House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.


Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents in Prince George—Peace River I rise to make a short comment.

One thing I think all Canadians are concerned about with these agreements is not whether a person deems them overly generous, generous or not generous enough, although that is a concern and it is a matter of individual opinion.

When my constituents look at the negotiations that lead up to these agreements, one concern I hear from them consistently is that they are concerned about finality and certainty. They believe that it is in the best interests of not only the aboriginal people themselves but certainly Canadian taxpayers to know that whatever agreement is finally arrived at, hopefully it will be as fair as it can be to both sides. As in any negotiation that takes place, be it private or corporate, we want to see fairness.

Ultimately in the end, we have to have finality and certainty. That is one concern I have consistently raised with all of these agreements. There always seems to be some loophole clauses that something can come back later, or if some other agreement is reached that is perhaps a bit more generous or less restrictive, and the negotiations are reopened. My constituents often raise that concern with me.

Could the member talk about whether this agreement is final? Oftentimes they are called final agreements, but when we read through the clauses, we find that there is no finality.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no finality in terms of the generosity of the agreement. It is a generous agreement. We do not necessarily complain about that. However, there is a clause whereby if any other to be concluded agreement creates situations more generous than what are in this agreement, it would reopen the agreement. It is the growing trend of this area of settlement.

More important, there is no finality to avenues for litigation. By using loose or lack of clarity type language on some of the jurisdictional issues or resource allocation issues, we open ourselves to endless litigation, and I hope we do not end up there.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate you, since I have not had the opportunity to do so yet, on your appointment. We represent taxpayers from the same region and our region is honoured. I am very happy for you and the region.

I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-14, the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act. I have no doubt that passing this bill will benefit both the Tlicho and all Canadians.

The agreement at the heart of this bill grants the Tlicho true control over a significant parcel representing roughly 20% of their traditional territory. In addition, the Government of Canada will pay the Tlicho—in several payments—some $150 million. These numbers will no doubt be the focus of every headline, but this agreement also includes many other provisions that will be just as important to the future of the Tlicho people.

This legislation will give the Tlicho the ability to shape their destiny. The Tlicho will form an effective and representative government and oversee vital aspects of their communities, such as land management, culture and social services. I am confident that by exercising control over their affairs, the Tlicho people will prosper for many generations to come.

And clearly, the Canadian economy benefits from prosperous, sustainable aboriginal communities. My optimism about the impact of Bill C-14 is based, in part, on the way the Tlicho have honoured their ancient traditions in the face of outside influences.

In the past 30 years, the Tlicho have experienced rapid and tumultuous social change. Where Tlicho hunters once tracked caribou, southern companies now mine diamonds. Skidoos and SUVs have largely replaced snowshoes and sleds. Oral histories once spoken by elders are now recorded in books and computers.

Despite the swift incursion of technology, though, the Tlicho continue to abide by their traditions. Elders are revered; the land is respected. And education remains a central focus of the community. Education has long been a crucial component of Tlicho culture. Since time immemorial, succeeding generations of elders have passed on their knowledge of traditional lands, relationships and culture.

When southerners first began to investigate the feasibility of building a pipeline through the Mackenzie Valley, Tlicho leaders recognized that such a project would have a dramatic impact on their society. In an effort to cope with change and minimize the negative consequences, the Tlicho invested in education.

In 1968, then Indian Affairs Minister Jean Chrétien met with Chief Jimmy Bruneau to discuss the future of the Tlicho. Chief Bruneau said that his people must learn to blend Northern and Southern cultures so they can take advantage of new technologies and opportunities. Chief Bruneau called for new schools to teach a curriculum that balanced aboriginal and non-aboriginal traditions.

In 1971, Chief Bruneau's dream began to come true when a school bearing his name opened in Rae-Edzo. The school's mission statement, “Be Strong Like Two People”, encapsulated the Chief's vision, and effectively summarized the Tlicho's strategy in dealing with social change.

Within a few years, Canada's first aboriginal school board took control of primary education in all four Tlicho communities. A regional secondary school was added in 1992. Since then, the number of adult students has climbed steadily. And, true to Tlicho tradition, adults attend the same classes as children.The Tlicho-controlled schools have had a significant and positive impact on their communities. Up until the mid-1970s, only a handful of Tlicho had ever graduated from high school. Now an average of 20 Tlicho earn high-school diplomas each year, and a growing number are pursuing degrees and diplomas at colleges and universities.

Tlicho attitudes about formal education have changed over the years. For the past 11 years, Rita Mueller has served as principal of Chief Jimmy Bruneau school, which now has an enrolment of approximately 350. In Ms. Mueller's words:

Ten years ago, a high-school diploma was the be-all and end-all; today it's considered a bare minimum. Most young people plan to continue their studies after high school.

The Tlicho recognize that post-secondary education is crucial to success in the modern era. And Tlicho leaders have found ways to ensure that their people have access to this education. The impact benefit agreements negotiated with the diamond-mining companies Diavik and BHP Billiton include payments to scholarship programs.

Furthermore, the Tlicho have chosen to commit a substantial portion of the payments received under this agreement to a scholarship fund. In this way, Bill C-14 will lead to an annual investment of approximately $500,000 in the Tlicho scholarship fund.

To administer scholarships and bursaries, a seven-person committee comprised of community representatives and teachers was established. The committee interviews applicants, reviews academic records and awards bursaries to the top candidates. The Tlicho were wise enough, though, to recognize that money alone cannot ensure success. Life on a crowded campus thousands of kilometres away from home can be difficult for Tlicho students, particularly when they've been raised in a completely different culture.

To help students adapt, the Tlicho hired a local person to fill the newly created position of regional post-secondary support coordinator. The coordinator maintains regular contact with Tlicho students and helps them cope with life on southern campuses.

The success of these students is crucial to the sustainability of Tlicho communities. To make the most of self-government, the Tlicho must have a group of professionals: managers, lawyers, doctors, teachers. They will also need carpenters, electricians and dozens of technical specialists. Rather than always hire these professionals from outside the community, the Tlicho are determined to train, develop and employ their own people.

This is precisely why Morven MacPherson was hired as regional post-secondary support coordinator. Ms. MacPherson, who had recently completed a second university degree, was delighted to return to Rae-Edzo and take the job. And community leaders recognize that Tlicho people who have completed post-secondary education are more likely to be “strong like two people.” These graduates draw from Tlicho culture and from their formal studies.

The importance of this bi-cultural knowledge cannot be understated. Consider, for example, the management of social services in Tlicho communities. Years ago, there were few social workers in Tlicho communities. When a child needed to be moved from a threatening situation, he or she would end up in Yellowknife, Fort Smith or Red Deer—far from Tlicho culture, language and traditions. Today, however, the head of social services is Nora Wetson, a Tlicho woman with a degree from the University of Regina. Ms. Wetson strives to ensure that social services are delivered in a way that balances Tlicho and southern perspectives.

Given the progressive approach to education and social services adopted by community leaders, the Tlicho can look forward to a new generation that is “strong like two people.” Today, the Tlicho support more than 130 people in post-secondary institutions. Among them are students of medicine, engineering and dozens of other disciplines. Many of these men and women will become leaders in Tlicho communities.

The legislation before us today validates the careful and respectful approach to development adopted by the Tlicho. I support Bill C-14 because it will enable the Tlicho to realize their potential. I urge my colleagues to do the same.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I fully support Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act, legislation that will enact the Tlicho agreement. I believe that this agreement serves as an important milestone in the evolving relationship between Canada and the aboriginal people.

It is true that there are gaps that separate first nations, Inuit, Metis and northerners from other Canadians, such as health and economic opportunity. We must do more to ensure that Canada's prosperity is shared by Canada's aboriginal people. The situation has begun to improve.

Private companies are partners with first nations, Inuit, Metis and northerners in some of the largest economic development projects in the country. The Government of Canada negotiated land claims and self-government agreements that enable aboriginal groups to fulfill their potential.

Bill C-14 is a case in point. This legislation will provide the Tlicho with access to resources, legal status, and the governance mechanisms it needs to develop socially, economically and culturally.

While my esteemed colleagues have addressed various aspects of Bill C-14 and the Tlicho agreement, I will focus my comments on the bill's effects on entrepreneurship. Its fostering of entrepreneurship is key to the economic and social development of all communities, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.

Unfortunately, for many years the entrepreneurial spirit has not supported the aboriginal communities. Isolated from the mainstream economy and with limited access to resources, many of these communities had little choice but to rely on the public purse.

Today, however, the situation has improved dramatically. Land claims and self-government agreements enable aboriginal communities to access the resources needed to prosper. Training programs ensure that young people can acquire the skills they need to succeed and venture capital funds enable entrepreneurships to access the money needed to explore emerging opportunities.

Bill C-14 will support this entrepreneurial spirit among the Tlicho in numerous ways. The bill clarifies the ownership of land and resources, giving the Tlicho people more tools to foster economic development in their traditional territory.

In addition, the Tlicho will receive more than $150 million paid out over a period of 14 years. These payments will enable the Tlicho to support the growing number of band owned businesses.

I understand, for instance, that the Tlicho are investigating the possibility of hiring aboriginal artists to create unique jewellery using diamonds from the mines in the Northwest Territories. Such an undertaking requires substantial venture capital and may not yield a profit for several years. Once Bill C-14 is proclaimed, the Tlicho will be better positioned to assume the risk and invest the capital.

As members are aware, the Tlicho people have already demonstrated remarkable business acumen. They have negotiated and maintained agreements for two large diamond mines in the region. Under these agreements the Tlicho receive access to jobs, training opportunities and scholarship investments.

When the Tlicho people secured these agreements, they recognized that they would benefit only for as long as the diamond mines operated. To derive long term benefits from short term projects the Tlicho co-founded a company with ATCO Frontec, a private business with a history of successful aboriginal partnerships.

The joint owned company, Tli Cho Logistics, provides service to northern mining projects. Initially, the Tli Cho Logistics company employed Tlicho people as unskilled labours. ATCO Frontec hired others to staff administrative and managerial positions. Over a period of several years however ATCO Frontec will train Tlicho staff for these skilled positions. Eventually, the Tlicho, who own 51% of Tli Cho Logistics, will assume control over the company.

This agreement ensures that when the diamond mines close, the Tlicho will have the expertise and experience needed to develop or bid on projects in other sectors, such as hydro electric, oil, gas and tourism.

The partnerships benefit everyone. ATCO Frontec establishes a thriving company that generates profits for its shareholders. The Tlicho acquire expertise and Canada gains another enterprise that contributes to the economy.

There can be little doubt that negotiated settlements, such as the Tlicho agreement have a significant and positive impact on the economy, but do not take my word for it. Consider a recent report by the respected accounting firm of Grant Thornton. The report analyzed the economic impact of negotiated settlements in British Columbia and stated that treaties deliver “a large net positive financial and economic benefit for British Columbia”.

A second study describes the importance of negotiated settlements from a different perspective. The B.C. Treaty Commission surveyed 141 companies, including 118 that are headquartered in British Columbia. One in four respondents said that companies had plans to invest in the province within the next five years if a significant number of land claims were settled.

Let us consider for a moment the ramifications that these findings have for Canada's economic policy. It is increasingly clear that negotiated settlements have substantial impacts well beyond the community level.

Today, first nations, Inuit, Métis and northerners are involved in every sector of the economy. Some of the largest projects underway in Canada, diamond and nickel mines and oil sands, were made possible only because of agreements negotiated with aboriginal communities. The economic benefits of these projects ripple throughout the economy.

In this context, it should come as no surprise that first nations, Inuit, Métis and northerners' issues have an increasingly prominent place in the business of the House. After all, there is only one economy and the more aboriginal people participate and contribute to the economy, the better all Canadians will be.

The Prime Minister recognizes the numerous obstacles that hamper the ability of first nations, Inuit, Métis and northerners to participate in the economy. To remove these obstacles and promote greater cooperation among the various departments and agencies with aboriginal people, the Prime Minister restructured the upper echelons of government. Today there is a parliamentary secretary, a privy council office, a secretariat, and a cabinet committee, all devoted to aboriginal affairs.

Other recent actions demonstrate the government's intention to follow through on its commitment to aboriginal people. In the Speech from the Throne the government outlined a strategy to address aboriginal education, governance, housing and health care. The strategy calls for the removal of impediments to economic development for first nations, Inuit, Métis and northern communities. It targets improvements in health care, physical infrastructure and training programs. It aims to facilitate access to tools and mechanisms needed to foster self-sufficiency and sustainability at the community level.

The strategy recognizes that quality of life is about much more than economic levels and access to social services. Quality of life is also about the strength of community bonds. It is about the links between young and old, rich and poor, citizens and governments.

Bill C-14 also recognizes these truths and will put the Tlicho people firmly in a position to enhance the quality of life of its citizens. Decisions on local issues, such as land use, culture and education, will be made by the people most familiar and most affected by these matters.

I am convinced that Bill C-14 would enable the Tlicho to safeguard their culture and increase their contribution to the economy. I urge my hon. colleagues to lend their support to this important legislation.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

London West Ontario


Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member has spent a lot of time in municipal council and that local governments are always concerned with economic development in their communities.

I would like to ask the hon. member just how having that new, local community government will help establish the aspirations of not only the economic development, but how that feeds into the social and the human development of the people in the community.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, this treatment is all about respect. It is about respect for aboriginal people and it is about economic development, as was stated before. It is about giving them dignity and a sense of pride in ownership and taking matters into their own hands. That is what we are trying to create here. The legislation is about economic development. When we give different groups the ability to manage their own affairs, they can do a better job in doing so.

We are very much in agreement with the legislation. We are very proud of the discussions that have taken place over the many years to have agreements with aboriginal people. I am proud to support, along with all my colleagues in the House, Bill C-14.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

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.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2004 / 1:35 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member, at the outset of his presentation, mentioned that although there was much in the agreement with which he agreed, there certainly were many flaws contained in the wording of the agreement, which he very eloquently outlined to us in the last few minutes.

I would ask the member to back up and perhaps explain a little more about the things in the agreement with which he does agree, particularly the spirit of the agreement, which to me seems to lend itself to agreeing to a quick resolution of land claims and to the agreement in principle about aboriginal self-government.

Would that be what the hon. member would consider to be the good points in this agreement, but that they are fundamentally flawed by the other points which he just raised?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, self-government is the effective good part that we see in this. It is not the only one, but it is the standout.

I represent five first nations in my riding of Macleod. That is a very fundamental issue to those people. It has been far too long that this has sat on the back burner. I look at this as a step in the right direction, but I think, even in having consultations with some of those first nations people in my own riding, they are concerned that this probably steps outside the bounds of what is acceptable.

They want self-government, but they also want to be part of the Canadian Constitution. They want to be able to control their own destiny, but they want to do it in an acceptable manner to all Canadians.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Brian Jean Conservative Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, originally this issue dates back to King George III. What a great country we have and what great laws we have established here because we do respect the rights of people and we do have to pay for what we have received. That of course is the land and the many minerals in the wonderful area in the Northwest Territories that this band is involved with.

Being from northern Alberta, I myself am proud to have many aboriginal native relatives from Kinuso, Janvier, Fort Chipewyan and other areas. I am very proud of the fact that they are members of Treaty No. 8.

My concern is that we are setting a precedent for other bands in relation to international negotiations and international treaties. Possibly my friend might be able to answer the question, will this allow the band to negotiate with foreign countries and foreign powers to allow them to occupy the lands of the band, to set up facilities and possibly armaments in that area if the band is allowed to negotiate on an international basis? Certainly, from my reading of the agreement, it gives the band some opportunity to negotiate on an international basis and to set its own precedent and basis for that.

My other question relates to another concern of mine, something which the member brought up. I am not concerned with this for Canadians generally, but for the Canadians within the Tlicho band itself. Is it possible that members within the band will be treated differently if they are not under the charter? I have great concerns for those people. Who is arguing for them at this stage because of their differential treatment on the basis of this agreement allowing them to be treated differently?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, there certainly is a concern for setting precedents in this legislation. As we read it now, there is a lot of ambiguity in the agreement.

If indeed this legislation allows the Tlicho band to have to be consulted on international agreements or treaties, then I would have great concerns that it also provides the band the avenue that it could actually negotiate its own. Certainly something of that nature has to be of great concern to a federal government that represents all Canadians.

In response to the member's second question, I will try to be brief. It sets a bad precedent in the fact that only members of the Tlicho band can sit as chief and a specified number of the band members. It is very limiting in who actually is going to manage this and how one brings in outside expertise.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to register my opposition to Bill C-14, the Tlicho agreement.

Little attention has been focused on this agreement and it is almost certainly the most significant agreement concluded by the Canadian government in recent years. The effect of this agreement is to create a new third order of aboriginal government with concurrent but paramount jurisdiction over the federal crown. The result will be a Tlicho state governed by a Tlicho constitution which is arguably paramount to the Canadian charter. The agreement also appears to acknowledge or perhaps confer some degree of international authority upon the Tlicho government.

There are a number of provisions in the agreement which are flawed and debatable from a Canadian public policy perspective. To be fair, certain aspects of the agreement are visionary and reflective of a mature and sustainable system of self-government.

Today I will discuss four reasons why the agreement is damaging to the long term interests of Canada. They are first, the absence of finality in the agreement; second, incursions upon Canada's international autonomy; third, confusion of jurisdictional authorities; and fourth, the application of the charter in the adoption of governance structures which are racially based and which arguably contradict the charter.

The first point is the absence of finality. It could be argued that the agreement is generous to a fault in terms of the land, moneys and resources which are provided to the Tlicho. It is worth noting that the Tlicho lands will comprise the single largest block of first nation owned land in Canada. This might be justifiable if the agreement were a final agreement, but unfortunately it is not.

The agreement provides that the Tlicho will receive equivalent benefits to those granted in the future to any other aboriginal group in the Northwest Territories, whether by land claims agreements, self-government agreements, tax power exemption, or legislation. In other words, this agreement is not a final agreement at all.

Please note that this agreement achieves little of the certainty and finality of the Nisga'a agreement. Frankly it is difficult to discern what concessions the federal government even achieved in exchange for the obvious generosity of the agreement.

The second point is the incursion upon Canada's international autonomy. The agreement contains a remarkable section relating to international matters. The agreement states that it does not limit the authority of the Tlicho to enter into international, national, interprovincial and interterritorial agreements, which suggest by implication that the Tlicho government has the authority to enter into international agreements.

The agreement also contains the following remarkable provision which is self-explanatory: “Prior to consenting to be bound by an international treaty that may affect a right of the Tlicho government, the Tlicho First Nation or a Tlicho citizen, flowing from the agreement, the Government of Canada shall provide an opportunity to the Tlicho government to make its views known with respect to the international treaty either separately or through a forum”.

The agreement also provides for an arbitration mechanism between the Government of Canada and the Tlicho government in respect of international legal obligations.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada is obligated under the agreement to consult with the Tlicho government before taking positions before an international tribunal in circumstances where the Tlicho government has taken action giving rise to an international legal controversy.

It would be naive to assume that these provisions are merely reflective of poor drafting.

The third issue is jurisdictional confusion. The provisions of the agreement relating to the future governance of this part of the Northwest Territories are poorly drafted and in some respects contradictory.

The effect of the act would be to create a new third order of aboriginal government with concurrent and paramount authority over the federal crown in relation to matters affecting the Tlicho. The act is clear in making the provisions of the agreement paramount over the act itself and over any regulations passed under the act.

Unfortunately the agreement itself is internally contradictory resulting in confusion regarding the concurrent and paramount authority of the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho government.

The agreement addresses these interjurisdictional issues in at least three places and prescribes three distinct paramount provisions. Articles 7.7.2 through 7.7.4 prescribe the following hierarchy of authority: one, federal legislation of general application; two, territorial legislation implementing Canadian international agreements; three, Tlicho laws; four, territorial legislation of general application; and finally, specific federal legislation relating to the Tlicho.

In other words, Tlicho laws prevail over territorial laws and also over federal laws relating to the Tlicho. The federal government seems therefore to have rendered specific federal legislation relating to the Tlicho subordinate to Tlicho laws.

Yet another example of the concept of paramountcy can be seen where it makes the settlement legislation paramount over the provisions of any other legislation or Tlicho law. Yet the definition of settlement legislation refers to both territorial legislation and federal legislation. In other words, this provision creates the following hierarchy: first, the agreement; second, the federal settlement legislation, which is presumably Bill C-14; third, territorial settlement legislation; and finally, other legislation or Tlicho laws. This is inconsistent with the concept outlined in articles 7.7.2 to 7.7.4 that were mentioned earlier.

Unfortunately, article 2.10.7 prescribes yet another legislative hierarchy which applies in the event of arbitration, namely: first, there are federal laws of overriding national importance; second, federal laws implementing international agreement obligations; third, other federal legislation; fourth, territorial legislation implementing international Canadian obligations; fifth, Tlicho laws; and finally, other territorial legislation.

Certainly the general scheme is that the powers of the Tlicho government to enact laws are concurrent with those of the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories. What is problematic is that there seems to be multiple definitions of how to determine who has jurisdiction in the event of conflict.

Finally, the agreement also contains the following rather optimistic provision:

Nothing in the Agreement shall prejudice the devolution or transfer of responsibility or powers from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Assuming that similar self-government agreements are put in place across the rest of the Northwest Territories, it is hard to visualize what responsibilities or powers we have left for the territorial government. This clause also begs the question as to whether the Government of Canada has held back any of its powers with regard to the Tlicho people.

The fourth point is the application of the charter and the adoption of governance structures which are racially based and which arguably contradict the charter. The overall scheme created by the act, the agreement and the Tlicho constitution appears to have implications for the application of the charter to Tlicho citizens. Although both the agreement and the Tlicho constitution speak of consistency with the charter, it is noteworthy that the Tlicho constitution is quite clear in article 3.1 that the Tlicho constitution shall be the Tlicho nation's highest law.

Frankly, the entire legislation scheme is quite unclear as to the constitutional relationship between the Constitution Act of Canada, the charter and the Tlicho constitution. On its face, the agreement purports to adhere to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in that article 2.15.1 provides that the charter applies to the Tlicho government.

However, the agreement itself outlines a racially based governance system. It creates a category of Canadians called Tlicho citizens and prescribes an electoral system where only Tlicho citizens may be elected as chief of the Tlicho community government. In addition, at least 50% of the elected councillors must be Tlicho citizens, so too the grand chief must be a Tlicho citizen. To be a Tlicho citizen one must be a registered status Indian. Thus, the agreement creates a racially segregated electoral system which is arguably contrary to the charter.

I would note that article 2.1.1 of the agreement may insulate the agreement from charter challenge by declaring the agreement to fall within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Those who are Tlicho citizens therefore acquire a very distinct status in the north. They enjoy the electoral franchise noted above. They have all the rights and benefits of other Canadian citizens. They also maintain their identity as aboriginal people of Canada participating in and benefiting from any existing or future constitutional rights. They receive all status Indian benefits. They also maintain all their hunting, fishing and trapping rights under treaties south of the 60th parallel.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada. To ensure fairness and equality, a Conservative government would ensure that the principles of the charter would apply to aboriginal self-government.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes giving aboriginal governments the power to raise their own revenues will reduce the cycle of dependency and that the performance and accountability of aboriginal self-government is enhanced when those who receive services contribute to the cost of those services.

The settlement of all outstanding comprehensive claims must be pursued on the basis of a clear framework which balances the rights of aboriginal claimants with those of Canada. In particular, negotiated settlements must balance the economic and social needs of aboriginal Canadians with Canada's need for certainty and finality of terms. Self-government agreements must reflect Canada's need for both efficacy and practicality in institutional structure and constitutional harmony so as not to impede the overall governance of Canada.

Bill C-14 fails to meet these criteria fully and therefore, must be defeated.

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1:50 p.m.


Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for a very thorough look at the proposed legislation. I have to agree with some of his points. It is incredibly commendable that outstanding comprehensive land claims are being addressed with the legislation. We certainly take no issue with the generosity toward aboriginal peoples. The agreement really speaks to a lot of their needs. I specifically also want to commend the power to raise their own revenues.

However, I am alarmed that the Tlicho constitution may trump our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Could my distinguished colleague speak to his party's desire to protect our beloved Charter of Rights and Freedoms in this matter?

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1:50 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, definitely there is concern that the Tlicho agreement contradicts our own Constitution and Charter of Rights. We need to ensure that the agreements we are negotiating reflect the desire of the Government of Canada and the people of Canada that all citizens are treated equally.

There is no doubt that it is important we get all these existing land claim settlements negotiated. We need to continue to urge the government to work toward that means. Unfortunately, the Tlicho agreement will be the template or the standard by which all future land claim settlements will be made. If there are flaws in this agreement, we have the chance to fix them now.

I would urge the government to make note of the concerns being raised by this side of the House, so we can put in place an agreement that will be comprehensive and applicable to all the future land claims currently on the table.

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1:50 p.m.

London West Ontario


Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the member give his speech, I heard echoes of the debates that unfortunately we listened to during the Nisga'a. At that time, I was the chair of the committee. I not only listened to the debate in the House and the testimony, I also sat through the over 400 amendments, all of which were not on the treaty provisions itself, as was claimed a little earlier today, but on the enabling act just as it is here.

Someone questioned that earlier. I thought I would take this opportunity to pull the Hansard of Tuesday, October 19, 1999. The Hon. Robert Nault, who was the minister of Indian affairs and northern development at the time, said:

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to table a notice of a ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the Nisga'a final agreement and the Nisga'a nation taxation agreement, and I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of this motion.

In other words, unlike what was said earlier in this House by the opposition party, Nisga'a was done in exactly the same way. I hope I stop hearing that argument. If they cannot read the Hansard , I have read it to them.

I would like to ask a question of this member. I honestly do not understand how his party can say that we need to speed up the treaty process, that we need to help economic development, that we need to get certainty and that many people live on lands that are on certain boundaries. We have not three months or one term of the lives of members in this Parliament or even two terms. We have over a decade of negotiation made in good faith with negotiators from the federal government and from the territorial government where the land is. They made a unanimous ratification in that parliament.

There are over 3,000 members of the Tlicho, with an 84.6% vote in favour and a 90 some odd per cent turnout at that election. Here our job procedurally is to ratify or not.

I can understand if people stand up and say that they do not want to ratify. However, do not say that these good things should happen, but this is not the time or that there has not been enough time taken or that good faith negotiation has not taken place, because that is not the case.

Let us be honest. Is this moving forward? Do we want to move this bill or will we just talk about it and slowly delay and move it on? Is this member serious about doing land claims in Canada?

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1:55 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I may not have as much experience in the House as the parliamentary secretary, but that still does not give her the right to go out and negotiate deals that are flawed. We need to make sure that the deals we put in place, ones that are going to be used as templates, have to be faultless to a T, and every i and t has to be dotted and crossed.

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1:55 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick


Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join colleagues in the debate regarding this important legislation. I will begin by telling members how pleased I was with the appointment the Prime Minister made this summer of the new Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

I have had a chance to work with the minister in his capacity as a member of Parliament and before his election to the House of Commons. The Prime Minister's choice of Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is an exceptional one. He will bring a great deal of energy to the portfolio. He is a man of very considerable judgment and experience and a sociologist by profession. Certainly, the academic and personal experience he has had in public service in our shared province of New Brunswick and in the Government of Canada will make him one of the most effective ministers in the history of the department.

I support the bill and the historic agreement contained at the heart of the proposed legislation. Some issues were raised by hon. members opposite concerning the bill. I think it would be appropriate and useful to address some of the specific issues.

Allow me to put the Tlicho agreement into context, and there has been a great deal of discussion on both sides of the House. It would be very useful for colleagues to understand the context in which the legislation operates.

The Tlicho agreement is designed to operate within the constitution of Canada. Subsection 35(1) of the Constitution Act recognizes and affirms existing aboriginal and treaty rights. There are notable Supreme Court rulings, the Sparrow decision for example, that clarify the nature of aboriginal rights. However, the full scope and extent of these aboriginal rights has not yet been determined in law.

The courts have repeatedly encouraged the resolution of aboriginal issues through negotiation rather than litigation. As we know, litigation is a more costly, adversarial and certainly time consuming way to address these difficult but important aboriginal issues. The Tlicho agreement is a product of negotiation and is designed to achieve the constitutional objectives as set out in subsection 35(1) of the Constitution Act.

To use a phrase that we have heard before in this chamber on this specific issue, let me emphasize that this agreement exists within the four square corners of our Constitution. In addition to ensuring this constitutional framework is not altered, we have also guaranteed that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, itself a constitutional document, remains untouched. It is a fundamental principle of the government. I might remind Canadians that it is the Liberal Party and this government that have defended the Charter of Rights. In fact in 1982 the Liberal government, led by the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, enacted the Charter of Rights of which we are all so proud.

It is a fundamental principle for us that all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, enjoy the rights and freedoms that the charter guarantees.

Article 2.15.1 of the Tlicho agreement provides that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to the Tlicho government in respect to all matters within its authority. In addition, article 7.1.2b states that the Tlicho constitution shall provide for protections for Tlicho citizens by ways of rights and freedoms no less than those set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Let there be no confusion. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a constitutional document, applies. As a result the rights of women, for example, are and remain protected. In fact the agreement supports gender equality by giving all Tlicho citizens, including women, a larger voice in governance. Tlicho citizens, regardless of gender, will also have equal access to the benefits provided under this historic agreement.

Women play a strong role in Tlicho communities. In fact the majority of Tlicho people in post-secondary education are women, women who will eventually play strong roles in the communities and governmental structures that are brought into effect by virtue of this agreement.

Members opposite were also enquiring about matrimonial real property. The issue I know is particularly critical on reserves. The Tlicho people, however, will live in public communities. These communities will be created by territorial legislation and territorial laws will apply, including those respecting matrimonial real property.

The relationship of laws is a very important element of this agreement and is the subject of some debate by members of the House. Let me assure all members that this relationship is very clearly laid out in the agreement and in the corresponding legislation.

The legislative powers of the Tlicho government will be exercised concurrently with law-making powers of Canada and the territorial government itself. That means, all laws will continue to apply. If it happens that there is a conflict between a federal law of general application and a Tlicho law, the federal law will prevail. It is clear. There are no exceptions to this fundamental principle of the conflict of laws. In the case of a conflict between a Tlicho law and a territorial law, the Tlicho law will prevail, except in the case of international legal obligations. In this case the territorial law will prevail.

Let me very clear. Canada's ability to negotiate and implement international treaties is not fettered by this legislation or by this agreement. In fact the agreement contains provisions to clarify that precise point. The agreement provides assurance that the Tlicho government will exercise its powers in ways compatible with Canada's international legal obligations. If the Tlicho government passes a law or takes an action that prevents Canada from performing an international legal obligation, article 7.13 of the Tlicho agreement requires the Tlicho government itself to remedy its law or action to enable Canada to perform its international legal obligation.

There may be a future international treaty that may affect a right of the Tlicho people. The agreement has a provision for that as well. Canada is required by article 7.13.2 to provide an opportunity for the Tlicho government to make its views known either separately or through a forum. This does not mean that Canada cannot enter into an international treaty. It means it must discuss the matter with the Tlicho government.

We have also heard issues raised by members concerning the perceived lack of finality in this agreement. In fact one of the major benefits of Bill C-14 is that Canada receives certainty and clarity about legal rights of ownership and management within a significant portion of the Northwest Territories.

This will create a much more predictable and secure decision making environment, with the potential to attract investment and economic growth. The Tlicho people will have fee simple title to 19% of their traditional territory. Canada will have finality from the Tlicho concerning the remainder.

The members opposite have also raised the issue of self-government rights. Canada believes that all Tlicho self-government rights have been addressed in this agreement. However, should a future court of competent jurisdiction determine that there is an additional Tlicho self-government right, the agreement establishes clearly a negotiation process by which those rights can also be addressed.

My colleagues referred to chapter 27.6.1 specifically on this point. I would recommend that they read this section carefully, as it very clearly deals with one specific issue. Chapter 27.6.1 allows for equitable treatment among all aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories concerning tax power or exemptions.

This is to ensure that when future land claims and self-government agreements are negotiated in the Northwest Territories, the taxation regime of the Tlicho can be altered, so that it is compatible and equitable with the others. I think my colleagues will be pleased with this provision as it ensures that all taxation regimes in the Northwest Territories will be equal and compatible.

There are many other benefits for Canada as well. This agreement will provide the Tlicho people with the opportunity to enhance their participation in the economy of the region and in the territory as a whole. They will for example have the tools to become more self-reliant. The land, resources and financial benefits they receive from this agreement will put them in a better position to undertake new business initiatives and partnerships with industry.

The Tlicho agreement targets the objective of closing the economic and social gap that exists between aboriginal Canadians and Canadians in general. As stated at the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable on April 19, 2004, it provides new opportunities for the Tlicho to enhance its self-sufficiency.

In my constituency of Beauséjour I have a number of first nation communities. Like the Tlicho people they are trying to develop their own economies. They are becoming more self-sufficient. They are developing an entrepreneurial class of aboriginal Canadians who seek to participate fully in the economic promise of our country.

I happen to have the largest aboriginal community in New Brunswick, Elsipogtog, which is adjacent to a francophone community called Richibucto. One of the proudest moments I have had as a member of Parliament was to go to a little ceremony in this French-speaking francophone village where the mayor and the municipal council decided that in addition to having their municipal signs welcoming people in English and French they would also add the Mi'kmaw words to their signs and welcome the Mi'kmaw people who live a few kilometres away in Elsipogtog. It is a small example, but a very worthy one, of some of the healing and the coming together that has taken place between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.

I happen to have the largest fishing harbour in my constituency, also in the village of Richibucto. It is right downtown, on Main Street in fact, and it is the biggest fishing harbour in my community, the largest in terms of active fishermen. The elected head of the harbour authority is a Mi'kmaw gentleman from the community of Elsipogtog.

He has been elected by aboriginal and non-aboriginal fishers to head their local port authority. It is a great example of aboriginal fishers and non-aboriginal fishers working together to develop a new harbour and to cooperate in some of the economic opportunities that the fishery will afford them in the years to come.

There are success stories in the country in terms of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people working together. I feel very fortunate in my constituency in New Brunswick to have witnessed first hand many of these success stories. The Tlicho agreement and Bill C-14 is a very important step in bringing together many of these values for which we have fought.

To conclude, if my colleagues opposite read Bill C-14 carefully and thoroughly, they will understand that this agreement not only holds enormous benefits for the Tlicho people and for the Northwest Territories, but indeed, it offers great benefits to all Canadians as well.

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2:10 p.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge that the member opposite had a lot of substance in that speech to which I listened very carefully.

He did address the issue of the Government of Canada signing an international agreement. He said, correctly, that if it were to affect the right of the Tlicho First Nation government or a citizen, consultation would take place. Could he identify, first of all, what characteristics there would be in terms of affecting a right? It is fairly broad language. I wonder if he could make it a little more specific for members.

Second, the hon. member was talking about jurisdiction. I thought I heard him say that it would be the agreement that would take precedence if there was a jurisdiction problem between the territory and the Tlicho First Nation. I do not know if I am correct on that. I asked a question earlier to another member in regard to a disagreement between federal legislation, territorial legislation and this agreement of the Tlicho First Nation.

My understanding was that it would be the federal legislation that would take precedence in an area of disagreement, for instance, over something in the natural resource area like the Mackenzie pipeline that is not coming through this area, but through another area. In a situation where there is a disagreement between jurisdictions, say, federal or territorial legislation and this agreement, which jurisdiction takes precedence? Can the member answer that? It would be very helpful.

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2:15 p.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Edmonton—Leduc for his question. I know he has a very broad interest in this subject matter and has contributed constructively to many issues in the House of Commons.

He referred to two particular issues. First, is the issue of international treaties and the authority of the Tlicho government to enter into international agreements and the role of the Government of Canada in terms of entering into international agreements that may affect the Tlicho government. As I said, the Government of Canada retains the sole jurisdiction to enter into international agreements even though some of these agreements might affect the Tlicho government or a Tlicho citizen or the Tlicho First Nation.

Although the agreement and this legislation would create a Tlicho government, which would have law-making powers, the Tlicho government would not have the authority to enter into any international agreements. The law-making powers are specifically outlined in chapter 7. It also contains the limitations and conditions concerning these powers, and specifically, the powers concerning international legal obligations.

It is obvious, and I said this in my comments, and the member for Edmonton--Leduc correctly noted, that in a circumstance where the Government of Canada was entering into an international legal obligation, a treaty, that would have an impact on the Tlicho people or the Tlicho government, there would be a process of discussion and a process of consultation.

That is clearly enunciated and has been a very clear position of the government. However, at no time would the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada to enter into a binding legal obligation be fettered by this legislation or by subsequent legislation enacted by a territorial government, for example, the Tlicho government.

The member also raised the issue of conflict of laws. In a federation like Canada there can be a conflict of laws between different legitimate jurisdictions at any given time. As I said in my comments, there should be no doubt that federal legislation will always be paramount in the case of a conflict. If there is a duly determined conflict of law between something enacted by the Tlicho government and the Government of Canada, the paramountcy of federal legislation, legislation passed in this Parliament, will always be paramount.

As I said, this is an evolving process. In the case of territorial legislation and legislation or regulations passed by the Tlicho authority, we give effect to the Tlicho authority in this legislation. That has been very clear.

We have to be careful not to leave Canadians with the impression that this legislation evacuates the right of the Parliament of Canada to legislate. That is simply not the case.

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2:20 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.


Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague on his very fine speech. He hit on a number of issues. His own personal experience will attest to the responses that he gave.

The questions that were brought up by colleagues from the other side are ones that many Canadians are concerned about. My hon. colleague has answered some of those. However, I want him to put this bill in the context of a move from the past to the future, where aboriginal members and communities were restricted from looking forward in order to take hold of their livelihoods and their future, and to capitalize on the assets that they had around them.

I ask my hon. friend, how does the bill enable aboriginal communities to move forward, take control over their assets, live in an environment where their leadership is accountable to the members within the group, and where they can live and thrive not as a separate entity within our country but as an entity working with other communities, not only locally but throughout the country? Could he describe the bill in the context of how it enables a group to work with other Canadians, not separately but together for our mutual benefit?

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2:20 p.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, for his question. He too represents a constituency in western Canada, in British Columbia, and has spoken passionately and convincingly about the need for the government to reconcile its relationship with first nations and to allow first nations, as he himself has said, to take more control of their own destiny, their own future, their own institutions, their own economic development, and in many cases their own resources.

The Tlicho agreement is an agreement and it is important that we keep emphasizing that. It has been arrived at through a negotiation process. This agreement, brought into effect by the legislation before the House today, is a very important step to bring this first nation into its own. It will give it the control of its own institutions and the ability to decide its own future in a way that will be compatible and positive for all Canadians.

My own personal experience in New Brunswick has taught me that there is a great deal of desire on the part of first nations to become economically self-sufficient, to educate their people, and to advance the rights of women in their communities.

We have a long way to go to make aboriginal people full participants in Canadian society. The Prime Minister, the government and the minister have made it very clear that the Tlicho agreement is a wonderful step forward. We hope that it will be followed by other first nations who seek to take control of their own institutions and to participate fully in the governing of their communities.

When I think of the first nations people whom I represent, they would view this Tlicho agreement as a model and something that I hope many other first nations, through a negotiated process with the Government of Canada, can also strive to attain.

The promise is limitless. If we look at the natural resources, the human resources, the spirit, and the culture of these first nations people, the Government of Canada has shown a great deal of leadership with respect to this legislation and this agreement in ensuring that their aspirations and hopes were also achieved.

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2:25 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to address Bill C-14, an unprecedented bill that would give force to both a land claim settlement and a land claim agreement to the Tlicho people of Canada's western Arctic.

I would like to begin my remarks on the bill by thanking and congratulating my colleague from Calgary Centre-North for the excellent work he has done in analyzing the bill and the agreements with which it deals. The bill is relatively short, but it gives force to the very complex provisions set out in a 208 page settlement agreement and a shorter tax agreement.

I know for a fact that the member for Calgary Centre-North has read and analyzed those agreements in their entirety. I also know that in conducting his analysis, the member for Calgary Centre-North brings a great deal of expertise to bear. He is certainly Parliament's foremost expert on aboriginal land claims. In fact he has negotiated and mediated many land claim settlements over many years and has lectured extensively on the need for justice in the resolution of native land claims.

It will be tough for me to offer much analysis of the bill that my hon. colleague from Calgary Centre-North has not already provided in admirable detail. I think I can best contribute to this debate by framing it in terms of key principles.

First, I want to affirm the dedication of the Conservative Party to the goal of establishing a workable, respectful and durable partnership with Canada's aboriginal people. The riding I represent, Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, includes the lion's share of the Akwesasne region, which is home to about 13,000 Mohawk people. That does not make me an expert on land claims by any stretch of the imagination, but it does give me a strong appreciation of the importance of establishing trust and certainty in the relationship between the various levels of government and the aboriginal people of Canada.

The Conservative Party is committed to speeding up the settlement of the unacceptable number of outstanding comprehensive land claims in the country, to say nothing of the backlog of specific claims, which is even worse. Moreover, it is the party's policy that self-government must be within the context of the Constitution and that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms must apply to all Canadians and their governments, including an aboriginal government.

I am not opposed to the objectives and purpose of the agreement. I am however opposed to its final form, which is simply poorly thought out and poorly drafted.

The agreement before us today simply has not been adequately considered from the perspective of Canada's interests. I do not see anything in it for Canada, and obviously any agreement between a first nation and the Government of Canada should strike a balance between the interests of both parties.

The agreement fails to balance the economic and social needs of the Tlicho people on the one hand with Canada's need for certainty, finality of terms and constitutional workability on the other. The whole purpose of negotiating an agreement like this from Canada's standpoint is to put an end to squabbling and litigation and to establish a stable partnership with our aboriginal citizens. This agreement deliberately fails to do so.

It actually says in the agreement that the Tlicho people are entitled to anything that is granted to any other aboriginal group in future land claims agreements in the Northwest Territories. That means the nitpicking and legal actions could resume in the future and nothing in the agreement is final. The relationship between the Tlicho people and the Government of Canada is not cemented by this agreement, so the agreement fails in its main purpose.

The agreement also fails to establish which government's laws are paramount when jurisdictions overlap. This is the second key objective that the agreement simply fails to achieve. The agreement contradicts itself in three different sections dealing with the authority of the Government of Canada, the government of the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho government.

The general idea of the agreement is that the Tlicho government has the power to enact laws concurrently with both the federal and territorial governments, but if conflicts occur there seems to be several different ways to determine which laws are paramount. Not only is the agreement not final, it is not workable either. Even if the agreement is not thrown into dispute because another agreement gives another aboriginal group something not given to the Tlicho people, it may well be torn apart by jurisdictional confusion and bickering.

The third thing about the agreement that makes me shake my head is the way it undermines Canada's federal authority and international autonomy. The agreement explicitly says it does not limit the authority of the Tlicho people to enter into international agreements, which implies that the Tlicho government can enter into international agreements.

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2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry will have 14 minutes and 50 seconds remaining when debate resumes.

It being 2:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday, November 1, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)