5 clearly states that the participants in the agreement shall have full access to all present and future programs for aboriginal people as well as programs available to all other Canadians.
These programs now include not only a share of the $4.5 billion budget of the department of Indian affairs and Northern Development but also a share of the proliferation of government programs for aboriginals provided by at least 29 specific programs in 15 other departments of government, costing at least another $5 billion. All this is being offered at a time when our country is bankrupt and our most treasured social safety net system is decomposing because of the financial restraints being imposed on it.
On top of the aforementioned benefits the agreement also calls for the establishment of no less than nine separate boards funded by federal money and a written commitment to negotiate a self-government agreement with the institution of this government agreement also presumably funded by Ottawa.
This brings me back to a question that I raised earlier. What could possibly be the motivation or justification of such an agreement? In my opinion there have been no great injustices perpetrated on the people of this area above those imposed on all our lives by the advancement of technology and our consuming lifestyle.
The government is already redistributing tax and resource dollars in a major way to help these people catch up. The Canadian government 73 years ago at the request of these aboriginal people entered into treaty No. 11 and has more than met its obligations. In fact the text of treaty No. 11 states: "The said Indians do hereby cede, release, surrender and yield up to the Government of the Dominion of Canada for His Majesty the King and his successors forever all their rights, titles and privileges whatsoever to the lands included within the following limits and also the said Indian rights, titles and privileges whatsoever to all other lands wherever situated in the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territory or any other portion of the Dominion of Canada".
Where does this initiative for the land claim settlement come from? In my opinion the initiative comes from the real root of the aboriginal problem in Canada, the insidious parasitic Indian industry. That group of lawyers, consultants, bureaucrats and Indian leaders year after year swallow up the vast majority of money designated to solve the problems of poverty, illiteracy, substance abuse and suffering among our native people.
This agreement does nothing to solve that problem and in fact greatly reinforces it. Instead of continuing to feed this selfish parasitic monster, let us break the cycle by making available to aboriginal Canadians programs available to all Canadians and then providing an affordable amount of the $10 billion plus now spent on aboriginal services and programs to grassroots aboriginal people in the form of a guaranteed annual income.
We will then give the power to tax to the proposed aboriginal governments. These aboriginal governments will then be truly accountable to their people. The people will decide what programs they are willing and able to pay for. They will also decide if their tax dollars should pay for their chief or band administrator to spend in one year $130,000 on travel, as was the case of a band chief in Manitoba, the very birthplace of self-government proposed by the minister of aboriginal affairs. There would still be those selfish, greedy people who would try to exploit these people but at least it would provide a much greater accountability if combined with regular, fair, democratic elections than the system now provides.
In conclusion, I would urge hon. members to re-examine the whole agreement and its implications. I ask members to consider what it means, when in spite of the fact that only 73 years ago the Canadian government entered into treaty No. 11 and the fact that this land claim is in clear violation of the terms of this treaty, we are repeatedly reminded that the rights gained by aboriginals through these treaties is a binding contract on Canada forever.
I also ask members to consider whether we have the right to commit future generations of Canadians to this extremely generous package, considering Canada's financial situation and our doubtful ability to maintain our current social safety net system.
Last, I ask members to question the real motivation behind this agreement and who stands to benefit most. Look at the Indian bands in Canada that have accumulated great wealth through resource revenue and it is obvious that money will not solve the problems we are trying to solve. These problems can only be solved by the people regaining their self-esteem and self-worth. We are providing enough wealth that 982 adult aboriginals need never work or strive to meet goals again in their lifetime. However it will not accomplish this any more than it did for others.
I ask that members not buy into this guilt trip so skilfully put on us and not enter into another binding contract based solely on racial origin that is to last as long as the sun rises and the rivers flow.