Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to finish sharing my views on Bill C-292
I rise today in opposition to Bill C-292, an act to implement the Kelowna accord.
As I mentioned in my earlier remarks, I commend the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard for providing members with the opportunity to discuss this issue that is of great importance to all Canadians. It is a pleasure to see the member for LaSalle—Émard in the House today.
This issue is important for all Canadians. Although I welcome the occasion to speak to this pressing matter and listen to the contributions of other members, I cannot support the proposed legislation.
My opposition to Bill C-292 is rooted in two main objections. First, the bill is poorly conceived. It is not a precise, detailed policy blueprint but a series of broad political commitments. Furthermore, it purports to extend statutory recognition to a one-time political event and create a legal obligation to fulfill a series of wide-ranging commitments.
As I mentioned earlier, the short text of Bill C-292 provides members with absolutely no idea of what obligations it would impose on the government, nor whether these obligations would also apply to provinces and territories. This is an important issue for many of my colleagues in this chamber.
Until members are provided with clear details on the nature of these programs and the related accountability measures, and until a long term sustainable financial plan to fund these programs has been approved by Parliament, I cannot see how this House can approve or support Bill C-292. So it will come as no surprise to members of this House that I continue to speak today in opposition to this bill.
The health and prosperity of aboriginal and northern communities is critical to the health and prosperity of our entire nation. Thus, we must take concrete steps to address issues of aboriginal women, children and families, education, water, and housing.
Mr. Speaker, on Monday, September 25, you yourself mentioned that Bill C-292, in clause 2, does state that the government shall “take all measures necessary to implement the terms of the accord”, but the bill does not provide specific details on these measures. You said, “The measures simply are not described”.
Bill C-292 fails to establish a clear plan of action to resolve these issues. It fails to assign responsibilities. It fails to detail financial arrangements. It fails to adequately define procedures to achieve its targets. In other words, the bill before us today is not a fully developed strategy and could not be legally enforced.
With $3.7 billion allocated for aboriginal and northern programs, the budget created by Canada's new government includes targeted investments in key areas. Those key areas include aboriginal housing, water, education, and economic development. The returns on these investments will deliver real improvements in the quality of life for aboriginal and northern peoples.
Those investments will fortify relationships with provinces, territories, aboriginal leaders and organizations and create a more promising future for all Canadians.
It is important to note that the government's $3.7 billion investment in aboriginal and northern peoples is in addition to increases to aboriginal health programs, as well as increases to the budget of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
This number, $3.7 billion, also excludes budget initiatives already aimed at both aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal peoples deserve no less than the same opportunities we all seek for our families, for our communities and for our country. We are committed to securing these opportunities for aboriginal Canadians.
Three hundred million dollars will go directly to affordable housing programs in the territories, benefiting both aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples. Nunavut, where the problem is most pressing, will receive $200 million. Yukon and the Northwest Territories will receive $50 million each.
Another $300 million will be used to improve housing through the off-reserve aboriginal housing fund.
Furthermore, $450 million has been set aside to fund initiatives for water, housing, education, and women, children and families. Through education, aboriginal communities can successfully battle poverty, while initiatives to improve the quality of life for women will nurture healthy children and families.
A settlement agreement that was signed on May 10 launched an advanced payment program for seniors who suffered abuse while in residential schools. Victims will share in a $2.2 billion fund to help them deal with the emotional and psychological trauma that many of them continue to experience to this day.
We do not believe that money and ad hoc remedies resolve the challenges facing aboriginal peoples. We must take on the hard work of renovating our laws and our institutions. This new Government of Canada is identifying and implementing effective and lasting solutions through collaboration and mutual respect.
I strongly advise my hon. colleagues to join me in voting against Bill C-292.