House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.


Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan


Ralph Goodale Liberalfor Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that 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, be read the third time and passed.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support Bill C-14, the Manitoba claims settlement implementation act.

Bill C-14 has been thoroughly studied before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and has been found to be a solid piece of legislation that will move Canada forward in meeting its obligations to Manitoba first nations.

As hon. members have heard in the House and in committee, the Norway House Cree nation in particular will benefit from Bill C-14. Part 1 of the bill will affirm in law certain elements of the Norway House master implementation agreement which is now being implemented to bring about resolution of matters arising out of the northern flood agreement. Part 2 of Bill C-14 will also benefit Norway House, both as a treaty land entitlement band and by facilitating implementation of the reserve expansion commitments in the first nations master implementation agreement.

Let me expand briefly on these two elements of the bill, after which I will comment on the strong messages of support that we have received for this legislation, heard primarily during the time that the committees had their meetings a while back.

There is nothing really new in part 1 of Bill C-14. Parliament has already approved similar legislation for three other northern flood agreement bands: the Split Lake Cree, the York Factory and the Nelson House first nations.

What we are being asked to affirm in law is simply that compensation moneys and fee simple lands provided to Norway House under its master implementation agreement can be managed by the community in conjunction with the corporate trustee and outside the cumbersome restrictions currently in the Indian Act.

Important safeguards are there. They are in place to ensure that the decisions made by the first nation council and the trustee are transparent, communicated to the community and are in its best interests.

Part 1 also gives effect in law to a locally administered and more effective approach to claims resolution than currently exists in the northern flood agreement itself. This new community based approach will deal with the vast majority of claims arising out of both the NFA and the Norway House master implementation agreement.

I ask hon. members to keep in mind that the Norway House master implementation agreement has been signed by the parties and that the implementation of the provisions of that agreement is currently under way. However, there is a commitment in the document and in the agreement to facilitate certain of its provisions through legislation and the government is determined to fulfil that commitment.

Giving the people of Norway House increased control over fee simple lands and compensation money provided to them under the MIA is an important step on the road to economic self-sufficiency and increased accountability. It will help enhance community confidence and community pride. In fact, it is already doing so.

Fred Muskego, a band councillor at Norway House, spoke about some of the benefits that have flowed under the master implementation agreement when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in March 1999. I would like to quote briefly from his remarks to that committee: “We have addressed our recreational problems we have on the reserve. We have a state of the art multiplex that was built because of the MIA. We have recreation programs for the young people, and even some of the older people benefit from them. We have had some housing come out of the MIA. We have programs for our alcohol problems and social problems. We have just put some money into the building of a church, a funeral home and meeting halls. Out of these MIA proposals we have created about 105 jobs”.

The items listed by the councillor are not the end of it. I understand that settlement proceeds have been used for a recreation complex which includes facilities for bowling, curling and skating, as well as a community hall and restaurant. I am also advised that in addition to the new homes and churches mentioned by the councillor, new projects approved by the community using settlement funds include day care, road improvements and other infrastructure improvement projects.

The first nation has also acquired a fishing lodge, and in partnership with industry has acquired interests in mining exploration. The first nation has also purchased some 500,000 pounds of fishing quota on Lake Winnipeg, thus beginning to re-establish a role in the fishery of Lake Winnipeg, a status which was eroded with the original flooding.

Economic development jobs, community infrastructure and social initiatives; these are all solid proof of actual advantages for people who require them and people to whom we have obligations, people who deserve their economic self-sufficiency. They are proof that a proper balance of resources, accountability and local decision making can bring about positive and lasting change in first nations communities and more important in first nations lives.

The settlement moneys under the master implementation agreement are being put to good use and wise use by the community itself. It makes the decisions.

Passing Bill C-14 will allow for all of the settlement proceeds to be managed in this way by that community. Without the bill, some of the proceeds would fall to be administered under the Indian Act requiring the involvement of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

I alluded earlier to the fact that part 1 of the bill will also give effect to a locally administered process for resolving claims that arise under the Norway House master implementation agreement. That local process has been operating for about two and a half years now. It is proving to be a workable alternative to the cumbersome process that was in place under the northern flood agreement. Passing Bill C-14 will ensure that the local claims process continues to serve the individual claimants of Norway House.

Part 2 of Bill C-14 does introduce some new concepts that parliament has not seen in other legislation, concepts that should nevertheless be supported by all members of the House.

The goal of part 2 is to facilitate the transfer of lands to reserve status in order that Canada's land related obligations arising from claim settlement agreements across Manitoba can be fulfilled in a timely manner.

I believe that all members understand that a key component of a sound economic future for first nations is their land base. This legislation will improve the process by which new reserves are created pursuant to claim settlement agreements.

As I alluded to earlier, these agreements include treaty land entitlements and certain elements of the master implementation agreements signed by four of the five northern flood agreement first nations. As a first step in speeding up reserve expansions for all Manitoba first nations that have negotiated claim settlement agreements or that will do so in the near future, we need to get beyond the cumbersome process of obtaining an order in council to add lands to reserves. Canada already agreed to effect these reserve expansions when it signed the settlement agreements.

We need to improve the way third party interests on those lands are accommodated. The first nations have begun selecting their new lands. Many of these lands have been selected for their economic development potential in areas such as forestry, mining, tourism, commercial buildings and farming.

There will continue to be further land selection activity of this kind under these agreements in the coming years. Under the treaty land entitlement framework agreement which benefits 20 Manitoba first nations, up to 450,000 hectares are to be set apart as reserve land over the next three to five years. Seven other first nations have treaty land entitlement claims that could involve up to another 62,000 hectares of land.

As my hon. colleagues have stated, the timely provision of these entitlement lands is needed to support claims implementation and the evolution of a vibrant on reserve economy. The business ventures on existing and future land selections under these agreements will require the co-operation and partnership of third parties.

We need to give these first nations the flexibility to aggressively seek out lands that have economic development interests or potential while ensuring that the rights of existing landowners and title holders can be accommodated.

This is what part 2 of the legislation is all about. It contains a number of provisions that will achieve these goals, and they are very laudatory goals.

For example, part 2 will empower the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to set apart as reserves any of the land selected by Manitoba first nations under a claim settlement agreement, eliminating the need for an order in council.

Part 2 of the bill will also allow for the finalization of agreements with third parties in a timely manner, which provides certainty and protection to all. It establishes more effective mechanisms for accommodating third party interests identified in the reserve creation process.

Specifically part 2 will allow Manitoba first nations to strike deals on third party interests as soon as a parcel of land is identified for reserve status. This will enable the first nations to accommodate different kinds of third party interests before land is officially added to a reserve, or to negotiate new rights that will come into effect upon reserve creation.

This latter aspect, negotiating new third party interests in addition to negotiating replacements of existing interests, is particularly noteworthy. As a result of this provision we will see first nations pursue emerging economic opportunities on their chosen lands immediately rather than experience the freeze on development which now occurs pending resolution of the land's status.

Part 2 of Bill C-14 is not creating any new entitlements for first nations or imposing any new obligations on governments or landowners. It is simply making an existing process work better so that we speed up the implementation of the claims and facilitate first nations' use of their lands and resources to generate social and economic benefits for their community.

I have already quoted from the remarks made by Fred Muskego, a band councillor for Norway House Cree nation. He appeared before the committee on March 11, 1999. He expressed full support for Bill C-14, noting from his firsthand experience that the northern flood agreement was difficult to implement and that virtually every claim resulting from the agreement had been challenged and usually ended up in court.

He stated very clearly on behalf of the entire council and community that Bill C-14 is in the “best interests” of the Norway House people. Why? Because the MIA makes the Norway House Cree the masters of their own destiny. It lets the community decide how to spend its compensation moneys and makes the political leadership accountable. Canadians want that and so do the first nations. In his words, the MIA is an “avenue for the future of our children”.

Manitoba Hydro, which is a party to the northern flood agreement and the master implementation agreement, was also represented before the committee. Mr. Bettner, associate corporate counsel for the utility, had this to say:

From Manitoba Hydro's perspective, the [master implementation] agreement and this legislation provide a number of positive benefits for all parties. First and foremost, it provides the parties with the opportunity to build a new and effective relationship by resolving issues which have, over the years, resulted in anger, mistrust, uncertainty, adversarial arbitration, and delays in delivering the compensation and benefits spoken to in the northern flood agreement. It provides certainty for the past, the present and the future.

Those are strong words from a key partner in the process. I remind hon. members that Manitoba Hydro has accepted additional responsibilities as a result of the master implementation agreement. The utility is eager to move forward even with those additional responsibilities in the partnership because it knows a new millennium and a new way is before us.

It does not end there. Mr. Bettner also spoke in favour of part 2 of Bill C-14, noting that it would allow Canada and the first nations to move and more effectively accommodate existing and potential third party interests in land. He said before the committee:

Part 2 provides a relatively seamless framework for developers or other land users and will hopefully forestall the loss of opportunities where the need to resolve land use issues is an early and paramount consideration. Part 2 will be a benefit to Manitoba Hydro in its ongoing dealings with first that it will provide the ability to resolve the ongoing land interests in a timely manner.

Gord Hannon of the Manitoba Department of Justice also stated full provincial support for both parts of Bill C-14. Mr. Hannon told the committee that a wide range of stakeholders were consulted on the treaty land entitlement framework agreement supported by part 2 of the legislation. These included the mining and forestry industry, Manitoba Hydro and municipal governments. Mr. Hannon said:

It is fair to say that there has been a high level of general consultation in Manitoba and, I hope and believe, a high level of understanding of the objectives in the framework agreement.

I could go on at length about the many benefits of this bill and the support it has received in committee. We have heard the arguments and there are always arguments pro and con. The bill has been studied from all angles. The validity of the Norway House master implementation agreement has even been confirmed by a court of law. Now it is time to move forward.

By emulating proven federal legislation and by introducing useful new mechanisms, Bill C-14 will help Manitoba claim settlements accomplish their objectives quickly and effectively.

If hon. members support the goals of this government set out in “Gathering Strength”, goals of honouring treaty land entitlements, of supporting strong communities and people, of building the capacity for economic self-sufficiency and of renewing Canada's relationship with aboriginal people, then I urge them to vote in favour of Bill C-14 so that it can be sent to the other place.

In closing, I would like to say that the time I have spent as chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has been a most proud and useful time. I have learned more than I could ever give.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2000 / 4:15 p.m.


Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address this bill again. I want to speak on both parts of this bill.

I notice the insertion of the word “right” in the bill, which does not mean much in light of recent supreme court decisions. It was probably requested by Warren Allmand who is a former minister of Indian affairs with this government.

I would like to speak about the process because process matters. The government seems to be under the impression that the end justifies the means, that the government can simply pass legislation to give legislative credibility to its actions and that it can hold a referendum after the fact to almost give credibility to a process that was quite flawed.

We had a lot of people in from Norway House and other parts of Canada who had connections with Norway House and who were really unhappy with the process that they went through. The result may have been inevitable but we had a lot of control over the process and it was not necessary to make a lot of people unhappy. Too much information was given to those people in too little time and it was not given to them in a language that they understood very well. They finally received a translation, if I remember correctly.

There were incentives given to vote for the legislation rather than voting for it based on its own merit. There was a denial of the use of public broadcasting facilities located in the town. Many people mentioned that they were not happy with that. That has created a great deal of bitterness in the community that will take years and years to deal with.

We talk about the honour of the crown a great deal when we talk about Indian affairs. In this case, the honour of the crown was somewhat tarnished by a process that these people had precious little control over.

In 1977, which was 23 years ago, the government signed an open-ended flood agreement that this act was meant to replace. These people have waited 23 years for a resolution to what they felt was their right. How did successive governments behave? They took a generation to deal with these issues. Older people are probably long since gone from the community for whatever reason. Young people grew up not knowing what they had had. A situation like this is unacceptable.

The Liberal government has a record of making big open-ended promises like the NFA which is very poorly defined. Then comes the reality check. Then comes the time when people across Canada or the people in the communities say that this is not deliverable or that the government has not delivered what it was supposed to deliver. It gets cut back, defined down and eventually gets to where it should have been right off the bat. That is not acceptable.

When the Canadian Alliance proposes that land claims, treaties and other agreements should be affordable, that the process should be transparent and that it should be capable of being delivered, the government attacks. The minister resorts to attacks on our party or personal attacks on the person who makes the criticism of the process. That is either myself or members of my party, my colleagues, who are under attack simply because we are quite realistic about dealing with these things.

We can think about a lot of things. In the Marshall decision, the minister made some really irresponsible comments about lumber, oil and gas after the Marshall decision came down. What was the result if it? Burnt Church, which is the current crisis.

We had the Lubicon building a sort of pretend reserve here to air their complaints and to publicize what they felt had gone wrong. I do not know what the total answer is to the Lubicon, but I know that a number of years ago the leader of the opposition at the time, who is now our Prime Minister, made a big promise. It was a promise he could not keep and probably had no intention of keeping.

Who did the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development blame yesterday? It was the Alberta government. If the Prime Minister, who was official opposition leader at the time, did not bother to consult with other governments to find out what their stand was, that is hardly an excuse for the position of the Alberta government.

To reflect on that type of action is ridiculous and it means that the honour of the crown was again tarnished. It means making promises that cannot be kept or that there is no intention of keeping. In the Lubicon, to say that I did not know is ridiculous. They had telephones as far back as 1993. That is some news for the Prime Minister in case he was not aware of that. In Burnt Church big promises were made but there was no delivery.

There is a lack of policy and a lack of progress in delivering what little the Liberals have. When they fail, bad manners is no excuse for action. The crown has other responsibilities but one of the words we never hear when we hear about those things is honour of the crown. Metaphorically speaking, people are always wrapping themselves in the flag.

However, let us talk about the honour of the crown. Does the crown not have an obligation to have honour ascribed to itself by fighting for freedom of speech and making sure that that happens? The people of the Cross Lake community were denied a voice on their own public radio system to broadcast their concerns with what was coming down. Whether they were right or wrong, they had a right to a voice and to be heard.

Does honour of the crown not require that the government to protect the weakest people in our country, our children? I refer to the Sharpe decision where the government sat on its hands for close to a year and did nothing about it. The decision allowed child pornography to be in the hands of pedophiles. Does the honour of the crown not require a strong defence force to protect its territories and its people? Where did the honour of the crown go on that issue?

We are always hearing about health care. The government cutback health care funding then bragged that it brought it back to where it almost used to be. Where was the honour of the crown? Where was the obligation to the people of Canada?

How about reasonable tax levels? Is the honour of the crown not impugned when tax levels are so bad that people are leaving the country, moving out from underneath the so-called protection of the crown and moving to other tax jurisdictions? How about responsible government that listens to the people? How about a working justice system that makes our streets safe through a parole system that works to protect people? How about a case that I am very strong on, a right to life for the unborn? I do not believe that the honour of the crown is much protected in many of these areas.

I would like to tell the government that I want to see it start talking about honour of the crown in many more areas than simply Indian affairs. The honour of the crown can be protected when land claim negotiations have respect for existing private property rights. Affordable and conclusive settlements would also protect the honour of the crown and would state where the government, particularly the Alliance government when it is elected, stood. It would be open and honest and would not raise expectations beyond all reason to then cut them back for 20 or 30 years until finally people gave up or were driven to desperation.

We will see that all stakeholders are involved in negotiations. That is an honourable thing to do. We will protect the democratic rights and freedoms of individual aboriginals on reserves, including private property rights so that people are not driven off the reserves due to lack of housing, lack of money or no private property rights, and where people can protect their families. I remind the government that the honour of the crown requires that this government look after all citizens of this country.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at third reading of Bill C-14, an act respecting an agreement with the Norway House Cree Nation. This is a bill that concerns the Norway House Cree but, like any bill having to do with aboriginals, there are implications in other areas, even in the immediate region to which this agreement will apply.

This part of northern Manitoba has undergone many ecological changes as a result of the introduction of dams, and the harnessing of major waterways in the region. Other aboriginal communities have been affected by these changes.

The reason I mention this is because later on I intend to give the background to the northern flood agreement. I think it important to name the communities which already have agreements: York Factory, Nelson House, and Split Lake. For these communities there were bills to give legal effect to the agreement.

We now have the agreement with Norway House and that would leave Cross Lake, which would signal the completion of this hydroelectric project, with its disastrous impact on the environment.

I should not restrict my criticism to Hydro Manitoba because many detractors, some of them in English Canada, have pointed a finger at the James Bay agreement. They told us that the ecological impact of the bill and the James Bay agreement in northern Quebec is terrible.

Having studied the files on Norway House and the other communities I have mentioned, I can respond to these detractors that we in Quebec have no need to feel guilty about what has happened in northern Quebec, when we compare it to the situation in northern Manitoba.

In northern Manitoba, the Churchill River was re-routed to empty into the Nelson, in order to have a stronger flow. A whole string of dams and other structures was built in order to harness the current to generate hydroelectric power.

The impact in northern Manitoba was greater, judging by the figures we have before us: 2,134 square kilometres of land affected, 67 of those within the reserves. I would, moreover, remind hon. members that this bill also covers the aspect of the expansion of Manitoba's reserves, in order to save the honour of the crown and to be able to tell the aboriginal people “We flooded part of your land, but we are going to compensate you for it. For every acre flooded we'll give you four elsewhere”. This is more or less what the bill we are looking at today does.

Moreover, the Bloc Quebecois expressed the opinion on second reading that it might be worthwhile making this into two bills, one dealing with compensation and the other with the creation of reserves.

This has been an ecological disaster and has had a direct negative impact on the aboriginal peoples' traditional way of life, including their hunting and fishing. Also affected was their full enjoyment of their natural environment, something that is very important to them.

When we consider the flooding that occurred in northern Manitoba, and are somewhat familiar with the aboriginal issue, we realize this has had a major impact on their way of life. Everyone knows that flooding affects the forests and that, after a while, this will give rise to considerable mercury in the waterways. This necessarily creates a fishing problem, members will agree. In this regard, I must say that we are no better than anyone else; in northern Quebec, we had mercury poisoning too, but not to the same degree as in northern Manitoba.

Native commercial and recreational areas were also harmed, areas that they had traditionally occupied. Archaeologists are saying that the Cree, the nation affected, could have lived in this part of northern Manitoba for 10,000 years. This means long before the Europeans arrived in North America.

Therefore, these people had a way of life, of fishing, of hunting and of enjoying themselves. All of this has upset the traditional ways of doing things. There are therefore fewer fish for the reasons I have just given. Many fish did not survive the flooding because of the high levels of mercury and those that did contained mercury and, accordingly, the native people were denied their traditional subsistence fishing practice, which is extremely important to them.

Drinking water was also contaminated because, as I said earlier, about 67 square kilometres of land in these reserves were flooded. Artesian wells were contaminated and aboriginals experienced a lot of problems. In fact, the agreement signed at the time includes provisions stating that the government must provide drinking water to aboriginals, since they could no longer use the water found on their reserve.

It also became more risky to travel by boat because of the lower water level. It goes without saying that if we divert a river into a bigger one, the level of water in the first river will necessarily be lower, since the water is diverted into a bigger river. This also had an impact on the ice level.

As we can see, when man plays with nature, it can sometimes be dangerous. Unfortunately, the first victims of that situation are the residents of Norway House and those living in the five communities to which I referred earlier. This even had an impact on Lake Winnipeg's water level. The result was that some reserves found themselves with a lot less water around their territory. This had a major impact on people living in northern Manitoba, particularly aboriginals.

The reason we are here today dealing with this bill—and I believe the Canadian Alliance member mentioned it earlier—is because it has been almost 23 years since the Manitoba northern flood agreement was signed.

I say it was signed, but that is not entirely accurate. At a certain point, the government agreed to let these five communities sit down and say “Listen, the bill before us will certainly have an impact on each of our communities and it would perhaps be a good idea to organize a round table so that, if we decide to move, we will do so together so that we can take into account the impact this bill will have on each of us in our individual reserves”. This was the strategy for a number of years.

With its policies on funding during negotiations, the government agreed to give money to the parties to the agreement so that they could work on their negotiations with the government.

The government realized that it was creating a sort of common front. People were working well together and at a certain point the government said it no longer wished to fund the northern flood agreement.

The reason is very simple. The government simply wanted to break down this common front. It began to work on each of the communities. The first was Split Lake, I think. I recall that one of the first speeches I gave here in the House, during the last parliament, concerned Split Lake.

The government said “We are prepared to come to an agreement with you. This is how we want to settle the matter”. Finally, it introduced a bill to give force of law to the agreement it had entered into with the people of Split Lake.

This is where things started to get a bit touchy, because some aboriginal communities said “There is an agreement with Split Lake, but not with us. Not that we absolutely insist on an agreement right away, but if work is begun that will have an impact on Split Lake and they get compensation from you, just think of the impact your project will have on us, to whom you are not yet giving any compensation”.

This is how the government managed to destroy the common front of the five communities. It is a pity, because basically the government tried to settle with one community as cheaply as possible and now it wants to apply the same scenario to the others.

There is, moreover, one agreement that has not been dealt with, and that is the one with Cross Lake. I have just been listening to the words of the former chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, who was saying that she had heard many witnesses voice the opinion that it was very important for the bill concerning Norway House to be passed. Indeed it is, but there were others who came before the committee and said that some changes had to be made. In fact, I tried to introduce some of those in the form of motions and amendments yesterday. Unfortunately the House rejected them.

I will return to this point later, since I had just 10 minutes for all my motions of yesterday. I feel that the matter of rights is extremely important. It is, moreover, one of the reasons the Bloc Quebecois will not be able to support this bill, because the importance of these rights is not recognized formally.

The community in Cross Lake, in fact, was the last native community to be covered by a bill. The bill concerning Norway House is currently before us.

The government does not know when the Cross Lake people will arrive. They certainly appeared before the committee, though. I was there. They said “Listen, this makes no sense. There were incredible gaps in the bill. We do not agree to your settling with these people and then leaving us on the sideline”. That is the government's strategy. That was the strategy from the outset. They break a common front, try to settle for as little as possible and, if the last group demands too much, they are told “Listen, we are not going to settle with you, you are asking too much”.

In my opinion they are not the ones asking too much. Perhaps the government took advantage of an opportunity, of its divide and conquer strategy, to arrange to isolate the people. Today, they have a hard time resisting on their own.

Yesterday, I unfortunately did not get very far in my speech, because I had only 10 minutes, and the motions were grouped together. I think it important, however, to take a few minutes on the question of rights.

The Cree of Quebec and the natives in Cross Lake came to tell us that it was important to have the bill provide somewhere that the ancestral and general rights of native people are not threatened by this bill and the agreement referred to.

Naturally, there are a number of people who said “We can consider this a treaty and therefore it is covered by section 35 of the Constitution of Canada, by the Constitution Act, 1982”.

I read an excellent article by Mel Smith, which explained how inclusion of section 35 within the Canadian constitution was negotiated. It is an absolutely incredible story.

It took place over the telephone. There has been pressure to add the term “existing” to “treaty” in section 35 of the Canadian constitution.

Now, some people are telling us that this is covered under section 35 of the Canadian constitution, but, according to Mr. Smith and several experts, we still do not understand the full scope of section 35. It was not enough to say that it is covered under section 35 and that there is no need to be concerned.

At the time, we endorsed the view of aboriginal people who told us “If, as you say, it is already covered under section 35 of the constitution, then why do you not add the term right to the bill? You yourself are saying that it does not change anything”. Yesterday, the government rejected the amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois to that effect. It is important to explain why we insisted on the issue of rights.

As I said yesterday at the beginning of my speech, when we tell someone “I have a right to do this”, it is certainly because there is a legal basis and some legislation somewhere. If there is legislation, some may say that it is flawed, that it does not go far enough, that there are grey areas. These people are free to appeal. This is regularly the case with aboriginal issues. I would be curious to know how many cases involving aboriginals are now held up before the courts.

Some laws give rights to aboriginals, but the Supreme Court of Canada has certainly gone the furthest with respect to aboriginal rights.

Yesterday, I spoke about a number of decisions and their impact. I described the evolution of aboriginal rights. I often criticized the government's failure to act. In my view, it is clinging to an outdated piece of legislation, the Indian Act, which is over 120 years old. It is trying to tell us that it will sort out the aboriginal issue today with a piece of legislation that has been around for 120 years.

I am not a legal counsel, but this must be one of the few instances when the government has decided to enforce such an ancient statute. It is ridiculous. This must be one of the only areas where this is being done.

I do not think, in the case of the economy where the banks and takeovers are concerned or any other sector that lawmakers are called upon to discuss, it would be acceptable for them to say that, in the context of the year 2000, the third millennium, they are going to continue to operate with statutes that go back 120 years. It is preposterous. Naturally aboriginals are forced to turn to the courts for justice.

That is why it is important for them to talk about rights. That is why things are getting out of hand, as they are in Burnt Church right now. That is why aboriginals believe that it is important for the word right to appear in bills like this one. It is so that they will not be told that they have given up their ancestral rights.

There have been precedents, people who have paved the way in the courts for aboriginals. I think it important that we look at this, because it has an impact on the bill before us.

Yesterday, I paid tribute to Frank Calder, a Nisga'a. In my opinion he really paved the way in the courts for aboriginals. In 1973, the supreme court finally recognized the existence of aboriginal title. Before that, it had never existed. The federal and provincial governments believed that it was their prerogative to pass laws and that there was no special law for aboriginals—

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am sorry but I have to interrupt the hon. member. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, Health; the hon. member for Vancouver East, Housing.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was speaking of the Calder decision, in which aboriginal title was recognized and for the first time it was said that “Yes, there is occupation, possession and use of ancestral lands, there is aboriginal title”. That is what the supreme court decided in 1973.

On the other hand, counsel for the Crown said “There cannot be aboriginal title because the royal proclamation of 1763 contained specific provisions”. There are specific provisions in the treaties and in the Indian Act.

The supreme court refuted those arguments and, in the Calder decision, stated that there was aboriginal right and aboriginal title without explaining what that title was. It merely stated that there was one. That had to wait for the Guérin decision, in which the supreme court stated in 1984 that land entitlement was special because of its inalienable character, that the government had a fiduciary obligation toward the aboriginal people, and that the honour of the crown was at stake. This was stated in several supreme court judgments.

My Alliance colleague has just said the same: the honour of the crown is at stake each time a treaty is signed, and each time legislation is passed in the House.

One important step had been taken. It was stated not only that there was aboriginal title, but also that this was inalienable in character and that the government ought to commit to defending the aboriginal people because of its fiduciary role. Hon. members will understand that the government is often uncomfortable with its role of trustee, as in the case of Burnt Church.

In this case, we have a government that is the trustee of the native people and that must defend them. However, it runs over the canoes of the natives with its boats. This is hard to reconcile. The government is certainly going to say the resource has to be protected and so on. There is no proof, however, that the resource is being threatened at Burnt Church. I can understand the natives in Burnt Church who are told when they fish “You are entitled to put 50 lobster traps in the water, but the white community next door is entitled to put in 50,000. For you, it is 50”.

Some people are starting to say “Listen, we are not responsible for declining stocks of fish and lobster in Miramichi Bay”. I understand the natives, and the government is still stuck on its role as trustee.

In 1988 it was the Paul decision. It held that the aboriginal title was sui generis , that is the only one of its kind. This was another step forward. The native title, and it is starting to be defined, is not only inalienable; it is unique. Previously there were naturally decisions recognizing that natives were here first and that they had specific rights because they were the first inhabitants.

Then came the Gladstone decision. It went even further. It provided that, when the government wants to impose a restriction on a native right, it must justify doing so clearly. Obviously in the case of Burnt Church, the government cites resource protection. This claim is not fully justified, however.

The government is not providing a specific study to show what size of catch is feasible during and after the fishing season. The government is not saying. The decision in Gladstone went even further.

This is why I can understand the aboriginals in Burnt Church. It would have been important to define the notion of right in the bill before us, but the government decided otherwise.

There was also the Delgamuukw decision in 1997, which went even further. Previous decisions always dealt with hunting and fishing issues. That ruling goes further by stating that the territory itself is included, that aboriginals who can prove long term occupation are entitled to more than hunting and fishing privileges. They have the power to decide on activities and to regulate them, including economic activities. This is where it goes a little further.

Meanwhile what is the government doing? It does not do anything. Yet the score, so to speak, is 50 to 0 for aboriginals in supreme court rulings. The definition of title continues to evolve.

The Delgamuukw decision goes beyond hunting and fishing. It states that aboriginals have the power to regulate things over their own territory. This includes forestry, mining and several other activities over their territory. Delgamuukw is yet another step.

The Delgamuukw decision brought about something rather disconcerting for white people. When white people reach an agreement they sign a contract such as a lease or some kind of convention, but the Delgamuukw decision provides that the oral tradition will have the same weight as historical documents. This goes quite far.

There are certain conditions: “Aboriginals must prove that they have occupied the entire territory in question before the arrival of the British”. In the case of the Cree, with their 10,000 years of history, and the Micmac with their 10,000, I do not think this should be hard to do.

“The occupation must have physically taken place and have been substantially maintained”. A number of court decisions have said this. I do not think it is difficult to prove. The Micmac are in eastern Canada and the Cree in the north. Archaeologists and the best experts will tell you that they were there before us. They had a political system, an economy, agreements with their neighbours. I think that it is fairly simple to show that they occupied the lands, and that the occupation took place physically.

“The group in question must have exclusive jurisdiction and control of the land”. This is akin to sovereignty, control of one's land. There is no doubt that the Cree have always controlled their land, and that the Micmac have always controlled theirs, before the arrival of the British and even of the Europeans.

Members will understand the importance to them of having the word “right” in the bill. Unfortunately the Liberal Party has decided otherwise and dismissed it.

I am going to speak a bit about consultation because I see this as an incredible oversight in the bill. As members know, this agreement was to have the approval of the community proper. What happened was incredible. The government said “Here is the agreement”. It agreed with the band council on the referendum question and that was what they asked.

Contrary to the government's expectations, they lost the referendum. The people said no because on the issue of ancestral rights it was not enough. The government changed its tack and said “I declare the referendum null and void”. People wondered why it voided the referendum. It was because it had lost by five votes. The government said “It is because people who live off the reserve were registered as natives and voted. We do not think they should have voted”.

They held a second referendum. They told the people before they voted “We have a cheque for $1,000 waiting for each native person in the community”, if they vote favourably, of course.

When someone waves a personalized cheque at a person who is one of the poorest in Canada, just before the Christmas holidays on top of it, and says “If you vote, you will have this cheque”, it seems to me that there is a bit of a problem there.

Members will understand that this is why we had a bit of a hard time when the Liberal Party said that our referendums in Quebec are not always democratic because of the way we hold them. I do not think we have anything to learn from the federal government with examples like this.

That is the problem. People appeared before the committee to tell us that it was not right that everyone was promised $1,000 if the outcome of the referendum was in favour of the agreement. It is like buying the results of a referendum.

The Bloc Quebecois will have to object to this, because I think that the government did not do its job. The money has probably already been paid. The compensation has probably already gone to people and been spent, but we must not keep being held hostage and told that this is an implementation act, that it has been decided and signed several years ago, and that, now, a bill is needed to give it force of law.

The government should go back to the drawing boards. If it was wrong, it can pay what it paid before. And if there is a different outcome in a few years with the Norway House agreement in an unbiased and properly held referendum, then the government can pay again.

The government is responsible for the terrible mess. Not just the ecological mess I mentioned earlier, but the democratic mess as well. It is responsible for consultations which consisted of promising people things and offering them a cheque for voting in favour. This is one of the primary reasons we cannot support this bill.

The issue of rights is a key one for us. It was very important to have it included in the bill. The government left it out and the members of the ruling party were all too quick yesterday to cast their vote showing that they thought it was not important. But it was indeed important for aboriginals. Perhaps not those of Norway House, because they were told that when it got passed there would be compensation. However, the others in the vicinity, for example the people in Cross Lake, which is next to them, will feel the impact of the decisions on this. They are being backed into a corner, because they are being told that the others have settled. That has an impact. If the democratic process that has been used is flawed, then things need to be started over again.

The government has decided to reject the entire matter of rights. We are not obliged to agree, now that there is something missing from the bill.

If the word right had been included, it would not have cost the federal government anything. If, as the government says, it is protected under clause 35, I do not see why the term right could not have been added. That would have not cost it anything. But there is a whole other matter, the fact that it does not want to recognize aboriginal rights.

It does not want to recognize them, even if the courts have recently said that there are ancestral rights, and that there are specific rights connected to the fact that they were the first inhabitants of this continent.

We will not reject the bill merely because of the matter of rights, but because the consultation process was very badly handled. I want the federal government, the Liberal government, to know that they need not lecture us on democracy when we hold our own referendum, and hold it properly.

The federal government made some promises at the time, saying “If you vote no, it is as if you were telling us yes, in favour of renewed federalism”. We have seen what happened as a result.

I do not think it has anything to teach us about democracy. Our referendums and our elections are always carried out properly. If people are told “You are going to get $1,000 if it passes” there is a problem.

For these two fundamental reasons, we will have to vote against Bill C-14.

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5 p.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do want to say I am pleased that we are finally at this point in Bill C-14 of coming before the House. Hopefully we will see it passed. I do not think there is any question that there have been problems in the whole process. I must say I am pleased that it is here today. Hopefully before the House puts itself to rest for this parliament, we will be able to see the bill passed.

I will take this opportunity to talk about the bill but also to comment on why we are here today. Canada's first nations people were robbed for generations of the natural process of cultural and social change. They were robbed of economic opportunities because of government policies. They were forced to give up their treaty rights to make a living and even forced to give up their treaty rights in order to fight for this country in the world wars, the Korean War and other conflicts Canada was involved in.

I wonder how many Canadians know our true history. How many Canadians know that when these first nations soldiers came back they were not given the same rewards as other Canadian soldiers? They were not allowed to vote. They had lost their treaty rights. I wonder, do we share this shameful part of our history with the rest of the world?

On many occasions the government has had the opportunity to right the injustices toward aboriginal people, but no, aboriginal people must fight for every single right they have, and most often in the courts.

This bill before us is no different. We should not be under any false impressions as to why this bill is before us today. In 1977 the federal government signed an open-ended flood agreement with first nations negatively affected by the diversion of water for hydro development in Manitoba. This agreement was to have meant great economic success for the first nations involved; it was their chance for future economic progress.

For the record, Mr. Warren Allmand, the Indian affairs minister at the time, was part of the negotiation of the northern flood agreement. When he appeared before the standing committee on this bill he commented that he saw this bill as a modern day treaty. For those who are under any impression about how the negotiators felt about this bill, they should know that it was seen as a modern day treaty.

The reason we are here today with this new bill before us is that in the northern flood agreement the Government of Canada once again failed to follow through on an agreement they made. It was an agreement that would have meant benefits to the first nations involved, but year after year they kept the first nations people in the courts, fighting for everything in that agreement.

For those who think, well, too bad, if it is not a given they should have to go out there and fight and prove that is what the agreement meant, let me remind the House, all Canadians and all those public service workers how pay equity was a right in this country and how for 15 years women in this country had to fight for the right to pay equity with the government, which did not want to follow through on the agreement.

Just in case some people think it is only the aboriginal people out there who have a beef on the issue of the government following through on the agreement, it is not. I want those people to recognize that this is not just an aboriginal issue. It is an issue of the fact of the government not following through on agreements that it should be following through on.

As a result of not following through on the northern flood agreement, yes, some first nations agreed to changes, because they knew if they were ever going to have any chance whatsoever they had better not rely on the federal Liberal government. They had to do something else. They were fighting for survival. One after the other renegotiated so that they would have that opportunity.

Over the years we often hear of big corporations doing that to the small guy. If the corporations just keep them in the courts long enough they will never be able to afford to fight. Ultimately the big guy wins out in the end. It is no different here. The first nations people were backed into a corner and in order to survive they had to renegotiate. Let us not be under any false impression of why they are here.

From the perspective of the bill, the Norway House First Nation has the right to make that decision. They have done that. They have agreed that the bill will give them an opportunity. Under no circumstances whatsoever do they intend that this bill should give up any of their treaty or inherent rights, none whatsoever.

I do find it unconscionable that the government was not willing to ensure this within the bill, to put it in words that in no way, shape or form would the bill affect the treaty or inherent rights of the first nations.

However, the government tells us that it will not. The Norway House first nation is willing to accept that and, because the bill affects them, for that reason we should support it. I am not going to be someone who tells them what they should be doing. They have had that happen for too long.

There has been consultation. The process was not perfect; I do not think there is any question about it. We have heard comments about referendums not being held properly and about situations where people may have been paid off. All those questions came to light in the committee hearings.

It was felt that the issues were dealt with, but the bottom line was that the first nation approved this. The chief and council who were representative of that first nation were re-elected, for the most part. I think that is an indication that the community supported the process. Therefore we should be supporting it because it applies foremost to the Norway House first nation.

However, we should not lose sight of the fact that there is another first nation out there, the Cross Lake first nation. They are not giving in. Quite frankly, they have every right not to give in. The original agreement was signed. Negotiators to that agreement acknowledged that it was seen as a modern-day treaty. They believe that this first agreement, the northern flood agreement, in itself is what is best for the Cross Lake first nation.

They deserve to not have to go to the courts time and time again. They deserve to have the opportunity to have it settled once and for all. I would hope that the Liberal government will not force another first nation into the situation we see throughout the country. I would hope that we do not have to see violence being the answer in order for rights to be upheld.

While the government supports the bill, I would ask that it also support the rights of the other first nations to make their decisions, that it seriously negotiate a settlement on the northern flood agreement with the Cross Lake first nation and not play the big bad corporate government, holding off until Cross Lake first nation is forced into starvation, forced into receivership, forced into not being able to have houses or pay for the wonderful hydro project that was supposed to make everything better for them. They cannot even afford the hydro. The rates are higher in northern Manitoba because they do not have as dense a population. They pay higher rates than other areas. It makes one wonder why they are not out there jumping screaming and praising the whole process.

As much as I will be supporting the bill, I think Canadian people need to know we are in this situation because once again the Liberal government has failed to follow through on an agreement with first nations people. It is time it changed that approach or this country will never ever be out of turmoil.

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5:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak 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 lands, and respecting the establishment of certain reserves in the province of Manitoba.

We would like to have detailed commentary on the bill. However, due to time constraints, we realize that the passage of the bill is a lot more important to the principles involved than having our few words on the record. We will be brief to make sure that the bill can be passed in a timely manner.

The legislation speaks to two issues: the Norway House Cree Nation's master implementation agreement resulting from the flooded lands, and the reserve establishment, particularly in reference to the Manitoba treaty land entitlement framework agreement of 1997.

First, however, we are hardly impressed by the combination of these issues that the legislation represents. The two main issues addressed in this bill are far too important to have them lumped together. We certainly realize that the issues are related, but these issues should be addressed separately in order to provide each bill with the attention it deserves.

Legislation is not necessary for the implementation of this agreement since it is already going ahead. Instead, this legislation is another step toward implementing the terms of the northern flood agreement and the federal government's obligations under the agreement with regard to the first nations that have signed implementation agreements.

One advantage of this legislation should be the opportunity to move away from the the dispute resolution process to a more conciliatory form of negotiation and discussion. This is something we would all welcome.

I would like to address the second part of this legislation, establishing reserves in the province of Manitoba. Part 2 of this legislation is expected to assist in establishing reserves where an obligation exists in a current or future agreement to set aside land for this purpose. Part 2 appears to be beneficial to the first nations by allowing them to take advantage of conditions on a timely basis and speeding up the process of reserve creation. Because of that, as I mentioned, there are a number of intricate terms we would have liked to explore, happenings of the past that we would like to rehash.

Again because of time constraints, and although it would have been great to get all of that on the record, in doing so we would compromise the possibility of getting the legislation put through.

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The question is on the motion for third reading of Bill C-14. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The vote stands deferred until 5.30 p.m. this day.

The House resumed from November 24, 1999, consideration of Bill C-8, an act respecting marine conservation areas, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We are resuming debate on this bill and the floor is open.

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5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Call the question.

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5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The question is on Motion No. 1. A vote on Motion No. 1 also applies to Motions Nos. 2, 3, 7, 12, 13, 26 to 29, 37, 40 to 48, 53, 55, 56, 59 and 60.

All those in favour of the motion will please rise.

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5:15 p.m.


John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Just for clarification we are on Bill C-8. Do we have provision for debate on these amendments that are being put forward?