Mr. Speaker, I am very excited to start my speech on the financial transparency of first nations.
From the various speeches I have been regularly putting online, my constituents will be aware that I tend towards lifting the veil of darkness surrounding a number of issues specific to the first nations of Canada. These issues must be made public. After 500 years of a shared existence, the entire Canadian population is ready and able to learn about these realities that are too often ignored and forgotten.
There is a growing anti-establishment movement around the world. I am talking about international politics, but this is also evident at the local level. Just look at Quebec, where the public has been mobilizing. Of course, it is an international movement, since we are also seeing an anti-establishment movement in Europe, where people are questioning their government's actions and measures. What I will try to show here is that, of course, this increased assertiveness is universal, and that aboriginal communities are also experiencing the same problems and the same type of public mobilization.
Over the past year, we have discussed many topics related to my riding. My riding even received media coverage, which has rarely happened in the past, other than once, about 10 years ago, when the community mobilized and became more assertive.
A few months ago, the newspapers covered a specific situation involving a protest and the presence of the riot squad in my community. A roadblock had been set up on Highway 138. The situation did not last long, but it required police intervention.
People were protesting a hydroelectric development project promoted by the provincial authorities and supported by the community's management organization, the band council. And so, the people took action. Their actions at that time showed that they were rejecting certain policies and decisions made at the local level. The members of a first nations community were making a new socio-economic and political statement and questioning the action taken by government and local authorities with regard to decisions made locally.
When we analyze the changes and the political turmoil happening in the communities we can infer that there is a socio-political awakening and a mobilization among aboriginal people. This wave of assertiveness is invariably accompanied by internal pressure on community administrative bodies and demands for accountability in the management of the community's shared heritage. When I talk about shared heritage for the Innu people, I am talking about the land and the fisheries and wildlife resources.
As I have said many times, my riding covers over 200,000 km2 and is the traditional territory of the Innu and Naskapi people. I make special mention of this because it is important to understand that the band councils, the community management organizations, are a creation of the Indian Act. Under this act, the authority and jurisdiction of aboriginal people extends only to reserve lands. For example, my reserve is perhaps only 2 km in diameter, which is not very big.
The reason people are protesting more and joining forces has to do with land and resource management. Band councils, community management organizations, are also concerned about traditional territory and they are acting as interlocutors with both federal and provincial governments with respect to resource development initiatives. What we are seeing now is that the people, as individuals, as aboriginals, as Innu and Naskapi, are taking a stand and making their point.
The problem is that Aboriginal Affairs has imposed a cookie-cutter approach that requires every community across Canada to have a band council with a chief and councillors.
The same model exists in the United States and other colonies. This blanket approach has been applied across Canada. My ancestors were a fundamentally nomadic people who migrated across the land for several months of the year—as many as six months a year—in small family groups of about 10 individuals. Five or six hundred years ago, my community's culture made for minimal contact with other groups.
Within those groups, there were elders, and decisions were made within each separate group. There were no chiefs or counsellors per se other than the fact that, come summer, the Innu regularly met at the river's edge to take advantage of the wind that chased away mosquitoes. It is likely that consensus decisions were made then, when many Innu got together, but most of the time, people lived in isolated groups.
That is why we have this problem now and why people are no longer supporting some of the decisions made by band councils made up of chiefs and councillors. This model is not necessarily applicable to all communities.
Based on that observation, it is possible to consider that the circumstances favouring a healthy questioning of the ruling power, combined with the current political zeitgeist in the communities in my riding and across the province, can only be a sign of innovative ideas laying the foundation for a new social contract to benefit the masses, rather than just special interest groups.
And now I will get to the heart of the matter.
Although the stated purpose of Bill C-27 is to enhance the transparency of first nations people, it is up to the people, as individuals, to take the necessary action to ensure transparency and accountability at all levels of governance in their respective nations.
What I am trying to emphasize here is that this is a contentious issue that must be addressed internally, from within these communities, concerning the management of both financial and natural resources. These decisions must be made within the communities themselves. In the past, Innu communities had a process we call “émulatoire”; it was a consensus process. When a problem arose within the clan, you simply confronted your adversary, the person with whom you had a conflict, and told that person the simple truth.
This is how things are still resolved today, and that is why the people of my community—and I will speak for all communities in Manicouagan, including Uashat, Unamen Shipu and Kawawachikamach—are able to confront their leaders and ultimately discover the truth about how resources are managed within the community.
The Conservatives are hardly in any position to demand accountability right now, since they have a very hard time sharing financial information themselves, concerning the management of this country.
I submit this respectfully.