Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Churchill (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 32% of the vote.

Statements in the House

British Columbia Treaty Commission October 23rd, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I am humbled to be here in the House to speak in Parliament where the laws are made. This is the supreme lawmaking body of the country, based on the principles of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which says "based on the principles of the supremacy of God and the rule of law". We as aboriginal people, the first inhabitants of this country, have always known that.

We are now debating once again what has been debated for years and years: land. The first order of business has not been concluded with the First Nations, the first inhabitants.

The creator created all nations all over the world, created land, the trees, the environment we live in today. It so happens that he placed the aboriginal people in this country. Canada is an aboriginal word meaning community.

Our ancestors welcomed many nations that came to this land. Today many nations benefit from the rich resources of this country. As aboriginal people, we seem to be living in a third world country in our own homeland. We have always declared that the creator put us here and the creator will always honour that, no matter what governments do, how they cut it and slice this country. The country will always be aboriginal land, Canada.

Today we are talking about the B.C. Treaty Commission. Today we are also facing another crisis dealing with Quebec, another incident that would divide Canada. If it is the will of God to honour the people he placed here, the aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of this land, then Quebec cannot separate. We have put our faith in the creator to sustain us. This institution is based on that. The Canadian Constitution is based on that. As a matter of fact it is written on a piece of paper I have that in the principles of Christianity is found the liberty that has made Canada great. It is so great that in the United Nations' annual listing of the world's countries for 1994 Canada was ranked first out of 173.

Canada has benefited from the relationship with the aboriginal people. When we make treaties it has to be understood by every Canadian that we are here to co-exist, to welcome the Europeans, to live side by side with each other, to respect and honour each other and not to dominate. These treaties must also have the view and philosophy of the First Nations in this country because the creator put us here. We could not have given the land to anyone because we do not own it. We could only share the land and resources that would benefit everybody else in this country.

We did not accept the European concept of land tenure which is to have property, to see it as a commodity and to exploit and develop it for the purposes of a company or one or a few individuals. Maybe that is why opposition members are afraid of the land claims we are making. Maybe they think we may become like them. We may acquire all these things and not share them. In assessing these things we tend to assess the successes of our land claims and businesses in our communities based on European values and not in relation to some of the traditional ancient values we used to have. However, they are coming back again today.

We have to get back to the ancient roots because we are very close to the creator. The land has caused so much hurt. Look at the Oka crisis. Corporal Lemay died in that situation because the Mohawks did not want their ancestral burial grounds decimated. This summer in Ipperwash, Anthony "Dudley" George was killed as a result of land, another aboriginal burial ground.

These issues have to be resolved. They have to be dealt with. Our way of thinking and our philosophy are ones that have always been shared with other First Nations in this country, to share what we have, to share the land and resources. If we were to add up what it means in dollars and cents over the last 500 years I do not think it would even represent 1 per cent of the compensation to the aboriginal peoples. We probably would have been the wealthiest people in the world if we had been greedy and kept everything for ourselves. However, that was not our way of thinking.

That is why I am so honoured and humbled to be here, to be in this House which was created on the principles I espoused and which this place has sanctified to say all these things. All of us have to be reminded daily because we make mistakes as human beings. Personally, it has been a difficult journey for me to be involved in mainstream politics, provincially, nationally and internationally, in promoting this kind of philosophy.

The world's needs have come together because there is a global economy, a global movement which is happening, which is tearing our communities apart. It is influencing the communities in Canada. It is not just the aboriginal people, but Canadians as well. They feel helpless. They distrust governments. We have to restore trust.

I support Bill C-107. It will begin the treaty making process in British Columbia where treaties have not been made in the past, except for northeastern B.C., in the Peace River area, where Treaty No. 8 was signed years ago, as well as the treaty concerning Vancouver Island. However, most of British Columbia has never been in the treaty making process where land has been settled.

Our rights have never been extinguished. The Canadian Constitution has recognized that. There is not a requirement under the Constitution for any citizen or any nation to give up rights; rather, those rights which are recognized and affirmed in the Canadian Constitution should be expanded and defined. People are concerned about extinguishing land claims. They feel there should no longer be a requirement to extinguish land claims.

Several reports have been made to government over the past years. One was the 1985 Coolican report entitled: "Living Treaties, Lasting Agreements" which determined that extinguishing land claims were no longer an option. Today there is another report entitled: "Canada and Aboriginal Peoples: A New Partnership" authored by A.C. Hamilton. That report will be discussed in the near future. There was also the interim report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples entitled: "Treaty Making in the Spirit of Co-existence: An Alternative to Extinguishment". That report is also an alternative to extinguishing land claims.

All of those reports suggest a new approach. All of them ask that we come together, that we respect each other and that we negotiate in good faith. The rights of all individuals must be recognized. Whether they be aboriginal, government, business, or third party

interests, their rights must be protected in order for us to co-exist without fear.

I have heard some hon. members say that one law should be applied. Whose law should be applied? When our cemeteries are being desecrated, will the government remove the people who are occupying them? How would they feel if our aboriginal people were to go to their cemeteries? Whose law would be applied?

We must bring this to the attention of the Canadian public. Our concept of land tenure is one of sharing the land and resources. If the Canadian people understood that, they would not be threatened by land claims. Their interests would be protected. Aboriginal rights would ensure that. Our forefathers have taught us for many years that our history is very rich.

I have called for a sacred assembly to which all members will be invited. I have invited the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. A letter will also be sent to opposition members inviting them to participate in the sacred assembly which will be held hopefully sometime in December.

The sacred assembly is designed to bring together aboriginal and non-aboriginal leaders, spiritual leaders and religious leaders from all walks of life in Ottawa for the purpose of providing counsel and promoting reconciliation because of the events of this past summer.

What I believe has been missing is the spiritual element of this whole process. The political process has failed us. We need to get back to our traditional spiritual roots. The prime objective is to restore that so that the spiritual leaders, advisers and elders can provide direction not only to our aboriginal leaders but to government leaders across this country as well. This is sorely needed and the time is right for us to address these things.

With those few words, I thank you for listening. I recommend this bill to the members opposite.

Royal Mint October 16th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Churchill, the polar bear capital of Canada, I would like to commend the Royal Mint for choosing the polar bear to appear on the back of our new $2 coin.

In addition to being a distinctly Canadian symbol of strength, the polar bear also represents one of Manitoba's best known tourist attractions. I would like to invite all members of this House and all Canadians to come north to Churchill and see for themselves the inspiration for Canada's newest coin.

Indian Affairs September 21st, 1995

Mr. Speaker, last week I proposed the concept of a sacred assembly to consider aboriginal issues from a spiritual perspective. This assembly will bring together native and non-native spiritual leaders in the spirit of healing and reconciliation.

I am pleased to report to the House I have received positive responses from churches, spiritual leaders, communities, national groups and also my colleague, the hon. minister of Indian affairs. We are now in the process of assembling a working group.

I envision this assembly as a forum for sharing spiritual wisdom on aboriginal issues and also as a forum for promoting reconciliation between native and non-native communities in Canada.

This must happen if Canada is to heal and grow strong. I know many here have drawn on faith in our creator to guide and sustain us in our work in the House. In the spirit of this faith I call on all my colleagues in the House to offer their support on this initiative.

Aboriginal Solidarity Day June 21st, 1995

Mr. Speaker, today is aboriginal solidarity day and I call on my colleagues in the Chamber to show their solidarity with Canada's aboriginal people.

I also bring greetings from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Last week I attended its assembly in Winnipeg. I can attest to its solidarity as it prepares for the dismantling of the Department of Indian Affairs and for self-government in that province.

Today on this day of solidarity I call on members of the House to work together with the First Nations to implement self-government in Manitoba and across Canada.

Gun Control May 19th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice.

Aboriginal groups have criticized Bill C-68, the minister's gun control legislation. As a treaty and First Nations member, these criticisms are of great concern to me and I take them very seriously.

Treaties form the fundamental relationship that exists between the First Nations and the Government of Canada. Treaty rights are recognized and protected under the Canadian Constitution. Will the minister tell the House and assure the aboriginal people of Canada that Bill C-68 will not take away, abrogate, or derogate these treaty rights?

National Mining Week May 15th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, the second week of May is National Mining Week, when we focus attention on the contribution this industry makes to Canada.

I would like to focus on mining in my constituency. This industry is the main employer in many of our communities. The mining industry makes a significant contribution to the northern Manitoba economy through salaries and royalties.

I would especially like to pay tribute to the men and women of northern Manitoba who work hard in our mines and smelters. They are an important part of our northern community and they deserve our appreciation.

Petitions May 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, last year Sarah Kelly, a constituent of mine, was brutally murdered by Robert Bliss Arthurson, a known sex offender in The Pas, Manitoba.

Arthurson had been previously convicted for sexual offences involving children. He was known to police and social service agencies as a potential threat to children, but they felt under the current laws of Canada and Manitoba that they could not legally warn the community of the threat he posed.

Today I present to the House a petition with signatures from over 2,000 residents of The Pas and other communities. They pray that this Parliament enact legislation to enable courts to notify residents when sex offenders and murderers are released into the community.

I call on the hon. Minister of Justice and my fellow members to join me in finding ways to achieve this.

Employment May 9th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

My riding in northern Manitoba suffers from the highest unemployment, up to 90 per cent in some communities. The services provided by the Canada employment centre in Thompson and its satellite offices are absolutely essential.

Could the minister assure my constituents that the reorganization of his department will not cut human resources services in northern Manitoba?

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act October 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I chose to become involved in mainstream politics because I wanted to raise many issues.

As First Nations members we were not even recognized as part of the country for a long time. The first time we were allowed to vote was in 1960 and in the province of Quebec it was 1969. Many of the laws and legislation affecting First Nations people were passed without the full consent and participation of the First Nations people.

It is hard to unravel the history and legislative policies over the last hundreds of years in that short period of time. As a matter of fact I was the first treaty Indian elected in the province of Manitoba about 11 or 12 years ago. Most of my activity in the political field has been in mainstream politics. Before that I was chief of my band.

My ambition was to become involved in mainstream politics and hopefully through my participation many other people will begin to understand First Nations people.

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act October 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, what we have heard in the House from the hon. member confirms what I mentioned earlier. There is obviously a lack of understanding by the member. I said that ignorance sometimes misleads the public.

If the member knew the First Nations people, we have been very kind and generous. The member should look at exactly what the treaties mean. Much of the documentation created at those treaty gatherings was done by government officials, maybe in some cases by priests who did not understand aboriginal people.

We have a very rich oral history. The member would find the treaties meant that we were to live with each other side by side, that we would respect each other and not dominate each other. That is the spirit of the treaties. The member would not find those things written in history books, but if he talked to our elders he would find how generous we have been to share the land and resources with the people.

We have never been conquered. We chose to enter treaties with your government. Today we find that many of the First Nations people live in poverty. Meanwhile other Canadian people live in better housing. The standard of living in Canada is one of the highest in the world. It is envied by many countries. But First Nations people do not enjoy that.

Like I said, all we ask for is the government to live up to its treaty promises. We do not ask for anything more or anything less.