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House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was barbados.

Topics

Public Service CommissionOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is passing strange to me that a member who professes interest in this has never bothered to talk to the President of the Public Service Commission about it. She is hired by this House, reports to this House and could be called before committee at any time.

The concern that she raises about the commission occurred under the old act, not the new act. The new act does not come into force until the end of this year.

I would urge the member that if he has concerns about this to call her to the committee and have a discussion. It has not been done yet.

Pharmaceutical SalesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, a pharmacist in Ontario, who was apparently also operating an Internet pharmacy, was recently charged with selling counterfeit medications. In the meantime, another pharmacist was charged with selling bogus heart medication, which resulted in several deaths.

I want to know what the Minister of Health intends to do to protect the reputation of our pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry, but most of all, the health of Canadians.

Pharmaceutical SalesOral Questions

3 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, that is a very serious and important question. The RCMP has investigated those complaints. The pharmacies that were violating the law have been penalized and those practices have stopped.

JusticeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Darrel Stinson Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, for the past 12 years provincial attorneys general, premiers, child advocacy groups, the police and countless other agencies have begged to have the age of sexual consent raised to 16.

Could the justice minister explain why he thinks he is right and all these other groups are wrong?

JusticeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Northumberland—Quinte West Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, first, I remind the member that he should check the record. In fact, the provinces, territories and the federal government could not agree on that happening. Therefore, what the member says is not accurate and does not reflect the facts.

With respect to the age of sexual consent, as I have been explaining, the government brought in the first legislative bill of this Parliament to deal with the area of sexual exploitation. The House fully debated the age of sexual consent and it was decided and passed by—

JusticeOral Questions

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

Copyright ActOral Questions

October 6th, 2005 / 3 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, last week when I asked the government to support an educational amendment to Bill C-60, the minister responded by saying that they were putting this issue aside because it needed some discussion and some clarification. Educators and parents are ready to discuss and able to clarify.

Will the government do the right thing and commit to allowing public consultation prior to supporting an educational amendment in this bill?

Copyright ActOral Questions

3 p.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, what I said is that we are going to have a public consultation on this specific issue. What I am also saying is it is not because it is available on the Internet that it is free.

National DefenceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Independent

Carolyn Parrish Independent Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, without public consultation, Canada's military has shifted to a killing force, dispatched to a high risk area in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is regrouping, the poppy crop is good and powerful war lords are still very much in charge. Today a majority of U.S. citizens wants to bring troops home from Iraq.

Will the Prime Minister, in his laudable crusade against the democratic deficit, assure the House there will be a full and extensive debate in Parliament before Canada responds to any American request for troops in the U.S. effort to foist its style of democracy on Iraq?

National DefenceOral Questions

3 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we are going to Afghanistan not at the request of the United States of America, but at the request of President Karzai and Mr. Abdullah. We are going at the request of Muslim women who want to have a chance to vote, young children who want to grow up in peace, people who want to have stability in their society. Our troops will be bringing that stability, while our aid brings them a chance to grow.

We are extremely proud of that mission. I beg of the hon. member not to bring discredit to something where Canada is bringing great credit to the world.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, could the hon. government House leader please inform the House of the government's plan for the business of the government in the House for the week ahead?

In particular, could the House leader tell us when the opposition parties will be receiving their opposition supply days, which the convention requires happen at least on a weekly basis? Can we be looking forward to at least one or will there be two opposition days in the next week, which will allow the opposition parties to give expression to issues that matter to the majority of Canadians who voted for the opposition parties?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I understand from the member's question that he was obviously not at the last opposition House leaders' meeting where the entire agenda up to December 15 was laid out, including the seven opposition days to which he has referred.

In terms of background, I might also suggest to the hon. member that back in 1973 when there was a minority Parliament, the House opened on January 4 and all seven opposition days were held between March 5 and March 26. Back in 1979, when the House opened on October 9, opposition days started November 6. Opposition days clearly are the purview of the government to schedule. We have scheduled all of them for the opposition parties.

The House will continue this afternoon with the second reading of Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas bill, followed by second reading of Bill S-38, respecting trade in spirits, and report stage and third reading of Bill C-28, the food and drugs bill.

Tomorrow we will begin with Bill C-28 and if it is completed, we will proceed with second reading of Bill S-37, respecting the Hague Convention and Bill S-36, respecting diamonds.

Next week is the Thanksgiving break week and I wish all hon. members a very happy Thanksgiving.

When the House returns on October 17, we will consider second reading of Bill C-63, respecting the registration of political parties, followed by report stage and third reading of Bill C-49, the human trafficking bill, second reading of Bill C-65, the street racing bill, Bill C-64, the vehicle registration legislation, and report stage of Bill C-37, the do not call bill.

As the week continues, we will add to the list reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting the cruelty to animals, Bill C-44, the transportation legislation, Bill C-47, respecting Air Canada, the reference before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services bill, and by the end of the week we hope to begin debate on the energy and surplus bills that are being introduced this week. There is also ongoing discussions about a take note debate that week.

As members can see, there is a heavy agenda and important legislation. As I said and as I laid out to the opposition House leaders at our previous meeting, in the post-Remembrance Day segment of this sitting, we will consider the business of supply and we hope to be in a position to deal with the final stages of many of these very important bills before the end of the year.

Points of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on Tuesday, September 27 by the hon. member for Mississauga South concerning the admissibility of an amendment to Motion No. 135.

I would like to thank the hon. member for raising this matter, as well as the mover of the amendment, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, for his comments.

Motion No. 135 currently reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider transferring the land currently leased by the Queensway-Carleton Hospital from the National Capital Commission to the Hospital at a cost of one dollar.

The proposed amendment is:

That Motion No.135 be amended by:

(a) deleting the word “transferring” and replacing it with the words “continuing to lease”; and

(b) by adding after the word “dollar”, the following: “per annum, starting at the end of the current lease in the year 2013”.

The hon. member for Mississauga South argued that the proposed amendment is inadmissible as it would represent a substantial change to the original intent of the motion. In particular, he said that there was a substantial difference between permanently transferring land to the hospital at a cost of $1.00 and leasing the land to the hospital at a cost of $1.00 per year.

In response, the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington claimed that the original intent of the motion was to allow the hospital to continue functioning and that his amendment was consistent with that objective.

On September 29, following a ruling on an amendment to another private member's motion, the hon. member for Mississauga South added further arguments as to why he felt the amendment to Motion No.135 was inadmissible. He asked the Chair to consider whether the amendment went beyond the scope of the main motion or of it introduced new concepts which would more properly be the subject of a separate debate. The hon. member also alluded to possible legal difficulties with the amendment due to the laws governing the custodianship of National Capital Commission properties.

On this last point, let me say quite clearly that the Chair does not rule on questions of law. My only concern is the procedural acceptability of the amendment, and with respect to this, the House of Commons Procedure and Practice , at page 452, states that:

A motion in amendment arises out of debate and is proposed either to modify the original motion in order to make it more acceptable to the House or to present a different proposition as an alternative to the original.

At page 453 of the same work, it also states:

An amendment must be relevant to the main motion. It must not stray from the main motion but aim to further refine its meaning and intent.

I have had time to review the amendment carefully. While acknowledging that there is a difference between selling a property and continuing to lease it, I am satisfied that the amendment is relevant, that it is in keeping with the intent of the main motion and that it does not exceed the scope of the main motion. I therefore rule that the amendment is in order and can be put to the House.

Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am rising in my capacity as chair of the procedure and House affairs committee. I believe there has been consultation among all political parties in the House to revert to the presentation of reports from committees so I can present a report regarding the matter of the appointment of the Clerk of the House of Commons.

Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to revert to presentation of reports by committees?

Points of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 47th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Under Standing Order 111.1(1), the committee has examined the nomination of Audrey Elizabeth O'Brien to the position of Clerk of the House of Commons, and recommends that the House ratify her appointment.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties with respect to the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be amended as follows:

Raymond Simard for Françoise Boivin.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member chief government whip have unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that BillC-54, An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

David Smith Liberal Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-54, which will have numerous positive benefits for the first nations who have been involved in the pilot project and the drafting of the legislation.

When the participating first nations began this process nearly ten years ago, the White Bear nation, the Blood tribe, and the Siksika nation shared the same overall goal: to create employment and new economic prospects for the members of their communities and thereby build a better future for their children. They realized that in order to achieve that goal they needed to begin by honing their knowledge and then develop their capacity to assume responsibility for the economic development of their lands. Throughout the entire process they never lost sight of their ultimate goal: to benefit more fully from oil and gas operations by taking charge of the management of these resources and thereby to provide their communities with a better life.

The time has come for these three sponsoring nations to reap the rewards for their efforts. Passage of this legislation will provide a level playing field so that first nations with oil and gas resources will be able to reap the benefits of the growing prospects of that sector of the economy. Direct participation in the energy sector will become a possibility for them for the first time.

The White Bear First Nations, Blood Tribe and Siksika First Nation have worked with the federal government to develop this sectoral self-government legislative initiative which would enable interested first nations to assume jurisdiction and control of their oil and gas and related revenues, as well as the moneys held in trust by the Crown, to better meet the priorities and aspirations of their people.

Hon. members must know that this initiative has been jointly developed by the three sponsoring first nations. This initiative was developed from A to Z by the people closest to the challenges and the solutions. The proposed legislation respecting the management of the oil and gas and moneys of first nations will be implemented by the very people who developed it and who stand to benefit the most from it.

Once the bill is passed, subject to a favourable vote by their members, the first nations will assume control of the management of the oil and gas moneys and will be able to take advantage of development opportunities throughout the industry, from the exploration stage to the final sale.

They will also be able to do this on their own lands, where jobs and wealth will be created for all the members of their communities to enjoy. A strengthened economy will eventually translate into an improved quality of life not only for this generation but also for future generations.

In the long term, this legislative initiative will ensure that first nations children and young people have good opportunities for the future and for self-sufficiency. They will not feel compelled to leave their communities to find work, seeing as more work will be available where they live, on reserve lands. Moreover, they will take pride in being able to provide for themselves and will enjoy the fringe benefits that come with good jobs, productive people and healthy communities.

What is more, they will see the advantages of partnerships. They will realize that projects created and undertaken in the community and then developed jointly with the Government of Canada can substantially improve the governance of their communities. The fact is that this bill, drawn up after many years of negotiations and cooperation with Canada, provides tangible evidence of strengthened relations between the two levels of government.

And this is only a start. Given North America's appetite for energy resources, the opportunities for exploiting these resources on first nations land will only increase. The growth of this sector will provide a major stimulus to social and economic development on the reserves, which could then provide a solid basis for other industries and businesses.

The three sponsoring first nations are prepared now to assume their responsibilities, and other first nations have expressed their interest in doing the same. There are more than 130 first nations capable of exploiting oil and gas and about 50 that have active oil leases or licences. Over the next few decades, some of these first nations may adopt the proposed legislation.

That is another advantage of this bill. It is entirely voluntary. First nations can decide to take advantage of all the provisions in the bill or just some of them. Every community is entitled to decide for itself whether or not it wants to benefit from this legislation. It was designed to meet the needs of the sponsoring first nations and does not force any first nation to adopt it or prevent other first nations from suggesting alternatives. It just gives first nations that opt to adopt it some new tools for achieving their goals of building solid economies that create wealth and better prospects for their members.

And these are not the only advantages. The bill will also benefit industry because companies will be able henceforth to go directly to the decision-makers for quick decisions on the exploitation of resources. There will also be some direct benefits for governments in the form of new revenues from the increased production of oil and gas. These revenues will increase the funds spent on social programs to meet the needs of first nations communities.

Ultimately, all Canadians will benefit from the fact that self-sufficient and autonomous first nations will be better able to overcome the socio-economic challenges they have faced for so long. Now they will be able to improve the quality of life of their members.

It is extremely important for these groups and for all Canadians that the House pass this bill.

Thanks to the lessons learned and the skills and knowledge acquired over the years, the sponsoring first nations now want their long-term goal to become reality. They want to begin generating all the social and economic benefits for their peoples and their communities that oil and gas development will support.

It is important for people in every community with natural resources to have the opportunity, like other Canadians, to meet their own needs and create this sense of belonging and renewal that is so important to communities on first nations reserves.

This long-cherished goal and dream are in our hands. Let us be fair to the White Bear first nations, the Blood tribe and the Siksika nation—and all Canadians—and pass this good bill so that these people, like each and every one of us, can reach new heights and be proud of where they live.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with pleasure to speak to Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act. This is a piece of legislation that my party is pleased and proud to support.

In a sense this legislation follows upon Bill C-20, the first nations fiscal and statistical institutions legislation that was passed earlier this year. This legislation, taken together with the earlier legislation and, I believe, legislation that will follow, represents very important steps in this country toward self-government. I will address my comments to that.

This legislation is important for all first nations in Canada, but it is of specific importance to and follows upon the very hard work of three first nations in particular: the Blood Tribe of Alberta, the White Bear First Nation of Saskatchewan, and the Siksika Blackfoot First Nation of Alberta. These three first nations have worked together with the Government of Canada for 11 years in the pursuit of this legislation.

It is worth pausing to bear in mind that in the case of White Bear, Treaty No. 4 between the Crown and the White Bear First Nation was executed in 1875. This legislation is coming forward 130 years later. It has taken us 130 years to create this self-government initiative. With regard to the Blood and Siksika first nations, Treaty No. 7 was signed in 1877. In that context it has been 128 years since the treaties were executed. This is a very important historic step we are taking.

The Conservative Party is speaking in favour of this legislation. The position of the Conservative Party in respect of self-government was clearly enunciated by the members of our party at our policy convention this past March in Montreal. The policy position of the party is as follows:

The Indian Act (and related legislation) should be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the devolution of full legal and democratic responsibility to [aboriginal Canadians] for their own affairs within the overall constitutional framework of our federal state.

Such legislative reform should be pursued following full consultation with First Nations, with the objective of achieving a full and complete devolution of democratic authority that is consistent with the devolution of other decision making responsibility within our federal system.

[Aboriginal Canadians], like other Canadians, are entitled to enjoy democratic control over their own affairs within a legislative context that ensures certainty, stability, respect for the rule of law and which balances collective and individual responsibility. [Aboriginal] communities must have the flexibility to determine for themselves whether and how free market principles, such as individual property ownership, should apply to reserve lands.

[This devolution] should be accomplished in a manner which takes into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of Canada's First Nations. Within the context of the Canadian Constitution, we should be prepared to make flexible accommodations for the protection of language and culture within self-government agreements.

The initiative that is before the House today is described in some circles as sectoral self-government. Some time ago one of Canada's national newspapers published an opinion piece which I recall was written by Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. In that article there were a number of matters raised by National Chief Fontaine with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Canada is a modern, full-fledged federal democratic state. It is a state in which all citizens must bear equally the responsibilities and the privileges of citizenship.

Aboriginal Canadians are entitled, indeed expected, to share in the governance of Canada. If our aboriginal peoples are to be equal citizens also bearing the hopes and the dreams of this country on their shoulders, then they must bear equally the responsibilities of governing this land. Concurrently, they must enjoy the full benefits of Canadian citizenship including control over their own affairs, including the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As Chief Fontaine observed, as I recall in that article, aboriginal people will only be self-sufficient, and free and able to rely upon themselves if they are free and able to make their own choices because reliance upon the choices of others is a denial of the status of citizenship.

Earlier this week I had the privilege to meet with a number of first nation leaders. I have spoken with Chief Strater Crowfoot who is one of the architects of this legislation and who has fought many years for it. I have spoken with Jim Boucher, the Chief of the Fort McKay First Nation and other chiefs as well.

In particular I reflect upon the comments of Chief Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nation who pointed out that in his view those aboriginal communities which are strong, vibrant and building wonderful economic and strong cultural opportunity, and a high quality of life for their citizens are those in which people have the confidence that comes from accessing their own resources. That is what is so important about this legislation.

Bill C-54 before the House points out in the preamble that this legislation is optional. This is legislation which first nations can either opt into or not. As the title of the bill says, it is “An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada”.

This is legislation which first nations will be expected and required to make a decision about. The subject matter of the legislation is very broad, providing first nations with extensive control over all matters relating to control of their own oil and gas and their own money. In particular, the definition of exploitation in relation to oil and gas in the legislation includes its extraction, production, storage, distribution, processing, refinery and use.

The definition of exploration includes all things which are ancillary to exploration. Of course, oil and gas money includes all of the money derived by first nations from their oil and gas assets as well as other money which is held by the Government of Canada to the account of the first nation in question.

It is important to point out that this legislation has been well thought out. It has been developed in a manner which is consistent with the principles of fundamental justice. It contains precautionary measures, balancing measures which I will speak to.

First, the procedural protection for first nations citizens is very extensive. Oil and gas assets can only be transferred from the Government of Canada to the first nation if the procedures set out in clause 6 of the legislation are followed which specifically requires a council of the first nation by resolution to invoke the process. Similarly, if a first nation wishes to access its own money, it requires the initiation by a decision of the council of the first nation either to access money which will be collected in the future or money which is currently held in trust for the first nation.

Before any first nations are entitled to access their own oil and gas they are required, pursuant to subclause 10(1) of the legislation, to pass an oil and gas code. That code is defined in the legislation. It contains extensive mechanisms to protect the process for amending the code itself, accountability mechanisms, mechanisms to disclose any conflicts of interest, and in addition, under subclause 10(2), first nations are also required to pass a financial code.

Stated simply, no aboriginal community can access its own oil and gas resources until such time as it has taken the legislative steps that are required by the Government of Canada in this legislation to be invoked.

Similarly, no first nation is entitled to access its own money on the terms of its own trust conditions and indentures unless it has passed the financial code. The financial code must deal with the method of holding money, the form of the trust, the nature of the trustees, the manner in which money is to be collected and distributed, and to whom it is to be distributed, and also dealing with the resolution of conflicts of interest.

It is important in examining this legislation to consider that the legislation does contain protection both for aboriginal Canadians but also for others such as third party interests who have an interest at the present time in oil and gas activities on aboriginal reserves or aboriginal assets.

We not only have the oil and gas code and the financial code, but there is a clear prohibition that the council members of the first nation are not allowed to serve as trustees in a trust. They do not meet the qualifying requirements to be trustees and therefore are not able to serve in that capacity.

Clause 14 of the legislation also contains specific bonding requirements, so that the people who do serve as trustees need to meet the requirements of the provincial trustee legislation such that they are reliable people, properly secured and properly bonded if they are to be entrusted with aboriginal moneys.

Clause 24 of the legislation is quite important because in the context of the transition toward this kind of sectoral self-government, the protection of existing contract holders, people who have currently a contract or an expectation from the Government of Canada, are quite important. Clause 24 provides that oil and gas laws that come into force on a first nations transfer date may not impair the rights or interests of the contract holder under a contract as signed by clause 23. So, in effect the oil and gas contracts that are in place today are transferred from the Government of Canada to the first nation. The first nation must by law honour those obligations.

It is also important in considering this type of legislation to address the extent to which the position of the Crown has been protected. This is consistent with the Samson decision, but the legislation actually could not be clearer. After the oil and gas assets are transferred to an aboriginal community, a first nation, subclause 27(3) of the legislation provides as follows:

Her Majesty is not liable, as the holder of title to reserve lands or to oil and gas found in those lands, in respect of any damage occasioned by oil and gas exploration or exploitation under this Act.

It carries on in clause 28:

Subject to section 27, this Act does not affect the liability of Her Majesty or a first nation for any act or omission occurring before the first nation’s transfer date.

Therefore, the effect of this is clear. Any claims or disputes that might exist between a first nation and the Government of Canada relating to the management of aboriginal oil and gas are not affected but on a go-forward basis, the communities that accept responsibility for the governance of their own assets are responsible themselves for the governance of those assets and the Crown is not exposed to liability for any decision making. Nor is the Crown exposed to any liability if a first nation decides of their own volition to pursue these remedies.

The mechanisms are equally clear with respect to money. Subclause 32(2) provides that:

Following the payment of moneys out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund into an account or a trust under section 30 or 31, Her Majesty is not liable for the payment or the management of those moneys.

Again, making it very clear that if a first nation decides that it is going to assume responsibility for its own financial decision making, the management of its own money, henceforth on a go-forward basis, the Government of Canada is no longer responsible for any of the decision making that is made by that first nation.

This is consistent with the principles of self-government because if first nations are going to accept responsibility for these assets and these moneys and benefit from the upside, they will be responsible as well for any decisions that are made which do not over time prove to be happy ones, if I could say that.

In light of the significant consequences of a first nation therefore invoking the legislation, it is important that we look at the process by which a first nation is able to invoke the legislation. The ratification procedures are set out in the statute and specifically, the majority of the majority has to approve if a first nation is going to opt into the legislation.

A majority of the eligible voters on the reserve must show up to vote and the majority of those who vote must be in favour. It is a provision known as the majority of the majority and it means that once a majority of a majority is on side, that is essentially approval, the Government of Canada can then pursue the devolution of responsibility.

It is also important that we have regard to the constitutional framework in Canada, the federal legislative constitutional jurisdiction, because self-government will not work in this country unless there is a respect for the distribution of powers between the federal and provincial governments. We are essentially overlaying on top of the existing federal distribution of powers a legislative framework for self-government in a sectoral sense.

The legislation does deal with that. Clause 34 outlines very clearly the circumstances in which a first nation has the right to pass legislation. Clause 35 is very important. It allows for the passage of laws and says: “to the extent that those laws are not in relation to matters coming within the exclusive jurisdiction of a provincial legislature”. Clause 36 protects areas of federal jurisdiction. In a sense we have a clear attempt to ensure that the self-government legislation respects provincial and federal jurisdictions and that we do not have unacceptable overlaps.

It is also important that one of the hallmarks by which we judge the legislation is the extent to which it protects the environment. I would point out clause 37 of the legislation where environmental assessments are mandatory. The legislation specifically provides that in the context of the oil and gas code that the first nation develops, the provincial environmental legislation must be adhered to and first nations must pursue environmental assessments if they are to exploit oil and gas resources on their own land. Once again there has been a recognition and an attempt to protect the environment.

It may seem to be a small point, but this is a difficulty that exists elsewhere in Canada. The legislation specifically preserves the right of the federal Crown, if necessary, to expropriate an interest. Pursuant to the legislation, the federal Crown has reserved its right, in circumstances that are in the overall public interest, to step in and actually expropriate an interest if that is needed.

I raise this as a very important point because there are other jurisdictions in the country where there are now, because of the failure of the government to address this in a proper way, issues about whether the federal government has in fact vacated its jurisdiction to ever act in the public interest on first nation lands. Clearly, if we are going to have constitutional workability in the country, paramount authority must rest with this Parliament, with the Government of Canada, and we must have the capacity preserved to act.

Finally, the legislation is also consistent with the Federal Court decision on the Terry Buffalo case which is a court decision of some importance in this country. It was a decision for billions of dollars where the Samson Indian Band sued the Government of Canada claiming that its oil and gas assets had been mismanaged over a period of 30 years.

Last year the judge in that case issued a decision calling upon the Government of Canada to deliver those assets to the first nation and he stipulated a process that the government and the first nation would have to follow to ensure that there was procedural protection. The legislation is in fact quite consistent with the Samson case.

For all of those reasons, I will conclude by saying that this is an important step forward. It is extremely important self-government legislation and of obvious importance in western Canada but applicable throughout the country. It is consistent with our party's position and we are pleased to support it.