House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mining.


An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

moved that Bill C-297, an act to revoke the conviction of Louis David Riel, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I think that today is a great day for our country as we begin debate at second reading of Bill C-297, an act to revoke the conviction of Louis David Riel.

In presenting this bill, I was not carried away by my imagination. I am following in the path of a number of colleagues from different political parties who have, over a period of many years, taken various steps that should help us finally bring about a resolution to a longstanding paradox: Riel has been recognized as one of the Fathers of Confederation, but, legally, he remains a criminal sentenced for high treason.

Louis David Riel played a very important role in the history of Canada. Among other things, he is considered one of the founders of the province of Manitoba, and the person principally responsible for its subsequent entry into Canadian Confederation. He was, at the time, a very strong voice for the west. Without his intervention, the federal government of the time would have turned the present western provinces into territories run by governors appointed by Ottawa.

It was thanks to him that Canada pushed back its frontiers to the Far North and then to the Pacific. In 1871, he organized the resistance to the American invasion that allowed the country to consolidate its borders. He was the first to defend the rights of the Métis, the first nations and francophones.

The House of Commons recognized Louis David Riel's, and I quote: "deep devotion to his people and his willingness to pay the ultimate price of his life to help his people".

The question of Louis David Riel has quite a history in the House of Commons. Let us take a brief look at the various actions taken.

On September 23, 1983, the Conservative member for Edmonton East, William Yurko, tabled Bill C-691, an act to grant a pardon to Louis David Riel. On March 14, he tried again with Bill C-228, but with no more success.

On June 28, 1984, there was Bill C-257 and, on December 13, 1984, Bill-

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot on a point of order.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, would it be possible to ask my colleagues from the Reform Party to keep the noise down a bit while my colleague, the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata is speaking.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I am sympathetic to the request, but it is not a point of order as such. The House notes the intervention of the hon. member and we hope that the debate will go on according to the parliamentary practice of the House. The hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

With Bill C-257 on June 28, 1984 and Bill C-217 on December 13, 1984, Les Benjamin, the NDP member representing Regina-Lumsdon, called for the guilty sentence against Louis David Riel to be overturned.

On November 28, 1985, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the hanging of Louis Riel, the hon. member for Hamilton East, the present Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, asked the House for a posthumous pardon for Louis David Riel.

I would like to read what the hon. member said on November 28, 1985, and to adopt the words as my own: "We are now in November and one hundred years have gone by since the hanging of Louis Riel. I now ask that this Conservative government exonerate the victim of the conspiracy of another Conservative government.

For one hundred years, politicians and historians have shown that the government purposely misrepresented the events known today as the Riel Rebellion. Letters and diaries of the participants

and observers reveal the use of unethical tactics to obtain political benefits from the rebellion.

In a letter from the Marquis of Landsdowne to Prime Minister Macdonald on August 18, 1885, the Marquis wrote: "You regard the recent outbreak in the Northwest as merely `domestic trouble', which should not be elevated to the rank of a rebellion. I am afraid we have all of us been doing what we could to elevated it to the rank of a rebellion and with so much success that we cannot now reduce it to the rank of a common riot".

The reason for the Macdonald government's promotion of a common riot to a full blown rebellion was to win additional funding for the near bankrupt Canadian Pacific Railway. While the CPR benefited from the events of the summer of 1985, a Métis leader was hanged. Louis David Riel, who died unnecessarily, deserves to be exonerated by the Government and recognized as a victim of wrongdoing."

On September 16, 1987, another NDP member, Nelson Riis, representing Kamloops, adopted the idea of his colleague as his own, and tabled Bill C-265. On October 13, 1989, Bob Skelly, the member for Comox-Alberni, also NDP, tabled a motion calling for recognition of Louis David Riel as one of the Fathers of Confederation.

On March 9, 1992, the House of Commons was to take an important step. On that day, the hon. member for Yellowhead, Joe Clark, who was then Minister of Constitutional Affairs in Brian Mulroney's Conservative government, obtained the unanimous consent of the House for the following resolution:

Pursuant to order made Monday, March 9, 1992, the following motion was deemed moved and adopted:

That this House take note that the Métis people of Rupert's Land and the North Western Territory through democratic structures and procedures took effective steps to maintain order and protect the lives, rights and property of the people of the Red River;

That this House take note that, in 1870, under the leadership of Louis Riel, the Métis of the Red River adopted a List of Rights;

That this House take note that, based on the List of Rights, Louis Riel negotiated the terms for the admission of Rupert's Land and the North Western Territory into the Dominion of Canada;

That this House take note that these terms for admission form part of the Manitoba Act ;

That this House take note that, after negotiating Manitoba's entry into Confederation, Louis Riel was thrice elected to the House of Commons;

That this House take note that, in 1885, Louis Riel paid with his life for his leadership in a movement which fought for the maintenance of the rights and freedoms of the Métis people;

That this House take note that the Constitution Act, 1982 , recognizes and affirms the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the Métis;

That this House take note that since the death of Louis Riel, the Métis people have honoured his memory and continued his purposes in their honorable striving for the implementation of those rights;

That this House recognize the unique and historic role of Louis Riel as a founder of Manitoba and his contribution in the development of Confederation; and

That this House support by its actions the true attainment, both in principle and practice, of the constitutional rights of the Métis people.

On November 16, 1994, I followed the lead of my NDP colleagues and introduced Bill C-288, requesting the revocation of the conviction of Louis David Riel.

On February 22, 1996, in answer to a letter from Mr. Ron Swain, President of the Ontario Métis Nation, the Minister of Natural Resources, who was also responsible for Métis issues, noted that a number of steps had already been taken to recognize Louis Riel's contribution to Canada's development: stamp offerings, tributes in the form of statues and cultural performances, and a resolution passed by the House in 1982, recognizing Riel's unique and historic role as a founder of Manitoba. She noted the $150,000 contribution by the federal government for the new statue of Riel in front of the Manitoba legislature. The minister ended her letter by saying, and I quote: "I would nevertheless wish to assure you that the federal government will continue, in the future, to listen to the views of the Métis".

On May 12, 1996, at the unveiling ceremonies of the new statue of Louis Riel in front of the Manitoba legislature, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre, said, and I quote: "For all Canadians, Riel was a Father of Confederation. Promises were made to the Métis that were not kept. As long as I am in a position of power, I will try to make sure that the Métis have full and equal participation in this country".

On June 4, 1996, I made another attempt and introduced Bill C-297, again to request the revocation of the conviction of Louis David Riel.

Mr. Ron Swain, President of the Ontario Métis Nation, wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to support the bill. The Minister of Natural Resources, answering this letter on behalf of the Prime Minister, said, and I quote:

"As part of the process of healing the wounds created by the historical events surrounding the life of Louis Riel to which you have referred, please be assured that the federal government remains committed to pursuing various avenues to recognize Mr. Riel's place in Canadian history."

The Indian affairs minister replied, and I quote:

I understand that my colleague, the hon. Anne McLellan who, as federal interlocutor, deals with Métis issues, will be writing to you in response to your petition to her and the Prime Minister on this issue to assure you that the federal government remains committed to pursuing various avenues to further recognize Mr. Riel's place in Canada's history. To that commitment I should like to add my own personal assurance that I will be supportive of these initiatives as they are developed.

The Secretary of State for Training and Youth replied to Mr. Swain in a handwritten note, and I quote:

Further to your letter of June 7, 1996 on the issue of Louis Riel and setting the record straight, I will get back to you with a further update on what is happening. I am committed to doing something soon.

But who is this man who, 152 years after his birth and 111 years after his death by hanging, is still talked about with so much passion?

Louis Riel was born in St-Boniface on October 22, 1844 as the son of Louis Riel, a Metis, and Julie de Lagimonière, the daughter of the first white woman to give birth in the North-West. He was the oldest of 11 children in a very close and deeply religious family. His grandfather had settled at Red River at the beginning of the 19th century and married a Metis woman named Marguerite Boucher.

A gifted child, he studied at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal from 1858 to 1865. Louis David Riel was a good student, always among the first in his class. He learned Greek, Latin, French, English and Cree. He also received an education outside of school since he lived at the Manoir de Terrebonne belonging to Mrs. Masson, a high society lady who owned a complete library that had been built up by the famous Louis Joseph Papineau.

After his father died, Riel quit school and worked at Sir George Étienne Cartier's law firm. Two or three years later, he returned to Red River where he would play an important role in protecting the rights not only of the Metis but of all the citizens of Red River. At that time, the colony's population was estimated at 12,000 and far from homogeneous. In addition to a majority of French speaking Roman Catholic Metis, who engaged in buffalo hunting, there were English speaking Anglican Metis, who worked the fields, and Scottish Presbyterian settlers.

Despite their different languages, religions and lifestyles, these groups had learned to live together in a bilingual climate, but Ottawa's territorial ambitions combined with the attitude of some newcomers would upset this delicate balance. These extremists' strategy was to provoke a civil war in the colony and blame the Metis so as to destroy their political power.

As a result of his two fights in 1869 and 1885, Louis David Riel became the symbol of a linguistic and cultural minority whose survival rights were ignored for a long time and are still threatened, and of the struggle waged by Western settlers who were concerned above all with being free and communing with nature so as to prevent civilization from disrupting their lifestyle.

Unfortunately, Riel has sometimes been portrayed as a traitor or a madman. He was a founder of Manitoba and was elected three times to the House of Commons. He was a spokesperson for his community and fought racism by championing human rights.

Basically, Louis Riel was hanged all those years ago because he had fought for rights which are now generally recognized as legitimate: the right of any people to govern itself, with universal suffrage and responsible government; the right of the Metis to own property, which much be recognized and respected; the recognition of the Metis as a nation and a distinct society; the right of the Metis to have their own language and religion, a right recognized by granting bilingual status to their laws and courts, and a dual denominational school system.

The rights claimed by this native leader at the time have, for the most part, been inscribed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982. Riel fought vigorously for the rights of the Metis and successfully conveyed the concerns the first western Canadians had. He embodied the dreams of the Metis and instilled in all native peoples the desire to fight for their dreams and beliefs.

A growing number of western Canadians are realizing that Riel was the first to defend western Canada against the central government and a forerunner of the movements opposing central Canada's economic and political power.

We are not asking that history be rewritten. What is done is done, and Riel is dead. But the memory of Louis Riel is alive and, for that reason, he must be cleared. Precedents exist around the world where innocent victims, often political opponents sentenced for reasons of state, have been pardoned.

In the letter containing his last wishes, Louis David Riel asked to be given a simple funeral and surrounded with the comfort of religion. "Far be it from me and my mortal remains to seek vengeance. I forgive those who have been so unfair to me".

Motions to pardon Louis Riel have been tabled in this House by Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois members. On March 10, 1992, this House unanimously passed a resolution recognizing that "Louis riel paid with his life for his leadership in a movement which fought for the maintenance of the rights and freedoms of the Métis people". All the parties represented in this

Parliament must now unite not to restore the great Canadian that Louis David Riel was to life but to restore the dignity he was stripped of.

I would like to conclude with this poem by Manie Tobie:

Fils d'un rugueux pays, écoute, prête l'oreille, Jamais tu ne croirais une chose pareille. Certes, après tout ce temps, la terre parle de toi.

Et ton souvenir cause partout l'émoi. Tu passes pour un héros, mais plus souvent rebelle. La mention de ton nom fait surgir la querelle, Ou bien l'admiration. Difficile labeur? Resteras-tu vaincu? Deviendras-tu vainqueur? Se rappelant encore, on traîne ta mémoire, On te rend innocent en admettant ta gloire, Hélas! beaucoup trop tard arrive l'amnistie. Ceux qui au bout des ans t'auront enfin connu,

Regretteront toujours que tu fus le pendu. Si ce n'était pas toi, qui donc commit le crime, Dont tu fus par erreur l'innocente victime? Le sang crie, cher riel: la force est dans l'union. Et ceux qui croient en toi te donnent encore raison.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in today's debate and I want to congratulate the hon. member who just spoke on this important initiative.

I take pleasure in addressing this House on a matter very dear to the hearts of the Metis people of this country and one that is of significant importance to all Canadians. Clearly it is a matter of great interest to this government as well. I applaud what appears to be at first glance a laudable objective.

-to recognize the injustices suffered by Louis Riel and to correct the situation.

However, a number of questions were raised. Can we actually do what is being proposed here today? Can the legislative branch of the government overlook a judicial decision? This is a constitutional issue. Is this bill supported by a majority of Metis people in Canada?

The hon. member's initiative is laudable but, given the Bloc's vision, some wonder whether it is a ploy to make the agenda of the Bloc and the Parti Quebecois more palatable. Is the hon. member a pawn for the separatists forces? I am not saying this to be mean. However, we are well aware that the Bloc's vision is different from that of the other political parties. This issue must be raised here in this House, otherwise we would be denying reality.

Parliament is being asked today to do something which it may or may not be able to do, to revoke the conviction of Louis Riel. It can do so, but is it constitutionally solid? Will it stand? Could it be contested? Those are questions we need to raise.

I have conducted considerable research in this area. I have discussed Louis Riel and the constitutional implications of what is being proposed with the finest experts in the land. There is a great deal of debate. It seems, according to certain authorities, that a legislative revocation of the conviction may in fact be invalid. It may be unconstitutional.

It would appear, according to those same sources, that it would be highly unlikely that a judicial overturning would stand up in the courts or would stand up to that kind of challenge. It might be improper since it may be a breach of the constitutional divide between the legislature and the judiciary.

Hon. members know that some eight private members' bills have been tabled in the House since 1978 on the matter of Louis Riel. A considerable amount of parliamentarians' energy continues to be expended trying to find ways to heal the unfortunate events of the past while also trying to find appropriate ways to honour Louis Riel's contribution to the building of Confederation.

I have been among those who have been proud to speak out on this matter. For example, in 1995 while debating this issue, I suggested that we form an all-party committee with an MP from each political party to determine whether this bill was feasible or whether there was a more appropriate option. I was not able to find unanimity to proceed in that way. I wanted to discuss what might be the best course of action for which we could find unanimous consent.

I have worked with certain authorities such as the Library of Parliament. I have held discussions with people of St. Boniface, my riding, where Louis Riel is buried, with ministers of justice and the solicitor general on this issue, including our senior minister for western Canada, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I also had the opportunity to speak on this matter in 1992 when I supported the resolution:

"That this House recognize the unique and historic role of Louis Riel as a founder of Manitoba and his contribution in the development of Confederation; and that this House support by its actions the true attainment, both in principle and practice, of the constitutional rights of the Metis people".

I supported this motion. I even requested that we take a further step.

I said that, in a spirit of justice, we should go a step further and "recognize Louis Riel not only as the founder of Manitoba but as a Father of Confederation".

As you can see, I strongly support the idea of clearing Louis Riel, and I support the principle underlying the bill. However, as I said earlier, I am somewhat concerned about where it could lead us.

I find it ironical that a political party has once again tabled a private member's bill, allegedly to settle the issue of Louis Riel's conviction, but which essentially seeks to take advantage of the circumstances surrounding this case to possibly build a wall between English and French Canadians, something that would be unfortunate.

I am not the only one concerned. In a letter to the Prime Minister regarding this bill, the president of the Metis National Council, Gérald Morin, said, and I quote:

First of all, there is a reference. I have it here and I want to make sure I read it correctly.

He says that he has been encouraged and pleased by the productive dialogue that has been initiated and promoted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Natural Resources covering a wide range of Metis concerns, including the exoneration of Louis Riel and the appropriate recognition of Riel as a Father of Confederation. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has stated that he wishes this dialogue be about correcting the wrongs of the past with respect to the Metis people. At the unveiling of the Louis Riel statue in Winnipeg on May 12, 1996 he added: "Promises were made to the Metis that were not kept. As long as I am in a position of power I will try to make sure the Metis have full and equal participation in this country".

The letter from the Metis National Council, written by Gerald Morin, continues: "We have grave concerns about the potential negative impact of the bill. While the goal of the bill appears positive, we are concerned about its potential use as a tool by those who are intent on breaking up Canada. To in any way allow this to occur would be a travesty to the vision of Louis Riel, which was for a strong and united Canada and a homeland where the rights of all people, including French language rights, were assured."

Members will know that Louis Riel negotiated the terms of admission of Manitoba into Confederation, the Manitoba Act, which provided for certain guarantees for Metis people, including schooling and religious rights as well as recognition of French and English language rights. The rights of other citizens were also clearly set out.

Such was Louis Riel's vision of a united country in which all would participate equally.

Louis Riel was then elected three times by acclamation to the House of Commons.

Riel was an eloquent speaker. He was a staunch protector of the rights of the Metis and, in fact, of all members of the community, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, anglophones and francophones.

Louis Riel's fate has long been a heavy burden for his family and for all Metis people. We must find a solution and a way to recognize his importance and the injustices that he faced.

Is this the way to proceed? I do not know. We need a solution that would be supported by all parties and by the Metis people, for this is ultimately, I believe, what we should all want, the rehabilitation of Louis Riel. What does it mean? It means recognizing the fact that he would not have been convicted of treason had he received a trial according to the standards of fairness normally upheld. Clearly we could say that. We could come to some agreement and the Metis people of Canada would agree that is so.

His role in the history of Canada is of such importance that he deserves to be called a Father of Confederation. This is what "clearing" means. This is what Metis people and Riel's descendants want. Surely, we have the authority here, as a political structure, to do precisely what I just suggested, perhaps in more eloquent terms, and to rehabilitate Mr. Riel, the Father of Manitoba, to be sure, but also a Father of Confederation, of Canada.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River Saskatchewan


Gordon Kirkby LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-297 to revoke the conviction of Louis Riel.

In discussing the merits of this bill, there is one thing to which we can all agree, and that is the important contribution made by Louis Riel to the building of this great nation.

Louis Riel played a key role and was an important contributor to Confederation. Louis Riel had a vision for this country over 100 years ago. He was a man of action, a man who looked to the future. If Mr. Riel were with us today he would say: "Let us look to the future. Let us build a society where the Metis people can take their rightful place in society, standing shoulder to shoulder with all

others". He would be urging us to focus our energies on finding solutions to our present day problems and building for a better future.

With that in mind, I would like to spend a few minutes talking about what the federal government is doing today to advance the interests of Metis and off reserve aboriginal people. As many members are aware, the Minister of Natural Resources fulfils the role of federal interlocutor for Metis and non-status Indians in addition to her other ministerial duties. In that role the minister acts as a point of first contact and where necessary as a facilitator between Metis and non-status Indians and the appropriate federal ministers and departments.

In addition to that role, she oversees the federal government's participation in the tripartite self-government process, which is the forum being used to negotiate self-government with Metis and off reserve aboriginal groups within the context of the Canadian Constitution.

As many members are aware, on August 10, 1995 the federal government announced its approach to the implementation of the inherent right and the negotiation of self-government for aboriginal people, including Metis and off reserve aboriginal people. The federal approach contemplates various practical ways of implementing self-government for Metis and off reserve aboriginal people, including the development of self-government institutions providing services, the devolution of programs and services and forms of public government all responsive to the needs of the Metis and of off reserve aboriginal people.

The federal approach has provided a stronger mandate for the tripartite self-government process which will allow for progress to be made on the implementation of self-government.

In that regard, I note that self-government processes are currently under way in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. There have also been some preliminary discussions on the possibility of beginning an urban self-government process in Winnipeg.

As part of the self-government framework announced last August, the federal government also committed to cost share with the provinces the enumeration of Metis and the identification of Indian people living off a land base or off reserve. Since the announcement of the federal approach the federal government has participated in and cost shared the development of a proposal for a Metis enumeration along with the province of Saskatchewan and the Metis Society of Saskatchewan.

I understand the federal government is prepared to cost share this enumeration. Enumeration is very important as the information provided by an enumeration would prove very valuable in the implementation of self-government for Metis and off reserve aboriginal people.

Before closing, I would like to mention one more important program through which the federal government works with Metis groups in an effort to meet their objectives. For the past several years the federal government has participated in bilateral processes respectively with the Metis National Council and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. Like the tripartite self-government process, the bilateral process is also managed from the federal perspective by the Minister for Natural Resources.

The bilateral processes provide a forum for the congress and the council to discuss issues of utmost importance to them in their relationship with federal departments. The bilateral processes generally focus on issues such as self-government, access to program funding and the devolution of programs and services.

In closing, I would like to return to my initial comments about Louis Riel, about the kind of man he was and what he would do in our situation. I believe he would urge us to keep our focus on the future and to continue to build on these self-government initiatives which I have just described.

Louis Riel was a builder, within his community, within his province, within the nation of Canada. Indeed, Louis Riel was a member of Parliament, a man publicly commended by the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba for his assistance to Canada in repelling an American invasion. He was working to build a society where his people could contribute to the important decisions that confront us all in building a better future.

The federal approach to self-government, which I outlined earlier in my speech, of working together with the Metis people and off reserve aboriginal people will finally begin to finish the task that Riel began many years ago.

For many years within society walls have divided the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. When we look back in history we see the efforts of Louis Riel and others to tear down those walls and create a society where all people, regardless of race, religion or language worked together to build a great nation.

Today we must remember that legacy and take that message to heart as we continue to build this nation. We must continue with the Canadian values of tolerance, justice, fairness, working together, sharing and generosity to all people. Canada is big enough for all people regardless of the differences. By working together and seeking to understand the tragedies of the past, the divisions that exist will be avoided. We will be able to begin the process of

tearing down the walls and building an inclusive society where all people can feel fully and properly a part of that society.

The federal and provincial governments together with all people within the nation working together will be able to build this great society, a society that Louis Riel had in mind, the society that he fought hard to protect, a society that he wanted to see, a society where all of us could live in shared dignity and mutual respect.

Let us not forget the work of Louis Riel. Let us not forget his vision. Let us not forget the work he did to bring this about. Let us never let go of the dream of a country where Canadian values will be first and foremost in all of our minds. Let us, in all we say and do, honour the memory of a very courageous man, a leader and a true Canadian.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour this morning to be able to speak about revoking the conviction of Louis David Riel for high treason and restoring his memory here in this House.

I listened to the speech of my colleague, the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata, who has, in my view, done a good job of laying out for us the life-I was going to say the work-of Louis Riel. I have also just listened to the speech of my Liberal colleague, who, in his turn, has emphasized the important human qualities shown by Louis Riel during his unfortunately all too brief existence.

But, at the same time, I cannot but deplore the fact that the member who should perhaps, of all the members in this House, have the greatest interest in this subject, the member from Manitoba, has not taken the lead in supporting the bill before us with more vigour, resolve and determination.

What is this bill about? I think it would be appropriate at this time to reread it for the benefit of the House and also for the benefit of viewers. This is a bill to revoke the conviction of Louis David Riel.

Louis David Riel, it should be remembered, was a member of the House of Commons for the electoral district of Provencher from 1873 to 1874. He was convicted of high treason on August 1, 1885, sentenced to death, and hanged on November 16, 1885 at Regina, then part of the North West Territories.

The second whereas recalls that, notwithstanding his conviction, Louis David Riel has become a symbol and a hero to successive generations of Canadians who have, through their governments, honoured and commemorated him in specific projects and actions. Finally, the third whereas of this bill points out quite rightly that it is consistent with this recognition that the conviction of Louis David Riel be now revoked.

The bill would therefore have Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the other Chamber and of this Chamber, revoke the conviction of Louis David Riel for the offence of high treason, while recognizing that nothing in this Act shall be construed as limiting or reflecting in any manner Her Majesty's royal prerogative of mercy or the Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor General relating to pardons.

This is not, as you know, the first time this subject has been raised in the House. I would like to point out that, on November 28, 1985, the Liberal member for Hamilton East asked the Conservative government of the day, through the Speaker of this House, to exonerate the victim of the conspiracy of another Conservative government, that victim of course being Louis Riel.

That hon. member, who is still sitting in this House, more or less committed herself in 1985 to supporting the pardon of Louis Riel. Now once again she has the opportunity of putting her good intentions of 11 years ago into deeds. I trust that, even if her seat is not on the line, this time, she will follow up on it.

Just to show how important this case is, and how often it has been brought up in the House, as well as to stress the point that this ought to be the very last time it is brought up in the House-and the only way that can happen is if this bill is passed-may I point out that, in the past, many other people in the House have shared the same concern we have today.

On September 23, 1983, William Yurko, who was then the member for Edmonton East, introduced a bill to grant a pardon to Louis Riel. That bill was not followed up on. He tried again on March 14, 1984.

On June 28, 1984, Les Benjamin, the NDP member for Regina-Lumsdon, called for the conviction of Louis David Riel to be revoked.

On December 13, 1984, Mr. Benjamin tried again, followed on September 16, 1987 by another NDP member who is still among us, the hon. member for Kamloops, who again introduced a bill to revoke the conviction of Louis Riel.

Today we have a bill introduced on November 16, 1994, and here we are nearly two years later. The hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata is now proposing a bill to revoke the convicition of Louis Riel.

Louis Riel was a great man in his day, a man of conviction, a humanist. He held a vision, not only for the Métis people, but for all Canadians from sea to sea. It seems that he was not given the attention he deserved. The tenor of the times precipitated events, and trapped him in a process which, as others have already said, was a mistake on all sides but not, most certainly, an act of treason. What took place was an error.

On many occasions over many years, the governments of all of the provinces have examined this issue. Many have adopted resolutions or motions aimed at his rehabilitation. But this House has not yet done what must be done. We find ourselves today with an opportunity to finally correct the course of history.

I trust that the member from Manitoba who referred just now to letting some time pass will instead pick up the torch and be the first to lead all of us in the House to rehabilitate the memory of Louis David Riel.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me say at the outset that I can understand the sentiments lying behind Bill C-297, an act to revoke the conviction of Louis David Riel.

Perhaps the most recognizable name in all of Canadian history, he was certainly the greatest leader ever produced by the Metis, the people whose history is woven together with that of western Canada. Yet modern historical research has demonstrated that Riel, in spite of his undeniable greatness, was afflicted with tragic flaws. To revoke his conviction more than 100 years after the fact glosses over those flaws in favour of a historically inaccurate portrait of the man and his age.

Riel's greatest failing was his monumental vanity which is illustrated in a curious way in my hon. friend's bill. That bill is entitled "an act to revoke the conviction of Louis David Riel". In fact Riel was not baptised with the middle name David. Rather he adopted that name when he was about 30 years old and he always wrote it in quotation marks.

He used the signature Louis David Riel to express his conviction that he was like the David of the Old Testament, a sacred priest king. Riel also called himself the "prophet of the new world" and "prophet, priest king and infallible pontiff". He claimed to be the divinely inspired founder of a new religion which was to be a sort of higher stage of Roman Catholicism for the new world.

Many of those who knew him thought he had gone insane when he started to issue these revelations. In fact, he was confined to insane asylums in the province of Quebec for almost two years from 1876 to 1878. Whether or not he was insane in the medical sense, he clearly saw himself as a divinely inspired prophet. This self-understanding was central to the movement he led in the Saskatchewan valley in 1885.

He began the uprising by climbing the steps of the mission church at Batoche and proclaiming "Rome has fallen". The governing council of the Metis of Batoche declared Riel to be their official prophet with a right "to direct the priests". Even as the Canadian expeditionary force was advancing on Batoche, Riel and his council were debating religious innovations such as changing the sabbath from Sunday to Saturday.

As I have said, opinions differ about his sanity. Several psychiatrists have written that he was mentally ill. Contemporary historians tend to see him more as a religious enthusiast and millenarian leader. Either way, little would be served by revoking his conviction in 1996. We can hardly argue that religious enthusiasts are not subject to the law. If we say he should not have been convicted because he was not responsible by reason of insanity, what message are we sending to the Metis? Does it help them if we label their greatest leader a lunatic?

From a historical point of view, there is little doubt that in the context of his own day, Riel was properly convicted of treason. Let me expand on four reasons why I draw this conclusion.

First, there is no doubt that Riel encouraged his followers to rebel against the crown. In addition to the testimony of many eye witnesses, we have documents in his own hand. Perhaps the most interesting is a short sentence that he wrote in French: "La justice ordonne de prendre les armes". One of his secretaries, William Henry Jackson, translated it into English: "Justice commands to take up arms", boldly underlining the phrase "to take up arms". These and similar texts will be found in the five volume set The Collected Writings of Louis David Riel published by the University of Alberta Press and edited by a team under the direction of the renowned historian George Stanley, who served as lieutenant governor of New Brunswick and who also designed Canada's flag.

There is no legal defence for taking up arms against the sovereign. If the movement is successful, a new legal order is created but if it fails, the instigators will be charged with treason. That is why the great leaders of the American Revolution pledged to each other "their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honour". They knew they were taking a risk that transcended legality and that they would pay the supreme price if they failed. Louis Riel despite his failings had some of that same kind of courage. It does no credit to his memory to come asking for a posthumous pardon.

I could add that my hon. friends in the official opposition may wish to keep all this in mind if they believe, as the Government of Quebec has said, that they can take Quebec out of Canada in defiance of the law and the Constitution.

Second, Riel's motives in fomenting the northwest rebellion were mixed to say the least. Toward the end of 1884 he entered into behind the scenes negotiations with the federal government, volunteering to leave Canada if the government would pay him a large sum of money. He felt he was owed at least $100,000 as an indemnity for past services to Canada, but offered to leave for $35,000. He told this to Father Alexis André, Superior of the

Oblate Missionaries at St. Laurent, and to D. H. MacDowall, member of the Northwest Territories Council from the district of Lorne.

According to MacDowall, Riel said that if the government would consider his personal claims against them and pay him a certain amount in settlement of these claims, he would arrange to make his illiterate and unreasoning followers well satisfied with almost any settlement of their claims for land grants the government might be willing to make. Riel turned to violence only after it became clear that the government would not give him any money.

Third, it is often said that taking up arms in the northwest rebellion was the last resort of desperate men. Their peaceful attempts to have their grievances resolved had all been ignored by an uncaring government.

The truth however is very different. The Metis settlers of the Batoche area did have claims to press. Many of them had settled along the banks of the South Saskatchewan River while the survey was going on and they wanted their lots resurveyed from the standard rectangular system to long, narrow river lots. Also, they wanted a distribution of land and scrip for the Metis of the northwest similar to what had been done in Manitoba. The government was in the process of dealing with both claims.

During the winter of 1884-85 the Department of the Interior sent an official to make a special study of the river lot claims along the South Saskatchewan River and the cabinet appointed a commission to enumerate claims for land and scrip across the northwest. It was the news of these measures that prompted Riel to turn to violence. He realized that if the government dealt with the real life grievances of the local people, his own future as a political leader would be over.

Finally, Riel got a fair trial within the context of his own time and place. He was tried before a stipendiary magistrate and a jury of six as required by the Northwest Territories Act. There was no legal mechanism for trying him in any other way.

Wellwishers in Quebec paid for him to be represented by outstanding talented lawyers. One, François-Xavier Lemieux, later became chief justice of the Supreme Court of Quebec. The other, Charles Fitzpatrick, served as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Riel also had two appeals, to the court of Queen's bench of Manitoba sitting en banc and to the judicial committee of the privy council in London.

Louis Riel was a complex man. In speaking against the bill I have been forced to dwell on the negative side of his character and career. Of course there was a positive side as well. Riel saw that the days of the fur trade and buffalo hunt were coming to an end. He wanted to make a place for the Metis in the new society growing in the west. He saw his people not as aboriginal wards of the crown but as British subjects or American citizens, depending on which side of the 49th parallel they lived.

He wanted them to settle down as independent, self-sufficient farmers, not to be dependent on government handouts. He campaigned vigorously against the whiskey trade that was so debilitating to all native people.

There are some things in Riel's legacy to admire and it is not surprising that the Metis people of today revere his memory, but nothing will be gained by this legislative attempt to rewrite history. Let us leave history to the historians.

As members of Parliament, let us try to live up to the standard that was laid down by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau when he said, quoting John F. Kennedy: "We will be just in our time". It is hard enough to do that without trying to take on the fruitless task of second guessing the justice of another era.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

We have only two minutes left for private members' business. I will now recognize the hon. member for Québec-Est.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business



Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Louis Riel question is a very emotional one for me. As I listened to the speech by the hon. member for the Reform Party, I wondered whether he really knows his history, because the judgment made against Louis Riel in 1885 was clearly unjust.

Louis Riel was led before a jury of six anglophones and tried by an anglophone judge in Regina, as Donald Smith drove the last spike for the transcontinental railway. In that same year, French was banned in Manitoba. Louis Riel was, in fact, the victim of a miscarriage of justice that reflected the attitude to francophones at the time. People in Quebec knew that Louis Riel's cause was just and that by the last battle of Batoche, Riel was no longer a sane man.

He was a victim of his own cause, just though it was, and Quebecers and francophones across the country were outraged by the decision made by a jury of six anglophones, negating the rights of Louis Riel. Despite the uproar this caused in Quebec, even John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister of Canada at the time, said:

"All the dogs in Quebec can bark, but Louis Riel shall hang".

John A. Macdonald said that. It was a way to punish the French fact in the west, although the rights of francophones were supposedly guaranteed. I may also point out to my dear colleagues from

western Canada that subsequently the rights of francophones in Manitoba were abolished for one hundred years.

The conviction of Louis Riel was unjust, unacceptable and unpardonable. If people want to reconcile Canada with its francophones, let them adopt, fairly and squarely, a formula to absolve or pardon Louis Riel.

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David RielPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The hour provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House resumed from October 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act, be read the third time and passed.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today in support of Bill C-6, which is the result of approximately five years of negotiations in Yukon.

A lot of people have expressed interest in Bill C-6 and many of them either wrote to the House Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs or testified before the committee when it recently held hearings on these proposed changes to the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act.

I want to begin my remarks today by praising those citizens who took the time and made the effort to communicate their views to all of us on the committee.

Even more, I want to praise the many citizens who volunteered their time and effort over the years of discussion and debate in Yukon as well as the many organizations and businesses which had such a strong commitment to the democratic process as to fund participation in such a decision making process. The give and take of discussion, the responsibility to whatever interest group one is representing and, most of all, the awareness that the YMAC discussions would probably impact the economy of Yukon more than anything other than land claims, were a weighty load for them to carry and they deserve our praise for their efforts.

YMAC stands for Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, the group which hammered out this agreement. It is almost entirely because of its efforts and the compromises which were reached in Yukon that the Reform caucus and I support Bill C-6. To state it simply, Bill C-6 represents a made in Yukon solution to Yukon problems. I do not want to see it changed to a made in Ottawa solution.

Yukon has a relatively small population, estimated to have grown to 31,452 as of July 1, 1996. Major sectors of that population were involved in the YMAC decision which debated how to change Yukon's mining legislation to accommodate environmental concerns such as ensuring adequate reclamation of mining sites and placing deposits to guarantee that the work is completed.

It was the recommendation of the House standing committee, just as it was the recommendation of the Government of Yukon representatives who testified before the committee, that Bill C-6 be passed as is with no amendments whatsoever. The reason for the importance of not meddling with Bill C-6 lies in the fact that YMAC reached a delicate balance about what should be done to accommodate those environmental and land use concerns surrounding the second most important primary economic generator in the Yukon Territory, mining.

To show how important mining is for those folks in Yukon, one who appeared before the committee kindly sent me figures for the amount of gold from placer mining in Yukon from the first shipments in 1885-86 up to and including 1995, a total of 110 years. The number of fine ounces of gold was 12.6 billion. In dollars which are current for the year when the gold was produced the value of the gold was $967,789,808,000. That does not mention jobs, personal and business taxes and the numerous spinoffs across the rest of the economy.

If we look at the value of total mineral production in Yukon, not just placer gold, only in the recent decade from 1985 to 1995 we see a value of $3.4 billion, according to the 1995 Yukon review. This is despite the fact that 1993 and 1994 were very bad years and that 1995 barely returned to the level of 1986 for total mineral production.

Mining means big money in Yukon in economic terms. Mining is called a primary economic generator. That means that it is not a spinoff from employment elsewhere as would be true, for example, of housing construction.

Unfortunately, according to research supplied by the Library of Parliament, the biggest primary economic generator for Yukon is transfer payments from the federal government. As a percentage of provincial revenue, Yukon Territory received 58.3 per cent of its estimated income for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1996 from general purpose federal transfers plus an additional 12.8 per cent from specific purpose federal transfers for a total of 71.1 per cent of all Yukon government income.

By comparison, my province of British Columbia for the same period received 12.6 per cent of its income from specific purpose federal transfers and nothing whatsoever for general purpose transfers.

By raising 87.4 per cent of its revenue from internal sources B.C. was second by two-tenths of a per cent to the province of Alberta. Sadly, Yukon falls far behind and I hope that is something that can turn around in the future.

To see for myself and to deal directly with the people most involved in this legislation, this past summer I travelled around Yukon. I talked with many people there about Bill C-6 as well as other federal concerns. There is a lot of anxiety in Yukon in view of its huge dependence on Ottawa as to whether, in our present times of severe fiscal constraint, it will mean that the Government of Yukon as well as Yukon Indian bands have to stand on their own two feet financially.

A great many people in Yukon told me in no uncertain terms that the only hope Yukon has of becoming more financially independent from these federal transfers is the industry of mining. Many people said they were afraid that Bill C-6 would damage the Yukon mining industry, especially the vulnerable placer mining, where many claims are worked in the short northern summers by dad and mom and perhaps an adult child or a couple of hired helpers.

To see what the Yukon government revenue is like we might want to glance at the budget from last year. The 1995-96 budget estimated the territorial revenue would include $35.4 million from personal income tax, $10.3 million from corporate income tax and $7.1 million from fuel tax for a total of $52.8 million from its total revenue of $497.8 million.

I have supplied my hon. colleagues with some statistical data so that they can understand the profound concern in Yukon about whether these proposed changes from Bill C-6 are going to create an administrative tangle that will seriously damage the Yukon mining industry.

This legislation will be accompanied by many pages of new regulations and by a brand new process of obtaining permits for mineral exploration as well as getting a new mine into production. I raised these concerns during the departmental briefing provided last spring for the Reform Party by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. It told me it was taking every precaution to ensure that Bill C-6 will not have a negative impact on Yukon mining.

At the time I was inclined to believe those assurances from the department but that was prior to a shocking event which took place August 8 with regard to what could become Canada's first diamond mine in Yukon's neighbour, the Northwest Territories.

To put what happened into perspective, my colleagues should be aware that in looking at provincial and territorial income, at the bottom of the heap in so far as paying for its own well-being stands the depressed economy of the Northwest Territories which received 72.2 per cent of its 1995 income from general purpose federal transfers, plus 10.7 per cent for specific purpose transfers for a total of 82.9 per cent of the income of the Northwest Territories coming from federal transfers. That is a tragic number and I ask my hon. colleagues to bear in mind as well the 71.1 per cent for Yukon as a percentage for territorial income provided by federal government transfers.

In both Yukon and the Northwest Territories jurisdiction over natural resources remains with the federal government although the northern accord gives the Northwest Territories more control over its energy resources. That gives Ottawa enormous control over the lives and activities of people in both territories. It is a profoundly serious responsibility which rests especially on the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

How has that minister discharged that enormous responsibility in the Northwest Territories? He has single handedly sent a very bad message to the international mining community. This is what happened. The BHP project has already invested about $200 million in trying to open Canada's first diamond mine in the Northwest Territories. BHP Diamonds plans to employ a yearly average of 830 people across the 25-year life of its project and 1,000 people during the construction. Two out of every three will very likely be northerners and one out of every three at least will be aboriginal.

My colleagues will remember the figures I supplied to them earlier. Currently the federal government provides 82.9 per cent of the revenue of the Northwest Territories through general transfers and specific purpose transfers. By contrast, the Northwest Territories had a total 1995-96 estimated revenue of $1.2 billion of which only $92.9 million came from personal and corporate income taxes. If it were not for well paid government employees paying taxes, the Northwest Territories would have very little revenue of any kind today.

Against the backdrop of that information I quote from an October 7 Calgary Sun article regarding the BHP diamond project: ``During the exploration phase, 60 per cent of BHP's workforce were northerners and 25 per cent were aboriginal. That is a welcome change from NWT's dependence on government jobs or welfare and should the final project go ahead, the private sector will flourish in the Arctic.

"The company has also trudged through the most excruciating and whimsical regulatory hurdles in the western world. It passed the arduous and intrusive federal environmental assessment review panel, a two-year trial. BHP's proposal is the only mining project except for uranium mines to ever complete such an investigation. BHP's environmental impact statement is eight volumes long and weighs 64 pounds. It went through the enviro-extremist wringer".

The columnist then went on to describe in his own terms what happened on August 8 when it was supposed to be announced that BHP had passed the environmental review board. Instead: "`The federal government will negotiate a binding environmental agreement with the company,' Irwin announced to a startled BHP. They had after all met every existing requirement".

The columnist again attributed a direct quote to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development: "The agreement will cover all of those issues not normally part of license terms and conditions".

The columnist then imagined the following comment from the minister: "Forget the law', said Irwin.I am the law. Sure you passed all our tests and paid all our fees but I want more"'. Then again the columnist attributed a direct quote to the minister: "I will be assessing progress on the environmental and benefits agreement before signing the water licence for the project". The columnist pointed out that the benefits agreement was voluntary in the first place.

I understand that due to unsettled land claims, BHP embarked on the remarkable project of negotiating four separate voluntary socioeconomic agreements or so-called impact benefits agreements, also known as IBAs with the Treaty 11 Dogribs, the Treaty 8 Yellowknives Dene, the Metis and the Inuit of Kugluktuk.

In view of Yukon land claims and Yukon self-government legislation, Bills C-33 and C-34, passed in the first session of the 35th Parliament, we can all see the handwriting on the wall with the BHP project. We can see what a major mining development in the Yukon will quite possibly have to go through before the Government of Canada allows the brave would be developers to invest their dollars in Canada's north.

That columnist in the Calgary Sun referred to the deadline imposed for all these additional totally unprecedented conditions being thrust on BHP as ``Irwin's 60-day temper tantrum''. I wish this issue was that simple.

The columnist went on to raise some of the fundamental questions to which the BHP experience must inevitably lead the international mining community. What comes next? What other gimmicks can the minister of Indian affairs invent to gum up the works for this private investment group which has already sunk about $200 million into trying to start Canada's first diamond mine?

The columnist raised a question with which I cannot help but agree: "If the major spin-offs went to Montreal instead of Edmonton, do you think Irwin's personal agenda would be allowed to get in the way?"

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I have allowed the member to repeatedly mention one of our other colleagues by his name. I would ask his co-operation.

Although these come from quotes, we cannot in the House do indirectly that we cannot do directly. I would ask his co-operation as much as possible to make the change to the appropriate portfolio the minister carries and try to avoid the member's name.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will try. The writer finishes his article by asking: "How long will BHP and other potential investors stand for Canada's anti-business bias?"

Let us be very clear about what has happened here. An international company, in partnership with a group of Canadians, has explored an area of the Northwest Territories. They have complied with every existing Canadian law. They plan to invest nearly $6 billion in a region of Canada that has been beset by tragically high unemployment and which basically exists on gifts from the rest of Canada.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development apparently wants to forget that part of his responsibilities stated in his title, namely that he is responsible for northern development. Instead, I believe the outrageous situation with the BHP diamond project will do serious damage to Canada's international reputation as a good place to invest mining exploration dollars.

Canada has already lost its market share of those exploration dollars due to the whimsical, complex and disorganized regulatory climate for mining in Canada, despite the fact that the mining industry has been very willing to enforce high standards for environmental protection. The problem is not the protection of the environment. The problem appears to be a federal government more concerned about protecting the jobs of bureaucrats on the government payroll rather than protecting the environment.

The BHP diamond project passed the toughest environmental review. Nevertheless and with no advance notice or negotiation, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development imposed additional conditions which are delaying the start of construction as the northern winter closes in.

The last time I spoke to the minister no end was in sight. He ran roughshod over the investors involved. Is BHP's experience the norm of what international mining companies must face if they intend to invest in Canada?

When we look at Bill C-6, the anxiety which was already felt about whether it would have a negative impact on Yukon mining has been intensified by the minister's inexcusable conduct regarding mining in the Northwest Territories.

I believe we can use the example of what the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has imposed on the BHP

diamond project in the Northwest Territories to demonstrate what an anti-business mentality must permeate the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the very people responsible for development in the north, if they are capable of doing such a thing to a serious and responsible mining investment group.

As a career mining man myself, I want to assure my hon. colleagues that the biggest reason why Canada has been losing its market share of international mining investment dollars is the regulatory boondoggles such as those just imposed on the BHP diamond project by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. At this point the damage has been done. It is my profound hope that the minister will act far differently regarding Yukon mining and that Bill C-6 will not become another serious blow to mining in Canada.

During committee hearings on Bill C-6, Mr. Harlan Meade, vice-president of Westmin Resources Limited, a strong voice for improving the entire Canadian mining regulatory framework, pointed out one other significant problem with Bill C-6. That problem is the terrible delay between the time when the legislation was needed many years ago, the long duration of the YMAC talks followed by literally years since the Liberal government took power while little or nothing was done.

As Mr. Meade told our committee: "The failure to move quickly to provide regulations sufficient to fulfil the public's desire for environmental standards for exploration is contributing to the public perception of problems being encountered in the Yukon by the exploration industry".

He points out the value of encouraging voluntary compliance and says: "For several years now the larger companies have been voluntarily conducting their exploration to standards similar to those that exist in other jurisdictions, including reclamation activities". He and many other people from the Yukon have emphasized the importance of widespread consultations regarding the regulations which will accompany Bill C-6, although they are not part of it. Industry must be involved in such consultations because industry is best at knowing how to achieve the desired environmental protection with a minimum of cost either to industry or to the government.

Due to Mr. Meade's former employment as vice-president of environment for the Westmin Company as well as his long time involvement with other environment and land use issues, I believe my colleagues should give special heed to his opinions. Governments, overloaded with senior administrators and pencil pushers, have a lot to learn about the time it takes to fully consult with the public in order to put forward the best possible legislation which can be willingly supported by the people to whom it applies.

In conclusion, I urge my hon. colleagues to learn from the mistakes of the past regarding the environmental regulations of mining and to pass Bill C-6 without amendment.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

We will now proceed to the next stage of debate on Bill C-6 where members will have up to a maximum of 20-minute interventions subject to 10 minutes of questions or comments.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am tempted to enter into debate with the former speaker, but I will restrict my comments to the legislation under consideration, Bill C-6, an act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act.

It should be noted that the Yukon Quartz Mining Act was first brought forward in 1924 and the Yukon Placer Mining Act in 1906. They have been virtually unchanged since that time. I think everyone is in agreement, while they may not be in agreement with some of the details of this bill, that there is need for change. That is the reason I am supporting this bill.

In 1924 and 1906 the bills basically provided administrative direction, dispersal of federal lands for the use of mining and mineral rights and the collection of royalties. There were really no environmental regulations at all at that time, quite understandably given the era.

It is very important to say at the beginning that there are environmental and other regulations related to mining in the Yukon, but these amendments are restricted to exploration activities for which there has not been environmental regulation. When one looks at the number of pieces of legislation both federal and territorial that apply to mining in the Yukon, no one should be left with the thought that there has been no environmental regulation. In fact 14 pieces of federal and territorial legislation are currently on the books that relate to mining activity in the Yukon. This is of itself a problem which I will address a bit later.

As has been pointed out by other speakers on mining in the Yukon, the quartz mining and hard rock mining are basically larger companies but the placer mining is very often small family operations, some larger than others. Mining is the largest private sector employer and largest private sector income generator in the Yukon. Therefore it is a very important industry to everyone in the Yukon because of the spin-off effects of the jobs created and the taxes collected. To all of us who want to see greater economic development in the Yukon, it is very important that mining continue to be a essential part of the economy.

At the same time we live in a territory that is almost the size of Sweden which is really in many ways and to many people the last wilderness frontier. Many other industries are based on the wilder-

ness from outfitting, to trail guiding, trapping and so on. They also rely on land use in the Yukon.

I want to address specifically some of the issues and not so much the content of this legislation. Previous speakers have talked quite a bit about the content. Essentially the legislation addresses certain environmental issues related to exploration that have not been covered by existing pieces of legislation.

I am empathetic with those in the industry who say that we have an extremely complicated process to facilitate mining in the Yukon and they are right. I strongly believe there should be good regulations and good environmental controls, but I also feel it should not be such a cumbersome process for those who wish to do exploration or who wish to proceed further.

As I mentioned earlier, there are 14 pieces of legislation which affect mining in the Yukon. As came out quite clearly during the committee hearings on this bill, those pieces of legislation in and of themselves are often incompatible and at odds with each other. That is clearly unacceptable and must be addressed. It is not addressed by this legislation and continues to be an outstanding issue.

Essentially the bill contains four classes. Under each class there are different requirements for notifying the public of the kind of work the company will be doing. Each of the four classes has different requirements.

There is not opposition to the entire bill but there is a concern with respect to a lack of requirements in certain classes. For example, under a class I licence for developing exploration it is not necessary to give notification to any public body. When a company does exploration there may not be intrusive harm to the environment but there usually is some. They may be taking in a Caterpillar; they may be going by river; they may have to cut down trees and so on. A real issue for a lot of groups was that there should be a notification requirement for all of the four classes.

A good aspect of the legislation is that it does allow time for implementation. For example, in the quartz mining amendments there is a six-month transition period for implementation. For placer mining there is a 12-month implementation period. The current operating conditions obviously would apply during those periods.

Another positive element of the bill is that a full review of the regulations will have to take place after two seasons of implementation. That is particularly important because it is not always possible to foresee the long term effects of some aspects of legislation or regulations. Certainly no one wants to see the industry regulated out of business.

I can say that in the 10 years I have been the member of Parliament for Yukon and have worked with the mining industry, there has been a real desire on behalf of the industry to see that there are good environmental practices. There have been many advances.

The Yukon Mining Advisory Committee was established in 1990 by the previous government to bring together representatives of industry, the conservation groups and the First Nations to formulate amendments to these two acts. It was very tough to find a consensus in this diverse group which has differing interests on these issues. It is fair to say that after two years of meeting, in 1992 the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee worked hard to reach a consensus. The mining community gave up something and other groups gave up something. They came up with a fairly good consensus on what could be done in the immediate term. It was not seen necessarily as a long term objective.

Other jurisdictions could learn from this. The process of the mining advisory committee was exceedingly good. It was an attempt to sit down face to face to come to grips with difficult issues. The resulting report was positive. The problem was that in the intervening time, from 1992 to 1996, there was a change in government which again changed the mandate. There was certainly a lag when the committee was not as active as it had been. Also in 1995 the land claims and self-government agreements came into force through this Parliament. There were certain requirements under those agreements which had not been met in the mining advisory committee process.

The lesson to be learned is that the YMAC process is an extremely good one to use. However, we cannot have a process of consensus making and then have a lag of three to four years and expect the consensus will hold together. That is essentially what happened with this issue. It is not the fault of anyone in particular but we and other jurisdictions could learn from this process.

I would like to raise a few things about the legislation which were raised as concerns in the committee. Although I am supporting passage of the bill, these are issues which will have to be dealt with down the line.

We should understand that these proposed amendments do not really conform with the Whitehorse mining initiative which was set in 1994. The proposed legislation does not make our mining legislation as strong as that of the NWT, British Columbia or Alaska. It is a true compromise but certainly by Canadian standards it does not come up to that of our neighbours in the Northwest Territories.

Another concern which needs to be addressed is that it does not meet all the objectives of the Whitehorse mining initiative. Again, that came after the 1992 consensus and is another example of why this gap between the process of consensus making and implementation created a real problem.

I mentioned earlier the concern about notification on class I. That is a general concern of a number of groups.

Security and security deposits. Everyone in Canada can understand that there have been huge costs to the Canadian taxpayer in terms of environmental clean-up of various mining sites, and this is quite true in the Yukon. People want to see adequate security provisions. This legislation basically states that security will be determined on a case by case basis. It has been suggested that this is not sufficient but should simply be required as a cost of doing business.

I am somewhat empathetic to those, particularly small operators, who say that this would be very difficult to fulfil. This section of the act will have to be watched really closely in terms of the implementation I spoke about earlier.

Another issue as a result of the time gap is a very serious concern which was raised by the Council of Yukon First Nations. Under the land claims and self-government agreements there is a very clear clause that the federal government must consult with the First Nations in terms of any legislation it is bringing forward. This came up around Bill C-68, the firearms legislation, where the four groups including the Council for Yukon First Nations who have constitutionally entrenched agreements, according to their view which they substantiated, had not been properly consulted. It is equally true with this bill.

These agreements came into place after the 1992 consensus. We have an adjustment here to a new political dynamic which in respect of this legislation I would have to say was not met. It must be addressed by the federal government.

Wildlife habitat is an issue of great concern. Between the territorial and federal government there is a bit of contention about who is responsible for the preservation of wildlife habitat. To make the point, CPAWS, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society unbeknownst to most Yukoners did staking in some very sensitive wildlife habitat areas. Of course, it did not have to notify anyone because that was not in the law. The society did it not because it was going to mine, but to point out that wildlife habitat areas are not protected under this legislation. It has not been sorted out whether the federal or territorial government is going to take responsibility for this. It is an outstanding concern.

Another concern is competing land use. Historically, under mining legislation there is what is called the free entry system. In other words someone can stake and mine with free entry into any lands. There was an incident in Whitehorse recently in green space behind a residential area and people were fairly upset. The free entry system is not part of this legislation. I will not dwell on it, but it is an issue with regard to competing land use between outfitters, wilderness guides and trappers that people did raise which needs to be discussed at length.

Many people see this piece of legislation as better than nothing. As much as anything it points out what we have to do in the future.

Mining is important and it needs to be supported. We need to streamline the regulations and process. The involvement of all stakeholders in the regulations would be a very important step on behalf of the federal government to perhaps bring together some of these concerns in a constructive way.

The federal government has put forward a proposal to the Yukon for the devolution of northern affairs programs by 1998 and that includes mining. We see that within two years, should these amendments pass today, there will have to be a comprehensive review of mining legislation by the territorial government if it is to assume responsibility for mining as a territorial responsibility. The YMAC process illustrated the usefulness of that kind of body of consensus making but also the faults if one does not follow up with action immediately.

The real challenge within the next two years will be for the federal and territorial governments to work together to consolidate some of these pieces of legislation to make sure that mining legislation conforms to the Whitehorse mining initiative, and to ensure we can have a viable industry but also an industry which respects environmental standards and regulations.

I will conclude by simply saying that this is a step in the right direction. It will require a lot of further work but it will take us one step toward better mining legislation in the Yukon.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Yukon for her balanced and thoughtful approach as usual and for the opportunity she gave us to better understand the implications of mining in her riding. I wish I could say the same for the member for Okanagan-Shuswap who is still struggling after three years in Parliament to learn the basic rules of debate in this House.

The debate on Bill C-6 can legitimately take place against the background of the leadership council accord document, namely the Whitehorse mining initiative dated November 1994, and signed by a number of outstanding citizens and politicians including our Minister of Natural Resources. In the document we find some very interesting statements which deserve to be put on record in connection with this second reading debate. On page 14:

The environmental impact of mining can be minimized by: careful exploration; mine design and operation, including risk assessment; and appropriate management policies, programs and procedures. Prevention of post-closure impacts requires effective site reclamation and monitoring. Voluntary programs emphasizing-

On the same page:

Environmentally responsible mining exploration, development, operations and public policies are predicated on maintaining a healthy environment and, on closure, returning mine sites and affected areas to viable, and, wherever practicable, self-sustaining ecosystems that are compatible with a healthy environment and with human activities.

This is beautiful stuff on page 14. There are also other very interesting and meaningful paragraphs on page 16. Time does not allow me to read them all.

Under planning and environmental assessment, the following principle is espoused:

Environmental assessment is an essential tool for identifying potential environmental impacts of proposed projects, determining their acceptability, and evaluating potential mitigation and remediation measures, thus enabling economic activity to proceed while safeguarding the health of the environment.

Among the goals is to ensure that government policies and programs adequately incorporate environmental considerations.

This is music to the ears of anyone who is concerned with sustainable development because this is the essence of good sustainable development policy processes. It is a very recent document as I mentioned, dating back less than two years.

Coming to the bill, an act to amend the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act, this bill establishes an environmental management regime for mining activities conducted in the Yukon Territory.

This bill amends the Yukon Quarts Mining Act an the Yukon Placer Mining Act to provide an environmental management framework. This is a much needed initiative. The member for Yukon already referred to it in positive terms.

It is desired if we in Canada are to make environmentally sustaining mining processes a reality. It must be noted that to this point Yukon is the only jurisdiction in North America that has not regulated the impacts of mineral exploration and development.

Until now, experience has taught us that mineral development can result in habitat loss, the leaching of acids into soil and water, creating sedimentation in rivers and streams, adding to water pollution and other erosion problems to name a few.

We all appreciate that mining is an important factor in the Canadian economy but it must be achieved through a well regulated industry which safeguards the environment, human health and wildlife and which takes into consideration the justified claims and goals of our native people. Again, the member for Yukon made reference to that.

I am told that each day in Canada the mining industry generates approximately 1 million tonnes of waste rock and 950,000 tonnes of tailings, totalling some 650 million tonnes of waste a year.

At present there are approximately 6,000 abandoned tailing sites in Canada. Some of these contain 185 million tonnes of uranium mine tailings considered to be low level radioactive. Others contain an estimated 875 million tonnes of rock and tailings capable of allowing acid to leach into the soil and water.

The clean-up costs of all these abandoned tailing sites is estimated at $6 billion I am told, a cost which presently is likely to be borne by the public at large, Canadian taxpayers, if and when required.

Some of us are concerned that certain activities described in the bill as class one activities require no approval or notice, and therefore the level of activity approved under class one exploration programs could cause significant environmental damage, especially in environmentally sensitive areas and heritage sites.

The potential impact of these class one activities is significant when one considers that there are over 40,000 mineral claims in Yukon.

Imagine the cumulative environmental impact of these claims if not properly regulated. It could have a far reaching impact on the environmentally sensitive northern ecosystem, but as a general rule it should be a concern regardless of whether the ecosystem is particularly sensitive. That sector has a long way to go in operating within a regime that is now becoming more and more accepted in the southern latitudes.

In order to provide a regulatory framework in Yukon or anywhere else in Canada capable of ensuring environmentally sustainable mining, the government should seriously consider the following suggestions. First, it should provide an environmental protection regime that is as strong as any in North America and not weaker than that.

Second, it should ensure that mineral rights are not granted without considering competing land use values. I will address that issue a little later.

Third, it should regulate all stages of mineral exploration and development.

Fourth, it should ensure that sufficient funds are set aside to cover the full costs of mine reclamation, namely the good old polluter pays principle.

Fifth, it should ensure effective inspection, monitoring and enforcement of mineral activities including provisions for citizen enforcement.

Sixth, it should provide for special control measures for ecologically and culturally sensitive areas.

Seventh, it should ensure that penalties for failing to meet regulatory requirements are strong enough to act as a real deterrent.

I will spend a couple of minutes discussing the free entry system. In Canada and throughout North America there has been a pattern over the decades to have a so called free entry system which permits the mineral operator to enter lands where minerals are in the hands of the crown. It obliges the government to grant exploration and development rights if the miner, the applicant, applies for them.

The free entry system was developed in the 19th century to encourage the extraction of mineral resources. While this approach may have been suitable and understandable when Yukon was considered a wild frontier to be tamed, it is certainly no longer appropriate today. Elevating the importance of mineral extraction above all the other resources has led to other problems.

Provinces such as Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and other countries such as Australia have eliminated the free entry system. Other jurisdictions in Canada are currently moving away from the free entry system.

Under the free entry system, the right to stake a claim and mine cannot be refused on public lands unless the lands have been closed entirely from staging. This fails to give consideration or protection to other land users, which is a very serious matter. This fact is recognized in the Whitehorse mining accord which I mentioned earlier. The need to consider other land uses is also stressed: "No aspect of social, economic and environmental sustainability can be pursued in isolation or be the subject of an inclusive focus without detrimentally affecting other aspects".

It seems the Government of Canada has a responsibility to all members of the public when regulating the uses of public lands. It basically boils down to that. Under the free entry system it could be said that the government essentially abdicates its responsibility to regulate whether mining activity will occur at a particular site.

I would submit that the free entry system is still a fundamental weakness of mining in the mining regulatory system in Yukon.

In short, the free entry system assumes mineral development is the most important interest in public land and once a mineral claim is staked there can be no consideration of importance of other uses of public lands. This flaw undermines the effectiveness of good, sound, long term land planning. This method requires the government's attention. I would hope that it will be possible to do so if not in committee in the examination of the bill then on another occasion.

The automatic right to mine on public lands should be replaced by a system where the government has the discretion to permit the production and development of crown minerals as in the case with other natural resources such as timber, gas or oil, or even if necessary deny their particular use for reasons related to the larger public interest.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to participate in this debate.

Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the previous speaker for his well thought out comments. I really do not have much disagreement with him at all.

I would just like to make a couple of points and perhaps ask a question. The first comment is around the class one and the fact that there is no necessity for public notification. I think that is an issue that causes a lot of people, including me, some uneasiness. I would add, however, that when one stakes a claim under class one one has to register that claim so that it is registered with the mining recorder. There is that kind of notice at least. However, I still think it is an outstanding issue.

As I said in my remarks, the issues around quartz and placer mining certainly are not completed by this legislation. There is much left to do.

The hon. member mentioned reclamation. I agree that is a huge problem. In one instance in Yukon, a venus mine was closed down. The owners have long since disappeared and have probably become some other company. The estimated cost to the Canadian taxpayer is about $800,000 for the clean-up of the arsenic leaching tailings. This is very costly and it is something we do have to be concerned about.

I wondered if the hon. member would support the suggestion that has been made, which is not in this legislation, but for future consideration that 1 per cent of royalties from mining be put toward reclamation.

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12:55 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad for the correction that the member for Yukon made in connection with class one procedures. As for the suggestion of the 1 per cent royalty, it is a policy approach that commands attention and certainly requires serious consideration.

Quite frankly, I cannot think of a better alternative in order to ensure that the corporate and collective benefit that may derive from certain economic activity, in this case a mining activity, also is put in a position to restore the quality of the environment as it existed before. There may be alternative approaches which I am not aware of but this approach certainly is one I will look at very carefully.

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12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is the House ready for the question?

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12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


Yukon Quartz Mining ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

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

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12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


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