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House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was land.

Topics

Question No. 71Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Sarnia—Lambton Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from April 20 consideration of the motion that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2004 / 3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-31, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act. While my hon. colleagues have addressed specific aspects of the bill, I would like to take a broader view and situate the bill in a northern context.

I am convinced that Bill C-31 will have a significant and overwhelmingly positive impact on Canada's north. Unprecedented prosperity is already underway in the north and for the first time aboriginal people are participating as full partners. There is no doubt in my mind that these trends are definitely linked. I am also convinced that Canada's long term prosperity depends upon continuing to foster growth in the northern economy. To ensure that this growth benefits all Canadians, northerners must be directly involved.

The Tlicho seek to increase their participation in the economy. Through Bill C-31, the House has the power to grant them their wish and advance Canadian prosperity. Simply put, the legislation before us today gives the Tlicho people the legal status, tools and resources they need to access an equitable share of northern prosperity. The legislation would create the democratic institutions of local government which would ensure that future generations can protect Tlicho culture and safeguard traditional lands.

This legislation has arrived at a favourable time in the history of the north. Allow me to explain by citing a few facts. Canada will soon become the world's third largest producer of diamonds, thanks to the successful mining operations in the Northwest Territories. This success is made sweeter by the partnerships struck between first nations and the mining companies.

One of the first agreements was struck between the Tlicho and Ekati. Other deals involve aboriginal trucking and facilities companies. As a result of these agreements, northern communities are benefiting significantly from the diamond projects. In 2002, aboriginals accounted for more than 30% of the workforces at Ekati and Diavik.

A study conducted in 2003 by the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines estimated that at least 200 aboriginal businesses now operate in the mining sector. These businesses generate revenues in excess of $500 million per year. Similar projects are underway across the north: to mine nickel near Voisey's Bay, Labrador, and to extract and develop oil sands in Alberta.

All of these projects will generate substantial profits for investors and deliver significant benefits for first nations and northern communities. I am convinced that partnering with aboriginal organizations in these projects is key to Canada's long term prosperity.

My belief is based on two concurrent facts. First, the natural resources of the north are vast and relatively untapped and, second, many aboriginal communities concentrated in the north are keen to participate as equal partners in the development of these resources. However, many of these communities face significant barriers. Ownership of resources and legal status are often in doubt, forcing potential investors to take their money elsewhere.

The Government of Canada has an important role to play to ensure that the vast economic potential of the north is realized in a sustainable and inclusive way. By devolving certain powers to the territories, for example, we help ensure that decisions about resource development are made by the people most affected. By negotiating land claims and self-government agreements, for instance, we help ensure that aboriginal communities can access resources and develop their economies. We help create the conditions that attract other partners.

Bill C-31 is a case in point. The centrepiece of the legislation is the Tlicho agreement, a tripartite agreement negotiated during the past decade by Canada, the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho. While several clauses of the agreement are complex, their overall effect is relatively simple: the Tlicho will become a self-governing entity with the tools to enable it to raise capital and develop infrastructure.

Under Bill C-31, the Tlicho will have the authority to collect taxes, levy resource royalties, license businesses and manage their lands and resources. The Indian Act will no longer apply. The Tlicho will still be subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and all federal laws of general application, including the Criminal Code.

The Tlicho have clearly demonstrated that they are ready to exercise these powers wisely. Although comprised of only a few thousand members, the Tlicho manage their own schools and a long term care facility. They have built and now successfully operate an airport. They have negotiated social service delivery agreements with the government of the Northwest Territories.

The Tlicho are ready, willing and able to play a larger role in the northern economy. We must ensure that the Tlicho have every opportunity to succeed in this role.

Modern land claims agreements have provided aboriginal people with the means to become partners in the economic development of their regions. Makivik Corporation, which represents the Inuit of northern Quebec, concluded a land claim agreement in 1976. They have supported and developed the traditional economy of their communities while at the same time becoming major partners in the broader economy. They own a major airline and a construction company and are partners in northern shipping ventures and commercial fisheries.

Overall, these agreements provide aboriginal groups with governance, economic tools and land and resource benefits, which are contributing to their self-reliance, cultural well-being and successful participation in the broader economy.

I believe that the success of partnerships between private sector companies and aboriginal groups has forever altered the business climate in the north. Diamond mines in the Northwest Territories demonstrate the advantage of this new operating environment.

Diavik and BHP Billiton have adopted a stewardship approach that demonstrates tremendous respect, both for the environment and for local communities. Diavik, for instance, signed an impact and benefits agreement with the Tlicho before the company opened the Ekati mine.

Today the majority of the mine's workforce is comprised of northerners and nearly 50% are aboriginal. The mine buys 70% of the goods and services it needs from suppliers based in the Northwest Territories. Tlicho Logistics, a company created to provide services to Ekati, employs more than 106 aboriginals.

The partnerships with diamond companies enable first nations to realize community goals. By taking advantage of training opportunities, residents are acquiring the skills they need to develop and manage their own businesses. As a result, young people in the north can look forward to a more prosperous future. As a result, the number of Tlicho people enrolled in post-secondary studies has increased sixfold in the past four years.

The mining companies also benefit by tapping the knowledge of the people most familiar with the fragile environment of the north. In addition, the people of Canada benefit as strengthened aboriginal communities contribute socially, economically and culturally.

I believe that the Government of Canada must encourage businesses in northern communities to form respectful, mutually beneficial partnerships. Clearly this approach will stimulate new levels of economic activity in the north and produce tremendous advantages for all Canadians.

This House has an important role to play in ensuring that these advantages are realized. By adopting Bill C-31, we can support the considerable efforts of the Tlicho to contribute to Canada's economy. I urge hon. members to grant this legislation swift passage.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-31, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act. This bill represents the aspirations of a principled and trustworthy people determined to honour commitments made by their ancestors.

[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]

(English)

What I have said in my language is that it is a great honour to look at a region that was ascertained by Treaty No. 11 and to look at the treaty signatories of these communities, the ancestors, and the youth, with their aspirations for the future. This will be a public form of government. Not only will it be inclusive of aboriginal people, the Tlicho, the Dogrib people of Treaty No. 11, but the Tlicho are making provisions for all people who live within their territory to be a part of that governance.

That kind of vision is very welcome, for my people in the northern half of the province of Saskatchewan. I urge them to look at that sort of governance. Aboriginal and non-aboriginal people can work together, coming together as one, and create a governance structure that can serve all our needs.

For more than a decade, the Tlicho have led a comprehensive process of consultations and negotiations. The fruit of those efforts, the Tlicho agreement, forms the centrepiece of the legislation that is now before us.

Today we are considering a bill that would significantly influence the destiny of a people. In the interests of the Tlicho and all Canadians, I believe we must give our wholehearted support to this legislation.

The agreement at the heart of the legislation is significant in many ways. It marks the first agreement in the Northwest Territories to include comprehensive land claims and self-government. It would provide certainty for the exercise of aboriginal and treaty rights within the traditional territory of the Tlicho, almost 20% of the Northwest Territories itself.

Within their traditional area, the Tlicho would gain ownership of a parcel of land, 39,000 square kilometres in total, along with self-government powers and control of land and resources within that area. The amount of money involved is also substantial. Approximately $150 million would be paid out over several years. The Tlicho would also be guaranteed a share of the revenues generated from resource development in the Mackenzie Valley.

The process that led to the agreement was remarkable and comprehensive. Consultations and negotiations went on for over 10 years. Hundreds of sessions were held, involving dozens of private and public sector groups and thousands of people. The tripartite agreement that emerged from these efforts involves Canada, the Tlicho and the Government of the Northwest Territories. In fact, the territorial assembly has already passed legislation to ratify this agreement and will enact two other related pieces of legislation in the near future.

To ensure that the tripartite agreement respects the interests of all other aboriginal groups, the Tlicho negotiated separate overlap agreements with the Sahtu Dene and Métis, the Gwich'in, the Deh Cho and the Akaitcho Treaty No. 8 Dene.

As my esteemed colleagues have recognized, the Tlicho have gone to extraordinary lengths to secure an agreement suited to their unique situation. To appreciate the significance of the agreement's particular future, it is important to know a bit of Tlicho history.

The Tlicho are a Dene people. They are of the Dene nation. They are nomadic, historically using and occupying vast tracts of land near the Mackenzie River, Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake. They lived off the land and often followed migrating herds of caribou. The land was revered because it provided sustenance, and its value was incalculable.

European explorers called them the Dogrib, a name that stuck with them for a century or more. Explorers brought new diseases such as measles and influenza, which decimated the aboriginal population, but the Dogrib found a way to survive and to maintain their relationship with the land.

When oil and gas were discovered in the 1920s in the north, treaty negotiations that followed quickly gathered momentum. At a ceremony in Fort Rae in 1921, Treaty No. 11 was signed by Chief Monfwi. Annuities were paid to 440 members of the Dogrib Band. More than eight decades later, the anniversary of the signing ceremony is still celebrated in the Tlicho communities. Ceremonies of the treaty's signatory should also be celebrated by Canadians. This historic agreement created our country, and Canada is truly a treaty nation.

When Treaty No. 11 was signed, Chief Monfwi traced the traditional lands of his people on a map. The boundaries, as he described, are identical, almost nearly to the line, of what is included in Bill C-31 today. The vision of the chief and the vision of his people was exact.

The treaty is also culturally significant to the Tlicho. In recognition of this, a unique provision in the agreement incorporates two aspects of the original treaty: payment of annuities and teachers' salaries. Education has always been a high priority for the Tlicho.

Given the geography and lack of development, the treaty did not result in the creation of Indian reserves, as in other regions of the country, or the disturbance of the Dogrib from their traditional lands as they moved around from lakes to rivers to all the traditional hunting and gathering regions of their territory. The treaty was seen by the Dogrib as a treaty of peace and friendship rather than one involving land issues.

The region's history informs the substance of our debate here in countless other ways as well. For instance, how the Tlicho reacted to the expansion of mainstream culture. As non-aboriginal society moved northward, some of the Tlicho began to feel that their traditions were being threatened.

Chief Jimmy Bruneau called on the Tlicho to “be strong like two people”. To strive in the changing world, the Tlicho would need to learn the aboriginal and non-aboriginal cultures alike.

The strengths of the Tlicho were tested during the 1970s when a northern pipeline became economically feasible. The Berger inquiry was commissioned to investigate the potential social, environmental and economic impacts of this pipeline.

The inquiry proved to be a major turning point in the aboriginal relations. Television and newspaper coverage brought home stories of ancient cultures threatened by external developmental pressures. Berger's report predicted that the social consequences of a pipeline were not only serious, but also potentially devastating. His report recommended settling land claims before developing plans ahead. This has been the preclusion to the land claim negotiations that have been taking place.

Land claim negotiation processes were established to address this and to clarify land and resource rights and protect cultures. This is an integral part of this agreement. Land claim agreements were reached with the Inuvialuit in 1984, with the Gwich’in in 1992 and the Sahtu, Dene and Metis in 1994. Over the past decade, the Tlicho pursued their agreements based on land and self-government rights.

Three decades after the Berger inquiry, first nations and Inuit communities are better able to benefit from resource development projects in the north. As well, there has been evidence that development does not need to be postponed until land claim agreements and negotiations are fully completed. It is possible for aboriginal communities, with their leadership, to participate in development and build economic capacity while land claim negotiations proceed.

When diamonds were discovered on traditional lands, for instance, the Tlicho negotiated an impact and benefits agreement and implementation plan with the mining companies. As a result, the Tlicho gained access to a range of jobs and training opportunities, delivering even more opportunities to the Tlicho.

This is continuing with other developments that are taking place on their traditional lands and they will be taking the leadership role for negotiating for their people, the land and resources, and the water resources that exist within their territory.

Threads of recent Tlicho history are also woven into Bill C-31. The legislation would guarantee the Tlicho a role in deciding how the resources of the Mackenzie Valley might be developed through participation in public environmental review boards.

The entire Mackenzie River was ascertained as Canadian territory by both Treaties Nos. 8 and 11. The significance of this is difficult for many Canadians to appreciate, but the history of our country is based on treaty.

In the north, where large scale resource developments can have such negative impacts on the environment, participation is essential and respect of the peace and friendship treaties is critically fundamental.

The bill also calls for establishment of a democratic Tlicho government. This would be a public form of government that would include all residents of the Tlicho territory. The bill would empower the government to pass laws safeguarding their culture and protecting traditional lands, and respecting policies of resource management and protection.

Under the terms of the legislation, key decisions would be made by the people most familiar with and most affected by local issues. I am convinced that this will lead to substantial improvements in housing, employment, education, social activities and the quality of life for all northerners, not only the Tlicho. Their vision is to include all people who live among them.

The Tlicho leaders believe their improvements are best accomplished by the Tlicho themselves, through a representative and effective government capable of exercising law-making authority and assuming new responsibilities. They also recognize that this objective will need to be achieved through partnership, partnership with industry in resource development, partnership with territorial government in the delivery of social programs and services and partnership with the federal government for a greater development of our Canadian north.

I agree with them wholeheartedly that the bill now before the House will help establish precisely these conditions and the foundation for a better future for their people and their nation. It would enable the Tlicho to become self-governing and assume jurisdiction over and responsibility for their own affairs.

It is very important that we highlight responsibility. There are huge responsibilities in dealing with their children, the raising of their families, the protection of their language, culture, their traditions as hunters and gatherers, their relationship with the animals, the fish and also the water. The life sources for many years for their people and their nation need to be respected and recognized into the future.

They also take up their rightful roles as landowners, administrators and entrepreneurs. This is a vigorous and vibrant, prosperous north and they will be inclusive of these kind of activities, not only trading within the domestic regions of provinces and territories of the Canadian north, but also into southern Canada and internationally.

The Tlicho will play an important part in establishing these partnerships with their territorial government, the federal government and the private sector, and participating in the future growth and development of the entire Northwest Territories, and also the Canadian north.

Today, we have been entrusted with the aspirations of a people, the Tlicho and the Dene nation. I ask that the House support the Tlicho as they strive to realize their potential. I am encouraged by the vision that the Tlicho have brought us to consider.

In my language I would like to speak directly to some of the provisions in the agreement so the people in my communities can understand because I would like to encourage them in regard to this type of agreement based on treaty, our Treaty No. 11 and Treaty No. 8. My constituency touches on the Mackenzie River system as well.

[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]

(English)

It is a great honour to see from the far north that the Dene Nation and its people, the Tlicho, have seen a vision of governing their territories in a cooperative manner, that all people living within their territories will be part of their governing structure. It does not matter from what part of the country or the world people come. If they live among the Tlicho, there is a place for them in their governance.

That vision was created with Canada as a treaty nation. A peace and friendship treaty was established; a blanket of peace and friendship.

A very noble visitor, the Dalai Lama, is visiting our country at this time. Peace and friendship has been his message all along. Maybe that is why he finds Canada so generous and open. The very foundation of the country was on peace and friendship.

The original nations of this land have to be given proper respect as well as the Tlicho and the Dene Nation to which they belong. The Dene Nation has to be celebrated in these houses as well. There is Cree Nation, the Mohawk Nation, the Blackfoot Nation, the Haida Nation, the Oneida Nation, the Innu Nation, the Innuit Nation and the Metis Nation. These are the original nations of this land, and they have to be a part of this governing structure.

Here is a self-government model that the Tlicho, the Dene people, have negotiated and drafted. They have included all people, all Canadians who live in their territory to be part of their governing structure.

To me it was very astounding that they had signed a treaty already. They knew that living under the Indian Act was not sufficient, that they had to draft something more. This gives me great honour to share with the House and also with the people back home who are listening.

That is what I envisioned for my region of the country. My region is governed by villages and reserves, municipal boundaries and reserve boundaries. Outside of that we do not have what southern Canada has as municipalities or counties, where the agriculture communities can put their minds together and create a democratic system of governance and representation.

The north does not have that. This self-government model addresses that. Any resource management or any resource development issue will be conducted in a democratic government. This is a self-government, a democratically elected government that will involve all residents of that region. Therefore, I celebrate this and I share this for all other regions of Canada to consider. Here is a Dene Nation that entered into treaty to share its land, to create a beautiful country, a treaty nation called Canada.

Now they have come to us. They need the provisions, the tools and the law-making powers. This is it. This is the Tlicho agreement, the self-government agreement. It is not only for their people. They are not selfish. They are drawing this self-government model for all people who will be living among them. I celebrate that. I congratulate them and I also send heartfelt greetings, through you Madam Speaker, to the elders, the women, the men and the youth who have been involved in this.

A huge level of support came from their communities for this to be achieved. In the Northwest Territories, there is a huge number of aboriginal representation. Their world view took place. This was ratified by the territorial government. I congratulate the territorial government for allowing this kind of vision, this kind of self-government to take place.

Today, I encourage my colleagues in the House and in the Senate, where this law will also be considered, to entrust the vision that took place in creating this self-government model. It is a model that is truly Canadian. It includes all of us. We must be one country. The original nations and the new peoples who have come here, come here as one nation. To create laws and territorial and self-government models that involve all of us is truly a time of celebration.

This is truly a visionary document that involves many hours of work. It is very heartfelt. The Tlicho people are sacrificing and taking risks of their aboriginal title and rights. They are also putting them on the table to be shared with all others.

I congratulate them for that kind of vision and confidence in themselves as a nation. I celebrate--

[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]

(English)

There are many people who have travelled to many corners of the world to find Canada as their home. My vision of Canada is that we are a nation of rivers. This river aspect through Treaty No. 11 and Treaty No. 8 ascertained the entire eco-region of the Mackenzie River system.

These treaties are like a patchwork blanket of river systems. Treaty No. 6 in my area was the Saskatchewan River system. Treaty No. 10 was the Churchill River system. All these river systems make up a country. We are also a river of nations. We must be proud of our ancestors, no matter who or where they are. We must be proud that we are one country. We must flow as one.

For the Tlicho people, I celebrate the vision of their self-government concept. I encourage all my colleagues in the House to support this bill.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for an excellent description of the agreement. I know the hon. member, being of aboriginal ancestry, understands the benefits of self-government.

In Yukon, we have a number of the first self-governing nations in the country. For me, it is like night and day, the ones that have signed a self-government agreement. They have a full and modern government taking care of their own affairs.

I would appreciate it if the member would expand on self-government and its importance. There are some members in the House who do not have any first nations people in their riding, or at least communities that are large enough and cohesive enough to be self-governing aboriginal communities.

Could you outline the benefits of self-government as you see them and of the nature that this exciting legislation will fulfill?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Please address your comments to the Chair. In response, the hon. member for Churchill River.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, for clarification, the self-government agreement includes the territories of the Tlicho, where the original chief, when outlining his traditional territory, would incorporate Great Slave Lake, Great Bear Lake and the Mackenzie River. This is a huge triangle that takes up 39,000 square kilometres.

However, the Tlicho people are also part of the Dene nation. The Dene nation must be recognized and celebrated as well. It must also be unified under a confederacy, as was envisioned by the peacemaker. It was a gift that was given to us here on this land. It was a man that was given to us with a message.

We have clan mothers of the Oneida nation, one of the original five nations of the Iroquois confederacy. That was a gift under the law of peace. There is an opportunity under this self-government agreement where the people of the Tlicho can govern their affairs within their territory, but there are provisions in this agreement that enables them to create opportunities within their Dene nation for greater associations and collectivity among their nation and other united nations.

The nations of this land must unite as one and live under the law of peace and that law of peace can be a gift that Canada can give to the world. The world is in so much strife right now--in the Middle East, in the south, and in every direction. There are conflicts. Maybe that gift of peace is here, but we as the original nations must come together as nations. We must collect ourselves.

This self-government deal does not stop that. It creates provisions that the Tlicho can continue allegiance with the Dene nation and the Dene nation can seek allegiance, confederacy and alliance with the Cree, the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Tuscarora, the Seneca and the Cayuga. They can all be a collective and that is what Canada may not realize, but this real gift of peace is under our realm.

The original confederacy of the united nations under the Iroquois confederacy was looked at when the independence of the United States was being created, but it only looked at the virtual copy of the united nations under the law of peace. It only took a xerox copy. It never took the real spirit of intent of this law of peace. Canada has the opportunity to look at the real law of peace, to recognize it, and to allow these nations to come together to celebrate and nurture this peace.

I welcome the clan mothers who are in the House. I say to them to keep that sacred gift alive. I wish to commend the clan mothers of the Dene and the Tlicho, and hope that the mothers will find a way for peace because in war-strife countries it is the woman that will play a significant role in searching for a peaceful existence among our people.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

I apologize for not putting my question through you last time, Madam Speaker.

Harvard University has done a study that suggests that good governance is one of the prerequisites to community and economic development. I wonder if the member could comment on that.

The Tlicho people, as we know, have a number of excellent nascent business enterprises at the moment, but it is quite a challenge. They are geographically in the middle part of Canada. They are not in the high Arctic and they are not on the border with the United States, where most of Canada's population lives. They are more remote and hard to get at in that respect.

I wonder if the member could comment on the difficulty in surviving as a society and building a good community in that middle part of Canada, and how this agreement will help the Tlicho achieve that.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, the Tlicho have been very persistent to include resources in the Tlicho agreement. The land, water and minerals are part of the Tlicho agreement. In order to be vibrant in any of our first nations communities or first nations territories, we must have access to resources.

We must have access to resources not only for development or commercialization or profit making, but for training in the many trades that are included in the mining industry, the forest industry, and also to be vibrant in the new technologies that are taking place. A lot of these machines are now practically robots, where one individual can operate huge machines the size of this room with a joystick. To keep that type of technology maintained--not only the mechanics but the whole aspect of high tech because it is microchip technology--our people must be challenged into that type of technology.

Maybe some day the Tlicho will design a truly Canadian vehicle. I have been waiting. Volvo is a Swedish automobile and North American automobiles are basically American: Dodge, Chevrolet and Ford. Maybe some day we will have a Canadian automobile, which can be an all terrain vehicle, besides Bombardier.

Maybe the Tlicho, or somebody from the Dene, or maybe somebody from the north will design it where it can be driven through a muskeg, a true challenge for the Canadian north. Instead of paved highways, maybe this kind of vehicle would be truly all terrain. We need that kind of challenge; however, we need access to those resources.

There are special metals and special gifts that we were given, just like the responsibility of uranium. Huge tracks of uranium are entirely in the Dene regions of northern Canada. There are huge uranium mines in my northern region of Churchill River. However, that precious metal that is used for energy is also a responsibility because it can also do damage. We not only have rights but responsibilities.

This self-government agreement is based on responsibilities. There are huge responsibilities for the environment, training, and creating a better economy and quality of life for the people. It is based on the management of resources. There is no leverage if there is no leverage of negotiating these land resource deals.

I thank the hon. member for Yukon for raising this. It is certainly a significant part of the self-government deal. Without the provisions of resource management and access to resource development in the Tlicho agreement, the Tlicho people would not have the leverage to have a sound government and to have a sound future for economic or social development in that region.

Sustainable development is critical and the people at both community levels will be making those decisions. It is very important that the decision making level be brought to those people, not to bureaucrats in a department here in Ottawa or some other region like Yellowknife or Edmonton or some far off region. We must trust those people to make the decisions for their people and the people living among them for the greater good of the Northwest Territories and for the greater good of our country.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to speak to the bill. To me, because of my background of experiences, it is one of the most dynamic pieces of legislation that has ever entered this House, which will have a fantastic influence on and control, to a certain degree, over the lifestyle and future developmental patterns of a great number of people in a large area of this wonderful country.

While my colleagues have addressed other aspects of the bill, I would like to describe how the legislation would improve educational outcomes for Tlicho young people and deliver additional benefits to all Canadians.

Societies around the world have long recognized the importance of knowledge and learning. Indeed, an impressive and ever-growing body of research indicates that investing in the education of our young people is probably among the most important investments our society can make. Our children are the very foundation upon which our country's future will be built, and it is this education that is of vital importance.

Exactly what kind of construction takes place? What kind of value system are we instilling in these young people? What are the principles of achievement and of self-respect. What are the positive signs of growth that will help, not only that individual to have a much happier life, but the entire community, which really means all Canadians?

I talked about the importance of the bill. I have been involved in education for many years. In a formal sense, I was involved for 37 years. I travelled to Indian reserves all over northwestern Ontario. I examined, helped and tested teachers in reserve schools and in schools in many communities throughout the centre part of Canada, which we refer to as northwestern Ontario.

I have watched children grow. I have watched children destroy. I have watched children blossom into young, productive, happy adults. I know, from all the experiences I have had in all those years, how extremely important the influence is of the social dynamics that take place in the school, especially with peer groups and those who try to influence, and do influence the members of that peer group, called teachers. However, even more important, is the influence of those people who are in the community, especially the families, the mothers and fathers. They are so critically important, as well as all those who are in daily contact with that growing individual.

I have seen some wonderful things happening in northwestern Ontario over the years. As I go along, I might take time and digress. My understanding is that if I wish and if I am able, I can speak here for an hour, two hours, three hours or more. Could you clarify that for me, Madam Speaker? Just exactly how much time are you offering me?

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

You have exactly 15 minutes and 41 seconds remaining.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, in our increasingly complex global economy, a sound educational system is crucial. Knowledge is the key to self-sufficiency, quality of life and success of all Canadians. This is no less true for aboriginal people.

Three years ago I had a large group of young, aboriginal people from northwestern Ontario who went through the school system, left the reserves, came into the larger communities, completed their high school programs and then were so stimulated they went on to get college degrees, certificates in special activity areas, as well as university degrees.

We brought these people together, approximately 150 young people between the ages of 20 and 35. Every one of them were extremely successful individuals in the field of endeavour that they chose. Many of them became business people but they did not operate businesses on the reserves. They operated businesses throughout northwestern Ontario and Manitoba.

I was delighted to see these young people. It was too bad that story could not have been told to all Canadians, that these people are not lost. They will not be drifting up there forever. Where there is a will there is a way and if that will can be stimulated to the point where they can actually react to it, cross that threshold and carry on with their educational system and their pattern of programs, they will be successful.

Although much has been done in the past two decades to improve education outcomes for first nations young people in Canada, a significant gap in achievement still remains between aboriginal and non-aboriginal. However the gap is not only true for aboriginals and non-aboriginals. That gap is also true between those children who live in huge metropolitan areas with all kinds of facilities, services and programs built within the community, such as museums, parks and everything else, and the non-aboriginal people who live in small communities. They do not have all of these programs, facilities and enticements within the community to enrich the lives of our young people as they grow up in them.

Yes, the people in the bigger cities, even though they are crowded, have far more for the young children of today than many children have in the isolated small communities scattered throughout the country.

Due to their small size and geographical remoteness, many first nations schools are unable to deliver programs comparable to those offered in provincially run schools. Aboriginal students without access to on-reserve education often have to travel a great distance to attend schools. Historically, these factors have led to higher dropout rates and lower educational achievements among aboriginal youth.

We have a very large high school which was turned over by the Lincoln Board of Education to an aboriginal school authority. This school has several hundred students in it from all over northwestern Ontario. There is no residence for these children, but these young people, going from grade 9 to grade 12, are billeted in a multitude of homes throughout the community. I can tell hon. members that the relationship between the students in the school and the non-native students within the community, with whom they associate, is a very positive one. It is one of the best examples of helping these young people to make the adjustment.

Some of these young people come from areas of the country where they do not have the facilities and the services. Therefore we have to set up special programs for them to quickly acclimatize and adjust to the new environment which they find in the city.

Many people are not aware of the fact that many of our aboriginal people have only one place in their community to shop. It could be a Hudson Bay store and everything has to be in there. When they come into the city there are all kinds of stores: a store to buy clothes; a store to buy medicine; a store to buy hotdogs and hamburgers; a store three blocks away to buy doughnuts or whatever; a little further away a store to buy shoes; a store to buy cookies; and a store to buy vegetables or anything else. That is not like on the reserve. There has to be training and adjustment for many of these young people.

The agreement at the heart of the bill includes self-government for the Tlicho people, the transfer of a parcel of land and a payment of approximately $150 million over 14 years, not one or two years but the next 14 years. The Tlicho have chosen to use this money wisely to repay debts accumulated during negotiations and to invest in social, educational and economic development. Approximately $500,000 a year for the next 14 years will be set aside for scholarships, helping to ensure that aboriginal young people will have access to the same high quality, culturally relevant educational opportunities enjoyed by non-aboriginal Canadians. That to me is a significant part of the bill.

The Tlicho have a long history of commitment to education. When Chief Jimmy Bruneau shook hands 35 years ago with then Indian affairs minister, Jean Chrétien, he recognized that the Tlicho needed to make a concerted effort to prepare for the future and protect their way of life from rapidly spreading cultural and economic influences.

Chief Bruneau spoke of the need to blend northern and southern cultures, to “be strong like two people” and to learn from aboriginal and non-aboriginal traditions. The chief also realized that to achieve this goal, the Tlicho would need access to schools that delivered culturally based education to aboriginal children in their communities. That was a very wise move.

In 1971, Chief Bruneau's dream began to come true when a school bearing his name opened in the Tlicho community of Rae-Edzo. Today that school is one of five in the Tlicho community, all overseen by the Dogrib Community Services Board.

It is widely accepted that aboriginal communities know best how to meet the educational needs of their young people. This is why the Government of Canada encourages and facilitates co-operation between aboriginal communities, national and regional education organizations, provincial and territorial ministries of education, and other stakeholders to establish and support an effective first nations education system.

Such systems are positive and important steps toward aboriginal control of their children's education, not like the educational systems we have in every single province where we have special egg crate kinds of structures and a group of children are put in tiny cubicles.

From some centre, like Toronto, Ontario, the fee that we have to pay for those little chicken coops is decided by a group of people sitting in Toronto 2,000 miles away from the school who have no clue about the needs of that community or of the people and children who live in that community. That has to be force-fed to those children in there.

Today it is even worse in Ontario. Programs are fed to kids all over the province and then they are tested on whether or not they digested them properly. Why not use a computer instead of trying to make a computer out of the child? Let the child live wholesomely in his or her own environment.

These aboriginal people have the answer. Parents work with the teachers within the educational system and they decide how to enrich the lives of their children within that community.

I did my PhD in this area in other parts of the world. Wherever that is taking place, success is astounding, especially in the areas of education, people's attitude toward others in that environment, their attitude toward people in their communities and the world at large, but above all, their attitude toward themselves. I really have to give these people way up north in this isolated community a fantastic amount of credit.

I hope they will provide leadership in curriculum development and parental involvement in developing their educational lifestyle and programs for these children for years to come, throughout the entire country, and get rid of this nonsense that is taking place in a province like Ontario at the present time.

Bill C-31 will give the Tlicho formal control over education and social services, a control that the Tlicho people, through the Dogrib Community Services Board, have already demonstrated they can exercise with care and compassion.

Much like the man after whom it was named, the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School is innovative and offers culturally based education to young people. The school is proud to bear more than the chief's name: it also lives up to the spirit of the chief's dream. The school strives to meet the challenge of educating these young men and women to be “strong like two people”, and it is succeeding in teaching Tlicho culture and language, along with science, technology and other skills young aboriginals need to succeed in today's workforce.

The school provides these young people with a broader range of career and lifestyle options than those enjoyed by previous generations. These increased opportunities are encouraging many more students to remain in school and graduate. Indeed, dropout rates have plummeted. More young people than ever now go on to post-secondary education, and in this community in June 2006 the school will graduate its first university-bound students.

As the economic prosperity of this community increases dramatically over the years in the future, a higher quality of life will be added to the lifestyle of all the people within that area, because many of these young people will continue with their education. Job opportunities will be generated and will increase in number in a very sophisticated manner, and in very professional areas too. They will come back to work with their people, serve their people and live with their people.

Helping young Canadians, including aboriginal youth, to stay in school is of paramount importance not only to the Government of Canada but also to the Canadian economy. A high school diploma is essential to a bright future. The alternatives can be devastating. Many high school dropouts end with a string of dead end jobs, chronically unemployed, unable to fit into the new economy and meet their full potential.

I do not have to belabour those points. We have had so much information--statistics galore by the bushelful--brought into this chamber to tell us time and time again that we have to do everything in our power to help the provinces to get those children who are dropped by the wayside. They fall between the cracks and miss this golden opportunity in this wonderful country of ours to really pull themselves up by the bootstraps and become very happy and productive individuals in our society. If that does not happen, if they do not go through the educational system, the chances of them ruining their lives and maybe even ruining the lives of others are enhanced dramatically.

That is why the Government of Canada continues to make significant investments in education and training for aboriginal secondary and post-secondary students. These investments are designed to encourage these young people to remain in school, graduate and reap the lifelong benefits.

It is not just the young who will benefit from this agreement and the money that Tlicho people are setting aside for post-secondary scholarships. Tlicho men and women who have graduated from the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School and have gone on to further education are already returning to the community, bringing with them the benefits of the education they received outside. They are showing the community's youth what can be achieved through education.

They are also proving the wisdom of Chief Bruneau's original strategy. Men and women who graduated from the school that bears his name now own and operate dozens of successful business in the north. Others are part of the Dogrib Power Corporation, which operates a hydroelectric facility on Snare River. One young graduate who went on to earn two degrees has now returned to Rae-Edzo as the community regional post-secondary support coordinator. Accomplishments like this could be read out in the House for many years to come.

I will not be able to complete my lengthy presentation, but I would like to say congratulations to all those leaders of the community and to Chief Bruneau who had the foresight, the intelligence and integrity to stick to and hang onto his dreams and to make sure they are carried out. Congratulations, I say.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, in the area covered by the Tlicho agreement there are four communities where virtually all the citizens live. In those four communities, there are some non-aboriginal people. Could the member tell us how the rights of non-aboriginal people will be protected in this Tlicho agreement?

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, that is quite obvious. It is just the basic principle: as “two people”. That is what Chief Bruneau wanted. He wanted people living together, the non-aboriginal and the aboriginal, as two peoples. But they are within the same community and they function and operate within the same community. I am sure that over a period of time we are going to find a great deal of intermarriage taking place between the members of the two groups. There is no doubt about that.

However, the wonderful thing about it is that they work together. They see something, they have a vision of a problem that has to be solved, and they solve the problem together. It is not simply a question of turning the problem over to somebody else to solve, somebody who is not aboriginal. For many, many years in this country, problems have been solved for the aboriginal people. Somebody who was non-aboriginal solved them.

It is a wonderful working partnership in all five communities and it will continue to grow as more and more people locate in a growing, prosperous economic model that is situated way up north in Canada.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the member could just tell us briefly in global terms what will change for the Tlicho. The member's speech was very specific on education and another couple of areas, but the agreement covers a whole bunch of areas that were for Indian Act bands, and they will not be Indian Act bands anymore. There is land, there are resources and there is now law making ability. I wonder if the member could give us, for those who are not that familiar with the details, some generalities of how life will change for the Tlicho under this agreement.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, I think everyone listening must realize that this area we are talking about is a very prosperous area of the country. This is where we have diamond mines. There are five communities and the unemployment rate is practically nil. Everyone is working. Money is flowing. There are opportunities that can be purchased, but there are also services that can be purchased.

On the type of question that has been asked, I could go on for a long time. Let us take a look at it from the political scene. Let us look at what is going to happen politically in that whole area in the years to come. Sure, they will be influenced by what happens here in the House of Commons, and they will be influenced by what happens in the provincial governments in western Canada. And they will be influenced by the political decisions made by companies that have invested heavily in economic endeavours in that area, no doubt about it.

However, the most amazing thing, based on the educational model, is that the people will be accustomed to the political scene. They will be under the bill of rights. They will expect and even demand to have a major role to play in the political endeavours of that area for years to come. In other words, they are not going to be content to sit back and wait for the white man who lives in Ottawa under the Peace Tower to tell them what to do, when to do it, how high to jump and why. They will make the decisions and they will have a tremendous influence on the other forms of government throughout Canada.

I will predict for my hon. colleague who asked the question that from a political viewpoint there will be a model emerging in that area which will have an influence for many years to come on decisions made in this House that pertain to aboriginal communities.

I already have mentioned something about the economic factors. The spinoffs are fantastic. We already know that some have come back and have established businesses and services. Soon there will be highly educated university students coming back as dentists, doctors and so forth.

The spinoffs are unbelievable. With so many professional people and business people in the community, there has to be a support system. There must be more doctors, more dentists, more teachers, more carpenters, more plumbers, more engineers and so forth. There must be more shopkeepers, more store owners and so forth. It will keep on growing. It will go on like that for many years to come, because the prospect of delivering new diamond mines is unbelievable. I recently read a report about western, northwestern and central Canada, where over 100 sites that might hold rich deposits of diamonds already have been discovered, people feel.

Socially there may be problems. A surplus of money will generate social problems. There will be an element in our society that will have an effect on these people. There might be access to too much of anything: too much alcohol or drugs or other forms of human endeavour that have detrimental effects on the people. Who knows? The government of that district, Yukon, might even establish a huge casino. That is a nice way of indirectly collecting a lot of taxes from very wealthy people and using them for whatever the government wants to use it for in its districts, not only in that area of Yukon but in other areas.

What will happen to the family unit? It will all depend upon the dedication of the father and mother to their principles, their culture and their value system, on whether they really believe in them.

Let me give an example. It is really frightening and I hate to even talk about it, but we have so many Christians in the world who claim to be Christians yet their value systems crumbled a long time ago. As for principles, they do not have them. They have a few in the bag that they pull out to use to their advantage. It is these people I find most disturbing, because they teach their children. They teach their children to hate other religious groups in this society and in other parts of the world. To me that is extremely disturbing. Fortunately, there are not too many of that kind of people.

In the north, because of two strong people living together, working together and solving problems together, many of the problems of discrimination will disappear and we will get to the point where it will become insignificant.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I was going to maybe raise a comment about the speech in terms of a suggestion of intolerance toward certain parts of our society, but I do not think the member intended to say that. I do not know to what he was referring when he said that there was a certain religious group in our society that was intolerant and promoted hate against other people. I am not sure what group that is, but I am will leave that issue aside.

Something just recently developed in the province of Saskatchewan. A band has announced that it will build an MRI clinic, for profit, on its reserve. How would a Liberal government approach that concept in terms of the Canada Health Act and payment of a for profit private facility in the health care system? What would the stand of the member and his government on supporting that initiative or attacking it?

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, regarding the first point, I was speaking in global terms. I was rushing and I generalized. In the global context, in the world in which we live, there are religious groups that attack other religious groups and teach each other to hate each other.

The second point was in regard to an MRI machine that was to be introduced on a reserve some place in Canada. The member asked how our cabinet and government would approach that and how would we handle the problem. I think when that problem appears before the ministers, the cabinet and the departments responsible, they in turn will have to thrash it out and provide some type of guidance for the rest of the government members to debate and proceed.

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-31, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act.

The principal component of this legislation is a tripartite agreement negotiated by the representatives of the Tlicho people and the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories. It is incumbent upon us to look at the collaborative approach adopted by the Tlicho and to go ahead and approve Bill C-31.

Close collaboration is vital to the national interest. I believe it is only through genuine participation and partnership between the government and the first nations that aboriginal communities can achieve effective self-government. It is only through open, transparent and accountable governments that the first nations will be able to build a strong, robust economy and develop healthy, enduring societies for the generations that come after us.

I am convinced that enacting this legislation will benefit not only the Tlicho but also the people of Canada. Strong, self-reliant first nations have much to contribute to Canada. They contribute economically, socially, as well as culturally.

Consider for a moment the potential impact of the current demographic projections. Perhaps members already know this, but Canada's aboriginal population is relatively young. Approximately half of all aboriginals are under the age of 25, and the birth rate among aboriginals is about twice that of the general population. With this growth comes immense opportunity: expanding markets for goods and services, a fresh supply of workers, as well as an increasing class of entrepreneurs.

Recent statistics indicate that aboriginal youth are much more likely than other young Canadians to start businesses. Today aboriginals own more than 30,000 companies, and that number increases every day. By nurturing this entrepreneurial spirit among aboriginal youth, I am convinced that we can virtually guarantee Canada's long term prosperity. The key is to ensure that aboriginals play an equal role in the planning and in the executing of economic development projects.

By enacting Bill C-31, the Tlicho will be able to increase their participation in the economy. Furthermore, by ratifying this legislation, the Government of Canada will send a clear message about honouring its commitments to aboriginal and first nation communities. In fact I am confident that negotiators working on land claim and self-government agreements across Canada will follow the progress of Bill C-31 with considerable interest.

I encourage all my colleagues to bear this scrutiny in mind as they consider the many merits of this very important legislation.

A close examination of Bill C-31 reveals how it will foster accountability and create self-reliance for the Tlicho. The Tlicho would form a democratic, responsive and representative government. Investors will appreciate the consistency and the certainty that this will provide. Ownership and control of resources will be transparent and it will be unambiguous. This will enable entrepreneurs to attract new business partners and also encourage investment in these new unfolding enterprises.

Under the terms of Bill C-31, key decisions would be made by the people most familiar with and most affected by local issues. The Tlicho government could enact laws in areas such as aboriginal language and cultural issues. They could develop social services. They would also have a key role and a say in the management of the land and the resources on Tlicho land.

The Tlicho would also be guaranteed representation on the land issues dealing with water and issues dealing with renewable resource boards, which would approve development activities within the settlement area. This kind of active role and opportunity to decide what the decisions will look like is absolutely key as we go forward.

The Tlicho gain the freedom to establish partnerships. They have freedom to conduct business according to their needs, while at the same time respecting the interests of the already existing businesses and structures.

In short, the Tlicho will establish and maintain a democratic government within the constitutional framework of Canada. This government will respect Canadian law and it will recognize the Tlicho, like Canadians everywhere, are subject to the Criminal Code, as well as protected under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Tlicho have demonstrated that they know how to manage their affairs responsibly and can do it profitably. This is, after all, one of the more prosperous and successful aboriginal groups we have in the north. The Tlicho built and maintain their own airport. They help to manage their schools. They run a senior citizens' centre, as well as a long term care facility. The Tlicho have also negotiated service delivery agreements with the government of the Northwest Territories.

The Tlicho have also signed a number of mutually beneficial agreements with private sector firms. More than five years ago, an impact and benefits deal was struck with the Ekati diamond mine, which is located on the traditional lands of the Tlicho, and a second agreement was negotiated for the Diavik mine. This is good news. These deals have delivered a wealth of economic and social benefits to the Tlicho, such as jobs and opportunity for training. The money flowing into Tlicho communities as a result of these deals supports a wide range of social services.

The legislation before us will inspire new partnerships and will enable the Tlicho to honour their proud tradition of self-sufficiency.

This agreement also provides for a constitution that was created and ratified by the Tlicho before the agreement was signed. I think this is very significant. The constitution is critical. It is critical because it enshrines the community's governance structures and processes. These range from electing officials to drafting budgets to creating new laws. It also sets out the community's governing principles and guiding philosophy. Most significantly, the constitution was developed by the members of the community. The document reflects the wishes of the Tlicho. It does not reflect the views of consultants and lawyers.

The agreement is also the product of the Tlicho's consultative approach. Community meetings were held, ideas were put forward, issues were discussed and they worked through problems. This consensus building strengthened the agreement, and it will also improve the governance. As we know, people are far more likely to respect laws and to participate in governance structures that they themselves helped create.

Through this collaborative process, the Tlicho have shown that difficult issues can be overcome. They have been overcome through thorough consultation and with genuine understanding. They have demonstrated that an agreement can be tailored to fit local circumstances and that the rights and interests of everyone involved can be respected. They have been able to foster better relations with their neighbouring aboriginal groups. For instance, the Tlicho have successfully negotiated overlap agreements with the Sahtu Dene and the Metis, the Gwich'in, the Deh Cho and the Akaitcho Treaty 8 Dene.

The Tlicho are clearly ready to fulfill their obligations. They have been working toward this agreement for more than a decade. They have staged hundreds of information sessions. They have consulted broadly. They have secured the support of a range of public and private sector groups.

Enacting Bill C-31 will send a strong and positive message to other aboriginal communities. As the first agreement in the Northwest Territories to combine land claims and self-government, it demonstrates Canada's commitment to negotiate as the most effective means to achieve reconciliation with aboriginal people. The agreement's numerous distinctive aspects proclaim the government's determination to ensure that the unique needs of the aboriginal peoples are met. When I look at this agreement, I cannot tell members how proud it makes me to be a Canadian.

Many members of the House were members on April 1, 1999 when Nunavut, our third territory, came into existence. How many Canadians have stopped to think that the map of the world has been forever changed and it was done by the Canadian government, with the aboriginals and the citizens of a territory of Canada through negotiation? There was no civil war. Nobody bore arms. We negotiated and we found an agreement.

The bill before us has those same markings. It is about negotiation. It is about consultation. We can also hold up the Tlicho nation as a community that is responsible and is providing effective self-government. It can be used as a best practice, which I think is one reason why the members of the House need to take this incredible legislation to absolutely bind at the local level to a process to effect something that meets the needs of the Tlicho people.

When I was preparing for this speech I came across some statistics which I found really remarkable. We often talk about the lack of participation in the democratic process. I think it is something with which all members of the House are concerned. One only has to look at what these people went through for over 10 years and at the kind of participation they had for voter turnout. They had somewhere in the neighbourhood of, I believe, 83% ratification and the participation of those who were able to vote was extremely high. It speaks to the kind of empowerment that the government needs to create, not only with its aboriginal peoples but with Canadians right across Canada. We have empowered this group through their own hard work to manage their own resources.

I think back to when I was parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment and we were dealing with the species at risk legislation. The aboriginal groups were very impressed that we were able to have meaningful dialogue with them and to build into a piece of legislation a reverence and an acknowledgement that aboriginal traditional knowledge had much to teach all of us about protecting species at risk and safeguarding their habitat; that the people on the land, the aboriginals, the trappers, the ranchers, the farmers, knew more about these species on their land than any scientist going in; and that it would be through this kind of partnership that we would be able to protect some of our most precious resources.

I encourage all members to become familiar with the legislation and to support it. This is an agreement where a total of 93% of the eligible voters participated in the vote and 84% of the eligible voters voted in favour of this agreement. This can be held out as a best practice, an example for all other aboriginal groups to bring together the best that is possible in partnership with, in this case, the Government of the Northwest Territories, as well as the Canadian government, to bring about the kind of structures which the people themselves have bought into.

I encourage all hon. members to support this very important bill.

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4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Sherbrooke, Gasoline Pricing; the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Agriculture.

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4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I do not rise to speak for or against but rather to make an observation and then to invite a comment from the member for York North on this important issue.

I want to quote from the interim report released by the Senate last November entitled “A Hard Bed to Lie in: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve”, and I would invite the member to respond because it is an issue we should not ignore.

Members in the House know the important and extensive work done by the royal commission on aboriginal peoples over a long period of time. The member alluded to the length of time it took to arrive at this agreement. The royal commission not only took a long time but it spent a lot of money to arrive at its recommendations and I think we should pay attention to some of them.

One of the areas with which the royal commission dealt was matrimonial property. It is not something that is fully dealt with in the proposal, certainly not to the satisfaction of a number of aboriginal leaders and aboriginal grassroots people with whom I have spoken.

I just want to read this into the record. It states:

I believe that one of the basic rights we should be able to enjoy is the right to call a place, a community or a structure “home”. Home is a place where we are safe and protected by family and friends. It is our private spot, where we can lock out the cares of the world and enjoy one another. It is also the place where, as a couple, when we plan a family, we know that this is the place where they will be safe, protected and loved. As a couple, you take a structure, and with personal touches from each of you, you make this your private world. You open your private world to family and friends, making them feel welcome when they visit you. However, make no mistake, this place is your private world.

Imagine the stress on a woman who knows that, if this loving relationship ends, then her world will crumble. Imagine the stress when this woman has children, and she knows, that not only she but also her children will soon have to leave the place she and they call home, and in some cases, must leave the community.

It is not an easy choice to decide that a relationship is not working and that the relationship must end. Normally, while there is a certain degree of animosity, most couples know that they must work out a mutually agreed upon arrangement for the disposition of property, including the home.

This would not appear to be the case for on-reserve women, as they hold no interest in the family home. There is no choice as to who has to move. It is the woman and, in most cases, it is the woman and her children. What a choice: be homeless or be in a loveless relationship, maybe an abusive relationship. Is that what Aboriginal women deserve? No, it is not. Is it humane? It is definitely not.

That is from the interim report of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights.

My concern and the concern of many members of this party is that the issues of matrimonial property are not properly, fully and fairly addressed in this agreement and that, if we proceed in this manner, there is the real possibility that we will perpetuate the circumstance. There is only one place in Canada where no such property rules exist and that is on reserves.

This uncertainty has its effects and those effects are well documented. I have spoken now to dozens of aboriginal women who have experienced firsthand the circumstances of a marital breakup and who have experienced firsthand the absence of any rules, regulations or officious authority that might protect them in that circumstance.

I ask the member, with all the good things that she has observed, with all the positive things that went into the process of developing this agreement, with all of that in mind, does she not feel that this particular issue is one that we must address? Is it fair to download this responsibility onto 600-plus first nations communities across Canada with the resources already stretched to the limit in so many of those communities? Is it fair to have a hodgepodge of rules or in fact no rules at all for such an important aspect, not just of the Canadian fabric but of the lives of these people who have been profoundly affected by the absence of such rules? Is this not an oversight that we should address and address it urgently?

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4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the Tlicho government could well make laws that touch on the matrimonial real property and it will be able to make laws respecting the Tlicho lands, including leases granted by it and how such leases will be dealt with in the context of a marriage or, indeed, that of a marital breakdown between a leaseholder and another person.

However, unlike the case of land that is on reserves, territorial law respecting matrimonial property will apply to matrimonial property on Tlicho lands. These lands will be held in fee simple by the Tlicho government and will not be dealt with as though they were being held as reserve lands.

Although Tlicho laws will prevail over a conflicting territorial law, the Tlicho constitution is required to provide rights and freedoms no less than those of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.