Madam Speaker, some citizens may have issue with the legislation and the more they research the legislation they might have more concerns.
The legislation dates back in reality to King George III's proclamation of 1763, 301 years ago almost to the day.
This comes back to the situation that is to be admired in our great country, that we will protect the rights of individuals, even those people who are not able to protect themselves. That is why I oppose the bill today.
The Constitution protects aboriginal rights and the decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada, specifically in 1997, have protected and reinforced the rights of aboriginals.
I would encourage any people who do take offence or do take major issue with the legislation to educate themselves regarding the history of aboriginal claims in this country. There are many resources on the Internet, for instance, where they can find that information.
We cannot ignore these rights as Canadians. We have to protect all citizens, no matter what status they have. I myself have argued before the courts in Alberta for aboriginal rights, as a litigator and a solicitor in the past, and I am very proud of that record.
I personally support the settlement of all outstanding claims for bands. I agree with the federal government that we must satisfy these claims. However, at what cost?
I do not support any agreement that takes the citizens of any area of Canada outside the jurisdiction of the Constitution or outside the jurisdiction of the charter. I do not support any agreement that usurps the authority of the federal government to negotiate with international governments as I believe this would lead to major distress and, unfortunately, disharmony in the country.
I believe we are setting a dangerous precedent. I would suggest that it can be effectively argued that all international agreements pursuant to this legislation would be affected by Tlicho citizens. As such, it is arguable that all international agreements would have to be ratified by the Tlicho band before we as a sovereign nation could enter into it. That I find greatly discomforting.
As I stated before, I am from northeastern Alberta. I am very proud to be from a constituency that has some 20% of its members as aboriginals and first nations. I am proud to have over 20 family members who have aboriginal status and are members of bands either treaty or status, especially under Treaty 8. I have hunted, trapped, played hockey and worked beside aboriginals since the 1970s in northeastern Alberta. These Canadians need to be respected and our agreements with these Canadians need to be respected as well.
We as Canadians should be embarrassed and ashamed that we, for the last 300 years, have not negotiated land treaties with them and that we have not reached an agreement up to this point. We should have resolved these issues hundreds of years ago before they became issues of topic today.
I, along with, I believe, all members of the Conservative caucus, respect the culture and diversity of the aboriginal peoples. My concern, quite frankly, is for the people of the Tlicho band. Will they be protected by the charter? Will we create more strife in the future in the community by creating two classes of citizens? Will all persons, regardless of sex, be protected?
Today we would be approving an agreement that would be a forever agreement. It would be forever for us but not necessarily forever for the Tlicho people. There would be no going back on the terms but it would allow, if there were negotiations with other bands in the Northwest Territories, the Tlicho people to get more in the future. It would allow them to renegotiate a final agreement.
Apparently this agreement deals with a final decision as far as the land goes but, in my opinion, it does not. Reading the legislation as a lawyer, I fail to see how this agreement can be a final agreement based on what I have read.
This is not an argument as to whether the agreement is fair or how much is paid. I do not believe that has substance. The people who have negotiated this agreement have certainly taken all the issues of negotiation into perspective and their position needs to be respected.
The Tlicho people need to be respected and protected. That is my concern. It is about the future. It is about harmony within the Tlicho area. It is about harmony for all future land claim agreements with first nations throughout the Northwest Territories and British Columbia.
Currently, we have 3,500 persons with Tlicho citizen status, but how many Tlicho citizens, as defined under the agreement, will there be in 100 years controlling an area the size of New Brunswick? I am not thinking about this for the benefit of other Canadians, only of the people who are from Tlicho ancestry. Some people will be treated one way and some people will be treated another way, both from the same ancestral area.
In my opinion the Government of Canada has a fiduciary obligation, a responsibility, to finalize all agreements with first nations, but not at the expense of other members of the band and not at the expense of those people and their rights under the charter or the continued harmony of all Canada in the future. Self-government is necessary. I think I speak for all of my colleagues that self-government is the best way that aboriginal peoples can move forward. It will be much better for the Tlicho people and much better for Canada's future.
I implore the government to go past today and not look at an immediate settlement to solve the problem so that the economy can keep rolling and they can move into an economic prosperity without taking into consideration all the ramifications in the future. I implore the government to look at the future for Canada, to look toward the future for the people of Tlicho of all different respects, whether they be Tlicho citizens or of Tlicho ancestry, and to ensure that they are protected fully and finally in all matters respecting the charter and that the Tlicho people and the area they will control, in essence the size of New Brunswick, will be under the charter and the constitution. I implore the government to make this a final agreement so there is no going back, there are no renegotiations and there is no continued strife for the people of Canada.
Finally, to protect our international sovereignty is absolutely crucial. As a country, we need to ensure that the federal government can continue to operate in such a manner as to bind the people of Canada on an international basis without needing to go to each and every band to have a ratification of treaties.
I would submit being Canadian means that some things cannot be negotiated away. In this case I would suggest that the charter and the Constitution and the rights under those two crucial pieces of paperwork are being negotiated away. I would suggest it is not the best thing for Canada or Canadians.