It is an honour to speak again on behalf of the many first nations and the aboriginal people who have created this beautiful country that we call Canada through a treaty relationship. This bill would impact on their lives, the development of their communities, the assessment of their lands and the risk management that would take place within the borrowing limitations that are being afforded through the new fiscal relationship in Bill C-23.
I have studied the bill extensively to figure out where it is coming from and why. In large part, the government's explanation is that this is for socio-economic development of the first nations' members on the band list who come under the Indian Act definition of who is an Indian and first nation member. I tried to get to the bottom line of what the department was thinking.
I went through a document from the estimates of Indians affairs from 2003. It says that without a new fiscal model, increasing budgetary needs by first nations may erode public support, including public support for self-government.
That one little sentence says a lot. It means that Indian affairs understands that the first nations of this country are an exploding population. In recent history our young people in these communities on reserves and off reserves have never grown to this number before.
We have communities of about 5,000, 6,000, 10,000 or 15,000 people living on a reserve. Pressure builds on the band councils to develop and finance the housing needs and the social and economic needs of these communities.
That sentence means that Indian affairs recognizes that there will be increased budgetary needs. However, Indian affairs and our government seem to be more concerned about public political opinion on this greater need. The government is trying to give a new fiscal relationship to the band councils to alleviate this budgetary pressure that is building.
There is more need for housing, water and sewer. More health clinics, schools and more classrooms are required. The population is growing. The population in Canada is growing and it is growing not only on first nations reserves but off the reserves as well.
I want to raise another concern I have with Bill C-23 and put it on the record. My concern comes from the royal commission. Within the past 10 years the United Nations designated this an international decade to deal with the issues of indigenous people. Within those 10 years, Canada instituted the royal commission on aboriginal peoples, which made the following recommendation concerning section 35 of the Constitution Act, “the Canadian Constitution in section 35 identifies the first nations, the Indians, the Métis and the Inuit. Section 35 provides the basis for an aboriginal order of government that co-exists with the framework of Canada, along with federal and provincial orders of government”.
We have the federal and provincial orders of government. The Constitution gives Parliament all the powers. Through the evolution of this country, the federal government has given its powers to create provincial governments. In turn, the provincial governments turn around and give its powers to the municipal governments.
In our history, Parliament created an Indian Act which identified 630 to 650 band councils across the country. Bill C-23 would give the first nations, as defined under this bill, the band councils the same powers as a municipal government. They would have borrowing powers and the power to tax real property, assess land and assess buildings, so they can be used for taxation and local revenue making.
However the royal commission recommended that the Government of Canada recognize an aboriginal order of government equal within the framework of Canada and within the realm of federal and provincial governments.
I bring back to the House a history of this country. There was an intention of a treaty called a two-row wampum. A two-row wampum treaty signified that the newcomers, which was the British parliamentary system, the British North American Act, Britain, France, all the Europeans who were looking for colonies, the Spanish, Portuguese and the Dutch, who were a big part of the agreement, would have their own vessel for their laws, their languages and their religion. In these treaties the original peoples and their nations would have their governments, their languages, their religions, and that the two vessels would journey together in this river of life.
That statement from the royal commission challenged Canada to recognize an aboriginal order of government. I offer to the House today that the aboriginal orders of government be recognized first as nations, as tribes and as communities, what the Indian Act defines as bands, those camps and communities that engage with treaty, the Indian Act does not recognize the nations and tribes.
For the record of the House, I will read the official names of the nations and tribes of this country, which I have researched, and maybe people will recognize these names. They are: the Beothuk, the Mi'kmaw, the Maliseet, the Naskapi, the Montagnais, the Innu, the Huron, the Petun, the Neutral, the Algonquin, the Odawa, the Cayuga, the Tuscarora, the Seneca, the Onondaga, the Oneida, the Mohawk, the Ojibwa, the Plains Cree, the Woodland Cree, the Swampy Cree, the Assiniboine, the Saulteaux, the Blackfoot, the Dene, the Gwich'in, the Tahltan, the Hare, the Sarcee, the Tlicho, the Slavey, the Carrier, the Chippewyan, the Tutchone, the Beaver, the Sioux, the Dakota, the Nakota, the Lakota, the Kutenai, the Okanagan, the Shuswap, the Comox, the Lillooet, the Nuu-chah-nulth, the Kwakiutl, the Nuxalk, the Heiltsuk, the Haisla, the Wakashan, the Haida, the Tsimshian, the Nisga'a, the Salish, the Sechelt, the Squamish, the Halkomelem and the Tlingit.
Canada will be making a grave mistake if it does not organize, recognize and respect these nations. I have studied the treaty creation of this country through the books and the history of the people.
I have studied how that relationship of the co-existence that symbolized and was reflected in treaty. The Crown made an obligation called a fiduciary responsibility. It was not only a fiscal relationship. The fiduciary responsibility was that the Crown would respect the original sovereignty of the nations. I do not think we should go head strong into creating a municipal type of borrowing and fiscal relationship with the band councils, which fall under the Indian Act under the Indian agent, acting like a warden.
The Indians have been treated like wards of the state, which is how they entered into residential schools. How could the government take five year old children away from their families and place them in institutions to teach them French and English, and Roman Catholic and Protestant religions? These children were forced out of their communities by a government that considered them to be wards of the state.
Now is the time to give aboriginals proper respect and allow them to play a significant role in the governance of this country. The royal commission also challenged the country to reconstruct the structure of the governance of Canada, not only the self-government structures of a band council, of a Métis community or an Inuit village, it challenged us to restructure the very parliamentary structure of our country. Part of that is the recommendation that an aboriginal order of government be recognized.
I have recommended through many of my speeches in the House that we look at a third House of Parliament. The House of Commons is a House. The Senate is a House. They are of the British parliamentary system where two sides argue in order to correct human nature. There is the opposition and government. There is no symbol of unity here. It is all square. It is designed because the king in England could not convene the commoners except in a cathedral, which was square. That is why this is a square room. However there is one building on Parliament Hill, called the parliamentary library, that resembles a teepee. A very sacred symbol of the medicine wheel is imbedded on the floor plan of the building. It is being renovated now and will be ready in 2006.
This is a challenge for all my brothers and sisters of all the nations and tribes of Canada to organize themselves as a council to help guide this country. There is no greater time and no greater threat to our aboriginal nations than now.
This bill has an opt-in clause which is the only significant measure that allows the government to say that this is a safe bill for first nations to consider right now. It is not. There was another opt-in clause that was thrown in for political purpose in the House. It dealt with members' pensions. There were certain people in certain parties in the House who took exception to the pension plan. The government used a political ploy and made the pension an opt-in program. Certain members hung on without a pension for many years but they finally gave in. If we were to check the records of the House, a majority of the members are now under the pension plan that certain people had opposed.
This is the same political strategy that is being used in this bill. Band councils can choose not to enter into this but in 10 years or 15 years, or whatever time it takes, eventually all band councils will be squeezed to find a financial institution to borrow money from for their clinic. If they want more classrooms because of the growing population of children, they will be pointed to the fiscal relationship to borrow money to build the school.
On the issue of water and sewer, the quality of their water might diminish to a point where they will be forced, because of medical and critical reasons for the mere survival of a community, to borrow money to upgrade their water and sewer systems.
This is a dangerous precedent without the proper recognition of the original tribes and nations. That is where the security blanket of our people will be taken care of and secured. There are sacred responsibilities within the nations. Our language is an example.
I speak Cree fluently, thanks to the aboriginal nations, my ancestors, who held that language as a God given gift. The creator give us the gift of language. I carry it today in a proud and noble way. There is knowledge and wisdom locked in that language as well. It is the responsibility of a nation to take care of that language. It is not a band council. A community cannot uphold one responsibility for one language. A whole nation is required to carry the language responsibility.
There are also sacred responsibilities for land, for traditional knowledge and for intellectual property rights of medicines. Pharmaceutical companies are rampant in finding medicines from different plants, beans and minerals in this land. Some of those medicines were taken care of within the knowledge of nationhood, within the knowledge of these tribes. There is a great responsibility there.
The intention of the fiscal and statistical management bill is great and it is appreciated, but it is in the wrong sequence. Organize the proper aboriginal governments of the nations first, the nations, the tribes and band councils. There are three orders of government. We have a federal, provincial and municipal order within our parliamentary system. There are three orders as well in the aboriginal order of government: nation, tribes and band councils. The Government of Canada is making a grave mistake by only recognizing the band councils. In the bill the first nation definition is a band council identified under the Indian Act.
Study the English language dictionary. First means original, number one, the ones who were here first. Nation means nation. Nation does not mean band council. The original nations of Canada are the nations that I read off. There are 50 up to 60 nations. If we look at the documents of the government and the department, they look at the Assembly of First Nations as a lobby group that represents the chiefs and band councils of the country.
It is time, my brothers and sisters, that we gather as nations and tribes, and respect each other. Let us gather ourselves in a circle and help guide the country. Otherwise the country will lose its way. Canada is such a beautiful country.
We cannot carry our responsibilities, as the clan mothers, who are sitting here in the chamber today, have. In their history there was a gift of peace. The creator gave a gift of peace to the original people of this land. We will be making a great mistake if we do not nurture that peace in a respectful and responsible way.
I would like to introduce the following amendment: That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following:Bill C-23, an act to provide for real property taxation for first nations to create a first nations tax commission, first nations management board, first nations finance authority and first nations statistical institute and to make consequential amendments to other acts related, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources for the purpose of reconsidering the bill to ensure that full consultation with the first nations leaders and their communities on the benefits and impacts of this new fiscal relationship.