Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again on this issue. Today I want to say that aside from the absolutely appalling example the government set in not giving the Parliamentary Budget Officer the information he requires, there was another way. The First Nations Governance Institute was helping nation after nation, hundreds of nations that have come, as it says on its website, to restore their nations. It is helping first nations bottom up that is going to be the only way forward.
As Nellie Cournoyea said in 1975 in the Status of Women document entitled “Speaking Together”, “Paternalism has been a total disaster”. It is just not right that instead of helping first nations help themselves with institutions like the First Nations Governance Institute, the minister has chosen to cut all of the funding to that amazing organization that was doing all the work, building capacity first nation by first nation. Instead, he has decided to impose this thoughtless bill with untoward consequences in the House based on, as we all know, a Canadian Taxpayers Federation report that was then thought to be a good idea for a private member's bill to feed its base and continue this idea of shame and blame as opposed to truly building capacity bottom up by allowing first nations to help themselves.
We know what happens in these communities. The fact is that the government yet again has not thought it through. It never thinks it through. It has no experience on the ground with what life is really like in practically anything, from the health minister refusing to visit any community during H1N1 to now imposing this bill without really understanding what first nations are about.
Most first nations in this country consist of about 500 people. About half of those people are under 25 years of age. In those first nations there is some natural leadership. Those natural leaders become chiefs and council members, but they also sometimes become the people who run the small businesses, get a little entrepreneurial spirit and get the snow removal contract or are able to start a business. This bill would mean, as it says, “each of its councillors, acting in their capacity as such and in any other capacity, including their personal capacity”.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if you were a member of the council, would you want to start and own a business that then other businesses could prey upon the details of your business plan and how much you pay certain people in your business? Why would anybody who is running a business on a reserve, who is setting an example for his or her community and is the head of an organization, want to run for the council or chief if it then meant that his or her business could be devastated by predatory practices of non-aboriginal companies coming on to the reserve to do the kind of work that was being properly done by first nations entrepreneurs?
This fun and games with numbers stuff is unbelievably sad, from the Prime Minister blaming Attawapiskat and throwing the number of $80 million around when we know that the investment in the education system of $7,000 per student per year is $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000 less than children off reserve. It sounds over five years like a lot of money, but it is not enough money. Then the government's friends in the Fraser Institute compare Attawapiskat with Atikokan, saying the budgets are the same and they are about the same size. They ask why one community is doing well and the other community is doing terribly, purposely leaving out the fact that in Atikokan the health and education budgets are paid for by the province of Ontario, whereas in Attawapiskat those budgets come out of the community's budget.
I am a bit fed up with this in terms of how again first nations get blamed, how again legislation like this just builds on the stereotype and does not actually listen. One of my big heroes in life, Jane Jacobs, used to say that good policy comes when the decision makers can see in their mind's eye the people affected. We actually have to listen to the people on the ground wherever we have been across this country. Even the most successful first nations are saying this bill goes too far. It is not something they can live with in its present form because, again, it would actually undermine their ability to be successful and have sound economic development.
Today is a day when we are all a bit irritated. Who do these Conservatives think they are, that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has to go to court to get information from them, while they are presently trying to legislate this kind of undermining of economic development and success for first nations?
My hero, Ursula Franklin, has always said about good governance that it must be fair, must be transparent and must take people seriously. On most of the first nations that I have visited, that is the way they operate. The chief and council would not dream of going forward on any project of any magnitude without having their community with them. I hear Chief Robert Louie at Westbank say that when they have had difficult decisions to make, sometimes there are four community meetings in a month to be able to have the community with them as they go.
The minister had the audacity to announce this bill on the Whitecap Dakota Nation and Chief Darcy Bear has to bring his amendments to our committee to say the Conservatives had not thought it through. Even though the minister accepted the hospitality of the Whitecap Dakota, the government has not had the decency to make a commitment to fix this bill in the way that Chief Darcy Bear has asked.
I am saying it is about dignity, respect and free, prior and informed consent that the government signed onto with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is about stopping the paternalism. As we look at the great work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and as we look at its recommendations about aboriginal education for non-aboriginals, I am concerned that this kind of simplistic approach does nothing but interfere with that kind of relationship and mutual understanding that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is trying to do.
We know that an apology from a Prime Minister means absolutely nothing if Canadians do not know the history and do not know what the apology was about. On a daily basis, I am now saying this about that Prime Minister's apology in this House: Who would have known it would have not only been for the past but would have been for the future, with the kind of underfunding and disrespect the first nations are having to put up with in this country?
The first nations want to lead now, and they are leading in all kinds of ways: their approach to governance, which is asking not telling, making sure the community is with them as they go; their leadership in fleeing the medical modelling and helping the rest of us as physicians, nurses and health care providers to understand the importance of the medicine wheel in keeping everybody well, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We have to allow first nations in this country, and Inuit and Métis as well, to lead in terms of the things that the colonizers have made terribly wrong.
When we think of the pedagogy of first nations, which is learning by doing, that is the only way we as adults or we in our schools can go forward.
We need to listen to first nations, who say that children are not little empty vessels to have information poured into the top of and sit in tidy rows. Learning by doing is something first nations have taught us.
First nations call their senior citizens elders, while we in the south and in non-aboriginal communities call them elderly. The first nations knew about sustainability of natural resources. They knew we cannot clear cut, we cannot fish out the stock and we actually have to be sustainable.
The beautiful ceremony of the Prime Minister reversing that wampum belt was supposed to be a reset of the relationship. Instead we get a raining down of legislation telling first nations what to do and how to do it. We have a water act that has only “thou shalt” and no resources attached to it. I wrote to the minister last August to say that we as Liberals would not in any way be able to support a bill about water that did not include the resources to go with it.
It has been an extraordinarily frustrating time as we are trying to turn the page, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is trying to do its work and as the government cuts so many institutions that are really important to first nations. Where is the first nations governance institute? Where is NAHO, which was sorting out the best practices on health? The government destroyed the statistical institute and anything that was about to help first nations measure and do evidence-based and results-based management, and then imposed some simplistic bill like this.
We know on this side of the House that complex problems require complex solutions. As H.L. Mencken said, for every complex human problem, there is a neat, simple solution; it is just that it is wrong. The government continues to get it wrong, thinking there could be some sort of simple solution for something that is absolutely so complex and so difficult. These people do not even have the respect to go and visit, listen and talk to people.
As we learned, slowly, through the Kelowna accord, the real solutions come from the bottom up. They take time. The Kelowna accord took 18 months of consulting, listening and having first nations in with the Métis leaders, helping us choose the priorities. In that accord there were real targets and real markers for how we would measure success and how we would know that the money was being spent wisely. As well, and we have said this before in the House, there is the idea of a first nations auditor general that actually came from the bottom up, from the people participating in that process.
It is sad that the government members just continue to refuse to listen and to allow first nations to actually work with them to find the complex solutions for the complex problems. These kinds of simplistic bills have got to stop.
We know they have the arithmetic to get this bill through. We know of their track record of just barging through with anything they want because they have the numbers. They refused to listen on the budget bill. Out of all the so-called debate in the House, all of the witnesses heard at committee, they could not come up with one amendment, because they think they know best and they do not listen.
The government is asking us to send this to committee. What on earth kind of respect do we have for its reputation for what happens to these bills in committee? Therefore, I am asking that the minister give us some sort of promise that the kinds of amendments put forward by Chief Darcy Bear of the Whitecap Dakota will be entertained and enshrined in the bill, so that it cannot do any more damage than this attitude is already doing to the entrepreneurial spirit and the economic development in each of our first nations.
I hope the House has had a chance to look at the motion I put on the order paper to create a fund that would create the kind of education that aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people in Canada need. It is the only way we will go forward. In New Zealand, as we learned, Maori studies were taught in kindergarten to grade 8 and the whole thing turned around.
I hope I can seek and find all-party and unanimous consent to approve my motion before the TRC meets tomorrow night.