This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #79 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also rise to oppose the motion.

A number of aboriginal people who live in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan are asking for justice to be done. They want justice done today in an even-handed, fair and open manner. Part of what we are talking about is the fact that we have seen millions of dollars spent with very little money going to the survivors of residential schools. This is an absolutely shameful condition in this day and age.

One of the bands from my riding is the Penelakut people who live on Kuper Island. The website is vancouverisland.com. The website talks about some of the experiences of the people from Kuper. The website says:

Kuper Island has a rather dark side, with a sobering history of oppression at the hands of church and state in Canada. For almost a century, hundreds of Coast Salish children were sent to the Kuper Island Indian Residential School. The school opened in 1890, operated by Roman Catholic missionaries and funded by the Department of Indian Affairs.

Between 1863 and 1984, at least 14 residential schools and 10 boarding schools operated in British Columbia, more than any other Canadian province. For almost a century, all school-aged First Nations children in the province were targeted by government agents for removal from their homes to these schools to assimilate them into the European and Christian cultures.

Children who went to residential school suffered a loss of culture, identity, language, family and more.

This speaks to the ongoing tragedy that continues to play out in our communities today. Aboriginal peoples are asking us to come to the table and settle this shameful affair in an honest, upright and forthright manner.

We also have a number of aboriginal communities that have worked with the aboriginal healing fund. This fund, unfortunately, has been off again, on again and currently there is some additional money in the aboriginal healing fund but the process by which aboriginal communities could actually access it has not always been entirely clear to the aboriginal communities.

If we are truly committed to a healing process in our communities, it is absolutely essential that we ensure not only that survivors of residential schools have access to just compensation but we also ensure that the community as a whole can continue with that healing process. It is not only the children who went to residential schools who are suffering. It is their brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, and it is their grandchildren who are continuing to suffer as a result of the residential school system.

The Cowichan people in my riding who speak the Hul'qumi'num language are struggling to keep their language intact. They are struggling to ensure that the elders have the support that they need to pass on that language which is directly tied to their cultural identity. It is absolutely critical that we not only do this compensation package but that we also continue to support aboriginal peoples in maintaining their culture and their language because it is very much a part of their identity.

The member for Winnipeg Centre pointed out that there were a number of things that needed to be in place to ensure appropriate compensation. One of the key factors in the discussion is the fact that the AFN has specifically put forward a proposal and it is absolutely essential that the AFN is at the table as a meaningful partner in determining how compensation will be determined and paid out. The AFN is the elected representative of aboriginal peoples and if it is calling on us to implement a particular process then I think it is incumbent upon us to make sure that we are not only consulting but actively listening to and engaging the AFN in how this is unrolled.

The AFN is asking us to take a look at fair and reasonable compensation in an expedited process, which includes lump sum payments.

When the AFN asks the Canadian government to stand up with a heartfelt apology to the aboriginal people and asks for a truth and reconciliation process which will allow for healing, it is absolutely essential that we honour its request.

This healing is not only for aboriginal communities but also for those of us who live side by side with aboriginal communities, so that we can work together and live together in a way that is productive and healthy for all members of the community.

Far too many aboriginal people live in desperate and dire poverty. Too many aboriginal people struggle with not only poverty but education, alcohol and drug abuse. We need to ensure the healing process is in place, so aboriginal people can take their rightful place in Canada as partners in our communities.

I urge the House to defeat the motion. I urge the House to send this back to committee and support the motion put forward by the member for Winnipeg Centre and supported by the AFN. Let us carry on this conversation in partnership with the AFN. Let us ensure that aboriginal people in Canada are here as rightful participating citizens. I encourage the House to defeat the motion.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I see a need to return this to committee where we can hear the recommendations and enforce the recommendations that the AFN has talked about. My riding of Skeena--Bulkley Valley is similar to my colleague's riding. It is made up of over 30% of first nations who are a vital part of our communities.

Oftentimes residential schools are seen as a thing of the past and not relevant today. They are seen as having affected only first nations people. The importance of the full participation of first nations in the economy and the culture of my riding has been growing, but there is always a feeling that they are being held back, a feeling that they are not achieving their full potential and full blossoming within our communities, culturally, economically and socially.

My colleague mentioned the staggering numbers with respect to aboriginals in regard to alcoholism and suicide. These numbers are absolutely off the charts. These proud and strong people have suffered for many generations. The honour of the crown has often been spoken about and first nations seek the honour of the crown to be represented and held forth. It has not been so for many decades.

One of the important aspects of the motion brought forward by the member for Winnipeg Centre seems to be truth and reconciliation. Some people need to have a process by which they can bring forth their grievances in a public forum and have them reconciled through the truth. This has been done quite successfully in a number of other countries. I wonder if the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan could comment on this.

I wonder if she could also comment on the importance of having first nations more fully involved in our communities. Could she also comment on the impact this has on both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in her riding?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member's questions raise a number of other issues.

At the present time a team of young individuals is walking across Canada raising the level of awareness around suicide prevention in aboriginal communities. This is just one element. We have not even mentioned the abysmal rate of youth suicide in aboriginal communities.

There is a significant number of young people under the age of 25 living in many of our aboriginal communities. They are the future of these communities. If we do not find a way to institute a truth and reconciliation process that would allow for broad based community healing, then not only our aboriginal communities but the whole of Canada will lose out on an enormous resource.

Nearly one-third of Manitoba's young people under the age of 25 are first nations people. If we do not find a way to work with first nations communities and allow this healing process to happen, then we are going to lose another generation. It would be absolutely shameful if we allowed that to happen.

First nations communities bring so much to the face of Canada in terms of industry, culture, language and arts. They can provide much for our communities. We must find a way to work with them to ensure that they reach their full potential on their own terms.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan for her contribution to the debate. One of the items that troubled me somewhat in the whole committee process was the very abbreviated time that we had to discuss some very serious issues. We had the senior adjudicator, the hon. Ted Hughes. He came to the committee and he was there for seven minutes. There was not enough time to give him a proper opportunity to speak to the committee and for the committee to respond.

Also, I was surprised that the churches, which are very much involved in this whole process, were not invited to the committee to speak and interact with committee members. I wonder if it would not be a good idea to maybe send this back to committee, have a more fulsome discussion with more witnesses, and then deal with the matter at that time.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the issue regarding residential schools has been around for many decades. To think that we can exclude people who participated in the residential school process, whether it is first nations people or churches, is really narrowing the scope of coming toward a productive and meaningful solution.

It would seem only right and just that this matter be returned to the committee and that other people be involved in this discussion, and that we have the Assembly of First Nations actively involved in this discussion to ensure that the solution that comes forward is actually going to meet the needs and interests of aboriginal people.

It is essential that aboriginal people are involved in this discussion. It is essential that the people who were involved in residential schools are at the table. Otherwise, how could healing ever happen in a meaningful way?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, Child Care; the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, National Defence.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to take part in this debate today.

Earlier today I mentioned that I am not at all pleased with the procedure that was used to get to this point. We should have shortened another debate on another topic. I am not saying this topic is not important. I will come back to the reason why I think this is not a good procedure to use in a matter of such high importance. In any event, the House has been prevented from considering an item on the orders of the day on which we all agreed, and that was to discuss parliamentary reform.

What the hon. member for Calgary Centre-North is asking us to do today is to approve a parliamentary committee report. The French term describes quite accurately what we are being asked to do, approve, in other words, give our approval to or vote in favour of the committee report. Since the hon. member proposed that we approve the report of the parliamentary committee, we can assume he intends to vote in favour of it.

And there we are, being asked to approve this report. If the hon. member wanted us to adopt this measure, in other words, to approve of the merits of the report's content rather than adopting the report itself, then this should have been put to a debate in this House another day, specifically on an opposition day under business of supply.

Furthermore, the report tabled before the House shows that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, after holding hearings on the effectiveness of the government’s alternative dispute resolution process, was not able to study this complex issue in depth. Specifically, it seems apparent that the committee, and certain members opposite in particular, were not truly interested in studying the issue of Indian residential schools properly. The parliamentary secretary told us that, in reality, we are talking about a seven-minute speech by the Chief Adjudicator, Ted Hughes, former judge and former ombudsman. This is not a very good briefing on which to base a report like this.

Neither does it appear that the members—again, I mean those on the other side—had any interest in understanding the process involved. What is more, the hearings the committee held were incomplete. It met only five times. Now we are served up this very cursory report we have before us at this time, and are being asked to approve it. That is what the hon. member has moved.

If we were to end the debate immediately after my speech and to move on to the division tomorrow, or at some other time agreed to by the whips, I would be interested in knowing whether the member would vote in favour of the motion he has himself proposed to us today. What leads me to ask that question? I have a letter in front of me that was personally signed by Phil Fontaine.

Phil Fontaine is the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. In the letter that he sent, he says:

Please find attached our comments on the report from the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. We have serious concerns about the proposed motion for the following reasons:

The motion recommends terminating the current ADR process. The AFN believes it should be repaired, not terminated.

It is against that clause of the report. I have the fourth report in front of me. It says, in recommendation two, that “The Government terminate the Indian Residential Schools Resolutions Canada Alternative Dispute Resolutions Process”. That is the long name of it. The aboriginal community, through its organization, the Assembly of First Nations, is against it. Do we still want to vote for this thing? They are against it.

I will continue reading from Chief Fontaine's letter. He says:

The motion recommends that the process be handed over to the Courts to supervise and enforce.

That is recommendation three, and I have it in front of me as well. He says further:

The AFN says First Nations must negotiate the settlement with the Court's assistance for enforcement, if required.

Again, it is another recommendation with which the Assembly of First Nations does not agree. The AFN goes on to say:

The motion recommends a partial truth commission involving Survivors only, whereas the AFN recommends a comprehensive truth commission involving the government and churches.

That is also a precise recommendation, and I have it in front of me. That is recommendation four. Again, AFN does not agree with that one. Why are we debating concurring in a report where the representative organization does not agree with seemingly any of it?

He goes on to say:

The motion is silent on the need for an apology. The AFN calls for a full apology.

The motion is silent on the administration of a reconciliation payment. The AFN insists that the administration be through the First Nations entity.

The motion is silent on the need for reconciliation. The AFN sees reconciliation as the rationale for the entire compensation package.

The hon. member is asking us to concur, in other words to adopt a report with which the Assembly of First Nations, through its chief, is telling us not to agree. He says further:

Although the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) does not support the motion as presented, we are pleased to see both the Committee and the House of Commons engaged on this most important, urgent issue.

The AFN tabled our report with the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. Our report has been endorsed by the Chiefs of Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, Residential school survivor groups and the Consortium of lawyers representing class action suits on this matter.

The federal government should accept the AFN approach as it is modest, fair and just.

I do not know whether the federal government accepts totally what the AFN is suggesting. I have not asked the minister about that, but I do know that the approach proposed by this committee report goes against what the AFN wants us to do. If it does not want us to do this, why are we even asked to agree with the committee's report? Clearly, that is not what the community wants. It does not mean that this issue is not important. It is very important, but the group does not want this approach to deal with this problem.

The committee report is flawed, and not according to me. That does not make any difference. According to the aboriginal community, the report is wrong. It identifies most recommendations as being recommendations that it cannot support.

The letter continues:

We therefore, seek your support to secure all party support of our comprehensive approach which will achieve reconciliation and justice.

It does not want the approach proposed. Now that the hon. member knows this, which I do not know if he knew it at three o'clock earlier today when he proposed the motion, why does he not just withdraw the motion and we will get back to the debate on the order of the day? I am sure the House would give its consent.

The aboriginal community does not want this. Whether under Standing Order 108(2) the committee wants to continue to discuss this issue, the committee can decide and hopefully it will. It will not go away. It is important. There are other approaches that are proposed.

Meanwhile, we are being asked as members of Parliament to concur in the report and the Assembly of First Nations says that the report is wrong, that it was not done properly, that it came out with the wrong conclusions and that it should not be supported. Therefore, why are we doing this? Clearly, it is not because the AFN is asking us to do it. It says it does not support the motion.

I have not consulted the parliamentary secretary, but for my part if the hon. member were to stand and seek unanimous consent to withdraw his motion for concurrence, I would give it and we could go back to the order of the day. He can contact Grand Chief Phil Fontaine and everyone else and then develop something else, but not what is in the report. It is not in agreement with the aboriginal community.

The hon. member who proposed the motion said that it desperately wanted this to be done. He was even quite hostile with me earlier in the day, when I said we should not debate this and we should get back to the order of the day. He said that this was so important that it had to be debated right now. If it does have to be debated right now, we will have to vote against that which the hon. member has asked us to vote. That is the way it is.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

An hon. member

The story of your life.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It is not the story of my life. That is nonsense. I was reading the comments of the Assembly of First Nations on how it feels about the motion. It does not matter whether I agree or not. It matters that this is not the approach that it says is the right one.

If it is not the right approach, let us cut this out. Withdraw the motion, go back to committee, or contact the chief, or contact the committee chair, she is a very accommodating person, and arrange to debate the issue again, if that is what hon. members want to do. I do not sit on that committee. I chair another committee, but it is still a very important issue.

Because it is important it does not mean we should concur in a report that the community itself does not want. That is the way I see it.

What I am proposing is that the member quite simply withdraw the motion to adopt the report now before us. We could then debate the motion that was on the order paper, as we were originally meant to, and then return to the consultations in question.

In my opinion, it is obvious that the hon. member certainly did not consult the AFN before proposing this motion today. Had he done so, he would have been told that the federation was not in support of it, that it was not in favour of the report. Yet the member proposed this motion.

Did he contact the group opposed to the report, or did he not? I have no idea. I know the result because I have the information in front of me.

There is another solution to this. I would like to move an amendment to the hon. member's motion.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “that” and substituting the following therefore:

“that the Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, presented to the House, be not now concurred in but that it be referred back to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for further consideration.”

I submit that to the hon. member.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The Chair will take the request from the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell under consideration.

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member went on at great length saying that the Assembly of First Nations had responded to the standing committee report, which we are now debating in the House as there is a motion to concur in that report. I want to point out a few facts.

I agree that the Assembly of First Nations has asked for additional things that are not in the committee report. However, I want to point out that the people who are making claims, who were subjected to abuse in the residential schools, are coming forward as individuals. Although we listened carefully to the input from the Assembly of First Nations and to the testimony of all witnesses, the report we are now debating concurrence in was brought forward by the standing committee and was sent to this place by three of the four parties in the House. I want to clearly point out that the Conservatives, Bloc Québécois and NDP all voted in favour of the report at committee. I accept that had the report been drafted by the Assembly of First Nations, it would likely have been different, but that is not the case.

As the member well knows, the committee is the master of its own destiny. It heard witnesses, as individuals, at great length. Clearly, what we heard was some of the most riveting testimony that I had heard as a member for seven years. The system is failing miserably, where 70% to 80% of the costs are eaten up in administration. Something like 1.5% of the claims have actually been resolved through the ADR. It is another unmitigated disaster.

Sadly, the people who have been subjected to the most horrific abuse, of which I have ever been aware, are very elderly. If we do not act quickly, they will never see any compensation. I submit that this report is put forward in good faith to deal with a lot of these issues. I acknowledge the member and his concerns of the AFN. It is not exactly what the AFN would ask for but it goes a long way.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not deny that three of the four parties in the House did agree on the report at committee. Several speakers have mentioned that earlier today. That is fine.

The fact still remains, though, that perhaps because the committee did not hear enough witnesses, perhaps for other reasons, but whatever the cause of it, on the recommendations, it is not that they do not go far enough, or it is partially that; I will concede to the hon. member that on some of the recommendations the last three points Chief Fontaine's letter are about that. They are about the shortcomings of the report, but that is a different issue.

I am concerned about the first three points, where the recommendations say the opposite of what the AFN believes. The fact that the report is incomplete I suppose is an argument in which someone could say, “We could not put everything in the report. We put what we felt was important. Some people may think it should go beyond that and maybe it does not”.

That is true for the last three items in the chief's letter, but for the first three, and I will go back to them, the first point is:

The motion recommends terminating the current ADR process. The AFN believes it should be repaired, not terminated.

In other words, it is the opposite position: not.

The second point states:

The motion recommends that the process be handed over to the Courts to supervise and enforce.

It is actually even stronger than that if we read the actual recommendation. It continues:

The AFN says First Nations must negotiate the settlement with the Court's assistance for enforcement, if required.

In other words, it is again the opposite.

The third point states:

The motion recommends a partial truth commission involving Survivors only, whereas the AFN recommends a comprehensive truth commission involving government and churches.

What we have in those first three is not just that the AFN thinks it is incomplete. It is that the report of the committee, which we are asked to adopt, or to concur in, in other words, adopt today, is the opposite of what the AFN wants. I think that is the point that is important.

That is why I say to the hon. members to send it back to the committee. I proposed the motion to the House to do that: that the report not be concurred in and that it be referred back to the committee. The committee can look at these additional points. Maybe it will want to produce an amended report and bring it back a second time. Maybe it will abandon the thing altogether, I do not know, but this does not enjoy the agreement of the aboriginal organizations, and not just the Assembly of First Nations.

As Chief Fontaine says:

Our report has been endorsed by the Chiefs of Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, Residential school survivor groups and the Consortium of lawyers representing class action law suits on this matter.

All these people seemingly do not agree with the report as presently drafted. I have proposed an amendment. Let us carry that amendment on a voice vote, send it back, and the hon. members then can improve it. These are not my words. They are the words of Chief Phil Fontaine.

As for the amendment I have proposed, I do not know if the Chair is prepared to rule on whether or not it is in order. Hopefully it is. If it is not, then perhaps by unanimous consent, of course, we could do it anyway.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The amendment has been ruled in order. It is acceptable.

We are now on debate.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague. I know that the government has now amended this motion. I want to speak to the entire issue in general, which I believe is within the scope.

I am pleased to rise in favour of the concurrence motion. I am opposed to the amendment.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Are we not debating the amendment?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Yes. We are now on the amendment to the original motion.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe we are in debate on the amendment. With reference to my friend, obviously the amendment is to send this back to committee. I want to speak to the merits of the original motion, because that is what I believe in and is obviously why I cannot support the amendment. I will go back to the reasons why I believe we need to vote on this now.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The point is that we are debating the amendment. All the speakers who get up at this point need to speak directly to the amendment, it seems to me.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

We are debating the amendment, but the debate is the debate.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on debate on the amendment to this motion, an amendment which I do not support because I believe the original concurrence is what we need to do.

Before I proceed, though, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the hon. member for Calgary Centre-North, who has tirelessly pursued justice for aboriginal peoples. At a recent Conservative Party convention he spoke passionately about these very issues facing us today. He has travelled across this country, he has visited many reserves, and he has not turned away from the terrible conditions faced by these first nations people.

Passing this motion will show that this place wants to help as well. The rampant alcoholism and drug abuse on today's reserves, the destruction of family and the high suicide rates: many of these findings are at the very root of the residential school system.

Residential schools ran in Canada for over 140 years, starting in 1840. They took a terrible toll on native culture and native self-esteem. It is hard to imagine. Physical and sexual abuse were common. Parents of children were routinely denied access to them. As designated wards of the state, the children had no rights and no recourse for justice. It is time for this House to give them justice. That is why I believe we need to support this motion, unamended.

I was at the committee. I heard the testimony at first hand. I have a lot of it here, but I do not have a lot of time to read it to members. I will read just a little of that testimony from individuals who came forward to share with us why the system is failing them so miserably and why they want to see the system scrapped.

This is the testimony of Ruth Roulette, a granddaughter of Flora Merrick. I will quote a section of her testimony:

I attended the Portage la Prairie residential school from 1921 until 1932. In all my 88 years, I have not forgotten the pain and suffering I went through while at residential school. Being separated from my loving parents and family at five years of age and enduring constant physical, emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse still haunts me. I was punished for speaking my own language and was always frightened and scared of what the teachers and principals would do to me. It was like being in a prison.

During my stay at Portage la Prairie residential school, I witnessed the injustices of beatings and abuse of other children, some whom were my siblings. We were treated worse than animals and lived in constant fear. I have carried the trauma of my experience and seeing what happened to other children all my life.

I cannot forget one painful memory. It occurred in 1932 when I was 15 years old. My father came to Portage la Prairie residential school to tell my sister and I that our mother had died and to take us to the funeral. The principal of the school would not let us go with our father to the funeral. My little sister and I cried so much, we were taken away and locked in a dark room for about two weeks.

After I was released from the dark room and allowed to be with other residents, I tried to run away to my father and family. I was caught in the bush by teachers, taken back to the school and strapped so severely that my arms were black and blue for several weeks. After my father saw what they did to me, he would not allow me to go back to the school after the year ended.

This next sentence is the most telling part:

I told this story during my ADR hearing, which was held at Long Plain in July 2004. I was told my treatment and punishment was what they called “acceptable standards of the day”.

That was Ruth Roulette's testimony about how the dispute resolution process we are now debating referred to what she went through. She was locked in a room for two weeks so that she could not attend her mother's funeral. After trying to run away she was beaten so severely that she was bruised on all four limbs.

She was told as she was going through this process that those were “acceptable standards of the day”. That is the system we are talking about.

This system is failing aboriginal people miserably right across the country. So far, the government has spent $275 million, according to its own records, and it has asked for another $121 million in this fiscal year alone. It has resolved less than 100 cases, less than 1.5% of the more than 13,000 seeking compensation.

It is no wonder it is taking so long if we look at the bureaucracy involved. The government is into building empires. The Liberals are into ensuring that all their friends are employed. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars, how could only 1.5% of the cases have been resolved?

I was at committee and I heard the testimony of those individuals. It was the most gut wrenching testimony I have heard in this place in seven years. Any committee member present would tell us that.

In good faith the committee drafted a report and brought it forward to address some of the solutions. Yes, we believe that the entire process should be scrapped. It is failing miserably. The government has now moved an amendment to the motion. It wants to send it back to committee.

The foot dragging, the bureaucratic delays and the settlements are shameful. Most of those people are very elderly. Time is running out. Thirty to 50 of the former residential school students who are trying to get compensation die every single week. We cannot afford delay. We cannot afford to send this back to committee for another study.

There is a solution, which is to look at it and to fix it. A number of things need to be done. We need to scrap the alternative dispute resolution, the ADR. The Auditor General needs to review the whole ADR program and find out just what went wrong and when. While she is doing that, we must negotiate fair, efficient and comprehensive resolutions to all residential school claims, including the class action suits before the courts.

With the amount of money that is being spent on the administration of this process, something like 70% or 80%, we should just pay out these claims, the ones that can be substantiated, if we can go through a very simple process right now. These people are forced to fill out an application form that is 61 pages long and they need a 64 page guide just to interpret it, to try to get a claim of somewhere between $500 and $3,500.

The government has failed first nations people miserably in this country. The Government of Canada created a terrible legacy with the residential school program, one for which our society needs to answer today, not create further delays, not send it back to committee for further study. That is a pattern that we see from the government side.

Some would say that much has changed and we now live in a more enlightened society and that this could never happen again. It is true. Let us prove it today by supporting the unamended motion, by defeating the amendment. Saying yes to the committee's report would be the first step in justice for the first nations people.

I ask all hon. members to look at this very carefully and think of the individual first nations people who came to our committee who faced these horrible atrocities. They deserve justice now, not when the government is ready

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has been very involved in this issue.

The amendment to the motion recommends that we send this report back to the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee for further study.

As the vice-chair of that committee I can say that the amount of time we allocated even to hear the witnesses that we heard was something that the governing party opposed. The governing party had a major problem. We extended hearings by another day and the governing party was furious about it. The Liberals did not want that to happen.

I can just imagine what the reaction would be from the governing party at the aboriginal affairs committee now that its own members are recommending that it go back. Would there by any more hearings? Absolutely not. It is a ploy to kill the issue. It is a ploy because the government does not want to talk about this issue. It does not want to deal with it. I think everybody on this side of the House knows that.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. He was on the steering committee fighting to have this issue brought before Parliament and the committee.

There is a pattern evolving. We saw it in the sponsorship program. When we started to get to the truth on some of the information at the public accounts committee, the government knew exactly what was coming. It was not a government scandal. It was a Liberal Party of Canada scandal. The Liberals knew the details. They knew the people involved. They fought tooth and nail to crush anyone coming forward.

The Prime Minister made sure there was an election before Mr. Brault could testify. The same thing happened here. The government was absolutely in full damage control mode. It had the resources and the lobbying. It did not want this to come before the committee.

Why did the Liberals not want the committee to talk about the ADR? Members from the New Democratic Party and members from the Bloc will tell us why. They know this system is failing the aboriginal people in Canada miserably. It is an unmitigated disaster. Hundreds of millions of dollars are going into a sinkhole with no results. There is no accountability.

When $200 million or $300 million is spent on a program and 1.5% of the claims are settled in that many years, when 70% to 80% of that money is spent on administration, I would be embarrassed too. I would want to run away and hide.

As a further delaying tactic the Liberals are saying, “Let us send it to the committee and have a study”. That is the most shameful position that a government could have.

Only a month or two ago the government fought tooth and nail against the Conservative Party because its members said they were getting calls from aboriginal people across the country who want to talk about this, that the system is failing them and that people are dying and they are not getting justice.

Now the Liberals suggest they want to send it back to the committee in good faith. It is no different from the sponsorship program. There is a parallel. They try to hide everything they know is wrong. Why do they not come clean? Why do they not stand up and acknowledge that this is an unmitigated disaster and that they have absolutely failed first nations people miserably in this country?

Let us try to work together to see if we can bring these people justice, the ones who have only weeks or months to live and who deserve that justice, as opposed to sending it back for some lengthy delay, some long study. The Liberals should stand up and show some leadership and direction on this file. Their only solution is to send it back to committee.

I would be embarrassed if I were a member of that party.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the motion.

Unfortunately the motion has been amended because the government does not want to deal with this issue in the House. The Liberals have done everything they could to try to stop the motion from getting here. An amendment has now been introduced to send this back to committee so the government will never have to deal with it again. Once it gets back to committee, the Liberal members on the committee will fight tooth and nail to ensure that we never talk about this issue again. The Liberals did not want to talk about it in the first place. They pulled out every stop they could think of to try to stop it from ever being discussed.

I can imagine the reaction of Liberal members of the committee if the amendment recommending to hear further witnesses passes. I can just imagine the reaction of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, who was infuriated that we had one extra day of witnesses. I am sure she would be thrilled to hear that her colleagues are pushing for more witnesses at committee so they do not have to deal with it here in the House.

The motion is to concur in a report which came forward from the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee. We held three days of hearings on this issue.

This issue is incredibly important in my constituency. I represent the riding of Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill which is in northern Saskatchewan. It is a huge area, approximately 58% of the province. My riding has 108 reserves, the most of any riding in the country. I probably represent if not the most, then close to the most, aboriginal people of any member of Parliament.

Many of my constituents attended residential schools. Many of them contacted me throughout the course of our committee hearings. They contacted me not to say we should send this back to committee for further hearings. They contacted me to thank the Conservative Party, the Bloc and the NDP for their support in bringing this to the House and for their support of the original motion in committee. Those people are very thankful that somebody is paying attention to the issue. They are very thankful that somebody is pointing out the disgrace of this program.

There are two major themes which are problematic with the ADR. They centre around the lack of efficiency, both financial and administrative, and the government's claims that this is a humane and holistic program. All the evidence that we saw in committee and all the evidence I have seen in my riding would prove otherwise.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Emergency Preparedness talked about some people having positive experiences at residential schools. To be very blunt, I have not heard that from one single person in my constituency. There may be some, but I have not seen any evidence of people having had positive experiences at residential schools.

Let us look at the whole concept of residential schools for aboriginals. The government literally grabbed young children from their families, incarcerated them in a school from the time they were five years old until they were 17 or 18 years of age. Not only that, but the parents lost legal guardianship over their own children. Legal guardianship passed to the Government of Canada. These children became wards of the state despite the fact they had loving families who were more than willing to raise them in their own homes. This was an abysmal program and the ADR is doing nothing to rectify it.

From an efficiency point of view, at least $275 million has been spent on the alternative dispute resolution program. Less than $1 million of that $275 million have actually gone to compensating victims, which is about .35% that has gone to administration and overhead. This program makes the gun registry look like a paragon of efficiency.

Approximately 87,000 or so of the individuals who attended residential schools are still with us. Of those 87,000, less than 1,200 individuals, or 1.5%, have actually applied to go through the ADR and, of the 1,200 who have actually applied, less than 100 have actually been settled. The program has been running now for over a year and a half. At this rate it could literally be hundreds of years before these claims are all resolved, which obviously will not happen because the survivors of residential schools are passing away at a very rapid rate. By some estimates, 50 survivors a week are passing away without ever having been compensated and, quite frankly, without having any rectification or apology for what happened to them.

Let us look at this application process. The application itself is a form that is very thick. It is 60-plus pages long. The guide is even longer than the form. I have three university degrees, including a law degree, and after going through the form I would have needed somebody to help me fill it out. I cannot imagine how somebody from a northern reserve with little formal education and English as a second language, if spoken at all, could fill these things out. The process itself is so daunting for people. I think that is reflected in the fact that only 1,200 people have actually filled these out.

I will go back to the forms for a second because I want to make one point. The government has actually had to hire government employees, or what we call Orwellian form fillers, to help people fill out these forms. We have heard horror stories about these form fillers not actually putting forward what these individuals have suffered.

We also have a system where the government has actually hired private investigators to look into the claims of individuals who have brought forward complaints through this incredibly complex process. The government is spending $5 million more, not to compensate these people but to investigate whether what they are saying is actually true and to try to track down the individuals in question who it claims may not have actually been involved in these things, most of whom have been dead for decades.

The priorities of the government and the priorities involved in this program are so skewed that it can only be rectified by scrapping this program and coming up with something that will actually work. We have put forward something that will actually work. We put forward eight points, which were supported in committee by all three opposition parties, and obviously fought tooth and nail by the government, the centrepiece of which is to get rid of the ADR process and put in place a court supervised process with negotiations to have court approved and enforced settlement compensation for survivors of residential schools.

I think that is the direction in which we have to go. The direction in which the government is going is leading us and the survivors nowhere.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that my colleague from Churchill River truly cares about this issue because we sat through that experience together at the committee and listened to life-changing testimony. I do not think that is overstating things. We should put in perspective that we only had a couple of days of testimony. There are many more stories that we never heard. Therefore I fully accept all the points that my colleague from Churchill River made.

What I do not understand though is why the motion that his party has put forward does not address the very points that he raised. For instance, if he believes in lump sum, universal, blanket compensation for all victims so that they do not have to be revictimized by the application process, then why will he not support a motion that calls for blanket, lump sum compensation?

The motion he has put forward specifically does not. It is very careful not to. The Globe and Mail made it clear that the Conservative Party's motion did not call for blanket universal compensation. It stated that the motion calls for scrapping the alternative dispute resolution system but asks for nothing to be put in its place. It does not call for an apology from the Prime Minister. It does not call for a truth and reconciliation process. It only talks about having a process where the survivors can tell their story.

As much as I would like to agree with my colleague on his entire speech, I can only say that his observations are correct and I share his concerns over what we heard collectively as a committee, but I am confused as to why he is defending a motion that falls short of the very points that he has identified as being necessary to provide justice and reconciliation.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Winnipeg Centre mentioned, he sat through the testimony as I and other members of the committee did which really was incredibly moving testimony from witnesses who obviously invested a great deal of courage in coming forward to tell their stories.

Flora Merrick, one of the witnesses who came forward, told an incredibly moving story, a story my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands referred to earlier.

The one thing on which I do agree with the NDP member is that the ADR process is deeply flawed as it stands right now. I am, with all due respect to the hon. member, quite surprised that the position of the NDP now is that the ADR process can be fixed rather than scrapped. I have to say honestly that was not the impression I had received prior to today. I may have had a mistaken impression but I think it was buttressed by the fact that both the New Democratic Party and the Bloc voted for this motion at the committee level. I understand that may have been to get this into the House where it does rightfully belong, which is what the hon. member said in his speech earlier, and I agree with him.

However I am quite surprised that the position is now that the ADR process should be changed rather than scrapped.

I think our process, the process put forward in the committee report, which I am happy to see is supported by my colleagues on this side, would deal in a comprehensive way with the residential school issue. We are talking about court supervised, court approved, court enforced settlements with residential school survivors. From the evidence I heard at the committee, it was asked for by survivors and I think it will deal with it.