Mr. Speaker, I rise to perhaps pursue the same line and themes that we heard from the member for Mississauga South and some of the questions and comments from my colleague from Winnipeg.
Although Bill C-47 has, as its essence, an idealistic approach, by the same token it is probably fairly naive, but, more important, it does not, as much as my colleague from Kitchener—Waterloo would like me to think. He is missing the point and the bill misses the point in that regard that the alleged consultation process really never occurred.
It does not matter whether I say that the consultation process occurred or whether the member from Mississauga or any other member in the House says that the consultation process occurred. It is whether the first nations, the aboriginal communities in Canada, feel that it was a meaningful consultation process.
As we talked to representatives of the first nations, it was obvious that they did not accept that the process leading up to the drafting and filing of the bill in the House met any kind of meaningful consultation process. They have repeatedly raised specific concerns both with regard to their comments falling on deaf ears, which was stated, I believe, by the president of the AFN, and that they were not involved. They raised a number of other concerns that they believed needed to be addressed before this type of legislation was introduced.
I want to go back to the motivation behind this, which, I would suggest, everyone in the chamber from all parties agrees to. We recognize that the present process for dealing with marital relationship breakdown on the reserves ends with women, in particular, being treated unfairly. We can look at statements from the AFN and from the women's groups within the aboriginal and Métis community that would say the same thing.
However, that is not good enough to then justify this legislation. The legislation has some fundamental flaws, which were pointed out to us by the first nations on the reserves. They told us that the legislation did not address a number of other problems that are attendant in that overall relationship between people living together on the reserve and then the relationship breaking down. They know that much more work needs to be done with regard to interspousal violence and interfamily violence. The bill does nothing to effectively address that.
It is sometimes said that we are speaking on behalf of the male component of the first nations community. I want to be very clear that that is not the case. I am looking at a press release that summarizes the position of the Native Women's Association of Canada. It makes a number of points and I want to go over them, but I want to deal specifically with the problems that it sees and that it feels the bill does not address.
It talks about the problems, and one obviously being the issue of matrimonial real property and who has rights to it on breakup. It goes on to say that the bill does not address at all the intergenerational impacts of colonization, which is a major problem, violence against women and a limited access to justice.
One of the further points the association makes in that regard is that there is nothing in the proposed legislation dealing with the assistance needed to build capacity on the reserves and to deal with those issues. However, I recognize that it is not the nature of this proposed legislation to do that.
This is work that has to be done before we move to legislation. Programming has to be put into place and financial capacity has to be put into place to deal with these.
Let me raise one issue. On the larger reserves in particular, should we be establishing a separate judicial infrastructure, not to deal just with criminal matters as we have done on some of the reserves, but to deal with matrimonial matters? Is that one of the things we should be building? This legislation does not address it at all. It is perhaps necessary that we have that, especially in the larger reserves.
With regard to other social programming infrastructure that is necessary to deal with some of these issues in the situation of marital breakdown, again, there is no addressing of that. When we speak to the representatives of the first nations, we hear that that type of negotiation is not even going on to build that capacity to deal with this kind of a structure.
I want to be very clear that with respect to the women's groups and the national association, there are parts of this legislation that they could see as being usable even though, as my colleague from Winnipeg mentioned, it is very much Eurocentric in terms of its historical background. There are parts of it that they think may very well be usable within their structure, their tradition and their culture, but not all of it will. They know that. When they are given this holus-bolus and are told, “This is the regime we expect you to follow because that is what we follow in the rest of Canadian society”, they immediately say, “We cannot do that. It is not possible to do that”. Again, we need to analyze this legislation in much more detail from their perspective. That is what they said.
Even before we get to that, they expect that we will as a society be in a position to ask what they require in the way of building an infrastructure to support their existing culture but to deal with these problems as they have identified them; what can we do to help in that regard? I have to say it was the same problem with another piece of legislation around governance of first nations that we had in late 2003-04 under the previous Liberal administration. The government did not have the necessary consultation and coupled with that, the government came up with solutions that were clearly not acceptable within their culture, within their tradition. We are repeating that same error. Fortunately the filibuster, and I again acknowledge my colleague from Winnipeg, that he helped lead, along with a member from the Bloc, eventually got that legislation withdrawn and we are still working on a proper governance model.
Going at it as we are here with the matrimonial property legislation is so piecemeal to almost amount to being ridiculous.
Again, we understand the motivation. I am not in any way demeaning the reasoning behind this, but the methodology is just totally unacceptable. It should be unacceptable to us if we are going to have any meaningful, respectful relationship with our first nations people. However, it clearly is unacceptable to that sector of our community who come out of the first nations.
Our position as a party is that we have to have this consultation; we have to have programming put into place to build that capacity before we move to this stage.
Let me make one final point. That is with regard to the regime itself. The regime itself accepts the concept of private ownership. Again, in the press release I mentioned earlier from the Native Women's Association of Canada, it specifically addressed that point. That concept of private ownership of band property is alien to them. Their concept is based on collective ownership, which again is alien to the European experience. It is not alien to most of Asia or to most of Africa. It is very much a European concept, if we go back in the history of it. It takes time to adjust.
The first nations have to ask themselves if they are going to move more into the private ownership concept, or do they stay within the collective concept but still deal with the issues of who has possession of the matrimonial home in the situation of a marital break.
Those are the kinds of issues that need to be addressed. They are not addressed in this legislation. They have not been addressed clearly in the consultation, limited as it was, in the run-up to the legislation being brought before the House. For that and a number of other reasons, we have serious reservations that this legislation should proceed. The work that is going to go on in committee, because obviously the bill is going to go to committee, is very much going to have to take that into account if we have any chance of dealing in a respectful, meaningful way with the first nations.