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.