Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-39, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and Constitution Act, 1867. This is a critical piece of legislation that is necessary as we move toward the creation of Nunavut on April 1, 1999, which is less than a year from now, to complete the whole process of the division of the Northwest Territories. As the member of parliament for the Western Arctic, I am in full support of this bill.
There is a coming of age in the Northwest Territories as there has never been before. The political destiny of the north has been decided. We are going to divide the Northwest Territories and create the new territory of Nunavut with all the tools of a democratic society. This will include a governance structure. This would not be possible without the approval of this bill. We need this bill.
This is an exciting time in the north. It is a time of much progression. The north is very political. If people from any other part of Canada or the world go to the north they will speak to some of the most knowledgeable and well travelled people. We live in a microcosm of all the things that affect people from other parts of our country and from abroad. Northerners travel the world. Northerners are very political. They are very knowledgeable about the politics of the day nationally, internationally and territorially.
We are rife with activity. We have many resource based activities that affect both of the new territories which will emerge.
We have three of the biggest diamond mining companies in the world right at the back door of those people who will be responsible for running their own activities. We have Aber Resources and Rio Tinto. We also have the Broken Hill Proprietary, BHP, Monopros and DeBeers.
We are also being bombarded continually with the attempts of many groups to explore for other resources such as oil and gas.
We have in our midst a very friendly invasion of tourists who are captivated not only by the environment of the north but by the various aspects and phenomena of our environment such as the aurora borealis. We have captivated Japanese tourists and other people from around the world who come to the north.
Given the opportunities and tools and armed with the legislation we have here we believe that people of the north will be able to take full advantage of that potential. That is not to mention the collective leadership and wisdom, the corporate knowledge, the linguistic and cultural strength of peoples from both territories which will be reflected in the kind of leadership that leads those people once we have made the commitment to pass this legislation. All the work that has already been undertaken, all of the preparation, all of the visionary strategies, the far-reaching planning and the training must not be ignored.
It can be said that if you want to do the right thing in creating a democracy the principles of democracy are not necessarily predicated on price or cost. Sometimes democracy is costly. We would not have ten provinces and two territories if we did not endure cost. If that were not the case, Newfoundland, Manitoba and Saskatchewan would not be provinces today.
If we talk about self-sustaining entities of governance, some of those provinces would not be provinces today. Why apply one set of rules to them and another set of rules to the territories?
Bill C-39 is about making democracy work. Without this bill Nunavut would not have a fully elected territorial leadership from its beginning days. This legislation provides for the election of a legislative assembly before the territory officially comes into existence. That is very important. Without that amendment to the Nunavut Act a commissioner without a mandate from the people of Nunavut would govern the new Nunavut government. We cannot return, however briefly, to the early days of the Northwest Territories when governance was done from afar, in absentia, when the Northwest Territories was run from the south without having those people resident to really experience and be part of what needed to be done at the time. We now have an opportunity.
The people have been assigned their duties and they must be empowered to carry them out. As legislators we can agree that locally elected representatives must govern Nunavut from day one. Elections in the north are very difficult. Having firsthand experience in campaigning in the last three elections in the north, I know how difficult it is and how much lead time is required before an election. The sheer distance, the remoteness, not to mention the severe inclement weather and environmental experiences can create problems during an election. These are some of the things that are to be considered.
The cost of an election is also something that is quite prohibitive.
This bill also addresses other important issues to ensure democracy. Bill C-39 proposes amendments to guarantee representation of both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories in both the House of Commons and in the Senate of Canada.
As my colleague, the hon. member for Nunavut, would be happy to confirm, all Nunavutmiut, all northerners and all Canadians have a basic right to be represented in both institutions of parliament. This bill is necessary to ensure that both the hon. member for Nunavut's constituents and my constituents have this basic right.
This bill ensures that both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories will have their own representatives in both the Senate and the House of Commons, which is not unlike anywhere else in Canada.
This House and all Canadians listened with great interest to the debate of two days ago in this Chamber. Unfortunately the Leader of the Official Opposition was trying to use this legislation as a springboard to advance the Reform Party's cause for Senate reform. Senate Reform is something that we all think about, but I do believe that timing and appropriateness is everything in terms of politics. We have to know the right time to speak on the right issue. Unfortunately this type of grandstanding and manipulation is unacceptable. It does nothing to make gains on the issue that is being promoted.
The Leader of the Official Opposition is trying to steer the debate away from one of the most exciting and interesting events that is happening in our country. It will shape the history of Canada. I do not believe that was necessarily intentional. I hope with the appropriate understanding of the north itself that would change. I hope it was not intentional. Given the right information, anyone can become informed, make the right choices and have the appropriate sensitivity about such an exciting opportunity as this for the north.
Instead of highlighting the good work done by the parties involved in the creation of Canada's newest territory and celebrating the biggest event since Newfoundland joined Confederation, the Reform Party is trying to advance its own agenda on the backs of northerners. I regret having to say that because to attack on the basis of partisanship is not part of my personality and normally it is not part of my political dialogue. I like to deal with the issues.
I have a very different view of the chamber of second sober thought. Next year will be my 10th year in the House of Commons. When I was elected in 1988 there were many senators who had lives before they came here. Some had been members of parliament. Some were business people who were renowned and revered in their communities. They were my mentors and taught me many things. I think of Senator Allan MacEachen, bless his soul.
I sat on the Charest committee, the Beaudoin—Dobbie committee and worked on Meech Lake. Much of the basic fundamental understanding I gained on constitutional issues came from some of those senators who were there from the very beginning. They had the collective wisdom, experience, education and knowledge.
To paint that picture of all senators and of that chamber, to put it in disrepute, is unacceptable to me. I have no political motives in saying that, except perhaps to say that my experiences have been different.
Instead of highlighting the good work done by senators from all parties, it was as if they were trying to make their case by using a few extreme examples. There is no Utopia. There is no absolutely perfect system. Every system has its bugs.
The reality is that we have a bicameral system of governance. Northerners are entitled to be fully represented. In my opinion the two chambers are effective as they exist today. Perhaps some individuals, in both Houses, could be faulted at different times. After all, they are only human. But the present system is the one we chose. It is the one that has been upheld and it works. In my opinion it works well.
To be honest, this is a very non-partisan issue for me. I think about Conservative appointed members like Wilbert Keon who is renowned around the world for his work as a heart surgeon. Landon Pearson is extraordinary in her work on behalf of children internationally. She serves as an adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I have worked with Landon Pearson. I know her commitment, dedication and untiring efforts. Jack Austin comes from a business background. He is known throughout Asia for his work.
These people did not just land here with no experience and with nothing to offer. These people have something to offer.
We should be proud when we are elected or appointed. We should be proud of what we do.
I think of Senator Jacques Hébert and his tireless work on behalf of young people, specifically Katimavik.
Sister Peggy Butts is a nun from Atlantic Canada who was appointed to the Senate. It is an unusual and great opportunity.
I was given literature to read when I first came here as a young MP. One of the first pieces I was asked to read was done by Senator David Croll. It was an outstanding piece concerning poverty. Some of its elements are still as relevant today as they were when he first wrote it. It is very thought provoking, very sensitive and all encompassing. Have a look. These people have something to offer.
Senator Eugene Forsey was one of the great thinkers, the big dreamers. In my language a big dreamer is not someone foolish; a big dreamer is someone who has a vision, who understands more than their own vision or more than their own internal little world. They can see many things. He was one of those people.
Senator Serge Joyal was a former secretary of state. He had vision. He is the person who made the agreement with the Northwest Territories for the first Canada-NWT language agreement. Not only did he provide for French-language services or bilingual services, he gave the Northwest Territories the opportunity, with $16 million, to develop an aboriginal language component for its government in which unilingual jurors and unilingual members of their legislative assembly could serve.
These people have something to offer. It is not all bad. Who better represents the views of the people of Labrador than Bill Rompkey, a former member of parliament? I have heard him. I worked with him on the Constitution.
I could go on. These are just a few examples, but they are positive ones. These are people who work just as hard as any member of parliament. They are just as committed as any member of parliament.
This bill goes further than allowing for fair and equitable representation in the Nunavut legislative assembly and in parliament. It is necessary to enable the interim commissioner for Nunavut to enter into formal agreements and contracts that are essential to ensuring that the new government is functional from day one.
The scope of the agreements needed range from the supply of materials to the delivery of medical and educational services for Nunavut residents. This bill makes sure that the essential services and functions of a territorial government will be in place on April 1, 1999.
Without this legislation the interim commissioner and his officials would not be able to enter into these agreements. This means that those reciprocal agreements for health care could not be set up. The agreements allowing Nunavut youth the opportunity to attend southern post-secondary schools could not be negotiated without this legislation. That is why this legislation is so important to the people of Nunavut and to the whole of the territory.
This legislation also deals with the division of assets and liabilities between the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Nunavut.
The new territory will require new laws relevant to its own jurisdiction. The original Nunavut Act provides for an initial legislative base for the new territory by grandfathering the application of territorial laws currently in force in the Northwest Territories.
Bill C-39 clarifies how these laws will be applied to Nunavut by defining the practical results in a variety of situations. For example, the grandfathering of laws would normally mean that all bodies that have been created under Northwest Territories law would automatically exist in Nunavut.
However, there are a number of instances where the creation of parallel bodies will not be necessary. With this in mind, Bill C-39 will ensure that the duplicating effect does not include bodies which have no relation to Nunavut, such as municipal corporations in the other region, the Mackenzie Valley.
As well, the proposed amendments will allow some exceptions to the duplicating effect where it is agreed that a single body such as the Workers' Compensation Board can continue to serve both jurisdictions effectively. These are practical amendments that all Canadians have an interest in.
As the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development stated on Monday, Bill C-39 includes amendments that clarify the creation of a Nunavut court system similar to that of the Northwest Territories. The proposed amendments also ensure that cases pending before the courts at the date of division will be clearly sorted out between the Northwest Territories and the new Nunavut courts.
With as much work as there is to finish, we cannot forget the work that has already been accomplished in the creation of Nunavut. One of the most critical issues being addressed is the need to train Inuit for positions at all levels of the Nunavut public service.
In April 1996 the government announced a $39.8 million fund for human resources for Nunavut. More than 500 Inuit have been enrolled to receive training in the use of computers, in administrative skills and financial planning, all of the functions of a modern government. Many are also learning from their participation in building the new Nunavut government buildings and staff housing.
This not only shows how committed the federal government is in establishing the new Nunavut territory; it also shows how committed Nunavut residents are to their new territory by taking advantage of the opportunities to learn these new skills. These skills are very important to the success of the Nunavut territory.
There is a section which we have to become very aware of, that of Senate reform. I need to deal with the specific issue of Senate reform. On page 27 of Bill C-39 it states:
- The member of the Senate who represents the Northwest Territories immediately before the day that section 3 of the Nunavut Act comes into force shall, on and after that day, continue as the member of the Senate who represents one of the following:
(a) Nunavut, if the member resides in the part of the Northwest Territories referred to in section 3 of that Act immediately before that day; or
(b) the Northwest Territories, in any other case.
This is legalese. My point is that the legislation is such that once the Nunavut Senate seat is approved, if the current sitting member in the Northwest Territories seat as it is now is from the east, he or she will slide over into the newly created Nunavut seat and a new senator from the west will be appointed.
I think it is a great opportunity. We have a great tradition in our country. We have created 10 provinces and two new territories. We are now dividing the Northwest Territories. We are going to empower those people, give them the tools, give them the support to do for themselves what we have not been able to do for them.