Madam Speaker, I have always asked myself why there was a shortage of work in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and in the riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. If my NDP colleague came to work eagerly as he did in his youth, he performed many duties and that took work away from the people of Abitibi.
A bill has been tabled. Given the mindset of the Bloc and our vision of Québec in the recognition of first nations, the Bloc Québécois can only support this bill.
However, some recommendations should have been taken into consideration, which perhaps might have slightly delayed tabling the bill. On the other hand, that would have shortened the time for obtaining more complete approval. It would not have taken very much more time and it would have been a great deal more profitable.
The bill gives legal rights to the communities. It is all very well to recognize a Cree community and to say that it is the ninth community to become part of the James Bay agreement and the James Bay rights. It provides the power to regulate many things within its territory; but what, in fact, is its territory? We still have not given it a defined territory. I believe it would have been beneficial, in that respect, to define the territory belonging to this community so that it could really govern within that area.
One of the recommendations made by the Cree and Naskapi committee emphasized the urgency of making changes to the law. There are eight recommendations, including the need for revisions related to the Corbière decision, where it has an impact on the Cree and the Naskapi. The chronic need for improved housing is another priority that I have been highlighting for the past four years. In addition, we must act to ensure effective and uniform application of administrative regulations. First, there must be regulations. In that regard, we need to devise and approve an ethical framework and administrative regulations. It probably would have been wise to include a regulation immediately concerning the demands of the Cree of Washaw Sibi Eeyou, which is also a territory where new legislation is required. I have just included one of them. Why were there no negotiations for the other territory?
Canada, Quebec and the Cree Regional Authority must examine the provisions of the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement affecting Cree trappers. The three parties must sit down together. In and of itself, this option would not have justified delaying the bill. However, I believe that it could have been justified if only to provide the flexibility required to establish or provide what is required to exercise the legal authority that we are granting to the first nations. I hope this will not be a dead end. Making regulations is fine but what must the regulations cover? We may come up against a wall, a dead end.
Having said that, the Bloc members unanimously believe that, in the 21st century, all peoples should be autonomous and have the right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions. They have the right to direct the development of their own identity. The Cree and Naskapi nation, of which I am very proud, has proven that it is capable of doing this. Although incomplete and still to be rewritten, this bill deserves to be studied in committee and therefore the Bloc Québécois will support it.
In 2004, even before this government was elected, the leader of the Bloc Québécois said:
The peace of the braves agreement ratified by the Government of Quebec and representatives of the Cree nation has paved the way for this type of negotiation by demonstrating that major development projects must be negotiated with mutual interests in mind. The Bloc Québécois supports the first nations in their fight for emancipation. That is why we are asking Ottawa to follow this example to negotiate a similar agreement with the Cree.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind this House that in 1966-1967, René Lévesque himself conducted negotiations concerning the James Bay and northern Quebec territory, with both the Cree and the Inuit. Before the hydroelectric projects that were part of René Lévesque's vision for the development of Quebec and its hydroelectric power started, time ran out and the negotiations were not completed. The Cree were putting great pressure on Quebec in the United States, and an agreement had to be reached more quickly. Certainly, as a result, there were omissions that Bernard Landry, when he was premier of Quebec, was able to remedy to a large extent by signing the peace of the brave. The agreement was signed in February 2002. The federal government has needed to do something similar for some time.
Today, we have a bill that confirms this settlement. The bill grants the additional power to make regulations. The Cree nation of Oujé-Bougoumou is recognized, and I am very proud of this. As I said, to make regulations somewhere, there has to be a territory. When we do not have our own land, it is difficult to make any regulations at all.
There are three categories of land in James Bay. Category I land is where the Cree live. It is situated in and around the communities. Category IA land is under federal jurisdiction. Category IB is under Quebec’s jurisdiction, and the laws and regulations of the government of Quebec apply there. Category II land consists of about 155,000 square kilometres. Hunting, fishing, trapping and the development of tourism and forestry operations will be managed jointly by the Cree and the regional authorities. Category III land is public land of Quebec where the Cree and Naskapi have the exclusive right to exploit certain aquatic and animal species. This category consists of about 911,000 square kilometres where the communities share in the administration and development of the land.
The bill amends section 9 of the act. It contains new provisions that allow the Cree Regional Authority to make bylaws and adopt resolutions within Category IA and III lands, subject to certain provisos.
The new section 9.1 reads as follows:
A by-law of the Cree Regional Authority made under this Act may have application within the following territorial limits:
a) Category IA land;
(b) Category III land situated within the perimeter of Category IA land and the ownership of which was ceded by letters patent or by any other method before November 11, 1975.
Then the new section 9.2 states:
A by-law of the Cree Regional Authority made under this Act may prohibit an activity.
The new section 9.3 states:
The Statutory Instruments Act does not apply to a by-law or resolution of the Cree Regional Authority made or adopted under this Act.
The bill goes on to describe the objects of the Cree Regional Authority:
(a) to act as a regional government authority on Category IA land;
(b) to regulate essential sanitation services — including water and sewer services, drainage and solid waste management — and housing situated on Category IA land and to regulate buildings used for the purposes of regional governance that are situated on those lands;
(c) to use, manage and administer moneys and other assets;
(d) to promote the general welfare of the members of the Cree bands;
(e) to promote and preserve the culture, values and traditions of the members of the Cree bands.
The Cree of Oujé-Bougoumou are very active and very proud people. They will make it their mission to promote their community and to exert the necessary pressure to get this agreement finalized and agree on the body of powers that will enable them to really achieve total self-government someday—and I wish that for them. Quebec's participation has been extremely constructive.
I would remind the House that in a press release dated June 21, 2004, the leader of the Bloc Québécois called on the federal government to immediately enter into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Cree Nation in order to reach an agreement similar to the peace of the braves. He was joined by Ted Moses, who was the Grand Chief of the Cree at the time. At the time, it was said that the peace of the braves—reached in 2002 between the Government of Quebec and representatives of the Cree Nation—is an excellent example of Quebec's approach and how Quebec has its own way of doing things.
The peace of the braves ratified by the Government of Quebec and representatives of the Cree Nation has paved the way for these kinds of negotiations and demonstrated that major development projects have to be negotiated with mutual interests in mind. The Bloc Québécois supports the first nations in their fight for emancipation. That is why we are asking Ottawa to follow this example—
That is what the government is doing today. In that regard, I do not see how we could oppose progress like this, as minimal as it may be. Not having full its full powers prevents and undermines a nation's rapid emancipation.
Ted Moses understands the spirit of this agreement very well. That is why, at this time, the Grand Chief describes his relationship with the Bloc Québécois and Quebec representatives as excellent. He hoped to see the same thing for all of Canada.
This morning, it was just terrible to hear the residents of Manitoba who appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Seeing the point these people are still at, even now in the 21st century, reinforces how proud I am to be a Quebecker and a friend of the first nations peoples of Quebec.