Mr. Speaker, I have another opportunity to speak to Bill C-23, but more importantly I would like to speak on the subamendment that has been brought forward.
Being a partial author and seconder of the subamendment, I would like to give the House an opportunity and an understanding of why we should enter into consultation with the first nations leaders and the communities on the impacts and benefits of Bill C-23.
In large part, we would be following the leadership and the vision of our Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, just a few weeks ago, hosted the Canada aboriginal people's round table, and said:
Canada would not be Canada without the Aboriginal peoples.
What that means is that Canada entered into a treaty to create this country. The Crown ascertained these territories by a treaty negotiation, and that process is not finished. There are huge tracts of land in British Columbia and northern Canada that are under negotiation. In light of this, new relationships and opportunities have been negotiated in the interim, but on the understanding that these treaty negotiations will come to a conclusion at some point in time in the future.
However, the Prime Minister understands and recognizes that under section 35 of the Constitution there are the Indians, the first nations of this land, the Métis and the Inuit. At this round table there was full participation of that leadership right across the country. He also mentioned in his speech a premise to ensure success and he set out clear goals: health care, housing, education, business, economic development, accountability, transparency, and capacity building.
Those are very bold and clear goals. In order to succeed, he also said that there has to be a political will. The Prime Minister stated the commitment of his government. This is a new Prime Minister and a new government, with a new agenda, working on a new relationship with the aboriginal leaders. The aboriginal communities and the aboriginal leaders also have an obligation for this new commitment.
The Prime Minister went on to state:
From our vantage point, we will ensure a full seat at the table... No longer will we in Ottawa develop policies first and discuss them with you later.
That statement is probably the most profound reason why this subamendment is being debated in the House now. Bill C-23 is a new fiscal relationship. At no time in the history of Canada, when reserves were created and lands were set aside for Indians, for first nations people, was there taxation of that land. The Crown and the government never intended to put assessment of value on their lands. That was land set aside for Indians. This bill now revisits that fiscal relationship.
There was a fiduciary responsibility defined for the government's responsibility. A lot of it is fiscal responsibility but more importantly, in my studies of the treaty books and the letters of the treaty commissioners in their reports to the Crown and their officials, a fiduciary responsibility of the Crown meant to respect the sovereign nations with which these treaties were being entered into.
The aboriginal nations as nations have to be respected. There is no evidence in Bill C-23 that these nations would be represented or respected. None. It does not even refer to section 35 of the Constitution. In our Canadian Constitution those historic and treaty rights are recognized and respected. This bill does not even base its policies on section 35 of the Constitution.
Let me go back to this. I say that in January Bill C-23 was brought in. There was a throne speech and I want it recognized that in that throne speech, the House of Commons, this Parliament, said it would recognize a relationship with aboriginal people based on historic agreements. Those historic agreements are the treaties. If that happened in February, this bill came before that statement.
Also, on the round table took place in the past month of April, I say this bill should go back; it should go back in consultation with the first nation leaders of this land. They should look at what relationship it is creating, at what is happening here in relation to borrowing money, to borrowing capital.
Municipal governments and school boards know very well about these borrowing powers. They can borrow money for a new school. They can borrow money for a hospital. They can borrow money for water and sewers for new subdivisions. I dare say our government will also push the housing issue to this. If one wants to set up a whole new subdivision with new housing for development, the government will open up an opportunity for first nations to borrow from the financial institutions. These financial institutions are stated in this bill, but one thing that everyone will understand is that municipal governments and school boards they can borrow money: debentures, securities and bonds. They can go to international markets.
There are limitations in the bill: for Canadian and United States markets. Does that mean the Canadian and United States financial institutions are the lobby behind this? Why is the European financial market is not included in this? How come the Asian markets are not included in this? Some day maybe the United States economy will fall away, as it did in 1930. Maybe the European market will be the only one that is secure. Why was that not considered? Why were European and Asian markets not considered as part of this bill? Why limit this to only the Canadian and United States markets? Is it because that is where the lobby came from?
I want to raise this issue because there are a lot of issues and a lot of explaining to do to first nations. This opens up a whole new relationship, a whole new reality of ascertaining a better quality of life on reserve and also off reserve because some of these investments may well include off reserve development. However, this is very limited in the definition of what a financial institution can do and what a tax commission can do. What it is very clear is that the powers are well defined in this bill, and those powers are the powers of the band council.
The powers of the band council were never defined as clearly in the Indian Act or even in the former Bill C-7. Both were very vague on the powers of band councils and chiefs. However, this bill quickly highlights the powers of these chiefs and councils, because those powers will be delegated to the tax commission, to the finance institute and also, I guess, in large part to the tax collector, so to speak, to the financial institution one is going to borrow money from. There will be a delegation of these powers.
In large part, these powers will be creating a property taxation law. That is first and foremost. These are not independent institutions standing on their own. All of them are connected. Even for the statistical institute, it states the reason it is being contemplated is that “accurate, timely and credible” information is “a key element of sound financial planning, management and reporting”.
This all has to do with finances. I would say that statistical institutes should be for cultural knowledge, health knowledge, social knowledge, and education knowledge, so that we would be teaching kindergarten to grade 12 with a curriculum based on a statistical institution, an atlas of knowledge and a traditional land use knowledge. It should be that kind of statistical base.
No, this statistical institute is deemed designed for financial planning, financial management and financial reporting. Money talks. That is what scares me about this bill. Money is dictating the reason for Bill C-23 happening now. It is based on the premise that in regard to the socio-economic disparities of on reserve existence, those opportunities should be equal to other opportunities in other communities in Canada.
However, the municipal and school board structure of this country may not be the panacea for on reserve development. There may be other alternatives. Maybe the alternative is the borrowing powers that a province or a federal government has. Maybe those borrowing powers should be entrenched in this so that the recognition of the nations and the tribes can make the borrowing powers and the credibility to secure those amounts, whatever amount they decide to borrow.
We were told by a speaker earlier this morning that it costs five to six times more for on reserve development. A lot of these communities are isolated, fly-in communities. Hon. members who represent the north know the reality of living there regardless of being on reserve or off reserve. Let us look at the Inuit in Nunavut. Not one permanent all weather road connects that territory, and their costs are 20 times higher than the costs in downtown Ottawa. It costs 20 times more to buy a piece of two-by-four to build their homes, not because they are aboriginal but because of the geographic reality of this country.
As a country we have to address this issue, and not on the finance or the mortgaging of the future of aboriginal children. Why should aboriginal people be paid for the high cost of existence in a country for infrastructure when this country collectively should take that responsibility? This country should be fair and equitable for development in downtown Toronto and also way up in Old Crow, in Inuvik, in Black Lake, and in Ahtahkakoop, a reserve in Saskatchewan.
I want to raise another issue. When the treaty negotiations took place with Treaty No. 6, one of the provisions was a medicine chest. A lot of people say that Tommy Douglas was the father of medicare, but let us correct that. The grandfathers of medicare were the chiefs of Treaty No. 6. They saw a public policy: that the riches of the land would take care of the children of the future. When they secured their treaty by the sacred pipes, they prayed to all four directions and all four races of this country and the nations of this land.
They were not looking at only the children of the Crees, the Dene and the Lakota. They were looking at all the children of this land, and the newcomers' children as well, the children of the settlers. That medicine chest should be afforded to everybody, but in no way did Treaty No. 6 negotiate that there would be land assessment at Ahtahkakoop. At that reserve if we go back and try to push a tax revenue law, I swear that those challenges will take us to the Supreme Court.
I will warn the House that although in the bill there may be an opt-in clause, I know that the opt-in clause is a political ploy. A while back it was used on us as parliamentarians on the issue of pensions. Pensions were “opt in” for certain members, but if we take a measure now of all the members in the House who have full pensions, all of us have signed on, even the ones who resisted. They were challenged on the point that it was an opting in issue. That is what is going to happen to the first nations of this land.
They may not join in. They may resist because of their obligations by treaty or for other reasons, perhaps because of the value of the land or because of their leadership and their vision. But at some point in time, they will be dragged into Bill C-23 and the reference to Bill C-23.
The other issue I raised before was that of consultation. I say that consultation should be with first nation leaders and first nation communities of this land. Proposed section 143 states that a review and evaluation of the bill will take place in seven years. A seven year parliamentary review will come into play. Upon reviewing the bill, the Indian affairs minister will be in consultation with the tax commission, the finance management board, the finance authority, and the statistical institute. Bill C-23 does not provide for any consultation at all with first nations and their communities. So seven years from now when the bill is reviewed, that review will be just a self-analysis of the institutes it has created.
Also, some hon. members have said that substantial amendments have been made to the bill. One of the most substantial amendments brought in by the minister was the inclusion of other aboriginal organizations and aboriginal groups under the statistical institute and the records and data it would keep. Under section 35 of the Constitution, the Inuit and Métis are the only other organizations. There are first nations and then Métis and Inuit. If we are going to have statistical information about the Inuit and Métis included, then why are they not part of the consultation after seven years?
Why can we not consult with the aboriginal groups if we are going to be using this data about them? The data, as pointed out, will be used for financial planning and financial management and reporting. It will not be used for cultural preservation, curriculum development, social analysis or economic comparisons among different communities. It will be specifically for the use and benefit of the financial institutions.
The “national aboriginal institutions” that would be created by the bill “will assist first nations that choose to exercise real property taxation jurisdiction on reserve lands”. That is the bottom line. It is open only to people in first nations who want to exercise real property taxation. It means that they are the ones who will be able to borrow money. That taxation will be for the provision of services, and there will be taxation of business activities happening on reserve. It will also impose development costs happening on reserve and provide laws respecting outstanding taxes. A tax revolt is taking place in Saskatchewan with regard to outstanding taxes. Outstanding taxes are a big part of a school board or of the collectible taxes of a municipal council of a rural municipality. There is also enforcement of charges for outstanding taxes.
This will also create liens. A lien is something foreign on a reserve. Tax liens and property liens are incredible tools that are being provided. They did not exist on reserve before now. Also, there will be interest and penalties. If someone does not pay their taxes, interest and penalties will be added on.
There also will be the powers of “seizure, forfeiture and assignment of interests or rights”. Along with seizure is the sale of personal property. If someone cannot pay their taxes, powers are included in the bill that would give someone the power to seize personal property for taxes they owe.
These are all new financial relationships and new fiscal powers that do not necessarily exist on reserves right now. There is going to be disparity about the value of land on different first nations reserves from northern Quebec, southern Quebec, northern Canada, B.C., and isolated communities. There will be different classes of first nations based on the value of their land.
Today I submit my support for the subamendment and the amendment. We should not pass the bill at this third reading stage. We should be consulting with first nations leaders and communities. Bill C-23, through the standing committee or through the government, should go back for consultation to set up a fiscal relationship that is equal and fair for all on reserve development in this country. My time has come to a close, but I welcome any questions members may have.