House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.


Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased and honoured to have the opportunity to speak to this historic piece of legislation, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867.

I noticed earlier the hon. Leader of the Opposition in his remarks commented that the NDP had a certain position with respect to Senate reform and that we should take note, particularly members from the Atlantic area, of his words of wisdom. The NDP has clearly stated its position with respect to the Senate. It is unequivocal. It is on record.

I was quite disappointed to hear the hon. Leader of the Opposition, as was mentioned by my colleague from the Bloc, spend two hours commenting on Senate reform when this very important piece of legislation is before the House.

There is quite a bit of excitement surrounding the legislation. This is a very exciting time particularly for the people of Nunavut, for the Inuit.

A few weeks back I had the honour, along with some of my other colleagues, of attending a celebration of the coming into being of Nunavut. It was quite evident when we saw the rich cultural heritage that was being displayed and we sampled the cultural foods and so forth that there was a lot of excitement and a lot of hope surrounding the legislation. That is where we should be putting our focus today in terms of the hopes and aspirations of the people in the north with respect to the legislation rather than using it as a platform for a particular political agenda around Senate reform.

The legislation would pave the way for Nunavut's first general election. Timely passage of the bill would allow for a territorial election to actually precede the formal creation of Nunavut.

I am aware that the provisions contained in Bill C-39 are the result of long negotiations and discussions between the federal government, the Government of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated.

The creation of Nunavut and the unfolding of aboriginal self-government through public government in this new territory will be watched closely throughout the world. I must confess that I am not as fluent in Inuktitut as the previous speaker. From Qurluqtuuq or Copper Mine to Qikiqtarjuaq the early years of the territory of Nunavut will be monitored by many throughout the globe.

Before we send the bill to committee I want to congratulate all Inuit who have worked on and participated in this effort over the last 22 years and before.

Central to the success thus far in the historic effort that is the creation of Nunavut has been the careful negotiations between Inuit negotiators and those aboriginal groups on the borders of the land that is to become Nunavut. The success in the negotiations with first nations people living in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Denesuline, is a credit to all involved. Although the 60th parallel exists in our textbooks and laws it is irrelevant to the Dene who inhabit this region. The 60th parallel is also irrelevant to the caribou, fish and other wildlife that share the region.

The painstaking work of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which is formerly the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut, is a testament to the bright possibilities that mark the birth of this new territory.

In less than one year Canada's third territory will come into being thanks to passage of the Nunavut Act on June 10, 1993. On behalf of the leader of my party and my caucus colleagues I wish to indicate support of the bill at this stage as our party supported the Nunavut Act in 1993.

The amendments in the bill would allow for an election prior to the April 1, 1999 coming into being of Nunavut. With passage of the bill an elected assembly from the moment it comes into existence will govern Nunavut. It is very important that the assembly be in place at the time Nunavut is officially created.

The other amendments in the bill are the result of prolonged negotiations and would help to ensure the transition to Nunavut is a smooth one. The proposed interim commissioner would have responsibility for working on the division of assets and liabilities between the governments of Nunavut and of the Northwest Territories. The commissioner would also work to clarify how Northwest Territories laws would apply in Nunavut. Clearly these issues must be closely explored in committee.

The bill would also clarify liability for leases relating to staff housing and office facilities. The legislation also reassigns one of the two Northwest Territories seats to Nunavut and creates a seat in the Senate.

Support for the bill will be an important part of the effort to move ahead aboriginal self-government in this region. This will allow for province-type powers essential to the development of the social, cultural, economic and political well-being of Inuit.

Nunavut comprises, as we have heard, 1.9 million square kilometres, roughly one-fifth of the entire Canadian land mass. It is almost the size of Greenland. This clearly represents a tremendous opportunity for Inuit to manage wildlife and resources in a formal fashion in government, having managed them for so many thousands of years before Canada came into being. This will seek to formalize inherent Inuit rights to fish, wildlife and land that have been their rights since time immemorial.

With a population of roughly 24,600, Inuit comprise over four out of every five people in the territory to be. The representatives elected to bring this new territory into being would be accountable to a largely aboriginal electorate. The land claims agreement already passed recognizes Inuit title to 350,000 square kilometres of land and includes provisions for joint management and resource revenue sharing.

It is difficult for many southern Canadians to understand the social and economic nature of the region to become Nunavut. With a litre of milk costing roughly $7 and a loaf of bread $3 and with about 20 kilometres of paved road in almost 2 million square kilometres of land, the challenges and the opportunities facing the voters of Nunavut and their families are unique and most certainly require their own territorial government.

Nunavut means “our land”. The bill would facilitate giving meaning in history to that title. This new territory will be able to work in concert with native development corporations such as Nusai and Qikiqtaaluk Corporation representing concerns such as shrimp fishing, trucking and the hotel industry.

The Nunavut government will be elected by all voting residents of Nunavut, Inuit and non-Inuit. The government elected will be responsible to all citizens of the territory. Increasingly, beginning after the first election and the formal birth of the territory in April of next year, the government of Nunavut will assume responsibilities currently exercised by the Government of the Northwest Territories with the transfer of programs such as culture, public housing and health care to be completed by the year 2009.

While the federal government's co-operation with the Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and the Government of the Northwest Territories is to be commended, it also serves to further underscore the dismal failure of the government in so many areas concerning self-government for aboriginal peoples.

The Liberal government should take the efforts and relative success in the developing creation of Nunavut and learn from it in its relations with aboriginal peoples throughout the land. The government should be taking the lead instead of waiting for costly and confrontational court actions to determine the history of our relations with aboriginal peoples.

Delgamuukw is an excellent case in point. It is astonishing that on the one hand the government can proceed with positive steps in the creation of the territory of Nunavut but stumble and fall so terribly in its abject failure to respond coherently to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

As I mentioned earlier in these comments, the government did manage to engage in successful negotiations with Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, the body that now affords representation and a negotiating structure for the Inuit of Nunavut. Why then has the government failed to carry this model forward and negotiate self-government?

The supreme court in the recent Delgammuukw decision encouraged the government not to continue to rely on the courts but to negotiate in the spirit of self-government recognized in the Constitution Act.

One of the issues that will need continued work in the future, which is not covered by the bill, is the area of the court system. There are no commitments in the legislation to move to develop community courts and to recognize the role of aboriginal justice. This glaring omission merits serious attention in the months to come. Although the bill would establish the supreme court of Nunavut and the court of appeal of Nunavut, it is silent on the issue of aboriginal justice and this silence condemns the Inuit to the existing judicial arrangements.

Furthermore, the issue of the status of Nunavut in the Canadian charter remains unsettled. Although the legislation would permit the new interim commissioner to enter into full employment contracts with future government of Nunavut employees and go beyond simple recruitment, much concentration is required on the whole issue of staff development and training. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples stated:

An important goal is to ensure that the majority population of Inuit can staff their own governing institutions. The importance of training to self-determination cannot be overestimated.

Systems must be developed to ensure Inuit are trained and educated in such a way to ensure their full ongoing participation in all aspects of policy making, management and operation of the administrative, cultural, economic and other institutions developed. Given that many of the new jobs to be created will require some form of post-secondary education, according to the commission it is alarming that the government has not addressed the fact that less than one per cent of this population has a university degree.

The challenge at hand for all is to ensure that education is available particularly in areas of accounting, financial management, organizational development, planning and business development. Public education materials and programs must be developed in co-operation with the aboriginal population to ensure all understand and develop the dramatic changes in texture and responsibility of government in the land that will become the territory of Nunavut.

While the minority population of Nunavut currently pervades the territorial administration, the challenge in part will be to see how the majority culture of Nunavut can be “knit together with the culture of the minority population”, as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples suggested.

Once again I commend the Inuit involved in all aspects of the negotiations which led to the bill and to the development of Nunavut as a whole. As I said at the outset, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the legislation. Even as I am speaking now I understand there is a web page on the Internet sponsored by a school in Nunavut. They are having a second by second countdown to the day that Nunavut will come into existence. It is not a day by day countdown but a second by second countdown. That shows how much excitement there is surrounding the whole concept.

This accommodation extends not only to the chief negotiators but to all those involved at every level, particularly families who so often had to endure long absences during the varied steps of the process.

Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to the Denesuline and to the Government of the Northwest Territories for the endless negotiation over the years to arrive at this point. The efforts of the minister and her staff in this instance, not to mention the many people in the federal government who have all brought goodwill and hard work to bear on the development of Nunavut, deserve to be commended.

I look forward to a very careful examination of the bill in detail over the days and weeks to come.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to say a few words on Bill C-39, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867. My colleague, the member for South Shore, is the critic for aboriginal affairs and northern development but he could not be present today. He is a little late in getting here so he asked me to make some remarks on his behalf.

The creation of the new territory in the northeastern and central region of Canada on April 1, 1999 is a very historic occasion. This will create Nunavut as a separate territory from what is currently the Northwest Territories. This will happen about 50 years from the date of another milestone in Canadian history, the day Newfoundland entered Confederation.

I want to begin with a brief history of the events leading to this momentous occasion, the creation of a new territory in the north to be called Nunavut. It has been a long time in coming to fruition and the journey has not been without a lot of hurdles.

The first attempt to divide the Northwest Territories into two regions was made back in 1965 and was initiated by the western region of the Northwest Territories. The bill died on the order paper at that time. The next event of significance was the release of the Carrothers report in 1966 and its recommendation that a division of the Northwest Territories would not be beneficial at that time to the Inuit living primarily in the eastern region. Instead, the report made a number of recommendations, including the creation of electoral constituencies in the eastern and central Arctic, the appointment of a commissioner who resided in the Northwest Territories and the transfer of federal programs to the territorial government.

It should be noted that at that time the commissioner of the Northwest Territories was based out of Ottawa. His recommendations were to set the stage for division of the Northwest Territories at a later point in time when the regions would be in a better position to assume control of their administration and governance. These recommendations were acted on in the following years.

In 1976 another bid was made for division of the territory, this time by the ITC, an organization representing Inuit in Canada. A plebiscite on the issue of division followed in 1982 and it garnered a 56% rate of approval, particularly strong in the eastern Arctic.

That year also saw the formation of a constitutional alliance consisting of members of the legislative assembly in the Northwest Territories with representatives from aboriginal groups. Its objective was to develop an agreement on dividing the territory. Although an agreement was reached in 1987 it was not ratified by the Dene Nation and Metis Association, which had a land claims settlement in the western area and objected to the proposed boundary. Thus the agreement failed and the group dissolved.

In 1990 the Progressive Conservative government asked John Parker to determine the boundary between the two land claims settlement areas, the Denis-Metis nation in the western area and the Inuit in the eastern region. The proposed boundary was taken to a plebiscite in May of 1992 and received a 54% vote.

One important piece of information that I have not mentioned is that in 1990 it was agreed that a vote on the Inuit land claim agreement would take place. The Inuit ratified the agreement with a vote in November of 1992 that resulted in 85% of the people voting in favour of the settlement. So on May 25, 1993 former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's government signed the land claims agreement into being.

The Nunavut land claims agreement will create the Nunavut territory on April 1, 1999. The agreement is the largest aboriginal land claims agreement in Canadian history.

Nunavut means our land in Inuktitut and it represents 2.242 million square kilometres, roughly one-fifth of Canada's land mass. The capital of the new region will be Iqaluit on Baffin Island.

The land claims agreement sets out the creation of the new Nunavut territory and gives Inuit title to 350,000 square kilometres of land. Along with the land agreement is a cash settlement for $1.1 billion over 14 years. In return the Inuit agree to relinquish rights and aboriginal title to other lands within the proposed Nunavut.

There are a number of challenges that must be overcome before the creation of Nunavut in April 1999. This legislation, Bill C-39, addresses some of these concerns. It confers greater powers to the interim commissioner, Jack Anawak, to enable him to enter into leases on behalf of the new territory and ensures that employees hired for the new government are permanent rather than temporary positions.

Even more important, this amendment to the Nunavut Act provides for an election prior to the date the new territory comes into existence. This is of critical importance since it ensures a government will be in place to begin work immediately without having to go through the process of an election in what is obviously going to be a critical and a dynamic time for the new territory.

Another issue of concern to the western region was the number of elected representatives required for governing after the division occurs. The western region will be left with 14 members but the regulation requires 15 members to form a government. Amendment to this legislation will reduce the numbers needed to 14. This will ensure that the western region is also in the position to offer a continuation of services for their area.

Furthermore, this legislation amends the Constitution Act, 1867 to create another seat in the Senate to recognize the new territory. Currently there is only one seat for the Northwest Territories, but the senator representing the Northwest Territories resides in what will become Nunavut. This amendment eliminates any uncertainty along these lines.

One of the greatest concerns expressed by the Inuit and others affected by the change is the need for continuation of services. This legislation helps to ensure that this will occur. At the same time there are still concerns for those people living in the eastern and the central Arctic area. Is the infrastructure going to be in place? Will financial assistance be provided and will there be enough of it? Are there going to be enough people to fill the expected 600 new positions in Nunavut?

The new territory will consist of approximately 24,000 people, 85% or 18,000 of them Inuit. Inuktituk will be the working language and the hope is to have 85% of the staffing positions filled by Inuit in the long term and 45% in the short term.

The federal government has provided approximately $40 million for training and education to prepare the people living in the eastern and central Arctic for positions in the new government. With the settlement of land claims in this area, however, a number of new positions are available for the Inuit and it may be difficult to find people for all these positions. With Nunavut's plan to have government offices spread out over 11 communities attracting workers to the outlying areas may also present a challenge.

The Nunavut implementation commission has reported that Nunavut will have to attain 50% of the people for these new positions from outside of their region.

At the same time a report by the government of the Northwest Territories suggests that only 10% to 15% of its staff will move to Nunavut. That means Nunavut will not have a large corporate knowledge base from which to build.

Furthermore it is questionable whether the infrastructure will be in place in time and Arctic conditions may also be a factor. Moreover, there is little or no private sector space available since everything is typically built on an as needed basis.

Although the entire infrastructure is not required immediately and it is my understanding that the timetable factors in a delay of two years for a summit, a continuation of services will not be possible without adequate infrastructure.

The division of the Northwest Territories creates some interesting and difficult questions for operations such as the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and workers compensation board. According to the divisional secretariat of the Northwest Territories, economies of scale will be a deciding factor in determining how essential services such as these are affected.

Both territories will likely share hospitals and correctional facilities until Nunavut has infrastructure in place for these facilities. That may create problems, however, since the Yellowknife correctional facility is not large enough to accommodate the needs of the entire region.

The western region of the current Northwest Territories has expressed concern over lack of recognition of the problems facing their areas as well. They also have to ensure that the continuation of services is provided during the division of territories. They are obviously in a better position to do so since the infrastructure exists and the legislative, judicial, financial and administrative systems are in place.

Nunavut will have a public government with Inuit and non-Inuit representation. Although Nunavut was created as part of the land claim agreement, the Inuit chose a public government format. The land claim agreement raises another interesting point about what constitutional rights Nunavut will have. Although one would presume its powers would be equivalent to those of the Yukon Territory and the western region, Nunavut will be created as part of a land claim settlement agreement under section 35 of the Constitution. This is another area that is not clarified for the new territory and may create uncertainty.

A Progressive Conservative government initiated the process when the Nunavut land claim agreement was signed in May of 1993 and will culminate in the creation of Nunavut on April 1, 1999. The creation of this territory is a positive move for the eastern region. The PC Party supports self-government for aboriginal peoples as a means of improving their economic development.

While I agree in principle with this legislation as it attempts to rectify some omissions in the Nunavut Act, there are still a number of challenges, as we are all very much aware, facing the new territory as it counts down to April 1, 1999.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured today to speak to Bill C-39, which is the act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867.

As we discussed a few moments ago, I will be speaking both in Inuktitut and English because of the importance of this bill to my riding.

As the House is very well aware, the map of Canada will change in less than a year from now. April 1, 1999 will mark an important day in the history of Canada. This is equally important to Nunavut residents and to people in the rest of Canada. The coming into place of the Nunavut Act amendments brings us one step closer to our dream. After years of decisions being made by outsiders, Nunavut residents will finally have a chance to control their own future. We should all be proud of that.

This is very significant for me. The people I represent will have the opportunity to make decisions and to control over their own lives. I think of the people who have gone through all the years of having decisions made by people in Ottawa or other parts of Canada who had no idea how those decisions impacted people.

I was quite disappointed earlier today. I thought today we would be talking about the Nunavut Act amendments. I really did not see that when the Leader of the Opposition spent two hours talking about something which I felt was very much a side issue. I felt very cheated of this day. I was told that April 20 would be the day we spoke about the Nunavut Act amendments and the opening of possibilities for the people of Nunavut.

This is a very important day for me. It brings us one step closer to seeing the creation of our government. I think of the people who had no control over their own lives. They see so much hope in the new Nunavut government.

I think of the parents whose children were taken away from them to go to school. They had no control over whether or not their children would go to school thousands of miles away. They did not see them for a year or two at a time. These people whose children are now grown and working still feel they will have an opportunity to make decisions that will help the Nunavut government be responsive to the people it represents.

I think of the people who were relocated from other parts of Canada and who moved to the Nunavut area. There are other people who lived in other parts of Nunavut who were relocated by the government. They are waiting today for a chance to run their own government, to make decisions in government and to help their government make decisions that are responsive to the people.

I see the Nunavut Act amendments as taking them one step closer to that goal. It is an opportunity to right something that went wrong 50 years ago or however many years ago those decisions were made.

This bill also continues the good work set out by the original Nunavut Act as we argue that there are certain things coming out which were not foreseen. Now we have to finish up the Nunavut Act so that we can get a government in place by April 1, 1999. To make sure that the Nunavut government is able to get off on the right track, it is the responsibility of everyone here to help pass the Nunavut Act amendments.

A lot of work has been done by the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut Tunngavik and the people of Nunavut and others over the last 30 years. People worked really hard for about 30 years and I want to remember those people.

As I speak here today, I feel that I have come on at the end of the struggle. It is now less than a year to April 1, 1999 and I want to remember the many people who worked over these past years with a lot of determination and courage to get to this position. I would also like to remember those people who will not be with us when we see the results of all their efforts on April 1, 1999.

I would like to take this opportunity to ask the other members of Parliament to support the Nunavut Act amendments because no territory or province in this country can succeed unless it has the support of the rest of the country.

The people of Canada bind Canada together. They make it work. The settling of our land claims is a perfect example of how flexible our federation is and how Canadians from coast to coast to coast are willing to work together. That is the responsibility of all Canadians.

It is important when speaking to this legislation to remember why Nunavut is being created. I spoke a bit about that earlier but I would like to say it again. It is being created out of hope. It is hope for the children and youth of Nunavut and hope for a better future. It is also hope for a better deal for the Inuit who have relied on Nunavut's land and resources for thousands of years.

I also see this more as a bill about democracy and making democracy work for the people of Nunavut. I see it as being necessary to ensure fair representation at two levels of government, both the federal and territorial levels. This legislation will allow for that.

Bill C-39 is about hope. It provides a smooth transition to the larger new territory of Nunavut. It also allows elections to take place prior to April 1, 1999 which is very important to me. As it is now, we will not have an elected government on April 1, 1999. We will be able to hold an election after that date, but come April 1, 1999 there will not be an elected government to take over if we do not allow this legislation to pass.

I urge everyone in this House to not delay the passing of the act. We must get it through by the end of June 1998. We have already lost so much time dealing with different issues, waiting for new legislation and waiting for new directions for the interim commissioner's office that we do not have much time left to make sure that we have an operational government by April 1, 1999. If we delay it any longer, we will not have time to put into place what needs to be in place to have good government administratively and legislatively to represent the people.

The Inuit have had their own form of government since time began. When I talk about a community, I mean a group of people who live together. Communities were nomadic, but most stayed together through the spring, summer and winter camps or met up with different people. These communities had their own form of governing their own group of people. We see this as a chance for the Nunavut government to use some of those traditional ways of governing along with the new methods of governing we have learned over the years.

The creation of the Nunavut government is an opportunity for us to take the good points of these two types of government and work them into the new legislation for the Nunavut government. It is also an opportunity for the older people to participate by passing on their traditional knowledge of how we used to be governed.

In my maiden speech I talked about how adaptable Inuit people are. We have adapted over the last 50 years at a phenomenal rate. I would like to use that example to show that we will be adapting again to the new government. Not everything will in place by April 1, 1999, but I look at the new Nunavut government as a child. We will grow as we pick up good habits from the experience and adapt things to the way we want to govern ourselves.

Justice is another initiative we will be watching very closely. The new Nunavut government is already covering new ground by creating a unified court system. It will give us an opportunity to deal with incarceration. One of my colleagues mentioned there might be problems with incarceration within the new Nunavut territory. I know we will not have all the infrastructure needed. We will need to use the infrastructures of other territories and provinces for the time being until we can get our own. This issue has been talked about by many people, especially at the community justice system committee. They want to deal with incarceration of the people of Nunavut. They have some very good ideas.

With the new Nunavut government they will have an opportunity to pass what they know on to the young people and try to deal with their social issues in that way. I am very optimistic that a lot of the ideas which were used in traditional camps can be incorporated into a Nunavut government. They can be adapted to the new way of governing and can be done within the law of the country. I would like to think that this government is flexible enough to allow these ideas to be put into place within the new Nunavut government.

I talked about our new government being in place by April 1, 1999. It is hard to grasp exactly what we are going to see on April 1, 1999. As my hon. colleague mentioned, people are so excited about the possibilities. People are planning events now. I cannot indicate strongly enough how important it is that we make sure this legislation goes through. I see it as being one of the most important pieces of legislation accountable to the people of Nunavut. Any efforts to put up roadblocks to this bill will be denying democracy especially to the people of Nunavut. This is not the Canadian way.

I do not want to talk so much about Senate representation. I want to deal more with the actual Nunavut Act. That is just one little piece of the legislation. This legislation is trying to ensure there is a representative for the western Arctic and one for Nunavut. I do not think this is the time or place to be dealing with how we want to set up the senator.

I want to concentrate more on what it means to the people of Nunavut to make sure these amendments go through because the very crucial ones are not being addressed, as far as I am concerned, by the opposition party.

He talked about the plebiscite. I know that is getting the opinion of the people, but I see that as another delay that we do not need right now. There have already been three plebiscites in getting this far and I think that is an issue which can be dealt with at another time. I do not think this is the time or the place. We still have a responsibility to ensure that we do not deny fair and equal representation, but I do not feel this is the place for it.

Doing the right thing is supporting this bill. As I said, railroading this bill will deny the Nunavut residents quality health care and access to education. We have all these agreements with our southern counterparts because, as I said, we do not have all the facilities and the necessities in our area.

If we railroad this legislation what is going to happen to the court cases, both criminal and civil, that are before the NWT courts? Are they going to face a technicality? That could likely happen if the bill does not receive the opposition's support.

I will not go into all the technical reasons for which we want to pass this legislation. To me the Nunavut act amendments have a human element to them. I know those other technical pieces are relevant and necessary, but I want to deal more with what this means to the people of Nunavut.

In the new government Inuktitut is going to be the working language. That is a new initiative on the part of the people of Nunavut. Even though 85% of the people are Inuit, they are not represented in the jobs that are available in our area. If one is unilingual Inuktitut it is very difficult to get jobs in the communities or work for the government. Elders are hoping this will give the people more opportunities to get involved and participate in working with and for their Nunavut government. It will give them such pride to be able to speak in their own language in any office in the government and within the schools.

In closing, again, I would plead with members of Parliament to pass this legislation because it is so crucial to the continuation of the great work of the people who have strived to make a new Nunavut government. We have less than one year to go. We want to work and do all the great things. Just give us a chance to do so.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I was quite taken back by my fellow colleague and her vision of Nunavut. I was speaking to her earlier on a personal basis and I actually managed to get very close to her riding over the Easter holidays when I was in Churchill.

I know the hon. member has a great vision of Nunavut and of the people of that great part of our country.

I want her to know that even though I am member of parliament from Southern Ontario we strongly believe that this is very much part of our nation and our history.

I would like to know from her how she sees the future, for instance, of tourism in the north. I know there are a lot of questions about how that will affect the ecological balance of some of those communities. I know that it is very fragile in some areas.

I am just wondering how she would balance creating more wealth by attracting visitors into the community with their traditional ways of life, as well as protecting the environment.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Madam Speaker, one of the challenges we have is that economic development and tourism right now has the most potential in the north of creating employment.

Within the Nunavut land claims agreement and settlement different bodies have been created to safeguard the environment. We hope to work with each of those bodies. As well, we are in the processing of creating a national park. Those advisory boards right now are working with different community groups to ensure that in creating a park all these issues are taken into consideration.

Tourism has one of the biggest potentials in our area. We just do not want to see it getting too crowded.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario


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

Madam Speaker, like my colleague, I enjoyed very much what the member had to say about Nunavut. I know this is something the people of Nunavut, particularly the Inuit, have been working toward for many, many years. However, it seems to me that the stage they are at now is one where all sorts of things have to be put in place. It is not easy to set up a new territory, particularly a territory which is going to be twice the size of the province of Ontario and one which involves very diverse conditions.

I know that one of the reasons the people want this new territory is so they can deal with the serious problems and challenges which the communities face. It seems to me that the preparation has gone on for many, many years and we are getting to the crunch time. I wonder if the member would care to elaborate on the timing from here on in.

It is my understanding that if we do not proceed promptly in the House of Commons at the present time, the schedule, which will culminate I believe next April, or whenever it is, could be seriously put out of kilter. I wonder if the member could reply and explain to us the timing of events which will follow the passing of this legislation.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Madam Speaker, I could not stress enough the importance of getting this legislation through at this time. We have had many delays over the years. As I indicated, we have less than a year until April 1, 1999 and we have to be given the opportunity to put into place the elections and the other possible things. The interim commissioner needs direct information that is in this bill to be able to continue his work.

I cannot stress enough the importance of getting this legislation through as soon as possible.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I guess all MPs at one time or another would say during the course of their sojourn in this place that they are proud to represent their own constituency. In my case I would say that I am proud to represent the constituency of Souris—Moose Mountain which is in Saskatchewan.

I know that the hon. member, who represents the area under discussion, is very proud as well, and indeed should be proud of the area that she represents in this House. She has spoken very passionately about the need for the House to pass this bill and the excitement of the people over what will take place in less than one year.

I do not think the hon. member need fear the opposition not supporting what she has said. When we take a look at the tremendous impact, the tremendous area, the tremendous change that must take place, led by people like the member opposite, I know it is going to take place and the people of Nunavut will be satisfied with what they gain through their relationship with the rest of Canada.

The population of Nunavut will be over 24,000. That may not be a lot of people, but they will be spread over a large area. I complain about my constituency being too large, but by comparison the only way an MP could possibly reach all of the communities of Nunavut would be by aircraft and through the modern technology of communication.

We know that the language will be different because 76% of the people of Nunavut speak neither English nor French. We do not have the typical founding nations in the area. The challenge that is there for the people of Nunavut is great.

The people of the area need to feel that the rest of Canada welcomes them as a partner in Canada and welcomes them to the traditions of our parliamentary democracy.

I think they have a tremendous advantage. The hon. member said previously that they are not as fortunate. I would like to suggest to her that perhaps they are more fortunate because they have an opportunity to take a look at some of the mistakes we have made over the past 100 years or so. Maybe they can bring about the type of government which will correct those mistakes.

It is going to cost a lot of money. The province in which I live was a territory much the same as the hon. member's. Saskatchewan was in a part of Canada known as the Northwest Territories. It did not become a province until 1905. A tremendous amount of money went into Saskatchewan, particularly in the building of the railroads and the settlement that took place.

That is not the case with this addition to Canada, but the Nunavut people will have to be patient with the rest of Canada. The progress of the opening of this particular part of Canada should be quicker than even that of western Canada because of modern techniques in transportation and communication.

If I remember correctly, there are some regulations forthcoming that women will very much form a part of the government in the new territory. During the break I met with an Indian band. The chief and the entire band were women. It is the very first in Canada. I complimented them as I sat down to eat with them. I pointed out that if we make sure we have an equal balance with women things will progress because nobody is closer to understanding the needs of young people and youth. Just as I told my friends in the Ocean Man Reserve in Saskatchewan, this was the best thing I had seen for a long time. I would say the same to the hon. member. She talked about having flexibility, which is very important particularly when going into something new. When the provinces came into Canada, particularly those in western Canada, they experienced all kinds of difficulties with governing themselves and with breaking away from other types of government. Nunavut will experience this, but that does not mean that through the experience it will not develop a better type of government. I am sure it will.

From listening to her speech I am sure the hon. member opposite has a great deal of pride in representing that area. She speaks from the heart. That is the kind of person that will make it go. I am sure many people in that territory will be watching this debate. They will see and understand what is going on, which will only add to their excitement.

I recently watched a television program on this topic. They talked about the tourism industry and the ongoing excitement. Between now and April 1, 1999 there will be a great deal of excitement. I would like members to carry the same excitement I witnessed in watching these people as they develop and become part of Canada. They are not just people in a faraway land but part of Canada connected by the democratic process, by radio, television and all other media, and connected by the hon. member herself being part of the House of Commons. I am very proud to wish her well.

I hope she will convey the message back to her people to go all out and be the very first of all institutions to say that they will elect their own senator. That would put them in first place again. Government members may not agree with that but they could make history by doing it and would never regret it. The member's people would choose their own representative in the red house. That would make it great. If we were to do this all over again and I was talking for the first time to the people of Saskatchewan, I know what they would say. They would say go for it. I say the same thing to the member.

They will have an elected assembly. She is a member of the House in which she represents her constituency well. She should go back to her people and tell them to do something brand new. They should bring in the very first elected senator from their territory. I do not think it would ruffle the feathers of members of the government in which the hon. member sits. It would be the right move for them rather than having somebody in Ottawa appointing somebody where they live. That would be a mistake.

The member has a lot of good things going for her. She talked about the language, about maintaining her culture and about a free election for an MP. Let us add to that a free election to the Senate. Nothing but good could come of this.

The Reform Party supports this move. We know there is a tremendous cost involved. There is a tremendous cost involved with many things. An hon. gentleman asked a question about the tourism industry. If I had time that is where I would be going. I would want to go right up there and look at it myself, be there and be part of it.

We wish the member well. We support this move. We hope she will be as diligent in the development and as painstakingly as possible make sure that many of her people get involved. We want them to preserve their culture. We want them to preserve their language. At the same time they must admit that if they are to expand and grow they will have to make some fundamental changes like everybody else has had to do to put their new area in touch with the day.

Canadians can be and will be proud of the member. The government is proud of her as a member. We welcome that. I caution the member to step out, to be bold and to be brave just as she is now in saying that they want this relationship with Canada. They would be the very first area in Canadian history to say thanks but no thanks, we will elect our own senator in our own way. That would be history making beyond anything they could expect in a year's time.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario


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

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the Reform member had to say. He ended by mentioning that this could be an even more historic occasion for the people of Nunavut.

I hope he listened to the member for Nunavut previously describing what has already gone on, the enormous efforts of literally generations of people to develop this new and very special territory. He mentioned a band in which there was a particular role for women. I do not know if he realizes that the people of Nunavut have gone through various thought processes about the nature of their new legislature and the nature of the way in which it should be elected. They have a very special vision of their new territory.

I believe this is a great day not only for Nunavut but for all the people of Canada. We are to have a new territory built around the culture of a group of people who are the most Canadian of Canadians, that is the Inuit people. They have a vision for themselves and a vision for Canada.

At the very beginning of his remarks the member made the point that the Inuit are a very special part of the mosaic of Canada. We should all realize that.

The careful preparation they have done has already produced the design for a new and very different legislature. It will rule people in two million square kilometres of Canada, twice the size of the province of Ontario. This new territory will be very special for the people who live there. It will also be a beacon for the Inuit in the other parts of Canada and around the world.

The Inuit of northern Quebec, for example, will in the future look to Nunavut as the fount of their language, Inuktitut. The Inuit people of western Canada will be looking to Nunavut. The Eskimo of Alaska will be looking to Nunavut as a special Inuit based territory. The people of Greenland who also speak Inuktitut will be looking to this new territory and this new dynamic legislature. Even people in Siberia who speak a form of Inuktituk will be looking forward to it.

This is an extraordinary event for the people of the new territory of Nunavut and for all the Inuit in Canada and around the world. It is a great day for the Inuit Tapirisat which has been working toward this and for the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, which unites the Inuit around the pole, that has been working toward this for many years.

Today is a great day. The people of Nunavut in this remote part of Canada have been watching today's events on the parliamentary channel. They follow events all over Canada with the greatest of interest, but this is a particularly great day for them. They have been listening to their member of parliament speak. What did they hear this morning? And this is my question for the member. They heard a Fidel Castro length of speech, over two hours of technical lecturing on the history and evolution of the Senate of Canada.

The member ended his speech with the same sort of comments. If Reformers are so keen on the matter of the Senate and if they are truly interested in the future of this wonderful new territory, as the member opposite tried to indicate, why did they not use one of their opposition days to debate that issue? They are given a generous allocation of days from which they could pick. One of my colleagues says there is one this week. Why did they not pick one of their days to debate for a whole day the issue of the Senate? Why did they take up time on this wonderful day for the people of Nunavut?

Will the member respond to that question? If the Senate matter is so important to them, and if at the same time the member is interested, as he says, in the future of the Inuit in Canada, why are we not debating the Senate issue on Thursday, the opposition day the Reform Party controls?

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I say to the hon. member who asked the question that I spoke with altruism. I was not trying to indicate something. I do not put on a sham when I talk. I was saying what I truly meant to say when I talked about my desires as an individual member of the House in the support of the new territory.

I do not know why the hon. member would cast doubt upon my integrity in my speech. I have never really had that happen before. I have spoken in hundreds of different places, in provincial legislatures and in this House. I am somewhat disappointed that he would take the speech I made in the House today and somehow cast that upon what I was trying to say to my hon. colleague.

I wished the hon. colleague well. Is he doubting that I wish her well? I find that rather distasteful. All I said was that I think it would be a great day for these people. It would be a wonderful day. Over the past they have developed their own style of government. They have been promised a member in the Senate. They should be the ones who make the selection. That is not taking a pot-shot against anybody. That would be the right way to go. If I had an opportunity to go back to my own province on this again, I know what it would do.

This was a condemnation of me as a speaker who came to congratulate them. I have read a great deal about the background. I even got a prize at the hon. member's function when she asked who was their most famous inhabitant. I knew it. It was Santa Claus and I got a nice T-shirt. I certainly would not agree with degradation from the hon. member opposite. I would hope that he was not attacking me personally because I would feel quite badly about that.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I would simply repeat my question. I apologize if the member feels personally upset about it.

Why did we have the longest speech in parliament, a two hour lecture, 38 pages long, on the Senate on the day when the people of Nunavut are looking forward to having their new territory established in law?

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, if I recall—and I was not here for all of it—there were sections in it that we could have agreed to which would have shortened the speech by a great deal. The government opposite refused to do that.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

An hon. member

On three different occasions.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Three different times whole pages could have been deleted and the government opposite refused to do it. It chose to do that. It chose to take away the celebration of this day. It was not me but the government opposite.

I want to say in closing that I wish these people well despite the intervention. I mean it from my heart. I do not care what questions they want to throw at me. It is a dead issue. The Nunavut is not a dead issue. I wish them well. I hope they do walk out and say this is the person they want for the Senate.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to participate in this debate both as a minister and as a member of the House, in my capacity as minister responsible for the administration of the Canada Elections Act and as a member of the House.

We should all rejoice on this great day. This is the day we commence the debate on the creation of the new territory in the great land of Canada.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. member for Nunavut, who is doing such a good job of representing her constituents in that beautiful part of the country, the Canadian North.

The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader said in his remarks a while ago that we were by way of this legislation creating a territory which is much greater than my own province of Ontario. The province of Ontario is so large in its territory east to west that it is greater than most European nations. And here we are creating a territory that will be even larger than that province.

I wish the people of Nunavut well on this great day. I am here to join with my colleagues in cabinet, as did the minister of Indian affairs earlier today, in wishing them the very best on the beginning of this brand new and great adventure which is the creation of this new territory. I am already looking forward to April 1, 1999 when the map of Canada itself will change to reflect the coming into existence of Canada's third territory.

I also believe that what we are seeing today is a continuing process of constitutional change, an evolution of this country, the creation of provinces, of territories. We make changes from time to time to accommodate the fact that we are very much a living society which changes all the time. We are not stagnant. We have not remained the same as some people sometimes pretend. We have in fact grown, evolved and made this country better for many Canadians, hopefully for all Canadians. The process we are starting today will contribute to that.

What I find disappointing, however, on this big day is the speech by the Leader of the Opposition, not the earlier one by the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain. His was a fine speech.

I was disappointed by the speech by the Leader of the Opposition, earlier today. His diatribe lasted nearly two hours. He used as his excuse for taking up half a day for his litany to the House of Commons that he was refused unanimous consent to table his speech. So it was the fault of the people who refused to allow him to table his speech if he spoke too long.

Most Canadians will have trouble understanding his reasoning. Why? Simply because it is not all that logical.

What happened a little earlier today is this. We have seen an opposition party which has been, I would say, unsuccessful in its attempt to criticize the government effectively. It has done a miserable job of doing that. It has failed miserably in criticizing the government. Polls and so on will demonstrate that and the result of a byelection only a few days ago confirms it.

We now have the situation where having been unsuccessful in attacking the government, the Reform Party has commenced attacking the institution. This manifested itself a few weeks back on the appointment of one member of the other place. The Leader of the Opposition made remarks and was challenged to repeat them outside the House. They were outrageous. He refused to do so. He was embarrassed. A little while later, we saw the despicable event of the same person attacking the occupant of the Chair in this Chamber. There were attacks upon the other House, the flag flap and so on.

What we have seen today is part of an attack against the institution of Parliament. It is bad enough that this vicious attack would take place, but it took place on this great day for so many aboriginal Canadians. That is what upsets me as a member of this House.

I am sure some members across, including the member who gave an excellent speech moments ago, cannot feel all that good about what the leader of the Reform Party did earlier today.

That is how I think. I am sure there must be members of the Reform Party who also find what happened earlier today to be extremely distasteful. If there is no member of the Reform Party who finds what happened earlier today to be distasteful, then it is even worse than I thought it would have been.

I will get back to the leader of the Reform Party in a moment. We heard the Reform Party's comments on constitutional reform. Some of us remember what Reformers said a little while ago. Some years ago we had the Charlottetown accord which was designed by the premiers and the prime minister at the time, who certainly was not the leader of my party.

The day after the draft agreement it was decided that the people of Canada would have a direct say in the process. Most of us in this room, including the leaders of all parties except one, put partisan politics aside and went to the people of Canada. The leader in question had just become an avowed separatist after being a federalist, but we will leave that one for another time. Except for that particular leader, all other political leaders in this House joined forces and went to the people of Canada, along with all the premiers and the head of aboriginal federations in Canada, to speak in favour of the draft constitutional amendment and seek the approval of Canadians.

When we in this House put everything aside, when we shifted everything and put Canada first, there was one aspiring political leader, a hot button political leader, who chose to do otherwise. He campaigned against the accord, pontificated from afar as he did. The accord was eventually defeated. That is fine. I accept that.

The accord in my own constituency had the largest majority in favour of it from the Quebec-Ontario boundary to Vancouver. I campaigned for it every single day, rain or shine. I am very proud of the fact that in my constituency there was favour for the accord, the document which I thought would have contributed to the strengthening of our country.

I remember at the time when the accord was eventually defeated the same person, who is now the Leader of the Opposition, say “Let us put all constitutional discussion aside for at least five years”. I hate to quote the man using his own words but that is what he said.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Quote him again. You might just learn something.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

The member across seems to be sorry that we are quoting his leader. It is maybe a sorry state but we must quote the Leader of the Opposition given some of the contradictions. Now five years later, the same person, the Leader of the Opposition, stands in this House asking for constitutional changes which according to him should have been made before.

Is there something slightly inconsistent with that kind of reasoning? Is there something just slightly wrong? Do you know what is wrong? They are Reformers and it is the Reform Party. That is what is wrong, as the secretary of state just so eloquently pointed out. The leader of the Reform Party having made these comments is now stuck with what he said at the time.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Quote him again.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I will gladly quote the leader of the Reform Party again. I would prefer not to quote too much of what he said in the speech he made today because he was attacking members of the other place on an individual basis.

The written text sent around to some of the media outlets described how a person in Alberta had said something inappropriate at one point or another in his life to someone who was seeking Canadian citizenship and the person allegedly went on to become a senator. That was the criticism of the individual and the attack and attempts at the destruction of the institution. It is a little hard to understand.

I remember some pretty dumb comments being made both in this place and elsewhere by Reform Party MPs, but I have never advocated abolishing the Reform Party. Maybe I should have but I have not done it yet. Neither have I advocated abolishing the House of Commons because some members thought that people of a different ethnicity should work at the back of the shop, or some other similarly ridiculous comments that were made in the last Parliament.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to remind the hon. member that he is wrong in his statement. In the last Parliament he did advocate the—

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Resuming debate.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I must say I would have liked to have wiped the party off but through the electoral process. In the last election in my own riding the Reform Party's votes were cut in half. It had in the previous election something like 11% or 12% and I think it was down to about 8% at the polls the last time. I want to tell the hon. member—

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask that you seek quorum in the House.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

There is a quorum at this point. Resuming debate.

Nunavut ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, apart from all other problems of the Reform Party, it seems its members cannot count.

I want to talk about the creation of these anti-government sentiments by the people across the floor and the criticism that has been made of members of the other place.

The hon. member across says to listen to the people. I hope he does not think that what he says in this House and particularly what the leader of the Reform Party says is synonymous with what the people of Canada think. I submit that what the leader of the Reform Party says is seldom the same as what the people of Canada think or want.

I want to get to the remarks and the unjustified attacks on individuals who sit in the other place. If members of the other place did the same individually to members sitting in this House, Reform MPs would be the first to rise on points of order and questions of privilege. They would say a whole variety of things about those people making false accusations.

The member for Edmonton North said on March 7, 1988 to a member of the other place “Sir, retire. Get a motorhome and go to Florida”. This is the kind of inappropriate remark, as though someone had reached a certain age in life and the only thing they had a constitutional right to do was to get a motorhome and take off some place because a Reform MP did not want to look at them any more. Those kinds of remarks against senior citizens are inappropriate. The hon. member across never did withdraw. She never asked and she never apologized and she should have.

Who are the kind of people who presently sit in the Senate? Let me give a few examples of the excellent Canadians who sit there. If members want to compare attendance records I would suggest that the hon. member across might want to look at the attendance records of people sitting not only in this House but in his own caucus. He might want to look at that very carefully before making accusations against people in the other place.

If we just look even at the voting record in this House recognizing that votes are only held usually on two or maximum three days a week, even then we would find, particularly in the party of the hon. member across, that it is not always something to brag about, and I am putting it mildly. The hon. member should remember that as well when he criticizes members elsewhere.

Let us look at the kind of distinguished people who sit in the other place, recognizing that the method by which we are selecting them has nothing to do with the wishes the Government of Canada has at this time. Most people sitting on my side of the House campaigned in favour of the Charlottetown accord to improve the system. It is the people across the way who refused to improve it.

We have people like Dr. Wilbert Keon, a world famous heart surgeon; publisher Senator Richard Doyle; a very famous author in Canada, Senator Jacques Hébert, a person who in my opinion has done more for Canada's youth than most of us put together could ever achieve in terms of what he has done, Katimavik, World Canada Youth, an author who has written the book J'accuse les assassins de Coffin , something which changed capital punishment in this country. With all of the excellent work that he has done, he is one of our colleagues in the other place.

There are actors who sat here recently, famous people, Senator Jean-Louis Roux; corporate people like Eyton, Kolber, Di Nino; public servants, people of the calibre of Michael Pitfield, Roch Bolduc, Noel Kinsella, Jack Austin and Marie Poulin; teachers and professors, Doris Anderson, Dr. Gérald Beaudoin, Ethel Cochrane, Rose-Marie Losier-Cool; municipal and board of education councillors and people with general experience in municipal and local government, senators John Lynch-Staunton, Lucier, Milne, Spivak; judges who now sit in the Senate, Senator Andreychuk; business people, senators Erminie Cohen, Joseph Landry, Walter Twinn, Charlie Watt; people who are learned in the law like Normand Grimard, Duncan Jessiman, Derek Lewis, Donald Oliver; people involved in labour unions, dentists, children's rights advocates like Landon Pearson.

I am speaking of people who have sat recently in the Senate. Do members know who the Leader of the Opposition was quoting to support his argument? Oliver Cromwell, the only dictator ever to have taken over England. That is how he defends himself, giving speeches and referring to dictators.

Let me quote these words in finishing: “I would say over the first year I was there one of the very first things that struck me was that the Senate is very, very different from the public perception of the Senate. You know, the Senate has taken an awful lot of ridicule and the idea that it is sort of, you know, one step before the graveyard for a lot of old burnt out politicians and this stuff, I was very impressed with the calibre of a lot of people in the Senate”. Those were the comments of Ernest Manning and the member across should remember them.