Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to respond to the experienced member from Calgary Centre.
The throne speech contains a remarkable statement that is offered to us in the context of Canada's role in the world and what we have to offer as a nation. It states:
In so many of the world's trouble spots, establishing order is only the first step. Poverty, despair and violence are usually rooted in failed institutions of basic governance and rule of law.
If in the throne speech the government can see with clarity that is the situation in the world, why does it lack the judgment, the decency and the compassion to realize that we are dealing with the same problems of institutional failure in Canada? That is the source of the despair and the despondency. If that applies elsewhere in the world, why can we not apply the same Canadian sense of imagination to the problems of our first people right here?
I referred in my comments to Amnesty International. I am not the only one who feels this way. This was not in the throne speech. This is what Amnesty International had to say in a report that was issued this week:
The Committee is greatly concerned at the gross disparity between Aboriginal people and the majority of Canadians with respect to the enjoyment of Covenant rights. There has been little or no progress in the alleviation of social and economic deprivation among Aboriginal people. In particular, the Committee is deeply concerned at the shortage of adequate housing, the endemic mass unemployment and the high rate of suicide, especially among youth, in the Aboriginal communities. Another concern is the failure to provide safe and adequate drinking water to Aboriginal communities on reserves.
These problems are well chronicled. They are problems that commenced with institutional failure of a governance system that was initiated more than 100 years ago in the form of the Indian Act and that has undergone some change, but paltry change, in the time since. Aboriginal Canadians do not have control of their own affairs. The Indian Act, if there is to be progress in this country, must be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the full devolution of authority so that aboriginal Canadians in concert with government can work to solve these problems.
The government, this aging regime, in throne speech after throne speech has spoken of these issues, has offered vapid, vacant promises and yet, at the end of a period of 11 years of governance, aboriginal Canadians are no better off in this country than they were, by its own admission, 12 years ago. It is a failure of governance and it will be cured only when there is a government in place which has the courage to act, to step forward, to take the initiative, to work together in partnership with aboriginal Canadians and develop governance structures which will present a bright future for aboriginal Canadians.