Mr. Bernard Cleary (Louis-Saint-Laurent, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, to a certain extent, I will speak to Bill C-7 as my party's official aboriginal affairs critic.
As some hon. members will know, I have had a number of opportunities to be involved in the negotiations. The Parks Canada aspect has always been extremely important for the associations I have worked with. The explanation is simple: the territories on which parks have been established in Quebec and elsewhere have often been considered to be included in aboriginal land claims. We thus had a past life and a future life to settle with Parks Canada.
I confess I was deeply disappointed as I read Bill C-7. I would have expected the Liberal government to use it to try to provide a number of remedial measures and ensure that aboriginals who have been pressing claims for the past 20 years would find a number of elements promoting their inclusion in these parks.
Hence, I believe that the Liberal government has missed an opportunity to implement the ideas of the famous panel on ecological integrity of Canada's national parks. It gave the government a number of guidelines to ensure that the aboriginals' place in our national parks would henceforth be a lot more prominent.
As we know, tradition in parks is to expel aboriginals rather than to include them within parks as participants. It so happens that this panel on integrity has a totally different view when it talks about aboriginals. Obviously, it has put forward a number of conclusions, that I will share with you by quoting passages from a book I wrote on the aboriginal issue. This is from page 185:
The panel on the ecological integrity of parks recommends:
that reconciliation between Parks Canada and aboriginal peoples be brought about as soon as possible;
that there be recognition in the history of national parks and its interpretation of the occupation of the territory, as well as the past and present use by aboriginal peoples;
that Parks Canada invite aboriginal peoples to take part in its activities;
that Parks Canada sponsor a series of meetings in order to launch the reconciliation process to move from confrontation to collaboration;
that Parks Canada adopt a clear policy encouraging the creation and maintenance of sincere partnerships with aboriginal peoples;
that Parks Canada design, with the collaboration of aboriginal communities, education projects which will lead to a better mutual understanding and to a joint measure with a view to protecting the ecological integrity in national parks;
finally, that Parks Canada ensure the protection of cultural sites, sacred places and artifacts.
Those are recommendations from a panel that studied this file and which we would have liked to see in the bill. It was a unique opportunity, considering the time for reflection on these recommendations available throughout Canada.
One could have found a number of elements favourable to aboriginal groups who could have helped in establishing the national parks desired by the groups who want to work.
I was telling you that I had worked and negotiated for the Mingan park, which everyone knows, as well as for Forillon and Saguenay parks. All the aboriginals who live in these regions asked the Government of Canada include them in the development of the parks and to make them natural elements of these parks.
You know, we are not butterflies. The aboriginals live in these parks. The aboriginal way of life is part of Canada's history, of these parks' history. We keep asking that this be taken into consideration. Of course, it has never been in the culture of parks to keep a place for the aboriginals.
The integrity panel did a job. Will we see the results one day? Will we feel one day that the Government of Canada is responding to the will of the aboriginal people to be a part of these parks?
When we travel in the United States, we always see that, in the parks, no matter which ones—quite often, they are much less pleasant and interesting than our national parks— the aboriginals have an important place. Of course, we criticize the folklore surrounding this, but the fact remains that, in Canada, it would be beneficial if we were present in all the parks. We could pursue our way of life and show the public that aboriginal groups in Canada are alive and part of our development. We should use this resource, which will make our parks that much more enjoyable and interesting.
I did not want to make a long speech on this, but I did want to take this opportunity to point out that it is urgent we work in the direction that many people across Canada are asking. Perhaps it will not be with this bill, because it is at second reading stage, but we should act urgently.
Subtopic: Department of Canadian Heritage Act