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House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, as an associate member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs for the Bloc Quebecois, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-49 and to share my comments.

The aim of this bill is to ratify and implement a framework agreement signed on February 12, 1996 by a group of first nations and the federal government. This agreement concerns the management of first nations' lands and is intended to enable them to establish their own land code to manage the lands and resources.

This agreement is necessary to permit the first nations that are party to the agreement to withdraw from the application of the sections of the Indian Act governing the management of lands.

First nations and governments all agree that the Indian Act gives the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development discretionary power. It also gives public servants too much leeway, thus preventing aboriginals from exercising direct control over the management of the lands within their reserves. It is in order to rectify this situation that a bill to ratify the framework agreement was introduced.

We tried to introduce legislation addressing this issue in the previous Parliament. Bill C-75, as it was then called, was passed at second reading, but the process came to an abrupt end when Parliament was dissolved. Last year, my party pushed to have this bill put back on the agenda. It was introduced in its new form as Bill C-49. I am pleased that we are prepared to go ahead with second reading today.

It is vital that the signatories to the agreement be given the tools they need for their cultural and economic development. This bill recognizes the fundamental right of 14 first nations to manage their lands and their resources and constitutes another important element in their self-government.

The first nations are also glad to have the opportunity to exercise greater control over the lands and resources within their respective reserves and say that these changes will enable them to react more rapidly to opportunities for stimulating their economy. Control of the decision-making process will therefore enable them to improve management of reserves. In other words, we feel that Bill C-49 is essential and very consistent with the recommendations for self-government made by the royal commission on aboriginal peoples and self-government.

Furthermore, several native leaders have supported the bill and indicated that they are in favour of its speedy passage through the House. Being of the same opinion and wanting to see first nations exempted from the sections of the Indian Act concerning land management, the Bloc Quebecois and myself therefore support Bill C-49 in principle.

Second reading of this bill nonetheless provides me with an opportunity to address certain aspects that we feel pose problems. We are worried about one aspect in particular, and it concerns protection of aboriginal women.

Naturally we support the principle of giving back to first nations control over the management of lands that until now have been under federal jurisdiction and governed by sections of the Indian Act. It is essential that first nations be able to manage the lands and natural resources within their reserves themselves. The requirement for a community process to establish land codes is also an important and promising one.

The bill provides that rules on use, possession and occupation of lands will be arrived at through a community consultation process. In theory, all the members of a first nation living on or off reserve will be able to take part in the decision-making process through this community mechanism. However, certain groups of aboriginal women are opposed to Bill C-49, saying that it would be disastrous for them. Their fears have to do with the bill's wording with respect to the division of interests in cases of breakdown of marriage.

They say that the clauses on this issue do not protect them at all, that the framework agreement contains no provision on the division of property in the case of separation, apart from the community consultation process mentioned in clauses 6 and 17.

The British Columbia Native Women's Society is lobbying vigorously to show the weaknesses of the bill in the area of the division of marriage property. They criticize the government for not having done its homework in this matter, despite the gross injustices criticized more than 12 years ago.

They add that no effort has been made to resolve the problem even after the establishment of the charter of rights and freedoms to ensure equality for all. This is why last year they asked the federal court to issue an injunction against this framework agreement on land management.

Even though the bill comes from their own department, the minister of indian affairs and her officials also seem to think there may be an injustice. In June, the minister appointed an investigator to examine the impact of marriage breakdown on property rights. An independent inquiry is therefore set to study the matter.

In other words, the government recognizes the existence of a legal void in the matter and the negative consequences it may have on the protection of women.

However, the government says it has changed the former C-75 so that the new C-49 requires a community process to manage the division following the breakdown of a marriage, which, in their view, resolves the problem. According to clause 6, a community process is one of the requirements associated with the adoption of the land code, which is to be defined collectively by each of the 14 first nations.

However, a closer examination of the matter reveals that, despite this clause, native women have no protection whatsoever.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member.

You have some 11 minutes left, but I had promised the House I would give my ruling on the point of order as soon as possible. With your permission, I will give my ruling now and you can continue afterward.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Speaker

After question period this afternoon the hon. member for Surrey Central raised a point of order concerning the events of yesterday evening when, by unanimous consent, a motion for concurrence in the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was presented and adopted in the House.

As hon. members know, the report comprises eight recommendations on the way the House handles Private Members' Business.

I thank the hon. member for Surrey Central, the hon. government House leader, the hon. whip of the New Democratic Party and the member for Elk Island for their contributions. I am now prepared to explain how the Chair will proceed on this matter.

Recommendation No. 5 concerning how recorded divisions on Private Members' Business are taken will be implemented immediately since it is a matter of practice.

Recommendation 8 on the priority for drafting private members' bills will be implemented immediately, because this is an administrative matter.

Recommendation No. 7 lies within the purview of the Board of Internal Economy. That will be taken up there.

With regard to the other recommendations, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6, these in the opinion of the Chair call for substantive amendments to the standing orders and require various technical interpretations. I have therefore asked the Clerk to draft proposed amendments to the standing orders which would implement recommendations Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 and to submit that draft to the House leaders.

As soon as the House has pronounced itself on the specific text of new standing orders to give effect to the recommendations it adopted last night, the Chair will be governed accordingly. In the meantime, however, because the Chair has no mandate to unilaterally change the text of the standing orders, the Chair will continue to be guided by the existent standing orders.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, an act providing for the ratification and bringing into effect of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had reached the point of discussing the rights of aboriginal women. I was saying that these were treated as secondary.

The main problem, of course, is not with the bill per se, but with the 1986 Indian Act.

Canadian courts have decided that provincial legislation would have no precedence where property on reserves was concerned, and that the Indian Act would govern everything. Unfortunately, that legislation has nothing to say about matrimonial property when a marriage breaks down. There is a serious problem, therefore, a legal vacuum, which places women's status in a precarious position.

Family legislation in the various provinces does not apply on reserves. In other words, aboriginal women find themselves in a precarious situation, one which does not allow them to aspire to the same protection as all other women in Canada, because provincial legislation governing property division does not apply on reserves, as the Indian Act takes precedence. This is a source of considerable concern, in my opinion.

While there is a will to look at the issue and to try to find ways to fill the legal vacuum, nothing has been done yet.

We should look at the possibility of including a clause providing minimal protection to women under this agreement on first nation land management.

It is clearly indicated that the standards and penalties relating to the environment that will be set or amended by the 14 first nations must be at least as effective and as tough as those of the province in which the first nation lives.

We should consider providing similar minimal protection to women, in case of marriage breakdown. Issues relating to marriage and marriage breakdown are always sensitive, since they directly relate to the cultural values and the structure of the societies concerned.

It is the same for basic environmental issues. The environment and natural resources are integral parts of native culture. Still, this should not prevent us from legislating to make sure that minimum standards are recognized, with the approval of all the parties concerned.

We must find a way to ensure that the protection afforded native women in case of marriage breakdown is at least equivalent to that enjoyed by other Canadian women.

I am not in favour of interfering and I believe that the community consultation process will give very positive results. However, should major disagreements occur, we must make sure that native women enjoy a minimum of protection, like other Canadian women. Along with the first nations, it would certainly be possible to find a way to legislate and provide some form of legal recourse for these women in case of injustice.

In fact, knowing how long it often takes to amend legislation such as the Indian Act, I am concerned about passing a bill that regulates land management without a more direct reference to the problem.

I think it is important that we look at whether the legislation provides us with means of legally protecting aboriginal women, as required by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And if it does not, a remedy should be introduced now, while we are at this stage of the proceedings.

A minimal guarantee of protection is required, in my view, so that aboriginal women, like all other Canadian women, can enjoy certain fundamental rights ensuring their well-being and the well-being of their children.

It is important that the position of first nations on this issue be examined in committee and that possible ways of ensuring a minimum guarantee be studied further. It is not a question of interfering in first nations' efforts to achieve self-government. On the contrary, we are merely trying to raise the issue of the legal vacuum when it comes to the division of property and to give thought to the best way of protecting all citizens.

If aboriginal women, represented by credible organizations like the British Columbia native women's association, are of the opinion that such an agreement is a threat to their well-being, we must at least take this into account and give the matter serious consideration.

Of course, the different provisions in each province complicate the already very complex issue of division of property in cases of marriage breakdown, but precautions can nonetheless be taken.

The community process within the first nations that signed the agreement will certainly suffice, like their various decisions on the whole of the land code. However, once again, in order to ensure minimum protection, solutions must be provided.

In closing, I say once again that the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-49. I would however point out that we have questions on the possibility of making amendments to respond more directly to the problem of the division of marriage property, with priority given to the community process and to the decisions of the first nations.

There are avenues to be explored and we will explore them, my colleagues and I, in order to prepare for the meetings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for York North for letting me speak for five minutes on this important bill.

The bill goes to the heart of a very important issue that I know members from across party lines are very interested in, the fate of aboriginal people in the country today.

What is happening today is a travesty. It is a tragedy beyond proportions that most Canadians understand. This past summer I was at a medical clinic in northern British Columbia. I saw once again in the flesh, in the trenches, what is taking place. There are children with infectious diseases that I have not seen since I worked in Africa. People are suffering from enormously. There are high rates of substance abuse and suicide attempts. There are communities with rates of tuberculosis and diabetes three times higher than the non-aboriginal population. The soles of communities are being torn out. Why is this so? Why has this not changed despite billions of dollars being put in by successive governments?

The answer is that we non-aboriginal people have to engage in a paradigm shift in the way we treat aboriginal people. The Indian Act has created an institutionalized welfare state. We have segregated aboriginal people, have made them separate from the mainstream.

The result has been a marred system. In some areas the money is not getting to the people. Grassroots aboriginal people are dislocated from their political masters. Is is between the political and intellectual elites and between aboriginals and non-aboriginals on how we deal with aboriginal people. We leave out the grassroots aboriginal people. They are suffering in horrendous ways that can only be compared to third world conditions.

I implore the government, and my colleagues will agree, to stop the segregation. Stop the separate development. The rights of aboriginal people to engage in their traditional activities is enshrined in the constitution, thankfully. Let us invest in aboriginal people to help them help themselves. Only if they have the tools to help themselves, to gain employment, provide for themselves, their families and their communities will they get back that sense of self, that sense of pride they so desperately need.

It does not entail separate development. It does not entail a lands claim process. The essence of bill says “You are aboriginal people. You are different from non-aboriginal people. Therefore you are going to be treated differently”. Grassroots aboriginal people do not want political emancipation that is different from anybody else. They merely want equality. They merely want to be treated as equals and have the opportunities, benefits and responsibilities of non-aboriginals.

This bill is flawed. The history of dealing with aboriginal people is flawed. It is flawed in saying that aboriginal people are somehow different. They are removed and segregated away from mainstream Canada. They have sustained and suffered under the yoke of non-aboriginal people putting their feet on them and segregating them.

I thank the hon. member for allowing me to speak now because I have to catch a plane.

Again, I implore the government not to treat aboriginal people differently. Give them the tools so they can help themselves. Aboriginal and non-aboriginal people can work together to develop a united forward looking country. We can mutually respect each other and develop together for a more positive and beneficial future for all.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Liberal

David Iftody LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's intervention and I appreciate his role as a medical doctor and his good work in aboriginal communities. Having worked in these communities, both he and I know of the tragic and difficult circumstances.

The hon. member wants to do a paradigm shift, if not to take it off the map. Under this proposal in bringing all aboriginal people from their communities in the north and moving them to Vancouver, to Edmonton, to Winnipeg, to Toronto, surely to goodness the hon. member knows and would consult with other medical practitioners that there are many aboriginal people living off reserve in these cities. They are still in poverty. Stripping away their constitutional and land rights I would suggest respectfully would be disastrous. It has been disastrous for 100 years. This is bad public policy, it is a bad idea and it is a bad paradigm shift.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. parliamentary secretary were interested in giving back land rights, he would enable aboriginal people to have the same land rights as non-aboriginal people have, which he knows full well they do not. Rights are given to a collective in aboriginal groups. They are not given to individuals. That is part of the problem. The individual aboriginal person does not have the same rights as a non-aboriginal person.

I know the hon. member is interested in this issue very deeply as we all are. I know he has experienced this himself. If he really wants to do a favour to aboriginal people, he will take a message to the minister. He will say to her that we must not segregate and separate aboriginal people. We must give aboriginal people the same rights and responsibilities as non-aboriginal people, which includes land rights and land ownership.

Aboriginal people off reserve are sustaining horrendous circumstances. They do not have the tools and abilities to fend for themselves. Part of that lies in the lack of accountability which occurs as to where moneys are going in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

If the parliamentary secretary wants to do another important job, he can take another message to the minister. Do forensic audits in those reserves where aboriginal people are looking for answers. Billions of dollars are put into those reserves. The money is not getting to where it is supposed to go. It is being siphoned off somewhere, be it in the department or in the aboriginal leadership. I suggest that he find out where that money is going. If he does that, he will be providing an enormous service so those people can get the resources to be fully functional and to stand on their own two feet.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, is the hon. member suggesting that by definition all band finances have to be the question of a forensic audit? Is the hon. member suggesting to the House and to the first nation people in Canada that because of the circumstances they suffer, for example that today raised in the House, the Shamattawa children sniffing gasoline and glue, that somehow this is traced back to a forensic audit? Is bringing in SWAT teams of police the answer to this? Basically we bring in the RCMP, investigate them, move them off reserve, strip away their rights under section 35 of the constitution, is this what the hon. Reform Party member is suggesting?

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Just so I understand the protocol here, I understood the first question in question and comments was from the member who is now asking the second question. There were others who stood.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

No, that is not the order. The decision on debate in question and comments is the prerogative of the Chair. As long as there are members standing who do not represent the same political party as the person in debate, across the aisle will be given precedence, whether it is from one side or the other side.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I understand what you just said. However, if it is the same individual, does it still apply in that case?

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The answer is yes it does. There is always preference, at least when I am in the chair, to go across the aisle in questions and comments so that we get real debate.

In response, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member brings up an important question. I am glad he asked it.

There are aboriginal reserves that are run wonderfully and there are those which are not. The reserves we are talking about today are the reserves that are not run well, reserves I might add where aboriginal people have asked for over 10 years as to where the money is going.

There are millions of dollars put into some reserves that have very few people on them. While the band leaders are living in opulence down in Vancouver, those people are living in squalor. Representatives of those people have asked the minister repeatedly, in fact they have begged the minister, for a hearing. They have begged her for answers. What have they got? All they have got is the cold shoulder.

While that is happening, those people are living in third world conditions. People are committing suicide. They are getting diseases at rates far higher than anybody else. They are suffering from unemployment at levels that are unparalleled in this country. Those are the reserves the member and the minister should be looking at, not for our benefit nor the leadership and the aboriginal group's benefit but for the aboriginal people who are suffering from diabetes, tuberculosis, high rates of suicide and unemployment. They have been suffering for so long.

The resources are there. The member knows full well that those resources are not getting to where they should be going. Find out where those resources are going and do these people a service.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is quite an interesting debate.

The hon. member as a medical physician raises the very real concern about the rate of diabetes in aboriginal communities because they do not have the proper food. Would the hon. member support the Minister of Health bringing forth measures through the Department of Health to help these people, to help these women and children, the families in these aboriginal communities deal with questions of diabetes? When these things come forward in the February budget, will he live up to his own words? If he truly believes what he is saying today in this House, will he stand at budget time and support these measures, support Nisga'a and support Nunavut?

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I remind my hon. friend and colleague from across the way that it was the Reform Party that put forth a private member's motion in May of this year which received unanimous support. It concerned a national headstart program that we now see the government, to its credit, starting to adopt in aboriginal communities. It is expanding that to aboriginal communities outside reserves.

We support those initiatives. We support investing in these people in order for them to stand on their own two feet. But we do not support the government merely tossing money at aboriginal groups without any accountability. That does a huge disservice to the aboriginal people who ask why it is that the chief and council live in beautiful houses, have cars and skidoos while they do not have enough money to feed their children. That is partly why they are living on Coca-Cola and macaroni. That is what is happening.

I beseech the minister and the parliamentary secretary, do not go on a fancy trip to meet with the aboriginal leadership. Go to the people on the ground. Get rid of the entourage. Meet with those people. Go by yourself. Do not go on an official visit. Find out what is going on. Listen to what those people are saying because they will tell you that all is not well.

The solutions are not difficult. Some of these solutions require that paradigm shift. Give aboriginal people the tools to provide for themselves and they will do well. Do it under the guise of equality for all so that aboriginals and non-aboriginals can work together as brothers and sisters to build a stronger country for everybody.

Aboriginal people, ensuring that their traditional rights and responsibilities are enshrined in the constitution, which they are, can teach us a lot about their culture. We will certainly benefit from that.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to the hon. member opposite that perhaps he has not actually read this legislation.

I have been honoured to have a very good association with a native community in my riding, the Chippewas of Georgina Island. They have been involved right from the beginning on this legislation, in spearheading this effort. The thing that convinced me this was good legislation was that Chief Bill McCue, who has shown tremendous leadership in this area, told me that he and the members of his community want to be treated exactly like every other Canadian. They wanted to have control over their own economic destiny. Perhaps the hon. member should read the legislation because that is what the legislation allows them to do.

Today I rise in the House to speak to and support the second reading of Bill C-49, the first nations land management act. As the minister of Indian affairs has indicated, the bill will enable the 14 first nations which are signatories to the framework agreement on first nation land management to opt out of the land administration sections of the Indian Act and assume direct control over their reserve lands and resources.

As the member of Parliament for York North, I am honoured to represent the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation who are members of my constituency and one of the signatories of this agreement.

In March 1997 the Georgina Island First Nation voted overwhelmingly, 150 to 21, to adopt its own land code and implement its own land management system. I congratulate Chief William McCue, the council and the members for their vision and for their determination.

Two other communities, Chief Rennie Goose and the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation in Ontario, and Chief Austin Bear and the Muskoday First Nation in Saskatchewan, have also voted overwhelmingly to assume control over their reserve lands and resources. I congratulate them for their vision and determination.

The 14 first nations that developed a framework agreement have the goal of assuming community control over their reserve lands and resources. They signed a government to government agreement with Canada in February 1996 at a ceremony hosted by the Georgina Island First Nation. I was deeply moved by the experience of attending this historic event in my constituency and witnessing the signature of the previous minister.

The responsibility of the 14 first nations under this framework agreement is to develop their own land management process and conduct their community votes to ratify the agreement. Bill C-49, now before the House for second reading, represents Canada's responsibilities to ratify the agreement.

The framework agreement and Bill C-49 are founded on the principle that first nations should develop their own laws in relation to their reserve lands and resources. This is consistent with the principles proposed by the royal commission on aboriginal peoples with respect to self-reliance.

I am honoured to bring to this House the words of a concerned citizen and a respected elder of the Chippewas of Georgina Island. Charles Warren wrote to me about the effects this legislation will have on his community:

Land management includes development of business, farming and recreational entertainment.

The saying “strike while the iron is hot” cannot apply to us. When opportunity knocks, it takes so long for others to make decisions for us that the iron is no longer hot.

We need business here to provide jobs for our people. We need to be free to hire persons and companies who will act quickly and to our benefit. Now we are told who to hire and have to wait for okays from Indian affairs constantly. Those wheels turn slowly.

Registration of leases takes six months to several years. Sometimes they are lost and have to be redone. The money from such leases are tied up without gaining any interest.

We need control of pollution, of our water and a recycling system. We have a natural swamp area with rare species of birds, animals and plant life. We need some of our people trained to safeguard this area. We have many fruit trees which need to be cared for to be productive.

There is an excellent gravel pit which could provide for the needs of ourselves, plus earn income from outside our community. There is land that can provide golf courses, fish farms and clean factories.

The native people of Georgina Island have all that is needed for their great future if they could have a free hand to develop it.

Charles Warren and his community need swift and speedy passage of this legislation.

The framework agreement and Bill C-49 establish principles for the exercise of self-government in the area of land management.

These principles include full, democratic participation in fundamental decision making by all adult members of the community, both off reserve and on reserve; financial and political accountability to the membership; community dispute resolution mechanisms; equality of all members, both on and off reserve; and equality of female and male members.

The framework agreement and Bill C-49 are consistent with the approach to self-government advocated by a number of aboriginal groups appearing before the royal commission.

The agreement and the bill provide the model proposed by these groups, that is community control over reserve lands and resources. This approach is in accordance with traditional first nation practices and customs and reflects the communities' desire for economic self-sufficiency.

I quote Chief Bill McCue on the importance of parliament's passing this bill promptly to facilitate transition from federal government control over reserve lands to first nations decision making:

Once the framework agreement is implemented by this legislation, our community will be able to make timely responses to future economic opportunities, beginning as early as April 1, 1999, which will generate employment and revenues for our people.

These 14 first nations have faith and confidence in their ability to take the first step to controlling their own destiny. They have demonstrated this ability during the last decade as leaders in the area of land management.

I urge all parties to pass Bill C-49 as promptly as possible so that these 14 first nations can implement their own decision making processes for their reserve lands and resources. Other first nations undoubtedly will wish to pursue this same goal, control over their reserve lands and resources.

I have had the privilege of representing the Chippewas of Georgina Island for the past five years. I have many friends there. I have great confidence in their ability to undertake activities that will ensure the future for their children.

I would also like to say to members of this House that those who believe in social justice, who believe that people should have control over their own destinies, who believe that people should speak their voices and allow their voices to be heard will support this legislation.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Reform

Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, we know Liberals love to attend grand openings and announcements where there are well dressed people and people with lots of money and influence in this country.

When there were grassroots aboriginals meeting in the basement of an airport hotel in Winnipeg last weekend, where were the Liberal members? Where was the parliamentary secretary for the poor, the downtrodden, those people who have no voice in this House?

The aboriginal head start program is a good idea. It made good television. We had all the chiefs fly in to make their presentation and to be seen on television. They had lovely children, children who did not need a head start program. Where are the children who need this program? They are still sleeping on filthy mattresses in filthy basements of of houses that have been burned. Where were the Liberals when those people were telling their stories?

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to tell the hon. member where I have been. I have been in the community of the Chippewas of Georgina Island. When I talk about community I talk about people who live, work, get educated and play in that community. These are the people who voted in their own referendum, something the Reform Party pushes at every opportunity it can. These people voted in their own referendum overwhelmingly to support this.

Is the hon. member denying the Chippewas of Georgina Island the right to have a say in their own economic future? Is he denying the right of these people to enter into a referendum to state very clearly what their position is? That is not what I have heard the Reform Party purports to believe in.

I have listened time and time again to comments from the opposite side, the way they demean first nations of this country, the way they demean the aboriginal people of this country.

I point out an occasion when a member opposite made some incredibly demeaning comments about my chief, Chief Bill McCue, who has shown tremendous leadership and vision working with his community on this issue. He phoned me with great disgust and hurt that a member of this House could make those demeaning comments. He also wrote me letter, which I read with great pleasure in the House, to overturn their objections to the first nations of this country.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is well aware, we have the Nisga'a treaty going on in my province of British Columbia right now. The provincial government is sending out its version of the facts and has been going into a lot of the schools. I have been doing the same thing, except my version of the facts seems to be different for some strange reason.

When I go into the schools I like to draw analogies so that students have something specific to relate to. Students study history and one of the things they study is the old feudal system where the lord and a group of lords own the land, the resources and the revenue that comes in. They allow the serfs to build on the lands, to occupy the lands and to harvest the lands, but they control the revenue produced as a result of this.

Our concern is that each aboriginal individual should have the right to determine their own destiny. Instead, they are being locked into an old-fashioned feudal system we grew out of centuries ago. They are being locked into it by the style of negotiations taking place. There is no other explanation for what is happening. That is the situation in these settlements as they take place. Individuals do not have property rights. They do not get their share of the financial resources transferred to them when these agreements are made.

Does the hon. member think this is a good system or does she think that it would be more appropriate for individual aboriginal people to be allowed their land and their financial settlements so they can determine their own destinies?

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, from part of what the member is saying it sounds as if he would be in agreement with this legislation. This legislation puts control and decision making in the hands of aboriginal people.

The Chippewas of Georgina Island get a lot of their money from cottage leases. That money goes to Indian affairs. They then have to ask for their own money back. This is an insane situation. I hope the hon. member understands that.

On his ridiculous claim about a feudal system, if the hon. member understood anything about history he would understand that native people have a system of resource allocation and use of the land which predates feudalism by thousands of years. It is a very sane system because the land is held in common with a common respect for the land and a common respect for the next seven generations that follow.

The hon. member continues these false myths about first nations people and about Inuit people. It is a shame that they are allowed to use these words in an honourable place like this.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to enlighten the House on a bit of history.

The member mentioned the Chippewas. The Chippewas of Sarnia have a different story to tell. It might be a lesson for hon. members.

The Chippewa of Sarnia by way of warfare in defending the Canadian interests over American interests had a treaty and an alliance with the British government. Under the War Measures Act they were allocated lands around the Sarnia region. Because it was under the War Measures Act, the council of the day held the land in trust to a financial institution. The financial institution in turn called on the collateral. The collateral of the land was then owned by the bank and not by the first nation of Sarnia, the Chippewa.

If we go to Sarnia we see the Chippewa of Sarnia have their reserve and right beside it there are petrochemical companies polluting their lands and their livelihood. The land those petrochemical companies own was the land recalled by the financial institution.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where the hon. member was going with his statement, but it is important that the House understand the very unique nature of the culture of first nations and other aboriginal groups.

Members must understand we have commitments with these people that go back decades, that go back hundreds of years. It is time the government lives up to those commitments. The legislation is the first step in a long number of steps that have started and will continue to be made to live up to our commitments to aboriginal people.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Rick Laliberte NDP Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to speak to the topic of land management for first nations.

I will use my first language for some of the terms because a lot of the issues are hard to interpret. To continue with where I was leading with the Chippewa of Sarnia, it was the area of land rights. Once a chief and council or an individual on first nations land has the right to own the land, that land is transferable and diminishes.

In Cree we call it aski-kahna which means all the land was once first nations land. All the land was aboriginal land. Aski-kahna means what is left of the treaty obligation. It is like a corral. Aboriginal people and their livelihoods have been corralled in these reserves. That is why we see the sick society that exists in the cycle of no future among our communities. The traditional lands beyond the reserves have to be considered. I think the bill does not address that. It only addresses the administration of lands.

When the Chippewa of Sarnia lost their land to the petrochemical companies, they lost it forever. It is no longer Chippewa land because it was covered under the War Measures Act. It is still under the Indian Act. Until the first nations of the country come to terms with the existing treaties with the nation and the Indian Act which governs and administers the process, that process evolves and will come to light in a very short time.

In the meantime, of the 14 nations we have the Cree nations of Muskoday, Cowessess and Opaskwayak Cree from Manitoba. I will use Cree to explain to them what my thoughts are.

I understand that as aboriginal people we have allowed people from all over the world to seek refuge, raise their children and have a joyful and fruitful future on this land.

I understand that allowing other people to create the nation we call Canada also recognized the first nation sovereignty of aboriginal nationhood as in Cree nationhood, as in Dene nationhood, as in the Chippewa nationhood and the Inuit.

A very crucial definition of the Metis comes into play. The hon. member mentioned that aboriginal people were defined under the Constitution, but it does not go any further than that. There is a huge dilemma with that definition. The term first nations does not cover every obligation with all people. There are treaty, non-treaty, off reserve, on reserve treaty, status and non-status Indians. There are Metis and Inuit. All these different definitions used in English terminology do not mean anything to an aboriginal person. It is all for administrative purposes.

I understand the makings of the law.

In Cree we have a name for the Constitution.

It is the legal rights of the land written on a piece of paper. This is the highest order of the country's definition of the law. The Constitution gives powers to the House of Commons and all the symbols of government in the province right down to the municipalities. However there is a dilemma. We have certain parties that would like first nations to be municipal governments. That is a very major shift in our obligations between the treaties and the Indian Act in recognizing first nations as they really are. Are they the third level of governance?

If we wanted to respect the rightful ways of entering this land, maybe the first nations and aboriginal people should be occupying the Senate and having the final assenting powers on all laws since they were the first occupiers of the land. Then they would have a higher structure as we see with the Iroquois confederacy, a united nations. There is no united nations among all aboriginal people that unites from coast to coast to coast. There is no higher level of accountability at their levels. Nothing has been designed.

In the stories of creation on Turtle Island there was a wish and a prophecy that the first nations would have eventually united as united nations. Columbus came ashore and brought a whole different set of rules, governance and religions to this country as a colony and disrupted that process. That shift in the country will have to evolve and create a reality between the aboriginal world view and our world view. Those two will have to come into play.

It is the understanding, the wish and the prayer to see the future of our children grow. When decisions are made here, they should not be made for the decisions of the day. They should be made for our children's, children's, children's children, for the seventh generation. Until then it is taken over for another purpose.

Land opportunities have been mentioned. Specific statements have been made. I am honoured to say that our party supports the act because land ownership stays with the first nations. They are not allowed to sell the land. If they start selling land people are dispossessed.

In my neighbourhood there are communities that were never urbanized. For example, the community of Losh is the largest Dene community in the country with 4,000 Dene people living there. It was never that large before but they are amassed between the first nations boundaries and the municipal boundaries.

They have no decision making on the traditional lands, the water, trees and mineral rights that exist beyond. That is the economic cycle which needs to drive our purpose for the future. We have had land allocated to settlers who came from Europe and from all over the world and railroads were built to accommodate that. We have never accommodated the needs of aboriginals in terms of land, resources and livelihood.

Allowing a sample of 14 nations to make administrative decisions concerning the management of their lands is a first step. In a broader perspective there is a major challenge for the country to deal with all aboriginal people. The act is supported by our party but it is a very small step since it applies only to 14 first nations. There is a bigger aboriginal population out there that wants to see a fruitful future for their children. They would allow all people of the world to find refuge in the land they call home, but they have to be a part of the system. The system of governance will have to evolve. The system of administration is evolving.

Some talk about first nation chiefs and say that the chief and council have a fruitful way of life. They travels, take jets to Ottawa and negotiate. We should not knock them down. They have adopted a first opportunity to administer Indian affairs regional departments. Let us look at tribal councils. We are finally seeing aboriginal people making decisions. We should not knock them down. We should give them a chance.

A few generations ago all we saw were Indian agents making these decisions. Just because an aboriginal person is wearing a business suit and has a three figure salary because he is working in a corporate or a government institution, that person should not be knocked for striving to stand up for a piece of land and future endeavours and to be a role model for others.

We live on a huge piece of land but we have problems with housing. Many northern communities have housing problems. Why do they have housing problems when they live in the middle of the timber resource? They do not have houses. It is the economic cycle.

When Rupert's Land was created the Hudson's Bay Company claimed the land. Hudson's Bay is still an economic, capitalistic process. It does not share its capital with its people. Trappers still do not reap any benefits of the many furs they have provided to create the wealth of Britain.

The Hudson's Bay Company should be pulled out of those communities and co-operative systems of trade and housing should be created. There should be shared ownership based on a process like Habitat for Humanity where people build their own houses. They would be given a chance to roll up their sleeves and help their neighbours to build houses using the trees around them. They do not need to use plywood from B.C. for houses in northern Manitoba. They can build housing with the timber that exists in northern Manitoba and northern Saskatchewan. That would meet the housing needs of the immediate region. We do not have to trade across the country for local building needs.

Social, economic and governance needs are major issues that require a major debate. In the meantime we have a land management bill that gives some opportunity for first nations people to decide on zoning, regional environmental protection, and the economic and leasing needs of the land. It is an opportunity to address these issues.

In further debates we might discuss the issue of allowing people who lease first nations' lands to have a mechanism to appeal some zoning decisions that impact them. If agricultural land is to be used for industrial or recreational use, at least the person who is leasing the land might have a mechanism to appeal such a decision. That will be designed later. That concern has been raised by a number of people.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I question whether aboriginals can be classified by their interests just because of their race. I happen to have had a great grandmother who was born on the Fisher River Reserve in Manitoba so I have some interest in the affair.

I do not think I, or any of my colleagues, ever said that high education or high salaries for aboriginals are bad. Please, let us have that as a primary goal in everything that we do. I just want to commend him on mentioning seventh generation thinking. We should be far-sighted.

We should be establishing laws that make a difference. That is the subject of my concern with the actual legislation that is under discussion today, because women and children under this legislation will find themselves being subjected to the whims of the current possessors of power. I am concerned that this legislation needs serious amendment or it needs to be defeated to protect the women and children who have come to us and said “You must defeat this legislation for these purposes”.