Mr. Ed Schreyer (Selkirk):
Mr. Speaker, either this departmental reorganization is a matter of substance or it is not. If it is not a matter of substance, one must wonder why the minister and his colleagues induced the news media to give it such prominence. If it is a matter of substance, obviously the representatives af the Indian people should have been consulted, particularly in view of the pledge and commitment which this government gave to consult the Indian people. I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that they should have been consulted.
It makes nonsense of the efforts of the Minister without Portfolio, who has been charged with the responsibility of travelling this country from coast to coast to meet with the Indian people in their localities to get their views and solicit their ideas, if as we understand there is to be a fundamental reorganization in the department without the slightest bit of consultation with representatives of the Indian people. There is no excuse for this.
I notice in the written statement of the minister that the discussion with regard to consolidation and reorganization within the department have now been going on in the department for a whole year. Surely there was ample time to consult the representatives of the different Indian bands across the country. I notice, too, that the minister made reference to what he wants us to accept as fact, namely that because this government recognizes that there is a need for an accelerated economic development program for Indian reserves and for Indian people, it was felt there was some urgency in proceeding with the reorganization of the department.
I am glad to see the government admits there is need for an accelerated economic development program for Indian reserves, but precisely because economic development
Statement on Indian Affairs Reorganization on reserves is a matter that is so vital and so directly concerns the Indian people one would think that at least their views would have been solicited as to the form the department's organization would take with respect to programs of economic development.
I cannot take my place, Mr. Speaker, without making reference to a plea the minister makes in the concluding paragraph of his statement. He says he must have the freedom necessary to organize the department in the manner necessary to carry out its responsibilities in the most effective way possible. That sounds to me a pretty lame sort of excuse for not consulting the Indian people with regard to this matter. The minister says he must have freedom to manoeuvre and to organize his department. We all recognize that there is need for administrative discretionary power to be exercised by the minister and his officials. We also know, however, that the plea for more freedom for those who exercise power is one that has been raised by arbitrary rulers over the centuries. I am not overstating or exaggerating the situation when I say that the plea of the minister that he must have more freedom to reorganize and set up the operations of the department is in itself not good enough.
I conclude by saying that since the government have made the commitment and the pledge, and given it so much publicity, to the effect that they intend to consult the Indian population of this country, they should honour that commitment and pledge right after having made it. So I suggest that the government start doing that, and they can begin by having the two ministers of the crown, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Minister without Portfolio consult each other. I think that would be a good start.
[DOT] (2:50 p.m.)
Subtopic: STATEMENT ON REORGANIZATION OF DEPARTMENT