Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois will be supporting Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, introduced by the member for LaSalle—Émard. I will mention a few of the reasons why.
The Kelowna accord is not, was not and will not be a cure-all for the problems faced by aboriginal communities. What the Kelowna accord was and will be is merely a way to alleviate the major problems of these communities. On Monday, May 8, 2006, in support of the accord, I tabled a motion, on behalf of my party, to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development recommending the implementation of the Kelowna accord reached by representatives of Ottawa, Quebec, the provinces and national aboriginal leaders.
The tabling of this motion and Bill C-292, which we are debating today, remind us that, once again, the federal government has not respected its commitments and has not taken its responsibilities toward the aboriginal people. I would like to read the motion that I tabled and that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development adopted:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee recommends that government to implement the Kelowna agreement, entitled Strengthening Relationships and Closing the Gap, which was reached on November 25, 2005 between the First Ministers and the National Aboriginal Leaders.
That the Committee adopt these recommendations as a report to the House and that the Chair present this report to the House.
We must not kid ourselves: the Kelowna accord is only a temporary measure that will not improve the living conditions of native people in the long run.
The accord would represent $5.1 billion over five years for education, health, housing and economic opportunities for aboriginal peoples. If we consider that those funds are to be divided among federal, Quebec, provincial and territorial governments before reaching first nations, Inuit and Métis, where the needs are critical, we realize that that is very little to really reduce the gap.
Quebec's first nations have tremendous needs, particularly in housing. Currently, they need over $700 million to provide the 7,000 housing units they lack—a figure that grows by hundreds of units every year. As we know, this housing deficit has extremely severe human and social consequences. Some health problems are linked directly to the housing shortage. We must quickly put a stop to increasing incidences of poisoning, infection, tuberculosis, and so on. The incidence of diabetes, fetal alcohol syndrome and suicide is also very worrisome.
Suicide is a serious problem. Even though rates vary considerably from one community to the next, they are too high overall. Suicide rates among first nations youth are 5 to 7 times higher than among non-aboriginal youth. The suicide rates of Inuit youth are among the highest in the world—11 times higher than the Canadian average. We must therefore invest time and resources without delay.
As far as education is concerned, if the government finally decided to tackle the problem, it would take 27 or 28 years to close the gap with other Quebeckers and Canadians, according to the 2004 Auditor General's report. That is very serious.
A number of reports from the Auditor General, as well as findings of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and, more recently, the latest report from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the living conditions of the aboriginal people of Canada, are alarming.
Many recommendations supported by aboriginals, Quebeckers and Canadians have been presented to Ottawa and have fallen on deaf ears.
On the eve of the conference of first ministers, the Bloc Québécois publicly supported the common position held by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and the Quebec Native Women's Association, who rejected the government's initiative.
The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and the Quebec Native Women's Association deplored the fact that the approach to narrowing the gap between the living conditions of first nations people and those of Quebeckers and Canadians did not address the real causes behind the first nations' situation, which are the lack of fair access to land and resources, and respect for their rights.
The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, and the Quebec Native Women's Association also deplored the fact that the objective of the Kelowna agreement, through its blanket treatment of all aboriginals and lack of consultation with the communities to identify the real challenges, would maintain the cycle of dependence of the first nations.
The Bloc Québécois feels that concrete solutions are needed that are adapted to the reality of the various aboriginal nations to correct at the foundation the inequalities that affect their communities. In addition, these measures must come out of discussions with the first nations, because money alone will not solve the problem. On the contrary, it perpetuates the paternalistic approach of the federal government toward aboriginals.
Now we know, here in this House, that the federal government has an obligation to meet the great needs of the aboriginal people, among other things those related to housing, infrastructure, education and health care.
The Bloc Québécois continues to make sure that Ottawa does not shirk its obligations as a trustee. The federal government should assume its responsibilities as long as all aboriginal nations do not have the tools for self-government. The first indications of this government's handling of the aboriginal issue are not very reassuring. For example, the initiative for a protocol for safe drinking water for first nations communities is commendable in and of itself. However, when the initiative sets aside communities with the greatest needs, those that still do not have a drinking water system and are still hauling their water in buckets, there is cause for concern.
I have just two minutes remaining, but I could talk about this for hours without putting this House to sleep. I will wrap up quickly.
The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-292. The commitments made by the federal government in Kelowna mark a first step toward bridging the gap between aboriginal nations and Quebeckers and Canadians. Let me be clear: this is a first step.
Aboriginal people must have all the tools to develop their own identity, namely the right to self-government and the recognition of their rights.
In closing I want to say that in a few days a socio-economic forum of the first nations will be held at Masteuiash in the Roberval area. It is an exceptional location for the current federal government to show a little more empathy toward the first nations and to announce, in Masteuiash, important decisions for those first nations. We must prevent the things we are currently seeing in the media. An article on October 7 said that aboriginal peoples are the most overrepresented group in Canada's prisons. This must stop. We believe that the Kelowna accord was a step in the right direction. We want to reiterate in this House that we will support this accord and this bill.