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

British Columbia Treaty Commission October 20th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, the comments about my riding demonstrated the need for some lessons on the history of aboriginal people in Canada.

My riding, Nunatsiaq, spans over three time zones from Tuktoyaktuk in the west to Pangnirtung in the east, from Arviat in the south to the home of Santa Claus in the north. However the fact remains that the native Indian population of Nunatsiaq is probably less than .05 per cent. The area I represent is Inuit. It is 85 per cent Inuit.

The ignorance of people like the hon. member opposite is why aboriginal people in Canada must be recognized. At the beginning of his comments the hon. member quite clearly said that this could not be native land because the courts said so. He may very well believe what the courts have said, but whose courts? Whose justice system determined that this was crown land? We did not set up the present justice system. By the way, we were not asked whether it was the kind of justice system we wanted or whether it was the kind of government we wanted. We were not asked any of those questions by the Government of Canada when the provincial and territorial governments were set up.

There has to be an understanding. We have a bit of a problem with all the things that have happened. I do not want to revisit all of it. However I want to point out to the member and to all other Canadians that a great injustice has been done in the past and we are trying to correct the situation. If we take a little more time as the government than members opposite would like to see, I say we can afford to do it because it has taken 124 years to arrive at this stage.

We have to ensure that expeditious approval of negotiated claims is achieved. I am sure members opposite will ensure that we have their support when the bill comes to committee. I hope the member ensures that he understands the issues, whether it is the justice system or righting the wrongs that have been done over the years, before thinking that every aboriginal person who comes to him is representative of aboriginal peoples at large.

I take back my comment about all aboriginal people, but the majority of aboriginal people know that wrongs have been done to them and are trying to right those situations. I apologize for making the hon. member think that I was representing all aboriginal people. I am a Canadian, I am an Inuk, and I do not represent all aboriginal people. However I have a problem telling the House that in a lot of cases I do not always agree with the president of Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, but I have no problem saying that she is my leader for the benefit of the Inuit people at large. We as aboriginal people have leaders who may not necessarily be representative of all aboriginal peoples, but by and large they represent the majority.

British Columbia Treaty Commission October 20th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to get a question from the hon. member.

I am a member of Parliament and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, but I am also an Inuk.

Whether the government of the day or governments past or the member believes it or not, as far as I am concerned all of Canada belonged to the aboriginal people long before, in some cases 30,000 years, anybody else came along. That is my belief. However I have to be realistic. Some 30 million people now live in Canada, the majority of whom are other than aboriginal. We have to deal with that reality.

However, the wrongs that have been done to the aboriginal people are very wrong. This is how I feel. I am not naive about aboriginal concerns. If the hon. member wants me to elaborate on aboriginal issues and aboriginal concerns I can do that quite well without any lessons from the member across.

I live in the small community in the north in which I grew up. In 1962 the Inuit got the vote. I know about aboriginal concerns. I know some people came north and started putting up "no trespassing" signs on gravel deposits. No trespassing signs on my land? I have no lessons to learn from the hon. member across. Aboriginal people have been on the receiving end of a lot of wrongs for a long time. This attempts to correct the injustices that have been done.

When the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville makes a statement like that I am unlike the member across. I do not think the person is joking. I realize there may be some problems with the status cards. That probably is the case. Is it the Indians, the aboriginal people doing that? I do not know. I must say I am naive in that regard. I can honestly tell the member that I do not know. I apologize for not knowing because it is part of my responsibility.

One my responsibilities is to ensure that there is expeditious approval of bills that deal with the concerns of aboriginal people. I hope the hon. member, when we are dealing with this particular bill, will give his support to it so that we can correct the injustices that have been dealt to the aboriginal people in British Columbia.

British Columbia Treaty Commission October 20th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, in responding to the question I may not necessarily satisfy the member. I look at it from the point of view that it has taken two years for this particular government, but it has taken since 1871, which is 124 years, to arrive at this stage. I think what we should be rejoicing in is the fact that we have finally come to this stage today, so let us move forward from here. While I would be very hopeful that the negotiations will be expeditious, it has taken 124 years. I would hope that when the negotiated settlement arrives it will be the best for all concerned, but especially for the people who have been trying to get to this stage for the last 124 years.

On the other question, we have to do our bit as members of Parliament to ensure that the best possible procedure is taken to ensure a more expeditious conclusion of land claim negotiations in British Columbia.

British Columbia Treaty Commission October 20th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, before question period I was pointing out some of the contradictions of the party opposite in terms of its aboriginal affairs policy. I was referring to the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville, who has made some contradictory and naive observations regarding the hardships aboriginal people in British Columbia and all across Canada have faced over the last 300 or 400 years. I mentioned the attitude of wanting something like a DNA test for Indian people, which is very insulting to aboriginal people across the country.

The hon. member for Yorkton-Melville stated: "We cannot continue to assemble a system that creates entitlements because of the colour of your skin. We are building a South Africa. That may sound extreme, but that is exactly what we are doing. We are going to have the same strife that South Africa is going to have".

If the hon. member were up to date on the issue he would know that South Africa is enjoying good times as a result of doing away with the apartheid policies of the previous government. Now Nelson Mandela is president and he is doing great things for the people of South Africa. That is probably the way we should go with respect to aboriginal people in Canada.

The South African people who have resided in and maintained their lands in that area are finally getting an opportunity to address their concerns, which we are also doing in the area of Nunavut. I am happy to state that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development a couple of weeks ago announced to the general public of Nunavut that they will have a role in deciding where the capital of Nunavut will be. There will be a plebiscite in the communities to determine that. Such a decision-making role is precisely what the aboriginal people of British Columbia have always wanted.

British Columbia entered Confederation in 1884. I think I said 1871, which is the wrong date. At the time British Columbia entered Confederation, the aboriginal people of British Columbia were the majority. To overcome that fact, the government of the day quickly passed a law that basically stated that the aboriginal people would not have a vote.

I will correct a date I mentioned. It was in 1871. But in 1884 people all of a sudden found that because the aboriginal people were the majority they would able to do a lot of commercial fishing. The government of the day passed another law, which banned the aboriginal people of British Columbia from commercial fishing. They have debated that ever since.

I do not particularly like to revisit the history. We have to improve the state the aboriginal people are in and move forward. However, a lot of Canadian people do not know the history. Sometimes it has to be revisited or the people of British Columbia will not have the opportunity to correct a lot of the wrongs that were committed against aboriginal people at that time.

I have a letter written on October 13, 1995, from someone who says: "We the people of British Columbia will not give up our property, our home and our land, to which we have registered rights". This person reiterates what Squamish Chief Joe Mathias claims, that the aboriginal people own British Columbia 100 per cent. This person says: "Members of my family are Friesians. We were in Holland well before the Dutch. Are we now going to go back and say to the Dutch government that we own Friesland 100 per cent and we want compensation?" I do not think we would give that advice to this person, to go back to Holland to claim it back from the Dutch government. However, this person should understand that when he came from Holland the aboriginal people were already in British Columbia. They are still there.

I do not think aboriginal people are suddenly going to say you cannot stay on this land because it belongs to the aboriginal people. However, I think they have a very strong case. As aboriginal people, we believe we were here long before anybody else came along. People who took our lands do have some redressing to do. We have to face the fact that a lot of aboriginal people in British Columbia will say it is our land. If people can accept the premise that they were here first, then maybe the negotiations would go a lot more smoothly and hopefully will result in making sure that justice is served to the aboriginal people of British Columbia.

I would be prepared to answer any questions that may arise.

Northwest Territories Election October 20th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, on Monday the last general election of the undivided Northwest Territories was held. Twenty-four men and women, many of them newcomers, will form the 13th NWT Legislative Assembly.

I congratulate all those who were elected and extend to them best wishes for a productive, creative, and successful term in office. I salute as well all the candidates who ran in this election for their courage and commitment to their people and their communities.

This new assembly faces challenges unlike any assembly before it. The task is great, but I have every confidence in the ability of these people of the north to pull together and work together. Through co-operation and mutual respect we will build a stronger north and a stronger Canada.

British Columbia Treaty Commission Act October 20th, 1995

It is both a pleasure and an honour to speak to Bill C-107 today. The time has come to move forward on the issue. I am reminded of a comment made by the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville who, unlike his fellow members in the third party, does not realize this

issue of land claims is what we have been talking about for many years. I refer to a quote of the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville in the Melville Advance : ``Nobody even talked about it for 20 years and suddenly we're asking how did this ever come to be''. That is quite unlike the position put forward by his party colleagues who just spoke.

This is a very important bill and it is long overdue. However, the understanding should be that we are now at this stage and we should move forward on it. Today marks the culmination of a long and at times very difficult struggle. It is born of British Columbia's unique history. It is the product of many years of hard work and goodwill.

Fairness, clarity and justice are not issues of party politics; they are elements of principles we all share as Canadians. Over the decades many people have played a part: people from various parties and political ideologies; people who share little in common except a desire to see justice done and to get on with building a brighter future for British Columbia.

To understand why in 1995 we are still talking about negotiating treaties, we need to look at our history. Unlike most other provinces, where treaties were signed to clarify jurisdiction over land and resources and to forge new relationships between First Nations and the newcomers to this great land, few treaties were ever concluded in British Columbia. As a result, some 124 years after becoming a province the key questions of unextinguished aboriginal claims and rights remain unresolved and the majority of the province remains subject to outstanding aboriginal land claims.

Few treaties were signed because of the position historically taken by the Government of British Columbia. From the late 1800s the position was that aboriginal rights had been extinguished prior to B.C.'s entry into Confederation in 1871, or if these rights did exist they were the exclusive responsibility of the federal government. In 1990, under the leadership of Premier Vander Zalm, of the Social Credit Party, B.C. reversed its longstanding position and the way was open to resolving these issues.

It is only fair to point out that one of the key players in convincing the provincial government to reverse its historical opposition to negotiating treaties was the B.C. minister of native affairs at the time, Mr. Jack Weisgerber. I know that many of my Reform Party friends will recognize Mr. Weisgerber's name. One of the early and enthusiastic architects of this process, Mr. Weisgerber now leads the provincial Reform Party in British Columbia.

Following on the heels of the B.C. government's decision, the Government of Canada and the B.C. government acted quickly to advance this process. Later that same year the federal minister of Indian and northern affairs, the Hon. Tom Siddon, along with Mr. Weisgerber and Bill Wilson, chairman of the First Nations Congress, agreed to establish a task force to make recommendations on the mandate and process for treaty negotiations.

By June of 1991 the B.C. claims task force had released its report. One of its key recommendations was the creation of the arm's length B.C. Treaty Commission. In the ten months that followed, representatives of Canada, B.C., and the First Nations Summit negotiated the British Columbia Treaty Commission agreement, which was the blueprint for the commission.

On September 21, 1992, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney, Indian affairs minister Tom Siddon, and B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt and native affairs minister Andrew Petter joined with the First Nations Summit leadership in signing the B.C. Treaty Commission agreement. In the three years since, the commission has made great progress. To date, 47 First Nations groups, representing over 70 per cent of British Columbia's aboriginal peoples, have submitted statements of intent to negotiate. In the agreement creating the treaty commission was the commitment to establish it in legislation. In May 1993 both the aboriginal summit and the province fulfilled their part of that commitment. Now the time has come for the federal government to honour its part of the bargain.

These are the events that have led us to this legislation and this debate. Across the years and across party lines people have joined in a common cause. It is their vision and determination that we celebrate and formalize today. Their cause was simple: the desire to bring justice to the aboriginal people and certainty to their province.

A Price Waterhouse study prepared in 1990 estimated that $1 billion in investment had not occurred because of unresolved claims. Since the time of that study the price has continued to be paid, year in and year out. Some 300 badly needed jobs have not been created and $125 million in capital investments have not been made. That has been the price of denying the problem or pretending that it would go away. That is the price of the status quo for the people of British Columbia. It is a price we can no longer afford. With the passage of this legislation, we will no longer have to pay it.

If the price of inaction has been high for the general population of British Columbia, for aboriginal people it has been far higher. For aboriginal people it has meant great hardships and poverty. It has meant the denial of historic rights and future hopes. It has meant generations of dreams deferred and promises unkept. It has meant a quality of life few in the House can imagine and none of us should have to tolerate.

Aboriginal socioeconomic conditions are appalling. Almost one third of aboriginal homes on reserves lack running water. Diseases such as hepatitis and tuberculosis, virtually eradicated in the non-native population, persist in aboriginal communities. Deaths from fires are three and a half times the non-aboriginal level because of unsafe housing and lack of proper sanitation. The

suicide rate among aboriginal people is 50 per cent higher than for non-aboriginal people. That difference is even more pronounced in the age group between 15 and 25.

The country simply cannot afford to lose another generation of aboriginal people who are able and willing to make a contribution to this country. The people of British Columbia have told their government to get on with it and negotiate fair and just agreements that protect the rights of both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people alike. They want to establish a stable economic climate, which in turn will help to bring investment dollars and opportunities to all British Columbians.

In 1993, speaking in favour of the legislation creating the B.C. Treaty Commission, Mr. Jack Weisgerber recounted his experience in 1989 as a member of the premier's advisory council on native affairs: "It became clear to us, as we travelled and met with groups around the province, that if we were going to address the root of the social and economic problems we had to deal with the land claims question". Those words were from a man who now leads the Reform Party in British Columbia, words echoed by members of all parties in the B.C. legislature when that body passed its own enabling legislation. I commend to my friends across the floor today those words, which we now have the opportunity to honour through our actions.

The history of this legislation is the story of partnership between cultures, between political parties, between generations. Let us continue in that same spirit of partnership now as we open the way for a brighter future for all British Columbians and a prouder day for Canadians.

I would also like to comment on some things the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville said. Again from the same paper: "We are giving tax exemptions to anybody who carries an Indian treaty card. They do not have to pass a DNA test". That is an insult to all aboriginal people across the country or anybody of colour.

Does that mean that if I say I am an Inuk this person expects me to pass a DNA test? Does that mean that my colleague from Vancouver Centre, if she says she is a certain colour, has to pass a DNA test in order to prove to the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville that she is the colour she is?

This is part of the Reform Party. By the way, DNA does not tell what colour the person is. The ignorance of some of the members of the third party is appalling, to say the least.

Again, this is what the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville said: "The general public does not know the sellout that is taking place". Who is selling out? The aboriginal people from British Columbia have been in British Columbia for in the neighbourhood of 36,000 years.

When British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871, the aboriginal people of British Columbia were in the majority in British Columbia. What did the government, when they joined Confederation, do? It passed a law forbidding the aboriginal people of British Columbia to vote.

Cultural Property Export And Import Act September 25th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to hear some fiction being put out by the hon. member. My question is very simple. He talks about tax free allowances for the rich and does not agree with it. I wonder if that means he does not agree with his leader's clothing allowance given to him by the Reform Party.

Nunatsiaq June 20th, 1995

This past weekend the Prime Minister and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl were in my riding of Nunatsiaq to visit three beautiful communities: Iqaluit, Cape Dorset and Pangnirtung.

A warm and gracious welcome was extended to the Prime Minister and Chancellor Kohl by both young and old. The chancellor purchased local carvings and he saw firsthand that fur and hunting were integral parts of the Inuit traditional lifestyle and culture. He has returned home with a better understanding of how closely we are tied to the land.

I thank Chancellor Kohl for his interest in the north and its people. I thank as well the Prime Minister for defending the fur economy and supporting our northern way of life. I also thank my constituents for extending true northern hospitality to our distinguished guests.

Criminal Code June 15th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I have one very simple question for the hon. member for Wild Rose. If a crime such as murder is committed against a person who is a homosexual, or a person is discriminated against because of their homosexuality, does the member condone that?

Iliqqusivut June 15th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, today at 4 p.m. the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada will be holding a news conference on Parliament Hill to unveil Iliqqusivut, the Inuit Spirit of the Arctic Pavilion which will be showcased at this year's Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

For 18 days in August the Inuit will bring a piece of the Arctic to Toronto's CNE. The pavilion will feature Inuit businesses, artists and cultural performers. Visitors will be able to hear and see the famous Inuit throat singers and drum dancers, participate in traditional Inuit Arctic games, enjoy northern food of char and caribou, and purchase Inuit carvings, prints, jewellery and clothing.

I encourage all members of Parliament, their staff and all other Canadians to experience the Inuit way of life at the CNE this summer and, for a foretaste, to join us on the front lawn of Parliament Hill later this afternoon.