House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was claims.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Nunatsiaq (Northwest Territories)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget March 18th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to hear the hon. member complain about all the things the government is doing wrong, while at the same time telling us that the UI deficit has gone, that it is now in surplus. Today we have the lowest interest rates in 30 years and a low inflation rate. I cannot figure out what the hon. member has to complain about. She just told Canadians that this government has done a very good job of attacking those things.

The hon. member mentioned at the beginning of her speech something about how we are cutting the social programs. I am wondering what she would do for single parents who are having a hard time in their day to day living or for the aboriginal people who are at the bottom end of the economic scale, and which we are doing something about to address, such as the Nisga'a case. We are trying to right the wrongs that have been done over the years. The Reform Party does not support the negotiated agreements we have made with the Nisga'a or any other land claims. Reformers think we are giving away the land and the money to aboriginal people.

What does the hon. member think the government should be doing to address the wrongs that have been done to the aboriginal people over the issue of lands and other rights, as well as the disabled and all the other social issues?

Joseph Bernier Residential School March 8th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, last week in Igloolik former students of the residential school in Chesterfield Inlet, operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate received an apology that was a long time in coming.

During the 1950s and the 1960s Inuit students at the Joseph Bernier school suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse. For over 30 years the victims have struggled with heavy hearts. Their load was lightened by the sincere apology of the Bishop of the Hudson Bay diocese, Bishop Reynald Rouleau. I commend the bishop for this brave act.

As well, I pay respect and honour to all those former students of the school. Despite their painful burdens and the pace and stress of the transition to modern society, many have become successful leaders in their communities. I salute their courage and determination.

Iqaluit December 13th, 1995

Editor's Note: Member spoke in Inuktitut

Mr. Speaker, an historic vote was held in the Arctic. A plebiscite was held on Monday when residents chose Iqaluit as the capital of the new territory. Sixty per cent of Nunavut voters chose Iqaluit.

I congratulate Iqaluit. I congratulate as well the people in both communities who worked so hard throughout the capital campaign. I thank the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for giving the people of Nunavut the opportunity to democratically choose their future capital.

The people of Nunavut have spoken. I recommend Iqaluit highly to the minister and the government as the people's choice. Let us join our efforts now in our common goal of creating a new territory in 1999 in which all communities will share.

Aboriginal Land Claims Commission November 28th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to respond to the motion by the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake and to debate the claims policy and the establishment of a claims commission.

The government has been looking for ways to promote a commission that would be fair and would be seen to be fair to all aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians who are affected by the settlement of land claims.

The hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake has been a strong advocate in the House of policies aimed at resolving the outstanding issues relating to the claims process. We have listened to his advice and are looking forward to hearing what the Reform Party has to add.

As for the Liberal government, our approach to the claims process was spelled out in our 1993 election platform. In the red book we placed aboriginal issues at the centre of the public policy agenda. We devoted one of the eight chapters in Creating Opportunity exclusively to aboriginal issues and raised the awareness of the impact of other policies on aboriginal Canadians throughout the document.

We promised the role of our government would be to provide aboriginal people with the necessary tools to become self-sufficient and self-governing. We also said that our priority would be to help aboriginal communities in their efforts to address the obstacles to their development and help them marshal the human and physical resources necessary to build and sustain vibrant communities.

We promised our government would build new partnerships with aboriginal peoples based on trust and mutual respect. A fair and effective land claims process is essential for those objectives. The resolution of the claims must be a priority for all Canadians.

Both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians require certainty with respect to land rights so that we can get on with the building of the economy, creating jobs and growth, and making our communities better places for our children.

In the red book we acknowledged that the current process for resolving land claims could be improved. We said a Liberal government would implement major changes to the current approach, and we have been working toward that goal.

We have been working alongside the Assembly of First Nations to find a better way to proceed with the resolution of claims. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has received several suggestions. Among them is a proposal for an independent Indian land claims commission, as recommended in the annual report of the Indian Claims Commission and as advocated by the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake.

We on this side of the House have no objection to such an independent commission. In fact, in the red book we stated that "A Liberal government would be prepared to create, in co-operation with aboriginal peoples, an independent claims commission to speed up and facilitate the resolution of all claims". This shows that we do not oppose the principles outlined in the hon. member's motion.

However, I would like to point out to the House a key phrase of the commitment from the Liberal policy platform. It is that we would create the independent claims commission in co-operation with the aboriginal peoples. Building a consensus among the aboriginal peoples will require time, and we cannot act unilaterally. We cannot impose a solution that will be supported by some but not by others.

One of the major issues at stake is whether a new independent claims commission will be a court-like system with binding judgments or a mediation system with functions similar to those the Indian Claims Commission now performs.

Another issue is whether we can find a better way to bring matters to the attention of the commission. As hon. members are aware, under the current system a claim must be rejected by the Indian affairs department before the matter is brought before the commission. The minister has invited the Assembly of First Nations to provide substantive comments on concrete proposals for change. In co-operation with the First Nations, we are examining how the claim policies can be overhauled within the climate of financial restraint that affects us all.

The Assembly of First Nations has embarked on a project that will involve developing terms of reference for a joint Canada and First Nations review of the Indian Claims Commission. We will have to reach a consensus on these and other issues before we can reform the current system. We need directions from the First Nations on what kind of system they want.

In the meantime, the government has taken the steps required to make sure the system now in place works as efficiently as possible. When we look at what has been accomplished in the past few years, it becomes quite clear that the current system can be used more effectively than it had been before the red book commitments regarding claims process reforms were made.

Consider these figures: After 1990-91 the total cumulative settlements for specific claims numbered only 43. By 1994-95 we have more than tripled that figure to 142. Since taking office this government has settled 45 specific claims. In 1994-95 we settled 18 different specific claims, for a total of nearly $79 million. That is money that will go into aboriginal communities. It will create

jobs for aboriginal as well as non-aboriginal people. It will improve living conditions and it will make aboriginal people partners in the development of a strong and dynamic Canadian society.

Today we are involved in negotiations on another 90 specific claims or are in the process of reviewing another 240 claims submitted by the First Nations. We expect that by the end of the 1995-96 fiscal year we will have settled another 20 to 30 specific claims and we will also continue to receive further claims, which will have to work through the current system until a better system is devised in co-operation with First Nations.

I am certain the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake appreciates these points. He wants what is fair for aboriginal people in Canada, as does this government.

[Editor's Note: Member spoke in Inuktitut.]

Legislative Assembly Of Northwest Territories November 24th, 1995

This week the newly elected members of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly selected their government leader and cabinet. Of the eight-member cabinet, four are from the Eastern Arctic and four are from the west. There is one female, and there is Inuit, Dene, and M├ętis representation in the cabinet.

Congratulations to veteran MLA and former cabinet minister Don Morin as the new premier of the Northwest Territories. I congratulate as well John Todd, Kelvin Ng, Manitok Thompson, Goo Arlooktoo, Jim Antoine, Charles Dent, and Stephen Kakfwi as new cabinet ministers.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I wish the new territorial government well. There are many challenges ahead of us leading up to the division of the territories in 1999. We look forward to working closely and co-operatively with the new government.

Canadian Unity November 10th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, in late October the original voices of Canada spoke resoundingly: the Cree, the Inuit and the Montagnais. We are proud of who we are, what we have accomplished and what we can become.

At the unity rally in Montreal, northerners were there in support of the no forces. Aboriginal and non-aboriginal, we live in many different languages and cultures in the north, but we share many values and strengths. Our experience tells us this land is big and great enough for us all.

I urge the nation to acknowledge that the aboriginal people delivered when called on to support the country. We can and must be included in the changes that need to be made.

Together with open hearts, let us build an even greater nation from sea to sea to sea.

British Columbia Treaty Commission October 23rd, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might give a lesson to the hon. member of the Reform Party on government and land claims.

In the aboriginal world, land claims have been going on for some time in which a particular group is formed to negotiate. For example the Inuit people of the Northwest Territories in the eastern Arctic formed an organization called the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut which in turn now is called Nunavut Tungavik Inc., to negotiate land claims agreements on the Inuit's behalf with the Government of Canada. The way the people of Canada, other than

the Inuit people of the Northwest Territories, took part was through their elected representatives, the Government of Canada and their member of Parliament.

That is the process that has been used. I guess it is called the British parliamentary system where you elect your member of Parliament and he or she acts on your behalf.

In the aboriginal people's case an organization was appointed. I am sure all aboriginal groups across the country have an organization, which is negotiating on their behalf and they in turn have to ratify whatever is negotiated.

The people of Canada or people of a certain region, such as the people of British Columbia, will be represented by their elected representatives, whether it is the member of the provincial legislature or the member of Parliament for that particular region.

I wonder if the hon. member might care to expand a little more on how the information should be disseminated to the public at large about the British Columbia Treaty Commission so that the people of British Columbia because they feel involved in it will feel that they have a role to play in the whole process.

British Columbia Treaty Commission October 23rd, 1995

As I said earlier, it is always a pleasure to listen to people who have some understanding but also support the aboriginal people.

In the long run land claims is a misnomer. I guess the whole issue evolved because of the fact that all of a sudden more people were here than had been previously, since 1492. Prior to that we had been a stable population.

Christopher Columbus came over in 1492, which reminds me of a joke that should not be taken seriously. Dick Gregory, a comedian born in 1932, said: "You have to say this for the white race. Its self-confidence knows no bounds. Who else could go to a small island in the south Pacific where there is no poverty, no crime, no unemployment, no war and no worry and call it a primitive society?" Basically the same thing happened here when Christopher Columbus arrived.

However the reality is that this is 1995. We have gone through a lot of changes over the years. Now I think we are finally getting the recognition that should have been there right from the beginning.

I have a question for the hon. member on the British Columbia Treaty Commission. What will the B.C. treaty commission do to ensure that all British Columbians are informed of the treaty negotiation process?

British Columbia Treaty Commission October 23rd, 1995

Editor's Note: Member spoke in Inuktitut.

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to hear people from all walks of life supporting land claims. I consider this a misnomer, but it is called land claims today. As far as we are concerned, we are not claiming the land; the land is already ours. For lack of a better word, we call it land claims.

I would like to comment briefly and then ask a question of the hon. member. There was some question about what the legal basis is for the B.C. Treaty Commission. The B.C. Treaty Commission is presently acting as an agent within the authority of the three parties, which are of course the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the provincial government, and the aboriginal people. In order to obtain funding for negotiations, the government had to seek the necessary appropriations from Parliament, which it has done. To allay the fears that there is no legal basis for the commission, we can rest assured the commission does have a legal basis.

I will return to the land claims issue in British Columbia and some of the issues the hon. member was talking about. One thing we have managed to achieve in a very short space of time as aboriginal people is to establish that we are a force to be reckoned with. People with little tolerance for aboriginal issues have a problem with the existence of land claims.

It was not so long ago that a previous prime minister of our party questioned that very thing but quickly turned around and realized that we do have a basis for land claims. The Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau questioned that in the early 1960s but realized that we did have a basis for recognition of aboriginal rights. Since then it has been acknowledged that there is indeed a basis for the negotiation of land claims.

In the past, aboriginal people have always been at a disadvantage in that it seemed we did not have anything to negotiate with, whereas the government had everything at their disposal to negotiate with. Too late for a lot of us, we realized we had a lot more to negotiate with than we thought. There was no clear definition of who owned the land and held the title. As a result, a recognition of the fact that we were here precipitated the land claims negotiations in the 1970s. Today we have settled quite a number of those negotiations and are continuing to settle them.

Now we are just starting on British Columbia, which is only right. They are long overdue for justice. I must question whether justice will ever really be served at this late date to the aboriginal peoples of British Columbia because of other interests and the agreement beforehand of not dealing with privately owned lands. I have to wonder about all this.

I was just wondering if the hon. member could elaborate a little more on what his role was as the former chair of the aboriginal affairs committee. How did he see the positive benefits of land claims as relates to the aboriginal peoples across the land, more so maybe in the province of Saskatchewan.

I was in a conference this morning where they were discussing aboriginal forestry. I must admit that my knowledge of forestry is somewhat limited. I have very little knowledge of trees. Ask me about snow and how to define snow in 25 different ways and I can do that, but forestry is not my area of expertise. It looked like a very good program that was going on where they wanted to have joint ventures and co-management.

I was just wondering if the member might elaborate a little more on what co-management or joint venture in Saskatchewan is and whether it is in his area of expertise as a result of his chairmanship of the aboriginal affairs committee.

British Columbia Treaty Commission October 20th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, it is always encouraging to listen to members that understand what processes we go through, the hardships we go through. One of the most often asked questions by members opposite, and other people I am sure, concerns the definition of self-government or inherent right. The two seem to always be an issue with some members of the public or politicians.

I will try to define what I think inherent right and self-government are. The hon. member elaborated on it. One time I was asked about the inherent right of self-government. I replied that as far as I am concerned it is the acceptance or the acknowledgement that we have been here for a few more years than anybody else. In the Indians' case it is something in the neighbourhood of 35,000 years;

in our case it is a little shorter, only 3,500 years. However, we do not feel left out by the fact that the Indians have been here 30,000 years longer than we have.

The words inherent right and self-government to us have always been accepted as they are without trying to put them in a little box the way people quite often like to do. It is asked, is this the way it is going to be? Some people would say there is no other way when in fact there could be 10 different ways to do the same thing.

Would the member care to elaborate on her understanding of what is meant by self-government or inherent right? As far as we are concerned, it is the fact that we were here, we had a system in place. The Government of Canada and through it the Canadian people at large must acknowledge that we have the right to determine our future. We have that right to set up a self-government within our geographic areas without necessarily having to ask permission from a government that has been around for 125 years or so.

I wonder if the member would care to elaborate.