Mr. Speaker, I will not be speaking that long, as the hon. member from the Bloc will also be speaking. It is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-6.
My friend and colleague, the member for Perth--Middlesex, spoke on this important legislation earlier today and I yield to his knowledge on this issue. He has done remarkable service for our caucus on this file and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for all his hard work. He has been keeping our caucus well informed and he is the expert in our party on this issue.
What I do know, and what everyone in the House knows, is that we have a special obligation to our first nations people. Each and every one of us do, on both sides of the House. All first nations, as was stated by the Bloc member, are against this bill. It goes against their democracy, and we must not have that.
This has happened for hundreds of years to the first nations people. It is time that the government straightened this out once and for all. They are special. They were here before any of our people historically came upon the grounds in Canada. For the power of the first nations, they should have their own autonomy.
I was really shocked when I heard the hon. member on the government side refer to them as special interest groups. They are not special interest groups. They are special people as well as being Canadians. They do not mind being Canadians, but they are first nations. There is no question that they have special interests and Bill C-6 does not address those interests. They want to look after their children.
It is time now, once and for all, for all of us to get together and do what is right. I would like to have seen the motion that was sent to the Bloc member. Every member in the House should see it.
I am not a historian and I recognize that correcting the injustices of the past sometimes involves a very long and arduous process. Not only has our nation evolved, it has expanded, and some of the claims being made by our first nations are where some of our greatest cities now stand. The land is there. There is land that they owned, land that was theirs, and there is land still there that should be theirs. The maps of our history have been replaced by the maps of the present day. They take the maps of the present day, but they do not look historically at what belongs to the first nations.
There is no question that historic injustices have been imposed upon our first nation people in Canada. There is no question that we must ensure we can adequately reconcile the disputes of the past by the means of the present. That is the purpose of this legislation, but I am deeply concerned, as are all of our people on this side of the House, about Bill C-6. Senators as well are very concerned because they have brought forward amendments. When that happens, we know there is an injustice in the bill that has been brought forward.
Like many of the bills before the House, there is much room for improvement. As it is currently written, Bill C-6 might not fix the very problems it hopes to correct and that is why they have sent their motion. They are saying that they oppose this bill, that they have an alternative motion that should be dealt with. We have received additional guidance from our friends in other places, as I have stated, and we would be wise to consider the amendments from the Senate.
My friend from Perth--Middlesex offered his thoughts on possible changes, when he spoke to this legislation earlier today. I echo his comments and I urge the House to listen to his compassionate reasoning. I believe Bill C-6 might not be capable of addressing some of the additional factors that can be a crucial part of the claim.
At the present time a claim can include treaty rights with respect to hunting and fishing. In New Brunswick where I come from we have seen what can result when these important considerations are not properly dealt with. We have seen the violence that can result when a decision is forced on the community. We have seen the dangers of not taking the care necessary to correct the longstanding problems that still exist.
Certainly the Supreme Court and the Department of Indian Affairs have dealt with cases of all kinds. Some types of cases involve cultural values and practices that can complicate the process but must be respected. Bill C-6, I am told, might not properly acknowledge treaty breaches of that kind. These types of rights have been at the very core of a number of first nations communities and we must deal with them very carefully for fear of affecting those communities and hurting our first nations people.
The story of our first nations is one about promises made by governments both in the past and in the present. The steps that we take must acknowledge those promises. For many first nations communities, the land at their disposal is crucial to their standard of living and for their families. I do not think that everyone realizes that, like all of us, they have families. They want to look after their families. The land is crucial to their standard of living. They have to have their land.
There are serious questions as to whether Bill C-6 will adequately protect the rights of those whose claims fall through the cracks of this legislation, and it will not. We know that it will not protect them. Given the complicated relationship that exists between the government and our first nations, the Supreme Court has made it clear that a fiduciary relationship exists. That fiduciary relationship ensures that those who have entered into commitments with the government are not taken advantage of by the government. We should make sure that never happens.
We must take this duty very seriously if we consider this legislation and its effects. We must acknowledge that we have a special responsibility, and I say that right from the heart, to protect the interests of our first nations. I am not, as I have said, an expert in these matters. I know there are those who have spent their professional lives working for solutions to these problems. I know in my heart that something must be done and I know that the House must play a leading role. I have to say that I do not have all of the answers, but I think it is time that we started to listen to members of the first nations.
The consideration of the bill lets us revisit the mistakes that have been made in the past. Many, many mistakes have been made with our first nations. Indeed, the entire issue of first nations claims stems from oversights and mistakes that occurred when our country was still very young. Let us not make further mistakes in correcting these injustices.
As I stated at the beginning, the first nations should have their own autonomy. All first nations are against the bill, as was stated by the member from the Bloc, and it goes against democracy as it is stated right now. If it goes against democracy, that is not what we are about in the House of Commons.
The first nations have contributed to this country. They have not always wanted a handout from any of us. They want to live their lives on their land that they own, that is theirs, that they founded, and we should make sure that they can. I never want to hear anyone in this House ever refer to the first nations as a special interest group. They are founders of our country. We owe it to them to do what is right for them and that is exactly what we are here for.