Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking to the report stage of Bill C-49. The vote just taken shows that the opposition is united in opposing this frequent abuse of democracy in invoking time allocation. I think this is the 48th time this has been done since the Liberals came to power. This bill is certainly far too important to succumb to that type of action.
For many years big power has been wielded by Ottawa with respect to first nations, with a little power being wielded by the band leadership and no power at all devolving to the rank and file natives.
With the passage of this bill we see Ottawa's power being devolved somewhat, the bands have increased some power and it turns out that rank and file natives still do not have any power. This parliament also seems powerless to do anything about this.
Bill C-49 purports to devolve municipal type powers to bands and it does allow some local decision making. It removes judicial protection from bands. People pursuing legal revenues will at least have to fight the band and not Ottawa. These are some positive things that we have seen in this legislation.
However, when we were in committee we heard concerns from lessees and women's groups who were concerned about their rights under this legislation. We did hear that the minister had launched a fact finding process into property disposition on reserve when marriages break down, and we welcome that initiative. We urge the minister to make this a priority, make the results public and to act on any recommendations that may arise from this initiative. We want to see involvement by national and provincial native women's groups in the consulting process.
The Bloc Quebecois has independently introduced an amendment which will be the next amendment discussed under this fast track process that has just been initiated.
We have had a major concern addressed during committee stage hearings. The proposed legislation may fall under section 35 of the Constitution and we are grateful that the act now contains a proviso that it will not qualify as a land claim.
We noted this deficiency. We proposed the amendment and it is now included in the bill. Support for the amendment was sought and obtained and it is now included. This required the support of the chiefs, their advisers and all party support in committee. We appreciate the fact that there was no opposition to it. It was hard for those people to support the amendment and credit is due to those who worked to bring it about.
I had a discussion with the chief of the Muskoday reserve which is in my riding near the city of Prince Albert. I would like to point out that 101 women on the reserve signed a letter which would not qualify as a petition in this House but I indicated I would speak about it while I am speaking to Bill C-49.
The letter's main features are that the women want this House to know that B.C. native women do not speak for them regardless of the merit of their case. They are not in favour of the attempted injunction by that group. They are in support of Bill C-49 and feel that matrimonial lands and property questions were addressed in their land code. I would say this has more to do with the good relations that exist on that reserve than any benefits contained in the land code itself. The women of the reserve and the council seem to have a good accord with one another.
Unfortunately this is not always the case on every reserve and the Bloc amendment is set to address that concern. The Reform Party will continue to be the voice of those who have no voice in Ottawa.
Since those goods times of committee, events have overtaken the bill. The Muskoday reserve situation in B.C. has raised serious concern over the lack of consultation on reserves and communities and with those who reside in them. The municipalities in the Vancouver area are concerned there is no formal consultation clause in the bill. That means development can take place without adequate consultation.
Prior to becoming a member of parliament, I was a Saskatchewan land surveyor and as a land surveyor I know the importance of well defined property lines in never mind ameliorating a dispute but avoiding disputes. This bill does not define the limits between municipalities surrounding a reserve and the reserves themselves. What will happen, and we are quite positive of this, is this will lead to no end of difficulties between reserves and the surrounding municipalities.
When one looks at the Musqueam situation it would never have arisen had it been a requirement to consult on a regular basis instead of everybody encamping and holding firm to the fortress of their position without ever hearing what the other side's concerns were. I believe that had that been put in place at the time the agreements and leases were signed, we would not see the difficulties we see today.
We look at what the government is up against in having forced this legislation through. Two hundred and thirty people signed a petition from the Squamish band alone. They are opposed to the legislation. Why did the government impose time allocation knowing about the 230 people from just one reserve that requires really only 12.5% of the members of the reserve to approve a land code? A federal court case has been filed by the B.C. native women's society demanding amendments.
While I appreciate that the minister will be looking into it, what will happen when the court case proceeds and if the government is found wanting? There have been warnings from B.C. mayors that the bill could create planning chaos. Anyone who knows anything about the planning process knows that one tries to get wide consultation and agreement on plans prior to their implementation. There are sewers, water, roads, telephones, power lines, gas lines and all kinds of infrastructure that will not be prepared or that will be ill placed as a result of development that does not proceed hand in hand with wide open consultation.
To say that the goodwill of people is all that is required is somewhat naive. Everywhere we go there is legislation to govern relations between people. This bill has not provided that. We can see that in the type of opposition that is coming from it, real estate agents from Vancouver and area, non-native residents on reserve. The legislation makes homes owned by non-natives on Indian lands unmarketable. They cannot get rid of them. Why? There was no agreement which allowed prices to rise with the market and all of a sudden they have a huge adjustment and no one can move on it.
The government says there is no interest on the part of Reform in any constructive change to the legislation at this point. I beg to disagree. The amendment we are proposing calls on the government to consult and the bands to consult even prior to developing with an ongoing consultation which has to occur so that we can know what the limits of development are. It is a very important amendment. It is not one that was lightly put forward by the opposition. We take it very seriously and we will continue to bring these points forth as the bill proceeds.