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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.

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The House resumed from February 1 consideration of Bill C-49, an act providing for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the framework agreement on first nation land management, as reported (with amendment) from the committee; and of Motions Nos. 1, 6 and 7.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1 p.m.

Reform

Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking to the report stage of Bill C-49. The vote just taken shows that the opposition is united in opposing this frequent abuse of democracy in invoking time allocation. I think this is the 48th time this has been done since the Liberals came to power. This bill is certainly far too important to succumb to that type of action.

For many years big power has been wielded by Ottawa with respect to first nations, with a little power being wielded by the band leadership and no power at all devolving to the rank and file natives.

With the passage of this bill we see Ottawa's power being devolved somewhat, the bands have increased some power and it turns out that rank and file natives still do not have any power. This parliament also seems powerless to do anything about this.

Bill C-49 purports to devolve municipal type powers to bands and it does allow some local decision making. It removes judicial protection from bands. People pursuing legal revenues will at least have to fight the band and not Ottawa. These are some positive things that we have seen in this legislation.

However, when we were in committee we heard concerns from lessees and women's groups who were concerned about their rights under this legislation. We did hear that the minister had launched a fact finding process into property disposition on reserve when marriages break down, and we welcome that initiative. We urge the minister to make this a priority, make the results public and to act on any recommendations that may arise from this initiative. We want to see involvement by national and provincial native women's groups in the consulting process.

The Bloc Quebecois has independently introduced an amendment which will be the next amendment discussed under this fast track process that has just been initiated.

We have had a major concern addressed during committee stage hearings. The proposed legislation may fall under section 35 of the Constitution and we are grateful that the act now contains a proviso that it will not qualify as a land claim.

We noted this deficiency. We proposed the amendment and it is now included in the bill. Support for the amendment was sought and obtained and it is now included. This required the support of the chiefs, their advisers and all party support in committee. We appreciate the fact that there was no opposition to it. It was hard for those people to support the amendment and credit is due to those who worked to bring it about.

I had a discussion with the chief of the Muskoday reserve which is in my riding near the city of Prince Albert. I would like to point out that 101 women on the reserve signed a letter which would not qualify as a petition in this House but I indicated I would speak about it while I am speaking to Bill C-49.

The letter's main features are that the women want this House to know that B.C. native women do not speak for them regardless of the merit of their case. They are not in favour of the attempted injunction by that group. They are in support of Bill C-49 and feel that matrimonial lands and property questions were addressed in their land code. I would say this has more to do with the good relations that exist on that reserve than any benefits contained in the land code itself. The women of the reserve and the council seem to have a good accord with one another.

Unfortunately this is not always the case on every reserve and the Bloc amendment is set to address that concern. The Reform Party will continue to be the voice of those who have no voice in Ottawa.

Since those goods times of committee, events have overtaken the bill. The Muskoday reserve situation in B.C. has raised serious concern over the lack of consultation on reserves and communities and with those who reside in them. The municipalities in the Vancouver area are concerned there is no formal consultation clause in the bill. That means development can take place without adequate consultation.

Prior to becoming a member of parliament, I was a Saskatchewan land surveyor and as a land surveyor I know the importance of well defined property lines in never mind ameliorating a dispute but avoiding disputes. This bill does not define the limits between municipalities surrounding a reserve and the reserves themselves. What will happen, and we are quite positive of this, is this will lead to no end of difficulties between reserves and the surrounding municipalities.

When one looks at the Musqueam situation it would never have arisen had it been a requirement to consult on a regular basis instead of everybody encamping and holding firm to the fortress of their position without ever hearing what the other side's concerns were. I believe that had that been put in place at the time the agreements and leases were signed, we would not see the difficulties we see today.

We look at what the government is up against in having forced this legislation through. Two hundred and thirty people signed a petition from the Squamish band alone. They are opposed to the legislation. Why did the government impose time allocation knowing about the 230 people from just one reserve that requires really only 12.5% of the members of the reserve to approve a land code? A federal court case has been filed by the B.C. native women's society demanding amendments.

While I appreciate that the minister will be looking into it, what will happen when the court case proceeds and if the government is found wanting? There have been warnings from B.C. mayors that the bill could create planning chaos. Anyone who knows anything about the planning process knows that one tries to get wide consultation and agreement on plans prior to their implementation. There are sewers, water, roads, telephones, power lines, gas lines and all kinds of infrastructure that will not be prepared or that will be ill placed as a result of development that does not proceed hand in hand with wide open consultation.

To say that the goodwill of people is all that is required is somewhat naive. Everywhere we go there is legislation to govern relations between people. This bill has not provided that. We can see that in the type of opposition that is coming from it, real estate agents from Vancouver and area, non-native residents on reserve. The legislation makes homes owned by non-natives on Indian lands unmarketable. They cannot get rid of them. Why? There was no agreement which allowed prices to rise with the market and all of a sudden they have a huge adjustment and no one can move on it.

The government says there is no interest on the part of Reform in any constructive change to the legislation at this point. I beg to disagree. The amendment we are proposing calls on the government to consult and the bands to consult even prior to developing with an ongoing consultation which has to occur so that we can know what the limits of development are. It is a very important amendment. It is not one that was lightly put forward by the opposition. We take it very seriously and we will continue to bring these points forth as the bill proceeds.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—Assiniboine, MB

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.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a little difficult to address this issue with members opposite after listening to the speech that was just given. One wonders in this country why we talk about western alienation. I do not think that many members opposite have much of an understanding of exactly what the problem is. It is interesting that when they do not understand the problem they seem to say that Reformers are wrong or that Reformers did it for some terrible reason and that they are opposed to this. That is not the case and in the next few minutes I will show the House why I believe that.

A short time ago we all witnessed time allocation for the 48th time in the last two sessions of this House. Time allocation is basically when the government says that it will limit debate on a bill because it does not see it as being important enough to debate. Or the government may feel that the bill may be too hot to handle and will impose time allocation limits on the debate so the folks out there do not really catch on to what is happening. Today we had another time allocation vote, which of course the majority government won. That happened after one day of debate on this issue in the House of Commons. Just one day. That is a shame. It is really despicable, but again what do we do with a majority government? One day we hope to change that.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Members opposite do not like to hear that, but we are going to change it.

In the event that those long lost people on the other side do not think others agree with us, I will read from a letter given to me by the leader of the official opposition in British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, who will no doubt be the premier of that province after the next election.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

He is endorsing the Liberal Party.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

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.

Dear Minister,

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.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to Motion No. 7, the amendment to Bill C-49 proposed by the hon. member for Skeena.

This amendment would delete the names of the 14 first nations from the schedule and in effect would make it an empty schedule. We will not be supporting this motion. It is absolutely necessary that the schedule identify the 14 participating first nations. If they are deleted from the schedule, no first nations can opt in, rendering the act inoperable. The proposed amendment suggests that the first nations can opt in through section 45 of the act but section 45 does not come into force until four or five years after the first nation has opted in.

I am sure hon. members will share my disbelief over the logic of this proposed amendment. This is not useful or even workable as an amendment. It does not improve the bill. In fact it would only serve to change the commitments made in the framework agreement.

I want to take a moment to remind hon. members why this bill is being enacted and why it is a positive piece of legislation for first nations.

The new land management regime outlined in the framework agreement empowers participating first nations to opt out of the land management sections of the Indian Act and establish their own legal regime to manage their own lands and resources. This bill will facilitate the exercise of first nations government as far as lands and resources are concerned. It gives the 14 first nations the authority to pass laws for the development, conservation, protection, management, use and possession of their lands. The crown continues to hold the title to the lands but the jurisdiction and authority to manage that land will now lie with the communities themselves.

The first nations will no longer need to get approval from the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to promote economic development on their own lands. This bill is an innovative way to establish an alternative land management regime to give 14 first nations control over their lands and natural resources.

As stated at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, this bill is about first nations accountability, capacity building and economic development. Most important, this bill is part of a first nations community driven process that culminates here in the House of Commons.

This bill does not create a third order of government. The framework agreement that it puts into effect gives first nations the powers, rights and privileges of a landowner. I am sure no members in the House would tolerate in their own lives and businesses the kind of red tape the Indian Act imposes upon aboriginal land management.

The framework agreement will get these 14 first nations out from under these provisions. It will give them a new degree of flexibility. They will be able to get on with the task of building the economy in their communities.

The framework agreement provides first nations with greater control over their future. They will have greater autonomy and control over land and revenues in their area. The new land regime does not fundamentally alter the crown's fiduciary relationship with the first nations. However, when first nations exercise their new authority, the crown's fiduciary obligations respecting those new authorities will diminish.

This bill establishes a framework for accountability. The 14 first nations will establish a framework that defines accountability both toward the government and toward their communities.

I want to thank the hon. member for South Shore in particular for his remarks at second reading about the accountability provisions of this legislation. I fully agree with him when he said that this is a very positive piece of legislation.

Following the extensive debate this bill received at second reading, it was brought before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development where it received support from many witnesses from the first nations communities.

The committee also received correspondence from Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Mr. Fontaine described this bill as unique and an important first step, but he also pointed out that this legislation will not initiate or impose change. I am quoting when I say “the act merely provides the opportunity for these 14 first nations communities to initiate change at the pace and in the direction established by their community”. That is important to note.

One of the issues raised in committee was the question of matrimonial property. I remind the House that the government has taken this issue very seriously. That is why the department has called a second meeting with aboriginal organizations to work in partnership to identify an individual who will conduct an independent fact finding process to investigate the issue of matrimonial property as it relates to reserve lands.

If there is a broader context in which this bill should be placed, it should be seen as part of the government's agenda to respond to longstanding issues that have held back aboriginal communities for generations, issues raised in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. These are the issues that the government addressed nearly a year ago when it tabled its aboriginal action plan, Gathering Strength. The action plan has four objectives. Each of them has a bearing on the bill before us. The four objectives are: renewing partnerships; strengthening aboriginal governance; developing a new fiscal relationship; and supporting strong communities, peoples and economies.

The framework agreement and this bill to implement it provide renewed partnerships and through new co-operative relationships with other levels of government and the private sector, the first objective. They help create new governance mechanisms through increased lawmaking powers and accountability, the second objective.

In fact the framework agreement provides opportunities to help build the capacity of first nations communities for self-government. It gives an opportunity for first nations peoples to demonstrate that they have the skills and knowledge required for accountable, democratic and efficient government structures.

These first nations will develop their own source of revenue and those who manage the process will remain accountable to the community for their actions. This relates to the third objective of Gathering Strength which is to develop a new fiscal relationship.

Control over lands and resources provides a foundation for stronger communities based on healthy economies. That is the fourth objective of Gathering Strength.

Land and resources provide opportunities for first nations. All too often these opportunities have not been tapped because first nations are hamstrung by the provisions of the Indian Act concerning land and resources. Local control over reserve lands will mean that first nations will be able to take advantage of economic development opportunities, and well that should be.

The benefits will also spread to neighbouring communities that will prosper from economic development spinoffs. We will see an end to the situation where transactions that off reserve might take a matter of weeks can go on for months when they involve first nations land.

New partnerships will be forged between the first nations and surrounding communities. That too is important to note and is worthy of our support.

I should add that the consultations on the development of this legislation have been ongoing since 1996. Canada has met with all affected provinces as well as other stakeholder groups such as the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the Ontario Association of Cottage Owners.

The framework agreement that this bill provides is a win-win-win situation. The first nations communities win; they obtain the flexibility they need to build their economies. The government wins because the bill reduces the minister's day to day involvement in the routine decisions of land management and it meets the government's objectives of helping to build the capacity for self-government in first nations. The local non-aboriginal communities also win as the first nations begin to generate jobs and economic growth on Indian land, thereby contributing to the broader economy.

I thank all hon. members for providing lively discussion and understanding and I ask them to join me in supporting this very worthwhile bill.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I stand here to speak on behalf of the aboriginal people in my community.

It is very interesting that in the Vancouver Sun this weekend a person by the name of Kelly Acton quoted as being a spokeswoman for the Indian affairs minister said, “The minister believes concerns about the legislation were met when it was being studied by the Commons Indian affairs committee at which time the government accepted one amendment from Reform”. She suggested that recent attacks on the legislation by Reform Party members were insincere. I say to Kelly Acton, if that is the kind of advice she is offering to the Indian affairs minister, no wonder the Indian affairs minister is so mixed up.

I have in hand just three of many letters my office has received from grassroots aboriginal people. I want to read them into the record. I know they are watching this on CPAC as we speak. They want their voices heard in this House. We know this government does not want their voices heard in this House because it keeps coming in with closure and stifling debate. For the 48th time it has stopped debate in this House. It does not want their voices in this House.

I am taking the next couple of minutes to give these people a voice in this Chamber, not that I expect the Liberals to listen but at least they will have had their say. The people of Canada will also know that there is a bankruptcy on the part of the Indian affairs minister in the way this legislation is being brought forth.

The first letter, dated February 11, to myself is from Jeannette George from the Lower Kootenay Indian Band. She says:

I am very concerned about Bill C-49 and what I've just read on its powers over ownership, management and expropriation of band lands.

I would like to know, who is going to protect us when we speak out against our chief or council? Are we going to be kicked off the reserve for speaking our minds? This is already happening right now on this reserve because a person brought up issues on housing and land and how they were being handled here. They gave her two weeks for her and her young children to get off the reserve.

I myself had my three children taken away because I tried to find out what was going on with the housing here and why we had to pay such high rent.

It seems to me that this band is already doing what is being talked about in Bill C-49. This really concerns me when I think about the land and the money that will be coming to the band after the land claims are settled. I am worried that most of the families here will be no better off and everything will end up going to certain families only. I ask you to think about the rest of us when you are deciding.

P.S.—I just watched the Prime Minister on TV talking about the homeless in this country. If this bill passes we too might be the next homeless.

I know this woman. She speaks from experience. She speaks from a position of having challenged the chief and council and having had her family taken away from her for doing so. It was only through the intervention of B.C. social services that she got her children back. That is what this government is putting this person through.

This letter is from Sharon Willicome, also from the Lower Kootenay Indian Band:

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the proposed Bill C-49 and thank you for bringing this issue to my attention.

These comments will be brief but are sincere and based upon personal experiences therefore should justify some consideration during the debate on this matter.

First, it is mind boggling to think a piece of legislation is being proposed and in its third reading where such a tremendous lack of public information and public input exist. This matter seems to exist within a vacuum of informed public input while surrounded by the cloud of treaty negotiations and settlements. Are they not of equal importance and value for to have such significant impact on native communities impacts on non-native equally as well?

Second, based upon recent personal experiences with abuses of a local band council's power and the inability of the Department of Indian Affairs to ensure the Indian Act is being administered according to law, the only remedy for fair mediation is now in the courts. How will both residential/commercial interests of native and non-native people be protected under the proposed legislation? What fair remedy will exist to protect those rights?

At this time in history and the restoration of native communities is this legislation premature, opening the door to corruption and greater abuses on reserves? What mechanism of accountability will exist?

I strongly urge the Members of Parliament to table this proposed piece of legislation, call for further public consultation from all sides of the issue with well informed input from the ones who will be affected. There is too much at stake and too much to lose.

I know the issue that aboriginal constituent is raising in that letter has been brought personally by me to the attention of the minister. The third letter is dated February 13 and reads:

As you know, the Tobacco Plains Indian Band has experienced many problems over the last couple of years, and among those is the issue of land ownership on the Reserve. In reference to the recent information I have received regarding the little publicized and controversial Bill C-49, I would like to share with you some of the situations we have encountered within our Band and one of the others in the Ktunaxa Nation.

On the Tobacco Plains Reserve, at least nine homes and the Band Office have been on bottled water for the past five years. The water source supplying the homes and office is contaminated with the cryptosporydium virus, similar to E coli, and is unsuitable for drinking. The Band has been supplying water coolers and bottled water to everyone at a cost of approximately $45 per month per household, with the Office being slightly higher, thereby paying more than $5,000 a year for drinking water.

In an effort to solve the water problem, the past Band Manager had several wells drilled in various places around the Reserve. Water was found here and there, but there was never enough of it or it was unsuitable for drinking. The drillers were on Band owned land, and had found good, clean water with a sufficient flow when someone who lived there started screaming at them to leave and get off off “their land”. They left and went to Elizabeth Gravelle's land, which is also currently supplying the contaminated water. They found clean water and lots of it.

Now, Indian Affairs (BC Region) have told Liz that her land will be expropriated “for the good of the Band” and have offered her $18,000 for the land easement and water rights, even though she has made it clear that she is not interested in selling her land. She has offered to lease or rent, but she is told `no', that they will take her land. Elizabeth and her heirs are strongly opposed to this land transaction, and want to know why their land is being taken when the Band has land of its own that is just as suitable for the intended purpose. She has no chance to voice her concerns, and has no choice but to begin discussions with a lawyer to try to keep her land. Elizabeth is 76 years old, lives on a pension, and has very little money to put toward legal fees to fight the expropriation process. It will be a long and arduous battle that she may very well lose in the end.

If Bill C-49 were passed, she would lose her land. It would be taken from her and her heirs, without them being able to protest. The Band would have its land, and an old lady would not.

In another example, a woman who was born a St. Mary's Band Member cannot inherit her family's land because she is a woman. Her brother is the family's last living male; he is older than she is, and in poor health. She was told that when her brother dies, the land will become the property of the St. Mary's Band. In order to inherit the land, her son had to transfer his membership from his own Band, Tobacco Plains, to St. Mary's so that there would be a living male to accept the inheritance.

Bill C-49 would, again, take this woman's land from her and give it to a Band and Council that already has enough of their own land.

There are no good reasons for the land transaction, but it would be done. It is already ridiculous enough in itself that a woman stands to lose what belonged to her family simply because she is a woman. Bill C-49 wipes out 100 years of progress for women, and brings forth yet another prejudice to divide the Indian people. It is but another opportunity for the elite to govern the lives of the oppressed. It gives even more power and control to those who have already failed to demonstrate a sense of responsibility to bring unity, fairness, and equality for all. It will result in a greater wedge of mistrust between the people and the leaders who, already, do not meet these expectations.

She wants me to send her any updated information. The updated information is that the Liberals do not really care about any of my constituents.

The Liberals have decided that they will steamroller this entire effort through the House of Commons, with closure at report stage where we are trying to bring in some responsible, rational and reasonable amendments so the bill would not be the dog's dinner it presently is.

The House will note that all three of these letters were from aboriginal women who are saying to me face to face: “We don't understand. The Indian affairs minister is a woman. Why doesn't she understand the plight we find ourselves in? We take a look at this entire issue and we ask where in the world is the government going and why”.

We see the reaction of backbenchers when the minister tells the whip that they must all stand and vote accordingly. What about these women? The Liberals do not care. That is really frustrating to me as I listen to the people in my constituency.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The hon. member is engaging in discussion which should be on the next motion dealing with the matrimonial question and women's rights.

We are still on the first motion and I would suggest respectfully that the member's comments are somewhat out of order.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I ask the member to stay on the motion as far as possible.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, the point is that I cannot get up on the next motion because Liberal members have brought in closure and I will not have an opportunity to do that. They know that. They are the people who have shut down the debate in the House. That is really light weight.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Bill C-49, the first nations land management act. As a member of the standing committee I will point out a number of things with regard to the amendments presented today.

The bill is a very important step for the 14 signatories who have worked hard to negotiate the framework agreement. Hon. members will appreciate the impact of the bill and that the framework agreement extends beyond individuals communities and their relationships with the federal government. Third parties are affected.

Over the course of past months we have seen considerable discussion and the impact land codes made possible under the bill may have on provinces, municipal governments and individual tenants on first nation lands. There has been some misunderstanding and I would like to set the record straight.

I will address the issues of each of these third parties. The theme is common to all. Even though the third parties have no direct say in the creation or ratification of the land codes, they have been and will be kept well informed of the process for creating a first nations land management regime.

I will outline the issues raised by the provincial governments affected. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick are not signatories to the framework agreement because the issues addressed are within federal jurisdiction. However the new regimes provide for the participation of provinces in matters that normally fall within or could affect their jurisdiction such as the administration of justice, environmental protection and assessment.

Both federal and first nation representatives consulted with these provinces throughout the development of the framework agreement in the bill before us. Moreover, the provinces which do not have participating first nations have also been informed of the new regime. We consulted on the issue by removing provincial expropriation powers. We consulted on the extent of the expropriation powers for first nations. We consulted on environmental protection regimes.

The framework agreement and the bill reflect a balance that has been struck as a result of taking provincial interests and needs into account.

The bottom line is that we have been consulting with the provinces on an ongoing basis to resolve these issues to the greatest extent possible. We consulted the province of British Columbia regarding the impact of the framework agreement and order in council 1036 and privy council order 208 which provide for British Columbia's power to resume its authority over a portion of the reserve lands; in fact one-twentieth of the lands.

Discussions have been ongoing throughout the development and introduction of the bill. British Columbia has given strong assurances that the legislation will not affect these orders. The Government of Canada has given B.C. the assurance that the legislation affects only the Indian Act and not other existing orders in council or legislation.

I will turn to the impact of the bill and the framework agreement on municipalities. Being the former president of the federation of municipalities I can speak with some authority as to the impact and the issues with regard to my colleagues from the municipal sector in British Columbia. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities had similar concerns to those of the province. It sought to have a provision for mandatory consultation included in the legislation respecting any development of first nation land.

We see in this example the reason it is important for the framework agreement and the bill to go through. For the first time municipal governments are concerned about land management in neighbouring reserves. The first nations communities are rightfully concerned about land management, and that takes place in neighbouring communities.

The five British Columbia signatory first nations have been working with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The first nations have received a letter from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities supporting the first nation consultation process and mechanisms for discussion. Under the existing regime the federal government gets involved in the process.

Let us imagine if the situation took place with two communities, neither of which was a first nation. The citizens of those communities would not welcome federal government interference. They would not tolerate it. It should be up to the communities to resolve the issues using existing law where necessary.

The bill and the framework agreement allow first nations and neighbouring municipal governments to work out issues between themselves without federal interference. The municipal governments and the signatory first nations have met to address mutual concerns. Both parties agreed to provide letters of assurance that each will consult with the other on an issue.

Neighbouring municipal governments will not be consulted when the land codes are developed by first nations. There are several reasons for this.

Division No. 319Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

As it is almost 2 p.m. I will stop the member here. He still has five minutes remaining in which to wrap up.

We will proceed to Statements by Members.

Theoren FleuryStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, in June 1987 sceptics laughed at reports of a shiny new star on the horizon. “Too small to notice” and “doesn't fit the mould”, they said but they were wrong.

He was small but he was also living proof that big things come in small packages. Today the city of Calgary mourns the loss of our super hero Theoren Fleury, traded by the Calgary Flames to the Colorado Avalanche. Not unlike a political party that was born about the same time, Theoren Fleury cast a long shadow across the western landscape and won the affection and respect of Canadians from sea to sea to sea.

He was the smallest player ever to don the jersey of a national hockey league team. When the experts questioned whether a small man could ever make it into the big leagues, Fleury had the answer. He said “When you are small you have to play with heart”. He played with heart, departing as the team's all-time leading scorer.

Today I suggest to my hometown that if anybody deserves the title of honorary Calgarian for life it is Theoren Fleury. He truly is one of the biggest little men we have ever known.

Grammy AwardsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we will move along briskly from sports to culture. Allow me to join all Canadians in congratulating our artists for their success at last week's 41st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

Congratulations to Céline Dion, who won two awards, one for best pop song of the year, and the other for best recording.

Let me congratulate Alanis Morissette for winning both best rock song and best female vocalist of the year. Let me also congratulate Shania Twain for winning both the best country song and best female country vocalist of the year.

I would also like to congratulate Luc Plamondon on winning the awards for best musical of the year and best song of the year at the Victoires de la musique in Paris on February 20 for his hit show Notre-Dame de Paris .

Canadian artists are our best known cultural ambassadors.

Medical ResearchStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to highlight and applaud the research component of the 1999 budget and in particular the $1.4 billion allocated to medical research.

Coming from a riding and a city where health research plays a key role, last month's budget was welcome news for many dedicated researchers.

The creation of the Canadian institutes of health research will support research and innovation in health care, strengthen treatment and prevention methods while providing more opportunities for advanced research in areas such as biotechnology and medical devices.

The CIHR will also keep our best and brightest research minds and clinicians at work here in Canada. Meanwhile the additional funding for the three federal granting councils will enable researchers to continue their important work.

With the 1999 budget Canada is well positioned to be a world leader in medical research. The investment the government is making today will provide benefits well into the future, improving the health and well-being of Canadians. Making knowledge and innovation a key priority for the future is enhanced by this budget.

Little Mountain Neighbourhood HouseStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Liberal Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am announcing an exciting new project in my riding of Vancouver Kingsway.

Recently I had the pleasure of presenting a cheque for program funding to Little Mountain Neighbourhood House. Funding from the federal government and the Minister of Health is for a project called Breaking Down the Barriers. It is a pilot program to address the needs of young children and families in Vancouver. I wish the best of luck to the organizers of this great project.

United AlternativeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, last week nearly 1,600 Canadians from every corner of the country and a variety of partisan backgrounds gathered in the nation's capital to begin the urgent work of replacing this arrogant, top down, tax and spend, health care cutting Liberal regime.

The naysayers said it could not be done, that such a diverse group could not come together around common principles to form a united alternative to Liberal misgovernment. Well, they were wrong.

Delegates opened their minds and focused their eyes firmly on the future, not on the political disputes of the past. They defined the basis for a common sense governing agenda, including balanced budget legislation, debt reduction, real tax relief, Senate reform, direct democracy, end to judge made law, reforming the federation, property rights and real criminal justice reform.

In short, these grassroots Canadians came here in good faith to begin creating a brighter future for the country they love and to end the corrosive effect of one party government.

As the hon. member for York South—Weston, a former Liberal, said, build it and they will come. Last week these Canadians began the exciting work of building this principled united alternative.

United AlternativeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, if I were to offer my own comments on the meeting last week that the hon. member spoke about, it might be considered a bit biased but let me use a few of the statements in some of the western papers.

Rick Bell in the Edmonton Sun says the party is over for Reformers. Mike Jenkinson in the Calgary Sun says the Leader of the Opposition will never see Sussex Drive.

The Edmonton Sun says there is a fight on the right. The Edmonton Journal says marriage of Conservatives divided on party lines.

The Vancouver Sun says the new political party will be a hard sell. In the Calgary Herald Catherine Ford says unite the right movement doomed before meeting began.

My own Winnipeg Free Press says the united alternative convention was effectively a shotgun wedding at which the bride did not show up.

The Globe and Mail says the Leader of the Opposition was seen as handicap to the Ontario win.

United AlternativeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia.

United AlternativeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—Assiniboine, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too attended the so-called united alternative convention in Ottawa and I will share with Canadians a couple of enduring images from that gathering.

The convention was little more than a Reform Party annual meeting. Before it was minutes old up popped David Thomlinson, a Reform Party activist better known as president of the radical National Firearms Association.

If the delegates were trying to remake the image of Reform they failed miserably with the likes of Thomlinson at the microphone. With Reform Party members as the majority of delegates, the new UA is just the same old extremist Reform Party by another name.

The second enduring image left with me was the one of a keynote speaker. A convention supposedly committed to uniting the right invited someone like Rodrigue Biron, a prominent separatist.

The Reform Party will stoop to any level to gain power.

The last time the Conservative Party went to bed with separatists, Canadians ended up with Lucien Bouchard.

Reform PartyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party is the first political party in Canadian history to vote no confidence in itself while in official opposition. This raises two very interesting questions.

Why would Canadians put their trust in a group so hungry for power that after only two elections it is ready to give up what makes it unique and go crawling back on penitent knee ready to barter its position on Quebec, on the Senate, on moral issues, all for a taste of the fruit of the tree of power in the garden of Canadian politics?

It also raises the question of whether Reform should continue to be the official opposition. In the last parliament the Reform Party argued that the Bloc should not be the official opposition because it was not and could not be a government in waiting as defined by Erskine May.

The Reform Party has now put itself in the same category. It is not even a party in waiting. By admitting it cannot form a government without becoming something other than it is in name and substance, perhaps Stornoway should become empty again. Its current occupant appears to have forfeited the category that qualifies him for occupancy.

United AlternativeStatements By Members

March 1st, 1999 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker,

It was a weekend to forget And while Reformers did fret The Tories said, “We won't unite” For them, Reform is too far right Canadians agree—you can bet. The pollsters, the pundits all Talked for hours about the call From leader to leader it went But Joe ignored the event On Reform it did cast a pall So it's back to the west Reform sends their best From talk show to talk show Their leader did blow With no success and little zest Now it's back to the board For the motley Reform hoard Who will search on and on For that magic wand To fool Canadians, who are bored. It's the same old crew— A pollster who asks—would you vote for a Jew? Against immigrants, refugees and all Unless of course, they bring money to the ball Reform is Reform—and that's all.