Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Toronto Centre.
The motion states:
That the House recognize the urgent need to improve the quality of life of Canada's Aboriginals, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, living both on and off reserve, which requires focused and immediate initiatives by the government in areas such as health, water, housing, education, and economic opportunities and, especially, immediately moving forward with the implementation of the Kelowna Accord with its full funding commitments.
If we talked to Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we would find that they support this motion. If Canadians went to Métis communities, Inuit communities, and first nations communities throughout this land and saw the shortcomings in those communities they would ask why governments are not getting together and working with these people to address their concerns. They would ask why we do not see the shortcomings in these communities, why we do not see the potential in these communities. Canadians would ask why we are not addressing these problems together rather than all levels of government taking individual initiatives. When each level of government has its own initiative, they are often disjointed and seldom reach what we would like to achieve.
What was the Kelowna accord? It was not a deal done on a napkin prior to a press release. The Kelowna accord was the result of a lot of lobbying done by people in those communities talking to the federal government, the provincial government and local municipalities. Negotiations were held among federal and provincial officials and first nations. An agreement was reached.
To cancel the accord sends the wrong message. It does not recognize our responsibilities as Canadians. It does not look at the errors we have made in the past and provide solutions for the future. The Kelowna accord was a very good initiative. It was very well supported. To be able to get the provinces, the territories and communities together to come to an understanding took a lot of work, a good plan and a lot of compromise. Now it has been cancelled.
What are we telling those communities? What are we telling the young people who have dreams and aspirations? We are telling them that they cannot look to governments for help. We are telling them that they cannot trust the Government of Canada to enter into an agreement with them because a minority government on a whim might renege on it and remove federal participation.
The situation in which these communities find themselves is unfortunate and regrettable.
People are losing their faith and see no future in using the institutions available to them. They use means that I completely disapprove of.
Nevertheless, they see no other solutions. The burgeoning difficulties and the lack of partnership make them feel that they have to barricade roads, hunt and fish illegally—hence poach—and use illegal means to boost the economy of their community.
Canadians and the federal government should recognize that they have an obligation to guarantee to them that when a document is signed or a verbal agreement is made, the agreement is honourable and will be honoured.
We hear often from members on the opposite side who tend to be very, very right wing that if we do a special agreement, it is race based. We have to recognize the specific needs of these communities. We have to work together.
Sometimes I hear it said that the court is ruling Canada. Sometimes it is because sometimes these decisions are forced by the court. Sometimes the court forces us into action only when we do not recognize our responsibilities. Generation after generation do not see what the treaties really mean and do not recognize that perhaps we have some liabilities and some responsibilities as Canadians toward those treaties. I remember a member of another opposition party saying that when we buy the dog, we get the fleas. With those treaties came some responsibilities and we have not always met them. For the first nations in most cases, it all has not worked to their advantage.
We should go to the communities and see the lands that they have lost. They were forced to live on reserves, their resources stripped from them, their potential stripped from them and they were reduced to a mere existence. That is not acceptable. We cross oceans so that does not apply to other nations, to other countries, to other peoples. We send our military. We send our aid. This is what we have to do in Canada, but not in the same way. We have to recognize the majority.
I had the opportunity to work with Bob Nault, as well as the member for Fredericton, when each was the Minister of Indian Affairs. We would want to work with the communities, to look at the fundamental problems in the governance and the administration, to look at the role of women, to look at the possibilities, to look at the shortcomings and how we can address them.
When we look at an agreement like Kelowna that gave such a sense of hope, that looked at those elements, at health care, at education, at infrastructure, at water and sewers, how can we back out of that? How can we go home and tell our people that our government has led us down this path?