November 6, 2003

LIB

Jim Peterson

Liberal

Hon. Jim Peterson (Willowdale, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, there have been further consultations and I believe you would now find there is unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order, Bill S-21, an act to amalgamate the Canadian Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the Canadian Association of Financial Planners under the name The Financial Advisors Association of Canada be deemed adopted at all stages.

I again express my great thanks to members from all parties for their cooperation.

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The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

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The House resumed consideration of Bill C-19, an act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of Motions Nos. 52 and 53.


LIB

Charles Hubbard

Liberal

Mr. Charles Hubbard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, for the information of all, Bill C-19 deals with the first nations fiscal and statistical management act. It is a bill that would set up four commissions.

I know the hon. member was moving her motions but I took great exception to some of the points she made in her presentation. I would like to point out to the hon. members that we have more than 600 first nations across the country. I know in a democracy or in any given society, it is never possible to get unanimous consent from all people.

However I would like to point out that in terms of this particular piece of legislation we have had first nations communities and leaders working toward this legislation for more than 10 years. As members of the committee, we certainly heard from many of them who came to us, appealing to us to pass this legislation.

This is an optional piece of legislation. It is not mandated that all first nations have to work under this so-called piece of legislation. However it does provide the first nations communities, which want to develop their economy and improve the lot of their people, the opportunity to participate in the economy of all Canadians, whereby they can use their fiscal powers to develop a management system of dealing with finances, to be able to bring wealth to their people and offer their people an opportunity to participate in the economy of the country.

I am disappointed that some people in the House would like us to see all first nations people live under the Indian Act of 1876. The Prime Minister today in his remarks expressed his great concern for the lives, the welfare and the future that might be available to first nations people, As the parliamentary secretary to our minister, I want to assure the House that he has worked hard in bringing this legislation to the House because he has a vision of what might happen.

With it, I would hope that all of us can join together to support those first nation communities and leaders who want to see a better society developed for their people.

The motions we are dealing with, in terms of those the hon. member has brought to the House, deal with a very basic concept of how corporate society works. With it, we assume that the chiefs, the council, those who may have important decisions legislated by this particular legislation, will have the same protection in law that all people in Canada have in terms of working in good faith for the corporation and the society which they represent.

I would hope all members can support this legislation and can overlook the particular motion that I see as being outside the general concepts from which all Canadians can benefit in terms of taking responsibility, and with it, we can move on to get the legislation passed and to offer to those people across Canada, especially those in British Columbia and some in Nova Scotia, who are developing an economy for their people, who are offering their people an opportunity to participate in this great society that Canada has, and to get away from the old concepts that the House had back in the 1870s.

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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to the amendments to Bill C-19 proposed by my colleagues in the New Democratic Party.

I was very disappointed to see that, of all of the proposed amendments, you have only selected two for debate. It seemed to me that while we were examining this bill—and a controversial one it is—we would have been able to revisit the debate on some of the truly problematic elements.

First, as we begin, I would like to point out that, contrary to what the hon. parliamentary secretary said a few moments ago, there is no unanimity on this bill, none at all. There are positive things, but there are so many negative ones. It was the minister's responsibility to convince the first nations that the positive elements could outweigh the negative ones in this bill, or else show some openness to substantive amendments. In fact, there are many problems in this bill. It has missed its mark.

A few weeks ago, I attended the special chiefs assembly, held by the Assembly of First Nations in Vancouver. This bill was the subject of a heated debate. Some of the first nations supported the bill because it might mean an improvement. Others, the vast majority in fact, rejected the bill. The results of the vote were clear. If my memory serves me, 103 first nations chiefs were opposed and 59 were in favour. When there is more opposition to a bill than support for it, it is because the minister did not do his job in several respects.

First, he tried to convince some first nations, the most developed ones, that this bill might have merit. He forgot about the others. He forgot that most of the 638 first nations in Canada are experiencing real problems on a daily basis, problems such as poverty, multiple addictions, the lack of management and development resources, and access to drinking water. These problems are major ones. Young aboriginals are also experiencing social problems.

Ten years ago, when the Liberals talked about improving the status of first nations, something should have been done. However, instead of talking about it, instead of proposing concrete measures, they chose to engage in petty politics, to try to convince some at the expense of others; in short, to divide and conquer. Now, the vast majority of the 638 first nations in Canada do not want this bill to pass.

They do not want it primarily because this bill is part of a trilogy. There was Bill C-6 on specific claims resolution. Then, there was Bill C-7. No one knows what happened to this bill or where it is. I hope it stays lost. Then there was Bill C-19. The minister himself appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources to tell us that this was a complete package.

When he did present us with Bill C-7, it was the most odious bill possible for the first nations. He claimed to be replacing the odious Indian Act, which has been in place for 130 years. In the end, all that was accomplished was to retain the Indian Act, which treated the first nations like children, while adding on some elements of colonialism. This was not a good start to any demonstration of the virtues of the trilogy.

Then he turned up with Bill C-6. Yesterday, convinced of his inability to sell us on its validity, he imposed it on us. He is imposing upon the first nations the amendments proposed by the Senate on specific claims, which are now subject to a $10 million ceiling, whereas they average out at $18 million, judging from the situation in Saskatchewan in recent years.

He is using time allocation to shove this bill down our throats, once again thwarting the legitimate aspirations and ignoring the legitimate objections of the first nations. Here we are faced with Bill C-19, which is an attempt to push through something that no one will buy.

Why not focus the same amount of energy, courage, perseverance and political savvy on moving real things ahead? In the case of the first nations, this means speeding up negotiations on self-government. Enough of the apartheid mentality, enough of colonialism, let them speed up negotiations on self-government. That is the only way to ensure that the first nations can develop in keeping with what they are, what they want, and what they aspire to. Is that clear enough?

In order for a nation to develop, it must possess one main tool: government. The first nations have been calling for that government for ages. Their entitlement to it is recognized not just nationally but internationally. Even the United Nations have said that the first nations constituted nations. As nations, they therefore have the capacity to determine their own futures, to put in place their own government, to determine their own policies, their own way of doing things in accordance with their culture, their language and their traditions.

There still exists this paternalistic, colonial, condescending reflex. We thought this reflex had disappeared years ago with the elimination of apartheid in South Africa. We thought that was a thing of the past. Here we are with a bill that would still have us control the first nations.

The minister, in his quest to exercise control, is so driven that he forgets some things and says whatever comes to mind. On Tuesday, in response to questions I had asked him, he said, “We appointed the present national chief to the commission that exists today”. They appointed the head of the taxation commission. The minister thinks he has such extraordinary powers that he told us, here in this House, just check Hansard, “The national chief himself was appointed by the government”. He said that Phil Fontaine was appointed by the government. It takes a narrow-minded, power-hungry megalomaniac to think like that.

He is so power-hungry that in Bills C-6, C-7, and C-19, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is vested with all the discretionary power. He can appoint the members of commissions or institutions, he can reject or accept first nations specific claims. He can also say to first nations, “You have decided one thing, I will decide another”. He is so self-important he thinks this power is fully and completely his. He says, “I myself appointed the national chief of first nations”. Who does this minister take himself for? He has been in politics for 14 years, and it is time that he left.

This man wreaks havoc. He has become a megalomaniac. Everyone knows that the chief of the first nations is elected by the chiefs of the 638 first nations. He is elected by his peers. Neither the government nor the minister has anything to do with it. He must be really full of himself.

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Subtopic:   First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
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NDP

Bev Desjarlais

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Bev Desjarlais

Mr. Speaker, I regret interrupting my colleague from the Bloc. We do not appear to have quorum in the House. On an issue of such great consequence for the first nations of this country, I would at least expect a quorum in the House.

And the bells having rung:

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The Deputy Speaker

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier

Mr. Speaker, I am taking advantage of the fact that the minister is here right now. I would like to ask him whether he is so arrogant as to think that he was the one who appointed Phil Fontaine to head the Assembly of First Nations.

He will not answer, naturally, because this was a blunder yesterday. He is so steeped in this power to decide the future of first nations, decide for them, decide what is good for them, decide their style of governance, decide that $10 million is enough, even when the value of claims may exceed $18 million.

There is a double standard with respect to first nations. In non-aboriginal society, one may claim any amount before the courts, but not in the first nations. The limit is set at $10 million. This is how it is with every bill, including Bill C-19. We will oppose this bill with all our might.

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The Deputy Speaker

Order please. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Terrebonne-Blainville, Harassment; and the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River, Justice.

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CA

John Duncan

Canadian Alliance

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today and speak on Bill C-19, a very interesting first nations omnibus bill that deals with the creation of three financial institutions and a separate statistical institute.

Listening to some of the debate today has led me to a thought process which I would like to share before I get into my prepared notes. It deals with the tensions that currently exist between what I would say is the one size fits all approach of the Indian Act, which has been the historical way that the affairs of first nations in Canada have been dealt with for a long period of time, versus the whole trend of now moving toward an opting in or a situation where first nations either singly or as a group propose and become advocates for various other forms of management, administration and governance, all of the critical things that we think of in terms of legislation.

I believe that it is a fiction under this new scenario for us to think that a majority decision made by an organization like the Assembly of First Nations, for example, is binding on anyone. Membership of the 633 bands in Canada in the Assembly of First Nations is automatic, just because of the way it is created, the way it is funded and the way it operates.

So I think it is natural that these tensions now exist. They are going to continue to exist, but hopefully it will be a creative tension. I think we see some signs that it will be. For example, we are set to give unanimous consent in the House tomorrow, I believe, to the Westbank First Nations Self-Government Agreement, which was signed in Westbank, British Columbia, on October 3. I think it signals something very constructive for the House.

At the same time, all of that tension leads me to the conclusion, and it should be no surprise to anyone, that Bill C-19 would have its strong opponents and strong proponents. A significant contributor to all of this is that it is omnibus legislation. I do not think the government needed to do that. I do not think the minister needed to do that. I think it was a mistake. The politics of this bill could be so much simpler and so much more productive. I do not quite understand why it was done this way.

The thrust of the legislation is to empower subscribing bands across the country to join together to advance their economic situation. Before I get into the specifics of the bill, I think it is important that we frame the discussion from the standpoint of what we have in Canada as a consequence of the Constitution, the reserve system of land ownership and the Indian Act. It is the very worst of all circumstances for tens of thousands of aboriginal people who are growing up in a cycle of poverty and abuse that in many circumstances is as bad as anything we can find in the third world, and in the worst circumstances in the third world.

It is essential that Canada as a modern country think outside the box so we do not perpetuate that which has been going on for too long in too many places. Economic advancement cannot occur without social advancement and the reverse is also true.

The current system and the current apparatus of government caters to the defenders of the status quo, who benefit from the asymmetrical system we currently have. It is a system that on some reserves has allowed elected chiefs and councillors to use federal money to reward themselves and their friends through jobs, through pay and through perks, to consolidate their status to influence elections, to intimidate members of their community, and to perpetuate themselves in office. This is the basic premise that the government needs to operate on in order to fix the worst of what is happening.

The government must operate from the standpoint that democracy, transparency and accountability are not negotiable. The sad truth is that I have been a witness in this place for 10 years to this government continuing to allow these things to occur. These are my first concerns whenever I am faced with reviewing legislation. Is democracy being served? Is transparency being served? Is accountability being served?

My first important observation when it comes to Bill C-19 is that it applies only to those bands that subscribe to it. My reading of ideas emanating from some of the most progressive bands in the country is that this is an essential direction in which we have to go, and I certainly concur.

The reason I concur is that when I look at the way the courts interpret transactions on reserve, the first consideration is always given to the Indian Act, which becomes the lowest common denominator and a very huge barrier to progress unless there is specific legislation in place that overrides the Indian Act for that specific band.

For example, a specific piece of legislation applies to the Sechelt band in British Columbia. It is so overwhelmingly different from the Indian Act that it is inappropriate and incorrect to call the Sechelt land base a reserve. The Sechelt band achieved fee simple ownership of their lands in 1985, lands that formerly were reserved for them and held by the Crown.

Like it is for so many other attempts at progress by first nations, the approach taken by the Department of Indian Affairs since 1985, which to me flies in the face of the great successes achieved by the Sechelt, has been to tell any other band seeking any similar treatment of their land base that there were to be no more Sechelts. One might ask why.

There is quite a bit more that I could say, but I am running out of time. I will conclude by saying that one part of this four-suite institution set-up, the first nations statistical institute, absolutely in its entirety has nothing to do with the other three. We could do without it. It is the most divisive part of the bill and should be hived off. It should never have resided in the legislation. It is a total duplication of what Statistics Canada is already carrying out. We would all be better off if we were not in the position of having to support this legislation as it stands.

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The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, on a point of order.

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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier

Mr. Speaker, I would call for a quorum count. I do not think we have quorum.

And the count having been taken:

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The Deputy Speaker

We do not have quorum. Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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The Deputy Speaker

I see a quorum.

Before I hand over the floor, I understand there have been some discussions between the members in terms of the rotation because I know it would be otherwise unusual to see a spokesperson from the same party back to back under the circumstances.

Just so everyone understands that following this, if someone from the Bloc Quebecois should seek the floor after the member of the official opposition, that would be the case. Following that I would go to the hon. member from the Progressive Conservative Party, and so on.

The hon. member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin.

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CA

Maurice Vellacott

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate right off the top that I could not agree more with my colleague who made a remark about how we could possibly make the case that the First Nations Statistical Institute should be part of Bill C-19, because it does not have a direct connect to other ones.

I do not know why we have omnibus bills, where we have things quite unrelated and not necessarily integral to one another. It diminishes this place some and is disrespectful. I wish we would have bills that we could consider individually and on their own merits as opposed to mixing apples and oranges and things that are somewhat unrelated. That is a problem.

Why we have the First Nations Statistical Institute as part of Bill C-19 is quite beyond me. It does not even reflect good management on the part of the department or on the part of the minister himself.

I will make my remarks around three different headings. Some of the motions under consideration are supportable.

My first point is the government needs to consult first nations communities in the making of appointments. We have come to accept that in respect to other pieces of legislation and bills, yet for some reason under Bill C-19 that appropriate kind of consultation would not take place.

Therefore, we have two good motions in respect to that. Motion No. 4 requires the minister to consult interested first nations prior to the appointment of a chairperson to the financial management board. In its present form the bill allows the minister to make a recommendation to the cabinet without any such consultation, and that is a mistake. It is disrespectful of first nations peoples, those who have so much at stake in the bill before us. That is a flaw and a misstep on the part of the government. Hopefully in future bills it will learn and rectify such a thing so the proper consultation takes place with the interested first nations persons, as suggested in Motion No. 4.

Another motion directs that when making other appointments to the board, the government should do the same thing: consult interested first nations before making recommendations to cabinet. Again, it makes my point around the general theme that the government needs to be consulting first nations communities in the making of their appointments.

Second, the government needs to make a point of building more transparency into the bill. As things presently stand concerning the board's making of rules of conduct for its meetings, nothing requires those rules to be published. We think that should be done.

Motion No. 7 would require these rules to be published in the First Nations Gazette . At present, no such publication is required. It should be there on the surface for all to see, a public document in the nature of the First Nations Gazette . It is a commendable amendment by the member. Therefore, Motion No. 7 is certainly supportable from the Canadian Alliance's point of view.

Motion 34 would require that the authority's annual report be tabled in the House of Commons. At present, the bill makes no such requirement. Again, we could have a little more transparency. I appeal to the parliamentary secretary and others who are listening. That makes simple sense and it could be enacted rather easily, and maybe even at this late hour. There could be some heeding in respect to Motion 34.

In addition to my first two points that the government needs to consult first nations communities in the making of appointments and needs to build more transparency into the bill by way of the having rules for conduct of meetings being published in the First Nations Gazette , a public document for all to see, an annual report should be tabled in the House of Commons. Presently, things do not read that way.

My third point is the government, from the Canadian Alliance perspective, needs to be clear on the rights and responsibilities of member first nations.

Motion No. 23 is also an important amendment. The bill in its present form would force a band to remain a member unless all other members agreed to allow its membership to cease. The amendment specifies that as long as the first nation has paid off its debt to the authority it can cease to be a member of its own volition and does not need the permission of the other members.

We debated that in committee and had some discussions around that. Why should one band have a veto power and hold another band hostage after it has paid off its debt to the authority? We have a problem with that.

We simply say that Motion No. 23 is supportable. If the first nation has paid off its debt to the authority, it should be able to cease to be a member of its own volition and not need the permission of other members. Why should one band have veto power to keep another band hostage, keep it bound, keep it constrained indefinitely and not allow it out of the particular institution?

Motion No. 24 reinforces the point that the government needs to be clearer on the rights and the responsibilities of member first nations. I would hope the minister and others who have listened attentively today would be supportive of Motion No. 24, which clarifies the obligations of the borrowing member first nation.

At present the bill states that the band must pay off its loan to the authority before making payments to any other creditors. The amendment would change this. It would require the band to first pay off creditors, other than the authorities, if those debts were incurred earlier than debts to the authority were incurred. That makes sense.

If a first nation has incurred a debt at some point earlier and then comes into the authority, why does that other debt repayment not have first call? Why would the first payment go to the authority and the others would get second dibs on whatever money would be owed to them?

Again, Motions Nos. 23 and 24 would allow the proper flexibility on the rights and responsibilities of member first nations. They are certainly ones that the Canadian Alliance supports. I would say to the minister and the parliamentary secretary that these are reasonable, sane and are not that difficult to implement. I cannot see that they would even cause a great problem for the department. Maybe there is a way they can segue them in, even in respect of those bigger amendments.

In total, Motions Nos. 4, 5, 7, 34, 23 and 24 are very supportable by the Canadian Alliance and we would like to see those adopted as part of Bill C-19.

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BQ

Claude Bachand

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, as I always do, I will begin by greeting my aboriginal friends. I want to thank them particularly for the wonderful experiences I have had with them. Yesterday, in the context of a different bill, I mentioned a number of places in Canada where I went to visit native communities. I told a few stories.

Today I would like to reflect on some other unforgettable experiences. Among other things, my native friends have often invited me to participate in their spiritual ceremonies where tobacco is burned and the participants wave the smoke about themselves.

I have always found that they have a profound respect for the Creator. The way they extend their culture to include us, the white people, is very interesting and something I had never seen before.

I see the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot with his eagle feather. Yes, they often use the wings or feathers of a bird to wave the purifying vapours about themselves. In my opinion they have a true openness of spirit to allow white people like ourselves to take part in these ceremonies.

As for languages, perhaps the people of Quebec are in a better position than anyone else to understand the importance of defending one's language. After all, we have a critical mass of 7 million Quebeckers, most of whom speak French. But what we see when we look at the state of aboriginal languages in Canada today is a complete disgrace. Some languages are actually dying. There are perhaps some 40 languages that are still alive. It would be a loss for their heritage if nothing were done to save these languages, which are very beautiful languages. To my ear they have a musical quality, rather like French. I recognize certain intonations. It is interesting that the native peoples share these with us.

There was a time when I used to end my speeches in the language of the nation that was affected by the bill. You will have to excuse me today, because I did not have time to prepare anything. In any case, the bill before the House today affects all the first nations and I could not have spoken in 40 languages.

I would also like to thank them for native cooking. They are very welcoming people. I had the pleasure of eating—and I am not timid about such things—pretty much every kind of food.

I ate whale, seal, bison, beaver, bear, moose, deer, caribou, nearly all species of fish and, of course, Arctic char, which is very tasty.

These aboriginal dishes are truly exceptional. I want to thank them for having shared all of those very new and different things with us.

There are also sentencing circles. Often, judges travel to isolated communities. Before the sentence is pronounced, the judge will tell the community, “Please get together and tell me what sentence I should hand down”. Sentencing circles are often used. In my opinion, this approach better includes the community. Once again, this is distinct to aboriginal communities. The judge could ignore their recommendation and apply the white man's law in delivering his sentence. However, those who are a bit more open-minded consult the community before handing down their sentence.

The bill before the House today is directly in keeping with what I spoke out against yesterday. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is telling aboriginals, “I know what is good for you and I am going to give it to you. This is what you will do from now on”.

The same thing was true yesterday with regard to the specific claims commission. In fact, this bill will give the minister the authority to appoint each member of the commission. He will choose them. Not even the aboriginal community will not have a say. They could end up being a bunch of Liberal supporters, like the immigration board. It is absolutely incredible that the minister is going to make this decision on his own.

This was all here before the Europeans arrived. They took over and did things their way. They told those who were there before them, “We have your interests at heart”.

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An hon. member

And then they said, “Sign them over”.

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BQ

Claude Bachand

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Claude Bachand

They said, “Sign them over, and we will send you to reserves”. Since then, nothing has gone well on the reserves and negotiations have never gone well because of this paternalistic attitude that says, “I am the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Here is how I am going to legislate on your behalf”.

After intense discussions and consultations, the almost unanimous response of those suffering this indignity is, in the majority of cases, “That is not what we need. That is not what we want”.

The minister is a little like what the Erasmus-Dussault commission described as the Indian agent of modern times. In the past, the federal government would send money to its white representative on the reserve, the Indian agent, who was responsible for handing it out. He also had the final say about whatever went on on the reserve.

If someone said, “I have three cows and I would like to have a fourth”, he had to ask the Indian agent for permission. If he said, “I have a hectare of wheat and I would like to farm twice as much”, he had to get permission from the Indian agent. This was true for everything. If someone wanted to move a tent, he had to get permission from the Indian agent. The Indian agent decided how people should behave. He had his favourites and others he liked less. Those who stood up to him were ignored and those who ingratiated themselves with the agent received slightly better treatment.

What is happening now? It is the same thing and the same domineering attitude. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development decides everything. You will say that times have changed, but if an aboriginal wants to add an extension to his house today, I wonder if he does not have to get permission from the department. I do not know whether he would go directly to the minister, because the minister might not have the time to deal with his request.

I hope the minister does not submit this to the governor in council, but if he makes the decision himself, then nothing has changed. Imagine, aboriginals want to keep the Indian Act as a last resort. This empowers the minister and gives rise to bills like the one before us, which perpetuates the tradition of persecution and lack of respect.

In Quebec, I said this yesterday and I will say it again, I think we see things differently. Yesterday, I gave the example of the Cree. That is how negotiations ought to be conducted. The Erasmus-Dussault commission cost the Canadian taxpayers $58 million.

When in a jam, what do the minister and the government do as soon as the Indians start making themselves heard? The call a royal inquiry. This puts the problem off for another five years. What do they do with the inquiry report? They quickly put it on a shelf to gather dust.

This explains why nothing has changed and nothing will change with the bill we are debating. The minister is not listening to the aboriginal people, he is dictating to them. That is contrary to the negotiating philosophy of Quebec, which negotiates nation to nation. That is how this government should be negotiating.

Each nation has its own characteristics, just as Quebec has its own characteristics, which make it completely distinct from Canada. Aboriginal nations are called nations for a reason. They too have their specificity. When bills are introduced and imposed from coast to coast to coast, it does not work. There are people who disagree and say that the matter should be negotiated within their nation.

The government knows that. It sometimes deals directly with the communities to negotiate a model at the lowest level possible and then apply it to everyone else.

I condemn the attitude of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I think that what he has been doing for the past decade is unfair. If there is an area where there has been injustice, a great deal of it and the worst kind, it is aboriginal issues.

Today, the Minister of Veterans Affairs recognized all widows. It was unfair not to. However, it is even worse in aboriginal issues, because the first nations are not recognized as full-fledged nations, capable of having a future and of determining their future themselves.

It should not come as a surprise to hear me say that Quebeckers are on the side of the first nations and that we will therefore oppose this bill by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

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CA

Inky Mark

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River, PC)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on Bill C-19.

I wish to thank the member for Perth—Middlesex for his work in the aboriginal affairs committee. Having been a former member of the committee, I do have a few things to say. My riding of Dauphin—Swan River has 13 bands and a significant population base of aboriginal Canadians.

It was mentioned earlier that it is so unfortunate that on a day when we pay tribute to the Prime Minister, his biggest failure in 40 years of public life is on the aboriginal affairs file. I know that he always had good intentions in terms of helping the aboriginal community, but unfortunately, the process is fatally flawed. I could say the same thing about our current minister. I am sure the minister is well intentioned to help people, but the problem is that the system does not work.

Having been a former critic for the PC Party going back almost two years, Bill C-19 was already on the Internet. Members of the committee and members of the aboriginal community did not know anything about it. It is a good example of the flawed communication process. We cannot force or expect people to do things unless they sit down at the table and discuss issues.

Bill C-7 is about governance. The change of governance for the aboriginal community which supposedly was to work toward self-government just did not work out. It was well-intentioned. The topic made sense, but the process was flawed.

The aboriginal community opposed Bill C-7, even though there are many good things in it. It is about setting up governance vehicles and making people accountable.

Unfortunately, unless the stakeholders are there, the people who this bill is going to affect, they are not going to buy into it. No more than if the federal government decided that all of a sudden it would dictate how municipalities should operate. People at the grassroots level would not take it sitting down because they want input.

In fact, that is one of the weaknesses of the government as we have heard in this House. Cooperative federalism in terms of relationships between the provinces and this place can certainly be improved. We know there can be huge improvements in terms of the relationship between the federal government and the aboriginal community. It is a terrible relationship which is so unfortunate. We go from a national chief to a national chief. It is poor planning and in no way does it deal with people.

We spend a great deal of money on this file, over $7 billion, and yet people still live in third world conditions. It just does not make any sense. Aboriginal communities and aboriginal people of this land are living in third world conditions.

In a rich country like this where everyone in the world wants to come to Canada because of the opportunities here, our first nations communities are living in squalor in many places. I have 13 reserves and many of them do not have running water. They have probably 10 to 12 people living in one house. It is just pathetic how the majority of people live.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of accountability, there is no accounting for how the money is spent. Again, I blame the federal government.

The Indian Act seems to have the attitude that father knows best. It is just as the Bloc member said. They are just like modern Indian agents; they decide how the money is spent and to whom they should give the money. I guess the band councils learned from their masters at this level about rampant spending and not having to account to anyone. It is very frustrating. It is frustrating for the people who live on reserves. They do not know what to do.

I have many contacts with the people who are on reservations in my riding. I forward them on to the minister and I am not even sure what happens, even on the issue of third party debt. There are millions and millions of dollars of third party debt incurred by what I say is the federal government but the minister said it is not his debt, that it is the bands' debt. Unfortunately someone gets hurt and it is usually the third party. There is no fairness in this.

The biggest irony is that this country believes in democracy and human rights. We travel all over the world promoting democracy, transparency and accountability. I met with Mr. Roy of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development which was established in 1988.

We do this yet at home we do not look at what we are doing in our own backyard. One would think that in 2003 as rational people in this place we would try to figure out a solution. After a contribution of 40 years to the country by the Prime Minister, surely it is time to sit down and work this out so that the aboriginal communities, the first nations of our land, have an opportunity to grow and to create wealth like other Canadians. Otherwise we are not going to go anywhere.

We have heard about the self-government initiative. It is not going to happen. It is not going to work as long as the Indian Act is in place. The Indian Act is a millstone around the first people's necks. The only way to have true autonomy and self-sufficiency is to let people manage their own affairs.

We are a country of regions. We are a country of first nations, distinct francophones and distinct anglophones. The strength of the country is that we have many differences and many regions. They can all learn to work together, not only the east, the west and the centre but also the north.

The government has a lot to learn. I will close by saying it is so unfortunate on the day we have been praising the Prime Minister for his contribution to the country that a file in which he has great interest is a total failure.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
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November 6, 2003