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

Topics

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's statement about commitments from the Government of Canada.

I worked for the people of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. I remember the 1998 agreement signed by the federal government to rebuild that community and how the federal government walked away from that agreement right after.

I remember being with nearly 200 people from Barriere who came to meet the Indian affairs minister, and he refused. The people of that community sat out in the rain in October for two weeks. One day 160 elders and children came to Parliament Hill. They said that they had a simple request. They wanted to see the Indian affairs minister. I remember the RCMP coming out to tell Grand Chief Carol McBride that the Indian affairs minister had said, “Send the RCMP to deal with these people”. They were sick. They had been in the rain for two weeks. That agreement was never honoured by the Government of Canada.

I find it hard to hear him now talk about commitments. Nothing was done for the people of Barriere Lake and the people of Attawapiskat, who were promised a new school by the former Indian affairs minister six years ago. He walked away. I guess I am a little stunned at some of the language I have heard from him.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of what the Liberal Government of Canada did. I am very proud of the $350 million healing fund. I am very proud that it was a Liberal government that signed the residential schools agreement, recognizing the compensation from those schools.

As the premier of British Columbia has said, we go back 138 years of broken promises. I believe it is now incumbent upon us to take advantage of the Kelowna accord, which is a historic agreement that recognizes that all governments came to the table wishing that they had done more, going back to the earliest beginnings of Confederation.

What I also find hard to understand is that a member of the NDP would stand in the House, when the government is refusing to commit to the Kelowna accord, and not endorse the position taken by the NDP premier of Saskatchewan and the NDP premier of Manitoba when they say this accord should go forward. Where is the federal NDP?

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the right hon. member's comments. He indicated that money was in place in the fiscal framework. When was a money bill brought forward to Parliament for it to deal with the so-called Kelowna accord?

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well it was after the Kelowna accord that the government was brought down. However, the hon. member also ought to know that in the fiscal update produced by the minister of finance at the time, he indicated that the Kelowna accord was in the process of being discussed and that the money would be provided.

There is a source and uses of funds prepared by the government, which is an internal government document, in which the commitments are made. The commitment is there. If that commitment is not there, it is not because it was not made by the previous minister of finance and the previous prime minister, but because it was withdrawn by the new government.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, my right hon. friend, the former prime minister of the country, and I both share a commitment to improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians. I certainly do not question his bona fides in that sense and, I assume, as a gentleman, that he does not question mine.

Long before I was elected I worked on land claims. I have spent a significant part of my life working in the aid of aboriginal Canadians. I have seen aboriginal poverty firsthand, both on reserves and in urban centres, which is why I truly believe that one of Canada's greatest challenges is the issue of aboriginal poverty. In that sense, he and I are of common ground.

Where we differ is how we should go about making a difference in the lives of aboriginal Canadians. Aboriginal poverty is deep rooted. It is a complex issue. I say, with all due respect, that I do not think anyone can table a single page at the close of a first ministers' meeting as a compilation of numbers, issue a press release and believe aboriginal poverty has been solved.

The problems in this country are much deeper than that. They require a long term commitment, structural reform and renovation in consultation with first nations. Unless that is done, we will not succeed in the eradication of aboriginal poverty.

I support the principles and the targets that were discussed at Kelowna in the course of that first ministers' meeting. I also acknowledge the efforts that were undertaken to draw together the premiers and the aboriginal leaders. However, the issue is where to go from there.

I was in Kelowna that fall and the dialogue, to be sure, was useful and inspiring in some ways, but the results at the end were unclear. The conference did not conclude with a signed document by the participants entitled “The Kelowna Accord”. I talked to many of the premiers at the close of the conference and to all the aboriginal leaders who were present at the table. I asked them about the page that was tabled at the close of the meeting by the prime minister. There was no consensus with respect to those figures. There was no commonality as to how money would be spent, how it would be distributed among the provinces and the territories or how it would be divided among the aboriginal organizations that were present. It did not happen. I was there. I did the due diligence to ensure that those were the facts at the time.

My friend says today that the money was put forward in a press release. We should make it clear for Canadians that we are not talking about an accord signed by the premiers and the territorial leaders. In fact, there was specific disagreement between the province of Quebec as I understand it and the other participants with respect to the health aspects of the accord, which was one of the reasons that no document was produced.

The Kelowna accord also did not reflect any sort of process that involved all of Canada. The province of Quebec, as represented by the Assembly of First Nations' regional chief for Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard, did not participate in the process and did not take part in Kelowna. It does not reflect a Canadian consensus.

My friend referred quite specifically to Mr. Doer and stated that Mr. Doer had referred to the morality of the current government. Mr. Doer is an NDP premier of another province and hardly one who would be proselytizing for the Conservative cause. I would like the House and Canadians to know precisely what he said because his comments about morality were a scathing criticism of the former government. He said the following:

--the former government did not contain the so-called Kelowna money. We don't want to be unfair to the [Prime Minister's] government because the former government did not put the Kelowna money in the fiscal framework as every journal--the journals here know. And they did not flow the money from 2004. So we're dealing with a promise in 2004. We're dealing with a promise in 2006. And I would argue if we don't proceed with the principles of Kelowna we're dealing with broken promises again....

He carried on to make his comment about the morality of the situation.

In terms of Mr. Doer's comments, that is what happened at the premiers conference. When we speak of the Kelowna process, we should put the facts in context.

Our discussion today is about more than the right way to go about the financial aspects of this matter. It is about asking the important questions of what the next steps are beyond Kelowna, beyond that first ministers meeting and beyond the process that did engage the provinces, the federal government and aboriginal leaders.

The most fundamental flaw in the bill before us today is that it does not change in any way the legislative framework that governs the relationship between Canada and first nations peoples. We must address the root causes of aboriginal poverty and we must understand the history if we are to correct those problems.

First nations in this country live under one of the country's most outdated laws, the Indian Act. The Indian Act is a compilation of pre-Confederation statutes. It is an act that requires significant change. It is a legal framework that must be updated by the federal government, working in consultation with first nations, if there is to be a future with aboriginal Canadians operating inside a legislative framework that is modern, aspiring and works in the 21st century.

In 13 years, the previous government did not replace the Indian Act with a modern legislative framework. That is the most important next step and that is what I have spoken to, as the minister, with aboriginal leaders in this country, about a process that would take us down that road, about creating a modern legislative framework that goes beyond the Indian Act and takes the first peoples into the 21st century on a position of parity with other Canadians.

Structural change is required. It is not simply a question of tabling a press release at the close of a conference and offering $5.1 billion over the course of five years. It is a deeper problem and it requires structural change.

We must set priorities that come with achievable goals and clear benchmarks. I see some clear priorities as we move forward, which I have spoken with aboriginal leaders about: better support for aboriginal women; addressing the issue of matrimonial property rights, an issue that the previous government did not address, even though committees of both the Senate and the House of Commons called upon the Government of Canada to address the circumstances of aboriginal women; education, child and welfare reforms in concert with the provinces and aboriginal organizations; clarified accountabilities; and, as was suggested at Kelowna, market based approaches to deal with housing issues.

I am talking about priorities because this government is taking a business like approach to these matters. We set priorities. We budget for them. We act upon them. We find the money before we make the promises. We do not intend to govern this country through the issuance of press releases. We set clear goals and then we deliver.

Another illustration of that was yesterday in this House when I expressed my disappointment upon learning that my predecessor made an ad hoc commitment in the context of the community of Kashechewan but failed to include the costs of those commitments in the government's long term finance plan.

Let me be clear. This government will find a lasting solution for the people of Kashechewan. We will work with the community to do so and we will do it right away. I have spoken with my hon. colleague from another party on this issue, but the solution is one that must be clearly supported, not only with a rational basis on which to proceed so that the community is not repeatedly flooded, but also in consultation with the community.

That, together with other initiatives that we have taken, shows the way forward that this government will follow in dealing with the post-Kelowna era. We will do so in full consultation and full collaboration with the premiers, the territorial leaders and aboriginal Canadians.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-292, the Kelowna Accord Implementation Act.

First, I want to inform the House that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill. The Bloc Québécois believes that the government must respect the accord that was reached on November 25, 2005 with the aboriginal people at the first ministers' conference.

In support of the accord, Monday, May 8, 2006, our member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue and critic for aboriginal affairs, tabled on behalf of the Bloc Québécois a motion to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development recommending the implementation of the Kelowna Accord reached by representatives of Ottawa, Quebec, the provinces and national aboriginal leaders.

The tabling of this motion and Bill C-292, which we are debating today, remind us that, once again, the federal government did not respect its commitments and did not take its responsibilities toward the aboriginal people.

Here is the text of the motion that was tabled and that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has adopted:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee recommends that government to implement the Kelowna agreement, entitled Strengthening Relationships and Closing the Gap, which was reached on November 25, 2005 between the First Ministers and the National Aboriginal Leaders.

That the Committee adopt these recommendations as a report to the House and that the Chair present this report to the House.

Let us make not be mistaken: the Kelowna accord is only a temporary measure that will not improve in the long run the living conditions of native people. The accord is only a token solution to the growing gap between the quality of life of aboriginal peoples and that of other Quebeckers and Canadians.

Put into numbers, the accord represents--or did represent should I say--$5.1 billion over five years for education, health, housing and economic opportunities for aboriginal peoples. If we consider that those funds are to be divided among federal, Quebec, provincial and territorial governments before reaching first nations, Inuit and Métis, we realize that that is very little to really reduce the gap.

The needs of Quebec's first nations are tremendous, particularly in housing. The immediate needs represent $700 million for the 7,000 missing housing units, to which we must add hundreds more units every year.

As we know, this housing deficit has extremely severe human and social consequences. Some health problems are intimately linked to the housing shortage. It is urgent to stop the increase in the number of cases of poisoning, infection, tuberculosis, and so on. The presence of cases of diabetes, fetal alcohol syndrome et suicide is also a source of concern.

Suicide is a serious problem. Even though rates vary considerably from one community to the next, they are globally too high. The suicide rates of first nations youth are 5 to 7 times higher than among non-aboriginal youth. The suicide rates of Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, 11 times higher than the Canadian average. Thus, it is urgent to invest time and resources.

As far as education is concerned, if the government finally decided to tackle the problem, 27 or 28 years would be needed to close the gap with other Quebeckers and Canadians, according to the 2004 Auditor General's report.That is an understatement. The repeated reports of the Auditor General, as well as the observations from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and, more recently, the latest report from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the living conditions of the aboriginal people of Canada, are alarming.

Many recommendations supported by aboriginals, Quebeckers and Canadians have been presented to Ottawa and have fallen on deaf ears.

On the eve of the premiers' conference, the Bloc Québécois publicly supported the common position held by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Femmes autochtones du Québec, who rejected the government's initiative. The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Femmes autochtones du Québec deplored the fact that this approach to narrowing the gap between the living conditions of first nations people and those of Quebeckers and Canadians did not address the real causes behind the first nations' situation, which are the lack of fair access to land and resources and respect for their rights.

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Femmes autochtones du Québec also deplored the fact that the objective of the Kelowna agreement, through its blanket treatment of all aboriginals and lack of consultation with the communities to identify the real challenges, would maintain the cycle of dependence of the first nations.

The Bloc Québécois feels that concrete solutions are needed that are adapted to the reality of the various aboriginal nations to correct at the foundation the inequalities that affect their communities.

In addition, these measures must come out of discussions with the nations, because money alone will not solve the problem. On the contrary, it perpetuates the paternalistic approach of the federal government toward aboriginals.

Let us talk about the Conservative handling of the aboriginal issue. Now we know, here in this House, that the federal government has an obligation to meet the great needs of the aboriginal people, among other things those related to housing, infrastructure, education and health care. The Bloc Québécois continues to make sure that Ottawa does not shirk its obligations as a trustee. The federal government should assume its responsibilities as long as all aboriginal nations do not have the tools for self-government.

The first indications of the Conservative government's handling of the aboriginal issue are not very reassuring. For example, the initiative for a protocol for safe drinking water for first nations communities is commendable in and of itself. However, when the initiative sets aside communities with the greatest needs, those that still do not have a drinking water system and are still, today—believe or not—hauling their water in buckets, there is cause for concern.

This same protocol explains the following:

First nations are responsible for the construction, design, operation and maintenance of their water systems. INAC provides funding to First Nations for these activities, subject to the appropriate technical review and funding approval process.

With this new initiative, the Conservative government is telling communities not only that no new money is being committed to implement the protocol, but that the communities in the greatest need could have their funding withdrawn if they fail to obtain departmental approval. This is unacceptable.

The first budget is another indicator of the “new approach”, to use the words of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Aboriginal communities have critical socio-economic problems. In some cases, the situation is intolerable, and the Bloc Québécois does not believe that $450 million over two years, as announced in the budget, will be enough to properly address the problems.

Also, in its budget, the new government is giving considerable prominence to the accountability of communities in managing the funding they are given. It is important to emphasize that aboriginal peoples wholeheartedly support the principle of accountability. The same principle should also apply to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to make sure that it accounts not only to its minister, but also to the community it serves.

In its quest for a so-called new approach to improving the handling of the aboriginal issue, the Conservative government should start by going over the findings of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. We will recall that this royal commission was initiated under a Conservative government, at a cost of $58 million—and this at the expense of taxpayers in Quebec and Canada—and that its findings have been all but forgotten since the report was published.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-292, the Kelowna Accord Implementation Act.

The commitments made by the federal government in Kelowna mark a first step toward bridging the gap between aboriginal nations and Quebeckers and Canadians. The Bloc Québécois believes, however, that the root causes of existing disparities have yet to be addressed.

Aboriginal people must have all the tools to develop their own identity, namely the right to self-government and the recognition of their rights.

The Bloc Québécois wants the money promised at the Kelowna conference to be delivered.

For the future of relations between the government and the aboriginal people, we are in favour of a more comprehensive approach that responds to the aspirations of the aboriginal people and fosters the settlement of agreements from nation to nation.

I want to remind the House that we totally support the concept of the right to self-government for aboriginal peoples.

More generally, we are concerned with the self-government claims of aboriginal peoples. We recognize them as a distinct people having a right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions, as well as the right to develop their own identity.

In concluding, I want to remind the House that the Bloc Québécois has endorsed most of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and of the Erasmus-Dussault report. The commission outlined an approach of self-government based on the recognition of aboriginal governments as a level of government having jurisdiction over issues related to good governance and the well-being of their people. Moreover, the report was based on a recognition of the aboriginal peoples as self-governing nations having a unique place in Canada.

Thus, the aboriginal people will be able to rely on the support of the Bloc Québécois members.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate this afternoon on behalf of the New Democratic Party.

I want to begin by acknowledging that my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas is in the traditional territory of the Coast Salish people. I want to state from the outset that the NDP supports Bill C-292. I want to thank the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard for bringing the bill forward.

I also want to say that I hope he does not confuse our concern about the failure of Canada to acknowledge its signature on other agreements with our hope that the Kelowna accord is acknowledged and followed up on, and that it is acknowledged by the House and the current government.

We acknowledge the importance of the Kelowna accord and we want to see those provisions go forward. This is an agreement made between the five national aboriginal organizations, the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, the Inuit Tapirit Kanatami, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the first ministers of the provinces, territories and Canada.

The accord represented progress in key areas: health, life long learning, housing, economic opportunity, negotiations and accountability for results.

We want to acknowledge and recognize that there were long negotiations and discussions that preceded it, particularly since the Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable in April 2004.

We also want to acknowledge that it is not a perfect agreement. It was clear that more consultation was needed, for instance, with national and regional aboriginal organizations; organizations such as the Council of Yukon First Nations whose self-government agreements make them unique for first nations south of 60.

The Kelowna accord's main intention was to address the gap in the standard of living between first nations, Métis and Inuit people, and the rest of Canadians. The intent was to close that gap. I think that is an important objective that Canadians support overwhelmingly.

We had been making progress in that regard up to 1996. Unfortunately, that year the Liberal government chose to cap increases for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada core programs at 2%. That capped spending on key programs in education, roads, social services and drinking water. The Auditor General has pointed out that there was a key problem with the 2% cap. In the period since 1996, spending has increased by only 1.6%, while the population has increased by 11%.

That in itself represents a significant shortfall. As the Assembly of First Nations points out, most Canadians receive services from differing levels of government: municipal, provincial or territorial and federal.

First nations people, however, living on reserve, only receive funding for federal government services. This makes for a huge difference. Most Canadians receive government services at a rate two and a half times that of on reserve first nations residents.

Specifically, for every dollar spent on reserve for health care, $1.60 is spent on average Canadians for health care. For every dollar spent on housing on reserve, governments in Canada spend $5.60 for other Canadians. For every dollar spent on the education of first nations children, other Canadian children have $2.10 spent on their futures. Clearly, that situation is not tolerable.

What is worse, because of the fact that many reserves are in remote or northern areas, the cost of delivering successful programs is even greater. Just the cost of providing materials is substantially greater, and then there are the special social costs that first nations communities face, the costs of a very young population, the costs of dealing with the legacy of residential schools and attempts at assimilation, and the costs of poverty, displacement and disenfranchisement.

I wish to draw attention to another particularly regional aspect of this. In British Columbia the Kelowna accord also meant the signing of a specific regional agreement. I want to emphasize that this is a signed agreement, signed by the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard as the Prime Minister on behalf of Canada, signed by the premier of British Columbia, and signed by the representatives of the first nations of British Columbia. It is called the B.C. transformative change accord.

The folks who signed it on behalf of the first nations in British Columbia were: Regional Chief Shawn Atleo, representing the B.C. Assembly of First Nations; Grand Chief Edward John, Grand Chief Doug Kelly and Grand Chief Dave Porter on behalf of the First Nations Summit; and Chief Stewart Phillip, Chief Robert Shintah and Chief Mike Retasket on behalf of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

This is no press release. This is a signed accord, the transformative change accord between the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Canada and the leadership council representing the first nations of British Columbia. The transformative change accord dealt specifically with how the Kelowna accord was to be implemented in B.C. and established goals for closing the socio-economic gaps over a specific period of 10 years.

I and our NDP aboriginal affairs critic, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and the member for Vancouver Island North, recently met with B.C. first nations leadership council. They include the executive of the first nations summit, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. They represent 203 first nations in British Columbia and about one-third of the first nations in Canada.

It was clear from that meeting how crucial the B.C. transformative change accord was to the future of our province and to the first nations and not any less to the future of Canada.

As further evidence of the importance of this signed accord, the B.C. legislature recently unanimously called upon the federal government to live up to the financial commitments made in the Kelowna accord. It is crucial to the development and the future of British Columbia and to first nations. It is crucial to the development of treaties, to the social development of B.C. and to first nations and to our economic stability and development.

The accord mentions achievable goals. The minister said earlier that he wanted to see achievable goals and clear benchmarks. The transformative change accord does state achievable goals and does point out clear indicators of clear benchmarks.

We cannot step away from the important steps forward represented by the Kelowna accord. We cannot ignore the fact that it represents a way forward. We cannot say, just because we were not the ones responsible for negotiating it, that we will not honour it. Where is Canada's credibility in that situation?

We cannot say that it was just a pre-election gimmick. As much as we would have liked the former government to have acted sooner, to have implemented different policies during its long period in power, to have not capped spending on programs in first nations communities, we cannot ignore the achievement that it represents and the hope and the guidelines for the future that it puts forward.

The Conservative government might have had a leg to stand on if it had another plan, if it had a better plan and if it had a plan that had the support of first nations. However, it does not and there is not one on the horizon. We cannot say that two wrongs make a right. Maybe the former government did not take the initiatives that were necessary, but the current government is not taking the initiatives that are necessary either. Two wrongs do not make a right.

The agreement must be recognized and implemented. In particular the signed agreement between Canada, B.C. and the first nations of British Columbia must be honoured and pursued.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I am honoured to stand and support this private member's bill, I do so with deep regret, regret that the government has not deemed that the health and well-being of aboriginal Canadians is a priority, regret that it was necessary that the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard needed to introduce a private member's bill about the accord as opposed to the government honouring it on its own.

The world over, people point to Canada as an example of what they want their country to be, a country of inclusiveness, a country of tolerance, a country of people working together for the greater good. We are proud of our image, but in order for this image to be real, we have an issue that needs to be resolved.

The issue is the health and well-being of aboriginal peoples from sea to sea to sea. Last year, the government of Canada introduced a plan to eliminate the gap that exists between the aboriginal peoples and other Canadians.

That agreement was the Kelowna accord, the landmark Kelowna accord, agreed to by the Government of Canada, the premiers of all the provinces and territories and the aboriginal leadership. It was the culmination of 18 months of cooperation and collaboration, of trust and hope, of people putting aside the skepticism and cynicism of decades to try again, to believe again. It was a ground up, fully consultative approach.

The national aboriginal organizations were all at the table helping develop the policy and the targets that would see the gap between Canada's aboriginal and non-aboriginal people eliminated. The Assembly of First Nations was at the table. The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami was at the table. The Métis National Council was at the table. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples was at the table. The Native Women's Association of Canada was at the table. It was a historic moment. It was the beginning of a new day for Canada's aboriginal people.

Everything to which Canadians are entitled— housing, health care, economic opportunities and education—had been studied and reviewed. Facts were presented and goals were set. That was supposed to be a new beginning.

The fact that aboriginal Canadians are three times more likely to have type 2 diabetes, no longer would that be met with a shrug. A plan was put in place to reduce that number.

The fact that 20% fewer aboriginal people complete a post-secondary degree than non-aboriginals, no longer would that be met with apathy. A plan was put in place to increase the number of aboriginal post-secondary education graduates.

The fact that the unemployment rate among aboriginals is 12% higher than among non-aboriginals, no longer would that be treated as an afterthought. A plan was put in place to increase aboriginal employment levels.

It was the beginning of a new day. Then that new day was interrupted by a change of government. At first not all seemed lost. The new government appeared open to honouring the commitments of the former Government of Canada. The former Indian affairs critic, now the minister, said that he supported the Kelowna agreement. It did not last.

On budget day there was no money for the Kelowna accord. The landmark accord was abandoned. All the good works that had been accomplished in the previous 18 months were washed away, all the belief, all the hope. That was small, ungenerous, a breach of trust. Canada's aboriginal people again have been left to fend for themselves. That is not the attitude of the Canada I know. That is not the attitude of the Canada I believe in.

In my Canada it matters what is in my pocket, but it matters what is in my neighbour's pocket as well. In my Canada it is not just about me and now. It is about us and the future. In my Canada we know there are big challenging tasks we must do together, not in bits and pieces but as a whole, that capture the imagination, that generate the energy all of us need to see this through to the end.

That is what Kelowna represented. That is why it mattered so much. Its individual pieces were important but the former government, unlike the current government, understood that with a challenge so great, we have to make one plus one add up to more than two. That is why the process mattered so much. That is why the hopes and beliefs generated were so important. Kelowna was the crucial beginning of a new day for Canada's aboriginal people.

We owe it to every aboriginal person. We owe it to all Canadians and to our understanding of ourselves as a country, to what we are and what we want to be, to ensure that the gap in prosperity between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people is once and for all eliminated. It is for this reason that I stand here and support the Kelowna accord and this private member's bill.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, even prior to my appointment to serve on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, I had a strong desire and commitment to see the needs of our aboriginal Canadian brothers and sisters more adequately addressed. However, since my appointment to that committee, having met many more aboriginal Canadians and having read many reports dealing with the wide variety of issues facing them, I can only say that my resolve to be more involved in moving forward on these issues has increased. I am committed to seeing the gaps close, as are my colleagues on this side of the House.

I commend the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard for providing members with another opportunity to discuss and consider an issue of importance to all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.

Although I welcome this occasion to speak to this pressing matter and listen to the contributions of other members, I cannot support this legislation. My opposition to Bill C-292 is rooted in two main objections.

First, the bill is poorly conceived. It is not a precise, detailed policy blueprint, but simply is a series of broad political commitments. Furthermore, it purports to extend statutory recognition to a one time political event and create a legal obligation to fulfill a series of wide-ranging commitments, a dubious proposition at best and certainly one which is unforeseeable.

In addition, Bill C-292 provides members with absolutely no idea what obligations it would impose on government, nor whether these obligations would also apply to the provinces and territories.

This is an important issue for many of my colleagues in this chamber. Until members are provided with clear details of the nature of these programs and the related accountability measures, and until a long time sustainable financial plan to fund these programs has been approved by Parliament, I cannot see how the House can support Bill C-292.

My second objection to Bill C-292 is that the government has taken concrete steps to develop real solutions to the problems facing aboriginal people in Canada. Indeed, in a few short months as government, we have moved swiftly to implement carefully structured targeted investments that will reduce levels of aboriginal poverty and bring about tangible, measurable results.

Since taking office, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has met with aboriginal leaders. These ongoing discussions will set the stage for programs that will address key aboriginal issues. Backing our words with 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.

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 to complete a treaty.

Mr. Speaker, I will complete my speech at another time.

Kelowna Accord Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The hon. member will have six minutes and 20 seconds whenever this matter comes up again.

Before I see the clock at 2:30 p.m., I would like to remind members of the House of the little pesky paragraph in the House of Common Procedure and Practice, Marleau and Montpetit, on page 521:

During debate, Members do not refer to one another by their names but rather by title, position or constituency name in order to guard against all tendency to personalize debate.

Today is the 32nd sitting of the 39th Parliament. I have made this admonition at least half a dozen times already and my colleagues have as well. I thought that today I would just make the exact quote so that I would not have to do it again.

It being 2:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)