House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ukraine.

Topics

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

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.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech. I also appreciate the fact that he talked about the peace of the braves model, since I personally took part in those negotiations. I am glad that model is being used as an example, not only for the rest of the country, but for the rest of the world.

My question has to do with that model. I know that the relationship between aboriginal peoples and this government is completely broken.

Last year, after the January meeting, we were promised a new era of improved relations between this government and first nations. That is not the case today.

I wonder if the hon. member can tell us what is stopping Quebec from using the peace of the braves agreement as a model in its dealings with the other aboriginal peoples in the province, for example.

Why not move in the same direction with the Innu, who still do not have an agreement, with the Atikamekw, who still do not have an agreement, and with the Algonquins, who still do not have an agreement like the peace of the braves or the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement?

What is stopping Quebec from doing the same thing with those nations?

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. Indeed, we would certainly never try to give him a lesson on these kinds of negotiations.

My colleague's question is really one for the Government of Quebec to answer. He is well positioned to go and meet with Quebec's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs or even the Quebec premier and speak with them about solutions that he has probably already come up with.

In the case of the Government of Quebec, first nations have been recognized as peoples since René Lévesque. I think these negotiations need to take place.

We would say the same thing to the federal government, the Quebec government and the governments of all the provinces and territories.

To answer the hon. member's question, or the allusion he made about the federal government keeping its hands in its pockets and not keeping its promises, I would say that the Conservative government is unfortunately shopping for votes.

The government selects clients to please in order to ensure that come election time, there are enough people in the ridings to elect Conservative members.

I think the first nations are not a clientele worth pursuing to the Conservative government. This is a government that uses marketing and determines how to operate based on the votes it can get. I get the impression that the Conservative government has made a purely political calculation and thinks that it does not need aboriginal peoples in order to win the election.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I understand what my colleague means about the Conservatives' current political strategy, that it is based solely on marketing.

However, I find it hard to imagine that a federal government would ignore its constitutional obligations to hold serious and essential consultations on Bill C-9. No effort was made to hold such consultations.

Why does my colleague think that the Conservative government does not feel it is necessary to comply with the Constitution Act?

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2013 / 11 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question. It is always hard to put ourselves in the government's shoes, when we do not think or operate the same way. We can only imagine or assume what they were thinking.

This government has no regard for the Constitution or even democracy and has not had any since being elected in 2006. Things became even worse when it won a majority in 2011.

As I was saying, aboriginal, first nations “clients” are not worth sitting down with properly, in accordance with the Constitution, as my colleague said.

With or without the Constitution, the government must sit down with the first nations to make the necessary changes with respect to transparency, good governance and accountability, but also to ensure that this is a real agreement signed between the two peoples. That is what should have been done.

Why did the Conservatives not do that? We are constantly asking them that. They have done the same thing in many other cases, such as the appointment of Supreme Court justices. There is a whole slew of cases where there is no respect for the Constitution, the Quebec people, first nations or Canadians in general. They might negotiate a little more, but only when there is something in it for them and it can win them votes. Otherwise, it is my way or no way.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I declare Motion No. 1 defeated. I therefore declare Motion No. 2 defeated.

(Motions Nos. 1 and 2 negatived)

The question is on Motion No. 3. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

On division.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I declare the motion defeated.

(Motion No. 3 negatived)

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage without amendment.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Motions in amendmentFirst Nations Elections ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.