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House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was animal.

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Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

September 26th, 2000 / 10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-497, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (prevention of private hospitals).

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce this bill on the prevention of private hospitals for first reading. The bill is in response to growing health care privatization and, in particular, to the threats posed to universal public health care by Alberta's bill 11.

The specific purpose of the bill is to control the entry of private for profit hospitals into our public system. It amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act to provide that provinces be financially penalized if they allow public funds to be used for the provision of insured services in private for profit hospitals.

The bill ensures that the principles of medicare and the spirit of the Canada Health Act are absolutely and unequivocally reflected in the letter of the law and that the federal government is equipped to respond immediately and effectively to any attempt by a provincial government to permit private for profit hospitals.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, treasury board employees and certain female dominated groups are receiving pay equity adjustments as a result of the application of section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

As a result of this these petitioners are asking parliament to empower and direct the treasury board to release funds allowing the office of the auditor general to meet this obligation in a manner that is consistent with the settlement made to affected groups under treasury board.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the standing orders, I have the honour to table in the House a petition signed by a number of the constituents in the riding of Charlevoix.

The bank erosion problem along the St. Lawrence River is becoming more and more of a concern for the environment and for public safety. The petitioners are calling upon parliament to intervene in order to have the federal government delay no further in restoring the bank protection program in order to stop the erosion of these banks.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present yet another petition from constituents about the critical state in our health care system in Canada today.

This is part of a series of petitions whereby thousands and thousands of Canadians have called upon the government to take immediate action to ensure the complete, not partial, restoration of transfer payments for health care, and to take strict, serious and definite measures to prevent further privatization of our health care services to ensure that the principles of medicare and the spirit of the Canada Health Act are alive and well and guide us for the future.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present two petitions. The first one deals with the gathering of organs at death for transplant.

The petitioners make a very important point that the unavailability of organs for transplant and the long wait needed for transplant results in long periods of suffering and compromised recoveries for transplant recipients.

The petitioners call upon the House to enact legislation to allow for the automatic gathering of organs at death for transplants.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, my second petition relates to our health care system. The petitioners are concerned about the state of our health care system.

They call upon the government to stop the for profit hospitals, the privatization of our health care system, to restore, as has been indicated already, the complete restoration of funding necessary for a good health care system, to implement a national home care program and a program for prescription drugs. This is something that seriously affects many of our seniors and many people on low and fixed incomes.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among all parties in the House and I believe you would find consent for the following motion: That the recorded divisions scheduled to take place today at the end of government orders be taken today at 6.15 p.m.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

For the clarification of the Chair, does the hon. member mean the bells would ring at 6.15 p.m.?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the divisions took place at 6.15 p.m., I believe there would be a 15 minute bell. With the lack of precision, I could withdraw my request for the consent and the motion and raise them later.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-14, an act respecting an agreement with the Norway House Cree Nation for the settlement of matters arising from the flooding of land, and respecting the establishment of certain reserves in the province of Manitoba, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are four motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-14, an act respecting an agreement with the Norway House Cree Nation for the settlement of matters arising from the flooding of land, and respecting the establishment of certain reserves in the province of Manitoba.

Motions Nos. 1 through 4 will be grouped for debate, but will be voted on as follows:

a) the vote on Motion No. 1 will apply to Motion No. 2;

b) Motions Nos. 3 and 4 will be voted on separately.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1 through 4 to the House.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-14, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing line 29 on page 2 with the following:

“6. A right or claim provided for by both the Flood”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-14, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing line 48 on page 2 with the following:

“only in accordance with the Agreement except in respect of any treaty right or claim arising from such a right, including any treaty right or claim arising from the Flood Agreement, in which case the Flood Agreement shall prevail.”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-14 be amended by adding after line 6 on page 3 the following new clause:

“7.1 Nothing in this Act or in the Agreement shall be interpreted as affecting, abrogating or derogating from the existing aboriginal rights or the treaty rights of the first nation or of any member of the first nation.”

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Richmond B.C.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberalon behalf of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved:

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-14 be amended by deleting Clause 14.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, further to my remarks earlier and consistent with the discussions among all parties in the House, I think you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the recorded divisions scheduled to take place today at the end of Government Orders be taken today at 6.15 p.m., with the bells commencing at 6.15 p.m.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-14, an act respecting an agreement with the Norway House Cree Nation for the settlement of matters arising from the flooding of land, and respecting the establishment of certain reserves in the province of Manitoba, as reported (without amendment) from the committee; and of Motions Nos. 1 to 4.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to speak to the bill concerning the Norway House Cree.

This bill was debated at length in committee. The motions we are considering today were suggested by a number of aboriginal groups who would very much like to see the word “right” included in the bill, and I will explain why.

When one person says to another “I have the right to do that”, there is undoubtedly a law somewhere to back him up. There may be a law, but there may also be court decisions. People before me decided to clarify certain matters with the various courts. Only then can anyone claim to have a right.

There is much talk of legal issues nowadays. Canada is facing tremendous problems where its aboriginal peoples are concerned, particularly with respect to the issue of rights.

I am one of those most frequently criticizing the government for its lack of political courage. In other words, in managing the native question, the government draws on legislation that is over one hundred years old. The only way the government has come up with to resolve the native issue is to cling to this law and try to speed up negotiations on land claims and self-government.

Some native people feel things are not moving fast enough. Naturally, there are grey areas in this legislation. It is really not surprising that a law dating back over one hundred years is no longer up to date or applicable or is at least hard to apply.

Native people were not satisfied with this law. They launched appeals in the various courts. Naturally, a number of these went as far as the supreme court, and this is the subject of my remarks today. I know I have only ten minutes, but there are a number of motions, and perhaps I will be able to return to finish up on the legal course all of that followed.

At the moment, things are happening at Burnt Church specifically as the result of a decision by the supreme court, which recognized certain native rights. It also recognized certain government rights over resource protection and so on.

There is often a problem when it comes to interpreting supreme court decisions. Unfortunately, except for Bloc Quebecois members, there are not many people who are siding with the aboriginals and recognizing that they have certain rights. This is why, when aboriginal groups appear before the standing committee on aboriginal affairs to discuss a bill such as the one before us, one of the first points they raise, one of their primary concerns is precisely the respect for their rights, including aboriginal rights.

This is why these motions are before us today. As I said earlier, we must understand the whole legal process and how aboriginal titles and aboriginal rights have changed. A number of decisions deal with aboriginal rights, but a pioneer in this area is definitely a Nisga'a named Frank Calder. Incidentally, I take this opportunity to salute my Nisga'a friends who may be listening to us, although it is rather early in British Columbia.

Just last week, I travelled to the home of the Nisga'a people for the inauguration of the new Nisga'a government building. It was nice to see how proud the Nisga'a were to finally have a building in which they will now be able to exercise a number of rights which, until now, were not recognized as theirs.

There have been pioneers, not only regarding that building and not just Frank Calder. Frank Calder was not only the inspiration for the building but also a landmark figure in creating a more precise definition of what a native right is. He deserves credit for this. The Calder decision dates back to 1973, when the courts for the first time recognized the existence of aboriginal title for the occupation, possession and use of ancestral lands. At the time, I know that the government lawyers were saying “Hold on now, there is another thing, the royal proclamation of 1763 in which His Majesty sent out the word direct from England that the lands could not be taken possession of without agreements with the aboriginal people”. The court went further than that, however. It said that what was involved was something other than the royal proclamation, something other than the treaties. Even if there had been treaties, there were some rights that perhaps were not included in them. This went beyond the Indian Act, as I have already touched on briefly.

That statute dates back close to 120 years. Its application today cannot be described as perfect. That is normal. Societies change. In the last 120 years, both white and aboriginal societies have changed. Imagine if we insisted here in parliament on hanging on to 120-year old legislation in all of the areas we deal with. This would, I think, be extremely awkward and it would be very difficult to apply legislation now that dates back 120 years.

The decision said that the royal proclamation of 1763 was not the basis for a decision and that it was not a treaty matter. It must be kept in mind that not all crown lands are covered by treaties. The Indian Act was not the basis for a decision either. The supreme court therefore found a concept: long-term occupation.

A native nation had to be able to prove long-term occupation. This is when discussion of an ancestral right from time immemorial began. Indeed, the court also recognized that these people were here before us and accordingly enjoyed specific rights. The Calder decision started opening things up in this regard, even though the supreme court did not define title as such. It said proof had to be established of long-term occupation, but that title certainly did exist. However, the court did not define it more than that.

Matters had to wait until 1984 with the decision in Guerin. This decision established that the government had a fiduciary duty, that the native peoples enjoyed a special land entitlement and that it was inalienable.

Therefore, in another instance, the court recognized the government's fiduciary right and its fiduciary duty.

This has caused many problems since then. I give as an example the decision in Marshall and Burnt Church with all that is happening there as a result at the moment. The government is caught in a dichotomy, in a state of incoherence, where it is obliged to defend Canada's interests. But it is a trustee and must protect the interests of the native people. This situation is causing some pretty significant problems.

Unfortunately, what we have seen in recent years is the government focusing less on its fiduciary obligation and more on its other obligations. This is one reason why the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is now seizing lobster traps, taking the view that the aboriginal fishers are completely in the wrong. One day, we will have to find a way to reconcile the legal concept and philosophy of the rights of whites with the rights of aboriginals. This will take time.

I see you indicating that I have one minute left. I had intended to speak a little longer, but as I said, I will come back to this for the second group of motions.

In short, I hope that members will support the inclusion of the issue of rights in the bill. This is important to aboriginals and it costs nothing. We will be told that it is included in section 35 of the constitution—this is an argument the government often uses, and it may be true—but what does it cost the government to include this motion which the aboriginals really want to have? It costs absolutely nothing.

I will be pleased to speak to this issue again for the second group of motions.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today. We will be supporting the amendments as noted in the order paper. The member from the Bloc and myself both put in similar amendments to the bill with similar concerns being the reasoning behind the amendments.

As the member from the Bloc indicated, these amendments do not cause any greater cost to the Government of Canada, except maybe the cost of honest to goodness intent to see whether or not the government is truly committed to acknowledging the treaty rights of aboriginal people.

These amendments were suggested by Chief Matthew Coon Come at committee. At that time he was grand chief of the council of Crees in Quebec. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Chief Coon Come on his election to grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

We are at the stage of implementing the northern flood agreement because the government has, for decades and decades, failed to follow through on agreements reached with aboriginal people, whether it be treaty agreements or otherwise. As a result we have another piece of legislation before us to ease things along and get things moving. There was never any intent from the Norway House first nation or any other supporters of the bill from the first nations side to abrogate any of their treaty rights. That is why I think it is extremely important that we ensure those rights are in the bill.

Clauses are common in many kinds of legislation. Section 35 of the Constitution Act guarantees aboriginal and treaty rights. Legally, no bill passed by parliament can violate these rights. However, just to make sure there is no doubt, it is common to include clauses like these to explicitly guarantee the status of aboriginal and treaty rights. When we think about it, it is common sense. It avoids the costly legal fees that could be involved if first nations or their members have to go to court to uphold section 35 rights.

What we have seen in the past is that the action of the government is to constantly take different groups to court to fight for rights they already have. We are dealing with scarce taxpayers' dollars, and for the government not to make an effort to settle these disputes out of court and not to be serious in their negotiations is quite unconscionable. Certainly in first nations communities money can be better spent. I do not understand it.

Including these amendments shows a commitment by the government that it will make an effort to settle these if there is no intent to take aboriginal people to court to uphold their treaty rights. It is better to be clear that the aboriginal and treaty rights are absolute rather than leave any possible doubt and have the courts sort it out.

These amendments have broad support from the people who supported Bill C-14, or as it was previously introduced, Bill C-56, as well as from those who opposed it. One of the major concerns raised by the opponents of the bill was that it might undermine treaty rights conferred in the northern flood agreement.

At this point I want to acknowledge that many people out there, including a former Indian affairs minister, saw the northern flood agreement as a modern treaty. As a result, there is real concern that any change to that flood agreement will change those treaty rights. It is extremely important that we ensure this is not the case.

With regard to consultations with representatives from the Norway House Cree Nation, the first nation this directly affects, the government of Norway House does not intend that this bill will change their treaty rights in any way, shape or form. Ensuring that these amendments are in the bill solidifies that. Those who worry that this bill might unintentionally affect treaty rights also support the bill.

The people from Cross Lake First Nation, those most closely related to the Norway House First Nation, certainly in an area with a lot of familial ties over the years, do not support this bill. They do not want this. They want to adhere to the northern flood agreement as it was signed a number of years ago but never adhered to. The people of Cross Lake First Nation have the right to make that decision for themselves, just as the people of Norway House have the right to make this decision for their first nation.

I urge the members of the Liberal government to support these amendments and make this bill acceptable to the people of Cross Lake and others who are concerned about the treaty implications. As parliamentarians we have a duty to uphold the constitution of Canada and that includes aboriginal treaties under section 35. I truly hope that the government will not vote against these amendments because it will be a signal to aboriginal people that the Liberal government does not respect their treaty rights.

I want to state again that our party will be supporting these amendments and this bill. We have concerns. I was at committee and listened to a number of concerns raised within the first nations over the vote on this issue.

Quite frankly, I too have concerns over the conduct of some officials of the department of Indian affairs. It left a perception out there that things were not being done up front. I was upset with the evasiveness of some of those officials who spoke to the committee about this bill. At points I almost felt like I was being misled as a member of the committee of the House. I do not think this is appropriate for government officials, but that is a problem with the department of Indian affairs. It is not the problem with this bill and it does not affect our support of the bill in any way. We can deal with those things through other areas. I hope we will start to deal with all first nations people in an upfront way.

It is clear to me too that the majority of the people of Norway House support this agreement. There were questions. In most agreements and discussions you have opposing sides. There were those who did not support it, but the chief and council who were representative of this bill and getting the message out there were pretty much the same chief and council who were elected after the vote had been taken. I accept that as an indication that the majority of people of the Norway House Cree Nation support the decision of the chief and council and support this bill.

The bill has been a long time in reaching this stage. It has been popping up since the time I came to the House of Commons in 1997. It is time that we put this issue to rest for the people of Norway House, but in doing so we must ensure that we do not risk the treaty rights of first nations people.

I also want to comment on one point from the committee, when I think the House certainly failed first nations people and in doing so failed all Canadians. There was an opportunity to take this issue, the whole discussion on the bill and these concerns, to the people most directly affected, the people of Cross Lake and Norway House. The committee failed to take the committee hearings to that area. As a result, there will always be some misunderstanding and some feeling that they were not fairly represented.

That is a small thing that committees of the House can do, to take the issue to those most affected, and it is something we should do. I want to voice my displeasure at the government, quite frankly, because let us face it, the government controls the committees. Let me point out that in the future maybe we can avoid some of the situations we see ourselves in if the government makes an effort to actually go to the people of Canada to get their feelings. It should go to the first nations and let them have a say on what is going to be affecting their lives.