House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was system.


Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

How much money was collected in each province and territory as a result of federal fuel taxes for each fiscal year from 1993-94 to the present?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby B.C.


Herb Dhaliwal LiberalMinister of National Revenue

Federal taxes are levied at the manufacturing level. The distribution of petroleum products to various provinces and territories occurs after the excise taxes have been levied. Consequently, no figures are available showing excise taxes collected in each province and territory. Moreover, excise tax licensees may report the excise taxes as a consolidated amount for all their Canadian production instead of by province of manufacture or production site. Therefore, Revenue Canada neither requests nor captures excise fuel taxes data by province.

We have, however, included the total excise fuel taxes collected for the fiscal years 1993-94 to 1997-98, broken down by revenue type: petroleum and gas revenue tax; excise tax on motive fuel and gasoline; and excise tax on aviation gas and diesel fuel.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, on March 11, 1998 I placed Question No. Q-84 on the Order Paper, asking how many violent crimes had been investigated by the RCMP and how many had involved the use of registered and unregistered firearms. In accordance with Standing Order 39, I asked for a written answer within 45 days. My constituents have been waiting 231 days.

It is interesting that the commissioner of the RCMP wrote me a letter on July 6 referring to his answer to Question No. Q-84. The RCMP gave its response to the government 114 days ago. When is the government going to give my constituents the RCMP's answer to this important question? Why has this government been sitting on this answer for 114 days?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note the member's concern about Question No. Q-84. Our record in responding to questions is very good. We have already responded to a very high percentage. I assure the member that I will look into the whereabouts of the response to Question No. Q-84.

I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario


Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is that agreed?

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec


Lucienne Robillard Liberalfor the Minister of Justice

moved that Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nunavut Act with respect to the Nunavut Court of Justice and to amend other acts in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to introduce the debate on the motion for second reading of Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nunavut Act with respect to the Nunavut court of justice and to amend other acts in consequence.

Today we stand at the crossroads of a very important time in Canadian history. On April 1, 1999, which is less than six months from now, the new territory of Nunavut will come into existence. The creation of the new territory in the eastern Arctic is a realization of a long held dream of Inuit people. The realization of this dream is one to which we look forward to with great anticipation.

As people of Nunavut we will have our own government and, as a result of Bill C-57, we will have our own unique court system.

I want to emphasize that a new court structure will only become a reality for Nunavut if Bill C-57 is passed by the House by April 1, 1999. I therefore hope that members will give this bill their utmost and urgent attention.

The original Nunavut bill, passed in 1993, contemplated a two-level trial court structure. Members will recall that earlier this spring Bill C-39, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867, included a number of amendments to clarify the operation of the two-level trial court system in Nunavut. This two-level trial court structure is the default option if Bill C-57 is not passed before April 1, 1999.

When Bill C-39 was introduced the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development indicated that a subsequent bill would be introduced later in the year to deal with court structure issues. Bill C-57 is the bill in question. It is the last major piece of legislative structuring which the federal government has undertaken with regard to Nunavut.

Bill C-57 proposes changes to the Nunavut Act and other federal statues, including the Criminal Code, the Judges Act and the Young Offenders Act. Amendments to the Nunavut Act are proposed to ensure that a single level trial court structure established at the superior court level is in place and that transitional cases are adequately dealt with.

The Department of Justice worked closely with government officials in the Northwest Territories, as well as with Nunavut representatives to ensure that the appropriate territorial legislation will be passed before April 1, 1999 to provide for the operation of a single level trial court system in Nunavut.

The Criminal Code amendments make the changes needed to accommodate a single level trial court structure within a criminal justice framework which is premised on two levels of trial court.

Members may ask themselves what precisely is a single level trial court. Let me answer that question as follows. The single level trial court will combine into one court all of the duties, powers and functions performed elsewhere in Canada by two levels of court. For constitutional reasons, the Nunavut court of justice will be established at the superior court level. Its judges will be appointed by the federal government.

For the people of Nunavut it will mean that all criminal, civil and family law matters will be dealt with by one court. That court will be called the Nunavut court of justice.

In addition to creating a new and innovative court system for Nunavut, Bill C-57 is also significant from another perspective. It represents another successful example of co-operative federalism. The development of the legislation in Bill C-57 represents a high degree of co-operation between the federal government, the territorial government of the Northwest Territories and political leaders representing Nunavut. The interim commissioner of Nunavut and the parties to the Nunavut political accord formally asked the Minister of Justice to develop a single level trial court system for Nunavut. Bill C-57 is the result of those efforts.

I am very pleased to say that throughout the process of developing the legislation, officials from the justice department worked very closely with northern leaders and the members of the northern legal community to ensure that the legislation was responsive to the needs of the Nunavut people.

I think it would be helpful for me to indicate some of the particular difficulties with the delivery of justice services identified by the residents of eastern Arctic as a prelude to explaining how the single level court structure is expected to bring improvements.

Those members familiar with the delivery of justice in the eastern Arctic will know that with the exception of Iqaluit, court parties must fly into various communities of the eastern Arctic in order to deal with trial matters.

Currently there are two separate circuits, one for the territorial court and one for the supreme court. Neither of these two courts will hear all matters arising in a particular community.

On average each of the courts visits a particular community only three or four times a year. As a result there can be significant delays between the laying of a charge and the final determination of guilt or innocence, or in family law matters, resolution of custody issues for example. This can have a devastating effect on the parties and can lead to division within the community until the matter is resolved. I can give some examples of what we have to go through with these court procedures.

Currently a court party will fly into a community. The lawyer arrives on the same plane with the court party. In some cases the accused spends 15 minutes with the lawyer before the case is heard, because the lawyer has just arrived in that community. The accused has 15 minutes to talk with the lawyer. The future of the accused is to be determined in that little time.

There are also suicides directly related to people waiting for the dates of their court cases. I personally know of a young family where the husband took his life, leaving a wife and two children, because of the stress involved with waiting for a court case to come around.

The long waits between cases is just not healthy for anyone. All the communities are small and the accused and the victim have to live in the same community. Consequently they have to see each other in the store and the community hall. They are forced to live near each other which is very stressful for both.

There is also a strong desire in the north for more matters to be diverted from the formal justice system, or in criminal matters if charges are laid, to have the court cases heard by local justices of the peace. Having matters dealt with in the community rather than by the circuit court enhances access to justice by removing time and distance barriers between the parties involved and the decision maker. This would help address those situations which I just gave examples of.

The single level trial court structure has been designed with the expectation that with proper training a local justice of the peace will be able to conduct uncomplicated preliminary inquiries and summary conviction trials.

I would like to give another example. The people of Nunavut are already preparing for this. I recently attended a justice retreat in Rankin Inlet that identified priorities to be pursued. Training of justices of the peace was a very crucial priority. They are capable and will be more capable after the training they receive.

I would now like to describe in more detail some of the main features of the single level trial court. They are expected to enhance both the accessibility and efficiency of the justice system in the eastern Arctic.

Bill C-57 makes changes to the Nunavut Act which will establish one trial court for Nunavut at the superior court level. Whereas superior court judges currently fly in to the eastern Arctic from the western Arctic, changes to the Judges Act will provide for up to three full time superior court judge residents in Nunavut.

The Nunavut Act and the Criminal Code will clearly provide that judges of the Nunavut court of justice will be superior court judges in all respects and will have all the inherent and statutory powers of the superior court judges.

The Criminal Code will expressly give the judges of the Nunavut court of justice all the powers to deal with all criminal matters, even those normally performed elsewhere in Canada by officials or judges who are not superior court judges. Amendments to the Criminal Code will make clear, however, that when judges perform these duties or functions, they do not lose their status as superior court judges.

The practical benefit of this measure to the people of Nunavut will be that a single judge of the Nunavut court of justice will be able to deal with all matters on the court docket when he or she holds court in a particular community. It is anticipated that delay in the resolution of matters will be reduced and improvements in the efficiency of the court system will be achieved.

Justices of the peace will continue to do most of the pretrial matters. With the appropriate training they are expected to gradually assume more responsibility for conducting some preliminary inquiries and minor criminal trials.

At the present time the Alberta Court of Appeal serves as the core of the court of appeal for the Northwest Territories. This arrangement has worked very well. I am grateful that the judges of the Alberta Court of Appeal have agreed to continue their excellent work and their dedicated efforts in Nunavut.

Because of the need to assess the workload of the court of appeal in Nunavut sometime after the territory is established, we have decided that the Alberta Court of Appeal will act as the core of the court of appeal for Nunavut. I expect that it will be assisted in its workload by resident northern superior court judges sitting as judges of the court of appeal. When the Nunavut government is in a position to do so, it may wish to consider other models for its court of appeal.

The amendments in Bill C-57 relating to the summary conviction appeals reflect the fact that the trial function performed by two levels of court elsewhere in Canada will be combined into one court in Nunavut. In order to retain substantially equivalent rights of appeal, it was necessary to create an intermediate level of appeal.

Where the Nunavut court of justice conducts a trial in respect of a summary conviction matter, an appeal will lie to a single judge of the court of appeal of Nunavut on the same grounds that apply in all summary conviction matters elsewhere in Canada. Appeals in respect of indictable matters will remain unchanged.

The policy behind the appeal structure regarding summary conviction appeals is to provide parties in Nunavut with substantive and procedural rights equivalent to those available to other parties elsewhere in Canada. It might be argued that this approach undermines the status of judges of the Nunavut court of justice as superior court judges. I think it is more important to characterize this feature as a necessary choice resulting from a desire to protect the rights of parties before the court within a Criminal Code structure that is designed for a two level rather than a single level trial court.

Just as in the case of all other jurisdictions in Canada, a secondary level of appeal on much more restricted grounds will be available to a three person panel of the court of appeal.

Bill C-57 will provide that decisions in summary conviction trials conducted in the community before a justice of the peace can be appealed to a judge of the Nunavut court of justice and then on further appeal to a three person panel of the court of appeal.

In addition to appeal rights, a statutory review measure has been designed to serve as a faster, interim, error correcting mechanism with respect to key decisions which may be made by judges of the Nunavut court of justice. I must again emphasize that in formulating this statutory form of review, our goal has been to provide substantially the same kind of relief that is available to parties to criminal proceedings elsewhere in Canada through prerogative writ review.

Bill C-57 will provide a new form of statutory review that is limited in scope to key decision points in the criminal justice process where an expeditious form of review is essential. The review will lie to a single judge of the court of appeal of Nunavut.

Prerogative writ review as embodied in the Criminal Code and in the common law will continue to apply to the decisions of justices of the peace and other inferior officials in Nunavut.

Changes to the Young Offenders Act made in Bill C-57 are not of a policy nature but are restricted to those which are necessary to accommodate the operation of a single level trial court in Nunavut.

For example, Bill C-57 makes changes to the Young Offenders Act to provide an appeal scheme which parallels that available for adults in Nunavut. This is in respect of the summary conviction matters heard by the Nunavut court of justice sitting as a youth court. As in the adult system, these appeals will be heard by a single judge of the court of appeal for Nunavut with a secondary right of appeal on more restricted grounds to a three person panel of the court of appeal for Nunavut.

Bill C-57 also adapts the elections provisions in the Young Offenders Act to reflect the fact that for murder trials held in youth court in Nunavut, the choice for youth will be the Nunavut court of justice sitting as a youth court either alone or with a jury.

Amendments to the Judges Act will provide for three superior court judges on the Nunavut court of justice all of whom will be resident in Nunavut. Bill C-57 will also amend the Judges Act to provide for full membership in the Canadian Judicial Council for the senior judge of each of the three territories.

At this point I should add that Bill C-57 also makes various consequential amendments to three other federal statutes to ensure that they accommodate a single level trial court structure in Nunavut. In many instances these changes amount to simply changing the name of the relevant court or judge in definition sections of the act.

I am very pleased to be able to say that the amendments in Bill C-57 to establish a single level trial court structure for Nunavut are entirely consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Establishing the Nunavut court of justice reflects the longstanding desire of the people and leaders of Nunavut to create a new institution which is more suited to our unique traditions, culture and needs.

This court reform reflects the desire of the Nunavut people to have an accessible and integrated justice system.

The Nunavut court of justice will have the authority to hear all criminal, civil and family matters. It is expected to work in harmony with justices of the peace who will have an important and perhaps growing role in providing speedy and culturally sensitive responses to crime.

The government's response to the recommendations of the royal commission on aboriginal people called for a new partnership with aboriginal people. The consultative manner in which the single level trial court structure was designed is an example of such a partnership.

I am confident that the future direction in justice reform in Nunavut will evolve in the continued spirit of this equal partnership and will become increasingly responsive to the unique needs of this new territory.

I call on all members in the House to support Bill C-57 to establish this very innovative court structure for the new territory of Nunavut. It would also help if the justice committee could have the hearings in my riding so it can hear directly from the people and see the beautiful riding of Nunavut.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


John Reynolds Reform West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by the member for Nunavut. I know the comments about the beauty of the riding are very accurate, as I have been there.

The member started off by saying the bill must be passed by April 1, 1999. I can assure the member that we are not going to do much on this side of the House to speed up any dates but the member's government brings in closure so often it will make sure it gets whatever it wants by that date.

This takes me back to when this legislation first came to this House in 1993 at the end of the time of the previous Tory government. The member for Edmonton North will recall it very well because she was in the House at that time, a lone Reformer, and tried to stop the bill at that time because she wanted to have a look at it.

The bill was nearly 300 pages and parliamentarians had one week to look at the bill. The member for Edmonton North who was back in the corner kept yelling no to unanimous consent but was ignored by the Chair and was told later on she was not a party so it did not matter anyway. That bill was railroaded through the House. I think it was a sad day for democracy in the way it was handled by that government in 1993.

I was reminded of this when the member talked about having this bill by April 1 of next year. The member does not have to worry because her government will do what it has to do to get this legislation through.

I congratulate also the local officials in Nunavut. They have done a great job in getting this government to put up a lot of money. I look at this bill and three superior court judges for the Nunavut court of justice. As the member says, it creates a single level trial court system.

Why is this different from the rest of Canada? The rest of Canada has a different system. Why are we giving a part of our country a different system of justice?

People might say it is the Northwest Territories. It is a big area. It is widespread. I remind people that other provinces, Quebec and British Columbia to name just two, have asked for changes to our constitution. These provinces do not get these changes.

What this government is doing with this legislation is creating another province. It is still called a territory but this government has given it all the powers of a province. This government knows it could not have passed it if it tried to get it through as a province because it needs the agreement of seven provinces.

What really disturbs me is when we have special treatment for one area of Canada, an area with 26,000 people, a long way from Ottawa. We have a lot of people in British Columbia a long way from Ottawa and a long way from parts of civilization.

The bill talks about 26,000 people and 350,000 square kilometres. That is a large area. I wonder how many people in the House know that the four northern ridings in British Columbia are double that size, 700,000 square kilometres. The Skeena riding is 244,569 square kilometres itself. It is two-thirds the size. The Prince George—Peace River riding is 217,188 square kilometres. Caribou—Chilcotin is 120,000 square kilometres. Prince George—Bulkley Valley is 100,000 square kilometres. Those people would like the same things that are happening there.

Go to the north of British Columbia. People have to go all the way to Vancouver to go to court. There are the same concerns that member had. “I saw my lawyer only for a few minutes. I need more time”. Why are we allowing this area of the country to get special treatment? We should use the same law system we have for the rest of Canada. There should be not difference just because it is in the far north of Canada.

The federally appointed judges are going to make $180,000 a year. The releases from the government showed a much lower figure but did not include the raises these judges are going to get. It also includes expenses which I will go into in a minute. They are all appointed at the federal level. That is a scary thought in itself. There is no input at the local level.

Do we need this kind of expensive court? There will be three judges at $180,000 a year plus their expenses. They will get up to $300,000 or $400,000 each to operate. It will be well over a $1 million. There will be three expensive supreme court judges who will sit on cases like dog-napping. That is not what we need in this country. It is not good legislation.

There are many questions we want to ask about those areas when we get into committee. I am looking forward to getting this bill into committee so we can some answers as to why the government made some of these decisions.

The legislation calls for one senior judge and two other judges. As I said earlier, the salaries are very misleading. They do not take into case the new salary increases and also further increases. They will also receive an unaccountable yearly allowance of $6,000. They also get their regular expenses. The senior judge from the court of the Yukon territory, the senior judge from the court of the Northwest Territories and the senior judge from the Nunavut court of justice will each receive an additional $5,000 per year. That is $11,000 per year in unaccountable expenses. That brings the cost of the senior judge to close to $200,000. It seems that is an awful lot of money to have a judge for a territory that has 26,000 people and will have a workload that is nowhere near the workload we have in large cities like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. I know the workload those judges have.

I know in the north they have to travel. But we also have that in the rest of Canada. We cannot get to Atlin, B.C. from British Columbia. We have to fly in from Yukon or Alaska. They are not alone in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut in having these problems. We have them in British Columbia. We have them other parts of Canada like northern Quebec. Yet we have not made special cases and set up a separate law system to satisfy those needs let alone given these provinces what they have asked for in changes to the Constitution. That seems rather strange to me.

Quebec and British Columbia have had a lot of complaints about how the federal government runs things. We represent a major portion of Canada yet we have not been able to convince this government to do any where near what it is doing for a territory with 26,000 people.

I am sure my constituents have some sympathy for the fact that areas in the north have big territories. But they would wonder why we have one member of parliament from Nunavut representing 26,000 people. Four members of parliament from British Columbia represent an area of 700,000 square kilometres. There are four million people in British Columbia. It is not fair. This is not one person equal representation. We have gone out of our way to set things aside.

I understand that some of the things are fair. They need to happen because of where it is.

This is going a little overboard setting up a separate and very expensive justice system and an unneeded justice system. There are probably better ways of doing this. In New Zealand, for instance, appointed people work at the local level with not only the victims but with the criminals for the good of the community concerning small and non-violent crimes.

We certainly do not need three $200,000 a year judges to be looking into this type of thing in Canada.

The budget for this is going to come out of the yearly allocated budget for Nunavut's implementation which is $32 million. This is not a small amount of money. This account is to run until the year 2008, at a total estimated operating cost of $520 million. That is roughly $20,000 for every man, woman and child there.

I wonder who has made those decisions. Were those decisions thought out back in 1993 when this bill was railroaded through this House?

There is another account for advising on the creation of Nunavut to the Nunavut implementation commission. This account is set at $2.3 million for 1997-98 up from $1.9 million last year. I wonder how high that is going to go up every year. When do all these costs stop? When does somebody stand on his or her own two feet and continue operating on without taking from the rest of Canada?

Land claims are one thing but creating a new province or territory is another. When this legislation was presented they should have gone all the way and said that if they were going to do it they should make it a province, as we should make the Northwest Territories and Yukon a province. Let it go before the people of Canada, according to our Constitution, where all the provinces get a vote on it, and let us solve the issue once and for all instead of going through these expensive processes which also create problems in other parts of Canada.

I am sure the member from that area likes what has happened. I am sure I also would if I were their member of parliament also. However, it gets more difficult to explain to other Canadians who are paying the tax bills when they see the cost per person of doing what we are doing and the continuing costs and where they are going to end.

I also suspect, and it is so obvious because we see it happen so often in this House, that when one bill comes in one has to wonder how many bills are down the road because the first bill was not done properly.

If this bill had been thought out properly in 1993 we would not have it now being rushed through the House, being given one week to look at a major change to our country and then to have closure brought in. They now call it time allocation but I was around when they did not use that term. Just the word closure meant something. Only if debates were taking a really long time, maybe a month or two, would the government bring in closure. Today this government brings it in regularly to run the House of Commons.

I can go back and quote many times when the government House leader on the other side yelled and screamed in this House when he was in opposition and the Tory government was bringing in closure. They are the ones who changed this rule. It was a sad day for Canada when they did it. Debates used to take place in the House of Commons, every member had an opportunity to speak on every bill and the speeches were longer. Some people might have thought it was a waste of time but democracy is not a waste of time. It may be inconvenient to the government of the day but it is not a waste of time.

That is why this bill is not one that we can say it is just a very simple thing adding on to a major bill that passed in this House. We accept the fact that it passed. The one member from the Reform Party who was here at that time voted against it. We can tell it was wrong when it was done because now we have this legislation coming along. The government even says there might be even more bills coming out of the enabling variety which will be very expensive to the people of Canada. That is what concerns my party and that is why we cannot support this bill in its present stage.

When this bill gets to committee we will have a lot of questions that we know the people of Canada would like answered. We hope the government will be prepared to answer those questions at committee. We hope government members will be able to tell us why they can do that in this part of Canada when they cannot do things in other parts of Canada. I am sure a lot of my colleagues over the next few days in this debate will be asking those questions.

When we get into the part of the debate where members can ask questions, we will have some questions for the government members. We hope that they will have some good answers to those questions. We will work with them in committee to make the changes that are necessary so the people of Canada can better understand why one part of Canada has an act in the justice system that is not an act in any other part of Canada.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for the Bloc Quebecois, I am pleased to rise today and speak to Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nunavut Act with respect to the Nunavut Court of Justice and to amend other Acts in consequence.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Criminal Code so that it reflects the realities of the new territory of Nunavut and to make it possible to establish an operational government before April 1, 1999, the territory's official launch date.

Bill C-57 is part of the process that began in 1992 with the territorial land agreement setting out the legal and political framework of the new territory of Nunavut. Approved in June 1993, the creation of Nunavut is a result of passage of Bill C-39, which we debated in the House last year and which provides for the holding of a legislative election, while facilitating the transition and legitimizing the process.

The bill before us this afternoon is part of this ongoing process. It is the last building block, as it were, in the political and legal structure that will allow the inhabitants of this territory to at last be ready for April 1999 and the challenges then to follow.

I can only express my satisfaction that legislation is being introduced in order to give the inhabitants of Nunavut all the political, and more particularly in the case before us today, all the legislative instruments they will need.

This will enable them to have a court that meets their needs and that is closer to them. We know that the establishment of institutions of law is vital to government autonomy. Bill C-57 will permit this to happen.

Everything indicates that the creation of Nunavut set for April 1, 1999 is well on its way. I recall that Bill C-39 on Nunavut and the Constitution Act of 1867 passed at third reading in June, changes the map of Canada's north with the creation of this immense territory.

Since Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, Canada's borders have not been changed. This indicates clearly just what a historic moment the creation of Nunavut represents and also explains the importance of its creation to the people living there.

The Northwest Territories will therefore, with the creation of this territory, be divided into two separate entities. Nunavut includes the lands in the centre and east of the Northwest Territories, above the 60th parallel. It therefore covers some 2 million square kilometres, one fifth of Canada's land mass.

This immense territory is divided into three regions and includes 28 communities. The most southeasterly point of Nunavut meets northern Labrador. Nunavut is also bordered by water. Its most northerly part touches the shores of the Arctic Ocean. On the east, Baffin Bay divides Nunavut. In the south, Nunavut joins the waters of Hudson's Bay and Ungava Bay.

Eighty per cent of the population of Nunavut is Inuit, that is, some 17,500 persons of the 22,000 total population. So the Inuit are in the majority. In fact, the word Nunavut means our land in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit.

Before I go any further, I want to say that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the principle of Bill C-57, which takes thousands of aboriginal people one step closer to strong, viable self-government. To put this bill into perspective, let me outline a number of element of Bill C-39 passed last year.

Bill C-39 enables the Inuit in the Nunavut to administer 1,9 million kilometres of their land through a legislative assembly elected by universal suffrage. It amends the Nunavut Act passed by Parliament in 1993. It provides for a transition period and for the powers of the federal and territorial governments to be devolved to the Nunavut territorial government.

This legislation provides, by amending the Constitutional Act, 1867, that the people of this territory will be represented in the House of Commons and the Senate. The primary purpose of Bill C-39 was to allow elections to be held so that the Nunavut Legislative Assembly would be established before April 1, 1999, so that representatives of the Inuit of Nunavut could to serve their constituents in an operational legislature when their territory was officially created.

In addition, Bill C-39 amends the Constitutional Act, 1867, to ensure Nunavut is represented in the House of Commons and the Senate, as are the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. It also authorises the transfer of governmental services from the Northwest Territories and Ottawa to Nunavut during the transition period.

The transfer of services and programs in culture, health and public housing should be completed by the year 2009. As members can imagine, much work has to be done by April 1, 1999. That is why I am pleased to notice that Bill C-57 is the final element in the legal and administrative component of the establishment of the Inuit territory of Nunavut.

A brief reminder before getting into Bill C-57: the Bloc Quebecois did not oppose Bill C-39. In fact, we voted for this bill, which was the outcome of years of negotiations in which the organization representing the Inuit of Canada, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, took part. This organization has been involved in the negotiation process since the 1970s.

I would point out that it took two referendums—in 1982 and in 1992—to establish the boundaries of the territory and for all to agree on them. The Bloc Quebecois did not oppose legislation that gives substance to over 25 years of negotiation and that permits the Inuit, one of Canada's great peoples, to assume its rightful place on this continent and to take its destiny in hand. In becoming masters of their own house, the Inuit will have all the political, economic and legal tools they need to grow and govern themselves.

In June, my colleague, the Bloc Quebecois critic on native affairs said in this House “Thanks to Bill C-39, the Inuit will be in control and they will have all the necessary economic, political, social and cultural levers to look after their development and government on their own. This way, they will be able to act in their own best interest, for the good of their community, ensuring the harmonious development of their territory”. I support and share these remarks.

We did however raise a cautionary note in June, that of Nunavut representation in the Senate. The Bloc Quebecois has nothing against that fact that the Inuit want representation. However, in the preceding parliament, we in the Bloc took steps to abolish this outdated and ineffective institution known as the Senate. It is needlessly costly to Quebeckers and Canadians. It is archaic. The Senate functions thanks to political paybacks. Political appointments take away all the credibility and objectivity need in the processes of legislating and sanctioning legislation. This objectivity is vital. However, despite these reservations, we proposed no amendment, unlike the Reformers, who tried to get a Senate reform through an amendment to this bill.

I might mention another point we raised last year, which continues to concern me. It involves the coastal islands in James Bay, at the southern end of Hudson's Bay and north of Nunavik, Quebec. Since 1977, the James Bay Cree and the Nunavik Inuit have been wanting to negotiate with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada the recognition of their rights over the waters, the surrounding ice and resources.

Negotiations were broken off in 1977. It appears this was because of a dispute concerning compensation and the status of the regions. With the creation of Nunavut in the works, the Crees and Inuit of northern Quebec would like to resume their dialogue with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

The September 24 announcement by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs that a chief federal negotiator had been appointed to deal with the offshore claims of the Grand Council of the Crees of Quebec is a good sign. Let us hope that negotiations will indeed resume and that, this time, they will lead to constructive decisions.

Representatives of the Grand Council of the Crees of Quebec appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development last spring, during consideration of the Nunavut bill. They expressed their concerns regarding this bill, as it affected their own claims.

Although they say they support the creation of Nunavut, they would like the Indian Affairs minister to demonstrate a serious commitment to the resumption of negotiations designed to recognize their rights within the boundaries of the new territory.

I therefore hope that this appointment represents a clear undertaking by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and her officials to negotiate with the Crees of Quebec.

Let us now return more specifically to Bill C-57. In order to be ready by April 1999, Nunavut must have at its disposal all the necessary legislative instruments now. This is what Bill C-57 is all about.

The transfer of certain jurisdictions of territorial and federal governments to Nunavut is not a simple matter. This transfer is nonetheless vital and responds to the needs of the far north.

Indeed, Bill C-57 responds to a request made to the Minister of Justice by those who worked to ensure self-government, with the support of Inuit organizations in Nunavut. The bill establishes a single-level trial court system for the territory of Nunavut.

This tribunal, to be known as the Nunavut Court of Justice, is created to provide an efficient and accessible court structure capable of responding to the unique needs of Nunavut while, at the same time, maintaining rights equivalent to those enjoyed elsewhere in Canada.

So, we will have the Nunavut Court of Justice in the new Nunavut territory. This tribunal will replace the existing Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories as the superior court, and the territorial court as the lower court. Bill C-57 amends once again the Nunavut Act, which was passed in 1993, under the Progressive Conservative government.

The bill also amends the Judges Act to provide for three superior court judges on the Nunavut Court of Justice and also to provide for full membership in the Canadian Judicial Council for the senior judge of each of the territories.

Indeed, given the expanded jurisdiction of that tribunal, it is important to make sure that the judges will be competent to hear cases from the lower and superior courts, with the exception of those cases that come under the jurisdiction of specialized and administrative tribunals.

The bill also amends the Criminal Code to provide for new structures and procedures for the Nunavut Court of Justice in the following areas: jurisdiction of the judges; summary conviction appeals; a new statutory form of review; judicial interim release; and elections as to mode of trial.

Bill C-57 also amends the Young Offenders Act to ensure adequate structures and procedures for a single-level trial court, consistent with those in the Criminal Code and with various other federal statutes.

The creation of this court of justice will ensure a flexible and efficient legal process for the whole territory of Nunavut. By making the court competent to hear any case, whether it involves a minor wrongdoing or a serious criminal offence, we give the people of the territory access to a service that is more consistent with its reality.

From now on, when a judge travels to some small community in Nunavut, he will have broader powers. It must be understood that the multiplicity of jurisdictions, in other words a multi-faceted court system, useful in high density urban centres, is not necessarily useful in the proper administration of justice in a territory such as Nunavut.

This is why legislation must be passed on this issue and to permit the necessary changes to be made to the various laws that, up to now, have granted various jurisdictions authority to hear various cases. Bill C-57 provides the changes needed for the establishment and operation of this court of justice.

The structure of the court reflects the peculiarities of the eastern Arctic. The judges of the Nunavut Court of Justice will therefore be able to hear all criminal, family and civil cases. In other words, this new court structure is simpler and better suits the needs of the people of the new territory.

In closing, I would like to add that we will, in the coming weeks, study in greater depth this bill, which appeared suddenly on the legislative menu. A meeting with the officials of the Department of Justice would be most appreciated once we have started the process of examining the bill. It would enable us to better target the issues in this legislation and the many implications for existing legislation.

We would be further enlightened by meetings with the principle stakeholders. The law establishing Nunavut and subsequent legislation permitting good political, administrative and legal management of the territory, are the product of 25 years of effort and struggle by the Inuit to regain control over their land.

We can only praise these efforts, and like my colleague who is the Bloc Quebecois critic in this area, I wish them success in meeting the challenges that they will face.

In conclusion, I repeat that we support this bill and that we will continue to support the principle of action that, like Bill C-57, enables peoples to acquire what they need to enable their identity to grow to its fullest.

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4:20 p.m.


Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the first thing I saw about Bill C-57 was the newspaper headline “Nunavut gets unique court system, single level of justice seen as ideal for the vast territories”.

This is important because it is true and it sets an incredibly high standard for the north. The Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories are going to want to match this standard of justice. Where Nunavut goes, the others are sure to follow.

In speaking of the high standard, Nunavut is really to be envied. It is a territory that is able to start from scratch. It is creating a justice system that is going to suit the people, that is going to be accountable to them, that is going to respond to them. Because Nunavut has an official language, a First Nations language, the court will now have to respond to people in their own language.

Justice is an expression of our sovereignty. Even though there are only 26,000 people in Nunavut, only so many people in the Northwest Territories and only so many people in Yukon, does that mean they are not entitled to justice? Does it mean that because it costs too much we cannot have justice? Does it mean we can only have a court once a year because we are just too far away, or do we just scoop everyone up and send them somewhere else to have justice administered to them?

This bill is important because it is very clear in the parameters of what our country is and should be. Even if a person lives in some nook, cranny or frozen place, justice belongs to them as it does to everyone else in this country.

In the north, justice is often like a big woolly mammoth that has come trundling into town trampling all over everything. It leaves behind this big mess and a community in disarray. People from that community are sent off to a federal penitentiary thousands of miles away. If they have to serve anything more than two years less a day, they are out of their territory. There is no community support. It is absolutely devastating to try to reintegrate back into the community after that time. The Judges Act will deal in part with some of those issues because it would bring justice closer to the people of the north.

I recently held a town hall in the north on justice issues and the discussion paper the justice minister put out on the defences of provocation, self-defence and defence of property. People did not necessarily want to talk about just those issues. They wanted to discuss the broader topic of justice and how people felt so alienated from it, that justice did not belong to them. The legal system really has nothing to do with anybody. This justice system and the single level of court will allow people to feel a part of a justice system.

People in the north have always been pushing for change to make a more accountable system, something that does not just put people away without any recourse. In fact they have been pioneers in community justice in developing circle sentencing. I sat in on one of the first circle sentencings and others in subsequent years.

Circle sentencing is not an easy or a light process. It demands an incredible amount of dedication from the communities involved. We can compare it to putting someone in custody where usually two or three shifts of people, including cooks and cleaners, look after those in custody. In circle sentencing, if one person agrees to look after someone who has been sentenced, it means they have only the resources of themselves and the community to keep an eye on and to help encourage and push that person toward a better way of life. It is a huge undertaking. Any community or individual that is willing to go through circle sentencing deserves a lot of recognition for the work they do.

When it comes to justice for First Nations people, and there are a lot of First Nations people in the north, everyone knows they are poor. They live in third world conditions. They fill most of the prisons across this country and are overrepresented. Their cultures are not taken into account. Their social condition is reprehensible. It is not right to send everybody off to federal penitentiaries.

Jumping to the meat and bones of the bill, it creates a single level court system for the territory. It will maintain the substantive and procedural rights equivalent to those enjoyed elsewhere in Canada.

A single level court system may not have too much meaning for those who have not been involved in justice in the territories. Generally there is the federal level. A crown prosecutor is appointed and an accused may go in front of this judge or may wait until a particular level of court is available to hear the accused. The federal appointment comes from Ottawa. Therefore, it is not necessary that they respond to the community they serve because it is not their boss by any stretch of the imagination. This certainly makes them less responsive to community demands.

The single level trial system will have regular and more frequent resolution of cases. This is critical in small northern communities as the isolation can be quite unbearable.

The bill amends the Criminal Code to provide for new structures and procedures for the Nunavut court of justice in the following areas: the jurisdiction of judges; the summary conviction appeals; a new statutory form of review; judicial interim release; and elections as to mode of trial. Again one of the official languages is First Nations and so the court will have to respond to that as well. The legislation has some unique parts. I will read amended subsection 35(1) of the Nunavut Act:

A judge of the Nunavut Court of Justice has and may exercise and perform, anywhere in Canada, all the powers, duties and functions of the Court with respect to any criminal offence committed or charged to have been committed in Nunavut.

I have one main reservation with this bill which concerns the appointment of judges. There is no screening process in parliament for federal judge appointments. Candidates do not come before the parliamentary committees for justice or aboriginal affairs. We cannot expect the same level of responsiveness and accountability that would be there if the territory itself were nominating and screening the judges they want for their courts. That is a big concern because it echoes what is going on here already. That is one thing we should not carry forward in creating the new system.

The NDP will be supporting this bill, with some reservations. I look forward to considering it in committee.

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4:30 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I found that statement extremely interesting. It had a lot of compassion. I certainly support it. The need for justice to be delivered in Canada or anywhere else is very important. I appreciate very much the hon. member's plea to have justice given to these people. I could not agree more. There should be just sentencing that should take into account all of the things that matter. It should be as close to the people as possible. It should be swift. Those are all extremely useful kinds of situations.

I also share the member's reservations about the appointment of judges.

However, why would we support a different kind of justice structure? I support the principles the hon. member supports, but why would we have a different system? Why would she support a different system for one part of Canada, a system that does not exist in other parts of Canada? Is there a particular reason that justice in the Nunavut territory should be administered differently than it is administered in other parts of Canada? I fail to see it. It seems that by definition justice has some kind of standard component. Justice, after all, is justice. We want to be treated fairly and equally before the law. Why should we have a different system in one part of Canada than we have in another?

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4:30 p.m.


Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, according to my way of thinking, justice is responsive to those who it serves. That does not mean the laws change, it just means that the way we handle the situation changes. Because the justice system is not working in the rest of Canada does not mean that Nunavut should not take the step to make its justice system work for it by having the courts there more regularly.

Those who live in a large centre have a court. They know they will be able to access that court, but that is not the case for people living in the north. They have to wait until the circuit comes to them. This sort of nomadic court system is a strain on those people who always have to be travelling, but they are willing to undertake that to make sure justice is swift and accessible—

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4:30 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

But that is not what we are talking about. We are taking about a single level of courts here.

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4:30 p.m.


Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

That is important. That is a good change. That is what they need, that is what they want and that is what they have defined.

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4:30 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Why should they do that? That is the question.

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4:30 p.m.


Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

One reason is that there will be less cost because there will only be one level of judges to pay. Nunavut will not be paying at the federal and territorial levels, but only at one level. There will only be one circuit, not two or three. It will go to the same community, but will deal with different issues.

I believe justice should be able to move forward and change. Laws should be alive. They should not be dead issues. If they were we would have a very hard time when a decision came out the other end because it would be so upsetting and we would not know how it happened. If we as citizens were involved with our justice system, then we would not be shocked at discrepancies in sentencing.

Who is this judge coming to my community? They have no idea who they are.

This bring justice closer to the people. It is a good and important change.

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4:35 p.m.


Reed Elley Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comment of my hon. colleague, saying that she feels justice should be responsive. I certainly agree with that.

What we are trying to get at is the question of equality, not only equality before the law, but equality of access to services right across the country.

Would my colleague be in favour of us taking a look at this kind of system working in the vast territories of northern B.C. where there are huge areas that are even larger than Nunavut? The same kinds of problems and the same kinds of concerns are faced by people in northern B.C. as in Nunavut about getting access to the legal system and having to travel long distances.

Sometimes concerns are generated by the people of northern B.C. native communities who have to go all the way to Vancouver for trials and that sort of thing. Would the member be open to seeing something like this work in northern B.C.?

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4:35 p.m.


Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. It should be extended. For example Atlin, B.C. is barely 100 miles from Whitehorse, Yukon. It would make sense for those people to be able to access a justice system very close to them because that is where they travel to buy their groceries.

We could look at a whole system for remote areas of the country.

Bill C-57 could set the precedent. If people in Nunavut have it, do not other people in Canada deserve as much?

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4:35 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member for Yukon and my colleague in that people living in remote areas should be as close to the justice system as possible. I believe that we owe that to the people in the remote areas of Canada.

But I have a concern. Was the hon. member thinking that maybe decisions by the judges would be different in remote areas than they would be if the committing of a crime was 200 miles south? Is there a difference in the interpretation and in the punitive measures? Is that what the member meant? If not, then just count me wrong on that, but I kind of got that impression from what she was saying.

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4:35 p.m.


Louise Hardy NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, no, that is not what I meant. The laws of Canada are the laws of the territories. It is just the method of making the courts and justice accessible.

A lot of work is being done in the areas of circle sentencing and community justice initiatives. That outcome might be different and I would hope we would move to more changes that way.

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4:35 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is something that gives me great concern. Perhaps the hon. member, being from the territory, might have the answer because there are more horrors coming out of this bill every time I take a quick look at it.

Right now in any province if a person commits a relatively minor offence they are convicted and if they appeal the decision it will go to the provincial appeals court. In the Northwest Territories right now it is appealed to the provincial appeals court of Alberta. However, under this proposed legislation persons will be convicted by a federal court judge.

I would like to know what the appeal process is for that. Because a person has been convicted by a federal court judge, will that person be required to appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada? If that is so, the cost would be horrendous and I would suggest that the Supreme Court of Canada would refuse to hear appeals on dog-napping and relatively minor offences, as well it should. But that means that the people of Nunavut will lose their right of appeal. They are not going to have the same access to justice as someone from the Northwest Territories, from Yukon or from the provinces of Canada.