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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.

Topics

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

They can heckle all they want, but I do not, and that was not a canned speech.

Second, he is asking me a question of the government. I do not speak for the government. He might want to pose that question in question period tomorrow, but I do not speak on behalf of the government.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member. I think he could speak with quite distinct experience from his own constituency in his community. Within the provisions of the Westbank self-government act, there are opportunities for additions to reserves and the willingness that the first nations of Westbank would ascertain their property under the definition of Indian lands under the Indian Act.

There is a history within the Chippewas of Sarnia of an example that land set aside for the Chippewas of Sarnia was put under the War Measures Act as opposed to the Indian Act and the end result was that they lost that land.

I think there is very huge hesitancy and uncertainty within the Westbank first nation, and also other nations throughout Canada. They want to preserve a lot of this land under reserve definition because of this specific experience. Maybe the hon. member can share the history of the Chippewas of Sarnia and their land deals.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, part of the premise of the question is incorrect because there have never been any lands taken from the reserve properties of the Chippewas of Sarnia under the War Measures Act.

In fact, there was property taken from the Stony Point reserve, which lies some 50 miles roughly north of the City of Sarnia on Lake Huron. That property was taken under the War Measures Act in or about 1940. The people of the Stony Point reserve were displaced under certain provisions that are some 64 years old now and were moved to another reserve in the neighbourhood, if I can put it in that sense, and I do not intend to be flippant about it. They were moved to another reserve that was also on Lake Huron. That has been a flashpoint in that community because it was imposed historically under the guise of the exigencies of the second world war.

Even today there are problems because of the complexities of land around reserves. In fact, because the property was held under the War Measures Act by, I believe, the Department of National Defence, the end result is that it has yet to be deemed to be band lands or aboriginal lands, notwithstanding the fact that about nine years ago it was agreed that this should be the case.

These things are very complex. That is why I think in a case such as this where there is local autonomy away from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, it does not mean that it is perfect, and it does not mean that all is well and good, but at least the decision making is going to be made locally.

The Sarnia reserve which was surveyed in 1818 has a history of, over the years, selling off lands on occasion to the abutting petrochemical business which came in a large measure to Sarnia during the second world war. That, I know, is a matter of regret. I know that the Chippewas or the Aamjiwnaang of Sarnia are attempting to acquire surplus lands which was sold to companies such as Imperial Oil a number of years ago and return them to band status.

The great asset in terms of the Sarnia reserve is that it has an industrial park that has done very well because it is managed by the local band. The end result is that there is a lot of employment created on the reserve, both for first nations and off-reserve people.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Canadian Alliance Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government wants to prolong the debate. I would like to ask a real question. I understand my friend opposite is a lawyer when he is not in the House, so I think this question should have particular appeal to him.

The agreement declares that the Westbank government has an inherent aboriginal right under section 35 of the Constitution. If the Westbank government operates on the basis of an aboriginal right, my contention is that its action will be shielded by section 25 from charter challenge. Would the member care to comment on that?

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for that very good question. I have heard a lot of people in the House today, on both sides I believe, talking about how the Charter of Rights and the Constitution will apply on this property, under the auspices of this.

I also heard the member from Okanagan read section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982 which defines what the Constitution is and says that the Constitution is in fact the supreme law of Canada, although I do not have it in front of me.

I think the question that is being asked is on section 35, and whether in fact it gets them sideways out of this. It is tough to discuss the specific sections when they are not in front of me. However, that is what I would call the first nations clause in the Constitution. There will be a lot of arguments because there are many who think that the Charter of Rights is in fact the Constitution. That is a preposterous claim that is often made in this place by many people.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Canadian Alliance Delta—South Richmond, BC

I asked a question, answer it.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

I am getting to it. The question, as I understand it, is whether the Constitution will apply to it, or if this section 35, which I believe is what the member referred to, in fact will walk them out of it. These are all questions about which the legal profession loves to hear. These are all questions that create an industry, but I will say this. The matter to which the questioner refers has never been before the court to my knowledge, and I do not say that is correct.

What I am saying is that all provisions of the Constitution apply on this land, and if the member thinks that one particular part of one constitutional document, that is to say, one clause of one constitutional document will override everything else, then I am afraid he is wrong.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to speak in favour of Bill C-11. In large part we have heard the debate take place and opposition members not rising. The bill is worthy of being discussed. We need dialogue on the Westbank situation not only in this chamber but throughout Canada.

This region of the country, as I mentioned in previous debates, is unsettled territories. These are treaty lands that the entire country has negotiated for the territory to become a country as a Canadian crown, or what we call crown lands. However, in this region the treaty process has not been complete. The treaty process would need partnership between the province, the federal government and the first nations themselves. We hope that process will come to its conclusion in the very near future.

My colleague who spoke previously mentioned that this was a self-government deal that was needed now so the community could have the law-making powers on education and culture, finances, land use policies, land lease policies and on resource development within their lands.

This self-government deal is an opportunity for Canada to look into other opportunities. There are many other arrangements, as we experienced yesterday with Bill C-31 and the Tlicho in Treaty No. 11. This is another self-government agreement within the treaty boundaries of an existing treaty. However, this is a self-government deal without a treaty. It is an historical point in our country to reach out to these first nations that wish to seek a better administrative structure and a better decision making structure away from the Indian Act.

I welcome any opposition to speak against this. This is the time and place to debate it, not collapse the debate. Let us hear it out. Let us find out what the opposition is.

This also is an opportunity to look at statements that have been made by some individuals who were opposed to the bill. They talked about taxpayers' rights and representation. I believe the country should have citizens' rights.

Many of our young people may not be deemed or labelled taxpayers. What rights do they have? Is it the level of taxes people pay that measures how much influence they have? I dare say that is a totally wrong definition of democracy and not what the world should be looking at. Democracy should be based on the rights of citizens. We are all Canadians. All Canadians should have a right in the House of Commons, not only the tax paying public. This is an opportunity for us to have this type of a debate in the House.

I also think it is an opportunity for young people who may not be taxpayers because they are unemployed. They may be people in hard times. They may not be contributing toward taxes because they have been unable to afford property and then pay property taxes.

There is a whole different realm and reality in Canada that should be taken into context as a true nation.

When the debate comes as a taxpayers' federation dialogue or mantra or lobby, that is the wrong perspective of democracy. Democracy should be based on equal citizens no matter where we are. The original nations presided on this land way before any crown or any other European country discovered the new land called North American or Turtle Island, as it is perceived in our stories.

The whole story of the self-government deal in the Westbank First Nation is an historical time to reflect on Canada's history and its future. It has been deemed that there were two founding nations of France and England which came to terms to create a country. I say the treaties that came into being created this country.

There were original treaties with the French nation. There were original treaties with the English nation. They knew that to ascertain this territory, they had to make agreements, sacred accords with the original nations. They were the keepers of this land. They were the true owners of this land.

I dare say the definition of ownership because, in large part, it is our belief that this land was a responsibility for us, not a right. To exercise that responsibility, here is a self-government model where these people will be electing their leaders. There will be 7,000 or 8,000 non-members of the Westbank First Nation living among them.

There will be laws and provisions to help guide them in their decisions for the future. The House should be making provisions for the first nations or the original nations to be part of the decision making of Parliament. That is why I speak about a third house of Parliament where the real first nations, the original nations of this land, not the band councils as defined by purview of the Indian Act. would sit. I am speaking of the Okanagan Nation, the Cree Nation, the Mohawk Nation, the Wyandot Nation, the Haida Nation. All these nations are missing today in 2004. They are not being respected or properly recognized.

I think the indigenous decade is coming to a close. Canada has an opportunity to pay respect to this, as my region did in Treaty No. 6 and Treaty No. 10. They celebrate their treaty every year when a day is set aside as treaty day. Canadians should be celebrating the existence of the treaty in our country, like we celebrate Canada Day. The country was created by a peace and friendship treaty.

Today we have a very renowned visitor, the Dalai Lama, within the realms of the House. He has been spreading the word of peace and friendship throughout the world. I think he celebrates and feels the peace and friendship on which Canada was founded. I think he feels at home here because we have the peace and friendship initiatives of our nations. They want to live among us. There is no need to fight. There is no need for opposition. There is a need for consensus and a need to find ways to live among one another.

I always coin it as a river of nations. We are here from all corners of the world, as well as the original nations. We have to find ways to live together as one nation, as one country. This is an opportunity where the people of the Westbank First Nation can be given the self-government tools and means to make their own decisions on issues such as finances, culture, education, social well-being and the future of their children, and to find a place within the community of Kelowna, within the province of British Columbia and within this nation of Canada.

Let them speak for themselves. Let them express themselves on the world view, with the gifts that they have as an Okanagan nation. Let them express themselves in their language, in the way they have been brought up. There are harsh realities within that parched, semi-desert region. However, there is also the beautiful aspect of orchards, the river and the sacred responsibility to life that will continue in the future. All this comes into play.

This is a time for Canada to debate this, to share this world view of our country. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this. I commend the leaders of the Westbank who have brought this forward. I commend the democratic process that they have chosen. It is not perfect. There is no perfect democracy that we can find as an example in this world right now. We are trying to push democracy in other regions of the world, the war conflict countries of this world. Maybe through the self-government practices of the original nations of Canada, they will start practising the original governance models.

As we live in Ottawa, there is the Algonquin nation to the south, from where the hon. Speaker comes. The original six nations of the Iroquois confederacy live within the Great Lakes. We should let the original governance structures be practised. Let them be celebrated. Let them make their mistakes. If mistakes are made, they will correct them. However, these models of governance may some day transform the House into a new governance model.

Maybe some day the Westbank experience will bring forth an enlightenment to the legislature in British Columbia to change its governing structure within British Columbia. Maybe their governance structure or governance model might supercede what the Kelowna mayor and council are practising right now under the municipal governments of Kelowna.

Those governments may have the perfect opportunity of a well-described democratic community governance. Maybe Kelowna will adopt these models of governance. Maybe the model of governance by the central Okanagan regional district that surrounds the communities is imperfect. Maybe the people of the Westbank First Nation will be practising a governance model that will improve all our lives.

We all must have faith that these people will make their decisions appropriately for their people and that they will incorporate their decisions with the people who will live among them. This self-government agreement is certainly a vehicle that they wanted and one for which they have strived. We must allow them that.

This is a democratic country. They have democratically spoken with their voices. I believe the true nature of the original making of this country, a peace and friendship country under treaty, was through our sharing and teachings of the two row wampum, where the vessel of the original peoples was bound together with the vessel of the newcomers.

This self-government model is their vessel. We must allow them this journey of life, this river of life, with the vessels in unison with the municipal, provincial and federal governments. We may eventually have three orders of government that will parallel what we call our three orders of government: federal, provincial and municipal. Maybe they will have a national, tribal or first nation community band level government.

This is an opportunity for them to practise and show us their ways but without example how can we judge? Let them show us by example.

I challenge the members of the House, if there are any conflicts or arguments they have on the self-government deal, to please express them in the House and allow other Canadians to digest a different perspective.

Here is an opportunity to allow a first nation, which has duly negotiated through the proper processes under the government's policy of self-government, under the auspices of section 35 of the Constitution, the inherent right to self-government, the opportunity in a modern context to govern themselves in the ways they wish.

At the same time, those ways of governance are not in any way to be judged lesser or greater but maybe a sharing of those forms of governance might transform our country into a better and greater place where more people of the world, as they discover our bountiful gifts, our resources and water, may also discover Canada has bountiful gifts of knowledge and that knowledge is carried by the original nations.

Those original nations have a great responsibility and great respect that this can be carried and nurtured by them, not to be given away to somebody in their caring, that they can find their way under an Indian agent away from the Indian Act, that they can bring that responsibility home.

This is what the Westbank First Nation is all about. It is an exercise of its right to govern itself. It is an exercise of international respect of an original nation within the boundaries of a country to exercise, in its language and its world view, a way of governance that may some day influence our system of governance, as imperfect as this House is and as imperfect as the provincial houses are.

Maybe allowing these first nations to govern themselves under these structures, under their laws and their ways, is a way for Canada to mature into the truly beautiful nation that was envisioned between the original founders, the crown and the French nation that came in. It is a river of nations and a nation of rivers.

This is their opportunity and we must allow them. I beg all my members to support the bill and give these people a proud place in this corner of Canada in a beautiful part of British Columbia. Allow them to exercise their way of governance as they have negotiated. Allow them to make the changes that they will make into the future and allow them to seek assurances and certainty through the treaty-making process that they are continuing to strive for, that the treaty process will take precedence very soon. I hope it takes formality and finalization in all of British Columbia.

The nation must rest assured that we can live among each other and that it is no longer a battle of us and them. Let us come together as one nation.

I will conclude my speech by saying that this is one time that I can beg for the support of all the members. Allow the Westbank First Nation to seek its way of governance by passing the bill into law.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this time to commend the aboriginal members of our caucus. It is tremendous to have three aboriginal members to give us different perspectives on items that people would not otherwise think of, coming from different backgrounds, and perhaps open our eyes on some of these new concepts.

In particular, I would like to congratulate the member who just spoke. I know his time in the House is coming to an end. He has been a tremendous asset for our party in many of the behind-door meetings I have had. He has been a champion of aboriginal initiatives and has fought hard behind closed doors to get some very interesting and creative ideas forward.

I would like to ask him to comment on three concerns that were raised this morning. As this is a permanent record, I am sure that everyone wants to make sure the record is accurate both for the concerns that were raised, which were good, and the answers to those concerns. I wonder if the member could talk about the concept of the third order of government.

Someone suggested that this would create a third order of government, which it would not, technically or constitutionally. What it would do, operationally, is allow people to govern their own snow shoveling, culture, land, water and sewage services, and those types of things. I would like him to speak to the comment that was made earlier that we should not be creating a third level of government, which of course I do not agree with.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, as far as I know, there are three levels of government in Canada: federal, provincial and municipal. When the treaty-making process took place and the British crown, after ascertaining its rights to enter into treaty because of the treaties it already had with France, entered into these treaties, those differences were settled. However I think the British crown was remiss in that it did not respect the nations, the tribes and the communities, the bands.

Putting it into perspective, the original nations had their levels of government as well, their levels of confederacies among nations. They had land use agreements and transportation through the river systems agreements among the different regions of the country. Those nations were involved and they had agreements. They had Wampum belts. There is oral history and significant history that documents all of this.

With respect to the third order of government, which is the substance of the debate, we already have a third order of government and it is the municipal level. The federal government transfers powers to the provinces which in turn transfers powers to the municipalities. Within the band councils, under the Indian Act, powers were transferred directly from the federal government.

There are 630 Indian bands across the country. What about their tribes and their nations? That is what I am bringing forward to this House. What about the tribes and nations as governing bodies? Why are they not recognized in modern day Canada?

The Okanagan nation is a nation in and of itself. Westbank is a part of the Okanagan nation but Canada does not recognize the Okanagan nation. These nations have to practise in their own ways. Through that practice and that recognition there will be a greater magic taking place in this country. There will be greater responsibility because some of those gifts of governance, some of those gifts of wisdom and intellectual property have to be protected by the nations themselves, not as the generic term of first nations.

The Okanagan have their own language and their own inherent rights and properties. They carry their own medicine and their own knowledge of the land and animals that are within their region. There is traditional knowledge but it is based on each a nation and it is locked in their language.

The Dene cannot carry the knowledge of the Okanagan. The Okanagan do not carry the knowledge of the Mohawk. The Mohawk do not carry the knowledge of the Cree. We should allow these nations to come and celebrate their knowledge. We should allow them to express themselves in their way. Canada would be a greater nation by sharing this openness, this generosity, these Canadian principles and values. Why can we not share this openness? Why are we shy? Why are we unsure of opening our arms and allowing us to come together as one nation?

That as why I deem our country as a river of nations. No matter where we are, we should be proud of our ancestors. The strength of our ancestors will make our nation strong. We must be one nation. We must flow as one like the river.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Western Arctic Northwest Territories

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, today I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-11, the Westbank First Nation self-government act.

I want to begin by offering my congratulations to the Westbank First Nation people who have worked for so many years to arrive at this very practical and workable agreement.

In a very broad sense, in response to the candid language in the Speech from the Throne, the government's objective is to close the socio-economic gap that exists between aboriginal people and other Canadians.

I must say that this has been a banner week for aboriginal people, starting with the round table where all aboriginal peoples' leaders or representatives participated in a round table that dealt with education, health, social development, political leadership and moving the agenda forward for aboriginal people in general. It also included women and all the representative groups, as I mentioned.

We have also brought forward Bill C-31, the Tlicho agreement, which is an agreement for the Dogrib people of the Northwest Territories, 3,000 people who have achieved their claim. The agreement embeds self-government within the body of the claim. It is the first time that this has ever happened, and it has many other features as well. Before that, we introduced the Westbank self-government act, which I think is very comprehensive and very complementary to the objectives we have in working with aboriginal people.

This is the direction in which we want to go. We do not guide ourselves by the words of other people who have their own academically inclined opinions or biases. This is government policy we are dealing with. This is very deliberate and very intentional. This is something we mean to do and this is something that we, with the aboriginal people, mean to implement.

As a country we see too often what the Speech from the Throne called “shameful” conditions faced by too many aboriginal people in this country. This situation is not something over there or removed from our experience as Canadians. It is something within the fabric, may I say, of the family of Canada. When I say that the situation faced by aboriginal people is not something removed or distant, I mean that the situation is one that touches all of us. We all share a responsibility.

As part of our response, we need to change our perceptions and approaches.

I am going into my 17th year as a member of Parliament and always have been part of a committee, either in cabinet or as an ordinary member, on the Constitution and whatever front there was to advance the aboriginal agenda. I take a great deal of pride in that. I meant to do that and I have done that with so many of my colleagues on all sides of the House over the years.

I know that we need to take a collaborative approach with first nations people and Inuit and work in partnership on shared goals. We also need to change our thinking that the answers to longstanding issues will be found exclusively in Ottawa or in a provincial or territorial capital. That is not the case. Rather, we need to come together. Governments, parliamentarians, aboriginal people and others need to come together in common cause to find solutions to what we agree are unacceptable conditions. Speaking on the bill before the House today I think gives clarity to the fact that we have come together as individuals to share our views on this. We are not necessarily of the same mind in terms of policy, but we all have opinions on where we should go.

I am convinced that enacting this self-government agreement will benefit not only members of the first nations but also the people of Canada overall. Strong, self-reliant first nations have much to contribute to Canada, economically, socially and culturally.

When a community undertakes a self-government agreement or finishes a claim, there are many beneficiaries. Many of them do not belong to those groups or those nations. There is a shared prosperity in the completion of claims and in the arrangements that aboriginal people make for themselves.

This agreement gives Westbank leaders the tools they need to develop their community. It will enable the Westbank First Nation to create government structures that are both effective and representative.

It will foster economic growth in the community by helping local entrepreneurs continue to attract investors and business partners.

Close scrutiny of the self-government agreement reveals how it will foster accountability and self-reliance for the Westbank First Nation. Under the terms of this agreement, key decisions will be made by the people most familiar with and most affected by local issues. I am convinced that this will lead to further improvements in housing. There is a huge housing crunch, a fact that was brought forward on Monday by aboriginal leaders, and it has been brought up successively. It is a major challenge.

What is the best approach to this? Obviously the best way is partnership and collaboration. Involving aboriginal people in the design and the implementation of any policy or any major project is the only way that we will be able to resolve this issue. I am convinced that it will lead to improvements in employment and in the quality of life in general for aboriginal people.

Westbank is confident that these improvements are best accomplished by governing themselves with a representative and effective government capable of exercising law making authority and assuming new responsibilities.

There are those who have concerns within the context of this discussion about how all people within Westbank will be represented. Let us look at the section that talks about the self-government agreement gender issues. The Westbank First Nation self-government agreement negotiating team received direction from a committee composed of Westbank members and elders, et cetera, of whom approximately 70% were women. The committee, acting at arm's length from the chief and council, also provided direct input into the development of the Westbank First Nation constitution.

The Westbank First Nation has been cognizant of gender related issues and the importance of having them addressed in the negotiation process. The Westbank First Nation sought the representation of women in key aspects of the decision making process. Their input in both the negotiations and the development of the Westbank First Nation constitution has been sufficient to ensure that gender issues have been considered.

The broader Westbank First Nation membership, including those off reserve, has also had the opportunity to raise gender related issues throughout the negotiation process. Perhaps it is because their experiences have been a bit coloured by things that may have happened in the past.

Public information sessions, town hall meetings and direct mail-outs to homes and businesses formed part of an intensive information campaign. I think that this is really important. Westbank First Nation has in the past been a focal point for gender issues. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled on a case. I think the leadership, in its vision and in its direction, has taken the direction of those people and has been visionary in accepting and designing a process that would include those issues. Most of all, I am convinced that this self-government agreement will lead in dealing with sensitive issues such as that.

Westbank is confident that these improvements are best accomplished by governing themselves, including all people, and having an effective government capable of exercising law making authority and assuming new responsibilities.

Provisions were made for municipalities that are very much like those that were made here, but there are those who would say that the Westbank people are getting preferential treatment. That is not so. Treating everybody the same does not spell equality. It spells sameness, not equality. Sometimes we have to take extra measures to ensure that equality is reached because people are at different levels.

The bill now before the House would help to establish precisely this kind of government through enactment of this agreement. The Westbank First Nation would become self-governing, assuming jurisdiction over and responsibility for its own affairs.

Not only are our policies our own, but our policies are designed to empower people, not to weaken them, to empower them and make them a force that can be self-sustainable economically, socially, culturally and politically. That is the goal of every community across this country.

Let us look at the association of municipalities. The goal of the municipalities is to take more power, apply it locally and make it work for themselves. Why should it be different for Westbank? Westbank should have the same opportunity to be self-sustaining, to be economically viable, and to assume political responsibility.

In short, Westbank will establish and maintain a democratic government within the constitutional framework of Canada. People should hear those words: “within the constitutional framework of Canada”. This government will respect Canadian law and recognize that all members of the first nation, like Canadians everywhere, are subject to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In order to foster better relations with non-member residents on Westbank lands, Westbank First Nation will create a mechanism to ensure that non-member residents can have input into laws that affect them directly. This marks a significant improvement over the Indian Act situation. This is no different from the way aboriginal people have traditionally welcomed outsiders to their lands, the way they welcomed the first Europeans to join them in this country. There is no difference. This is an accommodation of the same kind in another era.

Under this self-government agreement, the first nation will have a range of powers. Eventually the first nation will enact laws in areas such as land and resource management and aboriginal language and culture. This is so important: we are our culture and we are our language. I speak my own language. I am not from Westbank, but I admire those people. In fact I almost killed myself getting over here when I was in my office and the time had almost expired and I thought I would not lose another opportunity to speak on a bill that affects aboriginal people. It really goes to show I would do almost anything for the people of Westbank. I made it here but I am actually a bit out of breath.

I want people to know about these priorities. To have jurisdiction over and responsibility for managing land and resources is huge. It is empowering. That is the way it should be. If we do not deprive people of their language and culture but instead enhance them and preserve them, that is an even better thing. It is especially good for the children, and for the elders and of course everyone else too, but I think of it that way because I was a teacher in a previous incarnation.

It is in these areas that a key feature of the agreement lies. With these new powers, Westbank assumes control of its resources. The first nation powers under the agreement include the right to grant interests and licences on its land. This is a good thing. My grandparents and I lived on a piece of land that became Norman Wells. Imperial Oil had resources there for over 75 years. My family never benefited from that. My family lost its property to those companies. We still live in the vicinity but our families were moved. We were never compensated, and that is fine, but it should not be that way. It should not happen that way. It does not happen that way with farmers, and if it does, it should not. It should not happen to anyone.

Under the agreement, the community gains the freedom to establish partnerships and conduct business according to its own needs while at the same time respecting the interests that already exist. Westbank First Nation already has demonstrated that it knows how to manage its affairs responsibly and profitably. After all, this is one of the most prosperous and successful aboriginal communities in Canada, and one of the most beautiful, I must say.

Westbank of course is blessed with a spectacular natural beauty, located as it is on the shores of Lake Okanagan adjacent to the city of Kelowna. The first nation is ideally situated to benefit from the region's booming economy and Westbank has made the most of these advantages. It is a tourist's dream. It is a place where tourism and ecotourism should bloom and prosper.

The first nation and its members have opened lands to development, making the first nation a busy land manager. Today, Westbank's commercial district features a number of shopping centres that generate substantial rental income and provide job opportunities for band members.

Westbank has established a reputation as a fair land manager, a trustworthy partner and a reliable neighbour. People have nothing to fear from this agreement. We should not be fearmongering. We should not create paranoia where there is none, where there is a willingness to include, where there is a willingness to engender a good relationship and partnership. People should not work at making it something negative and to be paranoid about.

What is perhaps most striking about Westbank's success is that much of it was accomplished under the limitations of the Indian Act. Now the first nation wants to establish a new relationship with the people of Canada, a more equitable relationship that will enable Westbank to realize its full potential.

The people of Westbank are clearly ready to fulfill their obligations. They have been working toward this agreement for more than a decade. They have staged more than 400 information and consultation sessions. They have secured the support of the municipal and regional governments, chamber of commerce, labour unions and a broad range of special interest groups whose concerns and goals are closely linked to those of the first nation itself.

Westbank also drafted and approved a constitution that sets out governing structures, assigns duties and clarifies band memberships. I am convinced that the community consultation process that produced Westbank's constitution will lead to stronger, more effective self-government. Community leaders, after all, participated in every phase of the constitution developed and will contribute to its institutions.

The constitution and the self-government agreement will also establish a valuable reference point for treaty negotiations between the governments of Westbank, Canada and British Columbia. Of course we all know that B.C. has one of the most complex set of arrangements, or in some cases lack of arrangements, that exacerbates the situation.

Enacting the Westbank agreement would certainly have a positive impact outside the province. Although it is British Columbia's third self-government agreement and the 17th in Canada, it is the first stand-alone self-government agreement under Canada's inherent right policy. This is an important milestone. The agreement demonstrates that the Government of Canada can work with first nations to arrive at agreements tailored to the specific needs of a community.

I want to say that I will do my share, my utmost to make sure that a decade's worth of hard work will not be in vain, for we are entrusted with the aspirations of these people. We are entrusted with their goals and dreams. It is not that they want to work against Canada; they want to be and work with Canada.

Today I ask the members of the House for their support in providing the tools needed to build the community envisioned by the Westbank First Nation. Clearly the progress Westbank has already made on governance has put the community on a path toward self-reliance and prosperity.

I have to refer to the documents. There is a section for almost everything in this agreement. One section talks about protection of other Okanagan first nations and non-members. It is a very accommodating document. It talks about Westbank government, the application of laws, agriculture, self-government agreement within the Canadian legal context, gender issues. It also talks about government to government relationships. It talks about culture and language, education, environment, health services, lands and land management, licensing regulation and operation of business. It talks about membership in Westbank First Nation. It talks about public order, peace and safety, prohibitions of intoxicants, public works, community infrastructure and local services resource management, traffic and transportation, wills and estates, enforcement of Westbank First Nation law, financial arrangements, financial management, and implementation of the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement.

This will not be done on an ad hoc basis. This is systematic. This is planned. This is deliberate. This is an awesome document. This is an attempt by a people to be what they should be: equal with the rest of Canadians and have the opportunity to be self-sustaining and prosperous. We should all support this document.

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4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Sherbrooke, The Environment.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I noted with some interest that the member said that she was asking for the support of the House. I think she would know that in the vote last evening indeed there was overwhelming support for this bill.

Therefore, could she help me understand if there is some kind of strategy that her government is presently undertaking with respect to this debate that perhaps she could enlighten us on? I do not know if it is correct or not, but I should mention that I believe we have some people even in this chamber who are watching us who are very interested in seeing this bill go ahead.

What we find perplexing is that in spite of the overwhelming support of the House for this bill, the fact that there is very limited opposition and indeed any of those issues have been fully vented in the course of this debate, that the government continues to filibuster its own bill. We are rather confused about that, particularly when I for one happen to agree with the member that we should be getting on with the business of the House.

Would it have anything to do with the fact that the Prime Minister and the government are not prepared to govern at this particular point? For example, let us look at the other bills that will immediately follow this bill should debate collapse. Bill C-10, the marijuana bill, is at third reading, which means that we could have a debate on that and get that through. Bill C-11, the Westbank bill, certainly is one that we could dispose of right now. Bill C-12, child protection, is a bill that is at third reading and could be disposed of fairly quickly. Bill C-15 concerns the transfer of offenders.

The House is trying to get these bills through. Indeed in ordinary procedure one would have the opposition trying to stop things, or the opposition trying to bring forward particular points of view, which is just fine. That is what the parliamentary process is about.

Considering that the Liberals' legislative cupboard is completely bare as a result of the Prime Minister having no idea of where he wants to take Canada, is that the reason, in the judgment of the member, she herself, unimaginably, would actually be part of the filibuster of this very important bill that the people of Westbank want to go ahead?

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I sat here the other day and I am still stinging from the venting of the said members, some of whom are not here. I sat through every word of the umbrage they took to the general intent. There is a member standing in the House who was also speaking to this bill.

I sat there as a first nations person and took that garbage from them on this well-intended document. They used the charter against aboriginal people. They tried to use the charter. Obviously most of them have not read the document. I have read it. I have looked at it. Had they read it, they would not have made the comments they made the other day. It was an insult to every member in the House.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Why is it being held up? Get going.

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

The member from the NDP and I stood up and we were both talking about representation.

This government has no lack of work to do. We are also doing Bill C-31, the bill for the Tlicho self-government agreement. I visited the members opposite weeks ago to ask for unanimous consent to put that bill through. They would not give it.

I do not want to hear this from those members. That is fallacious. That is false. Those members are playing games and they know it. I spoke to a member and that member told me they would not do it. She said, “This is politics”. Those were the words of the member.

I went to beg with them and the Tlicho people sat in the gallery and watched as I tried to negotiate with them. They said no, they would not do it. Those members need not talk to me about filibustering because I know. I went there in earnest. I would not say this without having tried.

On the Prime Minister's performance, the Prime Minister has put the government in a situation where we have no deficit. We have paid down the debt. We have implemented a number of bills far in excess of what was done before at this point in time.

I cannot believe that members of the opposition would be saying the things they are saying when I listened to every speech here the other day on the Westbank agreement.

Chief Robert Louie sat in the gallery and listened to that garbage. We are lucky that those leaders have the vision they have because this is what they have to put up with. This is not the real--

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4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It seems to me that we have to keep our debate level civil here and that is simply not happening when we are talking about garbage from members of Parliament. That is not in order. I would think that the member should stay away from that kind of comment.

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4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Quite respectfully, the point of order was more of a point of debate. Certainly it is always appreciated by the House when members want to remind other members to conduct their affairs in a parliamentary fashion. Has the minister of state concluded her remarks and if not, I will give her the floor.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit animated, but I am passionate about my people. I do believe they have a role in Canada that the member does not recognize. The member does not recognize that these people should be self-governing.

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4:35 p.m.

An hon. member

I do.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Then get up and say that. The member should get up and say that he believes in what the Westbank people have put forward instead of taking umbrage with every nitpicking detail, as he did the other day.

I sat here and I listened to him the other day. Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, it was not garbage, it was political refuse.

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4:35 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, not only did they nitpick the other day, and I have been kind to them, until this came up. I have been very nice to them. I complimented them on the good move last night by most of their party. The members who are here today put their points forward respectfully and now we get this.

As the member just said, speaker after speaker before Easter were not speaking to these points. They were just delaying it. We could have had this bill through before Easter. It could have been in the Senate now.

We do not want any excuse like this, that we are delaying the bill. Two aboriginal people just spoke. Those members are suggesting that the aboriginal people in the House should not speak to a bill that concerns them and I think that is terrible.

The member brought forward concerns. This is the record, as I said, earlier of the bill. I want to put these on the record and then ask my question of the member, so that the record shows that all the concerns on the bill have been answered.

In relation to section 25 being a right that cannot be overturned, once again the government's position is that this legislation does not convey any specific aboriginal right. Therefore that does not apply. In fact, even if it did in the bill, and this is very esoteric, but there is a specific technical court test that it has to pass and it still would not pass. Therefore that is not a concern.

The only other outstanding concern related to why we are getting rid of the Statutory Instruments Act and that type of protection. The Statutory Instruments Act requires that the deputy minister of justice and the chair of the Privy Council look at the bill again. That is just like the minister of Indian affairs. It is once again paternalistic. It is not allowing for full self-government. To balance it, we put a registry in the bill so there has to be a public registry that performs the same function.

As the House knows, last night I was personally very disappointed on the no vote on a similar bill, the Tlicho bill, by only one party. I will not say which one, we must be positive here. However there was a no vote on the Tlicho bill.

The member is a great champion of aboriginal rights. I want her to explain the advantages of self-government in the Westbank and Tlicho regimes and what this will do.

When we get these answers to the concerns and the first nations perspective on the record, then we are going to pass the bill.

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4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I talk about how accommodating the bill is and they say they have agreed with that. If that is the case, I believe the self-government regimes put forward by the Tlicho bill and this bill are visionary. They are futuristic, they are far reaching.

The bill addresses what the members are always complaining about. They want aboriginal people to be accountable, to be responsible, to assume responsibility for their lives, economically, socially, politically. They ask why people are not doing that. This will allow that. This is an empowering document. This is a tool that will allow it. Bill C-31, the Tlicho bill will do that also. It will give them an opportunity to demonstrate to the member and the rest of the world that it is possible for them to be self-determining.

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4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.