Mr. Speaker, on May 1 the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development responded to my question on the New Brunswick forestry crisis. He said “We are working with New Brunswick”. Well, nice words but empty words it seems.
Early last month the minister said “We have always said we will assist the province and the First Nations”. The truth of the matter is that the active federal government involvement should have happened a long time ago. Just like other actions taken on aboriginal issues by this Liberal government, it is a matter of too little way too late.
Does the minister expect First Nations peoples of New Brunswick will easily leave the forest and reduce their logging ambitions? Does she expect that they will easily part with productive jobs and incomes to return to social assistance in many cases? I expect not.
Why then has the minister abjectly refused to issue a reply to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples tabled over 600 days ago? This report outlined a number of initiatives in forestry which may have helped prevent the current crisis. However, this government continues to hide its head in the sand when it comes to aboriginal forestry.
When issuing the landmark Delgamuukw decision last December, Chief Justice Antonio Lamer stated “Let us face it, we are all here to stay”. By refusing to provide leadership, this Liberal government appears to be hoping the aboriginal people will simply go away.
Early last month Elizabeth Weir was quoted as saying “The province should be using this time to actively request the federal government get involved”. She is right. But this government should have been actively involved long ago. It appears that this government is so deep in the pockets of the Irvings and the other logging mega corporations that it refuses to act on the recommendations of the aboriginal peoples commission.
Six years ago the national forestry strategy called to increase “the involvement of aboriginal peoples in forest land management”. Six years later there is precious little except maybe a real crisis in the forests of New Brunswick to show for this government's efforts.
The government has a responsibility to explain what it has done on each of the following 10 points, or why it has consistently refused to act. These 10 points are based on the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
This federal government should already have taken steps to: one, work with other governments and aboriginal communities to improve aboriginal access to forest resources on crown lands; two, promote aboriginal involvement in provincial forest management; three, give continuing support to aboriginal peoples forest resource associations; four, encourage the provinces to work with their large timber licensees, like the Irvings, to promote forest management partnerships with aboriginal firms; five, encourage joint ventures between aboriginal forest operating companies and other firms with wood processing facilities; six, promote less intensive aboriginal forest management practices and traditional land use activities; seven, work to provide for special roles for aboriginal governments in reviewing forest management and operating plans within their traditional territories; eight, work toward ensuring that aboriginal land use studies are a requirement for all forest management plans; nine, ensure that forest management expertise is available to First Nations; and ten, consult with aboriginal governments to develop a joint policy statement delineating their respective responsibilities in relation to Indian forest reserves.
Each and every day that this government refuses to actively pursue these recommendations of its own royal commission it shoulders a greater part of the responsibility for the current logging crisis in New Brunswick and for other crises that might develop elsewhere.
Just this morning there was news about a potential crisis brewing in B.C. Maybe now this government—