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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was agreement.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Liberal MP for Provencher (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply June 3rd, 1999

Madam Speaker, I did not suggest that any member from the Reform Party called any member here racist. I suggested, and the record can be checked, that Reform members referred to the Indian Act as racist. That word was used in the House. However I would prefer, if I may, to proceed with my comments.

I referred to the B.C. supreme court decision. Mr. Justice Williamson states in his reasons in paragraph 28 “It is essential that the courts respect the right of parliament to exercise unfettered freedom in the formulation, tabling, amendment and passage of legislation. This obligation is no less than that of the duty of legislative and executive branches to respect”—and I emphasize this—“the independence of the judiciary”.

Members opposite should know that the contents of legislation and indeed the entire legislative record is relative to the determination of constitutional issues in this case. It is often by this record that the judiciary deduces legislative intent. The proceedings of the House therefore will be relevant to any determination the courts are called upon to make on the Nisga'a treaty.

In addition, the debate in the House is also important to all Canadians. They deserve to know where their members of parliament stand on the issues affecting the country. For that reason alone this is and will be a historical debate indeed. Would the member for Skeena prefer that his constituents not hear the full extent of his views on an agreement which promises to change the face of the region for the better?

In the motion the member for Skeena has put before this House he implies that he is concerned that the treaty could be used to usurp, diminish or subrogate the individual rights of Nisga'a people. I would put it to the member that if he were so concerned about the rights of the Nisga'a constituents, he might visit that area more frequently. I know that he has to clarify that in the House and I appreciate that.

As I have said before, I would be prepared to offer my services to him to mediate meetings between himself and the Nisga'a people who are eager to do that. I am certain these constituents would assure the member that they no longer want the limitations of the Indian Act. Even some of his own colleagues have agreed. In fact, the Nisga'a have unequivocally said that most important of their objectives is to remove the Indian Act. They agree and we all agree.

After more than 20 years of negotiation, it is important at this time that we ask the lawyers to step aside, that we pull back from the courts, we stop the debate, we fold up the tent as it were, and all the parties that are affected come together and debate that. It is the House of Commons where we intend to do that. We want a full debate on this matter. We will have an opportunity to do that in the fall as we have talked about and promised. The due diligence process that all our constituents require from us will be exercised thoroughly in the House when we debate these motions.

I believe that history will show after the vote is taken in the House of Commons, that those who for whatever reason vote against this treaty will in 25 or 30 years from now be judged by the Canadian people, that while their opinions may have been right or wrong, they were on the wrong side in opposing this treaty.

Supply June 3rd, 1999

Madam Speaker, thank you for your ruling. I do appreciate it. I believe my colleague from Winnipeg North was engaged in a similar problem with the Reform Party this morning.

The word racist was used a number of times in the House by Reform Party members in terms of referring to the Indian Act.

Supply June 3rd, 1999

Madam Speaker, paragraph 11 of his lordship's decision affirms that the constitutional—

Supply June 3rd, 1999

Madam Speaker, I should give the House due notice that I am splitting my time with the member for Vancouver Quadra, who I know will be eager to speak to these issues and speak to them well and competently.

I am pleased to rise in my place to respond to the motion by the member for Skeena. Before I go into my written notes, I did not have an opportunity to ask the member for Vancouver Island North a question, but perhaps I can make a comment. He can respond privately to me later if he likes.

The point I want to make about the legislation we are contemplating here in the House and as part of the motion, is that it is not race based government at all. It is based on citizenry. Anyone can become a citizen of the Nisga'a place.

If the member for Skeena or the member for Vancouver Island North would like to undertake the process of becoming Nisga'a citizens, I could meet with the Nisga'a people. Being non-aboriginal persons themselves, I would like to inform the House that I would be more than willing to undertake that if they are willing. This would clearly and categorically demonstrate to them both that it is not race based government at all. If the member for Skeena would like to become a Nisga'a citizen, I would make that application for him beginning today.

The hon. member for Skeena, who put the motion for the opposition, has asked that the House recognize public concern in British Columbia over the Nisga'a treaty and self-government.

I say respectfully to my good friend that we on this side of the House fully acknowledge that Canadians in all parts of this country recognize the significance of the Nisga'a final agreement. We know that the Nisga'a treaty will bring us into a new chapter in Canadian history. Unlike the members opposite, we will not try to hold on to the ragged script that has governed our past.

Three of the members opposite used the words racist Indian Act. Perhaps they are correct.

Unlike the members opposite we will not try to hold on to these old ways of the past which they seem to fight against in their Reform Party rhetoric. We will not enter into this new chapter of Canada's story without due regard for what has come before.

We will respect the rights of individuals and minorities and will pay heed to the independence of the legislative and judicial branches of government. That is why the government could not in good faith accept the premise on which the opposition's motion is based, that we as legislators should abrogate our duty to address those matters of policy which shape Canada's history, its identity and its future.

It would be irresponsible for the government to take debate about the Nisga'a treaty from the hands of Canada's elected representatives and place it in the lap of the judiciary, a judiciary I might add that has encouraged this most recently in the Delgamuukw case. I ask the member to read the words of the supreme court justice and others who wrote that opinion to negotiate rather than litigate land claims.

The member spoke about the $31 million that was used, for example, for negotiations and said, astoundingly, that it should be used for sewer and water projects. I absolutely agree. If the member honestly believes that, would he then oppose his own party and help me here today in voting against this motion to stop what it wants to do with this motion which is to go back to court? It is preposterous. Let us recognize the opposition motion for what it really is, a failure to respect Canada's constitutional values which the Reform Party cannot, will not and has not embraced.

I remind members opposite of the decision of Mr. Justice Williamson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in the recent Campbell case. In his reasons his lordship reviewed the basis on which a court might consider questions about the constitutionality of the Nisga'a treaty. Paragraph 11 of his lordship's decision affirms “the constitutional validity of the legislation”—and he is referring here to the Nisga'a final agreement—“arises only after the bill has been passed by both houses of parliament, received royal assent and become law”.

In other words his lordship is saying to this House that he respects the rule of law and parliament. He is giving us in deference to that, proper authority that parliament would debate this and pass this and the courts would then make their judgement on it. Why does the Reform Party want to usurp that proper jurisdictional ruling by the B.C. court?

Supply June 3rd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments. I know he has spoken on these issues before.

I would like to take note of his broad sweeping approach to the discussions. He talked about economic emancipation for aboriginal people and said that if they are just given resources it is not helpful to them, that it creates poor character, as it were. He also mentioned that as a result of all this the aboriginal people flock to the cities as economic refugees, as it were.

I would like some clarification. Could the hon. member tell the House precisely what he meant when he said that just giving resources to the reserves somehow diminishes the character of the aboriginal people, that something happens to them and they become lazy and so on and so forth? Could he perhaps clarify for the House precisely what he meant by that?

The hon. member is a physician and one who has spent time working with aboriginal people. If he could quickly outline just two points on that second matter, what would his plans be for economic development for some of our first nations communities? What would he advise the Canadian people to do?

Supply June 3rd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member from British Columbia for that speech. I note how refreshing it is in this House of Commons to see somebody from British Columbia speaking clearly on this issue, as is my colleague from British Columbia who is sitting beside me now.

The people of British Columbia and those Canadians who have watched this debate over the last number of months have constantly heard members of the Reform Party referring to themselves as speaking for the people of British Columbia, which is absolutely false and untrue.

I know that the member has spoken well. There are many members of parliament from British Columbia who support this deal.

The hon. member began her statements by making some presumptions as to why the Reform Party is doing this. We have listened to this for some time. The member from Winnipeg made that point. What are the motivations behind the Reform Party in British Columbia in opposing this deal?

Supply June 3rd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, that is the truth.

If the member had 2,500 members in his riding, which he of course does, and in any particular town, would he, being a Reform Party member who has pledged and vowed publicly before the Canadian people to support them, oppose 2,500 of his own people under those circumstances as the member for Skeena now does?

Supply June 3rd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief because I know my colleague from Manitoba would like to ask a question as well.

During the Charlottetown accord and the five point plan that the member for Skeena properly referred to, he is wrong again in his numbers. The Angus Reid polling throughout 1992 during the Charlottetown accord showed that the component of aboriginal peoples, that particular component of the Charlottetown accord, received the strongest support across Canada.

Land Claim Agreements May 28th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the following three reports: the 1995-96 and 1996-97 annual review of the implementation of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement; the 1997-98 annual report of the implementation committee on the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement; and finally, the 1997-98 annual report of the implementation committee on the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreements.

Aboriginal Affairs May 28th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is clearly aware of the negotiations and the claims by the Gitanyow to the northern portion of the land claimed by the Nisga'a. We are currently in negotiations with the respective parties.

I was in British Columbia last week to meet with our negotiators and the Nisga'a. I raised these particular questions and we are satisfied that an agreement will be worked out to the satisfaction of all parties.