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

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act November 25th, 1994

-in appointing aboriginal people as part of their 50 per cent. Hopefully the Council for Yukon Indians will appoint its 50 per cent as aboriginal people. If it chooses, it does not necessarily have to be aboriginal people. I have great confidence that the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada, if they choose to, will appoint aboriginal people to the panels.

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act November 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the word. However, I want to advise the hon. member that he does not seem to have much confidence in the people of Yukon or the Government of Canada-

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act November 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, if indeed that word was ruled out of order, I withdraw the word.

I want to comment on the member's remarks of the last few minutes. It is surprising to hear him talk, without reflecting on the past, of the need for consulting with the people of Canada which we as a government are doing on a lot of issues.

I might remind the hon. member that there was not much consultation when the land of Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Canada was sort of taken over by a group of people without asking the people who lived in that region. I think the aboriginal people of Yukon are well justified in getting this agreement through. The Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and the aboriginal people of Yukon should be congratulated for putting together such an agreement.

I made the remark earlier because of some comments of the past. I say this because of some deep concern that there is room for intolerance as a result of some comments made by some members of the third party. I quote directly from second reading of the bill a member of the third party. It says: "I urge members who believe in fairness, honesty and accountability to oppose this bill as it portrays the epitome of patronage and racial bias for which Canadians should never be known".

That was an unacceptable comment by a member of the third party. Part of the same comment states: "Such land claims, self government and racially segregated mediation boards will set a precedent for future negotiations with aboriginals which Canadian taxpayers will be hard pressed to pay for".

The government of Yukon and the people and the Council for Yukon Indians are all in support. They have adopted this bill. Therefore, I do not think there is any room for the kind of remarks that have been made in the past. I say this as a response to comments made during second reading of this bill, not as comments that I am putting forward on my own. If members want, I can carry on for another 10 minutes quoting comments during second reading to make sure that the people of Canada know what has been said by the third party.

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act November 25th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak today on the third reading of Bill C-55, Yukon surface rights board act.

I am honoured to participate in this debate because I know how much this bill means to the people of Yukon. When we pass this bill and it is proclaimed along with Bills C-33 and C-34 which were passed by this House last June Yukon land claims settlement will come into force. The years of waiting will be over. The people of Yukon will be able to get on with their lives in new partnerships and new relationships with each other and with other Canadians.

Hon. members will recall that Bill C-33, Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act approves and gives effect to the land claim agreements of four Yukon First Nations: the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation, the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, and the Teslin Tlingit Council. Bill C-34, Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act gives effect to the self-government agreements of the same four Yukon First Nations.

Bills C-33 and C-34 also authorize the governor in council to approve and declare valid future land claims and self-government agreements negotiated with the remaining 10 Yukon First Nations.

All these bills flow directly from the umbrella final agreement signed by Canada, Yukon Territorial Government and the Council for Yukon Indians on May 29, 1993.

Bill C-55 is the third and final piece of legislation required to bring Yukon land claims settlement into effect. Through Bill C-55 a new surface rights regime and dispute resolution mechanism will be established in Yukon to accommodate the new land regime set out in the claim agreement.

As a result of Bill C-55 industry and individuals in Yukon will have a known regime for obtaining access to both private and public lands. This regime will provide clear rules and regulations. Once this bill is enacted and we begin to implement First Nations final agreements there will be more certainty for everyone in Yukon. That certainty will translate into economic development opportunities. This will contribute to the government's objectives of putting Canadians back to work. The importance of providing this solid basis for economic growth and diversification in Yukon cannot be overstated.

Passage of this bill which will bring Yukon Indian land claim into effect signals to all Canadians and to international investors that Yukon is open for business. As well, the surface rights board and the other institutions of public government that result from Yukon land claim agreement will contribute to the political and administrative development of the territory. Important decisions will be made in Yukon, not in Ottawa. This is an objective supported by all Yukoners, the territorial government and the Government of Canada.

Clearly Bill C-55 does more than just create a new institution of government. It is critical to the social, political and economic evolution of Yukon.

I reviewed very carefully the speeches given by members of the opposition during second reading debate of this bill. While most were critical, as is to be expected in opposition speeches,

some contributions were thoughtful and constructive. Others were plain meanspirited and some contained errors of fact.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Bloc Quebecois for their support in this House and in committee of this bill and of the settlement of Yukon land claim.

The hon. member for Saint-Jean took the time this summer to visit Yukon. He met with representatives of Yukon Indian people when he was there. His effort to get to know this most beautiful region of Canada and the wonderful people who live there is appreciated. While I do not agree with his entire philosophy, his effort to gain a better understanding of aboriginal issues by going to Yukon was certainly a step in the right direction.

I trust the hon. member and his party will be as open-minded, supportive and generous in dealing with the aboriginal claims of the aboriginal peoples in his own province.

As an aside, I do have to correct the member on an incorrect statement in his second reading speech on Bill C-55. He stated that the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was entirely financed by the Quebec government and that the Government of Canada did not invest any money in it. That is false. The Government of Canada is a signatory to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and has ongoing implementation responsibilities and obligations. The Government of Canada has provided substantial funding in support of this agreement. I want to correct any misunderstanding there.

Getting back to Bill C-55, during second reading most members of the third party contributed a lot of misinformation. I am being extremely charitable in this characterization of their comments. This bill was called a recipe for disaster, among other things on more than one occasion.

I want to assure members of the third party that Yukon land claim settlement, which this bill will help bring into force, is not a divisive thing. It is an achievement of which all Yukoners and indeed all Canadians can be proud. It represents a bonding of the peoples, a coming together of different interests and perspectives for the common good.

I remind hon. members that the bill before us today cements an agreement which took over 20 years to negotiate. The parties to this agreement, Yukon territorial government, the federal government and the Council for Yukon Indians, all brought different positions and views to the negotiating table.

Over the years negotiations floundered many times. Leaders and governments changed. Negotiators changed. Negotiating parameters changed. This process was fitful and frustrating, but the parties stuck to it. They did not give up hope. They argued, compromised and they emerged finally with an agreement. This is therefore a proud day for Yukoners and they deserve our congratulations.

What has been accomplished in Yukon is no small achievement. The agreements and the bills effecting the agreements may not be perfect, but they are the products of many people working together for common objectives: mutual respect and recognition, clarity of rules, certainty of rights, and a better future for future generations. This is a made in Yukon deal, made by Yukoners for Yukoners and it is unique to Yukon. It reflects Yukon needs and aspirations.

Thus far I have restrained myself in this speech from rebutting some of the more provocative and outrageous comments made by members of the third party, but there is one I just cannot let go by. The comment I am referring to was made by a member of the third party, who will remain nameless, during second reading debate. The comment is in reference to Bill C-55. He stated: "It borders on the tragic to heap so much responsibility on so few".

Let me assure the member and all members of that party that Yukon is more than ready for this responsibility. Yukoners will handle this responsibility much better than anyone else. Size is not a determinant of value or worth. So what if the population of Yukon is less than most cities in Canada, as some members of the third party pointed out. The Yukon and its people deserve the same respect, consideration and recognition of their rights and abilities to make their own decisions as anyone else in this country. They have agreed through their elected leaders to forge a new direction and build a better future together. Their decision must be respected and supported.

I would like to conclude my remarks today by quoting from the presentation made by the Council for Yukon Indians to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs during its review of Bill C-55: "The enactment of Yukon surface rights board act will pave the way for the proclamation of Yukon Land Claims and Self-Government Acts. The Council for Yukon Indians and Yukon First Nations have worked extremely hard in the past 21 years to see the manifestation of the vision of Yukon First Nation elders. Yukon First Nations look forward to participating in these constitutional innovative regimes that have been advanced and negotiated in the interests of all parties concerned".

So do we. On behalf of the minister and the government, I extend warm congratulations and best wishes for success to all the people of Yukon.

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act October 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member for Churchill might elaborate a little more on the comment that was just made suggesting we should go into the mainstream of Canadian society. We do enter the Canadian mainstream society when we walk in the door to the House and Commons and to our offices each morning, but that is a when in Rome do as the Romans do practise. When we are back in our homes it is different. People do not go up to me and say: "Mr. Anawak". They say: "Hi Jack".

It is not our way to make one person any better than another, because we respect each other. I wonder if he could elaborate a little more. Yes, we do enter into the Canadian mainstream but at the same time our culture is very important to us and should be kept at all possible costs.

I realize this is not part of the debate, but considering the comments made by the member, I think it is appropriate that there be no misconceptions about how we feel as members of Parliament about entering the mainstream of Canadian society when we need to.

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act October 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might ask the hon. member a question. The term native was mentioned in the debate a lot during the speech of the hon. member.

I wonder if the hon. member might elaborate a bit on how he feels about the way aboriginal people in Yukon have been treated over the last number of years and whether he agrees that the aboriginal people, the Council of Yukon Indians, and other aboriginal groups deserve some recognition because of the fact that they were here for quite some time before the arrival of the rest of the Yukon population.

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act October 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I suspect if we look at the blues there will be comments in there that clearly state the word racial. That is why I made the comment that this was uncalled for.

Yes, we are looking for the 10 best people or the best people the Council of Yukon Indians can offer to settle its disputes. I would be honoured if all members of the surface rights board were Indians from the Yukon area. They probably could do a better job than anybody else in the country in settling disputes that will arise.

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act October 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I heard quite clearly the hon. member saying that because of the 50 per cent participation of the Council for Yukon Indians on the surface rights bill there might be a place for some leaning in a racial way. That is why I made those comments. To me that was undermining the council's ability to look at problems it might encounter through the surface rights bill in looking after the interests of all Yukoners.

Yukon Surface Rights Board Act October 21st, 1994

I am happy to rise to address the issue of Bill C-55, the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act. I must say I was going to oblige the member for Capilano-Howe Sound by wearing my Bermuda shorts and dark glasses, however the dress code of this House does not permit me to do so in talking to the bill.

I do have a comment to make on the speech of the member for North Island-Powell River. He mentioned the participation of the Yukon Indians as being over 50 per cent on the board and talked about some racial problems that might arise. This seems like a judgment even before the board is off and running. There is no confidence in the Council for Yukon Indians being able to make up its mind and determine who is going to be on the board and what kind of board it is going to be. If we had a little more trust in our aboriginal organizations, this country would be a lot better off.

I want to join the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in urging support for this legislation. I believe the House has an obligation to move as quickly as possible on Bill C-55 so that residents of Yukon can begin to benefit from the certainty and the confidence that land claims settlement will bring to the territory.

After more than 21 years of negotiations, we finally reached a framework agreement to settle the land claims of the 14 Yukon First Nations. The establishment of a new surface rights regime which will be accomplished through Bill C-55 is the next critical step in implementing the agreement.

This is a pivotal day for Yukon. Yukon residents expect us to proceed responsibly and without further delay. They want us to address our moral and legal obligations to the First Nations people.

As the minister has stated we have already adopted legislation to put in place a territory wide framework for First Nations land claims settlement agreements and to implement self-government for the Yukon First Nations. We have before us today the final piece of legislation that will allow the finalization of these acts.

Bill C-55 is significantly different from the two acts we approved before the summer recess. The bill deals with very specific matters and is extremely technical. I can assure members that Bill C-55 has been drafted with the interests of all Yukoners in mind. It is fully in keeping with the Government of Canada's obligation under the umbrella final agreement negotiated by governments and Yukon First Nations.

Bill C-55 provides for the establishment of the Yukon surface rights board and a new surface rights regime that reflects the changing realities of land ownership in Yukon. I know some hon. members on the other side of the House have been expressing concern about the role and the powers of the board.

The role of the Yukon surface rights board is straight forward. It will deal with disputes relating to land access, use and compensation throughout the territory. However the board's services will be called upon only when direct negotiations between the affected parties have failed. There will be more certainty for everyone in Yukon when the bill is enacted and we begin to implement First Nations final agreements.

Bill C-55 will put in place a new regime for obtaining access to private and public lands that will put it on a level playing field with other Canadian jurisdictions. It provides for clear rules and regulations.

This is not a scheme that has been pulled out of a hat. This approach to dispute resolution has been applied elsewhere in Canada and is working well. In fact the Yukon surface rights board has been modelled on similar boards that are currently operating in Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Manitoba. The

provincial boards were established to address disputes between surface owners who were generally farmers and subsurface developers such as oil and mining firms.

In Yukon we anticipate that when disputes do arise they will primarily involve mining companies that hold mineral rights on non-settlement lands where others have surface rights or interest on land owned by First Nations, similar to the situations in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The same basic principles of reasonable access, responsible use and fair compensation can and will apply to resolving disputes in Yukon.

Once the Yukon surface rights board is formed the government intends to take its members to Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Manitoba where they will observe the provincial boards in action. The government may also invite a senior official from the provincial boards to Yukon to provide training or other assistance.

As the minister has noted this is a cost effective alternative to using the courts to resolve disputes. It will encourage mining and petroleum companies as well as governments to work in partnership with First Nations and other land users so that all parties can benefit.

The board will not even hear a dispute unless it is convinced that a serious effort has been made by the parties to come to an agreement. In addition to reducing costs for all parties, the provincial boards have enabled quicker resolution of disputes than would be possible through the courts. This in turn has helped prevent lengthy and costly delays in resource development.

I think the minister would agree that the Government of Canada, Yukon First Nations, the mining and petroleum industries and the territorial government would be happy if the surface rights board never met, in other words if there never were any disputes to resolve. However this is not a utopian world and we cannot sit back and hope that everything will work itself out. We cannot expect that there will never be a disagreement between two parties, both of whom may have reasonable and legitimate concerns.

In the interests of good public government we must be prepared to deal with issues as they arise. This is why it is important to proceed now to create a surface rights dispute resolution mechanism in the Yukon.

I am extremely confident the surface rights board that will be put into place by Bill C-55 will be an effective institution of public government. It will operate in a fair and responsible manner to ensure that economic development proceeds in Yukon in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the umbrella final agreement. It will also protect existing rights including mineral rights of third parties in the settlement area.

Let me remind hon. members that Yukon First Nations have never resisted development. Rather, they have said only that they want a voice in how resource development will proceed. As land owners they will have that voice. Guaranteeing 50 per cent of the board's members will be nominated by First Nations ensures that First Nations and other Yukoners will have input into the important decisions that need to be made.

In addition, third party rights or interests on non-settlement lands are recognized in the bill and the umbrella final agreement. The need for this board was clearly identified in the umbrella final agreement. It simply replaces the government officials or courts now identified in the mining legislation as the dispute resolution body.

Let me assure the House that the Yukon surface rights board will be created in a manner that is financially responsible as well as responsive to the needs of the people of Yukon and Canada. Obviously costs are involved in setting up new institutions of government, but through careful planning and management these costs can be controlled. The Yukon surface rights board will be kept as small as possible. Staffing will be kept to a minimum and proceedings will be expeditious.

Bill C-55 will achieve some very specific goals, but it is important for the House to consider the broader implications of this proposed legislation. Most fundamentally we must understand that without Bill C-55 the settlement of land claims in Yukon cannot be concluded.

Once again our efforts to address the rightful claims of Yukon First Nations will be stalled. Another generation of Yukon Indians will face the prospect of starting anew to negotiate an agreement that all parties have already accepted. Vital economic development opportunities will be lost. We cannot and must not allow that to happen. The Government of Canada made certain commitments in the umbrella final agreement in 1993, including the commitment to create a surface rights board and we must live up to those obligations.

I would like to remind my hon. colleagues of the debate that took place in the House some four months ago. That debate determined conclusively that the umbrella final agreement is a solid agreement that will benefit all residents of Yukon. By providing a secure land base, settlement agreements will empower Yukon First Nations to build a better future. The territorial government and all Yukoners will benefit from increased economic activity and from the strengthened political development of the territory.

In addition to confirming ownership of vast areas of land, Yukon First Nations will be entitled to significant financial compensation. This compensation package is essential to the future prosperity of Yukon First Nations. It will give them the financial resources to create jobs within their communities, to

deliver social services and to generally establish a better standard of living for Yukon Indians. These achievements will benefit all Yukoners and all Canadians.

All of us can appreciate that much more is at stake here than a new surface rights regime. At stake here is the economic growth of Yukon as well as its political and administrative development. Also at stake is the spirit of partnership, trust and mutual accomplishment that government is working hard to establish with First Nations in Yukon and elsewhere. The very future of Yukon First Nations is at stake. They have already waited far too long to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed.

With that in mind, I urge hon. members to look beyond the legal and technical complexities of the bill, as important as they are. I urge them to embrace a broader viewpoint to acknowledge that the Yukon surface rights board is vital to the land claims settlement process. I remind them that land claims settlements are something all Yukon residents and Canadians want and expect us to achieve.

This is the time to move forward to lay the foundation for a better future for all people in Yukon. Toward that end I urge my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting Bill C-55 so that it can proceed as quickly as possible to the other place. This is the only responsible course of action to ensure that implementation of the Yukon First Nations final and self-government agreements can proceed without further delay.

Western Arctic Inuvialuit Claim Implementation October 5th, 1994

Under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 1992-93 annual review of the Western Arctic Inuvialuit Claim Implementation.