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House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was protect.

Topics

Use of the Wooden Mace

February 3rd, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please. I invite the House to take note of today's use of the wooden mace.

The wooden mace is traditionally used when the House sits on February 3 to mark the anniversary of the fire that destroyed the original Parliament buildings on this day in 1916.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from October 7, 2002, consideration of the motion that Bill C-214, an act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous child sexual predators), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, standing before the House today, I want to inform the House that what we see here is the result of a lot of work by a lot of people dealing with the bill, Carrie's guardian angel law.

I would like to introduce to the House, Carrie Kohan. Carrie Kohan is a fighter. In B.C., Carrie and her two year old child were relentlessly pursued by a pedophile, someone who preys upon children for sexual pleasure, a three time convicted pedophile who, despite his convictions, was out on the street attempting to prey upon children again. She reported him to the police who were powerless because that predator had served his short, full sentence and was, in the eyes of the law, untouchable. As a result of that predation, Carrie did what any mother who had the means would do. She moved her family away to safety.

However she did not stop there. Carrie started a fight; a fight against, not just pedophiles but against the justice system that forces mothers to move or face having their children become targets. Carrie started Mad Mothers Against Pedophiles. Now Carrie is perhaps the best known voice in Canada struggling to protect children from the spreading plague of pedophilia.

The trouble is that her biggest fight is not against pedophiles. It is against the people across the aisle from me today, a party in government that talks a good game about Canadian values, social values that protect the weak from the strong, values that ensure a basic equality and justice and values that ensure that there are governmental systems in place to protect those who need protection. Unfortunately, those values, as high sounding as they are, translate very badly sometimes. Sometimes, as in this case, they translate into protecting convicted pedophiles, even if it means sacrificing some children. That is the road the government has chosen and it has placed the protection of pedophiles ahead of the protection of their victims.

We can look at proof. Some very prominent names have come forward over time and some that are just as serious in their actions against children who most people do not even know about. John Robin Sharpe has been mentioned numerous times and his efforts to bring child pornography into society as an acceptable thing. Edwin Glen Thompson sexually abused his seven year old niece and was spared jail time. There is the case in Victoria of Colin Fuson who was charged 24 hours after being released from jail with a series of sexual assaults on children.

The list goes on and on and culminates with a lot of activity and focus around Karl Toft, a man charged and convicted of 34 counts of molesting 18 boys, a man now eligible, under the government's perverse priorities, for day parole; a man whom experts will agree has a great certainty of reoffending. No one makes any bones about that.

Are those isolated cases? Not at all. The average sentence for child rape in the country is just a few months. The sentence may be a year or two but when we look at actual time served, it is just a few months. One would serve a longer sentence for some thefts than for robbing a child of his or her innocence.

Does the Liberal willingness to release child sexual predators demonstrate a belief that after a short period of incarceration they will have been reformed? Is that the belief? I do not think so, because testimony given recently to the Commons committee backs up what the experts have known for some time, that there is virtually no cure for a pedophile. Once a pedophile, unfortunately, it appears that they are always inclined that way. If released back out on the street they will offend again and again.

I will relate to a personal incident that happened to me when I was visiting one of the prisons. It was pointed out to me that the latest individual who had been placed in the jail was 80 years old. What was he in there for? He was in there for assaulting children.

However that is old news. The government is fully aware of the epidemic of child sexual predation. It is fully aware every time an offender gets released and is back on the street. It is fully aware that there is no basic cure for pedophiles but it will not change the law. In fact, it will not even consider changing the law. That is why my speech is largely a waste of time.

I brought the bill forward to a Liberal dominated committee, a bill that would create a new class of dangerous offender: the serial pedophile. Any pedophile convicted of repeating his crime would be subject to a minimum 20 year sentence. However the committee decided that the bill should not even be votable. The bill was too dangerous to put before the House of Commons for a vote because, if there were a vote, then 301 MPs would have to answer to the media, to their constituents and to Canadians overall. They would have to be accountable for their vote. It is far better to deny a vote. It is far better to let the bill die a quiet death. However that will not happen. It will not happen because the energy behind the bill will not go away.

In response to the Liberal unwillingness to allow the bill to be votable, Carrie Kohan and I have decided to take this issue to the streets. We have founded, along with the Canadian Justice Foundation and the Calgary Police Association, an organization called Project Guardian. The purpose of this organization is to ensure that political pressure is brought to bear from grassroots Canadians on MPs, like those sitting across from me. We will go to every riding in Canada and tell every Canadian willing to listen about the track record of the government regarding the protection of children. We will tell them about the Liberal unwillingness to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, the Liberal unwillingness to use the notwithstanding clause to make sure no court ever makes possession of child pornography legal and the Liberal unwillingness to keep pedophiles behind bars.

Members across from me do not have to stand up today but they will be accountable in their ridings somehow at some time. They will be accountable because we will make sure there are concerned Canadians in every one of those ridings who will force members to answer for the government record. We will be watching. We will do our best to help facilitate people to keep an eye on the Liberals across the way, just as Carrie Kohan is watching today. She sits in the gallery behind me. She is a mother who just wanted to protect her children and a mother who came here today, despite having a family to raise, despite the sacrifices she has already made fighting the justice system.

Liberal members do not need to vote today because their party got them off the hook by preventing the vote from happening.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Northumberland Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-214, an act to amend the Criminal Code, being introduced by the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.

The private member's bill before us today seeks to create a new section, section 273.01, in the Criminal Code that would affect sentencing of offenders convicted of section 271, sexual assault; section 272, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm; or section 273, aggravated sexual assault.

The amendments would come into play where the victim is a child under the age of 16 and where the offender comes within one of six prescribed circumstances, any of which could result in designation of an offender as a dangerous child sexual predator. If designated under the proposed scheme, the offender would receive an automatic life sentence.

The three existing offences mentioned in the proposed bill currently carry maximum penalties ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment, the most severe penalty known to our law. As well, if firearms are involved, there is a provision for a four year mandatory minimum penalty.

I suspect most Canadians would be surprised that these offences already attract such severe maximum penalties. In fact, surveys conducted by the Canadian Sentencing Commission in the mid-1980s showed that the public had very little knowledge of either maximum or minimum penalties generally and that many were taken aback by the severity of the existing maximum.

The Criminal Code provides that “the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute... to respect for the law and maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society”. The objectives of sentencing set out in the Criminal Code include denouncing unlawful conduct, deterring the offender and others from committing offences and promoting a sense of responsibility in offenders and an acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and to the community.

The government shares the concerns of Canadians. Courts across the country have been imposing stiff sentences for this type of crime, which address sentencing objectives, such as denunciation and deterrence, and highlight the importance of individuals being able to feel safe and secure.

In addition to providing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, which the Criminal Code already does for specified sexual offences, Bill C-214 would provide for full parole ineligibility be set at 20 years.

In Canada, we have tried to avoid reliance on mandatory minimum sentences. Our judicial system has always respected the discretion of judges to fashion a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the conduct of the offender. A judge having the benefit of all the facts and evidence regarding the circumstances of the offence and the offender is well placed to determine the appropriate sentence in an individual case.

The September 30, 2002 Speech from the Throne confirmed that protection of children is a key priority of the Government of Canada. Numerous legislative reforms and initiatives have since been introduced to strengthen the criminal law's protection of children against sexual exploitation. For example, Bill C-23, the sex offender information registry act, was tabled in December and would establish a national sex offender registry requiring sexual predators to report to police agencies on an annual basis and which would allow rapid police investigations through an address searchable database. Failure to register under the proposal would be a Criminal Code offence with serious penal consequences.

We also introduced Bill C-20, a comprehensive set of measures to protect children and other vulnerable persons from harm, which includes amendments to the Criminal Code providing for substantial increases in penalties for abuse and neglect, and requirements for more sensitive treatment of children who participate in criminal proceedings.

Other notable features of Bill C-20 include the following: tougher child pornography provisions; a new category of sexual exploitation, increasing the level of protection for young persons between the ages of 14 and 18; tougher sentencing provisions for offences where children are the victims; abuse of a child in the commission of any Criminal Code offence is now required to be considered by a judges as an aggravating factor in sentencing; distributing material knowing that it was produced through a criminal act of voyeurism; and also, the creation of the new offence of voyeurism, primarily targeting Internet activity, capturing those who observe or record others without their knowledge for sexual purposes.

Prior to the current session of Parliament, we introduced a number of other reforms that were also designed to protect children. For example, Bill C-15A, which received royal assent on June 4, 2002, amended the Criminal Code by adding offences and other measures that provide additional protection to children from sexual exploitation, including sexual exploitation involving the use of the Internet. That new legislation came into force on July 23, 2002, and resulted in the following changes: it is now illegal to use the Internet to communicate with a child for sexual purposes, as well as to transmit child pornography; courts can now order the deletion of child pornography that is posted on Canadian computer systems as well as the seizure of materials or equipment used to commit a related offence; and the procedure has been simplified to prosecute Canadians who sexually exploit children in other countries.

In 1997 the dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code were amended to toughen up the provisions against the most violent sexual predators. Individuals who are declared dangerous offenders by the courts are now subject to a mandatory indeterminate sentence. The 1997 amendments also included a provision that permits judges to impose a long term offender designation, resulting in up to 10 years of community supervision after serving a penitentiary term.

Police and the courts can also impose strict conditions on the activities of known sex offenders through the use of probation orders, that is, section 810, recognizances, prohibition orders and peace bonds.

Another significant impact in this area was the amendment of the Criminal Records Act to make the criminal records of pardoned sex offenders available for background checks, which greatly reduces the possibility that sexual predators would be employed or allowed as volunteers in positions of trust over vulnerable children.

In 1993, the Criminal Code was amended to create a new prohibition order, lasting up to a lifetime, to ban convicted child sex offenders from frequenting day care centres, school grounds, playgrounds, public parks or bathing areas where children are likely to be found. The order also prohibits convicted child sex offenders from seeking or maintaining paid or volunteer positions of trust or authority over children. Another provision was created to allow a person to obtain a peace bond, a protective order lasting up to one year, if he or she fears that another person will commit a sexual offence against a child.

All of these efforts demonstrate the federal government's continued commitment to protecting children. As such, there is no need to create a minimum penalty for this type of offence given the high maximum penalties already found in the code and sentencing patterns for this offence.

While I recognize the concerns of the hon. member for Calgary Northeast with respect to this type of offence, I do believe that the existing penalty of life imprisonment currently demonstrates our commitment to providing protection for children.

Furthermore, the reforms in Bill C-20, which are currently before the House and being debated, will result in changes to our laws that will be much more effective in ensuring the protection of our children.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the bill before the House, Bill C-214. This bill is, in fact, a carbon copy of Bill C-396, introduced by the member for Calgary Northeast during the first session of this Parliament.

I speak as a member of this House and, of course, also as a parent. My children are 18, 16 and 12. I am therefore very much aware of the realities that are out there and of parents' fears for their children.

I have also taken inspiration from the former member for Berthier—Montcalm, Michel Bellehumeur, and his highly responsible attitude toward the Criminal Code, as well as from our present critic, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier.

Obviously, I cannot sanction the position taken by the Canadian Alliance, which is always based on the same logic that toughening up the Criminal Code is the solution. I see this as a simplistic approach that does not address the real issues.

This ideology in favour of extremely harsh criminal justice legislation is, in their minds, the key to controlling criminals in this country. We know that this is not the solution.

We have seen that with the Young Offenders Act. The pressure in favour of toughening up this legislation, coming from the United States and the Canadian west, and espoused by the Canadian Alliance, influenced the government to such an extent that it ended up paralyzing the enforcement of the young offender legislation in Quebec, which was far more practical, realistic and successful at reintegrating young offenders into society.

The bill we are looking at today is a bit along the same lines. The thought is that adding to the length of sentences is automatically going to solve our problem.

I was listening to my colleague opposite a minute ago, and it appears as though judges and the general public may need educating to learn more about the current situation. If judges enforce the Criminal Code properly as it now stands, people would see that significant penalties can be sufficient, especially if they are combined with efforts to systematically create a situation whereby there would be fewer of this type of criminal, particularly if we can succeed in returning them to society if possible. There are cases where it is not possible, but there are measures that can be taken in such cases.

We will not solve anything by sending people to the Canadian correctional system for life. When these criminals are put in Canada's penitentiary system, they wind up dealing with a quite specific dynamic, in sexual terms, that does not necessarily help them. This means that young people would not necessarily be better protected by this type of bill.

In fact, our approach focuses more on rehabilitation and strict supervision to limit the problem. Of course we must not give pedophiles the impression they can perpetrate their crimes without punishment. We must enforce the current provisions in the Criminal Code. There also needs to be sufficient pressure from society and everyone must know the consequences of such acts.

Bill C-214 would amend sections 261, 262, and 273 of the Criminal Code. Under these provisions, anyone having committed an offence would be designated a dangerous child sexual predator.

I must comment on the rather awkward translation of the English expression, “dangerous child sexual predators”, but this debate today is not about that.

The purpose of the bill may well be commendable, and at first glance, this type of solution may seem necessary. However, I believe we must be more responsible as Parliamentarians and realize that this is not the real solution to this problem.

It is as if a bill was being created for a specific case and, each time something horrible happens, the Criminal Code was being amended in an attempt to find a solution for all situations. I think that, in this regard, it is important to consider the big picture, to study things in depth, and to consider the Criminal Code as a whole; this is presently not the case.

The Bloc Quebecois is, therefore, opposing this bill for the simple reason that the approach recommended by the Canadian Alliance is, in our eyes, simply not the right one.

In considering, in a broader context, the problem for which a solution is being sought, passing the bill would mean imprisoning for life any person who has committed sexual harassment in one form or another.

There are different levels of seriousness. I am speaking as a father. Of course, there are things that, in my mind, do not merit life in prison, and certain others that could. People should be able to make the distinction and to understand the situation correctly.

I do not believe that the problem will be resolved by applying harsher sentences. In fact, some sexual offenders are sick. These people have issues they need to work on and a longer sentence will not result in any change in behaviour.

It is a bit like a confirmed alcoholic who has been given every possible chance of a cure. But some of them continue to drive, even if they do not have a driver's licence, even if they have already been convicted; they continue because they are in a situation, in a state of mind where they no longer obey, in any way, the law.

In the case at hand, the same type of situation could exist, and the stated sentence will not necessarily make people think twice.

I believe that the intention of this bill is commendable, but the solution is not the right one.

For example, an unwanted touch, a stolen kiss, if repeated twice with the same person, will automatically be considered sexual harassment. There are things in there that can be resolved much better through education, by working with people properly.

In this House, the hon. members each have a right to their opinion. There are some people who live in society and think there should be maximum punishment all the time to resolve the situation. I want to remind the members of this House that in Quebec, for instance, there is a higher rate of rehabilitation of young offenders and there is less recidivism than anywhere else, especially in provinces where there is an attempt to enforce the Young Offenders Act strictly.

Here there is a different practice and I think people, especially members from these provinces, need to be informed about it. They would perhaps do well to look at the situation in Quebec. This might help them to adjust their thinking and ultimately achieve much better results, rather than coming up with simplistic solutions such as those proposed in this bill.

Quite frankly, this bill seems heavy-handed and not relevant. Rather than attempt to resolve all the problems by amending the Criminal Code section by section, the Canadian Alliance members should try to find a way to overhaul it, and all the members of this House should work with the Minister of Justice to that end.

The Bloc Quebecois is therefore against this bill, which offers unrealistic solutions and ultimately will not allow for adequate corrections to be made in 5, 10, or 15 years.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Calgary Northeast for bringing this bill forward. He is one of the few in this House who can speak from professional experience because if I am correct, he is a former police officer from Calgary. We respect his opinion and his efforts on this issue. We are very much in support of the bill and what he attempts to do with Bill C-214.

Normally our justice critic, the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, would be speaking on the issue but he is out campaigning for the future leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. We have always in the past relied on his advice and expertise in this area because he is a former crown prosecutor. In his absence I have just a few comments on the bill.

This bill would amend the Criminal Code and would deal specifically with dangerous child sexual predators. The bill would establish the offences of dangerous child or sexual predation carrying a minimum sentence of life imprisonment. As well, it would cover the sexual assault of a child involving the use of a weapon, repeated assaults, multiple victims, repeat offences, more than one offender, confinement, kidnapping and those who are in positions of trust. It would also seek to make parole ineligible for those convicted for a minimum of 20 years and they would be ineligible for day parole or unescorted absences for a minimum of 17 years.

Bill C-214, or Carrie's guardian angel law, which it is often referred to as, would amend the Criminal Code by adding a dangerous child sexual predator offence after section 273. Section 273 supplements the definition of consent found in section 265 of the Criminal Code, which defines all assault offences, including sexual assaults.

Cautious estimates note that one in three young women are sexually abused before the age of 18 and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 16. These are startling figures. Even more frightening is that most abused and neglected children never come to the attention of the authorities. A lot of these offences are never discovered or recognized. We have no way of knowing how many of these go unreported. The cases that we do hear of are just a fraction of the real number.

Sexual predators in many cases are never caught. This is a sad reality but it is a reality. There is a serial element to their behaviour. There are no deterrents or consequences for these people. They can be found in every province; it is not a rural or urban issue. It affects all parts of Canada. It is not a case of a higher instance in one province versus another; it is a situation that prevails throughout the country. There is a high rate of recidivism, in other words, repeat offenders.

The life altering and lasting implications for the victims result in shocking statistics for all Canadians. We have heard time and time again of the impact of these types of offences against children.

Clause 2 in the bill introduces the new offence and defines the circumstances under which someone would be charged under this new amendment to the Criminal Code.

This definition of a dangerous child sexual predator would include anyone who has been convicted of such an offence within 10 years; in the commission of the offence commits a sexual assault on more than one occasion or victim; or is in a position of trust or acts of concert with another. In other words, those people who are in a position of trust, like teachers and troop leaders or coaches or whatever. It would address that reality. That person would be guilty of an indictable offence and would be designated as a dangerous child sexual predator.

The intent of the bill is clear. Anyone convicted under this section of the code would receive a sentence of 20 years to life with no chance of parole. We are talking of cases of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault where children are involved.

It would create a separate type of sentence in the Criminal Code. This is quite clear from the wording of the amendment, which would in effect amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to prevent unescorted temporary absences, day parole, full parole or statutory release from being granted to individuals who have committed child predatory offences or have been found to be child predators under the new provisions of the Criminal Code for at least 17 years. With respect to sentencing this bill seeks to ensure that a minimum of 20 years is served in custody in every case in which a child predator offence is perpetrated.

Bill C-214 is about what happens after the fact, after the finding of guilt. In other words, the bill speaks to what happens after the verdict is rendered. This is a very important point. Because of the special nature of the offence and the special type of harm to society and the individual that results from it, we need a change in response and attitude by the justice department. That is implicit in the member's bill.

The bill would amend the Criminal Code and allow the court to find people to be child predators on the basis of having committed offences against children or their inability to control their sexual behaviour. A finding of guilt and a finding of that designation would have certain consequences. We are talking about a type of dangerous behaviour, a dangerous offender application, something that is already permissible under the Criminal Code. We are talking about the worst of the worst.

I shudder to think of it. I know we all get chills when we mention the names Olson and Bernardo in reference to this bill, but these are the types of predatory, sexual and violent offences envisioned by the change in the Criminal Code that the member has in mind. We can talk about rehabilitation in the context of some offenders, but at the upper end of the scale rehabilitation means nothing and is no longer a consideration. Rehabilitation of these offenders is virtually non-existence and cannot happen.

When looking at the intent of our justice system, the protection of the public must be given precedence. This is brought about by deterrence and denunciation. This is why I recognize what the hon. member is trying to do. He is drawing a clear line to distinguish the types of offences that are so horrific and damaging to their victims. The psychological and physical impact on the victims cannot be over-emphasized.

Such offences require special treatment. The offenders should be denied early release or any leniency that could be misinterpreted in the sense of condoning or embracing that type of behaviour.

At a time when the government is trying to remove the artistic merit defence through the introduction of Bill C-20, the vulnerability act, this piece of legislation would seem to fit in with that agenda. We support this initiative because we think it is very important. We hope that the government members will support it.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member from the Progressive Conservative Party for his fine speech and also my colleague from Calgary Northeast who, as he mentioned, was a police officer and knows this issue very well.

The first thing I want to address is the speech that came from the government. I cannot believe that the government would have the audacity to put forth such a piece of bureaucratic bafflegab that completely defies imagination. It is a speech that completely flies in the face of the experience of everybody in the House who has seen the effect of child abuse and of pedophilia.

Let me go through some of the comments made by the government. The speech said that the public is taken aback by minimum sentencing for pedophiles. I would like the member to show us one person in this country who is taken aback by minimum sentences for repeat pedophiles.

I want to emphasize that this bill, Carrie's guardian angel law, is not about an individual who has made a single assault on a child, as horrendous as that is. This is about an individual who has not only made multiple assaults and has been convicted once, but this person has come to the attention of the legal department of the police again and again.

In fact, if we look at individuals who have been convicted once for a sexual offence against a child, we know that those persons have not assaulted one child, but that they have assaulted many children. Pedophiles, before they are caught and convicted, have sexually assaulted multiple children before they come to the fore of the legal authorities. Then they come again because they have committed other sexual offences.

At the end of the day, this bill only applies to individuals who have sexually assaulted more than two dozen children. What kind of person does the government want to protect who would sexually assault, sexually abuse, and rape two dozen or more children?

As my friend from the Progressive Conservative Party said, one-third of all girls before the age of 18 and one-sixth of boys before the age of 16 have been sexually abused. They have been abused by individuals who are parasites, who are predators, and who in no way, shape or form should have the protection of the law above the protection of Canadians.

The member also said that Canadians want to feel safe and secure. They want to have high penalties, they want peace, and they want a safe society. That is why my colleague and Carrie Kohan have put the bill forward. That is why I have underneath my hand the names of more than 60,000 Canadians who have signed and supported this initiative. That is why Canadians want the law changed. That is why Bill C-214 should be adopted unanimously by the House.

The problem with the current law for the hon. member and the government is that the law is not protecting innocent people. The sentences are not being applied. Individuals are actually spending only a few months in jail for repeatedly sexually assaulting children. That is the line in the sand and that is the crux of the matter.

This is not like somebody who makes a one-off mistake by stealing something, by committing some offence where the victim is an adult, as horrendous and terrible as those offences are. This is about an entirely different circumstance, where the victim is a child or a baby. The victim is someone who cannot in any way defend themselves and the perpetrator is an adult who has done this multiple times before, two dozen times before the bill would actually come into force. That is what this is all about.

If the members of the Liberal Party do not support wholeheartedly Bill C-214 and unanimously adopt this in the House of Commons, they will pay a terrible price at the election booth. Worse, when they look into the eyes of their constituents and children of those constituents, they will have to ask themselves why they did not stand up to defend those children from sexual predators and from rape.

The gentleman from the Bloc Québécois spoke about rehabilitation. We are all in favour of rehabilitation. I used to be a guard in a maximum security prison, and I am a physician. The problem with pedophilia is that it is incurable. On balance, what we and the justice department have to do for justice to be served, is put the protection of children from pedophiles first and foremost. We have no alternative. That is the line in the sand.

The public may want to ask itself why it has taken so long for this issue to come to the House, why has the government not brought it forward itself and why has the government not made a bill that is patently in favour of the protection of children votable? Why has it prevented that from happening?

Government members were elected 10 years ago. This is not rocket science. As my colleagues have mentioned, a litany of violent pedophiles have raped dozens and dozens of children in our society. As Carrie Kohan would tell us, the justice department and the police are not there to protect them, not because the police do not want to, but because the police do not have the power to do so. Our justice department has not given the police the tools to do the job. Heart-rending as it is for our police officers, they cannot protect those children.

I have known Carrie Kohan for 17 years. She is a fighter. She does not quit. She, my colleague from Calgary Northeast and people across the country, including police forces, want to do something. It is not because they want to be punitive, or unforgiving, or lenient, it is because they recognize that the current state of affairs of the laws do not protect innocent children from pedophiles.

Why should a parent or parents not have information that a pedophile has moved next door to them and is a dangerous threat to their children's lives? Why are pedophiles sentenced yet serve only a third of that sentence? Why are they going on unescorted day paroles when only a fraction of their sentence has been served? Why is the public not informed of this?

This is not an action against an adult. This is an action against a child. I ask the hon. member and the government members who have children to look into their hearts and ask themselves if they were in Carrie Kohan's shoes, where a pedophile moved next door and tried to assault their child, what would they do? Would they still stand up in the House and oppose this bill or would they wholeheartedly support it?

I ask for full support of Bill C-214, and we want this passed for the people of our country forthwith.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, we were sent here by the public. We were always taught that one of our foremost responsibilities was to protect those who needed protection at all costs. Nobody needs protection any more than our children. That is a given. As politicians we see every day abuses against the children of Canada. We read about it every day. In some instances we get to meet the parents and also the children. Yet what have we done? I have been here since 1993. In 10 years the same problem crops up year after year, day after day and nothing has been done.

The government members use all kinds of nice soft, kind words. We hear them every time there is a throne speech. One of their foremost priorities is the children of Canada. I have heard it in the House time after time. I hear it every time members on the other side of the House stand to speak. They say that they have these concerns. They tell us they have these concerns. They ask how we can say that they do not have these concerns and that they are parents and grandparents. Then we start to believe that maybe they do have these concerns.

However every time legislation comes before the House in regard to the safety of the children and in regard to giving them the protection they need, where is the government side? It runs, it hides and it disappears. All the good words that government members like to say, all the things that are said in the throne speeches and all the things that it says it is, the great sharing, caring Liberal Government of Canada, disappear. They all go out the window because the government has a conflict within itself. It has a conflict on what are the rights of individuals of Canada.

The Liberals cannot seem to get this straight. If these rights are in conflict with one another, they always take what they think is a safe road. They will go with the rights of the person who has to be incarcerated, instead of the victim. It is so sad, because time after time they say these people can be rehabilitated, but what about the victims? The suffering is with them for their lives and the Liberals do nothing to address that. Instead, they leave our children, those whom the they were sent here to protect, out there on their own.

It is time for members in the House finally to stand up for those who have to be protected the most, our children. They have an opportunity to do that with this bill.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I join my colleagues and citizens across the country in a shared frustration over the lack of support from government members of Parliament for this bill which has been so properly and appropriately brought forward by our colleague from Calgary Northeast.

That frustration comes from the fact that we are at a loss to understand why there would be a reluctance to do what practically every citizen I have talked to and my colleagues have talked to think is right when it comes to protecting our children. We are at a loss to understand why there would be a reluctance on the part of the Liberal government to put in place a minimum sentence for somebody who has repeatedly violated the most intimate aspect of a child's life, in many cases committing that child to a lifetime of horrendous difficulty because of those incidents.

We see the same reluctance when we have asked in the past that the age limit of sexual consent between an adult and a minor, and we are not talking about between two adults or between two minors, be raised to the age of 16 as it is in many civilized countries. We cannot get the government to agree with that.

Many times the Canadian Alliance and its members stand to defend those who cannot defend themselves because we believe in the value of every life being protected from those who would try to do harsh and atrocious things to human beings, especially to children. Time and again we hear lame, hollow excuses. Sometimes the public, as it watches the deliberations, wonders why the opposition verbally expresses its frustration or why we moan and groan when we hear the government and its members stand up and talk about the importance of children and their rights. We moan and groan because we know what happens when we propose concrete measures to protect our children. The government refuses to do it.

I said this in the past and I will say it again. When the government of the land refuses to protect the children of the land from the predators of the land, it forfeits the right to govern the land.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the members who engaged in the debate. We do need to debate this issue because it is one issue that will not go away. It needs a much broader debate than what has been delivered in the House this morning.

I will draw a line. On one side of it are those members who have clearly supported this initiative, having recognized the need to support it. There is a growing number of sexual abusers in our society who need to be put out of circulation. On the other side of that line are members who look at this issue as not being a significant thing and have declared that this kind of legislation is not necessary. Those members are basically the Liberals and the Bloc.

I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice look at “Juristat”. This Government of Canada document clearly defines how much time a pedophile or a sexual abuser of children will get. The sentence is not even close to life. It is not even a few years. Rather the average sentence served is just a few months. Members should look at this document because it contains the government's own figures.

In the eyes of Bloc members the bill is not the right one. Certain acts do not justify life in prison was a statement made by a member of the Bloc who spoke on behalf of his party. I suggest that neither he nor his party view children as a high priority, pure and simple. The Bloc member said that my bill is an exaggerated one. He used the example of somebody giving a child a kiss. What is more exaggerated than that.

The Bloc clearly stated it is against the spirit of the bill. Unfortunately I think the government is also against the spirit of the bill and does not want to see hard protection for our most vulnerable.

This issue relating to the protection of our children will not diminish as long as there are parents and grandparents and as long as there are those in authority who would stand up and fight against anyone intent on exploiting our children, those most precious little souls that God gave to most of us in this House. On that basis, I appeal to my colleagues in the House and I seek unanimous consent, through you, Mr. Speaker, to accept this bill at second reading and to send it on to committee for further study.

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Noon

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to send the bill to committee?

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

No.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawPrivate Members' Business

Noon

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of 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, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

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Noon

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

There are eight motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-6. Motions Nos. 1 to 8 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern, copies of which are available at the Table.

I will now put Motion No. 7 to the House.

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Noon

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberalfor Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved:

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-6, in Clause 76, be amended by replacing lines 20 to 30 on page 29 with the following:

“(2) On completion of the review, the Minister shall cause to be prepared and sign a report that sets out a statement of any changes to this Act, including any changes to the functions, powers or duties of the Centre or either of its divisions, that the Minister recommends.

(3) The Minister shall submit to each House of Parliament a copy of the report on any of the first 90 days on which that House is sitting after the Minister signs the report, and each House shall refer the report to the appropriate committee of that House.”

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12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am informed by the Clerk that the previous set of motions will not be tabled unless there is a new mover. Therefore I wish to advise the House that the motions submitted by the member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin will not be moved and we are now debating Motion No. 7.

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12:05 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalSecretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Mr. Speaker, the proposed legislation is a key step among the legislative initiatives we are taking to clear the way for first nations to play a fuller part in the life of this country. We must move to bring closure to the climate of adversarial litigious debate that has marked the negotiation of land claims for far too long. We must settle the existing inventory of outstanding claims and establish a process that is more independent, impartial and transparent.

The proposed specific claims resolution act would establish the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims. For ease of reference, I will refer to it is as the claims resolution centre.

The claims resolution centre focus is straightforward: negotiation, instead of litigation. The feedback we have had to date shows that we are on the right track to bring certainty to the process of specific claims settlement and bring closure to these historic grievances.

We have before us an amendment calling for the minister to report on the review of the claims resolution centre, which clause 76 of the proposed legislation requires to be completed after three to five years, to be reviewed by the standing committee. However, upon examination of this proposed amendment, a few concerns come to light.

One concern is that the amendment only references the standing committee of the House of Commons, whereas it would be more appropriate to refer the report to the standing committees of both Houses.

A second concern is that the proposed amendment specifically names the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources. In light of the fact that committees at times are restructured or renamed and can have changing responsibilities, it would be prudent to refer the report to the “appropriate committee” of each House. In this way future problems can be avoided should the standing committee be renamed or reconstituted.

As a result of the foregoing, I am please to propose an altered version of the earlier amendment which would go beyond that currently before us. The version I am proposing would first, shift the placement of the amendment to subclause (3) of clause 76 instead of subclause (2); second, require that the report be sent to the appropriate standing committees of both Houses; and three, use a generic reference to the appropriate committee of each House to prevent technical problems in the future.

As a result the amendment would change subclause (3) of clause 76 to read as follows:

The Minister shall submit to each House of Parliament a copy of the report on any of the first 90 days on which that House is sitting after the Minister signs the report, and each House shall refer the report to the appropriate committee of that House.

By including the reference “the appropriate committee” of both Houses, a better opportunity is provided for the examination of the report, Allowing for a broad examination of the report will signal the government's desire to have a truly independent claims resolution centre.

In introducing this legislation, our government is fulfilling a pledge. This is truly a win-win for first nations and Canada. Together it benefits all Canadians.

The effectiveness of this proposed legislation would also take us a step closer to resolving historic grievances involving land claims disputes between first nations and the Government of Canada.

With this proposed legislation we are in addition helping to fulfill the vision of Canada's aboriginal action plan which we put in place in response to the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. That vision sees increased quality of life for aboriginal people and the promotion of self-sufficiency through partnership revenue generation, responsiveness to community needs and values, and a place for aboriginal people with other Canadians. In order for that to occur, we need this legislation to deal with claims in a fair and efficient manner, to resolve historic grievances, to remove economic development roadblocks and promote self-sufficiency of aboriginal peoples in a new climate of partnership.

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12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the report stage debate of Bill C-6.

The bill provides for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and makes amendments to other acts.

The stated purpose of the bill is to establish the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims. The centre will be composed of a chief executive officer, a commission and a tribunal, with the commission and tribunal playing the most significant roles in the day to day process of dealing with specific claims.

Specific claims arise from the breach or non-fulfillment of government obligations found in treaties, agreements and statutes.

Interestingly, Bill C-6 has met with opposition from first nations across Canada, including in my home province of British Columbia. The British Columbia Alliance of Tribal Nations representing 23 member first nations feels that Bill C-6 completely fails to meet its stated principles, namely, to establish a process for the resolution of specific claims that is independent, fair and timely.

The amendments proposed in Motions Nos. 1 through 8 would help alleviate these concerns and therefore would have my support.

For example, Motion No. 7, the amendment put forward by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, adds a small measure of accountability to the review process and reflects an amendment passed in committee.

Motion No. 2, if accepted, would give the proposed centre increased independence from government. This clause gives the government the right to hold up the claims process as it decides whether or not to hear a claim. It provides no timelines or final deadlines for the government to provide an answer and provides no mechanism for the commission or the claimant to move the process forward in the event of an extended delay by the government.

When we see how much control Bill C-6 gives the federal government and specifically the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, it is little wonder that aboriginal groups are opposed to the legislation.

The title of the bill suggests the newly created body will be independent. Independence is essential to the successful working of the centre. Independence must exist in fact and be perceived to exist by the parties and the public.

Under Bill C-6 however, commission and tribunal members, including the CEO and chief adjudicator, will be appointed by the cabinet on the recommendation of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development alone. How can aboriginals have confidence in the centre under these circumstances? Suspicion about partiality, patronage and conflict of interest will plague the centre, destroying its legitimacy in the eyes of first nations and for good reason.

Under the proposed legislation the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is directly involved in the claim process. Once a claim is filed, the commission must provide a copy with supporting documentation to the minister. After preparatory meetings the commission must then suspend proceedings until the minister decides whether or not to accept the claim for negotiation.

Allowing the minister, who is a party himself, to determine the next step in the proceedings essentially takes carriage of proceedings away from the claimant and the centre and places it with the respondent. It is essential that the bill place power within the proposed centre. That is what the centre is there for. As presently constituted, too much power resides in the hands of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Motion Nos. 2 and 3 would help accomplish this objective. They would take power away from the government and thereby increase the independence of the proposed centre.

Similarly, clause 32 allows the government to require the claimant to meet an excessive threshold of proof of having used all available mediation mechanisms before allowing the claimant to request a move to the tribunal in the case of an unresolved claim. In other words, it can be used as another stalling mechanism by the government.

Upon the initial introduction of the bill during the first session of this Parliament, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations observed that he looked forward to the legislative process to address the need for important changes to this defective bill.

Besides the obvious lack of independence of the proposed centre, the AFN also found fault with the capped claim limit. Motion No. 6 responds to this criticism. It establishes the guidelines for compensation in a specific claim, including a $7 million cap. However, as a footnote in the legal analysis of Bill C-6, the Assembly of First Nations notes that AFN technicians have been informed by a commission counsel for the Indian Claims Commission that of 120 claims only 3 eventually were settled for less than $7 million. The AFN analysis adds that in the past three years, 8 out of 14 claims paid out by the federal government were for amounts above $7 million. The government should be allowing much more flexibility regarding the claim values it allows the centre to consider. In committee, we, the Canadian Alliance members, proposed a cap of $25 million but the government voted against that idea.

Motion No. 8 seeks to amend Bill C-6 by deleting clause 77, which gives the governor in council the authority to make regulations. The Canadian Alliance objects to the government's practice of passing incomplete, vague legislation, bills that need to be fleshed out by the government after the bill has been passed in the House, fleshed out somewhere other than in Parliament, where there are less eyes watching and where it is protected from much of the scrutiny and the accountability process of Parliament. This is simply undemocratic and is another example of the current government's hostility to the principles of accountability and transparency. This is at least one reason why the Liberal government is an elected dictatorship. It is almost criminal, by all standards.

Bill C-6 would create a process that is even worse than the current historically flawed process, which has over 500 claims sitting in its backlog awaiting the minister's decision on whether or not they are acceptable for negotiation. In this backlog, 48% of the specific claims are from the first nations in British Columbia, the most from any region in Canada. First nations in B.C. have the most to gain from the establishment of a truly independent, fair and timely process for the settlement of specific claims, but they also have the most to lose if the bill before us is passed without amendment.

Bill C-6 would institutionalize the federal government's conflict of interest in judging claims against itself and would authorize and reward the Minister of Indian Affairs for indefinite delays in deciding whether or not to accept a specific claim for negotiations.

The Canadian Alliance strongly supports the speedy resolution of claims, whereas Bill C-6 would not speed up the resolution of claims, particularly larger and more costly claims.

The new claims resolution centre would not be independent. All adjudicators and commissioners would be appointed by the government for patronage purposes. Who is standing up for the first nations? Who is standing up for the taxpayers in this process? A system that avoids accountability for government stonewalling and discourages the use of alternative dispute mechanisms over more costly court claims is a waste of taxpayers' money. Who is standing up for taxpayers? No one from that side of the government.

This new institution would not be transparent. Government members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources voted against all amendments that would require the government to declare openly its reasons for deciding against a claim or for holding up this process.

To summarize, Bill C-6 would not ensure a faster claims resolution process. No timelines are mentioned in this process. In fact, there would be numerous opportunities for the government to delay and stonewall. The bill needs major amendments. Canadian Alliance amendments will advance justice, speed up the claims resolution process, reduce conflict of interest, increase organizational independence and save taxpayers' dollars.

Therefore, since this arrogant, weak and incompetent Liberal government does not accept the Canadian Alliance amendments, I have no choice but to oppose Bill C-6 as tabled. In addition, the Alliance of Tribal Nations asks that I oppose this legislation vigorously. Therefore, I and my colleagues will oppose this legislation if it is not amended.

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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, as the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP, I am happy to join the debate at third reading of Bill C-6. I should mention at the outset that our party does not believe we can deal with or do justice to Bill C-6 when it is viewed in isolation. It really constitutes part of a larger suite of bills, part of legislation aimed at what the government is selling as first nations governance issues in Bills C-6, C-7 and C-19.

In the early debate around Bill C-6, formerly Bill C-60, it was abundantly clear that the leadership of the first nations communities in the country felt that the bill fell far short of the recommendations of the joint task force on specific claims, which laboured for years to develop a comprehensive package of recommendations by which they believed legislation would be crafted which would address the nagging issue of the hundreds and hundreds of outstanding specific claims. These are not to be confused with general land claims in the larger picture, but have to do with issues of specific shortcomings in settlements already agreed to, be it a body of land or financial remuneration, et cetera.

The joint working group and the origins of the bill were really formed, we should be clear, out of Oka. They came out of the national tragedy that was the Oka crisis, when something seemingly as petty and as insignificant as the development of a golf course led to the largest outburst of violence on aboriginal issues in recent memory. At that time it was felt that we needed a dispute resolution mechanism that was truly independent, whereby the parties could seek recourse without feeling they had to resort to the courts and without the added compounded frustration, which led aboriginal people to feel that they had no avenue of recourse to make their point other than to occupy the land in dispute.

My first observation in the failure of the government to accept any of the amendments to Bill-6 is to point out that the claims body as contemplated by Bill C-6 falls far short of the recommendations of the joint working group that laboured on the issue for the many years leading up to the bill.

There has been almost an overwhelming amount of activity in this area in recent months. I do not say that for my own benefit as a critic on aboriginal affairs, I say that on behalf of first nations, which are trying to respond to this virtual bombardment of legislation in recent months. These three bills, the specific claims legislation, the first nations governance initiative and the financial institutions bill, Bill C-19, really represent the most comprehensive overhaul of the Indian Act in 50 years. I should point out that this is happening at the very point in time that the Assembly of First Nations, a legitimate, recognized plenary body of first nations in the country, has had its budget slashed by 50%, and thereby, its ability to respond effectively to this complex suite of bills. It is really finding itself overwhelmed, as are we, in trying to cope with what is coming at us in complex pieces of legislation like this and in the whole suite of legislation.

I should point out that during the committee stage of Bill C-6, the NDP moved substantial amendments after broad consultation with the Assembly of First Nations and first nations leadership. I am disappointed to say that not one of these amendments, put forward by the member for Palliser who was on the committee at that time, was allowed to pass. It makes a bit of a mockery of the committee process in the House of Commons, in that there is always a hope and optimism that the standing committee will really be seized by the issue to the point where it has a vested interest in crafting legislation that will be widely accepted and that some level of consensus will be achieved before bills go through.

In actual fact, the Assembly of First Nations and aboriginal leadership made it very clear at the outset of Bill C-6 that this is not the bill they anticipated. This is not the language and these are not the changes that they anticipated. It fell short of the recommendations of the working group. Even though they made this abundantly clear and brought forward amendments that would have changed the bill to the point where they could actually support it, none of these amendments were entertained or allowed by the standing committee.

I suppose it is no big surprise that the only amendment we see at third reading stage, which will succeed, is the amendment brought forward by the minister himself. Other thoughtful amendments brought forward at third reading stage, in this case by the Canadian Alliance, are being rejected universally, all but Motion No. 7.

To deal with some of the specific reservations that the NDP has about the bill, the first and foremost specific detail that we sought to have amended was the cap of $7 million on these specific claims.

Any time we draw a line in the sand and say “this is the rule”, there will be some claims that will fall exactly on that line, or just short of that line, or just above that line, claims that cannot be resolved by the bill, which also excludes much larger claims. Many of these specific claims are actually a nuisance, almost to the point where they are a nuisance amount of money that could easily be resolved under the $7 million cap. The $7 million cap does not even factor in the legal costs that brought the complainant, the griever, to this stage.

In many cases we have a 30 year outstanding complaint whereby the government may have expropriated part of first nations land 30 years ago and the first nation has been struggling to get remedy to this grievance for 30 years and has spent literally millions of dollars in the courts trying to get satisfaction. With a cap of $7 million that does not include legal costs, they may receive less than half of that amount because they will have already burnt up so much money on legal costs.

There is a second specific point that we sought to have amended. I see that further attempts have been made to have it amended at third reading. It is the point about the independence of the independent claims body when all the appointments to the claims commission would be made by the minister without input or consultation from first nations. Can we believe this?

We believe that it was a reasonable amendment we asked for: that first nations would put forward names and then the minister would appoint from that list, a pre-qualified list, a pre-approved list. Ultimately the decision would be the minister's, but at least those people affected by these specific claims would have had that input. Incredibly, that amendment has been rejected. In the interest of basic fairness, the minister should have allowed at least that recommendation, but more and more in these pieces of legislation, all three that comprise the suite of legislation, we see enhanced discretionary authority for the minister and diminished authority or input from the House of Commons or, in this case, from the elected representatives of first nations around the country.

I cannot believe I am out of time already, Mr. Speaker, because I am just getting started. I would like to draw attention to a petition I am holding that has on it 50,000 names of first nations people who are opposed to Bill C-6. I am not allowed to table this petition in the House of Commons because unfortunately it was not drafted in the required format, but I have boxes and boxes of names from first nations communities who are opposed to Bill C-6. I want it on the record that there is that widespread opposition to this bill, and the NDP caucus joins in that opposition today.

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12:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wish the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre could have continued. He is very knowledgeable on this. I say that with some trepidation.

I stand in place of my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River, the member who sits on this particular committee. He has done yeoman's service in understanding and putting forward our prescribed amendments, positions and opinions. I know that the whole House and certainly the committee send out their best wishes to the member for Dauphin—Swan River who, unfortunately, is now recuperating and convalescing. We would love to have him back in the House sooner than later. I can assure the members in the House that I have talked to him. He is doing well and we wish him a speedy recovery.

As for Bill C-6, it is legislation that the minister responsible for western economic diversification and Indian affairs stood in the House and said was legislation that ultimately would be a win-win situation. All I have been able to glean from the information that I have read in the past day and from all of the opinions that have been put forward by the opposition members speaking against Bill C-6, is that the only win is the win from the Minister of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. There is no win with respect to the stakeholders, with respect to the first nations community and with the settling of the land claims that are taking an inordinate amount of time and effort to resolve something that is legitimate.

The first thing I would say is that the government cannot stick its head in the sand and suggest that this will simply go away with the process that is being proposed in Bill C-6. The fact is that these are legitimate land claims. They come in the form of numbered treaties, modern treaties and the land claims. The fact is that there has to be closure. Both the first nations themselves and Canadian society want closure. Unfortunately that closure cannot come in the timeframe that is being proposed by Bill C-6. There are a number of deficiencies.

The member for Dauphin—Swan River stood in the House and said that we were prepared to send Bill C-6 back to committee so it could be improved by putting amendments on the table, having those amendments approved and accepted by the government of the day because it does not have all the best intentions at heart. Those amendments were put forward but none of them were approved, not one amendment to make the legislation better was approved by the government. Therefore the legislation that has been brought forward in the final version right now at report stage is totally flawed.

I can talk about a couple of very glaring issues that have been talked about recently by other members. The first one is obviously the make-up of the commission itself.

I know the member for Palliser will be speaking to this, although he may not agree with this particular point, but when appointments are made by the government to a commission there is a tendency for that commission, or the wheat board but we will not go there, not to be independent.

When the appointments are made by the minister, the commission will take the minister's position forward, make no mistake about that. It has been seen in the past and it will happen in the future. That is not the independence that the first nations want and not the independence that this side of the House wants and needs, and that the government side of the House should in fact put into place.

The other issue is the cap on the dollars. Is this about reality? Is this about the fairness that is necessary to put forward to first nations to make a final resolution on land claims that have been in place for literally 10 years? There is no fairness on that cap, the cap being, I believe, $7 million. If the land claim is beyond $7 million it will take years to resolve. At what I believe is $122 million a year that has been identified for this particular commission, it will take something like 24 years to resolve the existing land claims that are before the commission at the present time.

I have been told that somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1,000 new land claims may be brought forward. With that 1,000 thrown into the mix, Mr. Speaker, you and I will be long gone before any kind of resolution is made to this very serious issue of land claims within our country.

Canadian citizens in society want a resolution to this problem. The bill does not resolve the problem. I personally am terribly disappointed that the government would go forward with this flawed legislation and certainly with the attitude of the Secretary of State for Western Economic Diversification and Indian Affairs and Northern Development who said that it was win-win. That absolutely is not the case and I do not think Canadians will buy it. The spin the government is putting on it is totally wrong.

There are more questions, if the truth be known, than there are answers given in Bill C-6. How would this body be independent when the same minister, who would be charged with defending the crown against these claims, would be the same minister recommending the appointments? Talk about a conflict of interest.

Is there any explanation as to how the bill would change the current situation whereby the federal government controls almost every aspect of the process when the minister retains so much of the control over the timelines of the process? Talk about a conflict of interest. An answer to that question is absolutely mandatory before the legislation can be passed.

How would requiring the first nations to weigh liability in order to access the tribunal be consistent with the resolution of claims arising from the fiduciary responsibility or relationship? It is impossible.

What assurances do first nations and Canadians in general have that this process would reduce the outstanding liability that is growing year by year? There are no assurances that this process would reduce that liability, a liability of billions of dollars. That is a realistic reality. It is not something about which we can stick our heads in the sand and say that it will simply go away if we do not deal with it. That is not the case.

Why is the cap on the tribunal set at such a low level? We talked about the $7 million level. Why is it set arbitrarily at that number? Is it that the government wants to bring, I believe, some 400 to 500 outstanding claims forward and suggest that will be the number? The reality here is that is not the number. We should be realistic when setting up the legislation. We should be realistic when setting up the tribunal.

Could the minister tell us why there is no significant increase in the capacity to resolve more than these claims? I understand there is no significant increase to support any kind of initiative to expand the mandate or the boundaries of this particular tribunal. It just does not make any sense at all under the legislation.

Why can larger claims not have access to public inquiries as currently with the Indian Claims Commission? This is another deficiency with the legislation.

The Progressive Conservative Party, and the member for Dauphin—Swan River, who spoke eloquently with respect to Bill C-60, now Bill C-6 coming forward, stand in the House in opposition to Bill C-6. We are opposed to it for any number of reasons, but particularly because the government of the day would not accept logical amendments to the legislation that would have made it better. It would have taken a flawed piece of legislation and brought it forward to the House in a form in which it could have received support from the opposition.

We oppose it because the minister has not consulted with the aboriginal community, members of the first nations and the stakeholders. He did not consult with them before bringing forward the legislation, which in itself should not be allowed to be brought forward because of that. It also is because the minister himself has disregarded the four year joint task force report between aboriginal groups and government that actually had some reasonable implementation that could have worked in a piece of legislation. Not having taken that joint task force into consideration in putting legislation forward and not consulting with the first nations groups and the stakeholders themselves is unspeakable.

I would ask that the government not pass this and, if anything, it would accept the amendments that were put forward in committee. Let the minister come back to the House and put those amendments forward and we would support those amendments and the legislation. However, until that happens, this is not legislation that will be supported by this party.

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12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, it is with great frustration that I rise today to speak to Bill C-6. The bill aims to establish a centre for the resolution of aboriginal specific claims up to $7 million. The centre purportedly would reduce the time and expense of making specific claims. The legislation as written does not guarantee this. In fact, it may likely increase the time and expense involved in gaining a resolution of a claim.

The Canadian Alliance supports the fair and expeditious resolution of claims in a manner that benefits the relations between aboriginal Canadians and the people of Canada. Article 56 of our declaration of policy states:

Our position in land claims negotiations will be to ensure respect for existing private property rights, affordable and conclusive settlement of all claims, and an open and transparent process involving all stakeholders.

There is no provision in the bill for the respect of existing private property rights or an open and transparent process involving all stakeholders. We need a process for resolving these claims that is fair to aboriginals and other Canadians as well. All citizens, regardless of who their parents are, should be equal partners in Canada, and we have to, over the long term, work toward accomplishing this goal.

The process of setting up a claims commission has been going on since 1947. I was not even born then. When a joint Senate and House committee in 1947 recommended this, it was put into place. The Liberals have advocated for such a body since 1963 when they initiated legislation on it. One would hope that after all of this time they would have come up with something better to present to Canadians than this flawed bill. Unfortunately, for all concerned, the government has chosen to draft a bill creating an expensive patronage bill of bureaucracy that has no guarantees of hurrying along the settlement process.

There are no guarantees to spend and no timelines are mandated in this process. In fact, there are numerous opportunities for the government to delay and stonewall. For example, in clause 30, the government is given the right to hold up the process as it decides whether or not to hear a claim. It contains no timelines or final deadlines for the government to provide, and has no mechanism for the commission or the claimant to move the process forward in the event of an extended delay by the government. This clause should be deleted.

Government members in the committee of aboriginal affairs and northern development voted against all amendments that would require the government to declare openly its reasons for deciding against a claim or for holding up the claim process. Because of that, the claim centre could summarily reject claims and the decisions secretly made would never be publicly explained. That is not transparent.

Another problem is that the bill creates a false hope of speedy resolutions and correspondingly lower costs. The exact opposite would happen. The bill opens the floodgates for more claims that have been held back. The claim centre risks being overwhelmed by cases, just like the Liberal gun registry, resulting in an even larger backlog and less expedient helpfulness.

In three decades the government has settled only 230 claims. That bears repeating: three decades, 30 years, 230 claims. Not much of a record. Some 500 are still waiting to be heard. Aboriginal representatives say that they expect up to 1,000 more claims to be filed once the new centre is opened. This new bogged down claims process would further confirm the fact that claims between aboriginals and the people of Canada result in few benefits to any except lawyers, with all due respect, who keep getting richer and nobody wins.

How can the government say that this claim centre will be successful and expedite matters when the only thing it would do is create thousands more claims? It seems that the government has it backward. Instead of clearing up the claim backlog and resolving aboriginal issues, this institution will create more delays and dissatisfaction. The bill would not speed up the resolution of claims, particularly more costly claims.

We should work toward a way to create an environment where trust and open agreements, arrived at openly with respect for private property holders, can work.

One plus is the government's understanding that there should be at least some semblance of accountability contained in the bill. Government Motion No. 7 is something that we can support as being an expression, however small, of that accountability by mandating the minister to submit a report to Parliament of any change in the centre. Unfortunately this does not change the fact that any changes are at the whim of the minister and Parliament will only be told about these changes long after they are done.

The bill would create an institution that would be just one more in a long line of adversarial, bogged down bureaucracies big on promises and short on delivery. The 1993 Liberal red book promised an independent claims commission that would be jointly appointed by aboriginals and the Government of Canada. Bill C-6 breaks yet another promise from that book.

Since all the adjudicators and commissioners in the Canadian centre for the resolution of first nations specific claims would be appointed by the minister, the idea of an independent impartial body to oversee the resolution of claims is already ruined. There is too much power in the PMO already and adding more useless appointments that benefit no one makes it worse.

It amazes me that the minister, who put this forward, is a resident of British Columbia, as I am myself. As a member of the Canadian Alliance, one of my first assignments was to spend a full year as the chairman of the leaders advisory committee on Indian and Northern Affairs. My job was very simple. I was to go speak to both aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people, the other stakeholders. I did that. Some of the things that I learned were amazing. I have tried to share them with the government on other occasions but it has had no time to hear it.

Let us look at B.C. just as an example. Under the bill there is not supposed to be any geographical limit which means B.C. could be a part of the process. We count on the other parts because the government has decided to dump the responsibility onto the provincial level of government and we have been unable to do anything to prevent that. However in this case, because there are no geographical limits, B.C. could actually be covered under specific claims. It sounds good on the surface but wait until we dig a little deeper.

There are no claims in B.C. for under $7 million. This is according to the claims commission and the aboriginal people of B.C. When we put a limit of $7 million on it, once again the government has told B.C. to figure it out for itself because it does not want to get involved. It has a fiduciary responsibility to be involved and again it has abdicated it.

I spoke with aboriginal people across the country who make up, according to census figures this year, approximately 4% of Canada's population. Of the 4%, about 0.2% of that population had a driving urge to have the land claim issue settled. Those people are a minority among the aboriginal people to whom I spoke.

The people to whom I spoke were everyday band members. What everyday band members want is what all Canadians want. They want the opportunity for their children to have a better life than they have. They want to have some measure of success and they to have that opportunity to make that success happen. Aboriginal women want equality. It is something we enjoy in the country as non-aboriginal women but for aboriginal women it is lacking.

I realize I have gone off the subject of specific claims but I do not think there is much else that can be said about it. This is not an answer. It does not listen to the other stakeholders involved in the process, whether they are ranchers, tourism people or private property owners and it does not answer the needs that aboriginals have related to me. Because of those reasons, I will not be supporting the bill and neither will my party.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure once again to rise and discuss Bill C-6. I had an opportunity representing our caucus when the bill was before committee late in the fall session.

I listened in some disbelief as the minister talked about the legislation being on the right track and that it was a truly independent proposal that would resolve historic grievances. He stated that it would deal with claims in a fair and efficient manner. The minister presented a certain vision of Canada with regard to compromise and fairness between the Government of Canada on the one hand and first nations on the other.

As the House heard today, nobody on this side of the House shares that view. If there is any vision of Canada, it is the historical vision of father knows best which first nations have endured for several hundred years as European settlers arrived and treaties were subsequently arrived at.

The current federal government, exclusive of Bill C-6, decides if specific laws have validity. Unfortunately, those decisions tend to be made in secret and that is what we are trying to alter. My colleague from Winnipeg Centre talked about that when he pointed out that the joint task force report and the Assembly of First Nations together with the Government of Canada tried to work out a modus operandi, something fair to both sides that would resolve treaties that had not been resolved for decades but needed to be resolved.

Compensation is currently decided by negotiations. The federal government already has a high level of control over the application of the rules. In fairness it was seen that the government seemed to be in a conflict of interest. On the one hand it was the defendant and on the other it was the adjudicator. Perhaps one might say judge and jury. That is what we want to change.

My colleague and other members in the debate today talked about the fact that the joint task force report was a good initiative but was sabotaged by federal bureaucrats who wanted something different. However I will not go over that ground again.

Under Bill C-6, which is now the replacement for the joint task force report, there is no independent, impartial body to clear the existing extensive backlog. Instead, the federal government retains carte blanche to control the pace of settlement and decisions therein. Access to the tribunal is tightly limited. Appointments are at the unilateral discretion of the Government of Canada. The delay by the federal government is a financial reward to it and not a penalty.

Claims are not prioritized even after decades of no resolution. They are not recognized as legal debts. Instead, claims are a matter of discretionary spending to be tightly controlled. The end result is a conflict of interest because the government decides land claims against itself and all that is entrenched in the legislation it introduces.

My colleague talked about other legislation that seemed to be coming fast and furious. We think the bill damages the relationship because it arbitrarily imposes limitations upon first nations people regardless of their input, and in this case, even when the government knows there is massive objection to what is being proposed. This is again a father knows best approach.

Treaties are nation to nation agreements that date back several hundred years. They should be central building blocks to the creation of a fairer and more just Canada which we all want to see. They are legally protected under section 35 of the Constitution but Bill C-6 simply does not respect the spirit of treaties.

I talked about the government being in a conflict of interest by being both defendant and adjudicator. We find it insulting in the extreme that the government asked the Assembly of First Nations to take part in the joint task force report, but then ignored the model of the bill that was initially proposed.

First nations leadership desperately want changes to the Indian Act, yet Bill C-6, which would replace in part the act, has generated an unprecedented amount of animosity and disgust from first nations people. That is one of the many reasons why the New Democratic Party caucus vigorously opposes the bill.

Specifically, I want to make these points. In our opinion the bill does not create an independent and impartial committee. We say that because the minister has the final word, the last say about everything in the bill, contrary to what the government said earlier today.

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

In addition to dismissing the report, the consultation process has been farcical. Just three weeks were set aside for consultation on the bill and there was no opportunity to really hear from the witnesses who wished to appear and register their objections to Bill C-6.

There are no provisions for appointments, renewals and approvals, which was outlined in the joint task force report. All appointments, including the chief executive officer, the commission and the tribunal will be made on the recommendation of the minister and the minister alone.

Bill C-6 ignores the task force report in three ways. First, it excludes obligations arising under treaties and agreements that do not deal with land or assets. Second, it excludes unilateral federal undertakings to provide land or assets. Finally, it excludes claims based on the laws of Canada that were originally United Kingdom statutes or royal proclamations.

My colleague talked about the $7 million cap. Another part of that is that interest and costs are included in the cap of $7 million, which means, as I said before, that the government will benefit financially from delaying settlements as the real value of these settlements will obviously decline over time. Lengthy processes will mean extremely expensive legal fees for first nations and put them under pressure to settle for what they would consider to be much less than the real value for which they are looking; 10 cents on the dollar.

There are a number of difficulties with the bill. Delay is a major problem in the current system and it cannot be overestimated. There are 550 land claims outstanding. Bill C-6 will not create an independent and impartial body. The vast majority of those 550 claims are in excess of $7 million. Under the proposed legislation, the government is not even in a position to hear and consider this proposal. It will several hundred more years with Bill C-6 before we have settled all of the outstanding land claims settlements.

The spirit and substance of the joint task force report is not being embodied at all in Bill C-6. The bill is regressive even in comparison with the current system, the one that we want to fix. It seems to us that the government should recognize that Bill C-6 is entirely unfaithful to the spirit of the joint task force report. It is not consistent with the red book promises, as the previous speaker correctly pointed out.

No reasonable person would conclude that what is here before us today is in any way, shape or form a progressive step toward justice and finality. What is needed is a co-operative partnership. The government has rejected that with “it is my way or the highway” approach. Bill C-6 is not the way to go and that is why the New Democratic Party caucus is opposed to it.

Carrie's Guardian Angel LawGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to rise and speak to Bill C-6 and state for the record where my party stands on this legislation.

The reason Bill C-6 has even been introduced is because the government quite rightly recognizes that it has failed completely and utterly to deal with the issue of native land claims.

A number of members have pointed out that the government has only been able to deal with 230 land claims in the last 30 years and there are still something like 500 that are pending today. According to first nations spokespeople there are supposed to be around a total of 1,000 that will be ultimately brought forward. This is an admission of failure first of all because the government has not been able to deal with this issue.

What the government is doing now is what I would call a bait and switch. What it is trying to do is to convince the public and natives that if we put together a big bureaucracy in the form of a new agency, then we would be able to deal with these problems.

I would argue that this would actually make things worse which necessitates to some degree the reason for us to even consider the amendment that one member has brought forward. We want to see these land claims dealt with as quickly as possible. We want to see the government make it a priority. We want all sides to be treated fairly.

There are billions of dollars in liabilities at stake. Whenever the government brings down its books and we go into the section that has unfunded liabilities we see $10 billion, $20 billion, $30 billion and $40 billion in there. A lot of that has to do with land claims that have yet to be settled. We are talking about an astronomical amount of money.

We want proper scrutiny to ensure that when these land claims are settled that not only natives would be treated fairly, and they should be treated fairly and there should be respect shown for their claims, but that taxpayers must be treated fairly as well. There is a tremendous amount of money at stake here.

What I worry about, and I think many colleagues on this side of the House worry about, is that if we were to establish this independent claims commission then we would lose the ability to hold these people to account.

We have seen what happens whenever that occurs with the government. Let us look at some of these independent agencies that have gone wild. Maybe the best and most recent example is the firearms registry where we decided to let the bureaucracy run the registry. It ran up a bill of $1 billion. It was 50,000% over budget and it withheld all kinds of information from Parliament.

Let us look at the pest management regulatory agency. That should be the poster child for government agencies that do not run well. It is one that the Auditor General is constantly bringing before Parliament as an example of something that does not work well. The government still cannot get it right.

We are concerned when the government hives this sort of responsibility off and expects that all of a sudden we should forget about it and not worry about it any more, and that it will get better because it is now an agency. I do not buy that. It exacerbates the problem because now it is easier for the government to hide its failures.

I would much rather see the government step up to the plate and address the problems that it is running into now under the full light of parliamentary scrutiny instead of hiding it in some agency somewhere.

That is why we need to address the issue of the amendment that the member has brought forward. The amendment would force the government to bring any reports on how effectively the agency is running to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources. That is a pretty reasonable amendment and I do not understand why the government is so opposed to it. It would bring some scrutiny to this agency. Lord knows after all that has gone on in this place in the last number of months we need that kind of oversight.

I want to make a point about bureaucracies in general. Many people think that people on the public service side of things are in their job simply because they care more about the public and they are not self-interested at all. Whereas the self-interest of people who are in business is that they only care about profits.

That is completely wrong. People on both sides of these things, to some degree, are motivated by self-interest and to some degree they are motivated by what is good for the public. That is why we see people who are in business donating to charities, getting involved as volunteers and doing all kinds of things.

We see the same thing, frankly, when it comes to the public service. We see people who are there to help the public, but they are also to some degree motivated by what is good for them. That is why I get very concerned when we start hiving all kinds of things off to independent commissions and agencies away from parliamentary scrutiny.

There was an economist who won a Nobel price for economics based on something called the public choice theory. He asserted that if we give money to people in the public service they will act with it in the exact same way as people in the private sector. They will start to use the bureaucracy to benefit them.

The government should be wary of these sorts of things because if it is not, what tends to happen is that these people who start out with good intentions start to find ways to perpetuate their jobs.

Here is a situation where we would be asking the independent claims commission to wrap up all the land claims, but I think the tendency would be to prolong how long it would take to deal with these land claims because it would guarantee jobs. The tendency would be to build a bureaucracy bigger because it would guarantee more security and a bigger salary. We see it over and over again. We really do not need any degree in economics to understand that. All we have to do is consult our common sense and our own experience. We have seen it a hundred times, certainly parliamentarians have, when we deal with different agencies, independent commissions and that kind of thing when we are dealing with the government. That is why I become very nervous.

I am worried that as this commission is formed that there would be all kinds of examples of foot dragging when it comes to dealing with some of these problems. There would be examples of bloated expense accounts and people building empires. We would see one more agency that the government would lose control of and that would start to act in all kinds of ways that would be completely antithetical to what the government was trying to achieve. I caution the government on that.

I will wrap up by urging the House to adopt the amendment that has been proposed. The amendment says that the report on how this commission is functioning should go back to the standing committee every three to five years, whenever that report is released, so it could make judgments and provide some parliamentary scrutiny of this new agency, which I think people rightly have a concern about.

I will leave it at that and urge members across the way to think hard about what I have said as they prepare their votes.