Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the bill to give effect to this agreement.
We are basing our support on three fundamental principles. First, our party has always embraced the idea of the right to self-government for aboriginal peoples, and this agreement makes that right a reality. If only for this reason, we should support the principle underlying this entire agreement.
Second, a majority of the Tsawwassen—70%— voted in favour of this agreement in a referendum. It would be inappropriate for sovereignists to oppose this.
Third, the agreement is a fine example of self-government.
More generally, the Bloc Québécois is concerned about aboriginal claims for self-government. It acknowledges the aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples with a right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions, and a right to decide for themselves what path to take in developing their own identity.
Bill C-34 is the last stepping stone in giving effect to the tripartite agreement between the Tsawwassen, the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada.
In view of the nature of the bill giving effect to the final agreement, it seems to us that the role of Parliament is to debate and accept or reject this bill. There is no need for us to amend this bill. It was duly endorsed by the three parties who negotiated it. To amend it would be to patronize it, and that we refuse to support.
We would point out that the Bloc Québécois endorsed the essence of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Erasmus-Dussault commission. It set out aboriginal self-government as a level of government with jurisdiction over matters of good government and public well-being. In addition, the report as a whole was based on recognition of aboriginal peoples as autonomous nations occupying a unique place in Canada.
The Bloc Québécois traditionally stands behind aboriginal peoples in their quest for justice and the recognition of their rights. The Bloc Québécois recognizes Quebec's 11 aboriginal nations for what they are: nations. The Bloc Québécois recognizes the aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples who have a right to their cultures, their languages, their customs and their traditions, and a right to decide for themselves what path to take in developing their own identity.
In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples—the Erasmus-Dussault commission—released a comprehensive report that proposed far-reaching changes over a period of 20 years leading to self-government for aboriginal peoples by respecting their customs, cultures, languages and ancestral institutions. Since then, the Bloc Québécois has pressured the federal government to act on the recommendations made in the Erasmus-Dussault report.
The Bloc Québécois believes that aboriginal peoples must have the tools to develop their own identity, namely the right to self-government and the recognition of their rights.
The Bloc Québécois has for many years recognized aboriginal peoples’ right to self-determination. As far back as 1993, the manifesto of the Forum paritaire québécois-autochtone recognized the right to self-determination as the basis for relations between Quebeckers and aboriginal peoples. In fact, we have recognized this right since the Bloc Québécois was founded.
The Bloc Québécois is of the opinion that there is no universal instrument that protects the rights of indigenous peoples, who continue to be among the poorest and most marginalized people in the world.
Our party understands that the draft declaration represents a compromise between member states and indigenous peoples, but it is an acceptable compromise, and we feel it should be supported. Quebec already has a number of positive agreements with first nations and has everything to gain from the signing of the declaration.
Our party believes that the aboriginal communities in Quebec must have adequate housing, decent public infrastructure and the human and material resources they need to improve social and health conditions.
The Bloc Québécois believes that Ottawa must shoulder its responsibilities and respond to the “10,000 possibilities” project, which is aimed at creating 10,000 jobs, encouraging 10,000 dropouts to return to school and building 10,000 housing units. The project was unveiled by the first nations of Quebec at the forum in Mashteuiatsh.
The Bloc Québécois is also proud to be working with the first nations of Quebec to organize the first day of awareness of the first nations of Quebec, which will take place in the House of Commons on December 10.
The Bloc Québécois believes that, in order to develop harmonious relations with Quebec's aboriginal peoples, we must first listen to them and understand them by taking an interest in their reality, their differences and the challenges they face.
This bill would give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. Once ratified, the treaty will provide a comprehensive and final settlement of the ancestral rights, including title, of the Tsawwassen First Nation. It defines the Tsawwassen First Nation's rights under section 35. It specifies the geographic area where those rights apply and the limitations on those rights set by agreement by Canada, British Columbia and the Tsawwassen First Nation.
The treaty can be amended after it has been ratified, but the three parties—Canada, British Columbia and the Tsawwassen First Nation—must agree on any amendments. Once the treaty is ratified, it cannot be amended unilaterally. “This treaty, the first in the Lower Mainland, abolishes the Indian Act through self-government, not assimilation,” said Chief Kim Baird. “It gives us the tools to build a healthy community and the opportunity to participate fully in the Canadian economy.”
Obviously, because 70% of the community ratified the agreement, we must accept it as presented to the House of Commons, without amendment. Why? It serves as an example for other aboriginal nations, including other nations in Quebec. It is the first modern, urban treaty.
Thus, it is important to the aboriginal communities listening. This agreement is estimated to be worth $120 million, including land worth $66.7 million, $16 million in compensation, and other royalties worth $37 million. The agreement gives them 724 hectares of land. They will have municipal-style self-government, with the ability to levy taxes. The Indian Act will no longer apply to this first nation, except when it comes to designating Indian status.
Tsawwassen First Nation members are Coast Salish people who belong to the Hun’qum’i’num linguistic group. In their language, Tsawwassen means “the land facing the sea.” Historically, they have travelled and fished the waterways of the southern Strait of Georgia and the lower Fraser River. Tsawwassen First Nation has approximately 358 members, about half of whom live on reserve in an area situated on the southern side of the Lower Mainland, between the BC Ferry Terminal and the Deltaport Container Terminal and Roberts Bank Coal Port. The community straddles Highway 17, along the Georgia Strait shore.
The Tsawwassen have a long history that dates back to 2,260 B.C. The occupation of the land has been demonstrated by carbon-14 tests. It has taken some time to regain the autonomy they had back then. This treaty has a lot of history behind it.
In 1791, the Spanish and the British explored the coast. Epidemics killed between 80% and 90% of the Coast Salish population. In 1851, the Tsawwassen territory was split in two when the border was established with the United States. Point Roberts is now in the state of Washington. The first contact with the Catholic church took place when the Saint Charles mission was established in 1860.
In 1871, the reserve was created and by 1874 the reserve had an area of 490 acres. In 1906, a delegation of Salish chiefs travelled to England to claim their ancestral lands. In 1958, the nation's longhouse was torn down to make way for the ferry terminal and the highway. At the same time, the reserve was again cut in two.
In 1993, a formal claim was filed with the province. In 1995, construction of the longhouse began almost 40 years after the first one was destroyed. In 2003, the Tsawwassen First Nation, British Columbia and Canada reached an agreement in principle, which was signed in 2004. On July 25, 2007, 70% of the nation's members voted in favour of the agreement. Debate in the British Columbia legislature began on October 15, 2007. On December 6, 2007, the agreement was signed in Ottawa.
Given that the Tsawwassen nation dates back to 2260 B.C., it has been waiting a long time for self-government.
The general idea of the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement is to eliminate the uncertainty that has surrounded the ancestral rights of this aboriginal nation to land that it claims as its traditional territory and which covers 279,600 hectares, including the waters of the southern Strait of Georgia.
This agreement will give the Tsawwassen First Nation modern governance tools enabling it to establish solid and viable relations with the federal, provincial and municipal governments and to support an atmosphere of certainty and economic prosperity for the entire Lower Mainland region.
The final agreement covers approximately 724 hectares of treaty settlement land including approximately 290 hectares of the former Indian reserve and 372 hectares of provincial Crown land. Tsawwassen First Nation will also own in fee simple an additional 62 hectares of waterfront land comprised of the Boundary Bay and Fraser River parcels. This land will remain under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Delta, known as the Corporation of Delta.
Tsawwassen First Nation will have the right of refusal for 80 years after the treaty takes effect to purchase approximately 278 hectares of lands north of Tsawwassen lands—known as the Brunswick Point lands—if the people currently leasing these lands choose not to buy them or decide to sell them later.
If Tsawwassen First Nation purchases land within the Brunswick Point lands within 50 years after the effective date of the treaty, these lands may be added to its “treaty settlement lands”.
Following this 50-year period, Tsawwassen First Nation can add land within its territory to its treaty settlement lands, but the federal, provincial and municipal governments must consent to the addition.
Federal and provincial laws, as well as Tsawwassen laws, will apply to Tsawwassen lands. However, the provincial agricultural land reserve designation continues not to apply to the former Indian reserve lands and will apply to about half of the additional former provincial Crown land that will become Tsawwassen lands. The agricultural land reserve designation will apply to the Boundary Bay and Fraser River parcels.
This agreement also has a financial component. It is important that our viewers understand this.
First of all, it includes a capital transfer of approximately $13.9 million over 10 years, less any outstanding negotiation-related loans.
There will also be funding of $15.8 million to support all one-time start-up and transition costs, as well as $2.8 million in funding for programs and services and the incremental implementation of governance activities.
In addition, Canada will pay $2.0 million in consideration of the release by Tsawwassen First Nation of the rights to the mines and minerals under previously-surrendered reserve lands. Furthermore, $100,000 will be paid for forest resources to compensate for the fact that Tsawwassen First Nation will have no access to economic forestry activities in their territory.
As for wildlife, migratory birds and forest resources, this agreement guarantees the right to harvest wildlife and migratory birds for food, social and ceremonial purposes within specified areas, subject to conservation, public health and public safety.
The federal and provincial ministers will retain authority, within their respective jurisdictions, to manage wildlife and migratory birds and their habitats.
Tsawwassen First Nation will manage the designation and documentation of Tsawwassen First Nation hunters.
With respect to fish, under the treaty, Tsawwassen First Nation will have the right to harvest fish and aquatic plants for food, social and ceremonial purposes, subject to conservation, public health and public safety.
The final agreement provides for Tsawwassen First Nation’s treaty allocations of salmon for food, social and ceremonial purposes.
The following quotas would be established under food, social and ceremonial fisheries: 12,000 sockeye, 625 chinook, 500 coho, up to 2,000 chums, and other advantages.
A harvest agreement, separate from the final agreement, provides for economic access to salmon for the Tsawwassen First Nation.
With respect to culture and heritage, Tsawwassen First Nation can make laws to preserve, promote and develop culture and language, conserve and protect heritage resources on its lands, and deal with archaeological materials, sites and ancient human remains.
With respect to governance, with the exception of determining Indian status, after a transition period the Indian Act will no longer apply to Tsawwassen First Nation, its land or members. Instead, constitutionally protected self-government provisions will enable Tsawwassen First Nation to make its own decisions on matters related to the preservation of its culture, the exercise of its treaty rights and the operation of its government.
The final agreement requires Tsawwassen First Nation to have a constitution that provides for government that is democratically and financially accountable to its members.
Tsawwassen First Nation will consult with non-members who are resident on Tsawwassen Lands about decisions that directly and significantly affect them. Tsawwassen First Nation will provide those non-members an opportunity to participate in decision-making processes that significantly affect them.
There will be non-member representation on any government or public institution that makes decisions relating to matters that directly and significantly affect non-members, including taxation. The non-member representative will be selected by non-members and have the ability to participate in discussions and to vote on matters that directly and significantly affect non-members.
As far as taxation is concerned, the government of the Tsawwassen First Nation will have the ability to levy direct taxes on its members within treaty settlement lands, known as Tsawwassen lands.
The tax exemptions for transaction taxes and other taxes under section 87 of the Indian Act will be phased out after 8 and 12 years respectively.
British Columbia will share with Tsawwassen First Nation 50% of provincial income tax and sales tax revenue collected from Tsawwassen First Nation members. British Columbia will share with Tsawwassen First Nation 100% of real property tax collected from anyone residing on Tsawwassen Lands.
In terms of local government relations, the Tsawwassen First Nation will become a member of the Greater Vancouver Regional District and appoint a director to sit on the GVRD board. The Tsawwassen First Nation will pay for core mandatory services, such as air quality, strategic planning, 911, regional parks and general government services.
Tsawwassen First Nation and the Greater Vancouver Water District may enter into a local water services agreement and Tsawwassen First Nation may enter into service agreements with other local governments.
The agreement gives the Tsawwassen the tools to achieve financial independence. The agreement also gives them more power to protect their lifestyle, stimulate economic growth and improve the welfare of their community.
It is for all these reasons that the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-34. Our support sends a message to all of Quebec's aboriginal communities that may want to achieve self-government. They can always count on the Bloc Québécois's support.
What is happening with the Tsawwassen nation is easy to understand. Its land, which is now defined and belongs to them, will be governed as a municipality. It will be able to levy taxes and have a seat on regional organizations.
For example, a community in Quebec that wants to be part of a similar agreement could be considered as a municipality, which would allow it to sit on the board of the regional county municipality.
I am thinking of the Papineau regional county municipality in particular, where I was reeve for a number of years—some might say too many years. If by chance a reserve located in that region had had a style of governance like the one suggested in this agreement, then the reserve would have had a representative at the table of elected members, the council of mayors of the Papineau RCM. The representative could have taken part in the debates and benefited from the available programs to which this community could have belonged. That is just an example, of course.
The Bloc Québécois fully supports this agreement. Again, we will not accept any amendment since this agreement was accepted without change by 70% of the community. We therefore expect there to be no change and for Bill C-34 to incorporate this agreement exactly as it was adopted by the people and representatives of the Tsawwassen community.
This example could be used by other aboriginal communities we support.