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

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member has just articulated exactly the debate that will continue on the third order of government. It is a matter of interpretation. The interpretation will go one way with one group and another way with another group.

The really significant things for us all to recognize are that the charter is there for all Canadians, that there are special rights given to first nations, and that the Constitution contains all the powers of any government in Canada. I do believe that where there is the right given to first nations to legislate in areas that are constitutionally under the jurisdiction of the federal government or under the provinces, either one, it is ultra vires of the Constitution.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my address, I want to make a couple of comments in preface to what I want to say. The first is that there is much in this agreement that I like. In fact I could quite easily have voted for the bill if the amendment that I had proposed, which unfortunately was not accepted by the Chair, had been accepted. That amendment simply would have removed the reference to inherent right from the agreement and any other impediments to application of the charter and the Canadian Human Rights Act. If that had been accomplished I would not have had difficulty in supporting the bill.

The second point I would like to make very quickly is that this agreement is the first agreement under the government's policy of recognizing the inherent right to self-government. It is a policy that the Liberal Party has maintained for probably close to 20 years. Certainly in 1993 it was part of its policy provisions. Yet that whole notion and the implications of it have never been debated in the House. That is the essence of what I would like to say today.

We all believe that aboriginal Canadians, like other Canadians, must be able to manage their own local government. This is remarkable legislation before us. It is the result of a well-intentioned effort to enlarge the capacity of the Westbank First Nation to govern its own affairs.

However it has gone far beyond the usual model. It incorporates a concept which was turned down by Canadians in the referendum of Charlottetown accord, that is the inherent right of self-government creating a third order of government.

The federal government describes the bill as the model for aboriginal self-government agreements across Canada but what it really creates is a quasi-feudal enclave beyond the reaches of the charter of rights and Parliament.

A few weeks ago the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development admitted a growing problem of protecting the rights of aboriginals living on reserves across the country. He noted that the protections given to aboriginal rights in section 25 of the charter were being used to shield abuse from challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His solution, and apparently the government's solution, was to look the other way.

The minister stated:

We may want to consider self-government instead. Some would argue that this is something for the community to resolve.

Senator Beaudoin, a learned scholar and expert on the Constitution and human rights, disagreed. Senator Beaudoin's response to the minister got to the nub of the problem. He stated:

You say that it is up to the Aboriginals to do this. I do not agree. It is our duty here to do that. There are two orders of government in this country—the federal and the provincial. The Aboriginal people have collective rights, but the power to improve the situation is within the Parliament of Canada and I do not think that we should wait for the existence of a third order of government because the power is with the Senate and the House of Commons.

That is my starting point. This legislation would alter the Canadian Constitution and extinguish charter rights for about 8,000 Canadian citizens living at Westbank which includes about 500 aboriginals and 7,500 non-aboriginals.

Under Canada's Constitution there are two orders of government, the federal and the provincial. Any laws we enact must be compatible with the scheme established in the Constitution that all powers are divided between the federal and provincial legislatures.

Second, that aboriginal government must be clearly subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and no impediment should be put in the way of a citizen's access to the charter, whether they be aboriginal or non-aboriginal.

Do we really make things better by creating aboriginal governments as charter free zones where hundreds and thousands of aboriginal Canadians will have their access to their charter rights placed in doubt? Let me turn to the issue of the third order of government for a moment.

Part IV of the Canadian Constitution is entitled distribution of legislative powers. It divides all legislative authority between the federal and provincial legislatures. Section 91 enumerates the federal powers in 28 sections. Section 24 is legislative powers and responsibilities with regard to Indians and lands reserved for Indians.

In addition to the 28 classes of federal power enumerated, it provides that the federal Parliament shall “make laws for the Peace, Order and Good Government of Canada”. This has been taken to mean that Parliament may legislate in regard to additional matters that have a national or interprovincial dimension.

The powers of the legislatures of the provinces are enumerated in section 92. There are some 16 classes of provincial powers enumerated. It is stated, both in the concluding part of section 91 on federal powers and in section 92, that the province may legislate “generally in all matters of a merely local or private nature”.

Thus, the list of legislative powers are exhausted between the federal and provincial legislatures.

That is not merely my position but the position of justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, such as Willard Estey and William McIntyre; former British Columbia judge, Michael Goldie; Senator Beaudoin; and even Alex Macdonald, the former NDP attorney-general of British Columbia.

There is a way to establish enhanced self-government that is compatible with our Constitution for those aboriginals who desire it. That is the model pioneered at Sechelt. Odd as it may seem, I believe my old nemesis, the Conservative government in 1986, got the Sechelt local government legislation right. It was right to refuse to base local government upon what the Liberal Party then and now call the “inherent right of self-government”.

Indeed, the PC Party position of last fall prior to the merger was right on the issue of Westbank. The PC position was that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms must apply to any local government, that it must be a delegated form of local government, as all local government is in Canada, and, in keeping with our division of powers between the federal and provincial governments, that no third order of government be created.

The Tories got it right and, believe it or not, I am happy to acknowledge it.

We must never lose sight of the constitutional framework bequeathed by the Fathers of Confederation. We must also respect the actual nature of aboriginal communities and their needs. Are we merely empowering a few at the expense of the many with this agreement and agreements such as this?

Aboriginal communities are seldom more than a few hundred people and all are almost always made up of a number of extended families as might be expected. The individuals in these communities are struggling. More than $10 billion is being spent on them by the federal government but these struggling individuals seldom, if ever, get the helping hand they need.

The dirty little secret that we all know but hesitate to say is that much of the $10 billion is eaten up by the chiefs, the councils and their hangers-on, lawyers and consultants. That the chief of a band of a few hundred souls should receive more money than the Prime Minister of Canada is reprehensible and particularly so when their community is wanting. More often than not, the chief and his family control the council and its spending. This bill may well make that situation worse.

What individual Indians want and I believe need are the tools that the rest of us take for granted. Parliament cannot guarantee good local government but we can and should give individual Indians the tools to hold their local government accountable.

The Indians who have spoken to me in the past weeks, and many have been Indian women, believe they have no way to challenge and hold their chief to account. They believe the bill will make matters worse for them. These concerned individuals who have called me are no more interested in collective ownership than medieval peasants were before land reform in Europe a few short centuries ago. They cry out for a government that is transparent and accountable to them. Instead, we here in the House seem intent on throwing them to the wolves.

As members of Parliament we are obliged to deal with three fundamental problems in the bill.

First, Westbank residents, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, would lose the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Second, the bill recognizes and establishes a third order of government based on the inherent right that is incompatible with Canada's constitutional framework.

Third, the bill would eliminate any accountability for the millions of federal tax dollars that the bill requires to be paid to the Westbank government annually.

In addition, the bill does not establish mechanisms to ensure fairness, equity, openness and transparency at the local level, tools that are necessary to empower local residents.

Lastly, the bill would prohibit the 7,500 non-aboriginal Westbank residents from voting or otherwise participating in those aspects of Westbank government that will affect them.

The results of the recent referendum at Westbank suggests that many residents have concerns. I believe those Westbank members want a measure of self-government, but self-government that is subject to federal and provincial law. The alternative scares them, being subject to the rule of local band leaders implementing their own laws before their own tribunals. Opponents of the Westbank agreement say the agreement strips them of basic rights and protections.

Self-government must fit within our Constitution so that the aboriginal people can rest assured that they retain their rights as Canadians and Canada's ongoing unity may be assured.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


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

Mr. Speaker, there was a lot there that would allow us to have a very interesting debate in the time remaining.

First, I do not understand the premise that this would alter the Canadian Constitution or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. After Meech Lake and the Charlottetown accord, people know how difficult it is to change the Constitution. A lot of people would like to make it easier to change but one does not just change the Constitution.

The other reference I do not understand, which all parties have made numerous times, concerns the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The fact is that the charter has applied and will continue to apply equally to those on the Westbank reserve and all across Canada. I do not understand their argument on that and I would like some clarification so I can debate it.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question because it gives me a chance to clarify that issue, and I know it is a contentious issue.

As I stated in my address, section 91 of the Constitution provides the federal government with certain powers and included in those powers is the right to establish some laws governing Indians. Section 92 contains the rights and obligations of the provincial legislatures. Between the two sections, section 91 and section 92, they contain all the legislative authority in Canada. The provincial governments delegate authority to municipal governments. That is a delegated form of government and it is the type of government that I would suggest should be in place for natives.

What government is saying with this policy of inherent right to self-government is that sections 91 and 92 should be ignored and that the authority for this inherent right of self-government flows from section 35 of the Constitution which recognizes inherent aboriginal rights.

Therein lies the nub, because if the authority to self-government flows from section 35, then section 35 is subject to section 25 of the charter, which in fact states that native and aboriginal rights are not subject to the charter. Therefore it acts then as a shield to protect any actions of a native government because its powers and its rights flow from section 35.

Quite simply, the power of a native government to operate flows from section 35. When that happens, that triggers section 25 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is there to protect inherent aboriginal rights. In fact, then it will shield the actions of an aboriginal government from challenges by the charter and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

What is written in the agreement means nothing. What is interesting is that the lawyer for the Indians, in a document that was prepared in response to one that I had prepared, suggested the same.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, section 35 does not trigger section 25. Section 25 applies all across the country. It applies now; nothing changes. The Westbank agreement does not change anything. If there were a problem it would still be there, but there is no problem. Section 25 does not make people immune to the charter. The charter has to be sensitive to certain aboriginal rights.

The member mentioned in his speech that we have to go back to the act of Confederation of 1867 as a base. If we are to go back in history, then what does the member have to say about the royal proclamation of 1763 and the rights that came under it? Do we have to go back to that type of governance? What about before the royal proclamation when there were first nation governments on this continent for thousands of years and quite successful governments from their perspective? What about going back that far?

I do not think we can go back to an arbitrary point in time and say we have to have the number of governments that were specified at that time. Lawyers have already said that this does not create another level of government anyway.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure what the member meant. I am not going back in time when I say there are two orders of government. That is in our Constitution. That is how this country is ruled. As a member of the House he should understand that.

What I am saying quite clearly is that a delegated form of governance that should apply to aboriginals could flow from class 24 of section 91 of the Constitution which gives the federal government responsibility for natives and their lands. That delegated form of government could flow from there as municipal government flows from the provinces.

What the government is saying is that the right for aboriginal government does not flow from either section 91 or section 92, but it is an inherent aboriginal right flowing from section 35 of the Constitution. Section 35 recognizes the existing aboriginal treaty rights of the aboriginal people of Canada.

The right flows from there, and then we go back to section 25. I think the member used the words in referring to section 25 that it should be sensitive to the aboriginal rights recognized in section 35 but that is not the wording here. It is not to be sensitive to, section 25 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--

It then goes on to list them. This is a direct cover, a shield. It triggers the application of the charter to protect aboriginals and their rights from any intrusion by the charter. Section 25 acts as a shield to protect native rights from any intrusion by the charter.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, reference was made to voting at the band level and the ratification process. I have a comment which I am sure will invite a response from my colleague.

The Westbank is no different from other democracies from the standpoint that the band council in this case has to balance some competing interests. It is obvious, but I will state it anyway, that a very identifiable group in opposition to this agreement at the band level consists of people who think that Westbank should be sovereign. That is certainly much more than I or this Parliament would probably be willing to accept.

There is identifiable opposition who believe that the Westbank First Nation should remain under the Indian Act because they are concerned about losing those apron strings. There is another identifiable group who oppose this and are all over the map.

From the standpoint of ratification and divisions within the Westbank First Nation, they are no different in respect to this initiative than they would be in any other community on any other initiative. That is what democracy is all about.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite certain of the point the hon. member was trying to make. I am not taking issue with the ratification of the process. I do not believe that I discussed it.

The member mentioned the issue of sovereignty. There are more than a dozen areas where the agreement suggests that where there is a conflict between Westbank laws and federal and provincial laws, the Westbank laws will prevail. That does put Westbank in the category of above and beyond the control or the authority of the federal government. More plainly put, the agreement declares that the Westbank government is an aboriginal right, and if the Westbank government operates on the basis of an aboriginal right, its actions will be shielded from charter challenges. It is as simple as that.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

April 22nd, 2004 / 1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, that was a very interesting interchange which perhaps was at a more legalistic level than my speech will be.

I rise today to mention something that took place following our caucus meeting this past Wednesday. I attended a meeting with representatives of the Westbank band, all of whom I think have been in the public gallery listening to our speeches on the bill. I also had the pleasure of meeting with Chief Louie in the opposition lobby yesterday.

I mention this context because I want to put into perspective my opposition to the bill. The fact is there is not universal agreement that this is a good bill and those with opposing positions do have a right to speak in this place without name calling or getting too upset. I believe it is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that opposing concerns are put into the record in this place.

My contact with the band members yesterday was very pleasant. We had an excellent discussion after the caucus meeting. There were many questions answered and there was no personal animosity whatsoever. There was a sharing of ideas, answering of questions. It was very healthy.

I attended because I needed some questions answered, but I also wanted to gauge their reaction to the opposing perspective that I had been expressing at earlier stages of the debate on the bill. In that respect, it is important to note that there was no hostility but rather what appeared to be a genuine interest in and respect for a difference of opinion.

The representatives even volunteered the information that there was far from unanimous support among band members themselves. That was just referred to by my colleague from Vancouver Island North. There were a variety of opinions among band members that did make it in some respects, from what I understand from the contact yesterday, a bit of a struggle to get the agreement through some stages and to pass the various votes along the way, but that those who have brought it this far truly believe in democracy and they consider it very healthy to engage in the type of debates that certainly took place at the band level. They have not been upset by the differences of opinion that have been expressed here.

I do congratulate them for that because I genuinely believe, as my colleagues have expressed, that this agreement will work well for the Westbank band. It is going to work well because of the very different attitude that we see expressed by this particular group of band leaders from that which we see in many other bands.

It is also a very different attitude from what we have seen in the House from some Liberal members and the NDP who have yelled insults across the House and words like “shame” at those of us who have been giving voice to concerns of others. Their attitude is so close-minded that it completely fails to recognize that a sizeable percentage of Westbank members have themselves for one reason or another expressed opposition.

Whether we consider that to be valid or not is another debate for another day but the fact is there was disagreement. It was not a 100% vote at every level for everything that is in the bill. It would be wrong for us to leave the public impression that therefore in the House there was 100% agreement on every aspect of the bill. I actually think it is a shame that some government members and the NDP have not seen fit to represent some of the concerns of band members who voted against the bill.

One of the concerns that we had explained to us yesterday by the band representatives was that some members were concerned about the allocation of land resources, in particular certificates of possession which we on off reserve lands do not have to worry about, but it is similar to getting title to a piece of property. There are always concerns on reserves surrounding these certificates of possession and the right to use a particular house or piece of land.

In my riding there are three aboriginal reserves. I receive expressions of concern weekly from band members who are worried about their right to pass on a house when a husband dies, if there is a divorce, or a disagreement with band leaders. This seems to be a constant worry and threat being held over the heads of band members certainly in the area where I live.

In the case of the Westbank, all of the evidence indicates that this agreement will work well. The attitude is that those at the top clearly favour democratic processes, wealth creation, private property rights and open governments; but as I also said, band members on reserves in my riding do not believe that this type of agreement would be helpful to them.

I received an e-mail yesterday confirming that my election lawn signs will once again appear on the lawn of a Squamish elder because of my support for their positions on issues of self-government. They have very real concerns with this type of self-government agreement.

In order for similar wealth creation and private property rights to exist on, for example, the Squamish reserve in my riding, band members tell me that there would first have to be a major change in attitude by the band chiefs, so that there could be truly democratic processes on the reserve.

As it stands, and again I say band members tell me, votes and meetings are stacked by the purchase of votes with alcoholic beverages, promises of home renovations or some other favour. Sometimes band members claim that they are not informed about meetings or that secret meetings take place to approve things which are later hoisted upon them. They wish they were part of a band system like the one found in Westbank but they are not. They are worried that any support I show for this type of agreement would automatically translate into support for a similar agreement for them.

I therefore owe it to them to express their concerns and to vote against the bill on the principles that they have expressed to me.

On another issue, the lawyer for the Westbank band, who was at the meeting yesterday, acknowledged, as my colleague from Delta—South Richmond said, that there are differing legal opinions as to the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, despite what the minister says. He stood up a few minutes ago and said that lawyers say that there is no problem here. Some lawyers say that there is no problem while plenty of other lawyers say there is.

I believe we will have decades of litigation as a result of this agreement. In fact, it is my understanding that a legal challenge is already underway.

We also do not know where this will lead because of the way laws apply on reserves. For example, there was a front page article in the National Post yesterday labelled “Get Your MRI on a Native Reserve”. The story told of a Saskatchewan band that is planning to offer for profit medical services on reserve because the Canada Health Act, it claims, does not apply to those on a reserve.

In that respect, I am surprised that the NDP members, who constantly harp to the Liberal government on allowing for profit medical services to be run by corporations, are not attacking a Saskatchewan Indian band for wanting to do the same thing. Perhaps it is part of their way of being close-minded about differences of opinion on bands and they never see anything wrong with anything that is done on an Indian reserve.

However it is because of the unpredictable nature of the way that laws apply on and off reserve that leads us to the possibility of decades of litigation on this particular bill. This could have been avoided, at least in part, or reduced significantly if we had adopted the amendment proposed by my colleague from Delta—South Richmond and which, unfortunately, did not pass in the House.

Also at the meeting yesterday I asked a band representative whether consideration had been given to a model of land ownership along the fee simple basis, similar to what we have off reserve where we actually own our land and register with a land titles office and then amalgamate with the existing municipalities.

The answer given was that the band members on balance wanted to protect their culture. I respect that decision, but doubt still remains behind the scenes whether this idea really was dismissed because it is about the dissolution of an existing bureaucracy within the band and amalgamation with another bureaucracy.

I hear those types of discussions in my own riding where there are three municipal councils, the North Vancouver district, the North Vancouver city and the West Vancouver council. There really is no reason for having three different councils on the north shore of Vancouver. We could probably operate very well with one.

Every now and again we get the suggestion that maybe there should be an amalgamation, that it would save costs and that it would be simpler just to have one council to deal with all the issues. Then, of course, these special interest groups, being the council members themselves, argue against it and prevent it from ever going to a public vote. This is just human nature. I do not mean it in an unkind way, but I do believe that this type of power situation always goes on in the background.

One of the band representatives did admit at our meeting that race based law is a reality in Canada. That is my final reason for continuing to oppose this bill on behalf of my constituents, both native and non-native, I would say.

With three reserves in my riding, there is strong opposition to government based on race or ethnic background. The overwhelming position is that everyone should be treated equally as Canadians, subject to the same laws and opportunities with no distinctions based on race.

Many of my constituents believe that this self-government approach is badly flawed, is akin to apartheid and is completely unacceptable in a civilized country in the year 2004. They also believe that our aboriginal neighbours in North Vancouver would have a much better life and a far better standard of living if they were set free from the shackles of the Indian Act and the threat of self-government.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


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

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where to start as there were a lot of areas. The first thing I mentioned this morning in my opening remarks was that if there was any opposition, I was hoping to get it in on the record today so we could debate it.

As the member mentioned and as I mentioned earlier, as we have moved along there has been more and more agreement. As people begin to understand the various clauses, which makes the agreement more binding, and their benefits, they come on side.

The concerns people had about meetings and having their say, this particular agreement with this 99 page constitution, as was mention by another member this morning who went into all the details about transparency and accountability, gives much more accountability, transparency and assurance that the people living on reserve will have their say and that things will go in an orderly fashion, not that I have heard any complaints to date anyway, but they will be even more regulated in that respect because of a constitution that is excessively detailed.

With regard to the many legal challenges, perhaps the member could outline what might be a legal challenge, because of course there have been all sorts of lawyers working on this. I believe there are 17 self-government agreements in the country already. Some of them are constitutionally protected and there have been no challenges to those. I do not think it will take years of wrangling if the only question is on health care, because that could be answered in five minutes by a lawyer. Health care is not one of the powers in this agreement, although it is in other land claim self-government agreements.

This may perhaps get the member more worried but section 222 contains a list of items that we may look for in future negotiations and the powers in which they could become involved. One of those is section 8, which mentions health, in addition to what is provided for in respect of traditional aboriginal medicine in this agreement.

Why would people be opposed to giving a certain group of people, whoever they are, the ability to regulate their own language, culture and all these things in their area when the majority of the surrounding governments agree, the municipalities, the province of British Columbia and all the adjacent people?

The member is correct, and I said it earlier, there are people who disagree, both on and off the reserve, but it is certainly not anywhere near a majority. Perhaps he could follow up on some of those areas.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I could probably make the same comment that the minister did, which is that it is little hard to know where to start here.

I guess I could start by saying that we should look at the government's structure. At the meeting yesterday with the band representatives I asked why we were not allowing non-aboriginals to run for council because that really would be democracy.

I will compare that to a situation in my own riding, an example that has been mentioned to me by more than one constituent on more than one occasion. Let us imagine a situation where a Squamish Band member or a Burrard Band member arrived on voting day for the voting of the municipality of North Vancouver and was told that he or she could not vote because he or she was a native Indian and had no right to vote at the polling station. If we turn the tables it looks pretty ugly.

This is the type of situation that concerns people in my riding, both native and non-native, that it separates us based on race and that it is not a healthy situation.

As I have already said, I believe the agreement will work for the Westbank Band as long as there is that goodwill that is there right now. It relies entirely on the goodwill of the people who are running the council. It would be very difficult for Westbank to turn back the clock at this stage. There is a culture there of wealth creation, entrepreneurship, and it is really improving things for everyone.

However that is not the case in other parts of the country, which is one of the reasons I expressed that I was opposed to this on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of other Canadians. This is much more far-reaching than just an approval by the council for Kelowna or the people who live in the immediate area who at the moment see no problems. This is a much more wide-ranging consideration when we think of the implications if the goodwill was not there and we apply the same agreement to some other band council somewhere else in the country.

One thing I did not mention in my speech earlier but mentioned during an earlier stage of debate on the bill was on the first page of the agreement itself. It states that the regulations created by this council will not be subject to scrutiny.

As a member who sits on the Joint Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, this really bothers me. One of the things we have found in the Joint Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations is that government departments often make mistakes and errors when they create regulations. Sometimes they create illegal situations and sometimes they improperly take money from people. It is a very healthy situation to have someone scrutinizing these regulations, pointing out the problems and getting them fixed.

It is very worrisome when we have a situation where we are going to have regulations that are concealed from scrutiny. In British Columbia, where we have more aboriginal bands than anywhere else in the country, if they all had this type of agreement and they could all have regulations not subject to scrutiny, no one would know what law applied where. Going from Westbank into a part of North Vancouver there would be no consistency.

For me that is troublesome. It is something that probably no one else thinks too much about. I mentioned it because I am on that committee. Maybe the minister could think about the things that I have brought forward in my response to his question; namely, race based government and the implications that it has for all of Canada, and secondly, the scrutiny of regulations.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to reply to all of those concerns. First, on scrutiny, the member is right. It is a good system. We have our laws and we have scrutiny of regulations for them. There is nothing to say that the Westbank First Nation might not develop that system for its laws. Maybe some provinces would for their laws. So there is no problem with having a second look at regulations.

Another point was, why not allow non-aboriginals to run for council? Yesterday we presented the Tlicho self-government agreement, a very creative agreement, and under that agreement, non-aboriginals are allowed to run for community governments. The member voted against that agreement.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Why the inconsistency?

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

I will answer that question in a second, but I want to answer the member's question first. He was talking about more protection in this agreement. The non-aboriginals now have no protection except through the advisory council. This agreement gives them protection. Not only does it give them protection, it is not arbitrary, like he is suggesting it will be in the future. It is not just goodwill; they have this 99-page constitution they will have to follow. They have the agreement, which is a law, and it can be challenged in the courts.

Finally, related to race based issues, the Constitution allows for affirmative action. The member asked for equality. There is inequality in Canada. There are two groups of people. There is one that has more poverty, more death in childbirth, more dropouts and more substance abuse. That is what these types of agreements are made to change so that there is equality in Canada.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, how easily the minister cast aside the concern about scrutiny of regulations simply by saying “we can think about it and maybe we will incorporate it at some point”.

Then he cast aside the concern about the inability to run for council by talking about a completely different agreement. What use was that to the debate?

Then he talked about challenging in the courts if goodwill disappears and suddenly someone is wronged, but these things cannot be challenged in the courts without a huge amount of money. The situation that is being fought in the courts by my colleague from Delta—South Richmond regarding the aboriginal fishing rights took 8, 9 or 10 years and half a million dollars. The average person cannot fight that sort of thing. It is completely impossible.

The minister has not adequately responded to these things. It is a shame that time is up.

Migratory BirdsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it being Earth Day today, this statement is devoted to migratory birds.

In February 2002, the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, on behalf of eight environmental groups, claimed that the Government of Canada was failing to enforce the Migratory Birds Convention Act, thereby allowing the estimated destruction of 45,000 migratory birds and nests in the year 2001 alone.

In March of this year, a full investigation of the complaint relating to clear-cut logging operations causing nest destruction was ordered by the NAFTA North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, based in Montreal.

Given that 21 species are already listed as species at risk in the Ontario boreal forest, I urge the Minister of the Environment to ensure that the Migratory Birds Convention Act is enforced by the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Bill C-250Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-250 is currently before the Senate. This bill raises serious concerns about freedom of expression and religion. That is why I and most of my colleagues have voted against it at every opportunity. It is also why I continue to work very hard to try to prevent this bill from passing in the Senate.

There is no question that we reject completely hatred directed at any group, but under Bill C-250, religious leaders and organizations could be committing an offence simply by discussing essential matters of their faith with their congregations. Those who teach children in faith-based schools could also be censored.

The fact is that Bill C-250 does not protect secular professional, educational and academic opinions and speech. I am committed to protecting freedom of speech and freedom of religion, even if these Liberals are not, and I am committed to representing my constituents on issues which are important to them.

Insurance IndustryStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, we can now add churches, sea cadets and scrapyards to the growing list of those having trouble with insurance of one kind or another. Insurance has become a serious problem for the Anglican Church. Sea cadets may lose their boats because of insurance costs. Scrapyards may be unable to perform their valuable recycling functions.

Although auto insurance often receives attention, problems with the industry do not end there. The availability, adequacy of coverage and choice of insurance of all sorts are a problem in all provinces and territories for all Canadians. Realtors, owners of small and large businesses, school bus operators, school boards, farmers, arena operators, homeowners and many others are on the same list as the Anglican Church and those who drive cars.

I have been asking for a national inquiry for a year now. Insurance is largely in the provincial domain, but when a problem is truly national, only the federal government can deal with it quickly and effectively.

I urge the government to launch a fair and open national inquiry into insurance now. This can only benefit the industry and Canadians.

HaitiStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to pay tribute today to all our Canadian soldiers posted abroad, particularly those who are currently in Haiti.

I recently was in that country with the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and I was able to see the daily work of the entire team and, in particular, the extremely beneficial impact of their presence. Economic activity has resumed in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Children have gone back to school because the multinational forces of Operation Halo have secured the peace so vital to getting the country back on its feet.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a special thanks to Lieutenant-Colonel J. P. Davis, Commanding Officer of Operation Halo. I also want to thank Captain Brian J. Wright, Staff Officer, Major Brian Hervé, National Support Element Commanding Officer, and Captain Antoine Tardif of J5 Information Operations, all from Task Force Haiti, for their patience and cooperation.

Multiple SclerosisStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend many people in my riding of Cambridge took part in the annual Walk for MS to help find a cure for multiple sclerosis.

MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada, yet scientists and researchers do not know what causes MS.

The annual cost of MS to Canada is $1 billion. Last year the society raised close to $19 million. This money helps fund a wide range of support services to help persons with MS manage and cope, to discover better treatments, and to move more quickly to finding a cure.

The Cambridge unit of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada has been incredibly successful in past years, and last weekend's Walk for MS was no exception. I wish to congratulate all the local volunteers, participants and supporters on a very successful but wet Walk for MS event.

Mining IndustryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week I attended the Minerals North Mining Conference in Smithers, B.C. Highlighted was the mining industry's interest in the northwest.

This year, mineral exploration expenditures in B.C. should exceed $100 million, four times the $22 million of a few years ago. New mines in the northwest should be developed over time, including: the Red Chris Copper Project; Galore Creek Copper and Gold; Klappan Anthracite Coal; Kemess North Copper and Gold; and the Tulsequah Chief. Operating mines include the fabulous Eskay Creek gold and silver property, the Huckleberry and Kemess Copper Mines, and the Endako Molybdenum Mine. All of this is in the northwest.

I am excited about these opportunities and encourage both levels of government to cut the red tape. I believe that we must encourage development of our mineral resources to create new jobs and opportunities for Canadians.

Projects that create wealth pay for essential services like health care and education. B.C.'s mining industry has contributed and does contribute to our economy in a major way.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Earth Day was celebrated for the first time in 1970 and today, 184 countries are participating in this day dedicated to the environment. Quebec is no exception.

This morning, in my riding of Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, I participated in an activity where more than 1,000 primary school children took to the streets to demonstrate their desire to respect the Earth.

Respect for the Earth is shown in many ways, including limiting greenhouse gases. In Canada, because of lax Canadian policy, greenhouse gases increased by 20% between 1990 and 2000, except in Quebec. During that same period, Quebec's efforts held its increase in emissions to 4.4%

The federal plan on climate change proposes investments to reduce greenhouse gases by using a sectoral approach. I want to remind hon. members that the Bloc Quebecois has always favoured a territorial model for implementing the Kyoto objectives.

RAI InternationalStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reaffirm my support for Canadians of Italian heritage who are calling for access to Italian digital television. RAI International is already available in 238 countries.

In September 2003, I wrote the CRTC on this. Since then, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, myself and several of our Liberal colleagues have expressed our support in this House for RAI International's application to the CRTC. We are totally justified in this and I hope, for the sake of Canadians of Italian origin throughout Canada, that the CRTC will give a favourable response to them and to RAI International, whose application is supported by a petition containing more than 106,000 signatures as well as over 330 letters.

The Dalai LamaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my humble honour today to welcome to Ottawa His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a relentless campaigner for freedom and human dignity. He has led the non-violent struggle against the occupation of Tibet for decades, against all odds. In exile, His Holiness has successfully led his people in the field of education and the preservation of their ancient and unique Tibetan culture.

I hope that all Canadians will embrace the peaceful spirit of his visit and that it will bring attention to the human rights situation in Tibet.

Canada has an historic opportunity to help launch negotiations between representatives of the Dalai Lama in China to broker a peaceful solution in Tibet. One hundred and sixty-two parliamentarians have called on the Prime Minister to act as an honest broker. It is time for the Prime Minister to stand up to the plate of moral leadership and do what is right.

Transparency InternationalStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present to the House the following facts as stated by Transparency International, which has proven that Canada is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, in order to respond to the continuous allegations of corruption raised by the opposition on a daily basis, which are completely unacceptable.

Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index charts levels of corruption in the public sector and politics as perceived by business people, academics and risk analysis.

We note that it is not only in poor countries where corruption thrives. Levels of corruption are also worryingly high in some European countries, such as Greece and Italy, and in oil rich countries such as Nigeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Libya and Venezuela.

Transparency International ranked 133 countries in 2003. Canada ranked 11th, indicating very low levels of perceived corruption. It may be of interest to know that the U.K. ranked 13th and the U.S. 19th.

It is time the Conservative-Alliance stated the facts and stopped the rhetoric.