House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was treaty.


Division No. 47Government Orders


The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Order, please. I ask members to listen out of courtesy to the hon. member who is now speaking to Bill C-9.

Division No. 47Government Orders



Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

For those who care to listen, it is important to point out before we get into the real debate on the Nisga'a in my presentation the Liberal government has brought in what is commonly known as debate closure or time allocation on Bill C-9, a government bill which involves some $1.3 billion of taxpayer money.

It involves several thousands of square kilometres in the province of British Columbia. It involves establishing, for lack of better words, a self-governing nation in the province of British Columbia. By the way it was the NDP Government of British Columbia that pushed through its legislation, totally ignored the call for referendum and more debate or even some form of serious public inclusion in the negotiations of the Nisga'a agreement. That call was disregarded by the provincial Government of British Columbia.

In essence, the 96% or 97% of the people of British Columbia, the taxpayers, the people who have lived there for generations and have voiced opposition to the Nisga'a agreement, were ignored by the Government of British Columbia and now they are being ignored by the Government of Canada.

These elected representatives have a mandate to look at what is in the best interest of the country, be it national or regional, and to make decisions which reflect a concern that the result of this decision will not result in more conflict for years to come. Certainly their handling of Bill C-9, the Nisga'a agreement, has no representation of those factors in any respect.

Not only have they cut off debate on Bill C-9. Not only have they clearly demonstrated that they are not willing to listen to the voices of the people of British Columbia. That voice is represented in a huge way by the members of parliament in the Reform Party, the official opposition, of whom well over 20 come from the province of British Columbia. They are not willing to listen to the hon. member for Skeena, the Reform Party's chief critic for Indian affairs. By the way, the Nisga'a land claim area is in his riding. There is probably no one in the House who knows the situation better than the hon. member for Skeena. There is probably no one who has talked to more people in that area of the country than the member for Skeena. There is no one who knows the implications and the effect that will be caused by the Nisga'a agreement better than the member for Skeena.

We, his colleagues in the House, have drawn from not only what he has clearly given us through the information he has provided but have drawn from the people in our ridings.

My riding of Prince George—Bulkley Valley is not too far from the Nisga'a land claims area. In case members think that by being a few hundred miles away the effect loses something, I point out that in the spring of this year we had a meeting on this very subject in my riding in Prince George, B.C. In the neighbourhood of 500 people came out to discuss the Nisga'a agreement, so the concern is there.

We in the Reform Party recognize that what has been the status quo for treating native concerns in the country over decades and generations simply has not worked. Surely anyone in the House who took the time to look even once a year at the auditor general's report could clearly see in the report that the auditor general year after year after year cast a huge amount of criticism on the operation of the department of Indian affairs operations, the way natives are treated, the total lack of accountability for the funding, the billions upon billions of dollars of funding that have gone into native programs, and the zero accountability. The signing a few years ago of this alternative funding agreement has simply made matters worse.

Members would only have to look at the last six years of auditor general's reports to see exactly what I am talking about. The auditor general brought in his report and talked about the disaster that has occurred in the department of Indian affairs; the different ministers', once they have had a crack at it, running of that ministry; and the inherent disaster because they continue to follow a path of total confusion, to a point where there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The minister of Indian affairs stands in the House and thanks the auditor general for pointing out these things to the government and assures us that they have taken note and will take steps to address them. The same criticism comes back the next year.

In the case of Bill C-9, the Nisga'a agreement, this is the worst possible thing the Liberals could do. They have no idea of the impact this will have on not only British Columbia but on Canada as a whole. They have no idea because they have refused for decades to strike out in a new direction to try a different approach than just the same old thing that has not worked.

Despite the tens and hundreds of billions of dollars this government and previous governments have spent on native programs the fact is, and they know it, that the standard of living, the social conditions and the lifestyle have not changed in 35 years. The lifestyle of average band members, despite the billions of dollars, has not changed. That is evidence that something is wrong, and they know it.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

November 1st, 1999 / 12:10 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wish to inform the House that the party scheduled to propose a motion on the allotted day tomorrow has requested that the day be moved to Thursday. In the interest of co-operation that permeates throughout the House today, I wish to unallot tomorrow and designate Thursday, November 4, instead as the allotted day pursuant to Standing Order 81.

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to talk a bit about democracy in the House of Commons and what is going on with the Nisga'a agreement.

I want to make very clear that once this bill went into committee we expected the government to travel to British Columbia at the very least, but more important across the nation, to get input into whether or not people agree with the ramifications of the agreement.

It took my colleagues in this place all day Friday, all day today and basically even prior to that last Thursday to try to convince government members that the proper thing to do was to travel to the areas where the agreement affects people most. They did not want to travel. Basically every committee of the House travels when bills are before them. At times I wonder why they travel on bills that do not have major ramifications. However this bill does.

Originally we asked and expected that the committee would travel to Prince George. We originally said Kamloops. The government said Prince George because there would be less of a hassle there. Then there was Terrace, Vancouver, Victoria and Smithers. The fight was over Smithers.

Government members did not want to go to Smithers to talk about this matter because they felt undue pressure would be put on them by the concerns expressed by the people about the Nisga'a agreement. They did not want it. It happens that the people who have concerns in Smithers, by and large, are the Gitksan, other aboriginals in dispute who say that this is an overlapping agreement. Government members do not want to hear that. They just want the agreement to come to Ottawa and they will sign it, and away we all go. We won a little battle on that one, which should not have taken place in the first place.

We found this morning when we came into the House of Commons that they called time allocation, which limits the amount of time we get to speak. The Reform Party, the only party that is in opposition to this matter, has had only four hours and 12 minutes to speak to a bill which costs Canadian taxpayers approximately $1.3 billion and has flaws in it. They called time allocation so we will actually get a total of six hours to speak to it.

This tells the people of British Columbia to go to hell. That is what government members are saying. They do not care about their views. They do not care about overlapping claims. They do not care about the amount of money being spent. They just want to sign the agreement. The Government of British Columbia, a government with 38% of the popular vote, is the most unpopular government in the history of British Columbia, the most current unpopular government in North America. It is hard to believe the Liberals refuse to look at it.

An NDP member from the socialists over here says that will change but it will not change.

Before I get into the agreement itself I have another point. What is the role of any opposition party? Is is not just the official opposition party, there are other parties, the NDP such as it is, the separatists, and Joe what's his name and the other fellows.

We are supposed to be critiquing bills in the House of Commons. Has anybody read this or even questioned the amount of money, $1.3 billion? We say it is that and others say it is $500 million. Others say it is $1 billion. Even that issue alone is worthy of opposition by all opposition parties. That is what this House is about, yet time and again the other three parties in this place support the government. Why? It is because they are not looking at the content of the agreement. They are basically looking at whether or not they might be able to salvage a few votes out of the people who might agree with the bill. That is what this is all about.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

An hon. member

We just voted with you.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Yes, both of you. It is amazing. Members of the NDP are trying to justify their position. They vote more often with the government than not. It is the same with the other parties.

I want to make a point about seven Liberal members of parliament from British Columbia. Why is it that they voted for time allocation and why is that they are voting for this bill when after we polled their ridings we found that there is no support for it? They come to the House having been told by the government whip that they will vote for the Nisga'a agreement whether they like it or not.

We sent polls to 534,000 homes in British Columbia and 10,000 returned. That is an extensive poll. It showed that in British Columbia 91.5% want their MP to vote against Nisga'a. It is not 60% or 70% which is high, it is 91.5%. Does that viewpoint carry forward here through members of parliament at voting time? No. We just saw the opposite from the Liberals and three NDP from British Columbia.

Of the Liberal ridings targeted, opposition to Nisga'a among respondents ranges from 81.5% to 94% in those ridings alone. Yet those members stood and voted for it.

Oftentimes we hear members say they do not know much about the agreement. My colleague from Skeena knows more about aboriginal agreements than anybody else in the House. Our caucus makes a point of studying the agreements. There is one point alone as to why the opposition parties should have been in opposition to it.

On page 217, paragraphs 3 and 4 of chapter 16 read:

  1. From time to time Canada and British Columbia, together or separately, may negotiate with the Nisga'a nation, and attempt to reach agreement on:

(a) the extent, if any, to which Canada or British Columbia will provide to Nisga'a lisims government or a Nisga'a village government direct taxation authority over persons other than Nisga'a citizens, on Nisga'a lands; and

(b) the co-ordination of Nisga'a lisims government or Nisga'a village government taxation of any person with existing federal or provincial tax systems.

  1. Nisga'a lisims government and Nisga'a village governments may make laws in respect of the implementation of any taxation agreement entered into with Canada or British Columbia.

If that does not beat all. I cannot believe the other three opposition parties in the House of Commons would allow taxation without representation and would allow treaties with that in it without debating it in the House. I do not understand why.

One day in the not too distant future, similar difficulties with these treaties will come into our homes and into other areas of the country. I hope we convince the other parties over here to at least have the commitment and the courage to stand up in the House of Commons, amid all the worry of the rhetorical comments, and bring to the attention of this nation the problems that are involved with these treaties.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Madam Speaker, we have repeatedly heard the arguments of our esteemed colleagues in the Reform Party. They have repeatedly been shown that their allegations run totally contrary to fact.

The Nisga'a final agreement represents an important page in Canadian history. That is why I want to take this opportunity to set out a number of these facts, once again.

First and foremost, I must point out that the Nisga'a treaty was negotiated within the context of the Constitution of Canada. All of the provisions set out in the treaty may be realized within the scope of the Constitution as it stands. I hope members will allow me to elaborate.

Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, recognizes and confirms the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. However, we do not know specifically the nature and scope of these rights.

Unsettled claims involving ancestral rights, have, in many instances, slowed economic development. Accordingly, in an effort to define ancestral rights, a number of issues have been put before Canadian courts.

We have learned a lot about ancestral rights through the decisions of these courts, but this new knowledge was not enough to resolve once and for all the disputes arising from the claims that are still being made in this regard.

In the most recent cases relating to the existence and nature of ancestral rights in British Columbia, the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that, if there were no treaties, provincial lands could be subject to ancestral rights.

On the other hand—and this is more important still—the courts declared that ancestral rights are group and region specific. In other words, when the courts examine questions relating to ancestral rights, they do so according to the specific facts presented to them, and in relation to the specific group involved.

Consequently, if certain general principles arise out of the current case law, we still cannot count on court decisions to reach conclusions on ancestral rights which could be applicable to all regions of Canada or of British Columbia.

It can take up to ten years for a decision to be brought down in certain cases relating to ancestral rights. What is more, a specific decision might not settle issues applicable to other regions. Let us imagine then, how long it will take and how costly it will be to settle the issues that are still outstanding in British Columbia. It is inconceivable. We also need to keep in mind that, in certain cases, general acceptance of the outcome is not likely to be easy.

Like the courts, the present government agrees that the best way of settling outstanding issues relating to ancestral rights is to take the negotiation route rather than the legal one. Litigation involves conflict and can damage good relations, while negotiation involves reaching mutually acceptable solutions and establishing better relations. This is the approach favoured by Canada.

In Canada, treaties are the traditional method of negotiating solutions to outstanding ancestral rights issues. As with existing ancestral rights, treaty rights are also recognized and confirmed under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

The treaties covering most of Canada were signed prior to 1927. However, this process was never carried through to completion in British Columbia. The Nisga'a treaty is the first modern treaty to be signed in British Columbia. It definitively resolves the outstanding ancestral claims of the Nisga'a. These concern primarily rights to land and resources, and the right to self-government.

In 1995, the Hon. Ronald A. Irwin published a guide entitled “The Government of Canada's Approach to Implementation of the Inherent Right and the Negotiation of Aboriginal Self-Government”.

This approach signals an evolution in the long established thinking on this issue. For decades, Canadians looked for ways of reconciling the prior presence of aboriginals in this country with the sovereignty of the state.

Long before the arrival of the Europeans, aboriginals lived in this country and managed their own affairs. In British Columbia, and in other regions, the First Nations had well established social systems and forms of government.

Under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, existing ancestral rights are recognized and confirmed. The federal policy on the inherent right of self-government adopted in 1995 recognized that the rights provided for under section 35 included the right to self-government. This shows that Canada is prepared to negotiate concrete and attainable agreements in this regard and to include them in treaties.

There are differing opinions on the scope of inherent rights, as there are on other ancestral rights. The present government, however, has chosen to resolve self-government issues by negotiating concrete agreements according to the Canadian constitutional and legal framework.

If I may, I would like to give a brief explanation of how a negotiated agreement works in the current constitutional context in relation to ancestral rights to self-government.

The Constitution Act of 1867 determines the legislative jurisdictions of the federal and provincial governments. These are defined primarily in sections 91 and 92 of that Act.

The scope of ancestral right to self-government may vary according to the specific situation of the first nations community involved. Consequently, under section 35, the ancestral right to self-government must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

That is what happened with the Nisga'a. The Nisga'a final agreement does not merely define all rights relating to lands and resources to be enjoyed by the Nisga'a according to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, it also identifies the rights to self-government they will have under that same section. The Nisga'a treaty makes no change to the federal and provincial areas of jurisdiction defined in sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act of 1867.

According to some, the Nisga'a final agreement created, de facto, a third level of government and this would require a constitutional amendment. The significance of a third level of government is not clear; what is clear is that the Nisga'a final agreement works well within the present constitutional context.

The protection of rights under section 35 of our Constitution does not mean that these rights are inflexible, as some critics would have us believe. Although protected under section 35, they are not absolute.

A number of Supreme Court of Canada decisions have confirmed that governments still exercise a general power, but have to justify any interference into ancestral or treaty rights. The Nisga'a government will evidently carry out its activities within the Canadian constitutional context.

Anyone who has consulted the final agreement knows that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will apply to the Nisga'a government. This means that Nisga'a laws will be subject to the charter, like the entire decision making process of the Nisga'a government with respect to such things as licensing or the sale of lands. The Nisga'a government will have to comply with the charter like any other government.

At the risk of repeating what has been said over and over again, federal and provincial laws, including the Criminal Code, will apply on Nisga'a land once the treaty takes effect. Although in certain isolated instances, Nisga'a law may prevail, the Nisga'a will have no exclusive legislative powers. Theirs will be a parallel legislative model.

The Nisga'a laws will take precedence in issues of internal management exclusive to the Nisga'a only. They may be, for example, laws concerning their culture, their language or the management of their land or their assets.

In all other instances, federal and provincial legislation will take precedence, otherwise the Nisga'a laws will have to meet federal or provincial standards or exceed them to be enforceable.

It should be clear to all those carefully examining the Nisga'a treaty that it falls perfectly within the scope of the Canadian Constitution.

Perhaps those who claim that the Nisga'a final agreement is unenforceable without an amendment to the Constitution of Canada simply do not understand the importance of negotiating the reconciliation of ancestral rights within the Canadian federation. Do these people perhaps want to be able to impose arbitrary solutions unilaterally? For our part, we are in favour of negotiation and reconciliation.

We all know where unilateral decisions might lead. History is full of examples of solutions imposed by one group on another. Where feasible, lasting agreements are more easily reached when they have the support of all those to whom they apply.

To conclude, the Nisga'a final agreement is a solution that has been negotiated within the Canadian confederation. It reconciles the rights of the Nisga'a with the sovereign rights of the government, as well as respecting the interests of other Canadians.

I strongly urge all members to put behind them the erroneous and petty arguments advanced by Reform Party members and to support the implementation of the necessary legislation.

In ratifying this treaty and giving it effect through this bill, we will be welcoming the Nisga'a into the Canadian family, while at the same time respecting their dignity and giving them the means to protect their culture and their language.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Since the government member speaks authoritatively on behalf of the government, I wonder whether we could have unanimous consent to pose some questions to him.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous consent to ask the member questions?

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I am most pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to the historic Nisga'a final agreement.

As a member of parliament from British Columbia, my constituents will certainly be impacted in a number of ways on the issue which we are now debating.

We have already seen emotional and antagonistic reactions to the Nisga'a final agreement. I encourage all members in this place to please study the agreement in a calm and rational manner and to please spend the time and the effort to properly review the debate and the process of the legislation. It really does us no good to become involved in heated exchanges and it certainly does our constituents no good if we do not properly review what is now before us.

The legislation appears to be the start of what may become a series of agreements with a number of our aboriginal citizens of this country. As a precedent we must ensure that what is being done is right for all Canadians, both the Nisga'a who will be most acutely affected by this agreement, and the non-Nisga'a who will also be influenced in a number of ways.

I note the title of what we are currently being asked to study. It is called the Nisga'a final agreement. That bothers me. It does not have to be the final agreement. With all due respect, changes can be made and have to be made. This is an agreement between the Nisga'a people, the province of British Columbia and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The agreement is binding on the parties, but the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development only recommends agreement to this place.

It is up to each and every member of parliament now to decide whether to accept this agreement, whether the agreement requires change or whether the agreement is unacceptable and must be rejected. As it states within the agreement, the former minister only warranted her participation to the extent of her authority. She signed the agreement as the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. She had no more authority than that. I realize that she may well have had cabinet support for her actions, but she definitely was not acting on behalf of this place. That is why we are now tasked with review, comment and a vote. We should not and cannot shirk this responsibility.

As I said, the title, Nisga'a final agreement, troubles me. We are not being presented with a fait accompli. This legislation is just like any legislation that comes before us. We must do our job and ensure that it is correct and proper. We must ensure that it accomplishes our aims in the fairest and most effective manner.

As I stated above, the agreement is between the Nisga'a, the province of B.C. and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Those parties need only ratify any changes or amendments made by this place. In fact, the agreement makes specific reference to amendments as decided by the parties.

I will now express the concerns I have with specific parts of this agreement.

Canadians will hear a lot about paragraph 13 of chapter 2 concerning the general provisions of this agreement. It states:

Federal and provincial laws apply to the Nisga'a Nation...but:

(a) in the event of an inconsistency or conflict between this Agreement and the provisions of any federal or provincial law, this Agreement will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency or conflict.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I hesitate to interrupt my hon. colleague. I know that he has many important points to make. However, I would note that there is not one Liberal member in the House and on an important debate like this I think that is very improper.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his point of order.

There is a provision recognizing the supremacy of the charter of rights and freedoms, but it is clear that paragraph 13 states that federal and provincial laws take second place to this agreement. The agreement must prevail whenever there is an inconsistency or conflict between the agreement and our provincial or federal laws.

I would now like to illustrate some of my concern over this provision which retains primacy of the law to this agreement.

I would like to refer to chapter 12 of the agreement. Chapter 12 covers the administration of justice. I note that in paragraph 1 the Nisga'a government has the power to provide a Nisga'a police service. That is no problem as this provision has been permitted on a number of our aboriginal lands across the country.

My concern is with paragraph 4(a)(iii), which provides that the Nisga'a people will be permitted to create laws regarding the use of force by members of the Nisga'a police service as long as those laws are in substantial conformity with provincial legislation. I am concerned that the agreement is limited to require the Nisga'a laws only to conform to provincial legislation.

There is substantial and effective law on the use of force by police officers within the Criminal Code of Canada. There appears to be no requirement for the Nisga'a to conform to the federal law in this regard.

This surely cannot be the intent of the government. Section 25 of the criminal code provides our peace officers with statutory authority in the use of force while administering and enforcing the law. This section protects peace officers across Canada, but there is a question as to whether it will protect the members of the Nisga'a police service should the Nisga'a government go that route.

Furthermore, I wonder whether the Nisga'a people will be at risk if we do not have the same legislated rules for the utilization of force by Nisga'a law enforcement personnel. Will members of the Nisga'a police service have broader or greater powers in regard to the use of force than is presently provided for within the criminal code?

This whole section on the administration of justice makes me wonder whether the federal position was asleep at the switch in the drafting of the agreement. As I have just stated, there is no mention of ensuring that federal law with respect to the use of force is maintained.

There also does not appear to be any provision to recognize federal police officers who in the course of their duties are required to operate within Nisga'a lands. Paragraph 15 of this section recognizes the possibility of a “provincial or other police constable” performing duties within the Nisga'a lands, but there is no mention of federal police officers.

When reading the agreement in its totality it often refers to provincial and municipal police services, but it does not mention our federal law enforcement personnel. The agreement recognizes and accepts the need for these provincial and municipal police services to, at times, effect duties and responsibilities on Nisga'a lands. I can readily see the issuance of subpoenas, arrest warrants and investigative inquiry causing outside police officers to enter Nisga'a territory, but I can also see the necessity of federal officers, such as the RCMP, to do the same. I can immediately think of the RCMP Prime Minister's protection detail operating within the Nisga'a lands should the Prime Minister ever decide to visit that area of this country. I can think of RCMP officers involved in drug investigations and customs and immigration work, perhaps organized crime and white collar crime.

I am concerned that the agreement seems to be silent in this regard. Is the federal government abdicating its responsibility for federal policing under this agreement? If not, why is the federal aspect of policing not specifically included within the agreement?

This legislation cries out for review, debate and amendment. Initial indications from the government lead us to conclude that changes are just not to be considered. The Nisga'a people themselves will be disadvantaged by this Liberal government policy. The people of British Columbia will be negatively affected. The precedence of this legislation will in turn affect other native bands and citizens of other provinces.

I urge members of the government to reflect on what they are doing. Too often members on the opposite side of this place take their marching orders from the Prime Minister's office and cabinet and fail to stop inappropriate and ill-advised legislation from passing into law.

I conducted a poll in my constituency of Surrey North. Admittedly, it was not a scientific poll. However, 83% of the respondents were opposed to the current form of the Nisga'a agreement. A full 77% were completely opposed to the process which was employed to get the agreement.

I am glad the government, in its wisdom, which I question, will send the aboriginal affairs committee to British Columbia. I think the government will have its eyes opened because the numbers which I have quoted are reflective of the feeling in British Columbia.

I thank the House for providing me the opportunity to express these concerns over Bill C-9, the Nisga'a final agreement act.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity today to debate Bill C-9, the Nisga'a implementation treaty.

What I am really disappointed about is the way the whole thing has developed. We have seen again the government's misuse of government power. Time allocation was imposed on the Nisga'a bill at second reading, which was something like the 58th time the Liberal government has used time allocation or cut off debate since 1993. It took Brian Mulroney's administration nine years to get to that figure, but the Liberal government only took six. This is a terrible affront to Canadian citizens. This is a very historic moment in our time. I believe historians will look back at this time and ask “What were they thinking about? Why was debate cut off? Why did they not discuss the very wide implications of what they were doing?”

In regard to the Nisga'a itself, there has been a considerable change in the attitude of the courts since the NDP government of B.C. was elected in 1991. There are no treaties in effect in B.C. and there never were. Therefore, there is some need to do that. There has been a tremendous change in the B.C. NDP government. It has essentially acquiesced. It did not put up a fight in regard to these land claims. It let the supreme court make decisions without any argument on the con side.

The reason I say that it will be an historic debate and an historic time for Canada is partly because of what the Indian affairs minister said a few days ago, which is on the minds of most Canadians. It will be on the minds of more Canadians as they learn more about this treaty and where we are going. What the Indian affairs minister said was that what we are doing with the Delgamuukw, the Nisga'a and the east coast lobster fishery is leading to a claim on all the resources of Canada.

I see it in my riding of Peace River where the former minister of Indian affairs and northern development came up with a memorandum of understanding about opening up all of Treaty 8. One hundred years after Treaty 8 was signed, the minister has now reached an agreement, which says in essence that we are going to open it up, we are going to give them more money and more land. It would be a done deal were it not for the Alberta government saying “Just a minute. There are a lot of claims on that land through resource companies, forestry, oil and gas interests. This is public land”.

What effect has it had in my riding? It has had the serious effect of really depressing investment. Who would invest when they do not know who the owner will be and what the terms will be as a result of that ownership?

The minister let the cat out of the bag, but essentially most people need to be very clearly aware that this is just a first step in a very long journey.

Let us deal with that for a moment. When our ancestors came to this country I do not think there was anyone who did not recognize that the aboriginal people were the first people here. That is an absolute given. Did they have the use of the land? Of course they did. They had the use of the land before we got here.

There are now about 300,000 aboriginal people living on reserve. There are about 400,000 living off reserve. Because things have gone off the rails so badly on the reserves they do not even participate. They are living in other areas off reserve, mostly in cities such as Winnipeg. That leaves over 29 million other Canadians who have to be dealt with. We have to come to some kind of accommodation here. It does not mean that we will give away the entire country to 300,000 on reserve and 400,000 off reserve. Is that the answer? Of course not.

A lot of us came from other areas. My ancestors came from Scotland, a land that was taken away by the English. Does that mean I should put in a land claim there? Some of my ancestors came from France, from the religious wars, from the Protestant side that were driven out of France. I am going to France for a vacation this year. Do I look up to see where my ancestors came from and put in a land claim there? Of course not. We simply have to treat people on the basis of equality in the country; equal opportunity for everybody involved.

I want to say from the outset what the Reform Party is saying about how we should be treating aboriginal people in Canada. It is all on the basis of equality. We want a fresh start for all aboriginal people. I have several reserves in my riding. I see the poverty there. I also see rich people who hire expert advisers from the United States paying them $150,000 a year for advice on medical facilities and on all kinds of things to try to start businesses on reserves. They are leeches living off the system. Other people are living in abject poverty on those reserves. Is that what we want to perpetuate? I do not think so.

We want aboriginal people to be full and equal partners in Canadian society. We want aboriginal women to be full and equal partners both on and off reserve. We want aboriginal families to be protected by the same laws that govern non-aboriginal families. We want aboriginal people to have the same rights and protections that every Canadian enjoys. We want to eliminate the discriminatory barriers that widen the gulf between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. I see this every day in my riding. We want to ensure a bright future for all Canadians regardless of the colour of their skins. What we are looking for is equality for all.

How will the treaty accommodate that? I would suggest that it fails miserably. People will become aware, just as they did with the Charlottetown accord, the great debate on the constitution, and with the Meech Lake accord before that, of the contents of the Nisga'a treaty and the wider implications for all Canadians.

A Liberal member from southwestern Ontario found out firsthand what happens when there is a land claim in an area. The Indian affairs department buys up farmland and pays exorbitant prices in order to accumulate enough land for a reserve. The local farmers cannot compete for the land. That is the kind of awareness I am talking about.

I suggest at some point there will be a land claim made for the Bay Street area of Toronto. Members should try to put some numbers together on what that will cost because the aboriginal people were there first and had the use of that land. Is that going to be the criteria by which we judge this? The finance department should come up with an estimate of what the cost might be.

I just want to read a Globe and Mail article that was in the paper this weekend. It states:

This week, the Finance Department produced a $200 billion figure—the worst-case scenario if Canada's native communities getting everything they are currently claiming in litigation and land claims. It is a staggering amount, more than what Ottawa collects each year on taxes and revenues.

Even so, the figure is incomplete:

It is incomplete because it does not include what the government has already spent on settlements. It does not account for the several thousand lawsuits that have yet to be filed. It does not account for the additional 57 major land claims, including the bulk of the province of British Columbia.

Even while we are debating the Nisga'a treaty, other groups living in the area are saying “No, that is partly our land. You have taken some of our land in this Nisga'a agreement and we have a claim in on that land as well”. We see there are overlapping claims. If we read our history books we know that the earlier explorers who came out here knew that the land changed hands. There were wars from time time. It was in one group's possession at a certain time and in another group's possession at another time.

What is the cost? It is $200 billion and counting. We have a government that is completely out of control. I want to talk about the local implications for my riding and for the national scene.

I will now talk about a good friend of mine, Archie Calliou, who is now deceased. He was an Indian who never took a treaty. I met with him many times and he would say to me “Charlie, the sooner this system is beaten down and every aboriginal person on earth has equality of status the same as the rest us the better”. He would tell me that his father told him to never take a treaty because he would be on welfare the rest of his life.

He married a woman from the Sucker Creek Band at High Prairie who had been on treaty. She got away from the treaty and began working in a hospital in the Beaverlodge area. They owned a home, had a holiday trailer and took vacations. He worked for years and years on substance abuse on reserves. He said that if the system was allowed to continue, 100 years from now it would be exactly the same. There would be a tremendous waste of the potential of aboriginal people. He said that the reserve system had to be broken down. There are no property rights on reserve and no incentive for somebody who really wants to get ahead because it is communal property. He said that the sooner we did away with the system the better.

I am voting against the bill. I think every Canadian should be aware of the serious implications it poses.

Nisga'A Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-9, an act to give effect to the Nisga'a final agreement.

First, I want to assure the Nisga'a people, other great native groups and all my constituents that my interest in the bill is to address the need for a better future for the Nisga'a people and all those under the Indian Act, in relationship with each other and other Canadians.

We understand that after 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 that they have no alternative but this agreement. British Columbians have been wrongly told that it is this deal or nothing.

Official opposition MPs are not similarly tainted. We question and oppose because we do not believe the agreement is, in the long term perspective, in the best interests of the Nisga'a people, the long range interests of aboriginals throughout B.C., or in the interests of the people of Canada.

Canada can do much better than this. It is first the Nisga'a of future generations who will have to live with the practical consequences of the so-called final agreement. All British Columbians are being experimented with by an Ottawa mentality on aboriginal affairs. We should therefore pay particular attention in the House to what B.C. MPs say on the matter. Members of the House should also recognize what all British Columbians already know; that the NDP government in B.C. has manipulated much of the agreement process. It has never had a clear, specific political mandate from British Columbians to deliver such an agreement.

On this day, much is before the courts as the deal drives a wedge between aboriginal groups, between British Columbians and will likely disturb much across the country. Ontario is going to feel the effect of the agreement or arrangement in the future. It can only be hoped that by the time the debate is over Canadians from all parts of Canada will understand that the bill and the agreement to which it gives effect have ramifications for them. It is my estimation that many of those impacts are negative. In respect of bringing the country together, it is negative, from the aspect of the principle of equality and equity for all, where we need to strive to realize better than before, one people, one land, one land.

Sadly, the agreement goes in the other direction. The fiscal impacts will be negative. The resource management impacts will be negative, like those of the Marshall case. 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. The nature and style of it will copied throughout Canada.

My constituents seem to be telling me that the deal appears to divide people and perpetuate discord and likely will not significantly help local social life, to give a hand up out of subsistence levels. My community has goodwill and deeply desires aboriginal success so that we all together fulfil talent and achieve more cultural respect, autonomy and self-reliance.

I clearly speak for my community when I say that the voters want native peoples to succeed, maintain identity and have all of what the aboriginal forefathers have desired for their people. Sadly, the agreement has the potential to bring more sorrow and disappointment when the grand objectives and overstated government media displays are not realized by aboriginal young people who have had expectations raised. When they are dashed they will seek someone to blame.

There are major defects in the deal. The first is that the current approach grants special legal, social and economic status to people based on membership in a minority group. That is what “Status Indian” means and is defined in law. It arises out of a confusion between “rights” and “benefits” and how best to move forward.

The second defect is that it provides for undemocratic and unaccountable governments. The current approach to aboriginal political development fails to demand or to ensure genuine fiscal and democratic accountability from local aboriginal governments to their own people. Therefore, aboriginal people do not have the most elementary grip on their own governmental institutions.

There is a grassroots movement starting among ordinary aboriginals demanding fiscal and democratic accountability from their leaders and from Indian affairs. In frustration, they come to our party when they are shut out by their local leadership and when their pleas are ignored by the federal government. So far their voice has been largely unheeded. I see no clear reflection of their concerns in the agreement we are being asked to quickly pass this week.

The third big defect in the approach that is perpetuated in 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 with little market discipline. There is an absence on reserves of the most basic of property rights and contract rights. There is a near absence of free markets in housing, labour and capital.

Where has all this worn out traditional approach led? Where has special status and socialist economics led? It has not led to prosperity for aboriginal people. It has yielded poverty, misery and despair for too many. It has also led to a series of court cases that are further poisoning relations between aboriginals and non-aboriginals. In addition, the billions of dollars that Canadians commit to Indian affairs every year is now leading to an additional contingent liability to all Canadians of up to a possible $200 billion.

Now specifically when one reads the terms of the agreement, too many times there appears words to the effect that details will be worked out in the future without guarantees of democratic process or accountability to an electorate. Specifically, the Nisga'a alone will be able to determine who is on their list of being considered a Nisga'a person and who is not. They will make their own laws about who can legally be a Nisga'a. Canada has very limited power about who is or is not a Canadian, and certainly the provinces and municipalities do not control entry and entitlement to vote or to receive benefits through control of citizenship membership status. The specific term “Nisga'a citizenship” is used in the agreement, and they will be able to banish or de-list or refuse to admit anyone they desire according to the rules they have yet to pass within their government.

If there is a conflict in this area between federal and provincial law, it clearly states on page 167, sections 39 and 40 that Nisga'a law is paramount. This is a sweeping powerful tool for any government to control dissidents or political opposition from entitlements and participation. It is a concern when the use of banishment and other disenfranchised tools is well known in current aboriginal practice in Canada.

This is just one example of the well-meaning but fatally flawed construction of this misguided agreement. I do not believe in special legal status for anyone, and most British Columbians never have. It is our view to Quebec or any group. This is a formula for social disaster. It is different from targeted social benefits that can help.

The world is changing rapidly and if Canadians are to be able to continue to provide food and shelter for themselves in the global village, they will have to adapt to changing ways to participate in the world economy. The key is full participation in the world, not isolation from it. However, in order to participate and thereby benefit, one needs to purchase an admittance ticket. Stamped on that ticket of admittance to obtain sustenance in the new economy are the words “skills” and “education”. That ticket must be purchased through individual effort and merit.

The agreement does little to anticipate the future of the world and how all of us need to be ready to participate and earn the basic necessities of life. We all must “earn” our way by creating wealth that comes from being in a market. Indeed, most of the employment on Nisga'a lands will either be with the Nisga'a government or with the Nisga'a government owned corporations. The isolated socialist collective of Nisga'a will likely remain dependent if their members do not move to participate in the global economy.

I do not think the specific terms will help average individuals within the territory of the agreement. It is hard to see how lasting goodwill will come when so many basic principles of democracy, economics and accountability have been violated. However, form often follows function and when wrong ideas and false assumptions narrow the range of choices, the shape of destiny will always be sadly lacking, if not bringing deep sorrow.

The mandate to negotiate and the manner in which it was done by B.C. politicians is discredited. The arrangement will not bring about lasting reconciliation. It certainly is not final in the ordinary sense of paying.

Much is to be worked out in the future and it is written in vague terms. Fairness is very elusive in the package. Its emphasis is to separate rather than bring together. Legal equality principles have been abandoned. In such experiments we must support equality, democracy, accountability, the coupling of entitlement with responsibility, tolerance of diversity and mobility rights so they are intertwined in settlements with Canadian natives. It is of grave importance when we assess the proposal for embedding by treaty small closed societies in a large, complex and open society that itself is struggling to keep its place in a changing world.

Although my speaking time has run out, Canadians will be dealing with this agreement for generations to come and the social disturbance and shattered dreams will likely perpetuate for a long time.

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1 p.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Bill C-9, the Nisga'a final agreement act.

Many of my colleagues have addressed the serious concerns shared by British Columbians regarding the Nisga'a bill, but the bottom line is that this is deeply flawed legislation. The agreement was negotiated in secret. It was negotiated by a provincial government that has faced numerous scandals and which now has the lowest approval rating of any elected government in Canada. The Liberals may want to look at the process in B.C. and see what it did to that government because it is going to do the same thing to the government here. Those who try to force legislation down the throats of people who do not want it will pay the political price.

There was no active consultation in B.C. The member for Vancouver Island North went into this in great detail. He was our party's aboriginal affairs critic in the last parliament. In his speech last week, he went through in detail how the consultation process simply did not work. He said that it was smoke and mirrors, that there was no listening, no involvement. Because of that, British Columbians want to have a referendum. They want their chance to have a say. They do not feel the provincial government or the federal government are listening to the people of B.C.

What is the answer from the government side? That it is too complex of an issue, that a referendum simply is not going to work.

People are not that stupid. They understand the ramifications. They see the inequality. They see the holes in this agreement. Quite frankly they do not trust many of their politicians. They want to have a say. There is nothing wrong with that. There have been referendums before that have worked.

A referendum that worked was the Charlottetown accord. Canadians voted down ethnic based legislation. They said no. They voted it down no more strongly than in British Columbia. They simply said that equality was the way to go and this government is going in exactly the opposite direction. That is typical of this government. It has bungled legislation over the last six years we have been in opposition.

The public service pension bill was considered a few months ago. The government is raiding the pension fund for $30 billion. Remember it is the government that promised to scrap, abolish and kill the GST but we still have it.

In many ways that is the Trudeau solution. It goes back that far. Trudeau's Canada did not include the west. He had no understanding of the west. He did not comprehend anything beyond upper and lower Canada, Ontario and Quebec. That was his Canada.

This government's vision is very much Trudeau's vision. It is insisting on forcing controversial treaties on British Columbians. Bear in mind that this is the first treaty of many that are going to spread right across the country. There is no support. There is no support in British Columbia for this type of legislation. It is not surprising that the Trudeau legacy simply does not work.

Look at Alberta, the province next door to B.C. The national energy program throttled Alberta's booming oil economy. What is different in this case? Nothing, other than it is British Columbia's turn to get the Liberal boot.

This heavy-handed government is not going to allow forthright debate in the House. A few hours ago the government moved time allocation on the bill which means that the opposition parties and even the government cannot fully debate it. The government said no, that is enough. At the end of today there will be a vote and it will be a done deal. It will be over. Is that democracy? Is that where we are going with the government?

I would like to broaden the picture. The Nisga'a agreement is the tip of the iceberg. The government and the courts, particularly with the charter, are taking us in a direction I do not believe Canadians want to go. They are taking us away from equality into areas where special groups have special rights.

The Nisga'a deal and the Marshall decision on the east coast have given us an inkling of where this country is going. We are going to be in turmoil over the next number of years. I can refer to the Musqueam reserve in Vancouver where the leases on land with $150,000 and $200,000 homes are being taken over. A lease is now $25,000 a year and people are being thrown out of their houses.

The Marshall decision simply said that Donald Marshall had the right to fish for eels. It has expanded to lobster. We now see it affecting snow crab. The Sable Island oil deal is now on hold because the natives want to be heard. Logging in British Columbia and New Brunswick is being undertaken against the will of the provincial governments. That is where this treaty is taking us. It points out the lack of vision on the part of the government.

What is the vision? Where did the government see this parliament and this country going? Are we headed to become a group of separate societies? That is where the government is taking us. Natives will have separate rights. We have seen what is happening in Quebec. Is that the vision? Is that where we are going? It is a shotgun approach.

Do we want to have equality? Do we want to have a country where the laws are the same? Despite one's ancestry, despite one's race, despite one's sex, whatever, the laws are the same. I thought that was what Canada was all about but apparently not because the government and the courts are taking us in a completely different direction.

The Nisga'a deal is the tip of the iceberg. The provincial NDP and the federal Liberals are ramming this agreement through against the will particularly of British Columbians. We can see where this is taking us.

The Marshall decision is another example of where we are going or perhaps where we do not want to go. The newspapers have shown many cases where natives have decided that the natural resources are theirs. It started with Donald Marshall and the ability to fish for eels and it has now gone to oil and gas. My colleague from northern Alberta was talking about what is happening with the oil industry. There are other natural resources, such as timber. Where is it going to stop? Where are we going?

The supreme court has brought down decisions which are against the will of this parliament. Parliament has laid down what is supposed to be the rules for the laws of this land. Yet the judges have decided that they know better and are circumventing the will of parliament.

That is the bigger issue of what we are talking about with Nisga'a. It is the bigger issue of where Canadians should be looking to the future, of where they want the government to go. What is the vision of the government? Where do we want the country to end up? Do we want a group of separate fiefdoms or do we want equality and togetherness? I believe we want to be united with one set of rules for all in one country.

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1:10 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I suppose I should open by offering my eternal heartfelt thanks to the governing party for giving me the privilege of speaking in the House because it has the opinion that nobody is allowed to speak unless the Prime Minister and his minions believe it is okay. Here I am, one of the chosen few.

Some people might want to know why I am speaking on behalf of British Columbia because clearly I am not a British Columbian. However, the ramifications of the Nisga'a treaty extend far beyond the boundaries of British Columbia. This is not simply a provincial issue. It is a national issue. It is about the balkanization of Canada. It is about legislated race based government.

It has often been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, always with the expectation of a different and better result. What we see here is the extension of more than 130 years of policies by successive Canadian governments toward the native people based on racial segregation, paternalism and legislated inequality.

Treaties, the reserve system and the department of Indian affairs have conspired to keep Indians out of the social and economic mainstream, but only for their own good of course. The Nisga'a treaty will not only perpetuate the evils of separate status, it will accentuate them.

One does not have to be terribly observant to see what has happened to Indian people under the system which the government likes so well and now wishes to extend to the Nisga'a, a group of people which up until now has not had a treaty and has been relatively independent. Are they entitled to a land settlement? I would say yes, of course, but not in the shopworn treaty concept of collectivism. Let each adult have a piece of land to manage, dwell upon, sell or whatever as he or she sees fit, just as European settlers could do with their homesteads or land grants.

Why, where, when and how did we introduce this concept of communal land ownership, which is socialism, into the Canadian mainstream? Give the people substantial seed money to establish themselves, but give it to individuals, not to some unaccountable collective, and let that be the end of it. End this cycle of dependency. Throw away the bureaucratic urge to subordinate Indian people to bureaucrats or to an Indian elite. Stop treating them like dependent children and financing the venture by stripping the hides off the backs of other Canadians.

I have a long memory. It is rather instructive that a former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the current Prime Minister, had some progressive ideas on the subject. He introduced a white paper that recognized the evils of the old collectivism with these ringing words: “To be an Indian is to lack power, the power to act as owner of your own lands, the power to spend your own money and, too often, the power to change your own condition. To be an Indian must be to be free, free to develop Indian cultures in an environment of legal, social and economic equality with other Canadians”. Note the word equality.

The white paper proposed to repeal the Indian Act and wind down the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development within five years. It went on to state:

The Government believes that its policies must lead to the full free and non-discriminatory participation of Indian people in Canadian society.

The paper recommended that dependency be replaced by equal status, opportunity and responsibility. The paper stated “it is no longer acceptable that Indian people should be outside and apart”. Those are fine words, but we all know what happened.

The current Prime Minister continued for a year or so to speak eloquently in favour of an end to the determination of status by race. Even that great collectivist, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, jumped on to the equality bandwagon with these words:

—the road of different status has led to a blind alley of deprivation and frustration. This road...cannot lead to...equality. 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? The chiefs and the Indian affairs bureaucrats fought like tigers to retain their powers and privileges. The dilatory Trudeau lost interest and the minister, now the Prime Minister, made a strategic retreat. Had he followed through with his ideas, racial integration would be an established fact and many of the horrors of life on reserves and in urban Indian ghettos would be behind us. It is useless to dwell on what might have been, but surely we can try to move forward instead of reinforcing the same old mistakes.

It is time to put aside historical divisions and bind up the wounds of injustice from another century. The fact that some of our European ancestors felt free to treat Indians as an inconvenient life form to be displaced in the name of progress does not make me guilty of anything. I did not participate. Nor is the fact that some Indians—not the Nisga'a by the way—killed some white people, who pressed them beyond endurance, a matter of consequence for the 21st century. This is the new age. We cannot continue to wear the scars of the past.

My ancestors arrived in North America hundreds of years ago. Does that entitle me to more rights and privileges than first or second generation Canadians? I think not. The ancestors of the Nisga'a reached this continent thousands of years ago. Does that mean they should be treated differently from the rest of us? I submit that it does not. We must remember that the Nisga'a do not have an existing treaty to set them apart from other Canadians, but the government is deliberately proposing to create a different status.

The legislated entrenchment of social and political differences along racial lines in the United States was known as segregation. A handful of determined activists created a few ripples of dissent which ultimately grew to a great wave that washed away an evil system. Even South Africa, which I have been told modelled its racially based homelands on Canada's Indian reserves, now recognizes that all people are equal before the law regardless of skin pigmentation.

Some may say that when our society becomes more mature we will be able to remove inequalities from the proposed arrangements with the Nisga'a. Sadly the more noxious and discriminatory clauses of the treaty will be immune to correction by a future government because they will be constitutionally entrenched. If we proceed with this folly, future generations including the Nisga'a will justly curse us and curse this parliament for the race based balkanization of our country.

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1:20 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. Like the previous speaker I am not from the province of British Columbia. I do not represent that riding, but that is where any similarities end with regard to my support for this treaty.

The treaty was signed in August 1998 and has been ratified by the Nisga'a people and by a free vote in the B.C. legislature. Ratification by parliament is the final step.

The Nisga'a final agreement sets aside approximately 2,000 square kilometres of the Nass River valley as the Nisga'a land and establishes a Nisga'a central government with jurisdiction similar to that of other local governments. Two thousand square kilometres sounds like a significant piece of property and it is. I note that it is about 25% of the size of the constituency I have the privilege of representing in Saskatchewan.

Under the final agreement the Nisga'a will own surface and subsurface resources on Nisga'a lands and have a share of the salmon stocks in the Nass area wildlife harvest. The final agreement also provides the Nisga'a financial transfer of some $190 million payable over 15 years as well as $21.5 million in other financial benefits.

We believe that the payment will support economic growth in the region and help to break the cycle of dependency that has endured over the centuries. In addition, the final agreement specifies that personal tax exemptions for Nisga'a citizens will be phased out.

The criminal code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and other provincial and federal laws of general application shall continue to apply. These provisions and others are comprehensibly set out in the final agreement.

The treaty provides for a total of $253 million in one time payments to the Nisga'a over 15 years from this government. The B.C. government has contributed land valued at slightly in excess of $100 million, another $37.5 million in forgone forestry revenue and $40 million for paving highways in the area. In addition, a fiscal financing agreement is in place to transfer money to the Nisga'a for social services. Ninety per cent of that is already being transferred so we are talking about a 10% increase in that area. Finally a known source revenue agreement details how the Nisga'a government revenue will phase in to reduce federal transfers.

I want to emphasize, as I said a few moments ago, that over time the Nisga'a will become much more self-sufficient than is the case at the outset.

With regard to surface and subsurface resources such as logging, fishing and minerals, they will be managed by the Nisga'a in accordance with provincial laws and regulations. Unlike other treaties the Nisga'a final agreement does not require the Nisga'a to surrender their rights under the constitution. That is important because it was recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People and this treaty has been agreed to without such a clause. It is therefore seen as a way to coexist rather than a means to have aboriginals surrender their rights in exchange for a treaty.

We believe that the level of public and legislative debate on the final agreement has been unprecedented in the province of British Columbia. It included hundreds of public meetings, province-wide public hearings by an all-party committee of the legislature, and media coverage across the province. It is noteworthy that in the legislature there were more than 120 hours of debate, which I am told is more debate than on any other piece of legislation in B.C. history.

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1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Certainly not here.

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1:20 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Not here. I agree with the hon. member, and that is why we voted against the time allocation motion earlier today.

We support the treaty. We are proud that our New Democratic Party provincial colleagues in British Columbia have taken this historic step. The Nisga'a treaty was 20 years in the making and its signing is an important step toward stability and certainty for all British Columbians. We are hopeful that the post-treaty era will bring greater stability and more opportunity for economic development.

I will answer some of the questions I have been sitting here listening to for some time. We hear repeatedly that it is a race based treaty. We do not accept that. We think it is based on justice, fairness and stability. We think this treaty may make laws so that non-aboriginal people may indeed become Nisga'a citizens. That is provided for in the agreement. It also protects the rights of non-Nisga'a people living on Nisga'a lands.

We also hear calls that a referendum should be held on this matter in the province of British Columbia. There has been a great deal of consultation on the bill. There is neither the requirement nor the need for such a referendum.

I will close by noting that the treaty transfer of ownership of the land collectively to the Nisga'a people allows for the protection of property rights. It allows for various ways for people to privately own the land they live on. It specifically says that individuals cannot get less in terms of property rights than they already have. They can only get more.

Finally, we have heard that the treaty denies all rights to Nisga'a women. There is absolutely no basis for this claim. Women's rights are protected by the charter of rights and freedoms which applies to Nisga'a law.

We support the treaty. We are proud that our NDP colleagues in B.C. have taken this historic step to rectify wrongs of the past. We note that it is 20 years in the making and that it is an important step toward stability and certainty. We want to help aboriginal people not only in British Columbia but across the country build stronger, more self-reliant communities.

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1:25 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I commend the last speaker on his remarks regarding the agreement, but I also ask because of his ability to look at legislation and his interest in these kinds of things if we could have unanimous consent for a five minute question period of this member.

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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member is asking for unanimous consent to ask questions of the member. Is that agreed?

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1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members