I must point out to the hon. member that he is completely out of order. We have before the house an act respecting income taxes. I cannot permit the hon. member to discuss political systems and so on. He should confine himself to the bill which is before the house.
Topic: INCOME TAX ACT
Subtopic: REVISION AND CONSOLIDATION
Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, it is not my intention to break the rules of the house; but, because of the well-placed interruptions of other hon. members I have been diverted from my original intention.
In conclusion let me say that there are a million and a half people engaged in and connected with 4,500 co-operatives. Those people are trying to reduce the cost of living. They are bearing a heavy burden of taxation, particularly in the form of indirect taxation which all those whose salaries and wages are in the lower brackets are compelled to pay. I suggest that any effort the department can possibly make to reduce this three per cent taxation on organizations which no doubt have had beneficial effects upon our national life, would be in the interests of the country as a whole and would do a great deal to prevent the lowering of the standard of living brought about by taxation methods in other spheres.
Motion agreed to and bill read the third time and passed.
The house in committee of supply, Mr. Macdonald (Brantford City) in the chair.
Topic: INCOME TAX ACT
Subtopic: REVISION AND CONSOLIDATION
Mr. Chairman, at the adjournment last night I had begun a few remarks in relation to this matter. Those of us who were in the house at that time will recall the remarks of the hon. member for Nanaimo. I had pointed out that the conditions to which he referred in the Indian reservation in his constituency were similar to those in most, if not all, of the reserves across Canada. I suggested then, and I suggest now, that we should not try to force through these important items in the estimates without a thorough discussion on Indian affairs.
For the last three years we have had a committee looking into this matter, and a report has been tabled. Before we deal with these estimates we should have a discussion on that report. We should know what the recommendations are, and what the government intends to do with them. One of the last observations made last evening was that of the hon. member for Essex West, to the effect that he intended to move the motion standing in his name in Votes and Proceedings for the adoption of the report. I regret that when the order for motions was called this morning, he did not so move.
I submit we should have a debate on that report before we can deal properly with these items in the estimates. If the hon. member does not intend to move the adoption of the report, then someone else should do it. Before we leave this session we would have some understanding as to the government's intention in connection with the investigation which has taken two years of joint effort of the House of Commons and the other place.
While I am a member of the committee on Indian affairs, unfortunately
I was not able to attend all its meetings. However I wish to compliment the committee on the progress it made in informing the people of the country with respect to those who were here hundreds of years ago, a long time before the coming of the early settlers. They were here hundreds of years before the French came to Canada.
These people have been considered good enough to help serve in our armed forces in two wars, and they should be considered good enough to be made citizens of Canada. I would wipe out the whole administration of the Indian affairs branch, from top to bottom, and make the Indians citizens of this country. Long ago all the restrictions in the treaties with respect to tribes should have been abolished, because the treaties will have to be carried out anyway. The provisions are set out in the act.
A large body of public opinion was represented before the committees of last year and (his year, and the representations made there had the support of the Christian churches of Canada. They supported not only the giving of votes to the Indians, but full rights of citizenship. In my view the joint committee required to answer only two questions: First, are you or are you not in favour of the present system respecting the status of the Indians under treaties? Second: Are you in favour of a modern new day for Indians of Canada, as they have in the United States under the supervision of their secretary of the interior?
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The committee has made some progress. Indian affairs are handled by a branch of the administration. Perhaps I should say nothing more this morning, because I want to see the estimates put through as quickly as possible. Too much time has already been wasted in our proceedings.
Credit for the great improvement in the Indian situation should go to the hon. member for Calgary East (Mr. Harkness), who in the first session of this parliament introduced a motion calling the attention of the country to the position of the Indians, following which a committee was appointed. In 1946 the committee received representatives of all the Christian churches in this country, as well as large delegations representing other interests. That work was continued last year and this year. The committee has had a great many meetings, and I appreciate the work that has been done by its members, the chairman and the officials of the department.
This is my policy as far as the Indians are concerned. I would give them full status as citizens and, with that status, all the other services which are corollary to it, social services and everything else. The sooner this country awakens to the fact that there must be a happier day for these people, the better it will be for all concerned. Look at the northern parts of this country, which Frobisher, Hudson, Mackenzie, Fraser and all those other great men explored in the early days. Not a cape was rounded or a river entered without an Indian in a canoe leading the way for these pioneers of civilization. At the present time a large body of public opinion is very much disappointed at the little progress that has been made, at the suffering of the Indians in many parts of the north through lack of hospitals, schools, and nursing and other necessary services.
This government has made some improvement in past years, but I do not believe it has gone far enough. These are the view3 I have always held on this question. One of the recommendations of the committee, I believe, is that the Indians should be given the vote. They should have had it long ago. They were good enough to fight in defence of our country in many wars, and they should be good enough to be treated as citizens and human beings. All too often we forget that they are human beings. While something has been done to improve their condition, I believe a better day should be dawning for the Indians of this country.
That matter was thoroughly dealt with when my estimates were discussed in the house yesterday or the day before, and a complete and I think satisfactory explanation was given. It was to the effect that in the preparation of the report there was some delay owing to the scientific information involved, but it is now in the hands of the printer, and may be distributed even before the end of this session. I further stated that it would be the objective of the department in future to have this report prepared as early as possible so that it would be in the hands of members of the house early in the session.
Without the report it is difficult to estimate the progress that has been made or discuss the estimates of the department. It is particularly difficult to discuss the work of the Indian affairs branch without having before us full information.
But we have no record, for instance, as to the progress made during the last year in respect to education. I am a member of that committee, where I think a great deal of good work has been done. After years of protestation in this house it was finally agreed that the act would be revised after the war. Finally in 1946 the committee was set up, and began its work about May of that year. For three sessions the committee has been carrying .on its investigations. Last evening, commenting on the progress made, I said I was glad that something had been done. In view, however, of the serious situation prevailing among most of the Indians of this dominion, it is greatly to be regretted that more progress could not have been made. The committee has been sitting for three years; a report has been presented within the last few days, and we expected. it. would be moved today.
After three yeans of work we have the committee bringing in a report recommending that a claims commission be set up to deal with the matter of Indian treaties. If that commission is set up next year it may carry on its work for another three years. If it was the
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intention of the committee that such a commission should be created, that might well have been done three years ago and the whole matter could have been dealt with now. I think members of the committee will agree that the matter of Indian treaties is far too detailed and much too broad in its implications to be satisfactorily dealt with toy a committee of this house. A claims commission, somewhat similar to the body 'which was set up in the United States, has been found necessary.
The Indians in Canada are under .treaties, some of them hundreds of years old, and some only fifty or sixty years old. The various bands of Indians have different ideas as to what their treaties mean. Some have copies of their old treaties; some have not. One of the problems involved is the holding of property. The Indians of the Oka reserve, for instance, are under the impression that they own property in that area, but they have no title and no copy of their treaty, which seems to have been lost; -therefore they find their property being taken from them. The Six Nations Indians believe that under treaty they have a right to govern and control that part of Canada entirely on their own. Throughout the whole question of treaties and treaty rights there are complications and implications which must be determined by someone. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the Indians because there is no clearly defined line of demarcation.
The time is long past when this matter should be dealt with to the satisfaction of the Indians as well as the white men. Under these treaties, for instance, the Indians were to be guaranteed the right to keep on hunting and fishing. Since the federal government turned over -the natural resources to the provinces, however, the provincial governments have passed legislation prohibiting the Indians from hunting and fishing in certain areas, and they think that is an infringement of their treaty rights. Consequently they are asking for redress, but they do not get much satisfaction from the provincial authorities, who do not recognize -any responsibility in this regard.
I regret very much -that the claims commission was not set up years ago. In the report of .the committee, which we thought would be moved this morning, I find this recommendation:
Your committee deems it advisable that, with few exceptions, all sections of -the act be either repealed or amended. The law officers of the crown would, of course, need to make other necessary and consequential revisions and rearrangements of the act which, when thus revised. should be presented to parliament as soon as possible, but not later than the next session.
I think it is to be regretted that a revised act -was not available to this house this session. As I said before, conditions are so seriously below par, so bad in some areas, that the Canadian people cannot bnlt be ashamed that such things should exist within our own borders.
The committee is also recommending that it continue its wmrk next session. During this session the sittings of the committee have been taken up almost entirely with revision of the act. We went through it clause by clause. We made our recommendations, and discussed matters with the officials of the department. There is a great deal of regret among lion, members that no bill is to be available for presentation at this time. The matter is much too urgent to be delayed any longer. To some of us it seems apparent that it is a matter of policy, that a policy has not been settled upon by the department in connection with many of these -matters. I think it is time that that was done and the matter referred to this house for final settlement.
Another recommendation by the committee reads -as follows:
Your committee recommends -that a commission in the nature of a claims commission be set up, with the least possible delay, to inquire into the terms of all Indian treaties in order to discover and determine, definitely and finally, such rights and obligations as are therein involved -and, further, to assess and settle finally and in a fust and- equitable manner all claims or grievances winch have arisen thereunder.
One of the things basically wrong with the administration of Indian affairs is the attitude of the people of Canada, the government and the officials of the department toward the Indians. They are treated as wards and inferiors. Complaints were presented to the committee by Indians concerning the treatment they had received from many agents, and they revealed a situation which should not exist. We should- take the Indians into our confidence: we should place our cards on the table and discuss with them a solution of this problem.
I regret that this report does not contain more reference to co-operation between those who are determining the -welfare and the future of the Indians, the destiny of the Indians, and the people who are responsible for the administration of their affairs. These people should be called into consultation. If we are to discuss treaty rights, surely the people who signed the treaties, surely those who are concerned with the administration of those treaties, should -have a voice in the council chamber. They should be sitting around the table so that agreement could be reached. The various bands should select those whom they want to repre-
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sent them in the council chamber. It is vital that these people should have some say in the shaping of their own destiny. Otherwise they will say: This is just being given to us; we have no voice in it; we have nothing to do with it but accept it; we have no appeal.
We are falling down in not arriving at a policy and determining the future of these people. I think in every case where a claims commission is set up, the Indians who are governed under the various treaties should be permitted to select their own representatives and not be represented by someone selected by the Indian affairs branch.
It is evident that one of the things which causes considerable difficulty in administration is the definition of "Indian". I realize that this may present certain problems, but here again Indians should be selected. There should be a decision as to the line of demarcation between what may or may not be an Indian, whether he should be a full-blooded Indian or whether there would be included those who have been under the treaties for many years but who may not be in a direct blood line from a native. The Indians themselves should have more to say in that regard.
Another matter which causes a great deal of concern among the Indians is their liability to pay taxes without having a voice in the affairs of the country. They are being taxed without being given representation. However, there are two sides to this question. It was apparent throughout the sittings of the Indian affairs committee, particularly during the past year, that the Indians' side of the question has not been presented by the representatvies of the Indians. I am not speaking in any derogatory way of Mr. Norman E. Lickers, who was selected by the committee as a sort of legal adviser and liaison officer. He was employed by the committee and gave valuable assistance in the carrying out of its work. He is proof of the capacities of these people if given the proper education and opportunity. I think he felt, however, that he faced difficulty in trying to represent the 130,000 Indians across Canada.
I think this matter of voting has been badly handled. If you look over the minutes of the meetings of the committee you will find it was unanimous in the view that to offer the franchise to the Indians would in no way interfere with their rights or privileges. But that was not made clear either in the report to this house or in the reports which have gone out across Canada. The result has been protests from the Indians and from their organizations. Many of them do not want the franchise;
they want to remain as Indians. They do not desire to become Canadian citizens with all that that implies. They feel that they have certain rights or privileges which should be respected. My quarrel is that when the recommendation was made to the house that the Indians be granted the franchise, it was not made clear that the exercise of that franchise would not be considered a means by which the Indians would be deprived of any of their rights and privileges.
Another matter is the encroachment of white persons upon Indian reserves. This is something which is causing great concern to the Indians on the reserves. In some parts of Canada the reserve is owned in common; there is no separate leasing of property by individual Indians. In other areas the Indians have been able to get some sort of claim or title to their property and have been able to dispose of it, and in some instances property has been sold to white people. The result is that many Indian reserves are becoming badly split up. Complaints were made recently about white people moving on to the Caughnawaga reserve and building houses.
In order to settle these matters there should be representation of all sides. Great care should be taken to see that justice is done to these people and their welfare protected. The early treaties should be respected in every way.
The ninth clause of the fourth report, which we expected to be moved this morning, reads as follows:
In 1946 and again in 1947 the joint committee on the Indian Act made recommendations with regard to administrative improvements which could be effected without the revision of existing legislation and which, when put into effect, would remove some of the causes out of which arise grievances and complaints of many Indians.
There are still some "administrative improvements" which your committee deems advisable.
Your committee, therefore, again recommends that the administration of all aspects of Indian affairs be placed under one ministerial head.
Your committee reiterates the recommendation made by the 1947 joint committee on the Indian Act, viz:
10. The director of the Indian affairs branch . . . should be named a commissioner who shall have the rank of a deputy minister and shall have at least two assistant commissioners of whom one should be a Canadian of Indian descent.
I hope that every effort will be made to implement that recommendation, and that, as far as possible the choice of a commissioner will be made as a result of the recommendations of the Indians themselves.
The history of the dividing of the authority and the work of the Indian affairs branch
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under two heads dates from the time the department decided that the condition of health among our Indians was generally so bad that it would require special care and special work. Last year the government set aside several millions of dollars to undertake a survey of the health of the Indians. The Department of National Health and Welfare did a splendid job, and is continuing its work to remedy some of the deplorable conditions which exist among the Indians, particularly in the outlying settlements.
The proceedings of the Indian affairs committee revealed that the matter of Indian agents was a serious one for the department. The officials of the department agreed that the key to much of the proper administration of the department depended upon the type of agents selected. It was revealed in the committee that many of the agents appointed, some of them part-time, some of them with very little education, had few qualifications for the position. For instance we found an Indian agent in charge of several agencies, some of them three or four hundred miles apart. We found an agent living in one part of a province and his agency in another. It was possible for him to visit some of the agencies, where hundreds of these Indians live, only once or twice a year. How can an agent properly administer the affairs of an agency under those conditions? This is just an example of the neglected condition into which the administration of the Indian affairs of Canada has failed over many years. It has fallen into bleak neglect.
In recommendation No. 11 the committee suggested advisory boards. It said:
Your committee recommends that the government consider the advisability of appointing such advisory board or committees as, from time to time, are deemed necessary for the carrying out of the provisions of the Indian Act.
The original report of the committee emphasized the need of changing the educational system and the whole set-up of the education of our Indians. If there is any hope for these wards of our country it lies in the administration of our educational facilities and in the way we train them.
The last report that I have received on Indian affairs, which is dated 1946, revealed that about some 18,000 Indians were being trained. It showed that only about 130 reached grade 9 or were attending grade 9 classes. Out of 30,000 Canadian Indian children between the ages of seven and sixteen, only 130 reached grade 10. This fact has to be faced by this government. At the time of the last report, forty per cent of all the Indian children in those ages were receiving no training whatsoever. How can any people expect to attain any status, advancement or progress in a world such as we have today when forty per cent of the children are denied an education?
I appreciate what the government has done in the past year. I have been pleased with the progress which has been made. New blood has been brought into the department, persons who seem to be concerned about the welfare of the Indians. Money is being spent. This year I think an appropriation is being set aside to set up a few schools. But the program is entirely inadequate. I have yet to find evidence that the government has decided upon a policy with respect to education. It is time that a policy was decided upon and brought down to the house and accepted by the house, and something done to tackle the problem. To my way of thinking that is the basis upon which we shall succeed in the treatment of these people and in raising them from their present depressed state. Until this foundation stone is laid, until we have proceeded along some definite line of training, the future is mighty dim for these people.
The records will show that after the Indians pass through what educational facilities are given to them they are not fitted for their new positions; they are not trained to fit into the life of their reserves or to enter into the life of their white neighbours. They are left there, and they are just drifting. Without proper training there is no hope. After three years of study of this matter, surely the officials of the department ought to be able to bring down a policy. The committee has received evidence. The committee has studied the question to the best of its ability. The committee has expressed its opinion on the matter. It is time that a policy was arrived at..
In the past the education and training of our Indians has to a large extent been left to the various church organizations. They have looked after the education and training of the Indian children. Results have not
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proved that that system has been to the best advantage of the Indian. Half of the Indians are now being trained in residential schools and the other half in day schools. The religious organizations themselves are not satisfied with the job they are doing. Some of them are willing to withdraw from the field. Some of them feel that the policy is wrong, that they are not able to continue, even with the grants that are given to them, amounting to an average of about $200 per child.