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House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wish to offer a copy of the Indian treaties that created this country. This is a treaty nation that we call Canada. When we created this country, we negotiated with the Crown by treaty negotiation.

This is a copy of treaties I would like to bring forward to the House so that when the relationship of the aboriginal people, the first nations of Canada, is being debated in the House this body of evidence, the true relationship between the Crown and the original nations of the country, is reflected upon.

I present this to you, Mr. Speaker, for your deliberation on where these treaties can be placed in this debate.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Churchill River.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-7, an act respecting leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands, and to make related amendments to other Acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 4:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are 104 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-7.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 31, 32, 36 through 40 and 86 since they require a royal recommendation.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 2, 3, 7, 12, 15 through 20, 22, 24, 33, 41, 44, 50, 51, 72, 73, 75, 81, 83, 89, 100 and 101 because they could have been presented at committee.

The Chair will not select Motions Nos. 25, 34, 35, 47, 77, 87, 95 and 97 because they were defeated at committee.

All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.

The motions will be grouped for debate as follows:

Group No. 1, Motions Nos. 1, 13, 14, 21, 23, 26 to 30, 42, 43, 45 and 46.

Group No. 2, Motions Nos. 4 to 6, 8 to 11, 48, 49 and 52 to 70.

Group No. 3 is Motions Nos. 71, 85, 93 and 99.

Group No. 4, Motions Nos. 74, 76, 78 to 80, 82, 88, 90, 91, 94 and 102 to 104.

Finally, Group No. 5 is Motions Nos. 84, 92, 96 and 98.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

I shall now propose Motions Nos.--

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think the only thing I can do is reserve the right to raise this matter at a later point.

I must tell you, sir, that no one who was present in those committee hearings would believe that there was an opportunity to move the amendments that you have ruled were capable of being moved in committee. That is simply not the case.

There have been points raised on the floor of the House about the proceedings in the committee. I believe there is a ruling still outstanding from the Speaker with regard to precisely that point.

However, what is incontestable is that that committee was conducted in such an unruly way and conducted in a way that rammed through the government's agenda without the opportunity for parliamentarians to propose amendments. It is simply not credible to anyone to suggest that the amendments could have been made at that time.

In one meeting last week, in the space of less than an hour and a half, the chair of that committee suspended hearings to his own call six separate times. There was no opportunity to present amendments. For the suggestion to be made now that there was an opportunity then and that it precludes our opportunity now to improve the bill is an affront to democracy and to Parliament.

I do not know under the rules what we can do about it. I want to signal now my intention to reserve my right to raise parliamentary matters with regard to behaviour which is not only unfair to Parliament, but fundamentally unfair to first nations people.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the way I understood the Speaker's ruling on the point of order raised by the right hon. member for Calgary Centre was that members who had not taken part in the committee's deliberations would be able to present amendments at this stage, particularly since we are dealing with both report stage and second reading concurrently, and that would make the Speaker's words a bit more interesting.

So, with regard to the two groups you have mentioned, for the second group you have said that these could have been presented in committee. These amendments could have been presented while the committee was sitting.

But members who did not participate in the committee's business and who did not have an opportunity to present these amendments—because of a time allocation motion, in fact—could not have presented them, because they were not present at the committee sittings.

So, like my hon. colleague from Calgary Centre, I understood that the Speaker had accepted this principle and was about to make a ruling in favour of my colleagues who had not participated in the debate, who had not presented amendments to the committee, so that they could present them at the report and second reading stage.

Now, you have just said that at least 20 amendments that each have some value will not be chosen, because they could have been presented in committee. The hon. members who want to present these amendments were not present when the committee was sitting, and I felt that the Speaker was leaning toward a broader interpretation of the business before us.

I, too, wish to reserve a right to raise at a later point this decision to eliminate the amendments in Group No. 2 which you have just mentioned.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I understand fully that if, at a later date, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot or our other parliamentary colleague, the Right Hon. member for Calgary Centre wishes to raise the question of privilege again, that is always within the realm of possibility and within their rights.

With regard to the final comments of the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, the issue is not about whether a member attended a committee meeting or not. The essence of this matter relates to opportunity. In its opinion, the Chair, necessarily, as was raised by the Right Hon. member for Calgary Centre, is quite clear on this and was well aware of this committee's work on this bill.

So, I simply want to assure the House that the Chair made its decision after considerable reflection and with all due respect for the rules of the House related to this stage of the debate, and my report is consistent with this decision.

Now, let us move on.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1, 13, 14, 21, 23, 26 to 30, 42, 43, 45 and 46 in Group No. 1 to the House.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

moved:

That Bill C-7, in the Preamble, be amended by replacing lines 15 and 16 on page 1 with the following:

“nance that are in accordance with their individual traditions and customs”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Edmonton Southeast Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 4, be amended by deleting lines 31 to 34 on page 4.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister you named as the seconder of the motion is not in the House.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I believe that Mr. Owen is in the House.

It is Mr. Kilgour for Mr. Nault, who moved the motion, seconded by Mr. Owen.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 34 on page 4 with the following:

“least 30 days before the vote is conducted”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing line 12 on page 7 with the following:

“members of a first nation of the first nation's law-making powers and, in”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 7, be amended by adding after line 20 on page 8 the following:

“(2) The council of the band shall make available to the members of the band and the residents of the reserve a copy of the budget referred to in paragraph (1)(a) at least 14 days before the budget is presented in accordance with the financial management and accountability code.”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Edmonton Southeast Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing lines 16 to 32 on page 9 with the following:

“(3) The Minister, or a person or body designated by the Minister, may carry out an assessment of a band's financial position, and require that remedial measures be taken, where

(a) the Minister has reason to believe that a deterioration of the band's financial health compromises the delivery of essential programs and services;

(b) financial statements have not been made publicly available within the period specified in subsection 9(3); or

(c) the band's auditor has denied an opinion, or has given an adverse opinion, on the band's financial statements.”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing lines 16 to 23 on page 9 with the following:

“(3) The Council of a band shall, by band law, authorize an impartial person, or an impartial body established under section 18 to carry out an assessment of a band’s financial position and to require that remedial measures be taken when any of the following circumstances become known”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing lines 16 to 18 on page 9 with the following:

“(3) The Minister, or an independent and impartial person or body designated by the Minister, may at any time carry out an assessment of a band’s financial or other”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing line 20 on page 9 with the following:

“necessary, the Minister may require, only with the consent of the members of the first nation, that”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

moved:

That Bill C-7 be amended by deleting Clause 11.

That Bill C-7, in Clause 16, be amended by replacing line 23 on page 12 with the following:

“of the band and the charging of reasonably and fairly set fees for”

That Bill C-7, in Clause 16, be amended by replacing line 35 on page 12 with the following:

“for and powers of eviction, and a schedule of shelter fees for band-owned dwellings;”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 16, be amended by deleting lines 15 to 20 on page 13.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

moved:

That Bill C-7, in Clause 17, be amended by replacing line 28 on page 13 with the following:

“products, fish and wildlife;”

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, before I get into the gist of my comments on this package of amendments, I want to take the opportunity to speak in support of the comments made by my colleague from the Bloc who raised some very legitimate concerns. I do not think they were properly dealt with here today.

The Speaker made the comment in giving his ruling regarding this bill that he was not in possession of supernatural qualities. I believe that was the phrase he used. Neither, unfortunately, are members of the House.

This method of proceeding places us at some difficulty certainly in dealing with these amendments. It continues a very unfortunate approach which the government has taken since the outset of the bill, which is to push it forward regardless of obvious and strong opposition to it. It is for that reason the official opposition has supported the position of pulling the bill and reversing this process which we believe to be dangerous, damaging and naive.

I do not doubt for a minute that the Minister of Indian Affairs is well meaning and well intentioned. That is not at issue here. I do not doubt for a minute that the people who designed the Indian Act were also well intentioned and well meaning.

The problem is obvious to anyone who has listened to the heartfelt presentations of people who came to our committee. The problem is that well meaning and well intentioned do not create good governance when, at the fundamental base of our relationship with our aboriginal friends in the country, is the assumption that the government knows better than they do how to govern them and that they are not entitled to the same rights, privileges and freedoms as the rest of us in the country. As long as that assumption is upheld in legislation, there will continue to be the types of problems we have seen and unfortunately which mount daily in our country with aboriginal peoples particularly on reserve.

Our party does not support segregation. We do not support the dehumanization of aboriginal Canadians. We do not support legislation which perpetuates the assumptions that created the Indian Act and subsequent pieces of legislation and subsequent policy which created a divide and which daily creates a divide between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

The government is trumpeting this legislation as a panacea for the problems that face aboriginal Canadians, which are very real and very serious problems. It is trumpeting this legislation as accountability and is using buzz words like transparency and cost effectiveness when it describes the legislation. None of those words apply when one looks at the bill. None of those words are legitimate in describing the bill.

How can we create a system of good governance when we simply further empower bureaucracies and the already powerful and do nothing to address the underlying problems that face aboriginal people?

The priorities that aboriginal people have raised through their associations are very real and urgent, yet the government proposes to spend hundreds of millions of dollars enacting unwanted legislation which will not address the problems of accountability or transparency on reserves. Despite the fact that it is well meaning, the outcome will be perverse, as has been the case repeatedly throughout our history.

The reality is that one cannot create better governance from Ottawa. One has to create better governance by strengthening the individuals and the families who are aboriginal people. By strengthening them and empowering them and giving them greater ability to participate as full Canadians, that might lead to better governance.

The bill is both good and original in that the good parts are not original and the original parts are not good. The good parts are simply a rewrapping of existing policy that describes the relationship we already have to some degree with aboriginal chiefs and councils.

I have had the privilege of meeting with over a hundred chiefs from across Canada and they are not afraid of accountability. In fact in any respect, in any measure, the requirements that are imposed on them and on their councils to be accountable and to be forthright in their financial dealings are greater than for any other level of government in the country.

Certainly one would argue that for many chiefs and councils they are far more accountable and far more transparent in their dealings than the government opposite. According to the Auditor General, the onerous requirements are already very real. On average 168 forms per year have to be completed by band chiefs and councils and the red tape and regulations are deeper than a Manitoba snowbank. The reality is the bill would replace a regime of 168 different forms with perhaps 178. If 168 forms did not create accountability, why would anyone believe 178 forms would do that? It will not.

The fact remains that the bill is a continuation of the same paternalistic, colonialist approach that we have been using for far too long and it should be discarded. The approach is wrong, it is mistaken and it is hurtful to aboriginal Canadians and to the relationship that we should be building together.

The minister proclaims that the bill contains provisions for band elections. However the Indian Act already has provisions for band elections and that has not been a problem on the vast majority of aboriginal reserves. The FNGA would simply codify the flawed failed policies of the Indian Act. It is more than that and it is more dangerous than people have come to realize. Perhaps committee members who listened to the presentations understand but I am afraid that many observers do not, those who did not follow carefully the proceedings.

The bill would give additional powers to chiefs and councils, powers that the minister has argued are a natural step toward self-government. In this bill he is giving the power to chiefs and councils to make laws, to set fines and to impose jail terms. If they have a problem with that, he would also institute a system where the enforcement officer could be appointed by the chief and council to ensure there is no problem with that anymore.

On many bands that would not be a problem. Chiefs and councils have exercised those kinds of powers for years and they have developed systems to ensure accountability. What the bill would do, however, is empower 600 plus chiefs and councils to set up their own law enforcement officers. If they have a problem with that, they can go to a redress officer who would be accountable to and appointed by the chief. I have yet to speak to an aboriginal Canadian who thinks that makes any sense. I and the Canadian Alliance certainly do not.

The government is trying to create a picture of accountability but the reality will not be the case. Unfortunately some chiefs do abuse their powers sometimes. Some chiefs here do it. The reality is keeping chiefs accountable, whether they are aboriginal or not, is an ongoing challenge for all of us. Setting up a system that further empowers chiefs, at the expense of those who are less powerful, in fact some would argue in many reserves powerless, would be dangerous because it would make the already vulnerable more vulnerable.

For that reason, the Canadian Alliance will be opposing the bill. For that reason and many others, we would urge every member of the House to oppose the bill. It is poorly thought out. It is naive to the maximum. It will cost Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to build houses, to improve water quality and to address the educational problems that face our aboriginal friends. These are where our resources should be going. The bill is a mistake.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Lanark—Carleton, Trade; the hon. member for St. John's West, Fisheries.

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. I would have liked to have seen one a little longer and a little more democratic, to be frank.

When a bill like this one is referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, and when it comes back to the House and goes through report and second reading stage at the same time, there is one very important stage of debate missing.

That said, the Chair has had this issue raised with him and a ruling has been made, until further notice. I will, if I may, comment on the amendments you have consolidated into one group, ours in particular. The purpose of these was to ensure that the wording of the bill really constitutes an expression of self-government for the first nations, or in other words, their inherent right to self-government.

As has been seen from clause one to clause fifty-nine, certain powers cannot be given to the first nations. Moreover, we ought to think twice before giving them what they already have, because they have an inherent right to self-government, and this has been recognized in a number of decisions by Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as by the United Nations. All that we need to do is help translate this inherent right to self-government into real power and real government, in other words, a third level of government.

Bill C-7, however, does not do that. On the contrary, it is so “prescriptive” and restrictive for the first nations that it ends up being a kind of Indian Act, modernized 2003 version, when it is universally acknowledged everywhere in Canada, and even elsewhere, that the Indian Act and its application over the past 130 years has feudalized and infantilized the first nations and led to the belief that they were incapable of managing their own affairs.

Incidentally, I was surprised to see an article in La Presse today by a columnist who trotted out, one after the other, the government's demagogic rhetoric, as presented by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In her column, she tried to convince readers, first, that aboriginal communities have widespread management problems on reserves, when in fact, the Auditor General demonstrated last year in her report that the problem is not at the reserve level or among first nations communities, but that the problem was at the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

This department lacks transparency. Try to find information on the $6 billion part of the budget that is used for payments that could very well be made to Liberal cronies or to people called co-managers, who earn up to $60,000 working part time on reserve management. If there are five of them, you can do the math, Mr. Speaker.

I tried to get a breakdown on the figures from the budget for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to see exactly where these billions of dollars are going.

First, the door is closed in your face; you have to use the Access to Information Act. Second, the Auditor General said it last year, more than 90% of first nations communities have external audit reports. Try to find that level of transparency anywhere else, including here. Third, the bill tries to have us believe—and that is what the amendments we introduced touch on—that there is no accountability among first nations. However, this is not true.

The current Auditor General and the one before her said it, and repeated it, “We are asking too much of first nations. They have to produce about 300 reports every year”. This is just about one report per day that they have to send to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. What do they do with these reports in the department? Most of the time, they take them and throw them out.

That is the reality for first nations. When people say that first nations have management problems, or that there is a lack of transparency or accountability, they are trotting out prejudices, which is what happened today in La Presse , and which is what several members of the government continue to do.

On the basis of isolated cases of mismanagement and incidents that can happen in any good society, they would have us believe that Bill C-7 is necessary, because of a widespread problem in terms of management, transparency and accountability.

Bill C-7 was presented as a necessary step toward abolishing the Indian Act and speeding up the advent of aboriginal self-government. It is not true.

Witness the fact that, in many first nations communities in Quebec as well as in the rest of Canada, the pace of some negotiations in connection with self-government picked up. Self-government has been successfully implemented and it is the only way to go.

Negotiations with the first nations must pick up speed to, first, settle their land claims and, second, assert their inherent right to self-government on this land, which they will negotiate with the federal government, because of its fiduciary responsibility. That is the only way to go.

The Erasmus-Dussault commission made this point merely five years ago. Over the next 20 years, a big project must get underway, where everyone works toward speeding up the process to restore dignity to the first nations and ensure that a real third level of government is established. That is what needs to be done.

There is no need for this kind of bill, which further subjugates the first nations even though the language is that of 2003. The way to go is self-government and settling specific claims faster.

There are 500 such claims now in progress—and they are making no progress. Why not? Because energy, time and money are being spent—and the first nations will be asked to spend some in the near future as well—to create a bill that is completely useless in terms of advancing relations between the federal government and the first nations. It is completely useless in terms of improving the social and economic conditions of Canada's first nations. It is also completely useless in terms of accelerating recognition of the first nations' inherent right to self-government.

It is scandalous that we are still stuck here, after 55 days of debate in committee, 136 hours of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill—clause by clause. The opposition has moved amendments that were all rejected, even though their purpose what to recognize the inherent right to self-government and recognize that common sense must apply in the things we do to advance the cause of the first nations in Canada and the things we do to improve the relationship between us.

We find ourselves in a situation where, currently, our relations have not been improved by this bill. This bill has been unanimously condemned across Canada. This is another criticism I would make to minister, who said that he held consultations and that there were people who supported this bill. In his opinion, only the leaders who want to retain their powers are opposed.

I went to Kenora, which is in the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's riding, where people were protesting in the streets. Some 7,000 to 8,000 first nations representatives were marching against Bill C-7. Let us do the math. Surely there are not 7,000 aboriginal leaders in Canada. The aboriginals do not want this bill. It is not just the chiefs.

There were 30 to 50 first nations representatives who took part in our deliberations, day after day, evening after evening and often night after night, because the chair had turned up the heat and kept us working at all hours to analyze Bill C-7. Apparently, this is the brainchild of the Prime Minister, who is the former Minister of Indian Affairs and who wants to reproduce his 1969 white paper.

Bill C-7 is truly a carbon copy of that white paper. There is a desire to municipalize the powers of the first nations, when they should be a third order of government, with real powers over the fate of first nations peoples. Second, the federal government wants to free itself of its fiduciary duty. This concern is in the bill. Third, there continues to be a lack of respect for the first nations, which are nations, even according to the UN.

We are going to try to get our amendments adopted, which will restore some dignity to this debate.

First Nations Governance ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Liberal Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take part in the debate on this amendment to the First Nations Governance Act.

When a new code is proposed, this amendment will require band councils to advise all members and residents of the reserve within 15 days for the code to be adopted.

As my distinguished colleagues know, this amendment was put forward and accepted by the committee. The government cannot support this amendment.

Before addressing the specific problems that this amendment raises, I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources for their work.

As my distinguished colleagues know, this legislation was sent to committee for review before second reading. Our objective was very simple: take every opportunity to improve the legislation as much as possible. I believe we reached our objective.

The first stage of the consultations on the First Nations Governance Act was, for aboriginals, the first clear opportunity in our entire history to influence the development of legislation and to profoundly change the direction of the Indian Act by establishing a solid foundation for a transition to self-government.

Sending Bill C-7 to committee before second reading gave us another opportunity to consult first nations people on improvements to be made to it. As members know, when a bill is submitted to committee before second reading, significant changes can be made.

That is precisely what happened and I would like to commend the members of the committee for their careful and meticulous review of the First Nations Governance Act.

Although the government does not support the amendment that we are talking about today, that does not diminish the value of the numerous improvements made to this legislation in committee. For instance, the committee put forward several amendments on the provisions of Bill C-7 in reaction to the concerns of first nations witnesses who wanted us to clarify the matter of search and seizure powers.

Through its work, the committee helped draft amendments that had been suggested at report stage. Those amendments respond to the concerns of first nations in matters of acquired rights by bands that have already adopted codes.

Although I applaud the excellent work done by the committee and I readily acknowledge the underlying good intentions of this amendment—in other words the desire to give communities enough notice about proposed new codes to be ratified—this amendment inadvertently causes true problems for first nations.

This amendment will limit the government's ability to make regulations on ratification votes and will limit the first nations' ability to express their views on these regulations in the third stage of consultations, which will take place after the bill is passed. As my distinguished colleagues know, a regulation may not conflict with a law. Consequently, criteria established by law cannot be changed by regulation.

Moreover, this amendment does not allow the drafting of regulations that would fully respect the rights of members living off the reserve. This would be in direct violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Corbiere decision. A fifteen-day notice will probably be too short to enable all members living off the reserve to take part in a ratification vote in an informed manner.

One of the problems with this amendment is that there is no provision allowing an extension of the fifteen-day period. Amendment CA4 would not allow any flexibility with regard to the notice period, contrary to what the first nations could request during the third stage of consultations.

The amendment uses the expression “non-member residents”. This is not consistent with the language used in the First Nations Governance Act nor is it consistent with current practices. Non-member residents of a first nation do not have the right to take part in a ratification vote on a code.

Finally, the expression “all members of the band” includes minors who are not entitled to vote on a code proposed by a band.

For all these reasons, this amendment, despite the good intentions of those who wrote it, does nothing to improve Bill C-7; it takes away from it.

If, as the amendment proposes, the purpose is to provide early notification to the parties involved in a ratification vote, I would like to assure my distinguished colleagues that this position will be taken into consideration in the regulations now being drafted.

Furthermore, these regulations will be strengthened through consultations and will reflect the needs and interests of Canadian aboriginal communities.

Before closing, I would like to encourage all of my distinguished colleagues to support Bill C-7, the First Nations Governance Act. This bill is based on several principles, including transparency, the requirement for accountability and reparation. These principles are the pillars of democratic governments. They are also the pillars of the right to self-government for Canada's first nations.

Once Bill C-7 has been passed by the House of Commons and has received Royal Assent, it will mark the beginning of a new relationship between first nations peoples, their administrations and the Government of Canada.