moved that Bill C-6, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, there are countless compelling reasons to support this important legislation. Perhaps most important, the specific claims resolution act would enable us to achieve honourable and just settlements to some of the longstanding grievances of aboriginal people, yet of all the arguments, few are more persuasive than the fact that this act would create opportunities for unprecedented economic and social development in first nations.
The Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims established by Bill C-6 will usher in a new era of cooperative and impartial negotiations; negotiations which will allow us to more efficiently address the grievances of the past so we can focus on building stronger, more self-sufficient first nations communities in the future.
One of the greatest benefits of the bill is that it reflects the priorities identified by aboriginal communities. In response to the recommendations of the First Nations-Canada Joint Task Force on Specific Claims, we are proposing an independent centre that would operate at arm's length from government. It would be comprised of a chief executive officer and two components: a commission division to facilitate negotiations on specific claims and a tribunal division to resolve disputes involving those claims.
The centre would promote a fairer and more transparent process for the research and assessment of claims and to conduct negotiations. It would also establish a forum in which both parties can be held to account for their actions to resolve claims.
I want to go back to many years ago to reflect for a moment and advise the House that this is the third time in the last 50 years that we have attempted to create an independent resolution process for specific claims and claims for aboriginal grievances. I am proud today to stand in this place to recognize the hard work of the aboriginal joint initiative between ourselves and the first nations, in particular the AFN. We have gotten to a point where we are now talking about a piece of legislation that will remove the judge and jury type of philosophy that we have used in this place for many years to deal with these kinds of claims. We will now have, I believe, a very independent body to deal with these very fundamental issues of grievances of the past.
This is a very important step as it would increase first nations people's confidence in the process and help us reach agreements more amicably and efficiently. We would no longer be left with no alternative other than being bogged down in an adversarial court system. We would instead be able to resolve impasses before an impartial tribunal.
With the specific claims resolution act, we will be able to create a system that is more fair and just as important, more effective in settling specific claims. The claims resolution centre would provide a range of modern dispute resolution mechanisms to help to accelerate the rate of claims settlements.
All specific claims would have access to the centre's modern day bargaining tools which would include facilitation, mediation, non-binding arbitration and, with the consent of all parties, binding arbitration. These alternative mechanisms emphasize that the Government of Canada and first nations would rather negotiate than litigate, because negotiations save unnecessary delays and help to reduce costs.
As a labour unionist in my past life and a negotiator, I can say that one of the most important parts of arriving at arrangements between parties is the ability to have these modern tools at our disposal. Whether it is mediation, joint research, or the ability to go to arbitration when necessary, these are the kinds of tools the centre would bring to the forefront for the first time in our relationship.
It would be done with the independence of a commission whose members would be appointed by order in council, but they would be qualified people, as is done in the same fashion with other commissions right across the country. They would also, through the budget that would be set down for them, have the ability to use it in an efficient way to arrive at the kinds of arrangements they want and to get away from going to court, as we do on a regular basis.
I remind my hon. colleagues that not only first nations residents but entrepreneurs and communities all across Canada, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, profit from the settlement of these claims. Successfully completed specific claims produce a win-win situation for Canada as a whole.
The first obvious impact that comes to mind is the economic benefits they create. One key obstacle to the development of aboriginal businesses is the difficulty of getting the investment and the loan capital that companies need to grow. The certainty provided by claim settlements can help to bridge this gap.
Settled claims pave the way for partnerships among first nations and the private sector, governments and other Canadian communities. Once claim settlements have been reached, the door is open to expanded opportunities, such as joint ventures with non-aboriginal businesses. Investors can proceed with confidence and first nations can negotiate from positions of strength.
The strongest cases for settling specific claims are the investments that communities make in their own development. For example, with the funds from its successfully resolved claim, the English River First Nation has purchased Tron Power, a general contracting firm which provides specialized construction services.
Equally important are the training opportunities these funds generate which create career options for young people living in aboriginal communities. The Kitigan Zibi First Nation used its $2.7 million settlement for both infrastructure and other social programs.
Of course from the first nations' perspective, perhaps the most critically important aspect of settled claims is access to land and resources. A number of first nations have purchased agricultural lands with the proceeds from their settlements to farm or to lease to non-aboriginal farmers. As one example, the Osoyoos settlement allowed the first nation to purchase a large orchard and further develop its vineyards.
Some first nations have purchased oil and gas producing lands with their claim settlements which generate revenues, employment opportunities and even sometimes joint venture projects. These partnerships benefit Canada not just from an economic standpoint, but they also strengthen the presence of aboriginal culture in the country and create new opportunities for the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities to get to know each other better. As we all learn more about each other, we all learn to appreciate the value of different cultures and gain greater respect for our shared history. I am sure hon. colleagues would agree that we simply cannot put a price tag on that.
I want to remind the House that this progress is made possible through the settlement of first nations claims. By moving forward with the bill we can create a more positive climate for other aboriginal communities so they too can see business and other partnerships flourish.
As was made clear in the Speech from the Throne, the government is determined to move further and faster to achieve the same progress for first nations still awaiting the settlement of their specific claims. We know that the revenues generated by settled claims lead to greater partnerships and self-sufficiency. We know too that the end result of this economic success is the ability to better respond to community needs. This in turn leads to an improved quality of life for aboriginal people. It is this above all that we are determined to achieve.
For all the many good reasons I have outlined, the House must move forward in supporting Bill C-6. This economically advantageous and very necessary legislation will help to ensure that first nations people will finally see the grievances of the past resolved and can look forward to a brighter future. There can be no doubt that we all believe this will make us richer, richer as a country, richer as a people.
I know that in any discussion we have with first nations people, there are always other things they want as it relates to a piece of legislation.
But I think that in the general sense of what we have achieved here after 50 years of trying to get a piece of legislation before the House, we have achieved a good balance, a balance that the government needs to have as it relates to fiscal responsibility in a budget and also at the same time the independence necessary to work very closely with first nations on these grievances, these specific claims, in arriving at a just and very acceptable solution for all.
I thank the House for allowing me this time to voice our strong view that this is a good piece of legislation and one that needs to be supported by the House. I look forward to it coming into effect so that we can move very quickly to resolve the specific claims that are outstanding.