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House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was recall.

Topics

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Hire as many as you need.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Yes, right. Members across say hire as many as you need. The deficit reduction bunch across the way say yes, hire as many as you need.

Do you know how many police officers it would take to patrol the Canada-U.S. border if you had one per kilometre? It would take around 6,000 of them three shifts a day, seven days a week, just to patrol the border if you had one every kilometre. That is how idiotic that kind of a solution to the problem is. No, that was not the solution.

A letter signed by the person in charge of the RCMP, Norman Inkster, was tabled in the House. It stated that it was not the solution and that there was only one solution left. Two years before perhaps there could have been other solutions, but it was too late. Now we had to take the drastic action taken by the Prime Minister.

On behalf of all of my constituents, those who lived through that sad period of time, those who had their lives threatened and those people who are no longer with us because they were killed in the process, I want to thank the government for doing the right thing.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened very closely to the what the member had to say. I appreciate the fact that the government can act decisively when it chooses and it can drag its feet when it chooses.

I have a couple of comments and I hope the member will respond to them. He described how tobacco products were being brought in and smuggled right through people's yards and so on. When the taxes were reduced, of course there were no more tobacco products being smuggled. Now the problem is alcohol and guns according to my understanding.

If organized crime is the problem, why was that not dealt with? We have simply given them something else to focus on because it is no longer profitable to deal with tobacco and cigarettes. The problem in Manitoba demonstrates that. This reduction in taxes only made organized crime turn to something else.

Enforcement could have been tried. We could have worked together with the American authorities. We could have had an export tax. There are other avenues that could have been pursued.

Now the smuggling goes on between provinces. We have only shifted the problem into other areas. The government did not get to the root of the problem with organized crime so it is now turning to other things. I am very curious to know what the decisive action of the government will be in this regard or whether it will drag its feet on this.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all about this dragging of one's feet, nonsense. This government was sworn into office in November. The initiative was announced on February 8, only a few days after Parliament was recalled. I asked for three years in the previous government to do something. I asked this new government, three weeks and it was done. This dragging of the feet allegation is sheer and utter nonsense. The member knows it.

In terms of anti-smuggling, obviously the 25 per cent increase in the police force was not just for tobacco smuggling. As I indicated to the member, it was not just a reducing of the taxes. It was the centrepiece of the program. Other things were done as well. The member alluded to some of them, but those things on their own could not work according to the RCMP and according to the people of my riding unless you included that centrepiece which was the reduction of taxes.

The member talks about the smuggling of arms and the smuggling of liquor and so on. First, how does the member think we are catching these people now? It is because we have increased the number of police that we have. Because we no longer have that scourge of tobacco smuggling we can concentrate our efforts elsewhere. Otherwise we would not even know the problem was there. That is how it came to our attention.

Finally, the smuggling of arms and the smuggling of liquor is not done in the same way as tobacco smuggling. I could sit down with the member and describe to him how some of these things occur. There is a link but it is not nearly as direct. You do not smuggle liquor on snowmobiles in the winter or on boats across the river at Akwesasne, at least not generally.

The liquor is smuggled largely by tanker cars, false bottoms and things of that nature. Furthermore, a lot of the liquor is smuggled for institutional use as opposed to domestic use. It is smuggled in large barrels and containers. It is then emptied into smaller bottles by hotel and bar operators and so on and used in that way. It is not the same as the problem of cigarettes where society was probably displaying a smuggled pack. It is vastly different.

On the gun issue, there are many differences again where guns are smuggled on the bottom of trucks. Containers are fastened to the underside of trucks as they cross the border and things like that. I am told the same applies to railway cars, that sort of thing. It is a vastly different network.

Finally, on the issue of liquor, if I can just go back to that point, liquor taxes are not federal taxes. The member would know that as well. Between 80 per cent and 85 per cent of liquor taxes are provincial. They are not federal taxes. The solution

could not be the same even if it were advocated and of course it is not in any case.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

What about the tobacco smuggling issue between provinces?

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

On the issue of tobacco smuggling between provinces, perhaps I was not paying close enough attention. I had not recognized that question as being part of his series of questions that he asked. I apologize for that.

On the issue of tobacco smuggling between provinces, the member would know that it is the responsibility of the provincial government to ensure that the provincial taxes in the respective jurisdictions are adhered to. The difficulty there is that many provinces saw that the appropriate way to go was to co-operate with the federal government in an effort to reduce the smuggling. They did so. It is thanks to those provinces that we managed to get rid of the problem that we had.

I say to the House, let us not forget that it is estimated that80 per cent of the tobacco smuggling in Canada was coming into the country through my riding. One million dollars a day in illegal money in my riding alone, 1,000 cases smuggled a day at $1,000 a case. There was $1 million a day that went through the underworld.

I congratulate the government again for having put an end to that.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I sit here and listen to the hon. member's rationalization of this government's soft position on criminal justice and a stricter law enforcement, I have some serious questions.

The hon. member said that the party opposite, meaning us, talks about deficit reduction and yet is willing to spend more money on law enforcement issues and the hiring of more staff. This party campaigned on increased spending and criminal justice.

The member opposite has taken what was essentially a criminal problem, a problem of breaking the law. Smuggling is not a taxation problem. It is a problem where people were breaking the law. This government refused to send in the necessary police forces to control it.

This member just told us that a million dollars a day in tobacco products was coming across the border. That is a huge amount. I would suggest to this member that if they had been willing to go to the source, to the territory where that smuggling was taking place, which they were not, with the appropriate law enforcement people that that could have been curtailed.

There is no way that one can rationalize that a million dollars a day worth of tobacco products is just simply too hard to find for the police and the cost would be too great. What about the cost that is going to be incurred by the health of this country with the increase in smoking? It will increase because now the price of cigarettes is affordable.

This government has refused to take a hard stand on criminal justice and has refused to enforce the laws to take necessary action to control crime in this country. It is typical of the Liberal philosophy that no individual is responsible for crimes they commit. It is society to blame.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member across did not major in geography. To say that one could actually design the patrol of that area and actually get rid of the problem that way, clearly indicates a lack of knowledge in that regard.

I say to the hon. member to come with me to the area and he will understand. We hired RCMP additional officers. It takes approximately eight months to a year before they are actually over there doing that kind of thing once one they have been trained.

Did he want a million dollars a day for another year in illegal money to be made while we did that? I did not want to see that illegal activity, my constituents being shot at for another year, no. I wanted action, tough action, immediate action. I wanted protection for my constituents and we got it thanks to this government.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has apparently forgotten that this country has a well equipped armed forces that could have been used in that situation.

This government is trying to define a role for the armed forces. Here was an excellent example of a role that the militia of this country could have played. The army could have been sent in to control this situation. Yet, it refused to do that. Why?

I am inclined to think it is because of where the problem was happening. There were other issues involved here and this was an area that this government did not want to touch.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand I have only a few seconds left.

The member is advocating a military intervention at Akwasasne and outside of Akwasasne in an area some 40 miles long on the Canada-U.S. border. That may be the hon. member's idea on how to have laws respected. It is not mine. Heaven forbid that we would undertake an issue like that.

The other thing it would involve effectively is militarizing the Canada-U.S. border. The member knows how porous the border is and to shift an issue one mile either way is not very hard. I say to the member that unless he has seen the area, unless he knows how to get in and out of that area, unless he knows that smuggling had reached such proportions that in the spring it was even occurring by helicopter, how can he say that we should have sent the army to patrol the Canada-U.S. border?

No, not on the Canada-U.S. border and least not in my riding and least not again at Akwasasne. Nowhere will that be done if I have anything to do with it.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is the House ready for the question?

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Excise Act, Customs Act, Tobacco Sales To Young Persons ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed.)

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Richmond B.C.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberalfor Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-36, an act respecting the Split Lake Cree First Nation and the settlement of matters arising from an agreement relating to the flooding of land, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Nunatsiaq Northwest Territories

Liberal

Jack Iyerak Anawak LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the House on Bill C-36, the Split Lake Cree First Nation settlement agreement. Before I do so I would like to make some general comments with regard to what the government is trying to do to assist aboriginal people to get to a point where they can get more control over their lives.

I would like to go back to some comments that were made last week by an hon. member. It says here: "You do not have to stir the wood in the stove in order to cook meals. Instead of having to tend a garden in the summer you just buy the food from the supermarket".

I just came in from my hometown of Repulse Bay yesterday, which is right on the Arctic circle. I was out seal hunting, along with a lot of the people of my hometown who were out seal hunting for their food. They were not going to the grocery store to buy their food. They were going out to hunt the food.

I do not think the remark that was made is quite correct. I really did not see any people who were staying home because they felt lazy. Even when they were very tired they went out hunting.

As a result of these comments some may be thinking that aboriginal people must be lazy, wearing sun glasses and Bermuda shorts on some island. When we talk about bills like this, and we are trying to correct some wrongs, we do not want to give the wrong impression to the people of Canada.

One of the first remarks that a constituent of mine from Iqaluit made to me yesterday was: "We should invite that person from the Reform Party to come up in February with sun glasses and Bermuda shorts and we will go to some island". I think there was a similar invitation from the chief of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation yesterday.

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

A point of order, the hon. member for Athabasca.

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am listening to the speaker talk about an issue that I believe was dealt with and settled in this House some time ago. The debate on this bill concerns the flood management-

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. With all due respect to the hon. member, he does not have a point of order. It is a matter of debate and so I would ask the parliamentary secretary to continue his intervention.

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Jack Iyerak Anawak Liberal Nunatsiaq, NT

Mr. Speaker, I was commenting on what we are trying to do as a government to help the aboriginal people. I make these comments because of comments made last week in the House and I think the hon. members from that party could learn an awful lot if they would just listen.

I will quote some more: "I do not know the answer to the native communities and the problems which persist". It should be fairly obvious that if the hon. member could keep the people thinking that he is ignorant of aboriginal issues and kept silent instead of opening his mouth and proving it, then we would all be much better off.

In the debates when we are trying to do as much as we can to ensure that aboriginal people have a rightful place by righting some of the wrongs that have been done over the years, the members opposite would like us to go back a further 100 years and just say it is not your land. We do not have to help you. You should be on your own. We are not asking for that kind of help. We are asking for righting some of the wrongs that have been done over the last 200 years. We have resided in this country for 40,000 years.

I would like to go on to the bill to address the Split Lake Cree First Nation's flood agreement. As hon. members are aware, this is a very short bill. It is nonetheless an important bill because it ensures that certain commitments of the Government of Canada will be met. I would like to explain why it is before the House.

In 1977 the northern flood agreement was signed by the Governments of Canada and Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, and the northern flood committee which represents five Manitoba First Nations.

It was intended to resolve a number of issues that arose after 11,861 acres of reserve lands were flooded by hydro related projects on the Churchill and Nelson Rivers. This project also flooded up to 528,000 acres of non-reserve land, much of which was traditionally used by the affected First Nations for hunting and trapping. The affected waterways were used as a source of drinking water, for recreational pursuits, for food and commercial fishing, and for transportation.

The northern flood agreement sets out a compensation program to the more than 9,000 status Indians adversely affected by the Lake Winnipeg regulation and Churchill River diversion project.

Unfortunately the northern flood agreement has been very difficult to implement. Its vague and inadequate wording, along with its failure to anticipate all the issues that have arisen, have lead the parties to seek arbitration on many points.

A total of 172 claims have been filed and this has occurred at a great expense to taxpayers. To resolve these problems, in July 1990 the four parties agreed to a proposed basis of settlement for addressing outstanding issues under the northern flood agreement.

This new accord approved a long list of matters to be resolved and provided a basis for band specific negotiations relating to them.

The only such negotiations to be completed to date involve the Split Lake Cree First Nation. An agreement was signed with this First Nation in June 1992 and it is now being implemented with no significant problems.

In addition to providing financial compensation to this First Nation, the settlement agreement increases socioeconomic opportunities for the Split Lake Cree and releases Canada from further obligations to this First Nation under the northern flood agreement in return for compensation provided.

The Split Lake Cree settlement agreement includes a commitment by the Government of Canada to implement certain provisions of the agreement through legislation. This is what Bill C-36 sets out to do. It does not give force to the Split Lake Cree settlement agreement. This agreement has its own legal force and is already being implemented.

It does not include commitments by the Government of Canada which have not already been made by the agreement itself. It does not make any grand promises to aboriginal people and it does not make any new demands on the federal purse. Bill C-36 simply ensures that the government lives up to one of its commitments to aboriginal people. That is something that all Canadians and all members of the House would want to do.

Bill C-36 will achieve four specific objectives. I would like to quickly review them for the House. First it provides, as intended by the agreement, that moneys owed under the Split Lake Cree agreement are not payable to the crown. This means these payments will not be considered Indian moneys under the Indian Act. This is very important for a couple of reasons. First, it means that the moneys paid under the Split Lake Cree agreement will be administered by a trustee at the direction of the First Nation, rather than by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Not only does this reduce our administrative burden but it also gives the affected band much greater control over these moneys than it would have over Indian Act moneys. It also removes a potential source of friction between the Split Lake Cree and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development over the management of its money. This is strictly in keeping with our objective of empowering First Nations to set their own destiny.

The second thing Bill C-36 does is clarify the status of fee simple lands owed to the Split Lake Cree First Nation. Specifically, the legislation ensures, again as intended by this agreement, that 2,800 acres of provincial crown lands that are provided in fee simple title will not become special reserves under sections 35 and 36 of the Indian Act.

The objective is to give the Split Lake Cree more control over the use and management of their lands, including any future potential development than would be possible if they were reserve lands. This stipulation means that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development will not have the responsibility for these lands, along with the related costs and administrative burdens.

Third, Bill C-36 ensures that individual band members can continue to make certain claims against Manitoba Hydro under the northern flood agreement. However, settlement or adjudication processes set out in the band specific agreement will have precedence over the process included in the northern flood agreement, which as I mentioned earlier, is cumbersome and costly.

Bill C-36 ensures that the Government of Canada can utilize the Manitoba Arbitration Act when matters are in dispute under the northern flood agreement. Currently Canada is the only party to the agreement that does not have access to these arbitration mechanisms.

I want to assure hon. members that Bill C-36 was developed in full consultation with the Split Lake Cree. The four northern flood agreement bands that have not yet signed settlement agreements will not be affected by the proposed legislation, which is band specific and deals only with the Split Lake Cree First Nation.

As well, the province of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro support the bill, as it simply implements some provisions of an agreement that was signed three years ago. Hon. members should also be aware that the province of Manitoba is now in the process of drafting companion legislation to Bill C-36.

The Split Lake Cree settlement agreement has provided an important new beginning for this First Nation. It has given them control over their own future and the resources needed to support their socioeconomic advancement.

This House is being asked to help fulfil all of Canada's commitments under that important agreement. I urge hon. members to join me in supporting Bill C-36. In so doing we will send an important message to aboriginal people, a message of action, commitment, partnership and respect.

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like by way of introduction to note that living conditions in the territories covered by this agreement, like those in many parts of Canada's North, are in no way comparable to those of South Sea islands. This needs emphasis, because in these territories the temperature can drop to 30 or 40 degrees below zero. It is often sunny, and you do have to wear your dark glasses, but bermuda shorts and sandals are not recommended. I have been there myself, and I can tell you that I was very happy to have my heavy parka, because even all bundled up I was very cold. So bermuda shorts were quite out of the question.

So living conditions are very difficult there. The cost of living is very high, as well. That has to be borne in mind, because I think it's important to set the scene before we zero in on the bill, so that we understand why the bill is important. I was very surprised to find that three litres of milk, for example, cost about $11 there.

I would also like to invite my colleagues to listen to me on Thursday afternoon, because I am going to table in this House a motion dealing with this very question of food distribution in the North, setting out and demonstrating clearly and in detail that it is in Canada's best interests to ensure that food is distributed more cheaply. Many of the families there pay up to 100 per cent of their income for food alone. So not only is life hard, but the cost of living is extremely high.

As for working conditions, in the rest of the country we talk about the unemployment rate; there they talk about the employment rate. The First Nations north of 60 are often said to have an employment rate of 20 per cent. While we are indignant because we have an unemployment rate of 20 per cent, they have an employment rate of 20 per cent, which means an unemployment rate of 80 per cent. So of course they are dependent on government social programs. There are certain things in this bill that I have reservations about, but it is a step in the right direction, toward helping them regain control of their future.

As is my custom, I would also like to put these people's past in perspective. It is, I believe, important for seeing how the new situation fits into the old. The name "Cree", like certain others, probably comes from a French word. When the Europeans came in contact with the Cree about 200 years ago, they called them the "Cristinois". The word "Cree" probably derives from that.

Five hundred years ago the territory occupied by the Cree was extremely vast. It stretched from the eastern shore of James Bay along the rivers that run north into the Bay to the northern tip of Lake Winnipeg. Pottery has been found that marks the Crees' travels through that territory almost 1,000 years ago. Here again is evidence that the first occupants of this land were not Europeans at all but aboriginal inhabitants. Their traces go back 1,000 years.

By some estimates there were 15,000 people speaking Cree at that time, and today there are about 11,000. I will talk about that a little later. The plural form "Crees" sounds rather like the French word "crise", meaning crisis; I trust there is no connection, and I do not think there is.

Cree women were noted for their traditional embroidery, made with moose and reindeer hairs. Those are other traces they left in their territory.

Having read up on the Cree, I can tell you that they were regarded by the first Europeans as spirited people, very attractive, good at getting along with others, great admirers of eloquence. They would certainly have been at home here. I do not know whether my hon. colleague has any Cree ancestors, but he is certainly eloquent. Native people as a general rule do appreciate eloquence, so he is in his element in the House of Commons.

I would now like to move quickly to the bill that is before us at this time. In 1977, Manitoba Hydro decided to flood 11,861 acres of land belonging to the Cree, about 10 per cent, by the by, of their territory. The flooding completely destroyed the traditional trapping and hunting territory. Finally it was realized that an agreement had to be reached with the Cree.

As I mentioned earlier, there are now 11,000 Cree living in five bands on the land in question. I will name them because I think we are coming to the nub of the difficulty; we will not be able to give the bill our full support and the question will have to be referred to committee. There are five bands involved. The agreement is with the Split Lake Cree First Nation but there are other First Nations affected by the agreement and they are the Cross Lake, the Nelson House, the Norway House and the York Factory First Nations. These four other First Nations will be indirectly affected by the bill. I think this point ought to be clarified.

In 1977, an agreement was reached with the Northern Flood Committee. The Northern Flood Committee is made up of the five First Nations I just listed. Manitoba Hydro, the government of Canada and the Northern Flood Committee reached an agreement, but many matters were left unresolved in that agreement, among them the question of what form compensation for the flooded land would take. Perhaps employment of band members on hydroelectric projects is an option, because the bill before us today deals with compensation for which the government of Canada recognizes it has a responsibility as well as Manitoba Hydro.

At the time, people said that compensation would be paid for the flooded land, but there were ambiguities. Among other questions, how many band members could work on hydroelectric projects? How much would it cost to implement the agreement? What about environmental monitoring? These were all questions that there was no time to deal with in any depth. The result was 174 claims for arbitration. It was evident that the agreement was far from clear and was contributing to increased numbers of claims. This led to new negotiations in 1989. In July 1990, the four negotiators of the agreement relating to the flooding of land in northern Manitoba reached an agreement on settling the claims.

Unfortunately, only one band accepted the negotiators' recommendations, and that was the Split Lake band. There are 2,129 Cree registered as members of that band, but only 1,400 live on the reserve itself. I will cover the salient points of the agreement. As I have said, only the Split Lake Cree are involved. Other agreements are under negotiation but none has yet been concluded. The objective is to settle with the Nelson House band in 1994, but as far as I could tell from discussions this morning with the Northern Flood Committee, not much progress has been made in the negotiations.

The trouble is not the financial compensation; the trouble is the water level, because in the agreement itself, Manitoba Hydro is exonerated from any responsibility if the water flows fall below a certain level. There is the trouble: below a certain level.

The Split Lake First Nation reached an agreement. However, the York Factory band, the other Indian band with direct access to the lake, is not included in that agreement, and its members are saying: "Listen, we realize you have reached an agreement with the Split Lake First Nation. But if Manitoba Hydro intends to do anything that will affect the level of the lake and if it has an agreement with the Split Lake First Nation, that will have a direct effect on us".

There is the trouble. And yet-this is something noteworthy that I must point out-the Split Lake Cree have become very skilled in water cleanup. I find it important to note that, because with very traditional, very limited means, these people have managed to set up a small, inexpensive laboratory, and they are treating the lake water. It is well known that the water in that kind of lake contains a great deal of lead and that, if you want to clean it up, there certainly is a lot of environmental work involved.

These people have become so skilled that they are setting up an exchange of information network with South American countries, including Chile, and I think that is noteworthy.

The agreement also specifies which lands are to be transferred to Canada by Manitoba and set aside as reserve lands, some with flooding rights. All that is in the agreement; the legislation simply clarifies some of those provisions. Of course, resource management and environmental monitoring are a capstone of the agreement.

As is the case in several agreements affecting the First Nations, -this is something that is of very great importance to them, as I keep repeating, because it is noteworthy-First Nations always attach a great deal of importance to the environment and consequently, where resource management is concerned and when a major player like Manitoba Hydro comes along, they often have to set up joint systems to accurately monitor the environmental effects. I think it is important that it be done that way.

I now come to the compensation fund. The compensation fund is a fund of $20 million; a series of trust accounts will be set up and administered. That is important because, in practice, the money will not go directly into the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the Department of Indian Affairs, but will constitute a fund to be administered directly by the Cree.

Of course, there were other negotiations, on consultation and arbitration jurisdictions, because an agreement is often subject to arbitration and disputes occur, and there must be systems that ensure that these disputes can be settled. Then, Canada and Manitoba are exonerated from any obligation or claim having to do with the Split Lake Cree under the agreement. So exoneration from obligations and claims is provided for.

Bill C-36, I repeat, affects only the Split Lake First Nation. So, that means that the four other nations I mentioned earlier are not affected by this agreement, although, according to what we claim, according to the discussions we had with the main parties concerned, the bill has significant effects on the four other bands and that is why we have reservations about the bill.

There is one statement, contained in the usual explanatory notes accompanying a bill, that this version of the bill was developed in co-operation with the five bands. It would appear that this is not the case, because I have here a document signed by the four other chiefs saying that they did not have any part in this bill's being tabled in the House and were not adequately consulted.

Another odd thing in the explanatory notes accompanying the bill is that the English version states that there was consultation only with the Split Lake First Nation, while the French version states that all the bands were consulted. There seems to be an inconsistency there, and I think it would be worthwhile for the Committee on Aboriginal Affairs to consider the true background for this agreement.

I mentioned the $20 million fund. I have the details about how this fund will be allocated. Of course, the Government of Canada and Manitoba Hydro are the ones paying into the fund. They have agreed on shared contributions to be spread out until 1997.

As well, at present, money is owing that came due in April 1993 and April 1994. This money owing will be paid as soon as the bill is passed. So it is important to note that Canada and Manitoba Hydro have acknowledged their responsibility concerning the flooding during the early 1970s.

Instead of going into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the money is to be put directly into a trust account set up for the Split Lake Cree. As I was just saying, the money will be transferred as soon as the Act comes into force. Lands will also be ceded to the Cree, and a provision in the Act states that they will not be special reserves. That is important to those people. Normally certain provisions of the Indian Act should apply but, at the express request of the Split Lake First Nation negotiators, they will not apply in this case.

Provision has also been made for arbitration in the bill. Some systems are provided for, so that, in case of disagreement, the Cree and Manitoba Hydro can reach agreement under a system of arbitration.

In conclusion, I think that, like most bills that have been tabled concerning aboriginal peoples, including Bills C-16, C-33 and C-34, this one is in fact a step in the right direction. The clear intent is freedom from guardianship of the aboriginal peoples; through this type of agreement, we are freeing ourselves from it in part, by providing compensation fees and by setting up committees.

We plan to address the 80 per cent unemployment rate by giving the aboriginal peoples a chance to take charge of their lives. These are not programs applied from Ottawa. They are the ones in charge of certain aspects of jurisdiction. That is entirely in accordance with what the Bloc québécois wanted: the dismantling of this legislation that is, to some extent, the equivalent of apartheid in North America.

I must also give high marks to those who paved the way for this type of agreement. I must mention the James Bay Agreement, a very sophisticated, very advanced agreement in Quebec that, in my opinion, paved the way for the type of agreement we have before us today and the type of bill we are considering today. Quebec is very proud to say that we gave a great deal in compensation to the Cree and that the agreement and the legislation were reached in common agreement among the Cree, the Province of Quebec, and the Government of Canada. I think that is noteworthy. Quebec has something to be proud of. The agreements like the one we have before us today will be largely based on and similar to the James Bay Agreement.

Lastly, I must tell you that the Bloc Quebecois will ask simply that the bill be referred to the Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, solely because of the lack of consultation. I do not think that we are in an emergency situation, as was the case in the Yukon, where people waited for 20 years and exerted tremendous pressure for the bill to be passed before the end of the session.

Negotiations surrounding this compensation agreement have been underway since 1977. I do not think waiting a bit longer will be catastrophic. The Bloc Quebecois would be hard put to agree to the bill concerning the Split Lake Cree First Nation without taking into consideration its effect on the other four nations. Having examined the agreement and the scope of the bill, I think it does impact on the other nations. In my opinion, therefore, it would be entirely appropriate for the Committee on Aboriginal Affairs to closely assess the impact of this whole decision on the other four nations.

Therefore, we will simply propose, after second reading, that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs for a closer study of its scope.

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-36, the Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land Act.

This legislation comes as a result of a Manitoba hydro project initiated back in the 1940s. This project flooded 11,800 acres of land on five Indian band reserves. This economic development project flooded 10 per cent of the reserve lands with negative consequences for the bands at Split Lake, Cross Lake, Nelson House, Norway House and York Factory affecting their traditional activities.

Negotiations in the 1970s to deal with the effects of the Lake Winnipeg regulations and Churchill River diversion projects led to an economic development known as the northern flood agreement. In 1977 this agreement was signed by the five bands, Canada, Manitoba and Manitoba hydro. This agreement turned out to be unsatisfactory in the ensuing 10 years due to ambiguities in such areas as reserve land compensation and social aspects including employment and environmental issues.

These uncertainties led to another agreement among the Split Lake Cree, Canada, Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro in June 1992. This agreement calls for compensation in dollars and lands and other benefits. Specific agreements with the other four bands are in the course of negotiation.

The Split Lake agreement requires the governments of Canada and Manitoba to recommend legislation implementing the agreement. That is why we are here.

Bill C-36 provides that moneys payable to the Cree pursuant to an agreement by Canada, Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and the Split Lake Cree dated June 24, 1982 are not paid to the federal government and then administered under the Indian Act, but rather to a band trust for administration.

This bill also provides that the fee simple lands to be provided by the province to the Cree are not subject to becoming special reserves under the Indian Act. This act also provides that individual Cree as well as the band or its agents can bring certain claims against Manitoba Hydro. Manitoba arbitration law will apply in this regard.

The approval of the 1977 and 1992 agreements are not the issue here, only the exemptions and rights under the provisions.

I just mentioned that this is a unique situation concerning specific claims arising through unusual circumstances. Those circumstances are the flooding and therefore loss of reserve land for a hydro project.

Background briefing provided by the department is sketchy in some areas and this gives rise to some questions. For example, my party is concerned with the administration of the trust fund. We would like to be sure that generally accepted accounting principles are followed and that there will be accountability.

As well we ask if fee simple lands involved in a transfer replacement here are to be held by the band collectively. If they are, can they be sold and to whom? If they are sold, who will receive the proceeds from the sale? These are operative questions and we do not have the answers. Furthermore, concerning taxation it is unclear if the fee simple lands are subject to property taxation. It would be preferable to clear up these loose ends.

The Reform Party supports legitimate native grievances and Bill C-36 addresses a grievance. We trust checks and balances were put in place in negotiations with the input and participation of the province of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro.

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

We now move to the next stage of debate in which members will have 20 minutes for their interventions, followed by 10 minutes of questions or comments.

Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on Bill C-36, the Split Lake Cree First Nation Flooded Land Act. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill. I want to commend my colleague, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, for introducing this legislation to the House.

My hon. colleague spoke briefly about the history behind Bill C-36. I would like to expand on that because I think it is important for this House to understand how the northern flood agreement impacted on the five bands in the area.

During the late 1960s and into the 1970s a number of projects were undertaken to divert the Churchill River in northern Manitoba to increase water flows to hydro stations on the Nelson River. These hydro stations were part of a scheme to support economic growth and development in the province. Indeed they have served their purpose and served it well.

Today the generating stations on the Nelson River are making an important contribution to the Manitoba economy. But a price has been paid and once again, as has been the case all too often in the past, too much of the price was paid by aboriginal people, our aboriginal people in Manitoba.

The Churchill River diversion projects flooded more than 4,800 hectares of Indian reserve lands. This flooding deprived many aboriginal communities of their traditional fishing, gathering, hunting and trapping areas. The flooding also disrupted or destroyed traditional water transportation routes and shoreline access points. In many cases personal property and community infrastructure were damaged or destroyed.

Five First Nations were affected by the flooding: Split Lake, Cross Lake, Nelson House, Norway House, and York Factory. Although these bands lost the benefits of flooded or damaged lands and resources that had supported them for many generations, they received few jobs or other benefits from these hydro projects.

Action to compensate the affected bands was finally taken in 1977 when the northern flood agreement was signed by the governments of Canada and Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, and a committee representing the five bands. In addition to cash compensation this agreement contained provisions for land management, resource development, community infrastructure,

navigation, and so on. It also provided for the appointment of an arbitrator to deal with claims arising under the agreement.

The implementation of this agreement has been rife with problems and created considerable difficulties for those aboriginal people involved in this process. It is safe to say that most parties had different expectations of the agreement. Few of these expectations have been fully met. Because of the vague wording on certain issues such as additions to reserve lands, employment of band members on the hydro projects, implementation costs and environmental monitoring could not be resolved.

When it became clear that the northern flood agreement was not properly addressing these issues the five First Nations began of course to explore other options. This led to the negotiation of a proposed basis of settlement which has paved the way for band specific negotiations on the outstanding issues. Such an agreement was signed with the Split Lake Cree in June of 1992.

This agreement is important to all parties. It addresses the outstanding obligations of the governments and Manitoba Hydro in this instance to the Split Lake Cree Band. It provides for additional compensation and, in doing so, releases the federal government from any further claims. Equally as important, it provides the people of the Split Lake Cree First Nation with the means and resources to take control of their own future.

For example, this agreement ensures that the Split Lake Cree will have a more substantial and secure land base with which to pursue economic development. Over time the band will receive permits and fee simple title to more than 1,000 hectares of land throughout its traditional hunting grounds. As well, two new reserves will be established and a 46,000 square kilometre area will be co-managed by the band and the province of Manitoba.

This agreement also provides for the establishment of a band controlled environmental monitoring agency. It gives the Split Lake Cree a strong voice in how their compensation moneys will be managed.

For the information of hon. members, these moneys will be used to support economic and social development, to compensate the Split Lake Cree for the adverse effects of the flooding on their natural resource base and to remunerate the band and its members for damage to property and infrastructure.

I want to assure hon. members that Bill C-36 in no way expands or diminishes the commitments made in this settlement agreement. It follows through on some of the provisions of this agreement.

Let me reiterate what this bill sets out to do. It ensures that money under the Split Lake Cree First Nation agreement will not be considered Indian moneys and it will therefore be administered on its behalf by a trustee and not the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I want to assure the hon. member from the Reform Party that standard accounting practices will be adhered to I am sure by the band.

It is ensures that provincial crown lands provided in fee simple title will not become a special reserve under the Indian Act. It provides that any specific adjudication process that is set out in this band specific settlement agreement will take precedence over the processes set out in the northern flood agreement. It ensures that the Government of Canada can utilize the Manitoba Arbitration Act as do the other three parties in the northern flood agreement.

I also want to remind hon. members that Bill C-36 will apply only to the Split Lake Cree Band. This is an important feature. It will not apply to the other northern flood agreement First Nations which have not yet negotiated band specific settlement agreements, and we wish to respect that.

As the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has said, the province of Manitoba is currently preparing companion legislation based on Bill C-36. This provincial legislation will further protect the interests of the Split Lake Cree First Nation.

I want to thank the minister for confirming that consultations have been undertaken with the affected First Nation, with the provincial government and with Manitoba Hydro. This has resulted in a clear and concise bill that has the support of all parties to the Split Lake Cree settlement agreement.

Finally, I want to join my hon. colleagues, the minister of Indian affairs and the parliamentary secretary to the minister, in urging quick approval of this bill. It will put into place the final elements of the implementation process for the Split Lake Cree agreement. It will demonstrate to the Split Lake Cree Nation, to First Nations across Canada and to all Canadians that this government is committed to implementing its lawful obligations to the aboriginal people of Canada.