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.


First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.

Richmond B.C.


Raymond Chan Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved that Bill C-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

12:15 p.m.

London West Ontario


Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today is an important step forward in addressing the unacceptable socio-economic gap that separates so many First Nations people from other Canadians. It would help to ensure that First Nation communities that choose to opt into this legislation would have access to the bounty their lands have to offer and a greater share of Canada's prosperity.

The legislation would provide First Nations with the opportunity to manage and regulate their oil and gas resources, as well as collect and manage future revenues flowing from them.

As well, the legislation would allow First Nations to decide whether to exercise full authority over the management of their moneys derived from activities on reserve and currently held for them in trust in the consolidated revenue funds.

I would like to underscore the important work undertaken by the White Bear, Blood Tribe and Siksika First Nations, which initiated this process to take over the management and control of their oil, gas and moneys, and worked with Canada to develop this enabling legislation to achieve this goal.

In the last five years, over 900 wells were drilled on First Nation lands. Last year alone, industry invested $76 million in drilling on First Nation lands, with over 250 new wells drilled on 37 reserves.

In 2003-04, Indian Oil and Gas Canada administered over 3,500 active surface and subsurface agreements on 70 Indian reserves. The revenues collected on behalf of First Nations were valued in the $200 million range.

When the Prime Minister has spoken about his concerns for aboriginal advancement, he has made it very clear that our government believes aboriginal people in Canada must participate fully in all that Canada has to offer, with greater economic self-reliance and an ever-improving quality of life that naturally follows.

In outlining the strategy to achieve that goal, he underscored the need for more successful aboriginal businesses, more economic development and greater self-sufficiency.

At the historic policy retreat this past May, the government re-confirmed that commitment and that is exactly what this bill helps achieve in the goal and the movement forward.

What it means is that the First Nations that choose to take advantage of this new legislation will be able to play a key role in Canada's booming oil sector, creating jobs, spin-off businesses and increased opportunities for both social and economic development.

Let me give some of the history that has led to this achievement. In 1994, the Indian Resource Council, an organization that supports First Nations in their efforts to attain management and control of oil and natural gas resources, came forward with a proposal for a pilot project.

The Indian Resource Council is a stand alone First Nations owned and operated agency representing over 130 First Nations with oil and gas interests. The objective of the council's pilot project was to transfer full management and control from Indian Oil and Gas Canada to those interested First Nations.

A steering committee composed of representatives from Indian Oil and Gas Canada, the Indian Resource Council, as well as the chiefs of the pilot project First Nations, was struck to oversee the project.

Over the course of the next decade, the White Bear, Blood Tribe and Siksika First Nations moved through a succession of capacity building exercises to gain the skills and knowledge required to assume the full management and responsibility over oil and gas development on their own reserve lands.

There were several stages: first, the joint administrative and management processes; then building capacity through enhanced training; and, more importantly I guess, developing individual communication processes incorporating First Nations' values and beliefs to inform band members, as well as industry and government, to ensure that these activities would be reflective of, and responsive to, each community's needs and values. We should never stray from that premise because it is important to success.

These First Nations from Alberta and Saskatchewan have been partners at ever step in this decade long process. They have worked side by side with departmental officials. It has been quite a team. They have been directly involved in both designing this bill and developing the necessary capacity to implement its progressive provisions. They have identified the problems that need to be addressed and devised the solutions that work for their communities.

It is very important to repeat that the legislation does not oblige any First Nation to opt into any or any part of the bill. Each community can determine by referendum whether to use the legislation. Neither does it in any way create a requirement or preclude other First Nations from bringing forward other options.

Finally, and importantly for many First Nations, the non-derogation clause in the bill makes it very clear that it is not the goal of the legislation to abrogate or derogate from aboriginal or treaty rights protected by the Constitution and that should an infringement to those rights be found to arise from the application of its provisions, the government would have to justify that infringement.

There might be some aspects of the bill that will appeal to some First Nations but not to others. As the bill's name implies, the legislation covers both oil and gas issues, as well as money management. Let me explain the distinction.

At the moment there is no legislation that recognizes the possibility of First Nations assuming control over their Indian moneys which are currently held in trust by the Crown in the consolidated revenue fund as stipulated by the Indian Act. The bill before us today would provide First Nations with a legislative vehicle to exercise full authority over their moneys otherwise held by the Crown.

Even if they are not involved in managing oil and gas development, communities could access the moneys derived from activities on their reserve to support other aspects of self-government and broader opportunities for economic development. With the legislation, the First Nations can choose to take advantage of either the oil and gas elements of the legislation, just the moneys management option, both elements or, if they so choose, they could stay exactly as they are today. It will be up to the individual community to make that determination, not us as a government but each community at the development stage that they currently are or hope to achieve.

The first three First Nations leading this initiative would be able to seize opportunities throughout the oil and gas sector, from initial exploration to exploitation and extraction. Quality employment opportunities, whether directly in the oil patch or in one of the myriad associated businesses, means stronger, healthier communities that offer hope and opportunity to community members.

We all know, any of us who have been involved in this work over the years, that hope is an important aspect. Giving someone the dignity of a job and a possible future that is better than at present is very important and crucial.

I want to point out that none of the provisions contained in the bill can be used by a First Nation government without the consent of its own members. Both on and off reserve members would be able to participate in any referendum held to gain community consent for a First Nation to opt into the legislation, whether in respect of oil and gas, moneys or both.

Let me explain more precisely what Bill C-54 would do and what First Nations that opt in to this legislation may expect.

First, they will be considered legal entities for the purposes of the act and, as such, will be required to maintain accounts, prepare financial statements and have those financial statements audited in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. These First Nations will also be accountable to their membership to disclose the management and administration of First Nations oil and gas activities and moneys under their care.

The community's members would have options available to ensure this accountability. I want to add for the record that the bill would not affect the application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Species at Risk Act.

From my perspective as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, there is another benefit that may be less tangible but I think it is equally important and we should put it on the table. The First Nations oil and gas and moneys management act represents a fundamental change in the way we interact with First Nation governments.

In the case of this legislation, a strong relationship has been built with the three partners, White Bear, Blood Tribe and Siksika First Nations, over the last 10 years as we have worked in a partnership. We have learned how our activities can complement each other. We have seen that committed partners can achieve meaningful process and progress in advancing their shared quest to build a better future for aboriginal First Nations people.

That is something the Government of Canada is committed to seeing more of in the future. With this legislation our priority is to ensure that, after nearly a decade of hard work and dedication, the White Bear, the Blood Tribe and the Siksika First Nations are able to reap the rewards of their efforts to gain the skills required to create stronger and more prosperous communities. In doing so, they have obviously opened the door for other interested First Nations to come to the table and work with us and their own communities to move forward in a similar manner.

It is now up to us as parliamentarians. I know there have been ongoing discussions with the parties in the House. I think those have been very beneficial and cooperative discussions. We hope to ensure that First Nations governments have the tools they require to better meet the needs and aspirations of their people.

I am counting on and hopeful of the support of my hon. colleagues from all parties in the House. My discussions to date seem quite helpful and hopeful.

Before I end my speech by saying that I want us to help make this possible, I want to thank my colleagues in the House who have contributed to helping us reach this point today. Everyone knows that a minority government is difficult and in a minority Parliament we have had the cooperation on the most of part from all of my colleagues from all of the parties to advance First Nations.

I believe the members of the committee and of the House generally are committed to moving First Nations efforts forward. I personally appreciate that and I know the First Nations will tell members that themselves.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to say at the start that I certainly will be supporting the bill because it is important legislation.

I must preface my remarks by saying that the White Bear, the Saskatchewan Indian band, is not in my riding but I have attended many functions on the White Bear reserve. It is a very progressive band. It has its own casino and a wonderful golf course. Economic development is a very critical part of their strategic approach to governing.

I would like to hear my hon. colleague's comments on self-government. I see the legislation and the ability for aboriginals to manage their own financial affairs with respect to oil and gas revenue as a small but a very important first step toward self-government. I would like to ask my hon. colleague if she shares those views and what future does she see emanating from this agreement?

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, part of the function we provide to not only ourselves in the House but to all Canadians is to educate our constituencies. My constituency has no first nations reserve on it, so a lot of people are not as knowledgeable as we all should become on these issues. That is why debate in Parliament and that type of question helps.

As my hon. colleague is aware, there are different ways and strategies to achieve self-government. It can be done through a treaty process where there are land claims. Last year the member's party, as well as the other parties in the House, supported self-government with land claims in various regions of the country.

It can be done at the treaty table, and we are moving forward across the country on some of these treaties. Modern treaties are a little more difficult than the historical treaties that preceded them, but essentially we are coming to better understandings and the government is relating in a better manner and changing mandates over time to achieve self-government.

For those areas of the country that are not covered or in negotiation at this time, the other way of building up the capacity to self-government is through what I would term sectoral self-government bills. In the House last year, for example, we had a money management statistical institution for statistical institutes. All parties in the House worked together collaboratively, both here and in committee, to move this area of capacity building and expertise forward.

Not every first nation has the ability to move immediately from A to Z. Sometimes we have to build a process. Not only that, we have to build the consent of the community to not only understand but to approve that process. Under self-government often there is movement outside of the Indian Act and that can be scary for some people. However, we have shown that it is economically and socially progressive and people are moving forward.

I am not saying that everything is wonderful. There is work to be done in all these areas. With the understanding of parliamentarians and Canadians, it can be done. First nations people are Canadians. They are citizens who aspire to the same quality of life that we aspire to in the country, but it is unequal right now.

The capacity building comes not only from the treaty process but from some of these bills. This is enabling legislation that has portions of that. I congratulate not only the Saskatchewan first nations but other first nations in Saskatchewan that have been supportive of the progress of this legislation. Maybe at some point in time we will be hearing from them also.

I hope that helps expand the hon. member's thoughts on this. I hope all of us can agree that this is productive work to help our first nations citizens. Helping first nations also helps all Canadians.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the parliamentary secretary with regard to the fact that all parties in the House have been supportive of first nations. We have worked in this Parliament, collaboratively. We have worked together to advance the interests of first nations. This bill is an example of that, a bill supported by all parties in the House, much like previous bills have been.

We all know our first nations are in very dire straits in many cases. I represent northern Saskatchewan. My constituency has over 100 reserves, probably more than any other constituency in Canada. Many of those first nations are in what can only be described as dire need. They are in incredible poverty. Basic infrastructure such as housing is lacking and conditions are abysmal.

The fact that we are moving forward on some bills such as this is a positive thing as we move toward self-government. For that reason, I am very supportive of the bill. It is a sectoral self-government initiative but it is a positive move.

I particularly appreciate the voluntary nature of the bill. We had another bill before this House, the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act, which was a voluntary bill as well. This is a direction in which we might want to continue to move in the future. My party has in our policy book those types of initiatives, voluntary-type bills, that we would introduce in government as well.

In this bill three first nations have signed on thus far. We will probably be able to get into this in more depth in committee. We will be meeting later this afternoon and the minister will be there. We can perhaps ask him additional questions on this. However, does the parliamentary secretary foresee there being more first nations coming on board in the near future or further down the road and what is her view on how we go forward on this?

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I will confirm that the Government of Canada has learned lessons in making bills optional. The one answer then flows from that premise. Not everybody will be ready to assume this.

I would love everybody to get in on it, but the reality is there is a diversity of cultures. First nations are not homogeneous. There are over 600 first nations. They have cultural backgrounds that vary. There are some things that they hold in common, for example in their value systems, but there is uniqueness in their cultures, geographies and languages and also in their capacity stages.

We would be hopeful that as soon as this bill could become law, and that requires not the House but the other place, those first nations that are ready will rapidly go into this bill. There are other first nations that are preparing themselves right now and have shown interest in Indian moneys. I do not think we will see a rush. I think people will work toward this, and that is perfectly acceptable and right. That is a logical way.

I will also acknowledge that there is a continuum of readiness. If the main focus in the community is getting some infrastructure in place and there is limited human resource, expertise and moneys, their heads may not be around all the requirements of getting ready for this. Canadians expect accountability and first nations communities themselves have asked us for the accountability on the fiscal side on the bill also. The auditing and accountability mechanisms are important.

Again, I stress that this is because of the hard work of first nations. This is a first nations-led initiative. The partnership of working toward these types of bills is absolutely crucial to success. We should not measure outcome on a bill like this on how rapidly other people get in. What we should be looking for is the progression of readiness on a number of fronts simultaneously. It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to assist where we can with legislation and other efforts, and we are moving in that direction.

Compared to many decades ago, as government right now, we also are being extremely progressive and moving rapidly on what we consider the appropriate processes to deal not only with our legislation but first nations communities.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I support Bill C-54, which is important legislation as I mentioned in my remarks to the parliamentary secretary.

I come from Saskatchewan and although I do not have any reserves in my home riding, I live on native land. My house is on a portion of land that is controlled by six Indian bands. I am quite familiar with many of their projects, including a golf course which they operate, plans for expansion of the golf club and plans to one day perhaps apply for a casino licence.

The one difficulty the bands have in my small area of the world is the lack of funding for the expansion of some of their planned projects. In previous years a lot of funding came from the federal government, but there were always strings attached, which is normal between any level of government and first nations people or any stakeholder that goes to the government for financial assistance. That in itself has always caused some problems. Rather than being accountable to themselves, first nations people were accountable to the federal government and in many respects dependent upon the federal government for their funding.

I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River.

I believe it is important for first nations in all their activities and in their pursuit of their economic development plans, dreams and aspirations to have control of their own destiny. One critical way to have control over their own destiny is to have control over their own revenue. This legislation would allow first nations, if they wished, to fully control and manage the revenue from their own oil and gas.

As the parliamentary secretary mentioned, this is not to say that all first nations people will take advantage of the legislation. Some may still wish to fall under the purview of the federal government and have their oil and gas revenues controlled by it. I would hope that most first nations people would take the revenues produced from oil and gas on their land and administer it, manage it and use it themselves.

By my records, the White Bear reserve would be earning at current oil prices approximately $32 million per year gross revenue. That is an incredible amount of money. Currently, that money is managed by IOGC, but I believe first nations people on the White Bear reserve could manage it more effectively than any federal government agency. Aboriginals and first nations people on White Bear reserve are looking forward to the challenges that will come with this legislation being enacted.

Let us make no mistake about it. I truly believe and anticipate that there will be challenges. There will be problems. There will be growing pains, but that is to be expected. Any time that we move toward the ultimate goal of self-government for first nations people, there will be hiccups along the way.

However, I think it would be remiss of us as parliamentarians and of any other level of government to suggest that we should not pursue the ultimate goal of allowing first nations people their goal of self-government. I think it is absolutely critical. I think it is something in which all of us on both sides of the House and in all four corners of the House need to take an active part, that is, assisting first nations people with their ultimate goal of self-government.

Therefore, again I suggest that this piece of legislation is an extremely important first step, a small but very important first step toward achieving the goal of aboriginal and first nations self-government.

I hope, however, that what comes as a result of the legislation and what comes as a result of first nations people being able to control and manage their own oil and gas revenues is that there are no other impediments or drawbacks imposed upon them from the federal government. We have seen this before when it comes to the ownership and management of natural resources, not necessarily directly with respect to first nations people, but certainly with jurisdictional management, accountability and ownership of oil and gas revenues.

I can again point to my home province of Saskatchewan, where we have been in a long and ongoing discussion, debate and, some would suggest, fight with the federal government over oil and gas revenues. I refer specifically to the ongoing battle our province has with the federal government on equalization payments.

Currently, as hon. members might know, Saskatchewan is considered a have province, but for many years prior to this we were considered a have not province and have been recipients of oil and gas revenues through equalization payments. The problem is that even though Saskatchewan has generated significant wealth over the past number of years through oil and gas revenues, the clawback system that the federal government has imposed upon our province literally makes it almost, at best, revenue neutral.

In other words, Saskatchewan has been clawed back anywhere from 90¢ on every dollar to $1.25 on every dollar for the amount of oil and gas revenues we generate. By conservative estimates, and I note that is small-c conservative, Mr. Speaker, over the past decade Saskatchewan would have received an additional $4 billion to $5 billion in revenue had the federal government not clawed back, through the equalization formula, all of the revenue that we have generated.

In fact, if Saskatchewan had a proper, fair and just equalization formula right now, at today's oil prices Saskatchewan would be receiving, by my calculations, anywhere between $800 million and $1.5 billion in additional revenue each and every year. Of course we do not have that agreement, and even though this legislation looks attractive and is something I would very actively and vocally support, I would hope that down the line there will be no other impediments placed upon first nations people by the federal government.

I would encourage and certainly urge all members across the floor to take that into consideration and to take that message to the minister and to the Prime Minister, to give some guarantees to first nations people that they will not at some point in the future be burdened by the same clawbacks, by the same impediments from the federal government on the ownership, management and control of all of their oil and gas revenues. If members opposite can guarantee me that, I will certainly endorse the bill.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I wish to inform the hon. member that I neglected to tell him that, this being the opening round, for him to be allowed to split his time he needs unanimous consent. I will ask members. Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to split his time with his colleague?

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre made a very good presentation on this bill.

It is a real pleasure for me to rise on behalf of my constituents of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, in northern Saskatchewan, to speak on Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act, a bill which we are supportive of and which we feel moves in the right direction.

The purpose of this bill is to enable three first nations, the White Bear, the Blood tribe and the Siksika, to assume the direct management and regulation of their oil and gas resource moneys, currently administered on their behalf by Indian Oil and Gas Canada. The bill would will permit other first nations to similarly access their oil and gas resources and moneys provided they meet the legislative conditions.

These three first nations have entered into a series of agreements with the Government of Canada for the co-management of oil and gas in their reserve lands. Their pilot project began in 1994 and resulted from a proposal from the Indian Resource Council to transfer full management and control from IOGC to first nations by 2005. The pilot project was a success. Legislation is now required and we now have Bill C-54.

The bill would require an affirmative vote by any first nation, a referendum of all eligible voters, and approval by “a majority of the majority” would be required, a provision that I think is quite worthwhile and will reflect well in first nations across the country.

The bill would ensure that the federal government would not be liable “in respect of the exercise of powers by a first nation in relation to oil and gas exploration or exploitation” or “for the payment of the management of those moneys” extracted from the consolidated revenue fund. The federal government would also not be liable “in respect of any damage occasioned by oil and gas exploration or exploitation” under this bill.

Accountability measures would occur in the form of an annual preparation of financial statements in accordance with the generally accepted accounting principles of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, as well as an annual audit of the financial statements in accordance with the generally accepted auditing standards.

One thing I would like to emphasize is the collaborative nature of the discussions, the legislation and the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee, of which I am the vice-chair. We have had that collaboration in this Parliament. Each party has worked together, I think, and has worked for what we see as being the benefit of first nations right across the country.

I think everybody recognizes that the current state of affairs has to change and that our first nations deserve better. They deserve better than the Indian Act. They deserve better than the paternalistic attitude that we have seen from Ottawa for the past 150 years on this file.

We need self-government. We need our first nations, our aboriginal peoples, to be running their own affairs rather than having their affairs run from Ottawa by bureaucrats in office towers. This is something that we no longer want to see happening. In my constituency, where I have nearly 30 first nations and over 100 separate reserves, this is the attitude that I see and hear. Chiefs, councillors and individuals living on reserve no longer want to have their lives run from Ottawa. They do not want to have rules dictated to them by Ottawa with very little input from them, from their people. That is not the way that we want to go.

One of the real benefits or positives about this bill is that we would have power resources, moneys, that are now going to be more directly controlled by the first nations that are responsible for them. I think that is a positive thing.

Regarding the self-government file, we are very supportive of moves in this direction. I think that our critic, the member for Calgary Centre-North, has laid out a very forward-looking document. Our party voted on it and it is a policy of this party, a very forward-looking statement on what we see as the future of self-government, with first nations managing their own affairs and running their own lives. I think this is the direction we have to move in.

Just recently, the member for Calgary Centre-North and I met with the tribal chief, Richard Gladue, and also with a number of other chiefs and senior officials from the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, which is based in my hometown of Meadow Lake in my riding. The Meadow Lake Tribal Council is blazing the path in negotiating a self-government agreement, not just for an individual first nation but for an entire tribal council of nine first nations. It is going to be the first agreement of its kind. My understanding is that the handshake agreement will be completed fairly quickly and that ratification will be moving forward in the fairly near future, meaning within eight months to a year.

This is an agreement that has been many, many years in the making. Negotiations have gone on for over a decade, I believe. I think it is a positive step. It is a direction that we want to move in, a direction that the Conservative Party supports. I have seen the presentation from the representatives and chief of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council a number of times. It is a very positive thing and a direction that we do want to go in. We have made it clear that we are supportive of this initiative.

Another positive portion of this bill is the voluntary nature of this legislation, which we have seen in prior acts, whereby first nations can decide, after a referendum from their membership consulting with each member of the first nation, whether they want to be part of this, whether it be this legislation or the previous bill that was brought forward, the financial management act. This is a trend we have seen developing, largely because of mistakes made by previous governments whereby legislation was forced upon first nations whether they wanted it or not. It is a trend that we have seen developing over the last five or six years and I think it is a positive trend.

Of course we cannot go down this path for all government legislation. No one would be supportive of having the Criminal Code apply only if one decides to opt in, but for bills such as this, which directly affect first nations in varying stages of development, I think this is the direction that we will be moving toward in the future.

As an example, a Conservative Party government would introduce a first nations land ownership act, whereby land would actually be transferred to and owned by the first nation in question, rather than having the current situation in which the land is owned by the federal government, with all that comes along with the land being owned by the federal government, including an immense bureaucracy in regard to whether land can be used in certain ways by first nations people.

That is something we would bring forward, whereby first nations would actually own their own land. I think a lot of people find it astonishing that right now first nations do not own their own land, that individuals on reserve, for instance, cannot own their houses. The houses ultimately are owned by the Government of Canada. We want to move in the direction where individuals can actually have access to owning their own homes, to things that other Canadians take for granted. It is astounding that the only place in Canada where someone is not allowed to own property and a home is on reserve. If we want to talk about paternalism, this is an example of it: the government owns everything. It is astounding.

The bill could have a fairly significant impact on my constituency in northern Saskatchewan, an area where the tar sands actually extend into northern Saskatchewan. There is currently not a lot of development going on there, as development now is focused on the Fort McMurray area, of course, but eventually there will be development of the tar sands in northern Saskatchewan as well as northern Alberta. This will have an impact, because much of the area is covered by land that could potentially be owned by first nations, as some of it is right now. I think it is a positive sign that we are moving in this direction and allowing those first nations the possibility of owning their resources if the oil and gas in that area are developed.

I have another example of how it will affect my riding. We have had a long struggle to build a road connecting the Fort McMurray area to Saskatchewan. The people of La Loche actually physically built the road from La Loche on the Saskatchewan side to the border and the road stopped there. It stopped at the border. They call it the road to nowhere.

Forty kilometres had to be built from the Alberta side to connect northern Saskatchewan to northern Alberta and we finally did it after incredible effort. I made it my number one priority as a member of Parliament to have this road completed. We finally got an announcement and the road will be completed. That is positive and something that could very well lead toward this act being applicable in northern Saskatchewan.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question I wish to point out that the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has been very involved in the development of this legislation. He has been instrumental in the legislative development input with the first nations that have been involved.

He has been a tireless worker on behalf of not only the first nations communities within his riding but also on these issues in a general and philosophic way. It gives me great confidence as a Canadian to know that we have young people of this capability coming forward who are advocates on behalf of all Canadians in moving aboriginal self-government forward.

My question for the member is, to what extent does he consider this legislation to be important in the context of development in his riding and the future of the many first nations who he speaks so fondly that are within his constituency?

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out as well the incredible work that the member for Calgary Centre-North has done as the senior critic for aboriginal affairs and northern development for first nations in this country. He has been an incredible advocate and is incredibly knowledgeable on this file.

He has worked very hard, travelling the country from one end to the other, meeting with first nations' leaders, chiefs, councillors and individuals living on reserves. I think he has done an outstanding job. He has put together an incredible policy document that was accepted by our convention. It was very forward looking, I think much more so than anything we have seen from the government on this file.

With regard to how this bill will affect my riding, the potential is there for it to have a significant impact down the road in the context of the latent oil and gas resources that currently exist in northern Saskatchewan and being developed at some point. I would really like to see those resources developed by first nations.

Too often in northern Saskatchewan we see the incredible natural resource wealth leaving northern Saskatchewan with not a lot of the value remaining in northern Saskatchewan. Quite frankly, I think that is reflected in the statistics. Northern Saskatchewan has the poorest riding in the entire country. It is 308th out of 308. The federal government has largely ignored the interests of northern Saskatchewan and that is reflected in the fact that we have reserves and first nations that are some of the poorest in the country.

That would change under a Conservative government. We have given a commitment. I actually introduced today a motion that would extend the resources of the northern strategy to include northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. This would mean that over four years $120 million additional dollars would be available to northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba that currently do not exist in what are two of the poorest regions of the entire country.

The Conservative Party has a very forward looking view for first nations and a positive outlook as it moves forward with a plan to actually transfer powers currently exercised by the federal government to have self-government on reserves for first nations. This is a positive thing and our vision is far better than that of the government.

First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Bernard Cleary Bloc Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a honour for me to take part in today's debate. This is a day that all aboriginals in Canada will remember, because once and for all, I hope, we will be able to enjoy the financial spinoffs generated by the resources on our ancestral lands.

The First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act provides us with the opportunity to solve our social problems. In fact, the income that we will reap from these lands may mean that we will be able invest additional funds in order to try to heal the social ills from which our people are suffering.

So, this is a great day for us all. For those like myself who had the opportunity to negotiate on behalf of aboriginal groups, October 6 will be a day when everything we have been seeking for the past 25 years is within our grasp.

I want to acknowledge the work done the government, which demonstrated respect by ensuring that aboriginals can one day live off the resources on their own ancestral lands. The resources on these lands will help us feel much prouder, since we will no longer feel as if we are at the government's mercy. Ultimately, we will benefit from the legacy our ancestors left us.

Bill C-54 is designed to enable first nations to manage and regulate oil and gas exploration and exploitation and to receive the money that is currently retained by Canada. This bill will allow the transfer to designated first nations of the management and control of oil and gas resources on their lands, and the payment to first nations of amounts held in trust by the Crown.

It is important to remind ourselves here that, in Canada, aboriginal people have a lower quality of life than non-aboriginal people, and to stress the importance of bridging this gap, as mentioned on many occasions, including in the October 5, 2004 Speech from the Throne.

To achieve this goals, many first nations consider that economic development is required. But that is a tall order for a first nation with no control over its lands and resources. In her November 2003 report, the Auditor General of Canada wrote that one of the barriers to economic development stemmed from the federal government's approach to institutional management and development. She also reported at the time that, according to many first nations, the process put in place by the department is too slow. It is designed for the short term and is sometimes poorly administered.

A large number of first nations and their organizations have worked diligently toward assuming greater responsibility for their lands and resources. The development of a new financial relationship between the first nations and the Government of Canada has always been the basis for discussions and analyses over the past 20 years or so.

Back in 1983, the report of the Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, the Penner report, already recommended that the financial relationship between the Government of Canada and the first nations be redefined.

In 1996, the final report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended a full review of the financial relationship between the federal government and the first nations. The proposed initiative focused on redefining this relationship within a broader context based on first nations self-government. The Tlicho self-government act that we had the honour of passing in this House is an example of this.

Bill C-54 will change the way oil and gas are developed and will allow first nations that are self-reliant to develop these resources on their own land. To date, first nations have had to comply with the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations, which has not allowed them to manage these resources directly.

The first nations oil and gas management initiative was launched in February 1995. This pilot project provided for the gradual transfer of management and control of oil and gas resources on the land of five first nations.

This project was divided in three phases: co-management, enhanced co-management and management and control by first nations.

During the first phase, the administrative duties were shared between the first nations and IOGC, and decisions were made jointly. In the second phase, IOGC maintained its authority and the first nations received the necessary training to perform IOGC functions. The pilot project is now in its final phase. It needs Bill C-54 to pass in order for the powers to be transferred to those first nations meeting the requirements in the legislation.

This legislation does not allow first nations to manage the oil and gas resources on their land directly nor does it allow them to develop the appropriate regulatory framework.

However, Bill C-54 would allow any first nation, if it chooses to do so, to create regulations on oil and gas exploration and exploitation, on the spending of moneys derived from the exploitation of these resources, and on the protection of the environment.

As for rules for protecting the environment, those set up by first nations will have to at least meet the standards of Quebec or the province in which the aboriginal community is located.

As far as management of their finances are concerned, those first nations choosing to come under this new legislative framework will come under different rules as far as “Indian moneys” are concerned. These are currently defined in the Indian Act as all moneys collected, received or held by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of Indians or bands. For these first nations, the provisions of the Indian Act will no longer apply. They will therefore be able to directly administer the amounts collected rather than letting them be administered by the federal government. As a result, they will be able to make their own choices for investment in their communities instead of letting the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development dictate priorities to them. Auditor General Sheila Fraser pointed out in her 2004 report that this department is not doing a good job of administering the billions of dollars intended for the aboriginal communities.

If a first nation does not feel it would be advantageous to come under the new legislative regime, the current standards will continue to apply to it, so it will continue to benefit from the provisions of the Indian Act, including those that apply to the administration of Indian moneys.

In closing, we wish to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois endorses the key recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which set out an approach to self-government built on the recognition of Aboriginal governments as a level of government with jurisdiction over questions concerning governance and the welfare of their people. The entire report was based on recognition of the aboriginal peoples as independent nations occupying a unique place within Canada.

I would emphasize in closing that aboriginal resources have always represented boundless wealth to the peoples, and that the aboriginal peoples have always been close to the earth. They have, in fact, always wanted to use that wealth in exactly the same way as any people has a right to do.

Today we are recognizing that possibility. It is my hope that more aboriginal groups will have the pleasure of including these clauses within their agreement of self-government.

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1:20 p.m.


Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, allow me to thank the member opposite for his thoughtful, even historical, analysis of Bill C-54. The member has been a valuable member of the aboriginal affairs committee.

He will be aware, as he indicated, of the relatively poor standard of living that is the case for so many First Nations communities in our country. He made that point vividly. He also will be aware that the provisions of Bill C-54 are optional for First Nations communities.

I am wondering, with his extensive knowledge in this area, if he wishes to share with the House his own thoughts, perhaps even his estimate, as to how many of the approximately 600 aboriginal communities in Canada may in fact opt in to the provisions or workings of Bill C-54.

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1:20 p.m.


Bernard Cleary Bloc Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously, this will take time. In order to take the best possible advantage of these provisions, qualifying first nations will have to have concluded a self-government agreement.

However, it is obvious that almost all aboriginal groups, with few exceptions, will experience the joys of self-sufficiency with the help of the natural resources that belong to them. To a certain extent, they will become more independent and more productive.

I have been saying it for years; these people will rise above the social ills that are killing them the day they live off their own resources, not government subsidies. They will be able to tap into the potential of these resources, which are located on their ancestral lands.

During consideration of self-government agreements over the past year, we realized that mineral resources on these lands were abundant. Aboriginal groups had started to make mention of these resources in the discussions. At one point, the figure mentioned was 20%, which translates into astronomical sums of money. As a result, aboriginal groups will no longer have to beg to increase their little budgets, instead they will be able to use their own resources, since we are talking about lands they inherited from their ancestors. They will be able to live off those lands, and their children will be increasingly proud to see that they can turn a profit and turn down what the government gives them.

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1:25 p.m.

London West Ontario


Sue Barnes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Bloc Québécois and particularly this member for their support. He has always supported all aboriginals in Canada. This is very important.

That level of understanding in the House by all members of Parliament, which the member possesses, is especially beneficial. I know he understands the necessity of community support.

In the context of this bill or any bill, could the member tell us, from his experience as a negotiator in his past life, how much time it takes to properly get out into the individual communities so that they are in a good position to ratify these agreements when they come out? Is this something that is done in weeks or months? What would happen if that community support was not there, in his opinion, with respect to the success of any project or piece of legislation for that matter?

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1:25 p.m.


Bernard Cleary Bloc Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am being asked what would happen in such a case. For one thing, I would find it terribly sad if the community did not jump on a golden opportunity to take advantage of the spinoffs that belong to it.

I would think that, provided they are given a clear explanation, the vast majority of people will endorse this idea. Aboriginal people are proud people. They always have been. They were beaten down and lost their sense of pride. This is, however, the sort of thing that will give them their sense of pride back. Social assistance will not give it back to them, but owning their resources and using them to support their development will.

I sincerely believe this is precisely the sort of thing that will ensure that, one day, aboriginal people will take charge. Obviously, this will not happen overnight. After having been beaten down for several generations, a single positive gesture is not enough to recover, but they will over time and as their young people start enjoying life, work and contributing to their communities. Consequently, these small gestures will help them recover. Everyone, especially older people like me, finds that it is taking a long time. Still, it will eventually happen. This is how aboriginal people can be proud to contribute to the Canadian society as a whole.

Personally, I think that we have to keep hoping and continue, as we are doing now, to put forward rewarding initiatives which ensure a future for aboriginal people and make them wish for this process to continue.

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1:25 p.m.


Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent for his speech. I have three short questions for him.

He just answered them in part. Nevertheless, first, in his view do the first nations currently have what I would call the “ancillary tools”—I do not want to use a pejorative term—to choose to take advantage of the services that this bill creates.

Second, the member referred to the fact that it will obviously be necessary for the first nations to achieve political autonomy first. Is he confident that the current government is vigilant enough to ensure that they will be able to acquire it fairly quickly when they request it?

Third, if he could let us know, I would like him to tell us what the effects would be in regard to the grants currently received in comparison with the benefits that the first nations will be able to receive when they decide to implement or utilize the services provided under this legislation?

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1:30 p.m.


Bernard Cleary Bloc Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to start by answering the last question. I am convinced that people are ready for what is coming, for self-government. Obviously, as was the case for Quebeckers and all Canadians, they will have to get used to it. They will make some mistakes, as others have done. If one were to look at the development of Canada, of Quebec and the rest, one would see that there have been difficult periods when what people learned came at a cost.

I think that among young aboriginals especially, there is a hunger to get involved in the development of their country. They are eager to be considered contributors rather than people on government assistance. There is nothing funny for a people about being on government assistance. Some people seem to enjoy it, as can be seen in Canada and Quebec. There are some people who abuse social assistance and specialize in it. Unfortunately, this is true of some aboriginals as well. But when they are able to use the tools they have for their own development, I am convinced that they, like other people, will forget all that.

Education has made a contribution to aboriginal development as a whole. Nowadays, if one goes to band council meetings or to reserves, there is an education level that makes interesting developments possible. Previously, this was not the case. We should not forget that 50 or 60 years ago, aboriginals lived in tents while we were living in houses. Personally, I meet Indians every day who were born in a tent, and these are not old people. So they have gone from tents to computers. That is quite something.

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1:30 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, to speak to Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas and moneys management bill.

Let me say at the outset that it is my policy personally, and I believe I can speak for the NDP caucus, that when legislation dealing with aboriginal issues is asked for, developed by and driven by first nations, my party will not stand in the way, in any way shape or form, to that legislation coming to fruition. We will support Bill C-54 and we recognize and pay tribute to the patience and perseverance of the architects of the bill who, for the past 10 years, have done the necessary development of the bill and have it put into the form in which we find it today.

The bill goes to the core of what is wrong with this nation's treatment of aboriginal people and its relationship with aboriginal people. In a happy vein, it makes some progress toward what is wrong, but let me state clearly at the front that the bill is about the share and control of land and resources. Frankly, if aboriginal people and first nations were given a greater share and a greater control of the land and resources on their reserves and in their traditional territory, we would not see the abject poverty and the third world conditions that are so endemic in the aboriginal population.

As my colleague from Halifax said, we would not need the bill if we would only get our minds around the fact that the treaties that we signed in days gone by were all about a sharing of the resources and the wealth of this great nation. Somehow that aspect of the treaty process has been put aside and has been gathering dust. It has never been honoured and aboriginal people only make progress in terms of sharing of land and resources when they fight it through the Supreme Court of Canada.

In most of the recent rulings of the Supreme Court pertaining to first nations sharing in land and resources, first nations have won. The Supreme Court has found the Government of Canada to be wrong, that it was not fulfilling its contractual obligations under the treaties and not fulfilling its fiduciary obligations under the Indian Act. We have been deliberately and systematically denying first nations their rightful share in the land and resources. That is the basic context within which I will make my remarks today.

The bill is about oil and gas reserves. Imagine being an aboriginal person living in Alberta for the past 2,000, 3,000, 5,000, 7,000 years and, by some happy coincidence, oil is struck under our feet. The most valuable commodity in the world, by non-aboriginal culture and European western standards, is unearthed in abundance under our feet. We should be like Jed Clampett and The Beverly Hillbillies story because untold wealth should be our legacy, not abject poverty.

Instead, because of the structure of the Indian Act and because of the attitude of us colonizing the population, there has been no sharing of that bounty. In fact, it is only with the enactment of Bill C-54 that we will see for the first time an actual transfer of authority, control and management of the oil and gas on first nations land to first nations.

I will go through some of the status quo to compare the current situation to what is being contemplated by the bill in order to illustrate this point. Let me say for the record that the prime proponents of the bill, the three first nations that have come together to ask for this initiative, are the Siksika First Nation, led by Chief Strater Crowfoot in this context; the White Bear First Nation of Saskatchewan, which will be represented by Councillor Clarence Nokahoot at the committee when the bill gets there; and the Blood Tribe, which will be represented by Councillor Kirby Manyfingers.

I think it would be useful in the context of this debate to back up a little bit and recognize and acknowledge who we are dealing with. I come from the prairies so I know the name Crowfoot as a name of myth and legend on the Canadian prairies. Chief Strater Crowfoot is the direct descendant of Crowfoot, one of the greatest leaders and statesmen of Canadian history. Crowfoot was born as a Blood Indian, many would be interested to know, along the banks of the Belly River in 1830. As a child he was actually given the name Shot-Close.

We should point out that names among first nations in this part of the world were considered living and evolving things to be passed on to those who earned that category. After his father was killed, Shot-Close was adopted by the Blackfoot. Most people associate Crowfoot with the Blackfoot and they gave him the name, Bear Ghost. He earned the most prestigious name, Isapo-muxika or Crowfoot in the Blackfoot language, from an act of bravery during an attack and raid on the Crowfoot camp.

I think this bit of history is important so we can capture the gravity, weight and import of what we are doing today. This is not just an administrative detail. This is the manifestation of great patience, leadership and administrative skills by an acknowledged leader of the Blackfoot Nation. I think we would all benefit by knowing more about the Crowfoot name.

After an outbreak of smallpox that decimated the Blackfoot in 1869, Crowfoot became the chief. During his years as chief, Crowfoot became famous as an influential peacemaker throughout those tumultuous times where they were being faced by what today would be viewed as an alien invasion, invading forces of strange people, us. We were interrupting thousands of years of development of his people in that area. Crowfoot became known for keeping his young men from making raids and showing leniency in dealing with his enemies, a courtesy that was not afforded by us toward his people in fact.

He formed a close relationship with a missionary, Albert Lacombe, a man well known in our Canadian history books, who he actually rescued from a Cree attack. Early in the 1870s he made peace with the Cree and in fact adopted a young Cree, which is another name that all people in the House will recognize, Poundmaker. Chief Poundmaker was the adopted son of Crowfoot, just as Crowfoot was the adopted son of the Blackfoot.

Crowfoot had a keen intellect and even while the buffalo were still plentiful, Crowfoot saw a bleak future for his people. His famous quote is, “We all see that the day is coming when the buffalo will all be killed and we shall have nothing more to live on”. How interesting it is that 130 years later his direct descendant, Chief Strater Crowfoot, is dealing with taking care of the interests of his people and looking for an economic future, some livelihood because there has been an interruption in the 100 years preceding where first nations in that region have been without a means to control and dictate their own destiny.

Crowfoot remained a man of great dignity and compassion throughout a series of his own illness and personal sorrow and in watching their livelihood diminish. It was said that he captured the imagination of almost everyone who met him. After eight of his twelve children had died, he heard that his adopted son Poundmaker had been convicted of treason. This was after the raid on the abandoned Fort Battleford.

When Poundmaker occupied the abandoned fort at Battleford, he was in fact charged with treason, treated as an enemy and put in prison. Crowfoot wrote to his son, Poundmaker, saying, “I have such a feeling of lonesomeness, of seeing my children die every year, and if I hear that you are dead I will have no more reason for living”. The sadness was profound and there is a very well known song and poem on Crowfoot's lament.

He had been a warrior, a peacemaker, an orator, a diplomat and a leader and he brought great honour to the name of Crowfoot, as it still rings throughout the prairies today.

I go through that bit of interesting history because Chief Strater Crowfoot, who we deal with today, has come to the House of Commons, to Parliament, to ask that we consider the speedy passage of this bill on behalf of the people he represents. In the interests of fairness, righting historic wrongs and enabling people to proceed with economic development that will lead his people from poverty to bridge that gap to the mainstream population, this type of enabling legislation is absolutely necessary.

I should point out some of the history of the treatment of oil and gas royalties and first nations people up until the advent of this bill. Let me give one case study, a very brief analysis of how aboriginal people have been left out of the enormous benefit of the resources found in that part of the world until recently.

This is a source from a book called The Future Petroleum Provinces of Canada . It has done a case study of one reserve that struck oil. The Indian Act specifically bars aboriginal people from having any share in the resources, other than sand, gravel, clay, silt and mud. If gold, petroleum, rubies or anything of any value is discovered on their land, they have no right to it. If there is mud, clay, sand or dirt on their reserve, they are allowed to go forth and proceed with economic development in that capacity. There is a limit to how much mud one can sell.

In the case of oil, here is the breakdown for the benefit of this case study reserve. We will call it reserve X, but it is a real reserve, with a population 3,000. The potential reserve of the oil on the property is 19.3 million barrels. The natural gas on the reserve is 93 billion cubic feet. Reserve of oil per capita is 6,400 barrels. Not to go through all these details, let me get down to the bottom here. After all these formulas and calculations about the royalty value per person on reserve X, the one-time lump sum cash payment per person was $15,000. They are sitting on a wealth of oil and their families and children are living in abject poverty with no prospects, no hope of economic development because it is not allowed under the Indian Act. They are at the mercy of the minister for everything they do. He has absolute control over their destiny. They are sitting on this pool of black gold and their share is a one-time lump sum payment of $15,000.

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1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Stolen right out from under them.

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1:40 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

It is stolen right out from under their feet.

We will allow foreign corporations to come in and drill for that oil. We give them billions of dollars per year of exploration grants to extract that oil, pay the government a royalty, loot the profits and take them offshore, whether it is Exxon or whatever. However, the very people who for thousands of years have lived on top of that oil are allowed a lifetime lump sum payment of $15,000 per person. It does not even buy a pickup truck, never mind provide for that family. That is the status quo we are dealing with here. That is the Canadian legacy of first nations oil and gas management up to this date. It has been a legacy of theft and exploitation.

Sharing in the land and resources was exactly what the signators to the treaties thought they were doing. They view reserves a little differently than we do. We view an Indian reserve as where we cluster all the first nations people together and make them live there. When we read the treaties literally, they view what they signed to mean that they are willing to share all their traditional territories, all of Canada, except for the reserve which they have the exclusive control over. They are perfectly willing to share the land, the wealth and the resources of the rest of Canada.

We did not see it that way. We view the treaties like this. We will take most of the reserve and give them the bit that is left. They live on top of that and anything that is found underneath it, whether it is lead, zinc, silver, molybdenum, gold, is ours. They have no right to benefit from that except as specifically outlined by the minister in his paternalistic benevolence.

Incrementally, as aboriginal leaders have learned the rules of the game, and just when they learn them the rules seemed to change on them, leaders like Strater Crowfoot and the other representatives of these three first nations have seen what is necessary to finally negotiate a way to at least have some control over their own what they call Indian moneys.

I will point out what the bill do. The status quo is that Indian moneys were held in trust for first nations and may be used only for the first nations, but at the direction and control of the minister. In other words, Indians could do nothing with their own money without the minister's rubber stamp and to make application. In this sense, the Indian moneys regime is interfered with. Sections 61 to 69 of the Indian act govern the management of Indian moneys. Indian moneys are either capital moneys which are derived from the sale of a first nation's surrendered lands, or capital assets, or revenue moneys which include all moneys other than capital.

In 1912 the Blackfoot were duped in an effort to try and elevate the standards of living conditions of their people. The Siksika, the Blackfoot, sold about half of its reserve for $1.2 million. Now in 1912 it made it the richest tribe in western Canada. It bought new houses, with regular interest payments and other services. By the end of World War II that money was gone and it had little to show for their wealth except for a smaller reserve. The population had doubled. This is the type of exercise that we saw which was simply detrimental to the well-being of aboriginal people. However, we can see where the leadership would be tempted to try to do something to cope with the social conditions of their community.

With regard to Indian moneys, they are held by the crown and “expended only for the benefit of the Indians or the bands for whose use the moneys are being held”. It is within the governor in council's choice to determine whether any purpose where the moneys used are for the benefit of the band. The minister has the absolute power in relation to the management of band moneys.

What we propose in Bill C-54 will hopefully allow three phases in this idea. The pilot project that took place to establish this first nations oil and gas management initiative dealt with co-management, enhanced co-management and management and control of the money.

During the first phase, duties and decision making about the administration of the money was shared with the first nation. During the second phase, first nations were given training to develop their administrative capacity in dealing with the application of this money.

The pilot project is currently in its final phase, which requires the passing of the legislation which will allow the transfer of authority to first nations provided they meet the limitations and the requirements of this legislation.

We will support the bill because we support a fairer distribution of the wealth of the land and resources occupied in the traditional territory of first nations as the only hope for a meaningful progress in terms of economic development and elevating the standards of living and social conditions for first nations people.

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1:50 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a question regarding first nations policy as it relates to the NDP position on it.

The member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River talked about the Conservative commitment to establish equality among our first nations people and parity with the rest of Canada, specifically private property rights.

As we know, individuals living on a reserve do not have the ability or the same right that every other Canadian has to own and enjoy their own property, enjoy the ownership of their own home. This creates a huge disadvantage for first nations people who cannot use the equity that they might have in their home the way every other Canadian does. They cannot take a mortgage out on their property to invest in a small business or take a mortgage out on their equity to send their children to post-secondary education. That is a right that every other Canadian has. We are able to own our own home and use that wealth for a variety of things.

Would the member agree that first nations people living on reserve should have the same right that every other Canadian has to own their own home and enjoy the benefits that come with home ownership?

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1:55 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is a huge disconnect between the political philosophy of the Conservative Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party as it pertains to aboriginal and treaty rights and to the application of the treaties in terms of land and resources.

I heard him make reference to private property. There is a Eurocentric sort of naiveté on the part of many Conservative Party of Canada members who think the answer to the housing crisis on first nations reserves can be found in private ownership. That is a Eurocentric construct that almost speaks to an arrogance or a paternalism that many people find offensive. It is not the aspiration of everyone to build equity in their own home. Many people have a sense of community. Many people have a sense of collectivism, especially in traditional cultures.

There is a Eurocentric naiveté that borders on offensive when my colleague tries to trivialize the issue of sharing of land and resources with his own narrow Eurocentric construct associated with private property.

Some of the Conservative views about private property are worrisome even. Everyone believes in fee simple title for their own homes. The way some Conservatives view private property is the absolute freedom to do whatever they wish with their property, even if that means the right to keep certain people off their property or the right to pollute their property without the intervention of the state.

I always worries me when I hear a Conservative starting to harp about private property and the absoluteness of the sanctity of private property in contrast to the collectivity, or the rights of the collective or the well-being of the collective.

What we see in traditional cultures is a lot more comfort with a communal enterprise, shared resources. In terms of sharing resources, the bill is more in keeping with the traditional views of the first nations we are dealing with than it is with my colleague's rather narrow view of the world.

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1:55 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have to comment when the member remarks about the Conservative Party giving first nations individuals the freedom and the ability to own their own home, the same right that every other Canadian has, and we are called paternalistic for that. What is paternalistic is a party that does not believe that first nations are able to enjoy their own property, that does not trust them to own and enjoy their own property, the same right that every other Canadian has.

We should not be surprised because this is coming from probably the only member that I know who has a picture of Mao Zedong hanging in his office. This is the member who is talking about private property who has a picture of our great leader Mao in his office. We all know about the Chinese Communist attitude toward private property rights.

This is not a question. It is more a comment that if we are going to look at paternalism, it should rest with the party that does not trust first nations to own and enjoy property the same way that every other Canadian does.