Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to the bill at second reading.
One of the countless good reasons to support Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act, is the fact that three first nations, which are directly involved, the White Bear First Nation from Saskatchewan, the Blood Tribe and Siksika Nation from Alberta, have taken the necessary steps to prepare their communities for the new responsibilities participation in this legislation would bring.
As a result of 10 years of hard work and dedication building capacity in their communities, these three first nations are now ready to assume control over the management of oil and gas resources on their land.
Working closely with federal officials and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the White Bear, Blood Tribe and Siksika Nation entered into a pilot project back in 1994. It would see them move to full first nations control of oil and gas resources and related revenues on their lands and the management of first nations' moneys as envisioned in the sectoral self-government legislation before us today.
To appreciate this progress we need to know a little history behind it. This work began through a pilot project initiated by the Indian Resource Council. The council is a stand alone, first nation-owned and operated agency representing over 130 first nations with oil and gas interests. It provides a mechanism for first nations to become involved in the planning, policy development and strategic direction of Indian and Oil Gas Canada, a special operating agency of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
The three first nations, White Bear, Blood Tribe and Siksika, entered into the pilot project so they could one day assume responsibility for the management of oil and gas resources on their lands.
In phase 1 of the project, they entered into a co-management agreement with Indian Oil and Gas Canada. Co-management involved specific oil and gas training as well as capacity building exercises. After three years of co-management capacity building, the three first nations were ready to move on to phase 2 in 2000. This phase involved continuing the joint administrative and management processes begun in the earlier phase. It also equipped the first nations with the necessary knowledge to jointly approve all administrative and management decisions with Indian Oil and Gas Canada.
However it went further: developing a process to transfer control of oil and gas resources to the participating first nations. This stage also required building capacity through enhanced training. Equally critical, it entailed developing individual communication processes incorporating first nations values and beliefs to inform community members as well as industry and government.
This latter point is extremely important as we recognize that any initiatives undertaken to support first nations development must conform to the values of the first nations people affected.
In mid-2001 the three first nations entered into discussions on a framework proposal that served as the launching point for work leading to the current legislation. At this time, the first nations, which initially began this capacity building exercise, are ready to move on to the final phase of this process.
As part of this legislation, first nations choose to control the moneys derived from oil and gas activity when they choose to manage their oil and gas, or moneys in the consolidated revenue fund held by the Crown on their behalf. Opting into one or both parts of this legislation can ensure first nation governments have the tools needed to better manage their community affairs.
Bill C-54 encompasses all of these objectives for the first nations that want to opt into its provisions. There is no obligation for any first nation to take advantage of the bill.
A first nation would be able to choose whether it wishes to assume control of oil and gas resources on reserve and related revenues, assume control of moneys held in the consolidated revenue fund or both. It would be up to community members to decide.
The bill before us is a tribute to the first nations that have shown determination and the desire to acquire the skills needed to manage their own resources and moneys.
This past weekend I was pleased to participate in a first nations event in my riding of Davenport. Consistent with the aims of the bill, I witnessed the desire of first nations to manage their own future and to honour the long, rich and vibrant first nations legacy in this country.
After 10 years of hard work and dedication, the White Bear First Nation, Blood Tribe and the Siksika Nation are now ready to fully assume the roles and responsibilities for which they have been preparing for more than a decade. Should their communities decide to participate in the legislation, the sectoral self-government legislation would enable the White Bear First Nation, Blood Tribe and the Siksika Nation to assume full authority for decision making in relation to oil and gas activities and the revenues generated as a result.
It is now our responsibility to transfer the necessary authorities. I urge all hon. members of the House to support the legislation and to ensure this progress is fully realized.