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

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act October 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I will read my prepared statement which is about four more pages. I will try to read fast.

I would remind hon. members that such agreements have been reached with four Yukon First Nations, the Vuntut Gwit'chin First Nation, the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Teslin Tlingits Council. Progress in the negotiations for final agreements with the remaining 10 First Nations are awaiting passage and proclamation of the bill and the coming into force of the Yukon First Nations land claims and self-government acts which members passed last June.

One of the primary objectives of land claim agreements is to bring about certainty of land and resource ownership. This is being achieved in Yukon and it will result in many economic and social benefits to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal residents of Yukon.

Hand in hand with this certainty of ownership comes the need for a known regime for obtaining access to private and public lands. This regime must be responsible and fair to all residents of Yukon and it must put Yukon resource industries on a level playing field with other Canadian jurisdictions.

I am very confident that Bill C-55 will establish such a regime in Yukon. It will establish a common set of rules throughout the territory. It will ensure that all stakeholders have representation on the surface rights board which will hear disputes between surface rights holders and those who want access to the subsurface resources.

It will keep these disputes out of the courts. As my colleagues have already indicated, the proposed Yukon surface rights board will be a cost effective dispute resolution mechanism compared with litigation.

The surface rights board will be an extremely important body in Yukon. It will guarantee that mining companies and others will be able to exercise their legitimate rights of access to holdings of private land as well as crown land. This will ensure that resource development projects will go ahead after many years of delay and frustration.

The board will also ensure that compensation for the use of these lands is fair and reasonable. This is particularly important for First Nations which will own the surface rights of large tracts of land for which subsurface rights have already been granted.

In addition, the surface rights board will be mandated to uphold all existing rights of access across settlement lands for the public and government.

This is on the condition that the use of these rights does not significantly alter the route. Otherwise the consent of the affected First Nations will be required. Consent will also be required for new access routes across settlement lands.

There are many reasons why the House should support Bill C-55 but in weighing all the reasons my colleagues and I have outlined today, we should not forget that most fundamentally we will be fulfilling a commitment made by the Government of Canada to Yukon First Nations and to all Yukon residents.

That commitment was to settle the Yukon First Nations land claims based on the umbrella final agreement and the creation of this board is an integral part of that process.

The government's commitment to settle outstanding land claims was clearly stated in the red book and it is a pledge we intend to act upon at every opportunity.

We have made some excellent progress and established strong momentum over the past year. Most recently, we endorsed the final agreement of the Sahtu, Dene and Metis of the Mackenzie Valley. Negotiations are proceeding well on a number of other claims.

By addressing land claims in a fair and responsible manner, the government will resolve long standing disputes with First Nations and contribute to a healing process between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

I would urge my hon. friends to participate actively in this healing process by supporting Bill C-55 at second reading.

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act October 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I want to address the House on Bill C-55, the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act.

I would like first to make some general comments regarding how this legislation came about. We had two previous bills dealing with the Yukon land settlement, the land claims and the self-government issue. I was somewhat perturbed as to the lack of understanding by the member who just spoke in terms of the relationship that the First Nations have in the country. I think oftentimes such ignorance misleads the general public. I do not blame the member. I think it is just a lack of knowledge and lack of awareness of that information.

I have always said that the first order of business in this country should be with the first peoples, the First Nations, in Canada. After all it is the First Nations that were here to welcome many of the newcomers who are here in this country, including members who are sitting in this House.

It is through the generosity of the First Nations people that many Canadians have benefited from the lands and resources in this country. In many parts of Canada there are still outstanding claims that have to be settled with First Nations.

In my area in Manitoba we have treaties that were signed a long time ago and in parts of B.C., the territories and Yukon treaties were never entered into. As a matter of fact this land claim settlement that we have just made I think is the conclusion of the outstanding business that needed to be settled with First Nations people in Canada. It is a modern day treaty that provides the wherewithal for First Nations to be self-sufficient and self-governing.

As the member has stated, Canadians need to be aware of what commitments the federal government is making to First Nations. We need to look at what promises have been made by First Nations to this country. They have through treaties shared the land and resources with the rest of the people in this country.

The question is not asked by First Nations: "What are we committing ourselves to, to other people?" There is no hesitation at all to bind our future generations so that we can share our land and resources with the newcomers. As a matter of fact this commitment and these promises are forever. The treaties state as long as the sun shines and the grass grows and the river flows that is our commitment. We expect governments to reciprocate that kind of understanding to our people.

As the member asked, what is the government promising to First Nations in the country? We have waited well over 100 years to address these issues. We have First Nations in Yukon who have waited a long time to settle these outstanding claims.

All these years governments have reaped the resources from Yukon. Canadians have benefited from those resources but across the country today the First Nations people still lack basic human needs such as housing which many Canadian people take for granted.

As a First Nations member I have been involved in this process for a long time, trying to educate the general public about these issues as to how generous we have been as First Nations people. That is a kind of understanding that I hope hon. members across will understand, that somehow in settling this land claim we are depriving ordinary Canadians. That is not so.

If the government were to look at the past 100 years in terms of the lands and resources that it has had and how much revenue it has obtained from these lands and resources that First Nations shared in the country, it would see that it runs into billions of dollars. If the First Nations people would even obtain a small percentage of the revenues generated from the lands and resources alone there would not be any government handouts. Oftentimes First Nations people come to governments to seek help. Oftentimes it is humiliating because it appears we are beggars and are seeking handouts.

The truth of the matter is that the aboriginal people, the First Nations people, have given much already and have had very little in return. It is time that governments honoured their obligations to First Nations people in this country. We are not asking for anything more or anything for less. We are just asking governments to live up to their promises.

Another question I want to address is the hon. member's notion of self-government. The hon. member said that self-government should not be more than a municipality. That is another lack of understanding the hon. member has. In the country it was

the Queen and her officials, the sovereign country of England, who entered into treaties with First Nations in the country. Therefore, we have a nation entering into an agreement with a group of people in the country and it certainly was not a municipality. It was the First Nations.

The notion of a treaty making process is a right that the aboriginal people, the First Nation people, have had for thousands of years. A treaty making process only validates and recognizes that the First Nations have been self-governing for a very long time. That is something that needs to be understood by Canadians and by governments in the country.

We have a special and unique relationship with Canada. I do not mean that we are special in a way that we are better off than other people. No other group of people in the country has that kind of relationship with governments except the First Nations.

By signing treaties we were entering agreements with another government and did things we understood. We have been very accommodating to other governments and Canadians. It is time we begin to reap from the land the resources that we once had control over.

I am extremely pleased to speak in support of the legislation that deserves the backing of hon. members from both sides of the House. The people of Yukon are nearly unanimous in expressing the view that it is time to move forward with the settlement on the Yukon Indians land claim. Bill C-55 is the final building block in the legislative foundation.

Hon. members are well aware that the Yukon Indians' umbrella final agreement was 21 years in the making. People who were not even born when the negotiations began now have families of their own. With Parliament's endorsement of Bill C-55, the benefits of the agreement, including money, can begin to flow to these families.

The claim agreement will do nothing less than ensure an equitable and prosperous future for Yukon Indian children and youth. It will also recognize First Nation seniors for their perseverance, patience and guidance, as well as compensate them for many years of hardship.

It will give Yukon Indians of all ages a chance for a new beginning, a new partnership with governments in the management of Yukon lands and resources.

Hon. members are also aware that the umbrella final agreement was ratified by all the affected parties: the federal and territorial governments, Yukon First Nations, business interests and non-aboriginal residents of Yukon.

It is supported by the stakeholders because of the certainty of land ownership and the rights it will bring to Yukon. This certainty is essential if mineral and energy development projects are to go forward, creating jobs, income and business opportunities for all residents of Yukon.

We must acknowledge and respond to this support by moving Bill C-55 through this House as quickly as possible. To do otherwise would be reckless and irresponsible and would damage the crown's credibility among First Nations, northerners and all Canadians.

The legislation before us today will establish a new surface rights regime and a surface rights board for Yukon. The creation of the board was a key element of the umbrella final agreement and is, therefore, a legitimate commitment by the Government of Canada to all residents of Yukon.

If there is one thing that stands out about the bill it is the extent of the consultative process that has been proceeded with since its introduction to the House. Both the general public and affected interest groups in Yukon were widely consulted last year by federal officials when guidelines for Bill C-55 were being developed.

They were also consulted on a number of occasions on the wording and contents of the bill. Several groups from the mining industry participated in the legislative drafting process, including the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and the Mining Association of Canada.

The interests of the petroleum industry, which also has an important stake in the issue of surface rights, were well represented by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The Yukon Territorial Government also provided input as did the Council for Yukon Indians, various Yukon First Nations and the Gwitch'in Tribal Council.

Public input was solicited by sending drafting guidelines to major interest groups, including the Yukon Trappers Association, the Yukon Outfitters Association. An advertisement was also placed in Yukon newspapers announcing the availability of guidelines for review by the public.

Consultation on a first draft of the legislation began 15 months ago in June, 1993 when a draft bill was sent to all interest groups. Later that month a meeting was held with these groups in Whitehorse. Subsequent parts of the bill were distributed to groups in October and February. This was followed by additional meetings with the Council for Yukon Indians and the territorial governments in Vancouver in March and with other interest groups in Whitehorse in April.

Based on the output received at these meetings and through other channels, another part of the bill was produced and distributed this past June. Further meetings were held with different stakeholders in July, August and September, leading to more changes to the bill.

My intention here is not to provide details of every meeting that has been held on Bill C-55, but it is important for the House to recognize that the government has made an extraordinary effort to hear the concerns of stakeholders who will be affected by the creation of a new surface rights regime in Yukon.

Most concerns were met but some compromises were necessary. The bill that has been introduced is consistent with the provisions of the land claims agreement and is in the best interests of all Yukon residents in the interests of open, accessible and responsive public government.

Hon. members would be hard pressed to find any stakeholder group in Yukon that opposes the basic principles that underlie this bill. The different groups may not agree with how every i has been dotted and every t crossed, but they do agree on the need for a territorially based surface rights board that will oversee a stable, fair and responsible regime.

It is my belief that we must seize this opportunity to put this new regime in place. As I stated earlier, further delay at this time is not only unnecessary but will jeopardize the implementation of the final agreements of Yukon First Nations.

I might remind hon. members that such agreements have been already reached with four Yukon First Nations: The Vuntut Gwitch'in First Nation, the First Nation of-

Petitions October 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Hudson Bay Route Association, I would like to present petitions containing 2,626 signatures.

The petitioners call on the minister responsible for the wheat board to maximize grain shipments through the port of Churchill and to ship at least 5 per cent of Canada's annual grain shipments through Churchill.

I agree with these petitioners. The port of Churchill is a valuable but underutilized resource. It is the most direct route from the prairies to salt water. We have to overcome the ignorance about this northern port so it can live up to its potential.

Committees Of The House October 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development regarding Bill C-36, an act respecting Split Lake Cree First Nations and the settlement of matters arising from an agreement relating to the flooding of land, without amendment.

Social Program Reform October 7th, 1994

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

As the House knows, the social reform program is of crucial importance to the aboriginal peoples of Canada. We are the poorest of the poor. We see it as an opportunity to address the unacceptably high level of poverty among our young people. Our children face this prospect.

What assurances can the minister give to the House that the aboriginal people will be heard in this important and pressing review?

Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act June 22nd, 1994

I will just say that I recommend this bill to the members of the House of Commons. I hope that the Reform Party will support it because it is about Canada. It is about living together in this country and not trying to alienate each other. That is what we want.

I want to say that I have been honoured to speak on this bill and I hope the motion is carried unanimously.

Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act June 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to agree to this. Of course we are I believe on Indian time.

Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act June 22nd, 1994

We are not asking for land. Unlike the Bloc our intention is not to separate. Our intention is to keep the country together, to live with each other.

I just want to get back to the original terms of our relationship. It is important to understand why we live in the conditions on our reserves. The first and most destructive piece of legislation that has kept us under wraps has been the Indian Act. I have always thought the Indian Act would have established the relationship between the governments of Canada and the First Nations, not one that totally binds us or totally shackles us on a daily basis. By trying to do away with the Indian Act the government can address the issue. At least it will put the control of our lives and our destinies in the hands of the First Nations. We have never signed away or bargained away that right.

Governments outlawed many of our ceremonies. They basically outlawed our Indian spirituality. Indian spirituality is a way of life for us. Governments outlawed the dances, the ceremonies and the potlatch. Basically they outlawed how we manifested our relationship with the Creator. It was against the law to do that.

Indian spirituality is a way of life. In order to establish a relationship with oneself, with one's family and with the community one needs to have that spirituality in oneself to establish that relationship, to be able to establish the relationship with other people who have come to this country of Canada, even to establish the relationship with the environment, with all living things, with the land, the air, the water, all the trees and all the

animals. We need to have that. In order to be able to function as a society, able to function as a government we need to have that.

In order to have any kind of sense of moral values you need to have respect that there is another way of doing things, not just your own way. People need to recognize that. When they outlawed all these things, the classic example of how we were beaten, even for speaking our language, was done through the educational system. People were strapped for speaking their language when we went to residential school.

Many people can talk to you about the instruments that the governments used to assimilate us, to integrate us. Even cultural genocide is written in black and white as to the intentions of the government. Certainly when they outlawed the spiritual aspect of our people they destroyed many people. We might as well have existed with no heart and no soul. We might as well have been just basically robots running around without any kind of conscience or any kind of moral values.

Let me tell you that aspect has never been taken away. It has been our strength because today we have survived many years of assimilation and persevered despite government policies.

I said in my statement yesterday about Aboriginal Solidarity Day that we are a great nation, that we are a great people, that greatness is not measured by material wealth, but is measured by how much we are able to give and how much we are able to share.

That has been demonstrated by the First Nations to the rest of the world by what kind of people we are today. That as I said has been our greatest strength and has made us endure all kinds of things that have been thrown in our way. Today we are resolving a small portion of the country in which many of the First Nations live in the territory of Yukon in order to settle their land claims.

If we look at the tremendous contributions that the aboriginal people have made, this is a very small aspect of what they are getting. If we look at all the Indians, First Nations across the country, when they signed the treaties and shared the land and the resources, how much can we calculate in terms of dollars? How much can we calculate in terms of dollars has that been to the cost of the aboriginal people?

It probably runs into billions, maybe trillions of dollars, that the First Nations have shared so that other people can live in this country.

When you look in the communities we live in third world conditions. Many of the necessities of the south in our communities in the north are considered luxuries. We have no plumbing on our reserves and no roads. We have to fly in. Unemployment is high.

In the meantime the people in southern Canada benefit from the lands and resources we shared with the governments.

Even if we get a small percentage, let us say 5 per cent of the land resources alone, there is enough for the government to be able to honour its commitment to the First Nations in this country.

Canadian people question the government about their tax dollars but it does not have to necessarily get the money from the ordinary taxpayer to pay for its treaty obligations. I know we have to maintain the social programs such as medicare and family allowance, old age pensions. Those dollars generated from the income tax of ordinary Canadians or other means, the government does not necessarily use that money to pay for its treaty obligations.

It is the land and resources which we shared that we expect the government to get the revenues generated. There is enough for it to give to the First Nations in order to honour its treaty commitments and treaty promises. I do not know how much that runs into. I think it runs into billions of dollars.

I expect governments to recognize the First Nations as equals. That we will always have the ability to enter into treaties. We did not subject ourselves to the governments. That is one thing the Reform Party should understand. We have never been equals at the bargaining table.

As I said there is no threat in that because our guarantee is to share the land resources. I might as well say our constitution is written in our hearts and enables us to share what we have.

Often times I find that people and governments want certainty to the land. I know how business operates. I know the realities of business that need to be developed and companies would want to have a certainty in terms of ownership of land. I believe there is another way to deal with those things but it is not something that is part of the bill. I do have other opinions and other ways of dealing with that. At some point maybe later on we can talk about it.

Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act June 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great honour to participate in this debate and also to recognize a process which should have been resolved many, many years ago. It has taken a long time to get the recognition we deserve as First Nations in this country we call Canada, which happens to be an Indian word. I do not know if Reform members know what that means. Certainly they need to understand the real history of the country which today we call Canada. If it was not for the kindness and the generosity of the First Nations and its people this rich country would not benefit anybody.

I know we are talking about the land claims settlement agreement and also self-government but often times we combine the two because that is our philosophy, our way of thinking. We cannot isolate the land from day-to-day life. Our existence depends on the land and it is very important that people understand that.

If I go back to the time of the first European contact the governments that came to this country were met by First Nations on the shores of the St. Lawrence River or on the west coast of British Columbia or on Hudson Bay and Winnipeg. The First Nations met these people and that relationship has never been concluded, has never been finalized. Certainly across the country there have been many agreements and treaties made with First Nations and that process has extended to areas where treaties have not been made such as the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

I always say that the first order of business has never been concluded with the first people, the first inhabitants, the First Nations.

The treaty making process is about establishing relationships. When the crown or the Queen's representatives came to this land they made treaties with the First Nations. What does it mean when you make treaties or agreements with the First Nations? It means that we entered into agreements. We established a relationship and these treaties and the modern day agreements are those agreements.

Treaties that were signed many years ago and today are about establishing relationships, how we are going to live with each other. Certainly the treaties that we signed in western Canada hundreds of years ago are still an ongoing process. They have not come to an end. Governments still have outstanding promises, treaty promises. We still have outstanding treaty land entitlements. We still want to resolve some of the issues like education that were promised to the Indian people.

Those things are ongoing. The treaties were signed years ago but it is an ongoing process because it is about establishing a relationship.

As I have said many times, we have never surrendered or extinguished the right to govern ourselves. As a matter of fact when the treaties were entered into, the Queen's representative, the crown, never questioned the authority and the jurisdictions of the First Nations. They respected it.

That is the fundamental relationship that the First Nations have with the Government of Canada, the treaty relationship. No other group of Canadian people have that relationship. It is a special relationship that we hold sacred and we bind the government to honour those commitments. Our elders tell us those are sacred agreements.

It is not something that was given to us. Our way of thinking, our philosophy, is to share what we have. Certainly in terms of land, our philosophy is that we cannot own it but rather we could only share it with the newcomers to this country.

There was conflict over the different value systems that the Europeans, when they came to this land, wanted to impose. They had a different value system such as land tenure which was quite foreign to us. Somehow they conferred that title on to us and

later negotiated it back so that they somehow would justify their occupation of this country.

If one looks at the Indian philosophy, our way of thinking, governments did not need to do that because our way of thinking is to share what we have, including the land and resources that we signed in our treaties, including in the Northwest Territories and today in the Yukon settlement.

We have been very patient, very generous, very kind and we have never rejected anyone who came to this country. As a matter of fact, we extended our hand to the rest of the world for the kind of country this can be, this great country that we call Canada today.

Sometimes I cannot fathom the thinking of the Reform Party in which it questions the land that is being claimed and settled with the aboriginal people. Our people never questioned their generosity to the rest of the people. We never questioned that because that is our way to extend a hand, to share what we have. That is our greatest strength as First Nations people.

What is happening today, what we are trying to retain are parts of the country, parts of our territory, so that we can continue to live traditionally and with the rest of society. If one looks at the relationship from day one and if one looks at the European people who came into this country, they were out to look for treasures, to conquer the world, to seek the riches of the world.

They came to this land and found the First Nations people who were very kind and generous here. They never knew the concept of land tenure, to own the land. The concept is as foreign as owning the air. That is how foreign that concept was to our elders at the time when we signed the treaties.

Treaties are about establishing relationships so that we would live with each other, so that we would live side by side with each other, so that we would honour each other, so that we would respect each other and not to dominate each other such as the case has been over the past hundreds of years.

Many of the people who were signing treaties went back and started implementing a policy of the government which totally dominates us today as First Nations people. They passed an Indian Act which has been in place for a hundred years. It affects us on a daily basis as to whom we are today. It defines us as Indians. It even contributes to the conflict and chaos in our communities.

With the new Bill C-31 we have many categories of Indian people. We have status people. We have non-status people. We have treaty Indians. We have Bill C-31 Indians. We have band Indians. Governments have tried to define us, but we have always said that we are First Nations. The definition of membership should belong to the First Nations government. It should define who are its members.

People often wonder why we are not improving our lives in the communities or the conditions we live in. We still have poor housing conditions. We have no running water. We have no electricity. Infrastructure is terrible. If we look at the statistics in terms of illnesses and hospital use by First Nations people, they are high. The suicide rate would be four times as high, four times the national average. Our children drop out of high school at an early age. Oftentimes they are symptoms of the social conditions we live in, symptoms of the lack of control in our communities.

We are not asking the government to give us something. We are asking the government to share what we have, to respect our governments, to respect our ability to control our lives and to respect that we are able to determine our own future. This is not about living in a different world because Canada belongs to everybody. To the aboriginal people it is not about separating. There is no threat of separation in the country.

Aboriginal Solidarity Day June 21st, 1994

Today is Aboriginal Solidarity Day, a day when the First Nations of this land take time to commemorate our past and history, our rich culture and heritage.

We are the First Nations. We are many nations. We are a great people. We are a great nation. Greatness is not measured by the material wealth one has. Greatness is measured by how much one gives and how much one shares. This has been demonstrated by the First Nations to the rest of the world. We have been very kind and generous. This has been our greatest strength.

We are not lazy people. By appreciating and understanding, by supporting and recognizing the aboriginal people of this land this country can be a united, stronger and better Canada.