Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-21. This has been very contentious legislation, as short as it is.
We have said many times that the Liberal Party supports the repeal of section 67. It is how the bill was drafted, how it was put forward without including the amendments that were proposed by the many witnesses who came before our committee. We have a great deal of trouble with that.
We have made many attempts in the years that I have been here to try to repeal section 67 of the Human Rights Act. Maybe part of the difficulty was that it was put in with other items, for example, in Bill C-6, with which the communities had great trouble. I want it to be on record that we were never against the repeal of section 67, as some of the press coverage has made us out to be.
The two pieces of legislation we are dealing with in the House today brings to light again the very statements of many aboriginal members. We tend to forget there are basic rights that we take for granted in our country, to which people in aboriginal communities do not have access. However, our party will support the two motions that have been put forth.
The point I want to make is there should have been a non-derogation clause in the legislation in the first place. If the Conservative government had put forth this legislation in the same way it did with the specific claims, with cooperation from the Assembly of First Nations, the bill would have been passed in the House by now and would have been put into practice already.
When the minister introduced Bill C-30, he talked about the great cooperation between the Assembly of First Nations and the government to put forth that bill. Again, if the Conservatives had that same kind of consultation and reaching out, the bill probably would have been in better form. As I said, our party will support both Motion No. 1 and Motion No. 2.
Judging by the questions I heard in our committee from some of the government members, they seemed to have great difficulty with understanding collective rights versus individual rights. We asked opposition members that there be some consideration of collective rights. Some people have interpreted that to mean we are giving the bands and, in some cases, the chiefs an out from what repealing section 67 would do.
I beg to differ. As I said in committee and in an earlier speech today, we are quick at looking at the negative of these initiatives, instead of looking at the positives. There could be different considerations that would actually be more beneficial and more appropriate to the people whom this legislation will serve.
One example I used was how we treated our elders. Because I come from a different community, I am not first nations but one of the Inuit from the first peoples of our country, we have very stated understandings in our culture. We respect the elders and we do certain things that cater to elders, which might not be considered in other cultures.
I remember giving one example at committee. When we check in at the airport we see all these different aisles for business class, for people with no baggage and for the regular lineup. I could see in one of our communities that we would have a lineup specifically for elders so they do not have to wait for 20 people ahead of them when they are trying to check in at the airport.
I give that example to show that when we look at different cultures and different ways of doing things it does not always have to be in a negative light. We do have some practices that I think would bring about better communities across this country if they were practised.
We have not survived as a people in some of the harshest climates in this country by not working together. We do many things that are good for the whole community. I know that is a very different understanding from that of a municipality divided into lots where everyone individually owns the lot their house is on. That is not always the case in our communities.
We have to understand that in many ways we think of ourselves as one group of people, not as individuals. Of course, we have come to appreciate the individual rights that we are learning along the way, but again I am stressing that when we look at situations that concern individual rights versus collective rights, all we are asking for is a certain understanding.
We are not saying that we should always rule in favour of collective rights. What we are trying to point out is that there should be some consideration when people come before the tribunal such that the tribunal tries to fully understand the makeup of the community, the customs of the people and the way things have been done traditionally.
I have stated before, and I will state it again, that just because we extend certain rights to people it does not mean they will all exercise them. There needs to be a transition phase that is respectful. In this case, I am very pleased that we were able to see the 36 months. The transition phase needs to educate people on what this means for them.
I live in a community where we can put cases before the tribunal, but we do not always see people taking advantage of that because we have not fully educated the people to let them know what their rights are. That is an ongoing process.
I am very supportive of people being given that opportunity in the first nations communities, just as we are trying to do with other pieces of legislation we are putting forth in the House to improve lives on reserves and in other aboriginal communities to get them to a level playing field.
In the other debate that I was talking in, I could not stress enough that in most cases we are looking for basic needs. We are looking for very basic things that other people take for granted. We want to make sure that first nations are able to participate in those same democratic processes that we have in this country.
I would very much like to see this legislation pass. I know that our party will be supporting it.