Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to the amendments to Bill C-19 proposed by my colleagues in the New Democratic Party.
I was very disappointed to see that, of all of the proposed amendments, you have only selected two for debate. It seemed to me that while we were examining this bill—and a controversial one it is—we would have been able to revisit the debate on some of the truly problematic elements.
First, as we begin, I would like to point out that, contrary to what the hon. parliamentary secretary said a few moments ago, there is no unanimity on this bill, none at all. There are positive things, but there are so many negative ones. It was the minister's responsibility to convince the first nations that the positive elements could outweigh the negative ones in this bill, or else show some openness to substantive amendments. In fact, there are many problems in this bill. It has missed its mark.
A few weeks ago, I attended the special chiefs assembly, held by the Assembly of First Nations in Vancouver. This bill was the subject of a heated debate. Some of the first nations supported the bill because it might mean an improvement. Others, the vast majority in fact, rejected the bill. The results of the vote were clear. If my memory serves me, 103 first nations chiefs were opposed and 59 were in favour. When there is more opposition to a bill than support for it, it is because the minister did not do his job in several respects.
First, he tried to convince some first nations, the most developed ones, that this bill might have merit. He forgot about the others. He forgot that most of the 638 first nations in Canada are experiencing real problems on a daily basis, problems such as poverty, multiple addictions, the lack of management and development resources, and access to drinking water. These problems are major ones. Young aboriginals are also experiencing social problems.
Ten years ago, when the Liberals talked about improving the status of first nations, something should have been done. However, instead of talking about it, instead of proposing concrete measures, they chose to engage in petty politics, to try to convince some at the expense of others; in short, to divide and conquer. Now, the vast majority of the 638 first nations in Canada do not want this bill to pass.
They do not want it primarily because this bill is part of a trilogy. There was Bill C-6 on specific claims resolution. Then, there was Bill C-7. No one knows what happened to this bill or where it is. I hope it stays lost. Then there was Bill C-19. The minister himself appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources to tell us that this was a complete package.
When he did present us with Bill C-7, it was the most odious bill possible for the first nations. He claimed to be replacing the odious Indian Act, which has been in place for 130 years. In the end, all that was accomplished was to retain the Indian Act, which treated the first nations like children, while adding on some elements of colonialism. This was not a good start to any demonstration of the virtues of the trilogy.
Then he turned up with Bill C-6. Yesterday, convinced of his inability to sell us on its validity, he imposed it on us. He is imposing upon the first nations the amendments proposed by the Senate on specific claims, which are now subject to a $10 million ceiling, whereas they average out at $18 million, judging from the situation in Saskatchewan in recent years.
He is using time allocation to shove this bill down our throats, once again thwarting the legitimate aspirations and ignoring the legitimate objections of the first nations. Here we are faced with Bill C-19, which is an attempt to push through something that no one will buy.
Why not focus the same amount of energy, courage, perseverance and political savvy on moving real things ahead? In the case of the first nations, this means speeding up negotiations on self-government. Enough of the apartheid mentality, enough of colonialism, let them speed up negotiations on self-government. That is the only way to ensure that the first nations can develop in keeping with what they are, what they want, and what they aspire to. Is that clear enough?
In order for a nation to develop, it must possess one main tool: government. The first nations have been calling for that government for ages. Their entitlement to it is recognized not just nationally but internationally. Even the United Nations have said that the first nations constituted nations. As nations, they therefore have the capacity to determine their own futures, to put in place their own government, to determine their own policies, their own way of doing things in accordance with their culture, their language and their traditions.
There still exists this paternalistic, colonial, condescending reflex. We thought this reflex had disappeared years ago with the elimination of apartheid in South Africa. We thought that was a thing of the past. Here we are with a bill that would still have us control the first nations.
The minister, in his quest to exercise control, is so driven that he forgets some things and says whatever comes to mind. On Tuesday, in response to questions I had asked him, he said, “We appointed the present national chief to the commission that exists today”. They appointed the head of the taxation commission. The minister thinks he has such extraordinary powers that he told us, here in this House, just check Hansard, “The national chief himself was appointed by the government”. He said that Phil Fontaine was appointed by the government. It takes a narrow-minded, power-hungry megalomaniac to think like that.
He is so power-hungry that in Bills C-6, C-7, and C-19, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is vested with all the discretionary power. He can appoint the members of commissions or institutions, he can reject or accept first nations specific claims. He can also say to first nations, “You have decided one thing, I will decide another”. He is so self-important he thinks this power is fully and completely his. He says, “I myself appointed the national chief of first nations”. Who does this minister take himself for? He has been in politics for 14 years, and it is time that he left.
This man wreaks havoc. He has become a megalomaniac. Everyone knows that the chief of the first nations is elected by the chiefs of the 638 first nations. He is elected by his peers. Neither the government nor the minister has anything to do with it. He must be really full of himself.