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


Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.


Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member of the government party.

As I indicated during oral question period yesterday, the Government of Quebec, which at the time was the sovereignist Parti Quebecois, signed an historic agreement with the Cree people, known as the peace of the braves. This agreement respects the nation-to-nation approach.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-31, an act to give effect to a land claims and self-government agreement among the Tlicho, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada, to make related amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

In order to help our constituents understand this bill, we must explain who the Tlicho are.

The Tlicho are a people native to Canada whose ancestral lands are in the Northwest Territories. There are 3,000 members of the Tlicho First Nation, which was previously known as the Dogrib. The grand chief of the Tlicho is Joe Rabesca.

Under the three-party agreement of August 2003, involving Ottawa, the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho people, the Tlicho First Nation obtains administrative control over a territory of about 39,000 square kilometres between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake.

This region has the only two diamond reserves in Canada. In addition to ownership of natural resources and significant control over their development, the agreement includes a new self-government system for the Tlicho.

What about the bill? The enactment gives effect to the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Agreement and the Tlicho Tax Treatment Agreement. It includes related amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and consequential amendments to a number of other acts.

Representatives of the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council and representatives of the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada signed the Tlicho Agreement on August 25, 2003.

This is the first combined land claim and self-government agreement of its kind in the Northwest Territories. The agreement will create the largest single block of first nation owned land in Canada, and provide new systems of self-government for the Tlicho First Nation, who were previously known as the Dogrib, as I mentioned earlier.

Treaty 11 is the last of the numbered treaties and covers most of the Mackenzie District. The land in the area was deemed unsuitable for agriculture, so the federal government was reluctant to conclude treaties. Immediately following the discovery of oil at Fort Norman in 1920, however, the government moved to begin treaty negotiations.

The agreement gives the Tlicho the tools for becoming financially self-sufficient. The agreement also gives them more power to protect their way of life, to further economic growth, and to increase community well being.

Under the agreement, the Tlicho Government will be created, and through it the Tlicho people will own a 39,000 square kilometre block of land, the Tlicho lands, including the subsurface resources. Tlicho lands will surround the four Tlicho communities of Behcho Ko or Rae-Edzo, Wha Ti or Lac la Martre, Gameti or Rae Lakes, and Wekweti or Snare Lakes.

In the years to come, the government of the Tlicho will receive a sum of money in compensation for non-compliance with Treaty 11 of 1920, along with a portion of the annual royalties collected by the government on resource operations in the Mackenzie valley.

The Tlicho will gain fee simple ownership of approximately 3% of the land of the Northwest Territories, which represents approximately half the area of New Brunswick.

Implementation of the Tlicho agreement ought to enhance the certainty and clarity of the ownership and management of lands and resources in the North Slave region, which covers about 20% of the NWT. The agreement's clarification of Crown ownership of the land claim will put an end to the legal uncertainties.

The Tlicho agreement was ratified by Tlicho eligible voters on June 26 and 27, 2003. A total of 93% of the Tlicho participated in the vote, and over 84% of Tlicho voters were in favour of the Tlicho agreement. If the agreement is to become reality, federal and territorial enabling legislation must be passed, which is the reason for Bill C-31.

Now, what is the Bloc Quebecois position on this? The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of the bill to implement the Tlicho agreement. There are three main reasons for our position. First, the Bloc Quebecois wholly subscribes to the concept of aboriginal self-government, and this agreement puts their right to self-government in concrete form. We support the underlying principle behind that treaty, if only for that reason.

Second, the Tlicho have come out in favour of this agreement in a majority referendum vote of 84%. This is totally democratic.

Third, the agreement constitutes an excellent example of self-government.

More generally speaking, the Bloc Quebecois is concerned about aboriginal claims for self-government. It acknowledges the aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples with a right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions, as well as the right to direct the development of their own identity.

Bill C-31 is the last stepping stone in giving effect to the tripartite agreement between the Tlicho, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada.

Given the nature of the bill to implement the Tlicho final agreement, we think the role of Parliament should be to debate, accept or reject this bill. It is not our place to amend the bill. It has been duly signed by the three parties who negotiated it. Amending the bill would be paternalistic, and we refuse to adopt that attitude.

I would like to point out that the Bloc Quebecois has supported most of the recommendations of the Erasmus-Dussault Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. That commission's approach to the concept of self-government was based on the recognition of native governments as a type of government with jurisdiction over issues concerning the good governance and well-being of their people. In addition, the entire report was based on the recognition of indigenous peoples as autonomous nations occupying a unique place within Canada.

In closing, I would like to say, to the members present in this House and the public following this debate, that the signing of the peace of the braves initiated by the Parti Quebecois was an eloquent example of the way a sovereign Quebec would treat the first nations, a respectful agreement based on a nation-to-nation approach.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to commend my colleague from Drummond for her speech and tell her that I fully support what she said and her position, which is the Bloc Quebecois position.

This week the Prime Minister put on a good show when he met with the aboriginal people. Once again, despite the fact that the Erasmus-Dussault report came out some 10 years ago, if my memory serves me correctly—my colleague could correct me if I am wrong—the Prime Minister told us that this report included many things that could have been implemented gradually as soon as the report was released. The report in question seems to have been forgotten and once again the government wants to start new consultations, do all the work over again and not even refer to this report.

We are told the report needs to be updated because things have changed. I basically agree, but a report can be updated while consultations are taking place. I would like my colleague's opinion on this.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his comments. I think that he is completely right. This morning, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources convened. This meeting was attended by the chief of the first nations and other chiefs, representing Inuit communities and communities in the Northwest Territories, who came to tell us about the problems they face, particularly with regard to social housing.

I reminded the committee chair that, in 1993-94, when I was the Bloc health critic, we had considered a report on the health and well-being of aboriginal children. At the time, we reached the same conclusions as the representatives of these nations who came to share their concerns with us. Eleven years later, they are facing the same problems. Nothing has been resolved.

I remember that, at the time, some nations came to tell us that they were really fed up. In fact, each time there was a new government, a study was done; like the Erasmus-Dussault report, it was widely publicized in the media, many promises were made and, one year later, the report wound up on the shelf.

I agree with my colleague that yesterday was another big production by this government. In reality, if it truly wanted to put things right, it would have done so a long time ago.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Drummond, on her speech, and for her interest in issues affecting the indigenous peoples, the first nations.

I know she has been following this issue for a number of years and so I would like to ask her if she agrees with me that we, as Quebeckers, have good reason to be proud of the new partnership we have established with the first nations. It goes as far back as the early 1980s, when René Lévesque's government obtained unanimous approval by the National Assembly—it was not a partisan issue—to recognize 11 indigenous nations.

For the Bloc Quebecois, the native people are not just communities, they are not just distinct people; they are nations, with all that means for their rights to develop and to determine their own future.

Does the hon. member not agree, then, that the time has come to abolish the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and treat the first nations as true equals?

In addition, could she tell us about the role René Lévesque played in shaping her political philosophy?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.


Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his most pertinent comments.

I think the initiative taken by Quebec's sovereignist government in recent years is to the credit of the sovereignists and all the people of Quebec, the entire Quebec nation. It signed an historical agreement with the Cree: the peace of the braves. This is an agreement which respects the nation-to-nation approach.

I agree there should no longer be any department of Indian affairs in Canada. There ought to be representatives of the first nations. The first step is to recognize them as nations. Discussions need to be held with them that fully respect the distribution of wealth, as must be done, and is in fact done, with all Canadians and all Quebeckers.

I think this would be a major step forward. I know the Prime Minister referred to this yesterday, but he indicated this would not happen overnight. It may take some time. Perhaps we will not see this approach, which I consider humane, because the first nations have been demanding their rights for a long time. They were put on reserves, and it is high time they were recognized as peoples, just as we designate ourselves as the Quebec people and the Canadian people.

They must be respected and provided with the proper tools to improve their quality of life. The fact that the first nations were the first ones here must be taken into consideration. It is through their way of living, and our own, in mutual respect, that we can succeed in improving the quality of life of the entire Quebec nation, the first nations, and the nation of Canada.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have just a few words to say on the bill before the House today, Bill C-31. It is an agreement with the Tlicho people of the Northwest Territories, the former Dogrib people, and was signed some time ago. The prime minister of the country at the time, Jean Chrétien, was in the Northwest Territories on August 25, 2003. In his speech, he remarked that this was a very historic agreement of great importance to the aboriginal people of that part of our country.

I just wanted to say in a very few words that we support this bill. It is a recognition of aboriginal rights, of the inherent rights that the aboriginal people have in the Constitution of Canada.

I remember the constitutional process of 1982. I remember the negotiating that we in the New Democratic Party did--I was the constitutional critic at the time--to make sure that treaty rights and the royal proclamation were both included in the patriation package.

In the first package that came from the Trudeau government, there was no reference to the aboriginal people, to treaty rights, or to the royal proclamation. As we tried to develop a national consensus for a constitution with a charter of rights, that was part of what was put into the package. That was a very controversial time.

At that particular time, I had a great many problems with the initial package brought out by the then prime minister. It did not have an amending formula that treated all provinces equally. It had no reference to aboriginal rights and so on. Throughout the process, there were some improvements in the constitutional package, and one that was made was for first nations people, so now there is a constitutional recognition of the reality of first nations people. There is also a reference to Métis people in our Constitution. It does give them some recognition that they are peoples.

I also agreed with former Quebec premier René Lévesque, who signed the agreement with the native groups, 11 nations in the province of Quebec, if I remember correctly. This recognition of them by the province was something very important.

This kind of recognition has been happening over the last number of years, and what we are seeing now are the fruits of some of what was done about 20 years ago. There are many land entitlement agreements that are yet to be fully negotiated. This is also happening. I hope that this is just another example of a positive thing for aboriginal first nations people in our country.

I think that most of us want to see the full negotiation of self-government and a third order of government in our country. We have the federal government, the provinces, and then we have first nations governments. Those negotiations are under way.

I want to conclude by saying that this is a step in the right direction. First nations people in general have a living standard that is a lot lower than that of any other Canadians. Infant mortality rates are very high. Crime rates are high. Alcoholism rates are high.

Few first nations people have access to education and job opportunities, but recently there has been some improvement in terms of the access to education. I remember back about a year and a half ago going to the law school in Saskatoon and being very pleasantly surprised that about 15% of the law students were from aboriginal backgrounds, which is a very positive thing in the province of Saskatchewan.

With that, I want to endorse the bill before the House today and say that we are moving in the right direction with this bill, plus the Westbank bill, which we have dealt with already. I hope we will have more successful negotiations with our first nations people, our Métis people and the Inuit people of this country.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Chair for recognizing me. I want to ask my colleague a question. I also wanted to ask the member for Drummond a question earlier.

I was a member of the Quebec government in 1984, when it recognized the right of aboriginal peoples to the full rights granted all peoples. René Lévesque was perhaps among those who had the most respect for the aboriginal peoples in general, and the first nations in particular. In fact, we have inherited their work, since they were here well before us.

Can the member tell me why the federal government has treated these people like some kind of minority since 1984—and that was already late? What are the advantages of being paternalistic toward people who would make significant contributions to the community if their rights were fully recognized, as any other peoples in the world? This would greatly benefit us. Can he tell me the answer?

This was in 1984, 20 years ago already. However, even if Quebec has officially recognized the aboriginal peoples, current legislation is still paternalistic. Can the member enlighten me, given his federal political experience?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has asked a question that is not easy to answer.

Why were the Liberals so slow in responding to the problems of aboriginal groups in our country? This really began with the patriation of our Constitution in 1982. I well remember the grand ceremony and I also remember that Indian treaty rights and Métis rights were included in the Constitution.

Since 1982 or 1984 there has been very little progress. They are truly the forgotten peoples of our country. This is a comment against the federal government—the Liberal Party, but also against the government of Brian Mulroney—because not a lot has been done in this area. This has also been a big failure in almost every Canadian province. I know that Mr. Lévesque contributed to progress. We had New Democrats who were positive toward the aboriginals, but despite all that, most aboriginals live in great poverty in our country. We need more economic and social development and other things like that.

On another topic, soon there will be two appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada. Perhaps for the first time in our history, the time has come to consider the possibility of having a Supreme Court judge from an aboriginal group. That would be something new. I do not have someone specific to propose, but I wanted to make the suggestion of having someone from this community on the Supreme Court.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Western Arctic
Northwest Territories


Ethel Blondin-Andrew Minister of State (Children and Youth)

Mr. Speaker, I take great pride today in giving my support to Bill C-31, which puts into effect the land claims and self-government agreement signed last August between the Tlicho and the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories.

I would first like to offer my deepest congratulations to the Tlicho people for achieving this monumental self-government and claims agreement. It comes from years of hard work by many people.

I wish to acknowledge and remember with deep respect and fondness one individual in particular, Chief Eddie Paul Rabesca, who was still with us in the final stages of this claim. Chief Rabesca passed away a few months ago after a life devoted to the Tlicho people. He was involved in this land claims and self-government initiative from the beginning and worked both politically and personally all of his life for the betterment of the Tlicho people. I know that his fellow negotiators on the team, as well as Grand Chief Joe Rabesca, who was a very close colleague of his, and the other chiefs who worked alongside him in the communities appreciate beyond words their working relationship and his contribution.

I also would like to recognize that for as long as I have been a member of Parliament, which is 16 years, through the major comprehensive claims process the Dogribs aspired to a claim. This was not meant to be under that arrangement and they have pursued their own regional claim, which has resulted in the Tlicho agreement. I know that they have worked on this long and hard.

When we know the nature of the negotiations of a major claim, we know that these people divest themselves of their personal lives. They divest themselves of the time they would give to their families and communities and dedicate themselves to a goal that perhaps totally consumes their whole personal life and work life. This is what the negotiating team for the Dogribs has done, along with its legal consultants.

These people bear mentioning: Grand Chief Rabesca, along with his chiefs, both teams, including the negotiating team, which consists of John B. Zoe, the chief negotiator, as well as Eddy Erasmus and James Washie, the self-government specialist. It is the first time that we are embedding a self-government agreement within the body of a claim. This is the work of those individuals, as well as Ted Blondin and the elders that accompany them generally. Everything is done on a consensus basis and there is a seldom a period when the elders are not there. The elders, like Alexis Arrowmaker, who is the former chief and is well known to many politicians across the country, have been there to support the negotiators.

It would be remiss of me not to recognize the legal team, Rick Salter and Art Pape. They have dedicated themselves to providing the best legal advice that is available to the Dogrib team and to come up with an innovative document that addresses so many issues.

The other individual who I think bears mentioning--and I am sure the Dogribs will appreciate this--is our one federal negotiator, Jean Yves Assiniwi, who is well known in many parts of Canada on constitutional, as well as other legal issues. He worked very well alongside the Dogribs.

I wanted to start out with a preamble saying that the people who are involved in this are not involved in a casual or cavalier manner. It is a very dedicated process. It is a very detailed process and involves many months and years of travel. For as long as I have been in cabinet, which is 11 years, I know that the Dogribs have worked very hard. The credit really goes to them and to the people who saw fit to cooperate with them to make sure that this happened.

Many people along the way have contributed. There have been many ministers and officials. They are to be thanked, as well as all of the other people who were involved, but mainly the people on the Dogrib negotiating team. They worked hard for their people and brought home a document that was broadly accepted by their people.

We are in the House today to discuss the various aspects of this claim, but I think it is important to recognize what goes on behind the scenes and what happens. A document did not miraculously appear in the House of Commons at second reading without the work of those people.

The Speech from the Throne stated that aboriginal Canadians must participate fully in all that Canada has to offer, with greater economic self-reliance and an ever-increasing quality of life based upon historic rights and agreements that our forefathers signed long ago but that are not forgotten. Bill C-31 will allow the Tlicho people to do just that.

As the Prime Minister said yesterday at the opening of the first Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Round Table, “Canada would not be Canada without the aboriginal peoples. Their distinct traditions, cultures and languages enrich Canada immensely.”

I am a proud member of the Dene First Nation of which the Tlicho are also a part. Their traditions are unique, however, and the Tlicho have made every effort to preserve their culture and language and continue to teach the young Tlicho their traditions. The majority of Tlicho speak the Tlicho language which is still taught in Tlicho schools. This legislation will help to preserve this priceless heritage.

The Government of Canada enjoys a longstanding and respectful relationship with the Tlicho people. In 1921 the Tlicho entered into a treaty relationship with Canada when they signed Treaty No. 11, the last of the historical numbered treaties signed with aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Due to the remoteness of the Northwest Territories and the limited aboriginal presence in the treaty area, however, many of the provisions of Treaty No. 11 relating to reserve lands and other measures were not implemented. In addition, the aboriginal peoples of the region regard Treaty No. 11 as a treaty of peace and friendship rather than one dealing with land.

For these reasons and because of differing views of the treaty, its limited implementation and legal challenges to its interpretation, the Government of Canada agreed in 1981 to enter into negotiations of a comprehensive land claim agreement with the Dene and Métis of the Northwest Territories to achieve certainty with respect to land and resource rights.

The agreement reached is the first of its kind in the Northwest Territories, and the first of its kind in Canada to combine land claims and self-government since the Nisga'a treaty.

When Bill C-31 becomes law, some 3,000 Tlicho people will have the power to protect their way of life and control their land, resources and lives.

Under the Tlicho agreement the Tlicho government will be created. Through it the Tlicho people will own a 39,000 square kilometre block of land between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake, and the largest single block of first nation owned land in Canada.

The Tlicho government will receive about $152 million over 15 years. This will be used as a type of investment fund to promote social, cultural, educational and economic development in the area, as well as an annual share of resource royalties that the government receives from development in the Mackenzie Valley.

The Tlicho government will replace four local band councils and the Treaty No. 11 council now in the region. Tlicho legislative bodies will regulate daily life and have powers such as tax collection.

Under the bill the federal and territorial laws and Tlicho laws will be concurrent with laws passed by other governments.

When this bill becomes law, the Tlicho will finally be allowed to play a significant role in the management of land, water and other resources in most of their traditional territory.

Not having had claims has not deterred the Tlicho from success and from the opportunities that abound in their back yard. They are full partners economically. They have not only developed organized political bodies, but they have also organized an economic arm through the Dogrib groups of companies to reap the benefits of resource development that abound in their region. Even without a claim they have done that. Now that they have the mechanism of a claim, none of the opportunities will escape their capabilities to reap the benefits from anything that happens around their area.

Under this bill the Tlicho will have access to governance tools needed to safeguard culture, improve social services and bolster the economy. A central Tlicho government will oversee culture, land use and other matters. Community governments elected by all residents, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, because it is a form of public government, will deliver municipal services.

I also want to stress that the bill we are considering today enjoys clear support among the Tlicho. It is the culmination of an agreement in principle reached in January 2000 and overwhelmingly approved by the Tlicho in a vote on June 26 and 27. A total of 93% of Tlicho participated in the vote and over 84% were in favour of the agreement.

The Tlicho also conducted hundreds of consultations and information sessions on the agreement. Consensus has always been a part of the process. That is highly recommended on such an important issue. They secured the support of the Government of the Northwest Territories which will soon enact bills establishing new relationships with the Tlicho. This was not a bilateral process. There were many complicated and sensitive negotiations that the Tlicho underwent with other levels of government to achieve this agreement.

Economic growth can occur only when people have the freedom to cultivate it. Most Canadians take this truth to be self-evident, but I was struck by a comment made by Mary Ann Jermemick'ca upon the signing of the Tlicho agreement last year. She indicated:

We were always told what to do and what we couldn't do. We could have somebody doing mining right next to our house and we would have nothing to say about it. Now at least we have some say about what's going on in our community and our land.

The Tlicho have never been hesitant to speak their minds and to provide leadership for their people. This is a governing tool that will help them very much. It will enhance the leadership that is there.

The bill will finally give the Tlicho a say in the development of their own community. Under the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement the Tlicho will gain additional governance and administrative tools to strengthen their economy. Using these levers to prosperity, the Tlicho expect to create an entrepreneurial climate that will encourage investment and pave the way to new jobs paying very good wages.

Through the land resource and financial benefits they receive from the agreement, the Tlicho will be in a better position to undertake new business ventures and forge profitable partnerships. As new economic ventures get underway, other opportunities are sure to follow.

It is important to remember that the Tlicho are no strangers to entrepreneurship. In fact, they provide a sterling example to other groups, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, of the benefits of hard work, the strength of partnership and the value of innovative thinking.

The Tlicho were the first group in the Northwest Territories to develop its own hydroelectric project. It was developed in the 1990s. In fact the former premier of the Northwest Territories, Nellie Cournoyer, and I in my earlier years as a parliamentarian attended the event when they opened the Snare hydro project.

The Snare Cascades project, developed in the mid-1990s, is a joint venture with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and represents the largest economic project yet undertaken by the Tlicho. A vital component of the regional power grid, the Snare Cascades project now generates more than four megawatts and supplies 7% of the territory's power.

The Tlicho also built, independent of any government funding--actually that is not totally true--an airport in the aboriginal community of Rae-Edzo. They provided most of the support and funding actually. The airport enables airlines to provide direct flights to Edmonton and Yellowknife and is a sure way to bolster industry in the region as traffic steadily increases. The impetus for building this particular airport was to bring workers back from the diamond mines and to ensure that they had the immediate contact with family upon finishing their shifts in the two diamond mines that are now operating. There is one that is being developed and under review.

The Tlicho currently partner with some of Canada's largest engineering companies, including Procon and SNC-Lavalin. The Tlicho are also party to impact and benefits agreements with Diavik and Ekati, two prominent diamond mining companies in the region.

These accords and impact benefits agreements are unlike anything that indigenous groups have encountered around the world. They have set a template for groups in other parts of the world for indigenous people to look at and to follow. Through these accords, the Tlicho have negotiated for guaranteed training and employment at both mines, enhancing the chances for increased employment and improved standards of living for the Tlicho well into the future.

As most members of the House know, the mining industry is the leading employer of aboriginal peoples in the Northwest Territories. It should be noted that the Northwest Territories has the second highest employment growth rate in Canada. It is 68%, next to Alberta which is 69%. That is very progressive. We also have the third or fourth highest GDP positive growth rate in Canada.

Some 60% of the jobs and contracts from our mines still go to Ontario, Quebec and to southern provinces. What we are doing in the north is not just good for the north, or just good for one particular group, it is beneficial to all of Canada. Our projects are international projects, they are domestic projects, and they are Canadian projects that benefit all of Canada.

The Tlicho have negotiated guaranteed training and employment at both mines, enhancing not only employment, but improving the standards of living for the Tlicho. Most members in the House will know also that there have been very strong partnerships forged with the Tlicho in an entrepreneurial sense.

Up until the early 1990s however aboriginal people accounted for only 10% of full time mining jobs in the north. Direct employment since then has tripled to about 30%, largely due to the aboriginal hiring and training initiatives at the Ekati and Diavik diamond mines. In fact, at the end of 2001, 683 aboriginal employees, or 30% of the operations workforce worked for the Ekati mines or its contractors.

Diavik for its part now anticipates that aboriginal workers will account for at least 40% of the company's northern workforce when the mine reaches full capacity. There are those who would aspire to make that even more so. Indeed, the mine is well on the way to reaching this figure following a recent agreement signed between Diavik and I&D Management Services, a consortium of aboriginal groups that promotes the employment of its people. Under this agreement, I&D provides 100 employees to the mine of whom half are aboriginal. These workers operate many of the trucks, excavators, dozers and other heavy equipment essential to the mine's operations.

It is not just individual aboriginal workers who are benefiting from this employment growth. Aboriginal communities in the region such as Wha Ti, Wekweti, Gameti, Rae-Edzo, Dettah, Ndilo and Lutsel K'e are reaping rewards as well. Living standards in these communities have risen as improved social services follow in the wake of economic growth.

The spirit of entrepreneurship is also reflected in the rapid growth of the local business community. Today, more than 200 aboriginal owned businesses in the region with annual revenues in excess of $100 million are employing some 1,000 aboriginal people. These figures represent unprecedented growth in aboriginal entrepreneurship in Canada's north. We must encourage and support this growth. Bill C-31 will do that.

It will give the Tlicho greater and more immediate decision making powers to capitalize on business relationships and expand its entrepreneurial horizons. As those horizons expand, the range of work experience available to the Tlicho people will continue to broaden. It is precisely that breadth of experience that will foster ongoing economic development and innovation.

I would like to say a few words with regard to this piece of legislation on how it will improve educational outcomes for Tlicho young people and deliver additional benefits to all Canadians.

We all know that in our increasingly complex global economy, a sound education is crucial. Knowledge is key to self-sufficiency, quality of life, and success for all Canadians. This is no less true for aboriginal people.

Although much has been done in the past two decades to improve educational outcomes for first nations young people in Canada, a significant gap in achievement still remains between aboriginal and non-aboriginal children.

Due to their small size and geographical remoteness, many first nations schools are unable to deliver programs comparable to those in provincially run or territorially run schools. Aboriginal students without access to on reserve education often have to travel a great distance to attend school.

Historically, these factors have led to higher dropout rates and lower educational achievement among aboriginal youth. Clearly, this is an unacceptable situation for any group of Canadians. It is widely accepted that aboriginal communities know best how to meet these challenges and the educational needs of their young people.

I would like to conclude by saying that the Dogrib people were the first group to run an educational institution for their people. They engendered the culture, the language, and the aspirations of their people in doing so.

I want to congratulate Chief Jimmy Bruneau School that offers culturally based education to the young people of the Tlicho. We have many more graduates and the numbers are increasing. We have university graduates. People are moving on. We have many challenges.

This is a successful document that will speak to a great future for the Tlicho people.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member will have 10 minutes for questions and comments when debate resumes on the bill.

It being 5:56 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 25 consideration of the motion.

The Armenian People
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow will be the first time members will be able to vote on this important matter, although it is the fourth time a similar motion has been introduced in this House.

I was therefore surprised to find in my mail a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade addressed to MPs and encouraging us not to vote in favour of this private member's motion. I was, frankly, somewhat shocked and dismayed, particularly since this is one of the ministers of this government who claims to attach a great deal of importance to what members think and want. I was surprised for that reason.

Yet, after reading his letter, my second reaction was to be pleased he had sent it to us, and I will tell you why. In his third paragraph he says the following.

The established government policy was set out in a statement in this House in June 1999 in favour of reconciliation: “We remember the calamity afflicted on the Armenian people in 1915. This tragedy was committed with the intent to destroy a national group in which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were subject to atrocities which included massive deportations and massacres—”

Who has not read the definition of genocide in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide? All components of that definition are clearly recalled in the minister's statement. According to the definition, genocide is “an act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” That is what we have just heard from the mouth of the minister, or rather from his pen.

I would like to repeat the motion, for which I congratulate my colleague for Laval Centre. What does it say? It reads:

That this House acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1915 and condemn this act as a crime against humanity.

There are some new elements, some recent events, that make it possible for us to be even more clearly in favour of this motion.

The first of these is the recent ruling by the appeals section of the International Tribunal in the Hague, relating to the defence of Mr. Krstic, who, hon. members will recall, felt that responsibility for the deaths of seven to eight thousand Muslims in July of 1995 was not sufficient reason to term this genocide. The appeal court clearly certified that this defence was invalid and recognized that this was genocide.

I believe we all understand the importance of this ruling, which the experts feel broadens the concept of genocide.

Another piece of news is quite interesting. The New York Times , a widely respected newspaper, has recently changed its guidelines for reporters and editorial writers. I do not have it in French, because it is the New York Times , so I will read it in English:

--“after careful study of scholarlydefinitions of 'genocide,' we have decided to accept the term inreferences to the Turks' mass destruction of Armenians in andaround 1915”...the expression'Armenian genocide' may be used freely and should not be qualifiedwith phrasing like 'what Armenians call,' etc”.

That is one more important element, and I can add that the Boston Globe did the same thing a year ago.

Now there are questions to be raised. Why not recognize that the 1999 declaration by the Minister of Foreign Affairs is equivalent to saying, “There was a genocide”? Why not recognize it? It has the same definition.

Why would this threaten relations between Turkey and Canada, and relations between Turkish-Canadian citizens and other Canadians? I can say—this is not the best argument—that the threat has been made everywhere but never executed, while many assemblies in many countries, which have been named repeatedly, have passed such a resolution.

How does this motion attack Turkey? The word “Turkey” is not spoken, in contrast to the motion that was proposed in the United States House of Representatives. The word “Turkey” is not seen here.

Can we not remember that Mustapha Kemal, who founded the Turkish republic in 1923—the genocide we are discussing took place in 1915—repeatedly, dozens of times, condemned the massacres? They were not hidden away in a closet. Many times, he called them heinous acts and called for the guilty parties to be punished.

The Republic of Turkey was not formed until 1923. Turks now and then could have said, “It was the Ottoman empire. It was a moment of crisis. We feel for the Armenians and acknowledge that they were victims of genocide”. Why do otherwise?

I want to add that, if the word “genocide” is not mentioned before 1948, it is because it was not used for this purpose. I even looked in my old Larousse dictionary, the first edition of which was published in 1932—interesting tidbit for a historian—and under “genocide” it states, “The word used by Holocaust deniers”.

In my opinion, there is no good reason to vote against the motion before the House tomorrow. I have already repeated the definition given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. All we will need to say is, “what is called the Armenian genocide”.

The Quebec National Assembly and many other legislatures across Canada, as well as the Senate, have passed this motion couched in the harshest of terms. However, is this not necessary recognition for the descendants of these men and women whose suffering was great and attested to at the time by numerous witnesses? There is plenty of evidence.

How could voting in favour of this motion delay the rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey? Recognizing the Shoah certainly did not prevent an extraordinary rapprochement between Europe and Germany.

The future cannot be built on a hidden past. The future, in this case, depends on the respectful admission of the facts, so considered by those who have studied this issue.

With regard to the reconciliation, the future needs to be considered once the past has been put to rest.

The Armenian People
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.



Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, clearly, I must have the consent of my colleague who introduced the motion to pass the following amendment. I am going to read it in English.

I request unanimous consent to amend the motion by substituting it with the following: That this House remember the calamity afflicted on the Armenian people in 1915. This tragedy was committed with the intent to destroy a national group in which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were subject to atrocities, which included massive deportations and massacres. May the memory of this period contribute to healing wounds, as well as to reconciliation of our present day nations and communities, and remind us all of our collective duty to work together toward world peace.

The Armenian People
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I guess it is up to me to accept or refuse. I would like say that there are two official languages in this Parliament. I would also like to say that I find it unacceptable that this amendment was not prepared in French and English given the absolutely extraordinary translation resources available to the government and the hon. members.

Nonetheless, I understood it very well. I am sorry, but, with or without a translation, I cannot include this amendment in my motion.

The Armenian People
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Timmins—James Bay


Réginald Bélair The Deputy Chair

I believe the problem has just been resolved.