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.


Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members


Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario


Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-9, an act to give effect to the Nisga'a Final Agreement, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour for me to bring forward this legislation, the Nisga'a final agreement act. The act and the treaty it will enshrine mark the culmination of a journey begun by the Nisga'a people more than a century ago.

Since 1887, the Nisga'a people have been actively seeking to resolve issues related to their land, culture and government. Generations came and went without solutions being found.

While the rest of Canada progressed into a modern and prosperous society, the Nisga'a were left behind uncertain of their place in the country, uncertain of whether there even was a place for them in the country.

Today marks a major step forward for the Nisga'a people, for British Columbia and for Canada. There is a great deal of excitement these days about the dawning of a new millennium and the opportunities it presents for our nation. However, as we enter the 21st century we still face the challenge of unfinished business from the 19th.

The bill represents a major step forward in bringing closure to unfinished business from a century ago. It marks a new era of reconciliation and renewal between Canada and aboriginal people. By doing so it sets the stage for Canada to realize even greater achievements in the new century.

For six generations the Nisga'a people refused to give up hope or to doubt that their goals would be achieved. The fact that we are debating the bill today is testament to their dedication and perseverance. I am sure history will prove that their efforts will make Canada a stronger and more complete nation.

I also recognize the efforts of my predecessors and colleagues in the House who have contributed so greatly to where we are today. I pay tribute to the government and people of British Columbia for demonstrating that our country can and will accommodate the needs and aspirations of all those living within its borders.

Bill C-9 is a national achievement. It represents a milestone not only for the Nisga'a people but for all British Columbians and Canadians. The Nisga'a treaty is a reconciliation between past and present, between native and non-native. It lets us put the mistakes of the past behind us. By clearly setting out our relationship it will foster community economic growth for the Nisga'a and for other Canadian citizens.

The treaty is an important step in the long process of nationbuilding within Canada. As Dr. Joe Gosnell, president of the Nisga'a Tribal Council, pointed out on numerous occasions, we are negotiating our way into Canada, not out of it.

With this endorsement from the House a century old goal is within our grasp. The Nisga'a treaty represents a pivotal point in the relationship between Canada and the Nisga'a people. It is an opportunity to demonstrate our mutual trust and respect.

The Nisga'a people have been living in northwestern British Columbia for thousands of years. When Europeans first arrived on the Pacific shores they found a well established society, one that was self-sustaining and able to care for its members. The Nisga'a were prosperous people and entrepreneurial in spirit. They lived in organized communities and governed themselves according to the ancient Ayuukhl Nisga'a laws, their rules of social obligation and conduct.

The arrival of European settlers had a dramatic effect on the Nisga'a and on other aboriginal people in British Columbia. As in other parts of Canada the imposition of foreign laws, cultural and religious customs had a negative impact that is still being felt today.

Diseases that had never before been seen in North America had a devastating effect on entire communities. The Nisga'a population was once more than 30,000, a number that subsequently declined to only 800. Today the Nisga'a number almost 6,000 but that is still a far cry from where they once were.

In British Columbia the circumstances of aboriginal people were further affected by the lack of comprehensive treaties with the crown. In most other parts of Canada these treaties were a prerequisite for settlement. They provided some degree of certainty over land tenure and defined a relationship between the crown and aboriginal people.

The absence of treaties in British Columbia means that to this day most aboriginal people in that province are unsure of their place in Canada. It also means great uncertainty for all residents of British Columbia.

For more than a century the Nisga'a have sought to rectify the situation. They did not let the events of the past outweigh their desire to achieve an honoured and valuable place within Canada. Despite serious obstacles that were placed before them, generations of Nisga'a leadership continue to pursue their goals through peaceful and lawful methods.

In more recent times the efforts of the Nisga'a have coincided with an evolution in the way individual Canadians and their governments view their relationship with aboriginal people. There is widespread agreement that the policies of the past have failed and a new approach is needed, one based on mutual respect and trust. There is broad recognition that all Canadians will benefit from such an approach.

This evolution of thought has produced a number of initiatives including the many task forces and royal commissions established to look into aboriginal issues, the launching in 1985 of the community based self-government policy, the passage by parliament of the Sechelt Indian Band Self-Government Act, through to the tabling in 1995 of the approach of the Government of Canada to the implementation of the inherent right and negotiation of aboriginal self-government.

The government believes that self-government is like other aboriginal rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the constitution of 1982. As the courts have suggested, these rights are best negotiated, not litigated, and this is precisely what we have done. The Nisga'a treaty is the logical result of the evolution of Canadian thought and policy and measures up as a practical and workable arrangement that operates within the constitutional framework of Canada.

The Nisga'a treaty establishes a shared understanding of how the Nisga'a people and other Canadians can coexist and achieve common goals. It provides a fair, affordable and honourable settlement that accommodates the interest of all Canadians and will promote stability and opportunity for all residents of the Nass Valley.

By clearly setting out the rights of the Nisga'a people as related to the ownership and use of lands and resources, the treaty provides certainty. This certainty will foster an economic climate conducive to attracting investment and creating jobs while at the same time providing an opportunity for the Nisga'a to protect their culture.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of certainty to the future of British Columbia. During the approximate 500 public consultations and information meetings which were held in B.C. during the Nisga'a negotiations the business community made one thing perfectly clear: certainty is essential to a strong economic future for the province.

What is the cost of the status quo? A 1991 Price Waterhouse study concluded that unresolved land claims in British Columbia cost the province $1 billion in investment and 1,500 jobs each year in forestry and mining alone. The Nisga'a treaty is a major step toward ensuring that kind of economic activity is not lost for future generations of British Columbians.

So long as certainty is achieved I know that the business community welcomes the opportunity to work in partnership with aboriginal people. This is as true in my own region as it is in British Columbia where partnerships are springing up throughout the province as the private sector and aboriginal communities work together on economic ventures.

Those who have known me for a while know how much importance I place on these kinds of partnerships and the ability for native and non-native people to work together. Throughout Canada but mostly in rural regions native and non-native Canadians live side by side. They share many of the same challenges and dreams, but for far too long they have lived isolated from each other.

In today's world that isolation cannot continue. The only way for aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians to realize their full potential is by working together. The Nisga'a treaty will encourage that process in northwestern British Columbia. It is important that members of the House and Canadians in general are aware of what the Nisga'a treaty will and will not do. I will outline a few of those items.

Most important, the treaty establishes a full and final settlement of all outstanding Nisga'a claims in respect of aboriginal rights and title. The Nisga'a will receive a settlement package including $196.1 million paid over 15 years, approximately 2,000 square kilometres of land in the Nass Valley area including surface and subsurface rights, and a share of Nass River salmon stocks and Nass area wildlife harvests.

The total estimated one time cost of the treaty including land value, implementation and other related costs is $487.1 million in 1999 dollars. Canada's share is $255 million. I want to be clear on the cost of the agreement. It does not involve, as some have implied, a cash transfer of a half billion dollars. While I am sure members will go into great detail during committee study, it is important to underscore this point for all Canadians to clarify the record.

A strong economy requires land and a resource base. With this achieved the Nisga'a will be able to participate more fully in the local and provincial economies. Once again the Nisga'a people will have the tools necessary to be self-reliant. They will be able to harvest timber on their lands for housing or commercial use. Given the natural beauty of the Nass Valley region it is likely the Nisga'a will explore economic opportunities such as outfitting, wilderness camping, ecotourism and sport fishing.

Other residents of the Nass Valley will benefit as well. Increased economic activity will produce inevitable spin-offs throughout the area. As infrastructure on Nisga'a lands and the Nisga'a highway are upgraded jobs will be created and local businesses will profit from an injection of new cash. A prosperous Nisga'a people will contribute to a stronger economy in northwestern British Columbia.

As significant as is the Nisga'a treaty it is equally significant that it has been achieved within Canada's existing constitutional framework. It does not directly or indirectly change the constitution. Nor is a constitutional amendment necessary to bring the treaty into effect. The Nisga'a treaty is a practical arrangement that defines the rights the Nisga'a people will exercise under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Although rights will be protected under section 35 it does not mean they are absolute. The courts have confirmed that those rights may be infringed where proper justification exists.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the nature of the Nisga'a government envisioned by the treaty. Quite simply the Nisga'a government will be a democratic government for the Nisga'a community. It will work to protect Nisga'a language, culture and property and to promote the future prosperity and well-being of the Nisga'a people. It will give the Nisga'a the control over their own lives and destinies that most of us have long taken for granted.

The treaty does not create an order of government apart from Canadian law and society. Let me be clear about this. The charter of rights and freedoms will continue to apply to the Nisga'a people.

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10:40 a.m.

An hon. member


Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Bob Nault Liberal Kenora—Rainy River, ON

Let me see if I can say that again. The charter of rights and freedoms will continue to apply to the Nisga'a people, the Nisga'a government and all people living on Nisga'a land. The charter will apply to all actions taken by the Nisga'a government, including when it can make laws and take decisions such as issuing permits and licences. The Nisga'a government will only be able to enact laws that are consistent with the charter of rights and freedoms.

Not only will the charter continue to apply. Nothing in the treaty takes away from federal or provincial authority under the constitution and the sovereignty of the crown is clearly acknowledged. Federal and provincial laws such as the criminal code or B.C.'s family relations act will apply. Where the Nisga'a government can make laws they will operate concurrently with federal and provincial laws. There will be no areas of exclusive Nisga'a jurisdiction.

Throughout history treaties have been used to define the relationships people have with each other. They represent solemn commitments. As such they cannot and must not be changed at the whim of one party or the other. For that reason the Nisga'a treaty and the Nisga'a final agreement act will prevail when there is a conflict with federal or provincial legislation. This is consistent with the constitutional protection of treaty rights.

That does not mean Nisga'a laws will necessarily prevail over federal-provincial laws. The treaty clearly lays out the areas in which the Nisga'a government will have the right to enact laws. These laws will only prevail in matters internal to the Nisga'a people, integral to their culture, and essential to the operation of their government.

For other areas the treaty clearly spells out the rules of which any conflict between Nisga'a laws and federal or provincial laws will be resolved. In general, federal and provincial laws will prevail, or the Nisga'a law will have to meet or exceed existing federal and provincial standards in order to be valid.

As well as providing clear avenues of authority, the Nisga'a treaty is a sensible and practical arrangement that will provide for the political, legal and financial accountability of the Nisga'a government. The treaty, its related fiscal financing agreement and the Nisga'a constitution all contain provisions to provide that the Nisga'a government will be accountable to its members and to the governments from which it will derive some of its funding.

The Nisga'a government will be required to prepare and provide audited financial statements to its members and to Canada and British Columbia. These statements must meet generally accepted accounting standards and any funding provided by Canada will be subject to review by the auditor general. This standard of accountability has been embraced by the Nisga'a leadership. Beyond any government's moral obligation to be accountable to those it represents, obviously there is a practical reality.

The modern self-government arrangements in the Nisga'a treaty clarify the responsibility for land management for all those who do business with the Nisga'a government and for those who live on Nisga'a lands. In order for the Nisga'a to attract economic development, their laws and decisions will have to be open and transparent with their administrative policies and review and appeal procedures both clear and fair.

While the Nisga'a government will be unique to the Nisga'a people, it will operate under principles of democratic, representative and accountable public administration common to other local and regional governments throughout Canada.

We should be proud that this treaty finally sets out the rights of the Nisga'a people. We should be no less proud, however, of the measures it takes to reconcile Nisga'a rights with the rights of others. The treaty protects the rights of other aboriginal people and the rights of non-Nisga'a individuals who reside on Nisga'a lands.

If the treaty were found to adversely affect an aboriginal right of another first nation, it will be read down to accommodate that first nation's rights. The parties would be obliged to make best efforts to amend the treaty in order to remedy the situation.

For non-Nisga'a living on Nisga'a lands, the treaty contains far stronger protection of their rights than the existing Indian Act. Those individuals will continue to enjoy the right to vote in federal, provincial and regional district elections. They will also have the right to vote for, or become members of, elected Nisga'a public institutions, such as school boards and health boards.

The treaty also provides that non-Nisga'a living on Nisga'a lands will have the right to be consulted about all decisions that might directly and significantly affect them. The Nisga'a government will have a duty and an obligation to give their views full and fair consideration. Like Nisga'a citizens, non-Nisga'a people will have full access to procedures allowing them to appeal administrative decisions of the Nisga'a government, including judicial review.

Throughout the negotiations leading up to the treaty, all parties were very mindful of the rights and interests of others. For example, people who are not Nisga'a citizens but reside on Nisga'a lands may very well benefit from services provided by the Nisga'a government. However, they will not be subject to taxation by the Nisga'a government.

The Canadian public will continue to enjoy reasonable access to Nisga'a lands for recreation and other non-commercial purposes. Access required to construct and operate licensed water supplies is protected, and the Nisga'a water reservation, amounting to only 1% of the Nass River flow, leaves ample volume for other uses which may be required in the future.

These are but a few of the many ways in which the Nisga'a treaty protects and respects the rights of others. This protection I should emphasize is not available under the Indian Act.

The Nisga'a treaty is a complex and carefully balanced agreement. If any of my colleagues have yet to read the text, I urge them to do so in order to see the extent to which the concerns and aspirations of all Canadians have been addressed. Anyone taking the time to do so will realize that, as with all negotiations, there has been give and take by all parties, including the Nisga'a.

One is in the area of taxation. Once the treaty is ratified the Nisga'a will enter an eight year period to phase out exemptions from sales tax and a 12 year period to phase out exemptions from income tax. At the end of the phase-out periods the Nisga'a people will pay taxes the same way that other Canadians do.

The Nisga'a will also undertake a share of the responsibility of funding their government. The reliance of the Nisga'a people on transfers will be reduced over time and it will contribute to the cost of programs and services through the operation of an own source revenue agreement.

The more that people actually learn about this agreement, the stronger their support for it becomes. I am certain other members will expand on areas of the treaty that are of particular interest to them. However, I would encourage members to bear in mind how historically and symbolically significant this debate is. In many ways this debate is about how we as Canadians see ourselves and our country. The fact that we have a treaty to debate is a testament to the spirit and intent of “Gathering Strength—Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan” in which we committed to address the needs of communities by building a real partnership with aboriginal people.

We would not be at this point today if Canadians had not made it clear to us that it is high time we resolved the unfinished business of the past in order to move into the future. At the same time, while the Nisga'a people will never forget what they have endured, they have come to know a different Canada in recent generations. It is a Canada that respects and embraces people of all heritages, whether aboriginal or non-aboriginal; a Canada that is grateful for the contribution aboriginal people have made and will continue to make; a Canada that is committed to reconciliation and renewal; and a Canada that knows its strength lies in the ability to forge partnerships among all those living within its borders.

The Nisga'a treaty says a great deal about how far Canada has come over the last century and our limitless potential to go even further in the future. It is a significant step in the path toward a better Canada. It is fitting that we are poised to ratify the treaty during the United Nations decade of the world's indigenous people. What better way to mark that occasion than a treaty that has become an example to nations around the world and a sign of hope to indigenous people in Canada and abroad.

In closing I would like to once again quote Dr. Joe Gosnell: “Now it is time to ratify the Nisga'a treaty for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people to come together and write a new chapter in the history of our nation, our country and indeed the world”.

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10:50 a.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Given the importance of this issue to Canadians and given the need to clarify some of the comments that the minister made in his opening remarks on this legislation, I wonder if I might ask the House and indeed the minister if we could have unanimous consent to have a 15 minute question and comment session.

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10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to have 15 minutes of questions and comments on the minister's speech?

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10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


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10:55 a.m.

An hon. member


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10:55 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta


Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-9, an act to give effect to the Nisga'a final agreement. In doing so I want to assure the Nisga'a people, the people of British Columbia and the people of Canada that our sole interest in the debate on this bill is to establish a new and better future for the Nisga'a people in relationship with each other and other Canadians.

We understand that after years and years of negotiation within a framework dictated by the Indian Act but controlled by the federal government and Indian affairs, most Nisga'a leaders feel they have no alternative but this agreement and the principles on which it is based. For them it is this or nothing. We understand that. We understand why they have to support it.

The official opposition is not in the same position. We will oppose this bill because we do not believe the agreement to which it gives effect is in the long range interests of the Nisga'a people, the long range interests of the people of British Columbia or the interests of the people of Canada.

My colleague, the member for Skeena and other official opposition members will present the evidence and the reasons behind our convictions. The House should pay particular attention to the perspective of the member for Skeena because he is not only the member of parliament for 2,300 Nisga'a people but is also the member of parliament for 20,500 other aboriginals in his riding and 62,500 non-aboriginals all affected by this bill.

The member has had intimate contact with these people to a far greater degree than the rookie minister. It is the people in the member's constituency who will have to live with the immediate and practical consequences of the Nisga'a final agreement and so we should pay particular attention to what he has to say. His speech was not written by departmental officials. It will have been written by himself out of his own experiences.

Members of this House should also recognize that the NDP Government of British Columbia that has supported this agreement is to all intents and purposes on its way out of office. It is in extreme disfavour with the people of British Columbia. I suggest that its continued support of this bill and agreement should be severely discounted because of that fact. We should recognize that British Columbia will no doubt soon have another provincial government whose members will oppose this agreement, both in the legislature and in the courts.

I am also hopeful that by the time this debate is over, Canadians in all parts of Canada and members of parliament representing all parts of Canada will understand that this bill and the agreement to which it gives effect have ramifications for them. In our judgment many of those impacts are negative. The fiscal impacts will be negative. The resource management impacts will be negative, like those of the Marshall case, and the impact on aboriginal and non-aboriginal relations will be negative.

This is not simply a bill or an agreement affecting a particular group of aboriginal people in British Columbia. It is a bill and an agreement with ramifications for all of British Columbia and for all of Canada. For that reason we are pleased to see the attention and scrutiny that the national media and media in different parts of the country are giving this bill and agreement because it will have effects far beyond the Nass Valley and British Columbia.

The agreement we have before us is an arrangement providing for the government of the Nisga'a people, the government of their local economy and the government of their relations with each other and with non-aboriginals. The purpose of my comments this morning will be to make two main points.

The first point is that the whole underlying approach to aboriginal government and economic development in this country and ratified by this bill is wrong. The whole approach that is taken and the underlying principles are defective and will not lead to the desired ends. This we intend to demonstrate in concrete ways.

My second point is that an entirely different approach to aboriginal self-government and economic development based on better principles is desperately needed for the 21st century, and that alternative approach we will attempt to describe.

Let me start by making the case that the bill and the agreement it reflects are based on the wrong approach. Surely there is no one in parliament with the nerve to say that the approach the Government of Canada has taken to aboriginal people in the 20th century has been a success. No one believes that. It is the reason for embarrassment on the part of Canadians when we raise the subject because they know that something is terribly wrong. Surely there is no one here who is proud of the old treaty system or how it was arrived at, if we study how those treaties were arrived at.

Is there anyone here who would defend the reserve system as a great social invention of the 20th century that was a smashing success for aboriginal people? Is there anyone here who would defend the Indian Act? Is there any member in the House who would stand today if the Indian Act did not exist and move that it be adopted by parliament as a statement of our approach for the 21st century? I do not think there is a single member regardless of party who is proud of the system, the approach and the track record of the poverty, family breakdown, violence, illness, shortened lifespans and the despair that system has produced for thousands and thousands of people.

The unemployment, mortality, illiteracy, suicide and incarceration rates on reserves among aboriginal people, particularly young people, are the consequences. This is the legacy of a 130 year old system for dealing with aboriginal people in this country. It was established and mismanaged over the century by successive Liberal and Tory governments.

Of course there are exceptions. There are bands which have been able to raise their standards of living and which have succeeded in various economic enterprises and undertakings. There are bands and aboriginal leaders who have improved services for their people and who do run responsible and accountable governments. There are individual aboriginals who make remarkable accomplishments in the arts, business, sport and other fields of endeavour, but it is sad to say these are the exception rather than the rule. What they have achieved has often been achieved in spite of the system, not because of the system.

I find some of the accomplishments of these people amazing because of the obstacles they have had to encounter at every step of their career from childhood to their successes. If the Indian Act did not exist, would anyone in their right mind get up in the House and introduce it today as a framework or solution for anything? If the reserve system did not exist, would anyone in their right mind in the House get up and propose it as a solution? No, because the system does not work and is going from bad to worse. It is defective in principle.

I will describe the three greatest defects in the system. The first is that the current approach grants special status to aboriginals based on race. That is what status Indian means and it is defined in a statute supposedly approved by parliament.

The status provided by the Indian Act is not privileged status. It is far from it. That status denies aboriginals many of the political and economic tools available to other Canadians, from responsible self-government to all the tools of the marketplace and private enterprise for economic development. That status in essence denies aboriginal people access to tools that the vast majority of Canadians take for granted. That status builds barriers rather than bridges between aboriginals and the rest of the Canadian community.

The second defect of the current approach is that it provides for undemocratic and unaccountable governments. The current approach to aboriginal political development fails to demand or to provide for genuine fiscal and democratic accountability from local aboriginal governments.

How did the people of Britain get democratic government? How did the people of upper and lower Canada get responsible government 150 years ago? They got it by controlling the pursestrings. Yet under the system created and managed by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development local aboriginal governments get their money not from the people to whom they should be accountable but from the government and Indian affairs. Therefore aboriginal people do not have the most elementary grip on their own governmental institutions because of the way they are funded.

I do not need to get into the examples which abound on every hand. They are in the report of the auditor general. There are in the newspapers every year examples of fiscal and electoral abuse on reserves. The federal government has failed to provide responsible government for aboriginals in either the fiscal or democratic sense at the local level.

There are signs of change. There is a grassroots movement starting among ordinary aboriginals demanding fiscal and democratic accountability from their governments and from Indian affairs. So far their voice has been largely unheeded and I see no reflection of their concerns in the agreement we are being asked to pass this week.

The third big defect in the approach that has been taken in the past with respect to aboriginal economic development, and that is perpetuated by the bill, is that it is based largely on socialist economics, collective ownership of land and resources, government ownership of land and resources, and excessive regulation of every economic activity.

There is an absence on reserves of the most basic of property rights. There is an absence of contract rights. There is an absence of free markets in housing, labour and capital. The tragedy of the current approach is that to succeed economically many aboriginal people have had to leave the reserve in order to get the tools that other Canadians take for granted.

I spent 20 years in the management consulting business. One of my areas of business was trying to facilitate relationships between aboriginal business people and oil and gas companies. I could tell the House story after story of aboriginal entrepreneurs who had all the smarts to make it in business and had to go through hurdles to try to base their business off reserve: the simple business of being able to get capital and being unable to secure a loan by offering their property because if it was on reserve the bank would not accept it as security, a simple thing like that.

How many small business people in the country got their start by pledging the little assets they had behind some loan to undertake some economic venture? That simple tool which has probably been responsible for starting the majority of small businesses in the country was denied to native entrepreneurs because of the system.

Where has all this led? Where have special status, unaccountable governance and socialist economics led? Has it led to peace, order, prosperity and good government for aboriginal people? No. It has led to the record of poverty, misery and despair for thousands of aboriginals whom I have already described. It has led to a series of land claims, court cases and court actions that are further poisoning relations between aboriginals and non-aboriginals from the forests and fisheries of British Columbia and now to the east coast. In addition, the billions of dollars that Canadians commit to Indian affairs every year is now leading to an additional contingent liability for all Canadians of up to $200 billion.

I saw an article in the newspaper this morning. I will read a bit of it. Can members imagine the enthusiasm created among investors or business people thinking of doing business in areas contingent to aboriginal lands and treaties? It is entitled “$200 billion price tag placed on native demands” and reads in part:

The federal government has calculated the cost of satisfying all aboriginal demands at $200 billion.

This figure is bigger than the entire budget of the Government of Canada for an entire year. It continues:

The $200-billion figure is the federal government's first official estimate at adding up the potential of giving natives absolutely everything they are asking for. It includes every...outstanding aboriginal claim against the government, big or small, serious or spurious.

“There are thousands of these cases, and they are coming in every day”, said one Finance Department official.

The staggering figure will be explained further today in the 1998-99 Public Accounts of government spending, officials said.

The article goes on to talk about the impact of the Delgamuukw decision by the courts, in essence putting a lien on virtually every acre of land in British Columbia. It goes on to describe the chaos created in the east coast fishery by one supreme court decision based on an interpretation of the faulty approach to economic development I just described.

It is the kind of article that, if read by people who are thinking of investing or doing business with aboriginal people or with anyone else, is a signal not to proceed rather than a signal to proceed.

The tragedy is that all three of those defects in the approach to aboriginal development and economic development are carried on, perpetuated and even strengthened by this agreement. This is not a 21st century agreement. This is the perpetuation of a 19th century approach to aboriginal governance and economic development that has not worked in this century and will not work in the future.

Let me point to various parts of the Nisga'a agreement which evidence that it is based on a 19th century approach and not a 21st century approach. Let us look first at the evidence of special status perpetuated by the agreement rather than a move toward equality. I will give three examples in this regard.

The first example refers to the form of government established for Nisga'a people under the agreement. If the agreement were to give the Nisga'a people a form of federally chartered municipal government like the form of local government enjoyed by most non-aboriginal Canadians, one could argue that would be a step away from special status and a step toward equality, providing the Nisga'a people with the same tools of local government as other Canadians enjoy. The government itself has argued that the Nisga'a agreement allows for municipal type self-government for the Nisga'a people.

However I would contend this is a gross misinterpretation of the facts, and the government knows it. What municipal government in the country has paramount power over 14 areas of exclusive jurisdiction and shared powers in another 16 fields of federal and provincial jurisdiction?

Nisga'a laws according to the agreement will override provincial and federal laws—and we must remember this is law that derives its status from a race based approach—in the following areas: Nisga'a citizenship; structure, administration, management and operation of Nisga'a government; Nisga'a lands and assets; regulation, licensing and prohibition of businesses, professions and trades; preservation, promotion and development of Nisga'a language and culture; direct taxation of Nisga'a citizens; adoption, child and family services, preschool to grade 12 education and advanced education; organization and structure of health care delivery; authorization and licensing of aboriginal healers; Nisga'a annual fishing plans for harvest sale of fish and aquatic plants; and a Nisga'a wildlife and migratory birds entitlement.

Second, the taxation regime established by the agreement perpetuates special status based on ethnicity rather than on moving toward the tax regime to which all Canadians are subject. It is true that within 12 years Nisga'a people will be paying income tax like other Canadians. This is something we in the official opposition support, but that is where the movement toward equality in the tax regime ends. The Nisga'a government will be exempt from a range of provincial taxes and stumpage fees. It will not have to pay GST. Individual Nisga'a citizens will be permanently exempt from having to hold or pay federal and provincial licences, fees, charges and royalties on fish and wildlife entitlements provided under the agreement.

On the surface these points may appear minor to some, but when we remember the agreement is supposed to become the template for 50 or more agreements to come in British Columbia, the precedent that is being set is for race based tax exemptions throughout British Columbia and indeed throughout all Canada.

Third, I should make special mention of the commercial fishery entitlement to the Nisga'a which will be granted for the Nass River. This entitlement will comprise 26% of the total allowable catch on that river. The parallels with what is happening now on the east coast are obvious. There the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that natives possess an unrestricted right to earn a reasonable livelihood from fishing lobster. This decision has led to violence between aboriginal and non-aboriginal fishermen and if perpetuated will lead to the destruction of the biological base of the fishery.

The major difference between that situation and the one created by the bill and agreement before us is that in this case the government cannot hide behind the Supreme Court of Canada. On the west coast, particularly in the case of the Nisga'a agreement, the government is setting the precedent for special race based access to the commercial fishery entirely of its own free will. This is a further example of the perpetuation of access to resources based on race which can lead, as we have seen on the east coast and we have seen with the disaster in the aboriginal fishery on on the west coast, to nothing but conflict and mismanagement of the resources it perpetuated into the 21st century.

Let me turn to the lack of fiscal and democratic accountability in the agreement. The various layers of Nisga'a government, the central Nisga'a Lisims government, four village governments and three urban locals, will have a broad range of powers. Due to the terms of the agreement, individual Nisga'a will be very dependent upon this government in a variety of areas such as housing, social assistance and employment. Indeed, most of the employment on Nisga'a lands will either be with the Nisga'a government or with Nisga'a government owned corporations.

While the Nisga'a leadership may be an honourable one, and I do not dispute that and have never disputed that, the concentration of political power in the hands of government on Nisga'a lands is worrying partly because the government will in fact largely be spending outside money provided by the Canadian taxpayer and because of the precedent this arrangement sets for other treaty settlements.

Gordon Gibson, a former advisor to Mr. Trudeau and a former Liberal leader in the province of British Columbia, has written “Small governments with large powers may acquire the ability to control the citizens rather than the other way around”.

To effectively constitutionalize such an arrangement as the Nisga'a does is a very disturbing precedent. I would suggest that it is the rank and file of Nisga'a, it is the ordinary aboriginal person who, from time immemorial, suffers from these unaccountable governments that have been established under mandates from the Government of Canada. It is not the chiefs and councils that suffer under that system, although some do. It is the ordinary citizen. What this treaty does is once again concentrate power in the hands of governments on aboriginal lands, not in the hands of the people.

As disturbing as these provisions are, they pale in comparison to the effect section 9(k)(ii) of chapter 11. It states:

—Nisga'a citizens are eligible to vote in Nisga'a elections and to hold office in Nisga'a Government.

Non-Nisga'a living on Nisga'a lands are disenfranchised by this provision. They will have no right to vote in local elections or hold office.

In their recent agreement in principle which the federal government signed with the Labrador Inuit, non-Inuit were at least granted up to 25% but no more of the seats on local councils. Even that provision has not been preserved or perpetuated in the Nisga'a agreement.

The federal minister of Indian affairs has tried to pretend that local elections really do not matter. He has said that non-Nisga'a will still have the right to vote in federal and provincial elections and have certain rights with respect to judicial and other proceedings. So do the Musqueam leaseholders and look what good that did them. The right to vote at the federal and provincial level has not protected them from the actions of the local band council which this minister of Indian affairs so enthusiastically endorses. It is hardly surprising that his words are of small comfort to those who are disenfranchised.

Is it really the federal government's vision for the future of aboriginal government across B. C. and the rest of Canada that racially specific enclaves would exist in which one's bloodlines determine one's right to vote? It is stunning that any government on the threshold of the 21st century would even sign such an agreement. It is hardly a wonder that the government refuses to allow the people of British Columbia a chance to vote on the agreement because it knows very well what the people of B.C. would have said.

I might also divert for a moment to respond to a comment the minister made in his remarks that somehow people would be protected in the democratic and political rights sphere because the charter of rights and freedoms will apply to Nisga'a people. The minister is right in saying that, but he forgets that the charter of rights and freedoms, besides defining those rights and freedoms, also contains section 25:

The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including—

Any rights or freedoms may be acquired by the aboriginal peoples of Canada by way of land claim settlement. This is also part of the charter and, I suggest, leaves a great gap in charter protection for people subject to the agreement.

Let me deal with the third defect of the current approach and evidence of its existence in the agreement. It is the evidence of the socialistic approach to economic development. The model of economic development proposed in the agreement is one in which nearly all the revenues flow from the federal and provincial governments to the Nisga'a government. It does not flow to the Nisga'a entrepreneurs, workers, taxpayers or citizens, it flows to the Nisga'a government in order to generate economic activity.

Former British Columbia premier Glen Clark was quite excited as to who would pay a major share; the Canadian taxpayer of course. On December 14 of last year he bluntly stated that British Columbia would be the net beneficiary of money coming in from Ottawa. Perhaps this would explain his enthusiasm for this. It had nothing to do with the Nisga'a people. It had something to do with the $200 million injection from Ottawa; over $200 million for the Nisga'a treaty alone coming in from taxpayers outside of British Columbia.

Not only will the revenues be flowing in from outside, it will be flowing through the Nisga'a government. All of the nearly 2,000 square kilometres of Nisga'a territory will be collectively owned by the government in fee simple. It is the Nisga'a government that will decide which lands, if any, will be sold, leased or held as private property by Nisga'a or non-Nisga'a citizens.

The treaty thus bypasses the individual and concentrates economic and political power in the hands of the Nisga'a government. In effect, the Nisga'a deal enshrines one of the worst aspects of the reserve system and does it in a so-called modern treaty.

Let me speak for a minute on the responsibility for these defects. Anyone who is looking for a 21st century approach to aboriginal government and economic development, and given the track record of the country in this century, would wonder how on earth these defects, which everyone knows about and no one on either side of the House would defend, got into the treaty.

First of all, it is certainly not the Nisga'a's fault. The Nisga'a have never been offered any other approach in these years and years of negotiations because their negotiations are with the department whose philosophy contains these three defects that I have mentioned.

This approach comes from this and past parliaments, from the federal government and the department of Indian affairs. It comes from and is reinforced by a swarm of bureaucrats, politicians, consultants and interest groups with a vested interest in the status quo, even though the status quo does not work for aboriginals, for British Columbians or for Canada.

After spending time in the consulting business and getting involved in the area of native economic development, I knew there was a cloud of consultants and lawyers from Edmonton and Calgary who lived off the system like parasites. They had no interest at all in the economic well-being of aboriginals. They had a checklist of who the band manager and chiefs were. When they got booted out of one place for corruption they would go to the next one. They lived off that system. Those are the types of sick people who want to perpetuate the system. There are far too many of them still active and influential on the government today.

Why does parliament not acknowledge these defects I have talked about and start anew? Why did the government not do that when it had a chance with Nisga'a? I would like to tell the House why. For the Liberals to do so would be to admit that they have been on the wrong track for almost 130 years.

One of the things that is very hard for us proud, egocentric politicians to do is to admit that we were wrong, in particular when we have made decision after decision that perpetuates the wrong original decision.

The one bright light—and I remember reading this 30 years ago—that might have led in a different direction was when Mr. Trudeau in 1968 recognized this defect, in particular where special status based on rights led. He made an attempt to depart from that when the current Prime Minister was his minister of Indian affairs. Let me just take a minute to read a couple of things that Mr. Trudeau said back in 1969. He said:

We can go on treating the Indians as having special status—

This is what this treaty does.

—adding bricks of discrimination around the ghetto in which they live...Or we can say you're at a crossroads—the time is now to decide whether the Indians will be a race apart in Canada or whether they will be Canadians of full status.

In 1968 in the House he said:

There is a long term intention on the part of the government—and this to be debated, I suppose, as part of our Indian policy—to arrive eventually at a situation where Indians will be treated like other Canadian citizens of the particular province in which they happen to be.

He went on to say “We do not think that there are different categories of Canadians. We believe that all Canadians should be equal”. We get castigated in the House for talking about the equality of all Canadians under the law. This is the former prime minister, a more influential Liberal than any of the ones we see across from us today.

Mr. Pierre Trudeau, in the House of Commons on April 30, 1982, said “We believe that all Canadians should be equal and it would be desirable to define rights in a way which does not distinguish between ethnic groups”.

Let me quote a little from the current Prime Minister. Some members in the House will recall that the current Prime Minister's first portfolio was minister of Indian affairs. He was there at the time Mr. Trudeau was articulating this doctrine of equality. He was the one who brought forward the so-called “red paper” that contained that statement, an attempt to go in a different direction.

At that time—and I have to assume that the Prime Minister was speaking from his own perspective, not just reflecting the words of Mr. Trudeau—these are things he said “Special treatment has made the Indians a community disadvantaged and apart. Obviously, the course of history must be changed”.

In the House of Commons in 1969 he said:

For many Indian people, the road does exist, the only road that has existed since Confederation and before: the road of different status, a road which has led—

Where did the Prime Minister say the road to different status led? He said:

—to a blind alley of deprivation and frustration. This road...cannot lead to full participation, to equality in practice as well as in theory...the government will offer another road that would gradually lead away from different status to full social, economic and political participation in Canadian life. This is the choice.

What happened between 1968 and 1999? The Prime Minister knows in his heart that the current system does not work and desperately needs to be fixed. He knew in 1968 and must realize more pointedly today that it is failing the very aboriginal Canadians who he obviously cares a lot about. He took an aboriginal boy into his own family. I think his heart was where that was. It was not just a policy decision. Does he not lie awake at nights regretting that he did not more vigorously pursue equality when he had the chance in the 1960s, or wonder whether it was too late to find a solution?

It is not too late but the time is shorter than it was 30 years ago. As with the national debt, the first rule for getting out of a hole is to stop digging. If we want to start on the road to equality, the first step is to stop discriminating, which is what this does.

The Nisga'a agreement was the opportunity to take that other road, but apparently the Liberal government is too rooted in the past and the status quo to provide the leadership required.

Let me turn to the other groups in the House and perhaps some of their reasons for supporting this agreement. The Bloc will not protest the bill because it provides a form of sovereignty association for an aboriginal group in British Columbia. The Bloc sees the principle of sovereignty association as a stepping stone toward its ultimate objectives for Quebec. The document, therefore, just incidentally, is diametrically opposite to the position the government takes when someone argues for special status for Quebec.

The NDP will not protest the bill because many of its members, in their hearts, are still committed to socialist economics. Even though socialist economics have been abandoned by most developed and developing countries around the world, the NDP still clings to it and seems to think that the only place socialism still exists in the 21st century is on Indian reserves; that this is some kind of progress.

The only party whose position I find inexplicable on this subject is the Progressive Conservatives. It is true that the Tories are as much to blame for the current system as the Liberals due to their early complicity in the treaties and the establishment of the reserve system.

But this bill and agreement was a chance to abandon all that baggage. No one in the House would have castigated the Tories if they had got up and said, “We were part of the early treaty system and the reserve system and the Indian Act. We thought, our forefathers thought, it was the right thing to do”. If they had stood up and said, “It obviously was wrong and the principles of it were wrong; we are going to acknowledge the wrong and we are going to go with a new route”, no one in the House would have catcalled or hooted. In fact we would have stood up and applauded, but they have not done that.

The Tories ought to reject the sovereignty association features and socialistic features of this treaty because it is contrary to their own principles, for example the creation of another race based aboriginal fishery, because that is already creating horrendous difficulties in Atlantic Canada where the majority of PC members are from. We would think that the warning bells would be going off all over. But the PCs in the House apparently have decided to support the bill despite all of that.

Fortunately the official opposition is not subject to any of these conflicts or restrictions. We are not responsible for the present approach. We had absolutely nothing to do with it. We were not on the scene. We are free therefore to criticize it and to pursue alternatives.

We do not believe in special status for anyone and we never have. We argued that in the big constitutional debate. We do not believe in special status for English or French. We do not believe in special status for aboriginals. We do not believe in race based status of any kind. It is a formula for disaster.

We do not believe in socialism. We understand why the prairies embraced agrarian socialism in the depth of the depression. We understand that. We do not criticize it. But we do not believe in it. We do not believe it is the economic instrument of today. If we are trying to develop economies today, the last thing we would do is offer people collective ownership, state owned enterprise and that approach to economic development.

I might also add we just happen to represent the majority of federal ridings in British Columbia. So do not let anyone think that there are not a lot of people out there who agree with the position that we are stating.

The official opposition is therefore in a position to dissociate ourselves from the old approach. We want nothing to do with it. We want nothing to do with the Indian Act except to repeal it over time. We want nothing to do with the department of Indian affairs except to dismantle it over time and transfer its functions and funding responsibility to accountable aboriginal governments.

We want nothing to do with the traditional approach to treaty making. We do not want our name connected with it for historical or political reasons. It has been nothing but a disaster for aboriginals and an embarrassment to non-aboriginals, as it should be.

Reformers are therefore in a position to explore and offer an entirely different approach to aboriginal government and economic development based on different and better principles for the 21st century, better principles than those found in this agreement. That is what I would now like to do.

The first principle that we believe should govern our development of a new relationship with aboriginal people is the principle of equality of all Canadians in law. In place of special status and entitlement based on race, we offer equality of all Canadians in law as the guiding principle.

For further clarity, and we never pretend that it is easy to get there from where we are, the aim is one law for aboriginals and non-aboriginals alike. To illustrate at a more practical level, there would be one law for fishery and resource development, not one set of laws for aboriginals and another set for non-aboriginals.

Let me answer two objections that often come in comments from across the way to this commitment to equality.

The first objection from some of our friends that do not think this through very carefully is to say that the equality approach fails to acknowledge, recognize or provide for uniqueness. Some of the Liberals say, “You cannot treat people equally in law because they are not the same”.

The way we answer that is to give everyone the same rights, entitlements and powers in law but give them the freedom to use them differently. It is possible to treat everyone equally in law and still allow people to exercise those rights in different ways to give expression to their uniqueness and diversity, whatever it may be.

This is precisely the point that the premiers addressed in the Calgary declaration. They wanted to affirm the principle of equality in law and equality of the provinces. They wanted to give some recognition to the uniqueness of Quebec. How did they say we do that? We do it by giving everybody the same powers.

There is nothing wrong with the fact that Quebec uses those powers to build a different house than Alberta or Nova Scotia. That is how we preserve the diversity of the country. But we do not preserve it by giving different powers to different jurisdictions. That is why they argued that any power given to any jurisdiction ought to be given to everyone. We can answer that objection that somehow equality suppresses diversity, whether it is in Canada as a whole or among aboriginal people.

Another objection to the equality approach made by Liberal members is that it will not allow them to give special help to people who need special help. If we are going to treat everyone equally, we cannot give special help to someone without giving it to everyone and not everyone needs it. We either perpetuate the inequality or we do nothing. There is a false premise in that. Equality does allow for special help. All we have to do is make sure that the entitlement to the help is not tied to things like race, culture, language or religion.

For example, suppose we all agreed in this House that a large number of people in northern British Columbia needed special help in education. Let us say that we discovered a large number of people with less than a grade 10 education. It is very hard to make one's way in the modern knowledge based economy without getting to that first rung which is a good basic education. A large number of people all across our country still do not have a good education.

Suppose we agreed among ourselves that we wanted to give special help to people who are educationally disadvantaged. This is basically in the provincial area but suppose there was co-operation, we could devise between the provinces and the federal government a program that gave special help. Everyone who has less than a grade 10 education would qualify for this service, but we would not tie that special help for a grade 10 education to a person's race. We would offer it to everyone. In northern British Columbia or northern Alberta the majority of the people in that program might be aboriginal, but they would be in that program because of the need. They would have responded to it because of the need, not because of their race.

Someone will say that from an aboriginal standpoint it does not matter. Either way aboriginals get special help. I will tell members where it does matter. If we want to get the support of that program from the entire community, it has to be available to everybody. A non-aboriginal could ask, “What is this special program for helping the educationally disadvantaged aboriginal people? I see that three-quarters of the people are from that community. Are they being given some special consideration?” We would say, “No. Anyone who has less than a grade 10 education will qualify for this program just the same as the others”. The equality approach is useful not just for addressing special needs but for getting community support from the others by treating everyone fairly.

We acknowledge that the mistakes of our ancestors, for example the old race based treaties, complicate achieving the goal of equality because we have made certain commitments to people based on race. Where rights have been granted on the basis of race and now conflict with the rights of other Canadians or sound resource management or whatever, they should be acknowledged and we should at least offer compensation for voluntary extinguishment. We should move in that direction rather than perpetuate it.

How tragic it is that the federal government has missed the opportunity to pursue this alternative approach based on equality.

British Columbia is the one part of the country where aboriginals are not subject yet to the weaknesses of the old treaty system. As members know there never was a treaty negotiated with aboriginal people in British Columbia. There was a chance in B.C. above all other places to go down the other route. What does the federal government do? Rather than go down the new route, rather than even experiment with it, the government takes the system that has not worked in every other part of the country and jams it on British Columbia. I find it inexplicable.

Let me turn to the second principle we think should govern a modern arrangement with aboriginals. Instead of accepting the current defective system of aboriginal government and its relationships with the department of Indian affairs, we believe we should institute this principle. All Canadians, including aboriginal people, are entitled to the services of local governments which are fiscally and democratically accountable to the people they serve. Who would have thought that in the last year of the 20th century someone would have to stand in this House and press the argument of the entitlement of some Canadian citizens to responsible government, something that the rest of us have enjoyed for 150 years?

Where does affirming this principle lead? It leads to doing away with the department of Indian affairs and eventually transferring its functions and funding responsibilities to local and accountable aboriginal governments. But there is one catch, and it is a catch in here for the benefit of aboriginal people: local and aboriginal governments that are fiscally and democratically accountable to their own people.

I say to aboriginal people when I discuss doing away with the department of Indian affairs that what will govern the rate of that will be the rate at which fiscally and democratically accountable local governments can be established. The sooner they are established, the more quickly the power and the funding can be transferred. The slower we are in establishing those governments at the local level, the slower the process will be, because their own people do not trust an unaccountable government whether it is aboriginal or not.

This leads us to propose reforms in the procedures and processes for the election of local aboriginal governments on reserves, including making available the services of Elections Canada to deal with allegations of vote rigging and intimidation on reserves.

This leads us to propose the reform of fiscal accounting procedures for local aboriginal governments, including the provision of the services of the Auditor General of Canada to ensure fiscal responsibility.

We propose a third thing. This point to be made in principle is difficult to implement, but I think we should pursue it. It is the direction of a greater portion of the department of Indian affairs funding directly to aboriginal persons on reserves so that local aboriginal governments have to tax it from their own people in order to get access. That would put the purse strings of the local aboriginal government in the hands of the people to whom that government should be accountable.

Application of this principle of fiscal and democratic accountability to relations between aboriginals and non-aboriginals also means doing away with the tortuous, closed door, conflict of interest ridden approach to the negotiation of settlement of land claims and local aboriginal agreements employed unfortunately in the development of this agreement. Those processes would be replaced with an open, transparent negotiating process in which all interests are appropriately represented and which Indian affairs is not put in a conflict of interest situation.

How can Indian Affairs go into these negotiations, profess on the one hand to be discharging a fiduciary responsibility to the aboriginal people and claim to be representing the fiduciary interests of other Canadians who have a different interest? We cannot do that. When we ask people to do that, we end up with defective agreements, particularly ones where people will question the integrity.

I want to note that because of this defect, because this agreement is the product of a long, closed door, top down, conflict of interest ridden process, that is why it ultimately will not carry the judgment of the majority of the people of British Columbia. Those who watch polls, and we politicians study the polls, will notice that the support for the Nisga'a agreement in British Columbia is on exactly the same trajectory for precisely the same reasons that the Meech Lake accord became unacceptable in that province.

Members will recall when this agreement was announced, and when Meech Lake was announced incidentally, with all the public relations and all the press releases and the minister giving grand statements et cetera, public support started out in excess of 60% in favour, 40% against. There was 60% in favour because a lot of people did not know about it, but the rest were against. In March a survey by Feedback Research Corporation showed it down to 42% in favour, 32% opposed and 36% only vaguely familiar. In August 1999 a poll conducted by Market Trends Research showed 45% opposed, 36% in support and 12% undecided. It is on that same downward trajectory as Meech, which started at 60%, 65% and ended up being voted down. Why? For the same reason that Meech was rejected, the top down, closed door approach. People do not trust what goes on behind closed doors, particularly if they think political people are involved unfortunately.

The more the public finds out about the content of these agreements the more it is the same as happened with Meech. When it was just a press release they thought it sounded good, but as people find out what is actually in it, they become less supportive rather than more supportive.

The refusal of the provincial or federal governments to allow the people of British Columbia to voice their approval or disapproval for this agreement, Canadians being what they are when told they will not have a voice, results in the net effect of increasing their opposition to whatever is wanted, not decreasing it.

For the minister to make statements that it is too complicated for the people of British Columbia to understand is an insult to the electorate. The Nisga'a people had a referendum on it and presumably understood it. I compliment the Nisga'a people on the effort they went through to try to inform their own people.

The minister says the Nisga'a people can understand it with the educational effort made, but the rest of the people of British Columbia cannot understand it so they cannot be given a chance to say it. That is the way to generate opposition to the agreement.

I will now address the third principle that we believe should be incorporated into a new approach to aboriginal economic development. Rather than offering the Nisga'a or any aboriginal band the outmoded, discredited tools of collective ownership of property, centralized government planning, government ownership and excessive regulation, we should begin to find ways and means of adapting private enterprise and market based tools of economic development to the needs of aboriginal people. That means finding a way to establish private property and contract rights on reserves. That would do more to stimulate economic development than all of the collectivism in the agreement put together. We should start to develop real housing and labour markets on reserves, including equal economic rights for men and women.

The government professes to be passionately concerned about equality of economic rights for men and women in the federal public service. Why does it not look at the reserves that are under its jurisdiction by virtue of the Indian Act? No one disputes its jurisdiction. There is more discrepancy in economic and civil rights between men and women there than anything to be found in the civil service, no matter how bad it is.

The government seems passionately concerned about that principle when it is applied to non-aboriginals. It does not seem to be very interested in that principle when it applies to aboriginals.

The government should look at the removal of trade and regulatory barriers for aboriginal business people rather than erecting more.

Bill C-9 is riddled with references to regulatory powers or the right to establish regulatory powers. Have we not learned in our own experience with economic development that government regulation kills economic enterprise? Excessive regulation kills even more enterprise. There is no recognition of that in this agreement whatever.

What has to be done? No one has all the answers, but surely we have to start down the road, which this bill does not. The bill and the agreement to which it gives effect make the same mistake as Indian affairs made on the prairies when it decided that aboriginals would be turned into farmers. What did it do? It gave them horses at the same time that non-aboriginals were getting tractors. It gave them the technology of the previous generation. That is exactly what this agreement is doing.

I will touch on accountability for this bill and the Nisga'a agreement. We in the official opposition recognize that we cannot by ourselves bring the principle of equality under the law, fiscal and democratic accountability, private enterprise and free markets to bear on aboriginal government and aboriginal economic development. That would require a majority in the House committed to such principles and there is obviously not such a majority.

What we can do is advance the principle of accountability for aboriginal government and economic development at least one step in relation to this bill and the agreement it represents. The vote on this bill will force MPs to declare whether they are on the side of perpetuating the 19th century approach that does not work or whether they are searching for a 21st century alternative.

The editorial comments on this bill will tell the public on which side the commentators and editorialists are. No one, except maybe historians, remembers who was responsible for those original treaties which do not work. Who was responsible for the original reserve system which did not work? Who really created that residential school system which everyone now recognizes may have been well intended but did not work? Nobody can remember who it was. The historians know, but it has all faded into the past.

However, in this information age, an age of full disclosure, we can ensure that the names of those who perpetuate that system will be known far and wide. They will be known in every aboriginal community. They will be known in every community in Canada and they will be held accountable for that decision.

I should note that the public will be especially watching the votes of seven Liberal MPs from British Columbia: the hon. member for Victoria, the hon. member for Richmond, the hon. member for Vancouver South—Burnaby, the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway, the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra and the hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.

In those ridings I believe a majority of people would support the argument that we have made here. These members are going to have to decide, and I know that Liberals hate this kind of dilemma, whether they represent their constituents in this House on a fundamentally important principle or whether they toe the party line and line up behind 19th century approaches to aboriginal development. We will be watching and we will make sure that every voter in that riding knows whether their member is on the side of the 19th century or the 21st century.

I want to conclude by telling the House a story. I have not had a lot of close aboriginal friends. I have had some, most of whom have been in the business community. The best aboriginal friend I ever had was a woman named Ernestine Gibot. She was a Chippewyan Indian who lived the first 45 years of her life in the northern part of Alberta, west of Fort McMurray. She made a life trapping and living the old way. She suffered all of the things that aboriginal women and aboriginal people in general can suffer in those communities. I could keep the House here for a long time listing all of the things that she suffered.

One day, for some reason, and I have no idea why she did this, she walked out of the bush of northern Alberta. She was in her forties and had decided that she was going to start a new life and get a job. She went to Edmonton. She went around and around in circles, through the social programs, the help agencies and all the program places in Edmonton for seven years until she finally actually did get a genuine job. I could tell the story of all that but it would take too long.

I got to know her because I was doing some consulting for the Esso heavy oil plant at Cold Lake. As some members from Alberta will know, there is a Chippewyan band right next to that plant. We were doing socio-economic impact studies. I knew a fair amount about Cree, Woods Cree and Prairie Cree, but not a lot about Chippewyan people and I happened to mention to somebody that I was looking for somebody who could counsel and educate me on the ways of the Chippewyan people.

A social worker in Edmonton who knew about that brought Ernestine Gibot to my office. She told me her story. She told me that she was unemployed. I said to her that when we white people are unemployed we do not go around telling people that, we print up little cards that say consultant. We look very busy and we hand these cards out. Lo and behold, after a while someone actually gives us work. She said that she did not think that would work but we could try it. We printed up these cards that said “Ernestine Gibot, Consulting Services”. I gave myself as a reference because she was giving me consulting services. She handed these cards out.

She could speak English, Cree, Slavey and Chippewyan. She used to go to hospitals because she knew they needed translating services. She would visit aboriginal people. She would hand out these cards. Somebody picked up this card and said that there was a position with the Edmonton Public School Board in native studies that she should go to look at. Maybe the board could use her. One thing led to another and, lo and behold, she got a job.

I was so impressed with her story that I made it a point to study how she got from the bush to that first job. At that time I was co-ordinating an economic discussion group that included representatives, some pretty hard-boiled fellows, from about 15 oil companies, but they had a heart for native aboriginal development. The group used to meet once a quarter to see if there was anything it could do to create more jobs or opportunities for aboriginal people.

On behalf of this group I said that I was going to study how Ernestine got from the bush in northern Alberta to that first job because maybe there were some lessons in it for us. I traced her steps from agency to agency, from doctor to social worker, to priest, to consultant, around and around the maze that included maybe 50 or 60 contacts with organizations, et cetera.

The thing I discovered was that she got help along the way. If she had not been in the system that I have described she might not have met these people, but in virtually every case the person who helped her had to step outside the box defined by the aboriginal Indian affairs system in order to help.

The Indian affairs doctor who told her to get out of the north said that it was not his job to tell her where to live, but he was going to take off his Indian affairs doctor hat and talk to her as a friend. He told her to get out of there or she would be dead within a year.

The priest that she went to said: “I am supposed to uphold the sanctity of marriage and I cannot tell you to leave your husband who has been very abusive to you, but I am taking off my priest's hat and I am telling you to get out of where you are because you will be dead in a year”. He had to step outside the box in order to give her that kind of help.

Then there was the social worker who eventually brought her to me. She was supposed to take people around to these make work projects created by the government. That was her job. She was not supposed to talk to consultants doing business with the evil oil industry, but she stepped outside that box because she really wanted to help.

To make a long story short, if members want to read the story of Ernestine Gibot, it was written up in the October 1984 edition of Reader's Digest .

I appeal to members that if we really want to do something for aboriginal people, either on governance or on economic development, I believe that we have to step outside the old box. We have to step outside. This bill does not step outside the box. It creates the same box for the Nisga'a people and puts nails in its lid. That is why I appeal to members to oppose the bill. That is also the reason I will move the following amendment in order to facilitate further discussion. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor: Bill C-9, an act to give effect to the Nisga'a Final Agreement, be not now read a second time but that the order be discharged, the bill withdrawn, and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

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11:55 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if I might seek the unanimous consent of the House to put some questions to the Leader of the Opposition concerning his opposition to the Nisga'a agreement.

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11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to allow questions to be put to the Leader of the Opposition following his speech?

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11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


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11:55 a.m.

An hon. member


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11:55 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is a very important issue. I am disappointed that the Liberals will not allow this to continue. We would like to see some questions go to the leader, and I would like to know from the minister why he opposes questions going to the Leader of the Opposition on this issue.

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11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am afraid that is not a point of order. The question before the House is whether there is consent to allow a question period. Consent was requested and denied. The rules of the House provide that the first three speakers on a bill of this kind do not have a question or comment period. Without consent we cannot do it. If members want to change the rules, of course, there are routes for doing that and I know that members will want to pursue them.

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October 26th, 1999 / 11:55 a.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Given the nature and the importance of this issue I wonder if I could seek the unanimous agreement of all members in the House to ask the government if it would bring into the Chamber at least one Liberal member from British Columbia—

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11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House leader of the official opposition knows that is not a point of order and that indeed it is quite out of order to refer to the absence of members from this House, pleasurable as that can be on occasion.

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11:55 a.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The leader of the NDP asked for permission to ask questions of the Leader of the Opposition and was denied. I wonder if we could ask permission for members from all sides of the House to put questions to the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps members of the Liberal Party would also enjoy that opportunity.

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The Deputy Speaker

I thought the question I put to the House following the intervention of the hon. member for Halifax was for a question period to follow the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I will put the question again.

Is there unanimous consent to have a period of questions following the speech of the Leader of the Opposition?

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Some hon. members


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An hon. member


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The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the amendment.

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Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-9.

I would like to begin with a brief aside and some comments to the Leader of the Official Opposition. Perhaps we cannot ask him questions, but we can at least react to his speech as a whole. I saw him, and in particular I heard him, imputing motives to each of the political parties in the House of Commons.

To begin with, I must challenge the entire argument put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. I agree with him on only one point: that the Reform members are probably going to be the only ones voting against the bill on native people we have before us today.

The Leader of the Opposition has just told us about the woman who came out of the woods to conquer the work force. The Reform Party's attitude, its intransigence on the aboriginal issue, the immigrant issue, are what will perhaps make it the only one voting against bills of such scope addressing aboriginals, immigrants and so on.

I too have a story for the Leader of the Opposition. When I was a little boy of nine or ten, I was not an army cadet, but my friends were. I remember that they had a review every year. We all lined the streets to see the cadets all march past together.

I clearly remember being there with my mother watching the parade pass by. The neighbour, whose son was in the parade, exclaimed “My goodness, look at that. My son is the only one in step”. I looked at my mother, who smiled, and I realized she was thinking the same thing I was: her boy was probably the only one out of step.

It is more or less the same thing with Reform. They are pretty much the only ones not in step as far as the aboriginal question is concerned, probably because of their excessive intransigence with respect to bills relating to aboriginal people and immigrants. So I felt it was important to start off with that little story.

I would like as well, at the start, to salute all the Nisga'a, who must be following today's debate on television. I would like to congratulate them and pay tribute to those who came to parliament hill in the summer to provide support and explanations. They are here again for the debate. I want to tell them that I am extremely proud of the work they have done. Joe Gosnell has been here on parliament hill for a few days, as has Harry Nyce, who is currently in the gallery and following the debate with interest.

Finally, after about 100 years, now is not the time to become discouraged. I repeat the comment made by Joe Gosnell: “Just a few more days and the canoe will reach the bank”. They will have an agreement on self-government. On this point, they can certainly count on the support of the Bloc Quebecois.

Here in the House, we often debate the legal scope of a given section, the political scope of a decision the party makes, but I would also like to draw to the attention of my colleagues in this House the fact that there is also human scope to these debates. As members of parliament, we defend the viewpoints of our electors and of also certain persons we may be representing in specific instances such as in native matters.

It seems important to me as well for us to always take this into account in our analysis grid when we consider a bill. We have to look at how those affected by our decisions will react.

Indian affairs, in my opinion, is an absolutely extraordinary portfolio for the person holding it, because there are a number of ways to act. I personally am among those who believe strongly in interpersonal relationships. There is nothing better than visiting a native reserve to understand native life.

I have had occasion to go to a number of native reserves and I have had the opportunity, the privilege and the honour of twice visiting Nisga'a territory. I am pleased to say that my first visit had nothing to do with bills before the House. Having done some reading on the topic, I felt that this was one of the greatest aboriginal nations in Canada. Having some familiarity with native peoples in Quebec, I thought I might like to get to know something about native peoples in the rest of Canada.

I therefore went to Nisga'a territory. One thing that made quite an impression on me was the landscape. I have been twice now and I am still struck by it. One can understand the attachment of native peoples to their sea, their land, their waterways, including the Nass River, and all the fauna; all this is woven into their philosophy.

The colour of the river running through the Nass valley is very striking. There is nothing like it in Quebec or in Ontario. It is greenish and crystal clear. It is the runoff from glaciers. I could see that not only was the landscape extraordinarily beautiful but that it played an important role in the vision that aboriginals have of their land.

I was struck not just by the landscape, but by the people living there, because this is where the importance of the bill before us today begins to hit home.

I do not think I could speak as knowledgeably today if I had not experienced life on their land. Through these trips, I discovered not only the great Nisga'a nation, but also the human drama behind their desire for greater control over their destiny. I consider it very important to say this.

I was impressed by the lava beds, where close to 2,000 Nisga'a died following an eruption which occurred several centuries ago. The area is now a national park. People should see how the area was devastated and how nature is coming back to life again after hundreds of years.

The Nisga'a show respect for the terrible tragedy that struck these communities. There were two communities and 2,000 Nisga'a died because of the eruption.

It is interesting to see how this event is explained in the Nisga'a territory. There is a bit of mysticism and also a great deal of symbolism. We are told, among other things, that before the disaster, young children had begun to not respect nature and to make wildlife suffer. Today, the elders explain to the young Nisga'a that they must always respect nature and anything that lives in it. It is their belief that the disaster occurred because that respect was lost at some point.

This says a lot about the philosophy and the importance that aboriginals attach to nature, to what they call “Mother Earth”.

I had the opportunity to visit a village which, in my opinion, has the nicest totems of all. I visited many aboriginal villages, but I never saw such fine totems as those found in that Nisga'a community. Along the Nass River, artists build totems that are some fifty feet high, a task that can take them up to a year. Again, their deep respect for nature is well illustrated with sculptures representing animals such as wolves, owls, hawks and also whales, for which they have great respect. All animals are represented on these huge totems, and it is most interesting to discover the Nisga'a culture.

You also meet great people. My driver, Eric, the person who was my guide last time, is on parliament hill at this very moment. He made a point of showing me all that and of taking me to visit his mother, of introducing me to his family and taking me to the salmon smokehouse, where people eat it together and where it is shared, and with great respect once again accorded fish resources. Such things move me and now permit me, when I come to the bill, to say “This is not only beautiful country, there are fine people living there as well”. Today we must make it possible for these people to fly on their own. And here I only hint at the symbol of the bird.

I think that, at the moment, and this is one of the first disagreements I will have with the leader of the official opposition, the Indian Act can no longer remain unchanged. It represents a cage for them. The Nisga'a are like a great powerful bird, like an eagle, and are imprisoned in a cage called the Indian Act. The key to opening this cage is the bill before us today, which will permit the Nisga'a to fly, establish infrastructures, elect their people and see that the values reflected are their very own. I think this is how they will integrate.

In a few minutes I will speak at length of the issue of equality. The Reform Party has not understood that equality is not the panacea that will solve everything. We Quebecers do not like to be told that Quebec is just another province. I do not think the Nisga'a like to be told they are Canadians like everyone else. I beg to differ; they are not like every other Canadian. There were several attempts, even by the Liberal government in 1969, to assimilate these people. The government of the time was forced to backtrack because it would have had a revolt on its hands if it had continued.

It is important not to assume that equality will solve everything. That is not true. Quebecers have always demanded distinct status; there has never been any willingness to give it to them. Now the aboriginal people are being given distinct status. They will, of course, continue to evolve within the Constitution as we know it; they will continue to be citizens of British Columbia and of Canada, but they will first of all be Nisga'a citizens. One does not need to be an expert in aboriginal affairs to understand that these people's first reaction is to recognize their own nation.

When I go on to various reserves and ask people “How do you see yourself?” I ask those in Quebec, for instance, whether they consider themselves Quebecers or Canadians. The answer is always “I consider myself a Montagnais” or “I consider myself an Inuit” or “I consider myself an Abenaki”. They go on to identify with something else, but they acknowledge their own status first.

I would also like to explain the democratic and peaceful process engaged in by the Nisga'a, for this situation has been continuing for over 100 years as the Nisga'a have tried to solve the problem, to attain greater independence. As long ago as 1880, they were making representations to the Parliament of Canada, saying “We would like to have greater control over our future”. Things took a long time to get moving. During the 1970s there started to be some slight recognition of aboriginal title and ancestral rights.

I met Mr. Calder, a great Canadian and a great Nisga'a in the Speaker's office. In 1973, he was the first to succeed in making any progress toward recognition of ancestral and aboriginal rights. He is a great Canadian, a great Nisga'a, and he was responsible for the great step forward in case law and the philosophy of the courts with respect to the recognition of ancestral rights.

In 1973, there was the Calder ruling and, during the negotiations, this was what forced the federal government to recognize that it would have to negotiate with the Nisga'a. In fact, I have been, and am still, critical of the government for always lagging behind the courts. It is time it showed a bit more leadership and resolved certain native problems for once and for all. But it is still reacting to supreme court decisions, the Marshall ruling being the most recent example.

It was the same with the Calder ruling. It was not until 1976, a few years after the decision was handed down, that the government said it would begin negotiating with the Nisga'a. Since these are tripartite agreements, it tried to get British Columbia to take part. In 1990, this province joined the negotiations. Finally, in 1996, an agreement in principle was signed and, in August 1998, a final agreement was reached.

That having been done, parliamentary steps had to be taken. These too were tripartite. The Nisga'a were the first to cast their vote: 61% of those eligible to vote in the referendum were in favour of the treaty. Those who want to dismiss the treaty out of hand, without knowing anything about the more than 100 years of history behind it, without knowing the recent history, when people have been pushing for this for thirty some years, which is how long negotiations have been going on, and when this has all been worked out between three parties, chose perhaps to ignore this or are simply unaware.

This is why I think it is important that the rules of democracy and parliament be respected. It is true that there was also considerable opposition in British Columbia before it was passed. As well, there are perhaps some people around who are scaremongering, who are dwelling a bit on the negative. I am thinking of the leader of the opposition, among others. I have read a number of articles that appeared in B.C. newspapers, and I know who is stirring up the opposition in this kind of bill.

Now, it is up to us. We are the last. Once the Senate has given its approval, it will be law. We will see exactly what I was saying earlier. The Nisga'a will fly on their own.

There are constitutional issues of course, and there have been constitutional debates in British Columbia over whether we are amending the Constitution or not. We are not of that school. We say the Constitution is not being amended. The balance of powers among the provinces, Canada and British Columbia is not changed.

Sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution remain unchanged with this bill. That is our claim. We are not saying that we have the absolute truth. We can understand people's contesting it. For us, however, that is what we think, and I will put it in context right away.

In my opinion it is spelled out in the agreement. The charter of rights and freedoms has priority. No one on Nisga'a territory can violate the charter of rights and freedoms without risking correction by the courts. It is very clear in the agreement.

Finally, there will be no more reserves, as provided in the law. Now it will be Nisga'a lands with a Nisga'a government.

There are also legal decisions and validity issues. If anything is to be tested, there will always be the courts to turn to. There is no way the Nisga'a can decide 56 things and there be no possibility of appeal. There can be no appeal on Nisga'a territory. That is not the way it will be at all. The British Columbia superior court, the Supreme Court and the Federal Court will always have the right of appeal. Legal guidelines have been put in place and they are there.

Yesterday I reread the treaty for the second or third time. I thought to myself that at last, after 100 years of trying, 30 years of intense negotiations, the ideal marriage had been reached between aboriginal tradition and modernity. I looked at several particular points, which I will use to demonstrate this.

The land issue: now the Nisga'a will own their own lands in fee simple. Moreover, all the lands are listed in the agreement. They are all given. They have already been assigned to certain individuals. These individuals will become direct owners of the lands in question. There is no longer collective ownership as there was under the Indian Act, and it is important to realize this.

It has often been said “Under the Indian Act, ownership is collective”. When ownership is collective, people do not pay attention, they are dependent; the decision on how property will be allocated comes from Ottawa, and it is often the band council that decides. Now it is very clear: all lands will be owned in fee simple. These people will, therefore, own these lands. This is an important step, and also a very important difference.

As for forestry resources, and the whole natural resource issue, this will be a favorite topic for my Reform friends from the west, who will say “It is dreadful that there are so many uncertainties”. I have looked at the forestry and fisheries aspects and the underground resources, and there are dozens of pages explaining how this will work.

When it is explained to us how this is going to work, I would remind the House that this agreement was signed between the Nisga'a Nation and British Columbia and that, despite the minister's signature, what is missing is the legislation to give effect to that agreement. This is what we are discussing today.

So, as far as I am concerned, the certainty is there. As regards forestry resources, we can see that it is all set out in the agreement, which is a lot better than the way it was before. I have already visited Nisga'a territory, as I mentioned before, and I visited Chilcotin territory in British Columbia as well. I have also visited Carrier Sekani territory. What did I find there? Beautiful countryside, I agree, but deteriorating rapidly.

I remember visiting Chilcotin territory and meeting about 100 trucks, which were doing their best to remove the timber resources as quickly as possible. That was before there were agreements with the native peoples. I have often criticized that with the minister and the main provincial ministers as what I would call the “race for the natural resources”.

That must be criticized, because the pulp and paper manufacturers, while I have a lot of respect for them, clearly get themselves ready to clear cut the land when they know an agreement on self-government is imminent and promises native peoples “Your lands are yours; do as you will with your forests”.

This is not what the native peoples do. I was offended that, in the course of the steps toward self-government, there was a rush to take away the natural resources and that, afterwards, the negotiations mysteriously began to move. It was easy afterwards. They were told “We will give you this land”, but, strangely, there is nothing left.

Now there is some certainty with the Nisga'a agreement. Everything is laid out in black and white: riparian management; cut block design and distribution; road construction, maintenance and deactivation; reforestation; soil conservation; biodiversity; hazard abatement, fire preparedness and initial fire suppression; silvicultural systems and logging methods; and forest health.

Quite frankly, I have every confidence in native peoples because, as I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, for them, Mother Earth is their life. One has only to see how they view the earth to understand that these are not people who are going to engage in clearcutting. These are not people who are going to jeopardize the future of their forests just to make a buck. For me, this is a given.

They will also be required to conform to certain standards and existing crown standards will apply to all this. We therefore have certain guarantees, in my view, and anyone who says otherwise is simply fearmongering.

As for access and roads, because the land will be turned over to the Nisga'a, it is mentioned in the agreement that the public will have reasonable access. Naturally, access will also be granted to non-Nisga'a owners in fee simple because there is something else the Nisga'a have understood perfectly well and that is that the non-natives, non-Nisga'a who are remaining on Nisga'a lands will not be simply cast out. They will continue to be told “You have property; it is yours. You have taxes to pay and you will pay them to the federal and provincial governments respectively”. Therefore, the agreement states that these people must have access to their property.

I was also pleased to see that the Nisga'a Highway received considerable attention in the treaty. I would call that modern. As I mentioned earlier, the treaty is a blend of tradition and modernity, and the Nisga'a Highway is one example, an attempt to link the four Nisga'a communities by means of a very interesting corridor.

As for the fisheries, again there is certainty. I cannot understand why anyone would try to link this with the Marshall decision. The problem in that case was that there were no provisions in place. Here, the agreement contains, from page 111 to 143, a clear, point by point, explanation of the way aboriginal fisheries will be administered.

Among other things, people will not need any licences. It must be clearly understood that, according to Nisga'a tradition, fishing, hunting and gathering are traditions that have been part of their lives since time immemorial.

It must be understood therefore that if these people decide to go fishing it is certainly not our job to tell them to go buy a fishing or hunting licence from the provincial government. They will naturally go to the Nisga'a government. When I say that everything is explicit, it must always be kept in mind that this is a tripartite agreement. British Columbia, Canada and the Nisga'a are in agreement.

The provision is for the harvest of a certain percentage of sockeye salmon to be allowed. There is also a percentage set for pink salmon.

If there are surpluses, how will they be divided? That is also set out. There are also provisions on steelheads, both summer-run and winter-run, because these fish run twice a year.

I found that the salmon wheel was a most ingenious way of catching salmon. I saw a salmon wheel when I was in the Yukon and I thought it had been invented by Yukon aboriginals, but the Nisga'a told me that they were the ones who had invented it. It is interesting how it works. Since the salmon always swim upstream, a paddle wheel is installed. The paddles are in the water and, because the current is still flowing downstream, the wheel turns. When the fish come upstream, they are scooped up by the paddles and deposited in a box. This is how the aboriginals capture their fish live. I thought it was quite an ingenious method and I was told that it had been used by native peoples for a very long time.

There are also numerous provisions having to do with aquatic plants, as well as the three kinds of crab found there. Nothing has been left to chance. There are dungeness, snow and king crab. The agreement contains related provisions, as well as provisions regarding halibut, shrimp and herring.

There is also an annual fishing plan, which the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will help prepare and which will reflect the needs of aboriginals and all parties. It is an annual plan because the resources can fluctuate.

In the end, it is not all that complicated. It is almost the opposite of what is now happening on the east coast, where there are hardly any provisions and where everyone is busy interpreting the court ruling with their own interests in mind. Here, there will be no room for interpretation since it is all spelled out in the agreement.

Here again, we have to note the concern for conservation where the Nisga'a, provincial and federal governments agreed on the creation of a conservation trust, to be called the Lisims Fisheries Conservation Trust.

The aim of the trust is to promote the conservation and protection of species. The native people, as I have said, have always treated them with respect. They have no interest in lakes or rivers being emptied and the subsequent end of their traditions. I think this is good evidence of what they want to see happen.

There is even a provision on processing plants. There is no desire to kill the local economy, so provision has been made for a transition period in which the native people have agreed not to establish processing plants. For eight years, they will let the existing plants continue to operate, that is process fish. The plants will be informed however that, in eight years' time, the aboriginals will be in a position to have their own processing plants.

As far as environmental assessment is concerned, it is not complicated. Provincial and federal laws are to apply on Nisga'a territory. For example, environmental assessment and protection studies must meet provincial and federal standards. If they want even stricter standards, there will be no objection. Once again, this is a good security device.

I will now speak briefly about the Nisga'a government. Recognition of a Nisga'a government is consistent with self-government. There will be a central government, and the agreement clearly describes how officials will be selected. There will be four governments, one in each of the villages, with jurisdiction over certain areas. They have prepared their constitution, which is in a way their raison d'etre, and one of the topics it addresses is how all these powers will be divided.

They have also determined the relationship with non-Nisga'a. Thist will be the point I will address next. The agreement contains a Nisga'a citizenship proposal. Persons other than Nisga'a citizens residing within Nisga'a territory have access to its lands, its buildings, its assets and its public institutions. The minister has already referred to this. Those with children may want to send them to the Nisga'a village school. Naturally, the parents will have a vote and a voice on the school board. They will also have a voice on the board of the health institution, because it may be faster to seek care at the village hospital or dispensary than to go to Terrace or Rupert.

This demonstrates considerable openness, since these people will not be paying taxes but will be allowed to participate. Non-aboriginal residents will perhaps pay school taxes, but their other taxes will go to the provincial and federal governments. The fact that the Nisga'a permit them to be part of these boards does, however, show openness.

The Nisga'a government will, of course, be responsible for establishing the Nisga'a institutions. It will have complete jurisdiction over the creation of the small Nisga'a public service. Who is better placed than the Nisga'a themselves to administer the powers devolved on them? Let us forget about the old system where everything was set out in the Indian Act. In the old days, when some small change was to be made on the reserve, people had to contact the liaison officer in Ottawa to find out if it was allowed.

The magnificent eagle has been let out of its cage and now it can soar. It needs space to soar and that is what the bill and the agreement provide, including the way the Nisga'a institutions will be run and the way the Nisga'a public service will be paid.

The federal government will certainly be keeping a careful eye on things and will be prepared to give advice, but the people must be given the ability to govern themselves, and the Nisga'a government is going to establish precisely that ability.

There will also be legislative power. Since the agreement gives the Nisga'a full jurisdiction over culture and language, the Nisga'a government can be expected to introduce relevant legislation. This should come as no surprise.

But we must recognize that the Nisga'a have shown considerable openness in allowing non-natives a role in public institutions. We must also recognize that now they can, and must, fly on their own.

Nisga'a citizenship is perhaps the main stumbling block for the Bloc Quebecois. One has to understand the Nisga'a situation. Quebec's approach to citizenship is very inclusive. One must also understand that our territory and population are much larger than theirs.

There are approximately 2,500 Nisga'a on reserves and almost 2,500 elsewhere. Members must put themselves in the shoes of a Nisga'a who is wondering how he will be able to protect his origins.

There will be a code of citizenship, which will contain a Nisga'a citizenship law. This is where people say “Yes, but this is a racist law”. That is what some people are tempted to say. I have heard the Reform Party say that this is a racist law and an ethnic government because it is based on ancestry.

I would simply reply to the member who is using this argument that this is the way it has been for 100 years. I agree with the leader of the opposition that it has perhaps not been working well for 100 years, but we cannot just abolish the Indian Act and declare all citizens equal overnight.

I said it at the start of my speech and I will repeat it: the Bloc Quebecois cannot accept an egalitarian Canadian society. The Bloc Quebecois has always felt, with the members of the Parti Quebecois, that there were two founding peoples. If there were indeed two founding peoples, their rights must be recognized. If we are all equal, all drowned in the sea of equality, we no longer make this distinction.

This is how we come to understand the position of the Nisga'a. We have a critical mass of 7 million Quebecers, 80% of whom are francophones, so we can resist equalizing trends. But the Nisga'a may not be able to do so, as they number only about 5,000. Attempts at equalization must be resisted. In Quebec as in Canada, the people form a mosaic. People from different cultures add to the shared culture. I see this in the case of Quebec and in the case of Canada as well.

We must recognize that the native culture had and still has its own worth. If there is an attempt to equalize it, as the Liberal Party wanted to do in 1969 with its white paper, which said: the aboriginals must be assimilated, equalized, society would be pretty dull. It would be equal, but there would be no features or cultural characteristics to distinguish one group from another.

These distinctive features must be recognized and given expression. I think the bill, the agreement before us, contributes to that. It makes it possible to say to people “We recognize that you are different; you will develop, however, in a climate of negotiation with us in which we will come to an agreement, but you are different”.

I think Quebecers and the Nisga'a are proud of being different. That is why we can understand them. Clearly, the government would much prefer an all inclusive approach. That is what it wants to do in Quebec, but for reasons of critical mass and population size, I understand the Nisga'a have to do it this way. I understand things have been this way for 100 years, otherwise who would be Indian today and who could decide who is Indian? The Canadian constitution decides it to some extent, in section 35.

But then there are rules whereby an Indian Affairs registrar is responsible for determining who is and is not an Indian. Not everyone wishing to be determined an Indian can be. Unfortunately, that is how the law is, and the native people are the victims of this. They have been told for 100 years that, if they marry whites, their blood will be diluted and they will eventually no longer be aboriginal. That cannot be done away with overnight, otherwise the Nisga'a nation will eventually disappear.

I think that the people have taken the necessary steps to safeguard their culture, their language and their nation. This is why, even if there have been certain problems around defining citizenship, there will be agreement because we are sufficiently open-minded to acknowledge that they need this if they are to perpetuate the Nisga'a nation in future.

It must also be said that this is no disaster for the non-Nisga'a, as I have already said, for they are still entitled to own land within the territory. There are some one hundred non-Nisga'a on the land.

You are indicating to me that I have a minute left, Madam Speaker, so I will wrap up my remarks. I would have liked to have touched on marriage breakdown, because that is a concern introduced by the Reform Party. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to address this again later, but I would like to conclude by saying that we Quebecers are able to understand what the Nisga'a journey toward self-government is all about, because we are on the same journey. I want the Nisga'a to know we are going to be with them on their journey toward self-government because we in the Bloc Quebecois believe in it.

I will close with a translation into Nisga'a of “the Bloc Quebecois will walk alongside the Nisga'a on their journey” because they are listening to us and I know it will please them.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I would like to indicate at the outset that I will be sharing my time with my colleague the member for Burnaby—Douglas.

I am very pleased and proud today to have the opportunity to express my enthusiastic support and that of my party for ratification of the Nisga'a treaty that is before us.

In 1887 the Nisga'a people travelled more than 1,000 kilometres by canoe to Victoria to seek justice and reconciliation. They sought to negotiate a treaty, but were turned away at the time.

The Nisga'a treaty now before us is a historic achievement. For the Nisga'a themselves it ends 111 years of justice denied. Today we finally ensure the Nisga'a their rightful place in the Canadian family.

This treaty provides the Nisga'a with the plan to which they are entitled.

This agreement is based on mutual respect that recognizes mistakes and injustices of the past and that begins the important process of healing. This treaty is an important step for the Nisga'a, but it is also an important step for all British Columbians and for all Canadians.

Canadians can see that in so many ways the status quo is not working. It is certainly not working for aboriginal people. We see it in the high levels of poverty, unemployment and ill health suffered by aboriginal people in the Nass Valley and in other regions of Canada as well.

Before the European settlers arrived, the Nisga'a were a community of 30,000 people. Today they number less than 5,000, ravaged by disease, by poverty and assaults on their way of life. As Nisga'a Chief Joe Gosnell has said, “The remaining Nisga'a are the survivors of the march toward progress”.

The status quo has not always worked for non-aboriginals either. Instability and uncertainty have hindered economic opportunity and in some instances economic investment and prevented many communities from achieving their full potential. This treaty recognizes that we must put this devastating period of uncertainty and conflict behind us. It recognizes that we will achieve peace and fulfilment through mutual understanding, recognition and respect.

We need only look to the east coast to see what happens when that leadership is lacking, when we fail to negotiate in good faith with those affected, with respect and with forethought. We see the chaos that results when the courts are forced to decide because the government abandoned its responsibility to negotiate in good faith.

Canadians do not want another century of conflict. We need to settle the issues that divide us and move forward together on a firm foundation of respect and certainty. This treaty helps us to do exactly that.

The Nisga'a will now be equipped with the tools needed to develop their community.

Aboriginal people will now have the tools that they need to build the self-reliant communities that they desire for themselves and their families.

Regrettably, some have used misinformation, innuendo and fear in an effort to discredit the Nisga'a treaty in an attempt to persuade Canadians that too much has been given away to the Nisga'a, or that this treaty is somehow threatening to non-aboriginal Canadians. This campaign of deception must be countered with the truth.

It is a fact that under the agreement all rights are protected by the Canadian constitution, the criminal code and the charter of rights and freedoms. It is a fact that under the Nisga'a treaty, land and resource management issues are settled and important environmental protections are assured. It is a fact that non-native property owners maintain guaranteed rights. It is a fact that Nisga'a traditions and culture will finally be permitted to flourish without taking anything from anybody else.

These important accomplishments have been achieved through 20 years, two decades of consultation and negotiation in good faith. How can these accomplishments therefore be bad for Canada? It is surely irresponsible and intolerable that some choose to use this debate to drive a wedge between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people instead of using it as a way to heal longstanding divisions.

The treaty is not about establishing a separate solitude for the Nisga'a as some Reform Party members insist. It is about the Nisga'a assuming their rightful place in Canada.

We all witnessed the wonderful festivities surrounding passage of the Nisga'a bill in British Columbia. As the Nisga'a marched in the streets in celebration they carried in one hand British Columbia's flag and in the other hand Canada's flag. What an important symbol it was of a coming together after years of conflict and injustice.

The treaty is not about separation. It is about extending a long overdue welcome to first nations people who have been too long treated as second class members of the Canadian family.

Today we in the House have the opportunity to walk with history. With the ratification of the Nisga'a treaty we take a first but important step toward reconciliation and the dream of true equality.

Let all of us in the House rise to the call for leadership. Let us rise to our responsibilities to offer leadership, responsibilities that Canadians rightly expect of us as parliamentarians. Let us come together in support of the Nisga'a treaty and in so doing play a modest but historically significant role in ushering in a new era of co-operation and mutual respect among aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.