Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that there are a lot of questions that must be answered. One of the most important ones is whether this reorganization and new model will be much more effective in the settling of claims throughout the country.
It is believed by those who have contributed and worked on this for some period of time, with all the debates that have taken place with non-native and native personnel, that this is something worth striving for. This is a model that we hope will be able to more effectively process the kind of claims that are being presented before the Canadian government by the aboriginal people of this country.
There are two types of claims with which the centre would be involved: specific claims and comprehensive claims. Before I proceed, I would like to take a look at what those two different kinds of claims are all about.
Generally speaking, specific claims arise when the Canadian government, or Canada in general, fails to fulfill its legal obligations to first nations with respect to its management of their lands and other assets.
Comprehensive claims are based upon alleged unextinguished aboriginal rights and title to land where no treaty has been signed. That is an extremely difficult area with which to deal.
In the old model that is in existence at the present time, it is difficult for first nations people who have no deed or piece of paper or something to declare that their comprehensive claim is a valid one. It is a difficult process to go through and not as rewarding as many first nations people would like to see because the battle continues on and on. Somewhere there has to be a mechanism in order for a process to be more transparent. Fluidity must be there and for first nations people, it must be satisfying.
I am not talking about satisfaction in terms of millions of dollars. I am talking about satisfaction in terms of justice being done. Are we being treated fairly? Are we being taken for a ride in a canoe with a hole in it? Just exactly what is taking place here?
For native people, we hope that this model, which both parties have agreed upon, will facilitate that process, be more transparent, and produce the type of satisfaction where fairness will be perceived as the key factor, and where we can be as fair as possible in these negotiations.
I would like to continue to speak about the model. It would consist of both a commission division and a tribunal division that would help to facilitate negotiated settlements.
However, before I go on to that, there is something that came to my mind which I would like to talk about. What are the real benefits of specific claims? That is extremely important.
I would like to cite my own personal experiences with the first nations people who live only a quarter of a mile from my office in my constituency, the Fort William band, a marvellous community.
It is a beautiful example of the process that is in place right now and how effectively it worked, but it worked extremely well because the band had a specific claim. It had the documentation, the history was there, the treaties were there, and it was successful in achieving its goals.
I would like to tell the House that since this claim was settled, it has already brought long term benefits to both the first nation members in the Fort William band and to its neighbours. Who are the neighbours? They are my constituents that live in the City of Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. How has this band benefited and what was the claim?
There were approximately 1,400 acres of land that the CNR took with the blessing of one of the past governments many years ago. It utilized that land for its own purposes and economic development, and endeavours in that region.
The first nations people, after a lengthy process and battle, managed to reclaim and get title back to the some 1,400 acres of industrial land that ran along the harbour front right to the mouth of the river. On that land today, members will find some of the most vivacious and vital economic endeavours taking place.