Is there unanimous consent to allow members to ask questions of the minister?
House of Commons Hansard #207 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was indian.
House of Commons Hansard #207 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was indian.
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
Is there unanimous consent to allow members to ask questions of the minister?
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
Some hon. members
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
Some hon. members
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
June 17th, 2002 / 12:25 p.m.
Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB
Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the minister for his presentation this morning. I note that it was members of the opposition who gave unanimous consent to accommodate the minister. It is unfortunate that there will not be more time for us to debate this issue more fully today and ask questions of the minister.
I wish to tell the minister that we will support him in his efforts to send the bill to committee. We believe he is sincere in his efforts and is endeavouring to do what is right. As he said the status quo is totally unacceptable. In that respect the Canadian Alliance agrees that tools for better governance are essential to building both better economies and better relationships among Canadians.
The Canadian Alliance has many concerns with this piece of legislation. Those concerns will be raised in a forum that will allow aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians alike to participate. We encourage the committee to travel extensively to hear the views of a great many more people across the country than this consultation to date has heard from.
We believe the bill is both good and original. Unfortunately, the good parts are not very original and the original parts are not very good. Canadian Alliance members have advocated for greater accountability mechanisms for a long time without any success in terms of the government's response and in terms of aboriginal and non-aboriginal governance.
It was interesting that last week the government came forward with a proposal to clean up its own ethics and at the same time it came forward with legislation purporting to make aboriginal government more ethically run. This is saying do as I say, not as I do. The reality is that the government has had a lot of difficulty offering effective governance illustrations to the Canadian people over a number of years and is currently caught up in a lot of challenges as far as its own ethical conduct is concerned.
The debate on this issue needs to happen. The debate on aboriginal governance is one that aboriginal leaders themselves have been having and will continue to have. There are tremendous success stories in terms of the pursuit of accountability at the local level among aboriginal leadership across the country. Since being named to this position I have had the chance to meet many aboriginal leaders across Canada and I have not yet met one who does not proclaim to be in pursuit of greater accountability mechanisms, both locally and nationally. That is a goal many aboriginal leaders share because they recognize that accountability is not something to be feared. Accountability is not something to run away from as the government has done on too many occasions, but rather it is something to pursue.
That accountability extends in several ways in this instance. It extends not just from aboriginal leaders to their band members, to their off reserve band members, and to residents on their reserves who are not band members, though that accountability must exist. It also extends in a broader sense to Canadians as a whole through the Government of Canada which provides a large percentage of the funding sometimes used and managed well, and sometimes less so unfortunately, by band leadership themselves. Accountability must go in several directions, up, down and sideways. Accountability is a good thing and something that needs to be pursued.
The minister alluded to consultation and spoke of the validity of his consultation. I do not know how fruitful it is for us to engage in a debate about how good or how bad the consultation was although there were many observers of the consultation process who would argue that it was not that good. Not only aboriginal leaders felt they were circumvented in the process, but aboriginal women as well. From an analysis that I read about the consultations, the number of aboriginal women who participated as a percentage of the total was less than 10%. That does not give a good indication of the degree to which the perspectives of aboriginal females could be heard.
This is something we must rectify in our committee process. Aboriginal people are not separate from Canadians. We have shared citizenship. We have interrelationships which in many respects are growing and are increasingly important. It is very significant to recognize that we belong to one another. We must ensure that legislation which we proceed to develop is legislation that has the benefit of input from people, not just of aboriginal status, off reserve or on reserve aboriginal people, but of all Canadians who have vested interests in these issues and who are concerned about them as well.
The consultation the minister spoke of is done. It was protested by many because they disagreed with its validity. They felt that it had a head of steam before it got under way and they would question his comment that it was of high quality. I agree with the minister when he observed that the larger goal of these proposals is to engage in a debate about what we can possibly do to enhance the level and capability of governance in this sector. Best practices is a good thing to pursue, but best practices and consultation should not be avoided either.
There is a law in physics that says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The best indication of that in terms of the aboriginal debate in this country was the 1969 white paper which was put forward by the Prime Minister when he was the indian affairs minister. The proposals advanced at that time were largely along the lines of assimilation, but the effect was that they incited and increased the degree of militancy and the degree of self-determination among the aboriginal leaders.
In the last three decades we have seen a growing and elevated concern among aboriginal peoples that they not be subjected to the same kinds of colonial, paternalistic, assimilationist types of policies that they had been unfortunately subjected to in past history.
The danger is that in pushing very hard in certain respects, the minister may be pushing for the same kind of equal and opposite reaction. That is unfortunate because the reality is, and the Canadian Alliance understands this and will support policies that aim us in this direction, that the two row wampum that we are familiar with, that symbol of the aboriginal ship and the European ship moving side by side, is an inaccurate and inadequate representation of the way that we should be go on the sea of life together. It certainly is a way we can go on separately.
The danger in the government's approach is that it may just be the case, that we will continue to be separate and because we are separate we will not recognize mutual benefits that accrue to us when we work together co-operatively.
I had the chance to meet with National Chief Coon Come recently and I asked about the two row wampum. It very much concerns me that we have this separateness which seems to be developing, this sense of segregation as a matter of public policy. It does not enhance our ability to learn, to grow, to work, to develop symbiotic relationships, to work more cost effectively in shared institutional approaches, to develop best practices and to do all the kinds of things that the government's spin-masters and communications people want us to believe are a part of this package. It does not do that.
I asked the national chief about that. He said that actually the two row wampum was not just like railroad tracks. It was not just two separate lines going off into a perpetual state of separation. Rather in the beaded belt, which is symbol of our relationship with one another, was a line that connected the two parallel lines. That line is called the covenant. That covenant is in there to recognize the permanent interrelationship and to recognize what aboriginal people have recognized for a long time and that is that the Europeans are not going away and neither are the aboriginal people.
We need that covenant. I am told it is signified by gold beads. What the symbol means is that there is an obligation on the part of people on both sides to keep that gold polished. The way to keep it polished is by honest and open dialogue back and forth and together. The way to keep it polished is not by imposing one's will on democratically elected leaders on the other side.
It is unfortunate that as much as the words are good in the legislation and as much as we agree with many of the aspects, in principle, of what the government is proposing, it has tarnished that gold covenant in a sense and has jeopardized what needs to be really worked on, which is a fair and open dialogue among people who have more in common than they do differences.
That being said, I want to begin my comments about the meat of the bill by saying that there are definitely things here with which we can agree. I think members will find in these consultations that the vast majority of responsible aboriginal leaders agree with these things too. It is important to recognize that in terms of, for example, the financial management and accountability code, and this is something for which the Canadian Alliance Party and before it the Reform Party have been calling for a long time, financial statements should be audited by an independent financial auditor. They should be made available. Copies should be provided to people requesting them. That is a good idea and a smart idea. That is transparency.
We do not get anywhere with accountability if there is no transparency. We have to have access to financial records, properly kept financial records, records kept by generally agreed upon accounting principles if we will have that kind of an understanding develop. We support that in principle.
The government has not done well in achieving these kinds of things in the past. The previous auditor general, L. Denis Desautels, remarked on his departure that one of his greatest areas of frustration with the government was its failure to deliver on the promises it made in terms of achieving accountability among the aboriginal band management. It was a serious problem and a serious concern, and it remains such.
To have these kinds of requirements imposed is a great idea in theory. The question is if it will be achieved in practice.
Prior to the new auditor general coming in, the auditor general's office did a series of evaluations and reports on compliance. It found that less than one-third of the audited band financial statements were submitted on time. Many of them had inaccuracies. Many of them had oversights or areas of potential revenue that were left out of the report, such as own source revenue.
These are larger issues of concern that we also have to get into. I do not know to what degree this bill will give us the opportunity to address those but we must take the opportunity to address them. As long as the underlying causes of non-compliance are not addressed, then requirements like these just will not be fulfilled. No matter how hard the department commits itself, it will have difficulty. The fact of the matter is that financial management and accountability is central to achieving good governance but the reality is sometimes different from the stated objectives as much as we agree with those.
There are many other issues. I recognize that we will have the opportunity through the committee structure to address a lot of these but I will address some of the concerns that we have just briefly now.
We know that unfortunately many of the aboriginal councils and chiefs who are subjected to charges of malpractice are being treated unfairly. There are patriarchal systems in some of the reserves and certainly the chiefs are open to charges like that, whether they are right or wrong.
I will deal with the stated goal of this legislation on redress. The summary material I have obtained from the department on redress states that the band will be authorized an impartial person or and impartial body to fairly and quickly consider complaints for breach of a code by the council or a band employee, et cetera, for decisions made against residents.
As much as the theory of that sounds good, how would the practice of that actually work? How would chiefs in council go about finding an impartial person to act as their kind of mini ombudsman on reserve? Do we realistically think that can happen? Do we think that is a possibility? Do we think that is even a distant possibility? How much would it cost? Who would pay for it?
If there are 600 bands and they each decide to have an ombudsman, how much would that cost? At a rate of $50,000, for example, for every ombudsman, it would cost $30 million for chiefs in council to have a little ombudsmen's offices on reserve where people could go and express concerns. Is that model really practical? Is it achievable? Is it something that could really happen and could it provide the result we want? We all want the result that people who have a genuine grievance or concern get to be heard and that something can be done about it. Can that actually happen in the context of a band?
I will give an example. The minister knows very well of a tiny reserve with about 100 adults on it in my riding. It is going through a tremendous split right now. The dissident faction is led by the sister of the chief. The chief is defending himself as best he can. The dissident faction is trying to find wrongdoing and perhaps they are finding it.
The problem we have with that is now the minister has had to put the band into third party management. Now there is a third party management situation. Would all of that have been preventable if an ombudsman had been present on the reserve? Do we think that really would have saved the day? Do we think putting one in there now would save the day?
We have some serious concerns about how this would work, especially given the fact that the chiefs in council are the ones responsible for hiring and selection of the person. This puts them in an added position of being accused of wrongdoing. There has to be some fine tuning done here.
The bill talks about laws for band purposes. Bands would be able to adopt laws, laws which would set fines of $10,000 and even up to $300,000 if it had to do with an environmental issue. They would be able to set terms of imprisonment not exceeding three months, at the band level now we are talking, on such issues as trespassing on the band's reserve or frequenting it for prohibitive purposes.
I am not casting aspersions on any chief or council but tie this all in with elections. Just imagine if chiefs in council were fighting real hard to be re-elected. Suppose the bands thought that one of the things that should be prohibited was campaigning against those chiefs. They could set the bylaws and the jail terms. A one day jail term could be the day of the election. Perhaps it will never happen but it sure could.
The reality is these are the kinds of things that I think frighten aboriginal people when I talk to them. The potential for abuse would be heightened and enhanced by some of the provisions in the bill so we have to ensure that these things are addressed quickly.
There is a danger with those penalties. When I talk to a lot of the aboriginal women, they are very concerned that there is the potential for abuse by the people in power because they would be given more power under this legislation to set bylaws, to impose fines and evict people.
One thing they would be empowered to do would be to appoint a person who would work for the chief in council and who could go into a person's house and look for evidence or investigate, because an individual does not own the house. The band owns the house. These people would be able to investigate and report back to the chiefs and council if they wanted. That kind of thing just does not happen off reserve but it would happen on reserve. That is the kind of inequality that I am not sure we would be able to support in the Canadian Alliance. That has to be addressed. The ability to go in and intimidate people is pretty much enhanced the way I would read this, particularly if a person is able to go into a person's house and get evidence.
These are the kinds of things that are fundamental to good governance. Another thing that is fundamental to good governance is participation in elections. Part of this legislation addresses that. It also addresses codes that the bands could set up. However we have a fundamental difficulty with this. An area of potentially great disagreement, which needs to be debated among Canadians, is this issue of hierarchical chiefs or chiefs for life.
The minister and I have had the chance to speak a little about this. I know it is a very difficult issue in many ways. To suggest that democratic elections should be held on all reserves is taken by some as a disrespectful comment. It is taken as disrespectful to say that should happen when bands have customs, and we want to honour those customs. At the same time we have other customs.
We did not use to have elections that were open and fair either. We did not use to allow women to vote. We used to do a lot of things 100 years ago we should not have done. Perhaps we need to have this debate in a broader context because there is great difficulty in saying that we will create effective governance on the one hand and on the other hand do nothing about the fact that a lot of bands do not get the right to vote. How can we do both? There are many more issues.
In closing I want to thank the minister. It is important that we build on a foundation of mutual respect. I am not sure that has been the case thus far but it needs to be.
I and the Canadian Alliance want to ensure that, in devolving responsibility to bands, the minister remains accountable to them and to the Canadian taxpayers. Finally, I and the Canadian Alliance want to ensure that we build not in separate directions but together on the basis of shared citizenship, a stronger future for aboriginal governance, aboriginal people and individuals.
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this important debate. The bill that is before the House today is the outcome of a long and protracted process that began several years ago to fundamentally change relations between the federal government and first nations.
This bill, whose short title is First Nations Governance Act, is the result of in deep reflection on the management and consideration of the numerous claims made by various aboriginal nations in Canada and in Quebec, and particularly on the increasingly complex dispute settlement mechanisms.
The First Nations Governance Act primarily seeks to replace the current Indian Act, which is 126 years old, so as to adapt to today's context the legal framework governing relations with aboriginal peoples.
As I mentioned, this legislation is the outcome of a long and protracted process marked by what had become almost systematic confrontation between the federal government and first nations, regarding their land, cultural, social and economic claims.
The long-awaited action by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is laudable in various respects, but includes a number of irritants which it would have been preferable to avoid so as not to needlessly detract from this major initiative. Of course, the main irritant is the refusal of the vast majority of aboriginals, as well as the Assembly of First Nations, to take part in the consultation process. This is particularly unfortunate because modernizing relations between aboriginal peoples and the federal government lies at the very heart of this legislation.
During the months preceding the drafting of this bill, the department of Indian affairs introduced a series of initiatives designed to consult first nations about their expectations and their needs. But the approach used in organizing the consultation process was the very approach which the government was proposing to change and restructure. I will explain.
Everyone agrees that the Indian Act has become outmoded and unworkable because it no longer corresponds to the reality of the 21st century concerning the place of aboriginal peoples in our modern society and particularly the increasingly autonomous role they are entitled to want to play.
For 126 years, the federal government has displayed a deplorably paternalistic attitude to first nations by unilaterally prejudging what ought to be good for their development. This approach by the federal government is nothing new and is part of the heritage left by the founding fathers, who mistakenly believed that they knew what would be good for aboriginal peoples at the time of Confederation.
Ironically, the offhand and arrogant “Ottawa knows best” attitude, which we criticize almost daily from this side of the House, goes back much further than one might think. All one has to do is take a quick look at the terms used to designate the various aboriginal peoples over the years. Their often inferior, subservient, scornful character is quickly apparent.
The central government's tendency to think that it had the magic solution to the problems of first nations held the latter back in adapting to life with non-aboriginals, to the now necessary cohabitation of nations of equal status.
The social crises that have marked the history of first nations could have been avoided if there had been a attitude of openness toward first nations' people from the outset. However, the attitude of the day dictated, almost instinctively, the mean and insidious paternalistic attitude that whites had toward any groups they considered to be inferior to them, or underdeveloped.
To come back to the crux of my argument, Ottawa's attitude throughout the consultation, which culminated in the introduction of the First Nations Governance Act, has been riddled with problems which must be corrected if we hope to come up with a permanent framework for relations with first nations. Once again, this must be on the level of nation to nation.
From the outset, the government biased the consultation process with native bands by proposing an operating framework that met its own needs.
What the government should have done was to let first nations organize amongst themselves and then listen to their long list of expectations. However, the government imposed its own framework instead of taking into consideration the cultural and social differences, which could have allowed for a much better and much more indepth discussion from the outset.
The best example of this is without question the fate that awaited the famous report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The commission, also known as the Erasmus-Dussault commission, did an admirable job of drafting what should have become a redefined relationship between first nations and the federal government.
However, the political and partisan approach prevailed and the report was quickly shelved at the National Archives without the government bothering to follow up on it. Interestingly enough, the current government made the status of aboriginal peoples a central component of its recent election platform, without ever following up with any real action, something that we in the Bloc Quebecois find deplorable.
The federal government, headed by the Prime Minister, has wilfully side skirted this key issue, which has undermined the development of first nations and given rise to crises that may take generations to solve.
It is disturbing to note, once again, this attitude that can be best expressed as “Ottawa knows best. We want what is good for you, and we want your goods as well”. Thousands of people are feeling its impacts. Worse still, this approach to problems undermines, right from the start, any initiatives to remedy the injustices of which aboriginal peoples have been victims right from the start.
As for the Bloc Quebecois, from the very start it has always supported an equal-to-equal, nation to nation approach with the aboriginal peoples. Following the example of the Government of Quebec, discussions and negotiations relating to the various claims, regardless of their nature, must be based on a common and accommodative approach so as to be as advantageous as possible to both sides. A historical agreement such as the peace of the braves between the Cree and the Government of Quebec is probably the best example.
The process of consultation called for by Ottawa in the wording of this bill is not the right one and does not in any way meet the expectations of the first nations. I trust that the Prime Minister and his minister will listen to reason and heed the arguments of the first nations, and that he will deign to admit that it was a mistake to impose his views on the future of these communities.
As I have said, Bill C-61 contains a number of irritants, and the approach the federal government is taking is absolutely the wrong one.
The First Nations Governance Act, as it has been conceived—in other words, through a flawed process—will harm relations between aboriginal peoples and non-aboriginals. So, what should we do?
First—and this is the reason we support the motion to refer this to committee before second reading—we need to launch the broadest consultations possible, in order to hear as many first nations opinions as possible.
As for the second point—I hope the federal government and the minister will take good note of this proposal and adopt it—the Bloc Quebecois proposes that one or several aboriginal community leaders be appointed to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, in order to make the most of the consultations.
This is a suggestion that I hope the government will adopt, particularly since this is something the minister himself seemed open to considering a little over a year ago.
This governance bill should not be used as a tool to delay treaty negotiations with aboriginals.
In closing, we hope that the government will listen to reason, resume negotiations with aboriginal leaders and come back with a bill that was developed jointly by the federal government and first nations.
This is what the Bloc Quebecois hopes to see as a result of the consultations the committee will be holding across Quebec and Canada. This is also the only result that will lead to productive, friendly and equal relations in the future.
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
Simcoe North Ontario
Paul Devillers LiberalSecretary of State (Amateur Sport) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Madam Speaker, there have been discussions between all parties and there is agreement pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) for the following motion. I move:
That if a recorded division is requested on the motion to refer Bill C-61 to committee before second reading, it be deemed deferred to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18, 2002.
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it agreed?
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Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to)
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Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB
Madam Speaker, judging from his speech, it is plain for everyone here to see that the minister of Indian affairs thinks he knows better than aboriginal chiefs what is good for Canada's 1.4 million native people. It is this kind of paternalism that has doomed past attempts to amend and overhaul the Indian Act. It is these made in Ottawa policies, like the first nations governance act, that have soured relationships between aboriginal people and the Canadian government. In fact I would argue that it has set them back 50 years.
There is no doubt in the mind of the NDP caucus that new legislation is needed. There is no doubt in our minds that the Indian Act is a vestige of a colonial era. I would go further to say that the Indian Act is fundamentally evil. It has been responsible for 130 years of social tragedy in this country. The Indian Act we know has prevented native reserves from becoming self-sustaining communities and has prevented first nations from sharing in the prosperity of this great nation.
Surely the country's largest native organization, the Assembly of First Nations, should have had a leading role in drafting these new rules. Surely the elected chiefs of Canada's 633 bands understand the needs and priorities of their people better than Ottawa bureaucrats and the minister himself. Unfortunately the minister's highhanded approach has engendered such distrust among native leaders that there is little hope for an open-minded debate about the substance of the legislation.
The biggest problem is that it does not have to be this way. This was a conscious choice on the part of the government and on the part of the minister. When the minister announced plans to rewrite the Indian Act in I believe April 2001 he was advised and strongly urged by all of us in the House, when we stood up to speak to the concept, to take his time, to earn the trust of aboriginal people and to do it right the first time. In the 126 year history of the Indian Act it has been a rare occasion that it has been opened up for the purposes of improving, modernizing and hopefully ultimately abolishing it. He was warned over and over again but he chose to stick to his own timetable. He was warned when he failed to show up at two annual meetings in a row of the Assembly of First Nations that he was losing the support of native leaders.
However he chose to press on ahead without them. He consciously chose to circumvent, bypass and pull an end run on them and, as he says, speak to the grassroots people. He said that if the freely elected leadership of the aboriginal communities would not speak to him that he would bypass them and speak to the so-called grassroots people.
Other parties have said this and I will say it as well. We believe that the whole consultation process was a sham. That is where we got off to a bad start. It is implicit in the Indian Act that any time it is to be amended there should be broad consultation first. It begs the question: what is the legal definition of broad consultation? If we post a bulletin on a telephone pole that says “Town hall meeting tonight. Come on down”, and three people show up, does that mean that the community has been broadly consulted with? I have lots of examples of how this consultation fell short of any reasonable person's definition of what broad consultation really means.
It is with regret that we say that the minister of Indian affairs may believe he was doing the right thing for aboriginal people by ploughing ahead with this legislation in spite of the controversy and adversity. However, we would argue that he is doing it the wrong way entirely.
Let me state again that the NDP caucus is in favour of the idea that the Indian Act should be amended with the ultimate goal of it being abolished. It is offensive and paternalistic. We believe it is the instrument by which Canada's treatment of aboriginal people has become its greatest shame.
Let it be known that the NDP caucus supports self-government for first nations and aboriginal people on their terms. We support the emancipation of first nations people and we support measures that would liberate aboriginal people from what we call the shackles of Eurocentric colonialism, and we support building the administrative capacity in first nations to do just that.
These are the terms we need to be using and they are terms that are freely tossed around by the minister, administrative capacity, building capacity, et cetera, but somehow INAC bureaucrats and the minister chose to deal with the three things that the aboriginal community frankly is not interested in discussing in this round of amending the Indian Act. He chose to deal with the legal standing and capacity of first nations communities, the legal definition, et cetera. He chose to deal with leadership selection and voting rights, implying that there is something fundamentally wrong with leadership selection and the democratic process in first nations communities, and he chose to deal with financial accountability.
It is significant that the Canadian Alliance devoted most of its remarks to the issue of financial accountability, because I believe the government responded to an 18 month long campaign by the Canadian Alliance to discredit first nations communities. We believe that it was fear-mongering on behalf of the Canadian Alliance that led the government and motivated it to pay attention to the issue of financial accountability before it decided to pay attention to economic development or housing or fresh water or health or education or all the pressing needs the aboriginal leadership wanted dealt with. It decided to believe the allegations made over an 18 month period that somehow every first nations community is either incompetent or corrupt, because the Canadian Alliance spent almost two years pulling out isolated incidents of financial mismanagement and tried to thread that together into a common motif or theme that all first nations communities are corrupt or suffering from gross mismanagement. Whereas the truth, and the minister knows the truth, is that 96% of all of the 633 first nations communities submit their annual audits on time, their audits are approved, and of the remaining 4% some need some guidance or assistance or they are late in filing. The actual fact is that only 27 out of 633 first nations communities are in what they call third party management, in other words, they need real assistance.
I condemn the government for focusing on, responding to and listening to the groundless allegations of the Alliance about the competency and financial management of first nations communities and for wasting and frankly missing an opportunity where it could be dealing with issues of substance and instead is dealing with the financial accountability aspect.
We know that this has been a long, agonizing process. The relationship between first nations and the Government of Canada has dwindled and deteriorated systematically since April 2001 when the minister first announced his intention to open up the Indian Act. I note that at the Assembly of First Nations meeting in Ottawa in December of that year, the chiefs sent a very clear message even then on how they wanted the consultation to unfold and how they wanted the negotiation to take place. They voted 126 to 49 against a joint government-AFN work plan because they objected even then, six months into the process, to the substance, tone, content and continued paternalism shown by the government, in that it would dictate what things would be amended and the timetable under which they would be amended.
That was the first real message that the minister missed. Because if it was one of his stated goals and objectives to make the Indian Act less paternalistic, he began the process at the height of paternalism by dictating what would be discussed, the timetable under which it would be discussed, and what the end results would be. Then he said they would have two years to comply or it would be imposed on the first nations. That is so far away from the spirit of co-operation that has been lovingly nurtured and cultivated over the last many years so that we can try to remedy some of the historic injustices. It was cast out the window in a period of 18 months.
I lament that on behalf of our caucus. I am very sorry that we are missing the opportunity for constructive consultation on and meaningful amendments to an act that we all detest. We have squandered that opportunity and in fact we have watched the relationship deteriorate again. It has set us back maybe 50 years in terms of actual relationships.
We have been getting all the literature from the department, from INAC, saying that it is really the aboriginal community and first nations people who have been asking for changes to the governance structure and the Indian Act. Of course they have been asking for changes. They have been asking for self-governance. They have been asking for meaningful progress toward the day when they will be out from under the domination of the Indian Act.
These measures introduced today are insulting. They are so irrelevant to that lofty principle and that goal that it is insulting. This is either a wilful blindness to what they have been saying or it is saying to the first nations communities that they are wrong. These measures are saying that the issues the first nations care about are not the issues that need to be dealt with right away. INAC is saying it knows better, that it is the paternalistic agency that will tell them the types of changes that should be and need to be introduced.
The point has been made that this first nations governance initiative is too reminiscent of the white paper of 1969 introduced by the then minister of Indian affairs, who is now the Prime Minister of Canada. That document launched a generation of protest, activism, demonstrations, occupying of provincial parks and blockades of highways. That paper mobilized a generation of aboriginal youth into activism. I fear that this first nations governance initiative will have the same deleterious effect on aboriginal youth and on activists because they will be rising up in the same sense. The white paper of 1969 aimed to take away the special status of first nations people. Now we are jeopardizing the status of communities and municipalities, this idea of a legal person concept, that the legal definition of a first nations community will be that of a legal person. We know that has been challenged in the courts. We also know the down side to assuming more of the responsibility with none of the benefits, which could happen when this new legal status is imposed on them.
We would argue that if there is to be a change to the legal status of communities, it should be optional. It is a measure that some first nations communities have voluntarily entered into so that they can have different types of business relationships in dealing with financial institutions et cetera. It is an optional thing, not an imposed thing, because therein lies the paternalism, that if within two years they do not comply the default position will be imposed on them anyway.
The 1969 white paper said it would remove the role of the federal government. Would it have altered the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government? That was the question. It said it would make first nations people citizens of the provinces, which again challenges the fundamental nation to nation relationship between first nations and the federal government. It said it would turn reserves into rural municipalities. People balked at that because they felt, and rightfully so because history has proved them right, that this was a step toward assimilation, which is a step toward extinction of first nations people as nations, as an entity within Canada. That was rejected soundly, but there are legitimate fears and apprehensions that we are on the road to that again.
One of the most obvious and disturbing things about the first nations governance bill we have had introduced now is that it wilfully ignores the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the most exhaustive, broad, comprehensive and true consultation of aboriginal peoples ever in Canadian history. I believe that over five years $58 million was spent to develop the volumes of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Therein lay the agreed upon recommendations that in fact would move the plight of aboriginal people forward.
There has been wilful blindness and wilful ignorance. Whether it was too expensive, inconvenient or what the reasoning and rationale was, those recommendations were not looked at. We could open any volume of RCAP and at any page find a meaningful, worthwhile recommendation that would have been welcome because it had been pre-approved, but the government chose not to do that. It chose to dive into new and contentious areas, areas of divisiveness and dispute. That to me indicates ill will, not goodwill, at the bargaining table.
The Assembly of First Nations has long argued that any changes to the Indian Act should stem from the inherent rights affirmed in section 35 of the constitution, so maybe the problem is not so much the merits or the details of this bill. Maybe the problem lies in the fundamental premise, even before we start talk specifics. The minister has often stood up and answered our questions in the House of Commons by asking how we can object to something we have not even seen. We can object to the basic premise that we are not starting from respect for the inherent rights of section 35.
Indicative of that, I think, is the fact that we do not even see a non-derogation clause in the bill, unless I missed it. No piece of aboriginal legislation should be put forward without a comprehensive non-derogation clause to assure the partners it is dealing with that nothing in the bill will take away from rights that are already enjoyed, or in other words, that there is no Trojan horse here, that we are not trying to slip in a mickey. This assurance is lacking.
The AFN has always argued that the proposed governance legislation seems to be based on a premise that first nations governance comes from federal legislation. Again we are starting from a flawed premise, or at least a contentious premise. This is a premise that might not survive a court challenge. Unless the minister is wilfully trying to drag us into a long, hot summer of protests and roadblocks, although I cannot speak for how aboriginal people plan to respond to this, unless he is trying to invite social unrest and long agonizing court challenges, why will he not, in the name of reason, step back one step, pick up the telephone, call the Assembly of First Nations and say that they got off to a bad start? Why will he not say to let us use the summer to try to heal some of the damage that has been done, to let us use what months we have, perhaps while the committee has the bill before it, to at least implement some of the changes, some of the very real and tangible things that have been pointed out and could have been done? What I am asking is, could we not use our time better?
Whatever possessed the minister to launch this volley, to risk the fragile relationship we have with first nations in Canada, to jeopardize that working relationship by insulting them, offending them, showing them disrespect? Who was the architect of this disaster? Who compelled the government to behave in this way?
However, I will say that it is not too late. This can be pulled out of the fire, because there is a fair amount of goodwill on this side of the House. We are going to unanimously agree to send the bill to committee. I know that it will be our job as opposition members to be a conduit to allow those good ideas that have been developed by the people out there who are genuine authorities on the subject, to allow them a vehicle to bring those issues forward and to implement them as amendments to the bill. If there was not enough respect on the government side to seek out their opinions, we will show that respect as opposition members and allow them to use us as their conduit.
In the meantime there is damage control that needs to be done. I would ask the minister to do the right thing, extend the olive branch and reject the negotiating stance he has clearly adopted, because that approach is not working. That approach does not work in such a delicate and sensitive relationship as we have with first nations people.
I could deal with more specifics about the bill, but I do not think it is the merits of the bill that we are here to discuss today. The motion is to put the bill before the committee prior to second reading. It is an unusual move. It is a move that I believe has the support of all the parties for the simple reason that a true consultation has to take place because no real consultation has taken place to date.
I reject the minister's figures that 10,000 people were consulted. I reject that it is true consultation if people are in a room and disagree or want to talk about something else, which was the case in many of those meetings. The officials would introduce the topic of the FNGI and people would stand up and want to talk about housing, education, health care, economic development, fresh drinking water and all the urgent, pressing basic needs issues that are top of mind issues in aboriginal communities. They did not go there to talk about the legal standing of their reserve or the financial accountability or the electoral practices.
The last thing I would say is that imposing eurocentric electoral standards of two year terms and elections supervised by Elections Canada perhaps more than anything else shows a disrespect for the customary and hereditary systems and structures that may be in place in various communities. It shows a wilful disregard and a disrespect for the status quo.
I appeal one more time for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to pick up the phone and make overtures. I ask him to be the first one to extend a hand in friendship and heal these wounds that have been caused by the first nations governance initiative before it is too late.
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-61 representing the PC Party of Canada.
Let me begin by saying that the PC Party supports the motion to refer Bill C-61 to committee before second reading, in the minister's own words, for extensive consultation from coast to coast.
The status quo is not acceptable. We have heard that mentioned many times and certainly it has been echoed on numerous occasions by the minister himself. Most Canadians would agree with that statement. Most Canadians believe that it is time for change.
The key words that we find in the first nations governance act are transparency, accountability, leadership, administration and financial management. The minister also says that the new act will give aboriginals the tools needed to improve the quality of life in their own communities. If that is the case, who could disagree with that? These intentions are certainly principled and democratic.
We are also reminded that the Indian Act is 126 years old. It is antiquated and should be thrown out according to many Canadians, including aboriginal Canadians.
Bill C-61 in my opinion should be separated into two components, content and process. Both components need to be evaluated very closely and thoroughly.
I will begin by looking at what most aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians would agree on concerning the subject of governance. Essentially the bill is about governance by aboriginal communities.
The first point I would like to make is that elected officials should be accountable to the electorate. What is preventing that from happening in aboriginal communities? Some say that the Indian Act is preventing that from happening because band councils are only accountable to the minister or his agents.
Second, the funds spent by the elected officials belong to the communities, not to the leaders of the communities and the band councils. On this point the Liberals need to be reminded that the tax money they spend belongs to the people of Canada, not the Liberal Party.
Third, all elections should be honest, fair, open, transparent and by secret ballot.
Fourth, the business of governing should be open, transparent and accountable to the electorate.
Most Canadians, including aboriginal Canadians, would agree with these four basic democratic principles.
I do not believe that the opposition to Bill C-61 is based on content. Most of the content of the bill is acceptable in a democratic society. My opinion is that the opposition is over the process that the Liberal government is following. The minister says that he consulted high and low to the tune of $10 million.
This spring two consultation meetings were scheduled to take place in my riding of Dauphin--Swan River. I was looking forward to attending them, but as it turned out both were cancelled for lack of participants.
The Assembly of First Nations believed that the consultation process the minister followed was faulty. In fact it stated that more than $10 million was spent on consultation which attracted less than 3% of the first nations population. Entire regions of the country refused to participate. Manitoba literally refused to take part in the consultation process. Participants were not representative of the Indian population directly affected by the proposal. In Ontario the Ontario Metis Association whose members are not under the Indian Act co-ordinated the consultations.
The consultation report distorts the findings by emphasizing comments relating to the first nations governance mandate. It virtually ignores comments about the vast array of issues many of the participants found to be of greater importance, such as housing, land and aboriginal rights. Many participants felt they were ill-informed about the issues.
Another concern raised by the Assembly of First Nations was that the joint ministry advisory committee, called JMAC for short, did not reach a consensus. JMAC was established to provide the minister with technical advice for possible amendments to the governance provisions. Yet after dozens of meetings its members are still far apart on key areas targeted for change. The fact that a group of first nations participants motivated to make the process work could not reach more agreement with their government counterparts demonstrates that much more work needs to be done. It suggests that the amendment should not be constrained to the arbitrary and flexible timelines imposed by the government.
I would like to briefly point out the position of the PC Party regarding the issue of aboriginal affairs. Our position will certainly contrast with that of other parties in the House.
There is virtually no more complex a public policy issue facing both government and the people of Canada than establishing policies to deal with the issue faced by aboriginal people in Canada. The Progressive Conservative Party has endorsed the inherent right to self-government within Canada for Canada's aboriginal people.
There are many issues facing aboriginal people in addition to the task of achieving self-government through negotiations with the federal and provincial governments. These include determining a sound economic base for aboriginal people to grow, flourish and benefit from being part of Canada. The legal and cultural roles of aboriginal women need to be addressed, especially in the movement toward self-government.
Among the most pressing concerns to be addressed are the complex issues facing aboriginal youth and those aboriginal individuals who live in cities and do not have a land base. More than half of the aboriginal population of Canada is under 25 and live in cities. Most often they experience poverty and function alone without direction. Without significant steps being taken by governments in partnership with Canada's aboriginal people, these young people will become a generation lost to Canada.
Government must respond more energetically to the co-operative settlement of outstanding land and other claims with aboriginal people ensuring that they have full opportunity to grow, develop and prosper within Canada.
Here is where the Progressive Conservative Party differs with the Liberal government. A Progressive Conservative government would work with aboriginal people to define and express aboriginal rights as a matter of public policy in non-confrontational, balanced and interest based negotiations. We believe that the ineffective, paternalistic, colonial approaches of the Indian Act must give way to greater self-reliance through effective education, economic development, social justice and local control.
We believe that in order to ensure fairness and equality the charter must apply to aboriginal self-government. We also believe that aboriginal self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada.
The Progressive Conservative Party believes that the performance and accountability of aboriginal self-government is enhanced when those who are receiving services contribute to the cost of those services. Giving aboriginal people the power to raise their own revenues will also reduce the cycle of dependency.
My constituency of Dauphin--Swan River has 13 aboriginal communities. Over the last decade I have spent much time working closely with many of the bands. For the record, I want to read some of the communications I have received from the aboriginal community in my riding of Dauphin--Swan River.
The first communiqué was received from Chief Dwayne Blackbird. This is what he thinks about the minister's consultation process:
The Minister's remarks to you and the Standing Committee about consultation lack honesty. He spent $10 million money--not counting the time of his officials--to end up with a consultation process which his officials admit is useless and discredited. The Minister prescribed the narrow issues he wished to discuss and refused to permit discussion of the broad agenda required to bring about change.
At this time I would like to read into the record part of a speech given by Chief Roberta Jamieson in Winnipeg on March 12 on the topic of colonial thinking:
This is the kind of simplistic jingoistic thinking that is behind the government's fixation on a “new” Governance Act as its contribution to the legacy of colonial thinking. Sure--too often there is a lack of accountability out there. What else would one expect of a century of an Indian Act which held chiefs and councils accountable only to the Indian Agent and his successors? The last thing that government wanted then were chiefs and councillors accountable to their own people.
The PC Party believes that in an inclusive process, no matter how important the grand plan may appear, people must always have a say. Is this not what democracy is all about?
I also received a communiqué from National Chief Matthew Coon Come. This is what he had to say about the first nations governance act:
From the outset of the process launched by [the minister], First Nations leadership have expressed concerns on both the process and content of the proposed FNGA. In addition, the First Nation leadership expressed a willingness to engage in the process as meaningful partners starting with the development of the cabinet mandate, design of the consultation process, and drafting of the proposed bill on mutually acceptable concerns.
First Nations support the need for accountability, transparency and leadership selection. The majority...of the First Nations comply with auditing requirements contrary to the negative media reports over the past year. Political accountability is also paramount. We are however, greatly concerned with the issue of legal standing and capacity that will have fundamental implications to our relationship with the Crown, including the diminishment of the fiduciary obligations, amongst others.
It appears that the process which created the first nations governance act is under attack. National Chief Matthew Coon Come raised an interesting question last week: Why is it that the minister chose to amend the Indian Act over writing a separate piece of legislation dealing with aboriginal self-government outside the act? Indeed it is an interesting question.
Let me bring my portion of the debate to a close with a few additional comments. The Liberal government has pushed aside the conclusions of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples seen by all as a good first step and has replaced them by a consultation process tailored to say what the minister wants to hear. There are a number of ways to deal with the first nations governance and amending the Indian Act is probably the worst. Piecemeal changes likely would do more harm than good. A one size fits all approach to policy and legislation does not work for first nations.
Let me also say that the Liberal government is in no position to talk about greater transparency and accountability when its credibility has been stained by scandal after scandal. As I said earlier, the Liberal Party and the Liberal government have to realize that the money they take from the people really does not belong to them. It belongs to the people of Canada.
The bill does not address the most important issues facing first nations across Canada, namely the poor standard of living in first nations communities, health, housing, clean water and education. I have visited many of the aboriginal communities in my own riding and some of the living conditions are deplorable.
The minister is practising the politics of confrontation, not consultation. This appears to be where all the opposition to his bill comes from. It is the process the minister and the government is following. It is not one of inclusion but one of exclusion. The minister has also cut funding to the Assembly of First Nations. After the group positioned itself against amending the Indian Act the minister made it a policy of handpicking or even creating groups who said what he wanted to hear while shutting the others out.
The PC Party supports the motion to refer the bill to committee before second reading. The committee looks forward to visiting this country coast to coast and we invite all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to express their opinions, apply to the committee throughout the summer, and take time to study the bill. We hope that many amendments will be made to this piece of legislation.
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB
Madam Speaker, it has been a while since I had an opportunity to speak in regard to the issues that exist on first nations reserves. I had the pleasure of working with first nations people for nearly two years as I travelled the country. I met with grassroots natives from coast to coast and observed what was taking place. I saw things with my own eyes and enjoyed the hospitality of what little they could afford to give to visitors. I met a lot of friends over those years and it is a pleasure to rise once again a couple of years later to speak to the issue that is brought before the House today by the hon. minister.
I am in agreement that the bill should be forwarded to the committee as quickly as possible so that the committee can begin the hard work that is ahead of it with regard to what needs to happen. I am anxious to see that the minister truly means his words when he said that the bill must be about people and not politics. I hope the minister means that with all his heart. I wish he would speak more with his heart rather than read the canned speeches prepared by bureaucrats for the presentation of these kinds of bills. The situation that is about to occur, the changes that are being talked about and thrown about, will have an impact on aboriginal people that has been expected for years but has had no results.
The bill must be about people. That is where we must start. We must start with our aboriginal communities. They are dealing with some problems that have not been significantly addressed for a number of years. During the two years I spent on the road going to these various places I asked the people, as I went into the various homes which were not much to brag about in many cases, how many times they had a visit from a member of the House of Commons to discuss the problems that existed on their reserve. Unfortunately, in a large percentage of cases they indicated my visit was the first they had ever had and they were anxious to open up and talk about the situation in their particular areas.
I recall the visit I had at the Eva Pitt home. She is 74 and going blind. She lives on a reserve in Ontario with her husband who has a heart condition. He is unable to do much work so the heavy work is left up to her. She is required to go to the river to bring water to their fairly modern home which has no water source and no bathroom facilities. They have been asking for help and for somebody to address this issue for years. It was brought to the government's attention in the House of Commons before the last election in the form of a statement by myself and other members. It was ignored. There was no action taken to correct the situation. Today it remains the same. It is about people and it is about time that we started thinking about the people, not just one individual but many. We must look at the situation that exists on this and many other reserves.
I want to point out how pleased I was to see many reserves that were doing well. They were working hard to ensure that the people on their particular reserve were able to enjoy a standard of life that enjoyed full employment and that prosperity was thriving. There were reserves that were doing that.
The United Nations declared Canada to be the greatest nation in which to live. However if we were to include many of these reserves we would rank 38th in the world because of the living conditions that exist on some of these reserves.
I visited a home that was in a bus where the windows were broken out and the wheels were gone. The bus had been converted into a home because there was no other choice. A man, his wife and six children lived there, and were being visited by a mother and father. They did their best to accommodate my wife and I, who joined me on these tours to learn of their problems. They did their best to be as hospitable as they could with what little they had. These things were brought to the attention of the government. It was asked to investigate and check on these things. It took forever for anything to happen. However once the word got out in one particular case things did happen and a correction was made.
My question to the minister and to the government is: Why are we not doing that on a broader scale before we engage in the serious matters of governance? Currently it means absolutely nothing to so many hundreds of natives who wonder where their next plate of food will come from, who live in hopelessness and helplessness, where the suicide rate of teens is unbelievable, where drug abuse and alcohol abuse is completely out of control, not to mention the medical drugs supplied by doctors who like to be called doctor X or doctor Y , because they can get these things and manage to get their hands on a few bucks.
With these third world conditions in health and housing there is no reason why the government should sit back and be proud of a document it is bringing forward that does not address the heart of the problems that exist across this country.
The government talks about consultations. It was invited to attend literally hundreds of meetings across the country organized by aboriginal grassroots people, such as Rita Galloway from Saskatchewan; Leona Freid from Manitoba; Laura Deedza from Alberta; Bill Burgess from British Columbia; Jean Allard from Manitoba; Jim Horseman from Alberta; Yolanda Redcalf from Alberta; Rene Metacat from Alberta; along with elders, such as Floyd Manyfingers from Alberta; Roy Littlechief who was accompanied by his son who was 20 years old at the time, Redman Littlechief; Greg Twoyoungmen; Ernie and Robert Bruno; Keith Chief Moon; Ed Olivirio; and the list goes on. They were all crying out to the government for help.
There were some specific things they wanted. They wanted to see some accountability, democracy and equality, not only for their women but for others. They wanted to see a caring government that would move in and help them with this deplorable situation that existed on the reserves. To date the only thing the government has come forward with is a change to the Indian Act which does not address the problems cited by every aboriginal native that I talked to on many of these reserves.
The minister knows of these people. I accompanied these people when they visited him. I do not understand why these things have not been addressed.
The New Democratic Party has indicated that we have been fearmongering by pointing out the conditions that exist. Instead of joining in and working toward alleviating these problems we play political games in this place. That is when we lose all control. We must stay away from politics. We must keep it about people and start deciding today what we will do to fix the problem.
First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders
Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this extremely important bill. The legacy of the relationship between non-aboriginals and aboriginals in our country a pox on our House because what we have done is create an institutionalized welfare state and apartheid in Canada.
We have removed from aboriginal people the basic abilities for a people to take care of themselves. We have removed the democratic rights that any person should have. We have removed control and responsibility from them. We have continued with politically correct initiatives and structures that have done little but harm grassroots aboriginal people in the country.
Diabetes, HIV rates, substance abuse, sexual abuse, infant mortality rates, maternal mortality rates, poverty and suicide rates are all sky high and well above those within non-aboriginal communities. Why is this so?
We would see the same situation if we were to look at other communities where this has taken place, where the checks and balances have been removed, where the ability of people to take care of themselves has been removed, and where the ability to contribute to themselves, their families and their communities has been removed. Whether it is aboriginal people in Australia, Bushmen or Hottentots in South Africa or whether a white living in an urban Canadian setting, if we remove the responsibility and the tools for people to contribute to themselves, their families and communities we get a litany of social problems, the likes of which we are contemplating and dealing with here today.
I used to work in Africa. After my return from that continent I had never seen social conditions that bad until I began to see what was happening on aboriginal reserves. I saw decrepit and destroyed buildings that had “Please kill me” written on their rooftops.
Suicide rates are sky high in an area that is stunningly beautiful, where pristine waters run through the reserve surrounded by mountains. When I did my house calls I saw elderly aboriginal people lying on soiled mattresses in their living rooms, children running around with massive infections on their faces and people lying drunk at 10 o'clock in the morning. Parents were nowhere to be found. Aboriginal leaders were taking money away from the pot to buy new Ski-Doos and trucks for themselves and their friends. Mothers did not have enough money to send their children to school. Some mothers told me that the chief and the band council were taking the money slated for education and buying new trucks and Ski-Doos for themselves and their friends. This was allowed to happen.
When I presented this to the department it said that it could not intervene. When I asked it to intervene, it declined. It said it was a band responsibility. What does one do in situations where band councils, leaders and chiefs have created a system where they run their reserves like private fiefdoms and use the moneys for their own pockets and those of their cronies who keep them in power?
Who speaks for the grassroots aboriginal people? Who speaks for the mother and father who wants to send their child to school and do not have the money for that? Who speaks for the system where the normal democratic controls that ought to be there are gone? That is what we have created.
We want the bill to give the grassroots aboriginal people the same power and tools as we have to control our leaders. They must have the democratic power to control spending, to know how much money is coming in, to know what band council resolutions are all about and to control the leaders within their bands. We cannot allow the status quo to continue. If we were to allow the status quo to continue then we would allow this institutionalized welfare system and apartheid to continue.
Many chiefs and councils are crying foul. They are saying that the government cannot do this. They are crying colonialism. The government is putting up the colonial banner as a way to continue the status quo.
The government must bypass the chiefs, bands and councils. It must talk to the people on the ground away from the prying eyes of their leadership in a free and fair fashion. If it does that, in many cases it will hear true horror stories.
Many bands and chiefs do an admirable job for their people. If we look at those areas, we would see places that are run well, where people have control of the money and spend it properly. The leadership in those cases has used the money properly, has given people power of control and has been transparent and accountable.
The other group we are not talking about is the group of aboriginal people who are off-reserve, those who live in cities often enduring lives of quiet desperation. I live in Victoria. In east Vancouver vast swaths of aboriginal people are unfortunately enduring lives of prostitution, violence and drug abuse. They see absolutely no hope. If we are to help those people, we have to investment in education and health care for them. We also have to give their children better hope.
One thing has always struck me as been shocking and it has broken my heart. When I have gone onto aboriginal reserves, I have seen parents of little children, whose eyes are bright and filled with all the hope in the world, drunk at 10 o'clock in the morning, screaming at them and being abusive to them. We just have to look at the rates of sexual abuse and violence among children and the tragedy that has befallen many of them.
They could do and be whatever they wanted if they were given a chance. If the little aboriginal children were given the same opportunity, hope, possibilities and training, they would do as well or better than any of us but they have to be given the opportunity. It will not happen if the chiefs and councils control all the money and if they are allowed, in many cases, to abuse their power and position at the expense of the people on the ground. We cannot allow it to happen.
The bill must deal with that. We also have to invest in dealing with the terrible HIV rates and fetal alcohol syndrome which are tearing apart these communities. Putting posters in clinics is not the answer. I have seen some of the offers the government has made to deal with this tragedy. I have seen 15 year old and 16 year old girls who were pregnant and who were taking large amounts of alcohol and other drugs. They told me where to go when I told them what potentially could happen to their child. That cannot continue to happen.
We have to take look at other means of dealing with FAS and with diabetes. A can of Coke and a bag of potato chips is not appropriate food for little children. Nor is it appropriate food for adults. Alcoholism and drug abuse would happen to many of us if we were thrust into the same environment of hopelessness without the tools or skills to act.
Many studies have been done across the country, specific studies dealing with specific areas. On some of the reserves on which I worked, excellent work has been done on providing for economic reconstruction plans for those areas, with the people, by the people and for the people. Unfortunately these plans go absolutely no where.
My colleague mentioned the many aboriginal people who wanted to get things done within their communities. However the level of bureaucracy that they had to go through was so difficult, so onerous and time consuming, that their good ideas simply went nowhere. In fact, they were often obstructed by people higher up in the hierarchy. That cannot be allowed to continue. We must have a system that facilitates grassroots aboriginal people and which allows their them to put forward good ideas that would benefit their people.
We as a party would be willing to work with the minister. I would implore the minister to listen to grassroots aboriginal people away from the prying eyes of the chiefs and councils. Listen to what they have to say. They have great ideas and great suggestions. They need help and they need it now.
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Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS
Madam Speaker, I would like to make some introductory comments and then I plan to continue following question period.
I listened very intently to the words of the minister when he introduced the so-called first nations governance bill that we are now considering in this debate. They were lofty words indeed. He spoke about the process the government launched leading to the introduction of this bill and that it was democracy in action. He talked about how the federal government and the first nations worked together in the process of bringing the bill forward. As well, he talked about giving first nations the tools they required to improve conditions and the importance of the bill in breaking ties with the colonialist past.
I say with deep regret and great sadness that the very process that has surrounded the introduction of the bill is fundamentally flawed. It is profoundly paternalistic. It has reeked of colonialist sentiment in the very worst sense of the word from its very inception.
Before I get to some of the provisions of the bill itself, the element of simple respect for first nations people has been lacking throughout the process to date. No wonder National Chief Matthew Coon Come of the Assembly of First Nations asked this on Friday when this bill was introduced. He said:
When is the government going to start dealing with first nations as human beings with rights instead of looking at us as subject matter for legislation?
I want to take the House back very briefly to this government's Speech from the Throne following the new mandate that it received from the Canadian people in 2001. I recall the words of the national chief at that time. He expressed real and genuine hope that the government's promise of a new beginning in the relationship between Canada and first nations would be realized. We could see that in his face, hear it in his voice and read it in his words.
Today it is a tragedy and a betrayal of monumental proportions that the government has proceeded against the urgings and pleadings of not just the national chief or leadership across the country, but proceeded in the face of a growing groundswell of grassroots community based first nations people who want to be involved in a genuine partnership. They do not want to be treated in a manner that is only consistent with the colonialist history of first nations people in the country.
On Friday the grand chief raised the question of what happened to those promises that were made by this government on its gaining a new mandate. He questioned who had given the minister a mandate to trample on their treaties and poison their relationship.
The bill before us, in the view of the first nations people who have studied it extensively, has been labelled as legislated extinction and simply an addition to the legacy of more broken promises.
The motion before us poses a dilemma. We do not have the kind of process that is needed, one based on respect and on genuinely carving out a joint future. The need for that process to get underway remains as urgent as ever.
CharlottetownStatements By Members
Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE
Madam Speaker, I rise today to inform the House that Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island will proudly welcome Canadians from coast to coast to coast this Canada Day with the largest planned celebrations outside of the nation's capital.
The CBC in co-operation with the Prince Edward Island Capital Commission will produce a spectacular stage show on the historic Charlottetown waterfront. This location is only steps away from where our founding fathers landed in 1864.
The show will be broadcast as part of a live CBC network special highlighting the best in Canadian entertainment and the history and pride that Charlottetown has to offer. As the birthplace of Canada, Charlottetown is truly honoured to have the opportunity to host this event.
I encourage all Canadians to join with myself, my family and the residents of the Charlottetown area on this Canada Day.
EducationStatements By Members
Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC
Madam Speaker, it is with pride that I rise today to honour the outstanding contribution to education of both teachers and students in the riding of Kelowna, British Columbia.
Bradley Talbot and Douglas Grunert, teachers at Rutland Senior Secondary School, received the prestigious Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence. Christine Letourneau and Leona Géber, teachers at Shannon Lake Elementary School in Westbank, were awarded Certificates of Achievement, joining a select 50 teachers across Canada.
Students also made their mark. Landon Bailey of Mount Boucherie Secondary School, Chris Pisesky of Kelowna Senior Secondary, and Patrick Wilson of Immaculata Regional High School were awarded Millennium Excellence Awards for showing outstanding achievement in academics, community service, leadership and innovation.
On behalf of the constituents of Kelowna I wish to congratulate the recipients. Our communities benefit greatly from their commitment to excellence.
Guy HuotStatements By Members
Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC
Madam Speaker, Guy Huot died on Sunday after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. This is sad news for Canadians and for the musical world.
Guy Huot was originally from Ottawa, where he began his great musical adventure. Youth and Music Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Arts Centre can attest to the talent, commitment and intelligence of Guy Huot.
Later on, Guy Huot was attracted to the international scene. Among other responsibilities, he managed, with passion and imagination, UNESCO's International Music Council. This great Canadian shared with the whole world his passion for music of all types.
Unfortunately, he left us. On this sad day, my colleagues and I wish to express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Guy Huot. Rest assured that he will have is own place in musical history.
Millennium ScholarshipsStatements By Members
Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to congratulate nine more students who have been awarded millennium scholarships: Levene Drummond, Jessica Forsyth and Josh Cantor from Oromocto High School; Paricher Irani, Melissa Persaud, Laura Richard and Travis Saunders from Nathan and Nicholas' own Leo Hayes High School; William McIntyr from FHS, and Nicola Nadeau from École Sainte-Anne.
New Brunswick receives $7.3 million each year in millennium scholarships. In 1999-2000, 2,574 scholarships were a tangible demonstration of the federal government's continuing commitment to making post-secondary education more accessible.
I am pleased that these individuals have received financial support to help further their studies. They have made their families, their schools and our community proud.
Canadian Wheat BoardStatements By Members
Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE
Mr. Speaker, I call upon the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board to reject recommendation 14 contained in the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. The recommendation, put forward without the support of the elected board of directors of the wheat board, would result in my view in the board's destruction.
The government has long been on record as supporting the Canadian Wheat Board and in fact passed legislation in 1996 for farmers, through an elected board, to have governance and manage their own affairs. Because of single desk selling as opposed to the open market, during the 2000-01 crop year alone the board ensured that grain producers received a $160 million higher return for wheat. Without the board these moneys would have gone to grain companies.
To agree with a proposal that would take money out of producers' pockets and give greater control to the railways and grain companies would be wrong. This recommendation must be rejected.
FisheriesStatements By Members
John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC
Mr. Speaker, there is a ritual that occurs every year on the B.C. coast. Everyone involved in the recreational salmon fishery urges the DFO to announce its annual fishing plans early. Every year the department announces them late.
Dependent businesses are placed in an impossible situation where they must book summer clients without knowing the catch limits so they will not lose them to Alaska or other jurisdictions. In past years negative surprises from DFO have led to massive cancellations.
Alaska releases its detailed fishing plans for the following year in November. DFO only released its 2002 salmon fisheries management plans for northern and southern B.C. on May 31.
There is no technical barrier to prevent earlier DFO announcements. DFO must develop a sense of urgency.
2010 Winter OlympicsStatements By Members
Sophia Leung Liberal Vancouver Kingsway, BC
On June 7 the governments of Canada and B.C. announced $620 million in funding for the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation if Canada is chosen to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. The funding would be put toward creating the facilities needed to stage the games. My colleagues the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Minister of Natural Resources were in Vancouver to make the announcement.
The announcement provides a major boost to the efforts of Vancouver Whistler to win the Olympics. I firmly believe Vancouver Whistler has the strongest bid and will be successful in winning the games. We have the natural beauty and the strong spirit of Vancouver residents which will put us over the top.
We look forward to the final selection of the 2010 Winter Olympics site in July 2003.
Kimy PerniaStatements By Members
Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC
Mr. Speaker, at the people's summit held in Quebec City in April 2001, Kimy Pernia, an aboriginal guest from Colombia, condemned the situation of exclusion and violence, of which the members of his community, Embera Katio del Alto Sinu, were victims, particularly by the death squads, which are paramilitary groups close to the Colombian army.
Upon his return to Colombia, Kimy Pernia was abducted by the paramilitary and has now been missing for one year. This crime against humanity is connected to his coming to Quebec City and taking part in the international forum.
A solidarity march was held in Quebec City on June 1 to get Kimy Pernia freed. Two thousand five hundred and ninety-two people signed a petition asking the government to adopt a motion to use all its diplomatic, political and economic channels to get Kimy Pernia's case solved by Colombian authorities and to put a stop to the massacre of Colombian people.
BioGENEius AwardsStatements By Members
Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate a young woman from my riding for her recent victory at the BioGENEius Awards.
Colleen Connolly, a very bright young woman from Bedford, Nova Scotia, was presented with a $5,000 prize for her project titled “Code Red! Effect of Statin Cholesterol Synthesis Inhibitors on Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule Expression”. Clearly, she deserved to win on the title alone.
The prestigious BioGENEius Awards bring the brightest and best from each province to a national competition in Toronto. These sorts of competitions provide concrete opportunities to demonstrate why this government is committed to its knowledge agenda. Our young people are showing us the way from coast to coast to coast.
Once again I congratulate Colleen.
Freedom of the PressStatements By Members
Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to pay tribute to Dr. Russell Mills who was honoured this past weekend with an honorary doctorate of laws from Carleton University. Dr. Mills has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the newspaper industry, starting as a copy boy and reporter with the London Free Press and eventually becoming publisher of the Ottawa
In his convocation address to the graduating class of 2002, Dr. Mills reminded Canadians just how precarious democracy is in Canada. Freedom of the press is under assault in this country. His message of attack on freedom of the press is the attack on democracy. As someone who has endured a smear campaign run out of the Prime Minister's Office I know firsthand how important a free press is.
I congratulate Dr. Mills on being recognized by Carleton University, and I applaud his courage in standing up and speaking out against the growing concentration of power in the office of the Prime Minister, one party rule, and the threat to democracy.
2002 Commonwealth GamesStatements By Members
Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON
Mr. Speaker, I wish to pay tribute today to members of Canada's Commonwealth Games team which will be officially announced in Toronto on July 4. These athletes will compete in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England from July 25 to August 4.
Each athlete of the Canadian team embodies excellence, dedication and discipline, and we as Canadians cherish these values. Pride in our athletes and coaches translates into pride in our country.
Like every other Canadian I want to see our athletes on the podium. At the same time, I want to recognize each and every one of them for what they have already brought to us through their commitment to their dreams and their courage in pursuing them. They will cherish these memories of a lifetime.
Once again I congratulate these athletes who will compete in the Commonwealth Games this summer.
HealthStatements By Members
Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to draw to the attention of the House and all Canadians the ongoing struggle of some 70 dedicated health care workers in St. Catherines, Ontario fighting for their rights and quality care for the people they serve.
The members of IWA local 700 are entering the 10th week of a strike against the U.S. based private health care provider Anagram ResCare. In the ongoing dispute the employer has brought in workers from the U.S. as scab labour. An investigation is underway into its conduct as a result of a number of these scabs being intercepted at the border.
The workers of IWA local 700 are on the front line in the battle against the Americanization of our health care system, fighting for quality health care for Canadians and equity for health care providers. I commend them on their struggle and call on the government to act immediately to put an end to the Americanization of health care in Canada.