Mr. Speaker, our friends across the aisle would do well to take some notes on land occupation, because the lack of support and the general outcry can be felt and heard here in Ottawa, from first nations groups that are more sure of themselves and increasingly bitter. Furthermore, the government will have to negotiating with them on a day-to-day basis. It should therefore pay attention to these matters related to Indian identity, on the one hand, and on the titles that apply to the lands and land occupation, on the other hand. That is the crux of the issue, the name of the game, and the government should take note.
In short, this government would do well to focus more on winning the approval of first nations members and not simply go and negotiate and ratify agreements with band representatives. Once again, let me clarify, they are elected under the Indian Act. Their responsibilities, their “Indianness” and their jurisdiction are limited to reserve lands. The Indian Act is limited to reserve lands, and I cannot emphasize this point enough, even though, technically, this kind of reasoning does not necessarily apply to the Northwest Territories or Bill C-15 today. However, this is a recurring theme. These things warrant discussion and the entire Canadian population needs to know.
When I am in Manicouagan, I personally tell members in my own community that the band council has no authority over traditional territories. When agreements are ratified, the transparency of which is sometimes negotiated, I tell the members of my community that it is important for them to take a stand and that the government should seek their consent; they should not just be satisfied with an agreement ratified by the government and the band council only.
In short, if the government is interested in promoting dialogue and creating a more harmonious environment for dealing with aboriginal issues and disputes, it would do well to focus on these concepts, including the use of traditional lands, which is a key component.
I submit this respectfully.