House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was inuit.


Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Subject to the reservations or conditions expressed by the parliamentary secretary, is it the pleasure of the House that Motion No. P-7 be deemed to have been adopted?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all other Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed that the remaining Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers stand?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Perhaps I missed the questions on the order paper as I was distracted here momentarily. I have three questions outstanding that have not been answered. One goes back to February 8. Question No. 138 was asked on April 13 and Question No. 151 was asked on May 17. Rumour has it, and I know rumour is ugly, that this place may not be sitting much longer. I am wondering when I would be able to expect an answer to these questions. At least one is terribly overdue and others are coming due quite shortly.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick


Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the member for Delta—Richmond East does have, as he noted, three questions. There are perhaps others. He mentioned those. Some of them involve many departments and many agencies of the government. We are obviously doing everything we can to prepare the information in as timely a way as possible.

Some of the questions in fact have not been indicated with a date on which they are due; others have. As always, the government will respect the dates that we are required to according to the Standing Orders.

I can assure the member that he should not believe all the rumours. The only rumour that is true is that we are working hard to answer all these questions promptly.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that Question No. 78 which was asked on February 8 of this year should have been answered by now and has not been, within the provisions of the Standing Orders.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, that question involves all departments of the government and crown agencies and crown corporations. It is a very complex question. It was not one where the member indicated a response within a specific time period.

There is a procedure within the Standing Orders, as you know, Mr. Speaker, that would require the government to meet that deadline. In this case we are taking the time necessary to provide the member for Delta--Richmond East with a very accurate and fulsome answer, as I know he would expect.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

We cannot get into a debate on points of order. The hon. member for Delta--Richmond East.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no requirement for me to establish a timeframe. The timeframe for answering these questions is established by the Standing Orders. My suggestion is, Mr. Speaker, that a question asked on February 8 should have been answered by now, regardless of how many departments that are required to respond. That is the rule.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

If the rule requires an answer by a specific time, which I do not believe is the case in our Standing Orders, unless the member signifies that he wishes an answer within 45 days is my recollection, then the government is not under an obligation to provide an answer.

I am sure we have outstanding questions. We have outstanding answers. I guess we will just have to wait for this one and see what happens in due course.

I know the hon. member for Delta--Richmond East is well known for his patience.

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

We have a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Oshawa. I will hear from him now.

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian auto industry is the largest manufacturing industry in the country and the biggest employer in my hometown of Oshawa. It employs directly and indirectly over 500,000 Canadians. The sector is crucial to the economic well-being of our country.

The Liberal government has been promising an auto strategy for ages and still nothing has been delivered.

Last week General Motors announced 25,000 layoffs in the United States. According to the CAW there will definitely be spin-off effects here in Canada.

The Liberal government seems content to accept job losses as an inevitable conclusion. Without a clear, concrete, public, transparent auto strategy, I fear it may be correct.

Auto manufacturers need to know what they are getting when they invest in Canada. An auto strategy would involve a new crossing at the Windsor-Detroit border. The government is content to wait 10 years and that is totally unacceptable. The strategy would also involve harmonization of our regulations; stable infrastructure and power supply; and human resources and other important points.

The government has failed to deliver and will cost Canada new plants, new investment and new jobs.

For that reason, I call for an emergency debate on an auto strategy before the government's dithering drives away our auto sector.

Request for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has considered the request from the hon. member for Oshawa and has listened to his able submissions on the point.

It is the decision of the Chair that the application for the emergency debate does not meet the exigencies of the Standing Order at this time.

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


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

moved that Bill C-56, An Act to give effect to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement and the Labrador Inuit Tax Treatment Agreement, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick


Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties and I believe that you would find unanimous consent in the House to dispose of Bill C-56, the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement act, now in the following manner.

That each party would have one twenty minute speaking period on the bill, following which the bill would be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to and reported from a committee without amendment, concurred in at the report stage and read a third time and passed.

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House?

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I proudly rise today to voice my support for Bill C-56, the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement act, and to encourage my hon. colleagues to join with me in enacting this important legislation.

I am also pleased to be splitting my time with the member for Labrador.

The enactment of Bill C-56 and the tripartite land claims agreement that it gives effect to will not only foster greater economic and social development in Labrador Inuit communities, but also enable Canada to build on the significant progress we have made in resolving aboriginal issues.

The Labrador Inuit participate in dozens of joint ventures in a range of economic sectors. They have a strong role in their community schools and deliver social services through an agreement with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. They have negotiated an impacts and benefits agreement with Voisey's Bay Nickel Company.

The Labrador Inuit land claims agreement that will be given effect through Bill C-56 provides the Labrador Inuit with a wide range of rights and benefits related to land, resources and self-government. This is a tripartite agreement with the Government of Canada and the government of Newfoundland.

Canada's contributions include a capital transfer of $140 million and an implementation fund of $156 million. The Inuit will also have access to a percentage of any new commercial fishing licences issued in the marine area adjacent to the Labrador Inuit settlement area, thereby providing them with an opportunity to increase their already successful participation in the commercial fishing industry.

Most important, we cannot be a dollar figure placed on the pride and joy given to the people who have been given an opportunity to get control over their own lives, a chance to give back for their own people their dignity and hope for a better future and to reach their potential that I know is there.

Under the agreement the Inuit will own approximately 15,000 square kilometres of land and have a 25% ownership and interest in the subsurface. In these lands the Inuit will have the ability to make laws in relation to the wide range of subjects, including education, harvesting by Inuit, land management, environmental assessment and protected areas. Rules respecting the priority of Inuit laws and federal and provincial law are clearly set out throughout the agreement.

In the Labrador Inuit settlement area, an area of more than 72,000 square kilometres of land and 49 square kilometres of ocean, the Inuit will also have a wide range of rights and benefits related to harvesting, co-management, environmental assessment, land use planning, archeology and water use and management, to name a few. The Inuit will have a say in developments that occur in this area, as well as the right to impacts and benefits agreements for large scale development.

Bill C-56, through a consequential amendment to the Canada National Parks Act, would create the Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve of Canada in northern Labrador. This area of untouched beauty includes some of Canada's spectacular fjords, mountains and arctic wilderness. It is home caribou, polar bears and many types of birds, including the people there.

The creation of a national park in his beloved Labrador was a dream of our colleague, the late Lawrence O'Brien. Mr. O'Brien was an untiring advocate of Labrador. I am sure he would be well pleased to see his dream become a reality, as he was a very proud Labradorian, always.

The land claims agreement is accompanied by additional agreements. A fiscal financing agreement sets out the funding arrangement to support Inuit delivery of programs and services in the areas of health, post-secondary education, municipal services and economic development.

Recognizing that true self-government means contributing financially, the Inuit will over time contribute to their own costs of governance.

A detailed implementation plan sets out each party's obligations as they relate to the implementation of the agreement. All parties will be responsible for their own costs of implementing the agreement. The Labrador Inuit will repay negotiation loans of approximately $50 million over a 15 year period.

In addition to the land claims agreement, Bill C-56 would also give effect to the Labrador Inuit tax treatment agreement. This tripartite agreement provides for the tax treatment of the Nunatsiavut government. Of perhaps greater significance, though, the legislation now before us would enable the Labrador Inuit to establish a self-government regime that reflects the particular realities of northern Labrador.

The regional Nunatsiavut government, elected by Inuit, will have jurisdiction over Inuit and Labrador Inuit lands in such areas as lands and resources and social and cultural issues. All residents, Inuit and non-Inuit alike, will have the right to elect representatives to these municipal-type governments.

Bill C-56 would provide certainty with respect to lands and resources of northern and central Labrador. Federal and provincial legislation continue to apply to Inuit. They will continue to be able to avail themselves of the protections provided under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada will retain its ability to act internationally, while also recognizing that there may be instances where Inuit need to be consulted about possible impacts on rights under the agreement.

Inuit self-government promotes greater openness, transparency and accountability. It attracts investors and fosters economic growth. It encourages self-reliance and leads to improvements in housing, employment and quality of life. It builds capacity and ensures a sustainable and stable economy. It enables Inuit communities to participate more fully in the national economy.

The Labrador Inuit have worked diligently to prepare themselves for the additional responsibilities that they will acquire under Bill C-56. They drafted and ratified a constitution that defines the roles and responsibilities of both new levels of government, and protects the democratic rights and freedoms of all those living on Labrador Inuit lands and in Inuit communities. The Inuit constitution will help ensure that Nunatsiavut is politically and financially accountable to its constituents, and I have every confidence in its capabilities.

On May 26, 2004, 86.5% of the eligible Inuit voters turned out to cast their votes. An overwhelming 76.5% of all eligible voters voted in favour of the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement. On December 6, 2004, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador introduced, passed and gave royal assent to the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement act, with all party support.

Now the aspirations of the Labrador Inuit are in our hands. I encourage the members of the House to follow the example set by the Labrador Inuit and indeed by the members of the provincial house of assembly, to show their support for this legislation and to enact the first agreement to combine land claims and self-government in Atlantic Canada. Acknowledge the great progress already made by Labrador Inuit and give them the power to extend that progress for the benefit of all Labradorians and indeed for all Canadians.

As a fellow Inuk I am very proud to stand here today to lend support to this last land claims agreement for Inuit in Canada. I want to congratulate the president of Labrador Inuit Association, William Anderson, who is here today with a large delegation from Labrador.

[Member spoke in Inuktitut]


By supporting Bill C-56, we can send a clear signal to all aboriginal people in our country that we as a country are serious about working with them to support their vision of a better vision of a better future for their families and their communities, and that we are committed to establishing a new relationship with them based on mutual respect and recognition.

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Madam Speaker, I rise today to voice my support for Bill C-56 as a Labradorian, a Métis and a Canadian.

In this my maiden speech, I will take the opportunity to thank the people of Labrador for their tremendous support throughout the last weeks and months. By their support they have given me the privilege and honour to be in this House and to speak to Bill C-56, the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement act.

I will begin by extending congratulations and thanks to the negotiators on all sides for their dedicated efforts. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the steadfast determination, patience and perseverance of the Labrador Inuit. These qualities are evident in the agreement that is now before us.

On January 22, 2005, history was made with the signing of the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement. This tripartite agreement of the Labrador Inuit Association, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada represents a major milestone. It is the first agreement between the Labrador Inuit and the Crown and it is the first treaty in Atlantic Canada to include land claims and self-government. I trust that it will not be the last but that it paves the way for similar treaties in Atlantic Canada and particularly in Labrador for the Innu and the Métis.

At the signing ceremony, the president of the Labrador Inuit Association, William Andersen III, described the significance of the agreement this way:

The Agreement...provides for certainty and rights and creates clarity for the future. It will allow us to build on the partnerships we have begun, to work toward sustainable development, economic growth and social justice.

I believe that Mr. Andersen's simple and direct statement perfectly encapsulates the spirit and content of this historic agreement.

In expressing my support for this bill, I would like to remember the late Lawrence O'Brien, a former colleague, a friend and an hon. member of this House.

Mr. O'Brien, the first Labrador native to be elected member of Parliament, had a vision for his homeland that he worked tirelessly to realize. He understood that finalizing this agreement, and all that it represented, would be a significant step toward fulfilling his vision and would bring significant benefits to the Inuit and to all Labrador. Mr. O'Brien said:

Labrador has enormous geography, enormous potential and an enormous role to play in this country.

Mr. O'Brien believed fervently in Labrador's great potential and was committed to ensuring it was realized. While I and many members of this House are greatly saddened by Mr. O'Brien's passing, we are also filled with gratitude for his many contributions to Labrador and Canada.

Of particular interest to Mr. O'Brien was the creation of a national park in the Torngat Mountains of northern Labrador. I am pleased to say that the agreement before us today goes a long way to fulfilling that dream.

The Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve of Canada will be created as a result of the agreement and this act. The park reserve includes approximately 9,600 square kilometres of pristine wilderness that will be enjoyed for generations to come. It will protect an area of spectacular Arctic wilderness, including mountains, fjords, river valleys and rugged coastal landscapes. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including the world's largest caribou herd, as well as other smaller, distinct herds.

Mr. O'Brien would be proud to realize that his dream, and the dream of so many other Labradorians, was coming true in such an historic fashion.

The land and resource rights the Labrador Inuit will have in these areas will enable them to exercise greater control of their future and direct social and economic development. The provisions of Bill C-56 will help the Labrador Inuit overcome the lingering effects of past injustices.

Bill C-56 could not be more timely, because the Labrador Inuit are prepared to exercise faithfully and effectively the responsibilities that come with self-government. The Labrador Inuit maintain a profitable development corporation and a health commission along with a successful housing association and various cultural and educational programs.

The Labrador Inuit have drafted and approved a constitution that defines the roles and responsibilities of the Nunatsiavut government. It will ensure that the Nunatsiavut government and the Inuit community governments are accountable, both politically and financially, to their constituents.

Last year, the agreement at the heart of Bill C-56 earned the overwhelming support of Labrador Inuit voters, another important step toward self-government. The benefits of land claim and self-government agreements are numerous. The time has come for the Labrador Inuit to realize those benefits.

Bill C-56, in clarifying issues related to the ownership and management of land and natural resources, will also establish the type of stable environment readily sought by investors. The bill will preserve the traditional land- and sea-based economy upon which Inuit have depended for thousands of years. With respect for land and culture at the core of all investment decisions, a new era of economic and social development can begin.

I have read and heard at first hand some of the compelling and incredible stories of the people of northern Labrador. I have come across the words “together we are stronger”, a powerful phrase which embraces the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Bill C-56 brings together the Nunatsiavut government, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada, but I will note something that I personally believe in: this will also bring together the many people of Labrador. Those words ring true not only in the context of Bill C-56, but they ring true for the people of Labrador: “together we are stronger” and together we can realize the great potential that we have in Labrador and that each of us contributes to the other. I say those words from the heart, not only from the lips.

Also, I urge the House to join with me in supporting this historic piece of legislation, in supporting the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement and the tools that it will provide to enable the Labrador Inuit to govern themselves and their lands. Let us realize the tremendous opportunity before us to move together and create a future for Labrador that will enable all of us to build on past successes and gain greater control of the future.

I thank all members of all parties for their cooperation in getting this bill through in the interests of those most affected, the Inuit of Labrador.

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Jim Prentice Conservative Calgary North Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

It is my pleasure to say at the outset that I have rarely been prouder as a Canadian than I am today in standing in the House to speak to this bill.

As well, it is my pleasure to follow the member for Nunavut, who is an Inuit woman and I am sure a very proud person today. She and I have had our differences, but I am proud to call her my colleague.

I would also congratulate my friend, the member for Labrador, who has just made his maiden speech. I congratulate him on finding his way clear to having his lips and his heart, as he says, support this claim today.

I am grateful as well for the efforts of the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent.

I have a number of acknowledgments as I begin. First, with respect to our party, the Conservative Party, we are proud today to support this particular claim. I wish to express my thanks to the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, the member for St. John's East, the member for Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar, and the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. All of these members have worked tirelessly on this legislation. They have worked with our caucus in the review of this legislation and have met extensively with members of the Inuit community and the governments involved. I thank them.

A special acknowledgement needs to be made to a number of individuals today as this claim comes to fruition: Mr. Rideout, the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Mr. Wally Anderson, a member of the House of Assembly, both of whom have worked extensively on this claim.

I think one of the great successes of this claim is the extent to which the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has embraced the claims process and provided a way forward for both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. It deserves our support, our thanks as Canadians and our congratulations.

As well, I know that we have many members of the Inuit community here. I will refer only to the president of the Labrador Inuit Association, William Andersen III, who has been instrumental, as has Mr. Barbour, his predecessor, together with the many people from their negotiating team in their community, who have worked for more than 23 years to bring this claim to fruition.

Again let me say that we are proud to have them as Canadians. We are proud to call ourselves Canadians with them. They have worked so hard and so tirelessly for so long to achieve this in partnership with all of us that we say thanks today from the bottom of our hearts.

This claim is one that we are proud to support. So that it is quite clear, let me say that the position of the Conservative Party is that the settlement of outstanding comprehensive claims must be pursued in Canada, and they should be pursued on the basis of a clear framework which balances the right of aboriginal Canadians, in this case the Inuit, with the interests of Canada.

In particular, the policy of our party has been that negotiated settlements must balance the economic and social needs of aboriginal Canadians with our collective desire as Canadians to move forward in a manner that respects the charter, ensures that we have constitutional workability in this country, and respects the jurisdictions of the federal government and the provinces and the emerging jurisdiction of aboriginal first nation governments.

We are proud that this claim can certainly be said to achieve all of these objectives.

I have had the good fortune to travel the length and breadth of this country, both during my time as a member of Parliament and before. As I have said before at committee, in the context of my trip to northern Labrador to meet with the Inuit people I actually did not travel the way members of Parliament sometimes do. I travelled at the back of a cargo airplane where a couple of seats had been inserted into the back of the plane so that I could get Nain and meet the fine people who live in Nain and Hopedale. I would like to think that I saw that part of Canada very much the way it was meant to be seen.

That part of Canada is extraordinarily beautiful. I do not think that many Canadians appreciate just what an extraordinarily beautiful part of Canada the northern peninsula of Labrador is. The Torngat Mountains, rising 3,000 to 4,000 feet directly out of the Labrador sea, are one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Canada. All Canadians can take pride in the fact that this will be set aside for all time as a national park.

In reviewing the claim, we are pleased to see, in addition, the lands of 28,000 square miles which have been set aside as the Labrador Inuit settlement area, and the 6,100 square miles of land that have been set aside as the owned land, the Labrador Inuit land.

We have reviewed closely the harvesting rights, the fishing rights, the quarrying rights, and the rights which the Inuit people have secured over the ocean zone and the settlement lands. We find all of that to be in keeping with what is intended by the comprehensive claim approach.

For the record, I would like to point out that the 1986 comprehensive claims policy of Canada was in fact a policy that was developed by a previous Conservative government. There have been four Inuit comprehensive claims negotiated in Canadian history, all of them in the last generation. Those agreements have been negotiated by Conservative governments, with the exception of this claim. This claim was started and negotiated under a Conservative government. It was brought to fruition under a different government.

I make that point because I wish to be perfectly clear that the resolution of these claims, in a way which is dignified and provides a way forward for Inuit people and non-Inuit people, is something which Conservatives have always supported.

We have examined this claim with respect to the degree to which it achieves finality and certainty, the degree to which it advances the interests of aboriginal Canadians, and the degree to which it protects Canadian sovereignty and provides for jurisdictional clarity with the other levels of government. We have examined the extent to which the charter applies to Inuit citizens and the extent to which the rights of women are protected in Inuit society.

In all of those respects we as Conservatives are proud that this agreement is one which all Canadians can support and is one which we certainly support. Dealing with a couple of those points, I would reference the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 2.18.1 of the agreement itself provides clearly that “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to Inuit Government in respect of all matters within its authority”.

When one takes the time as well to examine the Labrador Inuit constitution, that constitution and the founding principles upon which it is based provide very clearly in subsection 1.1.3(j) that:

--within Labrador Inuit society every Inuk is entitled to the same rights and freedoms that all Canadians have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

The provisions of the Canadian charter are completely clear and unambiguous with respect to this claim.

The position with respect to aboriginal women and this of course has been an issue before the House of Commons and the Senate in other matters is also very clear. I would reference 17.18.3 of the agreement which provides as follows:

Inuit Laws under section 17.18.2 must accord rights to, and provide for the protection of spouses, cohabiting partners, children, parents, vulnerable family members and individuals defined as dependents under Inuit Laws that are comparable to the rights and protections enjoyed by similarly situated individuals under Laws of General Application.

In essence, that means that women in Inuit society will be accorded, under this agreement, protection in respect of matrimonial property and the like which is at least as good as the protection which they have under the general laws of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is important to the Conservative Party. We are pleased to see that in the agreement.

All things then considered, as one looks at everything that has gone into this agreement, it provides hope. It provides future for the Inuit people who have negotiated this agreement.

We are proud today to stand in this House and say thanks to the many people who have brought this agreement to fruition. We offer our support and our encouragement, and at the end of the day we say first and foremost to all of those people that we are proud to call them our fellow Canadians.

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Loyola Hearn Conservative St. John's South, NL

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to be here this afternoon to speak to this significant piece of legislation.

Let me first say, and this might be a precedent, that I am speaking really on behalf of the member for St. John's East and myself. We were thinking about making a joint speech, but I do not think we would be allowed to read it. I speak much more quickly than he does, so that might not have worked out either, but everything I say, I know I am saying for him as well.

I know the House generally and certainly the people from Labrador are very proud of the work that my colleague from Calgary Centre-North has done on this file. I had the privilege early last fall to introduce the member to Mr. Anderson from the Labrador Inuit Association. Since that time he has been heavily involved in the file and helped to push it along. He apologizes that this legislation is not being delivered by a Conservative government, but I say to him that without the input of Minister Rideout and Premier Williams and the Conservative government in Newfoundland and Labrador, it would not have reached here so fast, so there is some consolation in that.

Let me also congratulate the member for Labrador on his first speech in the House. I am sure that he will make many over the years but none will be as memorable and I would suggest to him, none as important as the one he has made today on this very significant occasion.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the late Lawrence O'Brien. All of us who knew Lawrence and called him a friend would appreciate how important this day would be for him if he were here, but I know he is looking down on us from a much higher seat than any of us will hold for awhile, at least I hope. Let me also thank the member for Nunavut for her participation. We know how proud she is today at this great event.

Many of the people who really made it happen of course are in the gallery. President William Anderson has done such a wonderful job, not just recently on this agreement but for years. I have known him for many years and this has been an issue close to his heart. The MHA for the area, Mr. Wally Andersen, is here as is the minister who was introduced earlier, Mr. Rideout from the Newfoundland government. He has worked so closely with everyone to ensure this happened.

That is how we get things done. We see a challenge, we get together, and we face it collectively. We look at the strengths, the weaknesses, and what it takes from each of us to make it happen and then put it all together. It is a great day.

Those who are not familiar with the area and who have not been to the north coast of Labrador are missing something. In a former life, as a minister of education, I visited every, if not almost every, community along the coast. I visited all the schools, met with the people and took some time to hunt and fish.

We talk about history. I have heard members from Alberta, with all due respect to my colleagues, talk about the history of their province. We do not know the history of this country until we have visited Labrador. We do not know scenery unless we have seen the Torngats. We do not know fishing unless we have fished in Labrador.

We see people who are the kindest and most dedicated people in the world. People who have, not just for years but for centuries, eked out a living from the land and have seen others perhaps take more advantage of their resources than they did themselves. All that is going to change because of the work of some of the people we mentioned.

Today is a whole new day in the life of Labrador. I am reminded of the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. Robert Frost, of course, was one of the greatest poets who wrote poems that really expressed local situations. The Road Not Taken probably describes today what is happening to the Inuit people along the coast of Labrador.

Years ago they had the choice of continuing to do what had gone on for centuries. They had the choice to let others dictate their future to them or, when they came to the fork in the road, they had a choice to perhaps set off in a new direction, to take the road not taken, and to lead to an area where they themselves would control their own future and destiny. That is not always the easiest choice.

I am sure the new member for Labrador, who in his own right has fought many battles for his people, knows it is not easy. It is very easy for people to sit back and let somebody else do everything for them. It is a lot harder to stand and fight for what a person knows is right, to fight for what belongs to that person, and to fight for what that person knows he or she should control. This is what Mr. Anderson and his people have done.

In just a few moments, after we hear from two or three other speakers, the legislation will go through the House. What the Inuit people have wanted for a long time will be delivered to them. I want to tell them that they took the road not taken, but certainly, as the poem ends up, it has made all the difference.

I know it will make a lot of difference to the people of Labrador and the Inuit along the coast because their destiny is now in their own hands. History will show that we could not have turned the control of this destiny over to a better people. I wish them all the best and certainly appreciate being a little part of this whole exercise.

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Bernard Cleary Bloc Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me as a member of Parliament for the Bloc Québécois responsible for issues related to the first nations and the Inuit, Innu of Mashteuiatsh, the Lac-Saint-Jean reserve in Nitassinan, the ancestral land of the Innu of Pekuakami, to speak to Bill C-56, an act to give effect to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement and the Labrador Inuit Tax Treatment Agreement.

Allow me first to congratulate the chair of the committee, the member for Nunavut, for the tremendous work she did on this and other matters, as well as all the opposition members who fought tooth and nail to ensure that this bill was referred to the House of Commons as soon as possible.

The Bloc Québécois is very honoured to give its full support to this bill to give effect to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement and the Labrador Inuit Tax Treatment Agreement. There are three main reasons why we take this position.

First, the Bloc Québécois fully supports the idea of a right to self-government for aboriginal peoples, and this agreement realizes their right to govern themselves. They will have the pleasure of making their own choices, acting on them and developing, as they see fit, the future of their people, and most of all, of their children. If only for this reason, we should support the principle underlying this entire agreement.

Second, a majority of the Inuit—76%— voted in favour of this agreement, with a turnout of 86.5% in the May 26, 2004 referendum. It would be ill-advised for sovereigntists to oppose this.

Third, the agreement is a fine example of self-government and will go down alongside the Nisga'a agreement, the Tlicho agreement, and soon that of the Quebec Cree.

More generally, the Bloc Québécois is concerned about aboriginal claims for self-government. It acknowledges the aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples with a right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions, as well as the right to direct the development of their own identity.

Bill C-56 is now at the second reading needed to implement the tripartite agreement signed by the Inuit, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada.

The Inuit are an aboriginal people numbering some 5,300 individuals. Most of them live in coastal communities in northern Labrador.

I would like to salute the president of the Labrador Inuit Association, Mr. William Anderson III, whom I have met with on several occasions. I hope that this bill now before the House of Commons is passed and, after a number of years, becomes the real social vision of their people.

The traditional lands of the Labrador Inuit are called “Nunatsiavut” and extend into the Torngat Mountains region as well.

This is the third agreement with Inuit nations, satisfying the aspirations of a first nation to self-government, while at the same time settling its land claim.

As was pointed out earlier, it was a matter of completing the circle of all the agreements that have been made for Inuit peoples. It is therefore, in my view, an enormous step forward in the development of these peoples. We can be sure that they will succeed, thanks to this agreement, in developing their communities, as they so richly deserve.

It is now up to the people who negotiated these agreements to follow this matter and ensure that it achieves its full potential.

The Government of Nunatsiavut will own a piece of land 72,520 square kilometres in size that stretches to the outer limits of Canada's territorial waters.

The Government of Canada will transfer $140 million to the Labrador Inuit under the terms of the agreement, as well as $156 million to implement it.

In particular, the agreement gives the Labrador Inuit property rights over resources, particularly carving stone and quarry material, as well as 25% of the revenues from subsurface resources so that they can take advantage of them and thereby ensure long-term funding for their people.

This part of the negotiations is an impressive result for the negotiators because they will succeed in providing sufficient funding for their agreement and their government.

Under the agreement, the Labrador Inuit will also have many other benefits, including the ability to manage their own health system, on condition that their standards are similar to those in other communities in Labrador; their own education, in order to protect their language and traditions; and their day-to-day administration, resources, economic development, etc.

The Labrador Inuit must also be consulted when development projects affect their land.

In all cases, the Canadian charter continues to apply to Inuit land and government.

The agreement also provides that the interests of current landowners are not affected by the new provisions. There is still free access to the land, with the exception of new roads or access routes where the Nunatsiavut government could impose transit fees.

In short, the agreement enables the Inuit to manage their own development. It also gives them more powers to protect their way of life, stimulate economic growth, and enhance the well-being of their communities.

In view of the nature of the bill giving effect to the Labrador Inuit land claims and the Labrador Inuit tax treatment agreement, it seems to us that the role of Parliament is to debate and accept or reject this bill. There is no need for us to amend this bill. It was duly endorsed by the three parties who negotiated it. To amend it would be to patronize it, and that we refuse to support.

We would point out that the Bloc Québécois endorsed the essence of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. They set out aboriginal self-government as a level of government with jurisdiction over matters of good government and public well-being. In addition, the report as a whole was based on recognition of native peoples as autonomous nations occupying a unique place in Canada.

Before concluding, I would like to congratulate once again all the people who had to work hard to bring this agreement about. It puts an end to the negotiations of the Inuit of Canada as a whole. This is a historic day to remember.

In closing, I invite everyone applying this agreement to be careful. As I have said again and again, an agreement is like a hunting rifle: if it is left at home it serves no purpose. It has to be used well and worked with. So, too, this agreement.

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a true honour for me to join the debate on Bill C-56 and to represent the views of the New Democratic Party caucus.

I would like to begin by saying I rise to enthusiastically support Bill C-56, known as the Labrador Inuit land claims and self-government act . I am deeply honoured to be able to participate in the consideration of the bill. I applaud the spirit of cooperation that exists in the House of Commons today and the goodwill expressed by all my colleagues from all parties. It serves as a testimony to the level of interest that we see and take in this issue and the genuine goodwill that we express to the Inuit people of Labrador today.

It is my belief that with today's debate, the House is taking a significant step toward our ultimate objective, and I honestly believe that is making self-government a reality for the Labrador Inuit.

Self-government for the Labrador Inuit is embedded in the provisions of a historic accord, the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement which is, I point out with great pride, the first modern day treaty in Atlantic Canada, a pact that truly marks the beginning of a new era in partnership between the Labrador Inuit and Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada.

The agreement is a product of extensive consultation, deliberation and negotiation. In that spirit the agreement represents the successful conclusion of 28 years of patient work by the Labrador Inuit and the Governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador. I can imagine the degree of commitment that has to be demonstrated by all of the parties to navigate and negotiate a complex agreement on a subject matter as critical as the inherent right to self-governance and to maintain that stream of thought for 28 years to a successful conclusion.

This is a lifetime worth of work for the principals engaged in this undertaking. It is the fulfillment of a dream, not only of the people but of the leadership who have dedicated their lives to this diligent study, collaboration and effort that began as long ago as 1977 with the filing of a statement of claim by the Labrador Inuit Association.

Negotiations may have been lengthy, but since the agreement was finalized on August 29, 2003, I am pleased to say that progress has really been swift as it moved toward official ratification on May 26, 2004, with 76% of Inuit electors voting in favour of the agreement. On December 6, 2004, the Newfoundland and Labrador house of assembly adopted the enabling legislation, the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement act.

On January 21, representatives of the Labrador Inuit, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada affixed their signatures to the agreement, the final step toward ratification. The passage of Bill C-56 is for the House now to undertake. Again, it is my great honour to be a part of that historic agreement.

The pace may have seemed glacial in those early years, but in actual fact the timeframe since August 29, 2003, by the standards of legislation, is really quite speedy and it demonstrates the genuine goodwill of the people of Canada toward the interests of the Labrador Inuit.

A number of devoted men and women are responsible for this agreement and for bringing us to this threshold of such a remarkable accomplishment. I would like to recognize and pay tribute to all those who played a part in the development of the agreement: the negotiators for all sides, the Labrador Inuit and their wise leader, William Anderson III, the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador and representatives of the provincial and federal governments. In particular, it is only fair to take note of and to recognize the efforts of the current Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and his provincial counterpart, the hon. Tom Rideout. Genuine cooperation, painstaking work and unflagging patience have been the hallmarks of their efforts on all sides.

It is not an overstatement that the result of their work, Bill C-56, is truly historic. The legislation sanctions the landmark agreement signed between the Labrador Inuit and the Governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador, an accord that defines and provides certainty about the rights of the Labrador Inuit as they relate to their lands, resources and self-government.

An examination of the agreement reveals the care and the thoroughness with which negotiators had to go about their work. It is a testimony to their diligence that the complexities of this agreement did not cause the whole effort to collapse under its own weight. I have nothing but admiration for the people who had the fortitude, the intelligence and the enduring, endless patience to plough their way through the minute details necessary in such an historic nation to nation agreement.

The agreement creates two categories of land, the Labrador Inuit settlement area; and Labrador Inuit lands. The settlement area consists of more than 72,000 square kilometres of land and some 49,000 square kilometres of ocean, extending to the limits of Canada's territorial sea. The settlement area includes Labrador Inuit lands and five Inuit communities: Nain, Hopedale, Makkovik, Postville and Rigolet.

In the northern part of the settlement area, approximately 9,600 square kilometres of land will be set aside for the establishment of the Torngat Mountains National Parks Reserve.

Within the settlement area, Inuit will own 15,800 square kilometres of land known as the Labrador Inuit lands. It is in this area where the Labrador Inuit will exercise the most rights and enjoy the most benefits. These rights and benefits cover a wide range of essential matters such as surface and subsurface resources, water use and management, ocean management, economic development, national parks and protected areas, land use planning, environmental assessment, wildlife, plants and fisheries, harvesting, archeology and place names. These are meaningful significant areas of jurisdiction that the Labrador Inuit will have the right to self-determination and control of these aspects of their lives and their livelihoods.

I again recognize and pay tribute to how difficult it must have been for the negotiators to convince an unwilling Government of Canada and an unwilling provincial government, at times, to acknowledge the inherent right to self-determination of a people and the inherent right to self-governance and the inherent right to their land, their resources, surface and subsurface, in minute detail. It is an astronomical feat. I do not know if the people at home watching this can appreciate the hurdles. This makes putting a man on the moon seem like a small achievement. I know how difficult our bureaucracies can be.

In addition to this comprehensive resolution over land claims and resource rights, the Government of Canada also agrees, by this legislation, to pay the Labrador Inuit $140 million over a period of 15 years. Unfortunately, the flip side of that coin is the Inuit will have to repay their negotiation loans of some $50 million during that same 15 year period. With every ray of sun, there is a cloud, I suppose.

Although the agreement is detailed and far-reaching in a number of respects on lands and resources, on capital transfers, on environmental protection, I am most enthusiastic about the agreement's provisions concerning self-government.

As a forward thinking community, the Labrador Inuit created a constitution several years ago. This constitution, which comes into effect with the agreement, establishes two levels of government, the regional Nunatsiavut government and five Inuit community governments.

All governments will be democratically elected and accountable to Inuit electors. The Nunatsiavut government may make laws to govern Inuit residents of Labrador Inuit lands and the five Inuit communities on such matters as education, health, income support, child and family services, meaningful aspects of the day to day life of the people who will now be the proud beneficiaries as the agreement unfolds.

The regional government will also have jurisdiction over its internal affairs, including traditional language and culture and the management of Inuit rights and benefits under the agreement. The Nunatsiavut government may also choose to establish a justice system for the administration of local laws. This is not simply smoke and mirrors. This is significant, meaningful, self-administration, self-determination and self-governance.

In all the research that we have seen, all the empirical evidence shows that the economic development and financial success of first nations and Inuit communities around the world is directly proportional to the degree of self-determination afforded to those individuals and those communities. In other words, it is a necessary prerequisite for a healthy, successful and sustainable economic community to have control of their own self-determination and their own destiny.

Five Inuit community governments will replace current municipal governments. The community governments may enact bylaws respecting local or municipal matters within their local jurisdictions. It is interesting to note, and I think this is an example of a modern day agreement, that both Inuit and non-Inuit residents alike in these communities will be able to vote and serve as councillors. That is in the best spirit of reality, generosity and a willingness to make this new community work.

I believe it is important to point out to anyone listening that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will continue to apply to all Inuit governments and to matters under their jurisdiction and control, and federal and provincial laws will continue to apply to all Inuit.

Just to be abundantly clear for anyone who may be uncertain about what aboriginal or Inuit self-government looks like, they do not need to have any fears about this. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has primacy, equity and equality exist and the federal and provincial laws will continue to apply. The Labrador Inuit will have the jurisdiction and control for those specific areas of their lives that are so important in the interests of self-determination and self-control.

The Labrador Inuit will also remain eligible for federal and provincial programs and services, like all Canadians. They are still Canadian citizens. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Canada and the Nunatsiavut government will negotiate a fiscal financing agreement every five years to provide funding to the Nunatsiavut government, enabling this regional government to provide agreed upon programs and services to Inuit and, where appropriate, to other residents.

Meanwhile, the Labrador Inuit will contribute to the costs of their own governance, programs and services. The first fiscal financing agreement has been negotiated and will take effect when the agreement comes into force. We hope that is within the very immediate future.

These self-government provisions will make a genuine difference in the daily lives of the Labrador Inuit by helping them to build a solid foundation for future economic growth and prosperity. Indeed, the profound benefits of self-government for aboriginal peoples are no longer in question. The link connecting aboriginal self-government and economic self-determination is far too obvious for anyone to doubt.

Self-government promotes open, transparent and accountable community decision making for aboriginal peoples. Responsible local governments lead to certainty about land ownership and management. It creates a stable environment for development and for investors. This certainty helps to attract investors and business partners and it fosters economic growth.

Investors seek stability and certainty. This agreement would give the certainty that people can invest in confidence. Outsiders can invest in confidence, in cooperation and with permission of the Labrador Inuit. Rising prosperity and optimism encourages self-reliance and leads to improvements in housing, employment and quality of life. It enables aboriginal communities to break down barriers and participate more fully in our nation's economy.

Clarifying jurisdictions, establishing elected, effective, accountable governments and creating a climate for economic growth and self-reliance, Bill C-56 would set the stage for all of these goals, helping the Labrador Inuit to continue their vital integration into Canadian economic life, hopefully, while still protecting their unique, cultural traditions.

In this fundamental respect, Bill C-56 represents a sensible response to the changing and challenging conditions of modern life and I hope enables a proud and ancient people to flourish.

In fact, through three key Inuit economic, political and health organizations, the Labrador Inuit have been hard at work for a number of years addressing the pressing social needs, forging partnerships with local governments and organizations, and striving to develop the physical infrastructure required to generate and sustain that economic growth.

The Labrador Inuit Development Corporation, an agency that strives to improve local living conditions by creating employment opportunities and promoting training and skills development, has successfully established several joint ventures. The corporation owns and operates two anorthite quarries near Nain and a stone processing plant near Hopedale.

In addition to these natural resources projects, the development corporation has reached an impact and benefits agreement with the Voisey's Bay Nickel Company. Through the agreement, Inuit are recruited and trained for work on the Voisey's Bay project and businesses with significant Inuit content are given special consideration as potential suppliers.

What is more, the Nunatsiavut government receives 5% of the provincial revenues generated by the subsurface resources in the Voisey's Bay area. These revenues, as it should be, go directly into a post-secondary support program that enables approximately 100 Labrador Inuit to pursue advanced studies, surely an idea we should celebrate.

The Labrador Inuit Association, the political arm of the local Inuit population, provides a wide range of training, investment and purchasing programs designed to increase aboriginal participation in the Canadian economy. This agency also participates in a number of environmental initiatives, such as fish population studies and forest preservation activities.

The Labrador Inuit Health Commission delivers programs targeted to community health needs and addresses concerns, such as drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness. The Labrador Inuit Association meanwhile supports an alcohol free social club, conferences on fetal alcohol disorder and the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Given those activities and those accomplishments, the Labrador Inuit are clearly prepared to take the next fundamental step toward true independence and self-governance to safeguard their lands and culture and to wield the levers of economic power.

I believe the legislation before us today will enable them to accomplish that. I am urging my colleagues to fulfill their role in this historic achievement by lending their prompt and unqualified support to Bill C-56.

Let me conclude my remarks by quoting some of the comments at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on June 9 when the Labrador Inuit Association made presentations to us, particularly comments from Mr. William Andersen III, the president of the Labrador Inuit Association.

I will be brief but I thought it was powerful testimony, and for those Canadians who may be watching this historic event, they should hear the voice of Mr. Andersen who said:

I'm also someone whose life was changed by factors I could not control at an early age. In 1956 when I was eight, my family was relocated from our home in Nutuk without our consent. So I've seen a lot of change and I understand why this bill is so important to our people.

The Inuit of Labrador continue to live a traditional lifestyle. We camp, live on the land, hunt and gather food and most importantly, maintain an active connection with our Inuit heritage and language. At the same time, we're building on our traditions to create economic development and social programs for the future. The approval of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement will address concerns that are vital to us now and in the long term.

Nunasiavut is the Labrador Inuit name for our homeland and in English it means “our beautiful land”.

I was moved by the presentation of the president of the Labrador Inuit Association, as were my colleagues in all parties. As a representative from the province of Manitoba and as a representative of the New Democratic Party caucus, I want to throw our enthusiastic support and best wishes to the Labrador Inuit for the successful passage of Bill C-56 and the historic agreement that would give them the right to self-determination and self-governance.