Mr. Speaker, if Bill C-51, An Act to give effect to the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, is passed, it would be a major step forward for the Inuit in my riding.
Back in 1975, the Nunavik Inuit and James Bay Cree signed the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the first comprehensive land claims agreement in Canada. At that time, the Government of Canada signed an undertaking with the Nunavik Inuit on land claims in offshore areas of Nunavik. The Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement deals with a number of issues related to land and resources in offshore areas adjacent to Quebec. It specifies property rights to the land and the sharing of resources, with financial compensation of course.
The Bloc Québécois will support the bill to give effect to the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement. The wishes of the people of Nunavik are very clear in this regard. When the referendum was held in October, 2006, 81% of the people of Nunavik cast a ballot. This is a very high figure. In addition, 78% of them voted in favour of the agreement, thereby enabling the Makivik Corporation to legitimately sign it on their behalf. The purpose of the agreement is to resolve a land problem that is central to the hunting, fishing and trapping lifestyle of the Nuvavik Inuit. It reflects the democratic choice of the people of Nunavik. It took 15 years of negotiations between the Inuit and the Government of Canada before this agreement could be signed on December 1, 2006.
In contrast to what many people think, the Nunavik Inuit—whom we are basically dealing with here—consist of around 10,000 people living in some 15 municipalities scattered along the shores of Hudson Bay, Ungava Bay and Labrador. Canadians still seem to know very little about these people who pay taxes without ever getting the benefit of roads, railways or adequate services. Their culture, based on their survival methods, has made them very community-minded. In each village, they are divided into several different groups whose jobs are determined by the needs of the community. There are hunters, trappers, fishers, and people engaged in various other activities.
Every participant in these groups uses their own tools and personal equipment, such as boats, engines, all terrain vehicles and trucks, which, in these circumstances, are considered recreational equipment unlike anywhere else, where they would be viewed as commercial equipment. Gas is now almost $2 a litre. What is more, gas for the equipment and tools is not tax deductible as it is in our communities. Ironically enough, they pay the most tax in Canada per capita—dollars/value. Take for example a car for which we would pay $30,000. Add another $2,000 to have it transported by boat and you end up paying federal and provincial sales tax on $32,000.
And what about daily needs such as food, clothing and drugs? The area along the coasts is very important to the survival of the Nunavik Inuit, who live on the coast and not inland. These activities are important for harvesting flora and fauna, which they do, and for preserving their culture. The Inuit have been inhabiting and using this area for almost 4,000 years for hunting and fishing for food. They also use this area for transportation. Some 75% of the Inuit's traditional food comes from the marine life found in this area. The Inuit are the occupants and guardians of these shores, thereby allowing Quebec and Canada to justify occupying the land. They ensure the sovereignty and surveillance of these lands. And what do they get in return? As Rangers or researchers of whale and seal populations or marine life, they receive salaries below the minimum cost of living in this sector, only to be replaced by officials hired to verify their skills.
In your opinion, what skill would be more convincing than 4,000 years of practice carried on from generation to generation? Considering it has never been disputed, should this practice not count for more than theories acquired off site and out of season?
We are reaching the point where malnutrition, housing that does not meet minimum public health standards and toxic substances leaking—