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.