Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-71, An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands.
The purpose of Bill C-71 is to correct what the government calls “regulatory gaps”. This is an expression it uses to cover up the absence of an appropriate legislative and regulatory framework to encourage and regulate economic development on aboriginal reserves.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-71.
Quebec, like the other provinces, moreover, already has a legal framework governing commercial and industrial activities, but the division of powers under the Constitution means that some of those standards do not apply on reserve lands. This results in inequalities that put aboriginal people at a disadvantage.
The purpose of the bill, therefore, is for the federal government to inaugurate on the reserve, at the request of a first nation, regulations similar to the legislation of Quebec or of the province in which the reserve is situated.
Although the genesis of this bill came from five first nations—the Squamish nation in British Columbia, the Fort McKay first nation and the Tsuu T'ina nation in Alberta, the Carry the Kettle first nation in Saskatchewan, and the Fort William first nation in Ontario—none of the first nations in Quebec were consulted. Bill C-71 will have repercussions on Quebec and it would have been better to consult more with the aboriginal peoples concerned.
The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador asked the chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development that the Quebec communities be consulted so that they might examine the bill and analyze the specifics of applying such legislation. It is regrettable that the government once again broke its promise to consult the first nations.
Several years ago, Quebec adopted an approach based on respect for aboriginal peoples. The Bloc Québécois is proud of this direction and recognizes aboriginals as a distinct people entitled to their culture, language, customs and traditions and their right to develop their own identity their own way.
The Bloc Québécois recognizes that in order to do this, aboriginals must have the tools they need to take charge of their own economic development. That is why the Bloc Québécois hopes to review Bill C-71 with the first nations of Quebec, since it affects this important aspect and needs to be analyzed thoroughly with the first nations.
Although passing this bill will engender improvements, the federal government must do a lot more for aboriginals. The housing conditions, education and health of aboriginals are inferior to those of the rest of population.
On the reserves, most families—65%—live in substandard housing. The Bloc Québécois deplores the fact that the lack of affordable housing of adequate size and quality for aboriginals has consequences beyond simple housing standards.
Various medical and social problems are linked to poor housing conditions and quality of life. The Government of Canada must make the effort needed to correct the situation without simply handing over the problems to the first nations.