Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to a couple of comments made by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
First, he asked rhetorical questions. He asked if we are sincere with this effort in Bill C-30. First Nations have been asking for this for generations, as Chief Joseph from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations has said. In 30 years of government and 10 years as chief, he said, he has never seen a more cooperative effort to draft a bill than this one.
Were there consultations? Yes, there were consultations to the point that the Assembly of First Nations helped us co-author this bill. Shawn Atleo and others from British Columbia, as the member knows, were part of that process.
This effort is very sincere. There were consultations. There were communications materials developed by the Assembly of First Nations subsequent to that.
Therefore, of course, we believe, as Chief Joseph has said, that it is not only a sincere effort but is perhaps really groundbreaking in its effort, in my opinion. I would hope that the member would know that.
I did appreciate his comment about the annual meeting. I know the Nisga'a have their annual meeting. I was not able to attend this year because the House was in session at the time. Just prior to the meeting I phoned the president and had a discussion with him. I hope to be up there this summer. We had that discussion as well. I will take advantage of the invitation to get up there, not just the member's invitation but the invitation of others. That will be a great opportunity as well.
We have made other efforts as well. Record numbers of claims were negotiated. This tribunal act is for when negotiations do not work, but we have actually settled a record number of claims through negotiations, which again I think shows our sincerity to get claims that really are “justice at last” for many people, as has been described by Phil Fontaine and the Prime Minister. They have been waiting way too long, so let us get at this and get it done.
Finally, there are other examples. Specifically when it comes to claims, we have made promises, have followed through and have met our commitments on adding lands to TLE lands on the Prairies. For example, in Manitoba we promised that 150,000 acres a year would be added over a period of four or five years. We have met our targets for two years now and we will meet our targets going forward.
This is a big effort to make sure that longstanding claims, many of them generational in nature, are put behind us, not only because it is the right thing to do and because it is justice at last, but because it does help to heal that relationship with people who say they have waited a long time and the proof is in the pudding. This bill, I would argue, shows first nations that it is worthwhile to work with the government and that the government is sincere in moving forward.
There will be many other issues, I know, and the member has talked to me about some of them. I know they will be raised in the House on other occasions. However, my hope is that we can say on this occasion, with this bill, and with the amendments that the committee has put forward, that on this day we should celebrate success. I hope this will go through.
I will not accuse anyone of filibustering, but I do say to members, let us get it through. There are other issues to deal with. On this one, could we for one day say that this is a good day for aboriginal people and for us as parliamentarians? Could we say about this, which I think and hope will go through tonight unanimously on the next vote, that this was a good bill done in a good way? It probably never will be perfect, but could we say that it is a very good bill done in a good way? I would like to celebrate that.