Mr. Speaker, it is truly an historic time to be discussing legislation that is going to deal with tax collection and real property assessment of value of land.
In large part, the whole reason this country was created was the premise that the Crown, negotiating by treaty with the original nations of this land, would co-exist and co-administer this country. In light of that, the understanding is that the Crown has taken the affairs of the defined Indians, the first nations of this land, in its power, and now is making adjustments in legislation and subsequent amendments that flow through the creation of the Indian Act.
The Indian Act created band councils. In this country we have up to 650 band councils that want to be recognized. This bill defines a first nation as a band council of an Indian Act.
I want to raise this for the attention of the House and the government. Why not define the first nations for who they really are? The first nations are the nations of this land, the original nations. We should define them as who they are, because Bill C-23 even defines “taxpayer”, and taxpayer interests and responsibilities are going to be protected and represented in the bill.
So I say, why can we not discuss the interests of the original nations: the Nehiyawuk, the Oneida, the Mohawk, the Okanagan, the Tlingit, the Tlicho, the Blackfoot, the Lakota, the Mi'kmaw, the Innu. These are the original nations of this land. Why can we not create legislation or provide a means in legislation to respect and protect the interests and representation of those original nations? Why can we not do that?
Instead, this bill protects the interests of taxpayers who will reside on first nations. It will protect the interests of borrowing agents that will be lending moneys to first nations that deem they will need those moneys.
The bill is a signal to us, and not only to us as a government, as a Parliament, but also a signal to our people, the original nations, that we are misguided. This bill, this kind of financial relationship that the first nations and the band councils are seeking, the investment opportunities they need, should be based on the certainty that the original nations are respected, recognized and represented appropriately in this Government of Canada. Why are there not representations of our nations in this Parliament?
I have spoken many times suggesting that there maybe should be a third house of Parliament. A Senate and a House of Commons are created in these square chambers, but there is a round room in this building. It is called the Library of Parliament. It is a round room shaped like a teepee, a medicine wheel, a symbol of unity. Why can we not take our place in there as an aboriginal first nation house? Then, that place, a governing house, respected by this Parliament and the legislatures of the provinces and territories and the municipal governments, would be recognized as a house and government, not as a lobbying group that is being recognized by ministers at the whim of cabinet or a governor in council. It would be a thoroughly recognized house of government representing our nations.
Our nations have many responsibilities. They assess taxation on the value of land. They look at the services required for utilities. They are responsible for fire protection, police services, housing needs, protecting the quality of water and ensuring sewer retention and treatment. Those are all major responsibilities.
We are responsible in our relations to all living things on the planet and the medicines that grow on this Mother Earth. These are major responsibilities that the original nations carry and there are the relationships that they have with their language.
The Mohawk language, as an example, is a responsibility of the Mohawk Nation. The Cree language is a responsibility of the Cree Nation, of which I am a part, and the Métis. I am a half-breed of the Cree Nation.
[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]
I know my first nation brothers and sisters. They are of Cree descent. I know my language. It is based on the Cree culture and language. Even Cree is the wrong word for us, as is Indian the wrong word for the first nations of the land.
It is for the purview of the original people that they be given proper respect. I am telling the House that Bill C-23 is in the wrong sequence of events. It should be the last of the arrangements. The first arrangement should be the proper relationships that our Prime Minister was discussing at the aboriginal summit one week ago. At that aboriginal summit a proper relationship should have been established with the first nations, the Inuit and the Métis nations of the land. That relationship should have been founded first before we enter into financial arrangements like this.
A tax commission would be established and somehow, by the minister or the government's will, the head office would be located in Kamloops. Why could it not be discussed by the first nations of the land? Why could they not gather in council as nations so that they would decide where the headquarters of these commissions, boards, authorities and institutes would be located? Why should it be the minister? Why should it be the governor in council making the final decisions on who will be appointed? The bill calls for up to 52 appointments which is a sacred number because that is the number of recognized nations in the land.
Why could the government and minister not recognize the 52 nations and create 52 seats representing all the nations of the land, one seat each for the Mohawks, one seat for the Oneidas, one seat for the Tuscaroras, one seat for the Senecas and one seat for the Cayugas? Why were these nations not thoroughly recognized?
Why are we presenting a financial institution bill before we create the proper relationship that was based on the peace and friendship treaties that created this country? We are making a grave mistake. The will and intent of the bill, of creating financial opportunities to provide services and infrastructure development on first nations reserves, is well-intentioned but there is also fiduciary responsibility that the government has, and it has not defined that.
The government has no obligation to recognize what those obligations are under treaty. The treaty obligations are not described in the bill and we dismiss those obligations by saying that it is an option for a first nation to enter into these provisions and commitments if they so decide.
It is the first nations' decision but I ask members of the government, of the House of Commons and of the Senate to search within themselves and ask why, in the year 2004, the original nations of this land are not properly recognized in legislation, in definition, as original nations.
Why can this statistical institute not describe who the first nations are? It is going to describe our languages and our culture but it will not describe who the nations are. It is time.
[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Cree]
--all the children's children to come. There is a means for us to live together in this land but the wisdom and the responsibility of the original nations is locked in with the original nation in its embodiment and that nation has to be recognized.
I call upon my colleagues in the House to give us the proper respect as the first nations, the original nations of this land, to guide members in governing this country as well.
The bill would pre-empt that relationship because it would start carving out ways of assessing and putting value on land, a value that never existed before on first nations properties. How can we put value on land where the land, a secluded reserve in northern Saskatchewan as an example, is to be assessed at the same value of land on an urban reserve in Vancouver? That value of land is unequal and this bill would start doing that.
Mr. Speaker, if you would allow me another day of debate I would explain to you a vision of a country because it is time. The year is 2004 and Canada would be remiss not to officially recognize and respect the original nations as nations.