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.