Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words before this bill clears the House. In that respect, I want to reiterate my view that this bill has been rushed through in a way that has discredited the parliamentary process.
For the record, it has been one of the low points in my parliamentary life, watching the way this bill has been handled, both by the government and in some respects also by the Bloc Quebecois, because it has created a situation in which something as important as the legislative framework for the secession of a province from Canada has not been able to be studied in the way that it should have been studied. We were not able to hear from as many people as we should have. We were not able to hear from them in a context that was constructive and open to real change.
I see the minister in the House today and I am glad he is here. I would like to echo the complimentary, positive attitude of the member who just spoke, but I would find that difficult. I do not think the minister and the government have been open, unless I am wrong and I find out later today that they will be open to some amendments. They have not been open to building a consensus around the bill that would enable not just Liberals but others to go forward and claim this very important piece of legislation as their own, so that it would be clear that, with the exception of the Conservatives, there was some measure of federalist unity on this issue.
I have been part of this process before. Even Pierre Trudeau, who was noted for his determination and has been called all kinds of things, including arrogant, tried to do things in the early eighties which the NDP felt were important so that he could bring us on side.
That is related to what is happening today. At that time the NDP would not support the patriation package unless it was amended to recognize the inherent rights of aboriginal people. That had been left out. What did Pierre Trudeau do? On the basis of being urged by the NDP, the patriation package was amended. That is why we have section 35 today.
But nothing was learned. In fact, some things seem to have been unlearned. We have Bill C-20 before us, and we have a bill, insofar as it affects aboriginal people, that is pre the patriation package. It does not recognize them at all.
Then we have something which is pre the patriation package, or worse, because in this context we have made recommendations, in conjunction with the Assembly of First Nations, the Grand Council of the Crees, the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada and others, and pleaded with the minister to accept some of the amendments we have officially made and which aboriginal organizations have recommended. So far, nothing.
We will be voting later today and the word I get from the government is “no amendments”. So even the wisdom of that time, the early eighties, of Mr. Trudeau and others trying to build something that could bring people together, is not for this minister. No, he knows everything and the rest of us are just chopped liver, including the aboriginal leadership and everyone else.
This is constitution making, as it has to do with the possible breakup of the country or how it could be kept together in the event of a referendum, depending on how one looks at it. It needs to be approached with a far different spirit and a far different frame of mind from the way in which the current minister has approached it. Frankly, he has made it very difficult. Maybe that is what he wanted all along.
He is making it very difficult for myself and others in my caucus who supported the principle of the bill, who supported the idea that there be a legislative implementation or framework established pursuant to the supreme court opinion. We have supported the need for a clear question, which is absolutely fundamental to any referendum, the need for the rest of Canada to be able to pronounce on whether it was a clear question and would justify negotiations on secession, the need for a clear majority, the fact that democracy was more than just a simple majority and that there was a need for a qualitative judgment after the fact. All of these things we have supported.
All we asked was that what the Assembly of First Nations and others have identified as a fundamental flaw, to use the language which they used in a letter released this weekend, be addressed, that aboriginal people be listed as political actors, and that the government be obliged to take their view into account. Those are the two easiest amendments for the government. We have submitted about six or seven amendments having to do with aboriginal concerns, but the two easiest ones for the government were to simply list aboriginal people along with the provinces, territories and the Senate as people whose views the minister would want to take into account in determining whether there was a clear question and subsequently whether there was a clear majority.
The government will not do that. Why not? There is absolutely no good reason for not putting the aboriginal people on that list of people whose views need to be taken into account. There is not a person on the other side of the House who could stand up and give me one good reason why those two amendments could not be accepted, except for the unmitigated, titanic, bloody arrogance of that man over there, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs who thinks he knows everything about this country and that the rest of us do not have anything to say.