House of Commons Hansard #208 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.


Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is one of those rare occasions in parliament when there is agreement among parties.

The committee worked diligently. We listened to a tremendous number of witnesses on the issue. We listened to the rights holders, JumpTV, Internet providers and to the broadcasters. We had full input.

During the process of the committee work we all came to one mind. As a consequence, I was privileged to put forward the amendments that basically changed it from enabling legislation to legislation that had a specific purpose. I was gratified to have the support of all members of the committee for those amendments.

It shows that when there is a common interest and when there is goodwill we as parliamentarians can work together. This is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of copyright. It is a good public policy issue. It is an issue of our place in the international community.

I also would like to thank all the people who were involved, all the committee members, and the officials, who did put up a good fight for a perspective different from what we had, but at the end of the day I agree with the parliamentary secretary and with the member for Toronto--Danforth. He and I were absolutely simpatico. It is up to the politicians to make public policy. It is not up to the bureaucrats to make public policy. That is exactly what we did in the committee. If we are standing here patting ourselves on the back, we will have to find a good chiropractor. We did a good job. This is good public policy.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give some more context to Bill C-48, for those who are following and who want to understand the issue.

This bill that we are debating at third reading would establish supplementary regulatory powers so that new distribution systems, specifically the Internet, could retransmit programs if they respect the conditions and provisions of the Copyright Act.

The bill would also allow distribution systems that are already in place, such as satellite and cable companies, to continue to retransmit radio or television programs by paying royalties set by the Copyright Board and by respecting the conditions set out in the Copyright Act.

Are retransmitters subject to the Copyright Act? This was the question the committee worked very hard on.

First, allow me to say that the Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of this bill, knows as Bill C-48. We heard from a number of witnesses in committee who were very concerned about the current legal vacuum, which leaves the door wide open to various different uses of works, authors and artists, without royalties being paid to those who own the rights.

This situation, as it exists today, creates opportunities to abuse the work of artists. In Quebec and in other provinces, there have been protracted battles to protect the works of artists.

Previously, rights were purchased through negotiations between the parties. This situation was in effect until the arrival of iCrave TV, in December 1999, which began broadcasting programs on the Internet. This company gave Internet users direct access to nine Canadian television signals and eight American television signals.

These signals were captured in the Toronto area, converted to an Internet compatible format, then put on the Internet, where they were made available outside of Canada, including in the US.

This situation called into question the various agreements signed by Canada, including the Berne convention and NAFTA. It did not take long for opponents to speak up.

Alleging violation of copyright, numerous groups representing a variety of stakeholders, including the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures, Time Warner and Universal Studios sued iCrave TV, or threatened to do so.

In February 2000, a U.S. court granted an interim injunction against iCrave TV, prohibiting it from sending signals to the United States. Unfortunately, no Canadian court has had an opportunity to rule on the matter because, in late February, the company gave in to legal pressure and ceased its activities. In return, all charges against it were dropped. It even withdrew its application to the Canadian Copyright Board for a interim retransmission tariff.

Next, a Montreal company, Jump TV, tried to launch a similar service but, unlike its predecessor, it obtained all the necessary legal approvals.

Why did it give up on its plans? Since its applications could not be approved as is, it hoped to pay the same obligatory licence fees as pay-per-view TV, i.e. pay them after broadcasting only, pay a lower percentage for copyright, not be subject to Canadian content, and not contribute to the Canadian Television Fund.

It was in this context that the company dropped its plans as presented in late 2001. It withdrew its application to the copyright board because it had understood that its business plan would not pass muster and that it could therefore not meet all the conditions required of other broadcasting copyright holders.

Apparently, these two cases woke the government up to the fact that it was becoming necessary to provide a framework for this kind of activity.

The basic purpose of the bill is to prevent a potential Internet retransmitter from being able to broadcast programs outside Canada or, if it is broadcasting within Canada, to make it subject to the same rules as broadcasters or cable companies.

We must remember that a large share of the revenues generated by the producers of broadcasts comes from the resale of broadcasting rights abroad. The threat of the Internet is therefore real and could have a considerable negative impact, not just on authors, but also on partners of the distribution network.

In Canada, the CRTC excluded the Internet highway from its jurisdiction in 1999, so that only the Copyright Board can set royalties.

If the law were not amended, authors or their representatives would have to engage in legal battles to get back their share of royalties. The only ones who would get rich on this would be the lawyers and the law firms, not the authors.

If the regime that applied had been compulsory licensing, what would the consequences have been for stakeholders? Bill C-48 set out a compulsory licensing system for retransmitters.

That said, section 31 did not include any definition. Instead, the conditions set out in the regulations would have been what established certain mechanisms for this compulsory licensing, which I could explain as follows: the communication was to consist in retransmission of a local or distant signal, which allowed Canadian broadcasters to charge a worthwhile rate for commercial rights to their programs, one that was beneficial for both themselves and the authors.

There was also the fact that retransmission had to be legal under the Broadcasting Act, for if it were excluded from the provisions adopted by the CRTC, how could they be asked to participate in the broadcasting system, if none of the regulations applied?

The signal was to be retransmitted simultaneously and in its entirety. If it is not, transmitters could, for example, end up with a broadcast sponsored by Yoplait yoghurt, that is suddenly replaced by messages from Danone.

In the case of retransmission of a distant signal—

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, could they hold their conversations a little less loudly, because I am having trouble continuing my speech?

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member for Québec.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the case of the retransmission of a distant signal, the retransmitter must first have paid any royalties and complied with any terms and conditions fixed under the bill.

Unlike a mandatory licence, the definition of licence refers to the authorization given to the licensee to broadcast a product that is subject to an exclusive copyright. This is a major difference.

The exclusion applies to all licence holders. In light of what we have just seen, the compulsory licence regime is already an exceptional system. This is why those who represent authors, performers and beneficiaries were opposed to the creation of a new exception that would not have given them fair and equitable rights for the use of their works.

For over a year, officials from Canadian Heritage and Industry Canada co-operated with partners, authors, representatives of the authors and their beneficiaries to find a way to meet the stated expectations.

Therefore, it was decided to include amendments in the act and not in the regulations, so that beneficiaries are better protected. This was done through the amendments presented by the Canadian Alliance critic on heritage. Clause 31 was amended by adding the exclusion in the act. A definition of the term retransmitter was added, so that the context would be clear.

Since the regulations have yet to be drafted and approved, we felt that it was more important to require the retransmitter, as defined in the bill, to comply with certain obligations or conditions, and to determine whether or not they apply to all, or just to a specific category.

Why include the wording in the act and not in the regulations? Because in the act it is very clear and it will be more difficult to change this, should the need arise.

It was impossible for us to create a system different from those that exist elsewhere without adversely affecting the authors and other partners in the broadcasting system, which is subject to highly regulated terms and conditions.

At the international level, the information provided by officials from both Canadian Heritage and Industry Canada shows that no other jurisdiction expressly authorizes the retransmission on the Internet under the terms and conditions of a compulsory licence.

However, in the United States, some have said that Internet services could take advantage of the benefits provided by the compulsory retransmission licence in that country. This view was challenged by Marybeth Peters, the U.S. copyright registrar. The U.S. Copyright Office is opposed to expanding compulsory licences to include retransmissions on the Internet.

It would appear as though Australia is the only jurisdiction to have resolved this specific issue through legislation. The Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Bill 2000 recently introduced a new compulsory retransmission licence which specifically excludes the Internet. This is what Australia has done.

According to information on the legislation put out by the Australian government, the exclusion stems from concerns that Internet retransmissions would have a negative impact on the current conditions for granting programming licenses.

Both of the departments involved, Canadian Heritage and Industry Canada, have also noted that, with the exception of the United States, they are not aware of any other jurisdiction in which specific territorial restrictions were imposed on compulsory retransmission licences.

In the United States, the compulsory licence for satellite retransmission applies only to secondary retransmissions to households on American soil.

First, and this is self-evident, the new copyright legislation must be adapted to the reality of new technologies. Second, I would like to point out how vital it is for us to legislate to protect outside markets for those who hold the rights.

Indeed, program producers' revenues are based on the logic of geographical markets. Reselling becomes impossible in a local market, which means that in Quebec, protecting works is synonymous with protecting its francophone content and culture.

Also, we must strike a balance between protecting artistic creations and encouraging the development of a new type of economic activity. Internet broadcasting requires that the legislation be clarified.

Internet technologies make it possible to increase the effectiveness of companies and provide new value-added services for consumers.

The development of these technologies and services must be encouraged, but within a strict framework. This is what we sought in committee, through the amendment put forward by the Canadian Alliance member.

The bill introduced today was amended in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage after we had heard from a number of witnesses who came to tell us how important they thought this bill was and the crux of what they were seeking.

All the witnesses, with the exception of two, Jump TV and the Association of Internet Broadcasters, were in favour of exclusion.

These witnesses were mainly representatives of creators, and the Media Content Coalition, including the following associations: the Canadian Association of Broadcasters; the Canadian Broadcasters Rights Agency; the Canadian film and Television Producers Association; the Copyright Association of Canada; representatives of creators in Quebec, i.e. SOCAN, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, and SACD, the Société des auteurs compositeurs dramatiques.

These stakeholders appeared before us to tell us that the goal pursued was important and that copyright must be preserved so that authors could be sure of being paid for the use of their works.

The goal of the amendments put forward in the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage was clarity. With that in mind, the unanimous decision was to amend section 31 of the Copyright Act by including exclusion.

Obviously, those who drafted section 31 of the Copyright Act ten years ago could not have imagined the emergence, the scope and the impact of the Internet.

The Internet must take copyright into consideration, and authors must be able to get a fair price for their rights based on the market.

William Craig, President of iCrave TV, tried to prove to the U.S. courts that his service could be limited to Canada.

But all the security measures he claimed to rely on were rapidly demolished by electronics experts, since hacking can easily make on-line Internet content accessible to the whole world.

No standard of reasonable security or restriction is enough. Security must be total or the content runs a serious risk of being transmitted worldwide.

These comments, and the objectives which they reflect, underscore the fact that the Internet will never be secure enough, regardless of the security measures, or firewalls, on which we now rely.

Putting in place security measures to try to restrict access to the Internet does not take into account the fact that the Internet is an open network that must be considered accessible to the public at large.

No tariff set by the Copyright Board will ever adequately compensate copyright holders.

First, the board might not factor into such a tariff damages to the value of Internet rights.

Compensation through tariffs established by the board will never compensate copyright holders and will not allow them to realize the full value of their rights. Therefore, it would jeopardize the whole value chain from the creator to the licence holder and the distributor.

While we support the principle of the bill, we see the need to stress the fact that Internet retransmitters should have the same obligations as traditional ones.

Actually, it would be unfair to create competition for cable companies while freeing them from the duties imposed on traditional retransmitters, namely: negotiating the purchase of copyrights; contributing to the Canadian Television Fund; abiding by the Canadian content rules; holding a licence under the Broadcasting Act. I should also remind members that the industry asked that section 31 of the Copyright Act be amended.

As a matter of fact, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Canadian Film and Television Production Association and the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association have formed the Media Content Coalition to oversee the use of Canadian television industry by Internet broadcasters. The coalition welcomed the bill.

In conclusion, I would like to say that there was a consensus on the amendments put forward by the Canadian Alliance, after thoughtful reflection and consultations, because they were the best response to the concerns expressed by the industry.

The Bloc Quebecois hopes that the stakeholders will find the clarity they wanted and that artists and creators will, by the same token, get fair compensation for the distribution of their work. I ask my colleagues in the House to support the bill as amended.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will speak briefly to Bill C-48. The NDP is in favour of the principle of the bill: Owners of copyright should be fairly compensated for their work.

Bill C-48 would be a start toward closing the loopholes in the copyright process that have been created by new technologies. It is the first in a series of copyright bills the departments of industry and heritage will be proposing to modernize our copyright laws as technology and globalization change the environment for creators of copyrighted products.

The list of issues to be tackled over the next few years is enormous. Bill C-48 is a small piece in the copyright puzzle. We must deal with: access issues; ownership of audio-visual works and photographs; database protection; digital issues; government ownership and use of copyrighted works; performers' rights; rights management in an online environment; site signal rights for broadcasters; technology enhancing learning; terms of protection; traditional knowledge and folklore; transitional periods for unpublished works; and Internet retransmission of broadcast programs which is what we are dealing with at present.

This will be an extremely complex and time consuming process. I can assure hon. members that we will all have grey hair if we are sitting in the heritage committee after having gone through each of these areas.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Or no hair at all. Even worse.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Or no hair at all. However the process is essential if we are to protect creators' rights.

In the legislation which continues to be changed and amended we must respect some of the central principles on which our broadcasting policy, our heritage policy and the pillars of the country are based. As we move along we must make sure the legislation would continue to respect Canadian content as new technologies came onstream and became new platforms for broadcasting. We must make sure there would be no loopholes and that the playing field would be level for all broadcasters in Canada. This must be done to ensure all creators in the country would continue to be covered by our copyright legislation and enjoy the same rights. We must make sure their work would be valued and compensated whether it appeared on the Internet, on the radio, in the print media or wherever.

With respect to the issue of putting money into Canadian content and such things as the Canadian broadcast fund, we must make sure environments such as the Internet or whatever follows the Internet would not somehow be exempt from the licensing fees used to nurture Canadian content.

These are important principles we in the New Democratic Party will be paying attention to as we continue to work through the copyright legislation. We will give our endorsement to Bill C-48 as a tiny step along the route of copyright protection. We will see where it goes from here.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, much has been said by the previous speakers to put into context the purpose of the legislation, namely, to amend the Copyright Act.

Bill C-48 would ensure that retransmitters who benefited from compulsory licensing regained the regime provided for in section 31 of the Copyright Act. It would ensure other retransmitters met the conditions prescribed by regulation. It would also ensure parity and fairness throughout the regulatory regime.

There were issues pertaining to fairness. There was concern that the bill include regulations to prevent loopholes and ensure that individuals could not make use of new technologies to rob those who provide the service. I am talking particularly of television stations; entities such as the NHL, CFL and other sporting organizations; and the movie industry.

The spirit of co-operation on the committee and the amount of input we received in a relatively short period was extraordinary. I give kudos to the parliamentary secretary, the chair of the committee, all members of the Bloc, and a particular member who put a great deal of extraordinary effort into ensuring the proper balance was met.

We in the Progressive Conservative Party support the amendments and the bill. Bill C-48 came about as a result of a great deal of co-operation and effort. Members united to do the right thing and put in place a proper regulatory regime to protect everyone and ensure all the industry interests were met.

If I may echo the sentiments of my hon. colleague from Nova Scotia, there is no doubt that we will be required to come back and re-examine some of the issues as technology and the industry evolve. However this is where we want to be at this point. We in our party support the effort. I again congratulate all fellow committee members.

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Copyright ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add the comments of the Canadian Alliance to the debate on Bill C-60, the specific claims resolution act. We share many of the concerns the minister spoke of earlier. I will outline some of these before the bill proceeds further. I will also highlight our concerns about the way the legislation may or may not work.

First, I will review the basics of the bill. The facilitation of the settlement of specific claims across the country is its stated objective, an objective the Canadian Alliance shares. Bill C-60 would establish a centre for independent resolution of first nations specific claims. The centre would have a commission division and a tribunal division, each with distinct functions. The commission would facilitate negotiations. The tribunal would resolve disputes. The commission would enable the resolution of all claims regardless of value by drawing on the entire range of dispute resolution mechanisms to assist parties to specific claims in reaching final settlements.

In contrast, the adjudicative tribunal would be available to first nations as a last recourse. It would make final binding decisions on the validity of specific claims rejected by Canada and on cash compensation for valid claims up to a maximum of $7 million. Judging from a review of the claims on hand, the majority are below $7 million.

I will share our party's position on these issues with hon. members. It is as follows:

Our position in land claims negotiations will be to ensure respect for existing private property rights, affordable and conclusive settlement of all claims, and an open and transparent process involving all stakeholders.

Unresolved land claims have been an issue between the aboriginal people and governments of our country for many decades. That is too long. It is a complex issue that has been a roadblock to building economies on reserves, a roadblock to building a greater sense of shared citizenship among non-aboriginal and aboriginal Canadians, a roadblock to individual aboriginal Canadians achieving the goals they have for themselves and their families, and in many ways a roadblock to economic development. We are trying to tear the roadblock down.

The government's intentions are valid. However there has been a longstanding corporate culture in governments of Canada under various political parties to delay resolution of these claims. Obstacles have been put in place whether bureaucratic, political or otherwise. At one time Indian bands in Canada were not allowed to use their own resources to pursue resolution of legal claims. As a consequence there is deep distrust between aboriginal leaders and communities and the federal government on this and other issues.

Resolving these claims is in everyone's interest. In this year's estimates alone the government has budgeted $122 million for grants to bands for resolution of specific claims. Let us review how this works. The taxpayer pays taxes to the federal government. The federal government gives some of the taxes to bands in the form of grants so they can work toward the resolution of claims. The bands apply to get the grants. They are given the grants. The bands then use the money to pay lawyers.

This is pretty much where the money goes. Lawyers get it. Lawyers are paid on the basis of how long they work. It is kind of like a taxi. The longer it goes the better it is for the taxi driver. In this case the taxi driver is a lawyer. The system could be seen as a bit biased toward preserving and perpetuating cases rather than resolving them.

That is as problem because it all starts with working people across Canada paying taxes. The taxes go to the government. The government sends them to the Indian bands, not to be used for housing, not to be used for improving the social conditions of reserve residents and not to be used toward any significant and immediate concerns that aboriginal people have expressed to me and many of my colleagues in the many consultations we have had with them. My colleague, the member for Wild Rose, spent a couple of years of his life meeting with aboriginal people, individuals and community leaders across the country. He shared with me the higher priorities of the aboriginal people. If people are having trouble supporting their family they do not care b about tinkering legislators working to resolve these issues.

The fact of the matter is that the two things are related. As long as these issues are not resolve, it is highly unlikely that the kind of economic development we would like to see on reserves and the lifting of those limiting factors that plague so many people who live in isolated aboriginal communities across Canada will be achieved. The two things go together.

We are not just tinkering here when we talk about these things. I understand that my aboriginal friends have higher priorities right now, like feeding their kids, building a better community, dealing with some of the health problems that face their friends and neighbours, and encouraging their young people to avoid a life of crime and to make better choices for themselves in the short and long term. I know they have priorities in the immediate days ahead but this is a topic we cannot avoid dealing with. We have avoided it for too long. We are paying the price today for the inattentiveness of our leaders to deal with these problems in the past.

I share the perspective that the minister expressed earlier. We cannot leave these issues to be solved by our children. That is a very good and valid observation. Our children should not be made to pay the price of our own inattentiveness to these issues today.

We can agree with the government on the need to resolve these issues. We can agree with the government on the need to have a climate of economic and social stability on reserves but we should also recognize that other challenges do exist whether or not we solve these problems. The larger problems must be addressed as well.

In the government's urgent pursuit of aboriginal self-government, as it advances its agenda rapidly forward, what has been the consequence of advancing that agenda? The consequence has been that many bands have been pushed into a situation where they are financially challenged. The instability that results from that is that bands are pushed into third party management situations.

I reference comments made yesterday by one of my colleagues in the NDP who said that the Alliance was excessively concerned with the problems and the failures that face some aboriginal communities. I do not think we can be excessively concerned with serious problems. I think we have to recognize that they exist. Though third party management is not something that affects every band in Canada, it does affect several dozen and it does have a consequence when bands have to go into third party management. To ignore that and try to do the Walt Disney thing and pretend that everything is happy, which I think is kind of naive to the maximum, pretty much describes the agenda of the NDP on a lot of topics.

However in this case I think it is dangerous too. The reality is that while the NDP members are doing that Utopian and idealistic Marxist game, what they are doing also is ignoring the very real concerns that face real people.

For example, when a band goes into third party management, the third party manager stops being responsible for paying the bills that were incurred before he or she became the third party manager. Essentially that is what is happening right now.

I have several constituents in my own community who have been directly affected by that. They own small businesses. They have done business with the band. Some of them have done business with that band for many years. They are stuck now. One owner of a hardware store is owed $60,000. That is just one small business. He does not have the taxpayers of Canada to depend upon.

This small business person is not able to go into the coffers of the people of Canada to pick on their tax dollars to solve his problems. He is stuck with a $60,000 debt. He does not blame the aboriginal people for it. I hope his relationship with them will continue to be good and fruitful in the future but it tests a relationship when someone gets stuck with a $60,000 bill. He is just one of hundreds of businessmen who are in the same situation right now.

As opposed to some who choose to engage in a sort of class warfare agenda, I do not. We have a situation here where small, private business people who do business with aboriginal people do so in the spirit of mutual benefit. It has been that way for a long time.

However when we push an agenda forward, like the self-government agenda that is being pushed forward today, and we see an increasing number of bands put into third party management situations, there is a problem. We have to be careful that bands have the preparatory skills and the resources available so they are able to handle those management responsibilities.

I have seen some good progress made in that respect. I know the AFN has been working with the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada to build and equip the aboriginal accounting managers, who have some serious responsibilities in terms of reserve management, to upgrade their skills so they are able to do a better job of managing the books of the bands.

However some bands in Manitoba believe we are pushing this agenda forward too rapidly. I think 10 or 12 bands right now are in third party management in Manitoba. Tens of millions of dollars are owed to people who did business with bands before they went into third party management. Now they are stuck and cannot get paid. That does not just hurt business people. I am not here defending small business but I think small business is the principal engine of growth in the country and that is where we should be looking to create real long term jobs.

That being said, I am also concerned about the impact that will have on the future business dealings of aboriginal managers. When those bands go out of third party and come back into a situation of governance, like the minister is dealing with in another piece of legislation, there will be some ongoing concerns about who will supply the bands with the goods and services they need. Who will do that?

If the reputation that the system has is one where there is much higher risk associated with small businesses doing business with bands it will make it more difficult for band managers. They will have to pay more for goods and services because of the added risks and the risk premium that will be charged to them will be a bloody shame. The taxpayers will pay the price for that but the aboriginal people will suffer the consequences.

We must recognize that with push comes shove. Sometimes if we push too rapidly in a political agenda it can have very dangerous consequences on the other end, not just for small business people but for aboriginal communities as well. That concerns me and I think it is an issue we should be addressing.

This particular legislation is portrayed as fulfilling a 10 year old commitment that the government made in the red book. I guess our hope is that we can resolve most of these claims a lot faster than it took to fulfill this particular commitment.

In terms of self-sufficiency, many underlying factors go into promoting self-sufficiency, whether it is on an individual level or when we speak of reserve communities. We agree with the minister's comments that promoting self-sufficiency on reserves is a noble goal. We recognize that access to investment and business start-up money is critical to the success of aboriginal communities in building and creating future jobs.

We recognize that which is why I am addressing the concerns about third party management and the issue of outstanding debt to business people who have dealt with aboriginal bands with the expectation of being paid. There is a consequence when one defaults. Access to investment in business start-up capital becomes an additionally onerous requirement because more money is needed to do business on a reserve if the premium for risk is excessively high, as it is right now in many aboriginal communities.

I want to back up and do a bit of historical referencing to the specific claims process. I was doing some historical reading and found a 1982 publication called “Outstanding Business”. It is a government document. It states:

--a specific claim is one based upon a “lawful obligation” of Canada to Indians.

Claims based on unextinguished Aboriginal title are expressly excluded, as were pre-Confederation claims until 1991. A specific claim, from the government's point of view, is little more than a claim for compensation.

The concept of lawful obligation is important here. Most Canadians want to see a resolution of the lawful obligations that the government has to aboriginal people because they perpetuate divisions in our society. They would also like to see them resolved in the interest of fairness and in the interest of unlocking the potential that does exist for the aboriginal people and the aboriginal communities.

The Department of Justice, however, assesses the validity of claims in terms of their chances of success in court and applies technical rules of evidence. Thus, legal validity informs the government's assessment of whether a claim properly falls within the scope of federal policy. This assessment is further informed, if not defined, by the examples of lawful obligations set out in the policy itself.

What does that mean? A lawful obligation can arise in any of the following circumstances and these define what specific claims are: first, the non-fulfillment of a treaty or agreement between Indians and the crown; second, a breach of an obligation arising out of the Indian Act or other statutes pertaining to Indians and the regulations they are under; third, a breach of an obligation arising out of government administration of Indian funds or other assets; and fourth, an illegal disposition of Indian land.

In addition to those, we have a situation where the government's determination of validity involves, in the estimation of many aboriginal people, a conflict of interest. The government's role in determining what in fact is a valid claim conflicts with the government's fiduciary obligation to aboriginal people and that the government itself should not be the arbiter and determiner of the nature and validity of claims. What this tries to do is set an arm's length mechanism in place that will assure those who participate in the process that they will be treated fairly and that the heavy hand of government will not be excessively brought to bear on the process itself. That is the intention.

The policy interpretations and practices have created that perception for a long time. What I think the legislation tries to do is change that perception for the better, but the reality is, in the minds again of many who participated in this process, that they see the process as somewhat arbitrary, self-serving and operating without due regard to established law. Negotiated settlements are meant to be achieved according to a broader range of rights and obligations than those otherwise enforceable in a court of law.

What we have to recognize is that federal policy has to set a clear standard by which their validity can be determined. If the Department of Justice has a problem with this, I would not be surprised because the reality is that government departments have been in conflict about how to resolve these types of issues for a good long time and probably will be for a good long time in the future.

I want to go back to that document again. I know it is a few years old but it gives a bit of a perspective. It states:

Of an estimated 600 specific claims in Canada as a whole, approximately 100 have been settled under the specific claims policy. As is often the case, however, these statistics do not reveal the full story. Most of the specific claims settlements have been made during the past five or six years....

This was written in 1986. It goes on to state that quite a few of the claims were settled in Saskatchewan and B.C. It also states:

As noted by the Indian Commission of Ontario, about one settlement a year is made in central and eastern Canada; several hundred claims remain to be dealt with across the country.

We have a problem in Canada, not just because of the number, of the 500 or 600 claims right now, but because of the potential for many more. This is in the category of concerns that the Canadian Alliance has about this particular legislation but we obviously agree with the need to expedite the claims.

According to INAC, approximately 1,200 specific claims have been submitted since 1973 when Canada started to address such claims. Some of them have been resolved. The minority of them have been resolved through negotiation. Some of them have ended up in court which as we alluded to earlier is a tremendously expensive process. It costs the taxpayers of Canada a great deal, but so does it cost the taxpayers of Canada a great deal for these issues to remain unresolved. We have to recognize that.

The Alliance has serious concerns about the bill as it is proposed today.

The bill puts an arbitrary cap of $7 million on the amount of the claims that could be dealt with through this process. The Assembly of First Nations has raised a number of concerns about how that cap technically would be determined. What would be included in it? Would legal fees be included in that or just the amount of the claim itself? These questions have to be addressed but certainly our concern is more fundamental than that.

Our concern is that the bill has the potential to create a two tier system for dealing with claim settlements. This is a view that has been expressed by a number of people. Calgary lawyer Ron Maurice, a Metis who has acted for bands on land claims, feels that the tribunal's cap would severely limit the tribunal's mandate. The bill is too narrow to deal with many of the 500 outstanding land claims. It reduces the tribunal to the equivalent of a small claims court.

A great many claims, probably the majority of the claims across the country, exceed, and in some cases far exceed, that amount. What about the more than 500 outstanding claims that we know of today that exceed the cap? Would the facilitation of the small claims result in a delay in the resolution of the larger? Would the process, by defining on the basis of size and that small goes faster, discriminate against the larger? Would the process ignore the validity of the claims? Would the process be able to deal with frivolous claims, expedite them and remove them from the process quickly?

Would the process give weight to the nature of the length of time with which the claim has been dealt? In some cases claims have been kicking around for decades. Would those claims be dealt with expeditiously? Obviously it seems if there are over seven million they would not. What would this do to deal with those longstanding issues of concern many aboriginal people have?

What we do not want to see are unnecessary and costly delays as a result of our attempt to facilitate the smaller claims. In so doing, the net benefit of this change may be very little where the gross benefit appears to be large, because the loss between the gross and the net would be the fact that specific valid, longstanding and larger aboriginal claims would not be dealt with expeditiously. That has been the case in the past. We are concerned about fairness here. We want to make sure that the process is fair.

There is another question that has not really been addressed and which I recognize cannot be addressed in legislation but should be considered in preparing legislation at least. It has to do with the issue of resources.

How much would it cost to resolve and run the tribunals and commissions? What would the costs actually be? I have not seen anything on that. We would need to see that information to do a full and proper evaluation of the nature of the process. The cost consequences go far beyond the costs of providing bureaucratic support and paying for personnel to be in these various positions.

What about the fact that by expediting small specific claims it encourages other claims? We have never made estimates. I met with National Chief Coon Come. He estimated 500 to 600 additional claims would come forward as a result of this process being put into place. Others have estimated it to be over 1,000. Does the government know?

The government did not know the cost of Bill C-68 when it brought it in. It estimated low and it was wrong. The government did not know the cost consequences. I do not believe it has fully evaluated the cost consequences to farmers and landowners of the species at risk legislation, or the animal cruelty act, a well established farm practice. I do not believe the government has considered those perspectives. It needs to consider them in the debate around this bill.

What would be the consequences of encouraging other claims to come forward? They have to be dealt with. Would we have a backlog? How long would it take for that backlog to be dealt with? These are questions that have to be debated and discussed.

There is another fundamental and difficult question which should be addressed. It has to do with the problem faced by aboriginal people on reserves whose lives all too often are governed by hopelessness. They believe that at some undetermined point way off there in the distant future they are going to be the beneficiaries of one of these specific claim settlements and boy, that will solve all their problems.

We have to expedite the valid claims but there is a danger that we perpetuate a culture that says to people that the problems they experience in their home community can be solved by somebody else, that they can be solved by that big government in Ottawa and by golly, that is the way they are going to solve their problems. There is a danger with that.

We do not want young people who are growing up on reserves to believe for a second that somebody here in this building will solve their future problems. We want them to understand that their problems will best be solved by the people in their own communities, their own families, their own friends, their own leaders and their own support groups. The people at the community level are the people we want them to depend on, not somebody here in this building, not somebody in Ottawa.

That psychology of externalizing the solutions is dangerous. The first thing is to look within oneself. That is what I encourage my children to do and I encourage aboriginal children to do the same. Many aboriginal parents have expressed that concern to me in meetings. They want to be sure we do not substitute the real measures that individuals can take. This is what they are saying to me. If we do not substitute those real measures they can take it home to their own communities with the solutions that Ottawa may or may not arrive at. It will benefit them at some distant point down the road.

The final point I would make is a concern that is raised by many Canadians which is the lack of aboriginal involvement in the process. A major dispute going on right now in British Columbia is a referendum about the treaty in British Columbia. Without getting into the minutiae of the debate, the fact is that many people feel they were not involved early on in the process. That lack of involvement is not something that should be addressed just on the aboriginal side. The minister has taken some flak because his consultations did not reach out in the way they should have to women, to reserve residents and to many other people. The point I would make is the consultation in respect to the governance act has failed at least in part because non-aboriginal people were not involved.

We are in this together. The less we focus on what separates and divides us and the more we focus on the fact that we belong to one another in this country, the better it will be. The fact remains that non-aboriginal people view themselves as people who are in a sharing position with aboriginal people. For the most part they support the goals aboriginal people have for a better life. They want to solve these problems in partnership. They do not want to be shunted aside and just asked to pay up. Rather they would like to feel they are making a real contribution to solving the problem. They should be consulted early. Failing to do that creates a division and a sense of separateness that really taints the discussion.

I have aboriginal friends who say it is none of my business, just pay my taxes and they will take the money because it is owed to them. Some of my friends have that attitude. On the other side, non-aboriginal friends of mine say that they do not like that attitude and why should they just pay their taxes and shut up? When there is that kind of divisive tone in a debate, not much gets done. The perpetuation of that kind of racial divide is dangerous to our country.

It is very dangerous here and we are seeing it in British Columbia with the referendum debate. If credible opportunities are not given for non-aboriginal people to be involved in the process, then the point is being missed. Aboriginal people matter in the debate as well. The key in this is fairness, a word the minister used. The government does have communications people who I am sure contributed greatly to the minister's speech today, but the word fairness was used. The government uses that word quite a bit. Balance is a close second. Those are good noble word. The reality is the process has to reflect that but it is missing here.

Why is it missing? Because the federal government broke its promise. What it promised to do a decade ago in that red book was create an independent claims body. The promise went further in the red book. It said that it would be jointly appointed by the government and the first nations.

That is not what this will do. What this does is it gives the power to appoint the counsellors and the members of the commission to the Prime Minister's Office. It shuts out the aboriginal people from the process of determining who those people are. We could get into a debate about the merits of that, pro and con, but the fact is that commitment was made. A promise was made; a promise was broken. It is not the first one but I hope, and I think most aboriginal people hope, that it will be the last that is broken.

The appointment process, according to National Chief Matthew Coon Come, is this. He says:

The appointment process makes the entire process open to possible patronage nominations. This will not serve Canada or First Nations well.

Those are wise words. The national chief is right to express those concerns. We have those concerns as well.

The grand chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations says:

The appointment to the tribunal must not be done unilaterally by the Crown. We want some input into the criteria of who is selected to sit on the tribunal to ensure that it is independent and the process is seen as meaningful by First Nations and all Canadians.

These are legitimate concerns expressed by legitimately elected aboriginal leaders at the national level and the provincial level. We share these concerns. The process has to be fair and it has to be seen to be fair or it will not work.

The government is putting more control in its own hands, in the Prime Minister's hands, through this process despite its earlier commitments to share that control and that selection process with the aboriginal people. That is a broken promise and is a disappointment to many aboriginal people.

Finally, June 21 is coming up fast. Not fast enough I expect for many of the members here. June 21 is National Aboriginal Day. This piece of legislation stands as an example, in words at least, of the government's intention to resolve one of the longest standing areas of dispute between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. In that respect, it is our sincere hope that we can, with amendments, make this legislation work effectively to achieve its stated goals.

I know that on June 21 many of us will be joining our aboriginal friends to celebrate their great contribution to this country. When we celebrate the uniqueness and the great contributions of aboriginal people, we will not be celebrating our differences, we will be celebrating our shared qualities. It is those shared qualities on which the Canadian Alliance wants to build. We recognize that we belong to one another and we will ensure that we do everything possible to stand up for the rights of individual aboriginal Canadians and for the great contribution that aboriginal societies have made and will continue to make to our country.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-60, An Act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims.

This bill represents a praiseworthy initiative by the government in its relations with the first nations. However, there are rarely roses without thorns. As the minister said in his statement to the press, shortly after tabling the bill last Thursday:

The government made clear commitments in the Speech from the Throne to improve the lives of Aboriginal people by dealing with the grievances from the past, and to equip First Nations people with the tools for a successful future.

This is also a Red Book commitment made by the Prime Minister, and by this government.

Well now, good for them. I would, however, point out that the throne speech to which the minister refers was the one opening the 35th parliament, on January 18, 1994, more than eight years ago. Also, the red book he refers to was presented by the Liberals during the 1993 election campaign—not the campaign of 1997 or 2000, but the one of 1993.

The minister is right to be pleased, because at last, he can rise in this House and announce some government initiative for the benefit of aboriginal people, something very few of his predecessors have been able to do. I am thinking of the Minister of Human Resources Development or the Canadian ambassador to Ireland, Ron Irwin. But never mind, as they say, better late than never.

So, Bill C-60 will create the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims, a measure that has become necessary, indispensable even, because the federal government has, most obviously, neglected to honour its legal obligations as required by a series of treaties ratified with the first nations.

It is somewhat ironic to see the government creating from scratch a body mandated to repair, or at the very least, arbitrate the injustices committed by it in connection with aboriginal nations.

This is a good initiative, I agree, and the first nations have everything to gain in having an independent body, a tribunal what is more, finally able to decide on their claims, claims the government could leave unresolved as long as it wished.

For the aboriginal people this represents a step forward. Let us hope that the claims brought before this body will be settled diligently and in their best interests. For too long, the first nations have suffered because of Ottawa's laxity and lack of leadership. It is important now to look to the future.

However, I must again call attention to the wait and see attitude of this Liberal government in its relationship with first nations. Indeed, instead of taking action as it promised to do nearly ten years ago, the government preferred to wait and let things drag on, probably with the unspoken and unspeakable intention of seeing the aboriginal nations get fed up and abandon their various claims against it.

I fail to understand why the government would want to stretch the time frame to the limit since its inaction has considerably hampered the development of first nations and its lindifference has made highly critical situations even worse, which is not saying much about a government run by a former Indian affairs minister.

The support of the Bloc Quebecois for the principle of this bill at the second reading stage shows our party's interest in the development of aboriginal communities and the nations to which they belong.

The openness shown by the Bloc Quebecois is based on the fundamental premise that the nations that take part in the dialogue must do it as equals. This kind of dialogue applies to the whole relationship between non aboriginal governments and first nations.

As I have often said, this way of thinking was evident in the negotiations that led to the ratification of the peace of the braves between the Government of Quebec and the Crees of James Bay.

Quebecers know better than anyone else in Canada how important a constructive dialogue with their partners is, and I hope to see all my colleagues in the House adopt this attitude that does credit to Quebecers.

While we discussed what the major thrusts of Bill C-60 should be, its referral to a committee after second reading will promote a most constructive discussion on this bill and, more importantly, will ensure that the bill reflects as closely as possible the fundamental objectives that were set.

Among other things, we will have to give priority to the concerns raised by the Assembly of First Nations, in particular as regards the arm's length nature of the appointment process to the tribunal and the ceiling imposed on the value of the claims that can be submitted to this tribunal.

The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources will have the opportunity to consult directly with aboriginal nations and with all those who take an interest in this most important issue, and it will propose amendments to the minister, so as to ensure that the legislation achieves its objectives.

Since this is a new and innovative government initiative in the area of aboriginal claims, it is important to ensure that the process is as open as possible. My colleagues on the committee and I are anxious to hear what the leaders of aboriginal communities will have to say, since there are some claims that are critical to the development of their nations.

Also, I do believe and hope that the government will be truly determined to ensure that this bill is passed quickly, because the hopes of a very large number of aboriginals rest on it.

Needless to say, it would be truly be unfortunate if the government used its powers to prorogue the current session at some point during the fall and left first nations out in the cold for long months by letting them down once again with broken promises and failed commitments.

It would be ironic, to say the least, to hear once again the governor general solemnly reaffirm the clear and true will of the government to promote the development of aboriginal communities. These lofty words have been used too often without leading to any action. History must not repeat itself, because this could break the fragile trust that exists between the federal government and aboriginal nations.

Before concluding my remarks, I want to reiterate the support of the Bloc Quebecois for this important bill, and particularly for its impact on the development of first nations.

The Bloc Quebecois is determined to do its utmost to improve this legislation and to have it passed, so as to speed up the settlement of specific claims which, in some cases, have been dragging on for years.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to join the debate on Bill C-60. I want to thank my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois for his thoughtful remarks. I find I can associate myself with his points of view quite readily. We have obviously come to similar conclusions and apprehensions about some of the shortcomings or things yet to be explained or clarified in the bill.

It has been interesting to research this long awaited bill that will be the impetus of the creation of the independent claims body. We feel that this is a progressive move. It would expedite and alleviate some of the backlog that exists in the specific claims area. The research we have been doing has been instructive, to me at least, in many areas. I would like to outline some of the things we found interesting, possibly to help people understand this debate.

There are two types of Indian land claims. I am not sure that is clear in the general public's mind. I am not sure it is even clear in the minds of some of the other speakers from other parties I have heard, the Bloc Quebecois being the exception.

There are comprehensive claims, which arise in areas where treaties have not been made between Canada and first nations to address and reconcile issues of existing aboriginal title. Then there are specific claims that arise where Canada has failed to fulfill the terms of treaties or its legal obligations to properly administer and protect first nations land or other assets, usually meaning finances.

Specific claims come from laws and agreements respecting Indian lands dating back to 1763. By virtue of the royal proclamation of 1763 the crown proclaimed that:

“only the Crown could acquire land from the Indian Nations of North America”; and, “the Crown would make arrangements with Indian Nations with respect to land to protect them from great frauds and abuses...”

These colonial laws and practices were the foundation for the crown's policy of making treaties with Indian nations for peaceful co-existence and for land for incoming immigrants. Canada has the constitutional responsibility therefore for Indians and lands reserved for Indians, and has administered and managed Indian land and assets under the Indian Act since the 1870s. It is important to note that the royal proclamation did not create rights. It recognized property and land rights of Indian nations and it set up a process to acquire lands from Indian nations.

Specific claims occur when Canada fails to set aside enough land under treaties. That is one example where there might be a specific claim file. A specific claim may be filed where reserve land was taken away illegally or in contravention of the laws or in contravention of certain treaties. A specific claim could also occur where Canada has a responsibility for managing first nations lands and assets but fails to adequately protect those assets. Those are the circumstances under which we find ourselves at the wrong end of a specific claim by a first nation aboriginal people.

Specific claims are brought against the Government of Canada for failing to meet its legal obligations. Specific claims are legally enforceable because they arise from duties and obligations that Canada has in relation to first nations treaty and property rights. The claims are legal liabilities which remain until they are settled by the Government of Canada. These are unfunded liabilities that Canada is owing. Canada recognizes that as soon as these claims are validated it must settle them. The conflict occurs when Canada finds itself in a conflict of interest situation. I will speak more about that later because the very claims that are being made against the Government of Canada are being adjudicated by the Government of Canada. There is room for conflict, as anyone can plainly see.

It was not until the early 1970s that first nations were able to examine why their lands and assets were lost under the administration of the federal government. Part of the reason these claims were not brought forward earlier was due to a clause in the Indian Act which prohibited Indians from making claims or seeking legal advice to make claims. That clause was repealed in 1952. From the 1920s until 1952 aboriginal people were prohibited from this by law, and in fact lawyers were prohibited by law from taking money from aboriginal people to represent their views in a land claim issue. The practice was outlawed and aboriginal people were denied the recourse of the courts.

One might wonder how the existing specific claims policy worked to date. That is why we find ourselves here today trying to find another conflict resolution process because the existing specific claims policy has been slow, inefficient, ineffective and costly. The costs of negotiating claims sometimes equals the cost of the settlement. Claims are taking as long as 7 to 10 years to finalize. First nations believe that the claims process should be fair and impartial first of all, and that it should be expedited because, as the old saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.

The idea of an independent body has been called for since the 1940s. In recent history it was recommended by the aboriginal justice inquiry in Manitoba and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People in 1996. The Canadian Bar Association has been calling for this, and even the standing committee on aboriginal affairs, on which I sit, have all recommended that an impartial and independent body to deal with specific claims be established forthwith.

As a result of the Oka crisis, which revolved around a land claim, the federal government established the Indian Specific Claims Commission in 1992 as a temporary and interim body to hear appeals on claims that were rejected by Canada. However the Indian Specific Claims Commission can only make recommendations to Canada and therein lies the conflict of interest, because the Government of Canada ultimately will decide the merits of the case. A recommendation can come from the specific claims commission and the government will decide whether to pay out or not.

The minister of Indian and northern affairs at that time, the hon. Tom Siddon, publicly stated that the interim body would provide a degree of fairness under the existing policy. First nations of Canada sought agreement on improvements to federal policy but he expressed his concern as to how independent and how effective it could be.

First nations estimate that at the current rate of settling claims under the Indian Specific Claims Commission, it would take 150 years or more to settle the outstanding backlog. Clearly something must be done. The federal government has a backlog of claims dating back to the early 1970s. We have heard the figure of 480 outstanding claims used in the House of Commons today and there are another 60 plus claims with the Indian Claims Commission.

The Indian Claims Commission only accepts claims that have been rejected by the specific claims branch. For the past 12 years first nations have worked jointly with Canada and have waited for a collaborated effort to dialogue with the federal government to resolve these outstanding debts. The cost of settling claims increases every year. The longer it takes to settle a claim, the more it costs.

Since 1997 the Joint First Nations-Canada Task Force, the JTF on claims policy, has been working to develop joint recommendations on claims policy reform. The JTF has developed a model for an independent claims body through positive interaction and dialogue that it believed was a fair, effective and impartial way to settle specific claims in Canada.

The Government of Canada committed itself to work co-operatively with first nations in developing this kind of a fair and independent claims resolutions process. This type of process followed up on the federal government's red book promises and action policy “Gathering Strength--Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan”. The commitment then was to work with first nations to design the new independent claims body.

The federal government did not respond to the joint task force report for 18 months. When it did respond it was with a counter proposal to establish the independent claims body through legislation without any input at all from first nations. The federal counter proposal would appear to incorporate some of the basic elements of the JTF model, such as the commission and a tribunal, but there are key omissions, limitations and voids within the proposed legislation now that differ greatly from the recommendations of the joint task force which is the fair way to put together agreements like this.

One of the specific differences from the joint task force and the actual legislation that concerns the parties now is the arbitrary cap of $7 million, that no claim greater than $7 million can be submitted to this process. The problem is that many of these claims are over $7 million. Once someone stipulates this set of rules and agrees to put his or her claim through this mediation process, that individual forgoes the right to the avenue of recourse through the courts at least while it is in the process.

The unfairness comes in the following way. What if the claim is $8 million? There is a choice. One could fight it through the courts for six, seven, eight, ten years or one could avail oneself of the expedited mediation process of the independent claims body and settle for a maximum of $7 million. That first nation would have to make a judgment call and leave money on the table because of this arbitrary ceiling of $7 million.

It was not clear until recently just how this cap would operate, whether it would apply to the ability of the tribunal to make recommendations on the validity of claims or whether the cap would include outstanding negotiation costs and loans, et cetera. We now know that the legal and negotiation costs would become part of that total $7 million cap. As we heard earlier sometimes the cost of negotiation is equal to the settlement. First nations could be working on repaying an outstanding loan or debt who might also have $2 million, $3 million, $5 million worth of legal bills and the total maximum claim would be $7 million. That would be deducted from their maximum claim. That is a real concern.

We are concerned that even with an expedited process without the resources to deal with this huge backlog of claims, no real progress would be made. We do not see any major increase in the budget for settlements. There was concern over the operations budget and the continuance of loans funding to finance first nations participation in the process. Do we know that first nations would still qualify for loans so that they can even represent themselves during this new independent claims process? That is yet to be determined.

The one thing all parties agree on is the appointment process. The appointment of people to the commission or the tribunal would be a crown prerogative and not a joint process as promised. This is one of the key recommendations of the joint task force. To be an independent body it should not be made up of patronage appointments by the ruling party, the government. That is what we are faced with today and that does call into question the truly independent nature of this independent claims body.

We are concerned that the fear of patronage appointments would jeopardize the effectiveness of this new body. The cap of $7 million would exclude large claims and may force claims that are right about that level to accept the settlement at a value less than what they rightfully deserve because the claimants cannot afford to keep fighting a long and exhaustive legal battle.

We are critical that there is no significant increase in the budget for the new processing of claims and settlements. We believe there is a question of the true independent nature of the claims body and we believe there is a risk of conflict of interest because we still have the Government of Canada hearing the claim against the Government of Canada.

Surely there is a bias there. It is not independent. There is no commitment to first nations that they will have a role to play in the three year review. The bill calls for a three year review to measure the effectiveness of this new body, but the first nations will have no input so the government will be auditing itself. Again it is a problem of a conflict of interest when the government is charged with the responsibility of measuring how well it did. That can get politicized.

In our initial review of Bill C-60 we have identified a number of departures from the 1998 joint task force report, which may compromise the ability of the new body to assist in resolving claims in a fair and impartial manner. Those are some of the concerns.

It is worth looking at what the independent claims body will seek to replace or to act as an alternative to, and that is the Indian Claims Commission. I was sitting in the House of Commons the last time the independent claims commission co-chairs made a presentation of their annual report. It was on May 29, 2001. I would like to briefly visit that to explain some of the points they made.

They raised the issue as background that in 1927 it was an amendment to the Indian Act that made it illegal for any person to accept payment from an aboriginal person for the pursuit of land claims. As I have said, this provision remained in effect until 1951. It was not until 1973 that the decision of the supreme court in regard to Frank Calder of British Columbia confirmed that aboriginal peoples' historic occupation of the land gave rise to legal rights that survived European settlement, thus recognizing the possibility of present day aboriginal rights to land and resources. That ruling prompted the federal government to elaborate a policy to address unsettled land claims, both specific and comprehensive. What a monumental supreme court ruling that was.

The co-chairs of the Indian Claims Commission stated “The specific claims policy has long been subject to criticism for establishing a system in which government rules on the validity of claims against it”. It was a clear-cut case of conflict of interest or at least the possibility and the risk of conflict of interest. In the aftermath of the Oka crisis recommendations regarding land claim reform, the Indian Claims Commission was established by order in council. I want to point that they also make reference to this: the creation of an independent commission with broader powers has also been on the Liberal government's agenda since the 1993 pre-election red book and was a recommendation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

We have been promised this independent claims body at least since the government took office in 1993. It was in their pre-election red book. It has been a long, painful process waiting for this to take place, and as a previous speaker said, I hope they can settle claims faster than they could live up to their red book promises.

I want to give an example of what types of specific claims have been dealt with by the Indian Claims Commission and what things succeed and what things fail. Specific claims are, as I have mentioned, outstanding lawful obligations owed by the Government of Canada to Indian bands. In general terms, they arise from breaches of treaty, breaches of trust and circumstances such as the theft of land, and flagrant violations of duties of the crown.

Often these are clear-cut cases and litigation should not have to be the only avenue of recourse to get satisfaction on historical facts in many cases. We often will see a well documented historical fact that a certain air force base expanded onto reserve land. The surveyors staked it out and took 200 acres 50 years ago. No one ever resolved these outstanding claims. People have been forced to go to the courts. Surely in cases like that an independent claims body would agree that the grievance is legitimate and should succeed.

For example, the Fort McKay case in 1996 resulted in the reversal of the Government of Canada's policy position with respect to treaty land entitlement, and the prairie land surrenders of the Oliver era are very well known. These are landmark cases, precedent setting cases.

The NDP welcomes the independent claims body with the reservations I have stated, which we will be raising again at committee.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 18th, 2002 / 4:35 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I think if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion.

I move:

That, in relation to its study on national security matters, a group comprised of five members of the Sub-Committee on National Security of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be authorized to travel to New York, N.Y., U.S.A., from June 23 to 27, 2002, to attend the Global Security--Post 9-11 conference by the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I think if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion.

I move:

That, in relation to its study on Long-Term Care for Veterans, the Sub-Committee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs be authorized to travel to Eastern Canada on September 22 to 26, 2002, and that the necessary staff do accompany the Committee.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is there unanimous consent?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)