Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her questions. I believe by the tone of her comments that she is truly interested in this subject as well. I thank her for that. I would like to respond to her questions.
On the issue of women's rights it is true the agreement says that provincial jurisdiction or provincial laws will apply. The hon. member has to understand that before there can be a division of marital assets there has to be a property right attached to them. Right now on reserves in Canada it is the band council that decides who will live in which house because those houses are not individually owned by anybody. They are owned by the band.
There is a potential for the creation of some kind of private property right in the Nisga'a agreement but there is no commitment to it. Without that commitment we cannot guarantee those matrimonial rights to Nisga'a women.
The member talked about charter rights. Yes, it does say that in the agreement, but that is something the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in my view is using to mislead or misrepresent the agreement. The preamble to the Nisga'a agreement states that the charter of rights and freedoms will apply. That is true. We certainly concede that. It is there in black and white, but we must also understand that section 35 of our constitution recognizes and affirms aboriginal rights. Those are collective rights.
Section 25 of our constitution requires the courts to take into consideration those rights in the event of a conflict between the charter rights of individual Nisga'a people and the collective rights of the Nisga'a as a people. It is not only that the courts must take that into consideration, but they must give a higher priority to the collective right over the individual right.
I urge the member to get out her constitution and read section 25 and section 35. It is very easy to come to the conclusion that our charter rights are put in peril by the section 25 requirement of the courts to say that section 35 will trump individual rights. I urge her to take a look at this because it is very important. If we do not do that, then in five, ten, fifteen years from now we will see that the fallout from that will be some court cases that are going to be seen to be patently ridiculous by most Canadians. Nisga'a individuals will be losing challenges at the supreme court when their charter rights are violated. They will not be on the same level playing field as all other Canadians. That is really unfortunate.