Mr. Speaker, on September 21, 1992 the federal government, the British Columbia provincial government and the summit, which is a group representing aboriginal groups involved in this matter, reached an agreement to establish a commission called the British Columbia Treaty Commission. It would aid in the treaty negotiation process by assisting the groups involved to become fully prepared for their role in this process.
In other words, the commission itself would not be directly involved in the actual negotiations but would ensure those persons who would be at the negotiation table would have arrived there fully prepared with all the i 's dotted and the t 's crossed. I am assuming the objective of this approach, i.e. the creation of a commission to facilitate, is to speed up the negotiating process and to ensure all parties are fully informed as to the nature and intent of the negotiating dialogue.
The September 21, 1992 agreement committed the three principals involved to establish this treaty commission via statutes in the case of the governments and a resolution in the case of the summit. This agreement also addressed the B.C. Treaty Commission's organization such as the membership, the terms of office, the location of the office, the quorum, the funding arrangements at least for the first five years, and so on. The agreement also identified the commission's mandates and its parameters.
It was all there on September 21, 1992. Very early in May, 1993, less than one year later, the summit passed its resolution. Later that same month the B.C. legislature also passed its enabling legislation. However, here in October 1995, almost two and one-half to three years later, we are debating Bill C-107 which is the bill respecting the establishment of the B.C. Treaty Commission.
There has been an awareness of this need for legislation for some time, actually one year and three months since September. One can ask why this government is taking so long, since January 1994 for example when Parliament opened here, to carry out its obligations on this process.
The commission does exist but because of the delay in the passing of legislation here to establish it, it has been functioning informally. The fact that the commission has been functioning in our immediate past provides us here today with an insight as to the possible effectiveness of its role in the whole negotiating process to date.
For example, we have had some difficulties. In British Columbia six blockades were erected by the natives in the past year. One was a blockade on a road for private residences on Adams Lake near Kamloops that ran through an Indian reserve. Not far away was a two-week blockade disrupting business this spring at the Douglas Lake ranch after the ranch had asked natives to stop net fishing on a lake that was privately stocked by the ranch. Only the delicate
negotiations of the RCMP kept the peace and brought that blockade down.
A third blockade was outside Penticton. Three native bands disrupted last winter's season for the Apex ski resort with their so-called checkpoints on the access road that ran through the reserve.
Early this summer the province shelled out millions to a developer to buy waterfront property on Vancouver Island which was later discovered to be another burial ground. This triggered another obstruction.
Then in northern B.C. the Gitksan Indians, who are well into negotiating land claims, erected blockades to frustrate forestry operations on the land they wish to claim. Number six was Gustafsen Lake. The owners of the cattle ranch company at Gustafsen Lake were victimized by renegades who had no direct association with the North Shuswap Band.
These behaviour patterns are not condoned and they are certainly not conducive toward achieving a constructive negotiating process. They are occurring regardless of the negotiations today and regardless of the commission's activity to date. Be it legal or illegal, behaviour patterns are occurring suggesting that one, there is a frustration with the whole process, possibly partially due to delays such as the one we are experiencing today; and two, that the present approach of the negotiations is not effective or at least not as effective as it should be.
In addressing the slowdowns or the delays, it is quite obvious in British Columbia how long the land negotiations have been dragging on. We can see that right across the country. Negotiations on the Nisga'a claim have carried on for some 23 years.
As negotiations proceeded into the 29th Parliament, which was 1972-74, the current Prime Minister was then the minister of Indian affairs. Negotiations continued on through the 30th Parliament of 1974-79 and again our Prime Minister was present. Negotiations marched on through the 31st Parliament of 1979-84 and our Prime Minister was there as well. As negotiations sped along during the 32nd and 33rd Parliaments of 1984-88 and 1988-93 respectively, our Prime Minister was in the opposition, except for a very brief period of time.
Now the Prime Minister has held a large majority in the 35th Parliament since October 1993 and here we are over two years later creating a commission to facilitate discussions between aboriginals, the B.C. government and the federal government. I wonder, will the right thing be done now on the treaty negotiations?
The second suggestion I mentioned earlier arises from the various behavioural signals we are getting, that is, the possibility that the present approach for constructive negotiating is not effective or is not as effective as it should be. As I stated earlier, the commission is functioning in its facilitating role. Therefore, it should be preparing the parties involved for effective participation in the negotiating process.
Possibly it is this preparation aspect which may be the weakness in achieving the effective results for all those involved or for all those affected by the decisions which are being reached. Possibly the present method which we are using to prepare for these negotiations should be reviewed. We strongly recommend that the commission review this situation and insist that the parties involved listen to the concerns of both aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples at the grassroots level and formulate their negotiating position with input from that source.
In our discussions with people at the grassroots level we found a common concern for jobs, public safety, health, racism, education, et cetera. We also found a common lack of understanding of the land claims and the self-government demands. We further found that there was a common mistrust of the federal department of Indian affairs and of politicians.
We recommend that the commission also promote the need for creating or establishing a fundamental change in the relationships between the aboriginals and governments, with less dependency on the federal government and more democratic control by the aboriginals over aboriginal governments. Our aim is to give aboriginals more responsibility for their own well-being, the tools to discharge that responsibility and more accountability for the results.
We strongly recommend that the commission prepare the parties involved to achieve that objective by incorporating the following principles into the agreements while they are at the negotiating table.
First, the development of democratic, accountable and responsible local governments on the reserves should be supported and subject to the laws of Canada and the provinces. Members will recall during the constitutional wranglings of the Mulroney government that aboriginal women were very concerned about protection of their individual fundamental rights and freedoms.
Second, aboriginal people on reserves should have access to the services of Elections Canada to guarantee democratic process is respected in band council elections and access to the services of the auditor general to maintain the fiscal accountability of local governments. We have been approached by band members who are very unhappy with what they view as this huge process in band elections and what they allege to be the misuse of band funds.
Third, land settlement processes should be not only fair, affordable and final but publicly negotiated and open to all the affected
interests. The negotiations that led to Bills C-33 and C-34, being rushed through the House, were not publicly conducted.
Fourth, individual aboriginals should be able to opt for private ownership of a share of any land entitlement and the property rights and reserves should be expanded and respected. Presently aboriginal farmers have difficulty getting operating loans for each crop year because they do not hold title. A newly formed aboriginal association, the First Nations Agriculture Association of Alberta wants to address this and other related issues.
Fifth, aboriginals living on reserves should be able to receive federal financial transfers directly as other Canadians do rather than from a band council.
Sixth, direct federal funding of aboriginal political associations should end, allowing the aboriginals to decide which organizations they will support financially or otherwise. Why should anyone have to support something whose aims do not agree with his or hers?
Seventh, special tax exemptions for aboriginals provided for under the Indian Act should be rescinded and aboriginal individuals and companies should be subject to the same taxation laws as all Canadians. This would do much to counteract resentment and would give the aboriginals a stake in what happens in the federal government.
Eighth, existing treaties should be honoured in accordance with court interpretation and laws enacted by aboriginal governments should conform to the laws of Canada. Another point the commission could prepare the parties for discussing is Canadian law, including the Criminal Code. Laws should be enforced uniformly across the country regardless of race, language or culture of the victims or perpetrators of the crime.
In the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development policy guide on self-government listed among: "The subject matter where there are no compelling reasons for aboriginal governments or institutions to exercise law-making authority" are: "maintenance of the national law and order and substantive criminal law including offences and penalties under the Criminal Code and other criminal laws, emergencies and the peace, order and good government power". That was page 7. We hope the minister will follow through on this commitment to universal application and enforcement of the Criminal Code.
A ninth principle for consideration at the table would be regional conventions of aboriginal representatives elected by aboriginals to discuss particular application of the principles of self-government. The commission can achieve the objective of giving aboriginals more responsibility for their own well-being and the tools to discharge that responsibility plus more accountability for the results by preparing the parties involved to negotiate the previously mentioned principles at the table.
Regarding the whole concept of treaty negotiations not specifically in the negotiating component, in British Columbia another concern comes to mind at this time. Article 13 of the British Columbia Terms of Union is: "The charge of the Indians, and the trusteeship and management of lands reserved for their use and benefit shall be assumed by the dominion government".
The document goes on to say: "To carry out such policy, tracts of land of such extent as it has hitherto been the practice of the British Columbia government to appropriate for that purpose, shall from time to time be conveyed by the local government to the dominion government in trust for the use and benefit of Indians on application of the dominion government".
By order in council P.C. 1265, dated July 19, 1924, the federal government formally acknowledged that B.C. had satisfied all the obligations of article 13 respecting the furnishing of lands for Indian reserves and had described the process as: "full and final settlement of all differences between the government of the dominion and the provinces".
One tends to think that would imply the negotiating aspect, as far as British Columbia is concerned, has been completed. However, here we are negotiating treaty settlements in British Columbia with British Columbia aboriginal groups which according to a release from British Columbia's aboriginal affairs minister will cost taxpayers some $10 billion.
In studying Bill C-107, I became concerned about some of the clauses. The first concern is there are several money spending clauses. For example, clause 6(3) assumes the commission has been functioning informally already, that any transactions which occurred previous to this will be assumed by the commission once this bill passes.
Clause 9 is remuneration and other terms and conditions of appointment of the commissioners. Here we are possibly talking about salaries or expenses, et cetera.
Clause 16 is a money clause which illustrates that the federal government will assume the financial responsibility of any claims or damages that the commission may incur. But it is directly related to the proportion of their original funding.
Clause 17 allows the commission to hire persons to assist it. In clause 5 allowances are made for the commission to have moneys to enable aboriginal groups to participate in the negotiations. Further to that, in clause 5(3)(c), should a dispute arise, money will be provided for the parties to prepare themselves to resolve the dispute.
Those money clauses are included in the bill. The agreement of September 1992 identifies a cost sharing program between the federal and provincial governments. It only addresses this issue for the first five years of the activities of the commission. No apparent indication is made of what occurs in the sixth year or thereafter and
no date is available in the whole process to say how long these negotiations in British Columbia will continue.
On the money concept a clause states that an annual budget will be presented to the principals. Considering all these points, auditing is essential. Clause 20 does address the audit situation, but it says:
The accounts and financial transactions of the Commission shall be audited annually-
-by a qualified independent auditor designated by the Commission, and a report of the audit shall be made to the Commission.
It does not go any further than that. Considering that a portion of this is federal funding, it seems very logical to me that auditing of the federal funding portion at least should be done by the auditor general.
Clauses 18 and 22 are of concern as well. Clause 18 says:
The Commission may make by-laws consistent with this Act and the Agreement-
The agreement in this case means the agreement of September 21, 1992.
The Commission may make by-laws consistent with this Act and the Agreement respecting the carrying out of the work-
That in itself is all right. Clause 22 says:
Nothing in this Act shall be interpreted as preventing the principals from amending the Agreement from time to time.
That is the September 21 agreement. I find that quite difficult from the point of view the whole bill is the agreement of September 21, 1992. Therefore, if the principals are going to go back and change this agreement after the legislation has been passed, it is a logical follow through that the bill should be amended to incorporate the changes the principals have made to the initial agreement.
We offer qualified support to the establishment of the B.C. treaty commission and to Bill C-107. We are a little after the fact, but nevertheless we hope any discussions facilitated by the commission would include our recommendations which, as I said, come from the grassroots, both native and non-native.
The concerns of aboriginal people are Canadian concerns. They are concerned about jobs, personal safety, social service, control over their own government just like the rest of us are. We need to give aboriginals the same rights and responsibilities for meeting those concerns as other Canadians enjoy-they may not enjoy them-but as other Canadians have.
We believe aboriginals will welcome the chance to free themselves from the paternalism of the department of Indian affairs, to assert a more genuine, democratic control over their own affairs and to realize brighter futures for themselves and for their children and their grandchildren.