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

June 17th, 2002 / 4 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to be on the record on this bill for a few moments because in my parliamentary career some of the happiest moments I have had have been working with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and working with my friends the Cree when the minister of the western Arctic and I spent time in 1990 in the northern part of James Bay. Recently we held our first summit on water at the Mohawk Reserve in Wahta the Parry Sound-Muskoka region. Also, my seatmate for many years from Kenora--Rainy River was elevated to the status of Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

When we are in the House for many years, we learn to know the members of parliaments, their ridings, backgrounds and passions. I have grown over the years to know that the minister responsible for the file has deep roots within the first nations community. As many members probably know, and the public and the media should know, there are over 60 different bands in the riding of Kenora--Rainy River. Therefore the minister brings to this file an extraordinary amount of knowledge and experience in dealing with first nations.

In fact, the Prime Minister has, as a major part of his legacy, a special relationship with first nations. I find the idea that legislation would come before this House that would be insensitive and not deal with first nations in a way that is proper strange. After what I had seen happen in the media over the last few days, I decided to speak to Chief Matthew Coon Come. Lo and behold some real genuine tension exists on this file.

Thank goodness in the last few days the Prime Minister said that this bill would go to committee and that there would be amendments to it before second reading. The minister said that earlier today. It is very important we understand, Canadians understand and all first nations people understand that the bill in its current form will not stay the same if everything we hear from first nations people is listened to when they appear before the committee.

Rather than creating an environment where a tension and a gap develops, it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that both parliamentarians and the leadership and friends in first nations understand that there is a real genuine opportunity here to ensure that this bill is put into a form that can work.

A member asked a very good question? Why do we not wait until the fall to deal with the bill? The reaction and the exercise we have experienced in the House in the last few days, where members of the opposition have been very constructive and creative in their ideas, will press the nerve of the entire system in a constructive way so that when we do go to committee before second reading I think there will be a much higher level of attentiveness. As well, I think the level of listening will be a lot greater.

This happens on many bills in this House, especially in the last few weeks. We all know that over the last few years there has been a pendulum toward devolving the governing of this country to unelected officials. Most of us are coming to a realization that our roles here are becoming diminished as every week passes. I believe that pendulum has hit the wall.

I have noticed in committees in the last few weeks that more and more parliamentarians from all sides have been creative and constructive, and major portions of bills have been altered. On Bill C-48, the copyright act, a few minutes ago a recommendation by the Canadian Alliance to have it carved out on Internet retransmission was unanimously accepted by all parties. That went against the entire will of the public service. I have seen that happen more and more. I think this bill will go through the same experience.

It is very important to understand that when legislation like this comes to the House, it does not come here to make things to be worse for people, its intent is to make the lives of first nations better.

When we read the title of the bill, the first nations governance act and the purposes of it are very noble and constructive. However the reality is that the process in getting to that point is not going to be supported by some of those leaders in first nations who we all respect. We also realize that there are many in the first nations community who do like the bill. However the exercise of examining the bill in a totally open, constructive way will happen and any attempts to create a situation where we will be closed minded is not really accurate. That is what I leave with the House.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-61, which deals with the Indian Act. Like most Canadians and like most people in this parliament, I feel that the it is long past the time when the bill needed to be revisited. We are happy to see the government has introduced the bill and has finally made an attempt to address many of the concerns, the issues and the paradox that exists in Canada in regard to first nations.

Let me go back one step. I will not say that I am new to the country now because I have been here for 25 years. However in the last 30 years most of the immigrants who have come to this country from other parts of the world have looked at this issue and have been absolutely puzzled by what has happened. A huge amount of money has been spent on treaties and whatever by the Government of Canada, under this act, to address our first nations people. Yet report after report has indicated that something is seriously wrong because our first nations people are living under third world conditions, conditions that are deplorable.

One would say shame on Canada, a country that has been judged as the best in the world, a country that is rich within the exclusive clique of G-7, the richest in the world, yet people are living under such deplorable conditions. It is very difficult to comprehend. Many new immigrants have been puzzled by this.

I have not seen much debate by the new immigrants who have come here. Hence I feel it necessary for me to stand in the House of Commons today to speak on behalf of these people. We cannot have these conditions. The question is who is to blame? Fingers have been pointed left and right and accusations have been flying around. About three weeks ago I had a town hall meeting. I alluded to the act and an accusation started flying around the room, which I felt was inappropriate and not informative. However it was out there. Somehow someone and the department have failed.

One can say that the failure lies with the way reserves have been run, with the way leaders and with people pointing fingers. One can say we have a huge bureaucracy under the Indian Act which has been meddling in the affairs of the reserves and that the people of the first nations have not been allowed to use their full potential to be productive citizens of our nation.

When I look at the history of the first nations, I take my hat off to them. Their communities have learned to live very well with nature, with the environment and have adopted a lifestyle that is very impressive and conducive to living in conditions with the environment. They deserve that credit. Subsequently of course many of us have heard about residential schools and the reservations. We feel saddened about the fact that as we move forward in the 21st century we have not addressed this issue.

Therefore, it is very good, I would say, and the Canadian Alliance, as my colleagues have indicated, is prepared to support the bill going right now to the committee, because we want to start the debate. The nation has to debate these deplorable conditions. We must debate this issue.

As the bill moves forward through the committee I am sure the committee will hear the views of everyone, which I hope will include the aboriginal leaders as well. My colleague from the NDP has wrongly, I must say, tried to accuse us of fearmongering but that is not the case. It is better to bring out the issues, talk about them and address them than it is to push them under the carpet. This is coming from a party that is telling us we are wrong, but at least I am glad we are going to talk about it.

My concern that I would like to raise, and I heard my colleague from the Liberal Party dwell on it, is that past experience has shown the tendency of the government, the Prime Minister and the ministers to ignore the work of the committees. Will this committee also be a rubber stamp or will this committee's recommendations make an impact on the bill to make it an effective bill? Or are we once again embarking on an exercise that the government will ignore but will love saying that the committee discussed it, as it wants to do on this one?

We in the Alliance Party want to discuss this issue. We want Canadians to engage in this debate. We must engage in this debate. Everything should be on the table in this debate. Let us not sweep anything under the carpet, because in the longer term we are doing an injustice to our first nations people as well as to the Canadians of our future. It is incumbent on us. I could go on to talk about the many things that are wrong with the bill, but I am sure we will get a tremendous amount of opportunity in the coming years to discuss this issue.

Once again I hope that all Canadians can put their differences aside and bring the issues to the table that need to be resolved so that the first nations can become citizens of this country.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on this very important issue for Canadians that is obviously of a great deal of concern and importance to aboriginal people who are trying to wrestle with a way to better their lives.

As has been mentioned earlier today, and on both sides of the House, I think, there is a growing understanding and maybe a consensus building in all communities and in all political parties that the status quo is just simply not good enough. We cannot continue along the path we are on, repeat it endlessly and hope that we will have a different result down the way. It is a definition of insanity to say let us just keep the process going when the process we have now has resulted in 80% unemployment on many reserves, the highest suicide rates, difficulty in infant mortality and on and on the problems continue to go. The bill at least is going to get those issues on the table for debate and, I hope, for resolution.

To begin, let me say that the Stó:lõ Nation is within my area, or I am within theirs, depending on whose perspective we are following. There are many different reserves that make up the Stó:lõ Nation. I would say that some very good leaders have come up through the system in the Stó:lõ Nation in spite of the Indian Act, not because of it. The person who makes it to the top and is able to work hard on behalf of his or her people stands out like a shining light, but unfortunately there are so many others who do not get there because there is no natural path to provide good governance and good leadership.

In fact, if they are good governors or good leaders within the community there is no guarantee they will be re-elected or receive kudos for it. In fact, sometimes, and this is what is happening in the Stó:lõ Nation right now, there are certain bands that are so frustrated with the system, with the unintelligible leadership morass they have, that they have given up and opted out of the Stó:lõ Nation. Now they are taking one another to court. Meanwhile different bands are fighting each other. Nobody is helping the aboriginal people with this, but the war is on between the groups as they try to find out who can lead.

We have to resolve the governance issues. This bill at least is taking a stab at it. In that sense it is good. I remember writing to the ministers in times past and asking them to intervene where I thought there was grievous, undemocratic activity going on in certain reserves. The response I got from the minister was if the people did not like it then they should elect a new council. However, here is what happens in those situations. Sometimes the band bylaws are such that all one has to do to give notification of a new election for the band council is to post on the four corners of the reserve or thereabouts a notice on an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper, typewritten, at times posted 12 or 14 feet high on a telephone pole. The election comes and goes because nobody knows about it. There is no public notification required. There is no voters list. There is no night when all the candidates speak. There are none of the things that we take for granted in a democratic system. Certain bands just run roughshod over the democratic rights of the aboriginal people themselves, or what I would hope are democratic rights.

Therefore, we have to grapple with this. We cannot let this go on. We would not put up with it in our dealings with a third world country and we certainly should not put up with it here in our dealings with aboriginal people. They deserve better and they want better. To the aboriginal leaders who squawk the most and think it is unfair to even re-open or open this can of worms, I say “get into the 21st century”. We need to have accountability because without accountability we cannot have good governance.

I also hope that during this discussion on governance issues we will understand another thing that I think is a truism about human nature, that is, if we get money from the people we purport to represent we will naturally have better accountability and better governance. In other words, right now billions of dollars are transferred from one level of government to another level of government in the aboriginal community, but it does not pass through the hands of the aboriginal people. They do not see it. It is just transferred from federal or provincial governments to a local aboriginal government, but the aboriginal people do not see it.

Because of that, the aboriginal people do not have any sense of where the money is going. It is not taxed out of their back pockets. It is transferred from government to government. The aboriginal people say that they do not know where the money is. All they know is that they do not have running water and they do not have facilities. They have no opportunities, no hope, because they do not see any of the money. The money just goes from government to government and then it is spent by the guys at the top and they do not get any of it. They do not see it.

I hope we discuss ways to make government better on aboriginal reserves the same as we would for any other level of government. Money should be given to the aboriginal people. They should have access to it and have opportunities and then if need be it can be taxed back. Then we will see some accountability. We will see aboriginal people standing up and saying that transfers are coming to them, their families and their community to the tune of thousands of dollars and if people want it back then they will be held accountable for it. They will say that if it is to be spent on health care they want to see where the money is being spent. They will say that they do not want it just wasted.

We see the headlines in the local papers back home and in the Vancouver Sun about the money being spent on trips to Hawaii, trips to exotic locations and boondoggle seminars held by dozens of people in exotic locations, all of it because of transfers of money from one government to another. If that money had to be taxed out of the back pockets of aboriginal people they would be rising up and saying enough of this nonsense. However, they never see the money. It goes directly to the band council, the band council disburses a lot of it to itself and then we have taxation without representation. We have money being spent and people not seeing the benefit from it. It is just not right.

Finally, the NDP has tried to make the case today that we should not be raising these issues, that it is unjust, unfair and so on. It is repugnant and there is revulsion and all that kind of stuff. I would tell them, as the member for Prince George--Peace River has said, to get their heads out of the sand. What on earth is the NDP thinking? If the NDP wants to help the aboriginal people, as we all want to, then let us get into the 21st century and not stick with an 18th century or 19th century model of governance. We have to, because they want something new and different.

As for the fact that some of the leadership says it is going too quickly and there is not enough consultation, we can address that in the committee forum, and of course we should consult broadly, but to say that nothing is going to change is an insult to aboriginal people and in essence is telling them that what they have is good enough. It is not good enough.

There has not been an aboriginal land claim settlement in British Columbia under the government's leadership since it came to power in 1993, not one. Hundreds of millions of dollars have now been spent on consultants' fees, on lawyers' fees and on talking around the bush until another generation of aboriginal people has grown up with even more despair.

They were promised better. They say that the government promised them it would deliver something and they cannot even get land claim settlements done under this government because the system is botched up. There is so much political correctness, so many lawyers and consultants and so much 18th century thinking that it is bogged down. Now it is being said that some of those bands, when they settle their land claims, will spend all of their land claim settlements paying off the consultants who got them to where they are today. It is just a travesty for the aboriginal people, who deserve better.

In conclusion, let me say that I was a logging contractor before I got into this business here. In the logging business in those days, I would say that around 50% of the people who worked in the industry were aboriginal, at least in my area. They were some of the best loggers and the best contractors. Some of them made a lot of money. Some of them did very well. They were hard workers, good people and excellent in the woods. We considered ourselves fortunate to have a high proportion of aboriginal people and contractors working for us. However, that was an exception to the rule. If we take the forestry industry out of it, and it is unfortunately less and less of a factor now in economic activity, aboriginal people are asked to sit on their reserves and just exist instead of having opportunities to advance themselves.

It is time to break out of the mould, give them good governance, allow them to make decisions that affect themselves, and work with them to make a brighter 21st century because the past century and a half has been an abysmal failure.

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4:25 p.m.


Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to debate an issue that is critical to our country. The preamble of Bill C-61 states:

Whereas governments in Canada have certain capacities and powers facilitating good governance, accountability and economic development--

The opening statements of the preamble should exemplify how the country was created. The crown of England negotiated by treaty with the aboriginal nations of Canada to create a country. Why is that preamble not in the bill? Immigrants or anyone else who declares themselves to be Canadian must realize that the country was created by negotiation and treaty, a sacred covenant. It was sacred because it was held in high regard. It was held with the sacred pipes of our nations to secure a nation which shared the land among all Canadians. That preamble is missing from Bill C-61.

When immigrants become Canadians they must learn the country's history. They must realize that the aboriginal nations willingly shared the land to live a peaceful and harmonious existence. It started as a colonial relationship but we must now throw the colonial cloaks away, as the minister has said.

How do we travel forth? This morning an hon. member across the way brought up the issue of the two row wampum. I commend his perspective. However the two vessels he spoke about are here on Parliament Hill. This vessel, created under the British parliamentary structure, has a Senate and a House of Commons. The other vessel, the Library of Parliament, is round and shaped like a teepee. An aboriginal council could take its place there and we could collectively govern the country.

There are three Houses. They are like mind, body and spirit. We could stand together in security for the certainty of the country. The senators could be our sober second thought. They could be our elders, our wisdom. They could make their decisions on journeys such as this law.

The House of Commons represents all jurisdictions and constituents of Canada, but our aboriginal nations have been missed in governing the country. The crown has been selfish in governing the country on its own. The crown must recognize the original nations and come together with them. We must create a united Canada made up of all our nations. We are a river of nations and a nation of rivers.

When we speak of a nation of rivers we need only look at the river maps. The river basins are based on treaties. In the region I come from, Saskatchewan Treaty 6 includes the entire North Saskatchewan River. Treaty 10 includes the entire Churchill River system. Treaties 8 and 11 include the entire Mackenzie River basin system. It was through treaty that Canada acquired the lands to govern the country. Let us go back and respect those treaties. If we visit any first nations community that has signed a treaty the elders will say time and time again that our relationship flows from the treaties signed by their people. Chiefs such as Mistawasis, John Iron of Canoe Lake, and Chief Apisis from English River all signed treaties. Canada cannot forget its own history.

Everyone here is afforded a treaty right. It is by treaty that Canadians have a country to govern. I have a treaty right to be here as a member of parliament. Without a country called Canada I would not be the member of parliament for Churchill River. Treaty rights flow both ways. Aboriginal nations are not the only ones with treaty rights. It is through treaty rights that we as Canadians have a land to live on and call home. That preamble is required in the governance bill.

The other challenge I will make is to our aboriginal nations. Madam Speaker, I hope you will allow me to express myself in my language because that is how I must address them.

[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]

We have been given a great responsibility as aboriginal people. The aboriginal nations have inherited the gifts of mother earth that we call Canada. The creator has given us gifts that are so immense we must share them with the world. Many nations have come from many directions: from the east, the south, the west and the north. The nations have converged and call Canada home. Their children have come here. We all want to raise our children together. Let us raise our children in peace and harmony. Peace and harmony can be found if we gather as nations and represent ourselves as one country.

It is time to take this debate to the aboriginal nations. I beg the aboriginal nations to gather as nations. If they gather as nations in this country we call Canada we will find peace and a harmonious relationship with our country. The country is too beautiful to neglect. Our responsibility as nations is critical at this point.

The bill is a default bill. If we do not get our self-government models in place to rectify our inherent and aboriginal rights we will have two years before the default comes into play. The debate needs to take place now. The call for the gathering of nations should be made now for the benefit of the country and of the world, because the world is on a slippery slope to war. We see atrocities happening worldwide.

Here on mother earth we have been given a sacred gift that we call North America or Turtle Island. The aboriginal nations of the island have been given a gift called peace. It is called the great law of peace. It is based on the Iroquois confederacy, a union of five original nations which now includes six. When the United States needed a model of democracy it took a Xerox copy of the great law of peace to create its own constitution. The U.S. constitution is only a replica of that law. Canada has a chance to bring the real law of peace here and nurture it for the world. That is where we will find true world peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, hon. members:

[Editor's Note: The member spoke in Cree]

Let us rise to our responsibilities. Aboriginal peoples and their leaders have a responsibility to gather, and the crown has a responsibility to recognize first nations when they come together. Let us find a meaningful relationship so we can journey on this river we call Canada together as nations, united to create one beautiful country.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time and put forthwith the question on the motion now before the House.

Is the House ready for the question?

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4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Palliser, Agriculture; the hon. member for South Shore, Government Contracts.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-54, an act to promote physical activity and sport, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I would like to draw the attention of the House to the decision made by the Speaker on report stage of Bill C-54.

There are 14 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-54. By unanimous consent earlier today, Motions Nos. 1 and 6 have been removed from the notice paper. All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.

The motions will be grouped for debate as follows:

Group No. 1, Motions Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 8.

Group No. 2, Motions Nos. 10 and 11 to 14.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 4, 5 and 8 in Group No. 1 to the House. We shall not proceed with Motion No. 7 as the hon. member for Hamilton West is not present to move the motion.

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4:35 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario


Paul Devillers LiberalSecretary of State (Amateur Sport) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons


Motion No. 4

That Bill C-54, in the preamble, be amended by replacing lines 17 to 22 on page 1 with the following:

“WHEREAS the Government of Canada is committed to promoting physical activity and sport, having regard to the principles set out in the Official Languages Act;

AND WHEREAS the Government of Canada wishes to encourage cooperation among the various governments, the physical activity and sport communities and the private sector in the promotion of physical activity and sport;”.

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-54, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 30 on page 1 with the following:

“member or members of the Queen's Privy Council for”.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-54 be amended by replacing line 27 on page 2 with the following:

“5. The objects of this Act are to encourage, promote and develop physical activity and sport in Canada. The Minister may take any measures that the Minister considers appropriate to further those objects, and in particular may

(a) undertake or assist in research or studies in respect of physical activity and sport;

(b) arrange for national and regional conferences in respect of physical activity and sport;

(c) provide for the recognition of achievement in respect of physical activity and sport by the grant or issue of certificates, citations or awards of merit;

(d) prepare and distribute information relating to physical activity and sport;

(e) assist, cooperate with and enlist the aid of any group interested in furthering the objects of this Act;

(f) coordinate federal initiatives related to the encouragement, promotion and development of physical activity and sport, particularly those initiatives related to the implementation of the Government of Canada's policy regarding sport, the hosting of major sporting events and the implementation of anti-doping measures, in cooperation with other departments or agencies of the Government of Canada;

(g) undertake or support any projects or programs related to physical activity or sport;

(h) provide assistance for the promotion and development of Canadian participation in national and international sport;

(i) provide for the training of coaches and any other resource persons to further the objects of this Act in relation to sport;

(j) provide bursaries or fellowships to assist individuals in pursuing excellence in sport;

(k) encourage the promotion of sport as a tool of individual and social development in Canada and, in cooperation with other countries, abroad;

(l) encourage the private sector to contribute financially to the development of sport;

(m) facilitate the participation of under-represented groups in the Canadian sport system;

(n) encourage provincial and territorial governments to promote and develop sport;

(o) coordinate the Government of Canada's initiatives and efforts with respect to the staging and hosting of the Canada Games; and

(p) encourage and support alternative dispute resolution for sport.”.

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4:35 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In your comments earlier you talked about some motions the hon. member for Hamilton West had presented. You said they were not presented because he was not here. My understanding is that the amendments could not be received because they were ruled out of order. I only want it on the record because both the minister and myself had undertaken to present the amendments but were told we could not.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Perhaps the hon. member was not in the House but the hon. member for Hamilton West had a number of amendments which were rejected. This one had been selected but the hon. member is not here at the moment to present Motion No. 7.

Resuming debate, the hon. Secretary of State for Amateur Sport.

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4:40 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario


Paul Devillers LiberalSecretary of State (Amateur Sport) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, Motion No. 4 would amend the preamble by including a reference to the Official Languages Act. This would affirm the Government of Canada's commitment to promoting physical activity in sport, having regard to the principles set out in the Official Languages Act.

When the bill was presented to the subcommittee, a number of members expressed concerns. Discussions were held, and it was decided that it would be wise to include a reference to our intention to comply at all times with the Official Languages Act.

With respect to Motion No. 5, at this time sport is the responsibility of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, and physical activity, the Minister of Health.

Reinsertion of clause 2 will give the governor in council the required flexibility to designate any member or members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada to administer the act.

We have determined that it would be wise to have these two references to the two ministers.

With respect to Motion No. 8, the amendment reintroduces clause 5 of Bill C-54 which was deleted at committee. This clause sets forth the objects of the bill, namely to promote, develop and encourage physical activity and sport in Canada, and specifies the minister's mandate in that regard. This in essence was the heart of the bill along with the centre for dispute resolution. It was important that it be reinserted.

There have been discussions among all parties and I understand notwithstanding that there will be other interventions, there is unanimous consent that the bill be deemed to be passed at report stage this afternoon.

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

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Some hon. members


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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to speak to the amendments. We will have a chance to go over the bill likely tomorrow if it passes report stage today. We will be able to wax eloquent about the need for physical activity and amateur sports and what the bill will do. We will be able to talk about our hopes for the bill. An awful lot of it is unclear. We do not know what the budget will be, what the priorities will be, whether the government will create the authority required but in essence I think there will be broad support for it.

For people to understand where we are today they almost have to go back to the clause by clause amendments in committee last week to understand why we are on these particular motions today.

Motion No. 4 which includes a reference to the Official Languages is necessary because the Bloc is adamant that it be specifically noted. I do not have a problem with it. It is in the preamble. All laws in Canada are subject to the Official Languages Act and as such it does not disturb me.

What would have disturbed me and what was a problem even in committee was the amendment was actually passed in committee at one time. The amendment was passed that the object of the bill was to develop physical activity and sport and to create an environment conducive to the equitable participation of both official language communities in the Canadian sport system.

After that amendment passed we had to actually defeat the entire clause of the bill. We had to gut the bill basically because the purpose of the bill is not to promote an atmosphere conducive to two official languages; it is to create physical activity and a sports environment for all Canadians. This is not a language bill; it is a sports and physical activity bill.

The committee went on to eliminate the entire raison d'être of the bill which we are now reinstating in Motion No. 8 which the secretary of state has put forward. I think it has the right language. It says that the minister may take any measures that the minister considers appropriate to further the objectives and it gives a long list of things that the minister may do. The language in the original bill was proper and the language we are putting back into the bill today is proper.

The amendments that thankfully have been withdrawn by the member for Repentigny are appropriately withdrawn because they would have weakened the bill. They would have made it a little bit of everything and would not have done what we wanted. I am happy to support Motion No. 4 which is in the preamble and Motion No. 8 which is basically the core of the bill and reinstates it to what it was before the committee stage.

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4:45 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today as the Bloc Quebecois critic for amateur sport to address Bill C-54, an act to promote physical activity and sport.

Since the beginning, the Bloc Quebecois has been supportive of the principles that underlie this bill, provided that it includes a specific provision to comply with the Official Languages Act. We believe that athletes, coaches and the whole population will benefit from the objectives of this bill, which are laudable and long overdue.

The Bloc Quebecois has always made athletes and coaches a key element of its demands and it will continue to do so at every opportunity, as long as this is necessary.

Bill C-54 is a step in the right direction. It remains to be seen whether these specific measures will meet the numerous expectations of the sports community and of the general public. It is important to remember that this bill is as much about sports as it is about physical activity.

Discussions during the sittings of the subcommittee on sport were lively, but we always kept in mind that we should be working in the best interests of athletes and coaches, because this is a non-partisan issue. Based on the comments that we heard, it appears that our work was appreciated.

The objectives on both sides of the table were basically the same, namely to increase resources for our athletes and coaches, to develop an awareness of the fact that sport facilities and infrastructures are in urgent need of investments, and to implement practical measures to increase public participation.

As a member of parliament, the Bloc Quebecois critic for amateur sport and a member of the subcommittee on sport, I have stressed the need to have a specific provision on respecting official languages. Today, we see that our efforts have paid off. During the sittings of the subcommittee, we insisted on the need to put in place mechanisms to monitor and implement the use of official languages, based on the recommendations made by the Commissioner of Official Languages in the report she tabled in 2000.

Subcommittee members unanimously expressed a desire to soon have a true department of sport and physical activity. We believe that the creation of such a department would officialize the implementation of the objectives of Bill C-54.

Members of the subcommittee would also like to see a strengthening of the preamble to Bill C-54. We need more than empty words to meet the expectations of our athletes and trainers. It is incumbent upon the government to officially act on this preamble as soon as possible.

We hope that this bill will put athletes and trainers at the heart of this government's actions, as the Bloc Quebecois has been recommending since the very beginning.

We also hope that the government will act quickly to make the resources available to meet the objectives of excellence and that the appropriate transfers will be made to Quebec, the provinces and the territories so that athletes can have, right from the start, all the tools they need to succeed.

Our athletes and trainers are our pride, and we need to show that to them. They have been listening to empty words for too long. The time has come to take action so that we never again have to talk about a lost generation.

The Bloc Quebecois hopes that the government will take its inspiration from community physical activity programs such as Kino-Québec. We are still wondering about the relevance of abolishing the ParticipAction program.

It is the government's intention to encourage physical activity for the public at large, but it did abolish a program that would have helped us move along toward that goal.

The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of this bill inasmuch as there is total respect for Quebec's jurisdiction, to avoid any form of encroachment. We encourage the federal government to open a dialogue of co-operation with its counterparts in Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

With respect to the creation of the dispute resolution centre, the Bloc Quebecois reiterates its desire that this extrajudicial resolution centre operate on a purely voluntary basis in connection with athletes and that Sports Canada be required to respect athletes' wishes. It would also be appropriate to implement arbitration award consultation mechanisms, thus creating sport case law which would be available to the sport community.

The Bloc Quebecois feels that the rules of application for the mediation and arbitration process should follow the example of the rules of procedure in use in Quebec. The amendments to this effect were rejected by the subcommittee on sport during clause-by-clause study.

Finally, we see in the specific affirmation of respect for the official languages an intention of goodwill, and we hope that Quebec's athletes and trainers will finally be able to participate fully in the international sport community.

In 1999, the Bloc Quebecois filed a complaint with the official languages commissioner asking her to look into the difficulties faced by francophone athletes. The commissioner felt that our allegations were well founded. In 2000, she submitted a detailed report containing 16 recommendations.

In her report, the Commissioner of Official Languages referred to the results of an indepth investigation of the use of French and English in the Canadian sports system. Her conclusion was that not only did the process of selecting Canadian teams represent a major obstacle to francophone athletes, but that the problem existed far earlier than the final team selection process. It is a problem that has been around for some time and it is time steps were taken to ensure respect of the rights of francophone athletes to receive services and coaching in the language of their choice.

The Bloc Quebecois has been calling for a long time for implementation of the 16 recommendations made by the Commissioner of Official Languages. Her report is already two years old. We are still demanding their immediate application. In fact, acknowledgment of the francophone athlete issue is the central point of our demands, as it has been from the start, both in the House of Commons and in the sports subcommittee.

The Commissioner of Official Languages makes it clear: French and English are far from equal in status as far as Canadian sport is concerned.

With the introduction of Bill C-54, the Bloc is entitled to call for proper implementation of the recommendations by the Commissioner of Official Languages, and particularly the explicit entrenchment of these recommendations in the bill itself. The Bloc Quebecois therefore calls for legislative acknowledgment of the formal application of the Official Languages Act.

How many francophone athletes have been training for years and have not managed to get to international level competitions because of the language barrier? Unfortunately, far too many.

The Bloc Quebecois has been constantly demanding from the very start that the government respect francophone athletes and coaches, who are being forced to master English as well as the demands of their sport.

As I have only two and one half pages more to read, I would ask for unanimous consent of the House to finish my speech.

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to finish his speech?

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4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


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4:55 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Madam Speaker, since the very beginning, the Bloc Quebecois has been constantly asking that the government respect francophone athletes and trainers from Quebec, who must master the English language as well as their sport. Our request is totally legitimate.

We wish to remind the government that 12 of the 16 recommendations were to be implemented by April 1, 2001. Nothing has been done; no recommendation has been implemented, which is deplorable.

The 16 recommendations were quite simple. The first one called for Sport Canada to review the official languages objectives with regard to the funding framework for sports organizations.

This means that Sport Canada was asked to require Canadian sports federations to eliminate restrictions for francophone athletes.

The second recommendation called for Sport Canada to ensure, through close monitoring, that official language objectives within the funding framework were met, and to do so by April 1, 2001.

In turn, Treasury Board was asked to review its method for verifying compliance with programs so as to ensure better control.

The next recommendation called for a complete review of language requirements for positions within the Athlete Assistance Program.

The fifth recommendation referred to the requirement for assurances that both official languages will be respected during large-scale games. For the sixth recommendation, the official languages commissioner called for the linguistic requirements for management positions to be reviewed.

The seventh recommendation involved reviewing how responsibilities are assigned to program officers, in order to guarantee client organizations services in the language of their choice.

Sport Canada was also to work together with sporting organizations in order to adopt policy statements on official languages.

Another recommendation was to ensure that Sport Canada require that the linguistic capabilities of Canadian sports organizations be reviewed. Sport Canada was also to review sports organizations' budgets for official languages spending.

There was also the issue of having a non government organization provide translation services.

Recommendations 12, 14, 15 and 16 dealt with the first language of coaches. The commissioner recommended that coaches know both official languages and that medical services be offered in both official languages.

We are pleased to note that the government decided to make specific reference to respecting official languages, even though this is the result of the fact that we insisted on this each time we spoke on the subject, whether it be in the House of Commons or during the hearings of the subcommittee on the study of sport.

The Bloc Quebecois is proud that our repeated demands of the government for recognition, in law, of the importance of the Official Languages Act has finally yielded results, as it is contained in the preamble. Obviously, we would have preferred it if all of the amendments on official languages that were presented by the Bloc Quebecois had been included in the bill itself, rather than simply in the preamble.

However, I believe this is a considerable improvement, and it is my hope that athletes, coaches and everyone involved in sports will benefit from this addition to the preamble.

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4:55 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I will be extremely brief because we in the NDP caucus are in support of the bill. It is my understanding that we are talking about the motions in Group No. 1 and that there will be an opportunity perhaps tomorrow to make a more substantive intervention.

I congratulate the Bloc for its insistence on including the Official Languages Act but also to correct the Canadian Alliance for saying it was at the insistence of the Bloc. The member may technically be correct but I can assure everyone that this party and I suspect another party in the House would have been equally adamant that there be full recognition of the Official Languages Act in part as a result of the appearance of the commissioner of official languages before the committee some several weeks ago.

We are pleased to see that addition in Motion No. 4. We support all of the aspects of the motions in Group No. 1.

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5 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party I am very pleased as a member of the sports committee to participate in this debate. I will be brief as well but perhaps not quite so succinct as my colleague from Palliser. He was certainly correct in pointing out that all parties were very co-operative throughout the efforts to ensure that there was language parity and to ensure that the Official Languages Act was complied with in every fashion throughout the process and was encapsulated in the bill.

The bill which is to promote physical activity in sport is one that demonstrated how a parliamentary committee should work. There was a great deal of consultation and input from stakeholders as well as members of parliament. The Bloc played a very active role in ensuring that the official languages sections of the bill were acceptable to all Canadians. I also want to take a moment to commend the efforts of the parliamentary secretary and the minister himself, who in his day I understand was somewhat of an athlete. He is somebody who still has some athletic ability as he has demonstrated on occasion.

Motion No. 2 deals with group representation. It carried a great deal of weight and some might say controversy during the committee proceedings. Some felt that specific groups should merit recognition while others felt that the naming of any one group might by virtue of that move alienate some others. To deal with this, the phrase has been changed to “wishes to increase awareness among all Canadians”. This was a very insightful and wise agreement to come to on behalf of the committee.

The amendment should also alleviate the problem associated with language or any other minority group. The inclusive language of all Canadians is self-explanatory.

Motion No. 3 similarly is meant to encompass the all inclusive phrase “all Canadians in increasing their physical activity”. This again is a common sense amendment. The issue deals specifically with inclusion, tolerance and a moderate approach, which is one that is consistent with the approach that has always been brought forward by the Progressive Conservative Party. In particular when we are dealing with Canadians leading healthy lifestyles, it pays to make the linkage to the health benefits and savings associated with health care costs in Canada.

Motion No. 4, which was clearly the most controversial of all elements, lays out the framework in terms of language, answering committee concerns and making note of the government's desire and commitment to promote physical activity in regard to the principles set out in the Official Languages Act. There had to be compliance with language requirements and language parity.

I must say as a member of the committee, again it was truly heartening to see the spirit of co-operation demonstrated in arriving at the co-operative and compromise position that we did in presenting the amendments that we see before us. The proper balance was achieved and there was a genuine effort to achieve this linguistic parity.

I again commend the efforts and diligence of my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois who was a very active, able member of the committee.

Motion No. 5 deals with the definition of minister. It also adds “members of the Queen's Privy Council” so it expands that particular definition.

Motions Nos. 7 and 8, which unfortunately did not make it through this process, dealt with the permissive language surrounding the actions of the minister. There is certainly still some merit in examining this particular element in the future, especially when we look at the efforts of the minister to ensure Canadians encourage their children to lead healthier lifestyles and develop positive health habits.

It would also at some point merit revisiting because of the prioritizing of funding and the issues that would stem from greater funding associated with these new sections of the bill.

Similarly Motion No. 9 did not make it through the cutting room floor.

Motion No. 10 inserts verbatim clause 9 which deals with the establishment of the dispute resolution centre. I might just comment briefly that this not for profit independent arm's length body is mandated to aid the sport community with national dispute resolution in issues where a dispute might arise.

Why that matters is clearly demonstrated by some of the issues that arose very recently at the Olympics in terms of judging and standards with respect to international sport. Similarly, on occasion issues tend to arise with who represents this country and how that decision is arrived at. Another very good example was the dispute that arose with the national coach of the Canadian rugby team and the breakdown in communication that occurred between the players and the organizing body. As a result, that breakdown in communication cost Canada several international matches.

This new body goes a long way to deal with sports disputes in a very expeditious manner at a very basic level. I am encouraged to see that this body will be set up. I will add one proviso that I hope in the future the government may consider making this arm's length body and all arm's length bodies subject to monitoring and review by the auditor general. That appears to be a shortcoming in many areas and has been the subject of debate on another level in the House.

Motion No. 11 amends clause 17 which deals with the bylaws. The amendment removes the requirement that the board of directors determine the salary of the executive director. It maintains the appointment and remuneration of the officers of the centre.

Motion No. 12 deals with the language protection guidelines and requires the staff of the centre to deal in both official languages. It is a very important element of this legislation to promote both French and English throughout the system and the enhancement of sport in Canada.

Motion No. 13 deals with clause 21 which sets the terms of office for the executive director at not more than five years but allows the executive director to have that appointment renewed for one or more terms. This amendment does away with this and merely states that the board of directors shall appoint an executive director of the centre. It leaves some of the decision making power around that appointment in the hands of the board members.

Motion No. 14 deals with the absence of the executive director at the centre should he or she become incapacitated or if the office were to be vacated. No one will be allowed to take over for more than 90 days without the approval of the board of directors. This is a very common sense amendment that empowers the board members. It gives them greater legitimacy in the affairs of their own decisions. The previous responsibility fell to the minister.

In conclusion, overall this is a very positive piece of legislation. I commend the new minister of sport. He has made this bill, sport and physical activity in Canada his highest priorities since taking over the post. I also commend the member for Toronto--Danforth who on occasion has been very active in the promotion of healthy living and sport in the country.

There has been a great deal of consultation and co-operation throughout this process which in these very contentious days is heartening for the parliamentary process. It is an indication of the level of agreement that we are able to get the bill through and proceed through report stage today.

The Progressive Conservative Party wholeheartedly supports Bill C-54 and all efforts to ensure the betterment of Canadians' healthy lifestyles and build upon our very storied history of athletic accomplishment. Our recent Olympic exploits as well as those amazing accomplishments of our homegrown heroes give Canadians reason to beam with pride.

It is certainly my hope and the hope of the Progressive Conservative Party that legislation such as this will go some way to ensure that this legacy of excellence in athletic competition continues.

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5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-54 for a number of reasons.

First and foremost this is one of the few pieces of government legislation that I can support without offering much criticism other than the fact that the bill is long overdue. It would replace the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act of 1961. Much has changed since 1961. Having had some experience in recreational amateur sport I feel strongly about the role the federal government should play to ensure that opportunities exist for all Canadians, in particular young Canadians who wish to participate. The primary reason I can support the legislation is that the drafters of the bill have ensured that the private sector would be properly encouraged to financially support sporting activities and events. This is an excellent solution to funding.

There are provisions in the bill to ensure that all Canadians would be encouraged to participate in physical activities. From a social planning perspective this is good policy as a fit and healthy population has wide ranging benefits. As Canadians become more involved in sports and physical activity we would see many payoffs, such as lower health care costs and, equally as important, increased social interaction and the cultural benefits that flow from it.

Personally, recreational sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Ontario weekends and summer holidays were spent playing baseball and football in the schoolyard. At school it was football and basketball. Like many of my generation, and many of today's generation, I spent countless winter hours on natural outdoor ice in subzero temperatures playing both shinny and organized hockey. I never played hockey inside an arena until I was in my early teens. It stayed with me. It was only after I was first elected to this place in 1997 that, due to the extended absences from my home on the west coast, I retired from the Surrey men's recreational hockey league after 14 years as a player. I was also the league statistician for a number of years.

My wife, Dona, was a league timekeeper for just about as long, not so she could keep tabs on me but because she, like many other hockey widows, thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie and the social interaction. Together, we also played slow-pitch baseball for many years. I will always be grateful for the support of my teammates when we lost our son nearly 10 years ago. It was incredibly important. It showed the true measure of what amateur and recreational sport is all about.

When our children were growing up I spent ten years involved in coaching youth soccer and seven years with baseball. Again it was a family affair, as my wife also coached a girl's softball team for six years. I have many fond memories of those years at the ballpark and the soccer pitch, memories of young faces playing the game for the fun of it. I still see some of those kids today. They are young men now, some coaching their own children.

One disappointing aspect of my coaching experience was the lack of interest and participation shown by some parents, who saw the sporting activities of their children as nothing more than a babysitting service. Anyone who has coached young people's teams can attest to that. It seemed nothing more than an opportunity to get rid of the kid for a few hours a couple of times a week. It cannot be emphasized too strongly just how much it means to an eight or nine year olds to have mom or dad cheering for them on the sidelines. Parents who take little or no interest have no idea what they are missing. They will never get those times back, and that is indeed unfortunate.

Having been involved in sports at this level I was further impressed with the legislation because it appears that there was consultation with Canadians across the country before the bill was written. It is my understanding that there were over 1,000 people involved in that consultation process and the backgrounds of those people covered a wide spectrum of sport in Canada.

I am interested in what the bill would do for Canadian athletes who aspire to more than recreation sport. I am reminded of world sporting events, such as the Olympics. Canada has traditionally done well on the world stage of sports. This past winter in Salt Lake City was no different. I cannot think of any more unifying events than the gold medal hockey games. Our country literally came to a standstill when the men's team played for gold on a perfect Sunday afternoon. The women's team played with skill and determination. The class that they displayed in their gold medal victory showed the true spirit of champions. However the hockey gold in no way diminishes the extraordinary accomplishments and efforts of other members of the Canadian Olympic team. Each and every one of them is to be commended and deserves our deepest gratitude for the way in which they represented Canada.

I would be remiss if I did not harken back to the 2000 Sydney summer Olympics to acknowledge Daniel Igali who brought home to Surrey the gold medal for the 69 kilogram class of freestyle wrestling. Daniel came to Canada from Nigeria. Our first contact came when he requested assistance from my office to ensure that his immigration application was proceeding properly so he would qualify for the Canadian national wrestling team. I recall sitting in front of a TV well after midnight here in Ottawa watching his gold medal winning match from Australia. Those who saw the image of Daniel spreading the Canadian flag out and kneeling to kiss it will long remember it. Daniel is a role model who spends much of his time speaking to children and youth about the importance of working toward one's dream.

Recently, another young man from Surrey, Adam Loewen, was selected fourth overall in major league baseball's draft. This is the highest ever for a Canadian player. Adam currently pitches for the Whalley Chiefs and at 18 has an extremely bright future.

We must remember, however, that few athletes reach these pinnacles. For every Daniel or Adam there are thousands who compete to the highest levels of their abilities and then move on to find their niche in life. The bonds of friendship that develop through the camaraderie of amateur and recreational sport last a lifetime. The encouragement of amateur sport will do more for the unity of this country than any politically motivated sponsorship or advertising scheme. It is my sincere hope that the bill would allow athletes of all stripes to attain their dreams, be it at the local, provincial, national, international or professional level.

I am glad to see that there are provisions in the legislation that provide for the promotion of a drug free sport. It is vital to our society that this anti-doping message be delivered loud and clear to our young people. Hand in hand with that message must be the commitment that our young people deserve to have all the advantages we can reasonably provide them with in terms of training facilities and opportunities.

Another positive aspect of the bill is its emphasis on ethics in sport. I hope that as the legislation is implemented there are some guarantees written in to ensure that an ethics code is established in a more timely fashion than the one the government is creating for itself.

The one concern that I have with the legislation comes to light only after some of the problems that the government has been having with patronage and rewarding its supporters. It would be unfortunate if the bill became yet another vehicle for pork. I would expect to see athletes and supporting organizations receive support based on merit rather than the political party they support. I encourage my colleagues to support the legislation to ensure that sport and physical activity remain alive and well in Canada.