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.


Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC


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 Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.



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


Motion No. 4

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

Business Of The House
Government Orders

September 26th, 2000 / 10:15 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River


Derek Lee Parliamentary 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 House
Government 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 House
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


Business Of The House
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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 House
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10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members


(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 Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Claude Bachand 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 Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.


Bev Desjarlais 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.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.


Angela Vautour Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address the amendments to 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.

This bill includes two parts. The first one deals with the Norway House Cree Nation, while the second one seeks to facilitate the implementation of the land claim agreements in Manitoba, including the ones on future land claims.

Many aboriginals affected by this legislation were concerned about their aboriginal and treaty rights. The Manitoba northern flood agreement was signed in 1977 by Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and five first nations of the province. That agreement was reached following the flooding of land used by first nations. It listed the conditions for compensating first nations affected by the flooding of their traditional land. It is not for me to say whether this agreement is considered to be a treaty, or if it will be in the future.

The first amendment seeks to protect treaty rights, should the Manitoba northern flood agreement be considered to be a treaty some day. The problem I see in supporting this amendment is that it would protect any right or claim resulting from the agreement. The key word here is the term right.

The word right is not defined in the Manitoba northern flood agreement. In this bill, this is not a problem, because there is a definition of right or claim in the Manitoba northern flood agreement. If we introduce the definition of this term, I believe that would allow some new interpretations and would broaden the scope of the bill.

Another amendment, the second one, also includes the terms right and claim. Primarily, its intent is to ensure that the Manitoba northern flood agreement continues to be the document that takes precedence in compensating the Cree of Norway House.

In this bill, the comprehensive implementation agreement would also take precedence over claims by the Norway House Cree. With the amendment, the Manitoba northern flood agreement would be amended as far as rights and claims are concerned. This therefore reinforces the protection of treaty rights and the original conditions of the Manitoba northern flood agreement.

I can understand the reasons for demanding protection of treaty rights, as in the case of the first amendment, but I do have difficulty with the idea of introducing a term that is not defined. As I have said, the term right is not defined in the Manitoba northern flood agreement.

Furthermore, the people of Norway House Cree Nation voted in a referendum to accept the terms of the master implementation agreement. While we heard from a number of concerned Norway House members about the process used in the referendum and their fears that they will lose rights afforded to them by the northern flood agreement, the fact remains that treaty rights are constitutionally protected. Discussions about the accuracy of the referendum were never completely explained, which means that one has to accept that the people chose to accept a resolution to a claim that is more than 20 years old.

It is the Norway House Cree Nation that should ultimately make decisions regarding compensation for their flooded land. They chose to accept the terms of the master implementation agreement and, with the constitutionally protected treaty rights, they should be in a position to finally realize the compensatory benefits afforded to them by the northern flood agreement.

Amendment No. 3 would add another clause to the legislation dealing with the Norway House Cree Nation and the master implementation agreement they signed in December 1997. This amendment would provide a security feature to the legislation to ensure that nothing in the act or the master implementation agreement is meant to “abrogate or derogate from the existing aboriginal rights or treaty rights of the first nation”. That is a quote from the amendment.

While this amendment has some merit since it is meant to protect aboriginal rights, these rights are already protected in the Canadian constitution. This legislation should be a positive move for the Norway House Cree Nation. Their members voted to accept the terms of the agreement and the chief has recognized the benefits of the agreement for the band members.

The PC Party supports legislation that allows first nations to become more self-reliant and financially independent. This legislation does exactly that. It will provide funds to be managed by a trust fund on behalf of the first nations. We support the legislation because of the positive advantage it provides to first nations in Manitoba but we do have reservations regarding the amendments.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.


Derrek Konrad Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to speak to Bill C-14, the Manitoba claim settlements implementation act. I was in Manitoba when the dams were being built. I was a surveyor and flew many miles over that country in a helicopter on my way to and from work. It is an interesting country and it was an interesting job.

Many aboriginal people in that area were deprived of some pretty nice land, particularly along the river. It is good land, but farther back it contains a lot of muskeg, so the land they lost was among the best. This bill will bring some finality to the issue and will put some money in their pockets so that they can get on with their lives. It is important. Not only is it some money, it is some land to make up for what they lost. It is land of equal value. I see from the bill that it will take about four times as much land to equal the value of what they did lose.

There were many questions raised by many people about the process used to get approval for the flood agreement. Most of those questions were never adequately answered. They were not answered in the community or in committee. It seemed to me that the Liberals spent a lot of time trying to hush up the issue and hurry this bill through. They spent a lot more time on procedural matters and objections to the list of witnesses that many of us in the official opposition and other opposition parties wanted to hear from.

We had more correspondence on this than anything I have seen since I came to the House. Members of the committee received a binder that is probably four inches thick and is filled with letters, briefs and presentations that have been made on this issue over the years. In the length of time we had to look at this bill, it was impossible to do a proper assessment and analysis of the entire situation. Also, the people most affected by this legislation were never really heard from when it was brought to parliament. That is not right.

The first agreement that was signed was so loose and open-ended that it gave rise to absolutely every kind of interpretation. It was not capable of being implemented due to its open-ended nature. Simply to bring some closure to the matter, the government trampled on the rights of a lot of people and overlooked due process.

People should not be deprived of their land without due process, and once deprived through legislative means they need to be adequately compensated. Those rights are available to all Canadians under expropriation acts, whether provincial or municipal. Certainly that right has to be there as well for Canada's aboriginals. They simply cannot be deprived of land and rights just because it happens to suit the political agenda of the party in power at the time. We are not overly happy about many of these things.

We notice the insertion of the word right. I am not sure, given recent court decisions, that the insertion of this word adds anything or that leaving it out will detract from anything. To that extent I agree with my colleague from Churchill. She had it about right there. The courts seem to be playing more and more of a role. It seems the Canadian public, the Canadian government and the Canadian taxpayer are being governed by our courts, much more than by the people who were elected, not appointed, to make the laws. We need to look after that.

Some of the questions I have about the transfer of land in fee simple to the band concern private ownership. Let us remember the bill has two parts. There is also a treaty land entitlement part to the bill. I and my colleagues doubt that any individuals will be able to exercise private property rights over any of that land. It will have to be always dealt with in common.

People who have appeared before our committee have said the lack of private property rights by natives over aboriginal land is one of the biggest barriers to economic development for those people, not just as a group but as individuals. The head of the First Nations Bank is one of those people. The head of the Business Development Bank of Canada is another individual who believes there need to be private property rights for individuals to make any headway in society, and that the communal style of owning property, which means lending institutions have no way to take collateral, is one of the biggest drawbacks to economic development for aboriginals.

These things were never addressed in the legislation. The government had an opportunity to get to work on these types of things.

The treaty land entitlement process does make up for shortfalls in Indian reserves that were established and surveyed at the times the treaties were signed, and it is a fairly generous settlement at that. Individuals will not benefit from it; simply bands will benefit. Many times that means the leadership gets most of the benefit, not the band members.

I have had aboriginal people come to my office in the riding of Prince Albert, I have had people telephone me at home, and I have had people contacting me by phone, letter, e-mail, fax, or whatever in my office in Ottawa, saying they want to be able to exercise private property rights. They would love to get a square mile of land somewhere, anywhere, maybe with some lumber on it so that they could do some logging, build a home, start to farm, or something like that.

Can they do that under the bill? Nothing doing. They are absolutely kept out of the mainstream of the Canadian economy because of legislation such as this and attitudes such as those on the other side, which deny Indian people the same rights that are available to every person in the House.

There needs to be a process to allow native people to take possession of their hopes. I recently spoke to a man on a reserve who had been given six months to get off the reserve and out of the house he lived in. He had been married to an Indian woman. The band said “We need this house for band members. You are not a band member”. His wife had just died and he got a letter from the band saying “You are out of here”. Is that the way to treat Canadians, aboriginal or otherwise? I do not think so.

The lack of rights available to people living on reserve is a scandal and needs to be addressed. While the bill does some good things locally for the people in making redress for land taken from them, it is a far cry from the kind of legislation we need to introduce to ensure that aboriginal women have the protections they need.

I am sure that woman would not have been happy to know her husband was told “You are out of here”. Fortunately he had daughters who were willing to look after him and took him in, but here was a man who was capable of living independently. He was not that old. He was forced to live with his children or else leave his home and his friends. That just does not work.

Under the legislation the federal government will fund Indian bands to undertake land selection studies. In Saskatchewan, where the treaty land entitlement process has been in business for some time, too many bands have been spending too much money doing studies and not enough buying. If any farmer were to spend that kind of money on studies, he long since would have been into bankruptcy, out of business, and working for a living.

There needs to be some accountability for the money that is transferred and held for these people. Certainly we will be watching that. I am sure we will be taking phone calls on that same issue over the years. We intend to form the government, and we will be making certain that this money is well spent on behalf of Canada's Indian people.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act
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10:50 a.m.



John Finlay Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to my colleagues' comments. Having worked with most of them on the aboriginal committee, I know from whence they come and I know they are genuine in their statements.

However, we are dealing with a separate piece of legislation that has the purpose of making an agreement with the Norway House Cree so that they can get on with the business of running their community, of getting the land they are entitled to and the compensation they have been denied by a long and cumbersome process that started in 1977.

This is, in miniature, what my colleague from Saint-Jean talked about regarding the Nass Valley. I too was there the week before last to honour the opening of the new legislative building of the Nisga'a, who worked for 120 years to get to that point.

The bill deals with an agreement made with the fourth of five first nations affected by the Manitoba northern flood agreement. The reason we have this agreement is that the other one does not work very well, because it allows for the kind of thing my colleagues across the hall have deplored. It allows for confrontations in court. It is costly and inefficient.

In order to get around this stumbling block, the parties, including Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, Canada and the northern flood committee, have come up with a way of negotiating an implementation agreement with each first nation individually.

The first part of the bill deals with compensation for the Norway House Cree Nation, which it is situated 450 kilometres north of Winnipeg. There are over 5,000 members, and nearly 4,000 of them reside on reserve. As my colleague from Prince Albert has said, and he was involved in the surveying, the best land along the rivers was flooded. These people are in need of land to compensate for that loss at about four to one. As my colleague from Churchill said, the chief and council have agreed with the bill.

One of the reasons rights are not mentioned is to get around the very problem of making this a treaty, which it is not, and maintaining it as an agreement, which it is. This, in line with “Gathering Strength”, our aboriginal action plan, moves the agenda forward.

If we accept this motion to add that word then we are back to square one. We are back to pre-Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples days. We are back to Chief Justice Hamilton's comments about certainty in inalienable rights and aboriginal rights. If they are not clearly defined we get into trouble. We are not trying to define them in the bill. We are saying there is a problem. These people deserve compensation. We will compensate them according to the bill.

The second part of the bill affects more first nations, particularly Manitoba first nations, potentially all Manitoba first nations, in that it aims to facilitate the addition to reserve commitments under a variety of existing and future Manitoba claims settlements. While the most significant of these commitments at present are to the 20 Manitoba first nations covered by the 1997 Manitoba treaty land entitlement framework agreement, other first nations in Manitoba will also derive benefits under part 2, relative to other existing and future settlements.

It is imperative, in order to move the agenda on, in order that the first nations of Manitoba can get the support and the freedom to act they need, that these amendments be defeated. If they are not we will go back into a very murky situation that existed 22 years ago. That is not progress for the native people. It is not progress for the government. It is not progress for the country. It is a lack of progress.

There is no danger in this act to any first nations treaty rights, aboriginal rights, inherent rights or any other rights. The bill rights a wrong, an overdue delay in settlement with the Norway House Cree. It makes further settlements with the other bands in Manitoba much easier to accomplish because people have to sit down and agree on what they need, how much they can have, where the land is, add it to the reserve, et cetera. As Chief Gosnell said in the Nass Valley, confrontation is not the way to go. Consultation, agreements and negotiation are the way to go. That is when everybody gets the most value for their efforts, the government and the first nations. I urge the House to deny these motions.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-14. I was involved earlier in the agreements that derived from the Manitoba flooding of the 1970s. In the last parliament we had Bill C-36 dealing with the Split Lake Band, Bill C-39 dealing with the York Factory Band, and Bill C-40 dealing with the Nelson House Band. This is now the fourth bill dealing with five bands. We only have the Cross Lake Band that is currently not addressed by new legislation and is still subject to the Manitoba northern flood agreement of 1977.

Specifically Bill C-14 deals with Norway House. I had the experience of going to Norway House in the summer of 1995 as part of my party's task force on aboriginal affairs. We were trying to develop policy at that time.

I well remember the charter flight from Winnipeg to the airport at Norway House. We had made arrangements previously with some women from the Norway House community to meet us at the airport. There were several members of parliament from my caucus. The first words that came out of one of their mouths was “Congratulations, you have now been at Norway House one more time than our chief has this year”. That was actually the forerunner and the first clear example in my mind of the way in which aboriginal women were making decisions. When they are dissatisfied with the way their community is being run, they will do something about it. That is one memory that is etched in my mind.

The 1977 Manitoba flood agreement was laced with problems. It did not become a very good document to implement a lot of the necessary things to address the huge displacement of community lands. There were new hazards for residents of the communities because of the change in the waters and water levels. Resources were displaced. A whole new way of life had to be put in place because the flooded lands had changed the way the water oriented communities had operated up until that time. Clearly no one could reasonably argue that compensation is not an important part of this whole agreement.

We have supported all of the compensation agreements. We have been very consistent in doing that in Bill C-36, Bill C-39, Bill C-40 and once again today we are supporting Bill C-14. We have actually debated this since June 1994. That was the first set of debates.

I will just give an idea of what happened when the flooding occurred on the Nelson and Churchill rivers along with the Lake Winnipeg regulations project. Almost 5,000 hectares of reserve land belonging to these five first nations were flooded as well as over 200,000 hectares of non-reserve land that was traditionally used for hunting and trapping.

In the 1970s when the flood agreement was put together, it was very loosely worded. With these agreements now, not only is implementation better served, but we have clearer questions of how liability will be addressed. The project proponent, Manitoba Hydro, now essentially has the ongoing and unanticipated future liability. I think everyone would agree that is just and proper as it is the major proponent for the project.

There are some interesting elements to these agreements. In many ways we should be looking at these as enlightened things that we can build into future agreements.

The fee simple lands that are being transferred are not necessarily being transferred into typical reserve status. This will give the bands a lot more flexibility and opportunity to deal with those lands in a way that will not necessarily involve all the bureaucracy of the department of Indian affairs.

On the transfer of moneys, the compensation package, the moneys are going into a trust arrangement that will necessarily have an accountability function built in which I think is highly appropriate. We know for example that under the Liberal government the accumulated deficit of native bands across Canada has gone from $130 million to over $300 million. That lack of accountability is something to be avoided. This arrangement avoids that lack of accountability.

Those are the main points I wanted to get across. A couple of other things are worth pointing out.

The fee simple lands held by the respective native corporations are held outside the normal encumbrances of the Indian Act. They are also subject to property taxation. Any business originating from these lands is also taxable. In addition, individual band members may appeal under the Manitoba arbitration act if they are unsatisfied with band decisions which affect them personally.

We have some new thinking here that is worth putting under a microscope a few years down the road to see what real changes it has brought about. My suspicion is that this will lead to some good changes in the way governance is applied within these communities.

I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?