Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this very critical issue at this time in our history as a country and at this time in our relationship with the aboriginal nations of this land.
First I would like to state that in its intentions Bill C-19, from my perspective, is inappropriate at this time because the relationship between the Crown and our government and the aboriginal nations is not set. We are approaching the end of the indigenous decade. It is coming to a close next year. Ten years were set aside by the United Nations to review indigenous issues throughout the world. Within that 10 years, our country has experienced a lot of reflection. A big part of that reflection was the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Within that reflection, I want to focus on that definition of first nations.
Bill C-19 proposes in the definition that in Canada “first nation” has the same meaning as “band” in the Indian Act. I would like to tell Canadians and this Parliament that the first nations of Canada are not band councils. The first nations of Canada are the original nations of Canada. There is terminology in the Cree language.
[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]
What I said in Cree was that if I speak in Cree and define myself as nehiyaw , I know who I am in my language. I belong to a group of people who come from the nehiyaw nation. That is the Cree nation as it is defined in the French language. The Dene Nation is another nation besides the Cree. The Mohawks are another nation. The Oneida, the Tuscarora, the Seneca, the Tlingit, the Haida and the Inuit are all nations. The Métis are a nation.
These nations are recognized in our Constitution and they are also recognized under the purview of our treaties, the treaties of this country engaged with these nations, and these nations have to play a role in this present day context.
Let us talk about these institutions that are being created. If our government is willing to recognize and create four commissions and these four commissions make up a total of 51 seats, 51 members will be assigned to have certain powers and responsibilities in dealing with the tax commission, the financial management board, the finance authority and the statistical institute.
I would beg members to consider this. There are up to 52 and maybe even more aboriginal nations in this country. Why can we not represent and recognize each nation and each nation's representative? Why can we not have a Cree chief, a Dene chief, a Mohawk chief, all of the councils of nations, to help govern this country? Why take our squabbles to the Supreme Court for every wrong that has been done?
Parliament was created to debate and chart a course for all Canadians to journey into the future. That vision was embodied in one of the original treaties called a Two-Row Wampum, where in the original vessel of the original nations, they can keep their languages, they can keep their spiritual beliefs and they can keep their self-governance. If financial institutions are to be created, that is in the vessel, not to be created somewhere else.
We are embarking on this with this decade of indigenous review coming to a close next year. I call on my aboriginal brothers and sisters throughout this country to gather as nations.
[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]
The aboriginal nations have welcomed all the other nations and peoples of the world to live among us on this land in harmony. Let us chart that relationship so it lasts for another 1,000 years and another 1,000 years after that so our children can be proud of Canada. We are a river of nations. We all flow here but we must flow as one.
I sit here as an aboriginal person. I am Metis Cree. The first words that came out of my mouth were
[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree].
That is the way I see the world. I cannot apologize for that. I was born here and that is who I am.
I bring the House a message. This House came from Britain. Under the British North American Act, the Crown looked at a governing structure for this country and negotiated the territory. There is no country without a territory because without a territory there is no country.
This nation was negotiated on peace and friendship with the original nations to create a country. We must respect the very foundation of that peace and friendship which is the very foundation of this country.
The preamble of Bill C-19 states:
Whereas the Government of Canada has adopted a policy...
No. The Government of Canada adopted that the Crown enter into a treaty to create a country. The preamble has to say treaty first. We just have to ask aboriginals who feel a relationship with this country and they will tell us that it is a treaty relationship. They are proud to have the blood of a nation flowing through them but we must create the country together.
We are one country. We cannot push our aboriginal nations out. We must respect the peace and friendship that is embodied in those treaties. The world is hard-pressed to find peace right now. If we drop the gift of peace that we have right now, we may be ruining it for the rest of the world. That gift of peace is a sacred gift that was given to our first nations. We must nurture it.
[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]
I call upon my people, the aboriginal nations of this land, to look at this country and to be proud of their nations.
Over the last 10 years I have mentioned a royal commission. That royal commission has given me a little ray of hope. It recommended that a third house of Parliament be created. We presently have the House of Commons and the Senate which is the upper chamber. There should be a third house.
That third house physically exists right next door and it is called the parliamentary library. It is a circular building, shaped like a teepee, much like the teepees at Fort Carleton where treaties were negotiated. The teepees were set outside and the British commissioners and the Crown sat inside the fort, which was square. As members will notice, the rooms in these buildings are square. If we look at the library we see it is round. We can create a circle and a symbol of unity with the circle.
This room is an adversarial room where we are designed to fight. A circle is a place of unity and consensus. The government must adopt the original symbols of governance that existed on this land.
The House of Commons originated in Britain as a vessel of Britain. It is time we matured as a country and looked at adopting two governing structures, the original governing structure that existed here many years ago and a new structure for the future that would create a country that would show the rest of the world how to live in peace. A colonial country with a colonial past can have a gift that is true and powerful, a gift called peace.
If we give these powers to financial institutions and take them away from first nations, then we are recognizing the power of money over the power of nations and the power of people.
I caution the people who are looking seriously at adopting Bill C-19 that this legislation will cause major problems at the outset for our first nations communities. They can purchase an abundance of riches but there is a long term commitment in the bill. The powers in Bill C-19 would allow a financial management board to invade the powers of first nations' councils and change their bylaws.
I do not want to see banks having powers to change bylaws of first nations and band councils without the government having a thorough relationship with the original nations based on peace and friendship, as defined in our treaties.