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House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.

Topics

Energy Efficiency ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel on his brilliant speech, in which he demonstrated how much Quebec has contributed to Canada to develop energies outside Quebec, whether Atomic Energy of Canada or Hibernia's oil fields. Quebec never got a red cent, though, to develop its own industry, even though it is cleaner than all the others. That is a good point my colleague made.

In response to what my colleague said, we were told by members on the other side that the Alberta oil industry creates lots of jobs in Quebec. I would like my colleague to tell us about all the jobs created in Quebec when the rising price of oil caused the Canadian dollar to soar and reduced Quebec’s exports.

Energy Efficiency ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Drummond is quite right. In regard to the Borden line, I hope that you and the people listening to us realize that not one litre of western oil is sold in Quebec. We are buyers and therefore importers of oil. When the price of oil rises, our companies all suffer the consequences and we do not benefit. The provinces that benefit are Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and Saskatchewan, but not Quebec.

My colleague pointed out that we developed our hydroelectricity on our own, without any federal funding. Just think of Hydro-Québec, which worked on electric batteries for all its equipment but had to sell the concept to the Europeans because it did not have the means to develop it further. No federal politician dared hope or say that this might be a very good idea. Instead of investing in oil, they could have helped Hydro-Québec develop this battery, which would have been the battery of the future. The day a battery is developed that can power vehicles is the day we will have beaten greenhouse gases. But no, there was not one red cent. No federal politician ever rose to say that this technology was developed in Canada and that we should invest in it, rather than selling it to the Europeans. Once again, Hydro-Québec was abandoned and Quebec alone paid. No one here ever wanted to do that. This is the reality. This is why, as we said earlier, Canada is still looking at the future in the rear-view mirror rather than through the windshield. There was every reason to sit down with Quebec, but they did not do it because all the money and tax credits were taken. They are still giving tax credits to the oil industry while there is nothing for the energy that Quebec develops, especially hydroelectricity with all its advantages. That is the bitter truth for Quebeckers, who pay 25% of the cost of developing the nuclear and oil industries but do not get any help with their hydroelectricity.

Energy Efficiency ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Energy Efficiency ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Energy Efficiency ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Energy Efficiency ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Energy Efficiency ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to, bill read a third time and passed)

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

May 7th, 2009 / 11:05 a.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

propose que le projet de loi C-28, An Act to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today to begin the debate at second reading of Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act.

The amendments to Bill C-28 hold important consequences for our country, for the province of Quebec, and most significantly for the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, the people of the eastern James Bay and southern Hudson Bay region of northern Quebec.

Bill C-28 helps settle long-standing differences between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, resolving disputes. Perhaps most importantly, the bill sets the stage for a revitalized relationship between the federal government and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.

I will explain the provisions of this legislation and provide some detail of how Bill C-28 will encourage greater prosperity, social development and self-determination for the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. First, let me take this opportunity to tell the House a little about these people and how we have moved forward to this important step here today.

On February 21 of last year, I was in Mistissini, Quebec to sign the new relationship agreement with the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. Mistissini is located about 850 kilometres due north of here, in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful natural surroundings anywhere in the world.

Mistissini is one of nine Cree communities in northern Quebec. Some 30 years ago, residents of these communities expressed their deep disagreement with plans by the Government of Quebec to build and expand hydroelectric developments on their traditional lands.

The Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the Inuit of Nunavik thought this project, one of the most ambitious civil works projects ever considered in Canada, threatened their traditional way of life. To address the concerns expressed by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the Inuit of Nunavik, the Quebec and Canadian governments entered into negotiations with those peoples.

The result of these negotiations was the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement. Signed in 1975, the agreement is the first modern treaty reached in Canada, resolving land claims that date back to the late 1800s. It also accommodated the interests of the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the Inuit of Nunavik on the development of natural resources on their traditional lands. In 1978, the Naskapi people of the region reached a similar accord, the northeastern Quebec agreement.

Together, these two agreements facilitated development of hydroelectric dams and related infrastructure in northern Quebec and ushered in an era of unprecedented economic development, not just in the James Bay region but throughout northern Quebec. At the same time, the agreements established new governance regimes to manage the delivery of social services to Cree communities in the region and administer the growing relationship between Cree authorities and provincial and federal governments.

There was one problem, though. These agreements were struck without the benefit of a coherent policy backdrop, such as the comprehensive claims policy and the inherent right policy, which we have today, and without detailed implementation plans, essential components of the claims process that negotiators, policy-makers and legislators rely on today.

Because the agreements lacked the precision we now expect from such accords, challenges arose. The parties to the agreements, the federal government, the provincial government, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, the Inuit of Nunavik and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach encountered substantial difficulties interpreting and then acting upon obligations outlined in the agreements.

In 1984, the Government of Canada adopted the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. The act is the first piece of self-government legislation adopted in our country. It was an obligation under the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and under the northeastern Quebec agreement. The landmark law set up a system of land management and recognized the authority of local Cree and Naskapi governments to make bylaws to protect the environment, manage natural resources and provide health services to band members. Provisions of the act also enabled the federal government to further address the needs of the Cree Eeyou Istchee and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach through government programs, sectoral funding agreements and joint action with the government of Quebec.

Despite these constructive efforts, the Government of Canada continued to bear the brunt of criticism for its alleged failure to implement its obligations under the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and the northeastern Quebec agreement in an adequate and timely manner.

However, in 2002, a new dawn began to break in the relationship between the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the provincial and federal governments. In February of that year, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the government of Quebec signed the “Paix des braves”. Under the terms of this agreement the Cree of Eeyou Istchee agreed to assume major provincial obligations with regard to socio-economic development and community infrastructure in Cree communities.

In exchange, the government of Quebec made three commitments: first, to pay $3.5 billion over 50 years to a new Cree development corporation; second, to provide ongoing funding for Cree health, policing and justice regimes; and third, to share with Cree communities the revenues and contracting and employment opportunities generated by natural resources development on traditional Cree lands.

Cree leaders then approached the Government of Canada and proposed a similar arrangement to resolve their outstanding differences. After close to six years of rigorous study, consultation, negotiation and ratification, we signed the agreement concerning a new relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, a landmark accord that does what its title suggests; it establishes a new relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.

I was deeply honoured to participate in that signing ceremony in Mistissini in February 2008. I was proud to join hundreds of residents and more than a dozen current and former elected leaders of the region's nine Cree communities to celebrate the beginning of a revitalized relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.

Today, more than a year after that memorable event, we are gathered here in this House to consider Bill C-28 and enshrine in Canadian law a crucial part of the new relationship agreement between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. But what is in that agreement, and by extension, in the bill?

With regard to its second goal, funding and ongoing financing, the new relationship agreement calls for the federal government to provide $1.4 billion in compensation to the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. This funding is divided into three parcels. The first portion is a cash payment of $1.1 billion. These funds have been transferred when the agreement was signed and put an end to significant lawsuits initiated by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee against the federal government.

The federal government will provide the Cree Regional Authority with an additional $100 million within 30 days of Bill C-28, this bill, receiving royal assent. A third payment of $200 million will be made within 30 days of royal assent being given to a future bill that sanctions a distinctive Cree Nation government.

Equipped with this new funding and ongoing financing, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee are poised to take on a number of essential regional functions, including policing, sanitation, firefighting services and several vital economic development initiatives such as job training, recruitment and placement.

This is where Bill C-28 comes in. The Cree Regional Authority must be granted the legal authority to carry out these functions. Accordingly, Bill C-28 amends the Cree-Naskapi of Quebec Act to provide the Cree Regional Authority with by-law making powers, similar to those now enjoyed by the eight local Cree governments.

As its name suggests, the Cree Regional Authority is the governing body that regulates affairs throughout the entire region, and Bill C-28 provides the Cree Regional Authority with powers that truly correspond with its title. The bill also incorporates a ninth Cree band, the Oujé-Bougoumou, and brings it under the jurisdiction of this regional governing body.

These forward-thinking provisions dovetail perfectly with the third goal of the new relationship agreement, modernization of Cree governance. Upon passage of Bill C-28, the agreement pledges the Government of Canada to work with the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, to continue to transform their current governance regime. This modernization process will involve development of a Cree constitution and establishment of a Cree Nation government.

Indeed, Bill C-28 serves as a stepping stone for the Cree of Eeyou Istchee as they continue their journey toward genuine, full-fledged self-government. Through the agreements they have concluded with the governments of Canada and Quebec, they have shown their willingness to take greater control of their lives, establish high quality social services in their communities, safeguard their culture and chart a clear, self-sufficient course for their future. In doing so, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee have earned the respect and admiration of all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.

At the same time, the names of distinguished Cree leaders have earned an honoured place in the history of our country. Grand Chief Billy Diamond signed the James Bay and Northern Quebec agreement and then used the agreement as a springboard to launch his people along the road to greater economic prosperity, social development and cultural preservation.

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come fought to ensure that his people were assured a fair share of the wealth generated by the natural resources found on Cree lands.

Grand Chief Ted Moses helped develop and then sign La Paix des Braves with the government of Quebec, and was a powerful force in enabling his people to gain formal recognition as a consultative, non-government organization at the United Nations.

Now, as a signatory of the agreement, current Grand Chief Matthew Mukash takes his rightful place alongside these great Canadian leaders. I salute Grand Chief Mukash for his inspired leadership in shepherding the agreement through to ratification, and thank him for the enormous contribution he has made, not only to the life of his community but also to the prosperity and vitality of our country.

I also take this opportunity to salute Bill Namagoose, the chief negotiator of the Grand Council of the Crees, and Raymond Chrétien, the chief negotiator for the Government of Canada. These wise, skilful and patient men played indispensable roles in helping us strike an agreement and forge this new relationship. Simply put, without their diligent effort, firm commitment and determined leadership, an agreement would not have been reached and Bill C-28 would not be before us here today.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the indispensable role played by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee themselves. During a referendum held to cast judgment on the agreement, they voted overwhelming in favour, some 90% of all ballots cast, and in doing so, expressed their deep faith in the value of and their firm desire to establish a revitalized relationship with the Government of Canada.

In the same spirit of optimism, partnership and trust clearly demonstrated by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, I ask my colleagues to do their part.

I encourage my colleagues to adopt Bill C-28 and enshrine in the law of our land a vital element of the new relationship agreement. I encourage all members to play their part in revitalizing the relationship between the Government of Canada and the Eeyou Istchee, to play their part in helping usher in a new era in that people's distinguished history, an era of greater prosperity, self-determination, fulfillment and harmony for us all.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will have the opportunity to tell the minister what the Bloc Québécois thinks in a few minutes. I can assure him that he will have our support on this issue, which we feel is extremely important. Not only will he have our support, but we will cooperate to make sure that things move forward even faster and that this bill is studied quickly in committee. I will elaborate on this shortly, but it is important to the Cree and Naskapi communities, especially the Cree community of Oujé-Bougoumou, that this issue be addressed once and for all.

But there is something that concerns me, and I would like the minister's reassurance. What is happening with regard to the Naskapi? Without going into detail, there is some fluidity in determining land boundaries and related rights. I would like to know whether the department has found common ground with the Naskapi community, which is closely related to the Cree community near Kawawachikamach. If not, are discussions underway to that end?

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

I thank the member for supporting this bill. It will be very important to the Naskapi people, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and ourselves.

An agreement that establishes a new relationship between these peoples and ourselves is necessary, but it is even more important to have a good overall agreement.

The issue with the Naskapi is an important one and people should be aware of this. There have been consultations with the Naskapi as we put this bill together. Their issues are somewhat separate. They are not covered under this bill. We want to be clear that there are other issues that are outside of this. The Naskapi, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, the Inuit of Nunavik, all understand those issues must be settled and that we must proceed as quickly as possible to find a way to address those issues. There is not a bill to cover this but there is an understanding with the Naskapi that those issues they have raised will be addressed.

In the meantime, it is important that the bill goes ahead in its current form because it addresses most of the issues that are important to the Cree, but that certainly the Naskapi issues, if I can call them that, must be addressed. They are separate issues and all parties to this agreement understand that we need to work together in order to address them. Whether they are boundary issues, issues of leasing, issues of referendum or other issues that are important to the Naskapi that they have raised repeatedly, we all agree we must move together to settle them as quickly as possible.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I support the bill, there are a number of logistical housekeeping items that need to be addressed. Will the minister assure Canadians that this act will remain on his priority list until the needed corrections and amendments are made to the act?

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his indication of support for this important legislation. He is well aware of the need for this to go ahead not only for the monetary interest but more importantly, for the development of the eventual self-government package that will accompany it.

The new relationship document that we signed last year deals with things like mediation and arbitration. We have already appointed negotiators to talk about the governance package, which is the next step, and those negotiators have already started discussions. We will be able to move very quickly.

These are not just words on a document. This new relationship document is significant and very real. This new relationship will allow us to move to serious negotiations quickly.

Agreements were signed in the early days without implementation packages, which, in hindsight, was a tremendous flaw. Under this new relationship agreement that we have signed, everyone understands the importance of getting to a settlement quickly and addressing these outstanding issues quickly. There are timelines in the government's package, for example, on how quickly we can get to it. We are committed to meeting those deadlines.

Most important, because of the relationship we have established in getting to this stage, I expect these negotiations will go very well.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.

I know that this issue is very important to him, and he is a fine Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Seeing as our government practises open federalism, did my colleague consult with the Government of Quebec when this bill was being drafted? Did he hold consultations with the Government of Quebec throughout the drafting process?

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

There was no formal obligation to consult with the Government of Quebec while drafting this bill.

We have already given a copy of our proposal to the Quebec government based on the new relationship document that it has already agreed to and is comfortable with. Now that the details are before it, I am quite sure it will be comfortable with it. It is based on the new relationship that we have all seen and signed off on.

As I said, it is not a formal obligation, but we wanted to make sure that the Government of Quebec understood what we were doing, so we have been keeping it in the loop, so to speak, and gave it a copy of our proposal early on.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to revisit a few points that the minister raised in his presentation. Bill C-28 is the first step toward self-government and it is a great piece of legislation for the Cree. Could the minister expand a bit more on how this legislation would advance self-government for the Cree? We heard a myriad of things that it would benefit, but if he could just focus on self-government that would be great.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would describe this as kind of an incremental move toward self-government. This is not uncommon in the country. There are different places across the country where first nations have approached us and suggested and we have been willing partners to say they may not be ready for full self-government today but they can see a road map. They can say, “We want to do this today, and then we want to move ahead with maybe a tripartite agreement on education”, and move toward self-government. That is a good way to do it for those first nations that want to approach it that way.

This is a step along that line, although in a sense it is more formalized. With the Cree Regional Authority we have been able to take the government arrangements that have already been given to the nine Cree first nations in the territory and expand that to the Cree Regional Authority, and now the new relationship document talks about how that will then flow from the Cree Regional Authority and expand to the Cree nation government.

The negotiations that will take place subsequent to this will allow us to talk not only about the monetary part of it, as there are a couple hundred million dollars to facilitate that happening on the government side, but more importantly, there is a process established that is part of a continuum. There is a settlement, we have implemented it, we have expanded it to the Cree Regional Authority with this legislation, and then, importantly, the Cree nation governance will flow from that quite quickly and naturally, based on the new relationship agreement. The dollar figures and all of that are already established, so my sense is the authorities will be relatively easy to negotiate.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act of 1984. I want to thank the minister and the government for bringing this legislation forward in a rather expedited manner.

Essentially, this particular piece of legislation stems from land claims and the implementation of what we call modern-day treaties. The first such modern-day treaty was the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement of 1975, which I am going to speak about a little more as we move forward.

Negotiation and implementation has been difficult. It has been tough, time-consuming and burdensome, but these treaties have also been signs of hope, opportunity and promise. In 1975, the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement signalled a new time in the history of Canada and a new relationship with aboriginal peoples. However, even though it has been a new relationship and new processes have taken place, they have not been without their trials and tribulations.

Since 1975, there have been a number of comprehensive land claims signed in the country, in places such as the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Nunavut, Quebec and Labrador, with a broad range of aboriginal peoples and nations: the Teslin Tlingit, the Gwich'in, the Nisga'a and the Inuit, but unfortunately, to date, no comprehensive land claim specifically with the Métis people.

If we want to look at the implementation of these particular treaties, the aboriginal peoples across the country signed these treaties with a profound sense of importance. I want to sum up that profound sense of importance in a Cree prophesy:

Only after the last tree has been cut down

Only after the last river has been poisoned

Only after the last fish has been caught

Then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

In that particular prophesy, and because of the nature of land claims where aboriginal people had to give up lands or give up certain rights for money, the negotiations are profound, because they come with a certain sense of permanence as well. The sense among elders in the community that in fact we sometimes have no right to give up land, that we are caretakers and stewards of it, makes these particular negotiations ever more heartfelt.

I say that because when we get to the implementation there are often difficulties in terms of interpretation and consistency. We will often hear this phrase amongst aboriginal people: We have signed this agreement, the government has certain responsibilities, both the federal crown and the provincial crown, but the honour of the Crown, what the Crown has promised, is not being kept to; there is not a sincerity.

I can say that it is happening with the Nisga'a, with whom I have met. They say, “Listen, we signed an agreement, and it has taken now seven or eight years to negotiate other aspect of the agreement, such as the financial framework agreements.”

I talked to the Teslin Tlingit, and they talk about the fact that it has been now over a decade and some of the aspects of their comprehensive land claim, such as the devolution of justice and enforcement, has not happened.

I even talk about the Nunatsiavut government in Labrador. “Nunatsiavut” means “our beautiful land”. I know these people. I know them well. Many are relatives. They say that even since 2005 there have been problems with implementation.

It is in this broad context that I talk about Bill C-28. I want to refer to Labrador specifically because I know it well. We have three land claims at various stages. I mentioned the Nunatsiavut government comprehensive land claim that was signed in 2005, which I was happy to be part of and was in this House when it was ratified.

There is also the Innu, which have signed a New Dawn agreement. They want to move forward to full ratification of their particular agreement because it creates some certainty for development, economic prosperity and social progression.

Of course, there is the Labrador Metis Nation, which I was president of for 11 years. It has had a claim with the government since 1990. It submitted additional information in 1996 and is still waiting for the Government of Canada to come to the table and negotiate outstanding issues.

Against this entire backdrop and in this context, we have Bill C-28. As I mentioned, in 1975, there was the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement. It did not contain implementation plans, and this gave rise to a whole series of disputes about interpretation and litigation.

There was also the northeastern Quebec agreement with the Naskapi in 1978, and then in 1984, the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act was established, which arose out of the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement. The Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act has been termed Canada's first aboriginal self-government type of legislation. It provided for local governance for Cree bands on their own lands.

Within this debate are the precursors of what is happening in society today: the first modern land claim in 1975, and the first self-government type of agreement in 1984. Even though these agreements were signed, there were problems with implementation, and a series of court actions arose. To attempt to get some of these issues settled, there was an agreement with the Inuit and the Naskapi in 1990, but no agreement with the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.

In 1992, Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee signed the Canada—Oujé-Bougoumou agreement. In 2002, the Cree signed an agreement with the Province of Quebec, the Paix des Braves agreement, covering a period of 50 years and dealing with resource development, policing and compensation to allow certain resource developments to go forward. It also has within it a process, as I understand, to resolve outstanding issues.

Then, in 2008, there was a new relationship agreement, called the Chrétien-Namagoose agreement, between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. This agreement was ratified by the Cree, as were the agreements referring to the Cree that I have already mentioned.

The people themselves were at the table. They looked at it, it was brought to their communities, and they ratified it. Many have termed it an out-of-court settlement; and in essence, it was. This new relationship agreement had a 20-year term, and there were a series of payments. The payments would amount to $1.4 billion in three separate stages.

I want to sum up with the words of the Cree-Naskapi Commission to describe to how this has unfolded over the last three decades. This comes from the chairman of the Cree-Naskapi Commission, which came out of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act of 1984:

The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement...(which did not include an implementation plan), was signed in 1975. During the thirty-three years since the signing there have been numerous disputes and frequent litigation concerning the obligations under, and the implementation of the agreement. This in turn has led to a difficult relationship between the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee and Canada and Quebec. Through the efforts of the Crees, Canada and Quebec, that has changed. The Agreement Concerning a New Relationship Between le Gouvernement du Québec and the Crees of Quebec...addressed outstanding issues between the Crees and Quebec [for a term of 50 years]. The Agreement Concerning a New Relationship Between the Government of Canada and the Crees of Eeyou Istchee of 2008 addressed in parallel fashion outstanding issues between the Crees and Canada. These agreements have been ratified by the Cree people as well as by Quebec and Canada. They represent a major achievement in resolving problems through negotiation.

[T]here is some evidence that the federal and Quebec governments have learned from the James Bay experience. Over most of the past thirty-plus years governments, through both their actions and their words appear to have regarded the Crees from what was essentially an adversarial perspective.... [T]he traditional structures and decision-making processes of government were ill-suited to negotiating much less implementing treaties and land claims settlements with First Nations.... [The] 1982 amendments to the constitution changed that.... Aboriginal and treaty rights (including land claims agreements) were moved beyond the scope of governments' ability to ignore or change them unilaterally. Now, as the Supreme Court said in Badger, “Treaties...create enforceable obligations...”.

On the signing of this new relationship agreement, the current Cree Grand Chief Mukash said, “It also sets in motion what is probably the most important initiative since 1975, the development of a new Cree government”.

The new relationship agreement set out a way of moving forward and called for a two-phased approach: commitments by Canada to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act of 1984, which we are talking about today, and the negotiation of Cree self-government agreements with a Cree constitution and their own powers.

Bill C-28 deals with the first of these undertakings and can be summarized under two headings: amendments to the Cree Regional Authority and the Oujé-Bougoumou amendments. I just want to run down what those would entail.

The proposed amendments regarding the Cree Regional Authority would allow the Cree Regional Authority, which is basically the administrative body of the Grand Council of the Crees: to act as a regional government on category IA lands, which are basically the lands that they own under the 1984 Cree-Naskapi act; to regulate essential sanitation services, housing and buildings used for the purposes of regional governance; to use, manage and administer moneys and other assets; to promote the general welfare of the members of the Cree bands; and to promote and preserve the cultural values and traditions of the members of the Cree bands.

In terms of the Oujé-Bougoumou amendments, the Crees of the Oujé-Bougoumou were not recognized in the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement as a distinct Cree band. The individual members of this community were listed on the band list of the Mistissini Cree Nation and have been beneficiaries under the agreement since its inception. Since 1975, the Crees of Oujé-Bougoumou have sought to be recognized as a distinct band under the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. The Government of Canada has committed to amend the agreement and the act to meet this objective.

The amendments in this bill deal with such issues as incorporation, transitional matters in relation to councils, boards of directors and bylaws, residence and occupation rights, right of access to land, exploration activities, tax exemptions and exemptions from seizure.

That outlines in broad strokes what Bill C-28 would do.

We have spoken with the government representatives about consultation. We have been assured by the government that it has carried out adequate and efficient consultation. We have also spoken with the Cree who were intimately involved in the drafting of Bill C-28 and who were a signatory, as well, to the new relationship agreement. We have talked with the Naskapis and they have assured us that they are comfortable with these particular amendments. We have talked as well with the Inuit.

We have also been given assurances that due to Bill C-28, there would be no infringement on the rights and interests of other aboriginal peoples.

As such, I am delighted on behalf of the Liberal Party to support Bill C-28. I want to commend the efforts of all those involved. At the end of the day, this is about helping people and supporting people in communities. I do not like to use the word “allowing” people to have self-government because it seems to be an oxymoron. People have self-government and had self-government.

The Crees of Eeyou Istchee had their own self-government. What we do now is recognize that in further processes under the new relationship agreement. As I understand it they are hoping to have an agreement within five years.As I understand it, they are hoping to have an agreement within five years. That is an admirable timeframe given that some land claims and self-government negotiations have gone on for three decades, and many would say for a century. The Nisga'a often say they started their land claim back in the late 19th century.

This legislation is a move in the right direction, and I am happy to support it. It is good to see the full involvement of aboriginal people in the drafting of this piece of legislation. It sets an example that when aboriginal people are involved in the drafting of legislation that impacts them, things go much more smoothly.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member and his party for their support of this important legislation.

My question has to do with a comment the member made regarding this new relationship agreement having a second phase, that being step two, the governance agreement with the Cree. He spoke of it briefly, but I wonder if he might talk a bit more about the extent to which he feels the second step would be part of continuing that process for the Cree.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding from the new relationship agreement between Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee that there will be no movement toward the more fundamental piece of a self-government agreement with the Cree, a Cree constitution and fuller Cree governance, without the passage of Bill C-28. Bill C-28 is an essential step in moving toward these more fundamental agreements.

I have not fully read the new relationship agreement, but I understand that the types of parameters that will guide the negotiations over the next five years toward self-government for the Cree of Eeyou Istchee are outlined in it. I will leave it to the negotiators in terms of what is finally put in the agreement.

Grand Chief Mukash, the commissioners of the Cree-Naskapi, and the negotiator, Bill Namagoose, see Bill C-28 as essential, but they also look forward to the promise of more comprehensive negotiations on this self-government agreement.

I understand there will be some recognition of the traditional governance of the Cree people. It is important to recognize what was there before settlers arrived, before there were other forms of government. It is essential because it lifts people up and it makes them feel valued.

I look forward to the day when we have new Cree governance structures and a new Cree constitution. I hope I am around to celebrate with the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec and the Cree people themselves.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member, and I think he made thoughtful observations.

I would like to know if such an agreement could apply to communities in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Also, regarding such a proposed agreement, I would like to know if Bill C-28 could, without applying integrally, serve as a basis for negotiations on territorial agreements, or on self-government for communities located in the member's riding.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, every part of Canada and different aboriginal peoples have a different sense of history and a different sense of tradition. In Labrador we have the Inuit, the Métis and the Innu. In Labrador we already have a comprehensive land claim and self-government agreement. It is called the Nunatsiavut agreement and it was ratified in June 2005. They already have moved to an area where the Cree of Eeyou Istchee want to be. It may not reflect the same type of parameters or powers, but this is where Bill C-28 helps the Cree move.

The Innu have their own vision of self-government and where they want to go. They are negotiating with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada. There has been some signing of an initial agreement called New Dawn with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I understand the negotiations continue with the Government of Canada.

To resolve land claims in Labrador and aboriginal rights and title, I have encouraged the minister and the government to seriously look at the comprehensive land claims as were submitted by the Métis Nation of Labrador so that all people in all of our communities are included, that they feel there is some settlement and resolution, that their aims and aspirations are taken as seriously as the other aboriginal peoples in Labrador and elsewhere in the country.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Minister of Indian Affairs for bringing this bill forward, and more important, the member for Labrador for supporting this good initiative.

My problem is not with the minister or the member. My issue is with the Prime Minister. Any time bills that are important to the Canadian people have been brought forward, in order to protect his own job, he has prorogued the House or called an election. Look at the crime bills where 95% of the bills were supported by the Liberals. The Prime Minister either prorogued the House or called an election and those bills died on the order paper.

How would the member like to see the bill proceed in a timely manner so the people of the Cree of Eeyou Istchee get the legislative powers to have self-government?

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from British Columbia represents the people in Newton—North Delta so well.

Yes, we have often had difficulty with getting government legislation through the House. I think that is about different visions of our country and where we want to go.

On this particular piece of legislation, the fact that it was developed with the aboriginal people themselves, in this case the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, makes it so much more palatable, so much easier to support. I believe we should also recognize that it is the fulfillment of a commitment that the Government of Canada has already made and this helps build trust and understanding among aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. Only with that trust and understanding can we really build new relationships and move to a self-government that is recognized by other people in Canada and indeed throughout the world.

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is a significant financial component associated with the new relationship agreement. Could the member expand on how this will benefit the Cree?

Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am always hesitant to say how it is going to benefit someone. It is up to the people themselves how they prioritize and utilize those funds, basically how they spend the money. It is what most people would consider to be a substantial sum. It is hard to put a value on land, a value on tradition. We can think of that Cree saying that when the trees have been cut, the fish have been taken and the rivers have been poisoned, money cannot be eaten. However, I would leave it to the Cree themselves in that they are the best judges of what is important to them, of what their community priorities are, where they have to put the dollars.

It will be significantly important and it will benefit them personally. How that happens is going to be up to the Cree people themselves. That really is a part of self-government. If it is going to be real self-government, we do not tell people what to do, we let them exercise it.