Mr. Ray Funk (Prince Albert-Churchill River):
Mr. Chairman, I do not have a great deal of questioning but there are two questions I would like to pose to the minister that deal with the bill as a whole. Therefore I think this is the appropriate time to deal with them.
My questions are with respect to the claims that have been made by the constituents I represent, the Denesu-line people in northern Saskatchewan and by extension in Manitoba.
The Dene people present the argument that they have an unextinguished treaty and aboriginal right in one corner of the Nunavut territory. The elders have put forward this argument very forcefully. Those of us who believe one should listen to the wisdom of the elders cannot help but be impressed by the sincerity in their belief of their treaty rights, that their signing of the treaty in 1899 did not extinguish in the way the federal government claims it did, their rights over their traditional territories.
I remind the House that in the Charlottetown agreement there was a recognition by all the governments in Canada, including the aboriginal people, that the wisdom of the elders was to hold equal sway with what was written in English with respect to the modern meaning of treaty.
I am not a lawyer and I have not read all of the documentation with respect to these kinds of questions. To me however, there has always been a fundamental illogic in the government's position.
The government has said to my constituents, the Dene that live south of the 60th parallel, that their treaty and aboriginal rights were extinguished by the signing of treaty eight. At the same time the government has given de facto recognition in the way it is proceeding with comprehensive claims negotiation to five bands north of the 60th parallel, the Snowdrift, Fort Resolution, Hay River and Dene bands. They have remaining treaty and aboriginal rights in the territories, at least to the extent that a comprehensive claims process is proceeding on their behalf with their involvement.
I cannot understand how it is possible that the same extinguishment clause in treaty eight, which was signed in 1899 before the current Northwest Territories boundary existed, could have extinguished the treaty and aboriginal rights of the treaty eight bands south of the 60th parallel while at the same time it did not by the de facto recognition of the government extinguish similar claims to those bands north of the 60th parallel.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NUNAVUT ACT