House of Commons Hansard #186 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cbc.


First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Bob Nault Liberal Kenora—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me as a representative of the most first nations of any member of parliament, some 51 and 40% of Ontario's first nations, to speak to this bill.

The first nations land management act obviously is a very important piece of legislation, important because it begins the trend and the change in direction of many years of a paternalistic policy that the federal government has had toward the more partnership oriented piece of legislation, a way of doing business.

Why anyone would be opposed to this is beyond me. I will speak a little to the opposition and its problems with the legislation as I go.

This bill is about accountability and about fairness. Again, I do not understand why anybody would be opposed to this bill. This is about 14 first nations opting out of the Indian Act sections on land management. This is about allowing first nations to establish their own regimes to manage their reserve lands and resources.

I do not know why anyone would be opposed to this in the modern society we live in today.

It is important, if we want to speak to an amendment or to where we are headed as governments, that we ask ourselves what would flow from this new regime. For a first nation chief and council what would this do for the first nation or the first nations that will flow over the years? This is only a start.

We hope other first nations will take on the challenge of this land management act. What will come out of this is experience and expertise.

Experience and expertise are important if someone is to change the way we do business between first nations people, the Government of Canada and the provinces involved.

What this will do is generate revenue through economic development. I wish my colleague from Macleod were here because he represents a very large first nation that has the basic infrastructure in place. Once there is the basic infrastructure, the next issue is economic development.

Without the tools at someone's disposal locally, economic development does not occur. I have a number of first nations in Kenora—Rainy River that are at the level of wanting to create employment for their children.

The way the Indian Act reads and is set up, they cannot even divide land for industrial development within their own reserve. That is ridiculous in the world we live in today.

People opposite say why can first nations people not have more employment. Here is a reason why. We are now starting on a new regime in order to entice first nations to do just that, to have land management, to create industrial parks.

Certainly they may have golf courses and things like that. Would any other community trying to create economic development not do so? Economic development flows from land management regimes. No one should have a problem with that. We are trying to get unemployment down, are we not, in all different communities.

It also ensures community decision making. That is where I have a really difficult time with my friends opposite. I have sat here now for a number of years listening to the Reform Party almost suggest that every first nation leader and council is crooked.

I am getting tired of that. I am getting fed up with hearing people say those elected people are not capable of making local decisions. I can speak from authority on this subject.

There are many first nations people who are as qualified as we are to run their communities and more so. Yes, there are problems in the aboriginal world relating to politicians who do the wrong thing. I suggest it happens here. It happens in provincial legislatures. It happens in municipal legislatures with non-natives.

We cannot use this huge brush over people to make it seem like first nations people cannot run their affairs. Quite frankly, that is total nonsense.

To the amendment and the little spin the Reform Party put on consultation, there is no law in Canada that says that parliament has to consult. It does not exist. There is no law provincially that says consult. It does not exist.

Ask Mike Harris. He does not consult very often. He did consult at election time. He won. I accept that. Now first nations people get elected. They have a chief and council. If they decide not to consult and they do the wrong thing, then people will make up their mind at election time whether they are the right people for the job. We will deal with that in a democratic process.

On the Reform Party position, it is very specific and very clear what its objective is. It looks at first nation communities as municipalities. A municipality is a creation of provincial legislation. This is not in the Constitution. It does not exist in the federal laws we have.

They can be changed by provincial governments whenever they so choose. I can say from experience in Ontario our friend Mike Harris has changed municipalities around so often we are not sure what we are any more. That is a scary sight.

I do not think it is necessary to consult all the time but I do think it is the neighbourly thing to do. We should consult because we live next door.

I do not think it is necessary to put that in the legislation. If I am to expropriate a particular piece of property on reserve because I am building a subdivision and I want to build a road where there are two houses, I do not believe I should have to talk to somebody in Vancouver about that if I am a thousand miles away. I think this is a frivolous and unnecessary amendment to the bill. As we know, if one wants to expropriate and some people do not agree they can go to the courts under this piece of legislation. They have rights just like we do. That is fair.

If members of the opposition really want to help first nations people out of poverty, they should think about this as far as accountability of fairness goes, stop playing politics with the issue, and stop believing that first nations are municipalities because they are not. They are more than that. They sign treaties.

If one wants to look at it from the perspective of the Liberals, first nations are more like provinces in jurisdiction. They are our partners and we will deal with it in that way. We cannot deal with it in the way we deal with municipalities because if we do we are destined to fail.

This is a great beginning but there is a long way to go. Only 14 first nations have taken the leap to look at the new opportunity to have direct land management on reserves. I wish all 51 first nations in my area, once they have had an opportunity to review this legislation, will make the decision to follow suit because what we are trying to do is create economic development.

I wanted to add my words today to those of the government side and tell the opposition members to get real. If they really want to see unemployment go down, they should start allowing first nations to have some control over their own lives.

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4:45 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, right off, I want to congratulate the first nations on their patience. I am sure they are watching the debate this afternoon, because they have been in on the debate since the start. I remember even that the 14 first nations were here in the last Parliament when Bill C-75 was introduced. I know they have worked long and must be very impatient to have this bill passed.

I want to give some clarification on the course of this bill, because there have been all sorts of rumours. The first nations even thought at one point that the Bloc Quebecois was intentionally holding up the process, which was entirely wrong.

I wish to note, and I hope to read it in


tomorrow, that I myself asked my House leader to speed up the process, to ask the government to put it on the parliamentary agenda as soon as possible. I think we were initiators in this matter, the people who really supported the bill of the 14 first nations.

There was not even a request from the government before the recent recess. The Liberal Party should have sought unanimous consent to extend the debate, but it did not.

We are not in charge of the government's agenda. We can only follow. We are as anxious as the first nations to see this bill pass.

As for the Reform Party amendments, I have examined those that are grouped. There are three motions. I have a problem with the following wording in Motion No. 6:

—that the governing bodies of neighbouring jurisdictions have confirmed in writing that consultations respecting the land code have been completed—

In my view, this gives neighbouring jurisdictions a veto. Implementation of the land code and self-government for these first nations could be put off indefinitely, merely by claiming that consultations have not been completed and refusing to confirm in writing that they have been. There would then be an obligation to negotiate almost indefinitely, if that was what people wanted. There is a certain danger here.

I wish to develop the concept of consultation, which the Reform Party often tells us is important. And right they are. But to go from that to provisions that could paralyse a process, or postpone it indefinitely, is something else again. On the topic of consultation, I look at how the first nations have lived here in North America long before our arrival.

Were they consulted when we landed in North America, in Quebec, in Canada, and decided to take over their lands and gradually squeeze them out?

Were they consulted when the decision was made to create residential schools and to break the aboriginal culture and language? The children were sought out systematically on the reserves and taken to the residential schools. Were the aboriginal people consulted properly? Of course not.

Were they consulted when the Indian Act was passed a hundred years ago or so, that obsolete piece of legislation that is still in force in Canada? It is close to being an embarrassment. There are clauses in this act which date back to the last century. At that time, the Indian agent had to be asked for permission to raise cattle on the reserve, to grow grain to feed the cattle. The act is full of incongruities such as these.

All this to say that we whites have never done much in the way of consulting the aboriginal people.

I referred to the aboriginal schools, but one could also refer to the treaties. Some of my colleagues have spoken of their ancestors saying “Sign no treaties”. The royal commission has certainly demonstrated very clearly that there has been a kind of reneging on signatures to treaties.

This has been seen recently with the social union. Sometimes agreements are short-lived. A document is signed, and then within two or three days, they are reneging on their signature. As the Premier of Quebec has said, the ink was not even dry on the document and they were already reneging on it.

That is how it was in the past with the aboriginal people. The treaties contained certain clauses. These were nation-to-nation treaties telling the people “We will put you on reserves. We will look after your health”. Now, as soon as they set foot off the reserve, that is the end of it, the government no longer looks after them.

As for consultation, I believe that the concept ought perhaps to be pushed to the limit. It is true that the aboriginal people have not been consulted. Today, when the shoe is on the other foot and the aboriginal people want to assume responsibility for themselves, extreme consultation is going to be demanded, and we are going to protect ourselves in advance to the extreme against any potential aboriginal encroachment on our lands, our gardens, our pocketbooks.

When people are told “We will give you the chance to fly on your own and to take control of your affairs”, provisions must not be included preventing them from doing so.

I think it important to intervene with respect to the motions in Group No. 1, but I draw members' attention to the fact that there is a problem as well, and I hope we will have time today to speak to the motions in Group No. 2. Some people have touched on the problem. The Indian Act I mentioned earlier is so antiquated that it contains no provision on marriage breakdown. There are Bloc Quebecois amendments on this in the second group.

As for the motions in Group No. 1, I wanted to say that the Bloc cannot support the Reform Party amendments that require consultations be signed, written, notarized and the whole shebang. We cannot have that.

However, on the subject of marriage breakdown, I think my colleagues should listen carefully. Aboriginal women in Canada and many Canadian women's groups have asked us to intervene on this, because no provision in the law covers these women currently.

They are the victims of a legal void that must be filled. I am not sure that we can fill it with our amendments, because we will be filling it for 14 first nations, when there are 625 in Canada. But it is a start, and the aboriginal women have asked us to do this.

I will be speaking again when the House considers the motions in Group No. 2, to shore up my argument in favour of these women a little more.

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4:50 p.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the amendments on Bill C-49. Let me say at the outset how disappointed I am that the government chose to invoke closure once again. I believe it is the 48th time the government has done so since it came to power, setting an all time record and thereby cutting off debate on an extraordinarily important issue.

This issue is of fundamental importance especially to many aboriginal women and children who are uncomfortable with some of the provisions of Bill C-49. It does not give the public the ability to find out as much as it should possibly know about a measure which will effectively establish a third level of government in Canada.

We condemn the government for what it has done and for its anti-democratic stance which reared its ugly head too often in the six years since it has been in power.

Let me speak specifically to some of the provisions in the legislation. Although the Reform Party is sympathetic to parts of Bill C-49, we do have grave concerns about other aspects of it. I just mentioned one of those things a minute ago.

The Reform Party has sought amendments to Bill C-49 to ensure that property division laws are put in place, to ensure that aboriginal women and children are properly treated on reserves after the legislation is in effect. Many people have made the argument—and we have heard it from grassroots aboriginal women—that in the past sometimes on reserves they do not get proper treatment when it comes to the division of property in the case of a divorce, for instance.

The Liberal government claims to have a social conscience. I would think it would be very concerned about this aspect or this vacuum in the legislation. It opens the door for abuse and I am very concerned about it.

I condemn the government for not being more sensitive to the needs of aboriginal women and children. It is unconscionable that the government would leave this to chance. Many right thinking Canadians would be alarmed to find out that a Liberal government would sit idly by and allow this legislation to be pushed through when it could be amended to ensure that women and children on reserves are protected. Sadly the government sits there and does nothing. It sits on its moral high ground, pretending and mouthing words that it cares, but when it comes to action it does absolutely nothing. That is unconscionable.

The second point I want to make concerns the arbitrary ability of the third level of government of reserves to essentially go ahead and make changes to leases, to expropriate property with 30 days notice. In many cases people have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in this land. Now they will be subject to what amounts to a very arbitrary process which would imperil their investments. It is ridiculous that the government would allow it to go ahead without proper protection for investment.

My colleague a moment ago was arguing how it would do so much for investment on reserves. They have this arbitrary power and have exercised it already in other examples. I know my colleague from Abbotsford will be speaking to this point in a moment. I think it will completely negate any positive outcome that we might see by the implementation of Bill C-49. That type of uncertainty will act as a disincentive to people to invest on Indian reserves.

I encourage my friends across the way after they invoked closure and before they plough it through to listen to what the Reform Party is suggesting, which is that there be some amendment to ensure that people's properties are protected when they sign leases with the bands that will be affected by the legislation.

My final point with respect to the amendments is on consultation. I do not understand why the government is so opposed to the principle of consultation with municipalities that will be very dramatically affected by the legislation.

My friend from Kenora—Rainy River said we do not really need to have it in there because we do it as a matter of course. I am afraid that does not sit very well with municipalities that will be at the mercy of the reserve, the band next door, and with absolutely no guarantees. They will have millions of dollars of investments in infrastructure of various kinds and absolutely no consultations with the reserve next door. I think that should be in the legislation. I think the government should be chastised for not putting it in there.

Those are three of our concerns with respect to Bill C-49: no protection when it comes to property division laws, the arbitrary power to change leases, and no consultation with municipalities.

However, it does raise the larger question of how to ensure that native people in Canada do come to enjoy the prosperity that many Canadians take for granted, which they have been left out of for a long time.

I point out to my friend across the way, who is trying to enter the debate, that for the last 130 years we have had mostly Liberal governments in Canada and they have not served natives well. In fact natives have seen their standard of living fall. We have seen unbelievable levels of alcoholism on reserve. We have seen absolutely shameful treatment of natives by this government. It should hang its head in shame instead of pretending that a band-aid bill like Bill C-49 is somehow going to help them.

I urge my friends across the way, if they really care about natives, to do the things that would really help natives. My friend from Peace River had an excellent suggestion. What about adopting the idea of allowing natives to have title to fee simple property? Every country in the world believes in private property, but this government is not prepared to give natives the ability to have private property on reserve.

We then end up in the situation where, although people can strive and work off reserve to build up their land and their assets, that is simply not possible if they want to stay on reserve.

Why is this government cutting off every chance that native people have to better themselves by not allowing that? I think it is unbelievable that the government clings to this vestige of community property which simply does not work. It does not work anywhere in the world, but the government seems to think it is the solution. It is backwards and it is behind the times, but the government continues to hang on to it.

This government should do a better job of listening to grassroot natives. We had an example not long ago where we had grassroot natives who were asked to write the minister so they could tell her about some of the abuses that occur on reserves across Canada. What happened when they wrote to the minister in confidence? Someone in the minister's department sent the letter back to the band council, which ended up suing the person who sent the letter in confidence. That is unbelievable but that is how this government treats natives in Canada today. I think it is ridiculous.

We could point to a hundred other examples of how grassroot natives are treated disdainfully by this government. Grassroot Reformers and Reform MPs have talked to hundreds of natives across Canada who have nothing but disdain for the way this government allows some of the abuses to continue on native reserves in Canada.

While my friends across the way can talk in that high moral tone about how they care and how compassionate they are, in the end their actions simply do not match their words. We see natives in terrible trouble in Canada today. Those members should hang their heads in shame.

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5 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to address this bill today.

As other people have said before me, I too am very disappointed that the government has chosen for the 48th time to use time allocation to shut down debate on this bill. I hope, as it says, it is trying to give power to the aboriginal people at whatever level of government it thinks this is going to slot into. I hope the government is not suggesting to those aboriginal people, who are hopefully going to form some sort of new and improved democratic system amongst their own people, that they follow the Liberal example of shutting down debate in an open forum. I certainly hope that is not their hope and dream.

Someone recently explained to me what the definition of insanity is. Insanity is explained as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result every time. If that is the case, then I think the Liberal government is pushing the very levels of insanity. It thinks that by tinkering with the way it treats aboriginal people, by tinkering with something like this land management bill, that somehow prosperity will spring from the ground and aboriginal people will suddenly be much better off because of it. But such is not the case.

The government is again treating aboriginal people not the same as all other Canadians, but in a special category, a separate category. It is not like a municipal government. It is not really like a provincial government. It is some other sort of government that will get different treatment, like the aboriginals have had for far too long in this country. Instead of having full and equal access to all parts of the Canadian mosiac they are shuffled off into a special category, with a special set rules, a special set of tax laws, special land use contracts and all that stuff. Suddenly they expect that they will become as prosperous as other Canadians. It is not going to happen.

I have 15 reserves in my riding. I am quite familiar with the issues. I met last week with realtors in my riding who sell both titled land, fee simple land, as well as land and houses that are leased from aboriginal groups and sold as condominium developments and so on in the local area. These realtors, which represent some of the finest developers and realtors in our area, are more than willing to sell this product. They know about the bill. Their question is: What are we to tell our clients about the certainty of the land we are selling to them? They are selling land based on a 99 year lease. They say that there is a 99 year lease so it is okay. They say that may well be, but look at what has happened with the Musqueam Band. Instead of helping the aboriginal people to develop their land with surety and certainty, they are pulling away and backing off. Instead of the much needed funds that aboriginal people need to develop their land and their opportunities, that money is drying up because people are saying they cannot be sure of the system.

It is not just the Reform Party that is saying this. I would like to quote from a letter that was sent by the leader of the Liberal Party of British Columbia. When it comes to land use and assurances about expropriation and so on, Gordon Campbell writes in his letter:

I was given similar assurances by former Minister Tom Siddon that Musqueam leaseholders' rights and interests would be fully protected before he would sign off on the transfer of authority over these leases to the band.

That was a promise made by a minister of the government to Gordon Campbell when he was the mayor of Vancouver. The minister promised him that the rights and interests would be fully protected. That commitment was not honoured.

He further wrote:

The Musqueam Band is now using their unchecked authority to extract unconscionable lease and tax hikes from those residents, while your government has sat idly by and done nothing.

When we have to live with this sort of bill it does not become a theoretical exercise. It does not become an esoteric discussion of the pros and cons of clauses 4, 5 and 6 and the rest of it. It becomes an absolute economic life and death issue to the people who are concerned. They do not say whatever and take their chances. The proof is in the pudding. The proof is that we cannot trust the government if it is not in the bill.

One minister may have good intentions. I never doubt the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. She says whatever she says in the House and I take it at face value until proven otherwise. The problem is that if it is not in the bill we cannot trust the word of anyone in this place. We cannot trust it because that minister may be gone tomorrow. There may be somebody else in her place. That minister could conveniently forget. There could be a challenge to the constitutionality of it or the finality of it by an Indian band. There could be a regular court challenge. Who knows where it might end up.

By not explicitly covering the concerns that we have brought forward in amendment, then I believe the government is ensuring that because of that uncertainty we will doom aboriginal people again not to be treated like others, but to be treated differently.

That is a shame. As I discussed with the realtors the other day, we can show example after example around the world where the creation of wealth, the creation of prosperity, is contingent on the right to own, possess and enjoy property.

There are some things we might want to do as a collectivity. We might want to have the local arena owned as a collectivity. But when everything we touch is owned as a collectivity, then how are we ever going to have prosperity? It cannot work.

I shake my head over a similar kind of philosophy which exists in the Nisga'a agreement. In my province there are particular types of industries that are in decline. I can name them. I used to be in one of them. I was a logging contractor. The future for logging is not what it once was in our province. It is a declining industry. It certainly is very important, but for a variety of reasons, including the actions of this government, it is in decline.

What about the fishing industry? It is not the industry it once was. It is a very important industry, it is still a key industry, but it is not, as a percentage of our provincial output, what it once was. I could give other examples.

What are they doing with the Nisga'a agreement? They are making a deal with this group of people to ensure that they are stuck in industries which are doomed not to grow. They will make sure they stay in those industries which are in decline. They will make them hewers of wood, carriers of water and fishermen. That will suddenly spring great prosperity upon these people.

The government has basically told these people that it is going to give them the industries that are in decline and it will take all the rest of it. It will create the wealth and enjoy the prosperity, and they can stay on their land out there and be tied to the industries that are in decline. The government will take the cream of the crop.

Again aboriginal people are going to be shuffled off to the side and told to take what they are given. The government will take the prosperous, the growing, the innovative industries for itself. What a shame.

In addition to the concerns I mentioned about private property being treated differently and the fact that without certainty we are not going to get development, and without assurances on consultation with local municipalities we are not going to get good, harmonious working relationships, besides the obvious, I would like to mention another part of this letter that is very alarming. It is the same letter from the Liberal leader of the opposition in British Columbia who writes about why this bill scares aboriginal women living on reserve.

When this bill passes there will be no assurances on the breakup of a marriage that the woman will have any access to what we would say is rightfully hers, half of the property the couple has built together. The reason we have so many signatures from so many aboriginal women's groups saying “Please do not pass this bill” is because they are afraid for their financial well-being in the case of marital breakdown.

When this government pays lip service both to aboriginal people and to women, saying that it is concerned about both, and in this case proves that it is not concerned about either, then I share the concern of those women who have come to us. All I can do is empathize with them, tell them that we do not agree with the bill and that we are doing everything we can to put amendments in place to protect them. We will continue to work on their behalf.

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is the House ready for the question?

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Pursuant to Standing Order 76(8), a recorded division on the proposed Motion No. 1 stands deferred.

The recorded division will also apply to Motions Nos. 6 and 7.

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5:15 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC


Motion No. 2

That Bill C-49, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing line 14 on page 5 with the following:

“(d) any other relevant matter set out in section 17(2.1).”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-49, in Clause 17, be amended by adding after line 43 on page 9 the following:

“(1.1) The general rules and procedures must provide for benefits, rights and privileges of the parties in cases of breakdown of marriage, that are at least equivalent to those set out in subsection 17(2.1).”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-49, in Clause 17, be amended by adding after line 5 on page 10 the following:

“(2.1) Until the general rules and procedures are incorporated into the land code or a first nation law containing the general rules and procedures is enacted under subsection (2) the following provisions applies:

(a) Each spouse in a marriage is entitled to an individed one half interest in the matrimonial home and the certificate of possession, notice of entitlement, notice of entitlement issued, or such other evidence of entitlement to possession of the land upon which sits the matrimonial home as may exist from time to time when

(i) a separation agreement;

(ii) a declaration by the court on the application of either party that the parties have separated and there is no possibility of reconciliation

(iii) an order for dissolution of marriage or judicial separation; or

(iv) an order declaring the marriage null and void respecting the marriage is first made.

(b) An interest under paragraph (a) is subject to a marriage agreement or a separation agreement.

(c) This section applies to a marriage entered into before or after this section comes into force.

(d) A “matrimonial home” is a home on reserve and the land on which it sits, in which one or both spouses has an interest and which has been ordinarily used by a spouse or a minor child of either spouse as a home within the two years before the date of an application under this section.

(e) For the purpose of this Act, a “marriage agreement” is a written agreement made before a marriage between two people which deals with real or personal property and/or maintenance between them during and on breakup of their marriage. The separation agreement must be signed by each party and witnessed by an adult person who is not related to either party.

(f) For the purpose of this Act, a “separation agreement” is a written agreement made between two spouses who have separated from each other, which deals with real or personal property and/or maintenance between them during and on breakup of their marriage, and in particular which deals with the right to occupy or to divide the matrimonial home. The separation agreement must be signed by each spouse and witnessed by an adult person who is not related to either spouse.

(g) An order under this section is for may be for interim relief pending determination of the rights to the property of the spouses by agreement or by a court having juridiction in those matters; or the order may be a final order.

(h) On application, the court may order that one spouse for a stated period be given exclusive occupancy of the matrimonial home.

(i) An order under paragraph (g) does not authorize the spouse to materially alter the substance of the matrimonial home unless it is a final order which gives the spouse exclusive sole ownership of the matrimonial home;

(j) Subject to paragraph (i) a right of a spouse to exclusive occupancy or use ordered under this section shall not conunue? after the rights of the other spouse or of both spouses, as owner or lessee are terminated.

(k) Where an order for exclusive occupancy or use has been made under this section, the Court, on application, may order that the rights of a spouse to apply for partition and sale or to sell or otherwise dispose of or encumber the property be postponed and be subject to the right of exclusive occupancy or use and may, in its order, vary the order made under this section.

(l) The Court may, on application, make an order for partition and sale of the interest of the spouses in the matrimonial home. Any such order for sale is subject to the limitations on ownership of the reserve land established from time to time by the band council.

(m) A band council shall issue a band council resolution entitling a spouse to exclusive occupancy of the matrimonial home upon presentation of a copy of an order under this section or a validity executed marriage or separation agreement.

(n) A band council shall issue a band council resolution transferring an interest in the matrimonial home to a spouse in accordance with an order under this section or a marriage or separation agreement upon presentation of a copy of the order or a validly executed marriage or separation agreement.

(o) A band council shall take all necessary steps to facilitate the sale of the spouses' interest or interests in the matrimonial home, and shall issue any band council resolution required to give effect to a sale completed after an order for partition and sale under this section.

(p) A court may, on application, order that while the spouses continue to live separate and apart, one spouse shall not enter premises while the premises are occupied by the other spouse or a child in the custody of the other spouse, whether or not the spouse against whom the order is made owns or has a right to possession of the premises.”

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-49, in Clause 20, be amended by replacing line 39 on page 11 with the following:

“land; and

(f) the general rules and procedures, in cases of breakdown of marriage, respecting the use, occupation and possession of first nation land and the division of interests in first nation land.”

Madam Speaker, I was a bit worried that this group of motions could not be considered today, because they have been the focus of many representations from native women's groups.

Representations were also made to the parliamentary committee. The British Columbia Native Women's Society met with us, as did the National Native Women's Conference, of which Marilyn Buffalo, to whom I pay tribute, is a member.

At the time, the view was that, in a first nation, it was the band council's right to decide. Those who came to testify during consideration of the bill by the committee seemed to say that their respective communities had been fully consulted. There were even petitions from women's groups saying that the bill was excellent and should be passed as written.

However, following consideration of the bill by the committee, many other representations were made, in particular by Quebec's native women. Finally, the Bloc Quebecois decided to intervene.

There is an important point, I believe. I mentioned it earlier. The Indian Act, which is over a hundred years old, contains no provision for marriage breakdown. This means that, when a marriage breaks down on a reserve, the man can often order the woman out of the family home. The woman is simply kicked out and obliged to find shelter elsewhere.

Contrary to provincial legislation, there is no provision for the protection of matrimonial property or its division. There is absolutely nothing. It is a complete legal vacuum.

So the women started to show an interest in this issue. They came to meet us, telling us that perhaps some amendments ought to be moved.

The 14 first nations are the pioneers as far as settling this issue is concerned. As the act states, the 14 first nations are to prepare a property code, but where marriage breakdown is concerned, they have 12 months to include arrangements for settling this matter in their respective codes.

Our problem, however, is that during those 12 months no application will be possible, that is to say the legal vacuum will continue. Hence the importance of our introducing an amendment which will cover that 12 month period.

Looked at overall, this is a major problem for Canada. There are no provisions at the moment, and if the proposed amendments are accepted, they will settle the matter for 14 first nations in Canada, whereas there are 600 in all. The underlying issue must therefore be settled. Will there be an amendment to the Indian Act? Will there be special legislation? This could always be looked into.

The minister had clearly understood the dynamics and knows there is a legal vacuum. In June of last year, she decided to set up a focus group. In June 1998, she told a group of British Columbia native women “I am going to set up a focus group so that you can cast some light on the issue for me”. To our great surprise, confusion and disappointment, not one thing has been done to date. No one has been appointed. The matter has not been given the importance it deserves.

The Bloc Quebecois is therefore obliged today to introduce amendments today to include provisions in the bill so that, in these 14 first nations, when a couple faces problems and the marriage breaks down, various questions can be answered, including: What will happen exactly to the family home? What happens to the family heritage? How will the basic question be resolved, as the provincial laws provide?

That is where the problem lies. That is related to the decision in the Derrickson case. I cannot remember the year, but it is fairly recent. This lady went to the supreme court to have the matter decided, and the court said simply “Madam, there is no provision in the Indian Act to protect you”.

Therefore the legal void has existed since then, and the government has, unfortunately, not corrected the situation. There is also some danger if this problem is not solved in general terms. This is what native women have said. They have said “Every time a bill on economic matters or management matters comes before the House of Commons, we are going to ask you to introduce amendments”. I think it is important therefore to resolve the matter in its entirety and not piecemeal.

Every time a native bill comes before the House, there will likely be serious representation from native women. They will say “You will introduce amendments to the bill to remedy this legal void that has existed now for 100 years”.

The Bloc Quebecois said “We will introduce amendments, even though we know the basic issue is not settled”. We have already questioned the minister on the issue generally. We will also continue to ask the minister what is going to be done about this problem, which may well get worse over time. There will soon be legislation with respect to the Nisga'a, to water management in Nunavut, to a host of problems that could end up with native women demanding amendments because they have been overlooked.

The situation could get very difficult in the weeks, months and years to come, unless the underlying issue is resolved.

I also wish to pay tribute to the 14 first nations who were the groundbreakers, as it were. It was they who pointed out that there was a problem, even though they were going to be allowed to govern themselves. They pointed out that the Indian Act would no longer apply, that they would be responsible for land management. But they realized that there would be a problem, that women were not protected. These people had therefore already done a very good study by the time they appeared before the committee.

However, there are still at least eight or nine first nations that have not finished examining the issue and have undertaken to do so in the next 12 months. We will have to take our lead from the work these people have done, because they are the first to look at the problem. One day, this will have to take in more than the 14 first nations. Otherwise, every time a native bill is introduced in the House, it will be held up by those who want amendments introduced to deal with the issue of women's rights.

The situation is clear, and I would like to draw it to the attention of members opposite. They could perhaps test the feasibility by starting with this bill. Once again, the provisions before us today cover only the 12 months in which women are still in a legal vacuum. After that, there is a mechanism in the bill providing for mandatory arbitration in the event agreement is not reached.

This means that the issue will go to arbitration and be resolved, but only for the 14 first nations, not for the 600 others, hence the importance of dealing with the problem today. I urge members to support these amendments and give these people another 12 months in which to give some thought to their land code and include provisions for marriage breakdown.

So as to avoid a 12-month legal vacuum, we will implement the provisions before us today, the amendments moved by my colleague, the member for Laval East, and myself.

I therefore urge my colleague to support these amendments. I am anxious to hear from them, even if time is running out, as the vote is at 6.15 p.m. I hope they will vote in favour so as to cover this legal vacuum for once and for all for these 14 first nations. For its part, the Bloc Quebecois undertakes to pressure the government to come up with a comprehensive solution to the problem.

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5:25 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba


David Iftody LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Bill C-49 and address a number of important questions that have arisen as a result of the question of matrimonial property, an important and legitimate question.

As members are aware, the bill ratifies a framework agreement that will provide 14 first nations with authority to manage their lands at the community level and to pass laws for the development, conservation, protection, management, use and possession of their land.

The bill is a good bill, one which gives first nation communities control over their future, provides new opportunities to work with neighbouring communities, and creates jobs and growth both on and off reserve. It is above all a bill that arises from the desire and the will of the 14 nations participating in this process.

As hon. members know, matters involving changes to the Indian Act and the provisions of new powers and responsibilities for first nations can be very complicated and, as we have seen here today, complex. The complexity has become more apparent in the past couple of years as the framework agreement took shape and began to elicit discussions among first nations. What is inspiring about this process is the capacity for first nations communities to find ways to resolve issues that have arisen.

No one is suggesting that the federal government step in and resolve issues on their behalf. We seek instead to provide a legislative framework in which the communities can get on with the task of running their own lives.

A good example concerns how matrimonial property will be dealt with in the case of matrimonial breakdown. The signatory first nations will be at the forefront of this issue. They have agreed to tackle an issue that today the government is grappling with: how to address the legislative gap respecting matrimonial real property on an Indian reserve. This is a complex legal issue that must be resolved in the interest of fairness and equity. I am glad to see that the first nations agreed to this process.

Let me outline for the House the nature of this issue and the steps that are proposed to be taken to resolve these important questions. In the Derrickson v Derrickson case the Supreme Court of Canada highlighted this issue very succinctly for us. Here was a case where matters respecting matrimonial property were challenged before the courts. This case provided clear direction respecting reserve lands and access to marital real property rights.

The supreme court ruled that provincial laws respecting the division of matrimonial property assets in cases of matrimonial breakdown applied except to interests in reserve land. Reserve land being within federal jurisdiction, provincial laws respecting use, occupation, possession and division of an interest in cases of matrimonial breakdown are not applicable to interests in reserve land.

In March 1997 the British Columbia Native Women's Society and two individual plaintiffs mentioned the framework agreement in a suit launched against the government in the Federal Court of Canada. The plaintiffs claimed that the federal government failed to fulfill its fiduciary obligations to married Indian women with respect to the division of matrimonial real property upon the breakdown of marriage.

As hon. members are aware, division of matrimonial property, and I know that some across the way do not know this because they argued contrary to that only a few moments ago, falls within provincial jurisdiction. The provinces apply the principle of division of matrimonial assets on an equal basis. However, reserve lands are held by Her Majesty in trust of the crown for the use and benefit of the band. Provincial laws therefore cannot be replicated in their entirety on the reserve lands.

At the federal level there is no provision in the Indian Act regarding the division of matrimonial property in the event of a marital breakdown. Non-band members and non-aboriginal people cannot hold an interest in first nations land, nor can they reside there without the permission of the first nation council or the community. That has been in the Indian Act and understood.

Where a lawful interest has been granted to an Indian member of the band, this interest cannot be reassigned unless the individual agrees to the transfer. In addition the transfer cannot be made to the band or another Indian member of the band.

In the case of Derrickson v Derrickson at the supreme court, the courts provided that compensation can be provided for the reserve assets which cannot be divided. The end result is that the assets are still divided equally between spouses. However, there is no access to an order transferring the matrimonial home or interest in reserve land, the same order that would be available outside a reserve to a woman or a man going through a marriage breakdown.

Hon. members will appreciate the problem. The 14 first nations want to get out from under the land management provisions of the Indian Act. Provincial laws respecting property cannot be applied. There must be a solution to resolving how to divide the matrimonial property that both will be equitable and respectful of the capacity of first nations to come up with a system that is in keeping with the values of their own community.

First nations are seeking the authority to develop solutions that fulfill the needs of their communities and the interests of equity. The 14 first nations and Canada have amended the framework agreement and the bill before us to address the issue of matrimonial property on first nations land.

The signatories have agreed to address these issues of property rights in the framework agreement and the bill before us today. Under Bill C-49 and the framework agreement the signatory first nation must, not should, shall or may, but must establish a community process that will develop rules and procedures within 12 months from the date the land code takes effect.

The rules and procedures cannot discriminate on the basis of sex and include a process of arbitration should the first nations not meet those criteria. That would provide sufficient, broad based and complementary protections to those offered in the charter that of course apply in this particular piece of legislation. It has to be done in 12 months. It cannot discriminate. More importantly in that process, even if the women in a particular community vote in a way that makes others unhappy, there is an appeal process that is allowed both in the framework agreement and the bill. That allows those who are grieved to seek redress properly if they so choose within the context of that agreement.

According to the bill before us, extensive consultations must be undertaken during the development of the land code to inform and seek the opinions of the community membership. First nations have given strong assurances that as part of their first nations community process they will solicit the input of all on and off reserve members of their community, including aboriginal women. Nothing precludes a community from addressing the issue at the beginning of the process. The important point is that the community decides when and how it will address these issues.

A dispute resolution mechanism will be available to both Canada and the individual first nation members. I repeat that individual members can also challenge the rules before a court. Yes, before a court.

There is a larger issue at stake here, one that goes beyond the 14 first nations that have ratified the agreement. What can be done to resolve the current vacuum concerning the division of matrimonial property in the Indian Act?

Last June the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced that she was prepared to work in partnership with these groups in establishing a fact finding process with respect to the Indian Act. This process will examine the effects upon breakdown of a marriage on first nations members' rights to real property such as land and homes. Federal officials are now working toward the conclusion of this process.

The government is committed with those member bands who have agreed to sign on to this process to work with them fairly and equitably with redress to the courts, the normal appeal processes, the provisions of the charter, all of which will apply to protect the legitimate rights of aboriginal women in Canada today.

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5:35 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I get into my remarks I would like to rebut a couple of things the parliamentary secretary had to say. I am pleased to see him here but it is unfortunate he has not yet seen fit to apologize to the Musqueam residents about whom he said some erroneous things. I have to be careful about the words I use here. Many of them have written to him and have asked for an apology for statements he made in this House but he has not seen fit yet to do that.

Part of what he said was that band members on reserve who do not like what is going on can go to court. The answer the government comes up with all the time is that they can litigate. What kind of an answer is that? Go out and litigate. If they do choose to litigate, Bill C-49 is the guideline the courts will be compelled to use when adjudicating any actions that are brought. It is obvious that if there is no specific guideline in Bill C-49 with respect to the disposition of marital property, the courts will be at a loss to determine how they will resolve that issue, as they are now.

The parliamentary secretary is wrong. This failure to include these protections is very simple. These amendments go a long way toward putting those kinds of protections into the act.

I will read something into the record. Some of my colleagues spoke earlier about a letter written by Gordon Campbell, the leader of the official opposition in British Columbia. He makes a number of observations about Bill C-49 and he makes some recommendations about how it can be fixed. He says:

First, there appears to be no guarantee that women will have equal protection of property rights as men under the rules governing the breakdown of marriages.

As you know, some aboriginal women have alleged that women living on reserve have not always been treated fairly by band councils when marriages fail. They maintain that men have sometimes been granted preferential treatment with regard to housing issues, because property division laws that protect other Canadians do not apply on reserve.

All aboriginal women are asking for are the same rights that all other Canadian women have from coast to coast in this country. Why is this government refusing to give them that kind of protection in Bill C-49?

I will go on to quote Mr. Campbell, the Liberal leader of the official opposition in British Columbia:

—the act must be amended to ensure that the expropriation powers granted to first nations under section 28 cannot be abused. In view of the recent controversy on the Musqueam reserve, it is understandable that some non-native leaseholders are very worried about how first nations might be able to use their expropriation powers.

Again, a very simple amendment would provide the protection that non-native leaseholders are looking for, and indeed native leaseholders because we know that those circumstances exist as well. Again we have the government turning tail and refusing to listen to ordinary Canadians and grassroots aboriginal people about real concerns.

I am going to read into the record a letter that was written by Wendy Lockhart Lundberg who is a Squamish band member. This letter was written to the hon. minister of Indian affairs on January 31:

Dear Minister,

I am a Canadian citizen and status member of the Squamish Nation. I urge you to stop Bill C-49 from becoming legislation.

I did not know that the band council that I elected to represent me signed an agreement regarding land management. I did not know that the Squamish Nation sat before a Senate committee in Ottawa in December, 1998 and made representations on my behalf. I was informed by band council about treaty negotiations which would allow me to participate in an open and democratic process in determining the future of the Squamish Nation.

I am concerned that legislated council power will supersede the band's own land code.

I am concerned that the minimum participation of eligible members required to vote on the land code and process is only 25% which, for the Squamish Nation, currently represents, approximately, the number of members employed by the band.

I am concerned about the consequences of legislation that will not protect women upon marriage breakdown. I am concerned that if Bill C-49 is passed that native women will not have the protection of property division laws equal to all other Canadian women.

I am concerned about the content of Bill C-49, which legislates council power in their opinion to expropriate land. I am concerned that the claim made by my mother, Nona Lockhart, to her father, Henry Baker's property, will never be realized and could be permanently lost through expropriation.

I am concerned that even though my mother was reinstated, pursuant to Bill C-31, that council will continue to exclude her from her property rights. I do not hold hope that if in 14 years they have not returned her property to her that her plight and situation will improve if Bill C-49 is passed. I do not hold hope that if in 14 years they have not welcomed her to return to live among her family and friends on reserve where she was born and raised, that power legislated to council pursuant to Bill C-49 will end the discrimination she has suffered and endured ever since she married a non-native in 1947.

I also want to read into the record a letter from Marcella Baker, also a Squamish Band member, written to Senator Ray Perrault:

Dear Senator Perrault,

This letter comes to you in a state of dismay and disbelief. I have just received a copy of—press release “Liberals Ready to Invoke Closure to Pass Bill C-49” dated February 23, 1999, regarding the above-mentioned proposed legislation.

As a member of the Squamish Nation, I cannot believe that the Government of Canada is going to literally push this piece of discriminating legislation down our throats, without regard to the opposition we have presented to our members of Parliament and yourself.

She wrote to Jane Stewart, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on January 21, 1999—

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5:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Skeena knows that he cannot refer to a minister or a member of the House by his or her name. I would urge him to be careful. He cannot do it even under the guise of reading from another document. He has to be very careful. I know he knows the rule in that regard and just forgot. Perhaps he will be careful.

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5:40 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

I take your point, Mr. Speaker.

She wrote to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on January 21, 1999. The letter goes on:

In this letter, I asked her a set of questions that I thought were legitimate. Yet, with no response from her, it makes me wonder if she operates her department like our elected council operates our affairs, on our behalf.

Isn't that a scary thought? I am hoping that you, as Senator, do not condone the actions of either of these parties.

We have presented our case of non-communication, non-democracy and total opposition to this proposed legislation and we have nowhere else to turn. We will be saddled with legislation that will once again, make native women fight for their rights with their elected chiefs and councils. I am sure that this is not the intention of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. I urge you to please consider stopping this proposed legislation at your level.

I have one more letter to read into the record. This has to do with the expropriation of provisions of this bill. It is written by a real estate agent in Vancouver, Dexter Associates Realty, to a Mr. Less Cosman who is a former resident of the Musqueam reserve:

Dear Les,

Re: 4314 Staulo Crescent, Vancouver, B.C.

Further to our conversation regarding the MLS listing on the above noted property, enclosed please find a copy of the information I have obtained on Bill C-49 and the framework agreement on first nation land management. It is my understanding that Bill C-49 has gone through two readings in the House of Commons; once it has passed a third reading through the Senate, it becomes in full force and effect.

The impact of draft Bill C-49 will have a devastating effect on the value and the marketability of your home. In Section 28.1 of Bill C-49 the Musqueam Band will have the authority to expropriate your home for any band use they may decide upon. In Section 28.5 and 6, which refers to compensation for expropriation, the band would be required to pay fair compensation and of course if you do not feel that it is satisfactory, you may appeal to the band itself, as set out in the framework agreement. Your recourse may have little or no concrete effect. Also the maximum notice for expropriation is 30 days.

Regrettably, I recommend we immediately cease any and all attempts to market your home at this time. In my professional opinion, there will not be any buyer prepared to purchase a property with this type of encumbrance.

There are literally tens of thousands of leaseholders across Canada with leasehold interests on native reserves. Think how they will feel when they wake up and realize that their leasehold interests on reserve lands across Canada have no market value whatsoever; 60,000 in Ontario, 20,000 in British Columbia, tens of thousands across the country and these people here are willing to sell them out. They are not willing to consider the amendments to protect those leaseholders. I say shame on this government.

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5:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on Bill C-49 today and specifically on Bloc Motions Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

These amendments make provisions within the legislation regarding matrimonial property. This was discussed at committee and the B.C. Native Women's Society requested a number of amendments to ensure that provincial standards are met until the land codes, developed by the individual first nations, are established.

Allowing provincial standards to set the minimum standards for dealing with matrimonial property would be welcome if there were not already provisions within the framework agreement to ensure protection in the event of matrimonial breakdowns.

The legislation as it stands allows the first nations to develop their own requirements and standards with regard to matrimonial breakdowns within broad guidelines. If provincial laws are imposed on the first nations, it impedes the objective of this legislation, namely to allow first nations to have greater control over management of their land.

It is important to note that this legislation deals specifically with resources so when discussing matrimonial property, it only includes the land but has no jurisdiction regarding children or financial assets other than property.

While it is important to ensure that matrimonial property is handled fairly for all parties involved should a marriage break down, the land codes developed with community consultation and approval should be enough to ensure that this occurs. A dispute resolution process is also in place should the need for it arise.

These amendments therefore question the objective of this legislation without being necessary to ensure adequate protection for the participants involved in a matrimonial breakdown.

This bill speaks to much more than just matrimonial division of assets in the event of a possible matrimonial breakdown for first nations that have signed this land code. This land code is a far too important piece of legislation to be lost by some of the amendments that have been introduced to it.

I was at an event in Nova Scotia this morning. It was the unveiling of the newest quarter from the Canadian mint. It is a logging coin. The reason I bring this up is that since 1749 my family has been involved in the logging business and the sawmill industry in Nova Scotia. In the 1940s my grandfather ran the last steam mill that was located in New Ross, Nova Scotia where I grew up. In nearly 250 years never once as a landowner in Nova Scotia did we ask anybody if we could cut timber on our own land. Never once beyond the modern environmental guidelines did we ever ask somebody if we had the right to pursue an industry on our own property.

My sons are sixth generation on the small farm I live on. If we want to cut pulp wood, if we want to cut logs, if we want to build a fence, if we want to put in a pasture, if we want to build a road not once have we asked anybody if we could. That is what this deal is about, the ability of first nations to get out from under the umbrella of the Indian Act and to decide for themselves what they want to do on their own property. It is to make sure that they have the ability to do that. Prior to this piece of legislation they did not.

It is a fact the House has to look at. It is high time that we dealt with the subject. We have ignored it for far too long. It is a good piece of legislation and I support it.

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5:50 p.m.

Hamilton Mountain Ontario


Beth Phinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Bill C-49, the first nations land management act, and in opposition to Motion No. 2 in which the hon. member for Saint-Jean wishes to provide an interim matrimonial real property regime.

As this House is aware, the 14 first nations that signed the framework agreement have agreed to spell out rules on matrimonial real property rights that were not included when the agreement was drafted. The bill before us and the agreement spell out that the signatory first nations must establish a community process that will develop rules and procedures for a matrimonial property regime within 12 months from the date the land code takes effect. The rules and procedures cannot discriminate on the basis of sex. In the case where a first nation has not addressed the matter the crown may invoke an arbitrary clause to seek closure from the first nation on its rules and procedures.

According to the bill before us extensive consultations must be taken during the development of the land code to inform and seek the opinions of the community membership. First nations have given strong assurances that as part of their first nations community process they will solicit the input of all on and off reserve members of their community, including aboriginal women. I point out that nothing precludes the community from addressing this issue at the beginning of the land code process. The important point is that the community decides how it will address the issue.

Under the new regime first nations will be able to develop their own rules and procedures on the use and occupancy of their lands by band members, non-band members and non-aboriginal people. As well, a dispute resolution mechanism will be available to both Canada and individual first nation members. Individuals can also challenge the rules before a court.

We should leave it to the first nations, using this process, to develop an appropriate regime to deal with matrimonial property in the case of marital breakdown. The hon. member for Saint-Jean, however, would like to provide for an interim solution while the first nations come to grips with the issue. He would amend the bill to provide an interim matrimonial real property regime until such time as the first nations themselves establish a regime within their land codes.

His motion would remove a basket clause respecting individual agreements that have been negotiated by the parties to cover any other elements to which the first nations and the federal government agreed. That clause is important as it would allow the first nations and Canada the opportunity to adjust for unforeseen circumstances that could arise during the negotiations of individual agreements.

However, the effect of the motion would be to make it mandatory for the first nations and the Government of Canada to include in the individual agreements elements contained in the new amendment. The effect of the amendment is to restrict the elements that would be included in the individual agreement. Therefore we cannot support this amendment.

The issue of the division of matrimonial property in the event of marital breakdown will be resolved by the first nations. The communities themselves will decide. But there is a larger issue at stake here, one that goes beyond the 14 first nations that have ratified the framework agreement and affects all first nations: what can be done to resolve the current vacuum concerning the division of matrimonial property in the Indian Act?

Last June the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced that she was prepared to work in partnership with the aboriginal organizations to assess this issue and to establish a fact finding process with respect to the Indian Act. This process will examine the effects upon breakdown of a marriage on first nations members' rights to real property such as land and homes. Federal officials are now working to establish the fact finding process. Letters of invitation have been sent to the aboriginal partners to participate in a meeting where the terms of reference for the fact finding process will be discussed. The minister will make further announcements on this initiative in the near future.

Clearly then in Bill C-49 we have 14 first nations that will address the issue of real matrimonial property through a community process. Supporting this community process is the right thing to do, rather than having some imposed solution as proposed by these amendments.

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5:55 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, in listening to the debate we cannot correct wrongs against one set of people by implementing rules or bills which work against another group. With all due respect to those members who are from the Ontario area, I do not think for a moment that they understand the impact this bill will have on our province of British Columbia where about 90% of all of the Indian bands are located. I just do not believe that they understand. Even if they do not understand, can they not look at all the letters of protest from the people who are supposed to be their friends? The Liberal Party of B.C. is opposed to this legislation. Two hundred and sixty Squamish band members in my riding have signed petitions, sent me letters or phoned my office in opposition to this bill. Can these members not at least ask themselves the question that perhaps there is something wrong with this bill?

Three mayors in north and west Vancouver and the union of B.C. municipalities are now opposed to it, contrary to what was said by a member earlier this afternoon who was reading historical material. It was because the union of B.C. municipalities did not understand the implications of the bill.

When some of the mayors started to talk to the UBCM and said what about this and what about that, suddenly they became aware of the implications.

I read from the Vancouver


of Saturday. There was a major article about this bill in which band members were quoted. Squamish band member Wendy Lockart Lundberg says federal Reform members are the only elected officials who have helped her and other native women concerned about this bill.

Reformers are also the only members who have taken seriously the concerns of the mayors of the municipalities in our region. I have spoken to Liberal members on the other side, a few of them from the Vancouver region. They know the problems with this bill. They have spoken also with the mayors in their areas. Some of them have even been to the meetings of the Musqueam leaseholders. They know this bill is defective. They would like to see it changed and they have told me that they have tried to get that message through to the minister.

It is a shame that the minister is being so obstinate about the bill. I just do not understand why they will not make a few simple amendments to the bill that would make it possible for us to support it. The basic idea of the bill is excellent. Everybody agrees this is the right thing to do, but we cannot have expropriations that do not have to comply with the Expropriation Act.

Elders on the Squamish reserve are afraid that their own chiefs will expropriate their certificates of possession, their right to live in the homes on the reserve. We cannot pass a bill that allows that to happen.

The municipalities are concerned that the land code can be developed in complete isolation of the surrounding communities. That just does not happen at a provincial level. The municipalities of West Vancouver, the district of North Vancouver and the city of North Vancouver must consult with one another. There is no veto power, but when there is a new development they must consult. That is what should be happening in the bill.

I would like to read from a piece which appeared in the North Shore


this last Wednesday because it involves the Minister of National Revenue. We just saw the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue stand to support the bill. Yet her boss knows nothing about the bill. He does not understand it.

He met with the three North Shore mayors in North Vancouver just prior to last Wednesday and told them they could appear as witnesses at the committee. The hearings are already done. It is all finished. Here is the minister, from a Vancouver area riding right in the middle of the problems, and he does not know which way is up.

The mayor of West Vancouver, Pat Boname, whose husband ran against the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast as a Liberal, a self-confessed Liberal, a card carrying Liberal, said, as quoted in the Vancouver


on Saturday, that it was a genuine concern, not a Reform ploy. That is what West Vancouver Mayor Pat Boname said of the mayor's request that the bill be amended to require bands to consult with neighbouring communities before undertaking major development.

The member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast and I organized a meeting in late January with great difficulty. We managed to get Chief Bill Williams to come along and we met with the three mayors. At that meeting the chief indicated that we would be entering a new era of consultation and co-operation.

A week and a half later the chief is on the front page of the North Vancouver newspaper turning sod on a new housing area, 380 housing units. He had not mentioned it a week and a half earlier to the mayor of West Vancouver who has to provide all the policing, ambulance, sewer and water services, all the services that have to be provided. After he said that there would be a new era of consultation he did not even mention it to her when he had the opportunity.

That is why the bill needs a requirement for consultation. It is not a veto. It is just so people know what is going on. The difference between the Burrard band and the Squamish band in my riding disappoints me greatly. The Burrard band has good relationships with the chief. He is very progressive. I have had lunch with him. We get on well. We can talk. We do not agree on anything but we can talk, and that is what it is all about. It is a completely different attitude from that of the Squamish band.

I am terribly disappointed the chief cannot see that the best way to achieve his goals would be to sit down with people and talk about them. The Squamish reserve is probably the most valuable piece of land in the entire country with beautiful views of downtown Vancouver, spectacular views of downtown Vancouver. There is nothing wrong with developing and earning a living from that land and doing what the Squamish band wants to do, but it cannot be done in isolation from the rest of the community.

West Vancouver does not go ahead and build roads and high-rises without talking to neighbouring districts. We do not want that to happen here. We want harmony in the community and the harmony comes from talking together, not from acting as if it is a separate nation. Unfortunately that is the kind of attitude that we are getting.

I would certainly be remiss if I did not recognize people like Marcie Baker from the Squamish reserve and one of the elders, Maizie, who has worked so hard with the people on the reserve. When they first came to my office in December to ask me how parliament worked and about the bill, we provided them with copies and helped them get information about it. How they have worked on that reserve to build the support levels, the understanding, and how they have pleaded with their chief to at least call a meeting to explain the bill. It has never happened. I offered to go down and be part of that meeting. I never had an invitation.

Why is it that we only have letters opposed to the bill? Where are all the letters of government members that are in favour of the bill? Where are their petitions in favour of the bill? How come there are only letters against it? Does that not ask a question? Could there be something wrong here? That comes back to the beginning when I stood.

Supposed friends of the government, the Liberal Party of B.C., oppose the bill. The municipalities of the greater Vancouver area are opposed to it. The leaseholders on the Musqueam reserve and native band members themselves are opposed to the bill. There is something dreadfully wrong with that scenario, especially when the government side cannot produce a single letter or a single petition to support their side, other than from chiefs, often unelected chiefs. They are bulldozing ahead with it.

I will say in closing that I was very impressed with the land code that was produced by the Muskoday, the first exposure that I had to the type of land code that there could be. I would sincerely hope that such a good land code could be adopted in the Vancouver area for the bands that are affected. Unfortunately the present climate is not conducive to the development of that sort of land code. The band members themselves are expressing concern that they will not have the input that they should have.

I would like to ask the government one more time to please slow down, stop for a little while, have some more committee hearings and get some more input before we proceed with what is basically an excellent idea. It just needs a few amendments.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it seems like the Liberals do not want to hear it out in the field and they do not want to hear it in the House so we have closure everywhere on Bill C-49.

The member for Saint-Jean, our colleague, has shown more concern and more initiative in looking after the needs and concerns of native women than all members opposite. It puts the government to shame.

Members opposite have said that the current climate easily divides the assets of a family breaking up on a reserve. That is just great, except that the assets do not include the family home. I ask which is more important: a car, a few pieces of furniture, or a home where people can live and where children can be raised. That is entirely important.

We took a long second look at the legislation and saw that we would have a patchwork of rights. There will be no legal standard applied from reserve to reserve. That might be okay if there were no movement from reserve to reserve. I have talked to native women who have grown up on one reserve, married someone from another reserve and found out that they did not have the rights they thought they would have as married women. We do not think that is right.

We see the results of family breakdown in cities across the country. My own offices are in the downtown cores of two of the major towns in my constituency, right across from a bar in one case, and I see what homelessness does to people. The need is really extreme. People need to have a home. This legislation could be improved. Nobody would lose by adopting an amendment like this one. The Reform Party will be supporting the amendments. They will do the work for the bands that needs to be done.

The parliamentary secretary has indicated that the minister is willing to work on this problem. That is good, but for a year or two or three nothing will be done. If the legislation was 10 years in the works, how long will it be before we get legislation from the minister? In the meantime we have this patchwork legislation. Provincial laws cannot be adopted by the bands, but if they were made into federal laws that could be done.

They talk about the values of a community as if the values of a community were paramount, over and above the need of children to have hope. What are the values of a community that does not involve children? We cannot talk about one without the other.

They talk about discrimination on the basis of sex, that it does not happen. They should not talk to me about that. How many native women have I had in my office who have talked about losing their rights because they married outside the band? That has been partially given back, not fully. Land is given to the bands in their name and they are not even living on the reserve. Or, if they want the benefits, they have to move to some remote reserve. Is that equality? Give us all a break.

I want to raise another issue. We can talk about giving them freedom, which is good, but let me point out that government members interfere all the time in the affairs of the provinces as has been recently brought out. They defer to individual bands of 200 or 300 people or 1,000 people because they cannot be a threat to the authority of the Liberal government, but when it comes to the provinces there can be interference with all kinds of different rulings. They have to make sure the authority of the Liberal government is paramount when it comes to the provinces.

I would like to read something said by the Prime Minister when he was minister of aboriginal affairs in 1969. He indicated that Indian relations with other Canadian peoples began as special treatment by government and society and special treatment had been the rule since Europeans first settled in Canada. He said that special treatment had made of the Indians a community disadvantaged and apart and that obviously the course of history must be changed.

Further he stated that the Government of Canada believed its policies must lead to full, free and non-discriminatory participation of Indian people in Canadian society. Such a goal, he indicated, required a break with the past and that the Indian people's role as dependants be replaced by a role of equal status, opportunity and responsibility, a role they could share with all other Canadians.

With these few amendments we are looking for some equality and responsibility, the responsibility to consult and equality in the breakup of a marriage. These are good things. These are not bad or difficult things. They should be accepted by people of good will.

I would also quote an elder from the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College talking about the problem of entrusting band councils to develop divorce laws. He said that the problem with entrusting band councils to develop divorce laws was that traditional customs were vague.

If the customs are vague and it is acknowledged by one of their leaders in the federated college, why in the world is it not seen as problematic by the federal Liberal Party? It should allow the new amendments to go through which will protect and enhance not only the bill but people which the bill purports to benefit.

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.15 p.m., pursuant to the order made earlier this day, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith all questions necessary to dispose of report stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on Motion No. 2. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?