House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.


Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-30, an act respecting the powers of the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia in relation to education, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Pierrefonds—Dollard Québec


Bernard Patry LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on second reading of Bill C-30, the Mi'kmaq education act. I will be asking hon. members to join me in supporting this proposed legislation which provides for the transfer of jurisdiction for education from Canada to nine Mi'kmaq first nations in Nova Scotia.

Bill C-30 is neither a lengthy nor a technical bill. It deals with a very specific issue for a distinct group of people. Yet, this is a truly historic piece of legislation that will stand as a milestone in the strengthening of aboriginal communities in Canada.

Why is this bill so important? It is for the simple reason that it represents the first time in our history that jurisdiction for education will be transferred from the federal government back to first nations where it belongs.

In one sense Bill C-30 is a step into the past because we are returning control of an important community activity to the local level, but it is also a step into the future in that it signals the beginning of a new relationship between governments and Nova Scotia first nations. We are hopeful it will lead to many more undertakings.

When this government unveiled its aboriginal action plan in January it made a clear commitment to strengthen aboriginal communities by investing in people. In my view the single most important investment we can make in a community is in the education of its youth.

For aboriginal people in particular education is an essential instrument for achieving self-sufficiency and solidifying Mi'kmaq identity. By providing the tools children and youth need in today's society education can help break aboriginal peoples' traditional reliance on governments and social assistance. Higher levels of education are critical if aboriginal people are to achieve self-government, take full advantage of land claims agreements, participate effectively in the new economy and live longer and healthier lives.

In short, education will open many doors of opportunity that have been closed to first nations people for far too long.

I know that the members of this House are in favour of providing aboriginal people with quality education. I am sure also that some of my distinguished colleagues will agree that decisions regarding the education of Mi'kmaq children and youth should not be made here, in Ottawa, but in the communities where these children live and go to school, communities like Eskasoni, Wagmatcook, Whycocomagh and Pictou Landing.

Thanks to this transfer of jurisdiction over education, the Mi'kmaqs of Nova Scotia will be able to preserve their past and participate in their future.

Bill C-30 will allow the nine participating first nations to determine their children's curriculum. They will be able to develop programs and courses in keeping with their own customs, traditions and culture, all in their own language.

This initiative will have a huge positive effect on the sense of identity in Mi'kmaq communities and on students' self-esteem.

This is not a new concept. It has long been recognized that there are tangible long term benefits to transferring education management to aboriginal communities. That is why, in the past 30 years, it has been a policy of successive governments to transfer educational responsibilities to the first nations.

Bill C-30 goes well beyond the mere transfer of responsibility over the program. This delegation of powers is based on the recognition of the inherent right to control education locally.

This initiative is fully consistent with this government's inherent-right policy and responds to a recommendation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People to give aboriginal people more power over education.

While not a self-government agreement per se, Bill C-30 will pave the way to self-government for these first nations.

The bill will also help meet the objectives stated in the document entitled Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan , which is the government's recent response to the royal commission.

One of these objectives is for the federal government to work with aboriginal people, the provinces and territories, as well as other partners, to develop practical, sustainable governance arrangements for aboriginal people that are built on legitimacy, authority and accountability. The bill is an important step toward this objective.

Bill C-30 provides the necessary legislative framework to implement the agreement to transfer the powers and duties related to education, which was signed in February 1997 by Canada, Nova Scotia and the leaders of the nine Mi'kmaq first nations.

Through this proposed legislation the government will delegate to the participating first nations the authority to pass laws for primary, elementary and secondary education on reserves for band members.

Bill C-30 also transfers jurisdiction for post-secondary student support funding for members of participating communities living on and off reserve. In accepting this jurisdiction the Mi'kmaq agree to provide equivalent education to non-members living on reserve. The level and the quality of education they provide must ensure that students can successfully transfer to any other education system in Canada.

In order to exercise education jurisdiction, each Mi'kmaq first nation will establish its own education authority. These authorities will adopt a constitution that clearly outlines their responsibilities, accountability and reporting structure, the process that will be used to pass laws, and a transparent appeals process.

Bill C-30 also provides for the establishment of the Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey, a new corporation that will assist first nations in the exercise of their education jurisdiction.

The chiefs of the participating first nations will form the board of this new corporation, which will provide collective services such as curriculum development, culture and language initiatives, special education and post-secondary support services, and reporting functions. Like the education authorities, this corporation will be governed by a constitution that ensures a fair and open accountability regime and dispute resolution process.

The final agreement also provides for the transfer to the nine first nations of approximately $24 million per year. This funding will be used to operate and maintain education facilities and for related band administration and capital requirements. Funding levels will be reviewed after five years.

This funding will come from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's existing education budget. It is not new money, but money that has already been allocated on a per student basis to provide education services to these nine Mi'kmaq first nations.

I would be remiss today if I did not acknowledge the Government of Nova Scotia for its support of this transfer of education jurisdiction.

As hon. members know, education is primarily a provincial responsibility and the Government of Nova Scotia has a long and effective partnership with first nations in the province. In recognition of the aspirations and capabilities of the Mi'kmaq people, the provincial government has acknowledged Mi'kmaq jurisdiction for education on reserves. This will be affirmed through separate provincial legislation.

The participation and co-operation of the provincial government in this transfer process is indicative of the commitment that exists in Canada today to build new partnerships with aboriginal people. It is also further proof that the Canadian federation is flexible and can accommodate the interests and expectations of all people.

We are transferring jurisdiction over education to certain Mi'kmaq communities, because they want it, they need it and they deserve it. The transfer process began in 1991, when Mi'kmaq leaders made representations to the federal government to have greater control over education programs in their communities.

After several years of discussions and negotiations, we reached an agreement that satisfies everyone's needs. In January 1998, the nine participating first nations approved a resolution asking the federal and provincial governments to pass legislation to implement the agreement. Today, I am asking members of parliament to take that resolution into account.

I can assure them that Bill C-30 was drafted in close co-operation with Mi'kmaq leaders and provincial officials.

The views of individual band members were also taken into consideration, through a vast consultation process held in the communities, and a ratification process conducted by the first nations. We received letters of support from many non-aboriginal groups in Nova Scotia, including colleges and universities, school boards and the Diocese of Antigonish.

I should also point out that this legislation is not imposed on any first nation. The other four Mi'kmaq first nations will be able to benefit from the bill at a later date and any of the signatory first nations can opt in or out just by having their names added to or withdrawn from the Schedule to Bill C-30.

As I said earlier, the government hopes that this legislative measure will be the first of a number of similar agreements with first nations throughout the country. In fact, I can tell the House that similar negotiations are underway with several first nations in Ontario. Bill C-30 and the final agreement it will implement could be used as a model for future devolution of powers in the area of education.

Bill C-30 positively recognizes the capability of the first nations to take control over their lives and their future. It will give control over the Mi'kmaq education system back to the native people, at the local level, back to the parents and officials who take care of the Mi'kmaq children.

This is certainly an initiative that members from both sides of the House can support and I would ask them to quickly pass this bill, so that we can implement the final agreement in spring, in time for the 1998-99 school year.

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to request the unanimous consent of the House to divide my time with the hon. member for Calgary East.

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about Bill C-30, the Mi'kmaq education act. I want to take a few moments to acknowledge my appreciation of those leaders of the Mi'kmaq communities who came to my office to discuss Bill C-30 with my staff and me. They came with the purpose of promoting the bill.

However, during the course of our discussions we also delved into the more substantial issues of how aboriginal people relate to society at large. While we did not agree on many things regarding technical arrangements by which we co-exist, I am encouraged by the good will expressed and the willingness to build and maintain friendships in the future. I look forward to the day when I will be able to travel to the Chapel Island Reserve and enjoy their promised hospitality.

With regard to Bill C-30 I considered many factors in deciding whether to support it. I concluded that I cannot support it in its present form. Most of the reasons for withholding support at this time I also discussed with the members of the Chapel Island Reserve who came to my office.

The purpose of the proposed legislation is to implement an agreement signed by the government and nine of the 13 Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia. The communities will, under the terms of the bill, exercise control over both primary and secondary education. It sets up a corporation to be known as Mi'kmawkina'matnewey which will have no share capital. Twenty four million dollars of capital will be injected into the corporation for existing department of Indian affairs funding, with an additional unspecified amount for start-up costs.

The stated purpose of the corporation is to support delivery of educational programs and services under the proposed act. Its members will be the chiefs of the participating communities and they together will constitute its board of directors and will be responsible for management and conduct of the corporation.

As laudable as the stated aims of the bill are, the Reform Party cannot support the legislation at this time and I will explain the reasons for withholding support.

The main objection to the bill is the provision which makes the chiefs ex-officio members of the Mi'kmawkina'matnewey, the governing body. This key portion of the bill concentrates too much power in the hands of one group. When this point was raised during discussions the comment was made that to have an elected board is to create one more level of bureaucracy.

When we are talking about the provision of education anywhere in Canada we always assume the existence of a board of education charged with the sole responsibility for both management and delivery of educational services. There are times when an elected board dedicated to one purpose is in the best interests of the people. Furthermore, it also makes sense for the electorate to hold an education board accountable for education and to deal with it at the polls on that one issue.

Political leaders by necessity have a broader outlook and responsibility for the overall leadership and management of the community as a whole. The objection was raised, probably correctly, that neither governments nor other educational authorities would give credence to an elected board. I would submit that after an initial period of adjustment a board of education would achieve credibility in its own right, particularly if it had the full support of the bands from which its membership was drawn.

If the bill is amended as I am suggesting then support for the bill could be extended. There are, however, other concerns with the proposed legislation and consequences flowing from it that I would like to draw to the attention of the House.

As members are no doubt aware the Reform Party has a longstanding position on equality of all citizens and will find it extremely difficult to support legislation which furthers the separation of Canadians from one another. Full participation in society by all people including aboriginals is the goal of our party. It is our belief that the best interests of Canada's aboriginal people can best be addressed through equality and full participation in all matters pertaining to education.

On another matter, while I realize the chiefs have been elected to represent their people it does not appear the bill is before the House today has the full backing of all members of all the communities. As I previously noted, 4 of the 13 bands in the area are not participating in the planned education system. From what I have seen in aboriginal communities so far there is no consensus on much of the process of devolving responsibility for program management to local communities. On the point previously mentioned, the fact that there is wide disagreement about devolution of powers to local band councils and chiefs is also important to the debate over the bill.

The press kit which accompanied the bill to my office mentioned that the legislation is historic in that it establishes a new relationship between aboriginal people and the federal government in the area of education. Undoubtedly the bill, if enacted, will be used as a model for other agreements of a similar nature. When developing legislation of a historic nature there must be widespread discussions by all groups, both those immediately affected and those potentially affected.

In the area of education, as in so many others which affect people's relationship with governments and with one another, a broad consensus must be obtained. The general public must be involved in the process as well as any group attempting to establish a special education system, and this does not appear to be the case here.

There appears to be a fair amount of uncertainty about the effects of the bill on smaller communities in terms of how they would benefit economically from arrangements like those envisioned in the proposed legislation. Concerns such as theirs have not yet been heard.

While withdrawing from society, which is the point of this bill, appears to be attractive in some measure, I do not believe its long term effects will prove beneficial. The world is changing, and the conditions that led to the reserve system and to the separation of native and non-native cultures are long past. I believe both the Mi'kmaq and society at large will be better served by refusing to be separated and consequently misunderstood. Aboriginal people can and should be full and equal participants in Canadian society with all its benefits and privileges.

We are calling for amendments to Bill C-30 that would make the governing body, responsible for administering education on reserve, more responsive to the band members' direction. Acceptance of this key amendment will improve this legislation immensely and I request serious consideration of it by all members of this House.

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-30 which gives educational rights to Mi'kmaq nations. It is a privilege for me to talk from a minority point of view on this bill. I would very much like to support this legislation. However, as my colleague pointed out, we do have some serious reservations. We would support this legislation if our amendments can be incorporated.

My party's cornerstone policy is equal treatment for all Canadians. We want all who live in Canada to be equal participants in the Canadian mosaic. We recognize that the first nations have a very unique culture and unique customs, which we encourage them to maintain. We also want them to be an equal part of this Canadian mosaic.

When we talk about issues like this one, allowing education to be run by cultural groups, these questions arise. What kind of education? How will that education relate to joining in the Canadian mosaic? The bill states quite clearly that this educational system should be compatible with other Canadian educational systems so that students can transfer from one system to another. However, our concern is that in past experience this has not been the case.

The board is set up so that chiefs have the power and they will be the board members, but there is the concern of who the chiefs are accountable to. The chiefs are supposed to be accountable to the people of the bands but past experience indicates this has not been going on. This raises the concern of how this board will be run. School boards are technically run by parent councils, teachers and elected trustees. Why should that principle not apply here? Why should they not have trustees elected by the band members to run the schools?

We do not see that happening here. This is a top down approach where the chiefs will be the board members and there will be no elections. That is our first major concern. How will the band member be part and parcel in directing school policy?

This bill will be used as a precedent for other aboriginal communities so it is right for us to address the important issues related to the accountability of these systems. We would not have much problem if there were a board to address the needs of the full native community, if the board were elected by the band members, the teachers and others in the education field. Then they could provide the best education for these children who would go on to become future Canadians of excellence in their fields. This is possible in providing a framework for native Canadians.

As my colleague mentioned, it is important to recognize something which is a cornerstone of my party's policy. Are all Canadians and we should be learning to build bridges with each other. Canadians should not be separated. Canadians should not be compartmentalized.

When we create schools and compartmentalize people into different areas, when will these Canadians interface with other people who have come from all over the world to live in this country? After all, we are citizens together. Where will they understand brotherhood? Where will they understand comradeship? Where will they understand being proud Canadians? Even the military would not go to this extent because we need brotherhood. We should be together.

We are creating what to us is a division but we also recognize that there are unique requirements of the first nations, their culture and their customs. We understand that and we respect them very highly. We feel that can become part and parcel of a broader picture of teaching native culture and native customs not only to Mi'kmaq but to all Canadians in schools. In that way we can build bridges with each other, we can understand each other.

I have reservations to this bill. I would like to see further discussion and amendments brought in so that we can have a greater picture on this.

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure this morning to speak to Bill C-30 concerning the Mi'kmaq people. Because this is a technical bill and the product of many years of research, I will refer to my notes.

As an associate member representing the Bloc Quebecois on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, I wish to comment on Bill C-30 at second reading.

The bill before us must be passed in order to give effect to an agreement signed by the chiefs of the nine Mi'kmaq first nations and the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia on February 14, 1997. This agreement provides that the federal government, by means of federal legislation, will delegate authority for education on reserves to Mi'kmaq communities.

The final agreement sets out the nature and scope of the powers transferred, including support for primary, elementary, secondary and post-secondary students. The agreement also defines the powers, responsibilities, functions and structures of the Mi'kmaw-Kina'matnewey, which would be the Mi'kmaq organization responsible for education.

Given all the discussions that have taken place between January 1991, when the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs was initially approached about setting up a Mi'kmaq organization responsible for education, and February 14, 1997, when the final agreement was signed with the Chapel Island first nation, it is altogether understandable that we should do our utmost to wrap this up quickly.

The Mi'kmaq have been calling for full authority over education during all this time. Apparently, all the prior stages having been completed, the bill before us must be passed in order to implement this agreement, which was approved, as I mentioned, by all the chiefs of the nine Mi'kmaq first nations and the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia.

Now that a tripartite agreement has been worked out between the province of Nova Scotia and the federal government, which has jurisdiction over first nations education, it seems to me that it is time to wrap things up and proceed to the implementation stage.

This has been in the works since 1991 in a kind of one-step-forward, one step back negotiation process. The first agreement between the federal government and the 13 Mi'kmaq chiefs of Nova Scotia dates from 1992. At that time, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development agreed to transfer educational programs to the first nations. Agreement after agreement followed and finally, on February 14, 1997, a final agreement was signed by 9 of the 13 Mi'kmaq communities, which stipulated that the first nations would have power over education at the primary, elementary and secondary levels.

I would remind the federal government, which is today wondering about the impact of such a transfer of powers to the Mi'kmaq communities or about the first nations' ability to assume the responsibility for educating their members, that there is a precedent in this area, the Cree school board which was created by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. That agreement was signed more than 25 years ago, on November 11, 1975. If the federal government is questioning this situation, perhaps it is because of its memories of the negotiations with the Cree.

I should also point out to my colleagues from Nova Scotia that they need to be very cautious about one thing. When the agreement with the Cree and the Inuit was negotiated, all points appeared to have been clarified, but Quebec ran into an obstacle nevertheless. That obstacle came from the federal government of the day. It is very certain that, when the famous tripartite agreement was signed, the federal government was acting in good faith. I will merely point out that my colleagues from Nova Scotia need to be very certain of the government's willingness to fulfil all conditions of the contract.

Aboriginal people perhaps do need to be given power over education, but it must be kept in mind that, in 1966, Quebec was forced to claim $119 million from the federal government as reimbursement of the federal share of the costs of educational services put in place by the northern Cree, Inuit and Naskapi communities. Although as we speak, the three parties appear to have reached agreement on all points in this matter, there may well be a flaw in this agreement, as there often is.

When Quebec and the New Quebec school board signed this agreement with the Cree and the Inuit, everything seemed to be clear. But surprises were still to come, particularly where capital assets were concerned. In order to remedy this situation, Quebec had to make investments, but when it came to foot the bill, Quebec had to wait to be reimbursed by the federal government. Quebec therefore had to wait from 1980 to 1996 before getting reimbursed for the federal government's share.

By the time the refund came in 1996, the federal government owed Quebec $130 million. We should therefore have assurances that, if necessary, the government will pay its share.

Furthermore, Nova Scotia should remind the federal government that it cannot speak from both sides of its mouth. It cannot, on the one hand, boast by saying “Look how nice we are, we have decided to allow the aboriginal people in Nova Scotia to take control over their children's education” and, on the other hand, hinder the development of Nova Scotia and its aboriginal people by denying them the large sums owed to them.

I remind this House that the agreement signed on February 14, 1997, has been approved by all stakeholders in the non-aboriginal population of Nova Scotia. All these groups, from the Assembly of first nations to the Nova Scotia Association of School Boards and the diocese, unanimously agree that this agreement, which is a historic one for the province, is a step forward and was the best way to go. This is an opportunity for the aboriginal people in Nova Scotia to demonstrate how autonomous they are.

As an opposition party, the Bloc Quebecois has intervened and continues to intervene in favour of aboriginal people. We have made statements in the House of Commons and through our involvement in federal politics we have been able to build ties with the first nations, the Metis and the Inuit. Our party advocates an ongoing dialogue with all aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups in Quebec's planned society.

The Bloc Quebecois believes it is important that there be focus groups like the forum with equal representation from Quebeckers and aboriginal people. The Bloc Quebecois recognizes aboriginal nations as distinct and, as such, entitled to have their own culture, language, customs and traditions as well as the right to develop their own identity. They should therefore enjoy greater autonomy. The bill before us today is a fine example of this.

We want to reach a consensus through non-violent means, based on the principle of peaceful co-existence between aboriginal nations, Quebec and Canada, both before and after Quebec achieves sovereignty. That is why Quebec asks that the Canadian government speed up all discussions and negotiations on self-government.

This group has written a manifest on the future of relations between aboriginals and Quebeckers. We hope that similar initiatives will foster a better understanding of our vision of a sovereign Quebec.

Moreover, the Bloc Quebecois critic on this issue, the hon. member for Saint-Jean, and the leader of the Bloc Quebecois have initiated discussions with aboriginal groups. A series of meetings are underway between the Bloc Quebecois and the leaders of the Assembly of first nations, including Phil Fontaine and Ghislain Picard, from the Quebec section.

Of course, in the bill before us, the government will have to be vigilant in transferring legislative and administrative responsibilities for education to these nine first nations. If this bill allowed the Mi'kmaq to put in place education systems and institutions that would preserve and respect the values and traditions of their culture, it would still be important to ensure that the programs are in line with those offered in other Nova Scotia schools so as to facilitate the transition from these schools to institutions that are under the jurisdiction of that province or any neighbouring province.

As a matter of fact, the agreement says that school results obtained under the education standards specified in the final agreement must be transferable, without penalty, to any other Mi'kmaq or Canadian teaching institution. If this bill applies to the preschool, primary and secondary levels, members of the first nations who want to pursue their studies should be able to do so without having to readjust.

Canada's action plan on aboriginal issues recognizes the important role played by education in ensuring a promising future to aboriginal communities in general, and to young people in particular. If the bill is passed, we will have to ensure that these young people—who will have attended elementary and secondary schools run by the first nations—are prepared to make a smooth transition to post-secondary institutions. I do not have to tell you how hard it is nowadays for people to find work if they did not get a proper education.

If the bill becomes law, the three parties involved, namely the federal government, Nova Scotia and the participating first nations, will know how to make a success of this initiative. While the federal government should not have to hold the hand of those who will run the new institutions, it will have to form a partnership with aboriginal people, until they are fully able to look after their own institutions.

In any case, the federal government is only involved in education when it comes to aboriginal communities, since education is under provincial jurisdiction.

Nova Scotia agrees with transferring to the Mi'kmaq jurisdiction over education on the reserves. We must now ensure that the federal government takes into consideration the province's co-operation and agreement regarding this issue.

The consultations that led up to the bill took a long time. The consultations with Nova Scotia's first nations alone lasted 18 months. The Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey did everything necessary to distribute the information to all the first nations concerned. It not only informed those directly involved, namely aboriginal people, but also all the stakeholders in Nova Scotia's education system. All agree that this must be done, and nine of the 13 Mi'kmaq communities, which represent about 8,900 people, are prepared to go ahead with the project.

I just used a term we should use with great care. I am referring to the word “community”. I wonder about the definition of that word in the bill. Does it mean that a band council does not represent only one community? Also, in French, do the words ”collectivité” and “communauté” mean the same thing? There is a reference to negotiating with band councils, but the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People recommended that agreements be negotiated with nations, not band councils.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to the costs that will go along with implementation of this system if the bill is accepted. It is said that, in order for the signatory communities to be able to exercise their powers under the final agreement, the parties will have to reach agreements providing financial resources. There is talk of $24 million from the financial framework already in place within the department. Is this a one-time payment, like a separation payment, or is it a recurring amount, to be paid for by all of the taxpayers, year in and year out?

As well, I hope that the scenario proposed is for there to be a single school board for all nine communities, or some sort of consolidation of boards if there is not just one, so as to minimize expenses and avoid the taxpayers' having to pay for unjustified infrastructures.

If this is not the case, allow me to point out that the Government of Quebec, in its desire to put public finances on an even keel, is doing absolutely everything within its power at the present time to reduce education expenditures.

The educational field has been hard hit, as have many others, and decreasing the number of school boards by combining a number of them into one has not always been the best solution.

But rationalization is the new watchword, and school boards have bowed to government demands. In my riding of Manicouagan alone, the five school boards have been reduced to three. The distance between cities is enormous in some cases. The Fermont school board, for instance, has been merged with that of Sept-Îles. The only means of transportation between these two cities is by air.

Quebeckers would therefore take it very ill if their tax dollars were used to fund small school boards.

I also draw the House's attention to the precedent that could be set by this new bill. It would not be surprising, in fact, if other first nations were to call for the same powers with respect to education. Although the Mi'kmaq live within a well-defined and fairly limited area, at least in Nova Scotia, the same is not true of aboriginals such as the Montagnais, who are scattered throughout Quebec.

Aboriginals are calling for increasing autonomy and, as I mentioned a bit earlier in my speech, the Bloc Quebecois has heard the message loud and clear. To those who have perhaps not taken it in yet, I will quote something the late René Lévesque said at a historic meeting with aboriginals in 1978.

Mr. Lévesque said:

Because we do not know each other, we cannot know what, in each other's identity, we must respect. We cannot know what aspirations and ideas to respect because they are unknown to us.

Nothing can be built on ignorance.

In closing, I would mention that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of Bill C-30, which deals with the transfer of jurisdiction over education from the federal government to the nine first nations in Nova Scotia that signed the February 14 agreement, but would remind the House that all aspects of the bill must be examined and analysed.

In my speech, I referred to the fact that the Bloc Quebecois is still in favour of autonomy for provinces and aboriginal peoples, and especially for Quebec. We feel that education and the health system are the purview of Quebec alone. The federal government has pulled out, taking the money with it, and told the provinces: Make it work. We are keeping the money and leaving you to look after the education system.

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-30, an act respecting the powers of the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia in relation to education. I am not going to speak too much on the actual content of the bill, as former speakers have done that.

The purpose of this bill is to implement an agreement signed by the government and nine of the 13 Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia. It gives these communities control over primary and secondary education, at least for those band members and non-band members who live on reserve. It is interesting that it does not apply to band members who do not live on reserve.

This bill has been presented by the minister as part of the answer to RCAP. However, the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia have been working on this since January 1991. It is something that has not just come up, it has been in the works for some time.

This bill is the first of its kind. It is interesting that Phil Fontaine has referred to this bill as a historic piece of legislation. That concerns me. If viewed as a historic piece of legislation, my guess is that it will be applied in the future to other reserves across the country. Therefore, it should be of concern to any member of parliament who has a reserve in his or her constituency. I will speak later on this from that point of view.

I want to again stress that this has not been supported by all 13 Mi'kmaq reserves in the area. There are four groups which so far have not supported the legislation. Two of the four are not supporting it because they are waiting to see how it all comes together.

Before I get too far into my presentation, I would like to ask for the unanimous consent of the House to share my time with the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member does not need consent to share his time. He is entitled to divide his time because we are now into 20 minute speeches. His colleague needed it because he was on a 40 minute speech. Therefore, if the hon. member indicates he is dividing his time it is divided ipso facto.

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the explanation.

This legislation has not been supported by all 13 reserves. There are two reserves which do not support it because they want to see how it will all come together. However, there are two other reserves that think the federal government should not abandon its responsibilities.

Beginning last November and early December I put together an aboriginal task force in my constituency. From a group of 20 we came up with four members who helped me with the process. The purpose of this task force was to hear concerns from aboriginals in the constituency and to hear their recommendations with respect to dealing with these concerns.

One of the things this task force heard as it listened to aboriginal Canadians in the constituency, both status and non-status Indians, Metis and anyone else who wanted to make a presentation to us, was that there was certainly not unanimous—

Mi'Kmaq Education ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

My colleague, you will of course have the floor when we resume debate. As it is almost 11 o'clock we will now go to Statements by Members.

Walleye Fishing DerbyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, this weekend marks the annual walleye fishing derby, Walleye '98, in Napanee, in my riding of Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington and in the neighbouring Bay of Quinte.

Established in 1954 by Chuck McGarvey, it has evolved over the years into the biggest catch and live release walleye tournament in North America.

This year organizers expect as many as 6,000 registered anglers to participate from all over the country. Walleye '98 is also on the Internet, making it easier for many anglers to fish for details.

Money brought in from ticket sales is redirected back into community oriented projects and to conservation organizations. This event exemplifies one of the many things rural communities do to promote tourism and to bolster their local economies.

I salute the Napanee Rod and Gun Club and the sponsors and volunteers who make this family oriented event a success every year. I extend a warm invitation to my colleagues in the House and to all to the walleye weekend, May 2 and 3. May all participants have a safe and enjoyable weekend.

Hepatitis CStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


John Reynolds Reform West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, over the past four days the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health have spoken about hepatitis C victims as cases and files, little more than legal briefs to be closed. Expediency is their mantra, not compassion.

Today let me put a human element to this disease and tell them about Sara MacDougall. Sara has hepatitis C.

In 1988 Sara was stabbed in a Calgary parking lot and left to die. Blood transfusions and 12 major surgeries saved her, sort of. Sara received tainted blood through the transfusions. She is now a victim, not a file.

Sara fortunately falls under the compensation guidelines, but Sara is not taking the package unless everyone who suffers from hepatitis C is compensated.

There is a message here for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health. Will they listen?

Unity PeakStatements By Members

11 a.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on June 21 a group of students from South Carleton High School in my riding will stand atop a very special mountain in the Alberta Rockies. The mountain is called Unity Peak. The 85 participating students along with their teachers and parents can be proud that they were granted the privilege of naming this peak themselves, a first for any high school in Canada.

Two years ago just after the Quebec referendum, the students and their teacher, Marc Bourgon, decided to do something special in the name of Canadian unity.

Since then they have fundraised over $90,000, researched and studied their way to a plan to both name and climb Unity Peak.

While they are on site these enterprising young students will collect geological samples and start a three year environmental impact study on the effects of tourism on the Lake Louise area. They will also be raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society.

I am pleased to say that I have accepted their invitation to join them on their 3,153 metre climb. Congratulations to everyone involved in the Unity Peak initiative. I look forward to joining them on June 21 on this climb for Canada.

Sts. Cyril And Methodius Ukrainian Catholic ChurchStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am honoured to celebrate the official heritage designation of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Ukrainian Catholic Church in St. Catharines.

The church was constructed from 1944 to 1946 to support a growing Ukrainian population. The first Ukrainian settlers had come to St. Catharines in the early 1900s. They came to work on the Fourth Welland Canal, in the papermills and the automotive industry. More importantly they came to work the soil for the tender fruit, vegetable and wine industry, for it was the warm weather and the rich soil of Niagara that reminded them of their native land.

As a Canadian of Ukrainian descent I am proud to say that my father Michael was one of the church pioneers. He and many other Ukrainian settlers founded this beautiful church, designed in the Byzantine revival style by Belgium architect Reverend Philip Ruh.

I join with the congregation in honouring those who built this church and in celebrating its official heritage designation. Sts. Cyril and Methodius Ukrainian Catholic Church has always been and will continue to be a special place of worship and fellowship in St. Catharines.

National Textiles WeekStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week, April 20 to 26 marked national textiles week in Canada which was organized by the Textiles Human Resources Council to focus on innovation and excellence within the Canadian textile industry.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Silver Textiles, a textile manufacturing firm in my riding of Ahuntsic. There I noted the technology and innovative processes that have propelled the rapid growth of the textile industry.

Since 1988, exports have tripled, capital investments have reached unprecedented levels and even jobs have increased in the past five years from 50,000 in 1993 to 56,000 in 1997.

Doubletex and Montreal Fast Print are textile manufacturers also located in my riding of Ahuntsic.

Another example of the way this government has helped Canadian entrepreneurs become competitive at home and on the international scene are programs such as le programme de développement des marchés d'exportation and le programme d'aide à la recherche industrielle.

Human RightsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, 1998 marks the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations, of which Canada is a member, affirmed the basic rights of all individuals on earth.

Since then we have come a long way in terms of respecting the basic human dignity of people around the world. Whether it involved the freeing of colonies from imperialist rule, the ending of legislated discrimination in South Africa or the collapse of oppressive regimes across eastern Europe, we have made tremendous progress since 1948. However as Tiananmen Square and more recently Kosovo have taught us, the struggle for freedom is not yet finished.

Let us pause for a moment to congratulate ourselves for the strides we have made. Then let us get back to work to ensure that all people's rights are respected.

International Workers DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jacques Saada Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw particular attention to May 1, International Workers Day.

In a changing economy, the conditions of workers continue to change at the dawn of the year 2000. We can never stress enough the vital contribution made by this part of the active workforce, which is causing society to grow.

Some will say the work environment is better than in recent years and others will say that globalization has had a definite impact on the quality of life.

Whatever the case, all governments must give priority to job creation while not losing sight of an essential element of the quality of our life, which is the implementation of measures to fully protect the health and safety of workers.

In the new world order we are trying to establish, civil society will be given a vital role to play. Workers will therefore be called on to play a larger part. with

International Workers DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois is proud today to mark International Workers Day.

In 1998, 58% of workers in Quebec are not unionized. They are often the people working in difficult conditions and run the risk of facing psychological harassment or other abuse.

In addition, workers who lose their jobs have an increasingly difficult time qualifying for employment insurance, since the reforms by the Chrétien government penalize them.

Given this situation, the Bloc Quebecois commits to continue the fight to defend workers' rights.

Céline DionStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, today singer Céline Dion will be receiving the Order of Canada, in recognition of her world-renowned talent which brings honour to all of Canada. But it is also in recognition of her efforts throughout her life to hone that talent now so familiar to us all.

We all congratulate Céline on the honours paid to her this week, and we are proud to see her conquering the world and making everyone everywhere aware of the Canadian music industry.

She has come a long way since her first television appearance with Michel Jasmin, or when she sang “Une colombe est partie en voyage” for the Pope in 1984. Like the dove in that song, our songbird Céline has gone far, to become a fully-developed artist, and the ideal spokeswoman for Canadian culture.

Céline Dion deserves our utmost admiration for her skyrocketing rise to fame, characterized by such gusto and professionalism. Thank you, Céline, for representing us so admirably, and good luck in your continuing career.

The SenateStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is bravely proceeding with Senate elections. He knows it is time to give senators the respect of explicit approval of the voters.

We get only doublespeak from Liberals on this subject. In 1993 the Prime Minister promised “We will have an elected Senate. As Prime Minister I can make this happen.” Now in power, he does just the opposite. The justice minister says that the constitution requires the Prime Minister to make the appointments but she fails to mention there is nothing preventing him from appointing a person who has been chosen by the people.

What about Liberal Senator Nick Taylor? He was a key opposition player in carving out the Alberta Senatorial Selection Act 10 years ago, but now he says that mental patients on leave from psychiatric wards will be seeking the position. What an insult to candidates. What an insult to Albertans. What an insult to people with mental disabilities. He should be ashamed of himself. He should run for election and test whether this kind of outrageous statement has the support of Albertans.

International Labour DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention that today, May 1, is International Labour Day.

On the eve of the next millennium, the economy is ever changing and so are labour conditions. One cannot stress enough the importance of the labour force's contribution to Canada's social development and economic growth.

Some will say that the work environment is better than in the past, while others fear that such things as globalization are certain to affect the quality of life of Canadian workers. Whatever the case, all governments must make job creation a priority without losing sight of the fact that to improve our quality of life we have to ensure that measures are taken to protect the health and safety of all Canadian workers.

I salute our Canadian workers.

May DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, since 1889 workers around the world have celebrated the history of our struggle on May 1. This date was chosen to commemorate the hay market massacre in Chicago where police opened fire on workers whose only offence was to demonstrate for the eight hour work day, something which we all take for granted today.

I am proud that in this country our labour code does enshrine workers rights. We are currently in the process of enhancing that code and strengthening it, in spite of an anti-union official opposition.

On May Day, Canadian trade unionists remember our own history of struggle. We commit ourselves with renewed determination to support the struggles of working people the world over.

Based on the principle that what we want for ourselves we wish for all people, we stand in solidarity with the Australian dock workers, with the workers on the roads in Burma, garment workers in Indonesia and in the maquiladoras in Mexico.

We all move forward when we move forward together.

EnvironmentStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, by withdrawing from a group opposed to greenhouse gas reductions, Royal Dutch Shell has dealt a blow to the oil industry coalition opposing the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gases. Shell says that it supports ratification of the treaty on reduced emissions responsible for climate change.

Shell's support for the Kyoto treaty reveals an important policy shift in favour of an increasing dependence on energy efficiency, conservation and renewable resources in anticipation of the fact that we will one day run out of non-renewable sources of energy.

Shell's far-sighted decision sets an example to the petroleum industry which is still being dragged reluctantly into the 21st century.