They say that I am endorsing the Liberal Party. One never knows. I may just be a provincial Liberal in British Columbia. The nice thing is that they do not endorse the federal Liberals.
This person is going to be the next premier of that province. If they do not want to listen to us on that side, maybe they should listen to somebody who has a deep concern about this bill. I want to read the letter into the record.
The letter is to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
I am writing to express my concerns about Bill C-49, the First Nations Land Management Act, which federal Opposition members have rightly argued must be addressed through corrective amendments.
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. Under section 17, First Nations will have the ability to establish “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”.
Members opposite say that this is wrong, but we on this side, along with Gordon Campbell from British Columbia, speak from a bit of knowledge and not from the notes the minister gave these people to read when they walked in here.
The letter goes on to state:
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.
The Act should specifically stipulate that the land codes authorizing the new rules governing property rights will accord equal treatment to both sexes, in keeping with property division laws of general application. There should be no possibility that the rules established by First Nations will allow for any potential discrimination.
Second, 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.
I understand you have said that you will only approve land codes that ensure expropriation powers cannot be abused. With respect, that assurance offers little comfort.
I will re-read that:
With respect, that assurance offers little comfort. I trust you are sincere, but the fact remains, leaseholders will not have any real protection from expropriation under the Act. And past experience suggests that it is not good enough to rely on Ministerial discretion in protecting property rights.
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 those leases to the band. That commitment was not honoured. 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.
I note that Bill C-49 includes a number of sections that will guarantee First Nations' land cannot be expropriated by the Government of Canada without a rigorous justification and appeal process. That same level of protection should be extended to all leaseholders living on the reserves in question.
Finally, the Act should be amended to ensure that neighbouring municipalities are adequately consulted by First Nations in the development of their land codes. There appears to be no assurance in Bill C-49 that the communities adjacent to reserves will have a right to be consulted, despite the fact that they will be heavily impacted by the First Nations' land codes. That is simply unacceptable and must be corrected.
I urge you to give careful consideration to the amendments proposed by the federal Reform Party and others, to correct the flaws in Bill C-49.
That letter comes from Mr. Gordon Campbell, the leader of the opposition and the person whom we hope will soon be premier of British Columbia.
All I hear in response from the group over there is that it is not true, that that is not the way it happens, that it cannot be.
Members of the NDP are panicking because we want them out of office in British Columbia. Imagine. They were in twice too many times. That is why they are always a minority in the House.
Here we have it. A few Liberals in the House are trying to make like they know what they are talking about. British Columbians, not just the Reform Party but people from all walks of life are saying there are problems in the bill, but the Liberals do not listen. I guess that is what we have come to know in western Canada as western alienation.
I understand the Liberals have a 10 or 12 member committee going to western Canada to find out what is alienating us. It is this kind of attitude, this kind of atmosphere in the House of Commons by this government toward the west that creates western alienation. The Liberals say that it is nonsense and rubbish, but they have just a few seats in British Columbia because we are sick and tired of the Liberal government telling us the way it is going to be in our province without listening.
The minister comes into the House with this bill. The Liberals slap it on the table saying that we are going to have to live with it because the government is going to use time allocation and it is going to short everybody on the issues in British Columbia. Is it any wonder that British Columbians will never ever again elect Liberals the way they elect Reformers.