Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for the opportunity to have a discussion and participate in this debate today. I also congratulate him for not only having the vision but the courage to put the bill forward.
I have had the opportunity to move a private member's bill through this hallowed place and it is not something that is easy to do, especially when one is not talking about national tree day or something that everyone agrees with, but talking about something that is somewhat contentious. It actually takes courage and strength of character to be able to even put the motion forward.
At the end of the day, I sit back and wonder what gives the member this strength. We need to look at his history and the fact that he is a member of Parliament who grew up on a first nation reserve, who raised his children in a first nations community, who has lived under this act and who understands what it does to individuals.
I have first nations communities in my riding. I have taken the opportunity not only to talk to some of the leadership of those communities, but to average people on the ball diamond, people who are affected by this act day-in and day-out and do not get some of the benefits that the leadership gets when they deal with the act. I must say that this is troubling. There is no one on either side of the House that has not called the Indian Act a paternalistic piece of legislation that is a failed opportunity for us to move forward. I do not think anyone disagrees that this is a failed piece of legislation. I do not think Canadians as a whole disagree with that.
We as Canadians are sitting on the precipice waiting for direction from the leaders who are voted into this place and who should help guide us in that direction. I believe there is a role for private members in this place. I believe that the private members who have lived their life under a piece of legislation, which we all agree has failed, should have the ability to stand in this place and say that we need to go forward in a different direction, that we should have these discussions in the House of Commons, in the Canadian Parliament, and that no one on any side of this House should be attacking people for simply putting forward the discussion.
I would direct members to the summary of the legislation that we are talking about. It reads:
This enactment amends the Indian Act to require band councils to publish their by-laws and repeals certain outdated provisions of the Act.
It also requires the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to report annually to the House of Commons committee responsible for Aboriginal affairs on the work undertaken by his or her department in collaboration with First Nations organizations and other interested parties....
That is each and every year. If that is not starting a dialogue, I do not know what is. That is what this legislation is about. We all agree that this is a paternalistic piece of legislation that has been a failure and that is rooted in 200-year-old language.
What the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River is saying is that we need to start having the conversation about how we will take this to the next level. I would remind members of the history of our government. We did not come into this place six and a half years ago with a national strategy to deal with it. We came with a plan, a plan that included amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to ensure first nation communities would be represented under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
I sat on the aboriginal affairs committee when that came forward and listened to the NDP members fight for two years for the ability to bring first nations communities under the Human Rights Act. They would much rather run to the United Nations and look for condemnation of Canadians as a whole than sit down, roll up their sleeves and work with this side of the House to make positive changes. Who here does not think, including every person in Canada, having first nations communities under the Human Rights Act is not a positive change?
The family homes on reserves and matrimonial property act sounds like a positive to me. What about the first nations financial transparency act? I am not sure what the opposition members have against transparency, but when I talk members of first nations communities, as I will be doing tomorrow in my riding, they demand transparency of their leadership just as they demand transparency of the Prime Minister, his cabinet and every member of Parliament.
We have the safe drinking water for first nations act. Those are just examples of things that our government did. We did not come in with a national strategy. We came in with a plan to actually make a difference in people's lives on reserve. I think that is much more important than taking another five years to develop another strategy that no one ever actually looks at implementing.
I sit here and wonder why they would not be in favour of things for first nations communities. Why would they not be in favour of bringing human rights to these communities?