House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was boards.


The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Progressive Conservative Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat my question to the Minister of Finance about the use of economic instruments to help solve the problem of greenhouse gases.

A few minutes ago, the minister told me that the government was doing its job. Yet, a report released by a joint committee mandated by his government states that the committee did not receive the mandate to examine every available subsidy and instrument, and that its mandate was too narrow to review all economic instruments.

Did the government do its homework for the Kyoto summit, yes or no?

The EnvironmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec


Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

JusticeOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


John Nunziata Independent York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice.

The people of Toronto and in particular the victims and the families of victims were outraged yesterday when a Toronto judge handed down an outrageously lenient sentence with respect to the sex abuse case at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Will the minister undertake a comprehensive review of the sexual assault provisions of the Criminal Code with a view to implementing minimum mandatory sentences?

JusticeOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta


Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on a specific case in question. It is a matter that may be taken under appeal. That is a decision for the Attorney General of Ontario.

I would, however, remind the hon. member that my predecessor amended the Criminal Code. Section 718 makes the abuse of a position of trust or authority an aggravating circumstance in sentencing.

Therefore the principles in the code are there. They are sound. It is a matter of application of those principles.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to provide for an integrated system of land and water management in the Mackenzie Valley, to establish certain boards for that purpose and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3 p.m.


Michelle Dockrill NDP Bras D'Or, NS

Madam Speaker, I stand today in support of Bill C-6. While understanding that there are different views of the legislation within the Northwest Territories from aboriginal organizations, industry and other public interests, we fully support the timely implementation of land claims legislation, the substance of this bill.

Parliament has been delivered a package resulting from extensive negotiations among the Gwich'in, Sahtu, federal and territorial governments but there are concerns about the adequacy of the involvement from other aboriginal organizations and the public.

This is a very important piece of legislation as it will change environmental management of the western Northwest Territories. The bodies that will be established under this legislation are institutions of public government and they represent a significant shift of power and management to a more local level, something we clearly support.

At the same time it is important to ensure that some of the significant gains made through legislation, like participant funding for review panels in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, are reflected in the bill.

Consistent with the principles of participatory democracy, we will strongly urge the standing committee to hold public hearings in the north to hear the diversity of views on the bill. Getting such comprehensive negotiated packages in the House seriously limits the critical role of the member of Parliament to just acceptance of the package.

We believe that the committee should devote part of its attention to analyse the process which was implemented to develop this legislation. We are dealing with issues that, in virtue of a process, are in a fast track. To some extent the process of negotiations and consultations among the interested parties shut out Parliament from the decision making process.

We have an opportunity to assess one of the processes used to limit the role of Parliament. In this case we suggest that the committee travel to the north and act as an open forum for a detailed analysis of the bill but also of the process followed for the development of the legislation; the role of the bureaucracy, the acceptance of public input and the balance obtained among divergent sides, etc. This is an opportunity to decide if committees should be given more resources, more freedom to travel, to get in touch with the people of Canada and enhance the credibility of this House with the people of Canada.

There is also a fundamental value behind the implementation of this legislation. One of the major issues during the free trade agreement was the future of the water resources of this country. Canadians were extremely concerned that the policy implemented by the federal government was detrimental to the capacity of Canadians to manage one of the most abundant resources in this country, water. For Canadians engaged in the free trade agreement debate, Canadian water was not a commodity to be traded in a commercial market or just a resource to be exploited. In this bill we are doing justice not only to the aboriginal people but to those Canadians who fought for the prohibition of bulk export of Canadian water.

This legislation clearly recognized that for aboriginal people as well as for many other non-aboriginal Canadians land and water are not just economic commodities. This kind of co-management system makes it more likely that water will not be traded as a good. This bill also is a formal recognition by the Government of Canada that land and water are an inextricable part of aboriginal identity, deeply rooted in moral and spiritual values. In doing justice to aboriginal people, Parliament is indirectly recognizing those who took a similar approach to the water issue during the critical debate on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Different societies do have different views on property or resource rights. The views of the federal government and some provincial governments are of open access or indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources that can be bought and sold in a commercial market. Aboriginal people view land and other resources as their common property.

Different values and visions create different management styles that could led to conflict and confrontation. Bill C-6 creates conditions to eliminate or minimize cultural clashes and promote or return to aboriginal people their rights to take part in the governance and management of land and resources. It is clear that we are addressing a fundamental concern of aboriginal people, their role in the management over land and water as well as other resources critical to their goal of self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

The co-management approach will allow an optimal balance between the values and beliefs of aboriginal people with the values and beliefs of other segments of the Canadian population.

We are very pleased with the message being sent to the aboriginal communities of Canada through the implementation of this bill. The co-management created for the land and water resources in the Mackenzie Valley is a positive model for all of us. It indicates that co-operation and honest, transparent dialogue create condition for substantive changes in the relationships between first nations and the people of Canada.

More experiments in regional public government, shared jurisdiction and shared management of resources may be coming and we look forward to them.

We hope that certain segments of the department of Indian affairs will modify their attitude to aboriginal people and participate fully in the implementation of this new relationship with the aboriginal people of Canada.

In conclusion, we support the speedy passage of this legislation and we call on the Government of Canada to proceed as soon as possible with its response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and to include the Parliament of Canada in the overall process of policy decision making and evaluation in this new relationship with the aboriginal people of Canada.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on Bill B-6.

This was introduced first on September 26, 1997 and is the reincarnation of Bill C-80 from the last Parliament which was tabled in the House on December 12, 1996. Its intent is to establish management boards to co-ordinate environmental assessment and land and water regulations in the Mackenzie Valley of the Northwest Territories. It fulfils the requirements of the Gwich'in and Sahtu land claims agreement of the 34th Parliament.

Bill C-6 requires that 50% of the new board members be nominated from first nations and 50% from people from the Government of Canada and the Northwest Territories.

We cannot commend enough the action involving both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people working together toward a common goal, making a concerted effort to try to develop an intelligent way of managing the resources of the Northwest Territories, taking into consideration water and other environmental aspects.

The goal was supposed to be to build a single environmental impact assessment process that streamlines the process for obtaining water licences and land use permits. We in the Reform Party would have absolutely no disagreement with that.

However, as often happens in this House, reality and fact do not bear up with what is happening in these bills, for the stated intent and the actual intent are two very different things indeed.

When we analyse this bill carefully, and I commend my colleagues from the Reform Party who have done a tremendous job on this, we see a very different situation brewing. Rather than having a single co-ordinated effective and responsible board, we see a situation mired in uncertainty, a situation where not one board is developing but three boards, a situation where there is not a lot of agreement but a lot of disagreement.

We oppose Bill C-6 because it is not doing what it is supposed to do. It is simply not going to develop this concerted co-ordinated effort. There are many people in the Northwest Territories who are saying much the same thing.

The chamber of mines in the Northwest Territories said the confusions, delays and cost of this new system have ground mineral exploration to a painful halt.

If the intent is to develop the resources of the Northwest Territories in a way that is going to be beneficial to aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, this bill is failing miserably. By this process grinding to a halt, it is compromising aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities that desperately need the work in the Northwest Territories.

If we look at the unemployment rate there and in aboriginal communities across this country it is absolutely horrendous. It is disgusting. The responsibility for this falls directly at the feet of this and every government we have had in the last 20 years.

Time and time again, from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to auditor general reports to committee reports in this House, new ways to develop employment among aboriginal communities have been repeatedly sought. We had a golden opportunity with Bill C-6 to develop the incredible resources of the Northwest Territories in a sensitive and environmentally friendly manner. However that is simply not occurring.

By holding up this process with what the government has created it is grinding development and therefore employment to a slow and painful halt.

The system was far better defined and unified in other agreements. The lack of clarity in the process for selecting members of the board was also called into question as there is very little transparency in the system. As I mentioned before, rather than creating one board the government in its wisdom chose to create three boards. Why? No one knows.

Conversations with other industry representatives consulted by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development during the development of the predecessor to Bill C-6 confirms the understanding that a single review process which avoids duplication of time and effort is the most important issue. We in the Reform Party would gladly support Bill C-6 if that objective were to be fulfilled. In fact it is not.

The Northwest Territory Chamber of Mines has called for substantial amendments in two areas of the bill which we in this party support. A lack of clarity in the law and in the rules is likely to produce very uneven regulations across the region and from one applicant to the next, resulting in highly indigenous processes that will prevent development and in so doing prevent employment from occurring in the north. This situation is not only occurring in the Northwest Territories. This situation is occurring across the country.

The province of British Columbia through the current land claims process will be balkanized. It will be carved into a number of little fiefdoms, each of which will have its own rules and own regulations.

Let us imagine trying to do business in a situation like that. The situation that is carving out parts of my province will not only hurt non-aboriginal people. It will hurt aboriginal people more than anything. People simply cannot engage in business if they have to bypass rules and regulations throughout the province in many different areas. Development becomes almost impossible.

This is occurring all over the place. I wish the government would take the initiative to work with aboriginal people and with the non-aboriginal community to form together co-operatives and groups in which development could occur wherein both communities are taken into consideration.

One big fear in the process—and Bill C-6 is an example of it—is that the government is creating these little enclaves with different rules and regulations. It simply does not understand that in creating an absolute Pandora's box of rules and regulations it becomes virtually impossible for the left hand to know what the right hand is doing and for any co-ordinated development to occur. It becomes impossible for the private sector to develop these areas and in so doing the creation of jobs is prevented.

The Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce made another important point with respect to Bill C-6. It said the new system was seriously under-resourced, especially in its technical capacity, and would be at a disadvantage in dealing with the large workload created by transitional arrangements and changes to leasing and permits.

I do not understand how the government through the bill could actually create three underfunded and underequipped boards to take on the extremely important task of developing the resources of the Northwest Territories in an environmentally sound manner.

Despite the situation we have to oppose Bill C-6 because it does not devolve jurisdiction of resource management to local territorial activities in an intelligent fashion. It makes no provision for the extra resources required to maintain the technical expertise to supplement the three boards being created.

I would like to make another point that is very important with respect to the situation and the way in which this government and previous governments have dealt with aboriginal people and employment. One goal of Bill C-6 is clearly to improve employment among aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories. This is very important and we in the Reform Party are fighting hard to ensure it occurs.

However that simply is not occurring. I will give one important example which gives an enormous insight into the utter, dismal and abysmal failure of the government in trying to create jobs among aboriginal people.

The government invested $1 billion in an economic development scheme for aboriginal people that came out of the department of Indian affairs. This is something we could approve of if it would make a difference. The proof in the pudding or the Litmus test lies in what happened to unemployment levels among aboriginal people.

What happened? Did the levels go down? No. Did they stay the same? No. They went up. The unemployment rate went up with an investment of over $1 billion in the economic development of aboriginal people.

What are the social outcome and social costs of the horrendous situation? On some reserves unemployment reaches over 50%. Under these circumstances I should refer to the legacy of this and previous governments to aboriginal people.

The situation is that the infant mortality rate is almost two times that of the rest of the population. The tuberculosis rate is almost eight times that of the rest of the population. Sexual abuse admitted by the aboriginal people themselves is at an epidemic proportion on some reserves.

After working in aboriginal communities as a physician I can say the situation is not getting better in many of them. It is getting worse. The cold hard reality on the floor, in the trenches, on the reserves is that people are suffering. There is blood on the hands of this government and previous governments. There is blood on their hands. The government is continuing to deal with the aboriginal people in exactly the same way as it has done before.

The only way that anything will change—and Bill C-6 had an opportunity to do that—is by putting responsibility and accountability into the hands of the aboriginal people. We must ensure we end separateness, the segregation that has occurred for decades. We should start to treat aboriginals as equals and march together to build a better and stronger country for both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

This can only happen where real jobs are created. This can only happen where an investment is made in aboriginal people to help them help themselves. This can only happen when the ties that bind the institutionalized welfare state end.

Unless we end the institutionalized welfare state, nothing will change on the streets. Aboriginal people are suffering on the streets of east Vancouver and downtown Toronto. Nothing will change on aboriginal reserves from Newfoundland to British Columbia.

We have to look at the issue in a new way. We must stop looking at the situation among aboriginal people that governments have created, that of a sacred cow which cannot be changed. We must look forward to working together with aboriginal people to empower them and help them to take care of and be responsible for their own lives.

We are different but the differences between us can be used to build bridges between us, to build harmony and to create co-operation.

This government and previous governments have used the differences as a lever, as a tool or as a wedge to create separate developments. The social costs are being borne by the people. We must stop separate development. We must work together for a united development and to build a stronger Canada for all people. Not only is it possible. It is a necessity. Not only is it imperative. It behoves us to take the initiative to work with people.

One great failing and sadness in working with aboriginal people in detox units, in emergency departments, on aboriginal reserves and in jails is the utter, abysmal failure of policies directed toward these people. It must not happen any more. We have to stop thinking that it is them and us. We have to think that we are all human beings. We must use our differences. There is much we can learn from each other. There is much beauty in the aboriginal cultures of our country that we can use.

I was utterly fascinated by the explanation of a wife of an aboriginal chief in my riding about their incredible abilities to use herbs to treat many medical illnesses. This is virtually unknown in the medical community. We know it is out there but how people actually do it is something we can benefit from.

In closing, aboriginal infant mortality rates are higher than that of any other group in the country. Their children suffer from poverty and malnutrition approaching that which occurs in third world countries. Alcohol and drug abuse are of epidemic proportions. I implore the government to work with the Reform Party and aboriginal people to develop sound, constructive solutions to provide a better future for everyone.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I have been trying to get a hold of a document the solicitor general quoted from last Friday. I was assured that I would get a copy of that.

At this time I would like to formally request that the document he again referred to in question period today be tabled in the House.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The Chair realizes that the point of order was made on Friday and that the government said at that point that it would table the document. At this time the Chair has not heard anything, so we will ask the government to table the document.

Correctional Service CanadaRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick


Andy Scott LiberalSolicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I wish to table a news release that was issued as a joint statement by the Union of Solicitor General Employees and Correctional Service Canada dated October 24.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to provide for an integrated system of land and water management in the Mackenzie Valley, to establish certain boards for that purpose and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Pierrefonds—Dollard Québec


Bernard Patry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for his speech. I have a few comments to make.

He was asking why we have three new boards. The first one is the planning board. It is quite simple. It is on the Gwich'in settlement claim. It is according to the law. This is why we have planning boards for them. It is similar to what we have in our own municipalities. We need to take care with the planning.

Concerning the rest of the member's comments, I had a problem deciding if he was more in favour of industry or the First Nations. My question is what does industry want? Industry is eager to see land claims settled, greater certainty for investment and fair and expeditious administration of application for land and water use. This stable regulatory regime with a single environmental process and clearly defined regulations and environmental assessment standards will provide a positive environment for development in the western Northwest Territories. We have had many consultations with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and the Mining Association of Canada.

When the member talks about the First Nations I agree with him that a lot needs to be done. I have one simple question for my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. If he is concerned about First Nations government, why did the Reform Party vote against self-government in the Yukon and against the Sahtu land claim?

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. friend from the Liberal Party for his question. He actually asked three questions.

He mentioned the boards. People who have analysed this, including the Northwest Territories mines group and other groups, have clearly stated that it is not a problem to have one board. It is a problem to have three boards. People who are involved in this are asking why are we investing in three boards. This is bureaucracy running wild.

Instead of investing in three boards, we could invest in one and use the saved money in more useful ways to improve the socioeconomic situation for people in the north. Perhaps that would be a better investment of taxpayers' money. That is what we in the Reform Party would like the government to do. It has an opportunity to do this when amendments are put forth.

The member asked whether I am for industry or for aboriginal people. The reality is that we are for the people of the north who are going to use the industry of the north. We are for both. It is by having a co-operative relationship with both that both can benefit.

My friend asked about the situation with the land claims. Unfortunately what has been happening with many land claims is that the non-aboriginal communities are not being taken into consideration during their development. Negotiations are taking place only with aboriginal people often behind closed doors. We would like to develop a land claim situation where both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people can come together to discuss and debate the situation and form an agreement for the utilization of the lands of the north where both communities are taken into consideration.

This government and the Government of British Columbia in many cases have excluded non-aboriginal people. You cannot get a workable agreement where one community is not taken into consideration. You cannot get a workable solution where the agreement is often negotiated behind closed doors, where there is a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability. These are the problems we have with many of the land claims situations.

We are completely in favour of aboriginal people becoming masters of their own destiny, as are all non-aboriginal people in this country. Part of the problem has been that aboriginal people have not had this. They have not been masters of their own destiny and have not had the responsibility and the power to do just that.

Aboriginal people deserve to be treated the same way as anybody else in this country. To do anything less is an insult to them and everybody else.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Madam Speaker, I have some questions and I will omit any preamble so the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca will have an opportunity to answer. These are questions many people have on their minds when they look at this bill.

The first of these questions is, is there anything about this bill which will serve to help keep mining in Canada and more importantly to keep mining dollars in Canada? Second, will it cause or create employment for Canadians, Canadians of all racial origins? Third, will it lead to economic self-sufficiency for northern residents no matter what their racial origin? Fourth, will it provide environmental protection in an efficient and cost-effective manner?

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for his extremely succinct and pointed questions. In essence they are the questions that must be asked and answered if this bill is going to pass.

The first question related to whether this bill keeps mining in Canada. It does not. The mining groups have clearly stated that this bill rather than expediting mining in this country has done the exact opposite. It has ground the whole process of development to a sickening halt.

The other question asked ties into that and was on environmental protection. The resources in this bill are simply not there to provide for the adequate analysis of environmental protection for the Northwest Territories. Some government members are nodding their heads. What they ought to do is listen to the members from the Northwest Territories, the mining groups and the economic development groups from the Northwest Territories to understand that this bill does not have the resources to do what it must do, which is to develop the mining industry in the north in an environmentally sound fashion.

My friend also mentioned employment for aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples. As I said before, rather than creating employment, this bill has forced development to grind to a halt. In grinding development to a halt, it has ground the creation of jobs to a halt.

Does it lead to economic self-sufficiency? One hopes that it would. It has the potential to do that. I hope the government will take into consideration the intelligent suggestions that have been put forth by my colleagues in the Reform Party which will help to mould this bill into a situation that benefits both aboriginals and non-aboriginals, the people, the industry and the environment.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I was particularly intrigued by the comments of my colleague when he said that a billion dollars has been placed in a fund for economic development for aboriginals. It is inconceivable to me that that amount of money would not in fact have improved the lot of our native brothers and sisters. I would like to ask him what happened. Where did the money go? Could he explain so that the Canadian public would know not to go down the same road again?

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Macleod for a question that has to be answered in this House. The best person to answer it is the minister of Indian affairs.

We do know that the billion dollars did nothing to increase employment among aboriginal people. Rather than doing that, we know that the unemployment rate is increasing. What is interesting is that not only is it increasing but it is increasing at a rate higher than the rate of population growth of the aboriginal people. That is absolutely worse than we could possibly imagine.

We do not know where this money has gone but empirical evidence suggests that these moneys were misappropriated and did not go directly to the people in need. It belies one of the biggest problems in speaking to aboriginal people on and off reserve. Much of the money could go to them to do good things in terms of skills training, social programs and health care issues that need to be addressed. Instead of this money going directly to the people who need it, this money is being absolutely swallowed up by a bureaucracy that has run wild.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this historic place to speak on Bill C-6, an act to provide for an integrated system of land and water management in the Mackenzie Valley, to establish certain boards for that purpose and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

As this is my maiden speech in the House, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to the voters of Calgary East. They are the reason I am here today and I assure them I will be their voice in this House over the next four years.

I would also like to thank the volunteers who so tirelessly worked on my campaign. Most important, I want to express my thanks to my family. My wife Neena, my daughters Priti and Kaajal, and my son Aman have stood by my side over the last few months and I realize the next four years will be trying ones but I want to express just how much they mean to me.

I would like to speak to several of the concerns that I and my party have with this bill.

Reform's main opposition to this bill evolves around the creation of yet another level of bureaucracy. In addition there are specific industry concerns that need to be addressed before this legislation comes into being. It would be much easier to iron out any wrinkles in the agreement prior to its taking effect than to introduce an amendment to legislation at a later date which only adds to the bureaucratic jungle and the backlog of legislation we currently face. Our time and energy as parliamentarians could be better spent elsewhere.

With that said, I do realize the validity of the goals of this legislation and in particular the need to implement past agreements made by the Government of Canada. It is also important to take steps to better manage and protect our lands for our children and our grandchildren.

We are dealing today with an agreement made by the Mulroney government. In 1994 under Bill C-16 a land claims agreement was made between the federal government, two First Nations bands and the Metis calling for an integrated system of land and water management to apply to the Mackenzie Valley through the creation of certain boards. The Reform Party opposed Bill C-16 due to its creation of an additional and unneeded level of bureaucracy and opposes Bill C-6 that we are debating today for the same reasons.

In 10 minutes I do not have the time to go into great detail on all the concerns. However, I would like to spend a moment or two on an issue that is of great concern to me, the establishment and management of the various boards that act as watchdogs over the use and development of the Mackenzie Valley.

These various boards will be partly comprised of individuals nominated by the First Nations involved and partly from the nominations of the territorial and federal governments. I have no real concerns over the appointment of individuals nominated from the territorial and First Nations groups involved. However, with this Liberal government's previous history of nominating its political pals from days gone by, I am concerned that this will be yet another political patronage ploy for the government.

One only needs to look at the government's appointments to the Senate since it was elected to power in 1993 to see that it would much rather appoint its political pals than the best suited individuals for the jobs. With its record I am left to wonder how the government will decide to choose who will sit on the various boards.

In particular I am concerned as to the technical expertise these individuals will bring to their positions on the board. As it deals with a very sensitive environmental area, I would ask the government to put aside its own political agenda, that is making sure all of their political pals are not put in place, and ensure that board members are put in place because they are the best individuals for the job.

Other involved parties have specific concerns with this legislation as it currently stands. The Northwest Territories Chamber of Mines, which speaks for some 600 groups and individuals, has serious concerns after the briefing it was provided by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development at the end of September. Specifically the Northwest Territories Chamber of Mines has four main concerns.

Not only does the bill provide new obstacles for resource development, it also raises several concerns about the possibility of litigation in the future. It also leaves the various parties open to the use of deliberate delaying tactics in the periodic environmental reviews that must occur under this bill. I have already expressed my concern over the election process of board members which the chamber also raises.

In each of its concerns there are several compounded and complex issues within each area of concern. I would like to take a moment or two to outline some of the complexities of these issues and hopefully someone from the government side will help to clarify any confusion that exists.

With respect to the obstacles for resource development, there is growing concern over the rights to compensation, the powers granted to the boards regarding permits and leases, and an enforcement policy which can best be described as confused. I believe that for effective management of the land and water resources in the Mackenzie Valley area there needs to be more specific policies set in place before this bill is passed into law. We need to be proactive in setting out specific guidelines, especially in the areas of jurisdiction of the boards. We cannot be making up the rules as we go along.

Second, several questions remain unanswered concerning the unresolved issues not addressed in this bill. The participants of the briefing session that DIAND held in Yellowknife at the end of September left with the understanding that such unanswered questions would only be resolved by the courts. Our current court system is weighed down enough with litigation. It would take years before litigation arising from the flaws in this bill could be resolved. This should not and cannot happen.

With environmental concerns playing a fundamental role in how we approach matters regarding land and water management, the concern over various delaying tactics that groups can impose in ensuring that the periodic environmental reviews and assessments that must occur through the bill is real and must be dealt with. Although the government officials feel that these concerns are improbable, past experience suggests that these concerns are indeed justified.

Before I conclude, I would like to reiterate our concerns with the bill and why our party will be opposing it at second reading. There are too many unanswered questions as to how the land and water management will be structured. In my opinion the government is simply reacting to the commitments made by the past government without thinking about the environmental consequences of the bill.

We agree that the government should hold to its responsibilities even if they were made by previous governments. However, the question remains, at what cost? We should look more closely at what the consequences of this bill are.

Second reading deals with the principle of the bill. Without some major amendments at committee and at the report stage we feel that this bill will do more damage than it will do good. It will only cause a more confused bureaucracy with unclear regulations, regulated by a board or a series of boards that are appointed by the government.

Our environment should be first and foremost in our minds as we study this bill in more detail. I therefore urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this bill as it is.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Pierrefonds—Dollard Québec


Bernard Patry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I have a few comments for my colleague.

The Reform Party complains about having three boards. Effectively there are three boards but I would just like to mention that these boards are co-ordinated. I would like to explain the activities of the boards.

Although each board functions independently, the legislation provides for inter-related activities in relation to the planning, environmental assessment and regulations of developments on land or water in the Mackenzie Valley. Upon its receipt of a proposal, the regulatory authority assesses whether or not it is in conformity with the land use plan.

The land use planning board is involved only on referral or application when there is a dispute. A preliminary screening of the environmental impact of the proposed development is conducted by the regulatory authorities and government departments and agencies. This preliminary screening expedites the process whereby developments with little impact need not be assessed by the environmental impact review board, including those developments normally exempt from assessment.

If a development could have a significant impact or may be cause of public concern it must be assessed by the environmental impact review board.

The Reform Party also talks about having government's power to the people of the First Nations. He needs to understand that the Mackenzie Valley is one of the largest regions in the country. When one travels from Yellowknife to Inuvik it is far. The Mackenzie River is the longest river in the country. It is important that we have a water board which understands that when the river flows from Yellowknife going to the Arctic that it passes through all the regions of the Mackenzie Valley. Having these boards comply with the land claims decisions, we feel that the boards should be very close to the community and community based.

If we were only going to have one board it would cost much more because travelling from Inuvik to Yellowknife or the opposite costs a lot of money for the citizens.

This will be my last remark before my question. The Reform Party seems to be think this is a mining bill, not a resource management act. All it talks about is mining. However, it is more than a resource management act. The Reformers are asking for just one board, but the reality is that the First Nations, the Gwich'in and Sahtu, have requested their own boards. Does this mean that the Reform Party does not take into consideration the requests of the First Nations of the Mackenzie Valley to have their own planning boards?

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3:50 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, let me tell the member what our real problem is. Our real problem is the level of bureaucracy the government is creating. We do not have much of a problem regarding the intent of the bill. We understand the intent of the bill but we have a problem in the way the government is going about doing it. It is creating another level of bureaucracy. It is fine to say that it has free votes on everything, but why does the federal government have a hand in it by appointing certain members to the board?

We know from past experience that the government is going to appoint to the board some Liberal MP who has been defeated or someone who may not have the proper expertise. Therefore, we definitely have a concern about this.

The member should listen to what the Reform Party has been saying. We have no problem with the intent of the bill. We have a problem with the way the government is going about having the bill implemented and in the way it is set up. That is the problem we have with this bill.

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3:55 p.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to comment on the last two speeches made by the hon. member for Calgary East and the hon. member for Okanagan—Shuswap.

It seems to me that what we need to understand is something which has not been mentioned.

The Mackenzie River Valley is one of the greatest river systems in the world. It ranks up there with the Amazon, with the Nile, with the Mississippi, with the Yangtze Kiang and with others. We could probably put the whole of the maritime provinces into the Mackenzie River Valley and have lots of space left over for some of the huge caribou herds that used to roam there.

My hon. colleagues seem to forget that we are not dealing with tightly knit southern Canada, a fully developed area; we are dealing with thousands of acres, thousands of hectares, and disparate people. Many people still live off the land, they eat food produced on that land and their wish is that the rivers continue to run cleanly and freshly. Their wish is to maintain that land as closely as they can to the way their great spirits left it to them.

I never saw the word mining in the bill when I was studying it. It never came up. If we allow the Chamber of Mines of the GNWT to tell us how to do it there may not be a Mackenzie River Valley worth talking about.

My friends say that there are too many boards. As the parliamentary secretary has already said, the Gwich'in want to have a board. They want to be represented. They want to have control over the large area in which they live. The Sahtu want to have a board. Depending on what agreements are made with the Dene and the Treaty 8 nations and the Deh Cho we might have six more boards. We might have three. We might have one. That is the way things are done. People's responsibility has to be allowed to work.

I would ask my colleagues whether they have considered that the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples spent $6 million over five years, or maybe it was $5 million over six years, to write many pages containing over 400 recommendations dealing with our fiduciary and our constitutional responsibilities to the aboriginal people of this country.

We are not going to solve the problem if we keep looking at this as “this is not quite as efficient as it should be” and “the miners have not got full control” and “development will not occur because the investors will not put money in unless they can control everything” and so on.

Time is running out. We have a report which some of us have studied and done some work on. I said it this morning and I will repeat it now. The report says that the solutions to our problems with respect to the aboriginal people becoming a functioning part of this country—and they were the original inhabitants—are four: recognition, respect, sharing and responsibility.

This Parliament has the total responsibility of seeing that we come to terms with this problem in our Constitution, with these people, who are the original inhabitants of this land.

I have heard nothing more than fine words. I have heard no practical ways to deal with this matter that are not at least suggested in the bill, such as boards that are local.

I want my hon. friend to tell me how things like these little enclaves or masters of their own destiny or an institutionalized welfare state are going to help the situation and how Bill C-6 is not going to help the situation.

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October 28th, 1997 / 4 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

I thank the member for asking the question. We do not have a problem with the Mackenzie Valley. I think the member is right. It is nice clean water and all the rest. The First Nations have every right to take full advantage of it for their prosperity.

We have a problem with the record of this government, the government intervention through this bill, a creation of a level that we feel will not utilize fully the Mackenzie Valley. That is the problem we have and that is why we are saying let us look at it again so that we can clean out the bureaucracy level and make sure that the people of the First Nations take full benefit of the Mackenzie Valley.

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4 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today for my first intervention in this Parliament addressing the House on this very important bill.

I would like to sincerely thank my constituents for once again sending me back to this House to represent them. I pledge to do my very best for them, to do the job that they expect of me.

I begin by reiterating what my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca so eloquently said a few minutes ago about the need for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people to work together in this country. Clearly that should be a very important motivation for all of us for the future.

On the surface this bill seems to work in that direction. It appears that it is going to get aboriginal and non-aboriginal people working together. The reality is that it will not really achieve that because participation on the environmental and resource management boards is specifically tied and allotted to individuals based on membership in either the Gwich'in or Sahtu Dene bands. It is not because they are local to the area. It is not because they have a vested interest in the future of that area. It is because they are members of the Sahtu or the Gwich'in bands that they will receive membership on these boards.

I submit that when we single out groups in our society and assign them special rights based on distinguishing characteristics, we do them a disservice and we denigrate the fundamental principles of democracy. I will argue that undermining democratic principles is always harmful to society and in the instant issue will prove most harmful to those whom we most wish to help, aboriginal people.

Let us examine for a minute a world without democracy to better understand how human circumstances fare in such a world. Let us look at the history of this world going back several hundred years, going back actually more than a millennium where kings and feudal systems and fiefdoms were the order of the day, where there was no democracy.

Under those systems, who had rights? We all know how those rights were determined. Kings had all the power. Kings were not elected. When they came down the birth canal they were already elected to be king. They did not have to run for office. They did not need anybody's consent. They were going to be king or queen, whatever the case might be, because it was their birthright.

Under the kings there were others such as barons, earls and so on who had progressively less power but who were still above the lowly serfs. The serfs comprised the great majority of the population. They were people with absolutely no power, with absolutely no say. They were people who were virtually owned by the king. They were the property of the king. The king could do whatever he wanted with them. He did not need to ask permission. He was an absolute ruler and they were absolute servants to the king.

History evolved, thankfully for us who live in this day and age, with great thinkers like Plato and Aristotle and later Thomas Paine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. They envisioned and refined a new social order, a new social contract which had at its foundation and core the rejection of elite special status in favour of equality of all people under the law.

The emergence of democracy was a very slow and painful process, first experienced in rudimentary forums in ancient Greece. Later the evolution of our modern democracy had its beginning in 1066 with the signing of the Magna Carta, a very important document. This document was hard won and began the slow process of stripping the kings of their immense power and devolving that power to the people.

Through the following nine centuries after the signing of the Magna Carta democracy became much more entrenched in Europe and North America. In fact I would argue that North America and later Canada and the United States became the apogee of democracy owing largely to the fact that the ties to the monarchy were less strong in North America than they were in Great Britain. As a matter of fact, the ties to the monarchy were severed completely by the United States in their War of Independence. Consequently it was very easy for the United States to adopt a truly modern democratic system without any ties to the monarchy whatsoever. North America, Canada and the United States have since become synonymous with democracy.

I would argue that the fundamental reason we as Canadians enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world is not an accident. It is not as a result of the fact that we live in a resource rich country, although it certainly helps. Look at the Soviet Union, a resource rich country. For the most part the people there live in dire circumstances. It is not an accident. Now we see some hopeful signs with the emergence of democracy.

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4:05 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, some hon. members do not make it their duty to be in the House.

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4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

We will do a count.

And the count having been taken: