Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.
I stand today on behalf of the people of Okanagan—Coquihalla to speak to Bill C-9, an act to put into effect the Nisga'a final agreement. This is a very significant issue today and it is very important that members of parliament be able to represent their constituents.
What we are seeing today and what we will see throughout the debate is an attempt by the federal Liberal government to not allow the debate to go forward. It will use every means possible at its disposal, including closure on debate, and every tactic it can to not have a full hearing on the Nisga'a final agreement. The people of British Columbia have not been able to express their views on the Nisga'a final agreement.
It is very important, particularly for the members of our party, but certainly all members from British Columbia, to speak on the issue and to reflect what their constituents have been telling them because the deal is very significant. It is probably one of the most significant agreements for the aboriginal people in Canada for quite some time.
The deal will hand over to 5,500 Nisga'a ownership over an area of land that is one-half the size of the area that I come from, the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan Valley is home to over 200,000 people as compared to 5,500. Along with ownership of the land, these 5,500 individuals will get the rights to resources such as timber, water and minerals, and a major say over the wildlife resource management.
The Nisga'a will also get cash payments. According to an independent analysis done by R.M. Richardson and Associates, the total cost of the deal will be a minimum of $1.3 billion or $260,000 per Nisga'a. The agreement is dramatic because the federal government intends to make Nisga'a the blueprint for over 50 other agreements that will come down the road.
It is no wonder that the people of British Columbia are concerned. Let me point out that to date I alone, as the member of parliament for Okanagan—Coquihalla, have received literally thousands of names on petitions from people who are concerned about the agreement. They want questions answered. That is why it is important to have a full hearing of this debate, even though the Liberal government is going to throw up every roadblock it can to prevent that from happening.
In the grassroots plebiscites in the province of B.C., over 90% of British Columbians opposed the deal. It is also worthwhile pointing out that only 60% of the Nisga'a people agree with the Nisga'a final agreement.
The whole idea of agreements like this is to help solve the lingering social and economic problems facing aboriginal people in the country. If the agreement was going to solve those lingering social problems that have been faced by aboriginal people in the country, I and my colleagues would stand today in full agreement of the deal. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The agreement leaves more uncertainty than the Nisga'a had before.
When all is said and done, there is no doubt in my mind that this bill will pass. It will be a matter of history that the Reform Party of Canada stood alone, stood separate from all of the other political parties in the House of Commons, the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP, and the red Tories at the end of the hall, and the other NDP at the end of the way here.
The fact is that at the end of the day, after the votes are counted and this deal has passed, the social and economic problems faced by the Nisga'a will not have changed one iota. In fact this agreement will guarantee that the Nisga'a people will see another hundred years of poverty in their communities.
This agreement does not give the Nisga'a people the tools they need for a modern economy in the 21st century. It does not do that. That is unfortunate. That is why the members from British Columbia and the members from the Reform Party of Canada are standing here today. Although we are standing alone as a political party, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Nisga'a people and every aboriginal group across the country.
We want to see settlements that are final, that give the people the tools so that they can democratically elect their governments in the 21st century. We want to make sure that they have the tools to participate in the economy. These are very real problems.
One really important issue is the lack of property rights on reserves. It has been one of the major stumbling blocks for aboriginal peoples. It plays a leading role in any economy. Without the right to private property it is almost impossible to raise capital to start or expand a business. Aboriginal people cannot benefit from the hard work of past generations because they are unable to inherit property. Under the Nisga'a final agreement all land will be collectively owned by the Nisga'a government. It will have the right to determine what land, if any, will be sold privately.
By concentrating power into the hands of the Nisga'a government, the Nisga'a people do not gain individual rights and equality with other Canadians. Since much of the spending power of the Nisga'a government will be handed to them by Ottawa, they fail to become fiscally accountable. The Nisga'a will not acquire the opportunity and responsibility to make their own future and to pass the fruits of their labour on to their children.
Before the House considers this agreement or any other agreement, we should have a full debate on the issue of property rights for aboriginal people. Property rights should be the cornerstone of any 21st century agreement with aboriginal people. Without them we are condemning the aboriginals in Canada to repeat the 19th century and all that entails.
Let us not forget which party has been in government for most of those 100 years. It has been the Liberal Party of Canada and the red Tories at the other end of the hall who have insisted on agreements such as this which have made the aboriginal people suffer in abject poverty.
As a solution I would like to suggest three points which at minimum the Nisga'a agreement should ensure. There should be adequate protection of Nisga'a land occupants with guaranteed tenure and ownership rights to compare with non-aboriginal Canadians. There should be special measures to ensure that people have the same rights regarding the division of marital assets whether or not they live on Nisga'a land. There should be the guaranteed right on individual property ownership on Nisga'a land.
Federal and provincial legislation should apply on Indian lands to protect people living on that land. We hear a lot from the people on the other side of the House that everybody who lives on that land will be covered by the same federal and provincial agreements or laws that are in place.
I would like to refer to a situation in my riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla. Members may recall that I introduced a private member's bill regarding the situation at the Driftwood Mobile Home Park. The 51 families who resided at Driftwood Mobile Home Park were evicted. They were told they had to leave their homes.
Why was that? It was because their septic system failed. After they had paid rental for years and years to have their mobile homes on that property their septic system failed. Why did it fail? We found out that because it was on reserve land proper inspections were not done. The landlord and tenant act did not apply to these people because they lived on reserve land. It was a huge injustice.
Did we see the Liberal government standing up to support those 51 low income families at that time? No, it did not. Nor did members of the NDP or the red Tories at the other end support those 51 low income families who lost their homes. Some of them only received 50 cents on the dollar for their investment. They are low income people. They are without homes. They are living in my riding. There are four other mobile home parks in jeopardy of the same fate. Why? It is because the Liberal government depends on agreements which are set up to fail.
This will not solve the problem. I wish the House would reconsider this whole area. At the end of the day I can guarantee that I will be standing shoulder to shoulder in support of the Nisga'a people for their future and their economic development when all these other people are long gone.