Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Vancouver East.
The NDP supports the treaty. The major problem that we see is that as a treaty it will not be honoured. We just had the example before us in the supreme court where the Marshall decision came down over a treaty from 1760 because that treaty was not honoured. The Northern Flood Agreement was a treaty that was not honoured and it forced native people into dire poverty when there was great wealth made off an appropriation of their land and resources.
We see treaties as a devolution of power which is bringing power down to the grassroots level and putting it in the hands of the people who are directly affected by decisions being made. This will help the Nisga'a people because that is what they need. They need power, they need their land and they need their resources to be able to get on with their lives and make decisions on how they will carry on.
What we are going to see as soon as the treaty is ratified is the whole implementation process. As I said, my biggest fear is that the implementation will force the Nisga'a people back into negotiation and that they will, in fact, have to take that to the court in order to have their treaty implemented as was desired. That is the biggest fear I have and I hope that does not happen. I believe that as Canadians we should be honouring treaties; that Canadians do not see themselves as conquerors; that in effect we have to make compensation for what was taken away.
The Indian people of this land had a race-based decision made in favour of them. That legislation was the Indian Act. It took away their language, their land, their culture and even their children. What we did was kick them out of their home and through negotiations we basically said that maybe they could come back into the basement. We said that we would make a little room but that they should not expect too much. I think that is a real shame on our part.
I honestly believe Canadians want to make reparation and compensation for the wrongs that were done, wrongs that can never be changed. We cannot give them back their children or their land, but the least we can do is give them back some of what they held.
On an international level, what Canada is doing is not all that wild or crazy as some members of parliament would have us think. There is the Nordic autonomous regions which are self-governing areas within Denmark and Finland. They are based on the historical and ancestral rights of a different culture within a country. They have their own parliament and some have their own flags, their own stamp and their own government. They are in charge of making laws that will determine the destiny of their people, but they do not have power over foreign affairs, defence, or the monetary system. Their federal or state government will pay for any decisions that they implement. The Governments of Greenland, the Faro Islands or Aland must therefore come up with money that they need to implement the laws that they have instituted.
One of the group of islands, known as Aland, their citizenship is determined by birth, by language and by culture, and they have to be able to speak the language of the people. If someone wants to become a citizen he or she has to stay on Aland for at least five years and be able to speak the language adequately. Interestingly enough, a person can lose his or her citizenship there if he or she leaves for a period of five years.
Throughout the world there is a wide variety of approaches to accommodating different cultures and different groups within a larger body.
On a national level, when it comes to treaties and the recognition of different cultures, different language and different histories within Canada, we have recently seen the creation of Nunavut.
The Yukon recently signed an umbrella final agreement which began the implementation and the final claims agreements of the 14 first nations, with 8 of them having been completed and signed off self-governing agreements at this point. They are governments with land, with laws and with the ability to decide how they will educate their children and how they will carry on as a group and have community rights. This was fought quite bitterly in the Yukon. It was through my whole generation that the claims were negotiated to get to a point where we could make real change for the first nations people.
Since these claims have been signed, the sky has not fallen in, the world has not gone to pieces and the first nations people and non-first nations people get along better than ever. The ability for a people to set their own ways and determine their lives has made a big difference for everybody in the Yukon.
Coming closer to the Nisga'a treaty, it actually fits in very well with the document by the former minister of Indian affairs entitled Gathering Strength—Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan , which was to say that we would negotiate rather than litigate. Again and again we are seeing that every time first nations people go to court it costs them and their people. That is money being diverted away from education and health and into the courts, a place where nobody wants to go.
With the very clear decisions of the supreme court, it has become more and more important to negotiate, rather than letting the courts make very black and white decisions over people's lives, decisions where repercussions, such as we have seen on the east coast over the Marshall decision, can be avoided. The really harmful reactions and violence by desperate people could have been avoided if our government had been willing to negotiate before it got to a crisis point. Unfortunately, it is certainly not over on the east coast.
The Marshall decision should give us a warning that it is critical to respect treaties that were based on friendship and peace. They were not based on anyone being conquered. They were based on the philosophy that we would share the land. Obviously the pilgrims and settlers who came to North America were not going back.
The treaty states that the Nisga'a people can make laws but only for the Nisga'a people. They can only tax Nisga'a people. Their laws will not apply to anyone who is not a Nisga'a, nor can they tax anyone who is not a Nisga'a person. There are laws such as travelling on highways that will apply to non-Nisga'a residents. This only makes sense.
We will be dealing on a nation to nation basis with the Nisga'a people. They will not be lesser than. By getting rid of the Indian Act, they will no longer be people who are considered unworthy to even make their own wills, to have marriage ceremonies and to make even the most basic decisions over their lives that so many of us take for granted but which have been denied to them. Historically, they were not even seen fit to vote in the country.
The really good element of the treaty is getting rid of the Indian Act and empowering the Nisga'a people to get on with their lives and to live their lives in dignity.
I look forward to the legislation coming before the committee and to having a very close look at every detail of it before it is ratified.
The New Democratic Party wholeheartedly supports the vision of the Nisga'a people, of the provincial government and of the federal government that would negotiate the treaty in order to free these people to live their lives.