Mr. Robert E. Skelly (Comox-Alberni):
Madam Speaker, I want to say that on behalf of the leader of my party, the member for Yukon, and on behalf of my caucus I am pleased to take part in this debate as aboriginal critic for the New Democratic Party.
June 4, 1993
I am also grateful to the House for the kindness in allowing me to delay my participation in this debate until after Question Period, but I feel I must extend an apology to those who are visiting us from the Inuit community for having to submit them to the debate that took place during Question Period. Hopefully we are now getting on to better things.
The Nunavut claim settlement and the creation of the territory of Nunavut is something of which all Canadians can be proud. It is something that all Canadians and this Parliament should be celebrating today. We should be recognizing it as a great event in the progress of Canada's Confederation and Canada's political development. This is the first political boundary change in Canada since the addition of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949,1 think it was. This is the first great change in the structure of Canada since that time.
I want to associate myself with the remarks of the member for Nunatsiaq who congratulated all of those Inuit people who took part in the negotiations from the very beginning, initiating the proposal in the first place and pursuing the proposal over a 20-year period-a fifth of a century-with patience, persistence and persuasiveness until they reached this point where Nunavut is almost a reality, depending on the outcome of the debate in this House today and where the land claims settlement is finally to be ratified by the House of Commons. I would like to associate myself with that member in indicating that the Inuit people who have been involved in pursuing this issue and involved in the negotiations have done a terrific job.
I would also like to add something because it occurred, I suppose, right up until the last couple of days. The Inuit negotiators have always been understanding, open and willing to negotiate with those aboriginal groups on their borders who felt that there were conflicting claims within the Nunavut settlement area. They wanted to do what they could either to facilitate resolving those claims when the need was to approach the government or other parties, or when it was helpful to change the wording in the agreements themselves.
They were always willing to provide agreements that satisfied in particular the Denesuline from northern Saskatchewan and from northern Manitoba. They were
willing to provide them with assurance that this agreement and this legislation did not prejudice any treaty rights or any process to resolve their concerns about treaty rights north of 60 degrees.
The Inuit negotiators have always been open, understanding and willing to discuss with the people on their borders the methods for resolving the difficulties that they may have with the creation of Nunavut and also how those aboriginal groups can still retail their right of action to pursue their treaty rights.
I am not really feeling comfortable about doing this next part but I would also like to congratulate the government and the minister of Indian affairs for the role he has played in finally bringing this process after a fifth of a century to a conclusion. I think it is a happy conclusion for all concerned.
This is something that can go on the credit side of the ledger as far as this government is concerned. I am not willing to say that about a lot of the other things that the minister has done or neglects to do. However in this case I think one will find that the House almost universally accepts that in this case he has done a good thing.
He might have been prodded into it and in many cases persuaded and cajoled. In any case the government for the most part has responded in the right way. For that reason we see the creation today of the settlement of the Nunavut land claims settlements and also the creation of the new territory of Nunavut.
I do not want to be too positive about the minister in these discussions for reasons one may find out later. However we have some concerns about the legislation. They are concerns that result from leaks of polling that were done by a Decima poll which suggest that Canadians are concerned about the amount of money that is being given to the Inuit people under this legislation.
The newspaper reports on this issue have indicated that it could be anywhere from $580 million 1989 Canadian dollars meaning something like $1.14 billion discounted Canadian dollars over time. Really, if we analyse the situation closely then the wording of these agreements should actually reflect the truth of the matter.
June 4, 1993
As my colleague from Nunatsiaq pointed out, the greatest transfer taking place in these land claim settlements is the transfer of vast areas of land, resources and potential for royalties and revenues from those resources that are not going to the Inuit people. These are going to the people of Canada by finally settling an outstanding dispute over land and resources between the people who owned them originally and have occupied them for 4,000 years at least as far as we can see on that time horizon.
In order to make it possible for us as non-aboriginals and as Inuit to live together it has been agreed to turn that land over to the administration of a public government which is one of the governments of Canada to which all Canadians will have access. They will keep for their own use a very small amount which is as my colleague from Nunatsiaq said. It is something like 2 per cent of subsurface areas and up to 18 per cent of the total land surface. The people who are the real beneficiaries of this agreement are the people of Canada.
The minister in his education programs on this issue and in his polling should be asking the question in those ways rather than leaving it distorted in people's minds. They feel that the aboriginal people are the recipients when truly the aboriginal people are the givers in this case.
Canada is the beneficiary. In part as well aboriginal people are the beneficiaries. We have settled this issue for the time being. There is an opportunity for Canadians as a whole and for Inuit people in the eastern Arctic to co-exist and work together. The mechanisms have been put in place for us to do that.
The wording of the agreement talks about the Inuit people receiving certain rights with respect to fish, wildlife and land. In fact those were their inherent rights from time immemorial.
I am concerned that the wording of the agreement does not really signify that. Nor does the agreement recognize, as my colleague pointed out, that there is an aboriginal title to these areas. The agreement stops far short of that by saying there is an assertion of a claim to aboriginal rights.
At some point the government really has to get to the point and start telling the truth about the fact. We came close to recognizing that truth during the Charlottetown debate. We began a debate around the issue of inherent
rights, where those inherent rights derive from an occupancy of the land and the organization among aboriginal people of states with virtual national capabilities on the land..In the future our claims settlements are going to have to recognize the reality of the situation that first, aboriginal people have these rights and second, they are giving the rights to Canadians and that Canadians are the beneficiaries.
I am going to say a bit about the negative things the minister has either done or things he has neglected to do in the past, only because they may reflect on the legacy of problems that the new government of Nunavut may have to deal with. There is no question about it. When looking at the report cards on this government and previous governments of Canada, both nationally and internationally, there is a great deal of business that has been left undone with respect to the aboriginal people in this country.
Essentially this agreement still talks about a colonial type of relationship between Canada and its aboriginal people. That kind of relationship causes serious social problems. It takes power away from the colonized people and gives it to the colonisers. To some extent this legislation is now turning that around so that the colonisers are now giving up power and empowering the colonized people.
Members of the aboriginal affairs committee travelled around this country. We found one thing in virtually every case we studied, whether it was post-secondary education, aboriginal literacy, or aboriginal housing. That is that the most effective people in identifying the problems that needed to be recognized in their communities and the most effective people in developing solutions and delivering programs dealing with those problems were the aboriginal people themselves.
There is a tremendous advantage both to the aboriginal people and the Government of Canada to make sure that they have the resources and the power to deal with those programs. By far they are the best and most effective people to solve those kinds of problems.
The minister bears a lot of responsibility for things that have been left undone. Things like the Lubicon Cree and Davis Inlet, names like Shamattawa and Big Cove are going to come back in his dreams to haunt him. A lot of problems have not been dealt with fairly, accurately and effectively by this minister and his government. Unfortunately those are going to become a part of the legacy the people of Nunavut will have to deal with.
June 4, 1993
I am confident that when aboriginal people handle their own affairs, they will be more effective and better able to quickly get to the solutions than this federal government has been.
The government we are talking about deals with a population of 17,000 spread over that which is now one of the largest territories in Canada. It is going to be a very difficult issue for a government to deal with.
Fortunately in these agreements there is access to royalties. Therefore a percentage of revenue coming from minerals and other sources will go to the government of Nunavut. There are also other means for obtaining revenues. However, it is going to be a tremendous problem for this government to deal with the problems they have experienced over such a huge area.
We have already seen in the Northwest Territories where a government is spending something like 20 per cent of its total resources on housing. Those are the kinds of legacies being left by the minister to the people of the new territory of Nunavut.
How are they going to deal with housing? Is the minister going to have the responsibility for transferring the money with respect to housing with other social services to the territory of Nunavut? Is it going to be done in the same way that finances are transferred by the federal government to the provinces under various equalization programs or the Canada Assistance Plan?
Is it going to be a line item in the budget of the department of Indian affairs? Is it going to be on a government to government relationship where there is a system of transfer programs that go directly to the new government of Nunavut without having to go through the filtering process down at the department of Indian affairs? As the minister will know, there is going to be a lot of baggage attached to his department.
We have just seen the case in the last week or so where a predecessor in the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs defended what he did with the high Arctic exiles using the same kind of logic and the same kind of arguments that he would have used back in the 1950s. Clearly this man is still thinking in the 1950s and is being defended by his current brethren in the department of Indian affairs in order to protect his reputation of 40 years ago. There is that kind of problem in the department of Indian affairs.
One of the ways to eliminate the need for the paternalistic approach of the department of Indian affairs is to allow this territory to obtain its transfer funds and to establish its relationship with the government through federal-provincial relations. It should be some other aspect of the government, not the paternalistic agency they have been used to in the past and that is the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
In any case, my party very strongly supports the changes taking place in Canada with respect to the legislation coming down today. One is the settlement of the aboriginal land claims of the Inuit people of the eastern Arctic.
The other is the creation of a public government which in dealing with a majority of Inuit people will probably strongly reflect the views of the Inuit people living in that area. As a result, it will be a government that more clearly identifies the need and more clearly reflects the vision of those people. It will be more effective in translating those needs and those visions into the kind of action necessary to resolve their problems and take them into the future.
On behalf of my party I would like to thank all the people who were involved in the development of the new territory of Nunavut and of the land claim settlement. On behalf of my leader, the hon. member for Yukon, and on behalf of our party, we wish them all the very best of success. I know they will have success in the future. If there is any way that my party or I can assist, we look forward to being there anytime it is requested. The best of success to them.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NUNAVUT LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT ACT