Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.
It is my great honour to rise in the House today. Once again I come to the House to speak to the legislative agenda of a tired and confused minority Liberal government.
On October 7, I spoke in the House in reply to the Speech from the Throne. At that time I was disappointed at the insipid leadership and the weak agenda outlined in the Speech from the Throne. A mere 22 days later, I find my worst fears confirmed.
Just over three weeks into this 38th Parliament and the government has proven that rather than address the issues important to Canadians in a full and honest manner, it has resorted to recycling failed legislation from previous administrations and reneged on promises made in this summer's federal election campaign.
This minority government is so desperate to pad its non-existent legislative agenda that it has rushed the Tlicho land agreement into the House of Commons before it is ready.
In fact, if we take a look at how the bill came before the chamber today, we see that Parliament is once again being manipulated. I would like to remind the House that the bill has been introduced on an all or nothing basis. But then, the Liberals have rarely seen a controversial topic that they could not dodge.
Canadians who are watching these proceedings today are rightly outraged. They know that our debate today is an example of the worst abuse of the political process. The government, on the advice of the clerk of the House, has taken the position that Parliament lacks the capacity to amend the provisions of this agreement. The bill has not proceeded in any way that is respective of parliamentary supremacy.
There has been no consideration at committee, no amendments possible and no way for members of Parliament to contribute to this very important agreement.
I fear that the Liberal government is trying to paint those who would take their parliamentary responsibility seriously as anti-aboriginal or against self-government. I find that sort of tactic insulting, unnecessary and very unproductive.
Why should Canadians be surprised? This is a government that has repeatedly shown that it would rather have the courts do its job than do the hard work itself.
The true shame of this cowardly tactic is that hon. members, such as my colleague, the member for Calgary Centre-North and the official opposition critic for Indian affairs and northern development, cannot share the wisdom of their experience with the House. The party opposite may not bring candidates and members of Parliament to the House whose qualifications they respect and value, but in our party we know that our caucus has the mental fortitude to engage in the legislative process.
The member for Calgary Centre-North brings personal and professional experience that makes him a recognized Canadian expert in the matter of native land claim settlements. This is the betrayal of the Canadian people. It is no wonder they are cynical about the political process.
The bill is too important to be rammed through the House with no opportunity for true legislative amendment. This is not to say that the bill is not without merit. There are many benefits captured within the agreement.
However, beyond the flagrant dismissal of Parliament, what concerns members on this side of the House can be summarized in four main points.
The first are the contentious provisions regarding the finality of this bill. Second, there are concerns that the agreement may incur on Canada's international autonomy. Third, the bill seems to create jurisdictional confusion, a sure route directly to the court system. What a surprise.
Finally, the government is flirting with the discriminatory application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Again, all this will serve to do is create an environment of uncertainty and distrust leading to yet more lengthy court disputes.
Let us take these concerns individually. If Canadians are not going to be provided with true representation through their members of Parliament, the Conservative Party of Canada will show Canadians what a constructive approach to law-making looks like.
The Conservative Party of Canada believes that Canada's first nations deserve equitable and fair powers of self-government. When done right, aboriginal agreements can right the wrongs of the past and set the stage for a bright future for everyone.
We can look at the Nisga'a agreement to see how an agreement can achieve closure to a long standing land claim, and it is this type of finality that is lacking in Bill C-14. The 3,000 Tlicho band members deserve better.
The issue of finality is very important. Aboriginal self-government issues have been ignored and delayed for too long. When the Nisga'a agreement was passed through federal legislation, it gave the first nations confidence that their agreement was a full and final arrangement.
From the point of view of members of the House and Canadians across the country, there must also be a belief that agreements negotiated and passed into legislation are full and final agreements. The bill lacks that finality, leaving first nations, Canadians and parliamentarians playing a waiting game, always unsure if the agreement will be reopened at the whim of a minister or the demand of the Tlicho government looking for more powers or rights.
When negotiating self-government agreements, the federal government walks a fine line between recognizing and granting powers to our first nations and ceding our national sovereignty.
There is still work to be done on Bill C-14 to clarify the provisions relating to international matters. The lack of limits to the Tlicho government's powers to enter into international, national and other territorial agreements creates an unacceptable situation where the federal government would transfer powers to act on the global scene to an internal community.
While the Liberals may have lost their sense of Canadian federalism, on this side of the House we still believe that it is the federal government that negotiates, signs and speaks for the Canadian people. Apparently all their dabbling in unfair, unequal and unpopular governance models have left them confused. The House can rest assured, if the Liberals are unwilling or unable to take responsibility for governing Canada, we are more than prepared to take that weight off their shoulders.
The third item of concern is the area of jurisdictional concern. Allowing the wording of this agreement to stand without amendment could create a third order of government. This was never the intention of self-government under our Constitution. There can be no equal or parallel authority to the federal government. Bill C-14 would allow concurrent authority.
Again, the government would rather push inadequate legislation through the House than do the work to clarify these provisions. If, indeed, this came to a conflict situation, there is no dispute mechanism, once again requiring the courts to address weak legislation put forward by the Liberal government. This is unacceptable.
Finally, we have concerns regarding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canadians value the rights and freedoms protected under the charter and continue to believe in the Constitution as paramount in our federal system.
However the Liberal government has shown its disrespect by recognizing a Tlicho constitution that cannot provide less protection than what is outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It leaves the door open for there to be a constitution which allows for more protection. Legislation is not supposed to create sects, divisions or a group of Canadians who have more rights than others. Bill C-14 is undoubtedly setting an unhealthy precedent.
This approach and the provisions of the legislation make a mockery of the parliamentary process and demean the legitimate rights of Canada's first nations to thoughtful and meaningful self-government legislation.
It is for all those reasons that we believe that Bill C-14 is inadequate and not yet ready to be passed.