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

Petitions April 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to present certified petitions from over 100 of my constituents and others in support of the increased use of the port of Churchill.

The port of Churchill is an untapped national resource. The petitioners call on Parliament to direct the hon. minister responsible for the wheat board to maximize the port's use and to ship at least 5 per cent of Canada's annual grain shipments through the port.

The Canadians who built the port and the railway to Churchill had a vision of Canada and of the north. I join the petitioners in hoping that this vision can live on.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act April 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, first of all we would like to be in a position to make our own decisions. We would like to exercise our own jurisdiction in respect of our territories. At the same time we would expect the government to honour its treaties so that we would have the resources and the financial wherewithal to address and alleviate some of those problems that are so apparent in our communities such as unemployment, the high suicide rates and the economic conditions.

We are not asking for any special funding or to consider anything special. All we are asking is that the government honour its treaty obligations. Housing, medicare and education are under the treaties, just to give an example of what we are talking about.

What is important is that the government tends to make decisions for us and that has to stop. By not supporting this bill I think what is being said is that the hon. member is agreeing to the policy which exists today. What is being said to me is that he is not agreeing with the government's policy and legislation to allow us to make those decisions.

With respect, the amount of dollars we are talking about is very small compared to the spending government has had. As I said, we have been very generous. We are not asking for billions of dollars in this package. We are asking for a very small amount of money compared to the kind of money spent overall.

My first answer is, allow us to control it and honour your commitment by supporting this bill. Actions speaker louder than words.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act April 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, certainly the problem we are wrestling with is not as a result of our laws. It is as a result of the laws that were passed here a long, long time ago, well over 100 years ago.

Many of our people have been put outside of their communities as a result of laws that were passed here. If we had exercised our own laws many of our people would still be enjoying the benefits of our societies. When we are concerned about leaving out people or people not being represented or losing their rights, the principles of that will be maintained by our people.

Certainly, when we are talking about self-government structures we cannot operate with the kind of laws that have been put in place. If we did that all we would be doing would be implementing the colonial oppressive policies on ourselves. Therefore, a new kind of system would have to be recognized and a level of government would have to be established in which we would be able to exercise jurisdiction within our own territory.

When talking about justice, whose justice are we talking about? Usually the dominant society has the upper hand in dispelling justice which is quite different from ours in terms of value systems. We could get into a big debate about that, but I certainly think the aboriginal people in their own traditions have maintained the kind of structures that would provide all kinds of rights and benefits to our communities.

I do not see any kind of loss of rights if we were to administer our own jurisdiction in our own territory. I have no hesitation in saying that.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act April 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, self-government simply put is to administer our own affairs, to be able to make our own decisions and to determine our own future. It is a very simple statement but very complicated to implement. Self-government entails many things. It means to start developing our own institutions, language, culture, education and our own First Nations government structures.

In negotiations self-government is based upon what kind of agreement is reached. My position has always been that the fundamental basis and foundation from which we negotiate are the treaties. When the first governments met we sat down together and came up with a treaty. That formed a basis for our relationship with the government. In return we were to have certain benefits.

However we have never extinguished the right to self-government. It has never been surrendered. To me the treaty making process has never come to an end. What needs to happen is the government needs to sit down with the First Nations in this country.

One of the reasons the constitutional process failed is that the very question the hon. member asked was raised at the constitutional table. All the first ministers and the Prime Minister asked the same question. They were the ones really to say what kind of structure we have. It was not based on equality. We were not being invited as equals; we were just invitees at the first ministers conferences. It failed because we were not equal in the negotiations.

Sometimes we get invited equally on a level playing field. However often when we are on that level playing field or let us say we are in a skating arena we find we have no ice skates or equipment, yet we play according to their rules. That is the kind of process we have been involved in. We are not being treated equally.

It should be based on the treaties, nation to nation. Once that is recognized instead of trying to determine what is best for us, we should sit down as equals, equal to First Nations. I think that would resolve a lot of the questions.

Self-government is not something which is defined in a paper. It has to be negotiated with the First Nations. It may vary from the Micmacs to the Haida people because they have different cultures and a different way of doing things.

There is the potlatch system. Potlatch is a system of government. We have the clan system which is another traditional form of government. There is Iroquois confederacy. These different systems of government have been here for a long time, whether they will be modified or not. Those are things we go through.

When the hon. member asks for a definition of self-government, it is a matter defining it in the negotiation process or through a treaty process. It is not black and white but it is a process that hopefully the governments are going to be undertaking so we can resolve it.

Sahtu Dene And Metis Land Claim Settlement Act April 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken here a few times. I have made some statements but this is my first speech in the House. I am very honoured to be sent to the Parliament of Canada to represent my constituents, not only the aboriginal people in my area but also many non-aboriginal people.

As an aboriginal person and First Nations member, I have been involved in this discussion for many years both as a chief in my reserve, Red Sucker Lake Band, and also as a member of the Legislative Assembly in Manitoba for well over 11 years. I have committed myself to this process for a very long time. What I find is that I have to repeat myself over and over again many times to get my point across.

When we talk about the aboriginal people we have been here for thousands and thousands of years. We have had governments for thousands of years. We had societies. We had political structures, social structures. We had our own languages. We traded with other nations. In that way we have existed as a nation, as a government in this country. When the first European people or the settlers arrived they were met by the First Nations in this country. They welcomed these people on to the shores of what we call Canada today. Whether it was on the west coast or on the St. Lawrence River we were here; even through Hudson Bay, which I am very familiar with, down to the Nelson River to Winnipeg we welcomed these people.

If it had not been for the kindness and the generosity of our people many of those people would have perished. If the Lord Selkirk settlers had not been helped by Chief Peguis, many of these people would have perished.

What surprises me in this country is the lack of understanding or the ignorance of the history of this country. We see the Canadian Constitution being proposed as supreme law in this country, entrenching in the law of this land the recognition of two founding nations, the French and the English. We know very well that the first people here were the First Nations. Yet your Constitution is based upon the supremacy of God and the rule of law.

There is a myth concerning the Canadian Constitution and the truth. Any constitution should be able to tell the truth, built upon strong foundations that will not crumble but will stand the test of time. The Canadian Constitution never did that. That is why it crumbled, it did not acknowledge the truth and reality in this country.

It was the First Nations that contributed so much to this country by signing treaties. What does it mean when you sign treaties? It means that you enter into an agreement with another nation, in this case the settler people represented by the Queen with our representatives of the First Nations.

There were many pre-Confederation treaties and a number of treaties made in Manitoba and today what are called modern day treaties. Treaties are about establishing relationships. That is what it is all about. As a matter of fact, when we say inherent right to self-government, we are exercising the very authority to sign the treaties. We did not need Parliament to tell us we have treaties. As a matter of fact, there should be a formal recognition by Parliament that we always had the inherent right to self-government. It is not something that can be granted by Parliament or by Canada, because we came to the table as equals. That is what the treaty making process is all about, establishing that.

In that process we shared the land and resources of this country from which many people have benefited all over the world. How generous and how kind we have been to the rest of this country. What kind of benefits have we received so far? Look at the situation in Davis Inlet or in my home at Red Sucker Lake. We have poor housing conditions. We do not have running water. We do have unemployment rates higher than in the cities. I am sure that if unemployment reaches 20 per cent it is a national disaster across the country, but it is 90 per cent in many of these communities. Nobody cries about those kinds of conditions.

All we want is governments to honour and respect the treaties they have signed with us. We do not expect anything more or anything less because we have contributed so much to this great country and we have not benefited at all.

We talk about the special relationships. I know we have a special relationship, but I do not mean special in the way that we are better off than anyone. We have a unique relationship which no other group has in this country. We want governments to honour that.

This government has proceeded to do what has not been done, and that is to settle and implement inherent right to self-government. We are not asking it to give us self-government. It has never been anyone else's concern to give us anything. It is a matter of acknowledging that we have always had that.

We talk about the Fathers of Confederation in Charlottetown. What about our forefathers who signed the treaties? Can they not be mentioned in history as contributing to the well-being of everybody else in this country? There is no formal recognition of our people. All we are asking for is to settle the outstanding issues, the treaty obligations. The spirit and intent of the treaties should be honoured.

Many people have risen and spoken here but all we asked for, compared with what money has been spent, has been very little. Consider how much land and resources have been generated in this country and shared by the aboriginal people. I am sure billions and billions of dollars have been made off this great country. Yet when we ask for money we are not asking in the sense that we are begging for it, we have been asking governments to honour their treaty obligations, if only a small portion allocated under the control of First Nations.

If we look at the treaty making process, government officials went back and developed the wording. They never really understood what the native people were saying. First, our way of life and our philosophy is to share what we have so we shared the land and the resources so that we would have respect for each other, that we would live side by side with each and that we would co-exist with each other and help each other. That was the spirit and intent.

It was never our intention to be governed by a government. We have never extinguished or surrendered the right to govern ourselves. It has never been that. When we signed the treaties they were signed nation to nation. As a matter of fact, it was a recognition when we signed treaties that we were nations. As a nation we expect governments not to act unilaterally in the way history has shown us and in which they created the Indian Act which has total control over our lives. It even defines who we are today. This has to be done away with and we have to have a renewed partnership. That is the challenge that faces us today. How can we honour that? I know we have honoured our bargain. We expect the government with the support of the opposition to honour the promises of its forefathers, those they made to us. We do not expect anything more or anything less. That is all we ask for, we do not ask for very much. We have been very patient for a very long time and it is time the government honour those treaties.

That is why I am very honoured to speak on Bill C-16. It is a very small part. We want to be part of this country and we have contributed so much to this country as well, but no one seems to talk about it or at least acknowledge it. If they acknowledge it somehow they seem to be obligated that they have to provide more things or more benefits.

If the governments alone were to provide for their treaty obligations there would really be no need to ask for more funding. We talk about finality. In the treaties it says as long as the sun shines and the rivers flow and the grass grows. That is the terminology used. It is forever, the relationship that we have.

We are very committed to this country. We want Canada to be wealthy. We want Canada to be united. We love this country. We love this land. We love everybody. I often say jokingly that our immigration policy was wide open, and it has been to show what kind of people we have been. We have been very kind but it has been the governments here that have always dictated and put restrictions on. It seems like within our own homeland we are treated like foreigners, we are treated like outside citizens, second class citizens.

The first order of business should be the First Nations business in this country. We should settle the treaties and settle land claims. I speak in favour of this bill. I hope members will support this bill.

Indian Affairs March 9th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Earlier this year six young children died in a house fire in Lynn Lake, Manitoba. According to an annual report by the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons aboriginal children in Manitoba are four times more likely to die than non-aboriginal children, and aboriginal children are 11 times more likely to die in house fires.

Could the minister tell the House what he is doing about the horrendous social conditions endangering and killing aboriginal children?

Festivals February 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to congratulate the Dave Smith Rink of St. Vital which won last weekend's Manitoba Tankard curling championships in Thompson, Manitoba.

I also would like to commend the organizers of this major provincial event. I am proud that Thompson was able to attract a sports event of this size and make it a success.

In addition I welcome all members of this House to join me in The Pas this weekend for the Northern Manitoba Trappers' Festival.

The Trappers' Festival is one of Canada's oldest and most authentic winter festivals. Visitors will enjoy the World Championship Dog Race, the King and Queen Trapper contests, the Fur Queen Pageant, and authentic northern food and entertainment.

I join the people of The Pas in inviting you to come north for the Trappers' Festival.

Aboriginal Affairs February 8th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, like many other First Nations people I was pleased to hear aboriginal self-government addressed in the throne speech.

The inherent right to self-government is a unique and special relationship between Canada's First Nations and the crown. The formal acknowledgement of self-government is a historic occasion even though it is just an acknowledgement of this right which has never been surrendered or extinguished.

In acknowledging the inherent right to self-government the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has announced to move to implement self-government.

I believe the government is finally honouring and respecting the unique positions of First Nations within Canada. I hope the first peoples will join me in saying yes to this renewed partnership.