House of Commons Hansard #245 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-58.


Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to once again speak to Bill C-58, but it is a bit disappointing to have to make some of the same criticisms of it that we on the opposition side have been making throughout. Notwithstanding some of the comments we have heard from the government, the bill actually has not been significantly amended and many of the original problems with it persist.

I would like to address this legislation in terms of three headings: first, the scope of the act; second, exceptions to the act; and third, the difference between proactive disclosure and access to information.

In terms of the scope of the bill, it is important to note that the Liberals were elected on a promise to extend access to information to the Prime Minister's Office and to the offices of other cabinet ministers. Bill C-58 would not do that. It is really part of a litany of broken promises by the government. Here we think of electoral reform. We think of the promise to close the stock option tax loophole. We think of the promise to restore door-to-door mail delivery. The government is building up quite a track record of broken promises and, unfortunately, the commitment to extend access to information to cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, is another one of those broken promises.

I had an opportunity at the committee on access to information, privacy and ethics to ask the Privacy Commissioner whether there were any privacy reasons that the government could not extend access to information to those cabinet offices. He confirmed that there were no such privacy reasons and that as far he was concerned, it would have been and would be feasible to extend access to information to the offices of cabinet ministers. Our first major disappointment with the scope of the bill is the fact that it fails to extend access to information to the very cabinet offices the government promised to include.

The second heading I would like to address is exceptions to the act. There are already exceptions related to cabinet confidences and policy advice to ministers. These exceptions have proven to be quite troublesome, because it is easy for the government to define almost anything as policy advice to a minister or as somehow being subject to a cabinet confidence. It is a very broad-sweeping exception that the government can use to not disclose information. Unfortunately, Bill C-58 would not correct this exception.

The really bad thing about Bill C-58 is that it creates new exceptions that would allow the government to not disclose information that citizens are requesting. In particular, it empowers the government to deem that an access to information request is frivolous or in bad faith. It is difficult to put government officials in the position of having to try to define the motivations of people making access to information requests. This is a very poor criterion on which to accept or deny access to information requests.

What is this really all about? The example we heard from a couple of different government members throughout this debate is the case of “an ex-spouse [who] ATIPs his or her former spouse's work hours on a daily basis or their emails”. There is obviously a problem with that type of request, but the way to respond to that is through proper protections of privacy, not by deeming the request itself to be frivolous or in bad faith. It is obviously the case that the government cannot disclose certain information for privacy reasons, and the privacy protections need to be very robust in federal legislation.

However, the idea of protecting privacy is not a justification for giving the government broad, sweeping powers to deem that particular access to information requests are frivolous or in bad faith. We do need to have proper protections for privacy, but those in no way justify the new exceptions introduced in Bill C-58, which try to get into the motivation behind an access to information request, which is a very difficult thing for the government to ascertain, and a very difficult thing for citizens to trust the government to ascertain in an objective and proper way.

The third aspect of the legislation that I would like to address is the difference between proactive disclosure on the one hand and access to information on the other hand, because of course one of the aspects of Bill C-58, which the government touts, is the notion of increased proactive disclosure. We have the idea, for example, that the government will proactively disclose ministerial briefing books. A cynic might suggest that this provision will to result in government officials and ministers' assistants spending time drafting briefing books for public consumption. Knowing they will be proactively disclosed, they will just prepare documents that they are happy to have disclosed and that do not really contain a lot of sensitive or controversial information. We are very concerned about that, but even if we assume that would not happen and that everything would be done entirely in good faith, we still have to face up to the fact that proactive disclosure, as positive as it might be, is no substitute for access to information.

Proactive disclosure is about the government choosing to disclose certain things. On the whole, it is good for the government to proactively disclose more documents, but access to information is fundamentally about citizens being able to request information that the government does not want to disclose and does not think it should have to disclose. There is a very important distinction to be made here between proactive disclosure, which is a good thing and the government is touting, and access to information, which is what the bill is supposed to be about.

To sum it all up, I would like to conclude by reading a quote from the Information Commissioner's report on Bill C-58 entitled “Failing to Strike the Right Balance for Transparency”. She said:

In short, Bill C-58 fails to deliver. The government promised the bill would ensure the Act applies to the Prime Minister's and Ministers' Offices appropriately. It does not.

The government promised the bill would apply appropriately to administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts. It does not.

The government promised the bill would empower the Information Commissioner to order the release of government information. It does not.

Rather than advancing access to information rights, Bill C-58 would instead result in a regression of existing rights.

Access to Information ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 5:45 p.m., pursuant to the order made earlier today, the question on the motion is deemed to have been put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Wednesday, December 6, 2017, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.


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

moved that Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

[Member spoke in Cree]


Mr. Speaker, I just thanked the Anishinaabe for allowing us to be in this place at this moment. We often forget that there are families who lived on this territory before Parliament Hill was established and that is the Pinaceae family. I want to thank them for allowing us to be on their territory, and we always need to recognize that fact.

I want to say from the outset how privileged I feel to be able to stand in this place and talk about the fundamental rights of the first peoples of this country. I say privileged because there are a lot of indigenous people in this country who do not have that voice, so I am privileged to be able to stand in this room and speak on their behalf so that they can be heard as well. My mom only speaks Cree, and I do not think she would be able to be a member of Parliament because of that very fact. She only speaks Cree, and this place does not allow us to be able to do that. Therefore, I want to honour those people who are not often often heard and are not often listened to.

It is also quite fitting that this bill is being debated on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Confederation. We are now beginning to discuss the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples as human rights. That does not happen a lot, very rarely as a matter of fact, so it is important that we remind ourselves that the indigenous peoples' fundamental rights in this country are indeed human rights.

Bill C-262 would also allow us to begin to redress the past wrongs, the past injustices that were inflicted on indigenous people. This is the main objective of Bill C-262, to recognize that on one hand they are human rights but on the other hand that we begin to redress the past injustices that were inflicted on the first peoples of this country.

Mr. Speaker, you already know that I am a survivor of the residential school system where I spent 10 years incarcerated culturally, politically, linguistically, spiritually even, in the residential school system. I set out to do exactly two things coming out of residential school: first, to go back to the land where I come from and live off the land, hunting, fishing, and trapping. That is exactly what I did the first year I came out of residential school. The other thing I said to myself was that when I came out the objective for me that I set out was to reconcile with the people who had put me away for 10 years. That was my objective, to reconcile with the people who had put me away for 10 years.

Bill C-262 is my response and my extended hand to you, Mr. Speaker, for reconciliation and, of course, through you to all Canadians and to all parliamentarians in this place.

There are momentous occasions and this is a momentous occasion for all of us as parliamentarians. One of the things that we can do in the name of reconciliation is to adopt this framework that I am proposing through Bill C-262. I do not need to remind members that the world is watching. This is an occasion for us all to show that we are truly sorry and the world that we in 2017, in this time of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, are ready for what I am proposing in the bill, namely, that our minimum standards for relations with the indigenous peoples of this country be those set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I want to thank the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, and their colleagues for finally accepting that this should be a framework for reconciliation in this country. I also want to thank previous members of Parliament who have proposed similar instruments in this place, in particular two other MPs who have proposed similar bills here.

The UN declaration has been decades in the making. In fact, it took more than 20 years to achieve. It has been 10 years since the UN General Assembly formally accepted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There is no member state in the world as we speak that objects to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In fact, the United Nations has reaffirmed at least five times in the past this declaration as a universal human rights declaration.

This is a momentous opportunity to set a global precedent that is expected of a country like Canada. It is the responsibility of parliamentarians, as the UN charter calls us to do, to respect and promote all human rights, including the human rights of indigenous peoples. The rule of law in this country obliges us to respect the Constitution, and in the Constitution there are the section 35 rights of indigenous peoples. That is what the rule of law is. It calls on us to respect and promote the universal rights of indigenous peoples.

I want to remind my fellow members that with Bill C-262, we are not creating new law or new rights. Those rights are fundamental and they exist. They are inherent. They exist because we exist as indigenous people.

In that sense, it is important to recognize that we need to continue to promote, and we have an obligation as a country to promote, those fundamental rights.

Bill C-262 also does away with colonialism in this country, very explicitly. We have explicit ties with our territories. We have spiritual ties with our territories. We need to recognize that once and for all.

Bill C-262 is about human rights. Bill C-262 is about justice. Bill C-262 is about reconciliation. If we are true to our commitment to reconciliation, this is the first step in that direction. No one in this place, or in the galleries, opposes the human rights of indigenous peoples. No one in this place opposes human rights. No one in this place is opposed to reconciliation.

This is the way forward. This is a first step in the right direction. Let us stop talking about those rights and the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples of this country; let us do something about it. This is what we are proposing today.

I want to quote former secretary-general of the UN when, in talking about the declaration in 2008, he said that the declaration is “a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of Indigenous peoples”, and, he added, “a momentous opportunity for States and Indigenous peoples to strengthen their relationships, promote reconciliation and ensure that the past is not repeated.

It is important to realize that this is one of the most important pieces of legislation this House will have to deal with. We are talking about the first peoples of this country. We are talking about the fundamental human rights of the first peoples of this country. This is a step in the right direction.

In closing, I wish to underline that I am committed to, and am looking forward to, working with the ministers across the way on improving the rights of indigenous peoples. The work can only be fully achieved if we all work together. That is what I am proposing: the recognition that the rights must remain in the framework of international human rights standards.

I know my time is almost up, but I also want to quote what many have said in the past with respect to the UN declaration. The former attorney general of British Columbia had this to say recently about the UN declaration:

There's a better approach. As the Supreme Court of Canada has said now on several occasions, Indigenous peoples are the beneficial owners of their traditional lands. They have the right—guaranteed by our Constitution and reflected in UNDRIP....

I agree with that. That is the road we need to take from now on.

I appreciate this moment to discuss Bill C-262 to recognize those rights we have as the first peoples of this country. If we are serious about reconciliation in this country, we need to take that path of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have waited far too long to get here. We are here now. This is an opportunity for this House to recognize that those universal rights that also belong to indigenous peoples need to be enshrined in our way of doing things in this country.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the many promoters of the bill. I call them the Steve Heinrichs of the country, and there are several of them in the gallery today. I want to thank them for their support. Without them, we would not be standing here talking about this today.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for a very powerful speech, and for talking about introducing the bill and the hand it is extending to all of us in reconciliation.

He talked about the fact that this is perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation in the House, but I have a concern. As he knows, a private member's bill gets very limited debate. My question is, with having it come through the House as a private member's bill, where we do not get the opportunity to debate it in the way I think it should be debated, is that a concern for him?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague on the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs for that question. It is an important one. She understands a lot of these issues, and thus her important question.

I understand her concerns thoroughly. One of the things we could perhaps do is to send the bill to committee, so we can study it further with experts, and some of them are in the gallery today. We could answer some of the concerns the member has in regard to the UN declaration and the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. I appreciate her raising that question.

For a lot of the concerns that both Her Majesty's official opposition and the government may have with respect to the fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples of the country, there a lot of experts who could come to committee and respond to those concerns. I could do it in the House. I have no problem doing that, but I think the bill deserves further study, if we are to answer a lot of the concerns that may be raised.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend for his lifetime of work on UNDRIP and bringing this forward today in the House. I also want to say what a privilege it is for us to have heard the speech. We are also blessed to be working with the hon. member on the indigenous affairs committee.

One of the things he indicated in his speech was that the bill would get rid of colonialism. I think it is safe to say that this is probably one step further in decolonizing our country, but we still have a long way to go. I want to ask the member if he feels that there is more that needs to be done, apart from this particular bill alone. Does the bill goes far enough to ensure that we implement and are in compliance with the principles of UNDRIP?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, prior to answering the question, human rights should not be a partisan issue. Human rights are human rights. We are obliged, as a member state at the United Nations, to uphold at all times the human rights of all. That certainly includes indigenous peoples. Therefore, I do not consider my bill a partisan bill, but a matter of concern for all of us.

The bill was drafted in a way to at least provide the basis or framework for reconciliation in our country. If members carefully read call to action 43 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it calls on the Government of Canada, the provinces, the territories, and the municipalities to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. Therefore, governments cannot say that they agree with the majority of the calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but have a slight problem with calls to action 43 and 44. They are the fundamental and core calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is the road and path we need to take as a country.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador


Yvonne Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand here today as an Inuk woman in Canada and to be part of a government that has been clear that Canada is fully in support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples. As has been stated by our ministers and the Prime Minister, we are committed to its adoption and implementation in Canada. This means translating the standards set out in the declaration into effective change.

I want to reassure my colleague, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, who asked a question earlier, that UNDRIP and its components in Bill C-262 are a priority for our government and that we fully intend to honour these priorities.

Bill C-262 bill proposes a process of dialogue and the development of an action plan aimed at ensuring consistency between federal law and the declaration. Such an approach would be consistent with other ongoing processes, including the review of laws, policies, operational practices, and the permanent bilateral mechanisms that are in place. It would also consistent with our government's commitment to advance the recognition and implementation of indigenous peoples' rights. As a result, we are pleased to support Bill C-262, while remaining committed to further action, in partnership with indigenous peoples.

To begin, I would like to acknowledge the member for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik—Eeyou for his tremendous work not only in this Parliament, but also in recognizing and putting forward Bill C-262, as a supporter of the declaration of indigenous people in Canada.

I also want to recognize and congratulate many others who may have worked with our government to advance these goals. I saw one of our former chiefs, Chief Willie Littlechild, here today. He worked with the member of Parliament in making this a reality and on a united declaration. I know there are many others as well.

As our government has emphasized, it is time for a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, one that is based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. We see Bill C-262 as a good next step in the ongoing work of transforming the relationship with indigenous peoples. I think that is the vision my colleague held when he brought this bill forward to the House of Commons.

Bill C-262 would continue to build on the progress made by our government to date. We have already established 50 recognition of indigenous rights and and self-determination discussion tables across the country. We have created a permanent bilateral mechanism with a national indigenous organization. Further, we have established a working group of ministers to review federal laws, policies, and operational practices to ensure that they align with section 35 of our Constitution, as well as the UN declaration. That process is being led by our Minister of Justice, a first nations woman in Canada.

Also, as a government we released 10 principles with respect to the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. The principles reflect the views expressed by indigenous peoples over generations, and reinforce the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, a document dating back more than 20 years that has not really been enacted in Canada.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action and UNDRIP, combined with all of these others, are certainly the groundwork that we needed to really advance our relationship with indigenous people in this country. These and other efforts are part of the government's approach in advancing reconciliation and improving the lives of indigenous people in Canada.

We really appreciate all of the people who have been involved, both indigenous and non-indigenous people in this country, in speaking out for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We heard today a passionate plea from my colleague opposite, a plea that was built on life experiences and came from the heart. That is what we have heard expressed by so many indigenous people across our country. We know that view is far-reaching and we also know what must be done to operationalize the United Nations declaration provisions in Canadian law. This includes pursuing comprehensive legislation and policy changes in partnership with first nations, Inuit, and Métis nations, in order to fully adopt and implement the declaration and meet the promise of section 35 of our Constitution.

A transformative shift in relations is required, and that is what we are doing. Relationships must be based on the recognition of rights and a shift that enables tangible change to the marginalization and disempowerment that have been experienced by indigenous people and communities for far too long. This shift cannot be achieved through just one piece of legislation alone.

For this reason, our government is working with indigenous people to bring forward further legislative and policy shifts that will be based on the recognition and implementation of rights. This may include new legislative standards for crown conduct based on recognition, mechanisms to support indigenous self-determination and the inherent right of self-government, and changes to core policies regarding indigenous people. I am sure that many of my colleagues in the House are, as I am today, happy to hear that the government is prepared to walk that line and bring forward the legislation that will be necessary to implement this declaration.

I think we can all agree that while the principles speak of the shift to recognition, they cannot operationalize this shift themselves. The same is true for the UN declaration. Words are not enough; action is needed. Therefore, we need to build a framework, in full partnership with indigenous people, that embeds recognition in all federal decisions, actions, and negotiations; that aligns federal laws with the UN declaration; and that creates mechanisms that have been supported by indigenous governments for a very long time. That includes transitioning out of the Indian Act.

In closing, I want to congratulate the member for bringing forward this motion today. We, on this side of the House, are proud to support this private member's bill and give him our guarantee that we are on this path together, all indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, and we will do what is long past due in this country, which is to bring forward the right legislation and standards to ensure that self-determination and the inherent rights of indigenous people are respected in the lands that we all love.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for bringing forward his private member's bill, Bill C-262. I note his important contribution to the discussion on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I would also like to share my profound respect for my colleague and acknowledge the important work he has done over many years that has significantly impacted indigenous policy in this country.

Before addressing the private member's bill, I would like to make a general observation. Section 35 of our Constitution and Canada's existing laws has in the past, and will in the future, ensure that indigenous rights are protected in Canada. We only need to reflect on a number of historical court decisions to understand how section 35 is shaping these rights. From the 1999 Marshall decision that confirmed the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet treaty right to catch and sell fish, to the 2014 Tsilhqot'in decision that granted aboriginal title to more than 1,700 sq kilometres of territory, a first in Canadian law, it is clear that our understanding of indigenous rights is constantly evolving. Just last week, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a decision regarding the Peel watershed, which upheld aboriginal land use rights protected in treaties.

It might be suggested that the gap or problem in Canada is not our legal framework, but our frequent failure to live up to the obligations and the honour of the crown.

The bill before us today seeks to implement the 46 articles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as stated in the document, “a be pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect”. All parties in the House acknowledge the need for reconciliation, a better shared future, and the importance of the declaration. The 46 articles are essential guiding principles for that journey.

I do have some unanswered questions regarding how this international document will transpose into a domestic framework. In my opinion, we need some clear answers before we can move forward on Bill C-262. Let me share some general and specific concerns that need to be addressed.

In the past, the Liberals have argued vehemently that any small changes to the Indian Act and the Labour Code must only be introduced as government legislation, where there is an opportunity for comprehensive reflection and not just a couple of hours of debate. I would suggest that the bill before us today has more far-reaching implications than the right to a secret ballot for union certification. For the Liberals to support an NDP private member's bill to implement UNDRIP and not put it forward as government-initiated legislation is unfathomable. The debate will not be afforded the due diligence that it requires and deserves. Even today, members might have noticed that we did not hear from the minister. We did not have an opportunity under private members' business to even question the minister. In my mind, that is a problem.

To get into more specifics, first and foremost was the statement by the Minister of Justice in 2016, and I quote, “Simplistic approaches such as adopting the United Nations declaration as being Canadian law are unworkable and, respectfully, a political distraction to undertaking the hard work actually required to implement it back home in communities.”

The justice minister, unlike many of us who will be speaking to the bill, has access to all sorts of comprehensive briefings and advice. The minister would not have made that comment lightly, so it is critical for her to explain why she made the comment at that time, and how she now reconciles that with her recent commitment to support the bill. I would note that because it is private member's bill, we are very unlikely to get a chance to ask her that question.

On Thursday of last week, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations was at committee. At that time, we had the opportunity to ask a number of questions, and I want to provide a brief summary of that testimony.

Article 19 suggests that the government ensure free, prior, and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative measures that may affect them. When the minister was asked if that would apply to laws of general application or only laws that exclusively impact indigenous people, she clearly indicated that there would be a broader application. That brings us to a question of what future laws of broader application in this country would require free, prior, and informed consent, and how will that be determined in a country as diverse as Canada. How will that consent be given?

The national organizations acknowledge they are not rights holders, they are not the authorized decision-makers, and their mandate is advocacy. The indigenous community has indicated that it has to do a lot of work in terms of nation rebuilding. Therefore, what government structure or consultation framework would be put in place to actually engage in these consultations? To what degree would this commitment around the laws of general application fetter the government's ability to move forward? I will give some recent examples.

We certainly know that with Bill S-3, the government is committed to engaging in a consultation process. Clearly, that is not a general application law, but the government is going to have consultations with bands across the country. I have no idea how the government members are going to determine when they have concurrence and how long they are going to have to spend in a process where there will be human rights competing in terms of consent, and at the very dichotomy of the many consultations they will have to have. In that case it is first nations, but we also have the Métis and the Inuit.

The marijuana law is another example of broader application that is clearly going to have an impact in indigenous communities. Under our current framework, the government only engaged in a general consultation process. Would that bill be subject to article 19, and if so what would it do to the government's timelines and how are the Liberals going to move forward? The answer to that question is unknown, but it is important.

Today, we have been debating in the House Bill C-58, which is the privacy law. Again, we have a number of indigenous communities whose representatives have said that they have grave concerns. They have referenced the UN declaration in terms of their right to have input, and free, prior, and informed consent, but we have no system or process in terms of how we are going to move that forward. That is important work that needs to be done.

Where a lot of people have focused, the laws of general application are something we need to pay particular attention to, but there is also the issue of free, prior, and informed consent as it relates to the development of the natural resources. The minister has suggested it was not a veto and the position was supported by National Chief Bellegarde. However, he noted on three occasions that free, prior, and informed consent means the right to say yes and the right to say no. A number of lawyers have said the whole discussion is really a bit of semantics and whether it is veto or consent it has the same effect. Again, it leads to a question in law. What is the difference between “free, prior, and informed consent” and “consult and accommodate”, which is what we have in law right now? Certainly there is no question that the declaration proposes that change in our law and we need to simply know what that is going to mean because it is important. From what I have seen, the legal opinions out there are as varied as they possibly could be. As members might imagine, it leaves confusion in the minds of not only the indigenous communities but Canadians in general. We have some work to do in terms of developing a common understanding before we commit to an implementation into our legal framework.

Article 29 talks about the right to territories, lands, and resources. In British Columbia alone, that is 100% of the province. What are going to be the practical implications for perhaps the tourism operators in the Chilcotin or the ranchers who have depended on crown land, as these decisions get made? We have not talked about impacted third parties and how, as we correct the injustices of the past, we should not create a new injustice.

In conclusion, as members can see from my 10 minutes of speaking, there are a lot of important unanswered questions. My first concern is the fact that the government has committed to implementing this as a private member's bill where we are going to be limited in the debate and our opportunity to create a shared understanding. The shared understanding of all these concepts is going to be critical in terms of moving forward into success in the future for all.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise today to support Bill C-262, which was introduced by my colleague and friend from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the place we now call Canada, we must take this opportunity to pursue genuine reconciliation with indigenous peoples. A good look at the living conditions of many of Canada's first nations might dampen our celebratory mood.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Drafted over a period of more than 20 years in collaboration with indigenous nations around the world, this living human rights instrument seeks to enhance harmonious relations between states and indigenous peoples.

Unfortunately, Canadian governments of the past 150 years have opposed the adoption of this declaration and its fundamental principles or have failed to take the necessary measures to implement it, a pattern that continues today.

I was very pleased to learn recently that there is some openness among certain members of this government, and I hope that we have enough support to finally implement this important declaration within our own legislative framework.

It is unacceptable and particularly shameful that a disconnect still persists between the official recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and the implementation of policies that allow those rights to be fully implemented on the ground. It is high time that we did something, that we stopped talking and started acting, so that the first peoples of this country do not have to wait another second for their fundamental rights to be protected, respected, and recognized.

I sincerely thank my colleague and dear friend from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for playing such an important role in actively contributing to the drafting of this declaration. Above all, I congratulate him on having the courage and daring to introduce Bill C-262, giving us this historic opportunity to debate the fundamental rights of indigenous people here in the House of Commons.

The fight for indigenous rights is very near and dear to me. However, it is very frustrating that so much work remains to be done to ensure the survival, dignity, and well-being of indigenous peoples in Canada.

In 2012, as the official opposition housing critic, I went on an extensive Canada-wide tour to determine the extent of the housing crisis in our country. As long as I live, I will never forget the time I spent in the ridings of my colleagues from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

Thanks to them, I had the opportunity to meet with northern Inuit and Cree communities from Nunavik and members of the first nations of northern Saskatchewan. That is when theory became reality, and I grasped the scope of the indigenous housing problem in Canada.

I have a hard time understanding how the government can remain so idle on this file when we know that it is not uncommon, in indigenous communities, to see 15 family members living under one roof, with walls covered in mould, often with no access to potable water. They are living in conditions that we would never accept if those conditions were as widespread in the non-indigenous population.

What is more, the housing units they live in are not adapted to their traditional way of life or to the climate. This painful reality affects them deeply, but no targeted strategy was included in the national housing strategy that was announced less than two weeks ago.

Housing is not the only area in which they experience discrimination. As we speak, indigenous men, women and children are still subject to archaic, colonial, racist, discriminatory, and sexist laws. Indigenous peoples continue to be excluded and marginalized and to suffer serious violations of their fundamental rights.

Intergenerational trauma, the wave of suicides, and the deterioration of mental and physical health should receive the attention they deserve. I could go on and on, as there are many problems.

What is certain is that past and current colonialist measures and policies of governments and churches have resulted in the dispossession of their lands and resources, the shameful residential school system, and the cultural genocide brought on by the denial and destruction of indigenous languages and cultures.

It is now 2017, and our country claims to be in an era of reconciliation. If the time for reconciliation has truly arrived, if we are truly sincere, these actions must stop immediately.

It is imperative that we stop talking and start acting, because the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples are no longer negotiable. They are universal and should be treated accordingly.

Members will surely recall that last year, in call to action no. 43, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called on the federal government “to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”

In call to action no. 44, the commission called on the government to “develop a national action plan, strategies, and other concrete measures to achieve the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Today, Bill C-262 gives us an opportunity to reject our colonial past and to reverse the historical patterns and decisions that were imposed and that threatened the survival of many indigenous peoples. It gives us the opportunity to adopt a new approach based on justice, equality, respect for human rights, and good faith, an approach that should have been taken and recognized a long time ago.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out a series of human rights and fundamental freedoms that indigenous peoples have the right to enjoy. Article 9 of the declaration specifically states that:

Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right.

The days of forced assimilation and cultural genocide are over. Whether we are talking about education, health, or environmental protection, preserving their identity and their customs and traditions has to be the top priority.

The declaration also allows for the right to self-determination, the right to maintain and develop their own political, religious, cultural, and educational institutions, and the protection of their cultural and intellectual property.

Article 33 of the declaration states that:

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the States in which they live.

[They also] have the right to determine the structures and to select the membership of their institutions in accordance with their own procedures.

Another key aspect of the declaration is control over their own lands, territories, and natural resources. The history of the indigenous peoples teaches us that they have lived on these lands since time immemorial.

Despite treaties and commitments to live in harmony on this land, the settlers did not keep their promises. There needs to be a return of lands, territory, and resources, as well as fair and equitable compensation.

On that note, article 19 of the declaration states, and I quote:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

This article of the declaration would allow us to change the way we do things and our historically colonialist attitude and implement a process for true nation-to-nation negotiation, on equal terms.

The declaration also provides for fair and mutually acceptable procedures to resolve conflicts between indigenous peoples and states, including procedures such as negotiations, mediation, arbitration, the creation of national and international courts, and regional mechanisms for denouncing and examining human rights violations.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the culmination of more than 25 years of collaboration, and the bill from the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou will enable this country to build a truly meaningful nation-to-nation relationship at last.

This legislative framework will allow us to leave a lasting legacy by gradually correcting the mistakes of the past, serving as a catalyst that will ultimately lead to the repeal of the shameful Indian Act, and effectively banning the discriminatory doctrines of discovery and terra nullius.

Lastly, this legislative framework will affirm the significant value of the national reconciliation process. Without justice, there can be no reconciliation in Canada.

It is high time we adopted and implemented the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, so that the fundamental rights of first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples can finally be restored and recognized.

In closing, I would like to note that we are on unceded Anishinabe territory.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate. The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services will have approximately six minutes because of the lack of time.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Rainy River Ontario


Don Rusnak LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, reiterated, our government is proud of our commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are pleased to be here today discussing our support for Bill C-262.

In considering the elements of the proposal, it is imperative that we consider it within the context of where we are now and where we are going. We are in the midst of a number of ongoing processes and initiatives that will assist in the implementation of the UN declaration in Canada. In addition to the establishment of a process to review laws, policies, and operational practices relating to indigenous peoples, and the creation of permanent bilateral mechanisms with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Métis National Council, a number of other initiatives are furthering our pursuit of a renewed nation-to-nation, Inuit-crown, and government-to-government relationship with indigenous peoples. For instance, the Government of Canada has undertaken a review of Canada's environmental assessment and regulatory processes, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, the Fisheries Act, the Navigation Protection Act, and the National Energy Board Act.

The United Nations declaration was, and continues to be, considered one of the key elements of these review processes. Indigenous peoples were engaged in all four reviews. The government is currently considering the wide range of recommendations from the review reports, including those on how best to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and involve them in decision-making processes.

Since 2015, we have been engaged in recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination discussions with indigenous groups to address their rights, interests, and needs, and enable greater self-determination. At last count, there were more than 50 such discussion tables under way, representing 300 indigenous communities and a population of more than 500,000 people. Additional rights and recognition tables are also being contemplated.

Discussions like these are contributing to the development of new relationships and approaches that are ultimately intended to support the actualization of self-determination and contribute to reconciliation. These discussions are also resulting in the co-development of section 35-related policy reforms. All of this work aligns with the UN declaration. Concrete action reflecting the minimum standards of the UN declaration has also been taken in a variety of policy and program areas, including economic development, housing, education, access to safe drinking water, and governance.

The proposals in Bill C-262, including the development of an action plan aimed at ensuring consistency between Canadian laws and the declaration, are consistent with this work and highlight the importance of providing opportunities for dialogue on what changes can be made to federal laws and policies to advance reconciliation in this country.

However, Bill C-262 will not, on its own, operationalize the United Nations declaration in Canadian law. What is required to do that is to move from dialogue to tackling real issues faced by indigenous communities across Canada. Let me take a moment to describe some of the concrete progress we are making.

For example, the Inuit-crown partnership committee is working together to identify and oversee the implementation of short, medium, and long-term initiatives and solutions for addressing the housing crisis in the Inuit territory. As part of this process, we are currently co-developing an Inuit Nunangat housing strategy. This approach recognizes the direct role of Inuit organizations and governments in addressing housing needs in Inuit communities, the need for long-term sustainable investments, as well as the importance of ongoing collaboration among Inuit, the federal government, and provincial and territorial governments.

First nations communities and the government are also working towards long-term solutions to improve on-reserve water and wastewater infrastructure, ensure proper facility operation and maintenance, and strengthen capacity into the future. Since the commitment of $1.8 billion over five years for water and wastewater infrastructure in budget 2016, 348 projects have been completed, or are under way, or are planned to address and prevent long-term drinking water advisories now and into the future.

Together these projects will serve approximately 270,000 people in 275 first nation communities.

We are also working with indigenous people on the development of distinctions-based legislation to promote and revitalize Métis, Inuit, and first nations languages. In October this year, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs introduced Bill C-61, the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement act. This legislation would give effect to an agreement negotiated between Canada and the Anishinabek Nation that recognizes Anishinabek control over education for 23 participating first nation communities.

Each of these specific measures and initiatives play an important role in contributing to achieving the standards described in the UN declaration. However, there is more to do to get us where we are going.

The process of dissolving Indigenous and Northern Affairs to better align with the needs and rights of indigenous people is one such forward-looking measure. This shift to a new department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs coupled with the department of Indigenous Services will better support indigenous peoples in strengthening their own political, cultural, and economic institutions. In turn, this supports indigenous self-determination, reflected throughout the UN declaration. In this context, the approach proposed in Bill C-262 would continue to build on the progress that has already been made, and it deserves serious consideration by the committee.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Speaker, in hindsight, small business owners, the hard-working, middle-class Canadians who just want to earn a living for their families and create jobs for our communities, should have seen this coming. I am talking about the coffee shop down the street, the person who cuts hair, and the mechanic who fixes cars. Instead of working hard running their local businesses, I guess they should have been keeping a closer eye on what the government was trying to sneak in, because the Liberal red flags were all there.

The Liberals had broken their promise to reduce the small business tax rate to nine per cent at that point, which they have now flip-flopped on so many times businesses are not quite sure where the actual rate stands. The Liberals had put in place new payroll taxes on small business by increasing CPP and EI premiums. Of course, do not forget the carbon tax on everything that will make the cost of doing business exponentially higher. They also cancelled the small business hiring credit. On top of all this, the Liberals are actually saying that some businesses are too small to be a small businesses. I know it sounds astounding, but it is a fact. That is what they are saying.

Active versus passive income rules, which the Liberal government issued a new interpretation of, adversely affect many small businesses, such as campgrounds, mini self-storages, and other small operations, by arbitrarily assigning them as passive income, when the amount of work involved is absolutely anything but passive.

If that was not enough, the finance minister then went after small business owners by labelling them greedy tax cheats to justify new tax changes to help cover some of the costly out-of-control Liberal deficits. What is worse, these changes were subject to an extremely short consultation period during the dog days of summer. These are changes that will make it harder for Canadians to find a family doctor and will make wait times longer; changes that will raise taxes on job creators and entrepreneurs, making it harder for people to find jobs; and changes that will make it harder for small businesses to save for a rainy day, retirement, or maternity leave.

Why are the Liberals so dead set on putting job-creating entrepreneurs out of business, and when will this attack on small businesses end?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Alaina Lockhart LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to respond to the comments made earlier by the member for Banff—Airdrie on the question of small business taxation..

Small businesses are critical for the Canadian economy. We know they represent 90% of all businesses, and employ more than 10 million Canadians. Our government is committed to ensuring they have the right tools and conditions to continue to grow, prosper, and create well-paying, middle-class jobs.

Our government has a clear plan when it comes to the Canadian economy. We are cutting taxes for those who need it most and we are making investments to grow our economy and set ourselves up to succeed for years to come. Our plan is working. In fact, in two years of being in government, we are seeing growth the members opposite would have loved to see during their decade in office.

The economy has created more than 600,000 jobs since we came to office. Our growth now leads the G7. However, our work is not done, which is why, in October, the Prime Minister announced that our government would fulfill our promise to lower the small business tax rate to 9% by January 1, 2019.

Canada's small business tax rate was already the lowest in the G7, and with this action, we are lowering even further. Small businesses will save up to $7,500 per year as a result. This includes the many businesses that work in Canada's tourism sector, including campgrounds, which is part of the member's original question.

When it comes to the member's question and his concern, it is important to remember that of the over 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses reviewed by the CRA, fewer than 20 businesses classified as recreational vehicle parks and recreational camps were denied the deduction.

There are more than 200,000 businesses in our tourism sector, and nearly all are small business. We are seeing record growth in the sector, but our work does not stop there either.

We are also investing to support small businesses throughout the economy as they work to create jobs. It is why we introduced our innovation and skills plan, which will support businesses as they invest in innovation, job creation, and growth in communities right across the country.

We also introduced the innovation superclusters initiative. Through this initiative, we will invest $950 million to support key sectors of Canadian strength. This initiative is not just about supporting one business; it is about creating centres of expertise right across the country. We will connect large businesses with innovative small businesses and research institutions to build business-led innovation superclusters.

This initiative was very popular. Our government received more than 50 letters of intent, which represented more than 1,000 businesses from across the country. This past October, the Minister of Innovation announced a short list of nine applicants. Their proposals are now being assessed. Five applicants will make up the final group. Each successful application will require involvement from several small businesses, and the private partners must match our investments, dollar for dollar.

We are working with businesses from coast to coast to help them create jobs and grow their businesses. This is part of the government's overall commitment to build a stronger middle class in Canada

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Speaker, the amount of spin that comes from the government side of the House of Commons is truly dizzying.

How can the Liberals stand there and claim to support small businesses when all of the policies they put in place are designed specifically as an attack on those small businesses. I do not understand how they can do it with a straight face. They have added new payroll taxes. They have added a carbon tax. They have even labelled small business owners as wealthy, greedy tax cheats.

Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy. They are the job creators. They are the community supporters in our communities. Yet the Liberals seem to be on this constant warpath against them.

I will ask the member opposite this. Why does the Liberal government keep going after the little guy?

TaxationAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Alaina Lockhart Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to respond to the comments made by the hon. member regarding small business taxation. I am glad to know we both agree that Canadian businesses are in fact the backbone of the Canadian economy.

Canada has the lowest small business tax rate in the G7 and the fourth lowest across the OECD countries. We are lowering it even further. We are investing in Canadian businesses. Whether it is to support innovation or investing in infrastructure, our plan is working.

Since coming into office, the Canadian economy has created more than 600,000 jobs, and our economic growth lead the G7. We have a plan, we are following the plan, and the results speak for themselves.

We will stay committed to building a strong middle class and to helping those who are working hard to join it.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in this House tonight to talk about some fundamental issues that have to be addressed in terms of the underlying principles of the rules of law and the rights of indigenous people in this country.

We have a government that has defied the Human Rights Tribunal. It has refused the order of Parliament to address the $155 million shortfall in child family services, and continues to carry on that underfunding. As well, the indigenous affairs minister and the Attorney General have gone to the Ontario Superior Court to deny the basic legal rights of the survivors of St. Anne's residential school, and the fundamental questions about the right to the rule of law. All of these actions together show a complete disregard in terms of the government's promise of a new relationship. The indigenous affairs minister has said that the Liberals' attack on the rights of St. Anne's survivors is not an attack on the survivors themselves, but rather that the government is seeking clarification on the term “procedural fairness”. Of course, that is not true. The Liberals are at the Ontario Superior Court to overturn the right of the chief adjudicator to address serious breaches in justice.

What are we talking about? There are two cases. There is victim C-14114, as well as the case of H-15019. This is a horrific story. He was raped as a child by a priest at St. Anne's residential school, and participated in the process to have his case adjudicated fairly. His case was thrown out because the justice department was sitting on thousands of pages of police testimony that identified the perpetrator, the priest, and he could not establish where the priest was. What we know now is that the justice department had put together a person of interest report on this priest that was 96 pages long. It involved numerous witness statements of other acts of child sexual assault, which included 2,000 pages. Therefore, “procedural fairness” to the chief adjudicator meant that because the government suppressed this evidence, he had a right to have his hearing again. However, the government is saying that it will fight that in the Ontario Superior Court.

Of course, we have to ask ourselves why a government, in 2017, would suppress evidence of a serial predator, who preyed on children in St. Anne's residential school from 1938 to 1976. Why would it have that case thrown out? Why would it now be in superior court saying that after being forced to turn over the police evidence to the tribunal, the evidence that the police brought forward now cannot be used? It is saying that there are significant limitations on using new information. This is not new information. This is information that was suppressed by department lawyers from the Attorney General working on behalf of the indigenous affairs minister.

This is also a breach of the fundamental reason that the Liberals obtained this evidence in 2003 when they went to Ontario Superior Court to gather the evidence that identified 180 perpetrators of abuse at the time. Also, the affidavit by justice department lawyer, Haniya Sheikh, stated that they needed access to it to defend the government, and that it would assist all parties in corroborating and substantiating plaintiff evidence.

There is something fundamentally wrong in the law system of our country, if the justice department argues that the evidence sought by these indigenous residential school survivors, who suffered from having their cases falsely adjudicated under false narratives put forward by justice department lawyers who had identified the perpetrators, who had the witness statements, and who had been found out, somehow cannot be used because it would be unfair to the federal government. Canadians deserve better, and the survivors of St. Anne's—

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Rainy River Ontario


Don Rusnak LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and address the question asked by my colleague from Timmins—James Bay. I am particularly pleased to address this as the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly takes place in Ottawa this week.

I would like to recognize the AFN and the national advisory committee on first nations child and family services program reform for its efforts and advocacy. Our government agrees that we must completely overhaul child and family services for first nations communities.

We need to increase proactive support for children and their families, keep more children out of care, and support them to grow up in their families and communities with a secure personal cultural identity.

We know that to truly end discrimination, we must reform the current broken system and provide funding to better meet the needs of first nations children and families. The issues are complex and the solutions are multi-faceted, which is why we are working with the provinces, experts, and first nations partners to ensure the well-being of children comes first.

We believe that solutions made in partnership will yield the best long-term lasting results. We have heard from first nations that the development and implementation of the vision for change must be placed in the hands of indigenous governments and their membership.

This will enable indigenous peoples to directly address healing and prevention needs. It will also respect that the "one size fits all" approach to child and family well-being does not work.

Currently, the standards and values of children's aid societies across the country do not consistently reflect the standards and values of first nations peoples. Some provinces are making strides to change this, but more work is required.

This is why the minister has called for an emergency meeting on indigenous child and family services to take place in 2018. This meeting will bring together the federal government, provinces, territories, indigenous leaders, provincial advocates and experts to discuss how we can work together to transform indigenous child and family welfare so that it is child-centred, community-directed, and focused on prevention.

Our priority continues to be first and foremost the well-being of first nations children and we are committed to working in partnership to better support first nations children, families, and communities.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question of protecting the rights of children is the fundamental question before us. Edmund Metatawabin, who survived St. Anne's residential school and has been such a powerful voice for justice, who has tried again and again to speak with the indigenous affairs minister and the justice minister over the abuse of rights and the re-victimization of the survivors of St. Anne's said something extremely powerful when we were dealing with the suicide crisis in Mushkegowuk territory. He said that the road from St. Anne's residential school to the suicide crisis of the young people today is a straight road and we can follow that road through the injustice that has been suffered.

For the young generation who are being taken from their homes in Treaty 9 territory and put into the broken foster care system and we have had 11 young deaths just recently, to a government that is in Ontario Superior Court saying that the basic right of law for survivors of St. Anne's—

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Don Rusnak Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government is focused on overhauling the system to ensure adequate and effective funding to protect the health and safety of first nations children. We have invested $635 million to child welfare supports through budget 2016, however, we know that more must be done. It is going to take a lot more money to solve this crisis. A systemic problem of this magnitude calls for systematic reform.

We are working with first nations partners to help develop a vision for and implement a complete transformation of the first nations child and family services.

Our government will continue the work required to ensure that we always take a child-first approach to support first nations children and their communities.

Natural ResourcesAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise this evening in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question that I asked on September 20. It was to the Minister of Natural Resources. As congenial as it was, I did not find the answer satisfactory, because it did not actually answer my question.

My question related to the changes made in the spring of 2012 to Canada's National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which had existed since the early 1990s, was repealed. That was a tragedy that I hope we will see reversed, but I am afraid that the train of the debate tonight will reveal my very diminishing hopes that we will see our laws restored to what they were in 2006.

One aspect of what the previous Conservative government did in its omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38, was to massively change the way environmental assessments were pursued. One part of that was to say—and this was never defended as a policy choice, and no rationale was ever offered—that we should treat certain energy projects as distinct from all other projects in terms of environmental review under federal law. Pipelines, for the first time, had environmental reviews done by the National Energy Board, offshore drilling had environmental reviews assigned to the offshore petroleum boards from Atlantic Canada, and changes to new projects that involved nuclear energy would have environmental reviews by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. This was unheard of.

What I pointed out in my question to the minister on September 20 was that the National Energy Board, in doing environmental reviews on pipelines, was showing a much greater willingness to approve a project that interfered with caribou habitat than when Environment Canada reviewed a mining project in the same region with the same caribou herd. Mining projects were given a much rougher ride than pipeline projects. My question to the minister was if he would confirm that the National Energy Board would get out of environmental assessments once and for all. That was the expert advice given to the new government by two different expert panels: one expert panel on the National Energy Board and another on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Both expert panels said that the National Energy Board should get out of environmental reviews.

The National Energy Board is not an institution that knows how to do environmental reviews. The National Energy Board expert panel said very clearly that the board should be renamed the Canadian energy transmission commission; its mandate should be clearer; and it should be doing more to explain what it means by “national interest” than it has in the way it has been operating for the last number of years. Under the topic of environmental assessment review, the environmental assessment expert panel recommended putting one agency in charge and giving it quasi-judicial status. The National Energy Board has quasi-judicial status and the Environmental Assessment Agency should have it.

To me, it has been devastating to watch the government ignore the reports of two different expert panels. I say it has ignored them because it has not responded to them. A discussion document pushed together four different reviews. The discussion document came out at the end of June, but it was very clear that the government had no intention of fixing environmental assessment and getting the National Energy Board out of environmental assessment, because the discussion document said that the National Energy Board, the offshore petroleum boards, and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission would be involved in environmental reviews, working alongside a revised Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Can the parliamentary secretary confirm that the government is interested in fixing this problem and getting the NEB out of environmental assessments?