Mr. Speaker, when we broke for question period, I was addressing comments to the Group No. 4 proposed amendments, specifically to the gutting of the legislation done by the government and its impact on the aboriginal community, the Metis, the Dene, the Inuit and all other first nations in the country.
I began to quote from a statement released today by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president expressing his outrage at what has happened. Let me read from it fairly extensively. I think it summarizes very accurately the offensiveness on the part of the government to those communities. He says, and I quote:
The Report Stage changes, undertaken unilaterally by the government, do not currently reflect the constitutionally protected relationship between Inuit and the federal government. More specifically, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami feels the federal government has undermined the integrity of the Species at Risk legislation through its report stage motions.
The statement goes on about section 7.1 which was in the amendments that were passed at the committee stage and brought forward for report stage. The government has changed that quite dramatically and that is what he is addressing.
The statement goes on:
Section 7.1. in the Act was of special interest to Inuit, as it created the National Aboriginal Council On Species At Risk (NACOSAR), in which six Aboriginal leaders would form a council with three federal ministers of the Crown to provide advice and recommendations to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC). The NACOSAR would have provided a direct link between Aboriginal groups and federal, provincial, and territorial ministers in charge of implementation, listing, and recovery of species at risk. Such a council would have benefited all Canadians. The Standing Committee agreed, voting unanimously in favor of the creation of NACOSAR earlier this year.
That is a very accurate portrayal of what went on leading up to report stage.
He then goes on and to say:
In Motion 20 of Report Stage, the federal government dramatically altered and weakened NACOSAR making it “discretionary” instead of “mandatory”, a “committee” instead of a “council”, and changing the composition of the committee to six Aboriginal leaders who would advise only the Minister of the Environment, not the CESCC.
These fundamental changes are unacceptable. The Report Stage NACOSAR belittles Aboriginal Nations and their leaders by removing their rightful place in an advisory body with ministers of the Crown within the Act. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has repeatedly asked for a formal response from (the) Minister of the Environment...regarding Motion 20, and has received none.
Since 1996, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has worked with the Canadian government on the development of the Species At Risk Act. Until Report Stage, ITK felt the Bill included appropriate Aboriginal involvement at a meaningful level, in spite of disagreements concerning but not limited to compensation and federal jurisdiction.
Then it concludes:
Due to these recent events, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, along with other Aboriginal groups, have no choice but to withdraw their support from the Species at Risk Act.
That statement reflects very accurately what went on; the facts and the background to SARA. It also reflects, and what we have been told by those communities across the country, their feelings of betrayal by the government.
It is important that the House appreciate that a large number of communities such as aboriginal groups, first nations governments, the Métis, the Dene, and the Inuit came forward to the committee with presentations, some of which were extremely impressive and which impacted not only with regard to representation in the legislation by those groups, but also in a lot of other ways.
Often I have spoken about how impressed the committee was by these presentations and how they had a great impact in the ultimate amendments that were passed by the committee, which the government is now attempting to change. I cannot say enough about how effective they were and how much they did impact on the committee in its deliberations.
I can understand very well these communities feeling this betrayal and feeling outraged by it. It is another in a long series of the government offending the aboriginal community, the Inuit, Métis and the first nations. The government has done it repeatedly and now it has done it again. Quite frankly there is no reason for it. All they were really asking for was to continue to do what they did in that committee: to advise, to be consulted with, and to assist in the implementation of the legislation. These communities have a great deal to offer and are being denied significantly by the government.