Mr. D. F. Brown (Essex West):
I trust, Mr. Speaker, that I may be permitted to make a few observations in connection with this bill, for two reasons. One is that I represent the constituency of Essex West which comprises the city of Windsor and one township, both south of the city of Detroit. I say "south" because that is geographically correct. The city of Windsor is one of the oldest settled portions of Ontario, if not the oldest. In 1701 the city of Detroit was settled at that time and there was erected a palisade fort. The church of Ste. Anne was one of the first buildings. A few years later the Indians and the white people crossed to the south side of the river and there they formed a settlement which is now called the city of Windsor. In that area there was formed the parish of the Assumption under Father Richardi. It is interesting to note that within the last few days an historical site in that area has been declared; I refer to the home of Francois Baby, brother of Hon. Jacques Baby whose portrait adorns one of the corridors of this building. It is over on the Senate side of this building. At that time he was one of the speakers of the legislative council.
As the minister stated in his opening remarks, in that area we had the Wyandot Indians on the reserve in Anderdon township, a few miles south of my constituency, now in the constituency of Essex South. I think the assimilation of that band of Indians is certainly a pattern which we can well copy throughout the whole Dominion of Canada. I think it is a pattern which could well be used and the goal at which we could aim. Those Indians became assimilated as a group. The residents of that reserve received their final commutation I believe in 1911. They were an intelligent and an industrious people. They have taken their place in the social life of the city of Detroit and of the city of Windsor
I think in a way far above the average of most people whose origin was other than the Anglo-Saxons.
To give an illustration, the descendants of many of those people who were on the reserve, and their descendants, have taken a prominent place in the city of Detroit. One person in the city of Windsor, who was a lawyer, followed his profession successfully for many years and became a member of the provincial legislature. He represented that constituency with distinction in the provincial house. His name was Sol White. His descendants have carried on in the city of Windsor, taking a prominent part in the social and the civic life of that community.
I think that is about the goal that we are aiming at. We want the Indians to be assimilated economically. I do not say that they should be assimilated as to blood, but they should be economically assimilated. We can only have them so assimilated if we are convinced in our own minds that we were born equal.
I should like to take up some of the time of the house on this bill, Mr. Speaker, for another reason. In 1946 the government set up a committee not to deal with lands, buildings, transport lines or trade, but to deal with human beings; with the lives and the hopes of those human beings numbering over 130,000. The Indian committee was set up, comprising twelve members of the other place and twenty-two members of the House of Commons. Unfortunately, or probably fortunately, a great many of the members of the House of Commons who were on that committee are not here today, mostly by reason of appointments to the other place, other appointments as in the case of our distinguished Clerk of the House, and others by the fortunes of election. I think there are today left in the house about ten members who were on that committee. The whole theme of the committee was to help the Indian to help himself. Time alone will tell whether that was successful. Time alone will tell whether we were able to sow any seed. I hope so. I have no hesitation in saying that this committee operated regardless of political affiliation, regardless of partisanship, in an honest desire to be of service.
At this time I should like to pay my respects to one who was of great service to this committee, the late Senator Fred Johnston of Saskatchewan, who was the first co-chairman of the committee. It is also appropriate at this time to mention with reverence the late John R. MacNicol who was always interested not only in Indian affairs, but particularly in Indian affairs. He travelled extensively to
see the Indian population of this country. He was very regular in his attendance in the committee and he was very conscientious. I am sure he will be missed by many of the Indians in Canada today.
On that committee we were fortunate in having the services of a lawyer who was a full-blooded Indian. Norman Lickers was a member of the Six Nations tribe and was Indian by descent. He was trained in the profession of law in Ontario. Mr. Lickers was of great assistance not only to the committee during the hearings which it held in Ottawa, but also in drafting the report made to this house.
I might say that the committee was of one mind. It presented a unanimous report. It was willing to bury any partisanship; it was willing to keep the high goal of service before it. For that reason, I think, more than all others it was possible to bring in a unanimous report, which was concurred in by this house.
A part of the committee was formed into a commission which went down to the maritime provinces and viewed the conditions of the Indians there, their method of living, their homes, their industries, their schools, and their hospitals throughout Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Cape Breton and other parts of Nova Scotia, also going up into Quebec. It took us three weeks. The ten members of the commission derived a great deal of profit from that visit. On a subsequent occasion I myself went out to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Regina, and as far west as Port Alberni to see the fishing Indians at the end of the Alberni canal in British Columbia.
In referring to the committee on another occasion I think the minister said that 129 meetings were held. I am not sure as to that. It is possible. Of course that does not include the meetings of four subcommittees which dealt with various subjects, under the chairmanship of various members of the committee. They met at regular intervals. Therefore I suppose one could say that the committee met far more often than is indicated by the number of formal meetings. However, I do not think that it is the number of meetings that really count. The committee was endeavouring to give everybody an opportunity of presenting their viewpoints on the subject. We heard Indians from the maritimes, from Quebec, from the west, including British Columbia, and from the far north. We heard persons not of Indian descent, who had some knowledge of Indian matters and Indian affairs, from all over
Canada, and the result has been this bill. Whether or not we can recognize the child we are not too certain.
However, I do believe that we should endeavour to take what we can of this bill that is of value and then strive, and strive hard1, both within, and without this chamber, to bring about the assimilation of the Indians as I have described in my own area.
I do not quite agree with the bon. member for Calgary East (Mr. Harkness), who was a member of the committee, that we should delay passage of this bill. I have not as yet been convinced of that. If there is anything of value in this bill we should proceed with it at once. It may not be to our satisfaction, but it is at least something. It is something better than what we have today. Of course some may not agree with that. I am convinced that it is better than what we have today. Many of the recommendations of the committee have been implemented by the government; others have not. But I do not think that any good would come from having this matter put over indefinitely. I say, take what you can get today, and then fight for the rest.
One of the loudest complaints of the Indians throughout the three years in which we were hearing evidence, hearing the witnesses and1 discussing the matter with the Indians and with other people, was the interminable delays by the department in all of the administrative activities. For instance, an Indian might rent a piece of property on a reserve. The money for the rent could not be paid directly. The lessee therefore would have to pay it to the Indian agent, now known as the Indian superintendent. In due course he would forward it to Ottawa. Ottawa in turn would put it into the consolidated revenue fund or in some other branch. In due course the money would be applied for and would be paid out, but the delays were so intolerable to the Indian that he became rebellious, and I think righteously so.
In the liquidation of an estate upon the death of an Indian possessed of property the matter would be handled so slowly, in such a cumbersome way and with such long delays, that it is reasonable to assume the Indian was quite right in rebelling strenuously against such delays, which were intolerable. He had no way whatsoever of making any plans for the use of funds that were his in any way.
I will agree that since the committee has been set up, since the administration has been aroused to the need, and by force of public opinion, these delays have to a large extent been eliminated. I am sure that so long as
we have ministers such as the Hon. James Glen, or our present minister, those conditions will not be tolerated in the department.
I think at this time it might be appropriate for me to pay my respects to the minister, because this is the first opportunity I have had to do so. I know he has taken a great interest in this work, because on occasion he has kept me after hours discussing the matter. I am sure that so long as he is in charge of the department we will have efficient and sincere administration. However, we are not certain that he will always remain in that position. Mind you, I think he will be there for many years; but, after all, time passes on and successions do take place, even in the ministry. However, I congratulate him upon having done an excellent job. While I may or may not like the bill, I am sure he has done the best he could with the material at hand.
I note that one of the recommendations of the committee was that a claims commission should be set up. Such a commission would consist of three or four members who would take care of the various claims that have been made for many years by the Indians, and settle them once and for all. The argument is now offered that such claims can now be made to the exchequer court. That may or may not be the solution. But I doubt very much that it would have the psychological' effect that a claims commission would have. The United States has set the pattern because over there they have set up a commission which has worked most efficiently. It has been their experience that when a justifiable claim is made by an Indian it is disposed of, and that is the end of it.
Many claims were made to the committee by Indian organizations. I have a list of them here. They said they had been promised certain things at certain times by different officials or governments, both provincial and federal. Such claims as sores have a tendency to fester. They have a tendency to grow from a small beginning to great proportions. I should think that a claims commission would be a valuable addition, and not only would its value be apparent to the Indians, who would have their say and their day in court, but it would eliminate many of the grievances now being taken care of, so far as possible, by the administration.
Provincial rights may have been infringed. I remember one occasion in New Brunswick when Indians had gone on to public property -or it may have been private property-and had taken off black ash. It may be that some departmental head or government official at some time or other had said that black ash was public property and that they had the
right to take it. In any event a claims commission could settle a claim of that kind once and for all. If the Indians had the right to that black ash they could be given it, or a supply could be made available. Otherwise the Indian would be subject to provincial law. Perhaps I might explain that black ash is used in the making of baskets, and is greatly in demand in some quarters.
While the matter of voting may not be pertinent to this bill, yet I think there are some provisions which have reference to that matter. It is my view that the vote should have been given to the Indians, without any strings attached. However, we have the bill before us, and I am content to have this seed sown now, although I think it was a mistake not to give the Indians the vote. I believe it would have been better to have taken the long-range view and to have given them the vote, and for these two reasons: The first is that it makes the Indian more conscious of government and, secondly, it makes the government and politicians more conscious of the Indian. That condition is desirable, because if we are going to assimilate the Indian into the economic life of Canada, and Into our social life, he cannot be assimilated by a process of segregation.
In New Zealand they have a system whereby they elect a certain number of Maoris who sit in their parliament. I do not approve of that system, because I believe that is a process of segregation, pure and simple. There the Maoris vote for their own representatives. In my view that would not be acceptable in Canadian political life. We certainly do not want to have any one section of our country stand as a festering sore; rather we want the people to be assimilated so that they will join as one. It may be that they may hold different views and different opinions, but socially they are one.
In South Africa they have a system whereby the blacks elect a certain number of whites to represent them. I do not favour that system, either. In my view the Canadian system of representation is the proper way of selecting governments for this country. While I will not say I was disappointed, I do believe a mistake has been made in this connection. However, in due time that will be corrected. Time will show whether we are right.
I was most interested in the announcement made a few days ago by the minister that a form of pension would be paid to aged Indians. Not only are these Indians in need of this assistance, but the granting of such a pension will boost the morale of the Indians and also of the Canadian people when they realize that these people who are
so greatly in need are being given the necessary assistance. I would think that this pension of $25 per month would be better under the administration of the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin). It should be placed on the same basis as other pensions. I hope also that the recommendations made to the committee on old age security will also bear fruit and I am hopeful that all the people of Canada will be placed on the same basis so far as pensions are concerned.
It was recommended by the Indian affairs committee that the administration of Indian affairs be headed by a commissioner with two assistants, one of whom should be an Indian. Eventually that will have to be done and I am sorry that the government has not seen fit to implement that recommendation. Some may say that there are no Indians qualified for that position, but that is not correct. There are many Indians in Canada who are highly educated, who possess great cultural qualities. There are many Indians who are doctors, lawyers, magistrates, legislators and they are to be found in many other professions. As I say, eventually I think the government will realize that at least one Indian should be on such a commission. It would lift the morale of the Indian and make him feel that he was part of the Canadian life. It would give a spiritual boost that would last through the centuries if he knew that one of his brethren was at the head of the administration of Indian affairs.
I would not like to conclude my remarks without making some comment on the parliamentary inquiry that was made. As the minister said in his opening remarks, the Indian Act was last amended in 1880, about 70 years ago. If it is not provided in the bill, I think it should be announced that a parliamentary inquiry into Indian affairs will take place every five years to begin with, and then perhaps, later on, every ten years. A matter like this should not be left for 70 years before being reviewed. We are not dealing with material things, we are dealing with the lives and habits of 130,000 people, a people whose numbers are increasing at the rate of five per cent per annum.
While this might be more properly discussed on the minister's estimates, I think a larger allowance should be made for departmental travel. One of the curses of Indian administration is the fact that by force of circumstances the administrators are required to sit at their desks in Ottawa without the advantage of having firsthand contact with the matters they are administering. In my own case I know I have gained great benefit by going to see the things I was dealing with;
it has given me an entirely different viewpoint. It has broadened my outlook considerably with respect to the Indian question.
Finally I would recommend that there be set up among the white people advisory committees to bring about greater intercourse, socially and educationally, between the Indians and the white people. We provide aid for crippled children, we provide aid for the blind, we provide aid for this and that, but here we have 130,000 needy people in our midst and we do nothing whatsoever to assist them to become good Canadian citizens. Much could be accomplished along these lines.
Before closing I should like to pay my respects to the department for setting up the homemakers' clubs which might be likened to the women's institutes throughout Canada. Through these clubs the women on the Indian reserves learn to do things in and about their homes, things that are artistic and things that are necessary. They are being encouraged by the department and are doing a magnificent job. I repeat that there should be set up advisory councils or committees or auxiliaries, call them what you like, to assist these people. Let us help ourselves in getting their viewpoint and let us help them in getting our viewpoint for the betterment of all Canada.
Subtopic: CONSOLIDATION AND CLARIFICATION
Sub-subtopic: FUNDS AND EXPENDITURES, ETC.