House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was native.


The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-34, an act respecting self-government for first nations in the Yukon Territory, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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3:05 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, as we had been debating prior to the break, Bill C-34, I was pointing out that the department of Indian affairs has spent $50 million creating a cottage industry around the negotiations on land claims and, of course, the inherent right to self-government. This has simply benefited the lawyers and the political leaders, while at the same time the deplorable living conditions of the individual aboriginal person have not changed one iota as a result of the expenditure of these funds.

Fifty million dollars later and the introduction of Bill C-34, we still have so many unanswered questions. Topping the list is the question: What is aboriginal self-government going to look like? Does it mean a transfer of power, or just a transfer of administrative responsibilities? Will it mean that 30, 40, 50 or 100 nations will each have their own governments, and power to pass their own constitutions, their own laws and their own citizenship status?

It is simply going to add a new layer of government to what we have now, and it is going to result in more duplication, taxes and debt.

Will the federal and provincial governments be overwhelmed by the demands of many small and inefficient governments?

How will the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply? Will they have their own constitution, their own system of justice and education? These are all things that are promised within this document. I would like to just touch for a moment on the area of the Constitution.

They are granted the right to create their own constitution. The very definition or the very words "inherent right to self-government" would indicate that the laws passed by either the federal or provincial governments will not apply to them. How in the world can we expect them to create a constitution that will direct their inherent right to self-government if that constitution is not independent of the Constitution of Canada including the

Charter of Rights and Freedoms? That question has not been answered by the creators of this bill.

Will non-aboriginal peoples be subjected to the powers of governments that are beyond their control? What kind of self-government rights will aboriginal people have when they are not on an aboriginal land base? Will I need a passport when entering these new territories? The questions go on and on.

I feel that I cannot support this bill, although I support, as many of my colleagues do, the direction in which this bill goes. However the questions that we have raised in this debate so far have not been addressed. Before this bill can be supported we must make sure that we know exactly where we are going with the bill, the rights and obligations attached to this bill and the responsibilities of not only the two senior levels of government but also the responsibilities of this new form of government that we will be forming.

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3:10 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure here to speak on Bill C-34 which represents the settlement of four self-government agreements in Yukon with the native peoples.

There are 10 more self-government agreements that still have to be settled. This bill if it is passed will give further agreements to be ratified by cabinet alone and therefore does not have to come under the scrutiny of Parliament and therefore the scrutiny of the Canadian people.

The purpose of this agreement is to deal with aboriginal self-government to a vast and sparsely populated part of Canada. I think it is worthwhile for us today to discuss some of the salient points of this bill, what it would give the native people, vis-à-vis the Canadian people, the rest of Canada.

Bill C-34 gives special rights and special privileges to some of the native peoples of the Yukon Territory. As a representative here of all Canadians I have some problems with this. This bill is divisive. It will define the citizens of the First Nations as a separate group of citizens. Therefore what we would have in this land are two citizenships, citizens with different rules and regulations pertaining to each group.

As a result of this we are setting up separate governments for separate nations within the borders of this country, new governments with broad legislative powers, independent legislative powers of the rest of the country.

Native peoples see themselves as separate nations and not part of Canada. This I recognize. It is obviously a philosophical point of contention. To see oneself as a nation that is separate from another within the borders of this country may sound good to some, but I think that it is only divisive.

The native people should ask themselves if this is indeed going to improve their social and economic situations or will it be divisive and counterproductive. The rest of Canada must also ask whether they are prepared to accept this within the borders of their country.

Yukon I believe, as most Canadians believe, belongs to all Canadians. Let us elaborate on some of the nitty-gritty of these bills. Bill C-34 will increase the number of governments in Yukon right now up from two to sixteen. This would produce an increase in bureaucracy, in taxes, in rules and regulations for only 7,300 people, 20 per cent of the people who live there. This is apartheid. It smacks of the old South Africa. In effect we are creating separate nation states within the borders of our own country. This is a new brand of Canadian apartheid.

Apartheid, as we know, means separateness or apartness for those who do not realize it, not togetherness, and this at a time when above all else we need to work together. It is wise to reflect on the meaning of this when we look at what will be happening to the Yukon if these bills are passed. It will mean a division among people.

Another question that has not been asked concerns the structure of the legislative body that would have the ability to pass laws and legislations within the Yukon. This has yet to be finalized but would be left up to the native legislative body. I can say this though, it does enable the body to give the power to a single person to enact legislation. There are no rules and regulations concerning democratic institutions in this bill and this concerns me greatly.

Who will be paying for this self-government? The Canadian taxpayers and the native people together will be paying for it. However the Canadian taxpayer will be footing the major portion of the bill. Then they must also have a say in what will be the outcome of the negotiations on this bill. The cost would be far greater than that which is borne today by the federal government to provide services to the aboriginal people in this area.

We must stand back and look at the larger issue here, in fact the most important issue, the welfare of the native people. No one disputes the ability of any individual to exercise his or her democratic rights and freedoms. I do not think anyone has a problem with enabling any group of people who live in an area to govern themselves by municipal powers, the same municipal powers that are given to any other area of the country.

However will providing these vast, expansive special agreements to the rest of Canada, a part of Canada that belongs to every Canadian, help the welfare of the native people? Let us get

down to brass tacks here and call a spade a spade. Many of the native communities tragically are wracked with very high rates of suicide, alcoholism, substance abuse, unemployment, depression and sexual abuse.

As a physician I have spent much time in northern British Columbia working with native people. The plight of these individuals breaks my heart. I have seen individuals raped, had their heads put through walls, beaten up, smashed up, shot and killed, people who have suffered the ravages of alcoholism. I have seen them go for years, suffering these ravages only to have to pronounce them dead on the gang plank of an emergency department.

It is intolerable for this to have occurred and it is intolerable for it to continue. Part of the blame rests on the non-native population and in particular Canadian governments that have continued to treat people in a paternalistic fashion by providing for them many of their basic needs without trying to do much to stimulate self-reliance.

Whenever you give an individual or group their basic needs they will lose their desire to fight for these things and therefore lose their self-respect, pride and self-reliance.

I also put a large part of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the native population and native leaders who in my opinion have been unwilling to take the bull by the horns and ask what they can do to pull their communities out of these tragic situations.

Do the native peoples' leaders truly think that settling these land claims and self-government in a different fashion from anybody else-it is important to emphasize different-is going to do much to alleviate these tragedies? Are they trying to carve out an area of Canada for their people based on history and have them live like they did 150 years ago? If so, do they think that their people want or need this?

If you want to go back to living off the land so be it, but you cannot expect to do that and still have a VCR, car, CD player and many of the other amenities of 20th century, first world lifestyle. In other words, you cannot have it both ways.

Over time and history, groups of individuals have moved from one area to another, expanded and taken over certain areas where others live. This has occurred, whether you are speaking of Canada, America, Australia or England. It has been a fact of life and a fact of the history of mankind. It is something that none of us here can do anything about. We must look ahead, look into the future and determine how all people in the country can have their socioeconomic situations improved. This is particularly important for the native people because their socioeconomic situation is the poorest in the land.

However it is incumbent on the native people to ask themselves what they can do to help themselves. In my discussions with native people, it has been sorely lacking. They speak about getting back pride and self-reliance. I can tell members that the only way to get back pride and self-reliance is if you earn them yourself. You only achieve these things through your own hard work, your sweat and your desire to fight for your basic necessities and your life.

Pride and self-respect are not things that are given to someone, paid for or bought. They are only things that come from within your heart and soul and only from your ability, as an individual or community, to fight for your own life. I do not mean this in a pugilistic sense or by taking up arms. I mean this figuratively and in a spiritual sense.

When one works hard and fights for one's life in this world, win or lose, one develops a sense of pride, self-respect, self-reliance, self-esteem that nobody can take away. It is the only way that this will come to the native communities.

As I have said before, it must come from within the people. Canadian governments and provincial governments have done too much to pander to the communities. They have taken this desire away from them, this fight to become the best that they can become.

Cultural, social and linguistic integrity does not have to be lost but again the responsibility for this resides squarely on the shoulders of the native population. Canada's cultural mosiac is a great benefit to every citizen. For the native population to lose its history and its culture would not only be a disservice to them but to every citizen, native and non-native.

Rather than dealing with trying to buy out the native populations with these huge land claims, perhaps it would be better for us to determine ways that together we can work toward helping the native population becoming self-reliant. Of course this does not preclude the concept of municipal governments in areas where there are native populations but these rights are the same for every Canadian, non-native and native. I will reiterate this again. The rules, regulations, laws, responsibilities and privileges of a citizen of our country must be equal for everybody, native or non-native together.

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3:20 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess I am somewhat puzzled by the statement of the member from the other side.

He said that he has worked with First Nations' people as a medical doctor and has talked to them. It seems to me that he really has not listened to them, nor has he learned anything about them. He talked about self-government but he has talked about it in a somewhat befuddled way. If he were to truly

understand what self-government is about, he would change a lot of the statements that he just made.

I had the honour of sitting in a meeting with a group of chiefs from across the country. A very articulate chief from the west spoke about self-government. He spoke about his relationship with the Department of Indian Affairs. He spoke about the problems that native people have because they do not have the same rights that many Canadians take for granted.

Moneys that are generated through leases and economic activity in their communities goes to the department. They have to apply for moneys through budgets. These budgets can be turned down. He gave a very eloquent and poignant description of this life and he looked to me and said: "Self-government is just a way of having the same basic rights that other Canadians enjoy".

I am really at a loss to come up with a question for the member on the other side. I only have a suggestion and that is to open your mind and your heart-

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3:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. I know that in debate people feel a great deal of conviction and are very committed to the issue they are debating. However I want to remind all members that it is in the best interests of all members in the House to direct comments in a less personal fashion through the Chair.

I would ask all members to keep that in mind throughout the day.

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3:25 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member to think about some of the experiences he has had, open his mind and his heart and really listen to what people are telling him. He should investigate what it is like for people in native communities and the kinds of relationships they have right now and really explore what self-government is all about.

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3:25 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do very much appreciate the comments of the hon. member. Whether she believes it or not what she is saying is supporting what I have said. I agree with many of her comments.

The Department of Indian Affairs is paternalistic, does not serve the native people at all and should be eliminated. They agree with that and I think many people in the House do. It is insulting for them to have an institution such as that govern them in the way it does. They do not deserve it.

I will reiterate it again as I did at least twice in my speech that we in this party stand for equal rights, equal status and equal opportunity for all Canadians, natives and non-natives. We should concentrate on investing our efforts collectively, natives and non-natives together, to determine how every individual who lives within this beautiful country can become the best they can.

We have to dismantle some of the barriers for native people. I would ask whether settling these land claims is going to do that. An economy cannot be created in some of the far away places where these land claims are to be settled and expect individuals to improve their socioeconomic situations. It will not happen. We must provide a helping hand to enable native peoples to become the best they can become. I am sure that we can do that.

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3:25 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-34, an act respecting self-government for the First Nations in Yukon Territory is a bill which I would very much like to support.

I would like to support it and I say this with absolutely no malice toward the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development because I personally look forward to the day when the Department of Indian Affairs no longer exists. When that day comes it will mean that people born on Indian reserves or people born of First Nation parents have assumed their full rights and responsibilities as adult citizens rather than living under the not always benevolent dictatorship of some distant white parent figure in the federal government.

I would also like to support Bill C-34 because I know that men and women around the world regard aboriginal peoples as a world treasure. Any modern nation which can bring its aboriginal peoples into full partnership in the modern world will be deserving the world's praise and gratitude.

I would like to support Bill C-34 if I could because it is only right and just that as the First Nations people demonstrate their readiness to take over their own affairs, that right should be handed over to them in a reasonable and efficient manner.

Finally if it were possible I would support Bill C-34 because the policy of the Reform Party of Canada passed by our many thousands of members at our regular assemblies supports: "Processes leading to the early and mutually satisfactory conclusion of outstanding land claims negotiations-enabling aboriginal individuals, communities and organizations to assume full responsibility for their well-being by involving them in the development, delivery and assessment of government policies affecting them".

Given my own commitment to those four reasons for supporting progress toward native self-government, it was with real disappointment and mounting frustration that I read the reasons why I cannot support Bill C-34.

The incredible twists and turns of this bill have created a strangely complex administrative trap set to ensnare well meaning officials of both the involved First Nations and the Yukon territorial government.

I have no wish to say anything bad about the motives of the people who put Bill C-34 together. No doubt they had the best intentions. Regardless of their good intentions, they have started Canada's long desired progress toward native self-government by making two fundamentally wrong assumptions.

I am deducing their assumptions by looking at what Bill C-34 provides. In its schedule III, parts I, II, III and IV, Bill C-34 provides these First Nations with jurisdiction over virtually every item relating to creation, preservation and defence of peace, order and good government that would be granted to a nation such as Canada.

For example, the First Nations will have jurisdiction over manpower training, which the province of Quebec has long been seeking but was not granted. Additionally Bill C-34 provides these First Nations with jurisdiction over the control or prohibition of the possession and use of firearms and other weapons and explosives.

Part III, number 21 gives this a power which has been reserved for the federal government and not even given to governments at the provincial levels. With the passing of Bill C-34, that right to make firearm laws will be handed over to these four First Nations.

As a third example, portions of Bill C-34 relating to administration of justice point out that some interim agreements must be concluded, but once such agreements expire these four so-called First Nations shall have the right to administer justice including imposing fines up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to six months.

In other words, Bill C-34 is taking very literally the term nations when legislating to these four groups of natives. Is this reasonable?

I am not a student of world geography, but I frankly cannot recall reading about any nation in the world which has a population of under 10,000 people. In Canada our towns, municipalities and regional districts have more than 10,000 people and those administrative levels of governments are often hard pressed today to pay for the kinds of things required from municipal level governments; for example, to pay for the salaries of building inspectors to be sure that new construction complies with standards for things like electrical wiring, soundness of building foundations and fire safety.

Bill C-34 regards each of these four so-called First Nations as being a nation with virtually all the rights and responsibilities of a modern developed country like Canada, whose population is 28 million.

Bill C-34 extends the special rights, privileges and duties of nationhood to these groups whose total population is approximately 7,300 native people, divided into 14 bands and scattered across some of the most sparsely populated land remaining on our planet.

Again I must ask my colleagues of the House: Is this reasonable? From my personal point of view it is so far from being reasonable that it seems tragic. I say that Bill C-34 is tragic because by expecting far too much Bill C-34 dooms one of Canada's first experiments in native self-government to failure, for on to the shoulders of these 7,300 natives will fall the responsibility to administer some 16,000 square miles of land equivalent to about 75 per cent of the province of Nova Scotia which the land claim agreements of Bill C-33, the companion piece of this legislation, will hand over in fee simple ownership.

In case some hon. members may doubt what I am alleging here, let us look at some of the other responsibilities which will fall on the small native population. On that piece of land, three-quarters of the size of Nova Scotia, they will be responsible for all use, management, administration, control and protection. That is part III, item 1.

They will be responsible for all allocations and dispositions of rights and interests in that land for the use, management, administration and protection of natural resources for all businesses, professional and trade licensing, for all construction, sanitation planning, zoning and land development, for controlling operation and use of vehicles, local services and facilities, for preventing pollution and protecting the environment.

In short, nobody needs feel concern over unemployment in this area of Yukon because virtually every adult will be getting a job from the new First Nations government.

At a time when the people of Canada are complaining about being overgoverned, Bill C-34 carries overgovernment to undreamed of extremes.

One incorrect assumption of the people who drew up Bill C-34 is that the term nation should be applied literally to these tiny isolated groups, reserving for the federal government only such limited functions as postal service, international agreements, military defence and the jurisdiction of the federal court.

The second bad assumption which the drafters of the legislation apparently made is that these native groups are fully ready for such an advanced stage of self-government. To return to the Reform Party policy on the subject, because it has the unusual merit of making plain common sense, unlike Bill C-34, the Reform Party supports: "The establishment of a new relationship with aboriginal peoples beginning with a constitutional convention of aboriginal representatives to consider their position on such matters as the nature of aboriginal rights, the relationship between aboriginal peoples and the various levels of government, and how to reduce the economic dependence of

aboriginal peoples on the federal government and the department of Indian affairs".

To the best of my knowledge none of this preliminary groundwork has been completed. I believe it is particularly important for native peoples to work out agreements with neighbouring municipal level governments with which they could share the cost burden of providing that more realistic level of self-government services.

I would like to draw to the House's attention the question of drawing up a constitution for these First Nations as probably the most essential missing pieces of Bill C-34.

Regarding creating a constitution, many people around the world have been impressed by the process used by the new South Africa in moving away from its old white race dominated system of government to a new country based, at last on the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote.

Once the political will was there, South Africa accomplished this transition fairly quickly by establishing, first of all, a temporary constitution to determine how the election should take place, some soft boundaries for the future nine provinces, and the rough framework whereby the newly elected federal officials, balanced by an equal number from each of the nine new provinces, will gather to draw up South Africa's long term constitution, subject to ratification by the people.

In order to establish these four Yukon First Nations, to the best of my knowledge and research, no such constitutional details have been spelled out.

What Bill C-34 does provide is some standards which must be included in the constitution of these First Nations, including what is required for citizenship and procedure for determining whether a person is a citizen; what shall be the governing bodies of the First Nation, including such things as membership, duties and procedures; a system for these governing bodies to be financially accountable to the citizens; a way to recognize and protect their rights and freedoms; a way to challenge the validity of laws and quash the laws seen as not valid; a way to amend the constitution.

Unfortunately a number of key questions are not discussed. For instance, who is to draw up these constitutions for each of the four First Nations involved? What time frame are they to follow? Do the native people get to vote on their own proposed new constitution? If so, how? Will our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms be followed in these new nations?

On all of these essential points, Bill C-34 is silent.

However the legislation does contain something which does not, in my opinion, properly belong in any bill which a responsible government asks members of this House to support. Bill C-34 asks Parliament, by passing this one piece of legislation, to give blanket approval, sight unseen, to self-government agreements for 10 additional Yukon bands, according to Clause 5(2): "Where a self-government agreement is concluded with a First Nation after this act comes into force, the governor in council may, by order, bring the agreement into effect and add the name of the First Nation to Schedule II".

I believe this particular clause is the height of irresponsible behaviour by the present government. In the way of things, another government altogether may be in place before the 10 other self-government agreements have been concluded.

Members of today's Parliament could be giving this blanket permission to a cabinet not even yet elected. I submit to my colleagues that this simply is not a conscientious way to fulfil our obligations to all the people of Canada. It is at best a slip-shod kind of behaviour which no conscientious people would exercise in the conduct of their own personal affairs, much less the affairs of this great nation.

In conclusion, I would like to suggest some positive alternatives to Bill C-34, which I regard as having such serious flaws that it cannot be remedied even by numerous amendments.

In the very desirable process of going along with our aboriginal peoples as they follow the road to self-government, I believe that we must simply start at the beginning of the road and not leap with little caution toward the road's end. The beginning of the road to aboriginal self-government is holding an aboriginal constitutional convention at which the native peoples spell out what conditions they want to live under and what responsibilities for government and administration they want and are ready and financially able to assume.

For example, I doubt that the people of Canada would question or deny the aboriginal right to administer First Nation affairs and operation and internal management of the First Nation, together with the management and administration of rights and benefits realized by the aboriginals' agreement with Canada.

I feel certain that the people of Canada would be pleased and proud to see natives assume full responsibilities for programs and services relating to their spiritual and cultural beliefs and practices as well as the preservation of their aboriginal language and culture. However, far too little thought and planning has been devoted to the ways by which our native peoples would end their financial dependence on the rest of Canada.

There is no joke about the golden rule, that he who has the gold makes the rules. In our society to be regarded as a responsible adult is to take full responsibility for one's self. In my book that does not mean negotiating such huge settlements of land, cash and resources that the most minimal common sense

about investment will allow the beneficiaries to pursue their own chosen lifestyle forever.

In the rest of Canada people with many types of handicaps pride themselves on being able to work to be as self-supporting and independent as possible. Frankly, to say that for some reason our native people are not equally able to become self-supporting and independent seems to me to be racism of the worst kind.

I look forward to the day when a responsible government will bring to Parliament the kind of legislation enabling aboriginal self-government that all members of this House will be pleased and proud to support. Unfortunately, Bill C-34 does not fit that description.

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3:40 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak on this very important topic this afternoon.

I spoke a month ago on Bill C-16 which laid out a settlement for land claims with the Sahtu Indian bands. I stated at that time that I was opposed to the bill on the grounds that it was overly generous. I also stated my concerns that the bill was setting a dangerous precedent. My thinking on these two bills before us today is much the same.

I support the concept of self-sufficiency and self-reliance inherent in the successful land claim settlement process. In no way do I argue with these in principle. I also encourage this government to dismantle the department of Indian affairs and let the people involved conduct their own affairs.

This approach develops responsibility and places decision making in the hands of those most directly involved.

Bill C-33 will validate land claims entered into between Her Majesty, the Government of the Yukon Territory and certain First Nations of the Yukon Territory. Bill C-34 is an act respecting self-government for the First Nations of Yukon territory. These two bills represent only four land claim agreements and four self-government agreements. There are 10 more of each to come in the Yukon. I might add there are about six pending in my riding of Peace River.

The 14 land claim agreements would convey fee simple 16,000 square miles of land for these 14 bands. As my colleagues have said, that is equivalent to roughly three-quarters the size of Nova Scotia. The Government of Canada also agrees to pay $243 million in 1989 dollars over a period of 15 years. That is very substantial.

Clause 5 of Bill C-33 would allow the other 10 land claim agreements to be ratified by the approval of cabinet rather than by Parliament as a whole. In much the same way, clause 5 of Bill C-34 allows the self-government agreement to be ratified by cabinet as well.

At the present time, law making in Yukon is entrusted to two legislative bodies in Canada: the Parliament of Canada and the Yukon legislature. When this bill is passed, the number of governments having the right to pass laws in Yukon or parts of Yukon will go from two to sixteen. This means there will be more bureaucracy, more taxes, more laws and more rules and regulations. How can this possibly be in the best interests of Canada? We have just heard from my colleague from Okanagan that some of these are very small in terms of the amount of people involved and the efficiency of skills certainly cannot be achieved.

A number of questions need to be addressed. Will the new self-government have to function within the provincial, territorial or federal framework? That is a very important question that needs to be answered for Canadians. Why is it not spelled out explicitly that the self-governments must respect the authority of the Parliament of Canada?

Does the Canadian charter apply? Obviously it does not. Why is it not specifically spelled out in this legislation that the Canadian charter should apply?

The population of Yukon is about 32,000. To accommodate 20 per cent of that population, some 7,300 people, we are going to have 14 new governments. That does not make any sense to me. Who is going to pay for these governments? The country is already borrowing heavily abroad to finance the excessive spending of our federal government. Do we really want to ask the Japanese or the Americans to finance 14 more governments?

Let me read to members clause 24 of Bill C-34 which deals with funding: "The minister may, with the approval of the governor in council and subject to appropriations by Parliament, enter into an agreement with a First Nation, for the provision of funding by the Government of Canada to the First Nation over the period of time and subject to the terms and conditions specified in the agreement". To me, that sounds like a blank cheque and I do not think Canadian taxpayers will buy it.

Frankly, I am not prepared to commit my children and my grandchildren to who knows how many millions of dollars in future payments. I am not prepared to set this kind of precedent for future aboriginal self-government agreements.

As a member of the Reform Party I support the expeditious settlement of land claims leading to self-sufficiency. That is a very important distinction, self-sufficiency. I also support a modest form of municipal style self-government. That is a very important first step before we embark on any other notions that it may be federal or provincial. Bill C-34 goes much beyond that. I simply cannot support the direction in which these two bills are taking us.

I further object to the underhanded way in which these two bills are being pushed through. The Liberal red book promised integrity in Parliament, yet these bills were introduced only last week. Surely there is more time. This House has to work effectively. One week is certainly not enough time for MPs. These bills were introduced only last week with second reading occurring today. How can MPs properly prepare a response and debate a very complex package that took some 21 years to prepare in such a very short time?

The agreements made so far which Parliament is now asked to ratify are nine inches thick. That gives some perspective of what is involved here and how complex they are. They represent only four of fourteen land claim agreements and only four of the fourteen self-government agreements.

If Bills C-33 and C-34 are passed, only cabinet will have to approve the other 10 yet to come. There is something seriously wrong here. I will vote against these bills and I urge my colleagues in this House to do the same.

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3:50 p.m.


Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party has said on several occasions this afternoon there was not enough time to prepare for this debate. Was the Reform Party not aware that this agreement was signed a year ago and that implementing legislation would have to be brought to the House at some point? Did Reform members not prepare and do their homework prior to the introduction of the bill so they would be prepared for the debate knowing it was coming forward?

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3:50 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have that question asked. We have been trying to find out from this government, the minister of Indian affairs and the Prime Minister himself. On many occasions we have asked them to define what native self-government means and we have been unable to get any kind of a direct answer. They have been very evasive.

The most important question that needs to be asked is: What does native self-government really mean? Is it municipal government, provincial government or federal government? Those kinds of parameters have to be spelled out before we can embark along what we know is going to be a very long trail because a lot of other land claims are going to be coming before us.

I still think we need to defeat this bill. I hope the Senate will have enough common sense to send it back to the House and make this government define more clearly what self-government means.

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3:50 p.m.


Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the question of the member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake has gone unanswered. This agreement has been signed for quite some time now and I believe the hon. member mentioned it has been about a year. Could he not have asked for this agreement in order to get ready for this debate? We would like a direct answer to that.

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3:50 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that when this government wants to implement something it agrees with like native self-government, it seems it can be done very quickly, but when it comes to cancelling the Pearson airport deal that is another matter. The former government was wrong and lot of blame was put on it. Now this government seems to be hiding behind the skirts of the former government in that the deal was negotiated so now it has to be finalized. I do not think that is a good enough argument.

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June 9th, 1994 / 3:50 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, we need to put this whole issue in a different perspective. For the last three months I have been involved in the foreign affairs review. We have been looking at different countries and the property disputes, future disputes and the ethnic and racial tensions that have developed. I can see many of the things we have looked at there when I look at the type of legislation we have before us today. We might simply be trading one problem for another. We should take a serious hard and long look at some of the poorly thought out measures in this bill.

First I should make clear that I and certainly my party believe the department of Indian affairs is a mismanaged, poorly operated bureaucratic nightmare. All of us can agree it is something long overdue for reform. We can also agree with the principle of self-government. However, before something like that is set up there must be the criteria and an understanding of what you are getting. As was just mentioned the minister has been asked over and over again what is meant by self-government and the answer has never come.

My general overview of self-government is one where we have a municipal-like organization. It is one which has limited powers and co-operates with the other levels of government. It is one which is harmonized at all levels and one which leads certainly to a better form of government for its people. The most important words would be "democratically chosen" and democratically representing the entire group of people, the grassroots. It does not mean representation by a clique, by powerbrokers, by a mob-like government, which in fact can happen if there are no restrictions or if the people are not ready for that type of government.

In examining the bill itself we see a very broad range of powers being given, literally an unlimited set of powers with absolutely no guarantee of any kind of democracy. We see more bureaucrats, more rules, more laws, more regulations, and more waste. We in fact see something possibly worse than the department of Indian affairs is today. Relating back to the world

situation, if people are not ready for self-government and are not prepared to work by certain criteria, which they should have a part in establishing, then you have nothing but disruption and ultimately possibly chaos.

Also there is no mention in this bill as has been mentioned a number of times before about the charter of rights. I do not think there are any Canadians including the native people of Yukon who would not want the charter of rights included in any kind of government they might have. If those charter of rights cannot be guaranteed, that is how countries get into human rights abuses, how they get into an area where the people are not protected from that power clique that could potentially run the proposed government.

We have to stop and look at this and get the people along with the experts to define what exactly we mean by self-government.

This is setting a serious precedent for the future. We are going into uncharted waters and we are going to come up with proposals that are going to be used in other parts of Canada. Are we sure these in fact are the rules by which we want to play? Certainly by removing any future settlements and allowing cabinet to decide these could not be much less democratic. We have literally taken the people out of the equation and have put it in the hands of politicians. I do not think that is a decision that is current with the way Canadians are thinking.

With the big picture now in place, do Canadians really know what they are getting? Do the natives of Yukon really know what they are getting? What are the repercussions later? Are the seeds of racial and discriminatory practices being sown by a bill like this? The potential is there. You just do not know enough of the guidelines or there are no guidelines to guarantee that will not happen. We have then a poorly defined self-government and the repercussions are for Canada entirely. There is no place that does not have a land claim in Canada and so the repercussions are great.

Of course there is the cost. No one really has talked about that. We have talked about the blank cheque in clause 24 and we have to ask as to who pays. We have to ask about the kind of repercussions that could come from the Canadian taxpayers when they find the price tag on this kind of agreement that has been signed.

This is just another case of legislation that will come back to haunt us in the future. It is another time when we should take a sober reflection and look at it before we move forward. The government should be happy to blame the last government for this kind of botched deal. Obviously the Canadian people believe the last government botched things pretty badly. This would be an opportunity then to simply reiterate that, as the Canadian people told us last October, go back and do it right, set the criteria and put this bill on the back burner until we can come up with something better.

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4 p.m.


Allan Kerpan Reform Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to give a Saskatchewan perspective on the issues of Yukon aboriginal self-government and the land claims that are before this House today.

What is happening in the Yukon is very important to those of us in our province as well. Certainly today we are setting legislative precedents. We must be very careful about this, thorough in our analysis and creative in our proposals for solutions.

These issues are of real concern for people in my province. We have a significant and growing aboriginal population. In fact by early in the next century, some believe that the aboriginal population in Saskatchewan will approach a majority percentage.

I would like to raise four specific areas of discussion taking place now as we contemplate the present and future factors. Number one is the concerns of the Saskatchewan rural municipalities regarding land claims. Rural municipalities in Saskatchewan have a deep concern about losing a tax base from land claim settlements.

I sat in on a meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on April 28 past. We heard the concerns of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities in this matter. SARM represents 297 rural municipalities with over 235,000 rural residents. They are concerned that approximately two million acres are going to be purchased by the aboriginal community.

For rural municipalities this is a large tax implication. These lands are not going to be purchased in large blocks. It will be a quarter here, a half section there, a willing buyer, a willing seller type of agreement. These lands will go to reserve status.

Under federal law municipalities do not pay taxes. On treaty land entitlements there is a compensation fund worked out but on specific claims or reinstatement of treaty land entitlements we do not have an agreement.

If Indian people move into your municipality and they are not going to pay municipal tax, it is going to create unhappy neighbourhoods. If a person on one side of the road does not have to pay taxes and the person on the other side does, and perhaps more because the first does not, this is unfair.

SARM told our committee that it wanted to leave a strong message with us: This is a big problem in Saskatchewan and it has to be addressed.

This is an example in Saskatchewan of decisions and agreements being made without meeting the essential characteristics of good decisions. I fear for the same bills under discussion here in this House today. We must have decisions that are, number one, appropriate. Do these bills respond to the real problem?

Will they transform the present situation into the target state? Number two is attainability. Can these bills be successfully implemented given the resources that we have? Number three is attractive. Do we see these bills as relevant, feasible, understandable, supportable and ownable by everyone? Number four is adaptability. Can we modify things easily if conditions change or if new information becomes available?

In order to make the best decision we may have to do what all good decision makers should do, slow down, retrace our steps, elicit new opinions, present new ideas, give a word of encouragement, suggest a compromise, postpone action and reach out to non-participants. I say this is what we should be doing with the bills before us here today.

We have questions about the effectiveness of these bills and someone has said that questions thrown out the front door have a way of coming in through the side window. We do not want that to happen in this case. In fact we cannot afford to have it happen in this country.

The second concern is the community pastures under the PFRA program. A second type of related issue in Saskatchewan was raised in our committee at the same time in late April. Some of the PFRA community pasture lands will also be up for purchase by First Nations people.

A reasonably good process of negotiation has been put in place for this. The Indian band will need the agreement of 75 per cent of the patrons of any particular pasture in order to proceed to the transfer of the said lands. This process is open and democratic, which all processes should be.

The third concern is the First Nations Council of Moose Jaw. Moving to yet another related issue, an event occurred in my riding of Moose Jaw-Lake Centre about a year and a half ago that really surprised some of my constituents. They woke up one morning to read the daily paper's lead headline, and I quote: "First Nations elect first government. Status Indians take charge of their destinies".

This was during the referendum campaign. The news story we read that morning said that an election held in Moose Jaw Tuesday should pave the way for self-government for urban status Indians throughout Canada. They said that their elected council would negotiate with all levels of government to secure better health care, education, employment and housing for its members.

What surprised people was that this was a group of neighbours and friends in our city who got together, conducted a process of discussions, elected leaders and declared to the rest of us that they were a duly constituted government to which we would now relate in jurisdictional terms. One hundred and seventy people out of a city population of some 35,000 made this decision that the rest of us must now abide by. I have yet to settle in my own mind exactly how one should respond to such an initiative.

The fourth concern was an event that happened last year in our riding. I have raised it before in this House. I believe it illustrates the importance of making sure our decisions and our actions are carefully thought out and applied before we take them.

In our riding we are trying to work together to solve a potentially divisive problem. Last July 22 to 25 an indigenous peoples celebration was held in Moose Jaw. Soon after I was elected as MP in October, local business and organizations that had provided goods and services to this event approached me with the news that they had not been paid for their services. The problem is serious because we have identified possibly as much as $200,000 worth of unpaid bills. I have informed both the federal government and the Saskatchewan provincial government about this situation and the issue certainly has been in the local news.

I have a deep concern that a successful resolution be found to this problem. I am encouraged by the patience of the business persons involved as we work through this problem and by the openness and the responsibility being taken by the newly selected aboriginal leaders in Moose Jaw. I am hoping we can carefully reach a successful conclusion to this matter. I have said that I will keep this House informed. I am of the distinct persuasion, however, that this problem ended up being harder to solve than it would have been to prevent by careful planning.

A wise person once said that one should make sure they count the costs before undertaking an initiative. I am concerned that this is what will happen in the debates about the far-reaching and significant implications of the legislation that we have before us.

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4:05 p.m.


Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments that were directed toward this legislation.

It is often easy to ask a lot of questions about self-government legislation. Questions have been asked of the government to define self-government. When an agreement like this is put forward does that not aid the members of the Reform Party to see what the government means by self-government?

Second, if there are perceived problems with the legislation what specific measures would the hon. member propose to deal with situations like the comprehensive land claim issue?

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4:10 p.m.


Allan Kerpan Reform Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's comments and questions.

The one key element that is missing from this agreement, as I see it, is the inclusion of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. From looking at the bill and studying it in some detail, that to me sticks out more than anything.

The other part of the question that I would like to answer is what we would do or how we would involve this. I do not think anybody on this side of the House, certainly in our party, is against the theory of some sort of native self-government. The problem as I see it is that the process has not been a very open process. In my mind it is something that has been rushed for an issue of such significance. I think it needs to be opened up to all Canadians regardless of what part of the country they live in or what their particular personal heritage might be.

That is probably the key to this whole issue, that we must bring all Canadians into this type of decision-making process. Anything short of that will certainly spell disaster for some idea or theory that may in fact be a good idea to start with.

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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is the House ready for the question?

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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

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

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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those opposed will please say nay.