Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to also take a few minutes to speak to Bill C-9, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations. Like my colleague, the leader of the Green Party, we were not asked to submit amendments to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. That is why the Speaker has given us permission to discuss these amendments at this point, the report stage.
Bill C-9 provides an alternative to the regime in the Indian Act governing the election of chiefs and councillors in certain first nations. As I said earlier when I questioned the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, the Bloc Québécois of course fully supports the transparency, accountability and better governance that Bill C-9 provides for.
The problem does not lie in the bill itself or in the improvements that I just mentioned. The problem is the way in which the government imposed its solutions and opinions on first nations. That is what I am going to try to demonstrate, and I am also going to introduce my amendment in the next few minutes.
The Bloc Québécois agrees with the provisions in the bill limiting terms of office for chiefs and councillors to a maximum of four years, stating that the election of a chief or councillor may be contested before a competent court, and setting out offences and penalties. However, we oppose the fact that the Conservative government did not consult the first nations before going ahead with these major changes to the Indian Act. These are unilateral changes. As usual, the government acted paternalistically. When I say the government, I am talking about successive federal governments. The government paternalistically imposes unilateral changes on the first nations when it should know that we must talk, nation to nation, when working with aboriginal peoples.
Everyone agrees that there must be more transparency, not only during elections but also during each elected official's term of office. The government can give us examples of times when band councils or other councils, chiefs, leaders and councillors—as we see in any population—failed to govern appropriately. That is not the issue. First, as the Green Party member said earlier, this bill originated in the Senate. However, before introducing this bill, the government should have done what the Government of Quebec did in 2002, which I will talk about in a moment. The government should have sat down and talked, nation to nation, in order to come to an agreement and propose changes. The government would have no doubt received the unanimous support of the House for the bill had the bill first been approved by first nations.
However, we cannot do anything without considering the first nations rights affected by this bill, the direct impact this bill will have on the structures in the communities themselves and how that can affect the communities. The first nations are not opposed to the changes proposed by the federal government. They want to be consulted and be involved in the decisions that will have a direct impact on them. That is a dialogue as opposed to a monologue.
We are asking the Conservative government to sit down and have a dialogue, negotiate, come to an agreement with the first nations. We do not want it to have a dialogue of the deaf or a monologue in which it tells the first nations what is good for them. This goes back to what I was saying earlier when I described the attitudes of federal governments since the very beginning. They have shown a paternalistic attitude towards the first nations.
I used the example of the peace of the braves, and I want to come back to that. This was a historic agreement signed in 2002 by the Cree and the Government of Quebec, led at the time by Bernard Landry, the leader of the Parti Québécois. The peace of the braves is a good example. There were some economic improvements for many peoples, but there are still many problems. I am not saying it is a good example because everything was fixed. It is a good example of how negotiation can lead to a formal agreement, so that the people and communities involved agree with the changes being proposed and carried out. The Quebec National Assembly recognized the first nations as nations, and the peace of the braves is an agreement between nations, as Bernard Landry pointed out when he was interviewed by a journalist who was reporting on what had become of the peace of the braves several years later.
I would like to remind the hon. members that Quebec made a commitment to involve the Cree in northern development and give them $4.5 billion over 50 years. In exchange, the Cree put an end to certain land claims. A few months later, Quebec signed the Sanarrutik agreement with the Inuit, which is designed to accelerate economic and community growth in Quebec's far north.
The peace of the braves and the agreement signed between Ottawa and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee in 2008 brought prosperity to Quebec's Cree. The 16,000 aboriginal people of James Bay now have some of the highest levels of disposable personal income in Quebec, according to a 2011 article in La Presse.
However, as I said, things are far from perfect. There are still health problems and a housing shortage. There is still an unequal distribution of wealth, despite the fact that some people are better off. Right now, 92% of Cree youth interrupt their schooling before earning their diploma or some sort of certification. As I said, the agreement was not a cure-all, but it is a good example of negotiation. That is the point I wanted to make about the peace of the braves.
I do not understand why governments that, generally speaking, like precedents so much could not have used that 2002 agreement as a precedent to create a bill that is endorsed by the affected first nations.
Now, I want to talk about the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, which long ago developed a consultation protocol that the government is supposed to follow when drafting bills or taking action that affects first nations in Quebec and Labrador.
This protocol includes the duty to consult and accommodate first nations before taking actions that could have a negative impact on their interests. Such actions include the modification or adoption of legislation, policy-making, planning processes, the modification or adoption of resource allocation regimes and the approval of specific projects or resource allocations. A consultation and accommodation report must be prepared.
The protocol also includes the duty to conduct consultation and accommodation follow-up. What is more, as provided in the consultation plan, provision must be made for the establishment, funding and operation of mechanisms for follow-up, mitigation measures and compliance monitoring with respect to the contemplated action.
The first nations have therefore already set out a procedure that should be followed by the other levels of government, including the federal government. It is really unfortunate that the government decided to bypass the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador's consultation protocol. We hope that the implementation of this bill is not harmful to first nations communities.
Members of the House agree that the Assembly of First Nations' protocol was not followed and that the bill will be passed because the government has a majority. That is why the Bloc Québécois is proposing to amend the bill in order to, at the very least, respect the second part of the protocol, which involves assessing the bill's impact on first nations communities. We are therefore proposing the following amendment to clause 41.1:
Within one year after the coming into force of this Act and every three years thereafter, the Minister must prepare a report on the implementation of this Act and its effects on elections of band councils and elections on reserves.
I would like to once again speak about precedents. People might ask why we are proposing this when such a measure has never been implemented before. However, this type of measure has been implemented before in Bill C-21, which pertained to the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and affected first nations. At the time, the government had a minority. The opposition required that the changes be reviewed every five years and the bill was passed by a majority vote. A precedent therefore exists.
In closing, we would have also liked to introduce funding and mitigation measures, but unfortunately, they would have been deemed inadmissible. However, we would like to take this opportunity to urge the government to implement those sorts of measures.