Mr. Pat Nowlan (Annapolis Valley-Hants):
Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the last speaker, the member for Nunatsiaq certainly, and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for bringing this bill, as a result of the agreement, to the floor of the House.
That is why I speak in a somewhat mixed way. The hon. member for Nunatsiaq lived through a great deal of the negotiations. Many positive things were said about this agreement by him. For all those who participated in the negotiations that produced the agreement, I do believe it is Parliament working and the process of people working with their government agencies and officials.
June 4, 1993
I speak almost with a forked tongue. That gets into the substance of the agreement I am glad to say is here today. It has to be put on the record that I am totally against the process. To have had the minister of Indian affairs speak for 18 minutes as he did in introducing this bill at second reading does not even begin to equal the 15 or 16 years it took to get the agreement. The member for Comox-Alberni said 20 or 25 years. I guess it depends on where one starts to define this very complex issue.
If there was ever an example of a dead Parliament doing dangerous things, this bill sadly is it. This bill should not have been brought in in the closing days of Parliament, the last weekend before we rise. Whether we come back, we do not know.
With all the good things the minister of Indian affairs and other speakers have said about it, this bill has the potential of nation building, of bringing the Inuit into the federation on some of the major points of the agreement.
The minister spoke this morning for 18 minutes. Then the government House leader stood up and used Standing Order 78(1) with the connivance and the complicity of the opposition and they are always railing against allocation of time.
However, an agreement of this size and magnitude should be in the public domain as a bill. The negotiations went on for 15 to 20 years, depending on the time frame used. Have that percolated and focused and then have people decide that perhaps something said in Parliament at second reading or in Committee of the Whole deserves further attention.
The rule is supposed to be used to move things along when there has been an excess of debate, when there has been obstruction. Yet we have had a horrible example in the dying days of this Parliament of the government using Standing Order 78(1) with the connivance and collusion of the opposition. In effect it says that the parties have agreed, yet other members who may not belong to political parties have not had a chance to speak out for their constituents or for other people in Canada.
We know from the history of this Parliament that this party has had no credibility on constitutional matters. There were three parties that agreed to Meech Lake some many years ago. In effect that went down the drain.
More recently we know the three major parties all got together on the Charlottetown accord. Three or four of us spoke out in a negative way on the Charlottetown accord and we were unable to get a vote then. Under the rules it is well known that five members are needed to provoke a vote and look what happened to the Charlottetown accord. The parties, the member for Glengarry- Prescott-Russell and members of the three major parties, all went one way on the Charlottetown accord for the greater good of Canada. Yet the people of Canada had some misgivings, to put it kindly. The people of Canada said no to the Charlottetown accord in a referendum.
That is another reason that a government in its dying days to exercise Standing Order 78(1) to close off debate on something of such magnitude and importance to the people involved is not doing justice to the issue.
That is why I certainly agree with the point of order that was raised in a very short period of time. Under the rules we cannot get into debate when Standing Order 78(1) is used. The member for Beaver River did raise a point of order about the process. I had just stepped outside; I was on the phone. I came back in and found out the government House leader had used it.
Members of the opposition, whether Liberal or the NDP, are always protesting with vigour how they have been raped by allocation or closure. Yet when they are not gored they will get into bed with the government. It was never intended to be that way. This is the second time in the last month the government has used Standing Order 78(1).
The earlier matter, and certainly the one I was associated with, was the Elections Act which affected all members. They were able to use it because there were only four or five members in the House.
June 4, 1993
However, on this one I feel sad for the hon. member for Nunatsiaq who made a great speech and the people in the gallery who have lived this. This should not be snuck in as though people are ashamed of the deal. It should have been given a proper debate and historic debate.
Mr. Speaker, you are from the west. The provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta entered Confederation in 1905. You can go through the Hansard for that time. I am not going to take time doing so because my time is limited.
The member from Comox-Alberni started. According to the table we have exactly one hour and 13 minutes left to pass this bill on the basis of this rather complicated agreement; one hour and 13 minutes from the time the member from Comox-Alberni started, to pass this bill in all stages including Committee of the Whole consideration if we ever get to it. Then the old hammer chops and that is it.
I could compare that with what happened in earlier days. I am not going to over-dwell on it, but there was debate on Bill C-69, the Alberta Act, 1905, and debate on Bill C-70, the Saskatchewan Act, 1905. There were different indices then to get the material. Just a quick review of the index in those days when new provinces were being brought into Confederation and being made part of Canada shows that it was not done in the dying days of Parliament. It was not done on a late Friday afternoon or in the dark of night. It was done in open daylight. It had debate at first, second and third readings. There were 84 pages of index of both bills. I think 52 members participated in debate on one bill and over 52 participated in the other debate. That is what used to happen.
I say this is a perversion of the rules and I say it sadly. It is a travesty of Parliament which by its very name, as we all know, means we are supposed to speak. We are supposed to be able to speak. The government House leader stood after 18 minutes and in effect invoked closure, allocation of time. We were to have one hour and 45 minutes from when he moved that and we are now down to one hour and 13 minutes when the member from Comox-Alberni stood. It boggles the mind.
After all, as we have heard quite properly, this is a mammoth exercise by government and the people. According to the maps, some of the briefings and the
material I have assembled that I think is correct, we are dealing with one-quarter the size of Canada in terms of defining a new territory. Undoubtedly and with full credit to the people of that territory, be they 16,000 or
17,000 Inuit of the total of 20,000, over time there will be an emancipation process as there should be perhaps to develop a state or a province.
We have a bill affecting one-quarter of the land mass of Canada as a result of negotiations for, I thought, 15 years or 16 years. The minister's speech does not even begin to represent one year for each of the years of negotiation. In that sense it is not doing justice to the Inuit or to Parliament because it is a travesty of Parliament to have this type of motion at this time.
There are so many questions one could ask. However this is second reading and perhaps a better time would be at Committee of the Whole if that is what we are going to do. I know some of these things have been negotiated. This should not just be done in the dying days of a Parliament but when the focus of public affairs is on many other matters. There has not been the public focus on the implications of this bill.
I listened to my friend's speech because I respect him very much. There were many matters that could perhaps have been examined in the brief time we have. There will be a new public service in the territory. There may be an influx from the south coming north. There may not be the majority that would presently be the majority in the territorial Government of Nunavut. There are many things.
When this was first announced as recently as 1991 Ovide Mercredi raised questions about the inherent rights of aboriginals being adversely affected by this process. There is something else that I do not think many appreciate. It was part of the give and take and one of the reasons we were able to get an agreement. The creation of this bill, for the first time as I understand it, actually transfers the land ownership. I am not talking about aboriginal title. I am talking about the actual land ownership over a good section of this land. It affects all Canadians because until now all Canadians north and south of 60 have had an interest through the Crown in that land. I am just not sure where the interests of Canadians from coast to coast north of 60 lie under this bill.
June 4, 1993
There are many other matters that could be mentioned. I do not even know where the implementation agreement is. Is the bill we will be debating after passing Bill C-133 the implementation agreement that was supposed to be here as a condition precedent before this bill was to be ratified? There are different elements of the ratification processes for Parliament, not for the Inuit who have had their ratification and their votes. That is something I wondered about. Perhaps we can deal with it in Committee of the Whole.
I give compliments to the minister because it has been a trying experience. I have not shared a lot of the general criticism that the minister has had in his department, because it is a very tough department. I frankly think he has handled it fairly well with all the difficulties of not just this bill but of many other matters.
I am very saddened he felt it necessary to speak in the ear of old jack hammer government House leader or jackboot House leader, the member from Calgary or from wherever. He invoked Standing Order 78(1) to cut off debate on something of such magnitude when we should have been singing hosannas as we found out more about the details of the agreement.
I think we could move it along to Committee of the Whole because of the process and because I feel so strongly about the process regardless of the subject matter. You are indicating, Mr. Speaker, that my time is almost up. I hope I am here to say no, as perhaps my friend from Beaver River would have done, when this bill is called for second reading. I feel strongly that this was the wrong tactic to use on something so fundamentally important for the people affected. It certainly is a poor reflection of the state of this Parliament. The sooner we can have an election and have a variety of parties in the House, the sooner we will not have the conspiracy of silence, the Official Opposition and the NDP agreeing with a government that they usually condemn every day.
Ever so often on a Friday afternoon they get in bed with them and commit political incest. That is what the opposition parties have done. I do not want to hear them protesting any more about allocation of time when they happen not to like it.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NUNAVUT LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT ACT