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House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.

Topics

Government ContractsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, speculation in some circles is that the almost one year delay in the signing of the contract to maintain and overhaul Canada's submarine fleet is because one of the west coast partners, the Washington Marine Group, which owns the Victoria Shipyards, has walked away from the deal.

Will the minister indicate if this is true or not, and if it is true, will he now recall the tender as a major Crown project, like it should have been in the first place?

Government ContractsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, my colleague started his question exactly by saying, “speculation is...”. This is entirely speculation. A contract has not yet been signed. When one is signed, my colleague will have the opportunity to read it and consider it without any speculation.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of Mr. William Hay, M.L.A., Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission, and the members of the commission.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Selected Decisions of Speaker Gilbert ParentOral Questions

May 13th, 2008 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the selected decisions of Mr. Speaker Gilbert Parent.

This is a new reference work on parliamentary procedure and is the seventh volume in a collection of Speaker's decisions.

This present collection contains 85 decisions, covering the period when Gilbert Parent presided over the House, from the first session of the 35th Parliament until the end of the 36th Parliament.

On this special occasion, we are honoured today by the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Gilbert Parent, distinguished former Speaker of this House.

Selected Decisions of Speaker Gilbert ParentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Selected Decisions of Speaker Gilbert ParentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

A reception will be held in a few minutes in room 237-C to mark the publication of this volume. All members are invited to attend.

Order, please. We have a number of points of order. I will start with the hon. member for Don Valley East.

Comments by Member for Don Valley EastPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Winnipeg South in relation to a question I asked the government concerning the investigation of the Conservative Party by Elections Canada for the Conservative Party's in and out scandal. I must say, in spite of being caught red-handed for deliberately breaking the rules during a federal campaign, the Conservatives have elected to play the victims in this affair in order to cover up the scandal.

Furthermore, we are beginning to witness a familiar pattern in this House, where junior members of the Conservative caucus, rather than members of the cabinet, are now responsible for providing answers during question period. This strategy was recently highlighted in the May 5 edition of the Hill Times newspaper, where Conservative Party insiders admitted that the plan is to use junior members of their caucus as sacrificial lambs in order to insulate members of the cabinet from public scrutiny.

In this case, the hon. member has misconstrued the term “junior” to somehow mean that I was referring to the age of a member rather than his standing in the House.

When will the Prime Minister allow his ministers to defend themselves rather than hide behind junior parliamentary secretaries?

Indeed, it is I who should ask the hon. member for an apology because of his deliberate attempt to obfuscate the truth that the Conservative Party has been caught cheating the Canadian electorate.

Comments by Member for Don Valley EastPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I know that this point of order arose out of some inappropriate comments of an ageist nature which the hon. member made, implying that because someone was a younger member of Parliament, he or she could be persuaded to say or do anything. Those were her words.

I notice in her apology there was no apology. What is more, she attempted to defend and justify her remarks by indicating that they were remarks of others which she was merely repeating.

A member must take responsibility for his or her remarks in this House. I still have not heard any kind of an apology for her inappropriate comments. The same point of order I think is still outstanding.

Comments by Member for Don Valley EastPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am not sure I need to hear more on this point. It sounds as though we are getting into a debate rather than points of order.

In the circumstances, I have indicated I would take the matter under advisement. I will consider the remarks of the hon. members and get back to the House in due course.

Comments by Member for Don Valley EastPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I hope that you will find unanimous consent to adopt Motion No. 469 standing on the order of precedence in my name. It reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should officially apologize to the Indo-Canadian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.

Comments by Member for Don Valley EastPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent?

Comments by Member for Don Valley EastPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-47, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for London—Fanshawe had the floor and there were 14 minutes remaining in the time allotted for her remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for London--Fanshawe.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I was speaking previously, I had made reference to the fact that many women on first nations reserves had talked about the lack of enforcement with regard to violence against women. Another woman involved in the consultations said:

Whatever occurred in that community we had to take care of it ourselves, there was no one to rescue us. I remember the frustrations I felt and had seeking help in when I was in a violent relationship and there was no one available… the police were an hour by flight, skidoo, boat, and there are no services in the community for women in crisis.

The report, “Reclaiming our Way of Being: Matrimonial Real Property Solutions” states:

Women who cannot remain in their homes because of violence need immediate help. Sometimes assistance may be available through their family and friends, but the provision of assistance through programs and service providers is essential to ensuring that women have access to the continuum of supports. Transition houses help women in two ways: they provide a temporary place to stay and the support workers can help women to make healthy choices about their next steps. Women who live in remote or isolated areas also need transition housing, but they told us that they are often unable to access these services because these services are not available in their communities; the cost of transportation to travel from their community to the service was too high; or because they were ineligible to use the services based on some eligibility criteria.

Women went on to say:

Certainly we need more services on reserve but for a woman who needs to make the choice for safety reasons; you know there needs to be services and supports elsewhere as well. So I don't think it should be an either/or. Options are great because you can meet your own particular need.

There must be options. The report states:

When there is no transition house located on the reserve, women who need these services have to decide whether to leave their community in order to access them. Some women told us that they could not leave the reserve, because this would disrupt their children's schooling, or because they would lose their access to other services if they moved off reserve.

Separation should be planned and not have to be emergency evacuation, and there is a need for protection of the right to leave or the right to stay. In order to secure a safe place for her children, one woman said that it was sometimes necessary for the male spouse to leave. It was important that she remain in her home.

The report further states:

Some participants suggested that transitional houses for men should also be developed. It would be less disruptive for the family if the woman and children can stay in the home, and the man can find temporary shelter elsewhere. Some elders spoke of traditional approaches that supported this idea.

Creating transitional houses for men would bring the added benefit of increasing their access to programs and support that usually are available at these sites which could help men to resolve the issues that led them to the transition house in the first place. This would benefit women and children by helping the matrimonial home to continue to be a place that was safe for them.

Respondents to the consultation were very clear. They said, “We know about the cycle of violence and all that. If we can help the children in this process, then I think that will help in the coming years, decades and generations”.

The housing shortage that exists on many reserves makes the issues associated with matrimonial real property even worse. There is not enough housing to accommodate marriage breakups. One respondent said, “I think the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has fallen down in its responsibility”. The lack of housing can be one of the key reasons women stay in abusive and violent relationships. There is a need not just for more housing but also for subsidized and affordable housing for aboriginal women and children both on and off reserve. Another respondent said, “The issue is not enough housing in our community. It wasn't resolved in Bill C-31 and they need to address severe housing shortages in our communities”.

The report states:

Finally, women spoke about the need to develop tools that will help communities move their people along the healing path. Traditionally, First Nations people had a collective responsibility for the well being of the community. This responsibility included providing assistance to community members who require help to resolve conflicts, including those between partners.

One elder concluded:

We probably will go back to the way we used to do things, with Elders and community members rather than go to the court system.

…even though the legislative options are focused on matrimonial real property and the underlying issue is violence, there needs to be clear protection for women on reserve in terms of legislation, shelters, a community safety plan, which is broader than the legislation being proposed but this is important and because of the Indian Act and colonization there is disrespect for women, violence and women are being pushed out of their homes.

The report goes on to state:

Freedom from violence will allow Aboriginal communities to thrive, and will allow community members to reclaim their way....

The government had a golden opportunity to end generations of neglect and it failed. Enforcing legislation that ignored the specific wishes and advice of first nations communities, the message is clear: first nations' solutions are of no interest to the government.

The extensive and excellent work of Wendy Grant-John and the many first nations women and men who have lived in hope because of the proposed legislation was obviously for naught. Their needs and wishes have not been respected.

The report concludes by stating:

The connections of Aboriginal peoples to our lands and territories are sacred and historical. These are not just pieces of land, but our traditional territories. This issue of matrimonial property on reserve was not created by Aboriginal people. The issue of matrimonial real property on reserve is now a complex one to resolve; however, it should not be. There has been much discrimination in the past and it continues to this day. This discrimination has created detrimental impacts upon many generations of youth, women, men, families, and communities across this country.

When the Indian Act was amended in 1985 (Bill C-31), NWAC and the AFN made contributions prior to any amendments being made. There were many lessons learned from that process. One of them is that we do not want to be used as pawns to justify government processes. We will not get caught by divide and conquer tactics. NWAC believes that our communities need to resolve the impacts of colonization and to assist in building healthy communities. We know that our voices are critical to these efforts.

NWAC appreciated having at least a short time to consult with Aboriginal women and their children who felt the direct impacts of the MRP issue. This was considered the “bridging” point between the long fight for the recognition of Aboriginal women’s rights and issues arising out of the MRP cases. It was an opportunity for these participants to speak their truth and to have a voice.

However, there were very serious concerns raised by the participants regarding the short time frame for this consultation process. As noted in previous NWAC submissions, a full year would be needed to complete consultations. In this process, we were given three months. Many participants were skeptical of this process because they viewed it as government driven....

Fortunately, as I said, Wendy Grant-John did the impossible and produced a remarkable report in the voice of the men and women involved.

The report continues:

The participants in this process stated that they want their rightful place in society. ...women are re-establishing their feelings of pride and self-worth by speaking out about themselves and their communities. The voices of these women must be heeded.

The women who provided these solutions are daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and granddaughters. They want the intergenerational cycle of abuse and marginalization to end. They want this to be a collective effort to bring the required change in their communities. The men we heard from are our sons, brothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandsons. They too wanted to see change that respects our ways of being and the women of their communities. Through the creation of a responsive and comprehensive MRP process, they want to heal and come together to reclaim their way of being now more than ever.

Those aspirations have not been achieved with Bill C-47. In the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, we heard the fear expressed by Bev Jacobs of the Native Women's Association of Canada and the women's committee of the AFN that the legislation governing matrimonial real property was already written long before the consultation, that it would be a situation where the responsibility would be sloughed off to the provinces.

The minister responsible insisted that it was not true and he was very clear about that. Unfortunately, the fears of the women of NWAC and the AFN were quite accurate. Ultimately, Bill C-47 was not written in consultation with first nations, despite all the promises. Their hopes were frustrated and their wishes were ignored.

We keep travelling down the same old paths, the same road that led to the school incidents where children were abused and to the situation in Parliament where the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be ignored and set aside. We have travelled this road for far too long and we need to do better. The government has an obligation to do better. We all have an obligation to listen to the voices, to respect the needs of the communities and to act in accordance with an honourable kind of resolution.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member made some very eloquent points.

She talked about a number of elements in terms of Canadian policy that have had a detrimental impact on first nations, women, children and the lives of families and how they have been very vocal through the dialogue sessions with the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations Women's Council. They have insisted that there needs to be a new direction and a new process in which they could participate in terms of determining and being part of the process to create legislation that would impact their lives.

One of the statements they made in one of the publications in response to this was that Europeans have a different view of the role of women. They do not respect women or their contributions to society in the way that aboriginal cultures did. Canadian society came from Europe and it was very patriarchal and this has had a damaging impact on the families because of Canadian policies coming from that view.

Could the member articulate a bit more about how she thinks we can do better?

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is quite right. The kind of system that has been imposed on first nations people is alien. It is patriarchal and European.

In my interactions with first nations women, I know about the traditional role of women as leaders, as the advisors to the community and that women were always consulted and their wisdom and input was always respected.

It is very clear that in this process there has been a going back to the old ways that does not work between governments and first nations people.

The harms that I and other members in the House have talked about are very real. They continue and the things that we have done in the past haunt us, haunt the members of first nations in the present and, unless we change, they will haunt us in the future.

Wendy Grant-John did a remarkable job. She managed to consult and hear from many isolated communities. She went to places that very rarely are visited or considered by government. She did the impossible, as I said. However, at the end of the day, despite all of the promises of the minister responsible, the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Women's Council of the AFN were not consulted when it came to the writing of Bill C-47.

Quite simply, the government, I suppose one could say, threw in the towel. It would have been a challenge to ensure it followed through on its promises and I do not disregard the fact that it would have created challenges for the government, but it did not do its duty. It simply walked away and went back to the old way of doing things that did not work in the past, do not work now and will not work in the future.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:20 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 want to thank the member and her party for their continuing support for our aboriginal agenda. Her party assisted us in ratifying the Indian residential schools settlement. Her party also assisted us in passing Bill C-30, the Nunavut land claims agreement, allowing our government and this Parliament to bring forward a number of important pieces of legislation and initiatives for aboriginal people. It also sounds like they will be supporting us again on this, which is appreciated.

She said that our government had walked away on this bill, had walked away from our obligations. Should we walk away when a person on reserve, a first nations mother, is being removed from her home because she has no access to matrimonial real property? Should we walk away and not do anything?

If we were to follow what she is suggesting, we would simply not let anything come forward and languish while we know that these situations are occurring throughout the country. What is she suggesting? Should we simply let these situations continue to go on for years to come?

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, some careful listening needs to happen and that is what has been missing in this process. The government promised that it would listen to first nations women and communities and that it would ensure that first nations women and communities had a part in writing the legislation.

Certainly a women in distress should never be abandoned but that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about listening to the solutions that were proposed by first nations people because they have a communal kind of reality. They have communal property.

The notion of individual property is alien in terms of how reserves operate and we need to respect that. The problem is that we have not been respectful. We have not listened. More housing is needed on and off reserve but budget 2008 contained nothing in terms of additional housing. It tinkered away at some projects for those who suffer from mental illness but there was nothing real and substantive.

We need a national, affordable housing strategy that addresses the need for decent and affordable housing on and off reserve for first nations communities, for other communities and for seniors, those who are struggling and living in poverty, but the government has not come forward with any of that.

The Conservatives talk about how concerned they are. I have heard a lot of talk from the government but all the talk does not amount to anything unless there is investment, unless there is action and unless there is respect for the people with whom we deal, and I have not seen that, which is what is missing.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for the member.

First, she alluded to Wendy Grant-John's work in glowing terms, as have others. I am not on the committee so I wonder if she could give me more details of the recommendations that were ignored. I am not sure why anyone would hire someone and then ignore a huge number of the person's recommendations. I could see changing some things but some of the good recommendations were ignored.

Second, with women having the most to gain from this or being most harmed without it, one would think that the two groups that would be most in support of it would be the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations Women's Council, which the member mentioned. I just wonder if she could explain to us what concerns they have about this bill.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly not an expert on all of the recommendations that Wendy Grant-John put forward but I know that the need for more housing was key and central to that.

As I said before, there were opportunities in budget 2007 and budget 2008 to invest in affordable housing and to bring back a national housing strategy that met the needs of Canadians but that was ignored. It was not there. Instead, we saw $14.5 billion going in tax cuts to profitable corporations, big oil and big banks, instead of the respect for the communal needs of first nations people.

First and foremost, the member makes an important point. The NWAC and the Women's Council of the AFN did reject the solutions arrived at by the government because those solutions were arrived at without their consultation or advice and will serve no purpose in terms of what we truly need.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-47, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves.

This act would basically establish a federal matrimonial real property regime, combined with the mechanism for first nations to develop their own matrimonial real property laws.

Essentially, for the public watching who may not understand this, for people not on reserve whose marriage breaks up, in most of Canada, there are laws to protect them. There are usually provincial or territorial laws to protect each person in the breakup, so that there is a fair distribution of the assets and that the appropriate person has access to the house to live in. Other provisions can also be put in place, if there is spousal abuse for example, to ensure that the individuals do not both have to be living in the same building.

However, these rights do not occur on reserve, as was determined by the courts. The reason being that the legal provisions on reserve are a federal responsibility and most of these laws are provincial or territorial. So, for years, aboriginal spouses, women, in particular, have had the problem of not having access to these protections in a matrimonial breakup.

This has been brought forward for decades and there have been various attempts by various governments to work on this, to study this, and various studies have been outlined by previous speakers. It is somewhat of an intractable problem in that respect.

It is very complicated for the people watching who wonder why it has taken so long to deal with this and to come up with a debate on it, a debate where a number of concerns have already been raised. One of the reasons being is that there are three orders of government involved. We have the first nation or aboriginal governments, and there are different categories and different situations. They may be self-governing or not self-governing, or they may have a first nations land act. Then we have the provincial or territorial governments and the federal government. When we have all three governments having some role in this problem, then obviously it will be a complex situation. That is why today we have already had a number of concerns or issues raised.

Everyone supports the fact that the issue has to be dealt with. I think that will be unanimous in the House. But also I think most members will be outlining certain concerns with this particular attempt at dealing with the issue. I look forward to listening to the government speakers when they answer some of the concerns that have come from all the opposition parties today related to this bill. I will also be interested to hear how we can move forward in a positive manner.

I am going to outline some of the aspects of how the bill would work, some of the concerns that I have, and some of the specifics related to my particular riding. I will also mention some of the concerns that some groups have brought forward.

Obviously, there are a number of positive items in the bill. I do not have to dwell at length on those because we all agree and we can move on quickly and get this in place. However, if there are concerns, then we will be anxiously listening to the government speakers to hear how they will deal with the concerns, so that we know we are moving forward in the right direction.

This bill is a matter of human rights for women, and often children, quite often in single parent families in particular in the majority of cases. This will, of course, occur after a split up, where the woman is the one responsible for the children. We are making decisions here that are going to really affect the lives of children who are often with the women.

The Liberal Party, as the party of the charter, is in strong support of people having charter rights and of extending matrimonial real property rights to first nations people.

We support the intent of the bill, but we have concerns with the proposed process. If the process is not correct, then some of the content could easily be at jeopardy. That has been outlined, I think every eloquently, by the experts, the critics in each party, who have spoken to this bill and by the aboriginal people who have spoken to this bill to date, and I certainly do not have anywhere near their expertise.

The purpose of the bill is to extend this regime to first nations or to encourage them to develop their own matrimonial real property laws. Indeed, a vast majority of the House is totally in agreement with the concept that the ultimate solution to the best government for first nations people is self-government and I hope the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca asks his usual question about owning property because I have a great answer.

I did not have a chance to answer him yesterday, but self-government is the answer. It has had all sorts of success stories that I could outline if I am questioned on it and it is a great step forward where people are taking care of their own lives. The strength of the bill is in the fact that it encourages that to occur and it encourages first nations to put their own lives in place, but it has a default federal law until the first nations put their own laws in place to cover this.

In 1986, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that when a conjugal relationship breaks down on reserve, courts cannot apply provincial-territorial family law because the reserve falls under federal jurisdiction. As a result, aboriginal women living on reserves have not enjoyed the same rights as women living off reserves. They are not entitled to an equal share of matrimonial property at the time of marriage breakdown and matrimonial real property refers to the house and land the couple lives on while they are married or in a common-law relationship.

Since the 1986 Supreme Court ruling, the gap in law has had serious consequences and some members, I think even the minister, quoted some women and the harm that has been done to them in that situation. When a marriage or relationship ends, the courts have no authority to protect the matrimonial real property interests of spouses living on reserve. As a result, spouses living on reserve cannot ask the courts to grant an order for temporary or permanent possession of the family home even in a situation of domestic violence or when the spouse has custody of the children.

Without that protection what is a woman with children to do if she wants out or wants to break up from an abusive spouse, and where is she actually going to live with these children? In many situations she would not have any income and there are housing shortages which many members have already talked about in this debate, and this too must be dealt with.

There may not be a spot for her to go to and yet she does not have that protection today. The courts cannot be asked to order a partition and sale of the family home to enforce an order of compensation from one spouse to the other, so she could not even get 50% from her half of the house in order to carry on with her life. It precludes the spouse from selling or mortgaging the family home without consent of another spouse. That is in the common law in Canada and these women, in the majority, it could be men, on reserve do not have access to that particular protection. Someone could just go ahead and sell their house and they would not even know it. That is why this needs to be dealt with.

Approaches to addressing the legislative gap respecting this have been under consideration for some time. In recent years three parliamentary committees have recommended legislative mechanisms to resolve this issue. To carry out the consultations the department provided the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations each with $2.7 million and INAC also held consultations with and provided funding to a diverse range of aboriginal organizations not represented by the Native Women's Association or the AFN. It would be good to have a list of those other organizations for the committee when it deals with this.

I asked that question earlier and it is one of the major issues that will have to be dealt with at committee. Why, with $5.4 million minimally plus all of INAC's time devoted to consultation, are there concerns being raised by so many speakers today and key stakeholder groups about the consultation process?

Under this new legislation all first nations, with the exception of those first nations that have matrimonial real property laws under the First Nations Land Management Act or self-government agreements, would be subject to the bill's proposed provisional and federal rules unless and until such time as they enact their own laws.

Under the First Nations Land Management Act they have a time limit. They can put laws in place if they have not already done so. I think 10 out of 20 already have their own matrimonial laws, but they will have a certain amount of time to put laws in place so that the default federal law would not apply.

The provisional bill applies to approximately 50% of the first nations that use the Indian Act land allotment system, but the rules in the bill would not apply to the lands that have been allotted according to custom. However, the bill would apply in respect to matrimonial interests recognized by an agreement between spouses and first nations or by the courts. If a first nation does not recognize the matrimonial rights or interests, the spouse or partner can turn to the courts. I am going to comment on that a bit later.

Bill C-47 would provide spouses or common law partners with an equal entitlement to occupancy of the family home until the relationship ends. It also would provide spouses or common law partners with protection against disposition or encumbrance of the family home without their consent.

This is a list of the things that are available generally to other Canadians.

The bill would allow the court to order that a spouse or common law partner be excluded from the family home on an urgent basis. An urgent basis could be, for example, spousal abuse.

It would enable the courts to provide short to long term occupancy of the family home to the exclusion of one of the spouses or partners.

Bill C-47 would ensure the proven value of a couple's matrimonial interests or rights in or to the family home and other structures. The lands on reserve would be shared equally in a relationship breakdown.

The bill would allow the courts to transfer, in some circumstances, the matrimonial interests between spouses or common law partners together with or instead of financial compensation.

When a spouse or common law partner dies, Bill C-47 would ensure that the survivor could remain in the home for a specified period of time and could apply for half the value of the matrimonial rights and interests as an alternative to inheriting from the estate of the deceased. There will be some debate in committee on the particular time limits.

The bill would allow for the courts to enforce a free and informed written agreement made by the spouse or common law partner that sets out the amount to which each is entitled and how to settle the amount.

The bill would provide for a first nation council, on application from a non-member, spouse or common law partner, to enforce on reserve a court order made under the act.

It would provide first nations with the jurisdiction to adopt laws with respect to matrimonial real property interests. Bill C-47 would require a community ratification process when first nations develop their own laws.

A rogue council with some particular interest could not secretly pass a law that would supersede the federal law. Just like in land claims or self-government agreements, there has to be a community ratification process.

Bill C-47 would provide for first nations to be notified when community collective rights are engaged with respect to a ruling. The first nation may then choose to make representation to the courts about the cultural, social and legal context relevant to the proceedings.

This element of the bill is a good news and a bad news story. People are starting to comprehend that aboriginal culture is a different type of culture. Aboriginal people have a different way of thinking, a different way of organizing themselves, and a different social organization than European culture and other cultures in Canada.

One of the primary differences is the sense of collective responsibility, collective management, collective rights, and collective culture, as opposed to some of our individual rights and how those supercede other rights in the European culture.

This was a great problem when we came to the human rights bill that was before Parliament, because there was no recognition by the government of that huge difference in the two cultures when the bill was brought forward.

However, in this bill that is recognized. That is the good news part of it. There is this provision, which I have just read out, whereby “the First Nation may make representations to the courts about the cultural, social and legal context relevant to the proceedings”.

When we are dealing with a major item of someone's culture, we cannot simply say that they are allowed to make a statement in court about it. Some first nations have said that this is not a strong enough provision with respect to those rights.

Before I get on to my other points, and before I run out of time, I want to tell my own constituents how the bill will affect them. In my area of Yukon, 11 of 14 first nations already have their land claims and self-government agreement. The agreement recognizes aboriginal jurisdiction over aboriginal lands, but jurisdiction over matrimonial property, real or personal, is not explicitly addressed.

As a result of the provisions of the agreements which address provincial-territorial laws of application and relationship of laws, provincial-territorial matrimonial property laws of general application will apply, although these may be superseded by subsequent aboriginal government laws respecting matrimonial rights or interests. The Nisga'a Final Agreement and the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement are examples of this approach.

For my friends back home, let me say that until they develop their own matrimonial laws, the umbrella federal law will apply after this bill. Of course, for the Kaska, the Ross River Dene and the White River First Nation, the federal law will apply because they do not have a self-government agreement in this area yet.

Some of the concerns that I talked about earlier I will now be looking for when the government puts up a speaker to address what I have already mentioned. There are the concerns of the Assembly of First Nations.

One of its concerns is related to the fact that Bill C-47 does not contain a non-derogation clause. The minister gave a very sincere answer, saying he does not think it is required because the Constitution, in sections 35 and 92, et cetera, covers all that territory and will ultimately trump anything else, so there is no need for the less powerful non-derogation clause. Yet it would give great comfort to some first nations people, so if there is no problem with it, then I think there will probably be discussion at committee about perhaps adding it.

The Assembly of First Nations of course raised the point I just talked about, which is related to collective rights. One of its other concerns is that the government's implementation plan appears not to contain any provisions to support first nations in developing its rules regarding matrimonial real property or to comply with the verification process.

Furthermore, it would appear that legislation will immediately apply to first nations as soon as it is passed, not allowing for a period of time for development and verification to take place. We had the same problem with the human rights bill, of course, and had hoped that the government would have learned from that bill. When we tell a government to put new laws in place, the people have to be trained to have the capacity and it is going to cost money. There needs to be time to implement the laws. The Assembly of First Nations notes a significant lack of all of that in this implementation plan.

I do not have time to go into the issues that Native Women's Association of Canada addressed. Needless to say, those issues will be covered at great length in committee.

I will close with the two philosophical problems that important stakeholder groups have. One is that the law in itself needs to be in concert with a whole bunch of other issues that would support and prevent family breakdowns, which is what causes the problem in the first place. Also, the underlying resolution lies in supporting communities and clearly emphasizing the need to keep families--

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Alas, it is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member. We will now have questions and comments. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has the floor.