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 #43 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with the hon. member's statement about respect and the importance of self-government. Land claim settlements are the most important and we need an independent, effective system to resolve land claim disputes.

The NDP has been pushing for an independent claims commission that respects treaty based settlements so Canada can meet its legal obligations. Is that something we could collectively work toward? Is that something the hon. member would support?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want my hon. colleague to know that I agree with her. The land claims negotiations are different than the Kelowna accord negotiation, but should be dealt with at the same time as the implementation of the Kelowna accord.

I will draw a parallel, for what it is worth. You can feed a person fish, or anything else, but if you never teach him to fish or hunt, he will never grow. We can take care of education, health, infrastructure and empowerment of first nations, but at the same time, the first nations have to settle their land claims. There are currently more than 700 of them. This will go on for hundreds of years if the government, which is judge and judged in these negotiations, does not sit down and decide to settle them. Nonetheless, this has to be done in parallel with education and health.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today in support of the motion. It is an issue with which I am closely associated.

I grew up on the reserve community of Pelican Narrows and I have experienced firsthand many of those issues that aboriginal leaders raised in Kelowna and which they spoke extremely passionately about.

It is difficult for anyone to understand what those leaders were talking about unless one has actually lived it. It is difficult to understand what poverty can do to one's health, how overcrowded housing diminishes self-esteem and how a lack of education can hold back the hopes and aspirations of a people and of a community. What is perhaps worse is being kept from being a part of the solution building and having the government ignore people's plight and not helping them to help themselves.

I want to stress the point that far too often people confuse the culture of poverty with the culture of aboriginal people. I see evidence in this House, especially across the aisle, of this lack of understanding between these two very critical issues. I implore the members opposite to begin to understand this.

The Kelowna accord needs to be understood from an aboriginal perspective and I will attempt to briefly provide a bit of a context so we can all better understand what Kelowna represented.

I will summarize the modern aboriginal-state relations into three distinct phases.

From approximately the 1950s to 1969, the federal government's approach to dealing with aboriginal people was basically ad hoc responses to a crisis occurring in an aboriginal community. It was not until a crisis occurred that a response was raised at the government level and, unfortunately, the nature of that response was usually ad hoc. There was no long, medium or short term planning. It was all predicated upon crisis management.

Aboriginal people grew tired of being ignored and not having their issues taken very seriously. This changed in 1969 with the introduction of the white paper. It was the spark that enraged aboriginal Canadians and caused them to rise up, and rise up they did. Thus began the next phase of aboriginal-state relations. In the period beginning in approximately 1970 to the early 1990s, aboriginal people demanded that their rights be recognized, respected and protected.

When I was first elected chief six years ago, one of the people I look up to the most in this world, Carole Sanderson, said, “Gary, never apologize for the rights that we have as a people. Never ask permission to use them. Instead, work with governments to respect them, to build our people stronger, to build Canada stronger”.

Aboriginal people, as a result, began to utilize the courts to advance and protect their rights. Over more than two decades, many landmark court battles were won in favour of aboriginal people: Lovelace, Sparrow, Calder and others. It was also a time marked with protests and conflicts, such as those we have seen at Oka, Ipperwash and others across the country, and that phase can best be described as an adversarial phase where relationships were strained between aboriginal Canadians and Canadians in general.

Finally the courts said that enough was enough and implored governments to use the political fora to address and deal with aboriginal issues and to use the court decisions as a framework to move forward and address these outstanding issues and grievances. So began the next phase of aboriginal-state relationships, from about the early to mid-nineties to what we have today, and that phase we can best describe as relationship-building.

That phase saw self-government negotiations spring up across the country. We saw an acceleration of programs being devolved to aboriginal first nations' control. We saw a series of round tables being established to deal with socio-economic issues of critical importance to the people in our communities.

The basis of these developments were the court decisions, but also other things, such as the Penner report on education and numerous justice inquiries and the like. We began to see improvements, contrary to what we have heard. Improvements in that period of time have been made.

The problem is we have difficulty identifying them. It is easier to see a glass half full than to see a glass half empty. We politicize that perspective to the negative consequences upon our people.

Despite that growth and prosperity there still remain gaps to be addressed. There is one key ingredient missing throughout those three phases that Kelowna began to put in place. That was to include the aboriginal people in the building of the solutions to the issues that they wanted to take ownership of, instead of having governments saying, “we know what's good for you. Here's a policy, you react to it”.

No. Kelowna represented a high water mark in a new relationship between aboriginal people and Canadians. It established a new consensus. It established a relationship where the previous government, the provincial governments and the aboriginal people of Canada would work together to build the solutions necessary to address all these issues that we have talked about today. A new consensus is what I call Kelowna. That is the context within which Kelowna evolved over three phases.

It was not written on a napkin on the eve of an election. It was not done in the 18 months before that. It was 50-plus years of blood, sweat and tears of the aboriginal people, first nations, Métis and Inuit, working toward being included in the policy development of the issues that affected them on a daily basis.

The Conservatives may think they are punishing the Liberals by not honouring the Kelowna accord. They are wrong, very wrong. It is the aboriginal people of Canada that are being punished. It is the aboriginal people who built Kelowna. To have the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs play petty politics with this accord is insulting to the House and to aboriginal people.

First, the government pretended the money was not there. The proof was there. The money was identified and the government chose to use other priorities to move forward. The government says there was no agreement. The accord was broadcast to millions of people across the country and to the aboriginal leaders in the room, it was very real.

The Conservatives said there were no plans. Here is where the greatest exposure of a lack of understanding of what Kelowna represented presents itself when it comes to the Conservative government. No plans? Of course there were no plans. It was not the intention of Kelowna and the previous government to go and hide on a hill somewhere and design policies in isolation and then tell the aboriginal people what they were. This was about working together collaboratively to build the solution to address the issues that the first nations people wanted to take ownership of.

To build complex solutions requires the involvement of those that were reached in the new consensus with the provinces, the federal government and all national aboriginal groups.

Now we hear that the government has disregarded this new consensus. The government will go it on its own. It knows best. Instead the government will decide what is right and that is condescending.

The agreement was not a partisan effort as many have said. It was an effort to deal with one of Canada's most embarrassing legacies.

I have not been left with a feeling of confidence with the so-called Conservative approach to dealing with aboriginal issues. We have had members opposite stand and say ridiculous things.

They have suggested that first nations and Inuit people are not real people living in real towns. They have suggested that first nations and Inuit people traffic prescription drugs on the streets, and that first nations and Inuit people are not real governments. They have cancelled the aboriginal procurement initiative, the critical school projects, and completely ignoring the Métis in the budget.

They have stalled on many more issues like self-government and have not proactively tried to resolve issues like Caledonia. In my riding specifically, they have reneged on the Isle à la Crosse boarding school compensation, among others.

I just learned that the Prime Minister is in Vancouver today and he made a statement that in just under four centuries Canada passed from an unsettled wilderness to what it is today. That is blatant ignorance. This was not an unsettled land 400 years ago. The aboriginal people of this country were here. They inhabited the land. This demonstrates the lack of understanding the Prime Minister has with respect to aboriginal issues.

I am not sure, but this does not inspire confidence in me or the vast majority of aboriginal Canadians. I did not hear first nations, Métis and Inuit people calling for the Kelowna accord to be killed. I did not hear premiers say that the accord was bad. In fact, I heard pleas from all Canadians for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to honour the Kelowna accord.

This was a common goal that would have benefited all Canadians. I believe the government is moving backwards toward that adversarial phase that I talked about earlier. I see efforts to break apart this unprecedented unity and new consensus among aboriginal organizations, provincial and federal governments. I see one off discussions to fragment aboriginal people, communities and leaders. I see wedge issues being introduced to split on and off reserve aboriginal people. I see efforts to introduce difficulties between aboriginal leaders and provinces. This is not healthy. This is not good for aboriginal people and it is not good for Canada.

I would like to cite some passages from a speech that was made by Georges Erasmus in 1990. He stated:

We have come to a fork in the road, where if we are going to continue to be immersed in a status quo, we're just not going to be together very much longer. Or else we are going to be so disgruntled across this country, we're not going to be able to live with each other. We have the ability in this country to create a country that will be envied. We have the potential but we also have the potential to fragment and create many smaller states, and that's absolutely not necessary.

He goes on to say:

This country was not settled like United States. l'm a Dene. No conquering army came to the Dene and defeated us. No conquering army came to the Mohawks and defeated them, or any other of the people across this country. We willingly, consciously with our eyes open, thought we had enough resources. Being a peaceful people we arrived at an agreement that provided for our institutions to continue on part of our land and for the institutions of the people coming in to also be placed on our lands. Never in our worst nightmares, did we ever imagine what was going to take place. That for nearly 100 years, from 1867 until 1960, we would be so limited in our activity that we would need passes to get off reserves. We couldn't own businesses. We couldn't run for office. We couldn't vote. We never reached the age of majority. We weren't human beings really.

Mr. Erasmus had the foresight to understand what needed to happen. He added:

The time is here. We must now be sincere. Native people are not a threat to this country. We are not a threat to the sovereignty of Canada. We actually want to reinforce the sovereignty of Canada. We want to walk away from the negotiating table with an agreement that Canada feels good about and native people feel good about, where we can say that we have strengthened the sovereignty of Canada. So not only will Canada talk about how the Crown brought a version of sovereignty here, based in one family that continues to have it forever and ever and ever, but in addition to the original sovereignty, the sovereignty of the people that were here for tens of thousands of years is now also another source of the sovereignty for Canada.

So we're not a threat. We are only a threat if we continue to be ignored and taken lightly. We are only a threat if people don't understand that it is impossible for people to maintain the frustration level without the kind of actions that we've seen this summer.

He was referring to Oka of course.

What was visionary in his speech was the wisdom in calling for a new agreement, a new Canada. We all walked away from Kelowna feeling good about what was agreed to. Unfortunately, the Conservative government does not have the same vision.

I was at a powwow this past weekend in the great reserve community of Witchekan Lake. In attendance were first nations World War II veterans. They enlisted in war efforts in higher numbers than any other cultural group in this country despite many of them having to disenfranchise and give up their treaty rights. Why? Ironically enough, to protect their treaty rights.

It was their belief that because of the nation to nation treaty relationship, that when Canada went to war, they as warriors in their proudest tradition would stand shoulder to shoulder with other Canadians against those who threatened our great country. That is what they fought for.

[Member spoke in Cree]

[English]

Basically what I said in Cree was that these veterans came back and they said they fought as equals on the front lines and yet they are not equals in this country. These treaties and this new relationship must move us forward. These men and women lived through these aboriginal-state relationships that I just described. They invested with their lives.

I can never find the words to express how profoundly affected I am by the government's inaction and petty tricks of denial and delay with respect to the Kelowna accord. If the minister and the Conservative government simply think they can deny or delay Kelowna and other aboriginal initiatives, they are wrong. Their meagre, weak efforts to toss aside Kelowna are no match for the will of a people, the premiers, and the people of Canada.

Everyone long ago accepted our shared path and the tremendous opportunities that Canada's aboriginal population had to offer. For too long our shared history, once one of cooperation and nation to nation status, has been marked by a breaking of faith.

The Supreme Court has established that the honour of the Crown is enshrined in the Constitution. Kelowna was a commitment by the Crown to aboriginal people, a new consensus that signalled a new relationship and a new future. Our path is one.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for the member's background, but we came into this debate with a commitment to work together and to speak on compassionate grounds to figure something out. In my entire time here I have never heard anything so divisive and aggressive as that speech. The member should be completely ashamed of himself.

He talked about aboriginal veterans. What did the Liberal Party do for aboriginal veterans? It did zip. The worst thing that could happen to the aboriginal community of Canada is to have that party back in power. Where were those members for 13 years?

I would like to ask the hon. member if he was not paying attention when this government, unlike the past Liberal government, spoke about education for aboriginal students, about women, children and families? How about water on the reserves? Does that member know that the minister of the past government ignored Kashechewan for eight weeks? During their 13 years, 100 reservations still had polluted water.

I would like to ask that member, when did he think the previous government was going to get around to anything? Canadians decided they had 13 years of blah, blah, blah and dithering, and decided to elect a government that gave two thousand, two hundred million dollars toward a residential school commitment, something that group never did. I would like that member to confirm what his government did for aboriginal communities. What did that old, tired, dithering crew do for aboriginal communities? They did nothing.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, our government must have done a great job because the Conservative government has copied everything that we did with respect to aboriginal issues. What have you done for the veterans since you have come to power? I have heard commitments--

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. It is okay to have a spirited debate but we do not want to start using the second person. This is not the Ontario legislature. We do not want tempers to rise. Let us refer to each other in the third person as it helps to keep things a little more parliamentary.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, we can ask the question as well, what has the government done for Kashechewan? Nothing has happened yet. Have the Conservatives put any money into water? No. Instead, money has been taken from building new schools and put into supposed water infrastructures, $150 million this year. The provinces and the northern territories received more money than aboriginal people did from the current government, and so did the pine beetle in B.C.

The main point of the speech was the relationship. We can get hung up on specifics, but Kelowna created a new consensus to work together.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the hon. member opposite gave us such a wonderful history lesson which he knows very well because his family probably has been part of that history for many generations. I would also like to thank him for reminding us of the commitments and the contributions of aboriginal people as veterans and the work they did in looking after us.

I am going to touch on something that the former leader of the Liberal Party said in a speech in this House in May 2005. He said that it was in Newfoundland and Labrador that the start of North American history began to take shape. He said that it was no exaggeration to say that the story of North America in many ways began with the story of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am curious to know how the member feels about the former leader of his party saying that, when we know very well that this country's history began with the first nations.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the history of this country is certainly rich and steeped in tradition. The history books that are used in the schools of this great nation do not properly reflect the realities and the true history of this country over the last hundreds of years. Having spoken with the previous leader on this issue, he understands that very clearly. That is why it is incumbent upon our education system to teach what is historically true about the history of this country.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the commentary of my hon. colleague with whom I have the pleasure of sitting on the aboriginal affairs committee. He has definitely brought great insight to that committee.

I would also like to thank him for indicating that there were no plans. Of course there were not. Those plans were in fact going to be brought out over the next few years. It is in direct contrast to the member for LaSalle—Émard who did talk about how plans were substantially in place. It is nice to hear my aboriginal colleague talk about the truth and that is appreciated.

The member talked about the investment, the money, and how it is going to improve lives, but I need to ask about the system. The system itself is flawed. He must agree that the only way we are going to truly improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians is to look at the system itself. I would ask him to bring forward his ideas on that.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member is right regarding the first question on the plans. On this side of the House we understand that when it comes to the exact planning for policies to deal with some of the issues on the reserves, it would not be done in isolation here. The plans that the member for LaSalle—Émard talked about were the plans on how to get together to begin that relationship and move forward on achieving what everyone wants.

The new consensus that Kelowna reached would have given us the tools to begin to address those complex issues. If current government members think that they can fix many of these issues in isolation by breaking apart the aboriginal groups and not talking with the provinces and not working with the federal government, it is not going to happen. Kelowna represented a new consensus to actually tackle these very complex issues. The member is right in that they are complex. It requires many people in the room to solve them.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke at length about the nature and importance of the relationships. I wonder if he would expand on the importance of the relationships in establishing the Kelowna accord.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Merasty Liberal Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, in talking with aboriginal leaders across the country, many of whom are my friends, we all understand that prior to moving forward to address these complex issues, as the member opposite talked about, we must establish those relationships of trust and respect and recognize that there are nation to nation discussions that need to happen.

These leaders and the leaders before them expended a lot of time to cultivate a relationship with the federal and provincial governments to address these complex issues. I reiterate that when Kelowna was bashed and so unfairly tainted that it was not a good agreement by the government opposite, it is actually a disrespectful blow to the aboriginal people who worked so hard to get to that point. It was not partisan. It was focused on relationships and addressing what we all have in common.

As I mentioned, it is a path that we all share, regardless of whether we are first nations, Métis, Inuit or non-aboriginal Canadian. Improving the socio-economic levels of our people in aboriginal communities would benefit all of Canada. Aboriginal people feel that has taken a blow but they are not going to give up.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.

I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre for recognizing the need to improve the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis, and for including off reserve as well as on reserve people. I congratulate her for bringing this motion before the House so that we can highlight the urgency of the issue and tell the Canadian people how important it is to honour our commitments and fully implement the Kelowna accord.

For the past 13 years her party was in government with many years in a majority situation and all the while conditions for aboriginal people were no better than they are today. I have to wonder why, with such power, her party did not do more to improve the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis people in Canada. It seems there was a lot of talk but not enough action on the part of the previous government.

Now we have a situation where the current government is not honouring an agreement made with first nations, Métis and Inuit people, an agreement that was years in the making and was signed onto by the provincial governments and the Government of Canada. The Conservatives may say they are honouring that agreement, but the budget speaks for itself. The Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations have expressed their disappointment with the federal budget. They predict a continuation of the imbalance, fiscal and otherwise, between first nations and other Canadians.

It is important to me to speak to this motion because in my riding of Vancouver Island North I have the honour of representing more than 20 different first nations bands with over 7,000 members. It is for them that I support any measures to improve living conditions, to improve health, social and economic opportunities both on and off reserve. As I travel around the riding and meet with first nations on and off reserve, I see overcrowding in housing, with sometimes two or more entire families living together, inadequate sewage treatment resulting in pollution of shellfish, and an overall sense of frustration on the lack of movement in resolving these and other long-standing complaints.

A few weeks ago I spoke about the need for a road in the village of Kingcome, one of the most remote first nation villages in my riding. The children of that village wrote to me about the dangers of travelling by boat down the river to get to services that we all take for granted. They told me about the deaths of many of their relatives and friends who had to travel the river in winter, which is the only way out of the community if one cannot afford the airplane ticket, or if the weather is too bad to fly. They have been asking for this road for many years. There are land ownership issues around it, but I have to wonder, is it because they are isolated, out of sight and out of mind, or is it because they are a first nation community that our governments have never figured out a way to build a road into this village, a road that would provide safe access to health care and other services?

In Port Hardy at the very tip of Vancouver Island the Gwa'Sala-'Nakwaxda'Xw on the Tsulquate reserve have been asking for improvements to their social and housing situation. They are a very proud people who have been relocated to this area and although they have been there for many years, they still do not call it home. They were relocated from their remote ancestral communities, a move that was in the best interests of the Canadian government. This move took away much of their identity and connection to their heritage. At the time of the relocation, housing was built, but it is now inadequate and some of the homes are deteriorating. This is leading to health issues as well as overcrowding.

As we learn more about the effects of the loss of heritage on a group of people, we find that it goes hand in hand with social and health issues. The Gwa'Sala-'Nakwaxda'Xw are learning how to live together in a small community, but they need us to recognize that it is a struggle for them.

Another first nation band near Port Hardy, the Kwakiutl, used to eat the shellfish right off the beach in front of their homes. When I visited them a few months ago, they told me that because of inadequate sewage treatment facilities in the town nearby, they had to travel by boat to one of the small islands to get the clams we were eating .

While the situation might not be thought to be an on reserve issue, there is a negative effect on the shellfish which is part of their food supply. There are also negative impacts on their health and the social impacts of not being able to use a beach that is right outside their front door. If this were happening in our communities, I am sure we would be outraged and demand funding from the federal government for clean up and infrastructure to ensure adequate sewage treatment.

Again, I have to ask why this is allowed to happen. Why, with surpluses in so many budgets, does the government, as did previous ones, allow this to continue?

As I think of other first nations communities, such as 'Namgis at Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, I am reminded of the social impacts of the residential school that still stands next to the Umista Cultural Centre in their community. It is a grim reminder of a time when they and many other children were forced into abusive situations in an attempt to assimilate them.

Some members of that community want the old school torn down, while others want to find a way to turn it into a healing centre or another appropriate venue.

The effects of the residential school on so many first nations women and men is playing itself out in a loss of self-respect, alcohol and drug abuse and an inability to be proper parents.

I was glad to hear about the money the federal government was giving to victims of the residential schools across the country. I know the money will be put to good use. However, with a lack of healing facilities for survivors, the effects of the abuse will continue and are continuing. The effects do not stop with the survivors. They continue through generations. The government needs to consult with first nations and to invest in services and programs to end the cycle of abuse.

On Guilford Island the Moosgamaw First Nation is finally getting a new water treatment facility. The chief told me that it would be the first time in nine years that they will be able to drink fresh, clean water from the tap. Once they have taken care of the water issue, they will be working on building some new homes. Many of the houses that were built cheap are now uninhabitable due to mould. This also causes health problems for a community that has to travel by boat or plane for health services.

According to the chief, once they have the water and housing issues resolved they can then move on to economic development and the creation of jobs that are sorely needed in their community. They need our support.

I have talked about some of the more remote first nations communities on Vancouver Island North and now I would like to talk about the first nations in the Campbell River area. Campbell River is a small city and home to two first nations bands. In fact, it is difficult to tell when we are on reserve as we drive through town because of commercial and residential development.

The Campbell River Indian Band is working hard to create opportunities for its people but it is difficult because it has to balance the competing demands of so many issues: residential school abuse, education, housing, health care and many members living off reserve, which is why they, too, need our support. This growing community is trying hard to become economically self-sufficient but it is difficult with limited resources to meet all the needs of the people.

The same is true for the Cape Mudge Band in Campbell River. Unresolved treaty issues use up much of its financial resources with legal and research costs, leaving precious little for social services, health care, housing and infrastructure, but they persevere. The band's determination is evidence as it prepares to open a cultural centre which will attract visitors and provide employment and opportunities to its community.

Many issues face aboriginal people living off reserve, such as housing, education, health, child care and access to other services. There is a great need for these services since off reserve aboriginal people often face isolation, discrimination and alienation while they are far from home attending school or trying to earn a living.

There is a network of Friendship Centres in this country that are providing many of those services to first nations people living off reserve. Alternative, culturally appropriate education, support groups for young parents, teens and elders are bridging the gaps and helping make connections.

Last, I would like to also honour a group of people working hard on Vancouver Island to address the health needs of first nations in my riding, as well as others. The Inter Tribal Health Authority, which my hon. colleague talked about earlier today, is located in Nanaimo and serves 28 member nations.

First Nations are challenged by serious health issues well beyond what we experience. The Inter Tribal Health Authority works with first nations leaders and community health staff to ensure culturally appropriate services are available.

Yes, this House should support the motion and recognize the need for improvements in the quality of life of first nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada and, once recognized, we must honour our commitment to aboriginal peoples by settling land claims, building trust and fully funding and implementing the Kelowna accord.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her eloquence and her long list of needs that are apparent to all in the opposition parties. The list of needs would no doubt take in part of $5.2 billion that was promised in the Kelowna accord.

I have to wonder why the NDP pulled the plug on the Liberal government and did not allow Kelowna to go ahead. However, I have a real question for the member. Is she beginning to see that the three pillars of the Conservative government's attitude toward aboriginal affairs are patneralism, patriarchal and patronizing?

When the hearings on Bill C-2 took place in the accountability committee all opposition parties banded together to prevent the government from treating aboriginal resources and money as its own. Comments were made that the money belonged to the taxpayers of Canada. It does not. It belongs to the first nations.

Do you see the patronizing, patriarchal and patneralistic ways of the government in the way it is, in just dribs and drabs, doling out minuscule amounts of money compared to the $5.2 billion promised by Kelowna?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I do not know how many times the Chair has to intervene, and the member for Winnipeg South Centre did it after I mentioned it the last time, but the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe again used the second person. I appeal to members not to use the second person. The Standing Orders say that we will refer to each other in the third person and speak to each other through the Chair. It is not that hard. Just pay attention and do not do it again.

The hon. member for Vancouver Island North.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that it was the previous government, his government that was in power for the last 13 years, that did not live up to many of the commitments that it made to first nations in this country, which is why we are in the predicament we are in today.

As members know, the New Democratic Party was happy to support the Kelowna accord and we did. The previous Liberal government went to the polls and, frankly, it was up to the people of this country to decide what happened to it. It was not the NDP that made the difference there.

The hon. member needs to remember some of those points when he asks the questions. It is important for all of us to remember that we need to ensure we live up to our commitments to first nations, rebuild that trust and that we honour our agreements.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, we all would agree that the targets and objectives that were laid out at the first ministers' meeting of last year were important and our government will work with all parties to help move forward the issues of aboriginal people.

The member referred to clean water. I would like to highlight the fact that it was this minister who proceeded immediately with a clean water policy to address the issue and give first nations the opportunity to have clean water. We have seen many communities throughout Canada on a high risk boil water advisory.

Does the member not agree that it is real money and real action that will help achieve progress for aboriginal people? Is that not the approach we should take?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of talking regularly with all the chiefs of the first nations and, quite frankly, they are quite concerned about the lack of commitment from the Conservative government. While we know it is important to have money for infrastructure, they are concerned about there not being enough and about the reneging on some of the commitments in the Kelowna agreement.

While we agree on some things, we also see a real need here for money, for clean drinking water, for housing, for social services and for health services on and off reserves. We are very concerned about the lack of commitments and the insult to the leaders of first nations who were there at the signing of the Kelowna agreement when many members of his party said that it was not an agreement and that it was written on the back of a napkin. Those are insults to first nations people and they do nothing to build trust.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House tonight, especially given the fact that it is the Speaker's 55th birthday. As a fellow Scot, I understand how emotive and physical the Scots are, so I could go up and give the Speaker a hug now or maybe he could give me two or three extra minutes in my speech. I will leave it to the hon. Speaker to decide.

We are talking about a government that has come in and ripped up a signed agreement with first nations across the country. It is shameful and it sends a message across first nations communities of a policy of contempt. However, it has to be seen in the light of a longstanding history. Unfortunately, this is what federal governments do. Federal governments sign agreements and make commitments time and time again with first nations and then walk away from them and leave those communities in abject poverty.

I will begin by telling a story because it was this subject and a former Indian affairs minister that inspired me to go into politics.

When I was working for the Algonquin Nation, we had the opportunity to meet the then Indian affairs minister in Rouyn-Noranda. I was with the chiefs at that time. We wanted to come forward with one suggestion, one issue that he would understand and with which we could bring change. The issue concerned a child at our reserve school, the Kiwetin School in Notre-Dame-du-Nord, Quebec, who had extreme special needs. Indian affairs would not pay money for special education for this little child. However, if the school and the community agreed to put that child on a bus and send the child 26 kilometres into Ontario to a non-native school, where the child basically sat strapped to a desk out in the hallway all day with an adult watching him, Indian affairs would pay the full shot.

We thought that was an outrage, that it was so crazy that anyone who saw it would say that it was a waste of money and that it would be fixed. The suggestion was made to the then Indian affairs minister and we said, “Surely to God it makes more sense to put the money for special education dollars into that community at its school so it could not only raise that child properly but the money could be used for other children”. Nothing happened then and nothing happened under the following Indian affairs minister. We will see if anything happens under the present Indian affairs minister.

I remember sitting there that day hearing his response and thinking that if that was as good as it got then we needed other people to run. I made the decision that day to run for politics because I never wanted to sit in front of first nation communities that were facing such a need and the special education funding for their children had to be blown off like that.

Across my region we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of treaty 9. The first question people in my community ask is: What is there to celebrate? What is there to celebrate in Peawanuck where 50,000 barrels of PCB contamination are sitting on the shores of the Winisk River, left by the Department of National Defence?

We have had government after government talk about maintaining and protecting sovereignty in the far north but not one of them will come back and admit their responsibility for the damage they have done on those lands. I have met with the families whose children and elders are suffering from the effects of that PCB contamination that flows into the river and into their communities.

When I asked the present Liberal House leader, when he was the defence minister, to work with us, he could not run fast enough from that obligation. When I hear him talk about how the Government of Canada does not walk away from signed obligations, that is what it has been doing and it does it year after year.

Let us look to Kashechewan. I do not want to get into the evacuations or the terrible housing conditions, but I will talk about the deaths of three people in my community between January and today: Ricardo Wesley, Jamie Goodwyn and 4-year-old Trianna Martin. Trianna died in a house fire with 21 people. The other two men died in a makeshift jail cell that looked like a crack house. That jail cell would not have been allowed in any community in this country and yet it was considered good enough for the Nishnawbe-Aski police to risk their lives and the lives of the people they brought in.

When those two men burned to death, we said that this was not the way things should be in the 21st century. Things have to be better. We said that there had to be basic standards. Members can ask the people in that community if there is something to celebrate after 100 years.

We can talk about the health authority in James Bay where some of the top rated efforts to do telehealth, teleophthalmology, dialysis and telemammography are all facing being cut because the former government, and it is being followed up by this government, allowed the deficit in that community hospital to rise year after year because it would not fund first nation health anywhere near the levels of non-native health funding.

Ask me if there are two countries in Canada and I will say yes.There is a country that sets a certain standard for health and then says to the rest of the first nations that it is not there for them.

I hear a lot about how we had the blueprint for change, the dialogue for change, the road map for it and the round table for it. When a person lives in Martin Falls or Pikangikum, a person does not have any round table with which to discuss anything. They have their INAC bureaucrats. A hundred years ago they had the Hudson's Bay factor. Fifty years ago they had the Indian agents. Now they have the INAC bureaucrats. People can talk all they want about a blueprint for it. It means nothing in these communities because they are put in a box and they are not let out.

I will refer now to the latest piece of bizarre news that I heard. The Liberal leadership candidate from Kings--Hants said his plan for improving life on first nations was:

Innovative tax incentives can attract private capital from both within Canada and abroad to help aboriginal businesses...We all know that countries around the world have found that low tax environments attract private sector capital. I would use the Departments of International Trade and Industry to attract private international capital to these dynamic aboriginal industrial parks.

I did economic development on first nations. It is a crock for that member to stand up and pretend that this is the solution for first nations. Let me explain how development happens on a first nations community. We will go back to Peawanuck.

Peawanuck is an isolated community with a diesel generator. Every year Indian Affairs would pay $600,000 to subsidize the heavy cost. Then about five years ago, Indian Affairs said that it would not subsidize it any more, that the band would begin to collect from the people.

The band took it over, the families started to rapidly go into debt and the community started to put its capital dollars into running the fuel generator. It put its development dollars into running the fuel generator and it was not enough. The community was going under. It knew if it went below a certain level, it would be put into third party management.

The community said to Indian Affairs that it would not continue to run the generator. It said that $600,000 that the department used to give it helped, but it could not do it any more. The community was going bankrupt so it returned it to Indian Affairs.

Indian Affairs hired a third party manager. Guess what Indian Affairs paid that third party manager? It was $600,000. The $600,000 that used to subsidize the community was now being paid to a third party manager. On top of that, it was taking another $300,000 to subsidize that. We are now looking at almost $1 million a year.

The third party manager's job is to get the money from the families for the rates of hydro. What are the rates of hydro? We are talking about one of these dynamic aboriginal industrial zones to which the member for Kings—Hants is going to attract international capital. How do we attract international capital when people are paying 18¢ a kilowatt hour? That is three times higher than the provincial standard?

What happened then? The band members said they could not pay that amount, that they could not even turn their our lights on for that amount. Indian Affairs set it at 200 kilowatt hours. They knew that was not possible.

I have been in that community in January. I have seen families with their lights off. These families tell me that they run the hot water once a day to keep the lines flushed out and they still pay $500 and $600 a month. With INAC setting the acceptable rates for the lower end of kilowatt hours, which is 16¢ a kilowatt hour, the families went into such high levels of debt that they were now carrying $2,000 and $3,000 a month debt, which they could not pay off.

Last week I spent my day trying to stop 30% to 40% of that community having their hydro power cut off. That is not only happening in Peawanuck. It is happening in Martin Falls and in communities across this country.

When I hear people say that the federal government does not walk away on its responsibilities, it walks away all the time. This is not good enough and it has to change. I look at these communities. Their futures are continually being snuffed out and erased by being kept in these boxes. Young people have no future because they cannot get proper education.

When I hear this kind of talk about fixing it and making changes, well let us make real changes. Let us make these communities sustainable. Let us live up to our commitments. The Kelowna agreement was a start. The government has an obligation not to do what the last government allowed to happen for 13 straight years.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague who has shown considerable passion throughout the years in relation to aboriginal issues. I do not think anyone would question where his heart is on these matters.

As the hon. member knows, I am a new member of this place. I have come here to enter into debate. I want him to illustrate to me how the debate proceeds in relation to certain premises, such as the premise of truth in relation to one particular issue.

Aboriginal leaders from across Canada went to the first ministers meeting last year. However, the consensus, about which he speaks, perhaps was not as strong as some would think. The member referred to “a signed agreement”. The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations appeared before the aboriginal affairs committee. He was asked if there was a signed agreement, a signature page. Under oath, he indicated to us truthfully that there was not.

Is it is helpful to this debate to indicate something such as a signed agreement if in fact there is no signature page?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was a funny question. That question was thrown at us about the signed agreement between the Government of Canada and Kashechewan. I sat there with deputy ministers from all the major departments and watched an agreement being signed between the Government of Canada and the people of Kashechewan. Whether the government wants to accept that or not, it will have to live up to those obligations because there is no going back.

In terms of the issue of a signed agreement with respect to Kelowna, the response is quite simple. If the government believes that was not enough, then it would hold a meeting immediately with all first nation chiefs and tell them what it will to do to honour the spirt that the Crown brought to the table. All we hear now is bantering back and forth. If the government has a better deal than Kelowna, a commitment that will move forward, then it has an obligation to sit down with first nation leaders and hammer out an agreement.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member a question about community safety. I will reference the highway of tears, Highway 16, in British Columbia. Since 1990, nine young women have either been murdered or have gone missing on this highway. These young women are between the ages of 14 and 25 and all but one are aboriginal.

Could the member comment on how the Kelowna agreement could contribute to keeping young aboriginal women from coast to coast to coast safe?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was a powerful question. As I was coming in here today, I was thinking about when I worked in Barriere Lake and the pressures those families faced. There was a case of domestic abuse. That is what happens when 21 people are living on top of each other. The question had been raised about whether there was a safe house for the woman to go to. If there had been any house, or any trailer in Barriere Lake, people would have moved into it with their kids immediately. There has been no support for these people.

My colleague mentioned the horrific number of women who died. When I used to drive into Barriere Lake, I would see a homemade shrine at the edge of Val-d'Or, in memory of a young Algonquin woman who had been sexually assaulted, murdered and left by the side of the road. I do not know if that person was ever caught.

The needs are great for these families. They need proper police services, social services, health and safety and counsellors. The women and children all too often suffer from violence or men suffer from self-destructive violence.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, today I have listened to comments from everyone. There were very incredible speeches. I know the passion is there to turn the tide for what has been in our past not the best record for dealing with aboriginal issues and the situations in which we have found ourselves.

I have also listened with dismay to many comments by members, especially on the government side, who do not leave me any more assured today than in the past that they understand aboriginal issues. They have further cemented my belief that they do not get it.

I stand here trying to figure out how to speak from the heart.

I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Fredericton.

I want to premise my comments in the little time I have to try to bring a better understanding.

I come from a people where things are done in a consensus way. We even run our legislative assembly in Nunavut that way. It is a way of working together. I am trying to figure out a way of trying to bring a better understanding of the issues. There is no winner or loser in this debate. It is a way of working together to better understand how we can move forward as a people with the country and what Kelowna means to me. I want to give a little lesson in what we look at when we look at aboriginal people in Canada.

I hear many comments from people who speak about first nations only. I know they mean the aboriginal people of Canada. Right away I know someone does not understand aboriginal issues in Canada, if they just use first nations. That is no disrespect to my first nations friends in the country.

There are three aboriginal groups recognized in Canada in the Constitution: first nations, Inuit and Métis. We make up the aboriginal peoples of Canada. When people speak of just one group, we know right away that they do not understand the fundamental definition of aboriginal people in Canada.

I come from the Inuit population. I represent the riding of Nunavut, which has an 85% Inuit population. The majority of the people do not understand either French or English. This is like trying to understand a different country within a country.

Sometimes I better understand what people from other countries feel when they immigrate to Canada. We have commonality in the issues that we are trying to work through. It is to create a better understanding that I stand before the House today and to try to figure out how we can move from here.

What does Kelowna mean to me? I speak from the heart. I look at the motion and I know that none of us are going to disagree with the main objective of it. Kelowna means a new understanding of our relationship with the Government of Canada. It is an opportunity to work together.

We saw the aboriginal people, the federal government and the territorial and provincial governments at the table. As an aboriginal group of people, represented by five organizations, we were at the table. We were meeting with the Prime Minister. We were forging new relationships, gaining new respect of where we were coming from and deciding together how to move forward.

I am a strong believer in moving forward. I know there are many things in our past that make it very difficult for our people to move forward. I am not saying that I want to forget the past, but how do we learn from it so we can all better deal with the realities of where we are today?

To me, Kelowna was a realization that there is more than one approach to dealing with all our challenges. Speaking on behalf of Inuit, I will say that we had our own way of governing ourselves before a system was imposed on us. We have to be able to gain that ability again, but in a modern context.

There are many opportunities for aboriginal people today. We have opportunities for education and, in that, gaining positions that perhaps our parents never thought we would participate in. We see RCMP officers, teachers and nurses, and for a lot of people those are the everyday career decisions they can make, but for us, seeing our own people in those positions as managers and supervisors and even in elected positions means a great deal to us.

One example I can use is that as we gain responsibility we have to learn how to use those responsibilities. We went for too long without having a say in how to live our lives. Someone else was making all those decisions. Even though we get those responsibilities today, it does not mean that every one of us will know how to charge forward with our new responsibilities.

An example I can use is getting one's first driver's licence. Colleagues here will remember all the harrowing experiences I had when I got my first driver's licence and was driving in the city. It took a lot of practice and a lot of mistakes. I got to know the city quite well because I always took the wrong turn, but I learned from those mistakes. I just kept trying and trying because I had to get my kids to hockey games.

I am a little more comfortable driving in the city today, six years later, but people had to be patient with me. People had to know that when they were getting in the car with me they were taking some risks. I am more comfortable in taking on that responsibility, but it took a little time. I had to learn to deal with that responsibility given to me. Just because I got my driver's licence did not mean that I suddenly could be a race car driver.

It is the same with us. As we take on responsibilities as aboriginal people, we have to learn to work with those responsibilities.

For me, Kelowna was a step in the right direction. It is not the be-all and end-all. We can talk until we are blue in the face about what was wrong with it, whether it was signed and whether it was budgeted, but I am trying to get everyone back to the basics. My colleagues on the Liberal side know that when I talk about basics I am talking about going back to the fundamentals and not getting caught up in all the party politics.

We just want access to good housing, education, good facilities and infrastructure, good health and access to health. I know what Kelowna meant to me as far as reaching those objectives is concerned. It gave us an opportunity to strive for those objectives and an opportunity to, in five years and ten years, evaluate where we have gone and whether we want to change direction. We have the right to change our minds once in a while too. We all want a good future for our children.

Another example is that we have been lucky to see in our lifetime a communist country like Russia become a free society. Those people did not exercise their rights as free people the next day. We also have to learn to exercise those rights. They had to learn what it means to live in a free society. It takes time.

All of this takes time. It is a learning curve for us. I am not saying there is one solution or one size fits all for all aboriginal people, but it was a chance for us to work together with all the people who have the expertise and the best practices and put those into our own context, to give us an opportunity to take on the different responsibilities depending on what our ability is. We are not all homogeneous either on how to do things and in having that capacity within us to take on new responsibilities.

Yes, we will make mistakes, but they will be our mistakes. We are under a microscope all the time. It seems that people are just waiting for us to make mistakes so they can say they gave us that responsibility, we blew it, and they should take back control. Like everyone, we just need a level playing field. I want a good future for my four sons, my two granddaughters and future grandchildren, and again, an opportunity to work together and pool all of our resources for a good future for our people.