moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud today to affirm my support for Bill C-14 at second reading and for the Tlicho agreement at the heart of this proposed legislation.
I, and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, share the same commitment and sentiments toward having this bill expeditiously passed through the House and on to the Senate. We are very committed to getting this through the whole process as quickly as we can.
First, I would like to offer my sincere thanks and heartfelt congratulations to the Tlicho people for achieving this monumental and historic agreement. The product of more than a decade of consultations and negotiations, the agreement between the Tlicho and the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories was signed more than a year ago.
There are people responsible for realizing this agreement and they bear mentioning: the Grand Chief, Joe Rabesca, along with his chiefs from the various communities in the Tlicho territory; both his negotiating teams, including Mr. John B. Zoe, who is the chief negotiator, as well as Eddy Erasmus, and James Washie, the self-government specialist.
It is the first time that we are embedding a self-government agreement within the body of a claim. It is the second time actually, but it is the first time in the Northwest Territories. This is the work of those individuals, as well as Ted Blondin, who has worked on numerous claims, and the elders that accompany them generally.
Everything is done on a consensus basis and there is seldom a period when the elders are not there along the whole way of the process. Elders like Alexis Arrowmaker, who is the former chief and is well known to many politicians across the country. They have been there to support the negotiator and chiefs along the way.
There have been many such elders. They are not all with us today. It would be remiss for me not to recognize the legal team of Rick Salter, Art Pape, and Rick's son Colin Salter. They have dedicated themselves to providing the best legal advice that is available to the Dogrib team to come up with the most innovative document that addresses so many complicated issues.
The agreement is the product of a comprehensive and collaborative negotiation process among the Tlicho, Canada and the Northwest Territories. This agreement has already been ratified by the territorial legislature in Yellowknife and by the Tlicho. Furthermore, a comprehensive implementation plan is ready, and the Tlicho have already drafted and ratified a constitution.
It would be remiss of me not to say that I am particularly proud, since we have members of the team here today. In particular, we have Mr. Ted Blondin and Bertha Rabesca, who is the first Dogrib lawyer who was called to the bar in recent months. We are very proud of her and the work they have both done. We have them here today with us and we know that others are watching. We are grateful to them for the work that they have done.
Prior to finalizing the agreement, the Tlicho took responsibility for negotiating overlapping agreements with their aboriginal neighbours. These agreements have helped to clarify the boundaries of traditional lands and have improved relationships among aboriginal peoples in the north.
Enacting this legislation will send a clear and positive message across the country that Canada is committed to establishing a new relationship with aboriginal peoples based on mutual respect and recognition.
When Bill C-14 becomes law, some 3,000 Tlicho people will have the power to protect their way of life and control their land, resources and lives.
Under the Tlicho agreement, the Tlicho government will be created. I think it will be recreated because I always felt that the Tlicho always had their own way of governing themselves. Through it, the Tlicho people will own a 39,000 square kilometre block of land between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake, the largest single block of first nations owned land in Canada.
The Tlicho government will receive about $150 million over 15 years. This will be used as a type of investment fund to promote social, cultural, educational and economic development in the area, as well as an annual share of resource royalties that the government receives from the development in the Mackenzie Valley.
Significantly, Bill C-14 would take the Tlicho people out from under the jurisdiction of the Indian Act. However, all federal legislation of general application, such as the Criminal Code, would continue to apply. Like all Canadians, the Tlicho would also be subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as they are now.
The Tlicho constitution outlines the roles and responsibilities of the Tlicho government and protects the democratic rights and freedoms of all those who reside on Tlicho lands. Non-Tlicho residents, for instance, may be appointed or elected to serve on Tlicho institutions. This says a lot about democracy in Tlicho territory within Canada.
The constitution also ensures that the government is politically and financially accountable to its constituents and that all laws that are enacted are open to legal challenges. Furthermore, the constitution enables anyone affected by Tlicho social programs to participate in decision making processes concerning the management and the delivery of that program.
The Tlicho government would replace four local band councils and the treaty No. 11 council now in the region. Tlicho legislative bodies would regulate daily life and have powers such as tax collection.
When the bill becomes law, the Tlicho will play a greater role in the management of land, water and other resources in most of their traditional territory.
The agreement would enable the Tlicho to exercise greater control over a variety of matters affecting their lives, including education, social services and economic development. Under the terms of the agreement, democratically elected Tlicho community governments would decide on matters related to zoning, business licensing and dozens of other local matters.
Although I am not a member of the Tlicho, I am Dene, I have worked closely and diligently with them over the years as a member of Parliament. It thrills me to see the Tlicho people who have entered into a new phase and giving full expression of their longstanding and historical aspiration for self-government and self-sufficiency, while demonstrating the greatest care and respect for their culture. Bill C-14 would help the Tlicho preserve a priceless heritage.
To succeed in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing economy, northerners must first acquire the broad base of knowledge needed to learn and apply advanced skills. I am convinced that the surest way to instill this knowledge is to hire qualified educators, teach relative curricula and maintain a nurturing environment. Bill C-14 would enable the Tlicho to do all these activities.
The Tlicho have long appreciated the importance of education. For centuries, succeeding generations of elders have passed on the skills and traditions of their ancestors. This profound respect for learning has also enabled the Tlicho to adapt swiftly and survive in a harsh climate and an unforgiving landscape.
When Canadian companies first began to investigate the feasibility of constructing a pipeline along the Mackenzie Valley, Tlicho leaders recognized the project would have a dramatic impact on the way of life of the Dene people. The grand chief at the time said that the people would become strong like two people if they went forward, that they would learn to blend elements of northern and southern cultures and take advantage of new technologies and emerging opportunities.
More than three decades ago, Tlicho Chief Jimmy Bruneau called for new schools in his communities to teach a curriculum that balanced aboriginal and non-aboriginal traditions. In 1971 the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School opened in the Tlicho community of Rae-Edzo. These are a people who have always been progressive, who have always looked at the opportunities and have always found a way to go forward with those opportunities.
Within a few years, Canada's first aboriginal school board had assumed control of primary education in all four Tlicho communities. A regional secondary school was added in 1992 and, true to Tlicho tradition, adults can attend the same classes as children. As a result, the number of adult students has climbed steadily.
The Tlicho-controlled schools have had a significant and positive impact on their communities. Thirty-three years ago only a handful of Tlicho had ever graduated from high school. Today there is a significant increase in the number of high school graduates, while dozens of others pursue degrees and diplomas at colleges and universities across Canada.
The Tlicho understand that classroom education plays a vital role in the survival of their culture and the sustainability of their communities. Education enables them to participate fully in the economy and to develop the professionalism, expertise and leadership needed to realize their full potential.
These investments in bicultural education have paid off handsomely in recent years. The Tlicho indeed have become very strong.
Let us consider for a moment the nature of the agreements that the Tlicho secured with multinational corporations. They have secured with Diavik and BHP Billiton, two diamond mining companies that operate near the Tlicho communities. Right in the impact area is where the Tlicho communities are located. Tlicho negotiators ensured that the benefits will continue to flow long after the mines have closed.
The agreements ensure that the Tlicho receive payments into a scholarship fund and that the companies invest in social and recreational programs. The agreements also grant the Tlicho numerous employment and contract opportunities. To take full advantage of these opportunities, the Tlicho established several band owned companies and founded partnerships with several aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups.
One of these partnerships, I & D Management Services, is a consortium of Inuit and Dene groups. The company is a human resource agency and currently supplies more than 100 employees, including 50 aboriginals, to mine projects in the north. While these jobs are important to the short term health of northern communities, of greater significance is the expertise acquired by I & D Management Services. With this expertise, the company will be well placed to provide services to future projects.
The Tlicho have long been keen to collaborate on projects that benefit their people and respect the environment. A run of the river hydro generating station, for instance, was established years ago on the Snare River. The project, a joint venture with Northwest Territories Power Corporation, supplies 7% of the territory's capacity.
In another instance, this one with the private firm of ATCO Frontec, also enables the Tlicho to acquire the expertise needed to initiate and participate in future projects. The two partners established a new company, Tli Cho Logistics, to provide services to northern mines. Today more than 130 people, including approximately 50 Tlicho, work for Tli Cho Logistics. These numbers may have shifted but they are what we are working with today.
The partnership deal is relatively simple yet uniquely advantageous to both parties. The Tlicho own 51% of Tli Cho Logistics while ATCO Frontec controls 49%. During the first few years, ATCO handled nearly all of the new company's administrative and managerial work. Unskilled jobs went to Tlicho people. During the past few years, though, ATCO has helped the Tlicho acquire the skills needed to manage and administer the company.
This incremental transfer of technical skills benefits both parties. ATCO Frontec gets significant interest in a company likely to generate profits for many years to come. The Tlicho acquire expertise and experience that can readily be applied to other ventures.
Bill C-14 would ensure that the Tlicho can expand their model of building community capacity through partnership and education. The bill would grant them the land, legal status and financial resources they need to realize their full potential.
To make the most of this agreement though, the Tlicho must develop a professional class of managers, lawyers, doctors and teachers, and I think they are doing that. They will also need a whole array of other technical expertise. Rather than hire professionals from outside their community the Tlicho are determined to train, develop and employ their own people.
Today the Tlicho support many of their people in post-secondary institutions. In recent years a growing number of Tlicho have returned to their communities, eager to put their training and their diplomas and degrees to work. Drawing from Tlicho culture and their formal studies, current and future graduates will assume leadership positions in their communities and will pass on age old lessons to a new generation of young people.
I would like to highlight the hard work of Mrs. Bertha Rabesca who has worked tirelessly on the Tlicho agreement and is the very first Tlicho person to obtain a law degree. I am very proud of her and congratulate her on leading the way for her people in this regard.
Today is a day to celebrate. We have miles to go on this legislation. We have a lot of work to do collectively in the House. I say to my colleagues in the House that this is an innovative piece of work. This is what the real Canada is all about. It is about allowing people to do for themselves and empowering people with a document that they have helped to build and that they have designed. Let this be the way forward for others.
The Akaitcho chiefs from the Northwest Territories were here today to celebrate with the Tlicho. They also are in the process of negotiating land claims. I would like to see the day when not only the Akaitcho but the Deh Cho First Nations, on whose land 40% of the pipeline will go through, along with the Saulteaux, will see a day such as this for themselves. Our wish for the whole territory is that we complete the agenda of all the claims that are in progress and also the self-government agreements.
Bill C-14 would grant some 3,500 people the power to protect their ancient traditions and control their land, resources and communities. I urge my hon. colleagues to support me and to celebrate with me the work that the Tlicho have done on the way forward for Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act.
I would like at the outset to join my colleague in welcoming the Tlicho dignitaries to the House today. They are indeed a strong community with strong leadership. The questions of which I will speak in my comments relate less to the future direction of the Tlicho and more to the future direction of the government.
As the hon. members opposite are aware, I have a lengthy history in the country as an outspoken advocate in the resolution of both specific and comprehensive claims. In particular, as a private citizen and legal counsel, I served as the negotiator on the tripartite settlement of the Sturgeon Lake treaty land entitlement claim and more recently as a commissioner at the Indian Claims Commission, where I served as co-chair for almost 10 years.
I have been an outspoken advocate on the resolution of claims such as this and I have advocated institutional reform that would see claims resolved through an independent claims tribunal, which has the requisite independence from the federal crown. Through all that time, for nearly 20 years, I have advocated the resolution of claims, but I have also always advocated settlements which are founded on Canada's best long term interests, as well as the best interests of the aboriginal communities concerned.
I regret to say I am unable to support Bill C-14 in its current form. I do not believe that this legislation and the agreement which it brings into law, which is an aboriginal rights agreement pursuant to section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, have been fully negotiated and properly considered from Canada's point of view. The agreement gives rise to a constitutionally protected right. It does not amend the Canadian Constitution, but it does change it in the sense that it gives rise to a section 35 protected right.
I acknowledge that there are many aspects of the Tlicho agreement which are sound and represent a useful step forward in the negotiation of self-government arrangements. Indeed, this arrangement is unique. It is the first of its kind combining a comprehensive land claim with a self-government arrangement.
I would also say that I make no criticism of the lands and resources which have been allocated to the Tlicho under the agreement. I regard the agreement as a generous one. In that respect it will provide the Tlicho with the resources, both financial and otherwise, to build a partnership and a future in our federation.
Unfortunately, these positive aspects of the agreement are lost within a legislative scheme that raises serious national issues. Generally speaking, our concerns arise from the impact which the agreement will have on the governance of the country and the fact that it compromises to some degree Canada's capacity to exercise its international sovereignty.
Our opposition to the agreement is based upon our concerns that the approval of the agreement will impede the future governance of Canada. Furthermore, the passage of the agreement will create a precedent which will significantly erode federal constitutional jurisdiction in the north and also complicate Canada's international authority. In addition, important provisions of the agreement, most notably those pertaining to legislative paramountcy and concurrency and jurisdictional conflict, are internally contradictory and ultimately not decipherable in the agreement itself.
The agreement is the culmination of two separate negotiations. The first is the negotiation of the comprehensive claim which has been carried out pursuant to the federal government's comprehensive claims policy of 1986. In this respect the agreement has some similarities to the Nisga'a agreement. The second is the negotiation of the self-government arrangements which are based upon the 1995 inherent rights policy of the government. In this respect the agreement tracks the Westbank agreement.
The act gives the force of law to the tripartite agreement of August 25, 2003 and it accords that agreement paramountcy over the act itself and over any regulations which are passed pursuant to the act.
It is noteworthy and worth mentioning that the manner in which the agreement and the act have been placed before this Parliament are in effect by way of a notice of ways and means motion. This places Parliament and the House in the difficult position where it is an either all or nothing proposition, either the House effectively approves the legislation adopting the entire 208 page agreement or does not. There is no opportunity for the House to engage in a constructive amendment process.
Although the bill has received little public attention it is almost certainly the most significant such agreement considered by the Canadian government in recent years. The effect of the agreement is to create a third order of aboriginal government with concurrent but paramount authority, jurisdiction over the federal Crown in relation to matters affecting the Tlicho.
Moreover, the resultant Tlicho state is governed by a Tlicho constitution which is arguably paramount to the Canadian charter on the very terms of the constitution itself. The agreement also appears to acknowledge or perhaps confer some degree of international authority upon the Tlicho government. There are a number of provisions in the agreement that I would submit are flawed and debatable from a Canadian public policy perspective.
I will restrict my comments to four reasons why the agreement, as drafted, is damaging to the long term interests of Canada. First, I will refer to the absence of finality; second, to incursions upon Canada's international autonomy; third, jurisdictional confusion; and fourth, confusion surrounding the application of the charter as a primary instrument of Canadian law.
On the absence of finality, the agreement is a generous one in terms of lands, moneys and resources which are provided. It is worth noting that, as my friend said, the Tlicho lands will comprise as I understand it, the largest contiguous block of first nation owned land in Canada.
Unfortunately, as one who has negotiated specific claims, I am having some trouble understanding what concessions Canada has received in return for this.
Chapter 27.6.1 of the agreement provides that the Tlicho will also receive equivalent benefits to those granted in the future to any other aboriginal group in the Northwest Territories, whether by land claims agreement, self-government agreement, tax power exemption or legislation. In other words, the Tlicho agreement is clearly not a final agreement in the same sense that the Nisga'a agreement could be said to be a final agreement.
With respect to incursions upon Canada's international autonomy, the agreement contains several remarkable sections relating to international matters. I would point out for the benefit of the House that what is remarkable about those provisions is that they are a violation of the federal government's own policy relating to the negotiation of comprehensive claims. That policy states that powers relating to Canadian sovereignty are non-negotiable when the government is negotiating comprehensive claims, self-government arrangements.
Chapter 2.9 of the agreement states that it does not limit the authority of the Tlicho to enter into any international, national, interprovincial or interterritorial agreement which suggests by implication that the Tlicho government does have some authority to enter into such agreements. The agreement, moreover, contains the following remarkable provision which is self-explanatory. I refer to chapter 7.13.2:
Prior to consenting to be bound by an international treaty that may affect a right of the Tlicho Government, the Tlicho First Nation or a Tlicho Citizen, flowing from the Agreement, the Government of Canada shall provide an opportunity for the Tlicho Government to make its views known with respect to the international treaty eitherseparately or through a forum.
The agreement carries on in chapter 7.13.4, “to provide for an arbitration mechanism between the Government of Canada and the Tlicho government in respect of international legal obligations and disputes relating thereto”.
Furthermore, the Government of Canada is obligated under chapter 7.13.5 to consult with the Tlicho government before taking positions before an international tribunal in circumstances where the Tlicho government has taken action giving rise to an international legal controversy.
The clear implication of this is that the very jurisdiction that the federal government on its own principles said is non-negotiable has been negotiated and to some degree compromised. So, from the perspective of Canada, this agreement has compromised the international sovereignty of this country.
With respect to jurisdictional confusion, the provisions of the agreement relating to the future governance of this part of the Northwest Territories are, I would submit, poorly drafted and, in several respects, contradictory.
The intent or the effect of the agreement seems to have been to create a new order of aboriginal government with concurrent, although paramount, authority over the federal Crown in relation to matters concerning the Tlicho. The bill is very clear in making the provisions of the agreement paramount over the statute and over any regulations passed under the statute.
Unfortunately, the agreement itself is not internally consistent. It is contradictory, resulting in confusion regarding the concurrent and the paramount authority of the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho government.
The agreement addresses these interjurisdictional issues in at least three different places and prescribes three different distinct concepts of paramountcy. First, in chapters 7.7.2 through to 7.7.4, there is a hierarchy of authority which essentially flows as follows: first, federal legislation of general application; second, territorial legislation implementing Canada's international agreements; third, Tlicho law; fourth, territorial legislation of general application; and fifth, specific federal legislation relating to the Tlicho.
Yet, in chapter 2.8.3, there is a separate concept of paramountcy in that it makes the settlement legislation paramount over the provisions of any other legislation or the Tlicho laws. Yet the definition of settlement legislation in the statute refers to both territorial legislation and federal legislation.
In other words, this provision seems to create quite a differently hierarchy; namely, the following: first, the agreement; second, federal settlement legislation, which is presumably this bill; third, territorial settlement legislation; and fourth, other legislation for Tlicho laws. This is arguably inconsistent with the concepts outlined in chapters 7.7.2 through to 7.7.4.
Third, in chapter 2.10.7, there is yet another legislative hierarchy which applies in the event of an arbitration relating to jurisdiction or power, and it is entirely different. It outlines the following hierarchy: first, federal laws of overriding national importance; second, federal laws implementing international agreement obligations; third, other federal legislation; fourth, territorial legislation implementing Canada's international obligations; fifth, Tlicho laws; and sixth, other territorial legislation.
Certainly, the general scheme of the legislation is that the powers of the Tlicho government to enact laws are concurrent with those of the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
The difficulty, from the provisions I have just outlined, is determining how and when the legislation of the Government of Canada is paramount, and how and when the legislation of the Tlicho government is paramount because there are multiple definitions that apply in the event of conflict. This will not be a good situation in the future as we determine who is responsible for what areas of activity.
Fourth, concerns the application of the charter and, frankly, the adoption of governance structures which may be inconsistent with the charter. The overall scheme created by the bill, the agreement and the Tlicho constitution appears to have implications for the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Tlicho citizens. Although both the agreement and the Tlicho constitution speak of consistency with the charter, they do not say that they are bound by the charter.
It is noteworthy that the Tlicho constitution itself is very clear, in chapter 3.1, that the Tlicho constitution, not the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is the Tlicho nation's highest law. That is clearly expressed in the Tlicho constitution.
Frankly, the entire legislative scheme is quite unclear as to the constitutional relationship between the Constitution Act of Canada, the charter and the Tlicho constitution.
It creates a category of Canadians called Tlicho citizens, and prescribes an electoral system where only Tlicho citizens may be elected as the chief of the Tlicho community government. In addition, at least 50% of the elected councillors must be Tlicho citizens. To be a Tlicho citizen, one must be properly enrolled and registered, as I understand it, as a status Indian of Canada. The agreement clearly creates a segregated, racially based electoral system which does raise charter implications.
The Conservative Party believes that self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada. To ensure fairness and equality, the principles of the charter must apply to all Canadian citizens. Other claims such as the Nisga'a are very clear in stating that the charter binds the aboriginal self-government which is created. This document lacks that clarity.
Let me ensure that the record is clear as to my position. The future settlement of outstanding comprehensive claims must be pursued on the basis of a clear framework which balances the rights of aboriginal Canadians with those of the Canadian nation as a whole and, in particular, negotiated settlements must balance the economic and social needs of aboriginal Canadians with Canada's need for certainty and finality of terms.
Self-government agreements must reflect Canada's need for both efficacy and practicality in our institutional structure and constitutional harmony so as not to impede the future governance of Canada.
In our view the agreement has not been adequately considered from this perspective of Canada's overriding federal and international workability. In our view the agreement fails to satisfactorily balance the economic and social needs of the Tlicho on the one hand with Canada's need for certainty, finality of terms and constitutional workability on the other.
We would emphasize that this agreement has not been properly considered in that respect and that it is not in the best interests of Canada to approve a document which is contradictory on its very face, and which exacerbates the jurisdictional confusion in the north and potentially erodes Canada's federal authority and international autonomy.
The way in which the government has placed this statute, with the agreement attached, before Parliament precludes this honourable House from addressing in any significant way the issues which I have dealt with in my comments, real issues of legal significance. The House of Commons lacks the capacity in any meaningful way to address those issues because of the way in which the legislation has been brought forward.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill , acts which are affected by the content of this new social contract.
Before I get to the heart of the matter, I would like to say that I had the pleasure of welcoming the grand chief of the Tlicho nation, Joe Rabesca, to my parliamentary office. With him were his chief negotiator and members of his council. The grand chief explained to me that the Tlicho people had been waiting for 14 months—ever since the agreement was signed—to close this chapter of their history.
He explained with conviction that the Tlicho people want to continue making progress toward Tlicho self-government. I could see in the grand chief's eyes that same spark of pride that I have seen so often in the eyes of many of Quebec's aboriginal chiefs, as a negotiator for the first nations, looking at the reality of their new social contract, after 10 years of difficult negotiations involving the Tlicho First Nation, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada.
The Tlicho agreement spells out land claims, recognizes and protects harvesting rights, establishes self-government and provides for the necessary funding. I want to assure grand chief Rabesca that—here in the House or in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources—the Bloc Québécois will support this agreement with all its energy and will make certain that the federal legislation is fully consistent with the agreement. The Tlicho people deserve such support.
The Bloc Québécois is completely in favour of this bill to implement the final agreement on the Tlicho. There are three main reasons for this position.
First, the Bloc Québécois is firmly committed to the idea of the first nations' right to self-government, and this agreement gives effect to that right. For this reason alone, we would have to support the underlying principle of this treaty.
Second, 84% of eligible voters were in favour of the Tlicho agreement in a referendum. The sovereignists can hardly oppose it.
Third, this agreement is an excellent example of self-government.
More generally speaking, the Bloc Québécois is concerned about aboriginal claims for self-government. It acknowledges the aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples with a right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions, as well as the right to direct the development of their own identity.
In a word, what we want for Quebeckers we also want for aboriginal peoples.
Bill C-14 is the last stepping stone in giving effect to the tripartite agreement that has been signed. The Tlicho are a people native to Canada whose ancestral lands are in the Northwest Territories. There are some 3,000 members of the Tlicho first nation, which was previously known as the Dogrib.
The Tlicho live on land located between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake, in the heart of the Northwest Territories.
This is the first combined land claim and self-government agreement of its kind in the Northwest Territories.
The Tlicho agreement will bring certainty with respect to the rights, titles and obligations of the Tlicho, who have agreed not to exercise or assert any rights other than Treaty 11 rights and those set out in this agreement.
The Tlicho government will own a 39,000 square kilometre block of land, adjacent to or surrounding the four Tlicho communities, including sub-surface resources.
The Tlicho government will receive about $152 million over 14 years, as well as an annual share of resource royalties from development in the Mackenzie Valley.
Title to most land within the new community limits will be transferred to the Tlicho community governments. Third party interests with legal tenure will be protected.
The Tlicho government will have prescribed law-making powers on Tlicho lands and over Tlicho citizens off Tlicho lands. There will be a public community government in each Tlicho community established by territorial legislation.
A community government will have the power to enact laws relating to standard municipal matters. Subject to certain limitations, Tlicho citizens will have harvesting rights throughout the entire region at all times of the year.
A renewable resources board will be established to manage wildlife in Wekeezhii. The Tlicho government will be the custodian of heritage resources on Tlicho lands.
In consultation with government, the Tlicho government can name or rename lakes, rivers, mountains, and other geographic features and locations wholly within Tlicho lands, or in Tlicho communities, and that new name will be recognized as the official name.
The agreement gives the Tlicho the tools to achieve financial independence. The agreement also gives them more power to protect their lifestyle, stimulate economic growth and improve the welfare of their community.
Given the nature of the bill to give effect to the Tlicho agreement, it seems that the role of Parliament is to debate, and accept or reject, the bill. We need not amend this bill. It was duly endorsed by the three parties that negotiated it. In our view, amending this bill would be a show of paternalism that we want no part of.
We wish to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois endorses the key recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which set out an approach to self-government built on the recognition of Aboriginal governments as a level of government with jurisdiction over questions concerning governance and the welfare of their people.
The entire report was based on recognition of the aboriginal peoples as independent nations occupying a unique place within Canada.
Congratulations to the Tlicho and good luck.
Madam Speaker, to answer what I have been asked would be about the equivalent of giving a three-hour university course, but I will try to be briefer than that.
Negotiations, whether on comprehensive land claims or self-government, are extremely important for nations. The first step is for people to be informed about these two concepts. They have made to understand the concepts used.
For some aboriginal people, the concepts involved in a negotiating agreement are not particularly easy to grasp, particularly when there are untranslatable terms, as is very often the case. Some terms, such as negotiation, do not exist in native languages. The action has to be described, and the description depends on the person doing the describing.
The other important element is for people to choose what they want. Often there is not an innate trust in their negotiators. They have been had on so many occasions that they are now very cautious. People want to know what is going on and so they insist that the negotiator explain very clearly what he will be asking for at the negotiating table.
I will skip a bit here, as otherwise this will get too long. So, when we get to the negotiations per se, based on a negotiation plan and a communication plan, an effort is made to get each community involved. If there are 10 communities taking part, then there may be 10 representatives who will follow the whole process along with the negotiator. After that, of course, people have to be kept regularly informed.
So, when the negotiating process has taken 10 years, people think that this is terribly long. We know, however, that often this is not an area in which aboriginal people come with a built-in expertise, so there can be a lot of problems and it can take a lot of time.
I remember an occasion on the Lower North Shore where I often said that we were working for the children of our grandchildren. Now, given the aboriginal approach of living for the moment, such a concept are not easily got across.
The negotiator's job is more than mere negotiation. It involves social animation as well.
Finally, gradually, things get accepted, after information meetings are held. Then the last step is a referendum.
Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party to speak to Bill C-14. I am especially pleased to represent my party in voicing our views on the bill because it deals with a fundamental issue that is very dear to my heart, and that is the eventual emancipation of the aboriginal people.
The bill would give force and effect to an agreement that was laboriously negotiated among the parties to deal with the self-governance and land claims of the Tlicho people in the Northwest Territories. I am heartened today to hear the views of my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois and the views shared by my colleagues in the Liberal Party as they speak in favour of the bill and in favour of the House of Commons recognizing the legitimate aspirations and goals of freedom and self-governance of these people.
Let there be no doubt that the Tlicho people meet all the tests of being recognized, not only as a nation but as a people. They have a language, a rich culture, heritage and tradition. They had and have land and a land base that pre-dates Confederation and pre-dates European contact on this continent by not only hundreds of years but by millenniums.
I am pleased to voice the views of the New Democratic Party that the bill should have speedy passage through the House of Commons at this stage and be sent to committee where I hope it also gets favourable treatment.
However I was disappointed to hear some of the views and criticisms put forward by the representative of the official opposition, the member for Calgary Centre-North. I feel like I am having déjà vu because one of the proudest moments of my career as a member of Parliament to date was being able to advocate and speak on behalf of the Nisga'a deal, which was the only other contemporary or modern day treaty signed in recent history that dealt with self-governance and a land base.
It was our pleasure to see that bill through. It was one of the proudest moments of my career to stand and vote in favour of that bill but we also had to stand 472 extra times because the Reform Party of the day opposed self-governance for aboriginal people. The Reform Party of the day opposed the right to self-determination for aboriginal people. The Reform Party and later the Alliance Party did everything it could to block the Nisga'a deal, mostly using political mischief by moving 472 amendments to the bill which were clearly designed to block, delay and stall.
I am disappointed to see a repeat of this in that we are getting opposition to what should be a unanimously accepted bill. I am not convinced that we as members of the House of Commons should even have a right, frankly, to interfere with the passage of the bill. The bill was negotiated between the Tlicho people, the Government of the Northwest Territories and federal government representatives, and the agreement has been struck.
The bill we are passing today would simply give force and effect to an agreement that has already been made. Therefore it would be an extension of the paternalism that has plagued aboriginal people for any of us here today to start cracking open this agreement to say that we should not be allowing Indians this much land or this much money. That is not our place. It is not for a bunch of white guys in suits to make those rulings.
This has been a long process of very sensitive and delicate negotiations. Agreements were ratified in a laborious and comprehensive way of all the four communities within the traditional area of the Tlicho people. At this point in time they simply need the recognition and the enabling legislation for that agreement to be manifest in full force and effect in the traditional territory of the Tlicho people
It seems to me that Tom Flanagan is still writing aboriginal policy for the Canadian Alliance Party. Progressive Conservatives must be rolling over in their collective graves, if that party is in fact dead, to hear the opposition being put toward the bill today. It is sad.
The mindset among those who are opposed to the emancipation of aboriginal people is a mindset that is found in the title of the book by Mel Smith, a senior advisor on aboriginal affairs for the Canadian Alliance, called Our Home or Native Land. In the book he challenges the whole idea of any kind of a land claim by stating that it would create a third order of government that would somehow have primacy over federal government laws. That is complete fearmongering and we heard 20 minutes of that fearmongering today.
The Canadian Alliance would have us believe that somehow this modern day treaty would have primacy on international affairs, that this new first nation would actually be out there representing themselves and having primacy over the federal government. All of that is carefully pointed out in the bill, if anyone would take the time to read the actual contents. There is no question which order of government has primacy. There is no question what relatively minor local bylaws and things the Tlicho people will have authority over.
The taxation rights that are within the bill are what is possibly the most meaningful financial component of the bill. Because taxation is a spending matter, the bill has to be preceded by a ways and means motion. That is parliamentary procedure. There is nothing sinister about a ways and means motion introduced by a minister to precede spending matters. That is the way this place works.
I have had to sit here for seven years now and listen to some pretty extreme views from the Reform Party, then the Canadian Alliance Party, and now we are seeing fairly extreme views in opposition to the bill from the new incarnation, the Conservative Party. I remember the terrible view shared by the aboriginal affairs critic when I first arrived here, who said that living on an Indian reserve was like living on a south sea island being supported by a rich uncle. That was the enlightened viewpoint of the Canadian Alliance of that time.
Other people have said that just because we did not have Indian wars in this country does not mean that they are not a vanquished people, otherwise why would they live on those Godforsaken reserves we have put them on. We can look that up in Hansard. Those were the views shared by the Alliance members then and their views do not seem to be much more enlightened today.
I do not think anyone should be standing in the way of a self-government agreement that would actually see a people come out from underneath the tyranny of the Indian Act. We should be celebrating this in the House of Commons today, not finding ways to throw obstacles and barriers in the way.
I do not need to tell anyone that the Indian Act is outdated and paternalistic legislation that is unworthy of any modern democracy. Any time a group of people, such as the Tlicho and the Dogrib Treaty 11 territory, can find their way to come out from under that oppressive document, we should be celebrating that fact.
Those who are not steeped in the issue of aboriginal affairs probably are not aware that the Indian Act essentially strips people's rights away. I heard the hon. member for Calgary Centre-North say that we do not want to put in place a race based set of privileges, as if the Tlicho people will now have extra privileges that other white Canadians do not have. In actual fact, the obnoxious race based issue is the fact that the Indian Act is still dominating and controlling the lives of a million Canadians in the year 2004. That is the real tragedy and that is the race based issue that must be addressed.
We are satisfied that there has been a thorough and comprehensive education and then ratification process of all the parties involved in the land claim and self-government agreement. I know it was an exhaustive tour throughout the territory to reach every last resident within that territory for, first, education, then consultation and finally, ratification of the agreement as we see it today.
Let us not kid ourselves. There was a great deal of give and take in that negotiation process. I do not believe anybody got all that they wanted out of this package, such as is the nature of negotiations. There was a lot of compromise and cooperation.
The only thing we need to know is that all the players, all the people directly affected by this agreement, are comfortable with it. That includes the government of the Northwest Territories, the diamond mines that are resident in that area, owners of the resource properties there, the federal government negotiators and, most important, the representatives the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council.
We find no fault in the bill. We feel it is our duty and our obligation to take that information from the authorities who are directly affected by it and do everything we can to see speedy passage.
We have a window of opportunity here. This could be a very brief minority government. It would be an injustice and terribly unfair if we let this issue slide or if we somehow ground it to a halt to where it could not pass within the timeframe. We might be back in election as early as February or March of next year, God forbid. This is what we are told. That gives us very few sitting days to see Bill C-14 get through this stage in the House of Commons, committee, third reading, Senate, et cetera. We all know that whole process is fraught with pitfalls when there is political mischief afoot.
We are happy that the Nisga'a people saw social justice within their time. That was a century-long negotiating process where the Nisga'a people first took their grievances down to the parliament buildings in Victoria in a dugout canoe and were turned away at the door of the legislature.
It was a very emotional process, for me at least, as we went through the steps in this House. They were welcomed into the House of Commons by most of the political parties here. The whole process was welcomed and the final treaty was in fact ratified.
These modern-day treaties are difficult to put together because they contain two components, as has been rightfully pointed out. It is not just a land claim. It is a self-governance agreement. With that comes the richness of the idea of self-determination and a recognition of a whole people, the language and culture, the right to make laws and to chart their own destiny. That is what is really exciting and really heartening about this whole process.
Without going into a great deal of technical details, I do not think it is necessary to know what the intentions of the NDP caucus will be in association with the bill. We are satisfied that it meets the tests for which we would look. It is a deal that has been driven by the people it affects and there has been natural justice involved in the consultation and the ratification process. The people have spoken and I believe it is up to us to honour the message they send to us. This is an idea whose time has come and we want to see it recognized and implemented in this session of Parliament.
The bill has the support of the NDP caucus.
Madam Speaker, I think those guys killed the Progressive Conservatives. They do not seem to be evident in that party at all.
The Tlicho government will have a very defined range of law-making powers. Those are clearly spelled out in the agreement. The primacy as to who has the authority over what matters has been very carefully laid out and thought out by others in the 10-year-long agonizing process, while this group of people negotiated their way out from under the Indian Act.
Ultimately, we should be all work toward the elimination of the Indian Act. It is unworthy of any western democracy. It is an international embarrassment that we still have the Minister of Indian Affairs in complete control over the lives of first nations people, the aboriginal people of the country, without agreements such as this.
I do not know if the hon. member is aware. People cannot avail themselves of the resources on their traditional territory or on their reserve. The Indian Act spells out what things first nations people can use for economic development, such as sand, gravel, mud, moss and a few things. It does not say anything about gold, oil, gas, ores of any kind, molybdenum. None of those things are cited.
Until an agreement like this is put into force, first nations people have no hope of being able to develop their way out of the third world conditions in which they find themselves, on reserves they were placed on by virtue of the Indian Act.
This is why agreements like this are so heartening and give hope and optimism to generations of aboriginal people. There are other outstanding claims grinding their way through in an agonizingly slow process. We are critical of the federal government for not opening the tables and being more generous at the tables in view of Supreme Court rulings as they pertain to aboriginal title and use of resources, et cetera. In fact the government is not paying any attention to Delgamuukw, Sparrow, Corbiere and any number of recent rulings. The government is bound by policy directives that date from the 1970s when it is at the bargaining table on comprehensive land claims.
When one actually gets to this point, it is almost a miracle if it gets here in spite of all the obstacles thrown in its way, not the least of which is the wholesale opposition to the idea of self-government articulated by the Reform Party, by the Canadian Alliance Party and by some members of the current Conservative Party. They seem to feel that by setting up independent first nations and self-governance, that sets up a third order of government that will somehow compete or have primacy over the legislative authorities of the House of Commons, or provincial legislatures or even municipal by-laws. That is simply not true.
This is tantamount to fearmongering to imply that by passing this bill it will somehow pass something that has primacy over the House of Commons and elected representatives here. We still have all the power, so there is nothing to worry about ultimately. We have afforded this group of aboriginal people to develop their own traditional land and traditional territory and to get out from under the oppression of the Indian Act.
Madam Speaker, I am truly honoured to voice my support for Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act.
This legislation will establish a new and respectful relationship between Canada and the Tlicho. I am also confident that the agreement this bill brings into force will foster economic and social development in the Tlicho communities, which are progressive communities.
I visited them in the north over a year ago. I met with leaders and saw some of the development. I also visited some of the diamond mines. On the human resources development aspect, we have an increase of aboriginal skills in the workforce which is good for all people in Canada and the economy of one of our northern territories.
The Tlicho are Dene people who live in four communities to the north and west of Yellowknife. They are an ancient people who have thrived in the north's harsh climate through a mix of adaptation, determination and cooperation.
For more than 10 years the Tlicho have been involved in a comprehensive process of negotiation and consultation. We know that this process is one that is not always easy, but it is a testament to the three parties involved that they have come before this House looking for the final ratification by one of the parties.
The agreement at the core of Bill C-14 is the fruit of a long and important process. I think the level of the debate here is important. We need to help those who are seeking answers, but at the same time I am very confident that we have those answers.
This legislation comes at an auspicious time in Canada's history. Clearly, there is a new will among government leaders to resolve longstanding aboriginal issues. To address these issues effectively, the Prime Minister has restructured the top echelons of government, establishing a Privy Council Office secretariat and a cabinet committee, as well as appointing a parliamentary secretary, all devoted to the aboriginal affairs portfolio. Certainly this Parliament, this House and the other place, continue to be charged with this very important work.
A few months ago Ottawa hosted the historic Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Round Table. During the round table, representatives of dozens of governments, agencies and organizations from across Canada held focused and productive discussions. The success of these discussions inspired the parties to continue to collaborate on a range of aboriginal issues at several sectoral tables.
To track progress made on the issues, the Prime Minister pledged to introduce an annual report card in Parliament. I think this is another measurement. It is not Parliament, but it is another parallel process which has the ability to include many people, many experts from the aboriginal community.
While we recognize that aboriginal issues such as housing, health and economic development are complex and multifaceted, the government's overarching goal is clear. The goal is to ensure that aboriginal peoples are able to participate fully and equally in Canadian society.
Accessing the mainstream economy, for instance, has long been difficult for many aboriginal communities. These communities face significant obstacles, such as underdeveloped infrastructure, limited access to venture capital and a lack of entrepreneurial expertise. Delivering effective social services and providing relevant education have also been challenging.
Some of these communities have met that challenge and will continue and actually do better in the future.
Nevertheless, in recent years, a growing number of aboriginal communities have found innovative ways of overcoming these obstacles. Generally, their solutions involve partnerships with governments, private business and other communities.
For example, the Tlicho have leveraged a series of partnerships to make their communities more prosperous, progressive and sustainable. Today the Tlicho operate numerous joint ventures in a range of economic sectors. They run their own schools and deliver social services through an agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories.
I remember my colleague asking a question about the Government of the Northwest Territories and whether this language was one that was used. I believe it is used. In fact, it is one of the seven or eight languages that are officially used in the Government of the Northwest Territories.
The Government of the Northwest Territories unanimously ratified this agreement. I remember being there over a year ago and talking to some members of that territorial government. They were encouraged and excited about the prosperity and economic development that this would bring to their region.
Now we are here. They want to strike a new deal with the people of Canada, a deal that will put them once again firmly in control of their own destiny. For centuries the Tlicho were a self-sufficient people in charge of their own affairs. Given the remote location of their communities, there was little contact with southerners. All of that changed though when plans got underway to develop oil and gas reserves in the north.
Recognizing that their traditional lifestyle was threatened, the Tlicho chiefs embarked on an ambitious project to help their people face an uncertain future. Instead of fearing the unknown, the Tlicho have seen an opportunity to better understand both the culture of the north and that of the south. This new philosophy has inspired Chief Jimmy Bruneau to coin a phrase describing the Tlicho people as being as strong as two peoples.
These were not just words. In the early 1970s a Tlicho school was built in the village of Rae to teach a bicultural curriculum. Lessons were based on both aboriginal and non-aboriginal traditions. A few years later the Tlicho took another progressive step by establishing a development company to sponsor private businesses. Rather than focus on profits, these businesses trained and employed Tlicho people. We have to celebrate the innovation, the thoughtfulness and the planning that this type of step brought to a community.
Twenty years later when diamonds were discovered on traditional Tlicho lands, the wisdom of Chief Bruneau's approach quickly became apparent. Seeing the diamond mines as a valuable opportunity for the Tlicho, they drew on the bicultural education of their students and the entrepreneurial expertise they had acquired through band owned companies to make the development of this resource work for them.
So, the Tlicho negotiated with the Diavik and BHP Billiton mining companies impact and benefit agreements providing for access to jobs, contracts, training programs and scholarships.
The Tlicho people have also invested in sustaining their vision of being a modern people who remain rooted in their traditions. Revenues from Diavik and BHP Billiton have been invested in Tlicho communities, in youth groups, in sports programs, in beautification projects and physical infrastructure.
Alongside these progressive ventures, they have continued to support traditional activities such as trails of our ancestors, an annual 10 day canoe trip. The trip, led by the Tlicho elders, involves up to 200 participants each year. People of all ages paddle and camp together on traditional waterways and lands. They fish and hunt together, renewing their age old connection to the land that is now providing for them in new ways.
Bill C-14 honours this connection by granting the Tlicho people ownership and control of their traditional lands. The legislation before us represents a momentous opportunity not only for the Tlicho but also for Canada. It will effectively give the Tlicho people access to the resources they need to sustain their communities. Bill C-14 is also an opportunity for the government to send a clear message to aboriginal people across the country that we are serious about working with them to support their vision of a better future for their families and their communities.
Clearly, finalizing land claims and self-government agreements represent major strides toward these goals. These agreements enable aboriginal communities to contribute to the economy in ways that honour their traditions, languages and cultures. For evidence of the value of these agreements we need look no further than Nunavut or the Nisga'a nation.
I said earlier in the House that I was involved in the Nisga'a nation agreement. It was the first embedded agreement of self-government and land claims. This is the second. It really is an honour and a special moment to be a participant in both of these. There have been other agreements, but I feel that we are creating history in this chamber. These are not words; these are not picking apart the legalities. These agreements are building a country. They are a vision of the future that engages in partnership with respect, cooperation and compromise.
The Tlicho people did not get everything they wanted in this agreement. Perhaps they did not get everything that Canada or the territory originally put on the table. Agreements like this are real negotiations after education and consultation. Compromises are made over time. At the end of the day, this agreement, with all of its vast boundaries, has overlapping agreements that were done in a manner with which all the neighbours are happy. That is not true of every agreement that has been brought before the House. This is a vast boundary and to my knowledge all the neighbours are happy.
Those negotiations were done in good faith. We can talk about that process and implementation in this chamber. Like an international treaty, this is a ratification process. These negotiations with the Tlicho were done in good faith and with clean hands. The Government of Canada has laid these negotiations before this chamber. The Tlicho people voted in their communities with an outstanding outcome. It was better than the outcome of my election and probably better than the election of some other people in this place. It was a true representation and ratified by the people most affected.
The respected financial services firm of Grant Thornton conducted a thorough review of recent developments in British Columbia: agreements in principle, court decisions and government policies. The study concluded that treaties deliver a large net positive financial and economic benefit for all residents of British Columbia.
We could probably extrapolate that. When certainty is given through agreements, economic ability to move forward is also given because of the consequences of not really knowing a boundary, a resource, the process of government, the people we are dealing with, or who has the jurisdiction. These tables have been put into an agreement which has been ratified two ways now. We are the third party here.
We are in a special position. We will debate the bill in this chamber, but then it will move to committee. I, as parliamentary secretary, together with members of our government will help other people who have concerns to understand. Sometimes at the end of the day, maybe that understanding will not be there. However, we will make our best effort to push for that understanding because it is in the best interests of Canadians to move these ratifications forward and to complete our task.
It should come as no surprise that there is only one economy and the more aboriginal people who participate in and contribute to the economy, the better off all Canadians will be.
The Tlicho people have been preparing to implement this agreement for up to 10 years. They have completed related accords with their aboriginal neighbours, secured the support of the territorial legislature in Yellowknife, and drafted and ratified a constitution. They have demonstrated a remarkable ability to negotiate mutually beneficial deals with partners from both the private and public sectors. It is now our turn to recognize these considerable accomplishments by establishing in law this new and respectful relationship with the Tlicho.
I sincerely urge all of my hon. colleagues to support Bill C-14. There will be time for them to make inquiries. There will be a way that we can strive to provide the answers they seek. However, I hope we all do this in the good faith that is needed to take this forward for the benefit of all Canadians.
Madam Speaker, over the course of time we will be able to discuss many questions and I am prepared to speak privately with any members who are not satisfied with the answers in the House.
The Tlicho bill has two main features. It gives effect and force of law to the Tlicho agreement and the tax treatment agreement. I should also mention that it makes related and consequential amendments to other federal acts, namely the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, the Access to Information Act, the Northwest Territories Act, the Northwest Territories Waters Act, the Canada Lands Surveys Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment act, the Lobbyists Registration Act, the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act and the Privacy Act, just to name a few. It covers many different areas.
The hon. member would know that there are four main communities within the territory and these governments would have elections. There is a methodology that the new government of the Tlicho would take over from those community governments that already exist.
I am sure the hon. member knows that currently the residents in this area are covered under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and there are specific provisions in the agreement that say that the charter will apply. When that charter applies, it means that it applies as equally to a member in the community of Tlicho as it does to myself. Therefore, we have equal protection afforded under that piece.
Within the areas of this agreement, in regard to which legislation is concurrent or which legislation has the higher priority, federal laws do. In fact, with respect to international treaties, there are many sections in this bill, and I could go through them and I am sure I will be going through them with my hon. colleague, the critic for the official opposition. I look forward to that exercise because we do have the answers, but I do not denigrate from the questions being asked.
We look forward to this opportunity because the Tlicho community wants to say to all of Canada that it wants to join Canada in the way that celebrates its heritage, celebrates its culture and celebrates its contribution. In self-government, as the hon. member understands, is that ability to meld the two together and go from an economic perspective.
I have heard the phrase from the hon. member's party on the question of the Tlicho agreement that it creates a third order of government. It is important that I spend a moment on that question. There is no Supreme Court of Canada recognition of a third order of government. Agreements are negotiated within Canada's existing constitutional framework and are not negotiated as a third order of government.
The Tlicho agreement addresses the aboriginal rights of the Tlicho and the rights set out in the agreement will be protected under section 35.1 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Section 35.1 of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes and affirms existing aboriginal and treaty rights. Court cases like Delgamuukw have clarified the nature of aboriginal rights and the protection that section 35 provides; however, they have not defined the full scope of the rights.
Moreover, the courts have continued to encourage a resolution of the issues through negotiation. That is what we have done here rather than litigation. We could fill our courts for a long time at great expense to everybody or we could come to the table, and negotiate fair and equitable agreements that recognize the inherent rights of the original inhabitants of our land. The Tlicho agreement has been negotiated to achieve a constitutional objective that is enshrined in section 35.1.
I hope that begins to address some of these concerns. I feel very comfortable with this, but I would also be very happy to engage any member in this chamber who does not have that same level of comfort. I know that the process in this chamber provides us that time.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.
I rise today to speak to Bill C-14, the Tlicho treaty. Madam Speaker, as this is my maiden speech in the House of Commons, I hope you will indulge me as I pay tribute to my constituents and my riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.
Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River covers more than half the geographic area of Saskatchewan, approximately 58% of the province's land mass. It is an enormous area, slightly larger than the country of Germany and a bit smaller than the country of France. I would like to sincerely thank the constituents of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River and give them my commitment that I will do the very best job that I can on their behalf in Ottawa.
It is difficult to determine exactly, but I think my riding contains more first nations than any other riding in the country. There are over 30 first nations in my riding. It is also difficult to determine such things, but with over 60% of my riding's population being of aboriginal descent, I represent if not the most, then close to the most number of people of aboriginal descent of any member of Parliament.
I grew up in northern Saskatchewan. My home community is Meadow Lake. Many of my closest friends are aboriginal. As a law student my primary area of study was on the law surrounding first nations legal issues. I believe my background and experiences have given me some insights to allow me to speak to this issue with at least some understanding, based on practical experience and theoretical knowledge as well.
Before delving into the nuts and bolts of the treaty, I think it prudent to first give some background and context to the agreement that is before the House. Bill C-14 ratifies the Tlicho agreement signed August 25, 2003 between the Tlicho and the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories.
The bill will give the Tlicho people ownership of approximately 39,000 square kilometres between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. Under the terms of the bill the Tlicho also acquire participatory regulatory authority over a much larger area. The bill is unique in that it is both a comprehensive land claim settlement and a self-government agreement. The agreement is precedent setting in both respects and will guide future claim settlements and self-government provisions across the north.
It should be noted as well that although the act itself is relatively short, it would bring into force the tripartite agreement of August 25, 2003 and would accord this agreement paramountcy over the act itself. In other words, approval of the act would bring into law the very complex provisions set out in the 208 page agreement, as well as the shorter tax treatment agreement.
My hon. colleague from Calgary Centre-North has already pointed out in a very able way the general reasons behind my party's opposition to the bill. Generally speaking, our concerns arise from the impact that the agreement would have on general issues of governance, more specifically on the country's ability to exercise our international sovereignty.
We are also wary that the agreement would erode federal constitutional jurisdiction in the north and unduly complicate federal jurisdiction with regard to international agreements entered into by Canada. In addition, important provisions of the agreement, most notably those pertaining to legislative concurrency, paramountcy and jurisdictional conflict are internally contradictory and in many ways indecipherable.
I also have concerns that the agreement gives the Tlicho constitution a superior position in law to that of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Tlicho constitution is intended to be consistent with the charter, but a close reading shows that the citizens or persons to whom Tlicho laws apply will have rights and freedoms “no less than those set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”, a position of legal superiority.
Another area of concern I have with this treaty is the absence of finality. One of the points the agreement attempts to stress is that the agreement is indeed a final agreement, but article 27.6.1 shows that this is actually not the case. This article provides that the Tlicho would receive equivalent benefits to those granted in the future to any other aboriginal group in the Northwest Territories, whether by land claims agreements, self-government agreement, tax power exemption or legislation. This agreement is not really a final agreement at all.
I also have concerns about the remarkable provisions in the agreement dealing with international matters. Article 2.9 of the agreement states that it does not limit the authority for the Tlicho to enter into “international, national, interprovincial and interterritorial agreements”. This makes it clear, by implication, that the Tlicho government has the authority to enter into international agreements, an almost unprecedented situation for a non-state actor in any nation on the planet.
Further to this, article 7.13.2 of the agreement states as follows:
Prior to consenting to be bound by an international treaty that may affect a right of the Tlicho Government, the Tlicho First Nation or a Tlicho Citizen, flowing from the Agreement, the Government of Canada shall provide an opportunity for the Tlicho Government to make its views known with respect to the international treaty either separately or through a forum.
This provision in essence creates a duty in law to consult. What is not made clear is what would happen if the Tlicho government made a determination that it is not in support of the relevant international treaty. Will the government be forced to make changes to the international agreement? This is a question to which there is no clear answer in the treaty. No clear answer has been provided by the government as well.
A further area of concern to me is with regard to the issues of jurisdictional confusion engendered by the agreement.
The act is clear in making the provisions of the agreement paramount over the act itself and over many regulations passed under the act. Unfortunately, the agreement itself appears to be internally contradictory, resulting in confusion regarding the concurrent and paramount authority of the Government of Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho government.
The agreement addresses these interjurisdictional issues in at least three places and prescribes three distinct paramountcy provisions. Articles 7.7.2 through 7.7.4 prescribe the following hierarchy of authority: one, federal legislation of general application; two, territorial legislation implementing Canadian international agreements; three, Tlicho laws; four, territorial legislation of general application; and five, specific federal legislation.
In other words, Tlicho laws prevail over territorial laws and also over federal laws of specific application passed by this House, thereby rendering legislation passed by Parliament subordinate to laws passed by the Tlicho.
Article 2.8.3 introduces yet another concept of paramountcy in that it makes the settlement legislation paramount over the provisions of any other legislation or Tlicho laws. Yet the definition of settlement legislation refers to both territorial legislation and federal legislation.
In this hierarchy, the agreement is paramount over federal settlement legislation, territorial settlement legislation and Tlicho laws, creating a situation of apparent inconsistency with articles 7.7.2 and 7.7.4.
A third legislative hierarchy is prescribed in article 2.10.7 that applies in the event of arbitration. This provision indicates the following hierarchy: one, federal laws of overriding national importance; two, federal laws implementing international agreement obligations; three, other federal legislation; four, territorial legislation implementing international Canadian obligations; five, Tlicho laws; six, other territorial legislation.
The general scheme of article 7.7.1 is that the Tlicho government has the power to enact laws that are concurrent with those of the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest territories.
The problem, which I think is very apparent on a close reading of this agreement, is that there seem to be multiple definitions of how to determine paramountcy in the event of conflict.
For these reasons, I will be voting against the bill.
Madam Speaker, I congratulate the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for his tremendous presentation.
I think all of us in the House will agree that his youthfulness will not be a detriment but in fact an asset to him, as will the fact that he has a large population of aboriginal people within his constituency for whom he has a heart and with whom he has lived in close proximity. As he brings this experience plus his legal understanding to bear, we will all learn from what he has to offer.
The record in the House clearly shows that the Conservative Party of Canada has in the past supported, not just the notion of self-government agreements but self-government agreements themselves. I would refer to our not too distant past when we endorsed and encouraged other members in the House to support the West Bank agreement. We are also on record as wanting to proceed with caution in any type of legislation, not just self-government legislation but any type of legislation.
I would like to read the first phrase of Bill C-14. It is sobering force to realize what we are talking about. It is quite simple in how the bill is brought forward. If passed the bill will give effect to a lands claim and self-government agreement. A claim, in and of itself, does not mean that all the attributes of that claim should have full force, whether it is a claim of an individual citizen, a province, the federal government or aboriginal group. If the bill is passed everything they claim will become reality. That is why we need to approach this in a sobering fashion.
I congratulate the people who worked on the self-government agreement. We congratulate the notion of raising one's own revenues and the notion of hydro power development, and that the Tlicho people would one day even see self-sufficiency on their own lands and to actually at some point be able to add into the electrical grid in the Northwest Territories. Those things are all very commendable.
I congratulate the writers of the bill, which is relatively simple. It has 14 sections. It can be managed in terms of trying to get our heads around it and trying to grasp it.
However there are problems that must be addressed, such as the fact that there is no finality to this particular deal. If other self-government agreements were to take place that appeared, in the eyes of the Tlicho people, to be more generous, however they might want to define it or for which this particular bill provides, then the whole thing could open up again. They would automatically assume unto themselves elements that may be more generous in other acts which could follow this one. That could lead to a devastating economic spiral and a precedent that I say we should not countenance in terms of this type of legislation. The aspect that there is no finality to this agreement is extremely problematic.
The question of international jurisdiction is one that cannot be ignored. There cannot be any question about who has international jurisdiction in our country.
Our Constitution is very clear. We have areas of federal, provincial and individual jurisdiction. Our Constitution is quite clear and yet we still have problems.
As we saw yesterday and again today, the disagreement between the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of Newfoundland is linked to only one provision of the Constitution, the only dealing with equalization. The problem however is so serious that it put a stop to a first ministers meeting. All of that because of one small provision in our Constitution.
Therefore, we do not need another level of government meddling in foreign affairs.
International relations have become very complex. In fact, we are now in a dispute with another European country, which is claiming one of our islands in northern Canada, and we have yet to resolve this issue.
Can you imagine the problem with a bill like this that is vague about foreign affairs!
It is too big a risk to have a cloud hanging over an area as important as international jurisdiction. In, supposedly, some of the simplest areas of demarcation between federal and provincial jurisdictions, we already see great complexities, discussions that rage on by the hour and by the days and weeks in this House between the provinces and the federal government. To suggest that we should put another level of jurisdiction into this constitutional morass is simply untenable.
I have nothing against the good people who want to see this agreement go ahead. I am pleased that this agreement removes much of the jurisdiction of the Indian Act. We are all agreed that the act no longer serves and it can even be questioned whether it ever did truly served the aboriginal people.
There are positives here but the negatives are too big to ignore. I want to see the Tlicho people move on to prosperity, to independent living and to acquire their aspirations. We all want to see that happen.
Whether we are talking about prosperity or about poverty, those two conditions do not exist by accident. Prosperity happens to an individual or to a group of people when certain principles are applied. Poverty reigns when certain principles are not followed. We want to see the principles that have been applied to Canadians applied to these people because over the years Canadians, relatively speaking, to the rest of the world we have prosperity.
Certainly we are not free of problems but compared to the rest of the world we are a prosperous country. That did not happen just by accident. We do not have to feel guilty about that. Certain principles were in place that allowed individuals to move ahead, to be innovative, to pursue an education, to pursue enterprise, to become innovative and to actually create wealth for themselves.
We want to see the same principles applied here, which is why we have concerns with some of the elements in the bill. We would like to work with the government to see those addressed so that the aspirations of these good people can be achieved.