Mr. Speaker, as you mentioned, this is a continuation of the speech I began last night on this critically important issue that affects some of the most underprivileged citizens of our country.
The land claims issue is important for fundamental justice. Will the resolution of land claims ultimately affect the present social and economic problems that act as an anchor attached to the ankles of aboriginal people from coast to coast? I would submit that it will not.
There are other larger structural problems to which solutions have to be put in place to enable aboriginal people to be integrated, not assimilated, into Canadian society. Without that, these people, who now live in some of the worst social and economic conditions in Canada, cannot become part of the 21st century economy.
The current Indian Act is a rock tied to the ankle of aboriginal people. It is so bizarre, so restrictive, so offensive, so unfair. We, as non-aboriginals, would never tolerate such a structure. It does not enable aboriginal communities to be masters of their own destiny. They have an act which sits above them, that rules their lives, that restricts their ability for economic development, that impedes their ability to have the same rights as we have. This contributes to some of the fundamental horrific problems that we see in aboriginal communities across our country.
I will cite one example that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development may want to consider. I have written to him about an urgent situation at the Pacheedaht reserve in my riding. On the Pacheedaht reserve a catastrophe is taking place right now. The reserve does not have a secure water system. The houses are rotting. Mould is infesting the homes. We know that the incidence of tuberculosis in these kinds of sick homes is much higher than in other communities. This is an urgent situation. It is a health crisis on this reserve. It demands the urgent attention of the Department of Indian Affairs now. Without this attention, people will get sicker and they will die.
I was on the reserve a couple of weeks ago. The day before I got there, a woman was raped. Tragically, that is not an uncommon situation on this reserve. Children are sexually abused. Alcohol and drug abuse is endemic. Unemployment rates are double digit and through the roof. There is no hope. When we look into the eyes of the children on this reserve, we have to ask, do these children have any chance, any hope, of getting out of this hellhole? The answer is no, they do not.
Let me provide a few solutions that may be of benefit.
Number one, we have to remove the Indian Act. It should be scrapped. The AFN should be tasked with, and funded for, providing a list of those groups that can provide constructive solutions and capacity building on and off reserve for aboriginal people.
One of the cruel things that exists is that while responsibilities have been downloaded to aboriginal communities for health care, social services and other structures, too often they do not have the capacity to execute those duties and responsibilities that have been placed upon their shoulders, so they outsource them to individuals. Too often they have no idea whether the band manager is competent or whether the capacity building individuals are any good. Too often I have seen people who are shysters, frankly, go in and engage in fraud. They take money from the reserve and do not provide the needed capacity building.
The AFN and the Department of Indian Affairs should make a list of those groups and individuals who have the proven ability to provide strong capacity building on aboriginal reserves. There should also be a list of those people who are not approved, those people who have gone around the country and frankly committed fraud. Those people should be prosecuted, but a reserve could not do that, because the reserve would not have the resources to do so. The RCMP should be tasked with going after these people.
The aboriginal peoples have some beautiful territory. They have some in my riding in Sooke, Beecher Bay and Pacheedaht. I would tell the aboriginal leaders to take chances and start public-private partnerships. Health care is a good example because there is an enormous need for health care on reserves. This would provide a revenue general stream of money and a clean and environmentally sound industry that would go on in perpetuity.
If aboriginal leaders were to do that, they would be able to provide a source of economic opportunity for their people now and into the future. They could negotiate contracts and the resources could be used to build up the capacity within their own communities. This would provide them with the wealth and security to do what they want.
Aboriginal leaders should take a chance and participate in public-private partnerships. Private-public medical care would be one option. They have the chance to do this now.
The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs should have an investment fund that would be managed with the AFN. This fund would provide aboriginal leaders with the resources they need to provide the economic development their communities require. They cannot do that at the present time.
A dynamic young chief, Russ Chipps, lives in Beecher Bay in my riding. Many children in his community have been sexually abused and the whole community has been damaged as a result. However, I must give Chief Chips credit because he is reaching out and asking the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs for help. The youth in that community need hope and they need opportunity. Now that the chief and council are reaching out for help, it is incumbent upon the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs to work with them effectively.
Many of us who have reserves in our communities all know that the social conditions are utterly appalling. These are conditions that would never be tolerated in non-aboriginal communities. The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is such an ossified structure that if people on reserve try to engage in some economic development they could not do it because the department is so onerous. It takes four times longer for people on reserve to do the same kind of economic planning as someone off reserve. They need to navigate through at least six different federal departments. What kind of nonsense is that? How can these people possibly get on their feet and move forward with that kind of structure?
I would ask the Minister of Indian Affairs to put back the money that he took out of the AFN. It cannot do its job as a result of the more than $1 million in cuts that have taken place. I would ask him to work with the AFN to establish some of the economic and social initiatives that are required and are being asked for by the aboriginal peoples. That kind of relationship would enable the people on the ground to have the hope and security they require. Without that, nothing will change and the horrible conditions that too many people on and off reserves are enduring will continue.
We know that off reserve aboriginal people only receive about 3.5% of funding from the Department of Indian and Norther Affairs. They need hope and they need opportunity. I urge the minister and his department to work with these people to give them the hope and opportunity that all of us deserve, need and have a right to secure.