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.