Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP)
Madam Speaker, I suppose I am not surprised that I am up on my feet at this point, as opposed to the member for Calgary Centre, given the way the bill has been handled from its inception.
In that regard I must admit as tragic as the bill is, and the way first nations have been treated, the process they have been put through is equally tragic. That was continued today in the ruling we received from the Speaker. Although I know in his thinking that he conducted himself with all good faith, I could not help but think, as I listened to his ruling, that in effect he was saying that it was okay that we had these prior decisions, which I do not think are applicable.
The issue today, in terms of the process, is whether people whose primary first language is French will be treated equally. That was the point he missed, and so much of the bill reflects that.
I think the Speaker, if he had thought this through more thoroughly, there was an option to say that there was some systemic discrimination in the process against people whose primary first language was French, and they were not being treated equally. Those of us whose first language is primarily English get an advantage because we get access to the transcripts of the committee in total. Having sat in on part of the committee discussion, almost all of it was in English.
On the record to the Speaker, if his ruling will stand, as it appears it will at this point, the House has to look at the process. There is no way we can have systemic discrimination against one of the two languages in the country. We cannot have that perpetrated in the House, which I believe is the effect of the ruling we received today.
Going back to the manner in which the first nations have been treated, I am sure members will hear repeatedly from members on the government side about how they consulted. What members will not hear from that side is that the consultation resulted in a ratio of people who made presentations either as witnesses in person or testimony and briefs in writing. I believe that ratio was 191 to something like 10: 191 were opposed to the bill and opposed to the governmental approach contained in the bill and only eight or ten people supported the approach.
Subtopic: First Nations Governance Act