Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Bill C-49, the first nations land management act. In particular, I would like to address Motion No. 6, the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Skeena. This amendment would require the 14 first nations signatories to consult with their neighbouring jurisdictions on their land codes.
Neighbouring municipalities would not be consulted when the land codes are developed by the first nations. For one, neighbouring jurisdictions have not been defined. We would have to define and limit who is included in neighbouring jurisdictions which would create an unworkable consultation requirement.
More important, these land codes are beyond the jurisdiction of neighbouring jurisdictions. Why should municipalities have the right to review what is the internal working document of a first nation? Would we expect any municipality to accept such a paternalistic system? Of course not. Therefore this proposed amendment from the opposition suggests it believes that first nations cannot be trusted, that they must be held to a higher standard than other communities in Canada.
This is not the first time the opposition has suggested during debate of this bill that first nations need to be subject to a different set rules from other Canadian jurisdictions. This is not the first time the opposition has said that the 14 signatories to this bill cannot be entrusted with powers of governance. In particular, the opposition has voiced exaggerated claims regarding the powers of the 14 signatories to expropriate reserve lands.
In the course of second reading and again in committee questions arose about the ability of first nations to expropriate any existing interest in their reserve lands with the recourse available to individuals whose interests are being expropriated.
Currently the Indian Act gives authority to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to expropriate reserve land for the first nation's benefit under section 18 for the general welfare of the band. The bill before us delegates similar expropriation powers to the signatory first nations.
I would emphasize that expropriation powers are an essential power of governance and are a necessary facet of land management. As such, these powers have been provided for in Bill C-49. The power of expropriation being delegated to the signatory first nations is similar—and I emphasize similar—to the expropriation power that is delegated by the provinces to ministers, to municipalities or to boards of school trustees.
It is important to emphasize that the expropriation power provided for in this bill is not mandatory. Each first nation community will decide whether or not this power will be an element of the first nation's land management powers.
In the case of the Chippewas of Georgina Island the Mississaugas of Scugog Island, these communities have both decided not to exercise their expropriation powers in their land codes.
The Muskoday First Nation has chosen to implement expropriation powers and has addressed the issue in accordance with the framework agreement.
When a first nation chooses to implement the power of expropriation it must do so through its community developed land code. The land code sets out the specifics of the new land management regime for each first nation.
The land code includes basic laws that will govern land and interests in land and resources after the land provisions of the Indian Act are withdrawn from the community. It will also include the rules and procedures that will apply to the use and occupancy of first nation land and to the transfer by testamentary disposition or succession of any interest in the land. As well, it will include provisions related to first nation lawmaking, land exchange procedures, conflicts of interest, dispute resolution, procedures for amending the land code and expropriation.
In other words, the responsibility and procedure for expropriation is being removed from the minister and placed, along with other aspects of land management, in the hands of the communities where they belong.
A first nation with a land code in effect has the right to expropriate interest in first nation lands without consent if deemed by the first nation council to be necessary for community works or other first nation purposes.
In exercising any power of expropriation the first nation must meet the test of community purpose. A first nation with a land code in effect has the right to expropriate interest in first nation lands without consent only if it is deemed by the first nation council to be necessary for community works such as roads, water, sewer treatment facilities and hydro transmissions or other first nation purposes such as hospitals, day care centres, fire halls, schools and health centres. This does not allow for arbitrary expropriation.
First nations must justify any expropriation, just as provincial and municipal governments must. Further, any expropriation must be justifiable before the courts and Canadian jurisprudence.
The bill before us requires that in exercising these powers first nations provide fair compensation based on the rules set out in the Expropriation Act. This act provides that compensation is based on fair market value and that this value will be determined based on the value of the interest prior to the knowledge or expectation of expropriation. In other words, an expected expropriation will have neither positive nor negative effects on fair market value. Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are available to those persons who want to challenge the rationale for first nations expropriation. The court is also available for the same kind of challenge.
I want to repeat that the power of expropriation that is being delegated to the signatory first nations is no different from the expropriation power of federal and provincial governments and public and private organizations such as municipalities, school boards, universities and hospitals. Canadians know that this power is invoked in the interest of the community. They know that those who have property expropriated will be compensated.
The expropriation regime for first nations is different in that the community is consulted extensively during the development of the rules and procedures that will be applied for the expropriation.
Under this bill and the framework agreement a first nation wishing to implement expropriation powers will have to develop the specifics of their powers in consultation with the community and then seek the community's approval of the proposed powers in a community-wide vote. The powers are not automatically in place. This approval process is by far the most stringent approval process in Canada respecting the development of governance, expropriation powers and land codes. It allows every member of the participating first nations a voice in deciding if a proposed land code meets with the values of their individual communities.
I remind all members that the first nations communities themselves will decide in their land code whether they will exercise the power to expropriate and how it will be exercised. As stated earlier, we have already seen some cases, namely the Chippewas of Georgina Island and the Mississaugas of Scugog Island, where first nations have decided not to implement expropriation provisions in their land codes.
I emphasize that both the first nations and Canada have ensured that the framework agreement and this legislation provide for the protection of third party interests. Both stipulate that any existing third party interests will continue in force according to their terms and conditions. As is the case now, upon expropriation of the existing terms and conditions, the disposition of those interests will be subject to negotiations between the first nations and the third party. However, third party interests will not be exempted from expropriation. Everyone in Canada is subject to the power of expropriation.
I urge the House to support Bill C-49.