House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was treaty.


Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, on August 4, 1998, I had the great honour and privilege of witnessing the signing ceremony for the Nisga'a treaty. At that ceremony in New Aiyansh, Chief Joseph Gosnell said:

Look around you. Look at our faces. We are the survivors. We intend to live here forever. And, under the Treaty, we will flourish.

I looked around at the faces of the people at that ceremony. I looked at the elders, many of whom had tears in their eyes, tears of joy that their long journey was finally coming to an end, although to be sure another was beginning.

I looked at the faces of young people and children and I saw hope, hope for a future, hope for a new beginning, hope for decent economic conditions.

Chief Gosnell spoke of that journey. As my leader indicated, that journey started many years ago. The Nisga'a people were in the Nass Valley when the Europeans first arrived. Their lands and resources were stolen from them with no compensation or due process.

They started the journey for compensation and justice many years ago. In 1887 the chiefs journeyed in a canoe to Victoria but the doors were closed.

Nisga'a leaders worked tirelessly over the years on behalf of their people, even when it was illegal to do so. From 1927 to 1950 it was illegal for the Nisga'a people, or any other aboriginal people in Canada, to hire a lawyer to pursue their land claims.

Finally in 1973 the Supreme Court of Canada in the Calder decision involving Frank Calder affirmed some very fundamental rights of the Nisga'a people. The present Prime Minister, then Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, agreed in August of that year to embark on a process of negotiation. Here we are many years later.

I pay tribute to a number of lawyers who have worked tirelessly, arm in arm, side by side with the Nisga'a people: Tom Berger, who argued the original Calder decision to the highest court of the land and others who have followed in his path like James Aldridge who has been there for many years tirelessly defending the rights of the Nisga'a people.

I remember as a young new member of the House sitting on the historic constitution committee in the winter of 1980-81 and hearing the eloquent plea of the Nisga'a leadership, people like Chief James Gosnell, Rod Robinson and others pleading for justice. They were not asking for any kind of special rights or treatment but for equality and justice, for healing and reconciliation.

I am very proud that it was the former leader of the New Democratic Party who stood in the House on February 17, 1981, to announce that an amendment would be accepted by the government which would ensure that aboriginal and treaty rights of first nations people would be as firmly entrenched in section 35 of the constitution as all other rights. Ed Broadbent, the New Democrats and the Liberal government of the day can be very proud of their accomplishment.

Let us be clear. The Nisga'a treaty does not in any way involve an amendment to the constitution because under the provisions of section 35 the aboriginal and treaty rights of Canada's first nations are recognized and affirmed. The aboriginal rights which have now been translated into treaty are the fundamental rights to land claims and self-government of the Nisga'a people.

Some people including the Liberal Party in British Columbia and the Reform Party federally say that there should be a referendum on this issue. Not only is that deeply offensive, as the concept of fundamental minority rights should not be subject to a referendum, but who would vote in that referendum?

Let us not forget the federal government is paying 80% of the cost of this treaty settlement. It is one of those rare examples in which the federal government actually transfers funds to British Columbia. In order for there to be a referendum there would have to be a national vote. Frankly it is outrageous that the people of Ontario alone would be able to outvote the people of British Columbia on this fundamental issue.

I acknowledge and salute the personal leadership of provincial New Democrats including former premier Mike Harcourt, former premier Glen Clark, as well as a number of ministers of aboriginal affairs, John Cashore, Andrew Petter, Dale Lovick and others.

The treaty has strong support in British Columbia from many diverse communities. It was ratified by the B.C. legislature in a free vote following the longest debate in the history of the British Columbia legislature. There were extensive public hearings across the province of British Columbia. The aboriginal affairs committee of the B.C. legislature, ably chaired by a former federal colleague, Ian Waddell, gave people an opportunity to be heard on the issue. The treaty was ratified by 72% of those Nisga'a who voted. Sixty-one per cent of all eligible voters supported the treaty.

I wanted to say a word about that because the member for Skeena attacked the ratification process. He said in a letter to the Globe and Mail in May that almost one-half of the Nisga'a people did not support the treaty. In addition to the fact that is blatantly false I point out that the member for Skeena was elected with a percentage of 42.4% of the eligible votes cast and got 27% of all votes in his constituency. By his own criteria three-quarters of the people who could have voted for him did not vote for him. Reformers are steeped in hypocrisy in their approach to this treaty, and the people of British Columbia know it.

The Reform Party critic, the member for Skeena, has not even had the decency to meet with the leadership of the Nisga'a people since the treaty was signed. These are his constituents and yet not once has he met with them since the treaty was signed. He said that he debated Chief Joe Gosnell in 1995, but that was four years ago. Where has the member for Skeena been since then? He has shown total contempt for the Nisga'a people and for other aboriginal peoples in his community.

I mentioned the strong support for the treaty from a very broad cross-section of the British Columbia community. The business community is seeking certainty at long last. The labour community, IWA President Dave Haggard, sent a strong and eloquent letter to the former minister outlining the support of working people for the legislation, along with the British Columbia Federation of Labour and many others. There is strong support. Faith leaders as well strongly support the legislation and the treaty.

I will quote from a message to the people of British Columbia by former premier Glen Clark who said that the Nisga'a treaty was not about politics but about people, a people who lost the land of their ancestors without ever signing a treaty; a people who saw their children taken away to residential schools, their culture systematically dismantled, their families decimated by the ravages of disease, alcohol and dysfunction; a people who are still subject to being governed under an antiquated Indian Act; a people who negotiated peacefully, patiently and in good faith for many years; a people who want to be part of Canada, who have negotiated their way back into Canada and who are prepared to surrender over 90% of their traditional territories and their tax exempt status to achieve that dream.

The treaty is about politics. It is about people. It is about justice and it is about time.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-9, an act to give effect to the Nisga'a final agreement. The legislation marks the end of a long process for the Nisga'a people, one that has spanned more than 100 years since the Nisga'a representatives travelled by canoe in 1887 from the Nass River Valley to Victoria to begin this long process.

I have met with the Nisga'a people on a number of occasions and each time they have stressed that they are not only prepared for this process, but they are eager and anxious for it to begin. As they say, there has been enough dialogue on this matter and they have welcomed visits from interested parties seeking to see how prepared they are for this new initiative.

The Nisga'a treaty is the first modern day treaty to be signed in British Columbia and will be the 14th in Canada. It sets a strong precedent for other treaties that may be under negotiation. At the same time however, it is clearly stated in the treaty that in no way does the treaty impact the negotiation of other treaties within the province of British Columbia. On the contrary, each first nation will negotiate on its own merit to pursue its own goals and aspirations.

What this treaty does show is that negotiated settlements can be reached that satisfy all parties and provide a peaceful, informed and effective means of delineating responsibility and accountability on behalf of the federal government, the provincial government and the Nisga'a people. Each party had to make some concessions. That is what negotiation is about. The end result is a treaty that has already been ratified by the Nisga'a nation and the provincial government in British Columbia.

The Nisga'a people accepted the treaty when they held a referendum on November 7 and 8, 1998. The treaty had to be ratified by a majority of all registered voters regardless of how many actually voted. There were 1,451 people representing 61% of the Nisga'a nation who voted to accept the terms of the final agreement. There were 558 votes against the treaty and 11 spoiled ballots. This meant there was an acceptance rate of 72% although there was a voter turnout of 85%. The 356 people who did not vote meant that the treaty was approved by 61% of the Nisga'a nation.

It is important to explain the voting process because there has been a lot of discussion about the voting process and quite frankly, a lot of criticism about the voting process that is completely unwarranted. The Nisga'a constitution which was voted on during the referendum required a 70% approval rate. It received 73% with 1,480 votes in support of the constitution and 525 against. The end result was that the treaty and the constitution were approved by more than 70% of the Nisga'a people voting in the referendum.

The criteria establishing eligibility for the ratification vote is outlined in the Nisga'a final agreement in chapter 22 on ratification, section 6. That section states that it is anyone who meets the criteria of the enrolment committee, is 18 years of age or older, is ordinarily resident in Canada and is not enrolled in any other land claim agreement. To determine who meets the criteria of the enrolment committee, section 1 of chapter 20 on eligibility and enrolment states that the person must establish some Nisga'a ancestry, including adoption and marriage.

What is important to note is that it does not mention that the person must be ordinarily resident on reserve, a condition of the Indian Act and one that was recently the focus of a court ruling in Corbière. In that case the court ruled that band members living off reserve should have the opportunity to vote in some matters where their interests are involved. The requirement to live on reserve prevents a number of band members from voting even when the decisions of the chief and council may impact on resources or assets held communally by the band members.

The ratification process for the Nisga'a final agreement requires approval from three parties: the Nisga'a people, the province of British Columbia and the federal government. The province of British Columbia approved the agreement when it ratified legislation on April 23, 1999 with Bill 51. At that time the provincial government used closure to end debate and push Bill 51 through the legislature.

Now legislation is before us that will ratify the treaty. I welcome the opportunity to address this matter. The government has indicated that closure may again be used to limit debate on this matter. I will wait to address that issue later.

Members of the Reform Party have made it clear on a number of occasions that they have some problems with certain provisions of this treaty and maybe even the treaty itself. This is from a party that prides itself on its grassroots connections, yet it refuses to recognize that the Nisga'a people themselves voted in a referendum to accept this treaty, 61% of whom accepted the treaty and constitution of the Nisga'a final agreement.

One of the complaints of the Reform Party about the Nisga'a treaty is that it changes the Canadian constitution. The Nisga'a final agreement act states:

Whereas the Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada.

Whereas the Nisga'a final agreement states that the agreement does not alter the Constitution of Canada.

Hopefully that will lay that issue to rest.

Clearly, the Nisga'a treaty does not change the Canadian constitution. The constitution under section 35 recognizes and affirms treaty and aboriginal rights. These rights which are set out in the Nisga'a final agreement for the Nisga'a people continue to be affirmed by the constitution. The treaty is not part of the constitution; rather, it is recognized by the constitution.

To amend the treaty, provisions within the treaty document set out the requirements that must be met to effect such change. The Nisga'a people and the other signatories recognize the real possibility that changes will be made to the treaty and a process is in place to allow this to happen. It is a process that does not require the consent of a number of the provinces across Canada that a constitutional amendment would entail.

The Nisga'a final agreement outlines the amendment provisions in the chapter on general provisions, section 36, and states:

Except for any provision of this agreement that provides that an amendment requires the consent of only the Nisga'a nation and either Canada or British Columbia, all amendments to the agreement require the consent of all three parties.

For the Nisga'a nation to consent to an amendment to the final agreement, it requires the support of two-thirds of the elected members of the Nisga'a government.

Race based government is another assertion that the Reform Party has used to argue against this treaty. The treaty allows the Nisga'a people to be self-governing and to establish laws in areas where they are in the best position to do so, areas such as protecting their cultural artifacts. At the same time, federal and provincial laws provide minimum standards with which the Nisga'a must comply or surpass.

Moreover, non-Nisga'a people living on Nisga'a land will have representation in areas in which they are affected. Non-Nisga'a citizens will continue to vote for their municipal, provincial and federal representatives, as will the Nisga'a people. The Nisga'a people also have the ability to set rules governing who becomes a Nisga'a citizen. This does not exclude non-Nisga'a people from possibly being included.

The Nisga'a final agreement clearly states that the charter of rights and freedoms continues to apply to the Nisga'a people. Interpretations differ as to how the charter applies to aboriginal people, but the Nisga'a agree as stated in the treaty that the charter continues to apply to them. When I met with representatives of the Nisga'a nation they were clear that in their minds the charter applies to the Nisga'a government. The exact wording of the Nisga'a final agreement states:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to Nisga'a government in respect of all matters within its authority, bearing in mind the free and democratic nature of Nisga'a government as set out in this agreement.

The Nisga'a people will elect members of the Nisga'a government so it will be a democratic style of government.

Another way to look at this treaty and the legislation that we are debating today is the position the Nisga'a people would be in without such a final agreement. Under this treaty Nisga'a land will no longer be reserve land under the Indian Act. This allows a much greater opportunity in terms of resource management and economic diversification or development.

Under the Indian Act the Nisga'a people required authorization from the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development whenever they wanted to develop a resource or pursue activities that would encourage self-reliance. All of that changes with this treaty.

Furthermore, aboriginal rights and treaty rights are exhaustively set out in the final agreement. We all know that the decision in Delgamuukw supported and encouraged negotiated settlements as opposed to continued litigation. This is exactly what the treaty represents, a negotiated agreement settled by all parties involved.

With conclusive aboriginal treaty rights, this will encourage industry to develop partnerships with the Nisga'a people since there is certainty as to who owns the resources. The forestry and mining industries have suffered in British Columbia because of a lack of certainty that exists regarding resource ownership in the province. The provincial government and the first nations have suffered the economic consequences as companies refuse to invest funds in exploration and development activities when they are unsure with whom they should be negotiating. It has been estimated that as much as $1 billion and 1,500 jobs have been lost in British Columbia because of this uncertainty and the unwillingness of the forestry and mining sectors to invest in such an environment.

For the Nisga'a people this treaty removes that uncertainty. The Nisga'a people should benefit from increased resource development projects on Nisga'a land once the treaty ratification process is complete. The Nisga'a people will be in the position to develop their own resources through whatever avenues they wish to pursue. At the same time, federal and provincial environmental standards will provide guidelines on how these resources are extracted and developed.

I would like to take a few minutes to address timber resources on Nisga'a land. Nisga'a land was heavily logged from 1958 on and the remaining timber is located in areas that are harder to access. Currently there is approximately 230,000 to 250,000 cubic metres of timber being harvested annually on what will be Nisga'a land under the final agreement. The Nisga'a have concluded that if this cut is reduced to 115,000 cubic metres, it could be sustained for 250 years with regeneration. At the current rate it is not sustainable. The sustainable rate of 115,000 cubic metres is not, however, a large amount of timber by British Columbia standards.

When I spoke with the Nisga'a people they indicated that they will be looking at harvesting timber at the sustainable rate of 115,000 cubic metres as established in the treaty. At some point in time however, they may wish to pursue other options such as investing in timber resources off Nisga'a land.

At the same time, the Nisga'a final agreement explicitly states that the Nisga'a nation, a Nisga'a village or a Nisga'a corporation will not establish a primary timber processing facility for 10 years after the effective date of the treaty. This provides for a window of time for Nass Valley timber users to develop their own agreements with the Nisga'a nation or find other suppliers.

Another section of the Nisga'a final agreement that has relevance in relation to the provision I just mentioned is the ownership of water. Under the agreement, British Columbia will establish a Nisga'a water reservation, in favour of the Nisga'a nation, of 300,000 cubic decametres of water per year from the Nass River and other streams wholly or partially within Nisga'a lands. This represents 1% of the average Nass River flow and should enable the Nisga'a people to pursue some industrial applications where industrial water use is required. That will further their economic development opportunities.

This treaty was negotiated on the basis of a nation to nation concept. It also recognizes the inherent rights of aboriginal people, in this case the Nisga'a, and the PC Party recognizes the inherent right of aboriginal people to be self-governing. This treaty meets those expectations and establishes certainty.

We only have to look at what is happening in the fishery on the east coast to understand the importance of signing treaties. The Supreme Court of Canada in Delgamuukw and now in Marshall has shown that aboriginal and treaty rights are important rights for aboriginal people and all Canadians. An exercise in these rights can influence activities of both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

Right now in Nova Scotia there is a lot of controversy over the introduction of aboriginal fishers into the fishery and how this is going to be accomplished while maintaining the fishery for non-aboriginal fishermen and protecting the resource. These are complex questions and there are no easy answers. Fishers, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, with the help of the federal negotiator, are in the process of finding answers to these questions and figuring out how to proceed to implement the supreme court ruling of September 17.

It should be noted that the help of the federal negotiator in this case has really not been productive. What has happened is that non-aboriginal fisheries representatives, aboriginal fishers and chiefs and councils have met and, as a side agreement, have actually worked out and negotiated a temporary agreement for the time being.

The Nisga'a treaty did this same process in reverse. Instead of asking the court to determine what rights they have over what resources, and having to sit down after the fact to negotiate some kind of an agreement, they negotiated their own treaty. The federal and provincial governments sat down with the Nisga'a people. They carefully reviewed all of the issues that are needed to allow the Nisga'a people to become self-governing, while at the same time settling a land claim and allocating resources. Anyone involved in the east coast fishery can attest to the perseverance such an effort must have entailed.

Finally, I would like to bring attention to the fact that the Nisga'a treaty is a final document that has already been accepted by the Nisga'a people and the B.C. provincial government. Furthermore, this treaty cannot be changed. The final agreement has been signed by the federal government and is now the ratifying legislation that is before us. The legislation can be amended, but the treaty is not part of the constitution; instead being recognized and affirmed by the constitution. Therefore it does not require the acceptance of the provinces to do so. Instead the three parties to the agreement have the opportunity to amend the treaty should it be necessary to do so.

As I said at the beginning, there has been a lot of dialogue already on this treaty. It has taken more than 100 years to arrive at this final goal for the Nisga'a and there has obviously been opportunity for them to evaluate and determine what they are looking for and how this treaty recognizes those goals. As well, the Nisga'a people have been very accommodating in terms of explaining the treaty and answering any questions I have had on provisions within the final agreement.

I encourage all of my colleagues to contact the Nisga'a people should they have questions on this treaty. At the same time, however, it concerns me that the debate on the Nisga'a treaty may be cut off. As I said, the Nisga'a people have had 100 years to formulate and determine what objectives they are seeking in a treaty and now other Canadians need time as well to evaluate what is involved. I recognize that the Nisga'a people are anxious to begin what will be a new opportunity for them, but a reasonable and informed debate should encourage acceptance by people who may not completely understand what is entailed by this treaty.

Perhaps one of the more positive results of the final agreement is that it removes the Nisga'a people from under the auspices of the Indian Act. No longer will the Nisga'a land be reserve land under the Indian Act and no longer will the federal government determine how and when resources are extracted and developed on Nisga'a land. Instead it will be the Nisga'a people themselves who will make these decisions. They will have to live with the consequences and surely they will make some mistakes, but so did the federal government. The opportunity to have the freedom to make those decisions and to become self-reliant outweigh any downfall that may result.

The Nisga'a people have been preparing for self-government for a long time and they have stressed to me that they welcome the new opportunities that await them. They are anxious to begin and this process in the Parliament of Canada represents the final part.

I look forward to an informed, reasoned and unlimited debate on this treaty.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is almost impossible to know where to begin after that speech.

The member made the presumptuous statement that there was no need for a referendum in British Columbia. That issue is before the courts, but he has decided for the courts. Obviously he knows best.

He talks about a nation to nation concept. I wonder if he believes that the Nisga'a nation constitutes a sovereign nation on the same basis as the country known as Canada.

He talks about conclusive agreements and things such as that. Let him talk to the residents of Burnt Church. All of his soothing words will not help there.

If it is not a race based government, then what is it? Is it a public government bill? It is not a public government bill. It applies only to the Nisga'a and no one has a choice as to whether they are a member. It is based on their race. I certainly cannot stand by and listen to that.

The hon. member says that it is non-constitutional. Does he understand the treaty to be under sections 25 and 35 and that the government portion of the treaty forms part of the agreement?

The question I would like him to answer is this. What is his stand on a referendum for the residents of B.C., notwithstanding the fact that he has already made the decision for the courts of British Columbia? The Nisga'a had a vote because the legislation affects them. That is fair. But does it not affect all British Columbians?

The Liberals say that the treaty is too complex to be understood by laypersons. The average British Columbian could not possibly understand it. Does the hon. member agree with that statement? Would he deny everyday rank and file British Columbians a say on a treaty which is going to affect them and be the template for more than 50 other treaties of a similar type?

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wrote down six questions. I might have missed one or two, so I will start with the nation to nation concept.

It completely and utterly astounds me that Reform members of parliament can stand in the House and continually talk about the constitution of Canada and the charter of rights and freedoms and fail utterly to understand how they apply to Canadian citizenship, to Canadians and to aboriginals in the country. It is totally amazing.

I am sure we will have an opportunity to continue this debate. Quite frankly, I look forward to that because there are a number aspersions that have been put forward by the Reform Party of Canada that simply do not hold water and will continue not to hold water. They need to be looked at and explained one at a time.

Concerning a referendum for the people of British Columbia, the B.C. legislature approved and ratified the treaty. It decided there would not be a referendum for the people of British Columbia. That is the reason there has not been a referendum in the province. It has nothing to do with the Parliament of Canada. I would suggest that it is improbable, impossible and even immoral that the entire Canadian nation should vote on this matter. This is not a matter for the people of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia or any other group to dictate.

We deal with first nations in the country on a nation to nation basis. We may not like that. We may not approve of that. Every individual member of the House may have individual thoughts on that, but first nations are protected under the constitution and we deal with first nations on a nation to nation basis. We deal nation to nation with 630 first nations. That is why we have this treaty.

Anyone wanting to look at the Burnt Church issue will find that it is directly the result of the lack of dealing with the aboriginal issue in the country, the lack of a modern treaty, the result of going back to something that was established in 1760 and the result of those laws being forced upon Canadians in 1999 by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Reform Party wants to think that we only accept supreme court decisions when we like them. A person going to court runs the risk of losing his or her case.

We allowed the Supreme Court of Canada to decide an issue concerning Burnt Church and the Donald Marshall decision in Nova Scotia that should have been negotiated between the Mi'kmaq chiefs and the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Newfoundland. It should never have been in the courts.

In Delgamuukw the supreme court clearly stated that it is not the place to settle every issue and difference in the country, that we should be negotiating in good faith to settle differences.

This treaty is protected by the constitution, but it does not affect or change the constitution. That is how it applies. The hon. member should read it over and understand how it is affected by the constitution.

The treaty is complex. Not for one moment has the Progressive Conservative Party said that it is not complex. However, let us be very clear when we state that we approve of full and open debate in the Parliament of Canada and that we do not approve of closure on this bill or any other bill. We support clear, informed and open debate, and will continue to do so.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of Selkirk—Interlake I would also like to say that this issue is so major for every Canadian that I do not agree with deciding it in undue haste.

If debate is limited, how can Canadians understand what is going on with this issue which involves the Nisga'a people? I believe it does have broader implications for the rest of the country.

I support negotiating treaties with aboriginal first nations people. In my riding there are lands being purchased to add to reserves, which is not causing any problem other than minor questions over some tax issues.

In the case of the Nisga'a treaty, it seems like the Nisga'a people have had their say, which is good, but I do not understand why the other aboriginal people who live in the vicinity of the Nass Valley have not had their say. I do not understand why we are rushing through this debate and why Canadians are being asked to sit quietly in the dark while the Liberal government, which was not elected on this issue, purports to be able to speak for all Canadians.

Treaties, in essence, can only be entered into on a nation to nation basis. In view of that, it is incumbent that we have a full debate here and that the Canadian people fully understand the issue.

Does the hon. member not agree that a full understanding by all Canadians and a full agreement by all Canadians would ensure a peaceful future, not only for the people of the Nass Valley but for their neighbours and in fact all Canadians across the country?

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree that all Canadians need to fully understand this treaty and its implications. I support informed, full, clear, open and continued debate on this issue. I stated earlier that the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada does not in any way, shape or form support closure on this matter.

The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake had several other questions. One of them I had a bit of difficulty following, but it certainly was a bit of a contradiction. He stated that he supported dealing with first nations on a nation to nation basis, and I think the hon. member has a full understanding of how the constitution of Canada applies to first nations and the fact that we do deal with the 630 first nations in Canada on a nation to nation basis.

However, he also thought that the Nisga'a referendum should have had some dialogue or something in the process to allow for comments. Perhaps he was talking about overlapping land claims or other first nations who live in northern B.C. If we accept the theory that we deal with first nations in Canada on a nation to nation basis, then we cannot say that other first nations should have some say in the treaty that we formulate and go forward with for the Nisga'a. We cannot have it both ways. It can only be one way or the other.

The important thing to understand is that the charter of rights and freedoms will still prevail. The constitution of Canada will still prevail. The Nisga'a government will be a municipal style of government with some provincial rights and some federal rights. At the end of the day we will give the Nisga'a people an opportunity to move forward, to go into the second millennium and have their rightful place as equal partners in the Canadian federation.

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1:25 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be here to show my support for the proposed legislation to ratify the Nisga'a final agreement. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Malpeque.

One of the most impressive characteristics of the Nisga'a treaty is the balance it achieves. The Nisga'a people have demonstrated, over more than 20 years of peaceful negotiations, that they approach issues from a balanced perspective. They have sought to resolve their disputes through discussion, mutual understanding and give and take. This same approach is reflected throughout the treaty.

Today I would like to speak about one area of the Nisga'a treaty where it was particularly important to achieve such a balance and where the parties were successful in doing so. The treaty not only protects the rights of the Nisga'a people, but it also respects the rights of those who are not Nisga'a citizens who will live on or within Nisga'a land.

As Canadians, we are very fortunate because our country is the best place in the world in which to live. In great part that is because of the importance we place on democratic values and our willingness to celebrate and respect each other's differences.

Respecting the rights of the Nisga'a, as well as the rights of those who are not Nisga'a but who will live on or within Nisga'a land, was one of the key objectives sought by the government in negotiating the treaty. The Nisga'a have been living in the Nass Valley and looking after their own affairs for a very long time and we tend to forget that.

Through the treaty, we are agreeing on practical arrangements that provide the Nisga'a with an appropriate form of self-government within the context of our Canadian federation.

The Nisga'a government is for the Nisga'a people. It is designed in a manner so that they will have the opportunity to protect their culture, their language and their property. As such, it is different from other local governments.

Where other local governments are elected by all residents in their area of jurisdiction, under the Nisga'a treaty only Nisga'a citizens may vote to elect Nisga'a government members. There is a very good reason for this. Using a residency criteria to determine Nisga'a electors could erode the protection the treaty is designed to provide. If at some future time residents who are not Nisga'a citizens become the majority, they could effectively control the Nisga'a government and make decisions regarding the allocation or disposition of treaty entitlements. As far as I am concerned, that would defeat the purpose.

Allowing for such a possibility would be incongruent with the spirit and intent of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 which recognizes and protects the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal people of Canada. Only the Nisga'a themselves should have the right to determine Nisga'a government.

At the same time, we all live in a democratic country. The individual rights of Canadian citizens are also protected by the Constitution Act, 1982, including the charter of rights and freedoms. While the Nisga'a treaty provides an opportunity for the Nisga'a to protect their culture, language and property, this is balanced with protection for the rights of those who are not Nisga'a but live on Nisga'a lands.

First and foremost, the rights of all residents on Nisga'a land will be protected by the charter of rights and freedoms which will apply to the Nisga'a government as it does to the other governments in Canada. Residents of Nisga'a lands who are not Nisga'a citizens will not be deprived of their right to vote. They will continue to be eligible to vote in federal, provincial and regional district elections. They will also have the right to vote for and become members of elected public institutions which affect all residents of Nisga'a lands, such as the school boards and health boards.

The final agreement also provides other specific rights to residents of Nisga'a lands who are not Nisga'a citizens. For example, they have a right to be given notice and provided with relevant information when the Nisga'a government intends to make a decision which might significantly and directly affect them. They also have a right to a reasonable period of time to prepare their views for presentation to the government who must then give full and fair consideration to those views.

Let me repeat that those living within the boundaries of Nisga'a lands who are not Nisga'a citizens have the right to a full and fair consideration of their views. That is not all. All persons living on Nisga'a lands will have the same procedures available to them for appeal or review of administrative decisions of Nisga'a public institutions. These protections are far stronger than those now provided under the Indian Act.

It also deserves to be noted that not all Nisga'a law-making authorities will apply to those who are not Nisga'a citizens but who live on Nisga'a land. For instance, while Nisga'a law-making powers over traffic control will apply to all residents of Nisga'a land, Nisga'a law-making authority in the areas of social services and adoption will only apply to Nisga'a citizens. This only makes sense.

More important, even though those who will reside on or within Nisga'a land but who are not Nisga'a citizens may receive certain benefits of services from the Nisga'a government. The treaty does not allow the Nisga'a government to tax them. Contrary to statements made by those who oppose the treaty but do not seem to know too much about it, the Nisga'a government will only have a treaty right to tax Nisga'a citizens and only on Nisga'a land.

Every aspect of the final agreement has been examined in great details to ensure that the rights of those who are not Nisga'a citizens are protected.

Another example can be found in the chapter on administration of justice which provides for the establishment of a Nisga'a court. A Nisga'a court can only operate if it is similar to a provincial court and approved by British Columbia in accordance with the treaty. The Nisga'a treaty specifically states that the Nisga'a court cannot impose on a person who is not a Nisga'a citizen a sanction or penalty that is different in nature from those generally imposed by provincial or superior courts in Canada without that person's consent.

During the negotiation of the Nisga'a treaty, federal and provincial negotiators briefed and consulted extensively with the residents of the Nass Valley and others who have interests within the area proposed to be Nisga'a land. Their views were taken into account in concluding the final agreement. None of these private properties will become Nisga'a land. Canada's policy is that private lands are not on the table during treaty negotiation.

Indeed, the final agreement requires that the Nisga'a government, on the effective date of the treaty, grant replacement interest to all those who have property interests in areas of Nisga'a land before the treaty came into effect. Not only will these interests be replaced but they are protected from expropriation by the Nisga'a in perpetuity under the agreement.

Members will see that great care was taken during the negotiation of the Nisga'a final agreement to ensure that the rights of all residents on Nisga'a land continue to be protected in the future.

Besides the Nisga'a track record, over more than 100 years stands in testimony that the Nisga'a deal with their non-Nisga'a neighbours in a fair and respectful manner. This high regard is reflected in the recent words of Chief Joseph Gosnell.

Nisga'a citizenship and the ability to participate in Nisga'a government is not restricted to persons who meet the eligibility criteria. Nisga'a government has the authority to grant citizenship to people, extending to them the rights and responsibilities of all Nisga'a citizens. The Nisga'a insisted on this power in recognition that there will be residents who are in every meaningful way full members of the community and should be included in the democratic functions of the Nisga'a government.

In order for the Nisga'a to prosper and attract economic development, their laws and decisions must be open and transparent and their administrative policies on review and appeal procedures clear and fair to all. The Nisga'a final agreement provides a sound basis for the Nisga'a to complete those objectives.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her fine speech. We all know of her deep interest and personal involvement in the issue.

The Nisga'a deal, the Indian Act, Delgamuukw and the Marshall decision are all part of an ethos that the rest of the House agrees with but that we in this party do not, for many reasons.

Does it not seem odd to her that the money and the resources from the Nisga'a deal will go to the collective rather than to the individual? We have seen that half the budget, $3.5 billion, has gone to over 600 bands in the country. There has been widespread mismanagement by many of these bands, but not all, and the people on the bottom are being excluded.

On the Pacheedaht reserve in my riding, the chief is being excluded from knowing what is happening on the reserve in terms of some very important decisions. When he asked the department to intervene on his and his people's behalf, the department said that it could not because the leadership would not let it. The people on the bottom are being excluded because they do not have the power.

Does the hon. member not think that in order to achieve economic emancipation one requires political independence? Does not the Nisga'a deal, along with the Marshall, Delgamuukw and all of the other decisions in the envelope, represent the balkanization of Canada? How does she square the Nisga'a deal with being a template for decisions dealing with aboriginal treaties and demands by aboriginal people across the country? How are we going to pay for it? How are we going to ensure that together we will be able to move forward with an economic future that will provide certainty, power and a brighter future for both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people?

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, we have to understand that to this day aboriginal people have not been given a fair opportunity to exercise their rights within Canada. Unfortunately we have to make agreements and treaties in the modern day scenario to ensure that the aboriginal people who have rights within the constitution have some mechanism other than what we have today to exercise those rights properly.

As the Progressive Conservative member mentioned, treaties like the treaty in Nova Scotia have not worked to this day. For 200 years we have been trying a system that does not work. I am sure we can all agree on that. We have to provide a mechanism so these Canadians can get the opportunity to govern themselves because they have not yet had the opportunity to do so.

I am quite disappointed in some of the comments I heard from opposition members this morning. They do not feel these people can take care of their own affairs under this new treaty. I know from my own area that they have been doing their own governing for many years and they have a system that they want to implement for their people.

As I said earlier, the systems that we have had to date have not worked. We have to provide new treaties so these people can become participants in Canada and have the same benefits other people in Canada are entitled to.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct one comment made by the hon. member. The Reform Party has never held that aboriginal people are not able to care for themselves. It is in fact just the opposite. We would like to see aboriginal people across the country be able to maintain themselves and be responsible for themselves on the same basis as all other Canadians.

The land claim agreement contains within it the right to self-government under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. According to the supreme court this cannot be changed.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Would the hon. member please put his question. I have given him lots of latitude. I said that his question had to be very short and he has gone for over 60 seconds. We are out of time. Would he put his question very quickly.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Could the member explain how this is not amending the constitution through the back door?

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, this agreement is within Canadian laws so I cannot see how the member can ask that question.

He made another comment about it not being right. I am not sure how he put it. I cannot repeat his words. However, in the agreement these people have decided that they want to pay taxes like everyone else in the whole country. I do not know how he can be against that.

A group of people has decided to become taxpaying citizens of the country over a phased in period. I do not know what more they can do to prove to others that they want to be part of Canada.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, as all members of this place are aware, fisheries is important to many of Canada's aboriginal people in coastal communities. As it does in many other areas, the Nisga'a final agreement reconciles and balances the rights of the Nisga'a people with the interest of all Canadians. There is a major section in the document on fisheries. Most important, the Nisga'a final agreement protects the rich fisheries resources of the Nass Valley. Without conservation all of us would suffer.

In my former capacity as parliamentary secretary to the minister of fisheries I had the opportunity to discuss a number of times with members of the Nisga'a community the importance of fisheries and how the Nisga'a final agreement would in fact operate. I asked many questions on all areas and they were very forthcoming and direct in answering them.

This is an agreement to share the fisheries resources and provide a certain future to everyone who relies on the fishery. It also recognized, and very importantly so, a co-operative role for the Nisga'a in fisheries management while retaining the overall authority of the minister to regulate all Nass fisheries.

I would like to explain some of the history that has led to the agreement on the fisheries provisions. The Nisga'a people have traditionally relied on the Nass River salmon fishery along with the other marine resources of the Nass area. They continue to harvest salmon as well as other fish species such as halibut, shellfish and crabs. Those who have visited the Nass Valley know how important fisheries are to the Nisga'a people and the Nisga'a community. Fish is a staple of their diet and is featured at every feast and ceremony.

Since 1992 the Nisga'a have also taken on an increasing role in fisheries science. Through the prize winning Nisga'a fisheries program, developed in consultation with Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists and funded through the aboriginal fisheries strategies, the Nisga'a have been contributing to fisheries management activities for Nass River salmon stocks. A joint technical committee of Nisga'a and department of fisheries staff co-ordinates the Nisga'a fisheries program.

An example of these activities is the fishwheel program which tracks the number of sockeye salmon returning to spawn. Since 1994 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans began using these estimates to manage Nass sockeye. Before then it was quite common for many more sockeye to escape than were needed on the spawning beds. The Nisga'a effort has helped the department to manage commercial harvests to catch as many fish as possible while still meeting its conservation targets.

From 1977 to 1992 over 800,000 sockeye salmon that could have been safely harvested swam past the fishing fleet and on to the spawning beds. Those fish are there for the future. This practice will benefit all those who make a living the from Nass sockeye fishery, including commercial fishermen. Other Nisga'a programs also provide valuable information to help manage and conserve salmon.

In 1995 the Nisga'a were awarded the Department of Fisheries and Oceans management prize for these efforts. This is what we mean when we talk of fishery stewardship. It is a very good place to begin an enduring relationship such as the one the treaty establishes.

I will talk for a moment about conservation. I said that the Nisga'a final agreement places conservation first. Let me explain how. The final agreement plainly states that the Nisga'a right to fish is subject to conservation. For salmon, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans can set minimum escapement levels necessary for the health of salmon stocks below which the Nisga'a may not fish.

Both Canada and the Nisga'a wanted to continue the good work of the Nisga'a fisheries program. In this treaty Canada has agreed to contribute $10.3 million to the Nisga'a $3.1 million to create a trust to promote the conservation and protection of Nass area fish species. The careful monitoring of returning salmon runs required by the Nisga'a final agreement will provide the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans with the information he needs to act to protect that fisheries resource, if action should be required.

Conservation remains the first priority. The salmon allocations contained in the final agreement are based on a percentage of the return to Canada, subject to a conservation limit and capped at higher run sizes. These salmon allocations are based on a modest increase over the current harvest levels by the Nisga'a. For example, the allocation for the most valuable species, sockeye salmon, will be 10.5% of the return to Canada, capped at 63,000 fish. There is no uncertainty here. It will be 10.5% and that is it.

The final agreement precisely sets out the Nisga'a share of the Nass River salmon fishery, regardless of changes in the population of Nisga'a, long term changes in the abundance of salmon or other factors. Everyone will know the rules. There will be room for all users of the resource. It is extremely important that everyone knows the rules and that they are laid down.

A separate harvest agreement which is not part of the treaty provides for commercial allocations of pink and sockeye. When there are commercial fisheries for these species the Nisga'a will have a share. The share for sockeye salmon is 13%. The Nisga'a share will have the same priority as commercial and recreational fishers; no more and no less.

An important feature of the certainty we all seek is the accounting system set out in the final agreement. It ensures that the Nisga'a catch is consistent with their share and that the Nisga'a do not harvest from other people's shares.

The fisheries is one of the most important economic opportunities the final agreement provides to Nisga'a people. The salmon harvested under the harvest agreement can be sold in accordance with laws which regulate the sale of fish and with the terms and conditions set out by the minister in the Nisga'a annual fishing plan.

Fish harvested under the Nisga'a treaty entitlements may only be sold when commercial fishermen can also sell those Nass salmon species. I should also mention the Nisga'a have indicated that proceeds from a portion of their commercial harvest will be used to support their fisheries stewardship activities.

The treaty and the harvest agreement result in some reallocation over and above the current Nisga'a harvest. To ensure that the fishery continues to be viable for other fishers, the additional Nisga'a harvest will be offset by a voluntary licence retirement program.

This means that individual catches of salmon fishermen on British Columbia's north coast will not go down as a result of the treaty. As I have said, we have protected the interest of all Canadians through the treaty.

To be clear, let me state again that the Nisga'a final agreement confirms the minister's continued authority for the management of fisheries and fish habitat. The Nisga'a have an advisory role as members of the joint fisheries management committee. This will provide recommendations to the minister to help facilitate co-operative planning and management of Nisga'a fisheries. There is nothing that limits the minister's ability to seek and consider the advice of others in the use of this resource.

Nisga'a fisheries will be regulated by the fisheries act, the regulations, and the annual Nisga'a plan approved by the minister. The fishing plan will include the timing, the method and the location of the harvests. The fishing plan must be integrated as necessary with conservation plans and the fishing plans for other users.

Compliance with the Nisga'a annual fishing plan will be enforceable under the fisheries act and under Nisga'a law. Federal and provincial enforcement personnel can enforce Nisga'a law.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, we all agree that the current treaty process has not worked. We also agree that the rights of aboriginal people have been excluded.

I have a question for the member. Is the Nisga'a treaty not just an extension of our segregationist Indian act of today? Would not a better way of improving the health and welfare of aboriginal people, with which every member of the House would agree, be by not empowering the group selectively but by empowering the individual?

Only by empowering individuals and giving them the tools to stand on their own two feet will they have a chance of contributing to their families and their communities. This will enable them to get back the pride and self-respect that are essential for them to move forward with the rest of us to a brighter future.

Should we not be ensuring that aboriginal people have the same municipal powers as everybody else, the same rights under the laws as everybody else, and the same individual rights as every Canadian? Should we not be ensuring that aboriginal people will be able to share in that like everybody else?

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I think members can see the putdown and the background of where the Reform Party is coming from on this issue through that question.

The member talked about aboriginal people moving forward with the rest of us. This is an agreement that talks about moving forward together. I was talking about the fisheries management agreement as an area where we work together in co-operation with the Nisga'a nation so that we as a whole country move forward. We are not in that situation as we have seen by going to the supreme court on the Marshall decision.

This is an agreement worked out with the Nisga'a people so that we can all make better use of the resources and share in the resources of the country. Canada as a whole should be better off as a result.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

There are still approximately three minutes remaining. I want to return to this debate after question period. If the member is here he will have three minutes for questions and comments.

HistoricaStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I thank and congratulate Mr. Charles Bronfman and Mr. Red Wilson, co-founders of Historica, and their supporters.

They have just launched Historica, a new foundation that will bring more Canadian history into our classrooms. It will act as an umbrella organization for other established Canadian heritage groups and will use television, film and the Internet to help educate people on Canada's history.

The foundation will establish a website where we will be able to access a Canadian encyclopedia. It will include chat rooms so Canadians from coast to coast to coast can talk on line in both English and French. It will also provide a directory of Canadian Internet addresses so students can find direct links to other Canadian history sites.

When polls show that young people are not sure who Pierre Trudeau is and only half can name Sir John A. Macdonald as our first prime minister, I applaud this initiative to promote the study of Canadian history.

It says on the website “celebrating our past, sharing our future”. What could be more important?

Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar ByelectionStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to offer a hospitable welcome to a man who has just arrived in Saskatchewan by parachute.

Dennis Greunding, well known to his neighbours in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, is visiting Saskatoon where he has generously allowed the NDP to put his name forward in the federal byelection for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

Mr. Greunding has rented a lovely home in Saskatoon's posh Silverwood Heights suburb. Unfortunately, he has yet to learn that the home he is renting is not even in the riding where he is actually a candidate. Oh well, at least he is in the right province.

I also want to express my heartfelt sorrow to Mr. Greunding who will return to his Ottawa mansion in defeat after the November 15 election. Fortunately this will be the second electoral flame out for the Ottawa based opportunist who ran as a tourist and lost to myself in Saskatoon—Humboldt just two years ago.

Epidermolysis BullosaStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring to the attention of the House EB Awareness Week which is being recognized from October 25 to November 1, 1999. EB refers to epidermolysis bullosa, a rare genetic skin condition that affects children regardless of race or gender.

The rarity of the disease combined with the lack of research and information has left many of the young sufferers feeling isolated and disillusioned.

Today I seek to raise the public's awareness of this devastating disease by applauding the efforts of DEBRA Canada. The Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of Canada is a charitable organization founded by a group of EB sufferers, their families and friends.

DEBRA Canada and its president Francesca Molinaro have been tireless in their campaign to raise awareness and further research into this rare disorder.

I encourage everyone to support DEBRA Canada in its goal to raise awareness of EB and provide support to all the children who suffer from this terrible disease.

Telephone ServiceStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, would you believe it? On the threshold of the 21st century there are families in Peterborough county without telephone service.

I was given the following directions to one of these homes: “Follow County Roads 8 and 40 to where the telephone lines stop, then follow the poles to our place”. These homes have telephone poles. They have neighbours with telephones but they are unable to get service.

This is unconscionable in rural Canada today, in the most connected nation in the world. The federal government has put all our schools on the Internet, but kids in these families cannot access it at home. They cannot even phone their friends.

I urge the government to intercede with Bell Canada and the CRTC to see to it that these Peterborough families get telephone service soon.

Small Business WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week is Small Business Week.

SMBs are the driving force behind our economy and, in Brome Missisquoi, they can be found in farming, tourism and the services sector. They create large number of jobs and are a new way of developing modern economies.

In Sutton, Magog, Knowlton, Farnham and Bedford, our young, small business entrepreneurs are imaginative, hard working, and involved in what they do for a living and in their community.

The Government of Canada is proud of all this country's young entrepreneurs. You are helping to build a better world.

Breast CancerStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death among Canadian women and the statistics are not encouraging. Breast cancer has been increasing by 1.5% every year since 1981. One in nine Canadian women will be afflicted by this disease. But there are encouraging signs.

Many people in this House participated in the CIBC Run for the Cure that raised millions of dollars for breast cancer research. Also support groups are developing for families and the patients affected by breast cancer. We also have new surgical techniques that are less disfiguring and new treatments that we hope can prevent breast cancer in the future.

That is not good enough. We have to find a cure. We encourage the government to increase its commitment to develop more research into breast cancer.

I also encourage women to seek out their doctors to do screening for breast cancer. Women who have breast cancer should make sure their daughters are checked also.

Let us use October not just as a month to look at breast cancer in its entirety, but let us look at October as a start to eradicate it.

Canada-China Legislative AssociationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, a little more than a year ago, the House along with the other place established the Canada-China Legislative Association to build a special relationship between the people's congress in China and our parliament.

This week we are joined in Ottawa by the chairman of the Chinese section of the legislative association, Mr. Jiang Xinxiong; the vice-president, Mr. Zheng Yi; and two members of the association, Mr. Tao Xiping and Mr. Wang Shuming.

We have just finished two days of very fruitful meetings. We have had frank and full debate on a wide range of issues from Taiwan to illegal immigrants. We are building upon the very firm foundation that has been established between our two countries.

Great Lakes BasinStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, 31 concerned citizens from Quebec, Ontario and United States are in Ottawa today to meet with parliamentarians to raise issues about the Great Lakes basin.

Some 321 million pounds of toxins were released by legal permit in 1996 into the Great Lakes. Research and monitoring budgets have been substantially reduced and regulations weakened.

These concerned citizens are calling on parliamentarians to protect human health and restore the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes basin.

This is a call to action we ignore at our peril.