I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. You are absolutely right and I will try to refrain from doing that. It was a slip.
In opposing Bill C-49 the member from Essex Kent accused the minister of Indian affairs and her department of intentionally trying to avoid public consultation on land claims and self-government matters across the country. The evidence suggests he is right.
I have many articles from which I could read. I have another one from the Vancouver Sun of March 3 headlined “Liberal raps bill to boost native power: An Ontario MP says Bill C-49, which is sure to pass its final vote next week, is excessive”.
The article indicated:
Open dissent is appearing within Liberal ranks over the federal government's legislation to give 14 native Indian bands in Canada, including five in B.C., greater powers over their land, including the ability to expropriate.
Southern Ontario Liberal...who plans to vote against Bill C-49 next week, said the bill is excessive and he criticized the government for imposing closure to limit debate in the House of Commons this week.
He also accused the Indian affairs minister...and her department of intentionally trying to avoid public consultation on land claim and self-government matters across Canada.
According to the article the member from Essex Kent said:
Their position is to keep the dummies in the dark.
According to the article the hon. member from Essex Kent:
—was the only Liberal to join Reform MPs in voting against Bill C-49 during report stage Monday, and intends to rise in opposition in the House of Commons next week when the bill returns for third and final vote.
However, concern is growing among some B.C. Liberal MPs and senators who met Tuesday evening with the minister.
The member for Vancouver Quadra, according to the article:
—voted with the government Monday but said he is working behind the scenes to ensure there is a thorough Senate committee study, including public hearings and possible amendments.
The member for Vancouver Quadra said that he did not support the bill. The article continued:
Some concerns that have been felt by B.C. MPs on the fast track procedure are being resolved by what's emerging as an understanding that the Senate will study and hold public hearings and will possibly consider amendments and changes for the House.
“The details were to be worked out in a few days”.
The member for Vancouver Quadra said:
—the bill, along with the media coverage of the 7,000% rent increase imposed on non-natives living in Musqueam Park in Vancouver, was fuelling more public concern over broader and more crucial native issues such as the $490 million Nisga'a treaty, the first modern comprehensive land claim struck in B.C.
The member for Vancouver Quadra said that Bill C-49 was poorly drafted and supported concerns expressed by the member from Essex Kent and B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Campbell who said that the expropriation rights for Indian bands were excessive.
The article continued:
The bill permits bands to expropriate interest in their land, such as leases held by residents or businesses, if council deems it “necessary for community works or other first nation purposes”.
“Some critics say natives and non-natives could be removed from their land in order to build casinos and condominiums”, but the minister “insists expropriation will only take place to build hospitals, sewers and other services”.
According to the article the member for Vancouver Quadra and the member from Essex Kent also cited:
—the bill's lack of protection for native women who often lose their right to marital property after a divorce, and the omission of any mechanism requiring consultation with surrounding municipalities on development matters.
The member for Vancouver Quadra said that the public's concern is correctly focused on the bill. He said that the legislation, which had breezed through its second vote on Monday by a 170 to 35 margin, was sure to pass the third and final Commons vote, which was expected early the next week.
I have been laying the groundwork. I have been trying to apprise members in the House and anybody who might be watching that not only was the Reform Party, the official opposition, saying there were problems with the bill, but the independent member from the Toronto area, at least two Liberal members on the government side and Liberal senators were saying there were serious problems with the bill and they identified those problems.
The member for Vancouver Quadra identified those problems publicly and said that the bill was poorly drafted. He said that the public's concern was correctly focused. He said that the bill needed changing. He said that he would work behind the scenes to see that it was changed. He must have had some opposition from the minister of Indian affairs because she was publicly quoted in the same articles saying that she thought the bill was fine.
Against that backdrop, the bill was sent over to the Senate for consideration, deliberation and debate and apparently there was some kind of a deal cooked up in the backrooms between Liberal backbenchers and senators that this bill was to be amended by the Senate and sent back to the House.
When we found that out we were somewhat encouraged because we believed it meant that we were actually going to have the concerns addressed that were brought to us by mayors and city councillors from the Vancouver area and from aboriginal women living on reserve, particularly the Squamish reserve. We received a number of concerns expressed by these women.
We were starting to believe that those issues would be resolved. I think the House may be aware that there is a young lady from the Squamish reserve who actually had a piece published in the National Post . Her name is Wendy Lockhart Lundberg. I think that she is an absolutely courageous woman who has done a great deal to move this issue into public debate, and that is the issue of native women's rights or the lack of native women's right.
She published an article in the National Post . It is really important that the House understands how she feels and how many of her fellow band members feel, native women such as Maizy Baker. I hope these people are watching because I know this issue is very important to them. They have expressed their concerns over and over again to all members of the House, particularly members of the Standing Committee on Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
I believe that all members of parliament from British Columbia have received mail from these people and they have made their point very well.
Wendy Lockhart Lundberg, a member of the Squamish Band in the Vancouver area, in her article that was published in the National Post earlier this spring, said that native women feel threatened by the federal bill. She said that while media attention focuses on the formal treaty process, federal actions are attempting a legislative end run around treaties by offering bands powers over land management. Native women will bear the brunt of these legislative provisions and will be denied the protections that could be afforded through treaties.
She continued to say that a little publicized government bill, Bill C-49, the first nations land management act, was scheduled for third reading in parliament the next week and poised to become law. Bill C-49 would give legal effect to land management agreements which have already been signed by 14 bands. These included her band, the Squamish, as well as Vancouver's Musqueam Band and bands across the country and would be open to other bands in the future.
Bill C-49 grants participating bands almost unlimited powers over the ownership, management and expropriation of band lands. The implications of Bill C-49 for the rights and position of native women are large and the B.C. Native Women's Society, supported by three major native organizations, has lodged a court case against the federal government to require that the issue of native women's rights be properly addressed before enactment.
When the marriages of native women fail, as all too many do on account of poverty and related conditions, they and their children typically lose the family home. There ex-spouses typically get possession of the family home based on decisions of the band council. Often the women have nowhere to live on the reserve and many end up in the worst circumstances, in urban ghettos. Unlike all other Canadian women, native women on reserves do not have the protection of property division laws.
Bill C-49 contains two provisions which are particularly worrisome for native women. First, it states that rules and procedures regarding the use, occupation and possession of land upon the breakdown of a marriage will be determined by the land codes of each signatory band. Yet there is little assurance that these future provisions will be any less tilted against the interests of women and their children than the results of the current system.
Second, Bill C-49 offers band councils draconian powers of expropriation which must concern native women as well as other native people living on reserves and non-natives with leasehold interests. Specifically, a first nation may expropriate any interest in its first nation land that, in the opinion of its council, is necessary for community works or other first nation purposes.
The band need give at most 30 days notice to expropriate and it is obliged to pay fair compensation that can be disputed only under the rules set by the band itself.
Not only may these powers be used against native women, they may also be used against band members outside the governing elite. For example, the Squamish nation has valuable waterfront property in North Vancouver which is rumoured to be the subject of band council plans for commercial redevelopment. These plans could displace many band members living there to a reserve area up the coast, thus making expropriation powers very useful to the band council.
In addition, any party having a leasehold interest on reserve has reason to fear the strong expropriation powers for bands in Bill C-49. With the sword of quick expropriation hanging over their heads, current leaseholders will find few parties willing to buy their leasehold interests and their property values will plummet. A band can then expropriate their property by offering fair compensation at the depressed market values.
A band council's expropriation powers will be unlike those of a municipal or senior government. The band will be able to expropriate for any other first nation purpose, not limited to the need to build schools, highways and the like. Many bands see their lands as a major means for economic development so that leaseholders can expect their land to be expropriated. Whenever a band finds a more valuable use the band will fully control the zoning. With this ever present threat, how many non-natives will want to make the investments needed for development or leasehold arrangements with bands?
Wendy Lockhart Lundberg's mother lost her native and band status when she married a non-native many years ago. Her status was restored following the 1985 amendments to the Indian Act, but her father's property was never returned to her. The Squamish Band allows someone else to occupy the property and uses its diverse powers to block her mother's efforts to regain her family home. Under Bill C-49 her land could be permanently lost through expropriation.
The Squamish nation has sent a council member to Ottawa to support Bill C-49, while not informing the general band membership of the existence of the bill. The Squamish nation has intervened on behalf of all signatory bands on the side of the federal government and against the B.C. Native Women's Society on the Bill C-49 lawsuit.
Ms. Lundberg said that she believed her mother's rights and those of many other native women would be lost forever if Bill C-49 passed in its present state. Their chances of obtaining legally binding provisions that restore their human and property rights would be much better served through an openly debated treaty process.
A registered status native and member of the Squamish Band, Wendy Lockhart Lundberg, said that Bill C-49 was introduced into parliament by a female minister of Indian affairs and its passage would be enacted by Her Majesty in right of Canada. She said that she doubted whether either of those women share native women's concerns about their lands, homes and families.
It is beyond us to understand why the minister and the government have not bothered to listen to the pleas from these women who are very concerned about their lack of property rights which all other Canadian women enjoy in the event of marriage breakdown.
I have another example that I can share with the House and that is the example of Maizy Baker. She tells me that there are many, many more like her.
Maizy Baker is a member of the Squamish Band. She is an elder in the band and she has a property that she would like to be able to pass along to her children. We all do that as Canadians. This is a matter of—