House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

The vote is postponed until tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I must first share with the House a ruling by the Speaker on Bill C-34, An Act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

There are nine motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-34.

Motions Nos. 1 to 9 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC


Motion No. 1

That Bill C-34 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-34 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-34 be amended by deleting Clause 8.

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-34 be amended by deleting Clause 9.

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-34 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-34 be amended by deleting Clause 11.

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-34 be amended by deleting Clause 18.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-34 be amended by deleting Clause 28.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-34 be amended by deleting Clause 32.

Mr. Speaker, these motions are important because they address and highlight key flaws in the Tsawwassen treaty, flaws that most residents of British Columbia and most members in the House are not aware of.

There are issues that should not be tolerated in a free and open society and represent an ongoing fiscal commitment of the federal and provincial governments that is not justifiable.

Motions Nos. 8 and 9 address taxes. Treaty negotiators have repeatedly advised Canadians that post-treaty Tsawwassen Band members will pay taxes just like other Canadians. That is incorrect. Post-treaty, all band members resident on Tsawwassen lands will pay income taxes to the band government, not the Government of Canada as other Canadians do.

Post-treaty, all residents of Tsawwassen treaty lands, native and non-native, band members or non-band members, will pay income taxes to the band government, not to the federal and provincial governments.

All GST collected on band lands will go to the band government and half of the PST collected on band lands will go to the band government.

Currently there are approximately 160 band members living on Tsawwassen lands and 500 non-native, non-band members living on the reserve.

The federal government estimates that $1.5 million would have flowed to band coffers in 2007 based on these tax concessions. The government refuses to indicate how much tax revenue the federal treasury expects to lose when all treaties in British Columbia are signed.

Observers conservatively estimate that when all the treaties are signed in British Columbia, the cost of lost tax revenue to the federal government alone would be $100 million annually.

If members vote against the amendment to delete the tax concessions, they will be voting in favour of increasing the tax collected from Canadians by $100 million annually.

Motion No. 2 addresses treaty lands. The treaty approves the transfer of approximately 1,100 acres of prime farm land to the Tsawwassen Band. Approximately half of that land will be moved from the agricultural land reserve and used for a rail marshalling yard, container storage and warehousing area as agreed to in a deal with the Vancouver Port Authority.

Initially, the government evaluated the land being transferred at $26 million. Independent appraisers put the land value at 10 times that. They put it at $254 million and they lowballed the numbers.

If all the bands in British Columbia are given land of equal value, the cost alone to satisfy treaty requirements would top $120 billion. British Columbia and the federal government cannot afford the bill. Furthermore, much of this farmland has served a dual purpose.

As protected farmland, it ensured an economically viable farm economy in the Fraser delta, provided green space for the population of Delta and Vancouver and, perhaps most important, formed part of what is recognized as the most important bird area in Canada by providing forage areas for the millions of migratory birds using the Pacific flyway.

Without the farmers, the area is lost to wildlife and green space for the million or more residents of greater Vancouver and Delta.

An added injustice in the whole farmland fiasco surrounding the treaty is the anticipated taking, for treaty purposes, of an additional 700 acres of farmland at Brunswick Point as the existing farm families are squeezed out.

If members vote against the land amendments, they will be voting to commit senior governments to pay $120 billion to complete the land portion of the treaties remaining in British Columbia and the wanton destruction of valuable farmland and wildlife habitat.

Motions Nos. 5, 6 and 8 address the fisheries. The treaty ignores the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada in Sparrow and Van der Peet that rejected aboriginal claims to the trade and barter sale of food fish and the commercial sale of salmon. It creates a treaty right to be enjoyed by at least some members of the band who are not even Canadian and have never stepped foot on the Tsawwassen Reserve.

Using basic calculations based upon the current population of status Indians published by the Department of Indian Affairs and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Pacific Salmon Commission records of the Fraser River salmon run size, it becomes clear that 170% of the total allowable catch of Fraser sockeye would be required if the salmon allocations given the Tsawwassen Indian Band are repeated for bands claiming Fraser sockeye.

Not only are there not enough fish to satisfy Indian claims to similar allocations, there would be nothing for sport or commercial fishermen.

The government claims that only 33% of the total allowable catch would be required to satisfy Indian claims. This unsubstantiated estimate by the Department of Fisheries appears to be based on the findings of a departmental study to assess the coast wide implications in the Nisga'a treaty allocations. That study was based on the Nisga'a treaty allocation of 26 fish per person. The Tsawwassen allocation is 156 fish per person. Clearly, the fisheries' allocations need to be revisited before the treaty proceeds.

If members vote against the fisheries' amendments, they are voting for a fisheries' allocation that is not sustainable and which will make even the delivery of food fish to upriver natives impossible.

Motions Nos. 1 and 9 address the issue of protecting parliamentary supremacy.

The Tsawwassen government, which would be created by this agreement, would have the power to enact laws that would prevail over federal laws and the law-making power of Parliament in approximately 40 specific areas.

Parliament must maintain the supreme law-making power for those matters entrusted to it by our Constitution. Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that laws enacted under these federal constitutional powers respect the rights and privileges historically enjoyed by Canadian citizens.

The Tsawwassen government would have the power to imprison Canadian citizens. It is a government that is not representative or responsive to the Tsawwassen band members who live on the reserve. It is a government that is controlled by off-reserve band members, many of whom are permanent residents and citizens in the United States. It is a government that is not accountable to Tsawwassen residents, is exempted from the scrutiny of Parliament and is a government that can largely act with the knowledge and guarantee that it cannot be held accountable if it acts contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This House must remain the supreme law-making authority so as to protect the rights and privileges of Canadian citizens and the powers entrusted to it by our Constitution.

If members vote against the motion to delete clause 5, they will be voting for a form of government that will prevail over federal and provincial law, a situation that should be viewed as intolerable in an open and democratic society such as Canada.

The Tsawwassen treaty is troubling in the extreme to those of us who have taken the time to study the implications of the treaty. It is troublesome for the reasons I have given but it is also troublesome because it does not recognize individual effort.

Harvey Enchin, in The Vancouver Sun on the weekend, had an outstanding article on Canada's native reserves. He stated that we should:

Abandon the failed socialist concept of collectivism and protect individual property rights.

As Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has proven in the developing world, formal title (along with a formal system for recognizing it) [that being property rights] is the building block of financial independence. Without title to their assets, aboriginals cannot participate in the mainstream economy; they can't use their property as collateral for bank loans to upgrade their homes or take out equity to invest in or start businesses.

Aboriginal reserves are repositories of what de Soto might call dead capital.

He suggests that:

Unlocking that capital and leveraging it will put aboriginals on the path to amassing individual net worth....

The underlying flaw in this treaty is that it does nothing to remove the dependency on the federal government. It simply shifts dependency on the federal government to dependency on the band leadership, which is fundamentally wrong.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat surprised, and in a few minutes, I will explain why. I am stunned and disappointed. My colleague opposite's position is unacceptable, and I hope that other members of his party will vote against these motions that—I will try to choose my words carefully here, but it is hard for me—seem to me to be infused with paternalism, smugness and disrespect despite the fact that not even a week ago—the ink is still wet—the government apologized for what was done to aboriginals in Indian residential schools.

I studied Bill C-34 very closely, from all angles. The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development also studied it thoroughly.

The final agreement covers approximately 724 hectares of treaty settlement land including approximately 290 hectares of former reserve lands. These lands belonged to the Indians, not to the whites, because the Indians were there first. The aboriginals will get 372 hectares of provincial Crown land belonging to British Columbia back, and the first nation will also own in fee simple 62 hectares of waterfront land comprised of the Boundary Bay and Fraser River parcels.

I do not understand what gives them the right to say that the aboriginals, under this agreement that took five years to negotiate, do not have rights to these lands that belong to them. I would really like him to explain that.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, my friend has raised a number of issues.

He suggested that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development examined very clearly the bill. That is simply not the case. I think the bill was before the committee for two hours. For an hour the committee members heard from the minister and for an hour they heard from the chief. That is hardly a careful examination of the bill.

What the member does not seem to understand is that there are 160 band members who live on the reserve and the band claims a membership of 360. Most of the band members do not live on the reserve. In fact, they live in Los Angeles, California, the states of Washington, Oregon and Alabama, the province of Ontario, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, yet this treaty gives these people the right to determine what kind of lifestyle the people who are resident on the reserve will have.

Let me provide an example. The family of one of the band members who is opposed to the treaty, Bertha Williams, has lived on the reserve since the land was created. The family has held a certificate of possession of the land which her house sits on and about an additional 50 acres of land. When this treaty goes through and the land use planning is put in place, and remember that all of this happened with the majority of people living off reserve, Bertha's house and property will be in the middle of a rail marshalling yard, in the middle of container storage and warehousing, for whose benefit? It is for the benefit of the port of Vancouver, because that is what this treaty is about. It is about advancing the business enterprise of the port of Vancouver. It is not about--

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Unfortunately, I must now interrupt the hon. member because this period has now expired. We are resuming debate with the hon. member for Yukon.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have a written speech, but I am not going to use it because the member referred to six points that were wrong with the treaty. He is basically emasculating it with the amendments and they are all wrong. If we refute that, then everyone should definitely vote for this treaty. I will talk about how embarrassing it is to the Prime Minister that a government member would be allowed to totally emasculate a government bill and only relate it to aboriginal affairs. I do not know why other members have not spoken out on other things their constituents have told them to speak about.

The first point the member suggested not to vote for the bill is that taxes would go to the first nations government. I guess if we were to vote for the member's amendments, we would tell all the provinces that they should not be getting money from the federal government, and all the municipalities that they should not be getting infrastructure money and other types of grants from the federal government.

Of course the federal government helps other governments in this country. That is one of the reasons these treaties have been so successful across the country. This treaty would be another one. I think that is why the government has put this forward.

The member's second perceived problem is not a problem. He suggested that there would be new rights to all sorts of unaffordable land for the first nations. First of all, as a Bloc member outlined, this land is traditionally first nations land, since a royal proclamation in 1763. The first nations have never ceded this land.

There are much larger volumes of this land in the tiny corner they have agreed to in this agreement. It is not as though governments are giving this up. First nations still have a legal case to this under the royal proclamation of King George III in 1763 and a negotiated settlement of this tiny portion of land. That does not cost the government. In fact, what the government is gaining is many more billions and billions of dollars of land that were traditionally used by the aboriginal people and on which they are making a good faith agreement with governments, so that they can still continue some semblance of a life that they have always had.

The Conservatives had so much potential to work in the area of farmland and the tiny amount of land related to the environment. Why is it that the only time it is ever raised is in this situation? That is simply not believable. Those points are now refuted.

The next point is related to the commercial sale of salmon. The member suggested that if we extrapolated this, all the sockeye salmon for the other agreements to come and all the sockeye salmon in British Columbia, in fact, more than all the salmon, 170% of the salmon would be gone.

Once again, there is a saying that for every complex problem there is a simple answer, and it is wrong. That is a simple extrapolation of the same numbers per person, as if every first nation in British Columbia ate the same food, had the same access to the one species and that they were all the same, which of course is not true. The first nations people who are inland have different food sources, access to different types of fish and obviously more access to land mammals such as moose. Each agreement would be negotiated separately. There would be different amounts of sockeye salmon and any other species.

I think that no one in his or her right mind would ever believe that thinking, rational people would ever sign away 170%. In fact, of the fisheries that are there, they are still based on conservation. If there is a conservation problem in numbers, they can be cut back. It is abundance based and it is a sliding scale. The Minister of Fisheries can still cut back when there is a conservation problem. I do not know if the member was referring to the commercial licences. Those are provided from retired licences. Therefore, that does not put more pressure on the situation.

The fourth suggested problem is not a problem. We should look at the bill itself and all the precedents where agreements such as this one have been so successful. The member said there would be laws that would prevail over federal laws in a number of areas. I think the member has analyzed 40 situations, and I congratulate him for doing that in-depth analysis, where it would prevail over other laws. Of course, different levels of government have responsibilities to make laws and to ensure that they do not conflict with those of other governments. Ontario can make laws. If we were to vote for this amendment, we would be saying that all governments in this country cannot have their own laws in their own areas of jurisdiction.

It would not override Parliament because the whole issue we are discussing is a federal law that the federal government is making and can change. One of the keys to the success of these agreements that have been established so far is that when one has self-determination, whether it is a municipality, province or a first nation, and is responsible for things in one's own jurisdiction, there is a remarkable increase in success rather than when it is someone else's responsibility to take care of it.

The fifth suggestion was that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply. Of course it does. It is in the agreement.

The last fallacious suggestion was that people cannot start a business or have any self-sufficiency. Once again, that is not true. It is telling first nations and their governments, just like the Government of Canada, the government of Vancouver or the government of British Columbia, that they own land and it is up to them what they do with that land. The first nation will have its land, as I said, a very tiny parcel of land compared to what is being freed up for everyone else in the agreement with the other two governments, and it is up to the first nation how to deal with the land. A first nation society is more of a collective society and there have been tremendous success stories, as I have said, with these particular agreements.

There is one in my area that owns half of the local airline, a success story at a time when airlines are not doing very well. There are different arrangements. Obviously it is not always the simple type of arrangement that the member has talked about. It is not that it is out of the control of the first nation. It is that it has chosen not to go that way so that the land, which is so important to the first nation as a society, is not eroded and will be used for its businesses.

I think the member mentioned a number of businesses and economic revenues, over and above the taxation revenue, that will come from the land to the first nation. In British Columbia there are a number of first nations with very innovative businesses and success stories. In relation to taxation, the first nation will also have its own source revenues, as every government needs, to fulfill the obligations that it did not have to fulfill before but now has to under this agreement.

None of the member's concerns are valid. They do not stand up in law. They do not stand up in precedent. They do not stand up in the failures of such previous agreements which, by and large, in many cases moved the first nations so far ahead.

It is very distressing that the Prime Minister, who has tight control over everything the party does--which is fine; that is his way of operating--in this one exception would allow two members to put forward a bunch of amendments that, first, are not true and do not match his government's analysis of them, and second, would totally emasculate a government bill. That is very distressing. It must be distressing to Conservative voters who did not want their members to vote for certain things but their members had to vote for. Now in this one particular case, they do not have to.

We should continue with the strong support that a vast majority of members of the House of Commons showed on the first vote. It was negotiated among three governments. We should let it stand and go ahead.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Federal Protected Areas; the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, Manufacturing Sector.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with some interest to my friend's comments. I always find that when people go on the attack and suggest that other people do not know what they are talking about, they certainly leave themselves open to that criticism. However, what I would say, given the member's comments, is that it shows to me the reason why there should have been a more open debate on this.

So I do not take up all of the time of the member opposite, as there are only five minutes left, let me approach the issue of the salmon. The member suggested that somehow I had it all wrong.

The salmon issue is fairly clear. All of the bands up the river and down the coast have stated a desire to share in the commercial harvest of salmon, over and above their food fish allocations. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that there is no entitlement to a commercial allocation, but in this treaty the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada has been ignored.

In fact, the government has entered into three treaties in the last two years. There is the Tsawwassen treaty. The first one that the government entered into was the Yale treaty. The Yale band is located just at the western entrance of the Fraser Canyon. It is a small band, yet it got an allocation very similar to the allocation of the Tsawwassen band.

The second treaty is the Lheidli T'enneh treaty. That band is resident and its lands are adjacent to Prince George, which is 500 miles up the river. That band has never had a commercial harvest of salmon. In fact, I would suggest that by the time the salmon have reached 500 miles up the river, they are not fit for commercial sale. Yet the band was given, although it rejected the treaty, a commercial allocation of salmon similar to the allocation given to Tsawwassen.

The member talked about precedents. Given the precedents, it is not outrageous for me to say these are the populations of these various bands and if they are given the same allocation as the Tsawwassen band, we are going to end up with a--

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I must interrupt the hon. member. Even at that, the hon. member for Yukon will not have equal time if he responds to every point. The hon. member for Yukon has the floor.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I think it was really only one point that the member was making, which basically is related to commercial salmon and aboriginal rights to have a commercial salmon allocation.

He is very right to point to the court case. Of course, I do not imagine a federal government negotiator or the Department of Justice would allow a provision that was against a court case that had just been ruled on, and they have not. The salmon in this treaty is not a section 35 right to a commercial salmon allocation because, as the member quite rightly pointed out, the Supreme Court did not allow in several cases that commercial catch could be an aboriginal right. What has been done here is a side agreement that is not protected under section 35, with some commercial allocation.

Of course, the lifestyle here is very dependent on this. This is provided through the purchase of retired licences for that fishing area so that it does not increase the harvesting pressure. It is an opportunity with no specified catch limits, as is not the case for other vessels in the commercial fleet. The Tsawwassen First Nation can be out only when everyone else is out. Tsawwassen has to follow the same rules.

With regard to the fish, I am surprised that the member said the fish could not swim 500 miles, because they come 2,000 miles to my riding and are still in fine shape. However, the point is that the first nations in other areas have more access to other forms of harvest. The negotiators have made it quite clear that they will not be allowing the same percentages of sockeye per person in all cases.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about the present file and particularly about the amendments proposed by the member for Delta—Richmond East.

From the outset, I should say that the Bloc Québécois will not support these motions, and I hope that all of the members in the House, with the exception of the two Conservative members, will vote against these motions. The two Conservative members—the member for Delta—Richmond East and his colleague—will perhaps be the only two in the House to vote against an agreement that has been reached between aboriginals and the governments of British Columbia and Canada.

Why is this bill so important for the Bloc Québécois? Because it talks about autonomy and negotiation between nations.

I think that my colleague, the member for Delta—Richmond East, missed some history classes. If he thinks that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, for which I am the Bloc Québécois critic, did not adequately study this bill, I must tell him that not only did we study it very carefully, but we also received documents to prove what I am about to say. I am sure that my colleague was not alive, nor was his grandfather, nor his great-great grandfather when, in 400 B.C., reference was made to Tsawwassen being in the Vancouver delta. I think that they have a right.

Better yet, there is more, because my colleague thinks that all rights are to be taken for granted. He thinks that because white people came along, the Indians should make way. That is what my colleague opposite wants. In 1851—and I did not make this up, this is from the research results we were given, results that were double-checked—Tsawwassen territory was split in two by the establishment of the Canadian territory and the United States. That predated 1867 and, unfortunately for my colleague opposite, unfortunately for the member for Delta—Richmond East, that was long before he, his parents, his grandparents, or his great-grandparents came into this world. So I think that the aboriginals have some long-standing rights.

The Tsawwassen reserve was created in 1871. That was four years after Canada became a country. To my knowledge, British Columbia did not even exist then. See how the facts have been twisted. When talking about what is going on now, we have to remember that in 1874, the reserve included 490 acres in the Vancouver port and the delta.

The surprising thing is that they are now telling us that it does not exist, that the Indians can be shoved aside. That is bizarre because in 1906, the chiefs went to England—there is evidence supporting that—to ask for their traditional lands back. How would the member for Delta—Richmond East solve the problem? He would solve it by sticking the Indians in the lake or the river, anywhere at all, as long as he could get rid of them and make room for nice white people. He should be ashamed.

The member is part of the government. His government is responsible for this bill. The member is taking issue with a bill introduced by his own government. Not only is he challenging it, but he is introducing amendments that, if passed, would rob Bill C-34 of everything that was agreed to, of everything that was discussed and addressed in the treaty between the Tsawwassen and the governments of Canada and British Columbia. So much for self-determination. Bizarre actions like these lead us to believe that his government's apology was nothing but lip service. The member for Delta—Richmond East is part of the government that apologized just last week.

The ink on the documents is not even dry yet. It was only a week ago Wednesday that the government issued a formal apology for the ethnocide of aboriginals. It was indeed an ethnocide, that is, causing a people to lose their status, thus destroying their culture. That is exactly what was done to aboriginals on reserves who were sent to residential schools. It would certainly make things easier for the member if we could do the same thing to the people of Tsawwassen. If we could get them out of the way, that would take care of the problem. It would done with, one could say.

But my hon. colleague should know that aboriginals, especially with this treaty, will probably take much better care of the salmon. Actually, he seems to care more about the salmon issue than he does about first nations. That is not to say that I am not concerned about the salmon. In fact, with this agreement, the first nations peoples will be able to take much better care of the salmon than the white people that some would like to replace them with.

Furthermore, the agreement also proposes that the Tsawwassen nation, which negotiated nation to nation with British Columbia and Canada, be able to sit at the same table as the regional committee in the Delta and Vancouver area, in order to allow the same developments.

I saw the stocks. I went to see for myself. I find it exceptional, and I say this out of respect for the current government. Once again, I would like to repeat to my hon. colleague from Delta—Richmond East that negotiations began on this agreement in 2003. It has not been merely a couple weeks or a couple months. They have been going on since 2003 and even earlier. An agreement was reached with British Columbia and Canada around 2003 and, since that time, people from the Tsawwassen nation have come to Ottawa several times. They have met with the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development several times to move this file forward.

For once, a file is finally making some progress in this government and I find it appalling that a member—a government member, at that—would put forward such a proposal to destroy his own government's bill. It makes no sense.

It is important to look at what they are claiming. At first, I thought they wanted half of British Colombia. I thought to myself that this made no sense. But no, it would give them 724 hectares of land. Sure, maybe the land is a prime location, in a commercial area. It is true that the Vancouver port will perhaps not be able to expand as it wanted to. It will just need to come to an agreement with the Tsawwassen First Nation. That is it. Finally, they can deal with each other as equals. The objective of the agreement, of the treaty, is to be able to negotiate as equals, as nations.

That is why the Bloc is in favour of this. The Tsawwassen agreement is the first of its kind below the 60th parallel. We think it could have a significant impact on other land claims.

I realize I am running out of time. I urge all of my colleagues in the House to vote in favour of this bill, with the exception of those two members. I would like to teach them a lesson so that they understand once and for all. I would like us to all vote in favour of this bill. Thus, the aboriginals of Tsawwassen will be able to finally reclaim their land, to get back what is rightfully theirs.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where to start, in response to my friend, but I remind him that this place is the House of Commons. This is where there is supposed to be debate on a variety of issues, including proposals put forward by people who have been given the responsibility to negotiate these treaties on our behalf.

I have represented this area, before the Tsawwassen treaty negotiations began. In fact, during all that time, I was never approached by any of the treaty negotiators and asked my opinion. I was not asked what the people in my riding thought about how the treaty negotiations were going.

During these negotiations, the municipal council in my area had a representative at the treaty negotiating table and that individual backed away from it. Anything the representatives heard or learned at the treaty table, they were unable to bring back to their councils. It all had to be kept secret and they found that it was simply not productive to participate in the process. The same transpired with the fishing industry, which has been participating in treaty negotiations in British Columbia as well. The representatives also backed away from the table because they felt their input was not being realized.

The sad part about all this is it is not only me who has a particular opinion that is at variance with the member opposite, and obviously at variance with some of the people in my party. The fact is I have addressed these issues in my community since the beginning. Anything I have said in the House, I have said in my community. The concerns I have expressed are broadly shared in my community. I was elected to represent my community and to speak to those issues here. That is exactly what I do.

Not only that, I represent native people who live on the Tsawwassen Reserve. What I say here reflects very clearly the concerns of people like Bertha Williams, whose family, as I mentioned earlier, has lived on that reserve since it was created. Her grandfather and fathers were chiefs and Bertha was a council member. She would not have any difficulty with what I have said here.

The allocations being made on this treaty, if replicated with the 200 treaties remaining in British Columbia, simply are not affordable. With regard to the fisheries there simply are not enough fish—

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised. My colleague is a member of a government that has just introduced a bill in the House of Commons. I am not saying that my colleague cannot hold an opinion different from mine. However, I want him to understand that we studied this bill and that it is an agreement entered into with aboriginal peoples.

The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was prepared to listen to him. Neither member who has spoken against this bill asked to appear before the committee. We would have agreed. I asked that they be invited.

At first and second reading stages, it was the same thing. And in committee, no one spoke against this bill. In the Tsawwassen community, more than 80% of those who voted were in favour of the bill.

There are some things I do not understand. This is a bill about a very important agreement. We must address the future of the first nations. These first nations wish to recover their lands. These lands belong to them. They have belonged to them for almost 500 years. They have lived on these lands all that time. What more do you want. To push them into the river? These lands belong to them. They will regain control of their lands with this bill and henceforth will be able to negotiate on a nation to nation basis with governments.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-34, specifically to indicate that New Democrats will be opposing the proposed amendments. I want to put this into context.

The Tsawwassen first nation treaty is the first urban treaty in modern day British Columbia. In the address that Chief Kim Baird gave to the provincial legislature, she outlined many reasons why British Columbians and all Canadians should support this treaty. I want to use a couple of her words. Chief Baird said:

Critics choose to ignore Tsawwassen's history of being a victim of industrial and urban development to the benefit of everyone but us. The naysayers do not seem to care that they are calling for the continued exclusion of Tsawwassen from opportunities everyone else has enjoyed. “So what of Tsawwassen First Nations legitimate economic needs? So what of Tsawwassen First Nations land base needs? Let's just continue to ignore Tsawwassen First Nations needs”.

I try not to become too disheartened, and I hope the members of my community take the same approach, because the facts speak for themselves. Today we have a tiny postage stamp of a reserve, a small fraction of a percentage of our traditional territory fronting a dead body of water trapped between two massive industrial operations. Our land and aquatic ecosystems have been fouled beyond human comprehension.

Later on in her speech, she says:

I think I can say on my and my community's behalf that true reconciliation requires this treaty receive broad support. I want our treaty to have the support of as many parties and individuals as possible. To have it become a political football due to various specific public policy issues, in my view, sullies the whole point of true reconciliation.

Compromises are indeed difficult but also very necessary....

This treaty has been under negotiation for many years. In fact, over 14 years of negotiation have gone into this treaty.

In the Tsawwassen treaty summary and key benefits, the Tsawwassen people talk about a new relationship. They say:

The treaty, signed on December 6th, represents a new relationship between Canada, British Columbia, and Tsawwassen First Nation. It begins the process of reconciliation, and sets TFN on the path towards self-sufficiency. Tsawwassen First Nation becomes a full partner with its provincial and federal counterparts, and undertakes the rights and obligations of its section 35 responsibilities. The treaty is not a windfall, nor is it perfect. It represents a compromise borne out of difficult and complex negotiations. It also represents a significant challenge to Tsawwassen First Nation: the responsibilities of treaty present a set of policy and operational challenges that TFN recognizes and is preparing for.

In any agreement that is developed there are often differences of opinion. Because this treaty has been in negotiation for many years, has gone through the provincial legislature and has now come to the House of Commons for ratification, I argue that there has been much discussion and review, especially in light of the historic apology that happened last Wednesday in the House. I think for many people it signals a step forward into a new era of recognizing nation to nation respect and status. This treaty is a way to signal that intent is truly there.

I want to also put it into a couple of other perspectives and one is an international perspective.

Under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, article 26 says:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Tsawwassen grandmothers and grandfathers and great grandmothers and great grandfathers for centuries have lived on the Lower Mainland and in areas around there, using the land and the sea to feed, clothe and house their people.

Many of us in the House support the UN declaration in terms of recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and territories and to their economic self-sufficiency. This treaty would be an opportunity to signal, although Canada has not acknowledged the UN declaration, that at least we acknowledge the Tsawwassen people have the right to a small part of their traditional territory.

I want to go back, also in terms of historical context, to the report by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in volume two, “Restructuring the Relationship”. The commission spent a fair bit of time covering and talking about the importance of treaties.

The commission talked about the historical need for justice and reconciliation. It quoted Josephine Sandy from the Ojibwa Tribal Family Services. She said:

Our people have always understood that we must be able to continue to live our lives in accordance with our culture and spirituality. Our elders have taught us that this spirit and intent of our treaty relationship must last as long as the rivers flow and the sun shines. We must wait however long it takes for non-Aboriginal people to understand and respect our way of life. This will be the respect that the treaty relationship between us calls for.

In this context, this treaty is a very important piece of having Tsawwassen and its neighbours move forward with some certainty, whether it is economic or social. It allows both the Tsawwassen and the surrounding community to establish that forward looking relationship, which will allow all to benefit economically and socially.

The same report talks about the need for reconciliation as being a way to move forward. Again, I know Chief Kim Baird talked about reconciliation. She talked about the fact that the treaty was compromised. The report states:

By reconciliation we mean more than just giving effect to a treaty hunting right or securing the restoration of reserve land taken unfairly or illegally in the past. We mean embracing the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship itself, a relationship of mutual trust and loyalty, as the framework for a vibrant and respectful new relationship between peoples.

New attitudes must be fostered to bring about this new relationship. A consensus will have to evolve that the treaty relationship continues to be of mutual benefit. New institutions must be created to bring this relationship into being. At present, the relationship between the treaty parties is mired in ignorance, mistrust and prejudice. Indeed, this has been the case for generations.

In 1996, 12 years ago when the RCAP report came out, there was a signal that the need for reconciliation was so important, both to the first nations and to the non-first nations communities. It is a call for us to find ways to build collectively together to move forward, to establish some trust, to establish those long term relationships that can truly make a difference for both the first nations and the non-first nations community.

In the conclusion of the recommendations, although some of these have been covered, it talked about fulfillment of historical treaties. In this case we are talking about the signing of a treaty and not the fulfillment. Under the recommendations, the commission recommends:

The parties implement the historical treaties from the perspective of both justice and reconciliation:

(a) Justice requires the fulfilment of the agreed terms of the treaties, as recorded in the treaty text and supplemented by oral evidence.

(b) Reconciliation requires the establishment of proper principles to govern the continuing treaty relationship and to complete treaties that are incomplete because of the absence of consensus.

I think the treaty is an opportunity to heal some of those long-standing wounds that exist with the first nations. It is an opportunity to recognize the contribution that first nations make to this country and will continue to make. It is an opportunity to truly move forward.

In the conclusion of Chief Baird's speech to the legislature, she talks about the fact that:

Our treaty is the right fit for our nation. More land, cash and resources provide us the opportunity to create a healthy and viable community, free from the constraints of the Indian Act. We now have the tools to operate as a self-governing nation for the first time in 131 years, since the first Indian Act was introduced.

The Tsawwassen treaty, clause by clause, emphasizes self-reliance, personal responsibility and modern education. It allows us to pursue meaningful employment from the resources of our territory for our own people or, in other words, a quality of life comparable to other British Columbians.

The NDP will not support the amendments as proposed. We encourage members of the House to move quickly to ensure this treaty moves through the House and on into the Senate.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my friend and want to re-emphasize the notion that in this place there is an obligation to debate, to not simply rubber-stamp deals agreed to by bureaucrats. As well, I think there is an obligation on us to determine affordability. When we start talking about reconciliation, it is something that works both ways. It should not tip the scales in favour of either one.

One of the issues the member tends to overlook is the issue of overlaps. I know full well that there are overlaps with the bands that are resident in her area. The problem is that when these overlaps occur there is an obligation on the part of the federal government to compensate the Tsawwassen Band for the extent of the overlap.

That is going to be a significant cost, because there are nine bands that have registered concerns about overlaps. Thus, there are nine bands that are going to have claims in which the federal government will be liable.

The member also talked about the land and Chief Baird suggesting that the reserve was fronted by a dead body of water. What is also interesting is that recently when the band, and Chief Baird in particular, was negotiating a deal with the Vancouver Port Authority, Chief Baird and her council elected not to utilize their aboriginal and environmental concerns over this expansion of the Vancouver Port, because the port was willing to pay them to overlook this obligation of the federal government to redress aboriginal and environmental concerns.

So as we see, anything can be on the table here. Anything can be bought and sold. It certainly was when it came to the port expansion and Chief Baird.

The member quoted Chief Baird. I would like to quote Bertha Williams, whose family has been on that reserve since the beginning. Her grandfather was chief, as was her father, and she was a councillor. She said:

A lot of our elders...are new to the community...They lost their status years ago. They went off, got married, they didn't want to be labelled as native....

These elders...don't know our history...don't know our culture.

I have never surrendered my birthright...I have never left my homeland....

[But] we are outnumbered...The majority of those who are voting members live off the reserve.

There are people that live in Alabama, Los Angeles...across the Prairies...They are band members but they have no intention of ever living on the reserve. Yet they are voting on our business. A lot of them have never even visited the Reserve. It is just ludicrous how much they have to say on our livelihood--

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I hate to cut off the hon. member, but I do have to allow at least a couple of minutes for the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan to respond.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Delta—Richmond East covered a number of points that I know I will not have time to address, of course, but I will touch on a couple of them.

One is that it is always interesting to me that in this House we have discussions in which it is said that first nations must be held to different standards than the rest of Canada.

When it comes to environmental concerns, I just need to point to the fact that I know the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was considering two mining permits that were going to kill freshwater lakes, which fish reside in, as tailing ponds. Therefore, on the one hand we have the non-aboriginal population that continues with environmental impacts that affect us, whether it is the tar sands or tailing ponds, so I am not sure that it is a legitimate argument.

When it comes to overlaps, the member is absolutely right. There are some concerns with overlaps. Certainly, the Penelakut, the Cowichan people and the Sencoten have all signalled some concerns around overlaps.

I know that the Penelakut and Cowichan have been quite actively working with the Tsawwassen to address some of the concerns around the overlaps. The government has provided some additional funding, both provincially and federally, certainly to Penelakut, to help with some of the research, background and negotiation around that. The overlaps are a concern. I know from speaking to people from Cowichan and Penelakut that they are working to try to resolve some of those concerns.

When it comes to off reserve people having a say, we have a court decision which recognizes that people who belong to a particular nation have the right to have a say in what happens on their traditional territories. We know that Bill C-31 from 1985 recognized that women who had married out of their community had the right to be reinstated to their communities, but they were impacted, as they were not allowed to return to their communities because there simply were not the resources to allow them to return.

So now what I am hearing people say is that because these people, largely women and their families, could not return to the reserve because of a lack of resources, they should not have any say in what happens. That is a much larger question around where governments choose to put their time, energy and resources.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak in support of Bill C-34 and to denounce the amendments that the member for Delta—Richmond East has brought before the House.

They are not simple amendments that would change a small bit of a bill or certain specific aspects of the bill. They are so broad that they would gut the bill, in essence, and there would be no treaty. The amendments attack everything from the taxation provisions to the provision of fish and wildlife for food and ceremonial purposes.

The amendments attack the provision that would provide for some economic development and some participation in the resources of the Tsawwassen people. That would be the commercial sale of salmon.

The amendments denounce or take away the issue of financial assistance that the Tsawwassen people would require in order to implement the provisions of the treaty. They also say that the Tsawwassen people should not have the ability to make laws for themselves, which is the essence of land claims and the issue of self-determination.

The amendments talk about the issue of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms not applying. That is totally misleading. It would apply. It says so in the treaty. It says so in this particular act, which purports to implement the treaty.

The amendments also talk about the provisions of the bill that would basically stop businesses from starting on the reserve.

All of those things fly in the face of what the Minister of Indian Affairs testified at committee on June 4. Indeed, he used language to say that there are “misleading interpretations” of provisions in the act and that he wanted to set the record straight.

I am just wondering if the member for Delta—Richmond East has had an opportunity to have a chat with the Minister of Indian Affairs. I wonder how the two could be so diametrically opposed.

We have the minister saying one thing. We have a government bill that has been presented to the House. It has taken years and years of hard work, if not decades, in order to reach this particular point. Then we have a couple of members, the member for Delta—Richmond East and the member for Calgary Northeast, saying something that is the total opposite.

I find it remarkable that this seems to happen only on the aboriginal file. Perhaps people can find or others can point to other instances in the House, but it seems like it is only on the aboriginal file that the Prime Minister allows people to oppose the government's own legislation.

Why is it that one can stand in the House on one day and make an apology based on historic grounds, on a tragic episode in our country's history, and call for a new day of reconciliation, of tolerance, a reconciliation of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, and then tolerate what the Minister of Indian Affairs himself said are “misleading interpretations”?

We need to reflect a little. I want to quote from some of the notes that were prepared for us in the committee.

The notes are about the Tsawwassen people and the Tsawwassen First Nation, who are “a Coast Salish group whose historical use of the southern Strait of Georgia and the lower Fraser River and their environs is well documented”. It is well documented because the Tsawwassen people, like so many indigenous and aboriginal peoples around the country, have been there from time immemorial, but then it is noted, “Over time, [the Tsawwassen First Nation] lost the use of all but a fraction of its claimed traditional territory”.

Therefore, we have indigenous people with indigenous rights, aboriginal people with aboriginal rights, living in the historic lands that they have always occupied. They have lost much of it by the encroachment of others, and now we have arrived at a place where we are trying to reconcile that.

Believe me, there is no way that one can look at the traditional land use and occupancy of the Tsawwassen and think even for a second that the band members are getting that land back. They are getting only a fraction of that land back under this particular treaty.

To say that we should not have modern treaties, which is basically the essence of what a couple of members on the other side are saying, is to fly in the face of longstanding policy in this country. I think back to Labrador, where we have had a land claim accepted for the Innu Nation since 1978, one that has not been fully negotiated out and finalized. I think about the Labrador Métis Nation, which filed a land claim in 1990 and is still awaiting a decision from the federal government on whether it should negotiate or not.

The longstanding policy in this country is based on mutual respect, the recognition of the law and the many court cases that have gone to the Supreme Court of Canada which state that aboriginal people have rights and they have rights to their land and resources. For the member opposite to introduce these amendments is to fly in the face of the treaty itself and the comprehensive land claims policy that we have been working with since as early as 1975. Of course, there have been many variations on it.

The Tsawwassen treaty itself points to the need for certainty. The various provisions of the treaty point out the specifics that have been agreed on. It is not what everybody is happy with, but it is a compromise. It is something that people can live with. It is a treaty whereby people on the reserve lands and also those outside those lands can see some hope in terms of where the Tsawwassen people should be and want to be in Canadian society.

It brings back a bit of a déjà vu time. I recall watching the ratification of the Nisga'a treaty. It happened in the House. The minister of Indian affairs at the time, who had been the opposition critic, introduced 471 amendments to that particular treaty, trying to kill it.

So as for the voices I hear from the two particular members on the other side, they are not voices that have not been heard in the Conservative Party or the Reform or Alliance parties. Indeed, they are consistent with the voices and the objectives of certain individuals in whatever manifestation that particular party had at the time.

I want to close on a positive note. I want to quote Chief Baird, who appeared at the aboriginal affairs committee. She stated:

--I have to say this treaty is a good deal for Tsawwassen First Nation. My responsibility was to negotiate the best treaty I could for my community. I had to be pragmatic and accept things that weren't palatable, but the overall impact will transform my community.

We could not afford to wait for the perfect agreement. The world is changing, and we have to change as well. The poverty and inadequate governance structure of the Indian Act is not sustainable. I refuse to see another generation lost.

She went on to say:

We recognize that the treaty is only a tool box. Hard work is still required, but at least it can be done with tools that can make a difference. We will have to work on poor education rates and underemployment and...[get rid] of poor socio-economic conditions. We have never fooled ourselves that a treaty would be utopia with a bow on it.

It is with great pride, optimism, and determination that we face our destiny. We have already turned all our energy toward implementing the treaty, and for us there is no turning back.

This is not just about the technical or legal issues that the member opposite likes to raise. It is also about a future for the Tsawwassen people, their children and their grandchildren.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


John Cummins Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, off the top the member noticed that the motions were broad, which is because that is all that is allowed. We have a bill that would put in effect the agreement and it is impossible to be specific on the motions any more so than I was.

It is interesting that the member referred somewhat to the issues that I raised as mere details. However, the fact that the band will make laws that prevail over federal law is not desirable in this country. The federal government has its constitutional powers and those powers should prevail because that is the way a federation should work.

Municipalities and provinces have their own areas. The provinces' responsibilities are recognized in the Constitution and the municipalities are given theirs by the provinces and, in a sense, that is what should happen here.

The member raised a number of issues. He talked about Chief Baird talking about this agreement transforming the community. That is, indeed, quite right. It will transform the community. Almost half of the land that will go to the band and half of the treaty lands that will result after the treaty is signed, which is a full 500 acres, will be taken over by the Vancouver Port Authority. It intends to put a rail marshalling yard, container storage and warehousing on those lands.

As I stated earlier, Bertha Williams, whose family has lived on that reserve since the beginning, will have her home and property expropriated by the band and they will end up right in the middle of that environmental mess. The issue then becomes what happens to the rest of the folks on that reserve. Their homes will be within a few hundred yards of this active rail yard, this 24 hour, seven days a week container storage area and all of the dust, dirt, light pollution and noise pollution that will flow from that industrial area.

The same thing happens to the community of Ladner, which is less than a mile from the reserve, or to Tsawwassen, which is probably a little more than a mile. That whole area will be industrialized. The greatest number of people who will be paying for this are the people who are currently living on the reserve and they represent a minority of the people who signed on to this deal.

Motions in AmendmentTsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am more than pleased that the rules and procedures governing the House did not allow the member to introduce any more amendments than he has already introduced. He virtually guts the bill with the motions that were allowed. I would not want for a second to see how many more amendments he would like to bring to the House.

The point here is that the member does not agree with land claims, aboriginal rights or indigenous rights whatsoever. He wants to gut this treaty absolutely. It is not about making improvements to the bill at all. That is the essence of the motions and the amendments that are before the House.

When it comes to law-making power, this is consistent with the Constitution. This is not the first agreement where a first nation or a land claim organization can have certain law-making powers. It has happened with other modern day treaties. These things are negotiated and they are consistent with the Constitution.

The member also talks about the fact that there are 500 acres. This is a postage stamp when it comes to the traditional territory of the Tsawwassen people and their historic and current land use. The member makes this out to be something of a gift to the Tsawwassen people. They have already had their lands encroached upon, resources taken away and the ability to make their own laws.

The member's amendments do not hold water and we should all reject them.