April 20, 2004

BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

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

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on this important bill.

The agreement with the Westbank First Nation occurs after years and years of negotiations between the federal government and the first nation. I recall that last December, before we adjourned for the holidays, the Westbank First Nation was assured that its agreement would be passed by this Parliament. I remember very clearly that in the galleries there was a large delegation from Westbank, which came to observe the conclusion of these years of effort, consultation and tough negotiations.

Instead of recognizing the success of their efforts in December, one Conservative MP refused to give consent for the rapid approval of this agreement. I said to myself then that this was not the right way to reward the work of the first nations who all seek, without exception, to enjoy the inherent right to self government.

This inherent right is not there for us to amend, debate or misinterpret. It is there, either because of ancestral treaties or because the first nations stipulate that it is a right given them by the Creator as the first inhabitants of this land.

I was very disappointed when I saw that these attempts at self-government were not gratified. I remember that, in 1998, the report by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Erasmus-Dussault report, invited us to undertake a vast reform. Over the next 20 years, this reform would resolve everything with all the first nations in Quebec and Canada. It would resolve the issue of self-government, which is the only healthy avenue available to our two communities to ensure harmonious development, and the growth too of the first nations, as well as the immediate resolution of the first nations' numerous needs.

We have yet to take the first step. The Conservatives, both those on the committee and here in Parliament, with all the means at their disposal, are trying to prevent the adoption of this self-government agreement, called a self-government framework agreement. They used dilatory measures in committee. Now, they are continuing by introducing amendments irrelevant to what we intend this agreement to do. They will probably keep it up as long as possible. They will probably also ensure that, if the election is called, Parliament does not adopt before prorogation this Westbank first nation self-government agreement. This is a terrible shame.

I want to come back to the Conservatives' amendment. I ask members to listen carefully. It is essential to read it carefully to see that it was illogical:

The force of law—

That is good.

In the bill before the House, subsection 3(2) states,

Persons and bodies have the powers, rights, privileges and benefits conferred on them by the Agreement and are subject to the obligations and liabilities imposed on them by the Agreement.

What the Conservatives were proposing was to strike this clause. Striking this clause is essentially abrogating the whole agreement. How can we adopt an agreement that confers no rights, powers, privileges or benefits to the communities identified in the agreement? This is illogical.

We know that 71% of first nations communities across Canada are currently being represented at 80 negotiating tables and that many years of work past and to come have been planned in order to reach a self-government agreement. People from the Westbank First Nation have worked very hard, drawing on a heightened social conscience to liberate the first nation from a position of underdevelopment. When a first nation such as Westbank has done its work well, then we can only disagree with measures such as the ones being proposed by the Conservatives that make absolutely no sense and are completely retrograde.

What is more, other self-government agreements will end here. I have the impression that the Conservatives will make other attempts to undermine these self-government agreements. It is a kind of knee-jerk reaction. They criticize first nations for being underdeveloped, unable to do anything about it, and dependent on the government. However, when presented with a self-government agreement, they object.

What do they want? Do they want first nations to remain utterly dependent, with an Indian Act that dates back 130 years and bears a strong resemblance to an apartheid law, or do they want things to change?

If they want things to change then we must act quickly. Six years have passed since the royal commission report was tabled. That leaves 14 years to settle all the cases if we want to implement the recommendations. There are cases and situations of unbelievable urgency.

With respect to drinking water alone, most first nations territories have problems with their water supply. It is hard to imagine that today, in 2004, in a developed country, there could be a situation where problems exist with the drinking water supply. This situation is pervasive for first nations.

In terms of housing as well, it is quite incredible. I have personally had the opportunity to visit a number of aboriginal communities, and what I have seen is a disaster. At Weymontachie alone, for example, there are 113 houses and all 113 of them are under attack from chronic mould problems. These houses are overpopulated.

This morning, Mr. Fontaine, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, told us that there are currently 93,000 housing units on reserves, but there are 113,000 households. We can see this is an extraordinary shortage, and, in addition, most of the older housing stock needs renovations. Some houses need to be demolished because of the problems I have just mentioned.

At Barriere Lake, it is unbelievable: floors have completely rotted out. Vermin enter the houses, and children have to be put up in hammocks out of their reach.

These are emergency situations. When will the Conservatives understand that we must stop stalling properly negotiated self-government projects, with all the guarantees they may have, even for the municipality of Kelowna, because the time is up? That is not what must be done. The self-government process must be accelerated, and it must be done with enthusiasm. The same should be done with modern treaties so that first nations communities can benefit from economic development.

As you know, I am an economist, so I regularly follow the statistics on the economic development of Quebec and Canada, on employment, increased household wealth, investments in strategic sectors and so on. It has always struck me, particularly in the past two years since becoming the critic on this issue, that there is one segment of the population that cannot gain anything from this economic development.

Now, it has been given an opportunity to do so, and there will be others. The Innu of Quebec are well into the negotiating process. This situation must be addressed head on, with as much vigour and determination as one would use in defending one's own family members. We must be sure that, within 10 or 15 years, there will be no more problems with the first nations, and that they will be able to govern themselves, to develop, and to share in the benefits of economic growth.

There must be no more systematic obstruction on trivial grounds. This is a complete disgrace, and not appropriate behaviour by this Parliament. Nor by anyone else. It is inhumane to leave part of the aboriginal population in abject poverty, with undrinkable water and inadequate housing, with multiple drug use among their youth, and, in certain communities, with over 75% unemployment.

If there is any humanity at all left among the Conservatives, or in other words if even a few members have a social conscience, the only thing that can be done is to step up the entire process of self-government so that we can all develop in harmony.

We will therefore be voting against these amendments.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, we in the NDP also intend to vote against the amendment put forth by the Conservative Party, a party that is constantly trying to deny the rights of aboriginal people in this country. Negotiations went on over a long period of time regarding the Westbank bill. A very good agreement was reached and we intend to support the agreement in the House.

I do not want to go into details about this particular agreement except to say that we see many aboriginal people living in third world conditions in this country. The member for Yukon knows that. I have 12 first nations in my own riding as well. One of the big failures of Canadian society over the years has been not making sure that the first nations people, the Métis people, the aboriginal peoples in general, have a better standard of living and have the opportunities that are provided to many other people in the Canadian mainstream.

What we hear is the Conservative Party saying in a very misleading way that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would not apply to people of the Westbank First Nation.

I spent 10 years as the NDP's constitutional spokesperson during the patriation debate in the formulation of a Canadian Charter of Rights. My friend from Yellowknife was part of two of those five or six committees over the years. She will remember the constant debates. She will also remember her disappointment with the Trudeau government when it first tabled the patriation package in the House of Commons. There was no reference at all to treaty rights or aboriginal rights in the original package tabled by the Government of Canada.

It was because of the NDP and our negotiations that treaty rights were put in the Constitution of Canada. That took a long time. It was a long struggle. Treaty rights in the Constitution of Canada were one thing that our party negotiated at all party committees and elsewhere. We made sure they were provided in the Constitution of Canada. Today there are treaty rights and recognition of the royal proclamation in Canada's Constitution. We have begun a long, long process of trying to evolve treaty rights in this country.

The Conservative Party member from Vancouver has suggested in his amendment that the charter would not apply to the people of the Westbank First Nation because of the agreement. I want to assure the House that this is totally and absolutely untrue. The charter applies to every Canadian citizen. This is really ironic coming from the same party that kept the House going day and night for several days a few years ago, forcing the House to vote hundreds of times on amendments to stop the Nisga'a treaty. It was one of the most disgusting performances I have seen in the House of Commons since I was elected in 1968.

The Conservative Party is really the alliance party, which was the reform party, which was the social credit party. In my province it is called the Saskatchewan Party. At one time it was the progressive conservative party, now minus the progressive side, so it is now the regressive conservative party. It was also the conservative-reform-alliance party, or CRAP. That party goes on and on as it changes its name, trying to hide from its true values of conservatism, which is a very unpopular ideology in Canada.

Once again that party is moving an amendment that is striking away at aboriginal rights, striking away at aboriginal people. That is the same party that wanted to lead our country into Iraq, to have Canadian troops go into Iraq following George Bush very blindly. That is the Conservative Party of Canada, on the extreme right, the republican party north in this country. That party is at it once again.

I do not know if those members know anything about the charter, but section 25 states, and I quote:

The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including

(a) any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763; and

(b) any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

We are very proud to have some aboriginal rights and aboriginal guarantees in our Constitution. We are also very proud that the charter applies to aboriginal people, to all Canadians, to every Canadian. It is very important that we do this.

I should also point out that some of these more extreme Conservatives say we should not just rely on the charter being interpreted but we should use the notwithstanding clause on certain issues where a problem overrides the charter and overrides the fundamental freedoms of this country. We have heard them say that before on a number of issues. Some raise it on abortion. Some raise it on same sex marriage. That is the history of the Conservative Party, not the Progressive Conservative Party but the alliance-conservative-reform party. That is its history: extreme conservative positions that do not stand up for minority rights. These are not the values of the Canadian people.

The Canadian people want aboriginal rights in this country. The Canadian people want aboriginal self-government. The aboriginal people certainly want--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

John M. Cummins

Canadian Alliance

Mr. John Cummins

Explain. What does it mean?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom

The Conservative member across the way says to explain the Westbank agreement. The Westbank agreement is very clear. I happen to know a fair amount about the charter. I spent 10 years working on constitutional issues in all the committees and I have already explained to him that the charter applies to every Canadian citizen. No act of this Parliament can trump the Charter of Rights and Freedoms unless the notwithstanding clause is invoked or unless there is a constitutional amendment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

John M. Cummins

Canadian Alliance

Mr. John Cummins

Explain what it means. You don't have a clue.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom

Mr. Speaker, those members do not have a clue as to what they are talking about. If we want to amend the Constitution of Canada so that it does not apply to a certain group of people, we must have a constitutional amendment passed. That takes at least 50% of the provinces representing two-thirds of the people and a resolution that passes in the House of Commons and passes in the Senate. That is how the Constitution of the country is changed.

Now if we wanted to exclude another provision from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we could use the notwithstanding clause. There is nothing in this agreement that trumps the charter. We will not find any constitutional lawyer who will agree with this hocus-pocus argument being put forth by this alliance-conservative group of extreme people in this Parliament. Nobody agrees with them except a few of their own folks.

Once again what we have here is an example of the Conservative Party standing up against the evolution in this country of first nations people and their rights, standing up against the right of self-government like they did against the Nisga'a treaty. Let us look at the history of some of these folks elected in Saskatoon—Humboldt in the last election, including a member who has taken a stand against the basic fundamental rights of aboriginal people. That is the kind of people who have been elected.

If we ask aboriginal people what they think of the reform-alliance-conservative party, they know where they stand. Once again, on the eve of an election campaign, those members come in here and want to defeat an agreement on self-government, this one for the Westbank First Nation people.

I must say that I want to compliment the Conservative Party members for at least being so honest and so direct about not believing in aboriginal rights. They have fought this tooth and nail for the last 20 or 30 years in this country. I have mentioned already the Nisga'a treatment and that disgraceful performance we had here in the House of Commons a few years ago when the Nisga'a people sat in the gallery and the Alliance--or Reform in those days, as their name keeps changing so often--forced the House to vote time and time again, wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money in a procedural fight, making us sit day in and day night in a fight against the Nisga'a treaty.

The Nisga'a treaty went through with the support of four of the five parties in the House, including that of the Progressive Conservative Party, not this regressive Conservative Party we see today. It was supported not just by the aboriginal people, but by the people of this country.

Loudly and clearly I wish to say to aboriginal people what they already know: that the Conservative Party over there is not a party that pushes their rights but a Conservative Party that will fight tooth and nail every day against the inherent right of self-government for first nations people in this country, against the rights of this minority group that has not had its full share in the development of Canada as a nation.

I hope we vote down this amendment in overwhelming numbers.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

John Duncan

Canadian Alliance

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak to Amendment No. 3, which of course is my amendment and deals with section 102 of the agreement.

Section 102 of the agreement is about the additional reserve lands. What this basically states is that:

subject to Canada's policy for additions to reserve, as amended from time to time, lands acquired by Westbank First Nation may be transferred to Canada for the purpose of being set apart as lands reserved for Indians--

My amendment requests that this clause include the specifics and recognize the reality that Westbank is contiguous with, adjacent to and across the floating bridge from the city of Kelowna. The city of Kelowna, although it is very supportive of this Westbank agreement, the Westbank government and the Westbank community and wants the community to fully prosper and succeed, also wants some certainty that should Westbank acquire lands within the community of Kelowna, it would have the ultimate consent as to whether or not those lands could be put into reserve status under the federal umbrella, because that would have the effect of taking them from taxable status into non-taxable status.

The city just wants to be able to control that. It is clear from the committee minutes and the appearance at committee of the mayor of Kelowna, Walter Gray, that this is not to say, even under current political leadership in both communities, which is very cooperative and very happy with the status quo, that there might not be a circumstance where Kelowna would be quite willing and happy to comply with reserve status, such as if Westbank would be, for example, building a museum or some other such building, an institution or public place that would bring economic benefit to the community.

I have had discussions within the committee, outside of committee, and today again with the parliamentary secretary. This is a very interesting dynamic, because there were times in these long negotiations with Westbank where the federal government probably did not appreciate how much was being done by the municipal level of government in British Columbia in this area of the Okanagan to keep these negotiations and the self-government agreement on track and to make sure that it reflected the pragmatic things the municipal level of government wanted to see which would make this a workable agreement.

There has been a lot of behind the scenes, volunteer, dedicated work done by many people at the municipal level, either at the regional district or within the city of Kelowna, which has been very proactive on this. They are at the point where they are asking for one thing. I hear the parliamentary secretary basically saying that we cannot cede power to a municipal level of government. I do not see it that way. This is not ceding power to a municipal level of government; it is recognizing a legitimate stakeholder.

When we brought this general discussion to committee, the chief of the Westbank First Nation was clearly on side with the concept. I will quote Chief Louie from the standing committee evidence of Wednesday, March 10:

I can assure you very clearly that the self-government agreement would apply to reserve lands and if we were to look [at] downtown Kelowna, let's say, look to you and say to you, Mayor, council members will you agree to give us 10 acres of reserve here in downtown Kelowna, I would expect, as you've clearly indicated, that your answer would be no. What would happen is we would need to approach the province of British Columbia. The province is required to give their consent and according to the additions to reserve land policy, they would be required to come to you and to the city and to local government, the community, to ask whether or not you would agree. If you did not agree, I think the answer would be very simple; there would be no reserve in downtown Kelowna, as simple as that. That's how we see the agreement and that is clearly enunciated in the agreement context itself.

Chief Robert Louie of the Westbank First Nation was speaking at committee to Mayor Walter Gray of the city of Kelowna via the committee process.

I think the intent there is all we need is certainty that goes beyond the current edition of the reserve policy of the federal government. Policies can and do change. The leadership at Westbank can change. The leadership at the city of Kelowna can change. The federal government can change. A number of things can change.

There was a suggestion by the parliamentary secretary that somehow adding this kind of clause to section 102 would dilute 102, but I refuse to accept that as a reality. If there was any suggestion of that, we could certainly work that out.

The other suggestion is that somehow we cannot have one statement in this agreement that is different from the ATR policy for the rest of the country. I beg to differ. We are creating individual self-government agreements for individual bands. Presumably that means we could have as many as 633 agreements throughout Canada. If we can have 633 separate agreements that are contemplated by the government, then why can we not have more than one agreement when it comes to municipalities?

We have the seeds of a problem here that go back to the old federal-provincial arena. Reserves are a federal creation under the Indian Act and under the Constitution. Municipalities are a provincial creation. Rather than add to that divide, this very straightforward and simple amendment could be utilized to bring the parties together.

Despite the fact that we now have committee evidence from the House of Commons all-party committee studying this legislation where the parliamentary secretary is on record as saying this would never happen without the city of Kelowna's consent, we have the chief's agreement. We have now entered that into Hansard through this exercise. I would still suggest that the certainty of having that in the agreement itself would be simple, straightforward and quite agreeable.

Another thing I want to briefly touch upon is Motion No. 1 by my colleague on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The intent of the agreement is that the Charter of Rights applies. Any difficulties that come in the way of pre-empting that would be a problem that we have with the Constitution. I do not want to see the Westbank agreement become the whipping boy for problems we have with our Constitution.

Although I appreciate the fact that we have shone a light on some of the problems of section 25 of the charter in terms of protecting collective rights as opposed to individual rights, that is not something that is brought to us because of the Westbank agreement.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Stockwell Day

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan—Coquihalla, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, a number of issues are related to this. The amendments themselves have to be considered and also the broader question.

I want to say at the outset of my remarks that I appreciate the fact that we can have an arena of open debate. The NDP may be surprised to hear my comments on this particular piece of legislation, but when I hear the type of remarks I have heard from the NDP, when members diminish this debate to name calling, to questioning people's most basic and fundamental intents and beliefs, it does a disservice not only to the people in this chamber, but certainly to the people in my constituency and across Canada. When the NDP raise the bogeyman, the ominous picture of someone who is fundamentally against a group of Canadians, aboriginal or non-aboriginal, it does not do a service to this debate.

I want to be on the record as saying that I reject that type of approach. The arguments of people on either side of the equation need to be heard. However, I will not diminish other people and their basic respect for human beings based on where they stand on this particular agreement.

I recall when I was first in the constituency and met with the chief of the Westbank First Nation. It was not Chief Robert Louie; it was another gentleman. I was running into this type of accusation that we hear from, not all, but some of the people in the NDP. There were accusations about my accepting other people as basic human beings.

I appreciated the remarks made to me by the chief. He said that he did not believe that I was anti anyone. He said that he did not believe that I was anti-aboriginal. I said that of course I was not, but in the light of some of these baseless accusations, I was interested in why he had that positive view of me. The chief said it was because when I was the minister in Alberta responsible for aboriginal affairs he had talked to the chiefs there. The chiefs had said that I was a man to be trusted and a man who respects them. I appreciate that evaluation. I have the same evaluation of the present chief and council. We may agree or disagree on some of these items. However, I have that evaluation of them and I stand firmly and proudly on that.

There are feelings in our country about particular rights that have been given to us. There are feelings about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and what it says. Pros and cons have been expressed. The fact of the matter is that we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some may think it is a good thing and others may think we are stuck with it. At the very minimum we are stuck with it and we will live with it until there are certain changes.

For instance, I have heard the claim that there is this mass abrogation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because of this agreement. Let us suppose that a person were to walk into a group of people and make that claim, and those people were already sensitized about the charter, as I am, and I have some problems with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, if those people were already sensitized and on edge about the charter and a person were to simply walk into a room and say that the WFN agreement gave no protection at all to people under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there would be an immediate and quick reaction. There would be people who would be very upset and would say that there was no way that we should support this agreement.

We need to look at some of these in light of the amendments that we have. It is very clear here that the charter applies to the band and to the non-band members living at Westbank in the same way. We might not like this analysis, but this is the fact, whether under the Indian Act or under the WFN agreement and this is a direct quote:

The government of Westbank First Nation and Council in respect of all matters under its authority are bound by the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

People might not like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The fact of the matter is, they are bound by that. The WFN and its council members are bound by that.

Section 25 of the charter has some specific limitations related to that bundle of aboriginal rights that are available to them under the charter. In the Westbank agreement there is a necessity on their part, and I understand their concern, to simply restate what the charter says. Section 25 of the charter cannot be changed or avoided by legislated action. It would require a constitutional change.

They reiterate and repeat that. It is a repetition of what is in the charter. If I had written this agreement, there may be words I would have crafted and phrased differently, but I do not accept that the WFN agreement gives the WFN and council carte blanche exemption from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It simply does not. That is just plain and obvious.

People who moved onto these lands years and years ago realized and recognized that as non-natives they had limitations, and they accepted that. Over the years, why would some 7,500 people and some 200 businesses move onto an area of land if they felt they were hanging on a precipice and that at any moment their rights would be gone and they would lose their homes and businesses? What could attract 200 people to invest their businesses and lives on an area of land unless they had some sense of credibility of the people there and some sense that their rights would be respected? They moved there knowing they did not have taxation with representation, in the sense that we have it on non-native lands.

I am a fierce protector of taxation with representation. Revolutions have been fought on the issue of taxation without representation. I sometimes look at the way the federal government taxes people and say that if they think taxation without representation is bad, they should look at what we have with taxation with representation. We can go either way on that.

Obviously, I support and vigorously fight for taxation with representation. When people moved onto those lands years ago and even recently, they knew they were going on those lands without the same representation that we had on non-native lands, and they accepted that. In spite of that, WFN looked at that. The agreement does not say that they have the same full rights as non-natives who live in other municipalities. However, it is wrong to suggest there is no avenue now for them under the agreement to be represented or for them to have opportunities to challenge WFN rulings.

As a matter of fact, and this is somewhat precedent setting, section 54 of the agreement requires the Westbank First Nation to pass a law that provides non-members living on Westbank lands or having an interest in Westbank lands, that is with a business, with mechanisms through which they may have input into proposed Westbank law and proposed amendments to Westbank law that directly and significantly affect them. That was not there before the agreement. They have more access with the agreement.

Another concern that has been raised, one which I believe is a red herring, suggests that people will not have protection under British Columbia law. I will read from the charter and the Westbank agreement. There is continuing charter protection and the agreement provides that any prosecutions under Westbank law, and this could include a non-native, will be heard in the provincial court of British Columbia. Any person charged with a violation of Westbank law will have his or her case heard in the B.C. courts.

Areas of concern which we are still pressing to have addressed, and we are still talking to the government about these, are areas raised by the mayor of Kelowna. I still want some further analysis. As we are debate this today, I still want some further discussion on this. I suggest the amendment proposed by my colleague is not detrimental to the rights of the aboriginal people on the Westbank First Nation or in other possible bands. I do not think it abrogates their rights in any way.

I also have concerns, which I will present at the third reading stage, related to native members on the Westbank First Nation who want to ensure that the diversity even of spiritual beliefs in that particular area are fully recognized. We have the diversity in our Canadian Constitution which recognizes the supremacy of God and allows for diversity of cultural tradition as well as religious belief and practices. That has been raised, and I want to pursue that issue further.

On these broad questions of charter rights, taxation rights and rights available under the courts, this gives non-natives even greater protection than they had when they chose to move there earlier because they had good faith in what existed then. This is an enhancement which some members of the native community probably would say of the WFN people that they were going too far. However, the chief, the band and the people who are advancing this are taking extra steps to show their good faith and goodwill by allowing this extra added layer of democracy to non-natives who are living there.

I look forward to future ongoing debate on this, and also the remarks at third reading.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Werner Schmidt

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to enter the discussion on Bill C-11 and the amendment currently before the House. I certainly support the amendment proposed by the hon. member.

With regard to Bill C-11 and the implementation of the Westbank self-government agreement, I would like to make it clear that I have the utmost respect for the current band council and its chief. They have done an exemplary job of developing and managing the band. I have had many occasions to talk with the chief and work with him. He is doing an admirable job. He is the current chief, but there has been a succession of good management in the Indian band.

That however does not mean I am in complete agreement with the provisions of the Westbank self-government agreement and Bill C-11, which gives effect to the implementation of that agreement.

The major concern I have is with the representation of those governed by those who are governing. Away back a president of the United States defined democracy as by the people, of the people and for the people. There is a provision within the Westbank self-government agreement that differentiates between those who can vote and those who cannot vote. The government structure is such that a group of people will govern the people on the Westbank lands who have not elected by all the people being governed.

Therefore, there is an element of disparity and inconsistency between what we have commonly accepted as the democratic principle; that those who are governed ought to have a voice in determining who will be charged with the governing of that group. My hon. colleague just pointed out that there is a provision for the advisory council. I will get into that in a little more detail later on.

Before I do that, I want to indicate clearly that those who are allowed to vote in this provision of the self-government agreement are those who are on the membership roll. To get on to the membership roll, it is absolutely important that we recognize that these people are “registered” as Indians under the Indian Act. Thus any and all residents on Westbank lands who are not on the membership roll are disenfranchised. They cannot vote. This means there are about 8,000 residents on the Westbank lands, about 500 of whom are Indians and 7500 who are not. Therefore, essentially 500 people will elect those who will govern the 7,500 as well as their own 500.

The practical impact of this is that any law, regulation, administrative action or band council decision is determined without electoral representation on that council of about 93% of the residents. In the day to day operation of the Westbank self-government agreement any law regarding property taxes, licensing fees, user fees, development cost charges, development permit fees, community infrastructure and local services are all without representation on the council. Yet that council determines all the issues with regard to these.

While there is a provision for that advisory council to provide consultation, and that is the word that is used, on behalf of the non-members of the Westbank Nation, it has no authority or power to make any decisions regarding the Westbank Nation governance affecting them. Yes, it can give advice and yes it can study the issues, and I think it is a wonderful provision, but it has no authority to do anything.

It is very interesting that yesterday I was given a copy of a document entitled, “Westbank First Nation Advisory Council, March 2004”, and there are a number of subsections in it. It was given to me with the understanding that it was the law that would cover the advisory council. There is a lot of very useful work in it, and I do not want to disparage it in any way, shape or form. However, my only concern is that it is incomplete.

I think we are moving in the right direction, but it is incomplete so I would like to perhaps get into some of the details as to what is in the document.

The creation of the advisory council is not part of Bill C-11 nor is it part of the Westbank self-government agreement. The constitution pertaining to that agreement really is all part of Bill C-11. The advisory council would be created after that agreement and subject to whatever the council at that time felt it wanted to do.

I have complete faith, but I have a dilemma. We have an excellent band council and chief, and I believe he will do this. However, I also know that Bill C-11 does not cover it. This is a result of actions taken by the council itself subsequent to the agreements if Bill C-11 is passed.

There is no description for example of the composition of the advisory council, how its members will be determined, what resources will be provided to them or what the advisory council relationship will be with the band. Yes, the general statements are there and there is provision that certain things will happen, but there is no guarantee that will be the case.

Some of these things are addressed in the document, however, the document is incomplete and its official status is unclear. Even if the advisory council were to function exactly as outlined in the document before me today, the advisory council would not meet the requirement of a democratic form of government. It is advisory only and really does not represent the electorate as such. It really does not have any legislative power. In my view, that is sufficient reason for the Government of Canada to recognize the excellent work that has been done in establishing the agreement thus far and recognize that we are moving in the right direction. However, at the same time, it must recognize that the work is not finished.

We need to go further. We need to explore some of the issues. The amendment with regard to the concerns expressed by the mayor of Kelowna is only one example. I have given another example of why we probably should take the bill off the agenda and look at it again. Probably a lot more work needs to be done so we can come to grips with and recognize the democratic principle to which we all adhere.

I have a lot of material and I obviously do not have time to cover it all. Therefore, I will move to the last part of my speech which has to with the prohibition.

It is very interesting that section 220(a) of the Westbank self-government agreement provides for the prohibition of the sale, barter, supply, manufacture or possession of intoxicants. However, section 220(b) allows the Westbank natives to make exemptions with regard to any of the above. On the one hand, we have prohibition of intoxicants and on the other hand, we have exemptions. In practical contemporary terms that means that marijuana could be exempted. Persons on Westbank lands would be able to grow, possess and supply marijuana in direct conflict with the current laws of Canada.

In the light of the forgoing, however, it goes even further. Section 221 states:

--in the event of a conflict between Westbank Law in relation to prohibition of intoxicants and federal law, the Westbank Law shall prevail to the extent of the conflict.

This agreement will create, if it is allowed to proceed as it is currently before us, a third level of government which gives to the Westbank nation the right to legislate in areas that are really under the authority of and the power of the federal or provincial government.

Our Constitution does not see any other powers. We are governed by the Constitution of Canada which clearly differentiates between federal and provincial law, and there is no other power. How can it now give power to another group--power which has already been given either to the federal or provincial governments?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Ted White

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, if this bill were ever to pass through this House, it would provide a livelihood for lawyers for decades into the future.

We hear disagreement just in this House among those of us who have actually read the agreement. I wonder if the NDP member who had a rant in here earlier, calling people's names, had actually read the agreement. If so, he would have seen that there are plenty of areas for disagreement. Certainly, among the legal profession there is huge disagreement about how much of the charter applies and how much it does not.

One thing that everybody seems to be agreed upon is that this bill, if it were to pass, would establish a third order of government in Canada, and with that would come tremendous problems. This is a country that argued actively against apartheid in South Africa which had race-based governments. Here we are talking in this House about perpetuating a system of government that does not treat everybody in Canada as equals. It treats people separately based upon their race. That is a fundamental problem that I see with all of the legislation that has been coming through this place to do with aboriginal affairs.

I will not accept it as the right thing to do, to separate people based upon their ethnic background and create governments based upon ethnic backgrounds. I know that many of my constituents feel the same way and I simply cannot vote for things that would do that.

I will stand up for the equality of all Canadians at all times in this place. We should be working together with governments to provide services for everyone in Canada. For example, in the underlying agreement of this bill, there was one thing that jumped right off the front page at me. The regulations that would be created under this legislation by the band are exempt from scrutiny.

If we were to extend this to a number of other bands in B.C.--if they were to adopt the same sort of approach and get it approved in this House--we would end up with dozens of different governments completely isolated from one another, all passing regulations which are not open to scrutiny and cannot be challenged in any way whatsoever. That is a fundamental problem with this agreement as well and I have a major problem with that.

We can talk all day in this place, using legalese which many of our constituents may not understand. I would like to reduce this to a little bit of plain language. Perhaps one of the best ways to do that is to read into the record an article that was written by Gordon Gibson in the Vancouver Sun on March 22, 2004. It gives a very good description from a layperson's perspective of what is wrong with this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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LIB

Ethel Blondin-Andrew

Liberal

Hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew

He is not a layperson.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Ted White

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Ted White

One of the government members yelled out that Gordon Gibson is not a layperson. I agree. That is correct and my comment could have been interpreted incorrectly. What I meant was that for a layperson to read this article, that layperson would get a really good feel for what this whole thing is all about. Mr. Gibson wrote, and I agree with his first line wholeheartedly:

Ottawa continues to blunder its way into the future in its British Columbia operations.

There is absolutely no sensitivity whatsoever to the fact that in British Columbia we have more native Indian bands than anywhere else in the entire country. We have a huge issue in the settlement of land claims and treaties here. It is simply not good enough to do this one by one, with different procedures creating different governments.

A study that was released yesterday by the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation described the problems on reserves despite the huge amounts of money that have been pumped into the system. In the decade since I have been here, I have heard so many promises from that side of the House, from the members sitting opposite, about how things will be improved, that we just need more money, we need another program, and we need to do more of this. The problems have gotten worse. The things we have done have made it get worse.

Australia has just abandoned part of its aboriginal strategy. It is cancelling the commission on aboriginal affairs in Australia, after spending billions of dollars and having the problems get worse. We should be learning from these examples in other countries and from our own example. It is a disgrace that in Canada, right in my own riding in the third largest city in all of Canada, the living conditions on reserves are disgraceful. It is not for lack of money because the band earns more than $30 million a year from its investments, right in the third largest city in Canada.

By passing this type of legislation, all we do is perpetuate the problems. We do not fix them. We do not help people get jobs on the reserves. We do not help them be part of Canadian society. We cause them to live separately and to perpetuate the problems.

I had my own little rant there, but I am going to return now to Mr. Gibson's article. The latest example of blundering, according to Mr. Gibson, is the Westbank first nation government act. He states:

At first glance, this is a minor piece of legislation for a small community outside Kelowna. But in fact it cements the legal basis for a constitutionalized parallel system of Indian governments across the country. It also means that much of [the Prime Minister's] promised fundamental review of Indian policy is dead on arrival.

The legislation also has important negative implications for the democratic and Charter rights of the 8,000 non-Indian citizens of Westbank who, voteless and denied self-government for themselves in this allegedly “Self-Government Act,” will be ruled by the roughly 400 members of the band.

In the agreement implemented by this bill, Ottawa, for the first time, explicitly “recognizes that the inherent right of self-government is an existing right within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982”.

Then, astonishingly, the legislation declines to define what the “inherent right” means or contains, and indeed states that “the parties to this agreement acknowledge that they may have different legal views as to the scope and content of an inherent right of self-government”.

That was the point I made right at the beginning. This is fodder for lawyers for decades to come. We will not know where we stand on this agreement for decades because of the disagreement of what it truly means in terms of charter rights. He goes on to state:

Think about it. We all have an “inherent right” to govern ourselves, each of us. But to collectivize this on the basis of ancestry?

That is what this bill does.

Section 35 is the part of the Constitution which protects aboriginal rights.

By virtue of section 35, the Supreme Court of Canada has displaced Parliament as the final maker of Indian law in Canada. The word “displaced” is used intentionally. The framers of the 1982 constitutional amendments avowedly intended nothing like the judicial adventurism which the courts have shown in making Indian law since then.

But most unusually in this Westbank agreement, Ottawa has moved farther out into left field than the Supremes have yet dreamed.

He goes on to describe a single court case in British Columbia where Justice Paul Williamson of the B.C. Supreme Court found, and he is the only person, any basis for a third order of government of the kind stipulated in this agreement.

That particular judgment involved a case that was brought by the Liberal Party of British Columbia prior to it becoming the government in British Columbia. It was related to the Nisga’a agreement under which the Liberal Party was challenging the constitutionality of that agreement. Unfortunately, when the Liberal government was elected in British Columbia, it decided not to appeal this rather unusual and alarming ruling. The unusual finding was never appealed, but no other court in Canadian history has found anything like this. Indeed, a century of jurisprudence disagrees, including the B.C. Court of Appeal, which in the Delgamuukw decision found exactly the opposite concerning a third order of government.

As I started out saying at the beginning, the real problem with this bill is the third order of government. The establishment of an order of government that can set its own legislation and regulations, which are not open to scrutiny, and extrapolating that to the total number of Indian bands in British Columbia and giving them all the same structure would be a nightmare in British Columbia. There would be multiple governments all operating independently with their own sets of regulations, uncoordinated in any way and not open to any scrutiny or challenge by anyone.

It is wrong. We should not be passing a law like this. We should be concentrating our efforts on improving the living conditions for aboriginals on reserves by helping them become part of Canadian society, not by isolating them and consistently making them different from mainstream Canada. It is unacceptable to me and I could never vote for a bill like this.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Jay Hill

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise this morning and address the amendments at report stage to Bill C-11, an act to give effect to the Westbank first nation self-government agreement.

I would like to make a couple of statements at the outset of my remarks. To begin with, this bill is only some six pages long. It is quite a concise bill. There is not a lot to it. I think any member of the public could understand what it is that we are talking about today.

Specifically, I would like to address Motion No. 1 in the name of my colleague from Delta, which basically amends Bill C-11 by deleting clause 3 which is the implementation of the bill itself.

In consultation with my colleague from Delta, he was disappointed that his amendment dealing with the charter provisions was not allowed to proceed and instead, this amendment was the only one that he had submitted that was allowed to stand. He would have liked to have debated the issue of how the bill relates to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Indeed, we are not prevented from doing that within the confines of the existing amendments and I will refer to that a bit later.

During some remarks earlier in the debate, the parliamentary secretary for Indian Affairs and Northern Development said that if someone wanted to change this bill, they should lobby to change the entire government policy, not just one clause in this act. While I would agree with him, obviously, that is not the basis of the debate today. Indeed, that debate will be taking place probably fairly quickly. Whenever the Prime Minister calls the election, we can have a debate about replacing this failed government's policy in connection with aboriginal people.

I also want to make some reference at the outset to the NDP member for Regina—Qu'Appelle who used his 10 minutes to launch a vitriolic rant against Conservative members in the House of Commons and really did not address the bill or the amendments before us today whatsoever.

As my colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla said, I do not think that adds to the debate for someone to stand up and just go on a personal rant against one member or a party, based on misinformation, I might add. I do not think that helps us with this debate.

To say that this issue is controversial would be stating the obvious. Last weekend I was in my riding as were the majority of MPs. I had the opportunity to man a booth at a trade fair in my home town in the City of Fort St. John where usually somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 local citizens attend that fair over the three days of the weekend. A number of them expressed some great reservations about this bill. As their member of Parliament, I would like to raise those concerns in the debate today.

The first thing, as has been said by a number of speakers, are the deep concerns about the whole business of taxation without representation. When we look at the bill, we see that 8,000-odd non-native residents who are currently or will be living on a reserve will not have a say in the governing and in the passing of bylaws by that body that will govern that piece of property.

Something is inherently wrong when an act takes away people's right to vote for their own representation and to have some means to affect those who govern over them.

As has already been noted, there is provision for an advisory council but the key word there is “advisory”. This council would only be providing advice. I would argue that it certainly does not take the place of people having the right to mark a ballot. Just to make that point, I do not think too many Canadians out there would trade their right to mark a ballot in either a municipal, provincial or federal election for the right to appear before and make comments and suggestions to an advisory board. I do not think too many Canadians would willingly give up their right to cast their ballots for that type of process.

The second issue, to which a number of MPs on both sides of the House have spoken, is that the bill would institute an unconstitutional third level of government. I am reminded that I was one of those MPs who was quite active prior to my election to this place in 1993. We had a constitutional amendment called the Charlottetown accord in 1992 that was voted on by the people of Canada and resoundingly defeated.

While we all recognize that there were a number of reasons that people voted either yes or no, those who voted no to the Charlottetown accord might have picked different things that they opposed in the agreement. A lot of people in my particular riding in northeastern British Columbia opposed the Charlottetown accord because of the undefined third order of government that would have been instituted in the Charlottetown accord.

Yet now we have the government moving forward with the act for the Westbank First Nation that would effectively do that. It would enshrine in law another order of government that would have considerably more powers than do municipalities, whether it is power over language and culture, natural resources, agriculture, the use of intoxicants on their property, education, medicine and the list goes on, this governing body would have the power to bring forward law which a municipality does not have.

As I said, I know, in speaking to a lot of my constituents, that they have a problem with the government moving ahead to institute a third level of government without the approval of the people of Canada.

One of the things we hear from both sides of the House is that there is a force in our country today that wants to see fundamental change to the way in which we interact with the aboriginal peoples in Canada. One of the things I have heard, not only from our party but from other parties and, indeed, the governing party, is that we should do away with the Indian Act. We should get away from this archaic system of paternalism and move into a new era of how we deal with our aboriginal peoples. Our party, the Conservative Party of Canada, supports that wholeheartedly.

It seems rather ironic to me that at the very time that we should be questioning the way in which we structure reserves and the way in which we devolve power to reserve governments to hold the property unto themselves in commonality rather than in fee simple, to prevent the average aboriginal person in Canada from enjoying the pride that comes from owning his or her own home and property, that we seem to be moving away from that with this act. We seem to be moving away from what I would consider to be the inherent right to property.

I know we do not have property rights in Canada enshrined in our Constitution. It is one of the problems I have with our Constitution. I think we should have property rights and those property rights should be just as relevant for aboriginal people as they are for non-aboriginal people.

It seems to me that the legislation would move the aboriginal peoples of the Westbank First Nation further away from enjoying the same rights and privileges that other Canadians have.

For those three reasons I am voicing the concerns expressed to me by many of my constituents in Prince George--Peace River who have some very deep reservations about the bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Garry Breitkreuz

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-11, the Westbank first nation agreement.

My frustration with the entire bill and the debate is the fact that most of the discussions that centre on aboriginal affairs really do not deal with the fundamentals or the basic principles involved.

I would like to thank both the MP from Delta and the MP for Vancouver Island North for promoting discussion on this issue. I have noticed that it is primarily the Conservative Party that is discussing the pros and cons of it. However I think we need a bit more discussion on some of the basic principles that have to form the foundation for our dealings with aboriginal people.

The Prime Minister made some grand pronouncements in the last day or two about the need to address aboriginal concerns but he still refuses to get the basics right. I would like to explain what I mean by that.

Before I go ahead with that, I would like to read a bit of our party policy because it forms the basis for what I am going to say today.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada. To ensure fairness and equality, a Conservative government will ensure that the charter will apply to aboriginal self-government. Aboriginal self-government must not create a sovereign, third order of government.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes giving aboriginal government the power to raise their own revenues will reduce the cycle of dependency; and that the performance and accountability of aboriginal self-government is enhanced when those who receive services contribute to the cost of those services.

I will discuss the amendments put forward by my colleague from Delta in regard to that.

One amendment was disallowed, and that is primarily the one I want to discuss today. It was an important amendment and we should have taken another look at it.

Our policy statement says that the charter should apply and that aboriginal governments should have the power to raise their own revenues. We need to reduce the cycle of dependency. Let me focus in on that.

It is quite obvious that anyone who has been involved in this debate today cares about the aboriginal people. That is why we are here and that is why we are debating this. Except for some personal slurs by the NDP, I think we have stuck basically to the issues, and I appreciate that.

The point was made previously that there is within the bill the wording that the charter applies with due regard to section 25. That is a major concern for many of us who have looked at this.

I want to focus on the fact that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is flawed because it omits one of the key essential rights needed in Canada and especially by those who are caught in the cycle of poverty and those who are living on reserves.

Poverty on reserves across Canada is a huge problem. I lived on a reserve for a couple of years so I have firsthand knowledge of how devastating this is to our aboriginal people.

The Department of Indian Affairs spends between $7 billion and $8 billion. If we were to divide this amount of money by the number of aboriginal people covered, it would likely come to more than $15,000 for every man, woman and child. What we need to know is where the money is going.

Aside from that, do we have the fundamental principles, on which these agreements should be based, right? I would argue that is not the case because we have omitted a very key element from our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What is that key element? We have not included property rights in the charter. In 1982, when Mr. Trudeau brought the charter in, he intentionally omitted it. I think that is a huge flaw and I will explain why. I am going to explain how important that is.

In arguing my case, I will turn to one of the world's leading experts on this issue who, by the way, has the support of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister underscored the fact that the principles enunciated by this man needed to be brought to Canada and implemented in Canada. This man is also supported by another prominent person in the western world, Mr. Bill Clinton. So these principles are not to be dismissed quickly as principles enunciated by someone of a certain partisan persuasion.

The man's name is Hernando de Soto. He is head of the Peru based Institute for Liberty and Democracy. He has authored some excellent books which I would recommend people read who are in involved in the discussion on this Westbank agreement. Time Magazine and The Economist have all explained and pegged Mr. de Soto as one of the emerging voices of influence and someone whose ideas will form the basis for future agreements. His ideas are having a huge influence on the world. It is about time we got some of those principles right here in Canada.

In simple terms, Mr. de Soto argues that property conquers poverty and it is the poor people who benefit most from property rights. “A poor person's land assets should be identified and should be registered”, he argues, “and then they would have the assets on which to build wealth”.

I do not have time in 10 minutes to explain that in detail but if members would like to get more information on this, I would suggest people who are arguing this issue do that because they will see that what I am saying is essential in getting our fundamentals right.

Mr. de Soto's ideas have been called innovative but they have been around for a long time. I think they are innovative simply because they fly in the face of traditional ideas about battling third world poverty. We see that third world poverty on our aboriginal reserves. The notion, for instance, that capitalism is a bad word and that the market economy is the enemy of the disadvantaged is something that he clearly disputes and shows that is not the case.

Mr. de Soto's ideas have been tested in his native Peru. They helped to enact property registration laws and systems in the Peruvian government during the 1990s. He still oversees that whole program in Peru. It is a very successful program and one that we should take a close look at.

Let me read some of the things that he has said.

Mr. de Soto said:

These people should be able to produce wealth. It means that you've got to ask, like we ask, what happens to the property rights, have they really got the tools to produce capital? What can we do about getting banks, which are not interested in them, interested in them--not because their hearts are going to palpitate for the poor, but because they're going to become a lot more interesting.

So much of traditional aid programs rest on paternalism and condescension...

That would describe what is happening in Canada today.

Mr. de Soto went on to say:

The traditional thing, Canadian aid, is about saying, 'Oh my God, there's four billion starving out there, let's go and make a difference among 10 million of them.' In other words, nothing that's really leveraged, nothing that really allows you to bring in anything new.

I would like to say that we should take this man's ideas and build some proper agreements on which to deal with the aboriginal situation in our country.

I want to conclude by saying that about 30 aboriginal women visited Parliament Hill recently but, unfortunately, there was very little media attention or coverage of this event. However one of the things they said is that property rights was one of the key issues that needed to be addressed in Canada.

Dawn Harvard, who was the Ontario president of the Native Women's Association, questioned whether the cases would get more attention about abuse of aboriginal people if they were not poor, drug addicted or working in the sex trade.

A key thing she said was that provincial property rights that govern fair distribution of assets during divorce disputes are not enforced on the more than 600 reserves in Canada. I would argue by extension that we need property rights right across the reserves. It has to happen.

In conclusion, other MPs have made it clear that this agreement is a lawyer's dream because we will turn over to the courts the big issue, such as defining self-government and inherent rights. Before we pass this piece of legislation, let us get our Charter of Rights and Freedoms right. Let us include property rights. It is the most important right needed for our aboriginal people.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Andy Burton

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Andy Burton (Skeena, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this very important issue.

I come from British Columbia and probably have a different view on the whole situation with regard to treaties, land claims and agreements. The B.C. situation is quite different from that in the rest of Canada. Elsewhere treaties have been in place for a lot of years. In B.C. there were only two very small treaty areas prior to the Nisga'a agreement of some years ago. B.C. is wide open and subject to setting a lot of precedents for the future perceivably right across Canada.

I want to say right off the bat that I am very much in favour of resolving this whole land claim and native agreement issue. It is something that is seriously impeding progress especially in British Columbia where any project now has to be vetted by the local aboriginal group. I do not have a big problem with that, except that the vetting process should not be a veto process, which it tends to become from time to time. Resource development projects, which is usually what they are in my part of the world, affect people who live in the area and it is only right that they should have input. I am very concerned when that input for all intents and purposes becomes a veto. This is a huge concern.

Bill C-11 is intended as an act of Parliament to give effect to the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement. The Westbank First Nation is an Indian band within the meaning of the Indian Act. Its principal reserves, IR 9 and IR 10, are located in an area known as Westside adjacent to the city of Kelowna and the unincorporated community of Westbank. The population of the band is 594, 383 of whom lived on the land as of December 2002 but there may be a few more now.

The land is about 24 acres and is partially developed prime residential and industrial land. There are about, and I think this is a really important matter, 7,500 non-Westbank First Nation people who either live or own businesses on the land.

The purpose of the bill is to incorporate by reference the agreement, approve it and give it the effect of law. The agreement is defined as including any future amendments to the agreement. Thus, the bill incorporates by reference and gives the force of law to a document, part of which is not yet in existence. That has to be a major concern. How can we put something into force of law when we do not know how it will be worded or implemented?

This is known as Westbank law. It is to be enacted from time to time by the Westbank council. Westbank law on numerous subjects may be inconsistent with and will prevail over laws passed by Parliament.

The Westbank First Nation has all the attributes of a self-governing enclave. Canadian citizens, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, living or working there will be subject to a form of government that for most of them is not elected by them and is unrestrained by any of the checks, balances and safeguards that apply to other governmental institutions in Canada.

I quote lawyer Mr. Chris Harvey, who did a fairly significant indepth review of this agreement:

The substance of the act is contained in the agreement of some 84 pages which is referentially incorporated in the act. This is a remarkable piece of legislation. It amounts to an abdication of the sovereign law-making and executive authority of the Crown in Parliament. Its effect on the people residing and working in Westbank is to remove many of the fundamental political and legal safeguards that support their freedoms and security. This is completely out of character in a modern liberal democracy committed to equality of opportunity and individual rights. It is surprising to see basic legal rights which have been acquired gradually over many years of political struggles being so abruptly discarded.

Many of the provisions of this legislation are contrary to accepted norms of parliamentary practice in Canada. Some of the provisions are so clearly inconsistent with such norms that they may be said to be unconstitutional in law.

Every citizen of Canada, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, is entitled to be governed by laws which are passed or authorized by a democratically elected parliament, provincial legislature, or town council for that matter. Law-making authority may be delegated down to subordinate institutions, but it is not acceptable in such an arrangement that the subordinate institutions be authorized to supplant Parliament and Parliament's laws by passing laws that are inconsistent with the laws of Canada and prevail over them.

The municipal style government is obviously very successful and is the closest form of government to the citizens of Canada. I was the mayor of a small town for a number of years and was on council for 24 years. I certainly understand how answerable to the people municipal style government is. It is the most direct and closest form of government. It is still delegated down from the province and the federal government.

It has long been held by the highest court in Canadian law that constitutional powers in Canada are wholly and exhaustively distributed between the federal and provincial governments. The concept of a third order of government, though much discussed in economic and political circles, has never gained recognition in Canadian constitutional law.

The academic debate as to whether there exists in law an inherent right of self-government is reflected in section 1(a) of the agreement which provides:

The purpose of this agreement is to implement aspects of the inherent right of self-government by Westbank First Nation on Westbank lands based on the recognition that the inherent right of self-government is an existing aboriginal right within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

The inference in this statement is that such a right was an existing aboriginal right when the Constitution was passed and that Parliament has been asked merely to recognize that fact in this section of the agreement. This is plainly incorrect.

In a recent case the Newfoundland Court of Appeal again affirmed the sovereignty of Parliament. In Dawe v. the Town of Conception Bay South, the judge stated that Parliament and the provincial legislature are established by the Constitution as the supreme and only legislative bodies and given that all power must be founded on the Constitution there is no remaining room for inherent powers of government.

A concern with the Westbank agreement is the protection under the inherent clause that basically would set aside any right for non-aboriginals to make any sort of claim or go to court based on a constitutional matter. That is a big concern.

Although the agreement is expressly not a treaty, it is brought within section 35 of the Constitution Act by the government's recognition of the inherent right of self-government, as I have already said.

It must be remembered that all those living and working on Westbank lands, approximately 90% of whom are not aboriginal or members of the WFN at present, have their full rights and freedoms guaranteed under the charter. Section 15 of the charter provides:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and the equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability.

The charter further provides:

Notwithstanding anything in this charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

Without altering the legislative authority of Parliament or the provincial legislatures or the rights of any of them with respect to the exercise of their legislative authority, Parliament and the legislatures, together with the Government of Canada and the provincial governments are committed to promoting equal opportunities for the well-being of Canadians.

Although I have a lot more to say on this issue and hopefully will have the chance, I will close by saying that these fundamental rights which have been developed in Anglo-Canadian law and reach back to the Magna Carta are today more or less all grouped together in the charter. Rightly or wrongly, they are referred to as charter rights.

This is why Bill C-11 and the agreement need careful scrutiny. A simple amendment is needed to remove reference to the inherent right of the aboriginal right of self-government and to section 25 of the charter, so that all citizens would have unimpeded access to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CPC

John Bryden

Conservative

Mr. John Bryden (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am going to take this debate in a slightly different direction than it has been so far this morning and comment on clause 16 in the bill before us which is a related amendments clause. It says:

Subsection 13(3) of the Access to Information Act is replaced by the following:

(b) the council, as defined in the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement given effect by the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act.

Well, Mr. Speaker, section 13 of the Access to Information Act requires the government to keep in confidence information it has received from either a provincial government, or a foreign government, or an aboriginal government. Mr. Speaker, this section basically denies public access, particularly as we read here, to the debates, the exchange of information with the council of the Westbank nation.

The reason why section 13 exempts foreign governments is obvious but the reason why it exempts provincial governments from the application of the Access to Information Act and the requirement for transparency that is therein contained is that provincial governments, that other order of government, all have freedom of information legislation of their own.

Municipal governments across the country are subordinate to provincial governments. It varies from province to province, but if provincial governments want to require municipalities to have freedom of information or access to information legislation, then the provincial governments can impose it. Indeed, if I may say so, in come cases provincial freedom of information and privacy legislation is better than the federal law.

However, what we see here is an instance where the federal legislation is creating an exemption for all aboriginal governments. We can see the problem. For some reason the federal government has decided that aboriginal communities and aboriginal governments will be excluded from the requirement for transparency and accountability that is required of every other order of government and indeed just about every other institution that is subordinate to government in the country.

So we have this again, Mr. Speaker, and I think it is something that every Canadian should be very concerned about, we have a situation where because it is an aboriginal community, it is given, shall we say, a benefit of secrecy that is not accorded to non-aboriginal communities and non-aboriginal orders of government.

We need to be very concerned about this. We know from our own experience, anecdotally perhaps, that those institutions that operate without transparency, those institutions that have money to spend and influence to use, to apply, in order to benefit friends, to benefit people who should not be benefited, where transparency does not exist in these groups, abuses do occur.

The difficulty is that I think most of us who have had any experience with aboriginal communities at all know that some of the problems that exist in aboriginal communities have to do with the fact that the leaderships of those communities are not accountable and do not have requirements of transparency.

The previous Liberal government attempted to address this problem in a broad sense by something called the corporate governance bill. That bill would have required aboriginal communities to meet standards of governance, standards of transparency, standards of election and disclosure that were at least parallel to the same standards that we would find in the municipalities across Canada, that we would find in school boards and in any other political or quasi-political institutions in the land.

I regret to say, Mr. Speaker, and I really regret to say that the current government, under this Prime Minister, has not carried forward on that important legislation. Many of us who have long experience on the aboriginal affairs committee and many of us who have had experience with aboriginal communities in our own ridings know that one of the fundamental reasons for poverty and distress on Indian reserves and in Indian communities across the country has to do with the fact that there is not the level of transparency, there is not the level of accountability, and the money is getting to the leadership in too many cases and not getting to the people. It is a management problem that could be addressed by transparency, which would lead, I think, to increased efficiencies.

Really, we should not, anywhere in this country, want to see any kind of political entity operating without the legislated requirement of transparency. If there is an inherent right of all Canadians, it is the right to be able to see how we are governed, to see how those who govern us spend our money.

What we have done in this legislation, in this Bill C-11, is that the federal government, on its initiative--on its initiative, Mr. Speaker--has excluded the Westbank nation from coverage under the Access to Information Act, even though everywhere else in the country provincial legislation applies to municipalities. Those municipalities or school boards that do not have adequate transparency regimes are still subject to provincial law and could have them, but in this particular case aboriginal self-government is entirely subject to federal law and we have this instance where the federal government has chosen--I do not like to say this--chosen based on race to exclude a government from the proper regime of transparency that we expect of all other Canadians.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think this is a major flaw in the bill. It is very, very disappointing. Because of other circumstances my attention has been diverted in the last month and a half or so, but I am very, very sorry that I do not have an opportunity to move an amendment, because what we really ought to see in this legislation is that we ought to see the Westbank First Nation subject to the Access to Information Act.

I should tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the Access to Information Act is an act that provides protection for all kinds of confidences. The federal government, this federal government, operates very effectively under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, and so there is no reason why an aboriginal first nation government could not operate under the Access to Information Act.

So it is a disappointment, Mr. Speaker, and I think it does have to do with a weakness in the charter. I tend to agree with many of the speakers who spoke before me. It is too bad that the charter basically exempted Canada's first nations, Canada's aboriginals, from the application of the charter. It does so in section 25. I will read it, if I may, because I think it is important for Canadians to know what section 25 says. The rest of the charter describes all the protections that Canadians have, freedom of speech and democracy and so forth, and then section 25 goes on to say:

The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada--

In other words, what the charter does is put aboriginal rights, as defined by treaty or other means, above or beyond the charter. This is precisely the debate that we are carrying on today. Is it right, is it proper, for any aboriginal community or any aboriginal government to be able to operate outside the charter?

So, Mr. Speaker, I really do think that what is really necessary is not to repeat this type of situation over and over again. What is really necessary is for the government to rethink its entire strategy with respect to Canada's first nations and treat them in law like other Canadians.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Inky Mark

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning to take part in the report stage debate on this bill.

The member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot has made his points very clear. He basically said that this bill is very important and could set a precedent ruling for further aboriginal governance formed down the road.

This Westbank agreement may become a threat to Canadian values. As Canadians, we hold these qualities very dearly, that is, as Canadians across the country we should all be treated equally, certainly under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is designed to shield or, in other words, protect individuals from the arbitrary actions of their government, irrespective of which level of government, whether it be band councils or municipal councils, provincial governments or the federal government.

My colleague spoke about the two levels of government, saying that basically the child of the federal government is the Indian Act, the band councils and their regime, much like the provincial governments which in essence created the municipalities. The municipalities really are not entities unto themselves; they are governed by the provincial government.

Like my colleague, I believe that access to information and transparency are ultimately important. I come from the constituency of Dauphin—Swan River, which has 13 aboriginal reservations. At least 13% of the population is aboriginal. The same problems exist in Dauphin—Swan River that exist in other parts of the country. The problem is not the money that comes into the riding. The problem is governance. The problem is about transparency of governance, about the aboriginal community having better access and accountability as to how the money is spent. Some of the conditions my aboriginal citizens live under are unbelievable, even though we know that the federal government annually spends $7.5 billion under the aboriginal file.

The problem with the bill is that section 25 of the charter acts to shield government actions involving aboriginal rights from challenges under the charter, that is, if an individual challenges a government action involving the exercise of aboriginal rights, the government can shield itself from the challenge by claiming that the arbitrary government action involves aboriginal rights. Charter challenges involving aboriginal rights trigger the section 25 shield.

What does section 25 have to do with the rights of Westbank residents to use the charter to challenge arbitrary actions of the Westbank government? Section 25 has everything to do with the right of Westbank residents to use the charter to challenge the Westbank government. Section 25 will be available to the Westbank government to shield itself from challenge under the charter only if it can claim that its actions involve the exercise of aboriginal rights.

The Westbank agreement makes invoking the section 25 shield very easy. The Westbank agreement states throughout that the purpose of the agreement is to recognize and implement an aboriginal right of self-government. In establishing the Westbank government as an aboriginal right, the agreement triggers section 25 of the charter. This gives the Westbank government a power to shield itself from a challenge from its own residents. All the Westbank government needs to do when challenged is to point out that it is exercising an aboriginal right. In other words, that is really like an opting out clause. That really is the essence of the problem.

In other words, those who are paying taxes who live on the reserve really do not have a say. We even can go back to a long time ago, 200 years ago, when the 13 colonies in the United States said “no taxation without representation”. What are we doing today? In essence, we are doing the same thing the British did to the 13 colonies. I think we need to move beyond that.

The Westbank government actually has a step up on the Nova Scotia band that challenged the federal government under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It will never have to make the argument that it has an aboriginal right of self-government and, as such, that its actions are shielded from charter challenge. The Westbank agreement does all of that. It states clearly and unequivocally that the Westbank government is a representation of the aboriginal right of self-government. Any time it faces a charter challenge, it need only point to the agreement with the Crown that will have been ratified by Parliament. Its actions will automatically be shielded from charter challenges.

In a recent decision, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that section 25 offers a complete defence or what it called “a complete answer” to challenges under the charter involving section 7, legal rights of life, liberty and security of the person, section 15, equality rights, and section 3, democratic rights of citizens. It stated:

...Section 25 of the Charter is a complete answer to this argument... In any case, s. 25 of the Charter itself is as much an answer to a submission concerning sections 7 and 15(1) as it is an answer to the s. 3 submission...The challenges based upon the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are answered by s. 25 of the Charter.

Based upon this dangerous wording of the Westbank agreement, it will always be open to the Westbank government to affirm that its arbitrary actions against its own residents are merely an exercise of its aboriginal right to govern and are therefore shielded from a resident's challenge under the charter.

There is a question that needs to be raised. Do members of Parliament really want to create the Westbank government as a charter-free zone, where residents will have lost their rights to challenge their own government? Do members of Parliament really intend to give the Westbank government a shield to protect itself from any and every challenge, no matter how arbitrary its actions have been and how legitimate the challenge might be?

There is another question that needs to be asked. Do members of Parliament really want to create a Westbank government that will have free rein to abuse its residents and to have that government's actions shielded from any and all challenges under the charter?

Sometimes it is too easy for non-aboriginal folks to say that people moved to the reserve because they wanted to, but does that make it legitimate to abrogate their rights as citizens of this country? In other words, the charter should really come first, regardless of the voluntary choices that people make on where they live and do business. Wherever they live and do business, they need to have access to being represented fairly, certainly if they pay taxes, and if one lives in a residence or operates a business, one pays taxes.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development acknowledged at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on March 22 the real and growing conflict between the protection of what he called the “individual rights” identified in the charter, which are equality rights, political rights, and the legal rights of life, liberty and security of the person, and what he called the “collective rights” protected by section 25. He acknowledged:

There is the necessity to reconcile principles contained in... the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with those contained in section 25, which protects aboriginal rights.

The acknowledgement by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development of the conflict between charter rights and section 25 aboriginal rights differs considerably from his statement on March 10 before the House of Commons committee studying the Westbank bill and agreement. There he said that:

The agreement... recognizes that all first nation members, like all Canadians everywhere, are subject to... the charter.

His statement is patently untrue when aboriginal rights are involved, and he acknowledged as much at the Senate Committee on Human Rights on March 22. We know that females living on reservations do not have property rights. We know that as a fact.

In fact, I will close by stating that the government of Westbank and its council are effectively bound by the charter when the Westbank government chooses to be bound. When the Westbank government wants to opt out of the charter, it can use the aboriginal rights defence. It need only assert that its actions are merely an exercise of its aboriginal right to govern as set out in the agreement and put into force by government.

Simply put, this agreement would give the Westbank government an umbrella to shield itself with anytime a resident seeks to rain on its arbitrary actions with a challenge under the charter.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Darrel Stinson

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Darrel Stinson (Okanagan—Shuswap, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, today we are speaking to the amendments to Bill C-11, the Westbank agreement. I have some concerns with the bill, and I am in full support of the amendments.

I often read as much as possible about what is happening in Canada. I read a headline in an article stating, “Ottawa continues to blunder its way into the future in its British Columbia operations”. This was an editorial regarding the Westbank legislation, and it raised concerns with me.

First, we were sent here to draft the best legislation we possibly could for the benefit of the Canadian people. I decided to look a little farther. With regard to the Westbank agreement, the Westbank members themselves were very split on this legislation coming forward. I want everybody to realize that there were grave concerns among the Westbank people about the agreement. It actually took three votes by the Westbank members to agree to this.

It took three votes and it was successfully passed on the third vote because they reduced the required majority to a simple majority vote. Of the 430 eligible Westbank voters, 195 voted for and 170 voted against. That should be enough to raise concerns in the House right now. We are talking about an almost even split. To put it in another perspective, we have a divided community on this.

Another large concern is 7,500 residents were not allowed to cast a ballot on this. That native population is not registered on the band registry as eligible to vote. This also raises a major point. We are talking about people who will now be living on these lands, who will be subject to taxation for services, but who absolutely have no say in the matter.

I want to make it clear that the present band administration in Westbank is very progressive, and that is a good thing. They have a reputation as being excellent managers. They are not the first band members in the Westbank to be so acclaimed. Previous band administrators have also been so acclaimed.

In this party we believe that aboriginal people have a right to self-government, but not under the level of government we are trying to set up here. We have grave concerns, concerns which we hear from the people.

My learned colleague from Okanagan—Coquihalla is not concerned about the rights under the charter, but it is a concern with a number of us. I have concerns with how far the protection of the charter will apply under this agreement, and it is of grave concern to the public. I have had a number of calls, e-mails and faxes in regard to what will happen if this is allowed to go through without being properly addressed.

The fundamental right of all Canadians is protection under the charter. I also believe that we would not be in this mess if we had been more insightful in the past in regard to private property rights. I strongly believe that all individuals have the right to own private property, either on reserve or off reserve, which includes individual members on reserve.

I know I will have disagreement from all sides of the House on that and there will be disagreement from natives who live on and off reserves as well. Some will agree with me and there will be some who definitely will not agree with me. That is the way it is, but I strongly believe that all individuals have that right.

I also believe that it is the fundamental principles of a democratic government that those governing must represent the people to the extreme with regard to laws. That means that those who govern are elected by the people in most cases. That principle should apply to all government levels, as it does federally, provincially and municipally. That right will be taken away by this agreement, and that concerns me.

Laws and regulations apply to those who are elected. They must be Canadian citizens and be 18 years or older. They must not have a criminal record even though criminals are allowed to vote now in Canada, which I find highly distasteful.

The Westbank self-government agreement divides residents on Westbank land into two groups: those who are on the Westbank membership roll and those who are not. Those who are on the roll may vote and the others may not. To be on the roll, one must be registered as an Indian under the Indian Act. Any residents on Westbank land who are not on the membership roll are disenfranchised, in my opinion. Of the approximately 8,000 residents who live on Westbank land, about 500 are on the roll and 7,500 are not.

The practical impact of this is that any law, regulation, administration act, or band council decision is determined without electoral representation on that council or about 93% of the people who reside there. I find this hard to accept as I would imagine the people who live there do as well.

In the day to day operations of any self-government or any band, laws will be made and implemented with regard to property taxes, licensing fees, user fees, development cost charges, permit fees, infrastructure and local services. Those who live there for the large part have no say on those matters, and I find that highly questionable.

We should look at Motion No. 3 very carefully. I would like to read this motion to the House because it is important for people to understand the concern that this agreement is causing local communities. It reads:

That Bill C-11 be amended by adding after line 13 on page 2 the following new clause:

4.1 Despite section 102 of the Agreement, lands acquired by the Westbank First Nation that are contained within the limits of the city of Kelowna, British Columbia, may be transferred to Canada for the purpose of being set apart as lands reserved for Indians under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, or as reserves within the meaning of the Indian Act for the use and benefit of the Westbank First Nation, only with the consent of the City of Kelowna.

That is an excellent amendment. It would offset many concerns with regard to portions of land sitting within the city of Kelowna and how the bill impact on that area of land within the city. It has many people concerned as it would apply to those people who live on that land within the city limits.

I urge members of the House to take the amendments into consideration. They are good amendments and should be looked at very carefully. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Westbank community itself, the aboriginals themselves who reside there, are almost evenly divided on this issue.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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LIB

Rick Laliberte

Liberal

Mr. Rick Laliberte (Churchill River, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to discuss a very historic agreement with the Westbank first nation.

The Westbank First Nation is of the Okanagan nation and it is a region of Canada that has unfinished business in terms of creating treaty. I want to focus on this because it should be put on record that Canada was created as a treaty nation. It was not taken in any other way. All the agreements that the Crown entered into were peaceful, friendship treaties to ascertain the territories.

If we checked international law, no country or state can be without a territory. This territory in the country was secured by treaty and those treaties were taken in a sacred context. The aboriginal indigenous nations of Canada hope for the sharing of this land, of creating one country to live among each other, with certain assurances. Different treaties have different assurances.

For the record, the Westbank region has no treaty, so the relationship it has with the government is the self-government agreement. It is continuing negotiations with the provincial and federal governments. Hopefully, in the future a treaty will be signed for that region.

The entire province of British Columbia was the unfinished business by treaty. The Hudson's Bay Company played a significant role in ascertaining that territory. There is a whole history of which the country needs to be aware. We as members of Parliament have more treaty rights flowing from those treaties than the indigenous nations do. They had sovereign right to this land, its resources and sources of life. They had all these relations before the crown negotiated these treaties. Those rights were with sovereign nations.

We see countries of the world where there is conflict. There is conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are regions there where people want to put in their level of western democracy. There is a self-government model that is being negotiated by their people. They see a vision of how they can govern their community in the hope that their country will engage by treaty for a future of certainty and security.

I ask my colleagues to please have patience. This is an evolution of a country. We are still growing. We are still very young. We have lots to learn from our indigenous nations. They may make mistakes, as we may make mistakes in the House or in the provincial legislatures, but we will correct those mistakes because we are governed by human beings. Humans make mistakes. However, there is a sacred context when we enter these treaties.

I have Treaty No. 6 and Treaty No. 10 in my area. Those treaties were secured in a sacred context, using the pipe and a sacred instrument to enter a future. As an example, I would like to share this with my colleagues. In Treaty No. 6 there was a vision by the chiefs that a medicine chest be provided for their people. This medicine chest was a public policy and a public vision for all Canadians. It was not only for the Cree, the Dene and the Saulteaux children. Why can we not look at the indigenous people, the aboriginal first nations as contributing to a vision of the country, not only for their sake but for the entire nation?

I also beg that the Westbank, through its affiliation with its nation, the Okanagan nation, could some day sit here in Parliament. I have shared a vision that this is a house, a House of Commons. We also have another house called the Senate. Maybe a third house should be created where the aboriginal nations could sit and help govern the country as one. We have to come as one country. We cannot be debating from one side to the next. This is one country, flowing as one.

That is what the vision of those treaties was: that the aboriginal nations would not be left alone, or that the Crown went off and administered the country in isolation of those aboriginal nations.

Let us bring the aboriginal nations into this fold. Let us treat the aboriginal leadership as parliamentarians. The chiefs should be accountable and transparent to all of Canada. Keep them here. This House that I speak about exists. There is a building at the back of these Parliament Buildings called the Library of Parliament. It is a sacred symbol. It has a medicine chest and a medicine wheel. A medicine wheel is embedded right in the floor plan. It survived the fire of 1916. When all these other buildings, the square buildings, all burned down, this round building, a symbol of unity, survived the fire. It survived the major test. It was negotiated and built 128 years ago. That library was envisioned by an architect.

One hundred and twenty-eight years ago, our elders in Treaty No. 6 were negotiating treaty. Maybe there was a sacred and spiritual intervention with their prayers to build that building here for a greater purpose. Maybe it is now, in 2004, a year of an indigenous decade in which indigenous issues throughout the world are to be addressed.

Maybe it is time that we welcome our nations, the original nations of this country, the Inuit, the Mi'kmaq, the Okanagan, the Cree, the Dene, the Haida, and the Stó:lõ, as nations to come and help us govern this country, because there are many gifts that these nations have, which they cannot give away but they can share, which they have to hold in trust, just like their languages.

I was born with a first language: nenehiyawan, nehiyawewin. I speak a Cree language, nehiyaw. I speak a Cree world view because from that view I see a vision of the world. That is what all these nations carry. They are distinct nations. They are not all one generic first nation. They are unique nations. Let us unfold those nations as to who they are and let us show the world. Let us listen, really listen with our hearts and our minds, to what they see as a vision of this country so that for all the children who come here, no matter where they are from, we live together as one country.

That is why I have shared a vision that we should have a motto of Canada. The motto of Canada says “from sea to shining sea”. I would like to change that motto. It should be “a nation of rivers and a river of nations”. There are many nations that flow here, even in this House, and there are our ancestors. We have to be proud of our ancestors and the gifts that our ancestors gave us, the prayers they give that we survive.

However, there are distinct responsibilities to the land and, as we say, all our relations: the four-legged, the winged, the ones that crawl and the ones that swim, all the little beings of this planet, all the plants, the medicines, the little gifts that we have the consciousness to be careful for. As human beings, we carry that will here in these houses, in these political institutions.

But what is missing is the aboriginal nations. They are not in Parliament. They are not here directing this vessel into the future. This vessel was envisioned with the two row wampum, where the original vessel of the original people can flow together with the newcomers and their vessel. This vessel came from Britain. This is a British parliamentary system. Maybe that parliamentary library that I talked about is the original vessel for the original people. Those two vessels can flow together to create one country and one Parliament.

I commend the people of the Westbank, who are willing to create a government structure to live among their people and the people who live with them in rules, policies and bylaws that will affect their people, but who have a greater vision and a greater respect for the Okanagan nation as a whole. That nation should be welcomed here so that the country can be governed together as one.

I share that with the House at this time because this is a year in the indigenous decade of indigenous people worldwide. I think it is time that Canada opened its arms and welcomed the true meaning of friendship and peace.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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CA

Myron Thompson

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this bill today and to the amendments that have been proposed, which I support fully. I listened intently to the last speaker from the Liberal Party, who obviously speaks from the heart and, in the tone that he spoke, means things for the good of the country. There is no doubt in my mind about it. I believe that he is very sincere about this.

The entire debate has been troubling to me for a number of reasons. I would like to point out some of these things in regard to why the Liberal government of today would be so willing to push this bill through so quickly and bring it to an end.

These are the things that bother me the most. First, it is my understanding that on the reserve the vote was 195 to 170, so obviously there is a split feeling on the reserve itself as to what direction we should be taking. I find it difficult to understand why the government would immediately side with the 195 and why it would not be willing to say, “Wait a minute, there are quite a few people on that reserve who are opposed to this direction”, and then ask itself what it knows about why they are opposed and what they could suggest that would make this thing better. I do not hear that debate happening.

I think we are having a debate to try to draw out all the pros and cons of this bill today. I think that my two colleagues who proposed these amendments have some serious concerns, which I think are reflected in the hearts of a number of Canadians. We are looking for that change to come, but why have we not considered what is happening on the reserve itself? It does not appear to me that we have. It does not appear to me that the Liberal government has, because it is willing to ignore the 170 people against 195, which is a very close vote. That does not make sense to me.

Something else also troubles me. I do not know what the real relationship is between this bill and what was proposed in the Charlottetown accord. I do not remember the particulars of the Charlottetown accord, but it almost appears to me that these documents are very much the same and that this bill is proposing what Canadians rejected in a big way through the Charlottetown accord.

A number of people in my area indicated to me that they were opposed to the Charlottetown accord because of what the elites had done in trying to correct the situation with treaties and first nations and all of that. Yet that was rejected, not only by people of one race, but by all groups. The natives themselves rejected the ideas that came out of the Charlottetown accord.

Why does the government want to move so quickly on getting this bill processed, completed, to third reading and into law without considering the fact that there are quite a few people out there, including natives themselves from that reserve, who are not quite happy with what is going on? What is the rush?

Is it not better to have a good, open debate about this issue in the House, on the reserve and in the communities in order to get a good feel for what we need to do--if we are going to do anything--and at least make every effort that we can to make it right? Obviously it must not be very right because of the great debates that are taking place not only in Canada as a whole but on the reserve itself.

Why is the government so adamant about pushing forward legislation when obviously, in the minds of a number of people in this country, we are not ready for it without further discussion? I do not mean the kind of discussion that the fool from the Regina area gave us from the NDP in his speech when he did not refer to the bill at all but just went into name calling and did not contribute anything whatsoever to the debate. I wonder if he feels the same way about the 170 people on the reserve who are opposed to this bill as he feels about the Conservative Party members who are opposed to this bill.

I wonder if he feels that way. Would he have the guts to stand up somewhere in this country and tell those 170 people what he tried to tell us this morning? What a bunch of nonsense. People like that should be left totally out of the debate. They contribute nothing.

I am really fearful that we are moving in this direction when there are too many people, including natives, who are not satisfied with this Bill C-11. Why are we pushing it so quickly? Is it not better to keep the debate going, open it up more broadly and, if we are going to do something, when we do it, we do it right? Is it not better to take the feelings of this Liberal member who just spoke into account, along with those of all the other people who are involved and concerned about it? Then we can put it together and see if we cannot come up with a decent package. Obviously the government now does not have a package that is very acceptable.

Why do the Liberals want to support it when so many people are speaking out against it? Never mind just the Conservative Party; let us talk about the other folks as well.

The member from Vancouver North made a very strong point this morning. For 50 years now, we have watched poverty grow and conditions worsen on the reserves to the point that they are in third world conditions. We still have not fixed that problem. Over the last 10 years it has been no better. In fact, it has become worse on many reserves.

I was assigned by Preston Manning, our first leader, to go into the reserves and do a study on this issue. For nearly two years, I visited people in their homes, their huts and their tepees, you name it. I know what those conditions were. If the government over there has such brilliant ideas and is so wonderful, then why has there not been some improvement in those conditions? Why have we not made accountability on the reserves a very major concern in the country?

Lo and behold, it is starting to come to light. When the government does not even have accountability in its own cabinet and we must have hours and hours of debate in committee about the accountability of this government, how can we expect anything good to happen outside the government when it is in control?

It is time for us to really sit back and say that there is something totally wrong with the big picture. This big picture needs to be addressed and we are not doing a very good job of it when the reserves that I went into in 1994 are worse off in 2004. Unemployment is higher. Homelessness is higher. Addiction and abuse rates are higher. Crime rates are higher. And this government wants to brag about all the wonderful things it is doing?

Now it wants to shove through a bill that 170 people, an almost fifty-fifty split on the reserve itself, are not satisfied with. What in the world is the rush? Surely the government should take a serious look at the amendments and ask if they improve the situation. Maybe it should go out and ask the people on the reserve what they think of the amendments and ask what else we can do to make it better.

No, that outfit over there is going to have a vote on the bill very soon. It wants to get it passed. For what reason? For all the wrong reasons, as far as I am concerned. Until we get a lot more support for the action that we are taking in this building, why do we want to be in such a rush? I am really puzzled by all of that.

Last, but certainly not least, why would we ever want to live in a country where 93% of a population in an area is being taxed without representation? Why would we want to live in a country with a democracy of that type? Have we forgotten the number of countries in the past--let us talk about the history of the world, as a matter of fact--whose citizens fought and died on the bloody grounds of war, fighting for representation? Taxation without representation in Canada? Whoa, I am not sure I like that at all. Those members over there should think about it. They should think about it before jumping up to support something that would allow such a thing to happen. Where do we live? I say, let us give this some considerable thought. I ask them, in the name of democracy, to give it some serious, considerable thought.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
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April 20, 2004