Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.
I am very proud to join my colleagues to speak in full support of Bill C-88 today. The Prime Minister stated that no relationship is more important to our government and Canada than the one with indigenous peoples. I am proud that we made that commitment and that we continue to strive to fulfill it.
The bill before us today is an important part of this commitment to me and my constituents in the Northwest Territories. The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act was originally passed in 1998. It provides for the establishment of an integrated system of land and water management for the Mackenzie Valley through a series of co-management boards, at which the Dene, Métis, territorial and federal governments share input and decision-making. Although the MVRMA was passed in 1998, the discussions on this type of land and water management system began in the early 1980s during the negotiations of the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement.
Regional land claim and self-governing regions in the NWT have boards, also called panels, that review and make recommendations about their lands. Unfortunately, regardless of the system that was in place after years of negotiation, a system that was working well and gave the indigenous people the right to oversee how their lands were used, the previous government decided to cut these boards out of the process. I am glad they were not successful.
First, the Tlicho government filed an injunction, later joined by the Sahtu Secretariat. The Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories agreed and granted this injunction, so here it sits. These previous amendments were never brought into force and the regional boards continue to operate efficiently and effectively, as intended.
Our government is dedicated to a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples in the spirit of reconciliation. One of the key elements in achieving true reconciliation is meaningful consultation. That requires real work. We are committed to restoring trust and further strengthening our relationship with indigenous partners in the Northwest Territories by supporting the integrated co-management regime for lands and waters in the Mackenzie Valley.
We need to ensure that the management of our natural resources is done in a way that respects the inherent and treaty rights of the indigenous people. Through Bill C-88, we can ensure sustainable resource development while also protecting the long-term health and well-being of the environment. This proposed legislation was created in a spirit of reconciliation meant to help renew the relationship between the Crown and indigenous peoples in the Northwest Territories through mutual respect and co-operation.
Bill C-88 is a direct response to the concerns of the indigenous governments and organizations respecting the legislative and regulatory framework flowing from their constitutionally protected land claims and self-government agreements. While the previous government ignored these concerns, we know that by working together we can reach a better result.
The amendments proposed by this bill respect the integrity of the land claim agreements the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories entered into in good faith. We have heard loud and clear from our indigenous partners that the dissolution of the Gwich'in, Sahtu and Tlicho land and water boards by the previous Conservative government denied indigenous groups their hard-won rights. We have also heard from them that it directly contravened their land claim agreements, which included the creation and management of these boards. Reconciliation is not an empty word to our government.
Actions must follow words in order to move forward and work toward real, lasting and positive change in the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples. The bill before us today proposes to reverse the board restructuring and reintroduce the other regulatory amendments that have also been on hold. Simply put, indigenous people have the right to oversee how their lands are used, and also to share in the wealth.
Bill C-88 would integrate the perspectives of indigenous people into the future usage of lands and water on their territories by including and incorporating indigenous views and perspectives into the decision-making regarding land and resources.
We must work together to improve the quality of life of indigenous peoples in Canada, and key to achieving this goal is indigenous control over indigenous lands. In order to protect the integrity of land claim agreements and treaty rights, the importance of engagement and consultation must be respected.
The Gwich'in, Sahtu and Tlicho stood up and made it clear that they wanted their voices heard and their rights acknowledged and respected. This bill will ensure that they continue to have a say in what happens to the lands and water they preside over.
I mentioned earlier that there are other amendments in this bill besides those aimed at fixing the restructuring part that has been on hold the past four or so years, so not all of the previous government's amendments were off base. However, they are all tangled up in their restructuring error.
This bill reintroduces these amendments. There are regional studies, board term provisions and new regulatory authorities, to name a few. The amendment to the Canadian Petroleum Resources Act would enable the science-based review currently under way in the Beaufort Sea to be completed without interruption, while at the same time preventing the existing oil and gas rights in the Arctic offshore from expiring before the conclusion of the review. After a one-year consultation with existing rights holders, territorial governments and indigenous governments, everyone agreed on the importance of protecting the unique Arctic offshore environment while pursuing responsible oil and gas activity.
True reconciliation cannot occur until indigenous governments and organizations are fully included in the management of lands and resources in the north. We need to bring the voices of indigenous people into the process in order to have a broader and more complete view of the future of Canada's natural resources. As the Prime Minister has said, “Together, we can build a world where the rights of Indigenous peoples are respected, where their voices are honoured, and where their communities thrive.”
The bill we are debating today will ensure that the unique perspectives of indigenous governments, leaders and communities will be heard and listened to. I urge all of my colleagues today to recognize the importance of incorporating an indigenous perspective into the future decision-making of our natural resources sector and to support this important legislation.