Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to speak on the throne speech.
I believe in my heart in these issues. I refer to our aboriginal people, our way of thinking, our philosophy in the country. I also want to talk about the national unity debate.
This is very important to aboriginal people, as we are referred to in this country and in the Canadian Constitution, those being the Metis people, the non-status people who live off-reserve and also include the Inuit who live in the high Arctic and the First Nations, the first inhabitants of this land we call Canada.
What is happening in this country causes me great concern not just with the economic situation we are facing today but the divisions happening across the land. It has always been our belief that we should live together in harmony and in peace and to have honour and respect for each other. Those certainly were incorporated in the treaties that were established when the newcomers came to this land, the Europeans who arrived here 500 years ago.
People in this country have to realize the history goes beyond the past 500 years or more, that there is a history to this country. That part of history has been ignored and not understood by many Canadians. The focus of the national unity debate is to bring people together. To go about that we must have open minds.
Our people certainly opened their arms to the people who came to this land to share the land and resources, inherent in the treaties established with the governments. I am particularly saddened when I hear comments by members opposite that the country will fall apart. I believe it is in the interests of everybody, all Canadians, all aboriginal people, to maintain the unity of Canada. It is our desire that the country remain united.
I have challenged our aboriginal leaders, our aboriginal people to maintain the unity of the country. In December of last year I called for a sacred assembly to bring people of this country from
different walks of life, with different spiritual and religious denominations together. This included the Mennonite central committee, the Catholic church, the Anglican church, the United church, the Presbyterian church, the Reform church, and so on. All churches were included plus the non-Christian people, the Hindu, the Jewish people and our traditional people.
The aim was that we begin to understand each other through that process, to develop an open mind with tolerance and an understanding of each other. Many people came to this sacred assembly. I was very disturbed by a member of the official opposition party, the member for Saint-Jean, a Bloc Quebecois member, when he stated that although the themes of the sacred assembly were supposed to be reconciliation and spirituality, instead the assembly "reeked of politics".
That statement derides and insults the people who were there, including the head of the Anglican church, the primate, the head of the United church, the moderator, and other religious leaders who were there. They cannot defend themselves in the House. It insults the people who were there who were concerned about the country.
I stated at the sacred assembly that as aboriginal people we have a greater responsibility than any other group of people in this country to maintain the unity of the land we call Canada. It is our home and we have nowhere else to go.
On December 12, 1995 in the House the Bloc member also stated he disagreed with me on that: "The notion of spirituality transcends politics and the great creator has no use for national boundaries. The next step would have been to come straight out and say that the creator is Liberal". Those are statements made by the official opposition member.
It was not intended to be that way. What I wanted to tell him is God is aboriginal and that he loves him and does not want him to separate. God wants him to remain in this part of the country, in this part of the world. We have so much to share in this country. We have rich resources and this land. We have so much to share among all Canadians.
Some of these comments disturbed me. What is the purpose of this institution? Parliament is the highest institution in terms of law making decisions in the country. It is a national institution. Where else do we go to correct these things and make laws for our people? This is where decisions are made.
The throne speech identified many areas, which I would like to address for my constituents. In the red book commitments were made to deal with some of the aboriginal issues such as the inherent right to self-government and the land claims process. Those things are happening today. The government is proceeding with that.
Recently we saw a land claims settlement in British Columbia, a part in which treaties were never entered into. Finally after hundreds of years they are getting a land claim settlement. I am glad to see that.
I am disturbed, though, by the politics involved. It seems this is being used as a political football. It is not based on history. It is not based on equality. It is not based on justice. Rather, it is based on trying to retain control and power in that province. It saddens me that these things are happening in that part of the country rather than being based on equality and trying to obtain justice country for our people. We have waited for a long time to resolve these issues.
The throne speech also focused on northern Manitoba, job growth, social security and many other issues.
I am very honoured to be here, able to speak on behalf of my constituents in northern Manitoba. Their concerns are unique because we are isolated. We are in northern Manitoba and are easily affected by the economy. The cost of goods is very high. We do not have the same amenities as southern Manitoba. Travel is very difficult because of the isolated communities. We have to fly in the goods and groceries and provide the basic essential services for many of the communities I represent.
I know we are trying to address many of these things in government. As I participate in the discussions I want to bring more of these things forward to the government, to the ministers so they can provide the answers and move in the right direction for our people.
Certainly I am honoured to be here as an aboriginal person in the Chamber, able to bring forth the concerns of not only my aboriginal constituents but many other aboriginal people who have come forward to me expressing their concerns, especially about national unity.
We want to be involved. We want to be part of the process. We play an important role in maintaining the unity of this country. We play a key role in this whole process and we do not want to be left out because we are the original people of this land.