House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.


6:30 p.m.


Roger Valley Liberal Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to raise the question of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in the House. Early in April, I had the opportunity to raise this question. It is quite unique that on the eve of the apology, I get another opportunity to bring this up.

What brought us to the point of taking the entire leadership of the community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, English name of Big Trout, and the short form name of KI, to jail: Chief Donnie Morris, Deputy Chief Jack McKay, head Councillor Cecilia Begg, Councillors Sam McKay and Darryl Sainnawap, and band member Bruce Sakakeep?

These people were all standing up for their communities. They are elected members of the communities and they have the confidence of the communities. They are leaders of long-standing. These individuals have done very well in the community and they are very respected. Another aspect of this is they are also leaders in northern Ontario. They are leaders in the area where there are large fly-in communities.

Chief Morris has been elected many times. He has given strong leadership. He has been the political chief for many organizations, including SLAAMB, Sioux Lookout Area Aboriginal Management Board.

Many residents in northern Ontario want answers and they want leadership. They do not want these things to be put off to the province.

Grand Chief Stan Beardy and all the Nishnawbe Aski Nation wanted to know what the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development would do to resolve this dispute. More than two months after the fact, we know what he did. He did nothing. Blaming other jurisdictions does not build confidence.

It has been more than two months, with no elected leadership in the community, no leadership from the minister and no leadership from the government, and no answers in the House. Regardless that this is a provincial issue, it is the federal government that signed the treaties. We look to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for support and resources.

How did Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug peoples do during this time? I am happy to say that, with the strength of the elders and community members, they did quite well. They are a very proud community, living in a very challenging environment. It is a fly-in community with no access by road and only ice roads which are temperamental at best. However, they looked after each other as they always do in the north.

Donnie Morris and the rest of the leadership are back home now. The judge was satisfied with time served, but first nations communities are not. They have questions. Will the federal government support their fight for treaty rights and traditional land uses? Will it show leadership by meeting with KI and the community? Will it support the community, which has fought a long legal battle and is really out of money? Will it support the community by informing everyone about the situation in KI?

The community has requested a delegation from the United Nations to visit their community and their traditional lands. We are told from the chief, as late as yesterday, that this permission has to come from the federal government. Some 80 delegates or politicians want the opportunity to visit KI. They want to help the world and the United Nations understand the challenges faced by Canada's aboriginal peoples. KI has been told by the bureaucracy that the government has to give permission.

When will the government give its permission? When will the government allow the world to come and visit northwestern Ontario and try to understand the challenges faced by the aboriginal people of Canada? There is a lot of opportunity to actually participate. There is a lot of opportunity for the minister to come to the community.

People in northern Ontario, people in Nishnawbe Aski Nation all want answers and they want to know they have the support of the government. Again, will the government allow permission for the United Nations to visit Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in northern Ontario?

6:35 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member can rest assured that our government continues to work with the tribal council and first nations throughout Ontario to ensure that they can deliver the services their members need.

However, I must stress that the substantive issue in relation to this community of permitting and right of refusal on traditional lands not designated on reserve falls under the jurisdiction of the province of Ontario. I must stress that the Ontario Mining Act is provincial legislation. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has encouraged the province to update that legislation. The minister has also written to the provincial minister on this particular issue. With all this said, we encourage the parties to seek a mutually acceptable resolution of this situation.

Also, it is simply good business for companies to work with and engage aboriginal groups in the development of projects which may affect them. Issues are clearly going to arise between mining companies seeking resources and first nations. It is beneficial to all parties to consult on land issues and we encourage them to do so whenever possible.

Our government is taking action to address this issue through our action plan for consultation and accommodation. The plan will help all federal departments and agencies live up to their legal obligations to properly consult with first nations, Métis and Inuit groups when Crown conduct may affect established or potential aboriginal treaty rights.

By this, we look to provide more predictability, certainty and transparency on when and how to consult and possibly accommodate aboriginal groups, resulting in better coordination of Canada's consultation approaches with related provincial, territorial and industry activities.

The fact that the lands at issue are under provincial jurisdiction can account for why a federal duty to consult was not triggered with regard to the activities in question. We recognize that the community of Big Trout Lake is in a financial crisis due to the legal fees resulting from this action. However, we do not have the authority to provide funding to cover such fees.

It is important to note that the first nation continues to conduct its daily business for the overall good of its community. Also, our relations with this first nation remain quite strong. We continue to be committed to ensuring that the appropriate services to its members are provided.

6:40 p.m.


Roger Valley Liberal Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, he has mentioned to me, in the discussions we have shared, that he plans on travelling to my riding. I would like to extend an invitation for him to ensure he has time to get to Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug. This is an opportunity that not many people have, to get onto the land and take a look at it. When he is there, the people will tell him of the challenges they have had to deal with in fighting this long, protracted legal battle. They will tell him of the challenges when the leadership was gone and how they survived.

However, I will go back to my original question. They want some involvement with the United Nations and a delegation to share some information. Could my hon. colleague look into this issue, get back to the leadership of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and help them with this opportunity?

As he mentioned, they are well aware of the challenges of the legal fees, the huge costs that this community undertook to protect its traditional land. I would ask my colleague to look into those two issues, specifically to find out about the delegation from the United Nations.

6:40 p.m.


Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I should remind the hon. member of our strong commitment to this community and others in his region. I look forward to travelling throughout his riding this summer.

We are working to ensure that our efforts to promote economic development are channeled toward collaboration instead of litigation. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Minister of Justice, who led the implementation of the plan, will work with all departments and agencies to ensure we fulfill our commitments.

With regard to large development projects, we recently announced the launch of the Major Projects Management Office. One of the important services the office provides is the integration of Crown consultation requirements with aboriginal groups at the beginning of the process, further demonstrating our government's commitment to consulting with and listening to Canadians, particularly those who would be most directly affected by resource development projects.

Finally, I would like to remind the member for Kenora again of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's dedication to northern Ontario and the fact that he has written and encouraged the province of Ontario to update its legislation in this regard.

6:40 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, on April 18, I asked the defence minister about his broken promises to 5 Wing Goose Bay. I cannot say that I took any comfort from the parliamentary secretary's answer.

Goose Bay is supposedly a priority, and I wish I could believe that. Instead we have seen time and again the Conservatives try to forget the promises that they have made.

We heard a senior officer tell the defence committee there really had not been specific action taken on the Goose Bay initiative by the government. We have been told that Indian Affairs, not DND, is the lead department on the Goose Bay file.

Earlier this year, I asked the minister what steps had been taken toward the promised rapid reaction battalion and unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons. His response that the government was examining options, but not options for a rapid reaction battalion. It is exploring a role for UAVs without saying where those aircraft will be stationed, or if the forces will use UAVs at all, or if are, how they will be integrated into the overall force's capability.

I also note that the minister, replying to a written question from the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, says that since 2006 the number of personnel, albeit small, has increased at Bagotville, Comox and Trenton, but not at Goose Bay.

I have even heard that the current Minister of National Defence has washed his hands of his government's Goose Bay promises. He, or his office, now say that it was not the minister who made those promises in the first place, putting the blame on his predecessor.

It is a nice try, but Happy Valley Goose Bay residents, myself included, remember that the current Prime Minister, his leader, made those promises in the 2005 Labrador byelection and then again in the general election of 2006. We also remember the current Minister of National Defence promising not just a rapid reaction battalion, not just a UAV squadron, but promising to increase military flight training at 5 Wing Goose Bay.

For the minister's information, that was in his press release of May 23, 2005. He should have kept a copy. We did.

We were told to wait for the Canada first defence plan. We waited. We were patient. It was announced and yet again, Goose Bay was nowhere to be found. In fact, one can barely find the plan itself. According to the Conservatives, it is all in the Prime Minister's head. It is probably out of order to ask the government to table his head, but it should consider tabling the defence plan. So much for transparency.

The government is not keeping its promises. All the evidence points to the fact it had no intention of doing so. It is not getting the job done. Goose Bay and Labrador deserve real answers, not evasion.

Could the parliamentary secretary say anything concrete about what is being done for 5 Wing Goose Bay?

6:45 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta


Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I know the member is very committed to his riding and Goose Bay and Labrador. This government has made a long term commitment to rebuild the Canadian Forces into a modern, multi-force, combat-capable military that will defend Canada and Canadian interests well into the future.

We will ensure that we maintain core capabilities while expanding and modernizing the Canadian Forces. We have already made some significant progress with the delivery of four C-17s and the upcoming requisition of Hercules aircraft, Chinook helicopters, tanks, and Arctic offshore patrol ships.

We are allocating significant resources to meet this commitment. In addition to the $5.3 billion over five years provided in budget 2006, the government committed through budget 2008 to raising the annual funding increase for the defence department from 1.5% to 2% starting in 2011-12.

This predictable long term funding is expected to provide National Defence with an additional $12 billion over the next 20 years, raising the defence budget to approximately $30 billion by 2027-28.

Of course, much work remains to be done to implement the Canada First defence strategy, but I can assure the member that defending Canada and Canadians remains the Canadian Forces' first priority.

I would say that 5 Wing Goose Bay is important in this regard, as it plays a key role in protecting the sovereignty of Canada and the air defence of North America. In fact, the Department of National Defence recently invested in resurfacing the runway at Goose Bay. This revitalized 11,000 foot runway is one of the largest in Canada, if not all of North America. This new runway enhances the marketability of Goose Bay to a wider range of commercial aviation and is essential to maintaining this world class facility.

Goose Bay has one of the largest flying training areas in the world, making it an ideal venue for a range of operational training scenarios. We know that 5 Wing staff are actively working to enhance the training opportunities at Goose Bay and market the facilities to national and international clients.

Recent activities at 5 Wing provide useful examples to demonstrate the facility's continued relevance as a first class training area. In early 2007, Goose Bay played host to a contingent of approximately 80 German Airborne Rangers who selected Goose Bay as the site for their basic and advanced Arctic survival training. That was the first time Goose Bay offered this kind of customized training package and everyone was very pleased with the results.

In October 2007, Goose Bay also hosted a national search and rescue exercise, during which Canadian Air Force squadrons tested their skills in a wide range of simulated search and rescue situations. This exercise allowed military and civilian personnel from across Canada to train together. This will go a long way toward enhancing their ability to find and save those in peril.

I can assure the member that officials from the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence will continue to work with Goose Bay officials to look into future options for these types of activities.

With respect to the establishment of rapid reaction battalions, the government is still examining options to ensure that both regular and reserve force personnel continue to be properly trained and equipped to respond quickly to contingencies at home and abroad.

The government also remains committed to expanding the role of unmanned aerial vehicles for domestic surveillance. However, we have not yet reached any formal conclusions on when and how this capability would be used.

We have set clear priorities for the future of the Canadian Forces and are moving ahead with the projects that make sense at this time.

This government--

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Labrador.

6:45 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I think the parliamentary secretary's answer says it all. It was evasive, but it is much along the lines of the responses that we have been getting from the government for the last year or so.

I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for congratulating the Liberal government of the day in announcing and putting in the money for the runway. That was an initiative we carried out. The other initiatives that he talks about in Goose Bay are not new.

There was nothing concrete. There were no timelines. There has been no planning whatsoever on the UAV squadron and the rapid reaction battalion. Can the parliamentary secretary tell us what work is being carried out in the next days, weeks, months and years to make sure that these promises are fulfilled?

Right now, the parliamentary secretary is telling me that they are not going to do anything with regard to the specific commitments made to 5 Wing Goose Bay. Can he tell me something concrete? Can he tell me something specific instead of the same lines that we have had day in and day out for the last year?

6:50 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I said, last month the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence unveiled the Canada First defence strategy. This is a comprehensive plan to ensure that the Canadian Forces has the people, equipment and support it needs to meet our country's long term domestic and international security requirements.

The evolution of the Canadian Forces under the Canada First defence strategy is built on four solid pillars: expansion of the regular forces to 70,000 and reservists to 30,000; improvement of key Canadian Forces infrastructure, such as the resurfacing of the Goose Bay runway, which we just talked about; increasing the overall readiness of the Canadian Forces; and proceeding with major combat fleet replacements on surface combat ships, maritime patrol craft, fixed wing search and rescue aircraft, fighter aircraft, and land combat systems.

This government is delivering on its promise to ensure that the Canadian Forces has the equipment, the training and the money to become a first class--

6:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Windsor West.

6:50 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to talk about the Windsor-Detroit gateway again. In April of this year, I had a chance to ask the Minister of Transport a question about the Windsor-Detroit gateway.

For those who are not aware, there has been a new border crossing proposal and process under way. It is coming into its final hours. There is a concern in my area with regard to the current proposals on the table.

There are three potential plazas and three crossings being proposed right now. One in particular is very egregious to the community of Sandwich Towne, which is the oldest European settlement west of Montreal. It is very historic. It has a history that is very important to this country. In fact, the Battle of Windsor was fought there. It is part of the history of the War of 1812. There was also the underground railroad. It was also part of the rum-runner age. Many historic events have happened there. That community also has a school. It is a very tight-knit community.

One of the plazas and one of the border crossings is very close to Sandwich Towne. There is a very serious concern emerging. Sterling Marine Fuels is located there as well.

The government is now studying these three areas.

The Sterling depot area is one of the most important fueling depots in the Great Lakes system. It fuels around 600 ships per year and is growing. It has been adding more fueling facilities and storage tanks.

In the last few weeks, I had an opportunity to tour the site. The concern is quite literally that one of the border crossing proposals put forward by the government goes over top of the Sterling site. That is unacceptable. That is a significant risk, not only in terms of an accident but also in terms of an act of terror. This border crossing was to provide some increased capacity because we certainly have to meet that challenge for the modern economy.

My question for the government is this. Why is it still continuing with this site? Why is this still in the running? We should be focusing west of that. There is support from the community for the western crossing and the western plaza. I know that work has been done out there.

As this proposal comes forward, we would like to rule out the Sterling fuels site location. Once again, that is because of an issue of national security. This proposal is also going to pinch into Sandwich Towne. It is next to General Brock school, which is also a police station and a library, and next to homes and businesses. All of these things make it a bad site location. It is also going to require a much more expensive road leading into it.

The community is asking the government to put one of the plazas and the crossing west of Sandwich Towne in the Brighton Beach area so the crossing would go into the United States. A certain site location has been identified in the United States. There obviously has to be a place for the bridge to begin and end, and there are two locations in the United States.

Interestingly enough, if the government chooses to go with the area that is in Sandwich Towne on the Sterling fuels site, it leads to the United States, where fueling depots are located as well. We would have this cocktail that is very dangerous and would undermine the principle of having a safe and secure border.

I had the opportunity to be at the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group's AGM two weeks ago. We passed a resolution calling for the border to be safe and secure and to have economic trade with the highest standards possible.

Therefore, I am calling on the government to put the crossing west of Sandwich Towne, away from the Sterling fuels site, to make sure it is going to meet the principles that have been laid out and that are so important for our economic commerce, trade and security.

6:55 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta


Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, indeed, we appreciated the member's comments and his input, and I can assure him that due consideration will be given to those.

Transport Canada, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the United States Federal Highway Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation is conducting the environmental assessment for the Detroit River International Crossing project.

This project is actually made up of five components: a bridge, two border inspection plazas, and two highway connections.

As the member for Windsor West is well aware, the study team narrowed down the crossing location to three options in March 2006 with three corresponding plaza options as he has identified. Since that time, the study team has conducted exhaustive technical studies including a thorough geotechnical foundations investigation.

In March 2008, the study team released its geotechnical findings. Indeed, this analysis concluded that the crossing option located closest to the community of Sandwich would have an approach alignment that passes over a historic solution mining area that might affect bedrock stability, so this is important.

Two other crossing locations located further to the south and away from Sandwich, however, have no such geotechnical concerns.

In addition to exhaustive geotechnical investigations, the study team has examined the potential effects of the project on wildlife, biological diversity, and extensively modelled air quality and noise impacts, so there has been an exhaustive amount of work going into this.

The study team has also been fully committed to working with the public, communities and interested groups in the Windsor-Essex County area and, of course, we are interested in working with the member for Windsor West as well to develop a solution in consultation with our United States partners which best meets future transportation needs, while minimizing the impacts on communities.

I am very pleased to say that to date the Canadian study team has participated in over 250 consultation events. In the coming weeks, the Canadian study team, together with our United States partners, will announce the preferred alternative for the plazas and bridge, so good news is coming soon.

This location, I want to assure the member, will strike a balance between minimizing the impacts on the community and natural environment while at the same time meeting the combined goals of increased border capacity, improving the safe and efficient movement of people and goods through the Windsor-Detroit trade corridor, and improving connections to local and North American transportation systems. This is a very important border crossing.

This Conservative government cares deeply for the quality of life of all of our communities and that is reflected in our investments, the largest in history, in infrastructure across the country as we strive for a stronger economy, a cleaner environment, and better communities.

I want to reassure the House and all Canadians that this government will continue to make a real difference in the everyday lives of all Canadians from coast to coast.

6:55 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's comments.

It has been a long time on this file. It has been 10 years for myself. To see it coming down to the last moments, I am still very much concerned that we actually make the right decision.

I hope the parliamentary secretary and the department really examine the challenges of actually keeping this proposal on the table and work toward what the community wants. The community is embracing a down river solution. There is support for it.

I hope that what is going to happen is that there is going to be the right announcement. If it is not and if we actually engage in this other project, the community is going to reject it. It is going to create another obstacle because we will fight to have the proper location selection.

We believe the merit is there and the scientific evidence, the social evidence, as well as the traffic management and security evidence to make sure that the crossing is at the Brighton Beach area where once again, even for land principle policies, it would be very beneficial. By moving it to Sandwich, we lose--

7 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

7 p.m.


Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are very excited as a government to be in power two years and to have initiated this great investment for the people of Windsor and the people of Canada. There is $400 million in this investment.

As the member knows there are 25,000 jobs over the next seven years in the area, 12,000 of those for the construction of the access roads late in 2009. We actually believe that this will pump $2.5 billion into the economy.

This is great news and this is great for Canada. This is the most important border crossing in Canada because of the amount of trade that goes through there. We can assure the member that this government will act in the best interests to enhance the qualify of life for the people of Windsor-Essex County and all Canadians because this is a very important project to us, and we will get the job done right.

7 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 3 p.m. pursuant to an order made earlier today.

(The House adjourned at 7:01 p.m.)