House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was s-24.


Kanesatake Interim Land Base Governance ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario


Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill S-24, an act to implement an agreement between the Mohawks of Kanesatake and Her Majesty in right of Canada respecting governance of certain lands by the Mohawks of Kanesatake and to amend an act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Kanesatake Interim Land Base Governance ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Oxford Ontario


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

Madam Speaker, I rise to address the House on second reading of Bill S-24, the Kanesatake interim land base governance act. I am extremely pleased to be bringing this proposed legislation before the House at this time.

As implementing legislation for the agreement with respect to Kanesatake governance and the interim land base between Canada and the Mohawks of Kanesatake, Bill S-24 is a key element of a broader process aimed at resolving the outstanding grievances of the Mohawks of Kanesatake and contributing to social harmony and economic development for the communities of Kanesatake and Oka in Quebec.

It has been more than a decade since the Oka crisis. A great deal has been accomplished since that time but we can go no further in our efforts to resolve outstanding grievances of the Mohawks of Kanesatake without this agreement and its implementing legislation.

It is time to recognize an interim land base for the Mohawks of Kanesatake and to establish law making powers for Kanesatake that other first nations have exercised for years.

In an effort to deal with Mohawk claims to the lands known as the Seigneury of the Lake of Two Mountains, in 1925 the Government of Canada began to purchase parcels of land for the use and occupancy of the Mohawks of Kanesatake. Over the years this has resulted in a patchwork land base so that today while much of the Kanesatake land base consists of adjoining lands, at least some Kanesatake Mohawk lands are interspersed with non-Mohawk lands in and around the village of Oka.

The legal status of these federal crown lands has never been resolved, which has resulted in uncertainty about the application and enforcement of laws on Kanesatake Mohawk lands. This uncertainty has seriously undermined the ability of the Mohawks of Kanesatake to govern themselves.

Bill S-24 would eliminate this uncertainty by recognizing for the first time an interim land base for the Mohawks of Kanesatake. It provides that Kanesatake Mohawk lands would fall under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, but not under the Indian Act. Like many other first nations, the Mohawks of Kanesatake want to extract themselves from the cumbersome provisions of the Indian Act, not become further embroiled in them.

Bill S-24 would ensure that the Mohawks of Kanesatake have powers similar to the authorities exercised by other first nations under the Indian Act. They would be empowered to adopt and enforce land related laws in such areas as resource management, land zoning, residency, waste management, the health and quality of life of residents, construction and fire safety. In the event of any conflict between Kanesatake laws and federal laws, the federal laws would prevail.

The bill provides that the exercise of Kanesatake powers would be subject to the terms of a land governance code setting out the principles by which the Mohawk council of Kanesatake would operate. The code would ensure open and responsible governance by the council, in the best interests of the community, with full political and financial accountability.

Bill S-24 would also ensure that Kanesatake had the authority to enforce its community laws. Kanesatake and Canada are already working with the province of Quebec to conclude a separate agreement on the administration of justice, after which Kanesatake would have the authority to appoint justices of the peace to adjudicate disputes over its laws.

To ensure that the Kanesatake Mohawk lands and non-Mohawk properties in the village of Oka are subject to compatible legal regimes, Bill S-24 would require a harmonization of Kanesatake laws and Oka by-laws on neighbouring lands.

I am pleased to report that the municipality of Oka and its mayor are supportive of the land governance agreement in Bill S-24 and that relations between Oka and Kanesatake are greatly improved. Representatives of these two communities are already meeting to negotiate a harmonization agreement for their respective lands in the village and to address other issues of mutual concern.

I want to assure hon. members that the agreement to be implemented by Bill S-24 is without prejudice to any aboriginal or treaty rights of the Mohawks of Kanesatake, to Kanesatake's historic grievance in relation to the Seigneury of the Lake of Two Mountains or to further more far reaching agreements.

There is a turnaround under way in Kanesatake. Although many issues remain to be resolved, people are optimistic about their future. They are proud of the Kanesatake police force, which for several years now has brought law and order to the community and enhanced the security of all residents in Kanesatake territory, in neighbouring Oka and their neighbouring municipalities. They are proud of their nursing home for the elderly. They are proud of the Mohawk immersion school and youth centre now under construction.

Bill S-24 will lay the foundation for true stability in Kanesatake, the kind of stability that is indispensable to real economic growth and the sustainable nature of the community. With this bill the Mohawks of Kanesatake and their neighbours in the municipality of Oka can all look forward to greater economic opportunity for the Kanesatake-Oka region.

Clearly we are on the right path. Bill S-24 is proof positive that negotiation and reconciliation are the best options for Canada, for the Mohawks of Kanesatake and for the non-Mohawk residents in the region.

I would like to thank our colleagues in the other place for their review and approval of Bill S-24. The hon. senators recognize the merits of the of the land governance agreement that would be implemented through this proposed legislation. They have embraced the opportunity to contribute to the healing process in the Kanesatake-Oka region.

I would like to recognize the co-operation we have had from all parties in the House with respect to Bill S-24, and to urge hon. members to complete this bill at the first opportunity.

Kanesatake Interim Land Base Governance ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill S-24, an act to implement an agreement between the Mohawks of Kanesatake and Her Majesty in right of Canada respecting governance of certain lands by the Mohawks of Kanesatake and to amend an act in consequence.

Let me go on record today on behalf of the Canadian Alliance that we will be supporting Bill S-24. However I have a number of concerns that I wish to address both today and as this bill moves through the committee stage.

The Mohawks of Kanesatake have been faced with a unique situation. For those that are not familiar with the Kanesatake Mohawk land claim, let me just take a moment to summarize. Departmental officials have described it as “perhaps the most difficult Indian claim which the Canadian government inherited from pre-Confederation administrations”.

The history of this unique situation goes all the way back to the year 1717 and the French crown. More recently, in 1945 the government attempted to resolve the land claim through a series of land purchases. The lands purchased resulted in a patchwork quilt effect of Mohawk and non-Mohawk lands scattered across the Oka area. This chequerboard approach continued with land purchases in the 1960s and the 1980s. Past attempts to deal with the land claim through court actions have also been unsuccessful.

While I contend that the Indian Act is an archaic and discriminatory piece of legislation that should be eliminated over time, until now the Kanesatake Mohawks have not even had the few benefits of this legislation, as their lands have not fallen under the bylaw provisions of the act. Nor have they ever been recognized under subsection 91(24) of the 1867 Constitution Act.

It is my understanding that this agreement will provide similar powers as subsection 91(24) of the 1867 Constitution, but not as a reserve as defined under the Indian Act.

I have several questions regarding some of the nuts and bolts of the agreement. Some of the details concerning bylaw harmonization between the municipality of Oka and the Kanesatake Mohawks, environmental issues, the issue of willing buyer willing seller on lands in the area and the voting process are just a few of the issues that are far more appropriate to deal with at the standing committee rather than during second reading in the House of Commons.

There is a larger issue also at stake here today that I want to bring to the House. That is the due process that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has used to bring the bill before the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister has mused publicly about parliamentary reform in the broadest terms possible. He has been chided by his own colleagues and a past Liberal prime minister to let the MPs have a voice in this Chamber. The government has been under pressure to bring parliamentary reform into effect into the House of Commons, and the actions surrounding this bill exemplify why it needs to take place.

The Canadian Alliance has suggested a number of efforts to make this Chamber more accountable to all the people of our constituencies, not just those who voted for us. We have suggested such revolutionary things as free votes, an ethics counsellor who reports to parliament not just the Prime Minister, secret ballots for the selection of committee chairs, improvements to House of Commons debates and empowering MPs to vote freely on behalf of their constituents.

Underlining all of these issues is the willingness of the government to adhere and participate in an open and transparent manner through the entire legislative process. Without that willingness for change on the part of the government, all the talk by the government amounts to so much empty rhetoric.

Unfortunately, over the years we have seen far too much empty rhetoric from this government. The willingness to create change must acknowledge that the status quo is not acceptable. It must acknowledge that the old way of doing things cannot continue if improvements and positive steps forward can be made.

Let me go a step further in this. Changes by the minister of Indian affairs will affect the lives of many native people. I believe that native people in this country need and deserve change. The status quo is not working for our native people. Yet without the creation of these changes in an open and transparent manner, those involved will always have a suspicion that there was a hidden agenda. Trust is earned, it is not legislated.

For these reasons we must ensure that all of the right steps are taken as we proceed through the bill. We must ensure that those who are in favour of it fully understand it. We must ensure that those who are opposed to it have the opportunity to voice their concerns. We must ensure that those who are affected by the changes in this bill, both native and non-native alike, are fully apprised of it.

To some it would seem that these words are an attempt to slow this legislation down. That really is not the case. However in this case the minister has his procedural process backward.

We should all note that the bill introduced here today has already been through the other place. The chamber of so-called sober second thought has already called its witnesses and debated the matter. The very nature of this process upsets me. How can the other place have a sober second thought when the bill has been through there first?

I believe the minister does not understand the correct process of bringing legislation through the House. I note his comments in the other place on April 25 when he said:

Without being too derogatory to my own colleagues in the House, maybe things will go better if I send them here first. Perhaps that is a good trend to continue. We will test it for a while. We have other pieces of legislation that will be coming your way in the next year that we may have some discussions about and consider, with the approval of the House leadership.

Imagine, that is what he said that in the other place. I do not think there was any consultation with our House leader on this. It certainly did not receive the approval of the Canadian Alliance to start in the Senate.

I am not upset over the work that the other place did on the legislation. Indeed senators spent far more time in committee than we will be allowed in the House. However to my knowledge they did not call for the legislation to come to them first. It was taken to them by the minister. I believe that was wrong.

What kind of hidden agenda did the minister have to start the life of the legislation in the other place rather than the House of Commons? Was it a make work project to keep our colleagues there busy because the government's legislative agenda this session is so thin that the wind could blow through it? It was simply rehashed legislation from the last parliament, brought to a halt when the Prime Minister called that unnecessary election which cost the taxpayers of Canada millions of dollars and settled very little.

The government also attempted to proceed through all three readings of the bill today without even taking it to the Indian affairs and northern development standing committee. This is an insult to the role of the House of Commons and its duly elected members. The minister should be ashamed of himself for instituting this process.

I have to wonder aloud if this is the same level of transparency and accountability that the minister is planning to employ throughout the process of the first nations governance act he is proposing. I agree there needs to be greater accountability on the part of chiefs and councils to band members and that the Indian Act needs to be dramatically altered and eventually eliminated. I agree with a grassroots consultation process. We are certainly the party in the House that exemplifies the grassroots democracy of this country. We know all about this. It is not easy to be grassroots, but it is democracy.

I believe there is a strong correlation between the pace at which the minister is attempting to approve and implement Bill S-24 and his proposed first nations governance act. Native Canadians are not fooled by the minister's actions. They believe, and I share their suspicions, that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is already well on its way to drafting the text of the bill prior to the consultation process even beginning.

However, today there are thousands of native Canadians who are refusing to participate in the consultation process the minister has proposed. The minister has proposed to do in mere months what in all likelihood will take years to fully consult, draft, debate and legislate, and so it should.

The minister has gone on record in his own riding that I, as a member of parliament, fail to understand the consultation process and that more than just the Internet will be used for feedback for grassroots band members. I understand what I think he fails to understand. While he may be talking about a meeting with native leaders perhaps over the Internet, and yes they certainly need to be consulted, I have been meeting and talking with the people who are potentially affected by the bill that he proposes, the native governance act.

The grassroots people who I have talked to are not sure how they will pay their next telephone bill, let alone have access to a computer and the knowledge of how to use e-mail or chat rooms. Where are the priorities of the minister and the department?

We are talking about thousands of people who do not have access to potable drinking water. We are talking about people who do not have adequate housing for many months of the year. We are talking about people who cannot receive adequate health care.

There are many good examples across Canada. There are band chiefs and councils who have their members' best interests at heart and act upon them. However the House must wake up to the harsh reality that thousands of native Canadians face daily. Yes, they do want self-government but what does that really mean? If we talk to 10 different people we will get 10 different answers. They want to fulfil their right to self-determination. They want decent education and health care for their families. They want to control their own facilities. Why should they not? The rest of us do.

If the minister were truly listening to the cries of band members he would hear something else. He would hear that many band members are scared of taking control of these services before they are ready. Many band members wonder aloud how people with a poor education can be in charge of their bands' education authorities. They wonder how some of their leaders can lead them into the 21st century when trust and accountability is lacking today.

I have been talking with native Canadians from seven provinces who are facing serious issues, such as third party management, health care funding mismanagement, electoral and voting discrepancies and education funding allocations. These are the issues that band members, including elders, truly want addressed. Rhetoric about consultation means little when children do not have quality health care and houses have no running water.

Let us get our priorities straight for those who cannot comprehend an end to the relentless barriers placed upon them.

I return to the specifics of Bill S-24. I have had the opportunity to meet with grand chief James Gabriel and discuss what the legislation means to Kanesatake Mohawks. I understand why it is important to him and to many of his people. I have assured him that the official opposition will not needlessly oppose the bill.

However, and I am sure he understands, we need to ensure there is not only due process but the appearance of due process. All voices must be heard, both pro and con. At the end of the process even opponents who do not agree with the outcome must feel they have had an opportunity to express their opinion. The end result of the process must be seen as a progressive move forward by the majority who will be affected by the legislation.

I trust that the minister will seriously reconsider his words in the other place and attempt to follow what I believe to be the correct procedure. Perhaps the minister is wary of open and honest debate in the House. He should not be. He should want to ensure that all legislation that impacts on the lives of native Canadians is viewed in the full light of this place by all hon. members. We look forward in the coming days to discussing the bill in committee.

Kanesatake Interim Land Base Governance ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, the purpose of Bill S-24, the Kanesatake interim land base governance act, is to implement what might be termed an historic agreement recognizing, for the first time, a territory for the Mohawks of Kanesatake as well as the powers to exercise jurisdiction over these lands.

This agreement is the outcome of long months of negotiation and is evidence of the desire to create a peaceful and positive atmosphere between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples following on the disturbing events of 1990. Remedying this situation has taken 11 years. I think the wounds needed to heal somewhat first, and then there had to be negotiations in good faith and by mutual consent before the result we now have before us could be achieved.

The bill will make it possible to settle Mohawk property rights, thereby reducing the economic uncertainty surrounding the ownership and use of the area's lands and resources.

The events of 1990 had a direct impact on property values, on the future of these lands, what would happen to them, who would own them and how they would be administered. I believe that Bill S-24 will calm down the situation and show that investment in this area is possible. People can now make informed decisions about settling in this area, knowing exactly what the framework will be.

It is important to point out that the word interim is used precisely because there is the possibility of other lands being added in future, with the consent of both parties. In other words, there is an agreement, as should be the case when negotiations occur, on issues on which both sides agree, but additions may be made in the future. This is particularly true if the agreement works well and yields good results, because then some landowners or people who want to clarify a situation may be tempted to join those who are already covered by the agreement before us.

The Bloc Quebecois will support the bill. This position reflects our party's openness to the comprehensive claims made by aboriginal peoples. It is part of a constructive dialogue with the first nations.

We have demonstrated this in recent years, since the Bloc Quebecois has been present in this House, particularly during the first few years, through the work of the hon. member for Saint-Jean. He was in contact with first nations officials everywhere. Things have not always been easy but we managed to build a constructive relation. Whenever bills or measures have been proposed to improve relations with one or several first nations, we have worked in that spirit. Our support for the bill before us today is based on that spirit.

It is important to understand the need for this harmonization agreement. In order to do so, it must be realized that some parts of the Kanesatake lands are not contiguous. In fact, 57 lands belonging to the Mohawks of Kanesatake are located in the Town of Oka.

It is also important to stress the fact that the current agreement was reached after consultations with the Quebec government, which is not a party to this agreement. These lands really come under federal jurisdiction and formally involve only the federal government and the Mohawks of Kanesatake, but the government of Quebec was consulted and there was an agreement with the town of Oka, with the result that this was a consensus of almost all those involved directly or in an advisory capacity in the negotiations.

It should be emphasized that the agreement included a statement to the effect that it had been concluded without prejudice to any Mohawk rights, whether ancestral or treaty based, and without prejudice to land claims involving the Seigneurie du lac des Deux Montagnes.

An agreement was reached without there necessarily being a need to work out all these sorts of issues. Waiting to do so would probably have prevented an agreement being reached and stood in the way of more harmonious relations, which are needed in this sector.

All these issues are part of what is being negotiated between the Government of Canada and Kanesatake. This is not a comprehensive agreement on self-government, nor is it a treaty. It is a unique agreement on the management of a certain number of lands, taking into account the specific circumstances of Kanesatake.

There was a debate and even a referendum in the community. Interestingly, the result was very close: 239 voted in favour of the agreement and 237 against. This result shows that it can be useful to respect the rule of 50% plus one in a community. It is just about the only rule that is really acceptable.

Grand chief James Gabriel said that the close result was indicative of the energetic debate in the community, without calling into question the legitimacy of the agreement. He said “It is always healthy to have differing views. This is part of what society is all about”. It is true that when people want society to be democratic, they must accept differing views, and that was the case in this process.

I find it interesting that with such a close result the federal government is agreeing to pass a bill to implement this agreement. I think this is an example the government would do well to apply to other cases, such as that of Quebec.

In this instance, in the case of the agreement before us, the government of Quebec was consulted, as I said, and informed of it. It gave its general support, as did the town of Oka. It was therefore treated properly with respect to the agreement to be signed with the Mohawks of Kanesatake.

An indepth analysis of the bill was also done. We support it. We are proud to be able to play a small part in this historic moment for the Mohawk nation of Kanesatake, which now will have the tools it needs to grow.

Everyone wants the communities to have a chance to develop to their fullest, to have the powers that will enable them to do things and to be accountable.

We would have favoured swift passage for the bill. I listened to the arguments by the Alliance member, who said that the bill had to go through all the stages, including consideration in committee. That to me indicates a lack of understanding of native issues.

It is the same spirit we saw expressed in the context of the Nisga'a agreement, obviously a much broader agreement, requiring thorough consideration. However, in this instance, it was clear from reading the document that we could pass the bill quickly, in a single day.

We therefore cannot adopt the paternalistic attitude on this that the Canadian Alliance has. It strikes us as a kind of refusal to understand the reality of the aboriginal peoples and of their particular culture.

In a broader context, I would like to point out to hon. members that the Bloc Quebecois supports the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. These called for an approach based on the concept of self-government, which acknowledges aboriginal governments as a level of government with jurisdiction over questions concerning governance and the welfare of their people.

The entire royal commission report was based on recognition of the aboriginal peoples as an independent nation occupying a unique place within Canada, and the Bloc Quebecois supports this concept.

The agreement respecting Kanesatake governance fully reflects the spirit of the conclusions and recommendations of the Erasmus—Dussault report, and thus constitutes a positive step toward a healthier redefinition of the relationship between governments and aboriginal peoples.

Therefore it is of obvious importance that this bill be passed in order to continue to ensure harmonious relations between the various communities in the Kanesatake and Oka area. They have had occasion to see what damage can be caused if agreement cannot be reached by negotiation in such situations.

At least, it seems to me that conclusions have been reached, that an agreement that must be respected has been reached, an agreement that while approved by the Mohawk community by a very slim majority, has nevertheless been accepted and is wanted by the community.

In my opinion it is important that this bill be passed as promptly as possible.

Kanesatake Interim Land Base Governance ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate on Bill S-24 although I am always critical of bills that originate in the other place. I firmly believe that legislation should be presented by elected officials rather than by unelected people sitting undemocratically in the other place. It is therefore with sadness that I enter the debate on a bill which I support and would like to see passed but of whose origins I am critical.

Although we are dealing only with second reading today, there was unanimous consent among House leaders to deal with all stages of the bill in one day. The bill would afford basic rights to the people of Kanesatake, something for which they have been waiting for generations. It would therefore be fitting and appropriate that the House of Commons co-operate for once and deal with all stages of the bill to give the people of Kanesatake what they have so patiently and peacefully waited for all these years.

Let it be known that it is the Canadian Alliance, the party that stands against any form of aboriginal self-government, that has blocked this agreement. The Canadian Alliance is an obstacle to the agreement and is denying the Kanesatake Mohawk people the right to self-determination. I am very critical of this stunt. Let it be known that it is political mischief on the part of the Canadian Alliance. It is another stunt to create an obstacle to the self-governance aspirations of the Kanesatake Mohawk people.

I wish to compliment Kanesatake Mohawk Grand Chief James Gabriel and the Kanesatake council for the patience and perseverance they have shown during peaceful negotiations to get to this point in Canadian history. We can now renew the relationship with the people of Kanesatake through a real governance instrument so that they can move forward their aspirations with legal authority.

Bill S-24 fills a legal vacuum because the Kanesatake are not covered by the Indian Act. They never have been because early on they saw the shortcomings in the Indian Act and to their credit said that they did not want any part of it. The fiscal and legal relationships between the Kanesatake Mohawks and the federal government have always been vague.

Even though they implemented their own rules and regulations they had very little legal authority to enforce them. It came to light recently when they wanted to stop people from dumping garbage on their land. They tried to intervene by pointing out that it was against their bylaws and local council laws. They found that they had no right to stop the dumping of toxic waste on their property. That should illustrate the depth of the problem better than anything else. Somehow that had to be fixed.

On December 21, 2000, the Government of Canada negotiated with the Kanesatake to create the Kanesatake interim land base governance agreement. Bill S-24 would ratify the agreement and would ensure that certain lands constitute lands reserved for the Kanesatake Mohawk within the meaning of the Indian Act but not covered by the Indian Act.

The Kanesatake would still not be in the same relationship as other first nations on reserves. It would be an independent, free standing and unique arrangement that would serve the people of the community very well. It would serve as a model and would prove that the Government of Canada could negotiate individual agreements with first nations. We do not need a cookie cutter or boiler plate approach to impose things on people.

Kanesatake is a Mohawk community of approximately 2,000 members situated on the Lake of Two Mountains about 50 miles northwest of Montreal. A number of lots that make up Kanesatake Mohawk lands are situated within the boundaries of the village of Oka. Mohawk land is actually intermingled with land owned by non-Mohawks. It is not a traditional aboriginal community at all. It is unique in that way.

Kanesatake has never been an Indian reserve. They have always rejected the model of the Indian Act. Even with this new relationship the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development would not have the right to veto and would not be vested with the same authority as he is under the Indian Act. In that way the Kanesatake Mohawk would retain independence even though the new relationship with the federal government would be defined.

The unique land status means that the elected Mohawk band council which has never been recognized or had law making powers would now have that authority. Bill S-24 is the enabling legislation that would grant real law making authority to the band council. They were always self-governing. They had rules and regulations by agreement but, as I pointed out with the garbage dumping issue, they never had the legal weight and authority to be able to enforce the rules and regulations.

The bill would cover a number of details. The Kanesatake Mohawks would have jurisdiction to make laws in relation to the use and development of the lands of the Kanesatake Mohawk interim land base including a relationship to the health and quality of life of residents.

The bill would also provide for the protection and management of wildlife and fish, which is a major issue; the observance of law and order; the prevention of disorderly conduct and nuisances, in other words self-policing with legal authority; and the prevention of trespass including entry on to or occupation of the lands without lawful authority, which is control of their own boundaries.

They would be allowed to pass laws due to residency. Fire safety and fire protection services would be independent agencies unto themselves through the band council. The construction, maintenance, management and use of local works including water supplies are very significant issues. They would have control and governance over their own water supplies, which is a huge issue across the country and especially in first nations communities lately.

Zoning would be under the authority of the band council, along with waste management, public sanitation and even traffic regulation. They would be able to govern traffic issues throughout their reserve. They are not worried about basic traffic issues but about the type of traffic that goes through their land. For example, they may not want trucks full of toxic waste going through their land. They would be able to regulate those matters.

It is with a great sense of pride and optimism that I speak on behalf of the New Democratic Party in favour of Bill S-24. It is the culmination of many years of hard work. It is the graphic representation of the new approach and the new attitude that progressive Canadians have toward our aboriginal brothers and sisters.

All parties, except for the Canadian Alliance, seem to welcome that new relationship. There is sort of a Eurocentric bias on behalf of the Canadian Alliance. It would like to maintain the old status quo and the old paternalistic relationship between government and aboriginal people. Our party rejects that paternalistic relationship. The Canadian Alliance wants to cling to it.

This has been a terrible frustration for me as a member of parliament trying to defend these issues and trying to promote these concepts. We suffered through the Nisga'a debate which should have been the feel good debate of the decade in the House of Commons when we finally dealt with a 130 year old dispute and signed the first treaty of the century.

Instead it turned into the most divisive debate in the House of Commons because members of the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance today, moved 472 amendments. They lost every one of them. They did not move those amendments to improve the bill. They moved those amendments out of pure political mischief to try to bury a human rights issue.

It is the kind of party that would put human rights to a majority vote. Members of the Canadian Alliance are always talking about how there has to be a referendum. They say that we have to let the whole country vote on it. I say that we do not put minority rights to a majority vote. When will they get that through their heads? It was embarrassing for me to hear Canadians stand in the House of Commons with that type of approach toward the Nisga'a people.

I am proud to say that I have a T-shirt given to me by the Nisga'a people that says “Nisga'a 472, Reform Party 0”. That made me feel a lot better.

Bill S-24 is the realization of a dream. It is evidence of a maturing relationship between the Government of Canada and aboriginal people. It is the very fitting and rightful representation of the progress made as aboriginal people take their first courageous steps toward true self-governance within the legal framework of Canada. They have always had self-governance. They have the inherent right to be self-governing and they were doing it for thousands of years before the Europeans ever got here.

Now there is a formal relationship within the legal framework of Canada where they can actually make changes to their day to day lives. They can regulate and enforce. They have the power of law with the expressed co-operation of the Government of Canada in this new relationship.

I wish to illustrate from a legal point of view the vacuum this group of people were in. There was a well known case on the Kanesatake Reserve involving Jean-Roch Simon.

Due to a lack of clarity as to the legal status of the Kanesatake Mohawk people, it has never been clear which laws up until now, federal, provincial, Kanesatake or municipal, apply to the lands.

In March 1987 Jean-Roch Simon, a member of the Kanesatake Mohawks, began building a multi-unit residential building in the village of Oka on Kanesatake Mohawk lands. Mr. Simon received a construction loan from the Government of Canada. He proceeded to erect the building on the premise that he would be exempt from municipal land use bylaws because the lands in question were federal crown lands under section 91 of the Constitution Act.

This is where it gets complicated. In April 1987 the municipality of Oka commenced litigation seeking an order to cease the construction and to demolish the building on the grounds that it was in violation of municipal zoning and construction bylaws.

It is hard to imagine, but this brings an abstract concept into a very graphic illustration where we are dealing with real dollars, as well as a loss of opportunity and a loss of income on this person's part. The building was torn down because of the confusion as to who had the right to grant municipal permits to build on that property.

In August 1993 the case went all the way to the Superior Court of Quebec. It ruled in favour of the municipality and ordered the building to be demolished. The court made no determination as to whether the lands came within the meaning of section 91 of the Constitution Act. It found that the lands did not constitute federal public property. This again illustrates what a confusing legal morass the Kanesatake Mohawk people were forced to deal with all these years. As this document says, they were in a legal vacuum.

That is why we should be celebrating Bill S-24 and why I am incredibly critical of the Canadian Alliance for being an obstacle and a barrier to moving the issue forward. There is not another political party in the House of Commons that would stand in the way of basic human rights for aboriginal people except for Alliance members who over and over again deliberately, specifically and expressly do all they can to interfere with people's basic right to self-governance.

I would like to go over some of the background history in a little more detail because it is instructive that we are all made aware for future purposes how this kind of relationship has evolved. Bill S-24 and the agreement that stems from it could serve as a model in terms of future fiscal and legal relationships between the federal government and other aboriginal communities.

The Kanesatake Mohawk land claim has been viewed by experts as perhaps the most difficult Indian claim the Canadian government has ever inherited, even from pre-Confederation administrations, which is when this issue actually started. The unique circumstances of the Kanesatake Mohawks with respect to their land base can be traced back to 1717 and a seigneurial grant of land.

Canadian Police WeekStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Diane St-Jacques Liberal Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention to the House that this is Canadian Police Week.

The aim of this initiative is to inform the community about police services. The police are using it to strengthen their ties with the community.

Police week is the fruit of efforts by a number of parties, including the Government of Canada and the provincial attorneys general. Throughout the week, activities have been organized to make the public aware of the role of the police in our communities.

Our police officers are devoted, courageous and vigilant. The police in the riding of Shefford have certainly always been so.

Let us take this moment to acknowledge that it is thanks to the work they do that we live in security, and they bring this home every day.

Youth Criminal Justice ActStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the attorney general of Ontario came to Parliament Hill today to call on the Liberal government to put justice into the youth criminal justice act.

Through three red books and eight years in power the Liberal government has done little to improve the Young Offenders Act despite the outcry of Canadians. With the youth criminal justice act the Liberals have presented Canadians with an old car with a new paint job. There is little new in the act and little that brings justice to the system.

Like so many other provinces, as well as victims rights organizations and concerned citizens, Ontario called for stronger provisions to ensure that young offenders who commit adult crimes serve adult time and that there is mandatory jail time for weapons offences.

These are common sense solutions that regrettably the government has too little time for. For the sake of Canadians and for the sake of victims of crime, I urge the government to bring real justice to the youth criminal justice act.

Cystic Fibrosis MonthStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Tony Tirabassi Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform members of the House and all Canadians that May is Cystic Fibrosis Month. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease affecting primarily the respiratory and digestive systems. As of yet there is no known cure for cystic fibrosis.

Approximately one in 25 Canadians carries the gene which causes cystic fibrosis. Approximately one in every 2,500 children born in Canada has the disease. Cystic fibrosis is one of the most deadly inherited diseases affecting Canadian children and young adults. The Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation supports clinical services for persons with cystic fibrosis and supports scientific research to find a cure or control for the condition.

I ask the House to join me in congratulating members of the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for their achievements and extending best wishes for a very successful Cystic Fibrosis Month.

Des Action Awareness WeekStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I should like to inform the House and all Canadians that May 14 to May 18 has been designated DES Action Awareness Week to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the landmark article by Dr. Herbst linking the use of DES in pregnancy to cancer in daughters later in life.

DES is a synthetic oestrogen that was prescribed to women between 1941 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage and encourage a healthy pregnancy. It did not work. Instead it caused serious health problems for them, their children and their children's children.

During the 30 year period that DES was used more than half a million Canadians were affected. Third generation effects are now becoming evident in the grandchildren of those who were prescribed this hormone.

DES Action Canada's goal is to identify all DES exposed persons and to inform them and health professionals of the tragic consequences of DES exposure. Congratulations to DES Action Canada for its excellent work.

International Museums DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 18, the entire world celebrates International Museums Day.

In 2001, the theme “Museums: Building Communities” underlines the importance of the social role of the museum and recalls the definition of the museum as “a permanent institution in the service of society and of its development”.

In Canada, over 2,000 museums enable us to discover our country's and the world's heritage, in the arts, sciences, history, technology and nature. These museums reflect all that we are and have been. They reflect our identity, culture, ideas, beliefs, both past and present.

In this International Year of Volunteers, we also recognize the exceptional contribution made by the 55,000 or so volunteers, who generously give of their time and make museums a source of pride and inspiration to all Canadians.

Nuclear WeaponsStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, our southern neighbours have asked Canada's blessing in exchange for generously extending its future missile shield over us. What surprises me is that the government is dragging its feet instead of standing tall with our ally.

Nuclear missile technology is 50 years old and will not go away. In fact every few years a new country is admitted to the nuclear arms club. The ABM treaty, the anti-ballistic missile treaty, is 30 years old and the People's Republic of China has never signed it. As more and more states develop nuclear capability the chances of accidental misfires dramatically increases.

It is time for the government to acknowledge that threats in the world are coming from different countries than in the past. It is time to acknowledge that to be ready for the different world of 20 years from now we must start planning and building today. It is time for the government to stop dragging its feet and commit itself to missile defence.

Nunavut SivuniksavutStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday evening I was privileged to attend the 16th graduation ceremony of students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut.

The Nunavut Sivuniksavut program is a great success story. This year long program provides Nunavut youth with a variety of skills which serve them well as they go on to further post-secondary education and important roles in Nunavut. The knowledge acquired at Nunavut Sivuniksavut includes the history of Nunavut, the land claims agreement, and the role people play in this important process.

The pride with which the students perform traditional songs, drum dances, games and throat singing is very encouraging to see. It makes these youth excellent ambassadors for Nunavut. Congratulations to the students of Nunavut Sivuniksavut. The future is theirs. Good luck to all graduates.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, contributors to the employment insurance program—that is employers and employees—and the unemployed got clear evidence that the Minister of Finance wilfully accumulated, at their expense, an amount of $7 billion to help pay off Canada's debt. Seven billion dollars.

This means that $500 were taken annually from the pockets of taxpayers, even though they could really have used that money to make ends meet.

The employment insurance program was used for a reason other than its primary purpose, which is to ensure a decent income to a worker who is temporarily out of work. The government turned the program into a regressive tax on payroll which deprives the poor and the middle class from an income that is theirs.

We all agree that we must reduce Canada's debt. However, the means used by the Minister of Finance is unworthy of someone who aspires to become Prime Minister.

When people look at their paycheque, they should remember that the refusal of the Minister of Finance to hold a transparent debate on the management of the surpluses means that their contributions to the employment insurance program are in fact an unfair tax on the reimbursement of the debt.

Human RightsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the military leaders of Burma are acknowledged to be among the world's cruellest violators of human rights. The junta has tortured and executed political opponents, exploited forced labour, denied fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly association and movement, and condoned the growing traffic in heroin and amphetamines.

Several months ago there was hopeful speculation that the pervasive repression would be eased; that the country's courageous pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, would be liberated from house arrest; that her party, the National League for Democracy which won more than three-quarters of the seats in the 1990 election, would be permitted to resume its activity; and that political prisoners would be released. That hope now appears to be a mirage.

Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. Some 1,700 political prisoners, many of whom are students and including 35 people elected to parliament in 1990, remain in detention. The repression of the National League for Democracy has even intensified.

What is needed now and what is still missing is an internationally co-ordinated and coherent political and economic strategy in which Canada can play—

Human RightsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

Human RightsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I believe all parliamentarians should applaud yesterday's decision by the Supreme Court of Canada upholding freedom of conscience and freedom of religion for all Canadians.

It would indeed be a tragedy for Canada to prevent its citizens from adopting and maintaining a personal code of conduct that does not infringe upon the rights of any other Canadian. If a government agency, without any evidence of wrongdoing or misbehaviour, can start questioning people's convictions, who will be targeted tomorrow?

The Supreme Court of Canada decision upholds the right of Trinity Western University to maintain a code of conduct based upon religious values. This decision should be welcomed by all who value pluralism, true tolerance and religious freedom.

The proper place to draw the line is generally between belief and conduct. The freedom to hold beliefs is broader than the freedom to act on them. I certainly applaud the supreme court for yesterday's decision.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, next Wednesday in Stockholm, Canada will sign and will likely be the first to ratify the United Nations convention on persistent organic pollutants, also known as POPs.

The Stockholm convention will dramatically reduce or eliminate emissions of 12 toxic substances known as the dirty dozen. Canada played a central role in the development of this treaty. It has succeeded because of the tireless work of individuals like our own John Buccini, formerly with Environment Canada, who chaired the international negotiations.

I would also like to recognize the leadership of Sheila Watt-Cloutier of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in heading a coalition of northern indigenous peoples and bringing their plight into the heart of the negotiations.

Canada was also the first country to commit specific funding, $20 million, to aid developing countries in building their capacity to deal with POPs. I congratulate Canada for signing the Stockholm convention.

EnergyStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, most Canadians are reeling with shock over spiralling, out of control energy costs. Even if NAFTA has rendered the federal government impotent to do anything about the supply side, it should be more concerned with dealing with the issue from the demand side.

A unit of energy harvested from the existing system is indistinguishable from one generated at a generating station except for a number of significant things. First, it is available at about one-third of the cost. Second, it creates about seven times the number of person years of employment. Third, it is available and on line immediately for resale to somebody else. Fourth, it reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal government owns 68,000 buildings across the country, most of which are absolute energy hogs because they were built at a time when energy was not an issue.

I am saying that the federal government should undertake a comprehensive energy retrofitting program to rehabilitate and renovate every one of those 68,000 buildings as an example to the private sector of what can be done. We could be known as a centre of excellence for demand side—

EnergyStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes.

Council For Canadian UnityStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week, parliamentarians were invited to attend a reception organized in honour of the Council for Canadian Unity.

Bloc Quebecois members declined the invitation and for good reason, since we condemn the fact that, since 1995, the federal government has spent over half a billion dollars provided by taxpayers on propaganda and often partisan activities.

Just as unacceptable is the fact that the council was not held accountable to the public for the some $35 million in taxpayers' money that it received during the same period.

Worse still, just before the end of the last financial year, the government hurriedly increased the budget of the Canada Information Office by close to $80 million over a three year period, an annual increase of close to 135%.

This is why we declined to attend. The Bloc Quebecois cannot condone the fact that $500 million in taxpayers' money was used to fund propaganda activities, when sectors as critical as education, health and regional development, to name but a few, need a significant increase in the federal government's transfers to the provinces.

École Jeanne-SauvéStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week I attended the launch of the environmental microbusiness “La société de demain, j'y travaille” at the Jeanne-Sauvé public elementary school in Orléans.

This is the first initiative of its kind in Ontario and it came about through the support of the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario and a grant from Alcan.

The microbusiness's activities are now an integral part of the lives of the school's 575 students from kindergarten to grade eight.

The students are required to collect and recycle aluminum cans and grocery bags. They also recycle paper to make greeting cards for sale in the community.

Each class is a shareholder and it is up to the students how they reinvest the profits from the sale of their products.

Jeanne-Sauvé public elementary school is an example to all schools.

ShipbuildingStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year a joint industry-labour task force released its long awaited study of the shipbuilding industry in Canada. Proponents of the study have labelled the report a made in Canada solution and anxiously await signs that their minister, with the political will, will champion the cause in caucus.

With the summer break for parliament rapidly approaching, coastal regions on both ends of our nation are disappointed that they may have to wait until fall to actually receive a response.

In addition, the industry minister made his inaugural cause, when he springboarded back into politics just prior to the federal election this past November, that he as a Newfoundlander with salt water in his veins would deliver for coastal communities from coast to coast.

With the summer break approaching we still have not heard. Canadians cannot afford the delay any longer. It is time that we delivered an incentive based, non-subsidy driven shipbuilding policy. We call on the Minister of Industry to step up to the plate and do this right away. Canadians in coastal communities from coast to coast cannot wait any longer.

TradeStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week team Canada Atlantic participated in the first ever trade mission to Atlanta, Georgia. Atlantic Canadian companies have joined the Prime Minister, provincial premiers and federal ministers in meetings with business leaders in the southern United States.

The purpose of the mission is to explore the market potential for Atlantic Canada's products and services in the region. In 1999 Canadian exports to the region exceeded $22 billion. For every $1 billion in trade there are 10,000 jobs being created.

On behalf of my colleagues, I pay tribute to our Prime Minister who has opened more doors for Canadian trade than any other prime minister in the history of Canada. I congratulate team Canada.

InfrastructureStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a transportation infrastructure crisis in eastern Ontario, and particularly in the high growth areas in the western part of the new city of Ottawa.

Due to the explosion in gasoline prices the federal government has enjoyed billions of dollars in new revenues in Ontario alone from its petroleum excise tax. Yet this year it will be giving only $681 million to Ontario for all infrastructure and only a portion of that will wind up being used for roads.

In last week's provincial budget the Ontario government promised $70 million for infrastructure development in the new city of Ottawa with particular emphasis on adding new lanes to the Queensway from the Highway No. 7 interchange through to Nepean. If it goes forward this expansion will provide the relief that is needed to sustain local growth.

However federal assistance is needed as well. Will the federal government, flush with cash from its unbudgeted windfall in tax revenues on gasoline, match the Ontario government and show that it cares about the economic growth of Lanark county, West Carleton and Kanata?

The EconomyOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Finance promised to hold inflation between 1% and 3%. Today, we hear that inflation is at a nine-year high of 3.6%.

How does the minister think he can reassure Canadians with forecasts that are not even good for 24 hours?