House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was treaty.


Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, of all the issues we will be dealing with in this parliament this issue will have the most profound impact on the state of our nation now and for the next 20 years. With a combination of our collective guilt and a recognition of the appalling conditions that exist on aboriginal lands and for aboriginal people both on and off reserve, we are pursuing a course with the Nisga'a deal that will carve up this country. It will balkanize our nation and do little to improve the health and welfare of aboriginal people in this country.

This deal is an extension of the racist Indian Act which has acted like a lodestone around the necks of aboriginal people and which has ensured that they cannot develop as non-aboriginals have. It is nothing other than the continuation of separate development.

In the past decade I worked in South Africa during the dark days of apartheid. I saw the appalling conditions under separate development. I have been privileged to work with aboriginal people both on and off reserve. I have seen them raped. I have seen them assaulted. I have seen them overdose, some successfully and some unsuccessfully. I have seen their children abused. I have seen their bodies broken and their spirits destroyed.

That is the direct result of the separate development we have pursued for more than 120 years. Whether we are speaking about South Africa under apartheid or Canada under the Indian Act, both engaged in separate development and were equal failures.

The Nisga'a deal is nothing but an extension and an entrenchment of the same type of separate development. It will do very little to improve the health and welfare of these people. In fact, Canada is engaging in apartheid today.

The Nisga'a deal represents more than 16 different powers that supersede the federal and provincial powers. As my colleague from the Progressive Conservatives mentioned, this is a deal nation to nation. It cannot be looked at in isolation for there are 50 other so-called deals that will be made in British Columbia. So far those claims represent 110% of the land mass of B.C. The rest of Canada cannot be complacent in believing this will not affect them.

The Delgamuukw decision said very clearly that aboriginal title was not extinguished. The implicit nature of the decision was that oral tradition would be equal to written tradition and there has been an opening up of treaties from coast to coast. This will have the profound impact of balkanizing our nation. It will divide it up into mini states where rights are not given to the individual but are given to the collective.

Part of the problem we have had is that individual rights have never been given to aboriginal people. As a result, powers have been given to the collective. This cannot be underestimated. We have been doing this for years.

Some $6.5 billion per year and $3.5 billion goes directly to more than 600 bands representing over a quarter of a million aboriginal people who are suffering from the same or worse conditions today than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago. They have the highest rates of suicide, substance abuse, unemployment, diabetes and tuberculosis. By many other parameters they have the worst conditions in this country, conditions that approach those of the third world. That is what separate development has done for aboriginal people.

We are going beyond that. The courts are now developing separate rules. Under the courts, an aboriginal person would be treated differently from a non-aboriginal person for committing the same offence. Is it right for an aboriginal person who has committed a murder or another serious offence to go back into the community because it is the right thing to do from the court's perspective?

That is exactly what happened recently on a reserve that I worked on. Somebody who had committed murder, not once but on two separate occasions, was being released into the very community where the murder had been committed. Where is the justice for the aboriginal people, for the victims who live in that environment? The family members of the murdered woman were mortally afraid that the person who murdered one of their own was going to come back again. That is what happened in the judicial system.

We all care about this issue very much. There is not a person in this House who wants to see the aboriginal people continue living under the conditions that they have been living. We all want to see an improvement. We all want to work with them. But the difference between the Reform Party and the rest of the House is that we do not want to participate in the same separate development that has compromised the ability of aboriginal people to live lives of freedom, to live lives of security and to live lives of hope. We want that for them as they want that for themselves but some things have to happen.

One, we have to scrap the racist Indian Act. It has acted like a lodestone around the necks of aboriginal people for so long.

Two, there has to be one law for all people. If we have different laws for different people, we have no law at all. How can aboriginal people on and off reserve have any faith in a judicial system that is going to treat them differently from other people?

Three, we have to invest in education and health care for these people so that they will be able to stand on their own feet.

No matter what our racial group is, we cannot get pride and self-respect unless we take it and we cannot take it without being self-sufficient. People must be able to provide for themselves, their families and their communities. No one is going to give that to them.

The aboriginal leadership has to start behaving like leaders. Some leaders have done an excellent job and many have not. More than 150 aboriginal bands out of some 600 have been investigated for gross mismanagement of funds. The reason is rooted in the fact that funds are going directly to the leadership and not to the people.

The Pacheenaht band is in my riding. The hereditary chief and people on the reserve are trying to find out about what is going on in their band, about decisions that are made by the leadership. They were told that they could not have that information. I stood right beside them when they were promised that information but it was not given to them. I asked the Indian affairs minister to please help this group. The department said it could not intervene, that it was a band issue. Who is going to defend these grassroots aboriginal people when their own leadership is not going to bat for them? That is what is happening.

We see these people on the ground, the horror of children falling into open sinkholes. The ministry will not give them money because the band has the money but the band is not giving them the money. These people have absolutely no recourse and nowhere to go for help.

We cannot do it by giving collective rights to a group. We have to give it to the individual. That is critically important.

We want to ensure that people have independence. But do we really need to have political independence to ensure economic emancipation? That is what this is about. We have not been able to help the aboriginal people to work together with us to engage in economic emancipation.

Everybody here who speaks with aboriginal people knows they want to have what everybody else has, congruent with their customs and rights which are protected under the constitution and the charter, thankfully. Thankfully, they can still engage in their rights and traditions and enrich and empower us and teach us about what they have. Following that line does not absolve us of ensuring that an aboriginal person is treated the same as a non-aboriginal person, that an aboriginal person will have the same opportunity as a non-aboriginal person.

The department of Indian affairs spent $6.5 billion and has very little to show for it. Money is sucked up by the bureaucracy. Imagine developing a new layer of government, which is what this Nisga'a agreement and others are going to do.

A huge amount of money will go into other bureaucracies at the provincial and federal levels to interface, non-aboriginal groups with the aboriginal governments. Would it not be better to use that money to ensure the aboriginal people have the improvements in health care, education, welfare and housing that they desperately need? Why are we putting money into a bureaucratic solution when these people need a solid solution?

In closing, I can only impress upon every member and every Canadian that this is the most important decision the House will have made in four years. Please do not take it lightly. Please let us work toward a common objective of ensuring that we will have the power to work together, aboriginals and non-aboriginals, to build a future we can share and work in as equals congruent with our customs and traditions. It is the fair thing to do. Pursuing this Nisga'a treaty will only end in the balkanization of Canada and apartheid in Canada.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the amendment before the House at the moment is to institute a six month delay on the bill. I would like to approach the discussion from the angle of representation.

When asked about the fact that the polls in B.C. clearly showed that a majority of people were opposed to this deal, the member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys said that he did not want to be a courier to this place or what would be the point of being here. There was a time, in a former lifetime perhaps, when the NDP prided itself in being representatives of the people or what was the point of being here. That marks a major departure in political philosophy between the NDP and the Reform Party. We feel we have an obligation to represent the concerns of the people of B.C. in this place.

From a philosophical position I can understand why the NDP would support a socialist structure of government, which is certainly the structure that is to be set up by the Nisga'a deal. But the evidence from all around the world is that socialism does not work. It depresses the people. It suppresses initiative and it always results in a lower standard of living. I think we can see that in what has happened with existing treaties on reserves across Canada. In fact, I would challenge any member in this place to show any treaty passed in the last 200 years that has resulted in a higher standard of living for people on reserves.

In terms of representation, why has the government side not bothered to ask those Nisga'a who voted against the deal why they are opposed to it? If it had taken the time to do so, it would have discovered that the opponents are afraid that the treaty will entrench a system which will confer benefits on a few at the expense of many, particularly at the expense of individual rights.

As my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca said a few moments ago, it smacks of segregation. I can tell the House that literally dozens of immigrants from South Africa who live in my riding have phoned and written to me to tell me that they call it apartheid. They pull no punches about it. They told me on the telephone, in person and in letters that they do not understand why Canada is pursuing exactly the same course that they were criticized for in South Africa. The whole world reacted against South Africa and imposed sanctions. They do not understand why we are going down the same road.

Speakers from other parties asked us what Reform would have done to solve these problems. Let me put in a suggestion based on representation.

If the people of B.C. had been asked or allowed to vote and indicate to their government whether they agreed to land being involved, whether there should be individual or collective rights, whether there should be money transferred, and the basics of treaty making had been passed in some sort of referendum in the province of B.C., the politicians would have had the mandate to go ahead and negotiate a treaty. It would have been endorsed and supported by all of the people of B.C. That did not happen.

Today we have a situation where poll after poll in B.C. is showing strong opposition to the agreement. In fact in the ridings of Liberal MPs in this House, Vancouver Centre and Vancouver South—Burnaby, up to 70% and 80% of the people are opposed to the Nisga'a deal.

It is just not good enough to say that they do not want to be couriers to this place. They should be coming here, standing in the House and saying why the people in their ridings are opposed to it.

Instead, we have a situation where all of the other parties are attacking Reform, and completely unfairly. We saw today in question period a member of the PC party standing to ask a question about the Mi'kmaq and the lobster fishers on the east coast. There was not a single word of criticism or an attack against the PCs for expressing tremendous concern about what is happening in their ridings.

Look at what has happened in the House over the last six years. The member for Delta—South Richmond, five and six years ago, talked about the illegal fishing that was going on in the Fraser River and all of the fish that were being sold illegally in B.C. by native fishers. He was attacked. We were labelled as bigots and that other r word that I am not allowed to use in this House. We were attacked for representing our constituents. Now it is happening on the east coast.

Perhaps it is a little wake up call for the government and for everyone who does not understand what is going on in B.C. They will share in the strife if they continue with the process of setting up governments based on race.

Over 90% of all Indian bands in the country are in B.C. People who live anywhere else in the country, who have not experienced the difficulties, do not have even the slightest concept of what is happening in B.C.

The Liberal Party of B.C. fought this bill tooth and nail as it went through the legislature in British Columbia. It even filed a court case, claiming that this bill was unconstitutional. The fact that it was rammed through by the NDP government has put an aura of mistrust in place. The people of B.C. do not trust the NDP government. Just the fact that it was rammed through by the NDP is a bad mark for the deal. It would have been much better had the people of B.C. been allowed some say in it. The member for Vancouver Island North went into great detail about the process and how flawed it was.

I have on my desk many newspaper articles written by people who could not be labelled with the r word or called bigots or extremists. Barbara Yaffe, Rafe Mair, Gordon Gibson and many commentators in British Columbia have written about this treaty. A headline in one of Barbara Yaffe's columns read “Reality check for the Liberals: alienation is real and justified”. She went on to criticize the Prime Minister's task force and to explain why segregation based on race is not the way to go with Indian land claims.

Another column by Barbara Yaffe was entitled “Special rights for natives threaten our otherwise civil society”, and she related the Mi'kmaq situation to what is happening now in British Columbia.

Rafe Mair wrote:

A pall of madness has settled over the province of British Columbia and will soon spread across the country. Our representatives, both provincial and federal, have utterly betrayed our interests. We have, with the Nisga'a agreement now before Parliament, ensured there will be at least 50 semi-autonomous “nations” in B.C.

Despite what you may be told, these will not just be native “municipalities”. Nisga'a sets up a separate style of government to which powers, reserved for the federal and provincial governments, will be permanently ceded. Does all this really mean anything? You bet it does. It means that in British Columbia there will be between 50 and 75 “nations” that will govern themselves with constitutions, not on the level of municipalities but as part of the power-sharing process envisaged by the Constitution of Canada.

And B.C.'s voters have also specifically rejected the Nisga'a treaty when given the chance. Since the B.C. government refused to hold a province-wide referendum, some B.C. citizens' groups held their own instead. Earlier this year, 7,200 Prince George residents...voted on the Nisga'a treaty and more than 97% cast their vote against it. Residents of the northern region of Vancouver Island...said no to the tune of 97%. A poll in Ladner-Tswassen found 93% of 3,400 voters against the treaty. The turnout itself was damming: Two weeks later a school board election was held in a nearby area with twice as many voters as were eligible for the Nisga'a vote. There, only 2,600 people showed up to cast ballots.

That gives an idea of the relevant importance of these two issues in the Ladner area.

The article by Rafe Mair continued:

Am I some anti-native, red-necked racist looking for a forum to peddle hatred? Those who know me know I'm anything but. What I am, however, is one who, in a long life, has seen his country reach a point where, far from reducing racism, it is about to sanctify it for all time in the constitution of the country.

I congratulate Rafe Mair for the article that was printed in the National Post and I would ask members to read it in full. It illustrates and demonstrates beautifully what is happening in B.C. at the moment, why the Reform Party is so vigorously opposing it and why the member for Kamloops should be doing the same thing. He is not just a courier. He owes it to his constituents to bring their concerns to this place.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my colleagues of the House in this debate, and particularly the members of my party who are standing to oppose the treaty which is before the House for ratification.

It has been interesting to listen to opposition and government members talk about the treaty. I hear them say that they have been there, they have seen this. I remember one of the Bloc members even describing the colour of the Nass River and I wondered what insight he had obtained on this treaty from the colour of the river.

I have spent some time on a reserve. After my university, seminary work and ordination I was the minister, or the missionary to use the traditional term, at an Indian village on the west coast. During the orientation, before I took that posting, I was told that I may think I would go there with my university work behind me, with my study of sociology, anthropology and the course work on native Indians, particularly in British Columbia, and I may have lived next door to reserves as a boy on ranches for virtually all my life; however, I was told that I did not know anything about what I would be doing and would not know until I had been there for two or three years, and that I would then begin to know.

I had a position to fill on that reserve, a place in the community, but understanding the people and their traditions only began to come when there was some way of hearing their stories and experiencing the familiarity between people that comes with sharing at that deeper level.

People who have been close to native Indian people, who understand the hardship and the effects of their powerlessness, understand also that they live in a power structure and most of the people in that power structure have not had the opportunity to exercise that power. There is power, but most people do not have an opportunity to put their hands on it.

Something else I have heard in the debate is that under this treaty people can own property. That is true, they can. The difficulty is that individual property rights come with power and those property rights come as that power is given to them. However, there is no guarantee that there will be individual property rights. Without those property rights and power, native Indian people will never have the resources they need to insist upon their rights.

How important are property rights? I will tell a story or two from my own personal experience. The first story begins probably before I was born.

I remember a friend of my father's who was a resident on one of the reserves near our home. His mother had a piece of property. Traditionally she had owned it. She had tried unsuccessfully to get title to it. His mother died.

I will not use names because these people are still living and still do not have the power to protect themselves.

This man wanted to own his mother's property. I remember, as a friend of my father's, they would discuss how this might be accomplished. I lost track of this story, but interestingly enough this man was one of the first constituents to come to see me in my office after I was elected as a member of parliament. It was a great reunion. I had not seen him for a long time.

He said “I am here for a reason. Do you know that property of my mother's?” He showed me all the papers of all the applications, rejections and the difficulty he had in getting the money. Finally it all came together and he got title to that property.

After that he included it in the reserve lands. The reason he came to see me was to see if there was some way he could get control of his property again because now the band owned it and the band would not let him use his own property for which he had worked so many years to get title to.

In my mind this relates pointedly to the need for property rights for individuals. Band members should be able to own their property, use it as they wish, buy it, sell it, mortgage it and take full advantage of it for themselves. Unfortunately this piece of property is still beyond the grasp of my father's old friend, but he is still working at it.

I also want to talk about property rights in a way that currently affects many native people. Native people know the value of the vote. They know that without being able to vote they do not have any power at all.

A man came to my constituency office and said “When I left my village I lost my house. Somebody else began to live in it. Now I want to go back. I went back to vote, but I was told that I did not have a house, that I did not live there, so I could not vote. So I said that I would like to have my house back and they said that was not possible”.

This is a man who was caught in the catch-22 of not being able to vote unless he had his property, but he could not get his property so that he could vote. He is a very unhappy person. I see this man regularly.

I want to talk about another instance where property rights are important. A man on a reserve in my constituency has agricultural land. He liked to cut and sell the hay. He had an agreement with one of the local ranchers who needed that hay. For a long time this agreement worked. The hay was cut, it was hauled to the ranch, the money went to the man who cut the hay and did the work. One day the chief of the reserve said to the rancher “The hay is coming from reserve land. The money that you pay belongs to the band, not to the individual, so I will be taking the cheque”. The rancher checked it out and that is what he had to do.

Needless to say, the man who did the work, who put the sweat into the effort, did not get the money and he does not cut hay any more. He has lost a big part of his livelihood simply because he did not have the right to the property and the right to take payment for the work that he had done on land that he considered his own.

As a minister on the reserve on the west coast one of the things that I discovered was that, according to the west coast reserves, there are a whole variety of little reserves up and down the coast, usually at the mouths of rivers or at points of land, places where it is reasonably easy to beach a boat. These traditionally belong to individuals and to families. They are passed down through families. I would not want to suggest that they go from father to son because that is not always the way it is done in native Indian culture. However, to say that the Indian people have no concept of private property and no concept of the right to private property is not correct. I know of native Indian people who own land on reserves in their name and it is held within the reserve system in trust for them.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of the right to personally own land, the right to personal property, if we are going to empower native Indian people to take responsibility for themselves by having the power they need to defend themselves. They cannot defend themselves according to their rights under the constitution if they have no means of grasping those rights, of defending those rights and of prosecuting those who would jeopardize those rights.

This is a bad treaty. It is going to leave people in the old system rather than bringing them into the new Canada of the new millennium with the same rights, privileges and freedoms that all Canadians expect and enjoy.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-9 and to the amendment to hold it up for six months, which I think is an extremely good idea. One of the reasons I say this is that most of us from B.C. know that the issue of the Nisga'a treaty will come before the courts. A number of court cases are already pending.

We are here today in the House trying to debate a bill that our democratically elected government has put time allocation on. We do not have enough time to speak on it and to bring all the issues forward to properly inform the people of Canada with regard to what is going on here.

The treaty was jammed through in British Columbia without the consent of the people of British Columbia. It was not brought to the people of British Columbia. The hon. members of the NDP should remember that the instigator, the premier of the province at that time, has now resigned in disgrace over this issue and a number of other issues.

I have a a lot of difficulty with this because of four reasons. First, since B.C. fulfilled all of its obligations to our Indians before it entered confederation, Ottawa alone should bear all the costs of the Nisga'a treaty, including reimbursing the province for fair market value of the additional land and natural resources involved. This is very critical. The treaty will not cost just the people in British Columbia, it will cost everyone in Canada. When British Columbia entered into confederation, the federal government at that time said that it would take over Indian affairs. This is just one of the arguments.

Second, all the people in British Columbia, not just the Nisga'a people, should have the right to vote on this. I shall clarify that. Not all of the Nisga'a people voted on this. Some were not allowed to vote on it.

Third, due to the sweeping changes the treaty proposes, it should be subject to periodic review, perhaps every five or ten years, rather than being entrenched as it stands now in Canada's constitution. I say that because we have lived for a number of years under basically two governments in the country, the Liberals and the Conservatives. We have seen what they have done to the country. We have seen what they have done with regard to the Indian Act. They still believe that this is a workable document. They have gone on for years and years holding up our native people, holding up the reserves and holding up the process of the Indian Act as a great workable document for the people of the country.

However, we know it is a failure. We have heard time after time from speakers from all parties in the House about just how detrimental it has been to our Indian population in Canada. That is one of the reasons why, before we sign off on all these agreements, that we should have reviews every five to ten years.

My fourth and final point is that the B.C. legislature and parliament are legally required to pass, amend or defeat this and other modern day treaties yet to come because it is our responsibility to ensure the legislation is as good as we can make it rather than merely rubber-stamping it, which is exactly what we are doing here. We are just rubber-stamping the document.

The government is not open. It has already said that it will not accept amendments. I have no doubt that it will bring in closure when it goes committee. It will try to ram this through. It has said in the paper that it will try to get this through before Christmas. They stand over there and say that this is not so, but it has been stated in the papers.

If that is not rubber-stamping, if that is not forcing an issue, if that is not showing total disregard for the people of British Columbia, I do not know what is. It is not only total disregard for the people of British Columbia but, in my humble opinion, also for the Nisga'a people.

I had the honour and privilege of visiting the Nisga'a country and meeting with the chiefs. I had lunch with them and talked with them. We decided to disagree very politely in regard to a number of these issues.

After having travelled through the Nisga'a country and visiting New Aiyansh, I visited the bordering reserves and met with many of their chiefs. They had great concerns about the treaty because it infringed on their traditional territory. Here we have other bands saying that the agreement infringes on their territory and the government just sits over there and goes ahead with it anyway.

When the agreement hits the court, the government will say “We didn't know that. Nobody told us that or put that out”. Well, we have and I want the government to remember that.

I also want hon. members on the other side to realize that British Columbia is a part of Canada. When it comes to an issue of this importance, where we are basically reshaping and redefining how Canada will look on maps and how the laws will apply in different parts of Canada, I would really think that a government that says it is so concerned about the well-being of Canada, of its people and of the native population in the country would at least have the common decency to sit in the House. However, government members do not. They just leave. Hardly any of them stay around with regard to this.

We can go back years and years, long before your time, Mr. Speaker, to when British Columbia first came into confederation. In my home province it has been proven by order in council that British Columbia has fulfilled its obligations with respect to its Indians.

I have strong objections to the Nisga'a treaty and to the remaining hundreds of treaties which B.C. Indians still have to come forward with. The government says that this will not be a template of what is to happen but it will be. The ex-premier of British Columbia has also stated very strongly that it will be. It is strange that the government says that this will not become a template to what will go on in our province because it is a template. There is absolutely no doubt about it.

I understand the NDP with regard to the issue of private property rights. Private property rights are nowhere to be found in the agreement. I understand that from the NDP members, with their socialistic attitude regarding private property rights, and that governments should own everything and that they should be the government that will tell us what we can do.

I also do not have any trouble understanding it coming from the Conservatives down on the other side of us because the red Tories are almost exactly the same thing as what we have sitting here as the NDP.

I did have a little trouble though trying to understand where the Liberals are coming from on this. They profess time after time that everybody in the country should have the opportunity to own something, to have security of that ownership and to be able to better themselves in regard to that ownership. However, here they are ready to rubber-stamp this without giving that right to the natives themselves. It is almost like they want to keep that entrenchment upon the reserves so that they cannot better themselves. I have great difficulty with that after listening to how they profess they care and what they say to the public outside.

I sincerely hope that the government will at least open this up to proper debate and allow us to speak on this instead of keeping us to 10 minutes and shutting off debate with no questions and answers in the House. This is supposed to be the most democratic House in Canada. I would think the rest of the world would have to shake its head at that.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, when my hon. colleague from British Columbia speaks, it is always very interesting to hear what he has to say.

For his attention, for the Reform Party's attention and for the attention of the listening audience, of which I am sure there are hundreds of thousands of people watching this now, I want them to know that I also grew up in British Columbia from 1956 to 1979. I travelled the province extensively during the time that I lived there.

I also lived in Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory for nine years. I toured the Kitwanga area, the Nass area and the Stikine. I visited the whole area very extensively and met with tremendous numbers of wonderful people, aboriginal and non-aboriginal. That is why I have always had high admiration for people from British Columbia. However, when I say that, there is a certain political party from there with which, in many ways, I agree with some of its concerns and I am sure it agrees with some of our concerns.

Individually, its members are great people, but politically they have made some mistakes. First, the previous speaker talked about private property rights. They keep talking about private property rights. The fact is they are the only ones talking about private property rights. In negotiations, and not litigation, there are people on both sides who negotiate what they would like to have. It was the Nisga'a people who wanted to have the communal rights to the property on the land. That is what they wanted. Over 70% of the people voted for the Nisga'a treaty in favour of it. That is a clear majority right there.

Second, as everyone knows, I now live in Nova Scotia. We have a huge crisis in the fishing industry because this government and past Conservative governments refused to negotiate. The aboriginal people were told to get lost, to go pound sand and to take their case to court. Three straight decisions have ruled in favour of the aboriginal people: Delgamuukw, Sparrow and now the Marshall decision. It has caused chaos in my part of the country and is now causing uncertainty right across the country.

There is one aspect of the Nisga'a agreement that I would like to read aloud for the benefit of my Reform colleagues. I do not believe the treaty will be a template, but I do believe that some aspects of it could and may be used for other treaties across the country. If we had the descriptions on page 107, sections 31, 32 and 33, which I will read for Reform's benefit, prior to the Marshall decision, we would not have the chaos that we have now. It is titled “Disposition of Salmon Harvests”, but it could equally have said “any harvest on the Atlantic coast. It reads:

Subject to paragraph 33, the Nisga'a Nation, and its agents, contractors and licensees authorized by Nisga'a Lisims Government, have the right to sell Nass salmon harvested under this Agreement.

For greater certainty, in accordance with paragraph 13 of the General Provisions Chapter, federal and provincials laws of general application pertaining to the sale of fish, in respect of commercial transactions, health and safety, transport, inspection, processing, packaging, storage, export, quality control, and labelling of fish, apply to the sale of all Nass salmon harvested in Nisga'a fisheries.

Here is the key to this. If we had the next key in Nova Scotia, we would not have a problem today.

If, in any year, there are no directed harvests in Canadian commercial or recreational fisheries of a species of Nass salmon, sale of that species of Nass salmon harvested in directed harvests of that species in that year's Nisga'a fisheries will not be permitted.

That means if the non-aboriginal recreational and commercial fisheries are not operating due to conservation measures or other reasons, there will be no Nisga'a fishery. That is a tremendous opportunity for co-operation from both sides.

It clearly states that the non-aboriginal and aboriginal people have in mind conservation first, long before any commercial or sport recreational activity. If we had had that kind of agreement in Nova Scotia prior to the Marshall decision, we would not have the problems or the millions of dollars that are being wasted as a result of the confusion the Marshall decision caused. This is what happens when we negotiate, not litigate.

It really upsets me that governments in Canada have continually told aboriginal people to go away. They are told to take their case to court because the government refuses to talk to them.

Yesterday in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Mr. Wayne Wouters, one of the deputy ministers at DFO, said quite clearly in his presentation that it would have been unrealistic to have expected DFO to have put in any kind of a game plan for the Marshall decision because they did not know what the ruling would be.

In March, April and May, the Mi'kmaq from Nova Scotia came to Ottawa to start a dialogue process with DFO and the Indian affairs department. If the Marshall decision went in favour of the Mi'kmaq, they wanted to set up a plan of action to avoid the kind of turmoil which we see now. The government told them to go away.

Mr. Wouters also said in his presentation to the committee yesterday that they had a legal obligation to talk to the aboriginal people of Nova Scotia. But they did not talk to them. One minute he said that they could not be expected to talk to them. The next minute he said that they had a legal obligation to talk to aboriginal people. He was talking out of both sides of his mouth. No wonder we are frustrated.

On behalf of the Nisga'a people, my colleagues in British Columbia and my party, I say that the B.C. New Democratic Party, headed at the time by the great Glen Clark, in negotiations with the previous Indian affairs minister who is now the Minister of Human Resources Development, and all the parties that negotiated this treaty have done a good thing. They have now brought the aboriginal people into Canada. They are now going to be full-fledged partners in Canada. It is the way it should be done. Negotiation, not litigation.

This will not be a template across the country because every region will be different. There is no question. The Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia may have different aspirations or rules, but the fact is that we must negotiate. That is what has to happen. When we bring all the stakeholders together and discuss their concerns in an open and friendly manner, there are compromises on both sides. The fact is that they will become full citizens of the country, which they so rightly and richly deserve.

It is no secret that when we go to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec the first thing we see in the great hall is totem poles, aboriginal artifacts. Why is that? Because we as Canadians are very proud of our rich cultural history with the aboriginal and first nations people. This is something we have to respect and encourage for further dialogue down the road.

The Nisga'a treaty is a good agreement. I recommend that all parties support the agreement. I thank all members of the House who do.

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5:15 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, all I can say to the hon. NDP member from Nova Scotia is that as the goalie for the official opposition hockey team, I wish he could block shots nearly as well as he can block out the facts about this treaty. If he did, maybe we would beat the Liberals for a change.

I rise today to speak not only on behalf of the people of Prince George—Peace River, but on behalf of the majority of British Columbians whose concerns and rights have been ignored by the government.

In the limited time allocated to me today, it is my intention to focus my remarks on the merits of this legislation by asking two fundamental questions. Will the Nisga'a people be better off as a result of this legislation? Will Canadian society as a whole be better off as a result of this treaty?

My riding is located in the northeastern corner of British Columbia adjacent to the east of the Nisga'a treaty lands. My constituents are concerned about this issue because the ramifications of the Nisga'a treaty will impact on the yet unsettled land claims throughout Peace country in northern B.C.

As a Reform MP I am motivated to vote against this bill based on philosophy alone. This philosophy was articulated eloquently by the Leader of the Opposition in his remarks yesterday. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition illustrate a better way of serving our aboriginal people. His arguments clearly outlined Reform's guiding principles of equality and fairness. These principles will lead not only to prosperity for our aboriginal peoples but to a more harmonious relationship with other Canadians.

As a Reform member of parliament I do not vote based solely upon my philosophy or that of my party. I balance these interests with the interests of my constituents who I am pleased and honoured to represent.

Last March I hired a research company to survey my constituents on the Nisga'a treaty and on other issues. The following questions were asked. First, should the people of British Columbia have a voice on the principles of the Nisga'a treaty through a province wide referendum? Seventy-five per cent of the people in my riding voted yes. They felt B.C. resident citizens should have that. Second, with the information you now have about the treaty, how should your federal member of parliament vote when it comes before parliament in Ottawa? Only 17% of my constituents said that I should vote for this treaty.

In January 1999, I along with the members for Skeena, Prince George—Bulkley Valley and Okanagan—Shuswap sent out a Nisga'a treaty householder to 30 ridings held not only by Reform but by Liberal and NDP MPs. The following are the questions and answers from that householder survey.

First, do you believe the public has had adequate opportunity to provide input into the Nisga'a treaty? Eighty-nine per cent said no and only nine per cent said yes.

Second, do you believe that the people of British Columbia should have the right to vote on the principles of the Nisga'a treaty in a provincial referendum? Ninety-two per cent said yes and only seven per cent said no to a referendum.

Third, how do you want your federal MP to vote on this treaty in the House of Commons? Of all the returns that came in, 91% were against it and only 8% said that their MP should vote for it. In Prince George—Peace River, 96% were against and 3% were for. In Vancouver Quadra, currently a Liberal held riding, 91% were against and 7% were for it. In the riding of the Secretary of State for the Status of Women, 81% were against the treaty and 17% were for it. In Victoria, the riding of the former minister of fisheries, 92% were against and 8% were for it. In Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, the riding of the current yes man, 94% were against and 6% were for it. In Kamloops, 95% were against and 4% were for it. We just heard from the hon. member from Kamloops yet he did not even poll his riding to see how his constituents felt about this issue. In Burnaby-Kingsway 87% were against it and only 11% were in favour of it.

Those numbers say a lot about the intentions of British Columbians on this issue. Unlike the minister of Indian affairs I believe that the people of British Columbia are more than capable of comprehending and deciding this issue. Based on that and on the overwhelming will of my constituents, I will be voting against this bill.

What reason do the rest of these members have for not opposing this bill? Even if they did not want to go with the wishes of their constituents, what reason would they have for not opposing it? They are in opposition after all.

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5:20 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is such an important issue. It is very disappointing that there do not appear to be enough members in the House. Could I call for a quorum count, please.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

There is quorum.

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5:25 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I note there is quorum now because of course once my colleague called for quorum a whole bunch of Liberal members came scurrying out from behind the curtains and from their lobby where I am sure they were sitting.

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5:25 p.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We called a quorum and we asked for a head count of the members opposite and the members on this side. Do they not have to be in their seats rather than just milling around outside?

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

No. Just as a point of interest, provided the Speaker is able to see a member and recognize a member as a member of this parliament anywhere within the Speaker's vision, that member is considered to be here. That includes the galleries. For instance, it is possible to deny consent provided the Speaker is able to see and recognize that person as a member.

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5:25 p.m.


Jim Peterson Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I could not commend you more for your judicious ruling. It is so critical to us as members of parliament that we have the opportunity to discuss with our colleagues, not only on this side of the House but on the opposite side of the House, the important affairs of state which have been entrusted to us by the people of Canada. This is why your ruling is so important.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The points of order are really out of order.

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5:25 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, despite the humour of the hon. member across the way whose stand-up comic routine I always appreciate, I do hope that I still have time to finish my remarks. I want to take up where I left off.

Could those members not find anything in this legislation that they oppose in order to show their constituents that they are listening to them, or are they like the Indian affairs minister and believe they are smarter than their constituents? My suggestion is that is for the electorate to decide and it will decide at the next election.

I would now like to discuss the two questions I posed at the outset of my remarks.

Will the average Nisga'a person be better off as a result of this legislation? Absolutely not. Aboriginal Canadians have been treated as second class citizens for hundreds of years. This legislation does nothing to remedy that.

I want to go out on a limb here. I hope it does not cost me my re-election, but I have to agree with the words of the current Prime Minister and his mentor Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Just listen to these quotes:

What we want, and the Indians are in agreement, is that they should become equal citizens of Canada.

That was the current Prime Minister when he was Indian affairs minister in 1968. Another quote:

There is a long term intention on the part of the arrive eventually at a situation where the Indians will be treated like other Canadian citizens of the particular province in which they happen to be.

That was Prime Minister Trudeau in 1968.

Equality was the long term intention of the Liberal government's Indian policy. Why has it abandoned this policy? Do Liberals no longer believe in equality? It has been over 30 years since these statements were made. How long are their long term intentions? They have an opportunity to put the words of Pierre Trudeau into action. Carpe diem, seize the day. Withdraw the Nisga'a legislation so that the aboriginal people can take a step forward into the next century instead of passing into law the mistakes of the last 200 years.

This agreement does not grant the Nisga'a people the property rights that the rest of us enjoy. Nisga'a women are left unprotected by this legislation. The charter of rights takes a back seat to Nisga'a law. These are just a few examples of the shortcomings of this.

Mr. Speaker, you just signalled two minutes. I am sure that two minutes did not go by in that period of time.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Time flies when you are on your feet. Just wind it up, please.

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5:25 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am watching the clock too.

The second question is will Canadian society be better off as a result? Ask the people of New Brunswick if they are better off today than before special rights were granted to members of their community by the Marshall decision. We should ask them if they are better off now that their access to fish is not based on conservation rather than ethnicity.

I have reached the end of my speech. It was a great speech. It would have been even greater had I been left a bit more time. I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 26, the House continue to sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment for the purpose of continuing consideration of the subamendment regarding Bill C-9, an act to give effect to the Nisga'a final agreement.

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5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The motion is in order. The House has heard the terms of the motion. Will those members who object to the motion please rise in their places.

And more than 15 members having risen:

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5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

More than 15 members having risen, the motion is deemed withdrawn.

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5:30 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe, if you were to check, that several of the members were not in their places, which I think is crucial to this vote.

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5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We will start over again. The House has heard the terms of the motion. Will those members who object to the motion please rise in their places.

And more than 15 members having risen:

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5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

More than 15 members having risen, the motion is deemed to have been withdrawn.

(Motion withdrawn)

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5:30 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to speak to this issue. Indeed we are dealing with a very historic occasion. We are in fact creating history as we discuss this very important topic.

The hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys spoke quite eloquently with respect to the situation concerning the Indian Act and how that has crippled a people for many years. We are at a point where we can now start to rectify some of the wrongs that have been done over the historic period of time when we have been living side by side with the aboriginal people in Canada.

We have heard a lot of objections being raised as to why the treaty should not be supported. Many of them have come from the Reform Party. In many instances the objections have been centred on things that are not accurate in terms of what the treaty actually says.

Concerns about individual property rights were raised. Yet, if we look at and understand the treaty, there is provision whereby the Nisga'a can organize and arrange for people to have individual property rights. It is a question of self-determination and self-governance.

Why should someone outside the Nisga'a community be overly concerned about the property rights of individual members of that community? We have to ask ourselves what attitude is prevalent that is raising that concern. The Nisga'a people have approved the treaty. They understand the principles involved with respect to property rights and they have made decisions in their interest.

We talk about self-government for a people. Yet, when it comes right down to it, a lot of people do not really want to adhere to that principle. Self-government is okay as long as they can dictate what that means to a people.

We are looking at very important principles with respect to the support of the treaty. When we support the treaty we support the right of the aboriginal people to determine their destiny, to make laws and to deal with issues of importance to them as a people. Some people may ask right off the bat why that should be.

All we have to do is look at the history of what has taken place. Under the other system, as my hon. colleague from Kamloops indicated, the Indian Act treated people with disrespect rather than with respect. It is the only piece of legislation that determines who people are and spells out that they are or are not Indian, no matter what their blood lines may be. Certainly the rest of the people living in Canada have not been subjected to such legislation.

Now we have a situation where we can rectify some of the wrongs. Yet we hear people crying out and saying how terrible it is and how it ought not be supported.

He heard statistical information from surveys that were conducted. We all know that we can make surveys say what we want. I would be quite interested in seeing the householder that was sent out and the information that was put forth to inflame the attitudes that might come back through those surveys. Certainly we can make any kind of statistical analysis, but the proof of the pudding is what resides within our hearts when we are dealing with these issues, not what is written down on a piece of paper in terms of a statistical answer.

We ran into that problem on another issue concerning national sovereignty and how a question should be worded, what it should say. In reality we know what people want. We know that the Nisga'a people want self-government. We know that we want to support self-government. We know that we want to support the treaty because it is good for the Nisga'a people. It is good for Canada. It creates a sense of certainty. It rectifies many of the wrongs that have been done. We have to be cautious when we hear people putting forth strong objections based upon their culture, their background and their perception of equality.

People say that we should all be equal. When we think of equality we should realize that being equal does not mean everybody being the same. I must point out to hon. members who put forth the concept of equality that two people can be standing side by side, toe to toe on a line, about to run a race. Some would say they are equal because they are both standing at the starting point and will go to the same finishing point. However, if we look at the history of the two competitors we see that one has been in chains for years and years—

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5:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Like him.

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5:35 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

—and has not had the opportunity to train. I heard that racist remark but I will ignore it.

The other person has had the opportunity to train and all the advantages that come with that. Suddenly the chains are taken off the person who has been bound and inhibited and the person is declared equal and ready to run a race with the person who has had all the opportunities over the years.

For people to be considered equal and have equal opportunity there quite often has to be differential treatment which makes the ground rules fair and gives a level playing field for all. Anyone who is familiar with sports will see how on a circular track runners are staggered so that there is equality. People have opportunity to train.

What we are really getting at in the treaty is how as Canadians we can fulfil our obligations to our fellow human beings in a way that will be fair, equal and just. This whole issue is very important because as people say it has ramifications right across the country and not just for the people in British Columbia.

It also has lessons for those of us in other parts of the country. It has lesson for those of us in the fishery as mentioned by my hon. colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. If the government had been seriously negotiating and dealing with the aboriginal people, as indicated in the Delgamuukw decision and in other decisions, we would not be in the situation we are in now with respect to the fisheries. It waited for a decision to come down that caused people to have a knee-jerk reaction.

I must compliment the aboriginal people and many non-aboriginal people in my area for the calmness they have shown with regard to this decision and the respect they have to shown to one another. The media portrayed the few hotheads on both sides who are taking advantage of the situation, not the majority of people who want to peacefully negotiate a settlement. I give praise to the people who looked at the decision as a way to move forward together with respect for each other and to learn to share the resources in a way that would benefit all of us collectively.

It is an honour to have had the opportunity to speak to this matter. When all members of the House consider the issue, I sincerely urge them to vote with their hearts, not with some statistical information, not with some fear they have flamed up about how some things will be disadvantageous to them and to people in British Columbia. British Columbians will benefit from the treaty as will Canadians and all of us who want to see justice and equality for our citizens.

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5:40 p.m.


John Reynolds Reform West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this debate. I listened to the member who spoke prior to me call people who oppose this matter hotheads. I found it a little disconcerting that a party debating a bill that represents a majority viewpoint of the people in British Columbia can be called hotheads because they disagree with the government.

I read with interest today a little brochure the national Liberal caucus put out called “Dancing with dinosaurs”. I was really proud when I opened it up because I was the first one they quoted. I want to read it because I think it is a very interesting quote. I hear the Liberals over there yelling and screaming. They get a little excited and I think it is quite funny.

I look at the government over there and the things it has done over the years. The Liberal Party misled Canadians on the GST. It promised to do something and did not do it for their two terms of office. That is the same party that said it would eliminate free trade. It did not do a darn thing. How can we believe the Liberals on anything? How can Canadian people, especially westerners, believe the Liberal government on anything?

My Liberal friends say “Dancing with dinosaurs”. I would rather dance with a dinosaur than be in the water with a Liberal shark. Sharks eat people for no reason at all, do things for no reason at all, and are vicious animals. I would rather be dancing with a Reform dinosaur than be in the water with a Liberal shark. That is what these people are. They are sharks.