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House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

April 19th, 2004 / 4:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Bryden Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in this debate because it is important on the opposition side to point out not just negatives in a document like the budget, but also positives even when those positives fall far short of what could be done by the government.

I would like to comment on the provisions in the budget pertaining to charities and draw the attention of the House to a very important rule change that has occurred in the budget pertaining to the 80% disbursement rule.

The House will recall that in 1996 I did an MP's report on charities called “Canada's Charities: A Need for Reform”. It was a litany of all kinds of shortcomings in the oversight of Canada's $90 billion charity industry comprising some 80,000 organizations. I regret to say that the government has always been terribly slow to respond to the great number of recommendations that I made in that report.

One of the most important recommendations was the observation that the 80% rule, as it existed up until this budget, was extremely flawed. What it said was that all charities had to spend 80% of their tax receiptable donations on charitable activities. That sounds wonderful, but what it really means is that only a tiny percentage of a charity's income--that income that pertains to tax receiptable donations--actually has to be spent on charitable activity.

In fact, charities and charitable foundations were transferring funds to other charitable organizations and those charitable organizations did not have to use any of that money whatsoever on charitable activity. Often there were situations where a charity would get the main portion of its funding from another charity, like the United Way for example. It would amaze members to know that up until this budget, charitable organizations receiving money from the United Way did not have to use any of that money on charitable activity, none whatsoever.

After eight long years of billions and billions of dollars of abuse by many charitable organizations, the government has finally plugged part of the loophole in this budget. It has said that any transfers coming from one charitable organization to another charitable organization are covered by the 80% disbursement rule. So, when the United Way gives money to a small charity, that small charity must spend 80% of that money on actual charitable activity, not on paying salaries, not on administration, but actually on the charitable activity.

I regret to say, Mr. Speaker, that having taken a fine first step, the government did not take the second step. That second step would ensure that all transfers to charities are subject to the 80% rule because the majority of transfers to charitable organizations, particularly hospitals, for example, or any large charitable organization that is providing social and medical services, most of the money that they receive is from government.

The difficulty is, if the 80% rule does not apply to the money received from government, that large charities like hospitals, which are a classic example, could spend all kinds of money on salaries and administration rather than on caring for the sick and the injured or paying doctors salaries. Thus we have the situation where large hospitals like the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto pay a CEO $500,000. This is the kind of abuse that is possible because hospitals are not under the 80% rule when it comes to spending government money.

I would like to make the observation that the Prime Minister has suggested that he wants to put more money into health care and he wants to make it conditional on that money being used properly. All he has to do is to make hospitals subject to this 80% rule so that when they receive money from government, they have to use 80% of it on providing charitable activity.

Mr. Speaker, the other aspect of this problem is that there were many other opportunities that the government had to increase transparency of large and small charitable institutions. It is all part of a package. It has made one very important step.

It is providing in the budget access of the public to the financial statements of charities. Never was that opportunity in existence before. What would happen is that if we wanted to find out a charity's spending practices, the only access we had to any kind of document that described those spending practices was the T-3010 form, which can be filled out by anyone. There is no requirement that an accountant do it. It is a simple form that provides minimal information.

So the prospect, particularly with large charities where they have to present a financial statement to their boards of directors and their boards of directors demand that a chartered accountant or public accountant or some qualified person examine these financial statements, the fact that these are now going to be available to the public is indeed a very, very important step, and I am very glad to see it. But again, the government has failed to take advantage of the opportunity to spread the transparency around so that we can see into these large institutions that are spending mostly government money.

I proposed in 1997 that large, non-profit organizations and charities come under the Canada corporations act so that there are the same standards of corporate governance that apply to all charities, to all organizations that use public funds, particularly, again, large hospitals and large institutions that provide social and medical services.

I regret to say that there are no standards of governance across large institutions like the Cancer Society or any of the large hospitals. I would suggest that if they were committed to the same type of standards of governance and transparency that exists in the Canada corporations act for for-profit organizations, we would see enough into those organizations that we would be able to see the management inefficiency. We would see the kind of nepotism that must exist in any large institution that does not have oversight. And if we could see that, we would correct it and there would be a huge saving to the taxpayer.

We do not have to put more money into health care. All we have to do is put in a regime of transparency and accountability, a real legislated regime, not just hope and smoke and mirrors. This has been on the agenda. I have been talking about this particular issue for seven years now. Seven years and there has been no progress other than a small crumb: that the financial statements will now be available from large charities. This is not good enough.

I despair. We work very hard on these things and it does not matter what side of the House we are on. I tried very hard to get this agenda forward. I thought I was making progress a few years ago, but what did the government do? It went out to the charitable sector and asked them what they thought. And so the voluntary sector round table and various other charitable organizations and institutions, and sometimes the very people, the very individuals I criticized in my report for failing to live up to their obligations of transparency and accountability, became the advisers to government.

And so we see in the budget document that credit is given to the charitable organizations that advise the government to do the least possible.

Mr. Speaker, that is what it amounts to. Sometimes we really, really wonder around here, when politicians spend years working on a problem and develop expertise and they cannot be heard by their own government.

So yes, Mr. Speaker, progress has been made, and I am delighted to compliment any small move forward in this file, which is worth billions of dollars and affects the lives of countless Canadians. Any small move forward is a positive thing, Mr. Speaker, but this is yet another, another opportunity lost.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Budget Implementation Act, 2004Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

There is a request from the chief government whip to defer the vote until 3 p.m. after question period tomorrow.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

moved that Bill C-28, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act, be read the second time and sent to a committee.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec

Liberal

André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the minister and on behalf on my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, who is working elsewhere today.

It is interesting to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-28, when we know quite well that an extremely important round table is being held today, whose purpose is to make every effort to ensure that the first nations can control their development even more efficiently in the future.

As you know, in cooperation with the provincial governments, the Canadian government is trying to expedite the implementation of a series of agreements that will enable the first nations to take control of their own development, to make their own strategic choices and to have a greater ability to respond to the extremely important needs of each of their communities. Already, 14 agreements have been signed and 70 are being negotiated throughout the country.

Today, it is an honour to have the opportunity to address Bill C-28, which amends the Canada National Parks Act. It is obviously a privilege for me because of the context, as I just pointed out, of the withdrawal of lands from Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada and Riding Mountain National Park of Canada for the purposes of Indian reserves.

My speech is addressed to all my colleagues in Parliament and all Canadians, and will focus on the Government of Canada's commitment in the recent throne speech to improving the quality of life of aboriginal Canadians. I believe that, if the quality of life of our aboriginal fellow citizens improves, the quality of life of all Canadians improves as a result. This is the purpose of Bill C-28. Several agreements have been signed already and several dozen more will be signed in coming months.

I would also like to remind my colleagues that this bill will not create a precedent for other national parks. These are unique circumstances we must collectively consider. The changes relating to the withdrawal of lands are for the purpose of improving the housing shortage on the Esowista reserve of the Tla-o-qui-aht first nation. In the case of the Riding Mountain National Park, they will correct an error in the wording of the legal description of the ceded lands, in compliance with a specific land claim.

As for the Esowista reserve, when Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was created in 1970, it completely surrounded the seven-hectare parcel of land occupied by the Esowista reserve of the Tla-o-qui-aht first nation since 1889. At the time, Esowista was changing from a seasonal fishing camp to a permanent residential community.

The Government of Canada recognized that a larger site would eventually be required to meet the needs of the Esowista community. Over the years, population growth strained the capacity of the Esowista Reserve and problems with water quality and sewage disposal emerged.

As a result of negotiations between the Tla-o-qui-aht first nation, Parks Canada, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Canada National Parks Act will be amended to remove 86.4 hectares of land from Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to expand the Esowista Indian Reserve.

The withdrawal of this land will address acute overcrowding in Esowista, allow infrastructure improvements to remedy sewage disposal and water quality concerns, and support the development of a model community that will exist in harmony with the national park reserve. This land represents less than 1% of the park’s total land base.

Withdrawing this land from the territory now occupied by the park will only slightly impact the ecological integrity of the park and will allow us to meet the needs of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.

With respect to Riding Mountain National Park and Reserve No. 61A of the Ojibway Keeseekoowenin First Nation, in 1896, a parcel of land on the north shore of Clear Lake in Manitoba was allocated for the establishment of a reserve named “Reserve No. 61A” for use by the Ojibway Keeseekoowenin First Nation as a fishing camp.

The site in question was located inside a Dominion timber reserve. In 1929, when Riding Mountain National Park was created, it took in most of the Dominion timber reserve and of Indian Reserve No. 61A. The Ojibway Keeseekoowenin First Nation was relocated to another site outside the national park. In 1994, an agreement for the settlement of the specific land claim was signed between the Ojibway Keeseekoowenin and Canada and Reserve No. 61A was restored. In 2000, most of the lands in question were removed from the Riding Mountain site when the Canada National Parks Act was enacted. However, because of a mistake made during the preparation of the official instrument removing the lands in question, a five-hectare tract of land was omitted and remained within the park's boundaries.

Therefore, the Canada National Parks Act will be amended in order to restore Reserve No. 61A of the Ojibway Keeseekoowenin nation in its entirety, and in order to correct the mistake made at the time.

Removing 86.4 hectares from Pacific Rim National Park Reserve will not unduly detract from the objectives of ecological integrity for the park because the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has promised to cooperate with Parks Canada to ensure long term protection for the natural and cultural resources of the lands in the park surrounding the Esowista reserve.

These lands represent less than 1% of the total land area of the park reserve.

The environmental assessment concluded that very little old growth forest would be lost since a good portion of the area that would be affected by the development of Esowista had already been logged before becoming a national park reserve. There will be no direct impact on the unique or rare habitats or on the peat bogs or other types of wetlands. Other sites with high natural values will not be greatly affected. There will be no indirect impact on the species designated by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada and no significant negative impact on the land use by the community, and whatever impact there is will be maintained at an acceptable level thanks to proven technologies and good land management strategies.

The Tla-o-qui-aht first nation and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs have committed to use the land in a way that would respect the ecological integrity of the park. Also, several measures will be taken to help promote the sustainable development of the park.

The management of the lands to be withdrawn from the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve will be based on the guidelines for model communities developed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Parks Canada will review the master plan for the site and then submit it for approval to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Also, each individual project will be subject to an assessment pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

To provide proper protection to the lands adjacent to the park, a $2.5 million mitigation fund will be provided to Parks Canada by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

It is expected that this money will be used over 10 years to monitor the impact of community use, conduct related research and implement the required mitigation measures.

The projects include the monitoring of wildlife movements, to prevent conflict between wildlife and humans; and conduct research on possible mitigation measures, such as wildlife enclosures, as well as community education programs.

Concerning the five hectares to be withdrawn from Riding Mountain Park, this is a requirement from the 1994 specific land claim agreement. I can reassure Canadians that this amendment to the Canada National Parks Act has no environmental impact.

What is important in this kind of agreement is public support. Concerning this reference, consultations on these initiatives indicate wide public support.

Several stakeholders have expressed their support for the withdrawal of land from Pacific Rim Park. Among these are the first nations involved, first nations provincial groups, local, regional and provincial levels of government, as well as non-government environmental organizations, for example, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, the Friends of Clayoquot Sound and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

All parties concerned view Esowista as a unique situation, and support the need to make sure that members of the community stay together, and to provide lands for residential and similar purposes.

I thank them for their support and I can reassure Canadians that the withdrawal of lands will be closely monitored to ensure the ecological integrity of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada.

As far as Mount Riding is concerned, a public advisory body on the implementation of the park master plan is made up of about 25 groups of stakeholders.

Since 1998, information on the return of these lands to the First Nation Ojibway Keeseekoowenin has been provided on a regular basis and the advisory body has been in favour of these activities.

One of the priorities in Parks Canada's recent ministerial plans has been to strengthen relations with native communities.

Strong community relations are the basis for a wide range of formal and informal agreements that can advance our common interests. The bill reflects this priority.

I am confident that this transfer of park lands will help meet the needs of treaty negotiations and will create a better working climate with both native communities.

I would like to warmly salute the Government of British Columbia for its support of this initiative regarding the expansion of Esowista. This collaboration is key to the withdrawal of lands from Pacific Rim and their transfer to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs for the needs of Indian reserves.

I urge every member of the House to join me in supporting Bill C-28 so we can keep our commitments and improve the quality of life of aboriginal Canadians.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make it clear that we are not opposing the bill but I do want to make some comments about the nature of how this is being presented and what we would like to see happen. The bill is at second reading and after second reading it will go to committee. In committee we will have the opportunity to ask the many questions that need to be asked about making a piece of park land part of a reserve. Just the thought of it philosophically would cause a lot of Canadians' ears to perk up and they would ask what we mean by taking a national park out of existence, particularly one located in such a critical part of British Columbia on the island, which so many tourists visit in a year.

We are talking about two things. As I have had it explained to me, we are talking about a surveying problem in Riding Mountain National Park. A surveying mistake was made some years ago and correcting that mistake is part of this parks bill. Obviously, from the information I have received from the authorities at Parks Canada, that makes sense. If a mistake was made, we should correct it. That is the first issue.

The other issue, which is more important, concerns the Pacific Rim National Park. It contains a very unique piece of topography on Vancouver Island and is visited by many people and in increasing numbers. The National Parks Act says that national parks are set aside for the enjoyment of people today and in the future, for our children, our grandchildren, and future generations. What is now being proposed is making 84 hectares of that park part of the Esowista reserve.

This requires very careful deliberation and a full understanding of what that issue really is. We have to ask, are we starting down a slippery slope? Across the country there must be many other national parks and parts of national parks that other groups would say should be taken away from the park for some other use. The first question we have to ask is how important is it to us that we maintain these national parks, that they stay forever, that they cannot be touched, that no one in the House or anywhere else can change that designation.

I also want to talk about the method by which this whole bill has been introduced. First of all, our office was contacted one day before the bill was tabled in the House. In fact, tomorrow is the technical briefing on which we base our decision to support or not support the bill. The technical briefing is tomorrow so that I can give the speech today. If that is not a blatant abuse of the parliamentary system, of me as the senior critic for the environment, of you, Mr. Speaker, of the entire House, I do not know what is.

As well we say that we have done consultations and we know that this or that group as was mentioned support it. I have to question that as well. I have been part of public hearings before. On Kyoto for example, 14 meetings were held across the country. The only problem was that only invited guests were allowed to attend. The media was not allowed to attend. The official opposition environment critic was not allowed to attend. Only after really pushing the issue, I received an invitation, provided that I did not talk. That is not public consultation.

Sending the bill to committee is obviously the right thing to do. In that committee we need to hear from people. We need to honestly find out what the public really thinks. Canadians need to be engaged in the issue if they care about parks and the Pacific Rim National Park, and only then should we proceed, instead of at the eleventh hour ramming it through the House.

We were asked to approve all readings of the bill in one day with no public hearings, no committee, nothing. We were asked to sit here and ram it through in one day. With the agenda we have been following here, I hardly see why at this point we should be willing to do that. It is not fair to future generations, if nothing else, let alone Canadians who enjoy that part of the world right now. That shows again the contempt the government has for this process. It wants to ram the bill through.

What would we hear if something went wrong or if some other groups got wind of this and found out we had rammed the bill through? Guess who would have been to blame for that. We all know who it would be. It would be the critic. It would be the official opposition who did not do due diligence in sending the bill to committee, holding public hearings, bringing in expert witnesses and maybe looking at the site so we are more familiar with it. Only then should an intelligent and informed decision be made in the House.

Let us look at the memorandum of understanding. Clause 9.1 states, “This understanding does not create legally binding obligations on the parties”. They are not legally binding on the government or on the reserve? What does that mean? If they are not legally binding, why are we debating this? What are we doing?

Does that mean the government could decide to take back that piece of park because it is not legally binding? Instead of some of the agreements that have been made with the reserve, could it decide to build a casino? A lot of tourists go there and there will be a lot more in the future. What does the statement, “This understanding does not create legally binding obligations on the parties” mean? We need to ask that question. We need to look at the legal aspects of signing something like that.

Clause 9.3 is a little disconcerting, too. It states, “Nothing in this understanding is intended to, nor is interpreted so as to create, recognize, affirm, limit, abrogate, derogate or deny aboriginal rights, including title or treaty rights”. What does that mean? Does it mean that this annexation will not be part of a future land claim? I think that is what it means, but why should it not be if in fact that is what it is?

Again that is a major question on which we need expert advice as to what it means. I think I know what it means, but for those of us who are not lawyers, what do those words mean and what are the implications in a court of law when someone challenges that particular piece of information?

It is also interesting that we heard it is appropriate that the bill is here today because of the conference that is going on. Twenty ministers over there are bragging about Bill C-28 and saying, “Look at what we did. We took away parts of two parks and we fixed the problem”. That is not the way to govern the country. That is a hodgepodge. That is a fly by night operation. Something as important to many Canadians as our national parks should not be treated that way. It is fine for them to list the groups that support it, but are there any opponents? There are no opponents listed.

Does no one oppose taking this park out of being a park? I can hardly believe that. During the many opportunities I have had to speak in a number of ridings in British Columbia, I cannot believe there is not one environmentalist somewhere who has said he or she wants the parks preserved.

I cannot believe it is the Conservative Party that is standing up for parks and the environment when it is the government that brags about it. We have a minister who constantly goes across the country saying that the sky is falling and that he cares, they care and they do this and that, but in reality, this country has only slipped in its environmental standing and in its care for the environment.

We hear lots of talk but we see no action. When we finally do get some action it seems to go totally contrary to these preservers of the environment, these caretakers of the future generations that we hear Liberals talk about.

I could go on and talk about the details of the bill but I obviously am not able to do that at this point because we will be having the technical briefing tomorrow. After the technical briefing tomorrow we may have a lot more technical information that we could talk about when the bill comes back. At this point let us send it off to committee where it can be examined. The committee will do what is right and then make a decision on what Canadians want us to do on this bill.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle of Bill C-28. There is no other choice but to agree with the amendments on reserve 61A of the Ojibway Keeseekoowenin First Nation in Riding Mountain National Park, because the federal government is just correcting an unintentional mistake made in the past.

Amendments in the bill recognize a long-standing need in the area of Pacific Rim National Park and correct a mistake concerning Riding Mountain National Park. This will help the first nations involved to better meet the needs of their communities.

Of course, the Bloc Quebecois is still interested in the self-government and land claims of first nations. It recognizes first nations as distinct nations with a right to their own culture, language, customs and traditions, and a right to make their own decisions about how to develop their identity.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to participate today in the second reading debate on Bill C-28, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act, to remove lands from Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada and Riding Mountain National Park, which is in my home province of Manitoba.

The national parks of Canada represent not only Canada's heritage of magnificent, inspiring physical landscapes, they are also ancient cultural landscapes. Many of our world renowned national parks are the traditional territories of aboriginal communities whose living histories predate Canada by several millennia.

In the same way that non-aboriginal Canadians take exceptional pride in their national parks, aboriginal Canadians also want to feel that national parks are important and relevant institutions for their peoples and cultures. As do Canadians in general, aboriginal communities want to be meaningfully consulted and to participate in our national parks planning and management. They want to see their ancient and present day cultures accurately and respectfully portrayed in park information and interpretation programs. They want to see that sacred sites are protected and that traditional ecological knowledge is reflected in resource conservation and management decisions.

Parks Canada has worked to improve relationships with aboriginal communities focusing on two related efforts: making national parks relevant to aboriginal Canadians and making the cultural landscapes of national parks known to all Canadians, thereby giving them an opportunity to learn and appreciate the peoples and the cultures they are visiting.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has taken significant strides in recent years to promote aboriginal initiatives, forging relationships and making significant efforts toward the meaningful involvement of aboriginal people in the co-operative management of the national park reserve. The results have been remarkable.

By way of illustration I would like to highlight a few of the most noteworthy accomplishments. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve worked with the Ucluelet First Nation to develop the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail inside the national park. Opened in 2003, this interpretive trail provides extensive on site interpretation of regional first nations' culture, history and language.

In June, the Ucluelet First Nation will again honour the opening of the trail by erecting the first totem pole to be carved and raised in traditional territory of this first nation in 104 years, a source of great pride for this first nation community. This “welcoming” pole will greet Canadians and international visitors to the trail and to Ucluelet First Nation and Nuu-chah-nulth traditional territory. It will symbolize the long history and continuing presence of first nations peoples in the region and in the national park in particular.

On the West Coast Trail unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Parks Canada funds an initiative called Quu'as West Coast Trail Society. A not for profit group, this society is a training and mentoring program for three first nations along the famous West Coast Trail, one of the world's great recreational hiking routes.

Be engaging in the co-operative management of the west coast trail with Parks Canada, young first nations members are exposed to the full gamut of park management issues and training related to public safety, resource conservation, monitoring and public interpretation. As a result of this program, first nations graduates have gone on to secure full time employment with Parks Canada, other agencies and industry.

There are seven first nations within the area encompassed by Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. A manager of aboriginal programs sits at the park management table and directs co-operative programs, such as the promotion of first nations languages, co-operative training, the establishment of aboriginal national historic sites and the development of aboriginal tourism opportunities.

By way of contrast, in 1997 there was no representation of first nations in the workforce of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Today, first nations represent some 18% of park staff in virtually every aspect and level of park management. This figure approximates the representation of aboriginal people within the regional population. There is no better indicator of the relevance of the Parks Canada program to first nations than their willingness to participate in the protection and presentation of one of Canada's greatest national parks. This is an accomplishment of which we can all be proud.

Parks Canada has placed a particular focus on its relationship with aboriginal people and the record in Pacific rim clearly demonstrates this initiative in action. Bill C-28, which would withdraw lands from Pacific rim in order to expand the Esowista Indian Reserve of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, would further strengthen those relationships. It would also improve the quality of life for aboriginal people, a government priority identified in the recent Speech from the Throne.

I ask all members of the House to support quick passage of Bill C-28.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I know my hon. colleague will get those west coast names, like Ucluelet, right one day. I also know they are very difficult to say.

I appreciate that in his speech we could tell that he is very concerned, obviously not only for the future of the park but for future generations of Canadians and visitors from around the world who come to Canada and use eco-tourism as an aspect for spending their tourist dollars.

Does the hon. member believe that, with this ongoing debate, there is a danger that it may set a precedent and that once we open those parks on a reserve basis to deal with aboriginal concerns, which are legitimate concerns, that quite possibly the provinces, municipalities or other interest groups may come by and say that since the door has been opened what are the chances of that door opening up for them too? It is sort of that “me too” argument.

What does the hon. member think about that possibility in the near future?

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I guess we should treat the two parts separately. In the case of Riding Mountain National Park, I think it is a clerical error and something we are trying to correct. I think it is probably straightforward.

In terms of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the hon. member raises a very important point. My understanding is that it is a unique situation. The reserve was surrounded by a national park at one point. We knew that we may, depending on the increased population, have to increase the reserve size. My understanding is that the reason we are providing additional space to the reserve is to provide additional housing. I have also been told that the environmentalists have looked at this and all the housing criteria will follow CMHC standards.

My feeling is that it is a unique situation and as a government we have looked at that.

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on this bill. As the aboriginal affairs critic for my party, I am very interested in how this series of events came about and the crossover interests. I know my colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore has a vested interested in this issue as well, as it pertains to national parks and the environmental impact sensitivities associated with it, especially with the west coast of Canada which, as we know, is one of the areas affected by the bill.

Coming from Manitoba, I particularly wanted to add my voice as well to the debate. I understand that one aspect of the bill deals with Riding Mountain National Park and a small amount of area that will be dedicated to Riding Mountain Park to withdraw lands from the park for the purposes of dealing with an historic injustice, I suppose, in the boundaries of the reserves. The portion with the following change then for the Province of Manitoba would be simply sections 5, 6, 7 and 8, the west half of section 4 and the portion of the east half of section 4 lying west of Clear Lake Indian Reserve No. 61A and the southwest quarter of section 18. That is the specific definition of the change made to Riding Mountain National Park.

Of more concern or perhaps of greater interest to the people here and anyone listening may be the impact on the west coast, which deals with the Pacific coast and the parks there. It is an acutely sensitive environmental area and a very worrisome development with the local provincial government recently. We believe it will be expanding oil and gas exploration in that area and the area just north of the area specified in the bill.

Aboriginal people in the area are very apprehensive of these pending changes which we believe will be coming about. They have made their opinions known in no uncertain terms that they do not support especially super tankers going through the inside passage and the relatively narrow straits, and the offshore oil and gas exploration associated with the new interest of the Liberal government in B.C. There has been particular attention to the preservation of park land and marine parks on the west coast in anticipation of this burning desire to exploit these natural resources. We are always concerned whenever we hear of any national park being eroded or diminished in any way.

When the bill first came along, it was the view of some of us in our caucus that we would oppose the erosion of the national parks in anyway, even if it were to satisfy the legitimate claims of a first nation that had an historic right to that property by virtue of traditional use or a land claim or a specific land claim dealing with what was in fact an error made in the survey of assessment of the first nation affected, as is the case of the Riding Mountain National Park.

We are really most interested in speaking about the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada in the context of this debate.

To strip away all the chafe from the wheat, and in its rawest form, this debate is about section 35 of the Constitution. Some members may wonder how we could arrive that. Quite simply, section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982 deals with aboriginal and treaty rights but fails to give any definition to those rights. That is why the government of Canada has spent the last 22 years in court, since 1982, to give meaning and definition to section 35 of the Constitution. While the Constitution recognizes aboriginal and treaty rights, it does not say what those aboriginal and treaty rights are.

It is the position of first nations that aboriginal and treaty rights mean some right, some legitimate claim to some sharing of land and resources on their traditional land base, not just the narrow, finite boundaries of reserves which are not in any way traditional or naturally occurring. They are constructs of the federal government and the Indian Act.

I am talking about the traditional area of land use as demonstrated through traditional land use maps. From time immemorial the aboriginal people up and down the west coast, whether it is the coast Salish or the any number of Tsimshian west coast Salish tribes up and down the west coast of Vancouver Island, have been using this area for hunting, gathering, settlement and traditional. They never ceded that territory through the Douglas treaties, which predated the rest of the treaties throughout Canada, and certainly not through the treaty era of Treaties Nos. 1 through 8 in the rest of Canada.

Their aboriginal and treaty rights were never ceded or signed away in any formal agreement with the crown, and they remain intact. Therefore, it is fitting and appropriate, and we feel proud to support their claim today, that this area of the Pacific Rim National Reserve of Canada should rightfully be under the direct holding and title of first nations making that claim.

Obviously, there is vested interest on many claims. However, people are satisfied that there has been consultation and adequate consultation with local land owners, municipalities, town councils and rural municipalities in the immediate area and that their concerns have been taken into account. I do not think that anyone has strongly held views about recognizing the aboriginal and treaty rights in these cases.

As we deal with the bill, it is a lesson for us all that the Government of Canada and therefore the people of Canada could save themselves an enormous amount of grief, aggravation and cost in the future if we would simply take one step back and get our minds around giving meaning and definition to section 35 of the constitution.

Frankly, the Government of Canada is not faring too well in its court challenges in those regards. Virtually every time aboriginal people make claims for recognition of those rights, they are denied by the federal government. First nations have no avenue of recourse but to go to the courts. They go to the Federal Court and then to the Supreme Court ultimately, and they always win. Court cases have been going on for 10 years, 15 years and 20 years, but they are finally concluding in favour of aboriginal people.

We are letting the courts do the work of Parliament. It should be up to Parliament to give meaning and definition to section 35. We have been afraid to or reluctant to do this. I do not know what the reasoning is on the federal government's part, but it has never tackled that thorny issue. It has never embraced that as a priority.

We came close in Charlottetown in 1992. The promise was made during the aboriginal round of the Charlottetown accord that if we passed Charlottetown, we would finally convene a national assembly of affected persons and would give definition to what aboriginal and treaty rights meant.

People may not like it. No one side will get everything it wants, but at least a fair consultation and negotiation will take place and we will not need to seek out the courts as an avenue of recourse. There will be some defined parameters as to what we mean by aboriginal rights because it seems to vary from person to person no matter who we asked.

Some non-aboriginal people are willing to concede that it only applies to hunting, gathering and fishing, traditional activities that people have always done for thousands of years. They are willing to let the Indians hunt on their land out of season as it will do no harm. Others go much broader in interpretation saying that people in an area called an Indian reserve have the exclusive right to resources on that property, all else is to be shared. That would mean the first nations people have a legitimate right to share in the land and resources such as mineral resources, lumber rights and logging and to share in the resources of their other traditional areas of use, which is essentially the rest of Canada.

There would be no poverty among aboriginal people if we took that interpretation. Even if we agreed that 1% of all the wealth from natural resources in mining, logging and hydroelectricity would be shared with first nations people, there would be no chronic third world poverty conditions. There would be economic development. There would be full participation by aboriginal people in the Canadian experience. That is the full range of interpretation of section 35 of the Constitution.

There are elements that say no special rights or privileges should be recognized, that is history, that this is 2004 and that they will not get into that debate. Then there are some grudgingly and some willingly who admit that fishing, hunting, and gathering berries are traditional activities.

The Indian Act specifically says that first nations people have a right to share in gravel, soil, mud, sand and other rock, other than minerals. We very generously and specifically listed those resources they have a right to have a share in. Granted, gravel has an economic value, but not as much as gold, titanium, uranium, pearls, rubies, oil and other treasures that we chose to keep exclusively for our use and for our purposes. We willingly conceded that aboriginal people have a right to mud, clay, gravel and sand, and as much as they want. They can develop it in any way they want too, resourceful as they are. We have that broad range here in interpretations.

The fact that we have to bring forward a special bill dealing with national parks is very sensitive in that it affects aboriginal people and their rights. The Government of Canada could spend less time seized of this issue if it would dedicate the time, the resources and the energy to define what aboriginal and treaty rights are.

I think there is generosity and goodwill among most Canadian people. I think Canadians are finally ready to recognize that 140 years of social tragedy as it has pertained to aboriginal people is enough. Our relationship with aboriginal people is Canada's greatest failure and, some would say, Canada's greatest shame in that we allowed these third world conditions to foster within our midst, knowing full well that it was not at all necessary.

People on the west coast have to be ever cognizant of traditional aboriginal and treaty rights, unseeded and yet to be clearly defined. In this case, my colleagues and I in the NDP will support the bill.

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5:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, our technical briefing for Bill C-28 is tomorrow and at that time we will find out the details of the information and have the first opportunity to ask questions about it. Does the member think that is the way to proceed when we deal with bills like this?

The member talked about consultation having been adequate. I guess that means that he trusts the Liberal consultation. I do not trust that consultation and would rather give the committee the opportunity to do the consulting.

What are his feelings about the traditional hunting rights of first nations people where they would travel from central B.C. through to the Prairies through an area called the Howes Pass, which is now part of the Banff-Jasper National Park? I guess he would also agree that should be subject to a land claim and obviously we should support it in that national park. That is one example that I know of but there must be many others.

Are we not simply beginning something that we may have difficulty ending? I know we could use the case I mentioned as an example.

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5:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on the one point that the hon. member made regarding consultation, there is no momentum building in any kind of opposition to this bill in the affected region; I will put it that way. The consultation was not with the official opposition and it was not with the NDP, but we are satisfied. Our information is that consultation has taken place in a way that has satisfied local residents. They are not viewing this as any threat or any reason to get all cranked up.

As far as traditional aboriginal and treaty rights go as they pertain to hunting, I should not try to quote Delgamuukw or Powley or Sparrow or any of the recent Supreme Court rulings. I can leave that to the member to read on his own. My point is simply that the more the government is unwilling to give definition to section 35 of the Constitution and to define what aboriginal treaty rights mean, the more the courts will make those determinations for us. That undermines the role of members of Parliament. It undermines the role of the House of Commons to allow the Supreme Court, whether one agrees or disagrees with its rulings, to make those rulings for us.

I think we should be exercising our role as members of Parliament and in the powers we have and once and for all sit down on this; it may be that we as members of Parliament are more narrow in our definition of aboriginal treaty rights than the courts have been, which may please the member in regard to the example he raised.

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5:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I just wish to say to you, for the House and for my colleague from Winnipeg who is still mourning the loss of the Jets, go, Habs, go tonight.

My question for the hon. member from Winnipeg is about this sort of partial opening of a park, this rejigging of it, as we say in the Maritimes, to satisfy the concerns of an outstanding grievance that an aboriginal group has had for a while.

What advice would he give to the government to ensure that these types of grievances or concerns do not intercede or impede future development of parks as we go along in the future? We are hoping that we have many more national parks, such as the marine national parks, of course, coming in the near future.

One of the concerns is the competing interests of, for example, oil and gas groups, and mining companies, the provinces, the territories, et cetera. They would want to have a say, of course, in how these parks are developed for the future. What advice could he give to the government to ensure that this type of action is done in a very careful manner? And let me say again, go, Habs, go.

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5:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is right. Winnipeggers watch all these Canadian teams in the playoffs with regret, sadly; it is hard to imagine our team as Coyotes.

Having said that, let me say that development on the west coast is particularly sensitive in that there was a moratorium. After great study and analysis about the development of oil and gas on the west coast of Canada, we in our wisdom decided to place a moratorium on that development. First nations people played a pivotal role in 1970, I believe it was, when that moratorium was imposed, because at that time they recognized it is not “if” there will be some kind of a spill or a disaster on the west coast if we develop the oil and gas there, it is “when”; it is almost guaranteed.

Now I do not know how this has come about, but the attitude seems to have shifted 180 degrees and now there are development zealots who have seized the day on the coast. Taking advantage of the tough economic times British Columbia is going through, I guess, they felt it was a good time to float this again as some sort of panacea to their other economic problems.

However, I do caution that in the case of land set aside for parks, land set aside for reserves and even land subject to broader land claims that are currently pending, the full participation of aboriginal people at the front end is absolutely critical if we are to avoid costly litigation, which we will likely lose after the fact. It is a cautionary tale here. I believe that we as a people know better than to plow ahead unilaterally, but I sense that this might not be the case in B.C.

We recently had the Haida Gwaii case in the Queen Charlotte Islands. The Government of Canada and British Columbia jointly said, “Okay, we are going to finally resolve the Haida Gwaii land claims situation”, and offered 20% of the Queen Charlotte Islands to be set aside for their use in the land claim. The leadership of the Haida nation had a look at that and turned it down categorically, the logic being, “Why should we accept 20% when we had it all?”

I have a friend, Moses Okimah, who is an aboriginal lawyer. He said to me, “The dumbest thing they ever did was let guys like me go to university”. Because, frankly, people are well aware of the impacts of these settlements, they are well aware of recent Supreme Court rulings, and they are not going to allow this “trade a cow for three beans” situation to happen again.

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6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?