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.