Mr. Speaker, I will try to get through my speech quickly because I definitely want to be available for questions. A speech was written for me, but I am throwing it away.
I want new members from the other parties to know that not only at this time, but also in other legislation, sometimes the opposition brings up that a new law is not constitutional. People have to realize, especially new members, that every time the federal government, no matter which party, puts forward a law a whole slew of constitutional experts look at the law. A law will not be put forward in Parliament that is against the Constitution because it would end up in court through lots of constitutional challenges.
The constitutional experts look at all the laws to ensure they fall within our Constitution. It does not mean that the laws cannot be challenged, but there are very few times when they are successfully challenged for the very reason that they have been carefully viewed in the first place.
The opposition has four major points. It may be a little boring, but I am will go through the technical parts of the agreement and proposed law to show that none of these objections hold water. I will do that in four sections because most other speakers have referred to these four items. Therefore, they can refer back to the section of my speech that outlines how we have dealt with those concerns.
The first is on finality. Opposition members wants to ensure that there is finality. They question why there are provisions for changes in the future in this act.
In chapter 1 on finality, the Tlicho agreement draws the distinction between land rights and non-land rights. Certainty is achieved for both land and non-land based rights and finality is achieved for land rights. All exercisable rights must be set out in the agreement. The Tlicho agreement applies a non-assertion technique whereby the Tlicho agree not to assert any land rights other than those agreed to in the Tlicho agreement. Should the courts determine that an assertible aboriginal land right exists that is not in the Tlicho agreement, the Tlicho agree to release this right to the Crown. This fall back release ensures that the agreement achieves a final settlement of land rights.
The fall back release technique applies only to the land rights. For non-land rights, which would be various self-government rights, the Tlicho agree only to exercise those non-land rights set out in the agreement. However, the Tlicho can seek recognition of further non-land rights. If such a right is agreed to by the parties or confirmed by the courts, this right can then be added to and exercised through the Tlicho agreement.
The area where they can make improvements is related to taxation. Article 27.6.1 allows for equitable treatment among all aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories concerning tax powers or exemptions, so that taxation regimes in the Northwest Territories would be compatible and equitable. The Tlicho agreement is the first such agreement in the Northwest Territories and may need to be revisited concerning tax powers or exemptions in the future, such as when other NWT land claim and self-government agreements are finalized.
There is a provision to change it if another first nation in its self-government agreement has a different taxation regime. I am sure members opposite would not want the people in their constituencies to unable to access a tax benefit or reduced taxation, if the rest of Canadians had access to it. All this does is allow that members in the Tlicho area to have the same provisions as all other aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories, and that members of the opposition will all be there to vote, hopefully, on any such agreement. They have total control over any changes in that.
I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Brant.
Chapter 2 is on international agreements. The opposition's concern was about the Tlicho being able to express their views on international agreements that affect them. A Tlicho government would be created with law-making powers under chapter 7. However, the Tlicho government would not have authority to enter into international agreements. The law-making powers are exclusively outlined in chapter 7, as well as the limitations and conditions concerning those powers, especially concerning international legal obligations.
The Government of Canada retains sole jurisdiction under international agreements even though some of these agreements might affect a right of the Tlicho government, the Tlicho First Nation or a Tlicho citizen, flowing from the Tlicho agreement.
However, Canada has agreed to provide an opportunity for the Tlicho government to make its views known, either separately or through a forum with respect to any future international treaty, if such a treaty might affect the Tlicho rights, article 7.13.2. It should be noted that this right is not the same as an obligation to consult. Consultation is a defined term in the agreement and a more detailed elaborate process.
Canada has agreed to consult the Tlicho First Nation government if Canada has to appear before an international tribunal concerning a law or other exercise of power of the Tlicho government that has given rise to an issue concerning the performance of an international legal obligation of Canada, article 7.13.5.
Certainly, everyone in the House would agree that if people are to be affected by the agreement, their views should be asked. If the Tlicho government passes a law or takes an action that prevents Canada from performing any international legal obligation, article 7.13 of the Tlicho agreement requires the Tlicho government to remedy its law or action to enable Canada to perform the international legal obligation consistent with the compliance of Canada.
Territorial laws would also prevail over Tlicho laws in case of a conflict between Tlicho law and a provision of the territorial legislation that implements an obligation of the Government of Canada under an international agreement. That is in article 7.7.4. As well, article 7.5.12 provides that any Tlicho law enacted concerning taxation is subject to the obligations of the Government of Canada under international treaties, conventions and protocols respecting taxation.
If the Government of Canada and the Tlicho government disagree over whether the law or exercise of power of the Tlicho causes Canada to be unable to perform an international legal obligation, the matter would go to arbitration, article 7.3.14.
The third objection is related to the confusion of jurisdiction. There is no confusion of jurisdiction. It is clearly outlined. I will just quickly go over that. The agreement states that Tlicho laws be concurrent with federal and territorial legislation. However, the Tlicho have explicitly agreed that the federal legislation would prevail over Tlicho laws, article 7.7.2, to the extent of any conflict. There is no paramount authority over the federal Crown in relation to matters concerning the Tlicho.
Tlicho law-making authority is designed to complement and coordinate with the jurisdiction of the territorial government. Tlicho laws would prevail over territorial legislation, article 7.7.3, to the extent of any conflict except for territorial legislation concerning Canada's international legal obligations, article 7.7.4.
Once given force and effect, the Tlicho agreement would be paramount over the settlement legislation, federal or territorial, article 2.8.4, to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict. Similarly, the agreement would be paramount over the provisions of any other federal or territorial legislation or Tlicho laws, article 2.8.3, to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict. Also, the settlement legislation would be paramount over the provisions of any other federal or territorial legislation or Tlicho laws, article 2.8.3, to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict. This does not mean the Tlicho laws will be paramount; it means the agreement will be paramount and the agreement says that federal laws prevail.
Article 2.10.7 of the Tlicho agreement confirms that the Tlicho agreement is based on this hierarchy. If a court confirms the existence of an aboriginal right of the Tlicho first Nation that is currently not contained in the Tlicho agreement, the parties shall enter into negotiations to incorporate the right into the agreement, article 2.10.5. If such negotiations fail within one year, then an arbitrator would decide on the text to be incorporated into the Tlicho agreement, article 2.10.6.
However, the arbitrator must respect the basic architecture and hierarchy of laws contained in the Tlicho agreement, article 2.10.7: the laws are concurrent; federal legislation prevails, including legislation concerning international legal obligations, over Tlicho laws; territorial legislation concerning international legal obligations prevails over Tlicho laws; and otherwise, Tlicho laws prevail over territorial legislation.
I hope someone asks me a question so I can go over chapter 4, which is the universal application of the Constitution and charter. That is the fourth part of my speech.