House of Commons Hansard #152 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-19.


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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today and speak on Bill C-19, a very interesting first nations omnibus bill that deals with the creation of three financial institutions and a separate statistical institute.

Listening to some of the debate today has led me to a thought process which I would like to share before I get into my prepared notes. It deals with the tensions that currently exist between what I would say is the one size fits all approach of the Indian Act, which has been the historical way that the affairs of first nations in Canada have been dealt with for a long period of time, versus the whole trend of now moving toward an opting in or a situation where first nations either singly or as a group propose and become advocates for various other forms of management, administration and governance, all of the critical things that we think of in terms of legislation.

I believe that it is a fiction under this new scenario for us to think that a majority decision made by an organization like the Assembly of First Nations, for example, is binding on anyone. Membership of the 633 bands in Canada in the Assembly of First Nations is automatic, just because of the way it is created, the way it is funded and the way it operates.

So I think it is natural that these tensions now exist. They are going to continue to exist, but hopefully it will be a creative tension. I think we see some signs that it will be. For example, we are set to give unanimous consent in the House tomorrow, I believe, to the Westbank First Nations Self-Government Agreement, which was signed in Westbank, British Columbia, on October 3. I think it signals something very constructive for the House.

At the same time, all of that tension leads me to the conclusion, and it should be no surprise to anyone, that Bill C-19 would have its strong opponents and strong proponents. A significant contributor to all of this is that it is omnibus legislation. I do not think the government needed to do that. I do not think the minister needed to do that. I think it was a mistake. The politics of this bill could be so much simpler and so much more productive. I do not quite understand why it was done this way.

The thrust of the legislation is to empower subscribing bands across the country to join together to advance their economic situation. Before I get into the specifics of the bill, I think it is important that we frame the discussion from the standpoint of what we have in Canada as a consequence of the Constitution, the reserve system of land ownership and the Indian Act. It is the very worst of all circumstances for tens of thousands of aboriginal people who are growing up in a cycle of poverty and abuse that in many circumstances is as bad as anything we can find in the third world, and in the worst circumstances in the third world.

It is essential that Canada as a modern country think outside the box so we do not perpetuate that which has been going on for too long in too many places. Economic advancement cannot occur without social advancement and the reverse is also true.

The current system and the current apparatus of government caters to the defenders of the status quo, who benefit from the asymmetrical system we currently have. It is a system that on some reserves has allowed elected chiefs and councillors to use federal money to reward themselves and their friends through jobs, through pay and through perks, to consolidate their status to influence elections, to intimidate members of their community, and to perpetuate themselves in office. This is the basic premise that the government needs to operate on in order to fix the worst of what is happening.

The government must operate from the standpoint that democracy, transparency and accountability are not negotiable. The sad truth is that I have been a witness in this place for 10 years to this government continuing to allow these things to occur. These are my first concerns whenever I am faced with reviewing legislation. Is democracy being served? Is transparency being served? Is accountability being served?

My first important observation when it comes to Bill C-19 is that it applies only to those bands that subscribe to it. My reading of ideas emanating from some of the most progressive bands in the country is that this is an essential direction in which we have to go, and I certainly concur.

The reason I concur is that when I look at the way the courts interpret transactions on reserve, the first consideration is always given to the Indian Act, which becomes the lowest common denominator and a very huge barrier to progress unless there is specific legislation in place that overrides the Indian Act for that specific band.

For example, a specific piece of legislation applies to the Sechelt band in British Columbia. It is so overwhelmingly different from the Indian Act that it is inappropriate and incorrect to call the Sechelt land base a reserve. The Sechelt band achieved fee simple ownership of their lands in 1985, lands that formerly were reserved for them and held by the Crown.

Like it is for so many other attempts at progress by first nations, the approach taken by the Department of Indian Affairs since 1985, which to me flies in the face of the great successes achieved by the Sechelt, has been to tell any other band seeking any similar treatment of their land base that there were to be no more Sechelts. One might ask why.

There is quite a bit more that I could say, but I am running out of time. I will conclude by saying that one part of this four-suite institution set-up, the first nations statistical institute, absolutely in its entirety has nothing to do with the other three. We could do without it. It is the most divisive part of the bill and should be hived off. It should never have resided in the legislation. It is a total duplication of what Statistics Canada is already carrying out. We would all be better off if we were not in the position of having to support this legislation as it stands.

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4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, on a point of order.

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4:40 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would call for a quorum count. I do not think we have quorum.

And the count having been taken:

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4:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

We do not have quorum. Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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4:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I see a quorum.

Before I hand over the floor, I understand there have been some discussions between the members in terms of the rotation because I know it would be otherwise unusual to see a spokesperson from the same party back to back under the circumstances.

Just so everyone understands that following this, if someone from the Bloc Quebecois should seek the floor after the member of the official opposition, that would be the case. Following that I would go to the hon. member from the Progressive Conservative Party, and so on.

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin.

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4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate right off the top that I could not agree more with my colleague who made a remark about how we could possibly make the case that the First Nations Statistical Institute should be part of Bill C-19, because it does not have a direct connect to other ones.

I do not know why we have omnibus bills, where we have things quite unrelated and not necessarily integral to one another. It diminishes this place some and is disrespectful. I wish we would have bills that we could consider individually and on their own merits as opposed to mixing apples and oranges and things that are somewhat unrelated. That is a problem.

Why we have the First Nations Statistical Institute as part of Bill C-19 is quite beyond me. It does not even reflect good management on the part of the department or on the part of the minister himself.

I will make my remarks around three different headings. Some of the motions under consideration are supportable.

My first point is the government needs to consult first nations communities in the making of appointments. We have come to accept that in respect to other pieces of legislation and bills, yet for some reason under Bill C-19 that appropriate kind of consultation would not take place.

Therefore, we have two good motions in respect to that. Motion No. 4 requires the minister to consult interested first nations prior to the appointment of a chairperson to the financial management board. In its present form the bill allows the minister to make a recommendation to the cabinet without any such consultation, and that is a mistake. It is disrespectful of first nations peoples, those who have so much at stake in the bill before us. That is a flaw and a misstep on the part of the government. Hopefully in future bills it will learn and rectify such a thing so the proper consultation takes place with the interested first nations persons, as suggested in Motion No. 4.

Another motion directs that when making other appointments to the board, the government should do the same thing: consult interested first nations before making recommendations to cabinet. Again, it makes my point around the general theme that the government needs to be consulting first nations communities in the making of their appointments.

Second, the government needs to make a point of building more transparency into the bill. As things presently stand concerning the board's making of rules of conduct for its meetings, nothing requires those rules to be published. We think that should be done.

Motion No. 7 would require these rules to be published in the First Nations Gazette . At present, no such publication is required. It should be there on the surface for all to see, a public document in the nature of the First Nations Gazette . It is a commendable amendment by the member. Therefore, Motion No. 7 is certainly supportable from the Canadian Alliance's point of view.

Motion 34 would require that the authority's annual report be tabled in the House of Commons. At present, the bill makes no such requirement. Again, we could have a little more transparency. I appeal to the parliamentary secretary and others who are listening. That makes simple sense and it could be enacted rather easily, and maybe even at this late hour. There could be some heeding in respect to Motion 34.

In addition to my first two points that the government needs to consult first nations communities in the making of appointments and needs to build more transparency into the bill by way of the having rules for conduct of meetings being published in the First Nations Gazette , a public document for all to see, an annual report should be tabled in the House of Commons. Presently, things do not read that way.

My third point is the government, from the Canadian Alliance perspective, needs to be clear on the rights and responsibilities of member first nations.

Motion No. 23 is also an important amendment. The bill in its present form would force a band to remain a member unless all other members agreed to allow its membership to cease. The amendment specifies that as long as the first nation has paid off its debt to the authority it can cease to be a member of its own volition and does not need the permission of the other members.

We debated that in committee and had some discussions around that. Why should one band have a veto power and hold another band hostage after it has paid off its debt to the authority? We have a problem with that.

We simply say that Motion No. 23 is supportable. If the first nation has paid off its debt to the authority, it should be able to cease to be a member of its own volition and not need the permission of other members. Why should one band have veto power to keep another band hostage, keep it bound, keep it constrained indefinitely and not allow it out of the particular institution?

Motion No. 24 reinforces the point that the government needs to be clearer on the rights and the responsibilities of member first nations. I would hope the minister and others who have listened attentively today would be supportive of Motion No. 24, which clarifies the obligations of the borrowing member first nation.

At present the bill states that the band must pay off its loan to the authority before making payments to any other creditors. The amendment would change this. It would require the band to first pay off creditors, other than the authorities, if those debts were incurred earlier than debts to the authority were incurred. That makes sense.

If a first nation has incurred a debt at some point earlier and then comes into the authority, why does that other debt repayment not have first call? Why would the first payment go to the authority and the others would get second dibs on whatever money would be owed to them?

Again, Motions Nos. 23 and 24 would allow the proper flexibility on the rights and responsibilities of member first nations. They are certainly ones that the Canadian Alliance supports. I would say to the minister and the parliamentary secretary that these are reasonable, sane and are not that difficult to implement. I cannot see that they would even cause a great problem for the department. Maybe there is a way they can segue them in, even in respect of those bigger amendments.

In total, Motions Nos. 4, 5, 7, 34, 23 and 24 are very supportable by the Canadian Alliance and we would like to see those adopted as part of Bill C-19.

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4:50 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I always do, I will begin by greeting my aboriginal friends. I want to thank them particularly for the wonderful experiences I have had with them. Yesterday, in the context of a different bill, I mentioned a number of places in Canada where I went to visit native communities. I told a few stories.

Today I would like to reflect on some other unforgettable experiences. Among other things, my native friends have often invited me to participate in their spiritual ceremonies where tobacco is burned and the participants wave the smoke about themselves.

I have always found that they have a profound respect for the Creator. The way they extend their culture to include us, the white people, is very interesting and something I had never seen before.

I see the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot with his eagle feather. Yes, they often use the wings or feathers of a bird to wave the purifying vapours about themselves. In my opinion they have a true openness of spirit to allow white people like ourselves to take part in these ceremonies.

As for languages, perhaps the people of Quebec are in a better position than anyone else to understand the importance of defending one's language. After all, we have a critical mass of 7 million Quebeckers, most of whom speak French. But what we see when we look at the state of aboriginal languages in Canada today is a complete disgrace. Some languages are actually dying. There are perhaps some 40 languages that are still alive. It would be a loss for their heritage if nothing were done to save these languages, which are very beautiful languages. To my ear they have a musical quality, rather like French. I recognize certain intonations. It is interesting that the native peoples share these with us.

There was a time when I used to end my speeches in the language of the nation that was affected by the bill. You will have to excuse me today, because I did not have time to prepare anything. In any case, the bill before the House today affects all the first nations and I could not have spoken in 40 languages.

I would also like to thank them for native cooking. They are very welcoming people. I had the pleasure of eating—and I am not timid about such things—pretty much every kind of food.

I ate whale, seal, bison, beaver, bear, moose, deer, caribou, nearly all species of fish and, of course, Arctic char, which is very tasty.

These aboriginal dishes are truly exceptional. I want to thank them for having shared all of those very new and different things with us.

There are also sentencing circles. Often, judges travel to isolated communities. Before the sentence is pronounced, the judge will tell the community, “Please get together and tell me what sentence I should hand down”. Sentencing circles are often used. In my opinion, this approach better includes the community. Once again, this is distinct to aboriginal communities. The judge could ignore their recommendation and apply the white man's law in delivering his sentence. However, those who are a bit more open-minded consult the community before handing down their sentence.

The bill before the House today is directly in keeping with what I spoke out against yesterday. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is telling aboriginals, “I know what is good for you and I am going to give it to you. This is what you will do from now on”.

The same thing was true yesterday with regard to the specific claims commission. In fact, this bill will give the minister the authority to appoint each member of the commission. He will choose them. Not even the aboriginal community will not have a say. They could end up being a bunch of Liberal supporters, like the immigration board. It is absolutely incredible that the minister is going to make this decision on his own.

This was all here before the Europeans arrived. They took over and did things their way. They told those who were there before them, “We have your interests at heart”.

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4:50 p.m.

An hon. member

And then they said, “Sign them over”.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

They said, “Sign them over, and we will send you to reserves”. Since then, nothing has gone well on the reserves and negotiations have never gone well because of this paternalistic attitude that says, “I am the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Here is how I am going to legislate on your behalf”.

After intense discussions and consultations, the almost unanimous response of those suffering this indignity is, in the majority of cases, “That is not what we need. That is not what we want”.

The minister is a little like what the Erasmus-Dussault commission described as the Indian agent of modern times. In the past, the federal government would send money to its white representative on the reserve, the Indian agent, who was responsible for handing it out. He also had the final say about whatever went on on the reserve.

If someone said, “I have three cows and I would like to have a fourth”, he had to ask the Indian agent for permission. If he said, “I have a hectare of wheat and I would like to farm twice as much”, he had to get permission from the Indian agent. This was true for everything. If someone wanted to move a tent, he had to get permission from the Indian agent. The Indian agent decided how people should behave. He had his favourites and others he liked less. Those who stood up to him were ignored and those who ingratiated themselves with the agent received slightly better treatment.

What is happening now? It is the same thing and the same domineering attitude. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development decides everything. You will say that times have changed, but if an aboriginal wants to add an extension to his house today, I wonder if he does not have to get permission from the department. I do not know whether he would go directly to the minister, because the minister might not have the time to deal with his request.

I hope the minister does not submit this to the governor in council, but if he makes the decision himself, then nothing has changed. Imagine, aboriginals want to keep the Indian Act as a last resort. This empowers the minister and gives rise to bills like the one before us, which perpetuates the tradition of persecution and lack of respect.

In Quebec, I said this yesterday and I will say it again, I think we see things differently. Yesterday, I gave the example of the Cree. That is how negotiations ought to be conducted. The Erasmus-Dussault commission cost the Canadian taxpayers $58 million.

When in a jam, what do the minister and the government do as soon as the Indians start making themselves heard? The call a royal inquiry. This puts the problem off for another five years. What do they do with the inquiry report? They quickly put it on a shelf to gather dust.

This explains why nothing has changed and nothing will change with the bill we are debating. The minister is not listening to the aboriginal people, he is dictating to them. That is contrary to the negotiating philosophy of Quebec, which negotiates nation to nation. That is how this government should be negotiating.

Each nation has its own characteristics, just as Quebec has its own characteristics, which make it completely distinct from Canada. Aboriginal nations are called nations for a reason. They too have their specificity. When bills are introduced and imposed from coast to coast to coast, it does not work. There are people who disagree and say that the matter should be negotiated within their nation.

The government knows that. It sometimes deals directly with the communities to negotiate a model at the lowest level possible and then apply it to everyone else.

I condemn the attitude of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I think that what he has been doing for the past decade is unfair. If there is an area where there has been injustice, a great deal of it and the worst kind, it is aboriginal issues.

Today, the Minister of Veterans Affairs recognized all widows. It was unfair not to. However, it is even worse in aboriginal issues, because the first nations are not recognized as full-fledged nations, capable of having a future and of determining their future themselves.

It should not come as a surprise to hear me say that Quebeckers are on the side of the first nations and that we will therefore oppose this bill by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

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5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on Bill C-19.

I wish to thank the member for Perth—Middlesex for his work in the aboriginal affairs committee. Having been a former member of the committee, I do have a few things to say. My riding of Dauphin—Swan River has 13 bands and a significant population base of aboriginal Canadians.

It was mentioned earlier that it is so unfortunate that on a day when we pay tribute to the Prime Minister, his biggest failure in 40 years of public life is on the aboriginal affairs file. I know that he always had good intentions in terms of helping the aboriginal community, but unfortunately, the process is fatally flawed. I could say the same thing about our current minister. I am sure the minister is well intentioned to help people, but the problem is that the system does not work.

Having been a former critic for the PC Party going back almost two years, Bill C-19 was already on the Internet. Members of the committee and members of the aboriginal community did not know anything about it. It is a good example of the flawed communication process. We cannot force or expect people to do things unless they sit down at the table and discuss issues.

Bill C-7 is about governance. The change of governance for the aboriginal community which supposedly was to work toward self-government just did not work out. It was well-intentioned. The topic made sense, but the process was flawed.

The aboriginal community opposed Bill C-7, even though there are many good things in it. It is about setting up governance vehicles and making people accountable.

Unfortunately, unless the stakeholders are there, the people who this bill is going to affect, they are not going to buy into it. No more than if the federal government decided that all of a sudden it would dictate how municipalities should operate. People at the grassroots level would not take it sitting down because they want input.

In fact, that is one of the weaknesses of the government as we have heard in this House. Cooperative federalism in terms of relationships between the provinces and this place can certainly be improved. We know there can be huge improvements in terms of the relationship between the federal government and the aboriginal community. It is a terrible relationship which is so unfortunate. We go from a national chief to a national chief. It is poor planning and in no way does it deal with people.

We spend a great deal of money on this file, over $7 billion, and yet people still live in third world conditions. It just does not make any sense. Aboriginal communities and aboriginal people of this land are living in third world conditions.

In a rich country like this where everyone in the world wants to come to Canada because of the opportunities here, our first nations communities are living in squalor in many places. I have 13 reserves and many of them do not have running water. They have probably 10 to 12 people living in one house. It is just pathetic how the majority of people live.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of accountability, there is no accounting for how the money is spent. Again, I blame the federal government.

The Indian Act seems to have the attitude that father knows best. It is just as the Bloc member said. They are just like modern Indian agents; they decide how the money is spent and to whom they should give the money. I guess the band councils learned from their masters at this level about rampant spending and not having to account to anyone. It is very frustrating. It is frustrating for the people who live on reserves. They do not know what to do.

I have many contacts with the people who are on reservations in my riding. I forward them on to the minister and I am not even sure what happens, even on the issue of third party debt. There are millions and millions of dollars of third party debt incurred by what I say is the federal government but the minister said it is not his debt, that it is the bands' debt. Unfortunately someone gets hurt and it is usually the third party. There is no fairness in this.

The biggest irony is that this country believes in democracy and human rights. We travel all over the world promoting democracy, transparency and accountability. I met with Mr. Roy of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development which was established in 1988.

We do this yet at home we do not look at what we are doing in our own backyard. One would think that in 2003 as rational people in this place we would try to figure out a solution. After a contribution of 40 years to the country by the Prime Minister, surely it is time to sit down and work this out so that the aboriginal communities, the first nations of our land, have an opportunity to grow and to create wealth like other Canadians. Otherwise we are not going to go anywhere.

We have heard about the self-government initiative. It is not going to happen. It is not going to work as long as the Indian Act is in place. The Indian Act is a millstone around the first people's necks. The only way to have true autonomy and self-sufficiency is to let people manage their own affairs.

We are a country of regions. We are a country of first nations, distinct francophones and distinct anglophones. The strength of the country is that we have many differences and many regions. They can all learn to work together, not only the east, the west and the centre but also the north.

The government has a lot to learn. I will close by saying it is so unfortunate on the day we have been praising the Prime Minister for his contribution to the country that a file in which he has great interest is a total failure.

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5:10 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it should be noted that we are debating a group of amendments at report stage of Bill C-19, but 54 out of 56 amendments put forward by the NDP have been disallowed and will not have the benefit of debate. We will not have the opportunity to re-craft the bill with language more acceptable to first nations on whose behalf we speak today. We were hoping the minister would stay and listen to our arguments because he did not listen to first nations in crafting this legislation.

I can say categorically that first nations across this country oppose Bill C-19 just as they oppose the rest of the minister's suite of bills, Bill C-7, Bill C-6 and Bill C-19. They viewed it as the reincarnation of the 1969 white paper which is something with which the current Prime Minister is very familiar.

We are debating two amendments to a bill that we in the NDP fundamentally oppose and that is the least crucial point. First nations oppose the bill as well.

I have in my hand a letter dated October 31, 2003 from the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He is prepared to admit and concede and put on the record that he too opposes Bill C-19 on behalf of first nations across the country. I will read it because it is important. To hear the minister and the parliamentary secretary tell it, the Assembly of First Nations wants the bill but we and a few first nations are somehow blocking it.

I would like to read from this recent letter from the legitimately elected leadership of first nations. He said simply:

As many of you know, an AFN Special Assembly was held in October at Squamish First Nation.

I was there, as was the member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot. During that meeting, a resolution was put forward concerning the AFN's position on Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19. The resolution which the chief endorsed called for the rejection of Bill C-7, the rejection of Bill C-6, but proposed to support Bill C-19. I quote:

The resolution failed to receive support from the Chiefs.

In other words, the chiefs voted down support for Bill C-19. I want to be perfectly accurate here because this is critically important. The letter continues on:

We must, as an organization, remember that unity is often best measured.... And while we do not support Bill C-6, Bill C-7, and Bill C-19, the AFN's view respects and gives dignity to those First Nations who disagree.

Fair enough. It is as clear as the writing on the page that the Assembly of First Nations oppose it. Therefore it is the height of colonial style arrogance for the Minister of Indian Affairs, in the last days of his being the Minister of Indian Affairs, to shove the bill down the throats of aboriginal people. We have seen this consistent pattern with Bill C-7, Bill C-6 and now with Bill C-19.

Will those members never learn? Will they never listen to first nations people across this country who have said categorically and unanimously that they oppose this suite of legislation? They are offended and insulted by the manner in which it has been rammed down their throats without consultation. They reject it and we in the House of Commons should reject it as well.

I have been denied the right to move 54 significant amendments which were drafted not by me and my researchers, but were drafted by people in the Assembly of First Nations. Leadership in the aboriginal community fed us material. They provided us with changes that they found acceptable. We are not even going to get to debate those amendments.

I regret that this will probably be the last time I will have a chance to share my thoughts with the House on this very flawed bill. In the few minutes that I have, I want to pay tribute to the courageous leaders in first nations communities who have dedicated months and months, actually years now, standing up for their rights and opposing the strategy of the Liberal government.

I have to begin with Chief Roberta Jamieson of the Six Nations of the Grand River. She has tirelessly led a campaign to coerce the government into respecting aboriginal and treaty rights and to bypass this flawed package. Also, the vice-chief for Ontario for the Assembly of First Nations, Charles Fox, representing all of the first nations in Ontario, is vehemently opposed to this bill. The vice-chief for the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec, Ghislain Picard, is vehemently opposed to this legislation and has said so categorically in print and verbally.

The vice-chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Manitoba, Grand Chief Francis Flett, is opposed. The grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Dennis Whitebird, is opposed. The grand chief for the Southern Chiefs Organization, Margaret Swan, is opposed. Stewart Phillip, the grand chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is opposed. Stan Beardy from the Nishnawbe Aski nation in northern Ontario is also opposed. Leon Jourdain represents the treaty 3 people in the minister's own riding, the 54 first nations in the minister's own riding. They are unanimously opposed. They do not want it.

What is so difficult to understand? Where do the Liberals get off being so arrogant in thinking that without consultation, without cooperation and without the participation of first nations they are going to fundamentally change the way the first nations are supposed to govern themselves? It is the very antithesis of self-governance to impose government structures on a free, independent and sovereign people. It makes me mad just thinking about it.

I attended the Assembly of First Nations national assembly in October and the Squamish first nation of British Columbia and I saw the debate. There are, legitimately, first nations leaders from British Columbia who support Bill C-19 which is fair enough. However there is nothing stopping them from moving forward with the issues we find in this bill without national legislation because of the 633 first nations, the majority of which are overwhelmingly opposed.

I also would be remiss if I did not mention the courageous battle and the energetic, enthusiastic actions of my colleague, mon frère autochtone, my brother in aboriginal issues, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Both of us had the honour of being recognized by the Assembly of First Nations for the positions we have taken on this bill. Both of us were given spiritual names, which is an honour that I will never forget and an honour that I will value all of my life. I could not have been more proud if I had received the Order of Canada when we were brought before the Assembly of First Nations and thanked.

We were told it is a rare thing when non-aboriginal people actually get it for a second, actually understand the issue of sovereignty and self-governance and the inherent rights of a people to be independent and sovereign. My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has no problem with that concept. I learned that concept more recently perhaps. We were both very honoured and very proud to work hand in hand with the people in the Assembly of First Nations.

I also want to recognize some of the elders, the clan mothers of the Oneida, the Cayuga, the Mohawk and Six Nations who came out night after night to represent the interests of their people. They reminded us that frankly the eurocentric view of the government does not honour and respect tradition, culture and heritage. The clan mothers reminded us that we must think seven generations back and seven generations forward before we introduce this kind of change. My thanks go to them. They have my never-ending respect for the work they have done in their representations.

We should defeat this bill in its entirety. We should go back to the drawing board. We should work with respect and cooperation to craft self-governance legislation, as the emancipation of aboriginal people is the civil rights challenge of our time.

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5:20 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say that it is with great emotion that I rise to speak in this debate on the amendments to Bill C-19.

When I arrived here in 1993, my leader gave me the role of health critic. At that time, we were the official opposition. The health committee recommended doing a study of the health and welfare of the native peoples.

I was really shocked and I could hardly believe what was going on in some communities and among the native peoples of this vast country of Canada. One thing really astonished me, and that was what the chiefs of the first nations came to tell us in the committee. They warned the government and the committee that this was the last time they were going to be studied. Every time there was a change of government, everyone got very busy telling the native peoples they were going to help them, support them, and improve their quality of life.

At that time, I accepted the government's intentions in good faith. Of course, I was in the opposition. I also was one of the first to agree to the native peoples' demands and say that we should make things happen and not leave the report on the shelf to gather dust.

That was a warning. The first nations, and the women in particular, came to tell us that for hundreds of years people had always promised them the same thing. They had been parked on the reserves. Then, we acknowledged their existence, but dragged things out. They were made wards of the state and told that the state would take care of them. However, taking care of them did not mean just sending them cheques. First, why keep them as wards when they are acknowledged as the first nations and as a people? Why do we always want to make decisions for the native people when we recognize their autonomy? Why is there still this hand pulling the strings?

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5:20 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

As if they were marionettes.

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5:20 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

As if they were marionettes, as my hon. colleague from Jonquière says. These are people who have the right to be fully recognized. If we recognize them, we should give them their financial independence, gave them the means to develop and to improve their quality of life.

When the committee decided to visit particular communities in 1993, the focus was always on the health and well-being of aboriginal children. It is shocking to see children so poor. It is truly alarming. It moves you to tears.

If the children are poor, it is because their parents are poor. The parents are not neglecting their kids. They want to feed them and encourage them to go to school too. However, they have nothing, not even plumbing or toilets. They live in hovels. There is nothing, not even a school.

Nothing is being done about this and the first nations are told that their peoples have been recognized. The rest of the world says we treat our aboriginals well. In reality, this is not true. We have been studying these issues and promising all kinds of things for years.

In 1983, a special parliamentary committee on aboriginal self-government tabled a report. In 1988, with Bill C-15, another point of view took hold. There were other initiatives in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

In the meantime, the Standing Committee on Health, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources and the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development carried out studies. We bothered these people; we said, “Come see us, look how we are taking care of you, we need to hear from you”.

One or two years later, a bill gets passed by the House, then the report gets shelved. It gets covered in a good inch of dust, and then everything starts all over again.

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5:25 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

It starts all over and nothing is settled.

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Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Nothing is settled, as my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot said. Enough is enough, I say.

There is something else I do not understand. We considered Bills C-6, C-7 and C-19. No one wants them. How is it that my government colleagues and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development do not understand this? None of the aboriginals want this. How can that be? Who can answer my question?

Bill C-19 was drafted for the well-being of the first nations, but even they are saying that it does not make sense, that it is demeaning and still places them under trusteeship. Why is the government and its minister insisting on shoving this down their throats? There is a limit. When is this going to end?

I will list the primary reasons people do not want Bill C-19. It is part of a long line of measures to modernize the Indian Act, with Bills C-6 and C-7 before it. As I mentioned earlier, there is a consensus among the first nations for first nations taxation reform.

There are, nonetheless, some good points in this bill. But it was created for rich first nations from western Canada and does not meet the glaring needs of most communities. The voluntary aspect of the bill raises many questions. If a first nation does not sign on, will it be able to receive subsidies from Ottawa for its development or does it have to sign on in order to be able to borrow from financial institutions? By the same token, Bill C-19 allows the federal government to free itself from its fiduciary responsibility to first nations.

Although the minister said that the bill does not affect section 35 of the Constitution, we had to fight to have a non-derogation clause included in each bill.

Bill C-19 is an attack on historical treaties and a threat to the inherent right to self-government provided for under section 35. The bill was drafted without consultation or consent, and based on a flawed process. Therein lies the problem. It was done without consultation or consent. And we are told this is for the well-being of first nations.

I will stop here because I am out of time, but rest assured, we will vote against this bill.

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5:30 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, though I am hesitant to interrupt the flow of debate.

Discussions have taken place between all parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent that notwithstanding today's ministerial statement, government orders shall end at 6:30 p.m.

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5:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

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Some hon. members


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5:30 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on third reading of Bill C-19, the first nations fiscal and statistical management act.

It has been suggested that the proposed first nations fiscal and statistical management act would have the effect of isolating first nations from the mainstream of Canadian society. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This initiative would help break a legacy of isolation and the economic marginalization, dependency and social ills that the Indian Act has bred. Bill C-19 is a first nations led initiative. It is led by first nations who seek a brighter future as full participants in the Canadian economy.

In part, this means building new relationships with Canadian and international bond underwriters, credit raters, potential investors, business partners, federal and provincial statistical agencies, neighbouring communities, accounting societies and so on.

In fact, consultation on the bill has already done much to open lines of communication where none existed. Let me highlight that Bill C-19 would help first nations build these new relationships by creating the legal and institutional framework by which first nations could work directly with many interests.

A few examples will help illustrate the importance of the bill. The members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association comprise the largest single real property taxpayer in Canada. In its letter of February 11, 2002, to the chairman of the Indian Taxation Advisory Board, CEPA expressed its view that the proposed legislation “will ensure consistent, fair and predictable approaches to valuation and taxation across Canada on first nations lands”.

The board went on to express its thanks “for the opportunity to assist in the development of this new institution through our discussions and input”.

Similarly, in an e-mail of May 16, 2003, to all its members, the executive of the Canadian Property Tax Association stated:

We strongly believe working with the (proposed) First Nations Tax Commission is a continuation of the good relationship we have developed in the past with the Indian Taxation Advisory Board.

Both CEPA and CPTA are important Canadian institutions with significant interest and expertise in the real property taxation field. They attest to the positive relationships that have been built with the Indian Taxation Advisory Board and other first nations proponents of Bill C-19 and express their support for the direction being taken.

Bill C-19 would help strengthen first nations real property tax system in order to support the sustained development of first nations communities. This is being done in a way that is harmonized with the varying real property tax systems which exist across the provinces.

This harmonization helps strengthen existing relationships and provides a foundation for building new ones. As expressed in his letter of November 27 to the Prime Minister, Mayor Colin Kinsley of the City of Prince George noted:

...this model will allow First Nations to partner with local governments on joint services initiatives, like sewer and water projects, thus benefiting all communities involved.

Likewise as expressed in his November 25 letter to the Prime Minister, Mr. Ron Jamieson, Senior Vice-President for Aboriginal Banking at the Bank of Montreal noted:

By providing the capital for infrastructure, through the issuance of First Nations Bonds...the (proposed) First Nations Finance Authority will assist in opening the door to economic development on-reserve. This will provide new opportunities for the traditional financial institutions to support these development initiatives.

Both Mayor Kinsley and Mr. Jamieson are speaking about respectful and cooperative arrangements with first nations. These arrangements would be based upon mutual economic interests. Bill C-19 would lay the legal and institutional framework to support such cooperative efforts.

I might note further that the development of the proposed first nations finance authority is itself a model of federal, provincial, industrial and first nations cooperation. The first nations institution is being developed with support from the very successful Municipal Finance Authority of B.C.

The MFA of B.C. was created by provincial statute about 30 years ago. It allows the more than 180 community governments in B.C. to organize their borrowing in a way that has earned them, collectively, an enviable triple A credit rating. No local government working in isolation could come close to earning such a strong credit rating.

Under this bond financing regime, each community can use up to 20% of its local real property tax base as collateral for borrowing. These bonds have finance the roads, water and sanitation systems, and public facilities required to support economic activity and improve the quality of life.

By contrast, first nations governments have no such access to bond or financial markets due to the existing legislative vacuum. They thus face extraordinary high transaction costs and crippling interest rates. A tax dollar generated on first nations land buys roughly 30% to 50% less in capital financing. It can also take four to six times longer for first nations to organize such borrowing transactions. This is often too long to hold the interest of private developers.

What does this mean to first nations governments? It means they are isolated. They are not positioned to work with private developers and business partners. It means they cannot compete. Why is this so? It is simply because first nations lack the legal and institutional framework of other governments, a barrier that Bill C-19 would remove. For example, it would give first nations the capacity to borrow much like local governments in B.C.

I would also like to highlight that this borrowing regime is not based on the use of federal loan guarantees or the use of federal transfer payments as collateral. Rather, first nations would use their own long term stable sources of revenue, like real property tax for collateral for such borrowing.

On one hand, concern has been expressed that in giving first nations access to tools used by municipalities, Bill C-19 would be turning first nations into municipalities. This is simply false and incorrect.

On the other hand, it has been argued that as Bill C-19 would give first nations the tools used by other governments, it must be creating a separate parallel society. This again is false and incorrect.

The facts are that Bill C-19 is first and foremost about giving first nations the tools available to other governments. It is not about municipalization and assimilation nor about creating a separate parallel society.

Bill C-19 is a unique piece of legislation created with and for first nations people. It in no way diminishes the constitutionally protected rights of aboriginal people. Rather, it helps first nations exercise these rights. It aims to create equality of opportunity for first nations people within the Canadian constitutional framework.

As a final example, I would note that Bill C-19 would also help equip first nations to work with the federal government in resolving important policy issues.

The proposed first nations statistical institute would assist first nations people in defining the issues that they collectively face and bring to bear the type of information and analysis needed to better address these problems. This institute would draw heavily upon the data held by Statistics Canada and federal departments and at the same time have influence over future data collected. Bill C-19 is directed at building this type of cooperative and respectful relationship.

Bill C-19 would create a legal framework by which first nations could work directly and more effectively with the private sector and other governments. In so doing, it would provide the tools to build a better quality of life through cooperative action and sustained regional growth.

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5:40 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, again today we are having an emotional debate. Having listened to the members for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, Drummond and Saint-Jean, I realize how true my feelings are, and how much they are shared by others.

The government is acting the way it always has. As a superior being telling others what to do and how to do it, rather than allowing the first nations to develop according to their potential, their interests and their abilities.

These are recognized peoples. Why are we always so paternalistic? Why not let them develop at their own speed and according to their own abilities? We have heard the comments on Bill C-6 on first nations specific claims, and C-7, and now on C-19. The first nations are on the verge of announcing that enough is enough, and of demanding the powers they need.

Not long ago, I and my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot had the opportunity to visit the Attikamek of Weymontachie. I was amazed at these brave people, who have done wonders despite being blocked at every turn.

I found it fantastic to see this community of 1,150 had managed to preserve its language and was teaching its children Attikamek up to grade three. This community is perfectly bilingual; both French and Attikamek are spoken.

We can learn something from this people, with their amazing will to survive. We cannot help but be amazed at their determination and their abilities.

The member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot shared my amazement when they told us that there are six seasons when you get 100 km north of La Tuque. The way they explain the different seasons is really extraordinary and well worth the trip just from the cultural point of view. The Attikemek have a very logical explanation for their six seasons.

The member for Saint-Jean has referred to his unforgettable memories of trips to aboriginal lands, and I can say the same.

What is regrettable is witnessing how hampered they are in their development, when that development would enrich all of society. It is not true that we stand to lose when we allow others to grow. The same applies to Canada as a whole. The day that Quebec can reach its full potential on its own, everyone will stand to gain. I am certain that if I develop my personal potential to the fullest, others gain something from it.

I am reading a book about this on that period. We took their land, yet the first nations saved us. Learning about history makes us realize to what extent we owe them our being here. It is painful to see them constantly being put down and told how and what to do, when we have so much to learn from them.

Forty years ago, I was coming back from La Tuque, where I was a manager for a company. I gave a ride to a hitchhiker, a man between 25 and 30, who looked pretty demoralized. I asked him what was wrong.

He said, “I have left my country”. I asked him where his country was. “It was located north and west from La Tuque, near Gagnon Lake. Our people lived there”, he said, and he added, “We had our customs, our language, our culture”. He went on to say, “I buried my father yesterday. He was the last one. He wanted to be buried with his ancestors. But I am leaving because our country is gone”.

That day, I told myself I did not know what I would have done in his place. I was the white man who had not allowed him to develop, while he had as much right as I did to do so, and his people and language had enriched my life.

I asked him if he resented me. His answer was, “Why would I? What I have lost is lost forever”. That is right. When we manage to pass legislation here that allows these people to survive, they enrich us at the same time as they enrich themselves.

When I was in Weymontachie with my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, we learned that, in the early summer, one young person a week, for three weeks in a row, had committed suicide.

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5:50 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

They were young women.

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5:50 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

They were young women and we could just not accept that. We were shocked. We asked them, “What can we do to help you?” And what they said to us was, “Let us live. Let us flourish. Let us share this country, which was ours before you came, in our own way”.

I share my colleagues' opinion that we Quebeckers behave better towards the Amerindians, the first nations.

I would never agree to a law that still told them what to do. “Under certain conditions, we can help you, but you will always be at our mercy, you will always be minors with relation to us”. That is demoralizing and humiliating. I understand why these people are doing all they can to try to tell us, “Oppose this bill”.

I repeat what was said earlier: we have had Bill C-6, C-7, C-19, ehough is enough. We have had enough of pushing around people who have a right to live, who have a right to all they posses, and who have the right to develop in their own way.

Once again, I am probably wasting my breath, because the majority is over there and the bill will pass. Still, we will have the pleasure of saying that we did our duty, that we said what we had to say, and that we have tried to speak up for the people who have asked for our help.

As for the communities in my riding, unfortunately, I do not have an opportunity to see them very often, because they are far away and the riding is large. Still, if I can help them develop in their own way, I will do what I can.

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5:50 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak tonight to the amendments to Bill C-19 at this stage of the proceedings.

The current fiscal relationship between first nations and the federal government is still much like that of a parent and child: that is the heritage of colonialism.

The development of a new fiscal relationship between first nations and Canada has been an ongoing subject of discussion. In 1983, the report of the House of Commons Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, the Penner report, agreed that this kind of fiscal relationship was not appropriate for governments relating to governments. It recommended the restructuring of fiscal relationships between Canada and first nations, as did the final report of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the RCAP report.

As well, the move to restructure fiscal relationships for first nations has remained part of a broader movement toward aboriginal self-government.

All that leads us to Bill C-19, which has been presented under the banner of a new fiscal relationship.

Unfortunately, Bill C-19 falls far short of that mark. It leaves in place the current relationship and suggests that first nations should start meeting their own needs by taxation and selling bonds to raise money for critically needed infrastructure.

Bill C-19 cannot distract us from the real needs of the first nations people.

The institutions proposed by Bill C-19 are not the problem. The problem is that they are being established by legislation rather than by the inherent right of self-government of any first nation that wants to be involved, but it cannot be a substitute for real change in the fiscal relationship, for real political autonomy, for real self-government.

The NDP is vehemently opposed to Bill C-19 because the Assembly of First Nations is against Bill C-19. I cannot in fair conscience impose on the first nations people something they do not want, and neither can my colleagues.

The AFN states that proposed legislation violates the historic nation to nation relationship, infringes upon aboriginal and treaty rights, and is otherwise so flawed that it cannot be corrected by mere amendments.

Although the preamble to the bill says that it is not intended to define the nature of self-government, the majority of first nations criticizes it because it takes a strong municipal approach, a very narrow approach to the rights of first nations.

A majority of first nations sees Bill C-19 as being overly prescriptive. It dictates, it limits and it restricts. It insists that any taxation revenues must be directed strictly to certain purposes rather than letting first nations decide how they will use their tax money, just as any other governments do. This kind of restriction violates the principle of the inherent right to self-government.

The Chiefs of Ontario stated:

...all significant matters dealing with taxation and taxation revenue expenditure, particularly as they affect non-Indians, are beyond the independent capacity of individual First Nations.

Passage of the FNFSMA means that the inherent right does not include local revenue collection for local purposes.

That is a remarkably restrictive interpretation of the inherent right, and one that is prejudicial to all First Nations, whether or not they later participate actively in the mechanisms of the fiscal institutions.

Therefore, even though the bill is said to be totally voluntary, this is an example of where it will impact on all first nations whether they participate or do not participate.

A majority of first nations also is unhappy that the legislation does not make it clear what the financial administration laws of a first nation will be required to be in order to obtain approval. No explicit criteria or requirements are set out in the proposed legislation. The worry is that the system required will be just like those of surrounding municipalities.

First nations would go from being signatories to treaties to having the status of a small quasi-municipality. They argue there is no guarantee that the criteria to be applied will take into consideration the priorities of individual first nation governments.

First nations also point out that the proposed legislation provides that first nations must take into account the interests, concerns and protection of the non-native taxpayers. This provision and other related provisions in the bill have been criticized as a further limitation on the authority of first nations to enact local property tax laws based on their priorities and is a provision that is not even in the Indian Act.

There are so many pieces of this bill that are problematic that it is hard even to consider this as something the government wants to pass into law.

There is also a statutory requirement forbidding a first nation from running an operating deficit. Can members imagine imposing that requirement on all governments in Canada? Just imagine what that would mean. Maybe it would be a good thing, but why do we impose upon first nations people something that we do not impose on anyone else? How do we expect first nations to have economic success with these kinds of restrictions unique to them?

There is also the question of whether the institutions such as the taxation commission are really first nations institutions when the members of the boards are appointed by the ministers.

For example, subclause 18(5) stipulates that commissioners should include some first nation members “who are committed to the development of a system of first nations real property taxation”, but there is not even a requirement that the majority be first nations people. I find that astounding and incredibly insulting.

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5:55 p.m.

An hon. member