Madam Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Bill C-49, the first nations land management act. As a member of the standing committee I will point out a number of things with regard to the amendments presented today.
The bill is a very important step for the 14 signatories who have worked hard to negotiate the framework agreement. Hon. members will appreciate the impact of the bill and that the framework agreement extends beyond individuals communities and their relationships with the federal government. Third parties are affected.
Over the course of past months we have seen considerable discussion and the impact land codes made possible under the bill may have on provinces, municipal governments and individual tenants on first nation lands. There has been some misunderstanding and I would like to set the record straight.
I will address the issues of each of these third parties. The theme is common to all. Even though the third parties have no direct say in the creation or ratification of the land codes, they have been and will be kept well informed of the process for creating a first nations land management regime.
I will outline the issues raised by the provincial governments affected. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick are not signatories to the framework agreement because the issues addressed are within federal jurisdiction. However the new regimes provide for the participation of provinces in matters that normally fall within or could affect their jurisdiction such as the administration of justice, environmental protection and assessment.
Both federal and first nation representatives consulted with these provinces throughout the development of the framework agreement in the bill before us. Moreover, the provinces which do not have participating first nations have also been informed of the new regime. We consulted on the issue by removing provincial expropriation powers. We consulted on the extent of the expropriation powers for first nations. We consulted on environmental protection regimes.
The framework agreement and the bill reflect a balance that has been struck as a result of taking provincial interests and needs into account.
The bottom line is that we have been consulting with the provinces on an ongoing basis to resolve these issues to the greatest extent possible. We consulted the province of British Columbia regarding the impact of the framework agreement and order in council 1036 and privy council order 208 which provide for British Columbia's power to resume its authority over a portion of the reserve lands; in fact one-twentieth of the lands.
Discussions have been ongoing throughout the development and introduction of the bill. British Columbia has given strong assurances that the legislation will not affect these orders. The Government of Canada has given B.C. the assurance that the legislation affects only the Indian Act and not other existing orders in council or legislation.
I will turn to the impact of the bill and the framework agreement on municipalities. Being the former president of the federation of municipalities I can speak with some authority as to the impact and the issues with regard to my colleagues from the municipal sector in British Columbia. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities had similar concerns to those of the province. It sought to have a provision for mandatory consultation included in the legislation respecting any development of first nation land.
We see in this example the reason it is important for the framework agreement and the bill to go through. For the first time municipal governments are concerned about land management in neighbouring reserves. The first nations communities are rightfully concerned about land management, and that takes place in neighbouring communities.
The five British Columbia signatory first nations have been working with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The first nations have received a letter from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities supporting the first nation consultation process and mechanisms for discussion. Under the existing regime the federal government gets involved in the process.
Let us imagine if the situation took place with two communities, neither of which was a first nation. The citizens of those communities would not welcome federal government interference. They would not tolerate it. It should be up to the communities to resolve the issues using existing law where necessary.
The bill and the framework agreement allow first nations and neighbouring municipal governments to work out issues between themselves without federal interference. The municipal governments and the signatory first nations have met to address mutual concerns. Both parties agreed to provide letters of assurance that each will consult with the other on an issue.
Neighbouring municipal governments will not be consulted when the land codes are developed by first nations. There are several reasons for this.