House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-20.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, on May 12 I asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada questions concerning the fiduciary responsibility of this federal government toward aboriginal peoples.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development clearly confirmed the government's honouring of the fiduciary relationship. But then, and this is when things get baffling, the Minister of Justice actually declared to this House that the government's recent actions were consistent with its fiduciary responsibilities. I am hoping the government can clarify the increasingly muddy waters.

This Liberal government's justice minister intervened on the side of the New Brunswick government to appeal a lower court ruling which exempted aboriginal peoples from sales tax. This government actually and explicitly took the position that aboriginal peoples in this case should not be exempt from sales tax. This clearly sets this government in opposition to the interests of aboriginal peoples.

How then can the Minister of Justice justify to this House that directly opposing the interests of aboriginal peoples is somehow supporting the interests of aboriginal peoples?

In the factum submitted to the supreme court, the Minister of Justice took a position adverse to the First Nations people of New Brunswick. The actions of the Minister of Justice appear to have been a gross betrayal of this government's fiduciary responsibility.

The 1993 report of the Canadian Human Rights commissioner states:

The fact that Canada seems to be moving in the direction of self-government in no way diminishes the responsibility that the Government of Canada at present has to “uphold the honour of the Crown” with respect to its fiduciary undertakings.

The present finance minister, then an opposition member, wrote a letter on June 11, 1991 wherein he stated:

My understanding of this situation is that the government must recognize the tax immunity of First Nations people. Upon proof of status, a First Nations citizen should not be required to pay the GST levy.

He then went on to state:

I urge you to rectify their present situation and honour the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government in relation to tax immunity to aboriginal Canadians.

I wonder why the finance minister did not stick to his word and come out strongly against the intervention of the justice minister against the interest of first nations people on this issue.

The Prime Minister himself took up the torch on this issue a year and a half after the finance minister made his views clear. The Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, wrote on January 22, 1993:

I have pressed the Minister to amend the policy for off-reserve purchases, which are exempt from the GST only if they are delivered to the reserve by the vendor. This policy, as you can attest, has the practical effect of denying a tax exemption guaranteed by the Indian Act.

The Liberal government has done a real disservice to all aboriginal people and all Canadians. The Minister of Justice has failed to uphold the government's fiduciary responsibility to aboriginal people.

It also appears that either the Prime Minister and the finance minister did not know of the justice minister's actions and stance on the issue of taxation of first nations people or were willing to admit their earlier letters on the issue were little more than a pre-election ploy to curry votes from aboriginal Canadians.

I trust the government will admit that it has failed to uphold its fiduciary duty to aboriginal people and come clean with the public on where the government stands with respect to taxation on aboriginal peoples.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba


David Iftody LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased on behalf of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to respond to the hon. member for Halifax West concerning Canada's fiduciary responsibility toward its aboriginal people.

The federal government takes very seriously its fiduciary relationship with aboriginal people. However, in a legal context, there is much uncertainty within fiduciary law on what the specific duties or obligations of the federal government are because of this relationship.

The Supreme Court of Canada has begun to outline Canada's specific obligations in this complex area, beginning as far back as the Calder case. Mr. Calder was one of the elders of the Nisga'a clan with whom we have just signed a very historical agreement. The Sparrow case is another one reaching the Supreme Court of Canada, and most recently the well known Delgamuukw case in which the supreme court outlined a broad context by which the federal government must interpret the specifics in each arrangement with its first peoples.

The government has studied these decisions carefully to ensure that Canada's actions conform to the principles articulated by these esteemed courts. Among these principles is Canada's fiduciary responsibility to ensure that surrenders of reserve lands reflect the intentions of the first nations for whom the reserve has been set aside.

The courts are one process chosen by aboriginal people to resolve outstanding grievances, as they should from time to time. In some instances the Government of Canada has intervened in courts cases to which aboriginal people are also parties. Crown intervention decisions like other positions in court are taken carefully, considering the implications for aboriginal people as well as for government policy.

With our special relationship with aboriginal people and with the Gathering Strength initiative, the government encourages the use of negotiation rather than litigation.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on a question I asked the Minister of Health back in June relating to the health protection branch of government.

There are a number of disturbing things happening, but what I am questioning is the safety and integrity of the health protection branch. I think it is putting many Canadians at risk.

I do not think we have to look any further than the relationship that now exists between private industry, perhaps the multinational drug companies, and the health protection branch. There is lots of evidence out there to suggest that they are using a great deal of power and influence to push through the approval of certain drugs in Canada. In fact, if the testimony of some of the scientists who work for the Government of Canada at the health protection branch proves to be as accurate as reported, we are in a great deal of difficulty.

Just about every newspaper in Canada has had articles about the various drugs that have been pushed through the system. That is wrong. It endangers every Canadian.

We have been talking about the hepatitis C victims and what happened following some of the misadventures of the Department of Health and its inability track what was happening.

As an example, the health protection branch would notify the Red Cross a year in advance as to when it was going to conduct a review of its operations. That fact was brought out in the Krever inquiry.

There is something wrong when the chief inspector tells someone that he is going to inspect their operation. What will the person do? He will clean up his act. That is exactly what happened in the case of the Red Cross.

Fundamentally, the problem is that the department does not have the resources to do its job. We are relying on the private sector to do the job for us as Canadians. We are relying on the private sector to tell us whether or not a drug is good or bad.

The relationship that presently exists between the Government of Canada and the scientific community is an uneasy relationship that puts every Canadian at risk.

We are putting drugs on the market that have not gone through the proper channels of inspection. Clinical trials, for example, are threatening the health of every single Canadian.

What I am asking the minister to do is to please take a serious look at the health protection branch. At the end of the day, we have to depend on the Minister of Health and the Government of Canada to protect all Canadians.

We are asking the Minister of Health to get a hold on his department and to do what is right so that at the end of the day all Canadians will be protected.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario


Elinor Caplan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the member for New Brunswick Southwest, although I believe the question he asked of the minister some time ago was with respect to the bureau of veterinary drugs.

However, if his question is about the HPB, the health protection branch, I want to assure him that this minister and this government take the health of Canadians very seriously. We understand the very important role that is played by the health protection branch.

The minister today in the House spoke about a task which has been undertaken that will look at the role of the HPB into the future. We have begun a countrywide consultation.

There has already been a meeting in Halifax. There will be meetings right across this country. I would encourage the member opposite to participate in those discussions. The role of the health protection branch, whether in veterinary drugs, pesticide management, approval of new drugs, medical devices and so forth, touches the lives of Canadians every day. It also has a very important role to play in the area of not only protection but promotion.

We are all equally concerned about ensuring that Canada is as prepared as it can be and that we have the very best science. That is the reason the minister brought together leading Canadians with a science focus. The science advisory committee is overseeing the review.

We are very serious about ensuring that the health of Canadians is protected at all times and that the role of the federal government and Health Canada under HPB is appropriate to meet the needs of Canadians today and into the new millennium.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to order made Friday, June 12, 1998.

(The House adjourned at 7.06 p.m.)