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.
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.