House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.


Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for his article in the April 1 issue of the Vancouver Province . I may refer to some items in the debate later on. He made some excellent points. Basically, the conclusion was that it is time that the public supported this agreement and held it up as the model for other bands, which is quite commendable.

In my speech I mentioned many local governments, people and organizations that had been consulted and other specific interest groups. If I were a member of the opposition, I would want to know who was included in that general category. I was referring to the Sechelt First Nation, other Okanagan first nations, the Okanagan Nation Alliance, the B.C. First Nations Summit, and other first nations in Canada that are negotiating similar agreements.

Perhaps the member would comment on that. How much time is left?

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

None, but I will still allow the hon. member for Vancouver Island North to respond very briefly, if he wishes to do so.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I never did hear the question. He was cut off on his question.

I think the member wanted me to make a quick reference to the businesses operating on the Westbank First Nation. My understanding is there are 200-plus businesses operating very successfully.

It is not only residents of the Westbank First Nation who are expressing confidence in the property regime and the stability of governance, but it is the business community as well. Yes, I think that is an important ingredient to this whole exercise.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have often had the chance to speak about this kind of first nations self-government agreement, particularly that of the Westbank First Nation. In fact, in December, we had an opportunity to proceed quickly to adopt this bill, which will finalize many years of work on negotiations. It has also been a long task for the Westbank First Nation, which has consulted freely. All residents of the territory have been consulted, sometimes more than once on very precise questions. The people of Westbank have participated in a fine democratic exercise.

I take this occasion to acknowledge the large delegation from Westbank behind me in the gallery. They have been here since the beginning of this debate of crucial importance to their future. They have been attending our deliberations since December. Unfortunately, in December we disappointed them because one Conservative member refused to give his consent so that we could proceed quickly with this bill.

I shall not stop repeating that the most beautiful thing that can happen in Quebec or in Canada is that the major recommendations of the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples—also known as the Erasmus—Dussault commission—should become reality.

One of these recommendations, which is also found in the work of the Westbank community, was to make it possible to create vast reforms over the next 20 years, that is by 2018. These reforms were to have adequate resources so that all first nations in Quebec and Canada could benefit from self-government agreements based on one major principle: the inherent right to self-government.

I have been the critic on this issue for two years now. In committee and here in the House, whenever I hear some of my colleagues say, “Should we concede this or that to them? We must not give them too many powers”, I say, and I repeat, that it is not up to us to concede or give greater or lesser powers. They have these powers because of this principle that is recognized in the Constitution itself—the inherent right to self-government.

Members of the first nations will also tell you it is a right given them by the Creator. That may seem spiritual, but sometimes it is good to have a little spirituality in this Parliament to remind us of fundamental philosophical truths.

The first nations were here long before the first Europeans. They not only had rights, but owned the land. Over the years, the Europeans of the day imposed a different way of life and institutions that were foreign to the first nations. With respect to democracy, they imposed principles that the first nations did not support. Surprisingly enough, when the first Europeans arrived, most of the first nations had democratic systems and institutions and even highly developed electoral colleges, and we borrowed from them in setting up our own parliamentary and democratic system.

We destroyed everything. We said that their way of doing things was not right. We imposed our views. Almost 130 years ago, we also imposed the most despicable legislation I have ever seen in my life aside from apartheid in South Africa, and that is the Indian Act. We forced them to do things a certain way. We told them we would stick them on reserves, on very limited lands, but that they should not worry because we would provide for their basic needs. That is how we have been treating them for 130 years.

We made them subservient. We took away any means they had to develop. We also took away the rights that every person should be entitled to in the 21st century. I am talking about the right to run their own affairs, the right to make a decision, the right to manage and even the right to borrow money from the bank. We took away their ability to develop with their own territories and resources.

How many logging companies in Quebec and Canada have helped Parliament and successive federal governments evict the first nations and move them off the ancestral lands they had occupied for decades? All to allow the logging companies, often under foreign ownership, clear cut their ancestral lands, preventing aboriginals from developing their own resources and practising traditional activities, such as hunting and fishing.

How many injustices have the first nations been subjected to over the past 130 years, particularly since the Indian Act came into force? What were first nations children subjected to, when they were taken literally from their families and placed in schools to give them an education that was inconsistent with their culture, and also preventing them from speaking their own language? How can pride and a desire to build a better future be instilled in such circumstances?

How many oil companies, through pressure and lobbying and, at certain points in Canadian history, by basically buying off the government, managed to evict entire bands from their ancestral lands in order to exploit the resources underground? Mining companies did it too.

No royalties were paid until recently, and I could tell the House about cases in Quebec. The first nations were never given a share of these resources, be they surface or subsurface. The first nations were moved around, parked on reserves and told, “Poverty for you and economic growth for us”.

The first nations had an awakening, particularly within the past two decades. They began to believe that they had rights under the Canadian Constitution, rights too under international law and the authority, as first nations, to ensure that their future development, growth and existence belongs to them. They sought recognition, even internationally.

I am thinking of certain aboriginal leaders from Quebec who went all the way to the UN to assert their rights. At times, they were abrupt, but who would not have been, given all the historical elements that have resulted in their rights being trampled on and them made victims of a kind of code of silence to eliminate them at various periods in the past? Who would not have been abrupt in their condemnation, before the entire world, of Canada's treatment of the first nations?

We would have done the same. In fact, awareness of the situation was so much heightened as a result that international bodies such as the United Nations Organization decided to award the aboriginal peoples of Canada and all over the world rights on the international level. They decided to recognize them as real nations according to the UN definition. They also decided to accompany the world's aboriginal peoples in bringing pressure to bear on governments, particularly those in the industrialized world, to recognize aboriginal rights and ensure the provision of all the tools required for their development.

Sometimes Canada has ignored these appeals from such respected organizations as the UN. Even quite recently, during our debate on Bill C-7 on first nations governance, the former minister of Indian and northern affairs wanted to impose on Canada's aboriginal peoples an agreement on governance that they did not want, one that was contrary to their interests, and was unanimously opposed. Two members, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre and your humble servant, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, had to battle to make the Liberal members of the committee and the government see reason and realize that this bill did not suit the first nations.

It took both energy and time to make the government understand some fundamental truths, things as basic as “the reality of the modern world 101”, to make them understand this is not the South Africa of apartheid days. As world bodies have called upon the governments of the industrialized world to do, there had to be openness to the realities of the first nations and they had to be provided with the means to develop their full potential and realize their inherent right to self-government.

Believe it or not, in order to get the government to grasp just those basic principles, principles recognized in the Constitution moreover, took a 55-day filibuster. I say day, but it was often evenings or nights. We had to keep it up for 55 days. I have inquired of the clerks at the table if there was any precedent for such a long filibuster, and they assured me, though they did not look into it in depth, that according to the combined memories of the clerks over the years, this was one of the longest in the history of Parliament.

It was simply to make the government understand these fundamental truths about the inherent right to self-government, which had supposedly been recognized by this Parliament, that is, the right given to the first nations by the Creator. It was to make them understand that now, in 2003, peoples who have been defined and recognized as nations by the United Nations cannot be forced to accept what they do not want.

Moreover, it would be normal, if their future were being discussed, to welcome representatives from the first nations to the committee table, so that they could explain their realities to us, which we do not always understand, and their lifestyle, which we also do not understand, and their history, which escapes us as well, even though we know through history books about the atrocities committed toward aboriginal people in Quebec and in Canada.

It took us 55 days to explain to the government members—supposedly sensitive to the sovereignty of countries and people—the basic principles of the sovereignty of peoples. Of course, we also took the opportunity to speak about the sovereignty of the Quebec people as well. Who better than a Quebec sovereignist Bloc Quebecois member of Parliament to explain the value of a country's sovereignty to the Liberal members who think they know something about it?

It was the perfect occasion to explain to the first nations what the people of Quebec have been going through as a people for decades. We explained to them the attempts we were making to take our destiny in our own hands and not be dependent on another people, the Canadian people, for decisions that concern our future. We explained the policies that meet with widespread approval in Quebec but not here; parental leave for instance, a simple transfer of part of employment insurance as permitted by the Employment Insurance Act.

We also took that opportunity to explain that the fiscal imbalance is crushing the people of Quebec, the same way as the lack of funds transferred to aboriginal peoples to meet incredible challenges in terms of health, economic development and social development. This lack of funding is harmful to the future of aboriginal peoples.

We talked about the situation in Quebec, which has absorbed 51% of the cuts in health, education and social assistance funding that were imposed by the current Prime Minister when he was finance minister. We talked about that, too. We were able to discuss with the first nations, and my colleague from Winnipeg Centre and I became their brothers, when we were honoured with the eagle feather.

Agreements like the Westbank agreement should be fostered. Self-government agreements should not only be fostered, but accelerated in order to give first nations the tools for developing their full potential, and for meeting the many challenges they face. The first nations do not only have problems, but incredible challenges to meet. They have the necessary talent to take up these challenges and win.

Some communities face daily horrors. My colleague from Champlain and I had the opportunity to visit a number of reserves in his riding, Weymontachie in particular. Weymontachie has unbelievable housing problems. Almost all the homes have chronic mould. My colleague from Berthier—Montcalm and I went to Winneway in Abitibi. That is another first nation with problems, but their problems have to do with education. It They would have liked to have a self-government agreement and resources, as well as compensation for the harm caused by the federal government over the past 130 years. These first nations would have liked to have these tools, but they did not have them to meet these challenges.

In Quebec, oddly enough, there is no one better than a sovereignist MP to talk about the fundamental value of sovereignty principles. The first agreement in Canada with the first nations was signed by the greatest sovereignist leader Quebec has ever known: René Lévesque. During his first mandate he signed an agreement with the James Bay Cree. It was an economic development agreement, which also brought about social development. The greatest sovereignist leader extended a hand to the Cree people. All Quebec sovereignists and all Quebeckers in general, with a few exceptions, extend a hand to the aboriginal people.

There were other examples, but the best known is the ratification of what was called the peace of the braves agreement. It complements the agreement reached by Mr. Lévesque's government at the end of the 1970s. The peace of the braves was signed by Bernard Landry, another great sovereignist leader in Quebec. Hydro-Québec also made an addition to this agreement by signing a treaty not so long ago on the development of hydroelectric resources and respect for aboriginal peoples and their prerogatives on their own land.

There was also a process that lasted about fifteen years and led to an agreement in principle with Quebec's Innu communities. Once again, this process started under Lucien Bouchard. Mr. Parizeau tried to do the same thing with the Attikamek-Montagnais communities in 1994, if my memory serves me.

How is it that sovereignist leaders and sovereignist governments in Quebec were the ones to initiate this dialogue, which accelerated negotiations with the first nations on self-government and the provision of development tools to allow their community, whose population is on the rise, to develop? That is just it. Sovereignists fighting for freedom and the emancipation of their people—the Quebec people—are sensitive not just to the importance of such freedom, but also to the importance, for a people, of making its own decisions, the importance of instilling in its children a sense of pride about the future, not a provincial sense of pride but rather a national one.

The National Assembly is called the National Assembly and not the legislative assembly. It is this enthusiasm and this pride which I saw in the first nations that have led me, along with my Bloc colleagues, to invest such enthusiasm and to work tirelessly to accelerate the implementation of self-government agreements, in order to understand what they are experiencing and show what we are experiencing too.

I am convinced that, this way, all the peoples in this land will be able to live in harmony in the future, including the aboriginal peoples, the sovereign people of Quebec and the sovereign people of Canada.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Yukon Yukon


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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his address. I was delighted that he mentioned that he was willing to look at the spiritual aspect. I would like to ask the member a philosophical type of question.

It was mentioned earlier in the debate that one of the powers that was allowed under the Westbank agreement was to make this community a dry community, with no alcoholic substances. Last night I was saying to some people that I was going to try to get them to a particular village in Yukon for New Year's. The next person sitting beside me said that they should not go there because it is a dry community and how can one have any fun on New Year's?

I explained that he just did not understand. When we see the frolicking square dancing, the elders and youth partying, feasting, and the culture, everyone is having so much fun that they do not even think of alcoholic substances. I have never had so much fun and a healthy time at a celebration.

The point I am making is that different cultures have different answers, which is one of the reasons I marched on Washington. I was there on September 11 to try to protect the Anwar reserve so that the G'wichin people could survive as a culture. The reason the cultures need to survive is because they all have different ways of doing things and different answers that will help us solve our problems in this very complex world.

I know the Bloc members are very philosophical, and I would like the member to address the benefits of self-government, in that it would allow cultures to manifest their own particular culture and therefore add to the very exciting mosaic of culture in Canada.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. I will not go into the alcohol question in detail, because I feel the issue is broader and more basic than that.

The advantage of self-government is that it is a primary right. It is not just an advantage, but the primary right of any people in the world to exercise self-determination, to be able to make its own choices about all the parameters of its present and its future, and to try to eradicate its past, or at least that part of its past that has been less than stellar, as has been the case with the first nations over the past 130 years.

It is a fundamental right, but the exercise of that right is what is of most interest. We hear all manner of things about the first nations, and not just since I have been the critic for that issue. For some years now, we have been hearing about their high unemployment rate, supposedly indicating a lack of desire to work, and their problems with multiple addictions, supposedly indicating poor parenting skills. We have heard that they do not have to pay either income tax or other taxes. How many times have we heard all these things, things that are wrong 99% of the time?

Take the tax issue, for example. Most members of the first nations work off the reserve, and they pay the same taxes as everyone else. Not all communities have problems; others are functioning perfectly well, achieving their potential, developing.

And which communities are these? The ones with self-government, the ones exercising that inherent right to self-government. We need just look at the situation in James Bay, at how, since the late 1970s, the James Bay Cree first nation has developed. We have had a number of occasions to meet Ted Moses and his chief advisor, Roméo Saganash. It has developed in an amazing way, with its own businesses, creating jobs and providing its young people with training.

I have also referred to the agreement with Hydro-Québec. Their right to self-government is what has enabled them to negotiate as a government with bodies such as Hydro-Québec or the Quebec government on the required training for their young people, their placement in specialized work sites, and the training of Cree administrators so as to promote and achieve economic and social growth for their community.

That is self-government: it ensures, on the one hand, that people telling all kinds of half-truths about the first nations finally shut their mouths and, on the other hand, that they do not just shut their mouths, but that the first nations demonstrate their ability to develop and create a future for the next generation. Currently, in most aboriginal communities, young people do not exactly have a rosy future: they are born knowing that their future is a dead-end.

In Weymontachie, it is unbelievable! In Winneway, in Barriere Lake, what is there for aboriginal children? A first nation that, often due to the government's inertia, lacks self-government and does not have the chance to control its own future, establish its own laws and its own parameters for economic development, employment, education and so forth is the one that suffers most.

That is why, in 1998, the Erasmus-Dussault commission said, “The process has to be accelerated”. That is why I was not merely disappointed but enraged when I saw, last year, that this darned government had imposed Bill C-7 on governance. We had to debate legislation that nobody wanted and that did nothing to accelerate the self-government process among the first nations. It was an attempt to force legislation that nobody wanted down the throats of all the first nations in Canada, while at the same time, the 80 negotiating tables on self-government lacked resources to accelerate the process. That is what is frustrating.

If there had been a different minister than the one who preceded the current minister, one able to acknowledge that self-government needs to be implemented more quickly because that is the only way the first nations can develop, to ensure harmony and break the cycle of poverty imposed on them for the past 130 years, perhaps two or three other self-government agreements could have been concluded, instead of wasting the time of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources with legislation that nobody wanted.

To get back to self-government, that is the first condition. When I see an agreement like that of Westbank, when this community came to see me, before I even read the agreement, on principle, I was full of enthusiasm for the idea of supporting them. When I read the agreement, I was even happier, because this is a wise and balanced agreement.

It is the same for the Innu in Quebec. That is a balanced agreement which takes nothing away from the territory of Quebec, which makes it possible for the Innu to make their own laws on their own territory and, outside their own territory, for them to share traditional activities, including hunting and fishing, with non-aboriginals. These new rules will be clearer than they are today.

There are some things in these agreements that move us and remind us that we have indeed reached the 21st century, that we have evolved over the decades, and that we have been recognizing this inherent right for a few years now.

We have to stop procrastinating. We must accelerate these self-government agreements. We have made a good start; in Quebec the process has begun for most of the first nations. We must ensure that, within this country, we respect each other, live in dignity on either side, and are able to develop with our own culture, our own institutions and the procedures determined in our own communities. That is self-government. That is sovereignty. That is independence.

That is what we are aiming for. It will happen in Quebec, for the Quebec people. When Quebec becomes sovereign, as will certainly happen in a few years, the first nations within Quebec's territory will have understood that respect for indigenous people in Quebec is a given. They will understand that respect for the dignity of aboriginal peoples—nations dealing with one another as equals—is now a given for the vast majority of the population.

When, at the general council of the Bloc Quebecois last year, I saw the ovation that occurred when respect for first nations and negotiations equal to equal were mentioned, I said to myself that we have come a long way in the last 30 years.

On the committee, I did not find the same feeling, or only some of the time. That is why my enthusiasm may have sometimes overflowed, as did that of my colleague from Winnipeg Centre. That is because we wanted to share it with our colleagues. We think we may have succeeded halfway.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to express, on behalf of the NDP caucus, our enthusiastic support for the bill at this stage of debate in the House of Commons today.

As the spokesperson on aboriginal affairs issues for the NDP caucus, it is a pleasure to deal with such a positive issue in the House of Commons when so often we deal with issues that are controversial. This is one bill that we should all be able to feel very good about. If we are about to wrap up this Parliament and go into an election, perhaps we can conclude this 37th Parliament on a positive note and on something for which we can all be proud.

I will begin my remarks by paying tribute to and recognizing the patient, hard-working and dedicated chief of the Westbank First Nation, Chief Robert Louie, and some of the councillors who I met personally in their patient lobbying on the Hill. They were always available as a resource to all of us. Councillor Larry Derrickson was one of them. I also want to thank the negotiators who patiently steered the process through the various stages in what must have seemed like an agonizing and painstakingly slow pace. I do admire the patience and dedication they showed, specifically Mr. Tim Raybould and legal counsel, Micha Menczer. Without the passionate and enthusiastic participation of those individuals, I think it would have been very difficult to navigate the bill through some of the obstacles, not the least of which is a seeming wilful blindness on the part of some people to see this bill for what it is.

I would like to explain in the short time I have, not only the positive aspects of the bill but to try and put to bed some some of the myths that have grown up around this bill by the very small minority of people who do still find fault with it.

I feel that we should have been a lot further along with the bill. The government side sought unanimous consent for the bill to proceed last November but consent was denied by one individual who I do not think was even objecting to the specifics of the bill so much as he had problems with the aboriginal B.C. fishery. It really was not fair to the people of Westbank to delay the bill because of some grievance on another aboriginal issue that was not even related.

By way of prefacing some of the things I will be raising, I would like to recognize that this Westbank self-government agreement is groundbreaking, in a way, for several reasons.

First, it represents a major milestone in the effort to negotiate a self-government agreement in that it is the first stand alone self-government agreement. I say that because there is no land claim element to this agreement. It is the first time that a self-government agreement of this nature has been negotiated under the 1995 inherent rights policy. This is what makes this a significant and noteworthy day.

By moving closer to self-government, we believe the Westbank First Nation will have a stronger governance regime and, contrary to some of the speakers who we have heard from on this bill, it will be more accountable and transparent to its members.

If the theme and the buzzwords of this 37th Parliament are “transparency” and “accountability”, this is something that members in the House should be able to celebrate. I think the jury is in and there can be no doubt that under this new governance regime there will be more transparency and accountability to not only the members of the Westbank First Nation but the non-member residents of this geographic region and other interested parties, frankly the business community, the town council, the mayor of Kelowna, and the many speakers we heard who were not actually status Indians and supported the bill.

I will be happy to debate any member of the House, in any setting or forum, on the subject of accountability and transparency. We know the bill enables transparency and accountability.

The agreement has the solid support of Westbank's neighbours and on-reserve residents who are not first nation members. They recognize that the agreement will provide greater certainty in the exercise of governance and jurisdiction for all levels of government.

With the introduction of the Westbank First Nation self-government act, parliamentary approval is being sought to bring the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement into force and effect. What we are doing today is only giving the enabling legislation to finally put into full force and effect an agreement that already was ratified through an exhaustive consultation and ratification process by all the affected parties, the first nation members being only one of them.

I believe there is broad agreement in the House that the Westbank agreement is local democracy at its best. At the signing ceremony in October 2003, local members of Parliament from the Okanagan and Kelowna area were there and spoke favourably. The former Progressive Conservative minister, Mr. Tom Siddon, who was responsible for getting the negotiations going, was there. It was nice that he could be there to observe the ultimate fruition of this long 14 year process.

We believe that many aspects of the agreement are positive and clearly outweigh any objections that might be raised. Misinformation does abound, however, so I want to dispel one or two of those points.

We have heard from some critics that this is a copycat of the 1999 Nisga'a agreement. I would like to point out that this agreement is fundamentally different from the Nisga'a agreement. I will be able to explain that better when I go through some of the legal arguments that have been made.

I want to start with the inherent right of self-government. As I noted, this is the first agreement negotiated under the 1995 inherent right of self-government policy which finds its origins in section 35 of the Constitution. It must be understood that this agreement was negotiated in the context of the aboriginal inherent right of self-government. The agreement was negotiated by Canada based on this 1995 policy which clearly states:

The Government of Canada recognizes the inherent right of self-government as an existing Aboriginal right under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

The policy calls for negotiations with first nations leading to agreements that will recognize the jurisdiction and authority of first nations governance.

Notably, not all self-government agreements are required to be in a treaty as the policy contemplates non-treaty self-government agreements. This Westbank First Nation self-government agreement is clearly not a treaty. This should be established and recognized right at the outset.

The aboriginal right of self-government is recognized by the Canadian legal system under the constitutional common law of Canada and also under section 35. While section 35(1) is an inherent point of origin, as a matter of current status it is held in Canadian law.

Those who do oppose the legislation, like Mr. Mark Milke who has written his opinions in the Calgary Herald , and Mr. Gordon Gibson who has expressed his reservations in an article in the Vancouver Sun and elsewhere, cite Campbell, the British Columbia Liberal government's appeal or challenge to the Nisga'a treaty.

Those who oppose Bill C-11 base much of their analysis on the general assumption that no aboriginal right of self-government can exist because all legislative powers are divided between Canada and the provinces under the Canadian Constitution.

While the Campbell ruling categorically throws out this point of view, aboriginal rights and in particular the right to self-government, akin to legislative powers to make laws, survived as one of the unwritten underlying values of the Constitution outside of the powers distributed to Parliament and the legislatures of 1867.

Mr. Milke and Mr. Gibson object to that legal ruling in the Campbell case. Given their view that all legislative powers then rest with Canada or the provinces, they see only mechanisms for a first nation jurisdiction as flowing from the delegated form of jurisdiction. In other words, a first nation jurisdiction can only stem from those powers delegated to it by the Government of Canada or by the provincial governments.

We, in the NDP, oppose that point of view. We feel it is far too narrow and we believe it is legally inaccurate. We embrace the opinions expressed by the royal commission on aboriginal people. Our interpretation, I suppose, is more in keeping with the federal government's in that we uphold and support the inherent rights policy as articulated in the 1995 policy, at least until such time as true meaning and definition can be given to section 35 of the Constitution.

I am one of those who believe that this is a necessary first step to a broader cross country settlement of outstanding self-government issues. I believe that rather than leaving it up to the courts to tell us what aboriginal and treaty rights mean, it is the role of Parliament and the House of Commons to take one step back and give meaning and definition to section 35 so we do not have this divisive struggle and expensive process, sometimes a 20 year process, to find a definition on a case by case basis.

I want to comment on some of the aspects of the Westbank First Nation self-government act on which I believe there has been some misunderstanding. An agreement we believe should be celebrated, is actually being criticized more by misinformation than by any solid and tangible reasoning.

Under this bilateral self-government agreement, Westbank will assume jurisdiction for most matters now regulated under the Indian Act. If there is one thing on which we can all agree, it is that the Indian Act is an outdated, obsolete and fundamentally flawed oppressive piece of legislation that we should all be committed to eradicating at the earliest opportunity. These jurisdictions will be phased in over time and as they are exercised, the related provisions of the Indian Act will no longer apply. In other words, this is the emancipation of the first nation of the Westbank region from under a colonial piece of legislation that has no business existing in the modern context.

In the category of laws, Westbank will have the jurisdiction to make laws in such areas as land management, aboriginal language and culture, resource management, the environment, et cetera. We should make it abundantly clear, if there is anyone under any misconceptions here, that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms shall, will and does apply in the context of this self-government agreement. I do not know how we can express it any more clearly. Those who are spreading this misinformation are those who may oppose the bill on the grounds that somehow the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply. I point out and I urge those members to look at section 32 of this agreement where clearly the opening lines of the section says:

The government of Westbank First Nation and Council in respect of all matters under its authority are bound by the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms....

I do not know how we could be more clear to satisfy anybody who has any concerns about whether or not the charter applies. For additional clarity and certainty, the final part of that section reads:

--the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter are enforceable in respect of the government of Westbank First Nation and the Council.

These statements in my view make it absolutely clear that the charter applies. Yet we find one legal opinion arguing that. Mr. Harvey, acting on behalf of some people who oppose the bill in the Kelowna area, points to the reference in section 32 of the agreement to section 25 of the charter, which deals with having regard to aboriginal and treaty rights in the interpretation of the charter. However, he fails to acknowledge that section 32 of the agreement is merely a statement of what is already in the charter, and the charter must be read and understood as a whole, not cherry-picking isolated sections. I hope that is the last we hear about it in this debate. I do not see how anyone could in any way argue that the charter does not apply.

Regarding non-members of the band, the charter states:

Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.

Therefore, individuals can always have recourse to the courts in that case. I hope we have satisfied some of the misconceptions that exist regarding the application of the charter.

I will not dwell on this very much longer. I think we have clearly stated why the NDP is firmly in favour of the bill. We look forward to the speedy passage of it.

In closing, it has been said by people wiser than I that aboriginal nations whose rights and interests in this bountiful land predate the treaties are in fact Canada's foundation. Canada's complexity and diversity derive not only from its array of people who have arrived from other lands, but also from the original inhabitants with their many cultures and languages.

To view Canada merely as a shelter society, ignores and denies the important and lasting roles of aboriginal people in Canada's legal and political foundation. There is no need for reminders of our tragic past, but that past can be put behind us with a philosophical shift acknowledging the mistakes made in the past and moving forward with progressive self-governance initiatives such as the Westbank First Nation self-government act.

Therefore, I am very proud to say that the NDP caucus will be voting in favour of the bill. Again, I wish to pay tribute, honour and recognize the herculean task it has taken on the part of Chief Robert Louie, his councillors and the negotiators to bring the bill to the stage it is. I extend my congratulations to them and I hope we can unanimously pass the bill at the appropriate time in the House.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Yukon Yukon


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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his very thoughtful address and for dispelling more of the myths. I agree it is through lack of understanding of some of the complexities.

As the member mentioned quite strongly, some of the concerns that may come up are related to accountability and transparency. I do not have any concerns and I know he does not either. However, could explain for people who are not too aware of it more of the details in that area?

One requirement of the Westbank First Nation government is that it has to have a stringent type of transparency and accounting controls as any other government. Would he like to add any more details on that to add comfort to people who are not that familiar with it? That is not to say there has been any problem today.

As I mentioned earlier, many non-aboriginal people who have had businesses and residences under the property tax regime for years are happy and they are happy to invest there. It is a wonderfully prosperous area.

So people know, in relation to taxation which was brought up earlier in the debate, property taxation has been going on some time. Remember there are only a few hundred resident members of the first nation, but there are thousands of non-residents. They have been in the property tax regime and, as was brought up earlier, it has been quite successful. This is under section 83 of the Indian Act, which will be discontinued.

This does not change that or impose any further burdens. It will give those citizens more input in the law as mandated by the agreement and after that they cannot be changed without their say. Could the member comment on the transparency and accountability?

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders



Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add simply that those who are opposed to the bill could not be further off the mark when they say that there may be less checks and balances in the Westbank agreement.

For the record, in 1986 there was in fact serious problems of accountability. There was a federal inquiry into the affairs of the Westbank First Nation and rumours of both federal government and band wrongdoing. In other words, there were serious problems in 1986 and self-government was recommended as one thing that should take place in order to put more control of its own destiny and more checks and balance in place. If anything, the bill is the answer to the remedy recommended back in 1986.

For the record, the Westbank First Nation agreement provides for a democratically elected government of its members. There are strict election guidelines, et cetera, that are equal to or better than the Elections Canada guidelines. For non-members, it establishes a legislative advisory council. There was no legal requirement to do such a thing. That was a voluntary move of the part of Westbank people that went beyond what was necessary.

The constitution that they put in place sets out a clear process for community involvement and ensures complete financial transparency and accountability. The constitution puts in place strict conflict of interest guidelines that are as tight as anywhere in Canada. In fact they are better than we enjoy here in the Parliament of Canada.

This is something in which people should be interested. It even says that the chief in council cannot budget a deficit without first going to a referendum of the people. They have balanced budget legislation which only a few provincial governments have. Many municipal governments enjoy balanced budget legislation. It is part of our NDP federal platform that balanced budget legislation is the direction in which we should be going. How many governments can actually make that claim of that degree of accountability and transparency?

I hope that dispels some of the myths around the Westbank First Nation agreement act.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders



Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have the constitution to which the member referred, and everyone can see how thick it is. It is 99 pages and very well laid out. As the member suggested, the Government of Canada would probably be in better shape if we had not been allowed to go into debt.

I want to give him the opportunity to answer this question because I know he is very passionate about the benefits of self-government. I gave the Bloc member the same opportunity. I want to start my question with something that Chief Robert Louie said before a standing committee. He said:

So the question is asked, what is self-government really all about? First and foremost, it is about being in control in our own house, on our own lands. Westbank First Nation has gone as far as one can under the Indian Act. Given our history, we recognized long ago that we needed better tools to promote social and economic development for the benefit of all who live on our lands. In fact, these are the tools of government that most people take for granted, unless you live on an Indian reserve under the Indian Act.

Perhaps the member could expound on the benefits of self-government as a model for the future progress of first nations in general. That would apply specifically to the Westbank First Nation.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders



Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to use what minutes I have left to agree with the hon. parliamentary secretary. All the empirical evidence shows that economic development is best achieved in examples of first nations communities where they have the highest degree of autonomy. There is a direct correlation between autonomy, self-governance and successful economic development. This is not just an anecdotal observation. Studies were done by Harvard University, with a number of first nations in the United States and Canada, showing a direct connection.

For all the moral and ethical reasons I could cite, self-governance is the only intelligent way to go. However, even for those who are most concerned with the economic development and bringing aboriginal people into the mainstream economy, we now find that the empirical evidence tells us that self-governance is one of the key components to a successful economic development.

I would simply close by saying that the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement will in fact bring stability and stable government to that community. The rules are so stringent and disciplined that locals are even saying that it will be difficult to get anybody to run for office.

Chief Robert Louie, the band councillors and the negotiators who have put in place this constitution certainly are not shying away from rigid scrutiny, accountability and transparency. They have put in place one of the most sophisticated 21st century governance ordinances and regimens that we have seen anywhere in North America, and it is something we can all point to as a template and as a model. Although all first nations have to negotiate their individual self-governance agreements, this one will hold its own in comparison to any others.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario


Andrew Telegdi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Aboriginal Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying that I am very pleased with the level of discussion in the House and certainly with the tremendous support the agreement is receiving.

Let me also congratulate Chief Robert Louie and the councillors for their hard work. I know this must be a fairly emotional moment for them and for the people they represent.

Bill C-11 is an act to give effect to the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement. The agreement at the heart of the bill is the first of its kind and sets a valuable precedent for future relationships between Canada and the aboriginal people.

The agreement focuses on self-government. It is not a treaty or a land claim settlement. Pursuant to this agreement, Westbank First Nation will exercise a specific set of legislative powers and assume new responsibilities, putting the Westbank First Nation firmly in control of its economy, culture and community.

I believe that Bill C-11 represents an important step in the history of relationships between the Westbank First Nation and Canada. To appreciate the significance of the bill, one first needs to understand a bit of Westbank history.

Long before Canada became a country, several communities of the Interior Salish people, known as the Okanagan, lived on a large tract of land in south-central British Columbia and northern Washington. When white settlers began to farm in the region in the 1800s, they lived peacefully alongside the local aboriginal population. The Government of Canada established reserves in the region in the early 1900s.

Westbank First Nation, across the lake from Kelowna, split from the Okanagan band, an amalgamation of several tribes, in 1963. Westbank leaders felt they could better meet the particular aspirations of their community by working independently.

Since then, the city of Kelowna has grown and prospered, presenting several economic opportunities to Westbank. The first nation's ability to capitalize on these opportunities is limited, however, by the Indian Act, which requires the band to secure permission from the federal government before it negotiates leases or other agreements. The Indian Act limits not only the power but also the accountability of Westbank's band council. In essence, councillors cannot be held legally liable for their actions.

This combination of weak local government, resulting from deficiencies in the Indian Act, and growing prosperity led to a series of scandals and troubles in the 1980s. Charges of conflict of interest were levelled at some councillors and a climate of mistrust hampered Westbank's ability to grow.

These problems prompted the Government of Canada to order a formal investigation in 1986. This resulted in the Hall commission, which found that the problems of Westbank arose because the governance of the Westbank Indian band had been that of “a government of men and not a government of laws”.

In seeking to resolve the problems and to establish a government of laws, the commission made recommendations for change and ultimately recommended the pursuit of self-government legislation for Westbank. The Westbank First Nation self-government agreement reflects most of the recommendations of the Hall commission, including the requirement to establish a constitution providing for democratic and legitimate elections of government, internal financial management and accountability to members, and conflict of interest rules.

Since then, the people of Westbank have worked hard to realize their aspirations. Formal negotiations between Westbank and the Government of Canada began in 1990 and proceeded throughout the tenure of successive band councils.

While this process continued, Westbank moved to improve the local economy and enhance social services. To foster economic development, the band started two businesses, WFN Development Corporation and Nu-Arc Construction. Under government supervision, the first nation has also become a busy landlord, leasing lands to hundreds of businesses and homeowners. In the 1990s, the band began to collect property taxes in accordance with the Indian Act.

Westbank's growing prosperity has benefited all members of the first nation. The first nation owns and operates its own school and community centre, a provincially licensed day care and early education centre, and an intermediate care facility for the elderly. Westbank also maintains several recreational facilities, including beaches, campgrounds and baseball diamonds.

Westbank has successfully negotiated several agreements with the private and public sectors. Sewer services are provided through a partnership with regional government. The Bank of Montreal collaborates on a loan program for homeowners.

The first nation's approach to self-government followed the same cooperative approach. Westbank leaders worked long and hard with members to develop a community constitution, with non-members to address the creation of an input mechanism, and with neighbouring communities to achieve strong and collaborative partnerships.

Memoranda of political relationship were signed with both the Regional District of Central Okanagan and with the City of Kelowna. Westbank, along with the federal government, also consulted with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, labour groups and homeowners' associations.

During the past few years, more than 400 information and consultation sessions were held to communicate details of the self-government agreement and what it means for the first nation, for the Okanagan Nation Alliance, to which Westbank belongs, and for non-member residents and neighbouring communities. People were encouraged to ask questions and suggest ideas. These consultations inspired a number of improvements to the proposed agreement, such as the strengthening of the provisions regarding non-member residents.

The agreement was ratified by Westbank First Nation in May 2003 by a double majority. This is a higher threshold than the members of the House of Commons must meet at the ballot box. A majority of Westbank First Nation voters also approved a constitution for Westbank that sets out electoral procedures and governance structures.

The agreement between Canada and the Westbank First Nation is now in our hands. I believe we must ratify the legislation because it gives the people of Westbank access to modern, effective government.

Together, Bill C-11 and the agreement represent a vast improvement over the Indian Act and will strengthen democracy in the community. Councillors in the first nation's government will be subject to much more stringent accountability requirements, established in Westbank's constitution. Under Westbank's new constitution, voters can recall elected officials and councillors who spend money without authorization can be held personally liable.

In addition, Westbank's government will no longer be exempt from civil action, as it was under the Indian Act. Under the provisions of Bill C-11, Westbank's government becomes a legal entity that can sue and be sued. Other improvements include strict accounting and financial management practices. Westbank's books will be open to public scrutiny.

For the first time, people residing on Westbank lands who are not band members, approximately 8,000 in all, will have a formal statutory mechanism to influence decisions made by the first nation government. The agreement calls for the establishment of an input mechanism for non-members to safeguard their interests. The agreement requires that the first Westbank law following the effective date of the agreement establish this input mechanism.

The agreement also provides a number of other protections, both for members and for non-members. Westbank First Nation's government and its institutions are bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Further, any decisions or laws of the Westbank First Nation may be challenged in the Province of British Columbia's courts.

The net result of all these provisions will be greater public trust in government and a clearer decision making and dispute resolution process. This will help to attract additional investment in band projects, leading to more opportunities for Westbank.

In short, by putting the first nation firmly in control of its destiny, Bill C-11 will enable Westbank leaders to realize the band's goals of self-sufficiency and transparency. In the words of Chief Robert Louie:

Self-government is about the future; it is about... creating a stable community where hard work and initiative are rewarded. The objective is to create a safe and vibrant community with a clear [idea] of who we are and where we are going.

The legislation before us today carries the principled and worthy aspirations of a people. I urge my hon. colleagues to lend their support to Bill C-11. I think this is a realization of a long term project that is going to benefit not just the Westbank First Nation but all Canadians.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the members who are here today engaging in this debate. Also, I extend appreciation and acknowledgement to the people who have been working toward this particular agreement related to the Westbank First Nation for some 14 years. People on all sides have been involved. The various chiefs and councils and non-natives involved are all to be congratulated.

It certainly has been a long process and not one that has not been charged with emotion. There has been much emotion through the process. A lot of rational thought has gone into this, but there have been times when bridges of trust have had to be built because people on all sides have had experiences which might hinder the ability for them to really trust each other.

Certainly when a person like myself is looking at an agreement like this, I have a very strong focus on individual freedoms and individual rights. There have been times when I have said that certain aboriginal claims have been unwarranted because they have infringed in serious ways on those individual freedoms. I take these situations on a case by case basis, as others do.

At times debates like this have been charged with accusations. If one tends to vote for, or wants to see agreement for an aboriginal request, that person is seen as selling out to unrealistic demands. If one opposes certain things related to aboriginal treaties or claims, that person is accused of being anti-aboriginal, or even worse accusations.

The debate on this over the last couple of days has been fairly civil and I appreciate that. It helps us to get down to the actual words of the agreement itself. Without the focus on what is actually written and proposed, words and labels can kind of hang out there and distort what is being proposed and cause knee-jerk reactions on either side. Therefore, I want to address specifically what is in this agreement and the legislation.

I have had to challenge myself with my own positions related to broad terms. We talk about labels like “inherent right” as in the inherent right to self-government. Is that something in which I believe?

As elected people, words, once we speak them in a place like this are there forever to haunt us or to prod us onward. If people were to look back to my days at the Alberta legislature, they would see that when I was minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, one of the things I said related to inherent rights was that we all have an inherent right to self-government, but those rights must be defined. I said that I could not accept either an aboriginal claim or a non-aboriginal claim to an absolute inherent right of self-government--it is all about me self-government--with no reflection on the implications for the people in the world around me. It must be defined. I said we must have some clear definition before I could support it. My own words hold me to account over all these years.

I remember one of the first meetings I had with a former chief of Westbank First Nation. It is unique to be discussing legislation with all my colleagues here, legislation which I think will have some national impact. The entire Westbank First Nation sits on federal constitutional borders that form the constituency of the people whom I represent.

One of the first meetings I had with a WFN chief was in the run-up to the federal leadership campaign. I was taking quite a bit of flack at that point, for reasons I do not fully understand--well I do, knowing where some of the national media lies--for being “anti-aboriginal” whatever that was supposed to mean. I met with that chief and he said that one thing he knew about me was I was not inherently against them as aboriginal people. I said of course I was not, and asked how he knew that, what caused him to say that in spite of all the national media he was reading. He said he had talked with chiefs in Alberta who had dealt with me and they had told him I was honest and straightforward, that I did not always agree, but that I could be trusted and was straightforward and not against them as people. I said I appreciated that because it happened to be true.

My words have come back to haunt me in a way with this particular agreement, because I said I was open to the inherent right to self-government but that we should have it defined.

There are a lot of definitions in this agreement. I want to walk through some of them because I approach this agreement somewhat as a skeptic. I have said publicly in the media and in meetings with our aboriginal friends and non-native friends that I have some problems with what I am hearing about this agreement and I need to have those problems addressed before I can support it.

Let us look at some specifics. Clearly, lawyers have come out with opinions on both sides of this issue, as they can and do on every issue. If someone says, “Well, the lawyers say”, that is one group of lawyers. As we know, and I say this with respect, lawyers have the capability and the great expertise to come up with a variety of positions on one particular issue. Let us look at the words that are here.

Skeptics and those who are opposed to this agreement have said that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply and that is why they do not support this agreement. The charter does in fact apply. I will read the words of the agreement:

The Government of Westbank First Nation and Council in respect of all matters under its authority are bound by provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That is fairly straightforward. We may like or dislike the words, but it is fairly straightforward. What does it mean when a group says that it is bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Section 52 of the Constitution Act states:

The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect.

That is fairly clear language on the issue of charter application.

Some people have said that there is this little thing in our Constitution, section 25 it is called, that says there must be due regard to aboriginal rights. That exists in the Constitution. We may like that it is there; we may not like that it is there. We may want to change that. If we think we could ever effect a constitutional change in this country, that may be something we would want to change.

Section 25 is in our Constitution and the Westbank First Nation reflects that in its agreement. It says that section 25 still applies with due regard to aboriginal rights. That is there whether we like it or not. What we have to say again is what is defined here. How broad a brush would that section 25 application be?

One of the reasons I am supporting this agreement is that when this agreement should come into law and effect when we vote on this, it would not become automatically constitutionalized as some aboriginal agreements do. Once they are voted into effect they automatically become part of the Constitution of Canada and they are very difficult to change. That is the not the case with this agreement. It will be and can be subject to change. It is not constitutionalized.

Let us look at some of the other definitions. We have dealt with the one in terms of the charter not applying. Section 25 certainly is in this agreement. We ask ourselves, has the Westbank First Nation defined and been specific on areas where it agrees, where there is no discussion virtually, that federal law applies? Let us look at that. What does the agreement actually say? It is one thing to say that nothing applies here. Let us take a look at the agreement itself.

Not only does the agreement set out minimum standards for Westbank First Nation laws, but it clearly indicates where federal application shall apply and prevail. It also lays out rules to deal with areas where conflict may arise.

For those who want specificity, as I do, I will read into the record where federal laws will apply. Part V of the agreement specifically states that federal laws dealing with peace, order and government, section 31; endangered species and fish and fish habitat, section 37; and collection of statistics and reporting on natural resources, section 38, always apply.

WFN's jurisdiction does not extend to criminal law. That is a very key point. Some critics of this have said, “There goes criminal law”. It does not apply to criminal law. It is very clear if one reads the agreement.

It does not apply to areas of protection of the health and safety of all Canadians. It does not apply to intellectual property, and broadcasting and telecommunications. Federal provisions still apply. Maybe that is too bad. I might have said to the Westbank First Nation that it should put in something that protects it from the CBC, but it is still going to be open to that exposure. The laws here still do apply.

It goes on to state that nothing in the agreement will affect, and this is very important, national defence, security and public safety, the application of crown prerogatives, under section 40. Westbank is required to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance of its laws and actions with Canada's international obligations. Westbank First Nation's jurisdiction does not apply and interfere in the area of agriculture, under section 141, dealing with interprovincial and international trade, commerce and agriculture.

It is very specific. If there is a chance that a conflict exists, each part of the agreement lays out rules that could deal with that eventuality. In many areas, such as environmental protection, section 150; environmental assessment, section 166; agriculture, section 144; traffic and transportation, section 211; certification of trades and professions, section 289; federal laws prevail in the event of a conflict. They have also imposed upon themselves a standard that if they are putting standards in place on the first nations regarding any of these areas, they have to at least meet or beat federal standards. That applies in all of these areas. It is very clear when it comes to provincial law, section 34 addresses the fact that provincial jurisdiction applies. The charter applies. Section 24(1) of the charter states:

Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court or competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances

In addition to the charter protection which it speaks to very specifically, the agreement provides that prosecutions of Westbank law will be heard in the provincial court of British Columbia. Some people are going around saying that if there is a prosecution on the Westbank First Nation, it will never get to appeal in the courts if one is a non-native. That simply is not true. All of the same protections and procedures that are available for non-natives off reserve are there for non-natives on reserve.

Section 48(a) of the agreement states that the judicial review procedures act of British Columbia applies to Westbank First Nation and application for judicial review will be heard in the Supreme Court of British Columbia under that act. The provisions are there also regarding provincial jurisdiction.

Are there some other areas where they are very specific? I ask myself a question when it comes to legislation. Are things going to be generally better in terms of rights and responsibilities for natives and non-natives on that particular reserve, or are they going to be worse? Let us look at some of the areas where there is improvement.

Matrimonial law up to this point in time across the nation on aboriginal reserves is not defined. We have heard from many people upon dissolution of a marriage, which is an unfortunate time and not an easy time, many times the women on reserves have no resource in law to go to in terms of assessing where assets will be applied and who will get the house or the property.

Matrimonial application upon dissolution regulations are going to be entrenched. That puts them in a better situation. That brings them to our level in terms of non-native laws.

A groundbreaking area is property rights, and it is a bit of a double entendre in saying that property rights is a groundbreaking area. This is very exciting for me. Fundamentally we cannot have prosperity in a country or jurisdiction unless there are property rights. That is fundamental to prosperity. Property rights are being written into this agreement in a way that has never been there before. If one could establish that one owned a home or property, one was subject to either ministerial whim or, and these council members will admit this, the whim of a chief or council. They might decide on whether one would get to keep a house or whether one would get to have a lot or land.

Now there will be a land registry system. Normal rules for acquisition of property are going to be put into place. Property rights are going to be entrenched in the Westbank First Nation agreement. There is going to be a codified land registry system. Mortgage values will apply. That native person will have that land and will not have to worry that if the council changes or someone on council or the chief is upset with that person, he is not going to lose the land.

I find that somewhat ironic. The Westbank First Nation wants to write in property rights. Communist China did it several months ago and our own federal government will not do it. If the federal government is listening, it could look at codifying our property rights also.

There are other areas where there is considerable improvement. Some people have thought that before they codify the land and the property rights that there will be a rush for people in power on Westbank First Nation to grab land. No. There is a freeze on any new allotments of land until the land registry system is in place on the reserve.

Taxation without representation has been an issue, especially for non-natives. It is very clear that non-natives now or at any time in Canada living on reserve land, they move on to that land accepting whatever lease agreement they are given. They also have to accept the fact that they do not have direct representation in terms of taxation. That has been the case since 1867. We say somewhat ruefully to our non-native friends on reserves that they have taxation without representation, but they should try taxation with representation and then see if they like it. It is not always that wonderful.

My wife and I live in a small condominium. A couple of weeks ago at a meeting of our condominium association the owners of the units developed a budget. We talked to the people who rent the units in our condominium development and told them that the fees might be going up. We told them what we were going to do, but they did not have the option of having a vote because they were renters. They did not own or have title to that land. They did not have taxation with representation. They had to take the chance and trust that we the owners would treat them well, and I think we did. But they did not have taxation with representation.

Aboriginals do not have that right on aboriginal land, but there is an improvement in this particular agreement for them. It is written in the agreement that there shall be an advisory council made up of non-natives who will elect among themselves, not be appointed, their appointees to the advisory council who will work with the band in terms of consultation and input. They will have no final say. They have never had it since 1867. We can try to change that if we want to wait another 100 years and try to change the Constitution. This agreement gives added ability for non-natives to have a say on issues relating to taxation.

There are provisions in this new agreement that do not exist now for non-natives that are similar to what we call landlord and tenant provisions. Non-natives will have a clearer sense of where they are going.

The Westbank first nation has a proven record of financial and fiscal accountability. Two hundred non-native businesses would not be registered and working on that reserve land unless they had a sense of financial accountability. WFN has established its credibility in the area.

Business people, on or off that reserve, have a high degree of respect for the business acumen and the accountability of bands in the Westbank first nation. In spite of that, provisions are written in relation to fiscal accountability, transparency, how funds are handled, where they go, and total availability and access of records.

A recall provision has been included in their election process. If their own members are deemed not be handling finances correctly, they can be recalled after being elected. I would like the federal government to listen to that. Our party has long been calling for recall provisions. The Westbank first nation has put in provisions to give its members the ability to recall. They have also included fixed date elections which is a great idea. The Westbank first nation is putting them in place along with all of the other things, and yet our own federal government will not do that.

Just as there are non-natives who like this deal, there are natives who are opposed to it. There are those who simply and sincerely do not agree with the provisions. There are some natives on reserve who have said to the Westbank first nation chief and council that they feel everything is being given away and they do not like that. They feel they are being left with nothing and all their powers are being taken away. There are some who say they want to stay under the Indian Act and do not want any powers at all except for the federal government to kick them around.

I met with some natives who had an important concern. They recognize aboriginal culture and tradition, but they also want assurances that there will be respect for a diversity of spiritual belief on reserves. There are many people on the WFN and other reserves who have been Christians for generations and some who are new Christians. They want to ensure that tradition is respected as well as other traditions. The charter and our Constitution applies. The preamble of our Canadian Constitution recognizes the supremacy of God and that applies as does the charter of rights. We cannot discriminate against people based on their particular beliefs

I will say again, virtually every time I have had a meeting on a first nations reserve, that meeting has started in prayer, sometimes a very distinct Christian prayer; other times it might be one where the prayer was directed toward a creator or a spirit. There is a variety, but they are respected, more so than we see in a non-native society. I just want to ensure that those provisions are there.

The last point here--and something that really shows the lack of trust that sometimes exists--is that there is a provision about intoxicants on reserve, giving the Westbank first nation the ability to deal and ban certain substances which we, in our society, might not even consider banning, but that are a threat on the reserve.

My wife and I have worked in the past with organizations dealing with people, mainly non-natives but sometimes natives, dealing with substance abuse. It is a very painful thing for an individual or a group to stand up and say that we have some problems in that area. This is a very transparent recognition on the part of the Westbank first nation people. They have brought in some ability to help them deal with that if they have to. Some members in the House have said “Do you know why they want to do that? It is because secretly they want to sell marijuana”. That must be painful to members of the Westbank first nation who admit that they want to protect their own people.

As I close, on these and all provisions, I will say this, is the situation better for natives now with this agreement? Yes, it is. Is it better for non-natives? Yes, it is. Is it perfect? No, it is not, nor are any of the other laws that are constituted in this place, but it is a hallmark of responsibility. It is a hallmark of those who want to move ahead and pursue their hopes and dreams under transparency and responsibility, and I support that.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member, as many other members have, for dispelling more of the myths and the concerns. Any time we have something new and creative, and of course running a government is very complex, there are all sorts of things people may have concerns about till they have them dispelled and the member did an excellent job. I would like to give him a chance to speak further, because it is his constituency, if there is more he wanted to say.

I am delighted he brought up the spiritual aspect of first nations people. It is just amazing how spiritual they are. I remember going to a session in a very tiny village. Part of the program was a church service. More Anglican ministers came out of the woodwork than I had seen in the rest of the whole territory. They are coming to us, I suppose, to lead us in spirit these days, so I do not think people have to worry about spiritualism. The Canadian Human Rights Act applies and in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as all hon. members know, there is protection of religious rights.

I also wanted to commend the hon. member for bringing up the item of taxation without representation. I will just add to what he said. He made very good points. The fact is that taxation laws come under section 83 of the Indian Act, which is of course Canadian law, so they have representation there. The Supreme Court has also determined that taxation laws will not have taxation without representation. Both the Indian Act and this agreement have come through a legislature. Although this agreement is not affecting taxation, it is still using section 83 of the Indian Act. It came out of a federal statute, and of course all citizens who live there are represented by the federal government.

Perhaps the member would like to carry on further.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can deal very quickly with the intent of the member's comments. Any legislation that I approach, I apply certain tests to it. First, does it comply with fundamental rights and individual freedoms? And yes, I believe this does. Does it comply with the charter, provincial laws and federal laws? Of course, I believe it does.

Yesterday, when we voted on the report stage of the WFN agreement, we also voted on another self-government agreement and land claim from another band. I applied the tests to that law that we were being asked to vote on and I voted against it. It did not meet the tests in my view; it did not comply. Yesterday, we had two votes on self-government agreements that had to do with land claims. I personally voted yes for this one and no on the other one.

Does it improve the situation for natives? Yes, it does. Does it improve for non-natives? Yes, it does. Does it address concerns of those who are opposed, is a clear test of legislation. There will always be people who will be opposed to legislation. What is shocking to a lot of people is that on this reserve there are some 7,500 non-natives who, if the Liberals call an election as we think they soon will, will be deciding if they are going to vote for me or somebody else.

Members better believe I consulted with those people. I have had now today six phone calls from people who are not supportive of this agreement. I respect their areas of disagreement. I have researched them and tried to respond to them today and at other times. I have had six calls but there may be more people, I am just saying I have quite a responsive constituency. I get calls on issues and six have said they do not like it.

The regional district representatives have agreed with this legislation and support it . The Economic Development Council supports it as does the Chamber of Commerce of Westbank. These are hard-nosed small business people who are no-nonsense people.

I have knocked on doors in that area as recently as last week. Yes, there are those who oppose it. They are not huge in numbers and their concerns are legitimate. These are some of the tests that I have applied and will continue to apply to this and other legislation. These tests have been applied and the legislation has come up in fact not lacking, but has met the test.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, following up what the member said, there was also a survey recently. I think on March 22 I received the results of the non-aboriginal people and of course in that survey the majority were also in favour.

The member referred to the other vote we had last night on the Tlicho claim and self-government agreement. I hope, once we do information sessions and we sort some things out in committee, that the same type of rationale and knowledge will come out because it is totally different, but there are some tremendous things in that agreement that are very exciting.

For instance, non-native aboriginal persons can actually get elected to a council in that agreement. I am not sure if we have a model like that anywhere. So not only do they have a guaranteed committee representation in this agreement, but they can actually get elected on the community councils. If they are elected, of course, they will have all sorts of say over taxation and the other elements that affect their communities. I look forward to the debate on that aspect.

I would like to ask the member a question, for people who are tuning in at home. I know that there are many seniors watching and they may not be too familiar with what we are talking about. Since this is the member's constituency, could he go back to the basics and describe the environment and the area for people who do not know what we are talking about? Could he describe how this relates to the community and the surrounding governments such as the regional government and the surrounding Okanagan group of nations that are working together? People will then know how it all fits together and, as he said, how it is working so well with so much cooperation.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not often that I get a chance or an invitation from a government member to talk very specifically about my constituency, and I am happy and certainly honoured to do that.

For those people who may not be familiar with it and so they can get an idea of what this agreement means, the Okanagan Valley of course is in the central interior and southern part of the province, surrounding and embracing a jewel of a lake, one of many, Lake Okanagan itself.

If people are familiar with the city of Kelowna, as they drive across this lake on the Kelowna bridge that spans Okanagan Lake, as soon as they touch down on the other side, they will find themselves driving on the main highway through Westbank First Nation's land. In some ways they would not even know that they have gone from one jurisdiction to another.

The land is comprised of 7,500 non-natives and about 600 natives. Some 200 businesses are registered and operating vigorously and aggressively on that land. Some of the land is beautifully situated at lakeside, where some of the non-natives and natives live and some land spans and takes in forest area. It is a large area of land.

The relationship among the natives on first nation land, the band and council, the businesses and the community is very positive. A large recreation and community complex is being built in the non-native jurisdiction, and Westbank First Nation is donating thousands of dollars to that particular development. This is fairly commonplace. It is a very unique and positive relationship that has existed for a number of years. The WFN agreement will only solidify that more, although it is not constitutionalized.

One cannot just take this and say that this has to apply to every other aboriginal area, but I think people will look at this, the property rights and related issues which I have delineated, and see the positive aspects of it. I think we would see the development of good and positive relationships across the country if people were to follow some of these basic principles and respect their individual freedoms and rights.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to the bill. I certainly agree with many of the points my hon. colleague just made. One point we would have complete agreement on is the status and respect that the Westbank Indian band has in the community.

Westbank First Nation has had the fortune of having been managed by a council that has done extremely well in its economic development policies and its administrative practices. It has been forward looking in terms of community involvement. It has done excellent work.

I really want to echo again the point made about the contribution that the Westbank First Nation has made to the recreational complex. I know I am getting into my hon. member's constituency when I say that because that complex is not in my area, it is in his. However, the Westbank First Nation at this point is in my constituency of Kelowna. That will change with the new boundary change.

I would like to begin my remarks by referring back to the formation of the advisory council. The agreement quite clearly indicates that such an advisory council shall be created. The point has been made that the agreement indicates the members of this council will be elected. I have the official document which contains the agreement. I would like to read into the record the exact statements with regard to non-member representation. Section 54 contains four paragraphs, and states:

a) Non-Members living on Westbank Lands or having an interest in Westbank Lands shall be provided in Westbank Law with mechanisms through which they may have input into proposed Westbank Law and proposed amendments to Westbank Law that directly and significantly affect such non-Members.

There will be an advisory council. It goes on to state:

b) Westbank Law providing the mechanisms required under subsection 54(a) shall be enacted prior to any new Westbank Law being enacted by Council after the Effective Date, or within 30 days of the Effective Date, whichever is sooner.

That suggests that within 30 days of this particular agreement coming into effect, there will be created an advisory council. It goes on to state:

c) Westbank Law enacted to meet the obligation referred to in subsection 54(a) shall only be amended or replaced with the consent of the non-Members living on Westbank Lands or having an interest in Westbank Lands.

Again, that is a very commendatory kind of provision. Finally, it states:

d) Westbank Law enacted to meet the obligations under subsection 54(a) shall provide for the process by which the consent of the non-Members shall be obtained for the purposes in subsection 54(c).

The point I want to make is that within the agreement there is a provision for the advisory council. While some people might argue that it is not a very important detail, to me, and I think to the non-members, it is a very important detail as to how the members of this advisory council will in be determined.

The point has been made that the agreement states they shall be elected. The points I have read do not in any way say that. I have been given a copy of the proposed law that is being drafted by the Westbank Nation. Clause 3 in the agreement clearly indicates that it is the intention of the Westbank First Nation, commencing on whatever day it will be, that members will serve a three year term. Clause 3 states:

Commencing on... and every 3 years after that, an election shall be conducted in accordance with Part...of the Election Code of the Westbank First Nation for the 5 members of the Advisory Council, who shall take office for a 3 year term commencing at the end of the term of the members appointed by the Chief and Council of the Westbank First Nation.

This is the first indication that these people will be elected, and that is good. They absolutely should be elected. However, this is not part of the agreement itself.

The agreement says that there shall be such a council. This is law made by first nations which says how members shall be elected. It is a useful distinction to be clear that this law can be changed whereas the agreement now becomes entrenched in the legislation of the Parliament of Canada. It is an important point to recognize.

I also want to indicate that I have tremendous respect and confidence that the Westbank First Nation will expand and develop further its proposed draft law in terms of the function and operation of the advisory council.

The fact remains, however, that this is a document that can be changed at the wishes of the band council and is not part of the agreement itself. That is a technical point, but it is a significant one.

This is an old chestnut that has been around for a long time, but I would also like to go one step further and read into the record the provision of section 25 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It states:

The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including

a) any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763; and

b) any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

While section 25 clearly indicates these rights and freedoms exist, it also provides a look forward into the future. Any rights or freedoms that will be granted through a land claims agreement will now be protected under section 25 of the charter.

Some people have argued that it means the charter does not apply. It is quite to the contrary. I think it does apply. However, what this does is create rights and freedoms for one group of citizens that may or may not be the same as those accorded to other citizens of Canada. This is a significant point that needs to be registered.

I want to move on to further point that has to do with the creation of a third order of government. Some people will debate this point. The very fact that there is a debate about whether it does create a third order of government will be fodder for many court decisions and many lawyers will make a lot of money trying to interpret this section.

I would like to place my particular interpretation on this in the context of the Constitution of Canada. The Constitution of Canada clearly has within its confines, because that is how we run our country, all the powers that exist in Canada for any government. It clearly divides it into two parts. First, the federal Government of Canada and second, the provinces.

All the powers are contained within the constitution. Those powers that now exist for the federal and provincial governments are interpreted in terms of the exclusionary principle, or the doctrine of exclusivity. It says very clearly that the authority given to make legislation to one level of government cannot then be taken by another level or order of government. It is pretty clear in a variety of instances here that the law of Canada and the law of the provinces will be subject to the laws of the Westbank Nation.

There will be an endless argument about this. It seems to me that what will happen is the people will argue that Parliament has clearly delineated in the agreement that there will be these kinds of powers for the provinces, these kinds of powers for the federal government and then there will be these powers for the Westbank First Nation.

This suggests to me that a new order or level of government has been created. I am sure there are those who will disagree with this and I guess we will just have to have that disagreement. However, this will probably be the fodder for a number of court cases in the future.

I also would like to briefly refer to the financial accountability and transparency. There is no question that within the context of this Westbank First Nation agreement there is the apparent structure to create transparency and accountability. There is no doubt in my mind that the practice of the Westbank First Nation has been to be accountable and to be transparent, and it has done a very fine job of that.

However, there are certain elements here that are not quite clear. I think it is the lack of clarity that causes me to have very serious concerns about this particular section. First, it divides the revenues and the expenditures of the band into two sections or two silos. The first one is local revenues and expenditures and the second is non-local revenues and expenditures. They are consolidated into a budget document, but the effect of certain provisions creates this very distinct silo. Number one is the provision on capital expenditures. The funds that are collected locally come from two sources. It could be argued that they are all the same, but they are not because the distinction is made in terms of capital expenditures.

First of all, there are those local revenues that come from the members of the first nation, and then there are those revenues that come from those who are not members of the first nation, and these are separate. As for the capital expenditures with the money that is collected from the first nation, if the capital expenditure exceeds $500,000 it requires a special meeting and a referendum in order for that proposed expenditure to go through.

When it comes to the capital expenditure of moneys that are collected from non-first nation members, then the $500,000 cap does not exist. In fact, there is no cap. This is why the advisory council becomes so very significant. Admittedly the advisory council has no direct input; it has an advisory function only. The Westbank law should, and must in my opinion, clearly identify what the relationship will be between the advisory council and non-members. The bulk of this local revenue will come from non-first nation members. Therefore, it is really important that these people be consulted and have significant input into the decisions that affect them directly.

My concern here is not so much that they have a vote on the council. The significance here is that there must be realistic and reasonable democratic participation and representation. That becomes the issue. It is going to be a real challenge for the Westbank First Nation to develop this law so that in fact there can be reasonable democratic representation.

I would suggest, then, that it is a fact that there are some very significant omissions which need to be brought to our attention and developed before we agree to this bill in its entirety. Once again, I want to repeat that the opposition here is not to the functioning of or the operation of or the work that has been done by the Westbank First Nation. Rather, it is to criticize this particular bill from two perspectives. Number one, it is being pushed with undue haste, I think, and I do not know why that is the case. The other perspective is that it is not complete enough in order for us to have confidence that it can in fact form the template for future self-government agreements that might be modelled after this one. That is my concern.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


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

Mr. Speaker, I want to try to clarify the member's concerns and have a good discussion. I want to make sure we have them clear, because they are very technical. It is good that he has brought them up because we have not really discussed any of this today. It is a good point.

First, of course, I have to disagree with his comments about haste. I think we have been in negotiations for 10 years now and, as I mentioned, we have had 400 consultations, so I do not consider this hasty.

On the committee and once the law is put in place, the member mentioned some good elements that were in the draft, which is great, mentioning that the concerns would be taken care of if that draft goes through. The point of the item he read out, which is clause 54(d) of the agreement, is that once it is enacted, in place and effective, it cannot be changed--and he said this is an admirable clause, which is good--without the consent of the non-aboriginal people. That is as good at solidifying it as if it were in the agreement itself.

Under this system, they certainly have far more representation than they did before the agreement. As we know, and as I mentioned in my speech, before the agreement, and probably because of the competence of the Westbank First Nation, those 7,500 or so people and 200 businesses have chosen to locate there. They have chosen to do so because of the good governance there.

Originally there was no representation, although they have the advisory council. I think we have to take this in good faith because of that experience. The advisory council has had 43 meetings already, so that shows the good faith in its dealings with non-aboriginal people. Of course, the first nation needs them too. It is a great partnership. I think we have to take in good faith that it will continue in good faith, and of course once that law is in place it cannot be changed without the non-aboriginal people saying that, even if they get a council they disagree with.

I wonder if the member could comment on that particular provision and protection for his concern.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, yes, I think the fact is very commendatory. The hon. member raises clause 54(d) and I agree with his observations completely. The difficulty lies not there; the difficulty lies in the initial election of the members of the advisory committee. That is where the issue is, not with clause 54(d). That is fine; it is just the initial stages before that where there is a difficulty.

As for the other part on the advisory council, there is an advisory council operating now and it has been reasonably successful although there is a lot of argument about whether it actually has been reasonable representation. That is because of the appointment process. I think the suggestion being made is that if this actually becomes law--and I have no reason to believe that it will not, but if it does we have to depend on that--it divides the area into five sectors. It is proposed, I think, that each of those sectors would elect a particular person.

However, the key thing here is “elect” rather than “appoint”. I think the election is contained within the law. If the law happens and actually does say “elect”, then it cannot be changed. I think that is a very good provision, but we do not have it in place now. That is my concern. It should be in place now.

There is another observation I would like to make. I have a copy here of the constitution that is subsequent to the agreement and I have the agreement. The agreement is a considerably smaller document than the constitution that follows as a result of the provisions of the agreement. On this, I want to commend the people in that some really good work has been going on here. That part is good, but what I would suggest is that the same kind of credibility ought to obtain to this law of appointing the Westbank council. That is my issue.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, to continue, I think I probably would agree with the member's concern if we were working in a total vacuum. Of course once the law is in place, if it covers what he would like, then there is no problem, because it cannot be changed. But I think if we take in the context that this law is being developed in full consultation with the non-members, with the advisory council and the first nation, the law will probably reflect what the member wants but more importantly it will reflect what the non-aboriginal people in the area want.

Now if it were to go off the rails for some reason, if there were a bad influence that got in there, that law could still be challenged under the charter. It has to be charter proof and safe, so there can still be challenges. Of course anything else in this agreement can be challenged in court. There is protection for everyone in that respect, so I will beg the member's indulgence.

Because of the cooperative system that is in place, because the non-aboriginal people are designing this law, and because once in place it cannot be changed, this sort of liberal and flexible component allows them to come up with the best method of election and best provisions--in this case when they have such a good working relationship--and may lead to a creative process that the member would be happy with.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have no difficulties with the present context. I would like to assure the House that this is not the issue here. The issue is that we are not dealing only with the present. We are dealing with the future as well.

I am sure the hon. member is going to say immediately that this is exactly why clause 54(d) is here. That is quite right, but there has to be a good starting point and it is the assurance of a positive, solid starting point that I want to emphasize.

I have done it twice already and I will do it again. I believe that the current first nation council has excellent intentions here and they probably will do the right thing. I certainly hope so. But if we are going to pass legislation here saying, “I hope they will”, that is not good enough.

The constitution is clear and the agreement is clear as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. This is a very critical part, because this represents roughly 93% of the people living on Westbank lands. We cannot just gloss this over and say it does not matter. I think it matters a lot.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, maybe we will ponder this more. I think that if the member looks at my arguments and looks at how it has worked so far, he may have more assurances, but let us go on to another area that the member raised, that of the charter.

A member raised a point about the charter, in that a statement saying “not less than the provisions of the charter” was made, and members were worried about that statement. All I will say about that in clarification is that this actually was put in there not to have less provisions than the charter to protect people, but to have more.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

An hon. member

That was in the Tlicho bill.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Oh, that was in the Tlicho bill. The charter and human rights apply to everyone. There is no problem there.

I would just like the member to give one last comment on the third order of government problem that he has. It is quite clear and has been decided by the Supreme Court of Canada that although we have government to government to government relationships as far as operational types of relationships, the Constitution still has only two orders of government, and this does not create a third. This is operational and because it can be changed any time by the federal government, it is not permanently giving up any powers.