Mr. Speaker, Bill C-14 is a land claim and self-government agreement between the Tlicho, earlier known as the Dogrib, the government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada. It makes amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and consequential amendments to other acts. Because this is a land claim agreement as well as a self-government agreement, it is constitutionally protected. This enabling legislation also gives effect to the tax treatment agreement for the Tlicho.
The federal government has essentially been carving up the north since the 1980s. It did it through the creation of Nunavut, through the comprehensive Yukon Indian agreement for the 14 Yukon first nations, and it has done it in the western Arctic with the Gwich’in, the Inuvialuit, and the Sahtu land claim agreements in the Northwest Territories.
There are essentially two areas in the north not yet covered with a land claim after the Tlicho agreement. Those are the Akaitcho and Deh Cho in the Northwest Territories, bordering to the south and west of the Tlicho agreement we are talking about today. I hope that kind of puts a perspective on things for people who are listening.
We have an interesting scenario here. The former premier of the Northwest Territories, Stephen Kakfwi, prior to holding the premiership, held the aboriginal portfolio and even held it during his time as premier. He consistently supported a very strong aboriginal and northern ownership agenda.
Last year he suggested that the Northwest Territories would live under some form of aboriginal governance within five years. We have had a lot of land claim agreements, as I just portrayed, but we certainly have not had much in the way of aboriginal self-government agreements. This means that he is promoting an agenda that would lead to many new agreements. This agreement would be a forerunner of that.
The governance provisions in this agreement are obviously precedent setting and, one would imagine, very important for us to scrutinize because they have major implications for future negotiations. I think that is of great concern to us from the standpoint that this agreement has received very little scrutiny. There has been very little interest from the rest of the world. There is a lack of clarity in this agreement, such as the concerns about paramountcy.
There are paramountcy concerns in many of our aboriginal agreements, but this one is exacerbated by the fact that it is not just two sets of laws that are colliding, it is very often three sets of laws: those of the Northwest Territories, those of the federal government and those of, in this case, the Tlicho.
Therefore, without clarity this could lead to all kinds of collisions and jurisdictional disputes. There is no satisfaction in talking to the bureaucracy or anyone involved in these negotiations in terms of getting answers to specific questions when it comes to that issue.
I have some very real sympathy with the aspirations of the north and with the fact that the federal government has been an oppressive presence in many respects.
We know from the current situation that has been brought to light about the differences between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia and the federal government over offshore revenues from oil and gas, for example, that there is every reason to believe that no Liberal federal government has ever wanted the provinces to control resource revenues or their own resources. That goes doubly so for the Northwest Territories and for Nunavut and Yukon.
I have some real sympathies to the reasons and the rationale for some of the expressions of using this land claim and self-government initiative to try and bring new expression to northern control over resources. I am not sure this vehicle is always the best way but it has been their only way.
Only last year, Jim Antoine, a very well known MLA in the Northwest Territories and the resources minister, stated that aboriginal governments would become allies in the territories' fight to win control over its resources and the associated royalties from the federal government. That is a validation of what I just said and a validation about the ongoing dispute, not just with the north, but with the provinces over control of their own resources, their own destiny and their problems with clawbacks and other arrangements whereby there is a disincentive to carry on enterprise and resource extraction.
The bill is rather compact but it would give force of law to the tripartite agreement of August 25, 2003, and that accords the agreement from 2003 paramountcy over the act itself. The act would bring into law these very complex provisions.
The Tlicho First Nation would have ownership of approximately 39,000 square kilometres of area north of Yellowknife and between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake. Under the terms of Bill C-14, the first nation would also acquire participatory regulatory authority over a much larger area. The bill is unique in that it would give effect to the land claim and the self-government agreement.
The act and the agreement have been put before this Parliament on an all or nothing basis. The government, on the advice of the clerk and the House, has taken the position that Parliament lacks the capacity to amend the provisions of the agreement. For this reason, the legislation was introduced by way of a notice of ways and means motion.
What this is really telling us is that the federal government can negotiate essentially any agreement it so chooses in its area of expertise and can do so in a completely unchecked fashion.
We have great concerns about that. We and the other opposition parties expressed our concerns about the lack of any democratic check on the government's ability to sign on to the missile defence initiative, for example. We amended the throne speech so that a vote will be held in this place if the government decides to proceed with the missile defence initiative.
The government signs many other international treaties where the degree of scrutiny might be something we want to look at, but surely, when it comes to a domestic arrangement that will be constitutionally protected and that is something that is as complex as this agreement is, there must be some arrangement that allows for amendments to or checks on the fact that our bureaucracy, one department, one minister and the cabinet, can simply approve an agreement of this degree of seriousness.
I think there is a huge issue at stake and, I must say, I disagree with the position that the House has taken on this. I do not believe this contributes to democracy in any way. As a matter of fact, I believe it undercuts democracy. The very role that the House should be providing has been undercut by this decision.
The agreement gives 3,000 Tlicho people claims to subsurface resources, law-making authority and the power to tax, levy royalties and manage resources. The 39,000 square kilometres area is roughly half the size of New Brunswick. It is bounded on the north by the Sahtu, on the east by the Nunavut and on the south and west by the future Akaitcho and Deh Cho territories.
In order to negotiate this agreement, the negotiating costs for the Tlicho alone were $27 million. If we think about that, a group of 3,000 people spent $27 million just on their side alone negotiating this agreement and the House of Commons has no opportunity to change one sentence in that agreement. I do not know of any other jurisdiction that would accept this, but in any case, that is where we are. This is not a proud record. I would assume that all of the negotiating costs combined must be approaching $80 million.
I want to summarize some of the specifics of the agreement for the interest of our listeners. I think it is important that we know some of the non-self-government settlement provisions.
Two operating diamond mines in the Tlicho territory are specifically excluded from the land claim area but remain within the territory. Any future subsurface extraction on Tlicho lands would be subject to a Tlicho royalty regime.
Five years ago we were essentially a non-diamond producing nation. Now we are the third largest diamond producing nation on the globe and we have every reason to believe that we will become second in short order. There are lots of future expansions of diamond mining that will occur north of 60° and in northern Ontario, northern Saskatchewan and other jurisdictions.
Yes, the existing mines are excluded but for any future mines within the Tlicho it is quite realistic to assume that they will be on lands owned by the Tlicho. As it stands right now, under the Mackenzie Valley resource sharing agreement, the Tlicho get 10.5% of the first $2 million of mineral royalties received by the federal and territorial governments for subsurface resources within the five regions of the Mackenzie Valley and a further 2.1% after the $2 million figure is reached. This would bring in about $3.5 million a year to the Tlicho government from the whole basin.
The royalties from the existing diamond mines that are specifically excluded from the Tlicho lands contribute to that formula, which is also shared by the Shatu, the Gwich'in and others in the Mackenzie Valley region. The proposed route of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline would not traverse Tlicho lands and, therefore, is not an issue at this time.
The band is involved in hydro development and is likely to become self-sufficient and a net contributor to the grid for the Northwest Territories. The largest of the four Tlicho communities, Rae-Edzo, is located along the Fraser Highway and the Tlicho government is planning an all weather highway to link the other three communities, which are Lac la Martre, Snare Lake and Rae Lake. I must say that adding these kinds of infrastructures to the north are important and progressive and are all very good initiatives.
The taxation provisions of the agreement are a little unclear since there is no concluded taxation agreement between Canada and the Tlicho, although one is to be concluded. Once again, here we are enabling something that is yet to happen without any ability to amend anything.
Tlicho citizens would pay GST and income tax. Tlicho government corporations would not pay either tax when conducting business on Tlicho land. The Indian Act would no longer apply to Tlicho citizens and Tlicho lands would not be considered reserve lands. Tlicho citizens would have continued access to all federal programs for status and non-status Indians and Métis. The Tlicho government would receive taxes paid to the federal government from Tlicho residents. The Criminal Code would continue to apply.
This agreement has a $152 million cash settlement to be paid out over 15 years, and the Tlicho government will pay off its $27 million negotiating loan in its first six years. In addition, there is a one time payment of $5 million from the federal government to an economic development fund to be managed by the Tlicho government.
Although the agreement has received little attention in the Canadian media, it is certainly the most significant agreement concluded by the Canadian government in recent years, as I have explained. We have some issues with this agreement and I think they generally fall under several categories.
I will summarize my major concerns by talking about the jurisdictional confusion, the absence of finality that is not in the agreement and the fact that we are simply doing this in a vacuum. The whole agreement has been agreed to by a few individuals and is being rubber stamped because no other option is available to us as the Parliament of Canada.
Somehow we have to revisit how these initiatives are approached right from the beginning and ask what the long term ramifications will be of these precedent setting agreements that tend to create a jurisdictional lack of clarity between Tlicho or aboriginal law, territorial or provincial law and federal law.