Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak briefly on Bill C-28.
First, I too want to salute my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain and tell him how much I enjoyed making his acquaintance. Even if we did not often have the opportunity to work together, we crossed paths numerous times in the lobby, and he was always truly kind to us. He always had a smile on his face. So I want to wish him a wonderful retirement.
That said, we support Bill C-28, first because it corrects a past error with regard to land transfer agreements. Furthermore, I also salute the initiative to expand the land base of the first nations in question.
Population growth among the first nations is nearly double that of non-natives. So their need for space and housing is also growing. As my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry indicated, I consider housing for aboriginals to be a top priority.
This bill appears to have the support of all the parties. When a group such as Greenpeace supports a plan, with regard to the environment, that says it all. It means that, environmentally speaking, there is almost unanimous support for this bill.
I was listening earlier to my colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain ask if the non-aboriginal communities in the surrounding areas were consulted. I have another perspective on this plan to transfer lands and negotiate for lands and shared lands, as under the draft agreement with the Innu in Quebec.
When the Europeans first settled here, they did not ask the first nations for permission. When the aboriginals were parked on reserves, 130 years ago, they did not give up their rights to their lands. However, non-natives thought they had and exploited those lands without asking for their permission.
So, when we talk about this kind of agreement and other negotiated land claim agreements and aboriginal land use agreements, we need to keep an open mind and be prepared to make reparations. Legislation like this one is an example.
However, this alone will not suffice. It is nice to make the reserves larger but, fundamentally, reserves as such are concepts that should be completely eliminated, and negotiations on self-government, along with a valuable land base for aboriginal communities in the future, should be accelerated.
This is called the inherent right to self-government, also known as ancestral treaty rights, which clearly established, for the most part, the lands that belonged to the first nations when the Europeans first arrived in Canada.
I am in favour of this bill. It is a step in the right direction as far as an agreement on housing is concerned but I would remind the government that aboriginal housing is in a crisis situation.
Here again are the statistics I have been bringing up virtually every day for the past month. There are 93,000 housing units on the reserves of Quebec and Canada, and a large number of them have problems with major construction defects or generalized mildew and mould.
Not only do most of the 93,000 units have potential problems, but they have to house 113,000 households. So there is a shortfall of 20,000 housing units at this time. On some of the reserves I visited with my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain, there are close to two whole families living in one two-bedroom house. It is, for example, not unusual to see twelve to fifteen people under one roof. This makes no sense at all.
If memory serves, my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry has just referred to a project to construct 160 housing units and said that 36 units were needed in the very short term.
At the present time, thousands of units are urgently needed, so there is an absolute necessity to draw up an emergency plan for the construction of new housing for aboriginal peoples. In Quebec and Labrador along, there would have to be 8,700 built this year, and the plan is for only 450. The situation is becoming desperate.
It can be readily seen that the Bloc Quebecois is not here just for the sake of opposition. Despite what they say on the government side, when good government bills are introduced we support them. This has happened on a number of occasions. When, on the other hand, they are bad bills and do a disservice to the first nations, or to the population in general, naturally we come down heavily on the government.
Many people do not clearly understand the role of the opposition, and that includes people like Jean Lapierre, who goes around saying that we must vote on the right side, that is the side of the government, the side of power. Despite his great experience, he still does not get what the role of the opposition is. Our role is, basically, to make governments better.
If there is no opposition in a parliamentary system, there is bad government. Dictatorships is what they are then called. If Jean Lapierre sides with dictatorial regimes, then he has a problem.
It is the same for the President of the Treasury Board. He says, “Vote for the right party. Vote for the government. The opposition has nothing to offer”. That means he does not understand either and does not grasp the role of the opposition, which is to make much better governments and to reflect views that are slightly different from the government's, but that nonetheless represent the views of people who put their trust in us.
Even those who do not vote for us expect a strong opposition in order to avoid having a puppet government, a banana republic government that greases its own palm, or the palms of its friends.
Look at the sponsorship scandal. We did a public service. Had it not been for the Bloc Quebecois, no one would have known about the scandal. It would have been covered up. No government Liberal MP, no backbencher—not even a Liberal MP from Quebec—ever once stood up to denounce the sponsorship problem.
Yet on the opposition side, we have been talking about it for years. We have asked the government hundreds of questions. If it had not been for the opposition, we never would have known about the nearly $1 billion that was spent to promote Canadian unity and to steal the 1995 referendum from us. For that was what they did. It was a miscarriage of democracy. Nearly three and a half times more was spent than either camp was allowed to spend under Quebec's Referendum Act.
This did not bother the federal government. In this case we could say that the government was above the law. It took away Quebec's right to a referendum on sovereignty. Money from taxpayers in Quebec and Canada was used to skew the referendum in Quebec.
Is there any doubt that we lost the referendum by 30,000 votes because the federal government stole it from us? It used our taxes to deliver a hard punch, to thwart democracy and Quebeckers' freedom of choice.
Even federalists in Quebec should be upset because of what happened in 1995. Indeed, these people willingly took part in this democratic exercise. They wanted to debate the issue of Quebec's political and constitutional future, but the federal government came from behind, totally foiled this democratic debate and stole the referendum.
I feel that we are sovereign in fact, but that the federal government has covered up the result that we should have had in 1995. This is a shame. I am saying this calmly, but I am enraged. This rage will help me beat Liberal candidates in Quebec.
This aspect alone of what they did in 1995 is an incredible disgrace. It was an act of dishonesty, it was robbery, it was a denial of democracy and it was very reprehensible. They will pay dearly for that. In any case, I am making a commitment today to achieve sovereignty for Quebec and to work very hard in the coming years, regardless of their darn millions.
To top it all off, the President of the Privy Council is laughing about this. He is laughing because he stole the referendum in 1995 with the federal government's hundreds of millions. This is unbelievable. This is dishonest, these people are crooks—