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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

HockeyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the last petition, which has been supported by all members in the House, calls for a national day of hockey to commemorate, in particular, the summit in 1972 when Paul Henderson gave all of us, from coast to coast to coast, a defining moment in hockey.

FisheriesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to introduce a petition on behalf of my constituents in Forteau and L'Anse au Clair on the south coast of Labrador concerning the fishing industry which is going through a very difficult time and many people are facing an uncertain future.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to immediately institute fisheries adjustment measures, including early retirement benefits, economic diversification and other appropriate measures to help coastal communities and fisheries workers through this adjustment period.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure but also with considerable frustration that I present a petition to the House today signed by people in my own riding of Halifax and all over Nova Scotia.

The petitioners call upon the Prime Minister and the Conservative government to honour the early learning and child care agreement signed between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia in May 2005.

During the recent election in Nova Scotia this issue arose many times. I think it is fair to say that momentum has increased, not waned, because people have waited 13 years for such a policy to be delivered by the previous Liberal government which failed to do so, and the present government is stalling on this extremely important investment in the future of our children and the future of this nation.

Motor Vehicle Safety ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition today containing 60 names.

As a result of large trucks being involved in the deaths of two cyclists in Toronto in 2006, three cyclists in 2005 and one cyclist in 2004, the coroner's report in 1998 into the death of a Toronto cyclist found that these large vehicles were involved in 37% of these collisions resulting in cyclist fatalities.

As side guards are a legal requirement in the U.K. and in Europe to reduce injuries to pedestrians and cyclists, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to introduce a regulation under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act requiring side guards for large trucks and trailers to prevent cyclists and pedestrians from being pulled under the wheels of these vehicles.

Canada Revenue AgencyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by what I believe to be thousands of Canadians regarding the client service counters at the Canada Revenue Agency. What is interesting is that the bulk of the work was done by the union representing the workers there. This is not a job issue and it is not about the union. It is the about public service, so the petition is signed both by constituents of mine and by petitioners in ridings across Canada, as well as and most important, by the employees who work there and who understand that this plan is wrong. It was devised by the Liberals and now is being implemented by the Conservatives and it means that Canadians will have less service at these public counter desks. The petitioners wish to call the government to account and ask it to halt this Liberal plan that the Conservatives are implementing to cut down on services that Canadians expect and are entitled to.

Child CarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have one last petition signed by a number of my constituents in the Prince Rupert area of British Columbia that puts the truth to the lie of the Conservative child care support program. The petitioners call upon Parliament to re-enact the $1.2 billion in spending to provide high quality, accessible, affordable and community based child care systems in this country. We have waited too long. Let us get on with actually doing something for families.

Questions on the Order paperRoutine Proceedings

June 19th, 2006 / 3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order paperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer) Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order paperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before he was interrupted by question period, the hon. member for West Nova had three minutes remaining for his speech.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, about one hundred minutes ago I stood in the House to address this motion by the member for Winnipeg South Centre, a very good motion, and it is a little difficult one hundred minutes later to resume with exactly the same tone and at the same place.

I ask the House to imagine what it would be like should the government find the maturity to resume the discussions on Kelowna. The longer it waits the more difficult it is. I would ask the government to reconsider this seriously. I would ask all members of the House to look at the motion and support it, because we are at an opportune time in our country, in our nation, in our federation, where the economy is the best that it has ever been. For eight years we have had surplus budgets. We have resources. We can look toward financial resources for the future.

I believe it is incumbent upon us as a people to make sure that nobody is left behind, that we work together to make sure that those who are suffering the most or have the most difficulties get the assistance that is necessary, not welfare and not charity, but real and reasonable investments in the form of partnerships, in the form of a mature relationship, government to government to government. To me that is what Kelowna represents. Kelowna represents a chance for these communities to look to the future.

When I sat on the government side of the House and listened to the members in opposition speaking about their concerns and what they would do, it was completely different from what we have seen. The minute the government came into power the first thing it did was cancel that historic agreement. I would ask the government to return to it.

I see aboriginal communities, native communities and the Mi'kmaq community in my neighbourhood doing very well. Based on the resources, we have to go further than that. We have pitted people against people in a fight for a limited resource. Who is going to get the biggest amount of a finite resource? We have the fight in fisheries. We are looking at forestry now.

I think those communities deserve, as we do, to be able to participate in all sectors of our economy. They deserve, as we do, to know that their children are growing up in a healthy environment where they have safe water, good waste water treatment, adequate housing and not too many people per house, and where they need not be fearful of pandemics or diseases such as tuberculosis.

In my little community of Yarmouth, we have the risk of an outbreak of tuberculosis, with 700 people having to be tested a couple of times. I can tell members that this puts fear into the community.

First nations communities are facing that daily. They do not see any change. They must be very frustrated and disappointed. For once there was an agreement with them, the federal government and the provincial governments, an agreement that shone a light, gave them potential and was a place to start.

I encourage all House members to support this motion, to reassure these people and all Canadians, by proving that we are working together to ensure a better future for all of our citizens.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 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 want to go back to the comments that the member for West Nova made in the seven minutes before question period broke up his speaking time. He was speaking in relation to the troubling situation that this new government has inherited. He spoke to the last period of time and having issues associated with it specifically for aboriginal people. There is no denying that there are many issues that we as a government have inherited.

He made reference to the phrase “when you buy the dog you get the fleas” in relation to the issues we have inherited. It seems to me that referring to these issues as fleas is very offensive. Perhaps his first language is not English, so maybe he would want take a look at that statement one more time and further clarify it for me.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I was quoting a member of another opposition party who used that comment in the House once to say that there are some very difficult problems. There are some problems that are not going to be easy to resolve. The worst thing we can do is hide from them or stand back from them. I think we have to look at them in a serious manner.

I would ask the member to first consider that the Conservatives should not say that “they” have inherited this problem. This is our problem. All Canadians have participated for over 135 years in creating the problems that are out there in those communities. It is time to participate in the solution and to do that in an honest manner.

The question that has not been raised here today is about what we should have seen at the last federal election. The people in these communities are underrepresented at the ballot box. They tend not to vote in the same numbers as the non-aboriginal community. If we wonder why, let me say it seems to me that they do not have any confidence. They do not have any confidence that Parliament and the government are going to have the proper effect, although the potential is there. The cancellation of this historic accord I think shows that they have reason to be apprehensive.

We had the provincial governments and the federal government getting together for years of negotiations and discussions on how this was going to be addressed. Finally we had one step in the right direction, not the solution to all problems, but a good step in the right direction, which was summarily cancelled after an election. Contrary to all the statements that I heard from the Conservative side of the House prior to the election on their desire to work with the first nations of this land, the Conservatives cancelled this agreement. This is the root of and the foundation for solutions to our many problems that we jointly share.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about the aboriginal community not having confidence in government. We cannot really blame them. There have been so many empty promises. There have been endless consultations. There have been commissions. There have been promises. There have been red books. There have been discussions. There have been announcements and press conferences. Yet we have seen over and over again that announcements have been made but the money has not been spent.

We are here today considering a motion that I hope will pass, but I do not know whether it is empty rhetoric or not. I think what we need to do is come together and not look at the past, because we are all guilty. It does not matter which party.

The NDP has been very clear on what we would do, but as we have heard, so many times there have been broken promises. The discussion has been going around in circles. I would like to ask the hon. member a question. If the motion passes, what does he think would be one of the top priorities that can be done immediately by the Conservative government? Other than the Kelowna accord, what concrete action can be taken immediately?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for this excellent question. I do not necessarily have an answer to it and perhaps it is not up to me to have one. This was the beauty of the Kelowna accord. In fact, no single person or specific level of government was expected to have all of the answers.

First nations communities are very diverse. Such communities have all kinds of differences. They have different capabilities and different challenges to overcome.

This accord facilitated a partnership between the communities and the federal, provincial and territorial governments in order to work on the various problems, using the various qualities that exist from one community to the next. We were getting closer to reaching our goal, but only the bigger challenges were addressed. The motion mentioned health care, housing, education and economic opportunities.

In our communities, whether in Toronto or Baie Sainte-Marie, Nova Scotia, as Canadians, we all deserve the same opportunities, the same solutions and the same security. I believe it is entirely legitimate that these communities want the same thing and it is only reasonable to admit that the existing structures and systems are inadequate. We have seen some success, but there were many shortcomings. I therefore believe that we should go back to the Kelowna accord.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House today to join my colleagues in discussing this extraordinarily important resolution and follow on the wise words of my colleague and friend, the member for West Nova. As he put it well to the House, this is an issue and a matter which far transcends in many ways the nature of the resolution itself. It is about Canada and our future.

It is not just about a province like Saskatchewan where some 50% of the population is made up of aboriginal people. It is not just about British Columbia, which is undergoing enormous social problems of adjusting on how to manage this extraordinary issue. It is not just about the member for West Nova's own province where we have seen picket lines in fisheries and disputes that pit neighbours against one another. It is not just about the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon where aboriginal people are controlling their own destinies now in a way which makes us proud as Canadians.

It is also about my riding of Toronto Centre where there is a large aboriginal community. I go to the council fire and attend aboriginal events, and find people living in despair, in conditions that we would really find unacceptable.

Basically, it is about us as Canadians finding a way in which we can deal with a challenge that is basically unacceptable, an embarrassment to Canada and Canadians, and an international concern for people around the world as they look at one of the wealthiest countries in the world and ask themselves how it can be that Canada, with all its success, resources, goodwill and ability to work on issues, has not been able to find in its long history a way of resolving this extraordinary issue.

My own formation is as a lawyer and colleagues in the House might find that an unfortunate background to come to such an important issue as this, but it is rather remarkable that in fact it has been the courts of our country that have been dealing with this issue rather than the politicians over the years. It has been the adversarial nature of the life of our aboriginal leaders that I have spoken about so many times that they have found so difficult.

In fact, in order to get justice in the world, instead of being able to turn to and get understanding from our political institutions, they have had to turn to the courts. I am proud of the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sparrow case established the special trust relationship that we owe to our aboriginal people.

In Delgamuukw, section 35 of the Constitution was interpreted and guaranteed the aboriginal use of land. Marshall was a case which troubled my colleague from West Nova's own province so much, but which gave a wise solution to something that was creating huge social disorder. The Calder case resulted ultimately in the Nisga'a agreement, an agreement of which all of us are extremely proud.

My friends on the opposite side of the House may not recall, but I was in the House some years ago when we debated the Nisga'a agreement until the middle of the night. It was an agreement which was revolutionary in the sense that it gave people a sense of control over their own destiny. It was nothing more, really, than a sophisticated municipal government level of control over themselves, but it enabled them to control their resources and how their population would survive in the 21st century in a way that made us so proud.

That was fought so hard by so many in the House but, in turning the page, if we look back those who opposed that with such ferocity would today say it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do, as I think it is the right thing to do today, not to turn our back on the Kelowna accord for the same reasons.

These have been complex cases. I have had the opportunity to argue some of them. They pit treaty people against non-treaty people. They pit aboriginal rights against extinguishment. They drag in the jurisprudence from the United States of America, South Africa, Australia, and other countries with a common law tradition about what is the responsibility that the Crown owes to people of aboriginal origin in their countries.

They even bring in international cases. Everyone may recall the Lovelace case, a case that went to the international commission on human rights and which determined that women were being discriminated against by virtue of our Indian Act in a way that forced this country to change our own Indian Act because we were required to do so by international law and international pressure.

In my view, Kelowna turned the page. It created a new framework for discussing the settlement. As was eloquently said this morning by the member for Winnipeg South Centre, in her opening statement in this House, she referred to the remarks of the premier of British Columbia, for whom this is so important, the premier of Saskatchewan, and the premier of Quebec, who said that failure was not an option, the time had come to move ahead.

That was the message I got when I travelled across the country recently, meeting the Manitoba chiefs in Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, going with my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, attending with him in his riding, and meeting people on the ground who said that we changed the tone, we changed an attitude.

We replaced this confrontation with cooperation. We created new hope. We had an opportunity to change things. But we are now wasting this opportunity.

I think that is a difficulty that we have as we speak in the House because when we contrast the past and the adversarial nature, look at what we can do when in fact there is political leadership. Look at it domestically. Look at what happened when we had the Yukon and the Northwest Territories agreements. Look at the cooperation that now takes place over our resources, the Mackenzie pipeline. When Mr. Justice Thomas Berger did his report, he said there would never be any cooperation among people, but today people are coming together because they have a buy-in. They have a sense that it is their problem; it is a common problem.

That is what Kelowna was about. It was not just about the money, but for heaven's sake, the money was there, $5 billion, it was booked. It was more than the money. It was the sense that the communities had come together, the premiers had come together, and the Prime Minister of Canada had come together with all of the various communities represented. Money was committed, but we ourselves were committed to solving these problems.

I have seen what we can do when we work together. I have been to the riding of the member for Nunavut of whom we are very proud in what she does in her riding. I have seen what is happening up there and the challenges that are in our north and our arctic as climate change takes place. However, people are meeting these challenges. We can only deal with that in cooperation.

If members could have attended, like I did when I was the foreign minister, the Arctic Council, with representatives of our aboriginal people, the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, and the Athabasca Nation. They sat there at the table, they looked at our Russian colleagues, American colleagues and Norwegian colleagues. They talked of the Sami nations across the pole. They spoke of what their future was at the pole. They spoke about climate change. They told us the way ahead. This is what our aboriginal people do for us internationally.

The same thing was true in Quebec City at the Summit of the Council of the Americas where we had our aboriginal people present. I had the Mexican foreign minister say to me, “Send us some of your aboriginal people. Help us solve the problem of Chiapas. You can help us”. I have talked to our aboriginal leaders who have been in Mexico helping the Mexicans with their problems. I was in Chile with the leader of the Nisga'a nation when he spoke to the Chilean authorities and he went to islands there and helped negotiate with native people in their country, showing them how we can solve problems.

This is what cooperation leads to, as opposed to the adversarial system which we lived for so long in this country.

In conclusion, if we read the cases, and I would urge any member to read these cases, some of them are dry, boring legal cases. All cases tend to be dry and boring, but these tend to be the least dry and boring, if I may say. I read one, the Gitksan case, in which one of the chiefs said to the court, “The land, the plants, the animals and the people all have spirit, they all must be shown respect”.

That is what we would like in this House today, respect for an attempt to find a solution to this; not an approach that is partisan; not an approach that seeks to divide Canadians one from the other; and not to say, “Hey, we're doing something. You didn't do anything over 13 years”. We got somewhere. We had a new opportunity.

I beg of members, as the member for West Nova did, to say we learn from one another. Let us strengthen our country and our society. Let us work together for our environment, for the traditional roles of our aboriginal people on reserves or in nature, and for the new challenges in our urban spaces. We can also learn that the starting point is, as the chief said in Gitksan, respect; respect for one another and respect for an ability as Canadians to come together to find a solution which is not tolerable in a 21st century country as wealthy, prosperous, privileged and blessed as we are.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, in 1997 I came to this House with the Reform Party as the official opposition. In 1993 we came as the third party, but then we made official opposition under the leadership of Preston Manning. He asked me in 1997 to do some work across the country with aboriginal communities, dealing with grassroots natives from coast to coast.

In 1997, 1998 and 1999, I spent nearly two and a half years travelling the country, locating people in every province from the grassroots level, calling for accountability. The hon. Leader of the Opposition may remember such names as Leona Freid, the leader from a Manitoba grassroots community, the work on Aboriginals for Financial Accountability with Roy Littlechief, and a whole bunch of names I could bring up from every province.

At the end of that period of time, all of the grassroots people got together and filled out a very huge report about the problems on the reserves and the squalor. I want this leader to know that I went into their homes. I spent time sharing bread with people living in squalor. What little they had, they were willing to share.

We begged the government at that time. I asked questions numerous times, as did many of my colleagues, explaining the situation and asking the Liberals to take that report, look at it, and really start dealing with the down to earth problems. In every election, four of them in a row, there was a promise in every throne speech that the Liberals were going to address the squalor that was so terrible and they were going to do it in their budgets, and it only got worse. From 1993 to 2006, it got worse.

Could the member explain to me why they ignored the grassroots people across this country and that beautiful report they put together, which the minister in this party has finally taken down, blown the dust from it and had a look at?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, perhaps one of the reasons, with all due respect, has a little to do with the tone of the member's question that it is our fault, pointing the finger, looking across the House and saying that we have not done this, they did that, and everything else.

What the member for West Nova and I were saying earlier, and what all members have said in the House, is that if we are going to solve this problem, we have to come together as Canadians.

Kelowna, whatever the faults of the past, was an opportunity to turn the page.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

So was that report.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

I recognize there were merits in that report.

There was a great deal of talk, the member for Wild Rose will recall, about responsibility and accountability, but there was a lot of accusations about inadequacies in aboriginal governance structures. Inadequacies which the aboriginal people themselves have recognized. Phil Fontaine, the present chief, has come to us and said that they recognize they have to make changes. They have brought in accountability changes in their own governance structures in a way that frankly recognizes problems of the past and looks forward to a brighter future as we resolve those sorts of problems.

I ask the hon. member for Wild Rose to put aside those differences of the past. I believe him when he says he went into homes. I know he is an honest person who works hard in his effort to be a member of Parliament, but let us work hard on bringing ourselves together as much as we work hard at tearing ourselves apart and dividing us. That is what I would ask the House to do.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments and the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I also heard the question from the hon. Conservative Party colleague a few moments ago.

I agree with the leader of the Liberal Party. We should stop trying to pass the buck by saying that the Liberals were in power for over 13 years and did nothing. We could say the same thing about the Conservative party, which did not implement the Erasmus-Dussault report. So let us stop blaming one another.

I have a question for the Leader of the Opposition. We know that some of Canada's first nations are far, very far, from living in the 21st century. I think they are living in the 17th or 18th century.

What does the Leader of the Opposition believe is the main obstacle preventing the native peoples, the first nations, the Inuit or Métis from joining the rest of us in the 21st century?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a key question. I thank the member for asking it. It might, of course, be more appropriate to ask this question of my colleagues from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Churchill, Labrador, Nunavut and Yukon who are grappling with these situations and problems in their communities.

From my standpoint—if I dared give a simple answer to such a complex question—I would say that it boils down to education. It is the lack of access to education that prevents individuals from realizing their full potential. This does not apply exclusively to our aboriginal peoples; it also holds true for our urban dwellers and the population at large.

What is critical on our reserves is education. I travelled with my colleague, the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, in his riding. There are problems there with secondary schools and teacher's colleges: there are none. Never mind university, which is absolutely essential in this 21st century. There are no primary and secondary schools that are acceptable.

Therefore, let us provide these people with access to education. They will survive and, in my opinion, they will solve their own problems. Education is the key.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Westlock—St. Paul.

In my riding of Sarnia—Lambton there is one aboriginal community. There are two aboriginal communities directly adjacent to my riding. I am happy to acknowledge the three communities in the House of Commons today, the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, the Walpole Island First Nation and the Kettle Point and Stony Point community. I have worked with members of these aboriginal reserves extensively over the years as warden and I look forward to working with them in my new capacity as their member of Parliament.

In fact I am happy to announce a new native craft and gift store in the village of Point Edward that will feature merchandise from vendors who reside at Aamjiwnaang, Walpole Island and Kettle Point. Native culture in the village of Point Edward is especially important because of the remarkable archaeological sites that continue to be found in the area.

I am happy to rise in the House today to talk about this government's early actions to improve the quality of life of aboriginal people in Canada. These early actions that we have taken stand in evident contrast to the last 13 years of Liberal rule during which very little was done for aboriginal Canadians.

We recognize that many aboriginal people face pressing challenges in their communities every day. This government is committed to improving the quality of life and reducing aboriginal poverty across Canada. Our government has taken concrete steps to develop real solutions to the problems facing aboriginal people. Indeed, in our few short months as government, we have moved swiftly to implement carefully structured, targeted investments that will reduce the level of aboriginal poverty and bring about tangible, measurable results.

This government did not wait 13 years to address this situation on the eve of an election three days before a non-confidence vote. Since taking office, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians has been meeting with aboriginal leaders. These ongoing discussions contribute to setting the stage for initiatives and programs that will address key aboriginal issues.

Backing words with the necessary resources, this government put forward a federal budget that allocates $3.7 billion to fund programs and initiatives to improve the quality of life of aboriginal people living both on and off reserve, in the north and in urban settings. The budget unveiled last month includes targeted investments in key areas such as aboriginal housing, clean water, education, and women, children and families. The returns on these investments will deliver real improvements by eliminating poverty in aboriginal communities, strengthened relationships with the provinces and territories and aboriginal leaders and organizations, and a more promising future for all Canadians.

The government has allocated $300 million to 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 targeted for aboriginal housing in the provinces.

Furthermore, $450 million has been set aside to fund initiatives for water and housing on reserve, education, and women, children and families. Through education aboriginal communities can successfully battle poverty, while women's initiatives will nurture healthy children and families and communities.

Aboriginal people deserve no less than the same opportunities we all seek for our families, our communities and our country. We are committed to securing these opportunities for aboriginal people.

Of the $3.7 billion earmarked for aboriginal peoples and northerners, $500 million will promote community development in areas potentially impacted by the Mackenzie gas project.

A settlement agreement was signed on May 10 to launch an advanced payment program for seniors who suffered abuse in residential schools. There has been $2.2 billion set aside in the budget for common experience payments and for other programmatic elements such as healing and commemoration.

Please do not misunderstand me. I do not believe that just the money in the recent budget and the actions we have taken so far to resolve the challenges facing aboriginal people are enough. This is just the beginning. We must take on the hard work of renovating laws and institutions. This government is working collaboratively and respectfully with partners to identify and implement effective and lasting solutions through collaboration and mutual respect, as witnessed by the government's recent settlement offer to the Dehcho First Nations.

There have been other significant achievements. On March 9 an agreement in principle was signed with the Yale First Nation in the province of British Columbia.

Upon coming into office, this government launched an action plan to address drinking water concerns in first nations communities. This comprehensive plan consists of measures to identify communities at risk from unsafe water; to ensure treatment plant facilities are managed by certified operators; to implement standards for the design, construction, operation, maintenance and monitoring of treatment facilities; and to institute a framework to regulate water systems in first nations communities.

Last month the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations announced the establishment of an independent three member panel of experts to examine the regulatory framework for water in first nations communities. The expert panel will hold public hearings across Canada in the coming months to obtain suggestions and advice from people with technical expertise and experience in the operation and management of water systems. At these hearings, participants will have the opportunity to provide their views and suggestions on what should be regulated and what legal framework should be used.

The panel's interim report on regulatory options will be submitted to the minister by September 2006. A progress report on the panel's findings to date will be submitted to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development also in September 2006.

The initiatives this government has undertaken so far to improve the quality of life of aboriginal people are an example of the way we intend to do business. We will work with aboriginal partners, provinces and territories to develop viable and effective solutions to the challenges in first nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

The government's approach to resolving aboriginal issues, including water, education, housing, and women and children is focused on tangible results and clear accountability.

We believe aboriginals deserve the same standards as non-aboriginal Canadians and we will not let 13 years go by without action. We have already taken action as I have just described. Our record already shows our commitment to improving the lives of first nations, Inuit and Métis Canadians. This is just the beginning. We all know there are many, many issues that need to be addressed, not only the issues that we have already started to address, but others as well. There are environmental issues, health care, education, women's issues, including matrimonial property rights.

At this time I would like to give recognition to the member for Winnipeg South Centre, the mover of today's motion, for her work on native women's issues. I have the privilege of sitting on committee with the member and I know how diligent she is and how hard she has worked to improve conditions.

The reality still exists. We have had 20 years of consultation on this and other issues and little or no action. The time for action is now. The Conservative government is committed to real action as we move forward in a positive and beneficial manner.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her kind words. I have a number of questions coming out of her presentation.

I am glad she restrained herself in terms of the blame game. It is time we moved on from the blame game. There is a common objective and goal, and it is important that we stop blaming one another and move on with it.

Is my colleague is aware that currently money is being drained from school projects in order to fund water facilities and the training of water technicians to run the facilities? School projects are being stopped because moneys are not sufficient.

When we talk about what has not been done, is the member opposite familiar with the First Nations Land Management Act? Is she familiar with the First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act, the oil and gas and moneys management act, the commercial and industrial development act? These issues were front and centre on the agenda of the previous government, and will have a profound economic impact on aboriginal people.

I have one final question which relates to matrimonial real property. I sit on two committees, the status of women and the aboriginal affairs committee. She and I serve on a committee which is addressing this issue. I have been really puzzled about why members opposite on the aboriginal affairs committee have been very reluctant to re-submit to the government the report done by that committee on matrimonial real property. It was a comprehensive report--