House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was yukon.


Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Question No. 105Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, a recorded division on the motion stands deferred until Monday, March 17, 2003, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Question No. 105Government Orders

12:30 p.m.


Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I think if you seek it you would find consent in the House to further defer the recorded division to Tuesday, March 18 at the end of government orders.

Question No. 105Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Question No. 105Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from February 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Canadian Alliance Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Madam Speaker, there is no party in the House that wants to speed up the resolution of land claims more than the Canadian Alliance. We have seen and experienced firsthand the awful economic impact Liberal dawdling has had on the economies of our constituencies.

There is no party in the House that wants a fair and just land claims settlement program more than the Alliance Party. We have seen and experienced firsthand the grievous financial injury done to individuals who were sideswiped by land claims and lost their grazing leases or even their private property.

No party wants an independent land claims body more than the Alliance because we know what political meddling and influence peddling can do to thwart just settlements and fair and just treatment of all concerned.

The legislation, an act to establish the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims, will not speed up the resolution of claims, particularly larger, more costly claims such as in British Columbia.

All one has to do is consider the proposed process for settlement. A first nation submits a claim to the proposed commission, at which time research funding is allocated by the commission to the first nation. All interested parties are notified and preparatory meetings are facilitated. How long that first step will take is anyone's guess, but we know how slowly the wheels of commissions can turn.

Following the first step, the Crown must decide whether to accept the claim. One would think that before allocating research money to the first nation making the claim that some decision on the validity of the claim would be made before throwing money out the window. That is not the case.

Step two has not finished. If the Crown refuses the claim after having handed over the research money, the first nation can ask for dispute resolution led by the commission. Keep an eye on that wheel to see if there is any movement. If the request for dispute resolution or dispute resolution fails, the first nation can ask the commission to refer the matter to a tribunal to ponder the validity of the claim. I should note here that we are still in what the government calls step two of this process and only just completing it.

Step three is if the claim is accepted as valid by the Crown or the tribunal, then the matter reverts back to the commission which will lead the negotiations with the first nation on the amount and the amount will never be allowed to exceed $7 million. I state again, that leaves British Columbia out of the process. However, if those commission led negotiations fail, the first nation can demand that the matter be referred back to the tribunal for a binding decision on the amount of compensation to a maximum of $7 million.

Those three steps alone could take years. Whatever happened to the speedy settlement of land claims, particularly those that are worth $7 million or less? It is not speeding anything up.

In its wording, the government uses the term “independent”. We must take issue with that. The Prime Minister will appoint the chief, the vice-chief commissioners and the other five commissioners. The Prime Minister will also appoint the chief and the vice-chief adjudicators and the other five adjudicators. He will determine what they will be paid and what their travel and living allowances will be. How independent are those 14 individuals going to be if the Prime Minister appoints them? Will they be as independent as the ethics counsellor? There will be suspicions and allegations from the outset of patronage and partiality. Those accusations and suspicions will tarnish the legitimacy and the credibility of the centre before it even gets off the ground.

It is also disturbing to read that the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims will determine its own staffing requirements. We have seen enough over the years to know that when a so-called independent body is left to determine its own staffing needs, there is an out of control bureaucracy in the making. I could cite several examples.

We also have to ask this. Who will represent the vast majority of Canadians in this new process, the other stakeholders? By vast majority I mean all the people who pay taxes. Who will stand up for the taxpayer?

A system like this that avoids accountability for government stonewalling and discourages alternative dispute mechanisms over costly court cases is a potentially huge waste of scarce and hard earned tax dollars.

We find fault in the clause that says that the centre will submit quarterly reports on the values of all settlements to the minister. It does not say that the minister will immediately turn those quarterly reports over to the House for parliamentary scrutiny. We have seen what happened to the firearms registry and how true costs were hidden by the justice department. We have seen billion dollar HRDC disasters that the department tried to hide from Parliament. We know that Canada Customs and Revenue is desperately trying to hide the true losses taxpayers are suffering from the GST fraud.

How can the House feel assured that the minister will pass on the true costs of all these $7 million maximum settlements? By true costs, I mean the settlements plus the bureaucratic costs. The question remains, where is there anything in the legislation that suggests the taxpayers have somebody standing up for them in this process?

We have heard a lot from the Liberal side of the House about transparency in government. Liberals seem to have a bit of difficulty determining what transparency and what translucency is. When we say transparency, we mean see through. They have a different version of that.

In reading this over it appears that lip service is being paid to transparency in government but nothing is being done about it. There is no transparency in the legislation. Government members on the Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources voted against all the amendments that would have required the government to declare openly its reasons for deciding against a claim or for holding up the claim process. Where is the transparency in that?

As for speeding up the process, why is there no mandated timeline in the process? Why are there plenty of loopholes in here so as to permit the government to delay and stonewall. Every amendment put forward in committee to discourage stonewalling and delay was defeated by the Liberal members of the committee on orders handed down by the Prime Minister's Office.

The Liberals have, for over 100 years, treated our aboriginal people with indifference and even contempt. These half measures to make amends will be seen through by the first nation people. Maybe that is where they are talking about transparency because it is the only thing transparent in the legislation.

They know that the proposed legislation will not bring speedy resolution to their claims. They have seen the wheels of government turn and they know how long it takes to even get the wheels moving. They know how agonizingly long it will take for a full revolution of those wheels.

They will rightly feel betrayed by the Prime Minister and the author of the 1993 Liberal red book who happens to be the former finance minister. He wrote the Liberal promise that an independent claims commission would be jointly appointed by first nations and the Government of Canada.

The legislation breaks the promise of the Liberals and the former finance minister because it concentrates the power in the hands of the Prime Minister by making him the only person who can appoint the members of the centre for independent resolution of first nation specific claims.

If first nations people feel betrayed, it is no surprise. It is just one more broken Liberal promise in 150 years worth of broken Liberal promises.

The legislation is not worthy of support. That is why on this side of the House the official opposition will oppose it.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 28th, 2003 / 12:40 p.m.


Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, there have been consultations between the parties and I think, if you seek, it you would find there is consent in the House for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its study on environment and sustainable development, six members and the clerk of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development be authorized to travel to London, England from March 24 to 27, 2003 to meet with the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in England and the House of Commons Committee of England on Environment and Sustainable Development.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand today and speak to the third reading of the Bill C-6, the first nations specific resolutions claims act.

The bill aims to modify the current specific claims process by creating a new administrative body which will include a commission to facilitate claims, negotiations and dispute resolutions, as well as a tribunal to make binding decisions on the validity of claims and compensation awards to a prescribed maximum per claim.

We should try to locate the bill in the context of other bills involving aboriginal people. This is part of a series of new legislations that make up the most comprehensive review of the Indian Act in modern history.

The Indian Specific Claims Commission, the ICC, was established in 1992 by order in council as a temporary independent advisory body to review specific claims that have been rejected by government and to issue non-binding decisions. This limited mandate has frustrated commission members and aboriginal claimants.

The ICC has called for a permanent independent specific claims commission. This has been on the Liberal agenda since the 1993 pre-election agenda. As it stands now, claims are presented to the Canadian government for review and acceptance.

In 1996 a Joint First Nations-Canada task force began considering the structure and the authority of this commission and submitted a report containing a model bill for a new specific claims body. Although the new legislation in question makes massive changes to the JTF report, the proposed Bill C-6 will replace the ICC.

I listened with interest to the comments of the member before me who expressed a great deal of disappointment with the bill and a sense of betrayal for native people. New Democrats feel the same. We have a lot of difficulties with the bill and I would like to go through some of our concerns.

As with the other bills included within the ministry's suite of first nations legislation, such as Bill C-7, the governance act, and Bill C-19, the fiscal institutions act, this bill would further damage the relationship between the government and the first nations as it would arbitrarily impose legislation upon the first nations people regardless of their input and their massive objection.

Treaties are nation to nation agreements that date back over 300 years and are central building blocks to the creation of Canada. They are legally protected under section 35 of the Constitution of Canada. Bill C-6 does not respect the spirit of those treaties, and as such it is unconstitutional. The government is in conflict of interest in this instance. It is both the defence and the adjudicator.

With this bill, the government has not created the independent and impartial committee for which was asked. Instead the minister has the last say about everything in the bill.

Bill C-6 dismisses the role of the Assembly of First Nations when it comes to their inherent right to self-government. Not only does the bill dismiss the government-AFN joint task force report model bill, but nowhere does the legislation even mention the Assembly of First Nations.

In addition to dismissing the joint task force report, the consultation process regarding Bill C-6 has been a joke. The committee set aside only three weeks for Bill C-6 and this included everything from introduction to all witnesses, to clause to clause revisions.

Under the joint task force report, there is no provision in Bill C-6 for appointments, renewals and approvals to require the consent of the AFN as well as the federal government. All appointments, such as the chief executive officer, commissioners and the tribunal will be made on the recommendation of the minister alone.

What is wrong with this picture? It has to be fairly obvious. Faced with constantly being dependent upon the federal government for reappointment, members will feel the pressure of wanting to be favourably regarded by the government. Thus the members will not be seen to be free to make a decision against the very government that would be responsible for their reappointment.

There are many other flaws in this legislation. With Bill C-6, the minister also has control over the so-called independent bodies through its ability to add more members whenever he or she pleases.

First, Bill C-6 ignores the JTF report and dramatically and arbitrarily narrows the definition of specific claim in the following way. It excludes obligations arising under treaties and agreements that do not deal with lands or assets. Second, it excludes unilateral federal undertakings to provide lands or assets. Third, it excludes claims based on laws of Canada that were United Kingdom statutes or royal proclamations.

The bill also severely limits access to the tribunal by denying all claims that are over the cap of $7 million. That amount can be unilaterally defined by the federal cabinet. It can be lowered as well as raised. The majority of claims, whose content deal with land, damages or loss issues, will be seeking compensation that is above that cap. The Indian claims commission reports that out of 120 claims they have dealt with, only three were worth less than $7 million. It is not meeting the needs of claimants in this regard whatsoever.

Delay is a major problem in the current system as well. It explains much of the current backlog estimated to be over 550 claims. Bill C-6 does not create any independent or impartial body designed to clear up that huge claim backlog. Instead, it is an instrument that enables the federal government to closely control the pace of settlements and decisions by granting the minister the power to consider a claim indefinitely at an early stage in the process. There are no time limits for compliance that must be observed.

Bill C-6 authorizes the federal government to delay the claims resolution process. It does so in the following ways.

No claim can proceed to alternate dispute resolution administered by the commission or the tribunal without the consideration and the approval of the minister. Bill C-6 says that no delay in responding can ever constitute constructive denial. A first nation cannot take a claim to the tribunal unless all alternative dispute resolution is exhausted and it must wait for the minister to deem that process exhausted. The government can request additional preparatory meetings even if the first nation does not think that it is necessary. If a first nation ever amends a claim during commission proceedings, the claim cannot proceed to the commission until the minister has considered the amendment. Finally, the government can delay by unilaterally lowering the cap on the overall amount of potential awards that a tribunal can issue in a given year.

It is clear that Bill C-6 favours the government by requiring the first nation to disclose all the facts and laws it is relying on before it reaches the tribunal. It does not require the same transparency from the government. The government sets the rules and controls the system by which it governs itself. This proposed process is not an independent or impartial process.

It is extremely insulting to the Assembly of First Nations and to native people across the country that the government asked the AFN to take part in the joint task force in 1998 responsible for making recommendations in this regard and then it completely ignored the model bill which it proposed.

First nations leadership wants changes to the Indian Act and they welcome change. Yet Bill C-6 has generated an unprecedented degree of animosity and disgust. Partly because of the content, but more important because of the process that animosity has occurred.

I will finish by saying that the NDP will not be supporting Bill C-6. It is not a constructive bill at this point in time and it is causing damage to relationships with native people.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I find it rather ironic that I rose to speak in support of Bill C-2 just prior to Bill C-6. All of the accolades that I gave to Bill C-2 with respect to the consultative process, to all parties not only being involved in the process but being supportive of the process are absolutely and totally changed when we come to Bill C-6. In fact, it is the same minister and department, but it is like night and day.

Bill C-6 has not had a consultative process. It has not listened to the joint task force of 1998. It has not brought all of the stakeholders together in a consultative process. It is frankly one of the worst piece of legislation that the ministry could bring forward. Here we have two examples, one a good example and one a deplorable example.

Again, I rise on behalf of my colleague, the member for Dauphin--Swan River, who has been instrumental in speaking in opposition to the bill. I would like to reiterate the position of the Progressive Conservative Party that we cannot support Bill C-6 at third reading.

As has been said by the member from the NDP, there are a number of shortcomings in the bill, not the least of which is the limit of the commission of $7 million for the tribunal. We recognize when we are dealing with land claims, when we are having to make necessary commitments to those land claims, that the majority of them are well over the limit of $7 million.

It seems to me that it is simply a matter of the government putting in place another roadblock where it does not have to deal with the real issue of settling these land claims, and simply delays and delays. As usual the government feels it can stick its head in the sand often enough and long enough with whatever the issue. Whether it be EH-101 helicopters, health care, taxation, gas prices or land claims, it sticks its head in the sand and eventually it thinks that people will either forget or the issue will go away. It will not and it cannot.

In fact, in this particular case what the government would like to do with its proposals in Bill C-6 is take about 100 years to clear up the backlog of the outstanding land claims. The government may think it has 100 years, but I know the average age of the government members and I can assure the House they do not have that long to sit in the House to be able to settle those land claims.

I am also concerned with the makeup of the tribunal. We have examples now of other organizations that have government appointed members. One that comes to mind is the Canadian Wheat Board where the government has its own appointees. What they simply do is take the agenda of the government to the table and nothing changes. This is the same factor in Bill C-6 where the members of the tribunal would be appointed by the same person, the minister who is trying to reach an agreement on land claims which is a total conflict of interest.

However the government is not too concerned with conflict of interest as we have seen with other issues that are now going on in the House. It is not only not a concern for the government but it seems to be part of the norm. It seems like the government members like to put into place legislation that would perpetuate more conflicts because that is the way in their minds business is meant to be done. It seems they have done a very good job of putting in place another conflict with the land claims system which is something they probably did on purpose.

Another issue relates to animosity. There is not a stakeholder who supports the bill with the exception of the minister. The minister feels that it is the best piece of legislation contrary to whatever anybody else believes.

As I said earlier, there was no consultation and no process. Any of the people that it is trying to achieve a settlement with do not buy into the process and do not buy into the legislation.

The Progressive Conservative Party will vote against Bill C-6 at third reading. We believe strongly that bringing forward Bill C-6 would just perpetuate the problem. We believe that there must be closure. We believe that there is a need for an honest resolution to the land claims issues within the country. There is not only a need but a constitutional right to be able to settle those land claims. Unfortunately, the bill would perpetuate the problem, it would not fix it. It is more part of the problem than part of the solution. Therefore we will be voting against the bill.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-6, an act related to the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims. It is my understanding that the purpose of the bill is to create an independent institution to provide for the filing, negotiation, and resolution of specific claims.

Try as he might to say otherwise, the Prime Minister will have an everlasting legacy over his treatment of the aboriginal people of Canada. I do believe that in his heart he has tried to get it right. It is just unfortunate that aboriginal Canadians continue to pay the price for him getting it wrong.

On almost all fronts, aboriginal Canadians are the poorest, most undereducated group of people in all of Canada. Their on-reserve unemployment rates rank as high as 80% to 90%. The drug and alcohol abuse is heart breaking, and the imprisonment and reoffending rate is higher than any other group in Canada. Yes, there is a legacy here. Unfortunately, to Canadians and in particular aboriginal Canadians, it is an infamous one.

Let me first make clear what the Alliance policy is with regard to settling of aboriginal claims. Our position in land claims negotiations would be to ensure respect for existing private property rights, affordable and conclusive settlements of all claims, and an open and transparent process involving all stakeholders.

Aboriginal Canadians will not be able to move forward as individuals or as an autonomous group until the outstanding claims are settled conclusively and with finality.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development are living in a world that has passed them by. They refuse to acknowledge that their past attempts to resolve the many outstanding issues have all failed and yet they continue to repeat the same mistake over and over again. Fresh approaches and renewed attitudes are needed in order to see substantial change for the betterment of aboriginal Canadians.

The bill would expedite only claims for cash involving less than $7 million and not any larger claims or claims for land. In addition, the commissioner and adjudicators would not be representative of all stakeholders, as they would be appointed by the Prime Minister.

As I understand the process involved under the bill, the centre would consist of a commission and a tribunal. In turn the claims process would proceed through three stages.

First, the input and preparatory stage where the first nations would submit their claim to the commission, arrange research funding and notify interested parties of the claim. Second, the validity stage where the Crown would decide whether or not to accept the claim. If the Crown refuses the claim, the first nation can ask for dispute resolution led by the commission. If that fails, the first nation can ask the commission to refer the claim to the tribunal to decide on its validity. Third, is the negotiation stage. When the claim is accepted by the Crown, or deemed valid by the tribunal, it would enter a commission led negotiation. If negotiation fails, the first nation could ask the commission to refer the claim to the tribunal for a binding decision on cash compensation to a maximum of $7 million. Obviously, this limits the ability of many first nations, and the federal and provincial governments where involved, to resolve claims because most claims are much larger than that.

I have several concerns regarding the bill. Although the centre is slated to be in Ottawa, there appears to have been no consideration for where the most cost effective location for the centre would be.

I am pleased to note that the Auditor General of Canada would audit the financial accounts of the centre annually and the report of the audit would be made to the centre and the minister. Although there is a time lag for the reporting mechanism of the centre to the minister and a further time lag of the minister tabling the relevant documents in the House, there is the appearance of some transparency.

What concerns me is that the minister would not be presenting the quarterly reports from the centre to Parliament. This is wrong and they should be tabled, thus keeping parliamentarians fully apprised of the centre's financial well-being. Let us not have another gun registry on our hands as Canadians cannot afford that.

Another of my concerns relates to the efficiency of the process. The government needs to re-examine its approach to defining access to the proposed claims centre. If it were to be more efficient, the minister would need to determine how to allow more access for legitimate claims. The government must ensure that transparency exists throughout the entire process. It is not reasonable to give government the right to hold up the process as it decides whether or not to hear a claim because it provides no timelines or final deadlines for government to provide an answer. Furthermore, it would provide no mechanism for the commission or the claimant to move the process forward in the event of extended delay by the government.

The government appears determined to continue to hold on to all of its dictatorial power, all the while paying lip service to aboriginal Canadians.

Clause 32 would allow the government to require the claimant to meet an excessive threshold of proof of having used all available mediation mechanisms before allowing the first nation to request a move to the tribunal in the case of an unresolved claim. This appears to be nothing less than another stalling mechanism for the government. Of special note is that this clause would also impose a cap on the validity stage of the process.

I am concerned about the arbitrary $7 million cap for compensation approval by the centre. I understand there were other proposals, as high as $25 million, however the amendment was defeated. Furthermore, the process used to determine the actual compensation is difficult, if not impossible, to determine.

One of my greatest concerns surrounds clause 77. This clause reads:

The Governor in Council may make regulations

(a) adding to Part 2 of the schedule the name of any agreement related to aboriginal self-government; and

(b) prescribing anything that may, under this Act, be prescribed.

Once again this appears to be a loophole that would allow the government to fill in the blanks after the bill has passed under the watchful eye of Parliament. Although the Prime Minister talks the talk about parliamentary democracy, he is unable to walk the walk. Legislation should not be something that can be added to arbitrarily after the fact.

Let me confirm that the Canadian Alliance supports the fair and expeditious resolution of claims in a manner that benefits relations between aboriginal Canadians and the federal government, and in fact all Canadians. The bill would not achieve that goal. The federal government has it all wrong with timing. Under this draft of the bill, first nations could not file claims based on events that occurred within the 15 years immediately preceding the filing of a claim.

The bill would raise false hopes and open the floodgates for more claims that first nations have held back. The centre risks being overwhelmed by cases, just like the Liberal gun registry, resulting in an even larger backlog and ultimately higher costs.

In the past three decades the government has settled only 230 claims. Some 500 claims are still waiting to be heard. First nations representatives tell us they expect up to 1,000 more claims to be filed. At the current rate it would take 200 years to deal with all of these claims. That is totally ridiculous.

In 1993 the Liberal red book promised an independent claims commission jointly appointed by first nations and the Government of Canada. The bill breaks that promise by concentrating the power to make appointments in the PMO.

Bill C-6 requires change and amendments before being ratified. I would ask all members of the House to support the current amendment that would send the bill back to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources. This legislation is flawed and requires serious change before becoming law.

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, it will probably surprise you that my speech will be a little longer than those of the other members. I could actually speak from now till 5:30 p.m. I will not bother asking for unanimous consent for that because I rather suspect there would be at least one member here who would decline.

There is so much to be said on this topic. It is one of those issues where again, we ought to be paying a great deal more attention to the facts of the matter than we actually are.

I would like to begin by laying some groundwork. I have had some experience, but not a great amount, in working with native people. When I was in the math department at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, one of the very good projects in which I was involved was setting up a program for students who had dropped out of high school so that we could get them back into the educational route and hopefully retrieve their lost years. We would get them into a program and give them training so that they could obtain employment.

The institute had a program called pretechnology where we taught the basics of mathematics, the English language and science. There was a course in chemistry and a course in physics for them. On those subjects we actually went back all the way to the very basics. We started probably at the grade 2 or 3 level in math. We did not spend a great deal of time at that level because they were adult students, but we laid the foundation and we built on that.

At the end of one year we had taken those students right through to having completed high school equivalency. They did not get a high school diploma from us but we gave them enough education in those basic areas so that the following year they could enter a post-secondary program, just as those who had gone through grade 12 in high school.

Most of the students in that program for one reason or another had dropped out of school any time after grade 9 or 10. They had forgotten everything they may have known, so it was a major task.

I am indicating that today because when I was working in that program, I was also one of the instructors. Even though I was the head of the mathematics department in those years, I also chose to work as an instructor in that program.

In that program we had a small number of native students. I always felt that somehow these students were not anywhere near the potential that was contained in them. For the most part that was true. When I would talk to them individually about this, I would find out that most of them had had very poor opportunities and very poor discipline and learning in the schools that they had attended. There was a big attendance problem. The students were never really properly motivated, whether or not it was because their parents did not support their going to school adequately.

Many of them were involved in cultural things. In the fall they would go hunting. I always felt that if that is what they wanted to do, that was fine, but surely we could devise an education program that worked around that. Their vacation time could be during hunting season if need be. These young people could go out with their dads and learn how to hunt and do all of those things. That would be great, but let us not stop their education.

As a result these students came to NAIT very often with a very poor elementary and lower high school background. They were wonderful people to work with. I say that unequivocally. I found them to be very gentle, if I can make a generalization, and very eager to please.

I actually met one of the students on the airplane not very long ago. He had been in my class. Amazingly I remembered him but he did not remember me, which was quite a curiosity. Usually students remember me because I was the guy up front and they would recall that I had been their instructor. He also was one of my students and we did a little reminiscing about that experience.

What I am trying to say by preamble is that I have a real soft spot in my heart for the natives of Canada because of the situation that they have been in for many decades. I believe primarily it is because of the fact that governments have really done wrong by them, they really have, and it is time to correct it. It is time to put that behind us and start moving forward in huge leaps and bounds in order to allow native Canadians to realize their full potential. That is a goal I think we really need to seek out.

As the House may or may not know, for a time I was also involved in a small business. I remember that one of the young men who was hired to work for us was a first nations person. He was a fine young man. He worked diligently and people could count on him. If he said he was going to be there, he would be there. Unfortunately I have to say that was not true of all of the employees, but for him it was.

I remember as well one occasion, and this is a dead giveaway, when I stopped at one of the Kentucky Fried Chicken places in Edmonton. I was hungry for Kentucky Fried Chicken. This is a free ad for it and everyone can see it had a good, long term effect on me. I was eating my meal in the car. I used to pick up my food, sit in the car at noon time and listen to the radio before I would head back to work.

I was doing that when a young native came to the door of my car and asked for money. Instead of giving him money, I asked him what he needed it for. When I found out that he needed bus money in order to get home, I told him to get in and that I would drive him home. I had an opportunity to talk to him. I found out about what a sad plight he was in. Here he was in the big city and he did not have a job or any means of support. He really was very desperate.

That is not acceptable. It is not acceptable that for years and years these people have been undertrained, undereducated and underemployed. We need to correct that. One of the ways of correcting it is to treat them with the dignity with which they should be treated.

When we come to the topic of Bill C-6, I think this is an area where the federal Liberal government, which loves to crow about its compassionate attitude, has so totally blown it. It has blown it over decades. The Prime Minister likes to brag about the fact that he held all sorts of portfolios, that way back he was the minister of Indian and northern affairs. In all areas where those people have been trying to work with our first nations people they have utterly and totally failed. Now they have deluded themselves into thinking that if they keep on doing the same thing a little more often, they are going to get different results. I do not think so.

I look at the many provisions in Bill C-6. I am rather appalled by the mediocrity of the bill, by the fact that the Minister of Finance under the direction of the Prime Minister and all of the people in that department could not come up with something better than Bill C-6 with all of its flaws.

Another thing that really annoys me is that in the next election campaign, and I can already see it, there is going to be an election platform where the Liberals are going to say, “Do not vote for the Canadian Alliance. It voted against the natives”. That is how they will message it. That is very annoying.

The reason that we in the Alliance are against this bill is it is so totally inadequate. The Liberals will twist it. Instead of saying that we are against this bill in order to improve it for the natives, they will twist it so that Canadian people will be led to believe that we are against the natives. It is exactly the opposite.

It is the Liberals who are against them because of the inadequacy of legislation such as this bill. A careful reading of the bill would prove that what I am saying is correct.

Some of the previous speakers have already drawn attention to the fact that if the goal is to provide for speedy resolutions of claims, the bill would be one of the major hindrances to achieving that goal. How ironic to state that is the goal of the bill and then to design the bill so that it does exactly the opposite.

Madam Speaker, it is as if we were in a race. In order to help you, I as the young engineer, want to get your car going really fast and I say that we should tie a bunch of rocks on the back of the car and then drag them along. You would say, “Okay, you are the engineer, go ahead and do it”. But it would not help. I could say this would help you to go faster, but just because I say it would help does not make it so. In fact it would be just the opposite.

The same is true with the bill. When the Liberals say the purpose is to provide for speedy resolution of claims, it is just the opposite.

I would like to talk a little about some of the specifics of the bill. One that comes to mind is the promise of independence.

One of the reasons the natives of our country feel so downtrodden is that they have had governments lord it over them for too long. Here we have a process in place which again uses a label which is totally opposite to the result. They are talking about having an independent commission, an independent tribunal. Maybe the Liberals should get out the good old dictionary. They should have a look at what it means to be independent. They have missed the boat entirely on it.

I have used this example before in some speeches but it bears repeating here. It is the same as someone who gets into the ring to have a boxing match and the opponent also happens to be the referee. I wish that person luck in winning the match.

The natives are looking for an independent and fair resolution mechanism and what do they get? They get more of the same from the past, the Liberal government lording it over them.

The Liberals do not know the meaning of the word “independent”. If they do, they sure do not give any demonstration of understanding the meaning by the legislation they have here, in terms of appointments to the commission and to the tribunal. It is absolutely incredible that independence is a word only to them.

Of course we know that they do not understand it. Way back in 1993 we were promised an independent ethics counsellor. We have seen in the last nine and half to ten years how independent an ethics counsellor is, who is appointed by the Prime Minister, whose salary is determined by the Prime Minister, who answers to the Prime Minister, who reports to the Prime Minister and who, in effect, has been drawn into becoming part of the Prime Minister's damage control team every time anything goes wrong. We do not get independence by having a close tie like that to the government, to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

It is really a shame that they could not arrange for, as our amendment stated in committee, true independence, people on the board who would be agreed to by both the government and the first nations people. Why could that not be done? Surely they could agree. There must be about 15 million or 20 million adults in Canada. Among those, surely we could find 14 people who would be mutually agreeable.

That would take a little bit of work, perhaps. But the government simply says that it will appoint, and that is what this legislation does, but the actual wording is something like order in council. We in Parliament of course understand that is by order of the governor in council of the executive branch of our government, which means the Prime Minister and the minister and they will appoint whomever they will.

The legislation is so offensive in that regard. They will be appointed by the Prime Minister. Their salaries will be determined by the Prime Minister or by a minister of the department; their working conditions; any bonuses; and the extent to which expenses are paid. Where do the first nations people come into this? Nowhere.

The government will have a person or a group of people who will be adjudicating and determining the basis on which these claims are processed and the whole process will be done by people who are beholden to the government.

What is the probability of commissioners making a fair judgment, which might go against the government, if they know their appointment is to serve during pleasure, which means the Prime Minister and the minister are pleased with their work? How can they ever come up with something that displeases the government?

Why can the Liberals not simply build into that appointment process, that hiring process and that benefit process a way of having an independent appointment process, just simply, as I said, to make sure those individuals who are appointed are mutually agreeable? That should not be difficult.

As I said before, and this is a very small sample, but in my dealings with native Canadians I have found them so co-operative. They seem to be a group of people who have a gentle spirit. I find it unfathomable that in this country we would be taking more and more of them away from their natural ways and training them to become almost militant and to have to stand up so strongly for their rights because they have been put down so long.

Let us look at the appointment of the chief executive officer. The bill states:

The Chief Executive Officer may be appointed to hold office for a term of not more than five years and may be removed for cause by the Governor in Council.

It is right in the bill. What is ironic is that the appointment is for a term not exceeding five years, but the very next paragraph states:

The Chief Executive Officer is eligible for re-appointment on the expiration of any term of office.

There is a flaw in that. I realize members are all paying very close attention to what I am saying, all 170 of them out there. I want to point out the flaw in the fact that the individual would be subject to re-appointment. That puts in another reason that a commissioner would have to make sure he or she did not offend the sensibilities of the Prime Minister or the minister of the department in order to keep the job. And it is a fine paying job. It is ranked at the level of deputy minister and the salary is higher than members of Parliament, if I am not mistaken. There is a very fine pension plan and all that stuff. Of course those commissioners would want to keep their job. They will not rule against the government. Where do the natives stand in this? They come out on the short end of it once again.

Subclause 8(3) states:

The Chief Executive Officer shall be paid the remuneration that is fixed by the Governor in Council.

Everything would be done by governor in council, no mutual agreement at all.

To skip a few points, it is interesting that under subclause 8(6) it states:

The Chief Executive Officer shall not accept or hold any office or employment or carry on any activity inconsistent with the duties and functions of that office--

And then, in a most bizarre continuation of the sentence, it states:

--but, for greater certainty, the Chief Executive Officer may also hold the office of Chief Commissioner.

The bill states that the chief executive officer of the organization specifically can be a member--

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I apologize to the hon. member but his time is up.

Is the House ready for the question?

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Specific Claims Resolution ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members