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House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentence.

Topics

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

If the Chair could just interject for a moment, I would like to remind the House that while we are at report stage of the bill, there are no questions or comments. However I am quite prepared to give the floor to the hon. member if he wishes to continue his remarks under the guise of debate, but there will not be a question or an answer.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Canadian Alliance Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the concern I have is whether the Government of Canada would become the backstop for bonds and debentures which would default in the marketplace. I will have to look into the matter further.

Most of the bands I know of in Saskatchewan probably would find it difficult to issue bonds and debentures that would be investment grade unless there were some sort of guarantee from the federal government to back up those bonds and debentures.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rick Laliberte Liberal Churchill River, SK

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]

[English]

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]

[English]

--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.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Liberal Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate at report stage of Bill C-23, the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act.

Some have argued that the proposed legislation would have the effect of isolating first nations from the rest of Canadian society. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, because this measure will help break the cycle of isolation, economic marginalization, dependency and social problems.

Bill C-23 is led by a group of first nations that share a common vision. They are trying to get legislative amendments that will provide a better future for their members, as full fledged participants in the Canadian economy.

They also want to forge new relations with national and international institutions, including bond underwriters, rating agencies, potential investors and commercial partners, federal and provincial statistical agencies, neighbouring communities and accounting firms. In fact, the consultation process conducted for this bill has already achieved a lot in terms of promoting communication where it had never existed before.

The 2003 report of the Auditor General underlined the increasing number of partnerships that are based on economic development among first nations communities. These include partnerships with non-aboriginal communities.

Bill C-23 will help first nations strengthen these new ties. It will provide first nations with a legal and institutional framework to meet economic challenges more effectively together as first nations or with a wide range of other stakeholders.

The following examples illustrate the importance of this bill. Members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association shoulder the biggest part of the property tax base in Canada. In a letter dated February 11, 2002 addressed to the chairman of the Indian Taxation Advisory Board, the association expressed its opinion that the proposed legislation would implement standard, fair and predictable approaches to assessment and taxation in all first nations territories in Canada. The commission then thanked the Board for the opportunity to participate in the creation of this new institution through discussions and comments.

In the same vein, the Canadian Property Tax Association executive sent an email to all its members on May 16, 2003 stating, “It is our belief that by working with the First Nations Tax Commission—which is proposed in this bill—we will perpetuate the harmonious relationship we have established with the Indian Taxation Advisory Board”.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and the Canadian Property Tax Association are both major Canadian Institutions that have expertise and significant interests in property tax. They point to the positive relations that they have established with aboriginal developers—

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member for Saint-Lambert, but the time has expired.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Quebec City airport is essential to Quebec City and the surrounding area, to its influence and economic development.

The employees of that airport have been without a collective agreement since November 2000, that is for more than one and a half years. They have been on strike since February 9, 2003. The union is negotiating in good faith in that it is prepared to go to arbitration on five problematical points. Unfortunately, the employer wants to submit only one of these to arbitration.

On March 17, following what has become his usual pattern, the Prime Minister met with the airport employees and promised he would intervene in the matter. Yet nothing has been done by the government. It treats us to the usual rhetoric and empty promises, but no concrete actions.

On April 1, I asked a question of the government, and the response by the Minister of Labour clearly indicated her total lack of knowledge of an issue as important as the strike at the Quebec City airport.

On April 15, again as evidence of its good faith, the union made new offers and submitted new proposals to the employer, but the employer has not deigned to respond, although that is more than ten days ago.

There is nothing surprising about this. I feel obliged to speak out against this government, which talks a good game, makes promises as the PM did on March 17 to the employees, but does absolutely nothing. Worse yet, not only do the Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour do nothing, but the Minister of Canadian Heritage, with ministerial responsibility for Quebec City area, does nothing either. Yet she ought to get involved and take a close look at what is going on, given how essential the Quebec City airport is to the city's influence, as I said.

Hon. members will no doubt agree that it is likely because the heritage minister is focussed more on election preparations for the sponsorship party than on paying any attention to the influence and economic development of Quebec City and working to settle this longstanding and constantly deteriorating situation.

It is unbelievable that an issue so essential to the Quebec City area could be so far below the radar as to be invisible to a government with but one obsession: when the election will be.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Beauharnois—Salaberry Québec

Liberal

Serge Marcil LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, we can see that my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois is also on the campaign trail. We can hear electioneering language coming from him already.

He refers to us as members of the sponsorship party; I, in turn, would call them the candidates of the disinformation party. We have had evidence of precisely that in my region, where the Bloc candidate has circulated a piece of totally false information in order to mislead people.

Getting back to the issue raised by the Bloc Quebecois member, first, a preliminary collective agreement is currently being negotiated for a group of about 50 white collar workers, blue collar workers and firefighters.

On May 7, 2003—and this is something that people need to know—the Minister of Labour appointed a conciliation officer to help the parties negotiate a collective agreement. This officer met with the parties on July 10 and 11, September 15 and 17, October 8, 10, 29 and 31, and November 3 and 4, 2003. An agreement was not reached, however.

The parties agreed to extend the term of the conciliation officer to November 16, 2003. On November 12, 2003, the union submitted an offer from the employer that members voted to reject. The conciliation officer met the parties on November 13, 2003. On November 14, 2003, the union voted unanimously to go on strike. The conciliation officer met the parties on December 2, 3 and 16, 2003. On December 16, 2003, the parties reached an agreement in principle with the help of an officer of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Consequently, the two parties negotiated an agreement in principle, which the union executive then approved.

On January 7, 2004, the union rejected the agreement in principle of December 16, 2003. On January 8, 2004, the minister spared no effort. She immediately intervened, appointed a mediator to help the parties continue to negotiate in order to reach a new agreement.

The mediator met the parties on January 15 and February 2 and 3, 2004. The union went on strike on February 9, 2004. The union and the employer agreed on the maintenance of certain services such as firefighting and runway maintenance during the work stoppage.

On February 11, 2004, the Superior Court of Quebec upheld an application for an interim interlocutory injunction ordering union members not to harass or intimidate employees required to fulfill their duties under the agreement signed by both parties. This agreement is valid until May 18, 2004. On February 23, 2004, workers on strike also prevented customs from accessing the airport but this was immediately resolved. Obviously, we learned that vandalism and other acts had been committed. Two union members were dismissed for public mischief, sabotage and vandalism.

In fact, there were negotiations with the conciliation officer appointed by the Minister of Labour. On two occasions, the employer and the union reached an agreement in principle. Unfortunately, workers voted to reject those agreements. The workers are now on strike.

At this time, we hope a mediator is still available to bring the parties together. Ideally, the parties would sit down together again to try to hammer out an agreement as soon as possible.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary gave us a quick chronology of the events. Unfortunately, he did not answer my basic question as to whether his government is prepared to settle this deteriorating dispute by doing something other than appointing a conciliation officer.

I am putting the question to the hon. member. I hope that the imminent federal election will not stop his government from assuming its responsibilities and that the parliamentary secretary will not only call for conciliation, but also arbitration to settle as quickly as possible this dispute which, unfortunately, is deteriorating and affecting workers who deserve better than that.

So, I am asking the government to take its head out of the sand and to settle this issue as quickly as possible. Let us not forget that the Quebec City airport is a fundamental tool for the Quebc City area.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois. Yes, the Quebec City airport is fundamental to the development of the region, Yes, it is essential for a negotiated agreement to be reached as soon as possible. The government and the Minister of Labour both want this. The minister is prepared to intervene. She has informed the parties and has invited them to sit down with the mediator in order to get this agreement signed as soon as possible.

Imposing arbitrators is not how we do things. An arbitrator is appointed at the request of both parties. Both parties must, however, consent to this.

In this case, I feel that labour and management both need to act in good faith, and must try one last time to sit down together to reach an agreement.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:39 p.m.)