Hon. Thomas Siddon (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development):
Mr. Speaker, I certainly respect
and have listened carefully to the comments of my colleague from Annapolis Valley-Hants on this issue.
The clock is running under the provisions of the motion adopted earlier this day under Standing Order 78(1). However this would be the appropriate point at which to respond to the concern the hon. member has expressed about the shortness of time.
This land claim agreement has been under negotiation for about the same length of time the hon. member has sat in the House. Perhaps he has not been here quite that long. In that period he has witnessed many debates on aboriginal issues and has seen the passage of important land claims legislation in the past.
The first point I would submit is that it would be a tragedy if Parliament could not complete the work begun so many years ago, in particular given the will and the dedication not only of the TFN and the Inuit people but of the territorial government and the federal government to settle this matter now.
I understand the hon. member's concern about the shortness of time, but the life of this Parliament is very short and there is also important business to be transacted in the next few remaining days. With the co-operation of the two official opposition parties, the majority of the members in this House has expressed the will to have this piece of business done.
While I respect the view of the hon. member I would point out it was three years ago on April 30 that I signed the agreement in principle. All members of the House through parliamentary committees have had a chance to follow the development of this legislative package. I appeared before the standing committee in the month of February and was questioned extensively. Some members present were there for over three hours while we went through the elements of this agreement.
The Inuit ratified the agreement last November. Drafting and language translation were required, but I must point out to the hon. member that it was only on Tuesday of this week that the final overlap matter was resolved with the co-operation of some members of the House. It was only last Tuesday that it was possible for the Prime Minister to sign because there was a matter before the courts until three weeks ago.
June 4, 1993
It is not simply a matter of saying we should have done this earlier or we might lake a little longer. Time has run out. A large group of people in the gallery feel it is now time for the Parliament of Canada to do its duty and adopt Bill C-133 and the companion legislation which we will come to momentarily, Bill C-132.
I would plead with the hon. member to understand that this is an extraordinary circumstance, but it is an extraordinarily wonderful opportunity for the people of Canada to do something good; to reach out to the Inuit who, after all, for thousands of years have managed and husbanded that wonderful territory, their land they call Nunavut; and to accommodate that in this legislation.
I might point out the hon. member has had since last Friday when first reading occurred and the bill was tabled to study this bill. He was offered briefings. He was given a briefing, I gather, by the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut in recent days. I hope he will be prepared to focus on the essence of the bill so we might get on with passing it and Bill C-132 today.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NUNAVUT LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT ACT