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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was transportation.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Thunder Bay—Atikokan (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act April 21st, 2004

Madam Speaker, regarding the first point, I was speaking in global terms. I was rushing and I generalized. In the global context, in the world in which we live, there are religious groups that attack other religious groups and teach each other to hate each other.

The second point was in regard to an MRI machine that was to be introduced on a reserve some place in Canada. The member asked how our cabinet and government would approach that and how would we handle the problem. I think when that problem appears before the ministers, the cabinet and the departments responsible, they in turn will have to thrash it out and provide some type of guidance for the rest of the government members to debate and proceed.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act April 21st, 2004

Madam Speaker, I think everyone listening must realize that this area we are talking about is a very prosperous area of the country. This is where we have diamond mines. There are five communities and the unemployment rate is practically nil. Everyone is working. Money is flowing. There are opportunities that can be purchased, but there are also services that can be purchased.

On the type of question that has been asked, I could go on for a long time. Let us take a look at it from the political scene. Let us look at what is going to happen politically in that whole area in the years to come. Sure, they will be influenced by what happens here in the House of Commons, and they will be influenced by what happens in the provincial governments in western Canada. And they will be influenced by the political decisions made by companies that have invested heavily in economic endeavours in that area, no doubt about it.

However, the most amazing thing, based on the educational model, is that the people will be accustomed to the political scene. They will be under the bill of rights. They will expect and even demand to have a major role to play in the political endeavours of that area for years to come. In other words, they are not going to be content to sit back and wait for the white man who lives in Ottawa under the Peace Tower to tell them what to do, when to do it, how high to jump and why. They will make the decisions and they will have a tremendous influence on the other forms of government throughout Canada.

I will predict for my hon. colleague who asked the question that from a political viewpoint there will be a model emerging in that area which will have an influence for many years to come on decisions made in this House that pertain to aboriginal communities.

I already have mentioned something about the economic factors. The spinoffs are fantastic. We already know that some have come back and have established businesses and services. Soon there will be highly educated university students coming back as dentists, doctors and so forth.

The spinoffs are unbelievable. With so many professional people and business people in the community, there has to be a support system. There must be more doctors, more dentists, more teachers, more carpenters, more plumbers, more engineers and so forth. There must be more shopkeepers, more store owners and so forth. It will keep on growing. It will go on like that for many years to come, because the prospect of delivering new diamond mines is unbelievable. I recently read a report about western, northwestern and central Canada, where over 100 sites that might hold rich deposits of diamonds already have been discovered, people feel.

Socially there may be problems. A surplus of money will generate social problems. There will be an element in our society that will have an effect on these people. There might be access to too much of anything: too much alcohol or drugs or other forms of human endeavour that have detrimental effects on the people. Who knows? The government of that district, Yukon, might even establish a huge casino. That is a nice way of indirectly collecting a lot of taxes from very wealthy people and using them for whatever the government wants to use it for in its districts, not only in that area of Yukon but in other areas.

What will happen to the family unit? It will all depend upon the dedication of the father and mother to their principles, their culture and their value system, on whether they really believe in them.

Let me give an example. It is really frightening and I hate to even talk about it, but we have so many Christians in the world who claim to be Christians yet their value systems crumbled a long time ago. As for principles, they do not have them. They have a few in the bag that they pull out to use to their advantage. It is these people I find most disturbing, because they teach their children. They teach their children to hate other religious groups in this society and in other parts of the world. To me that is extremely disturbing. Fortunately, there are not too many of that kind of people.

In the north, because of two strong people living together, working together and solving problems together, many of the problems of discrimination will disappear and we will get to the point where it will become insignificant.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act April 21st, 2004

Madam Speaker, that is quite obvious. It is just the basic principle: as “two people”. That is what Chief Bruneau wanted. He wanted people living together, the non-aboriginal and the aboriginal, as two peoples. But they are within the same community and they function and operate within the same community. I am sure that over a period of time we are going to find a great deal of intermarriage taking place between the members of the two groups. There is no doubt about that.

However, the wonderful thing about it is that they work together. They see something, they have a vision of a problem that has to be solved, and they solve the problem together. It is not simply a question of turning the problem over to somebody else to solve, somebody who is not aboriginal. For many, many years in this country, problems have been solved for the aboriginal people. Somebody who was non-aboriginal solved them.

It is a wonderful working partnership in all five communities and it will continue to grow as more and more people locate in a growing, prosperous economic model that is situated way up north in Canada.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act April 21st, 2004

Madam Speaker, in our increasingly complex global economy, a sound educational system is crucial. Knowledge is the key to self-sufficiency, quality of life and success of all Canadians. This is no less true for aboriginal people.

Three years ago I had a large group of young, aboriginal people from northwestern Ontario who went through the school system, left the reserves, came into the larger communities, completed their high school programs and then were so stimulated they went on to get college degrees, certificates in special activity areas, as well as university degrees.

We brought these people together, approximately 150 young people between the ages of 20 and 35. Every one of them were extremely successful individuals in the field of endeavour that they chose. Many of them became business people but they did not operate businesses on the reserves. They operated businesses throughout northwestern Ontario and Manitoba.

I was delighted to see these young people. It was too bad that story could not have been told to all Canadians, that these people are not lost. They will not be drifting up there forever. Where there is a will there is a way and if that will can be stimulated to the point where they can actually react to it, cross that threshold and carry on with their educational system and their pattern of programs, they will be successful.

Although much has been done in the past two decades to improve education outcomes for first nations young people in Canada, a significant gap in achievement still remains between aboriginal and non-aboriginal. However the gap is not only true for aboriginals and non-aboriginals. That gap is also true between those children who live in huge metropolitan areas with all kinds of facilities, services and programs built within the community, such as museums, parks and everything else, and the non-aboriginal people who live in small communities. They do not have all of these programs, facilities and enticements within the community to enrich the lives of our young people as they grow up in them.

Yes, the people in the bigger cities, even though they are crowded, have far more for the young children of today than many children have in the isolated small communities scattered throughout the country.

Due to their small size and geographical remoteness, many first nations schools are unable to deliver programs comparable to those offered in provincially run schools. Aboriginal students without access to on-reserve education often have to travel a great distance to attend schools. Historically, these factors have led to higher dropout rates and lower educational achievements among aboriginal youth.

We have a very large high school which was turned over by the Lincoln Board of Education to an aboriginal school authority. This school has several hundred students in it from all over northwestern Ontario. There is no residence for these children, but these young people, going from grade 9 to grade 12, are billeted in a multitude of homes throughout the community. I can tell hon. members that the relationship between the students in the school and the non-native students within the community, with whom they associate, is a very positive one. It is one of the best examples of helping these young people to make the adjustment.

Some of these young people come from areas of the country where they do not have the facilities and the services. Therefore we have to set up special programs for them to quickly acclimatize and adjust to the new environment which they find in the city.

Many people are not aware of the fact that many of our aboriginal people have only one place in their community to shop. It could be a Hudson Bay store and everything has to be in there. When they come into the city there are all kinds of stores: a store to buy clothes; a store to buy medicine; a store to buy hotdogs and hamburgers; a store three blocks away to buy doughnuts or whatever; a little further away a store to buy shoes; a store to buy cookies; and a store to buy vegetables or anything else. That is not like on the reserve. There has to be training and adjustment for many of these young people.

The agreement at the heart of the bill includes self-government for the Tlicho people, the transfer of a parcel of land and a payment of approximately $150 million over 14 years, not one or two years but the next 14 years. The Tlicho have chosen to use this money wisely to repay debts accumulated during negotiations and to invest in social, educational and economic development. Approximately $500,000 a year for the next 14 years will be set aside for scholarships, helping to ensure that aboriginal young people will have access to the same high quality, culturally relevant educational opportunities enjoyed by non-aboriginal Canadians. That to me is a significant part of the bill.

The Tlicho have a long history of commitment to education. When Chief Jimmy Bruneau shook hands 35 years ago with then Indian affairs minister, Jean Chrétien, he recognized that the Tlicho needed to make a concerted effort to prepare for the future and protect their way of life from rapidly spreading cultural and economic influences.

Chief Bruneau spoke of the need to blend northern and southern cultures, to “be strong like two people” and to learn from aboriginal and non-aboriginal traditions. The chief also realized that to achieve this goal, the Tlicho would need access to schools that delivered culturally based education to aboriginal children in their communities. That was a very wise move.

In 1971, Chief Bruneau's dream began to come true when a school bearing his name opened in the Tlicho community of Rae-Edzo. Today that school is one of five in the Tlicho community, all overseen by the Dogrib Community Services Board.

It is widely accepted that aboriginal communities know best how to meet the educational needs of their young people. This is why the Government of Canada encourages and facilitates co-operation between aboriginal communities, national and regional education organizations, provincial and territorial ministries of education, and other stakeholders to establish and support an effective first nations education system.

Such systems are positive and important steps toward aboriginal control of their children's education, not like the educational systems we have in every single province where we have special egg crate kinds of structures and a group of children are put in tiny cubicles.

From some centre, like Toronto, Ontario, the fee that we have to pay for those little chicken coops is decided by a group of people sitting in Toronto 2,000 miles away from the school who have no clue about the needs of that community or of the people and children who live in that community. That has to be force-fed to those children in there.

Today it is even worse in Ontario. Programs are fed to kids all over the province and then they are tested on whether or not they digested them properly. Why not use a computer instead of trying to make a computer out of the child? Let the child live wholesomely in his or her own environment.

These aboriginal people have the answer. Parents work with the teachers within the educational system and they decide how to enrich the lives of their children within that community.

I did my PhD in this area in other parts of the world. Wherever that is taking place, success is astounding, especially in the areas of education, people's attitude toward others in that environment, their attitude toward people in their communities and the world at large, but above all, their attitude toward themselves. I really have to give these people way up north in this isolated community a fantastic amount of credit.

I hope they will provide leadership in curriculum development and parental involvement in developing their educational lifestyle and programs for these children for years to come, throughout the entire country, and get rid of this nonsense that is taking place in a province like Ontario at the present time.

Bill C-31 will give the Tlicho formal control over education and social services, a control that the Tlicho people, through the Dogrib Community Services Board, have already demonstrated they can exercise with care and compassion.

Much like the man after whom it was named, the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School is innovative and offers culturally based education to young people. The school is proud to bear more than the chief's name: it also lives up to the spirit of the chief's dream. The school strives to meet the challenge of educating these young men and women to be “strong like two people”, and it is succeeding in teaching Tlicho culture and language, along with science, technology and other skills young aboriginals need to succeed in today's workforce.

The school provides these young people with a broader range of career and lifestyle options than those enjoyed by previous generations. These increased opportunities are encouraging many more students to remain in school and graduate. Indeed, dropout rates have plummeted. More young people than ever now go on to post-secondary education, and in this community in June 2006 the school will graduate its first university-bound students.

As the economic prosperity of this community increases dramatically over the years in the future, a higher quality of life will be added to the lifestyle of all the people within that area, because many of these young people will continue with their education. Job opportunities will be generated and will increase in number in a very sophisticated manner, and in very professional areas too. They will come back to work with their people, serve their people and live with their people.

Helping young Canadians, including aboriginal youth, to stay in school is of paramount importance not only to the Government of Canada but also to the Canadian economy. A high school diploma is essential to a bright future. The alternatives can be devastating. Many high school dropouts end with a string of dead end jobs, chronically unemployed, unable to fit into the new economy and meet their full potential.

I do not have to belabour those points. We have had so much information--statistics galore by the bushelful--brought into this chamber to tell us time and time again that we have to do everything in our power to help the provinces to get those children who are dropped by the wayside. They fall between the cracks and miss this golden opportunity in this wonderful country of ours to really pull themselves up by the bootstraps and become very happy and productive individuals in our society. If that does not happen, if they do not go through the educational system, the chances of them ruining their lives and maybe even ruining the lives of others are enhanced dramatically.

That is why the Government of Canada continues to make significant investments in education and training for aboriginal secondary and post-secondary students. These investments are designed to encourage these young people to remain in school, graduate and reap the lifelong benefits.

It is not just the young who will benefit from this agreement and the money that Tlicho people are setting aside for post-secondary scholarships. Tlicho men and women who have graduated from the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School and have gone on to further education are already returning to the community, bringing with them the benefits of the education they received outside. They are showing the community's youth what can be achieved through education.

They are also proving the wisdom of Chief Bruneau's original strategy. Men and women who graduated from the school that bears his name now own and operate dozens of successful business in the north. Others are part of the Dogrib Power Corporation, which operates a hydroelectric facility on Snare River. One young graduate who went on to earn two degrees has now returned to Rae-Edzo as the community regional post-secondary support coordinator. Accomplishments like this could be read out in the House for many years to come.

I will not be able to complete my lengthy presentation, but I would like to say congratulations to all those leaders of the community and to Chief Bruneau who had the foresight, the intelligence and integrity to stick to and hang onto his dreams and to make sure they are carried out. Congratulations, I say.

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act April 21st, 2004

Madam Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to speak to the bill. To me, because of my background of experiences, it is one of the most dynamic pieces of legislation that has ever entered this House, which will have a fantastic influence on and control, to a certain degree, over the lifestyle and future developmental patterns of a great number of people in a large area of this wonderful country.

While my colleagues have addressed other aspects of the bill, I would like to describe how the legislation would improve educational outcomes for Tlicho young people and deliver additional benefits to all Canadians.

Societies around the world have long recognized the importance of knowledge and learning. Indeed, an impressive and ever-growing body of research indicates that investing in the education of our young people is probably among the most important investments our society can make. Our children are the very foundation upon which our country's future will be built, and it is this education that is of vital importance.

Exactly what kind of construction takes place? What kind of value system are we instilling in these young people? What are the principles of achievement and of self-respect. What are the positive signs of growth that will help, not only that individual to have a much happier life, but the entire community, which really means all Canadians?

I talked about the importance of the bill. I have been involved in education for many years. In a formal sense, I was involved for 37 years. I travelled to Indian reserves all over northwestern Ontario. I examined, helped and tested teachers in reserve schools and in schools in many communities throughout the centre part of Canada, which we refer to as northwestern Ontario.

I have watched children grow. I have watched children destroy. I have watched children blossom into young, productive, happy adults. I know, from all the experiences I have had in all those years, how extremely important the influence is of the social dynamics that take place in the school, especially with peer groups and those who try to influence, and do influence the members of that peer group, called teachers. However, even more important, is the influence of those people who are in the community, especially the families, the mothers and fathers. They are so critically important, as well as all those who are in daily contact with that growing individual.

I have seen some wonderful things happening in northwestern Ontario over the years. As I go along, I might take time and digress. My understanding is that if I wish and if I am able, I can speak here for an hour, two hours, three hours or more. Could you clarify that for me, Madam Speaker? Just exactly how much time are you offering me?

Committees of the House March 24th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, presented earlier this day, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees of the House March 24th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament. Pursuant to Standing Order 118(1) the report establishes the quorum of the committee.

If the House gives its consent, I will be seeking concurrence in the report later this day.

Armenian People February 25th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, there has certainly been a change in the atmosphere in this chamber versus the atmosphere of two hours ago. That is a clear indication to me, and to everyone else, that this is a solemn occasion and a sensitive one for all the members present in this chamber.

I would like to tell the House that in October 1995 I was fortunate to have visited Turkey. Why did I visit Turkey? I formed the Canadian-Turkish parliamentary friendship group here and was keenly interested in that country. I was hoping to develop more positive relationships with a country that I knew very little about, and most parliamentarians knew little about the country as well.

It was a highly organized and planned trip, one in which I had complete control in determining whom I would meet, the topics of discussion, concerns, places to examine, from the highest levels of governmental and religious control to the bagel peddlers on the street. Without any doubt, it was a fantastic learning experience.

Before I left Canada, I did a lot of research and had the opportunity to meet with some Canadians of Armenian descent and leaders in the Armenian community.

I will never forget that meeting because they did their very best to convince me not to visit Turkey. They presented to me a picture of a country where they claimed human rights did not exist for the masses and where the Kurds were being persecuted daily.

For instance, one story I remember so vividly claimed that if people were caught speaking on the street or overhead on the bus or on the streetcars speaking one of the Kurdish dialects, they were reported and could be punished. They told me quite a few others.

I soon discovered that none of their horror stories were true. The constitutional protocol of the Turkish government states:

Differences of languages, faith, and origin within our national culture enriches our cultural life. The natural prerequisite of a democratic social structure is that these differences can be expressed freely within the scope of national integrity.

Seventeen constitutional amendments, early in 1995, introduced democratic reforms in the human rights areas, the most important being freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly.

These reforms are working. I found that there were 15 Kurdish newspapers, numerous books written in the Kurdish dialects and today, eight years later, the evidence is overwhelming with over 3,000 independent, not government controlled, radio stations, some broadcasting in the Kurdish dialect.

While visiting the Turkish grand national assembly, which is its parliament, I discovered that over 100 members sitting in that parliament were of Kurdish descent, such as the minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Hikmet Cetin.

With all the democratic improvements that have taken place in Turkey since 1995--and I compare it to all the other countries surrounding Turkey and near Turkey--I firmly believe that Turkey stands out as the most secular and democratic state in the Middle East.

During my first visit I met many Canadians who had invested in economic projects in Turkey. From Montreal, there was the famous LaSalle College International Fashion School, whose graduates are found in many houses of fashion throughout the world. There was Netas, a giant telecommunications enterprise in Istanbul, a company which is 51% owned by Northern Telecom, and the list goes on.

The highlight of my visit was visiting the enormous complex subway system that was under construction in Ankara, the capital city. Government officials, engineers and representatives from Bombardier Incorporated and SNC-Lavalin, Quebec companies, and a delegation of officials from the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay--Thunder Bay is my riding--where the subway cars were built, took me on the first trial run of the cars in that system. In that trial run I discovered that they were all highly impressed by the effectiveness of the system and by the superior workmanship revealed within the subway cars.

There is not enough time to deal with the economic relationships between Canadian and Turkish companies. Supporting and accepting this motion, for which there is absolutely no proof of a planned genocide of Armenians, would have disastrous economic effects on Canada's economy.

At this very moment, pending the outcome of this motion, we could win or lose a billion dollar contract to have over 300 subway cars built in the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay. Over 1,000 employees are involved, mostly highly trained and skilled union members. Parts are manufactured in Thunder Bay, which involves a great number of other skilled workmen, and a great number of parts and systems are manufactured in Quebec.

SNC-Lavalin, a major contributor to telecommunications and control systems for the subway, would also be severely affected, which would mean a decrease in employment of this company, not only in Ontario, but especially in Quebec.

Our ties with Turkey are growing in a very positive manner and we must not jeopardize this beneficial growth in an emotional, reckless, foolhardy manner.

I would like to say a word now about the claimed planned genocide. The Ottoman Empire was comprised of 25 countries. For many years turmoil prevailed throughout certain regions, especially in eastern Anatolia and Armenia, which is in the far eastern section of what we now call Turkey. Even before the Balkan war started in 1912, many were moving and leaving that area for safer havens. Prior to 1912, British, French and Ottoman sources claim the Armenian population was somewhere between 1.05 million and 1.5 million.

Historian Dr. Justin McCarthy of the University of Louisville, British historian Arnold Toynbee and Monseigneur Touchet, a French missionary, all calculated that the Armenians lost approximately 600,000 people from 1912 to 1920. However, during the same period, over 2.5 million Muslims, including Turks, Kurds and Tartars, died in eastern Anatolia. We have no idea how many Russians were killed.

The Armenian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference in 1920 declared that, after the war, 280,000 Armenians remained in the Anatolian portion of the occupied Ottoman Empire while 700,000 Armenians emigrated to other countries such as France, Australia, the United States, and Canada, where the majority went to Quebec. Clearly then, a great portion of the Ottoman Armenians were not killed as claimed.

Each needless death is tragic. Equally tragic are lies meant to inflame and perpetuate ethnic hatred. That is not the Canadian way.

In conclusion I would like to quote what the former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, said on April 24, 2002:

--let us be reminded of the importance of working together to eliminate intolerance and fanaticism wherever it appears, and to promote reconciliation and cooperation among peoples.

That is the Canadian way.

Specific Claims Resolutions Act November 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, there has always been controversy ever since Bill C-7 was introduced, also Bill C-6, Bill C-19 and Bill C-19, which took 10 years of development by the first nations people. They agreed to it and then things changed dramatically.

As far as that party is concerned, there is direction from a leader and the major critic on Indian affairs in misguiding the members of his community. What he is really advocating is that the status quo be maintained with the first nations people organizations. He says that there are--

Specific Claims Resolutions Act November 4th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I clearly have indicated that I do not have a crystal ball but I do have a lot of information, like a lot of other Canadians. We know how to effectively use it in our negotiations and our deliberations with each other to come to some consensus in solving problems. We might be tempted at times to follow zealous input and a driving force from a special interest group. That happens when that hon. member gets up to speak on behalf of a great number of people who want transparency, accountability and, above all, democratic practices to be introduced in their communities.