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House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.

Topics

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-30.

At the outset, the NDP will support the bill. We had a number of concerns with it and attempted to bring forward amendments that would have improved it, but the Conservatives were not interested. We will be putting on the record our concerns about the bill because it will go a few steps toward dealing with some of the specific issues in the area of specific claims, but it does not deal with some of the larger issues that we really need to deal with as a Parliament and a country.

The more I travel and the more people I meet, the more I understand that Canada's failure to address the need to deal with our historic legacy with first nations is probably the one element that keeps us from meeting our greatness as a nation. We need to come together. This is not a partisan issue. This is a fundamental failing that has been running through Canada since the beginning and we and our generation have to deal with this.

I had the great honour to represent my riding, and in a sense be the representative of the Government of Canada, during the Treaty No. 9 activities that happened across a vast section of northern Ontario. Treaty No. 9, as we are aware, covers probably two-thirds of the land mass of Ontario.

We began in northwestern Ontario, where the first treaty signers, who were actually representing the government of Ontario and the Government of Canada, met with the first communities. They travelled by canoe to every community up to the James Bay region. That was 100 years ago.

I was in certain communities when it was re-enacted with young canoeists. I had the opportunity to go to the community of Martin Falls. Martin Falls is the most isolated community in my riding, far along the Albany River, as far from any other community as one could imagine. We were invited to come up river to the actual spot at Martin Falls where the treaty was signed 100 years ago. It took us all afternoon to get up the river to that location. We were in the exact spot and probably what looked like the exact conditions when the first treaty signers can come across Martin Falls and met with the Ojibwe community.

During that afternoon, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and representatives of the Government of Canada were there, and I was speaking. A man stood up and started to speak in Ojibwe. He asked if he could address us. He apologized and said that he had never learned to speak English. When he was four years old, government officials came and took his sister away. She was a year older. They never brought her back and nobody had ever told them what happened to her. He said the next year when they came, his family hid him in the bush and he never went to school.

There was such a profound sense of loss in that little community as we stood on the river and he spoke of that little girl, for whom nobody has ever accounted. We think of the years of tragedy, abuse and broken promises that happened in these communities, which profoundly affected people's ability to develop. They were profoundly affected emotionally in the wholesale surrenders and illegal transfers of lands and the stripping of resources that happened. It crippled them financially.

As I stood there 100 years later and spoke on behalf of the Government of Canada as the people's member of Parliament, I said there was not really much to celebrate. There is not much to celebrate in a legacy in which a treaty was signed by these people in good faith and that treaty was broken every step of the way.

Every community in my riding in the James Bay region and isolated regions are among the most impoverished in Canada. We can do better. This is why we need to speak about the issue of specific claims. No one government, no one party will be able to come forward with a panacea for dealing with the years of broken promises and the devastating impacts they have had on our communities across the country, but we need to take specific steps.

I will speak to the issue of specific claims. One of the great fortunes of my life was to work for the Algonquin Nation in Quebec. I worked on historic research and dealt with the outstanding issue of claims. The issue of specific claims falls into many varieties of economic and financial abuses that were done against these communities. It could have been the stripping of timber off the land. It could have been the abuse by federal officials of the trust fund accounts that were set up for these communities. It could be outrageous acts as just simply moving the boundary of a reserve because it was more convenient to sell it off.

We need to have a bit of historical perspective. Between 1898 and 1940 there was a phenomenal sell-off of first nation territory. In western Canada in the prairie provinces it was almost as though the role of the MP and the role of the government officials was to act as real estate speculators. Land was sold off at phenomenal fire sale prices.

In my region, in the Abitibi region with the Algonquin Nation so much land was sold off through a whole series of patchwork surrenders. Many of these surrenders were dubious at best. Any kind of intimidation was used. There were a few key players in each of them. Often it was a member of Parliament who played a role. He was seen as the guy who could get them the land. The others of course were the government officials who failed in their fiduciary responsibility. The third player was the Indian agent.

In the community of Timiskaming First Nation, from which I have learned so much, there was only one Indian agent who was ever fired, as far as we know. He was the only Indian agent who was ever on record as telling the community that he did not think that a particular land surrender was in their best interests and in fact they had better keep their land because they were going to get nothing out of it. He is the only Indian agent we ever heard of who was fired. All the rest were more than willing to sell the interests of these communities down the river.

Here we are, in some cases 100 years and in some cases 50 years after these surrenders took place where communities are still crippled. We need to address them. Unfortunately the attitude toward specific claims has been much the same as the attitude toward the other problems of the first nations. The attitude is one of, “Take us to court”. The attitude is, “Let us drag it out”. The attitude is, “We will get into negotiations and then we will start dragging our feet”. The second we are into negotiations, the community is basically in a borrowing situation. The community is having to borrow to meet with consultants and experts, so at the end of the day the community does not get what is needed. Many of these claims could be settled with a little good faith.

I have dealt with communities that have been very wary about signing on to any kind of treaty claim process because they have seen what has happened in other communities. A simple issue of trying to resolve a historical dispute over a boundary, over an illegal surrender becomes a hodge-podge of so many interests who are coming to the table and dragging out with lawyers. The community is on the hook in terms of having to pay until the point that whatever it gets at the end of the day simply does not address the community's needs.

On top of that the first nations are being asked to sign away any aboriginal title, to extinguish their claim as a people over the land that they have always lived on. I have known communities in desperate poverty who will never sign that because they believe the only thing they have to pass on to their grandchildren is the title, and the title has to be preserved.

There are elements in this claims process, and I commend the former Indian affairs minister who made it an issue that we have to start dealing with the backlog; yes, we have to deal with the backlog. I am concerned about the whole role of the tribunal and the issue of how litigious it will be. The minister will be the one who sets the terms for negotiation. He has the ability to reject claims. In three years if no one gets back to the community, it is considered rejected. I think it will be difficult for some communities to feel they can trust to go forward into that claim. I am not sure at the end of the day we will be any further ahead.

This gets to the most fundamental issue of dealing with specific claims. We really need to start a process where we actually stop breaking faith with our communities in terms of any agreements that are signed. With the abuses that were done 100 years ago, we can talk about the abuses that are being done today in terms of the government walking away on commitments.

I worked in the community of Barriere Lake in Quebec, a little community that has been beaten mercilessly, and that is the only way I can describe it, in terms of trying to break the traditional structure. That community is so impoverished. It is sitting on a territory that creates $50 million or $60 million a year in resources. People in that community did not want to stop the logging. They just wanted to find a way to balance the logging so they could continue their way of life and there could be some sense of resource revenue sharing to get out of the horrific poverty. They are only 300 kilometres up the road. There are 21 people living in two bedroom houses. A diesel generator is keeping the community going when it is beside some of the largest hydro dams in North America.

In 1997 the federal government intervened and took out the traditional band council. We had a year's standoff where there was no school. There was no heat in the community. No money was going into that community for a year. This was all happening just in the shadow of Ottawa, until it actually became an international story.

Clifford Lincoln was involved. Former representatives of the Quebec government sat down with the federal government and the community of Barriere Lake and tried to sign an agreement. How do we rebuild this community? That was called the memorandum of global understanding, to make a plan to get this community, over the long term, out of its dire poverty. That agreement was signed and nothing ever happened after that. It was just one more broken promise.

We are seeing the sense of hopelessness and bitterness among so many of the young first nations. They are looking for where the results are. When we are looking at terms of how to deal with the backlog of claims, and it is important to deal with those claims, we need to be saying that we have to go beyond a litigious process, beyond simply take it or leave it. We have to start asking how to deal with our backlog of problems so that we move further ahead.

I know communities that have lost phenomenal amounts of land. They know they will never get that land back. They are under no illusions. What they want is a process so that they can give their young people opportunities. In many of these communities it is possible, but it is only going to be possible with good faith.

We certainly are willing to support this bill going forward, but we do not believe it is going to address the fundamental problem that we are facing, which is the need for government to enter into good faith negotiations with communities, to enter into consultations with the leadership in various regions to find a format to move forward to address the backlog of specific claims.

We need to start dealing with the issue of specific claims and find a way that we can actually move forward so that we can begin to address the absolute failure of government to live up to any of its basic fiduciary obligations in terms of housing, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of resource revenue sharing.

In the province of Ontario right now we, through the provincial New Democrats, have been pushing for the notion of resource revenue sharing for many years. If a mine is going to develop, a municipality is allowed to receive some of the tax revenue, and yet we think it is perfectly all right to go into an isolated first nation region, set up a mine and the community has no say, no benefit, nothing.

The provincial Liberal government continually has cancelled our attempts to get resource revenue sharing. Now we have a situation with the KI community where the province threw the leadership in jail. The message is, “We will consult with you as long as you allow complete and open access on our terms. Otherwise we will take you to court. We will allow the companies to throw massive lawsuits against you and we will put you in jail”.

I do not know if non-native Canada understands the implications of what is happening with KI, but it has poisoned the developing relations that we are seeing and what we are trying to see in terms of first nations development.

Consultation cannot be done with a gun to the head and throwing the leadership in jail. The situation with KI, which I think is so astounding, is that the courts have proven again and again the obligation to consult. We have certainly seen it in British Columbia, where most of the big test cases have come from the obligation to consult, but the kicker is, they actually need the money to hire the lawyers to get into court to prove their case. KI faced a $10 billion lawsuit because they kicked a mercenary hired by Platinex off their territory and they simply did not have that money. Since they did not have the money to prove their claim for consultation, they were liable for charges, and in the end they were thrown in jail.

That has certainly thrown a pall over one of the other elements that up to now has been one of the few positives. That positive is the actual move by first nations to sign, we call them treaties on the ground, with resource companies because they can actually get better deals sometimes from the companies than they could ever get from the federal government.

When I was working in the Abitibi region, we were looking to meet with Tembec. We were looking to meet with diamond exploration companies. We were trying to find a way to use the aboriginal title of the territory and our aboriginal rights to actually negotiate agreements where we could start to see economic benefits. If we involved the federal government in it, all those agreements would have been stopped immediately and nothing would have ever been done.

When we look at the development of northern Canada where we have some of our most impoverished communities, resource revenue sharing agreements, agreements with mining companies that work in good faith, not companies that work in bad faith, but companies that work in good faith, can actually start to bring us a model for moving ahead in the 21st century the way we need to.

In conclusion, we support the notion of needing to deal with specific claims. There are a number of elements in the bill that we believe are not addressed. We do not believe that at the end of the day a specific claim should end up with the signing away of aboriginal title to territory. We believe that the cap will prove to be unnecessarily low and deliberately so. We do not accept the take it or leave it stance of the tribunal because we believe that one, it is in a conflict of interest, and two, we would be doubtful that some first nations would submit to a process.

We have to move forward. We have to start dealing with this. This is one of the reasons the New Democrats will be supporting the bill at this point, but we say, and this has to be seen, the greatness of Canada is being judged by our refusal to deal with first nations as honest partners, as equal partners. We need to start moving toward that.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment 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, I appreciate the submission by the member for Timmins—James Bay. I genuinely believe he has done some very important work for aboriginal people throughout Canada and of course in his riding. I would even say that his actions have been done in a very sincere way. He often takes important issues that face aboriginal people in his community to the country. He should be commended for that.

However, I have to ask, why today is he getting up in the House and standing in the way of this important bill proceeding to the Senate? That is what he is doing. It is undermining his credibility as an advocate for first nations, Métis and Inuit people by standing in the way of this bill, by taking part in his party's filibuster. It is not something that does anything for his credibility. Why is he standing in the way of Bill C-30 going to the Senate?

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and his kind words in terms of the sincerity with which we deal with our issues, particularly the issue of Kashechewan, where we saw some of the most disgraceful conditions in Canada and the years of lack of federal government interest in that community, to the point that the infrastructure had broken down completely. The community was left with conditions which, when the doctors went in there in 2005, they said they had not seen conditions like that in Africa. Unfortunately, the Conservative government broke that agreement.

The other situation is the children in Attawapiskat, 29 years on a poisoned school ground, 8 years without a school, 3 Indian Affairs ministers in support of that school. The question we ask and the question any Canadian asks is why is it that some children are considered less worthy than others? Why are some children not guaranteed the most basic right, the basic right to go to school?

I take those issues very seriously. I am sorry if my hon. colleague does not want to sit in the House after six o'clock at night and do his work, but my job is to raise these issues and I will continue to raise those issues.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are major flaws with this bill and we spoke to that and we put them on the record. What we have is a bunch of howling monkeys in the Conservatives who believe that we should stifle debate in the House of Commons, that we should take what we are given, that we should stand up when we are told to stand up and sit down because we are told to sit down and to do anything less would be--

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am sure that the hon. member for Timmins--James Bay would like to stay within the line of parliamentary language.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was a simile; it was not a metaphor. I would certainly never say that they are a bunch of howling monkeys, but they were like a bunch of howling monkeys. I think that would be within the bounds.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member for all his good advice.

The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has the floor to ask a question.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my friend from the NDP a fundamental question. He has a lot of experience in this area, as he outlined in his speech. One of the fundamental ways to build wealth is the ability to own property. Property rights are essential. The Peruvian economist, Hernando De Soto, made that very clear in one of his seminal books.

Does my colleague think that this bill is going to enable aboriginal people who live on reserve to have the property rights that they require, rights which all of us in this House enjoy, but others do not? Aboriginal people do not have those property rights and therefore, they are forbidden from being able to accumulate the wealth that we can. Does my friend not think that what we need is property rights for aboriginal people so they can enjoy the same hopes, possibilities and economic development that we enjoy as non-aboriginals?

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the discussion of property rights is a fascinating discussion. The issue today is the issue of specific claims. In the communities I have worked in, on the issue of specific claims they were not really dealing with the larger issues of property. They were dealing with how to address the fundamental injustice that was done, which crippled their economic ability to grow and the ability of their communities to grow.

I certainly would appreciate a chance for us to discuss property rights in the House. However, the purview of this bill is fairly focused in terms of the specific claims act and whether or not we are addressing it.

As I said, we will support the bill. We believe we have problems with the bill in terms of its ability to deal fairly and comprehensively with how those claims are going to be addressed. I am not sure that the issue of property rights is within the purview of the bill, but the minister is sitting in front of me and after my speech I will have a talk with him in case I missed something in the bill that deals more with property rights.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Timmins—James Bay put forward a proposal, or at least a suggestion, that perhaps I would like to continue working past six. Should he and his party and the other parties decide to set aside the debate, we could proceed to Bill C-47. I would be happy to continue working right through the night. Would he be interested in doing that?

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly glad that my hon. colleague is so keen on continuing the debate. I thought the debate would have ended after I was finished.

I will get back to the original point. The sense that we are speaking about a bill and putting on the record the concerns we have seems to bother him. He calls it a filibuster. That is not what the issue is. This is the due diligence that is done as members of Parliament.

I would certainly invite him to come with me to meet our communities, to talk with them and to see whether they feel that dealing with these issues is something that should certainly be done. I would think that my constituents and all constituents are glad that we put bills through due diligence.

This will be going forward. Of course it is going forward. We have heard about that. However, there are issues that are problematic with the bill and they need to be put on the public record. That is why we have Hansard. That is why we have the public record that is available to all Canadians: so they can see how debate took place and how issues were addressed.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of respect for the member who just spoke on this issue. He has regularly risen in this House to defend the aboriginal communities that are unfortunately still dealing with absurd situations today, in 2008. Whether these situations exist because of negligence, or any other reason, the fact remains that the government did not do its job.

I would like the member to comment on the Auditor General's latest report. The report shows, once again, that aboriginal children are living in despair and dire poverty. Nothing has been resolved. I would like to know what the member, whom I sat with on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, thinks. I know that he is very concerned with aboriginal affairs, which is why his opinion would be very important to hear in this House.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, our failure on children is probably the greatest single shame that we have right now in terms of our ability as a nation and the complete lack of support that exists.

In my community of Fort Albany, we have a good school. The children go to school because they are proud of it. I talked to a lawyer who flies into the James Bay communities. She said that when she looks at the court dockets in Fort Albany they are less than a page long because the kids are in school.

In Attawapiskat, the dropout rates begin in grade 5. It seems that there is nothing of interest to the government about the fact that children give up hope in grade 5 and stop going to school because they are not worthy of a school in the same way that Kashechewan is not worthy of a school and in the same way that so many of our other communities are not worthy of a school.

One thing I learned from dealing with the children on the James Bay coast is that a water project is an infrastructure project, a road project is an infrastructure project and sewage is an infrastructure project, but a school is a hope project. I learned that from a student in grade 8 who saw what a real school looked like and told me that if she had her whole life to do it, she would dream about being in a community where there was a proper school.

We are talking about hope. When a government has this kind of money and this kind of power and shows such disinterest to children that it actually crushes their hopes, there is not much else we can say. The Auditor General's report is scathing. It should cause us all shame. Any party, any member of Parliament, and I do not care what party they are in, has an obligation to say that we can do better. But at the end of the day it falls to a government's sense of priorities, and those children have to be a priority, because if they are not, then shame on us.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak on this very serious matter. I want to begin with a fundamental question that I think we should all consider. Will land claims fundamentally improve the lives of aboriginal people?

A week ago I went to one of the reserves in my riding, the Pacheedaht reserve near Port Renfrew. When one goes to this reserve, one sees conditions that are very much like those in a developing country. The houses are rundown. The windows are smashed. Mould is infecting these houses. We know that the presence of mould in these types of homes is a major risk factor for tuberculosis and is a contributing factor in the very high rate of tuberculosis among aboriginal people.

While I was there, I noticed very few people.

I went to the reserve because in my community we have created libraries for children on some of the reserves in my riding. We have set up three libraries on reserves.

As I said, when I went to Pacheedaht, there were very few people around. There was a sense of foreboding and bleakness. The reason was that the night before one of the young women on the reserve had been raped. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation on this and a number of other reserves that I have had occasion to visit. It speaks to a much larger and bleaker situation that exists for too many aboriginal people living on and off reserve.

What is it like? As a physician I had the opportunity in British Columbia to fly in to some aboriginal reserves, where I would pay house calls. I would visit the communities and see people and treat them in their homes.

There is nothing as heart-wrenching as going into communities where more than eight people are living in hermetically sealed houses. There are a grandmother and a grandfather sleeping on urine-stained mattresses. Sitting out in front of their homes are children with impetigo, a really bad skin infection. People are lying right beside the children, drunk at 10 o'clock in the morning. Unemployment rates exceed 50%. Essentially in these communities there is no hope.

There is a fundamental question I would ask. Treaties must be honoured. The treaties must be completed and land claims must settled, but at the end of the day, will the completion of those treaties fundamentally improve the bleak situation that we see on and off reserves for too many aboriginal people?

There are hundreds of statistics. Let me illustrate a few of them. The incidence of male aboriginals being incarcerated is 11 times that of non-aboriginals. For female aboriginals the incidence of being incarcerated is 250 times that of non-aboriginals. In other words, the risk of an aboriginal woman being incarcerated is 250 times higher than it is for a non-aboriginal woman.

The median income for aboriginals is $13,500.

Seventy-five per cent of aboriginal children do not graduate from high school.

The level of sexual violence and the incidence of HIV-AIDS and of tuberculosis are far higher than what we see in non-aboriginal communities.

The question I would ask is this: will these treaties fundamentally improve the lives of people living on and off reserve?

For 10,000 years, aboriginal people lived in independence. They lived and flourished on this continent. However, something happened that changed everything, and that was the Indian Act. For the last 130 years, the Indian Act has ruled the lives of aboriginal people.

What is the Indian Act? It is a racist act. It is an act that separates aboriginal people from non-aboriginal people. The Indian Act is like a rock tied to the ankles of aboriginal people. It prevents them from being integrated and equal--not assimilated but integrated--in society in North America. It prevents them from having the economic ability that we as non-aboriginals are ensured.

Separate development is apartheid. Tragically, we have apartheid in Canada. It is not something that we should be proud of. It is something we should be ashamed of. In my view, the racist Indian Act should be scrapped because it is a rock tied to the ankles of aboriginal people and it prevents them from being able to move forward and be champions and masters of their destiny.

If we were to try to develop land and engage in economic development on reserve, we would have to go through a minimum of six different departments. It would take use four times the length of time to develop that land. If a developer or a business opportunity came to us, it would take us that length to have any chance to move this forward.

Where does capital go? Will it go to on reserve? It does not. Because the structure is such that no matter how hard-working, no matter how diligent, no matter how hopeful, no matter how inspired aboriginal members and leaders are to develop on their land, to provide for their people, to provide a sustainable future for their people, they cannot. We can. However, the structure prevents them from doing that. Is that fair? Is it reasonable? It is immoral. It is appalling that this situation is allowed to continue.

Land claims are all well and good to complete, for the importance of land and the culture and history and as a matter of fairness with respect to aboriginal people, but we have to go beyond that. The resolution of these claims will be unable to address the fundamental socio-economic tragedies and trauma that are inflicted by aboriginals on aboriginal people every day, day in and day out.

We have to give those children on a reserve a chance. We have to give them hope. We have to ensure they will have access to the same opportunity that we have, but they do not. There is no chance they will be able to do that. That is the most heartbreaking of all.

We can take a look at some of the communities, and there are some phenomenal communities. Chief Clarence Louie, for example, in Osoyoos, has done some remarkable work as have others leaders. They are true leaders who have taken things upon themselves, despite overwhelming and very difficult circumstances.

I can hardly hear myself think, Mr. Speaker, because of all the chatter going on.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

If I could have the attention of the House for a moment. The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is close to me and I cannot hear him because members on my far right, and maybe on my far left, are making more noise than I have authorized. The only member who has been authorized to speak is the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, and he has four minutes.

Specific Claims Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have inadvertently created a welfare dependency trap for aboriginal people and it is fundamentally important that the trap be removed. I would submit that the Department of Indian Affairs needs to work with aboriginal leaders to remove the existing obstacles that prevent them from being able to be masters of their own destiny. As I said before, it is immoral that the status quo is allowed to exist.

I will provide the House with some solutions.

I mentioned that the Indian Act should be scrubbed.

One of the challenges facing aboriginal people is capacity building. When aboriginal leaders on reserve want to develop something, be it land or whatever, they need to hire experts to help them. However, some of these experts are actually criminally negligent in their behaviour. They often receive money for substandard work. It is similar with band managers. Some band managers are good and some are not.

It would be helpful if the Department of Indian Affairs worked with the AFN to build a website where a chief and council could determine which individuals give good service and which do not. A chief or council member could then link to those individuals who would do a good job.

Second, on the issue of capacity building, the Department of Indian Affairs needs to do a lot more with its budget of $9.1 billion to ensure that aboriginal children have access to education.

Third, property rights need to change. Aboriginal people need to own their own property so they can build up some wealth and be able to use that land for their own benefit. They then would be able to provide for themselves, for their families and for their communities.

Fourth, we need to ensure that aboriginal people have access to health care.

In my riding, the Pacheedaht reserve does not have clean water. Many times it has asked, begged and pleaded for help from the Department of Indian Affairs and it has received the cold shoulder. The Pacheedaht reserve needs water and it needs it now. Can anyone imagine not having access to clean water? That is a fundamental right of life. Being forced to drink filthy water is a health hazard. It is immoral, sickening and fundamentally unfair.

As my time is winding to a close, I want to press upon the government the need to talk about integration on assimilation. We need to scrap the Indian Act and we need to work together with aboriginal peoples so they will have a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. We should not constrain them as we have done for so long.

The House resumed from May 8 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 6:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the member for Sault Ste. Marie relating to the business of supply.

When we return to the study of Bill C-30, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca will have nine minutes left.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #109

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 3, 2008, just over a month ago, I asked a question about the fiscal imbalance. I asked when the government was going to keep the promise the Prime Minister made in December 2005, to introduce a bill on spending power that would control the federal spending power. It is not very complicated. It is a matter of controlling spending power, or “providing the unconditional right to opt out with full financial compensation in respect of any new or existing federal program, whether cost-shared or not, which interferes in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction”.

That is precisely what Quebeckers expect when it comes to the federal spending power. This is an important aspect of the fiscal imbalance that has not been resolved. We have a hard time understanding why the government has not introduced such a bill. Where is it? The government has had more than enough time to introduce it. The Quebec nation has been recognized. The Prime Minister made that promise during the election campaign but he seems unable to keep it.

Why has the bill not been introduced? Is it being held up somewhere in the bureaucracy? Would the federal bureaucracy try to block such a bill in some way? Is the government afraid of how English Canada might react? I do not know why, but I do know that this is an important issue for Quebec. This is not just a sovereigntist issue.

I remember way back when I was just getting interested in politics, when Robert Bourassa was premier of Quebec, similar demands were being made. Then the Parti Québécois was in power, and then the Liberals were back in. Even the Action démocratique du Québec demanded this. Everyone wants the federal spending power to be controlled so that the federal government cannot intervene in areas that are under Quebec's jurisdiction, yet the federal government has not been doing anything to make that happen.

Quebeckers want the federal government to take concrete action to prove that it has a different way of seeing things and that its recognition of the Quebec nation is more than just words. Concrete action means introducing a bill to put limits on the federal spending power. Why is the federal government not moving forward on this? Why is it not keeping its election promise?