The House resumed from October 29 consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-14, the Tlicho act, which would give the force of law to an agreement between the federal government, the Northwest Territories government and the Tlicho First Nation that was signed on August 25, 2003.
The agreement gives the Tlicho First Nation ownership of approximately 39,000 square kilometres between Great Slave Lake and the Great Bear Lake and participatory-regulatory authority over even a larger area.
The agreement is unique in that it involves both a land claims settlement and a self-government agreement. It creates a precedent for the approximately 600 first nations that may seek similar provisions in their own agreements.
Every day in our opening prayers we pray that this Parliament will be given the power and wisdom to make good laws and wise decisions. That is what we all want in the House. That is what we want for our country and for people.
While the Conservative Party of Canada supports the settlement of the Tlicho land claims and a self-government agreement, we have concerns about five issues in the agreement. I go back to the ability of Parliament to make good laws and wise decisions. I want to go over the five issues in Bill C-14 that we find of particular concern.
First, it is not a final agreement. It contains a clause to reopen negotiations if another Northwest Territories aboriginal group negotiates terms that are attractive to the Tlicho in a future agreement. It fails to do its most basic job, which is to achieve a final agreement.
The fundamental goal of any agreement should be that it has some finality. In negotiating a treaty settlement and a land claims and self-government settlement, what benefit could it be to Canada to have open-ended agreements in force that could be reopened at any time? In this case, in the event that another Northwest Territories first nation negotiated an agreement with the federal government that was seen by the Tlicho band to be better than the one it signed, under the terms of this agreement it could simply reopen negotiations. That is not the way to have a good agreement that would promote the unity and bonding of our country. An agreement must contain terms that are good for everyone involved in the agreement, not just the Tlicho First Nation, but indeed all the people of Canada.
We do not want to carry on a history that has been carried on by the Liberal government where it introduces legislation that does more to foster divisions in the country than to promote unity. That is what the Liberal government has been doing for decades. It is astounding when we hear the Liberal members talk about the mosaic of Canada and how we need to ensure that the laws we introduce are fair to everybody so that we can stand as a strong united government.
The Liberal government today and previous Liberal governments have introduced legislation again and again that promotes and fosters division, more than it tries to unify the country. They should be ashamed of their record. This is just another example.
Hon. Wayne Easter: That is not correct. You know better than that.
Mr. Richard Harris: The members do not like to hear the truth. The history of Liberal legislation over the past several decades shows very clearly the fostering of divisions by the government and previous Liberal governments. They do not like it but they cannot deny it.
What is astounding is that Bill C-14 appears to recognize the right of the Tlicho First Nation to enter into international agreements and, in some cases, to stand in the way of Canada entering into international agreements. The agreement states that it does not limit the authority of the Tlicho to enter into international, national, interprovincial and interterritorial agreements. Further, it requires that the Government of Canada consult with the Tlicho First Nation before Canada enters into an international agreement that may affect the right of the Tlicho government, the Tlicho First Nation or Tlicho citizens. That is very broad and disturbing language and puts a remarkable restriction on the constitutionality reserved for a federal government.
We in the Conservative Party believe that the broad language of the agreement could impede the power of the federal government to enter into international agreements and agreements with the provinces in the event that the Tlicho First Nation were to believe that in some way it could affect its nation or one of its citizens.
We do not need agreements in this country that could be tied up in court challenges on an endless basis, which is why we must be very clear and concise with the language we use. We must do our best to ensure that words like “may, should, could, possibly, perhaps” or “maybe” cannot be applied to the language of the agreement and cause challenges to it. Our obligation to the people of Canada is to ensure that every piece of legislation or agreement that we enter into with the provinces, the first nations or any other peoples or territories do not use terms that cause doubt about the agreement that may lead to challenges on and on in the years to come.
The Conservative Party of Canada looks for agreements that have distinct language and very clear terms that should not be able to be challenged because of broad language that may cause people to believe they can interpret the language for their own terms. We have all the abilities to ensure that agreements are safe and sound and have safety nets within them for all people of Canada.
The electoral system within this agreement causes us great concern. People living in a new Tlicho First Nation government, living within those territories and under that jurisdiction, while they should still be under the jurisdiction of Canada as a whole, because all of the territories, all of the provinces and all of the first nations in our country are all part of Canada, they all must be covered and protected under the Constitution of Canada and under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Canada.
It appears to us that this agreement would create what could be described as a racially based electoral system. The agreement creates a category of citizen called Tlicho citizens who are the only people who may be elected as chiefs. Further, 50% of the elected council must be Tlicho citizens. This is arguably counter to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We must ensure that anyone living under the jurisdiction of the Tlicho self-government is treated fairly, equitably and in a manner that is governed and overseen by the Constitution of Canada and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as it applies to every other individual in Canada.
Another point I would like to make is the agreement contains similar languages to what I believe will create a problem down the road. It appears to be giving governing powers within our country which in some respects, and even one is too many, would allow the formation of another country or nation within the Canada. It would have powers that would supersede the powers of the Government of Canada, the Constitution of Canada and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are very dangerously close in the agreement to creating a country within a country as we have been dangerously close on previous agreements.
The Liberals have talked about wanting to unite and have a unified Canada. If there is any doubt they have said that, one only has to look at their attempts in the sponsorship issues going on right now. One only has to see how much money they spent, in many cases under suspicion, but that is another story. They talked about how important it was to have a total Canada, including Quebec and including every people in this country, no matter from where they came, Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, a Canada that was unified. We are in danger once again, as we have been on past agreements dealing with first nations. The terms of the agreements gave rise to fear that we could be creating a country within a country, enclaves within a country, apartheid, a partition, because of the lack of common sense and the use of broad language in the agreements that we have entered into.
When I believe a divisive type of legislation is being applied to people of the country, I am very happy to say that I have had the opportunity to speak against it. This is another example to which I am proud to speak.
The agreement is jurisdictionally confusing as well. I just talked about this. The agreement describes three different hierarchies to determine which legislation is paramount in the event of conflict: the federal legislation, the territorial legislation, Tlicho laws or the agreement. It is not clear that the Tlicho citizens will have the benefits of protection under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the even of conflict with the Tlicho constitution.
It just amazes me how the government could allow such open-ended language in such an important document. We are trying to create a self-governing environment for the Tlicho nation, one that will give it the confidence that it can do some long terms planning and one that will give Canadians confidence that the issue will now be settled. It will be one that we will not be looking at over and over again as we go down the road into the future. It will be one that we will not be faced with constant challenges and confusion about who has the authority.
Canada has the authority. Canada is the federal authority to run the country. It creates laws. It delegates authority to provinces and to territories. Authority that the federal government delegates away must be an authority that is good for all Canadians and good for the agreement. It should not give rise to questions in the future.
I remember speaking to the dangers of Bill C-68, the infamous gun registration bill, when it came into the House in 1995. I asked then justice minister, Allan Rock, if he would tell Canadians whether Bill C-68 and the regulations contained therein would apply to every single Canadian. It was a simple question. We had been hearing from the Liberals for several weeks that Bill C-68 was a law for all Canadians and everyone would be included under the regulations. New parliamentarians in the House will hear the following type of responses from ministers. The justice minister said, “Bill C-68 is universal in its application”. That was okay because it would apply to everybody. He then said, and it is in Hansard, that it would be “flexible in its implementation”. In other words, it would apply to everyone but it really would not.
Bill C-14 is proof positive that we were getting double talk back in the days of Bill C-68. The agreement specifically gives the Tlicho first nation authority and power to make its own laws over firearms and ammunition. Therein is the comment the minister made back then, “flexible in its implementation”. It never was meant to apply to everyone. Time and time again we have seen the government delegate authority to first nations to govern their own firearms and ammunition regulations.
Bill C-68 then becomes what could be called race-based legislation because it applied to one group of Canadians but not to another. That is very dangerous. Why would we want to foster divisions rather than promote unity? Every Canadian is as valuable and equal to every other Canadian and should be treated the same under the same laws and under the same Constitution and Charter of Rights.
The Conservative Party of Canada believes that self-government must occur within the Constitution of Canada, but it must have a finality to it, it must have clear language and it must have absolute terms. We cannot have terms in broad language that would lead to interpretations down the road once the agreement was signed.
To ensure fairness and equality, a Conservative government would ensure that the principles of the Charter of Rights applied to aboriginal self-government. The least we can do for our first nations people in Canada is give them equality, protection under the Charter of Rights and the Constitution and assure them, by signing agreements with them, that they are equal and as valuable as any other citizen in the country. We are a unified Canada, not one where divisions are fostered by a government.
Mr. Speaker, every agreement that the government enters into with anyone in this country, any first nation band or any province, must have terms within the agreement that certain things are going to be carried out.
There are jurisdictions that are delegated to provinces and there are jurisdictions that are delegated to first nations. In those delegations it is assumed that the terms of the agreement would be fulfilled.
I have been here since 1993 and this is one of several first nations self-government bills that have come before the House. Every time the question of accountability came up, there was the issue of accountability from the federal government as well as accountability from the first nation in order to stay within the terms of the agreement. There is a glaring lack of accountability.
In terms of self-government, we in the Conservative Party want the self-government goals to be completed with first nations across the country in respect of the Constitution of Canada.
Back in 1992, in the Charlottetown accord proposal, there was section after section that proposed to give first nations in this country powers of self-government that would supersede federal, provincial and regional authorities.
The people of Canada looked at that Charlottetown accord and they looked at that part of it. Debate after debate went all across the country. The Canadian people said no to that accord, as the House knows. They did not like the terms of it. They did not like the broad language. They did not like the further questions that it could raise in the future.
It was a good day for Canada when the Charlottetown accord was defeated. Since that day, since the Liberals were elected in 1993, slowly but surely, but invariably in every single first nations piece of legislation that has come to the House we have seen the Charlottetown accord provisions being inserted into those pieces of legislation.
The same Charlottetown accord provisions that were defeated by Canadians have been present in every single first nations legislation put before the House. The same provisions that were defeated by Canadians in a nationwide vote have surreptitiously been brought back in every piece of legislation by the Liberals.
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims agreement, is worrisome. Before I get into the reasons why I believe it is worrisome let me first say that it is a generous agreement and so it should be.
It gives the Tlicho nation 39,000 square kilometres of land and grants it $152 million over 15 years. It recognizes that there has been no final agreement between the Crown and the Tlicho nation. In that respect, the fact that the government has attempted to address this inadequacy is also good.
However, there are two problems with this agreement. First, it erodes Canadian sovereignty, and second, the agreement lacks finality. Our party believes in aboriginal self-government but within the confines and framework of the Canadian Constitution. This agreement however goes well beyond that and grants self-government to the detriment of Canada.
This agreement has three chapters in it which are to the detriment of Canada's sovereignty. In this country we have two sovereign layers of government, federal and provincial, that along with the charter vest all the power in these three different areas. This agreement changes that fundamental structure of the sovereignty in this country to include a fourth level of sovereignty which is contained within this agreement.
The erosion of sovereignty has to do with two chapters in the agreement that deal with international treaties and one chapter in the agreement that creates a substantial amount of jurisdictional confusion which could potentially lead to erosion of Canadian sovereignty. The two articles in the agreement that I refer to that erode Canada's ability to be a sovereign nation have to do with international treaties. One is article 2.2.9 in the agreement which states:
|| Nothing in the Agreement shall be interpreted so as to limit or extend any authority of the Parties to negotiate and enter into international, national, interprovincial, and inter-territorial agreements.
This suggests by implication that the Tlicho government has the authority to enter into international agreements. Article 7.13.2 states:
|| 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.
The right to enter into international treaties or agreements is the exclusive purview of the executive of the federal government. In this agreement, the inclusion of these clauses erodes that sovereignty and may have far-reaching and long lasting implications in decades to come.
The second area of this agreement which may erode Canada's sovereignty has to do with jurisdictional confusion that will be created because of articles 7.7.2 through 7.7.4. In these articles there is a hierarchy of authority that is prescribed, five rankings of authority which seem to conflict with each other.
We in this country, since Confederation and the Constitution Act of 1867, have had enough confusion about intra or ultra vires areas of jurisdiction when it comes to federal-provincial areas of jurisdiction. The last thing we need is to add another area of confusion into this relationship.
One of my questions for the government is, why did the government allow this erosion of Canadian sovereignty to be built into this agreement? International treaties are the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. Why would the federal government allow for a third party to have a say in international treaties when this authority is an exclusive area of federal jurisdiction?
I wonder whether or not this fits into the government's new framework of asymmetrical federalism where provincial cabinet ministers are allowed to speak at international conferences on behalf of the federal government. This seems to me to be playing right into that new framework.
My other question is, who speaks for Canada here? This is the federal government and it should be protecting its areas of jurisdiction and speaking on behalf of all Canadians, not slowly whittling away its authority through agreements and different approaches to international treaties.
Another area of concern in this agreement, as I mentioned before, is the absence of finality. One of the things that puzzles me about Bill C-14 and this agreement is that it is quite different from the Nisga'a final agreement that the government agreed to recently. The Nisga'a agreement was full and final. There are four sections I would like to read into the record from the Nisga'a agreement that illustrates this. Section 22 states:
|| This Agreement constitutes the full and final settlement in respect of the aboriginal rights, including aboriginal title, in Canada of the Nisga'a Nation.
Section 23 of the Nisga'a agreement states:
|| This Agreement exhaustively sets out Nisga’a section 35 rights, the geographic extent of those rights, and the limitations to those rights, to which the Parties have agreed--
Further on, in section 26, the Nisga'a agreement reads:
|| If, despite this Agreement and the settlement legislation, the Nisga’a Nation has an aboriginal right, including aboriginal title, in Canada, that is other than, or different in attributes or geographical extent from, the Nisga’a section 35 rights as set out in this Agreement, the Nisga’a Nation releases that aboriginal right to Canada to the extent that the aboriginal right is other than, or different in attributes or geographical extent from, the Nisga’a section 35 rights as set out in this Agreement.
Section 27 states:
|| The Nisga’a Nation releases Canada, British Columbia and all other persons from all claims, demands, actions, or proceedings, of whatever kind, and whether known or unknown, that the Nisga’a Nation ever had, now has or may have in the future, relating to or arising from any act, or omission, before the effective date that may have affected or infringed any aboriginal rights, including aboriginal title, in Canada of the Nisga’a Nation.
These four sections in the Nisga'a final agreement clearly indicate that the agreement was a final agreement between the Crown and the Nisga'a nation. Contrast that with the Tlicho agreement. The Tlicho agreement has quite the opposite. It has no finality built into the agreement. Article 27.6.1 of the agreement states that the Tlicho will 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.
This contrasts directly with the Nisga'a land claim agreement. My question for the government is, why the change in strategy and why do one thing for one aboriginal nation and do another for another aboriginal nation?
What I find most disturbing about this whole thing is the point I first made, the absence of a strong stance from the government on its own erosion of its own sovereignty.
In reflecting on the agreement, I think the former Liberal leader, Mr. Trudeau, would be rolling around in his grave today if he were to see the type of asymmetrical federalism and the type of erosion of sovereignty that we have seen the government engage in over the last number of years.
Canada is a fragile nation with a fragile identity and the federal government must do all it can to preserve that identity and protect its own sovereignty to ensure that the nation can continue in decades and years to come. My fear is that the agreement sows the seeds of a country that will slowly but surely erode its own sovereignty, so that 50 years hence the federal government will be no greater than simply a coordinating body for different sovereign areas of jurisdiction within one geographic entity. That is my party's biggest concern about this agreement.
Mr. Speaker, it is troubling to see an agreement that sets out a different layer of sovereignty for the Tlicho First Nation. I believe that as this country moves from its past history of having three founding cultures and peoples, that being the French, the English and the natives, into a country that becomes increasingly diverse and multicultural and whose urban areas are increasingly reflective of the worldwide mosaic that Canada has now become, these kinds of agreements will not stand the test of time. These kinds of agreements will not fit into what this country will look like in 50 years.
For those reasons, I think it is important for the federal government to take a leadership role in these issues. It should set out a framework of policies that state to Canadians that they all fall within the jurisdiction of the charter, that they are all equal in front of the law and that they all will be treated equally by the federal government.
There will be areas of jurisdiction that are different, certainly between the provinces and the federal government, and there will be different ways of implementing policies across such a vast geographic expanse, but at the end of the day Canadian citizens deserve to be treated equally whether they live in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Ontario or the maritimes.
What is lacking in the agreement and in the government's broader approach to many of the policies that it enacts today is that it does not seem to have this vision of a Canadian identity. The government does not seem to want to enact policies and legislation that would treat all Canadians equal, regardless of their racial backgrounds, their geographic locations and their languages.
I think that is what has been lacking in this agreement and it is troubling. Over time this slow erosion, this slow whittling away of Canadian sovereignty will come back to haunt, not the present government, because it will have long passed into history, but future Canadian governments.
In a country that was already so fragile and already, in so many ways, an impossibility when Confederation was formed in 1867, our country needs strong federal governments to ensure that it stays together, not simply for the sake of staying together but to ensure peace and tranquility in the land, to ensure prosperity for all its citizens and to ensure a uniform set of services, laws and rights that Canadians have come to expect from their governments.
However, over the last number of years the present government, in particular, has slowly whittled away at the idea of a Canadian identity and of a consistent set of standards across the country. It has done so through agreements like this and through the implementation of the policies it has enacted. I think this, in the long run, will come back to haunt a future government. That is why I think the government needs to answer questions as to the erosion of sovereignty and the absence of finality in this agreement.
Mr. Speaker, we are on our third day of speeches on the legislation and within the next half hour the time for questions and comments will be over and we will be back into giving speeches without being able to question members as they put their provisions forward. I will just say that all the arguments I have heard this morning have been rebutted in the previous days, and that is on the Hansard
However I do want to tell the member that I heard something that was a little disturbing this morning relating specifically to clauses 5.1 and 5.2 of Bill C-14, and that is the conflict between the agreement or the bill and other legislation. The member misstated some basic principles and I have heard them echoed in other speeches from the official opposition.
Under 2.8.4, the Tlicho agreement would be paramount over the settlement legislation, federal or territorial, to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict. Similarly, under 2.8.3, the agreement would be paramount over the provisions of any other federal or territorial legislation or Tlicho laws to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict. Also, under 2.8.3, the settlement legislation would be paramount over provisions of any other federal or territorial legislation or Tlicho laws to the extent of any inconstancy or conflict.
The point they are missing on the other side is that this does not mean that Tlicho laws will be paramount. It means the agreement will be paramount and the agreement itself, under 7.7.2, confirms that federal laws prevail. It states that to the extent of any conflict, there is no paramount authority over the federal Crown in relation to matters concerning the Tlicho.
Does the member understand that federal laws of general application prevail? Does he understand that he cannot just read the enacting legislation but actually has to go to all of the clauses? I know that there has been a misunderstanding. What I am saying is that the member must not only read his speech, he must also read the agreement and all the existing documents to understand the conflicting provisions that would lead to a miscommunication or a misunderstanding. When they are put all together they are actually very logical.
I know this will be the last time to make this point but I hope we can finally get into the details of this, not in a debating manner but at committee, which is where this type of work is usually done.
Mr. Speaker, I will try to get through my speech quickly because I definitely want to be available for questions. A speech was written for me, but I am throwing it away.
I want new members from the other parties to know that not only at this time, but also in other legislation, sometimes the opposition brings up that a new law is not constitutional. People have to realize, especially new members, that every time the federal government, no matter which party, puts forward a law a whole slew of constitutional experts look at the law. A law will not be put forward in Parliament that is against the Constitution because it would end up in court through lots of constitutional challenges.
The constitutional experts look at all the laws to ensure they fall within our Constitution. It does not mean that the laws cannot be challenged, but there are very few times when they are successfully challenged for the very reason that they have been carefully viewed in the first place.
The opposition has four major points. It may be a little boring, but I am will go through the technical parts of the agreement and proposed law to show that none of these objections hold water. I will do that in four sections because most other speakers have referred to these four items. Therefore, they can refer back to the section of my speech that outlines how we have dealt with those concerns.
The first is on finality. Opposition members wants to ensure that there is finality. They question why there are provisions for changes in the future in this act.
In chapter 1 on finality, the Tlicho agreement draws the distinction between land rights and non-land rights. Certainty is achieved for both land and non-land based rights and finality is achieved for land rights. All exercisable rights must be set out in the agreement. The Tlicho agreement applies a non-assertion technique whereby the Tlicho agree not to assert any land rights other than those agreed to in the Tlicho agreement. Should the courts determine that an assertible aboriginal land right exists that is not in the Tlicho agreement, the Tlicho agree to release this right to the Crown. This fall back release ensures that the agreement achieves a final settlement of land rights.
The fall back release technique applies only to the land rights. For non-land rights, which would be various self-government rights, the Tlicho agree only to exercise those non-land rights set out in the agreement. However, the Tlicho can seek recognition of further non-land rights. If such a right is agreed to by the parties or confirmed by the courts, this right can then be added to and exercised through the Tlicho agreement.
The area where they can make improvements is related to taxation. Article 27.6.1 allows for equitable treatment among all aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories concerning tax powers or exemptions, so that taxation regimes in the Northwest Territories would be compatible and equitable. The Tlicho agreement is the first such agreement in the Northwest Territories and may need to be revisited concerning tax powers or exemptions in the future, such as when other NWT land claim and self-government agreements are finalized.
There is a provision to change it if another first nation in its self-government agreement has a different taxation regime. I am sure members opposite would not want the people in their constituencies to unable to access a tax benefit or reduced taxation, if the rest of Canadians had access to it. All this does is allow that members in the Tlicho area to have the same provisions as all other aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories, and that members of the opposition will all be there to vote, hopefully, on any such agreement. They have total control over any changes in that.
I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Brant.
Chapter 2 is on international agreements. The opposition's concern was about the Tlicho being able to express their views on international agreements that affect them. A Tlicho government would be created with law-making powers under chapter 7. However, the Tlicho government would not have authority to enter into international agreements. The law-making powers are exclusively outlined in chapter 7, as well as the limitations and conditions concerning those powers, especially concerning international legal obligations.
The Government of Canada retains sole jurisdiction under international agreements even though some of these agreements might affect a right of the Tlicho government, the Tlicho First Nation or a Tlicho citizen, flowing from the Tlicho agreement.
However, Canada has agreed to provide an opportunity for the Tlicho government to make its views known, either separately or through a forum with respect to any future international treaty, if such a treaty might affect the Tlicho rights, article 7.13.2. It should be noted that this right is not the same as an obligation to consult. Consultation is a defined term in the agreement and a more detailed elaborate process.
Canada has agreed to consult the Tlicho First Nation government if Canada has to appear before an international tribunal concerning a law or other exercise of power of the Tlicho government that has given rise to an issue concerning the performance of an international legal obligation of Canada, article 7.13.5.
Certainly, everyone in the House would agree that if people are to be affected by the agreement, their views should be asked. If the Tlicho government passes a law or takes an action that prevents Canada from performing any international legal obligation, article 7.13 of the Tlicho agreement requires the Tlicho government to remedy its law or action to enable Canada to perform the international legal obligation consistent with the compliance of Canada.
Territorial laws would also prevail over Tlicho laws in case of a conflict between Tlicho law and a provision of the territorial legislation that implements an obligation of the Government of Canada under an international agreement. That is in article 7.7.4. As well, article 7.5.12 provides that any Tlicho law enacted concerning taxation is subject to the obligations of the Government of Canada under international treaties, conventions and protocols respecting taxation.
If the Government of Canada and the Tlicho government disagree over whether the law or exercise of power of the Tlicho causes Canada to be unable to perform an international legal obligation, the matter would go to arbitration, article 7.3.14.
The third objection is related to the confusion of jurisdiction. There is no confusion of jurisdiction. It is clearly outlined. I will just quickly go over that. The agreement states that Tlicho laws be concurrent with federal and territorial legislation. However, the Tlicho have explicitly agreed that the federal legislation would prevail over Tlicho laws, article 7.7.2, to the extent of any conflict. There is no paramount authority over the federal Crown in relation to matters concerning the Tlicho.
Tlicho law-making authority is designed to complement and coordinate with the jurisdiction of the territorial government. Tlicho laws would prevail over territorial legislation, article 7.7.3, to the extent of any conflict except for territorial legislation concerning Canada's international legal obligations, article 7.7.4.
Once given force and effect, the Tlicho agreement would be paramount over the settlement legislation, federal or territorial, article 2.8.4, to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict. Similarly, the agreement would be paramount over the provisions of any other federal or territorial legislation or Tlicho laws, article 2.8.3, to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict. Also, the settlement legislation would be paramount over the provisions of any other federal or territorial legislation or Tlicho laws, article 2.8.3, to the extent of any inconsistency or conflict. This does not mean the Tlicho laws will be paramount; it means the agreement will be paramount and the agreement says that federal laws prevail.
Article 2.10.7 of the Tlicho agreement confirms that the Tlicho agreement is based on this hierarchy. If a court confirms the existence of an aboriginal right of the Tlicho first Nation that is currently not contained in the Tlicho agreement, the parties shall enter into negotiations to incorporate the right into the agreement, article 2.10.5. If such negotiations fail within one year, then an arbitrator would decide on the text to be incorporated into the Tlicho agreement, article 2.10.6.
However, the arbitrator must respect the basic architecture and hierarchy of laws contained in the Tlicho agreement, article 2.10.7: the laws are concurrent; federal legislation prevails, including legislation concerning international legal obligations, over Tlicho laws; territorial legislation concerning international legal obligations prevails over Tlicho laws; and otherwise, Tlicho laws prevail over territorial legislation.
I hope someone asks me a question so I can go over chapter 4, which is the universal application of the Constitution and charter. That is the fourth part of my speech.
Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to oblige the member. He wants someone to ask him a question. I will ask him a question or two.
First, I would like to make some comments about that member who so typically thinks, acts, walks and talks like a Liberal. One day I hope, and I guess I should not hold my breath, that the other side of the House will not wait any longer to hear what the experts say, when it comes to the Supreme Court and the charter, about enacting laws that are reflective of the broader consensus of residents in the country. I hope it does not have to run to the courts all the time and hear what they have to say. This in case is one of those prime examples.
I would ask the parliamentary secretary about the authority granted to the Tlicho government to enact laws that would be equivalent to our federal laws, specifically in two areas. My first question is on the control, prohibition, transport, sale, possession, manufacture and use of weapons or dangerous goods. The second question is on the control, prohibition, transport, sale, possession, manufacture or use of intoxicants.
The way I read this legislation, the Tlicho would have sole authority in those areas. They are under federal jurisdiction, yet that authority is being granted to the Tlicho government. They cannot have it both ways. In my way of thinking it puts the Tlicho government on a par, if not above, the federal jurisdiction of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the last question, it has been said many times in the House that all federal laws under the Criminal Code will continue to apply, including gun legislation. It will prevail over Tlicho laws. However, if the Tlicho want to add additional restrictions on their people in a number of areas, the same as provinces and municipalities do, that would be allowed in the agreement.
I am glad the member mentioned the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I will not give the whole last part of my speech, but only one sentence related to that because there are some other remarks I wanted to make.
Article 2.15 of the Tlicho agreement clearly states:
|| The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to the Tlicho Government in respect of all matters within its authority.
I was delighted to hear comments from the other side that everyone must be governed by the Constitution of Canada. They are under this agreement. I hope the members of the other three parties in the House and the media will remember that when we get back to other debates on other topics, such as same sex marriage. Most of the time opposition members complain about the Constitution and the Charter of Rights. This time they say that everyone must be governed by it.
Another member said that the Tlicho must always come within the Constitution. I am delighted that other members have said that we adhere to the principles of the charter. I hope they will remember that when we get back into other debates.
Another comment on the other side was that it gave the Tlicho 39,000 square kilometres, as it should be. I am glad the opposition agrees with that. We are not giving the land to the Tlicho. The Tlicho have always had rights to land. We are now defining a new partnership where they will have some laws and other people will have access to other laws.
Finally, the member said that I was acting like a Liberal. I am very happy and proud to be a Liberal.
They have talked about a country within a country. I do not know why the opposition would like to dissolve the provinces and municipalities. They each have their own laws in their own areas.
Opposition members have said that we would be setting up a fourth area of sovereignty and that is true. There is a fourth order of government now. The opposition must realize that there are municipalities, provinces and first nations governments.
The big difference and the crux of it, and the media should pay attention to this, there is a defining difference in this Parliament between the Liberals and Her Majesty's loyal opposition. In the past there was a Progressive Conservative Party that wholeheartedly supported advancements for first nations people, their self-government and their identity inside this nation to make this nation strong. That party time and time again voted against any progress with arrangements related to land claims. The difference is that our party celebrates diversity. We do not foster division. We celebrate--
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-14, legislation to enact the Tlicho land claims and self-government agreement.
This is a historic agreement, the first in the Northwest Territories to combine land claims and self-government. This agreement is the product of frank, open and comprehensive consultations and negotiations which involved a decade of focused and arduous effort. The fruit of this labour is a tripartite agreement among Canada, the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho.
This agreement has already been ratified by the territorial legislature in Yellowknife. In a special referendum, an overwhelming majority of Tlicho voters have also approved the deal. Now it is our turn to review the agreement that is at the heart of Bill C-14.
I am convinced that a close examination of the agreement will reveal its singular importance for the Tlicho and also for Canada. I am confident that some of my hon. colleagues will address the relevance of particular aspects of the legislation. For my part I would like to provide some background on the negotiations and consultations that spawned this comprehensive agreement. My decision to lend my unequivocal support to Bill C-14 was influenced significantly by the exceptional efforts of the men and women who contributed to the Tlicho agreement. To fully appreciate the value of this agreement, my hon. colleagues must have a basic understanding of the several challenges facing the negotiators.
The Tlicho are one of several aboriginal peoples who have existed since time immemorial in the vast expanse of land we call the Northwest Territories. These men and women have a unique and deeply spiritual connection to the land which has always provided their sustenance. The concept of ownership and control of land was foreign to them until quite recently. To negotiate fairly, the Tlicho first had to recognize what was at stake.
Negotiators for the Northwest Territories and Canada faced different challenges. These men and women had to ensure that the agreement would be beneficial not only to the Tlicho, but also to all Canadians. The decision to include self-government in the agreement was based on this requirement, for only a government which is responsible, accountable and responsive can enable the Tlicho to thrive in the modern world and to safeguard their traditions and their culture.
Clearly, meeting these challenges required a great deal of mutual respect and recognition. To bridge the language and cultural divide, education and communication were essential. To ensure that self-government operates smoothly and also respects local culture, a Tlicho constitution was required. The constitution, like the agreement itself, was drafted and ratified with the active participation of Tlicho citizens.
Since negotiations began some 10 years ago, the three parties have sponsored numerous information and consultation sessions. At certain stages in the process, open house sessions and bilateral meetings were held in all four Tlicho communities as well as in Yellowknife, the nearest major city. Representatives of private sector companies, interest groups, and public agencies were kept informed and encouraged to provide feedback. Women's groups, industry associations and environmental organizations participated fully in these various sessions.
Many meetings inspired passionate, emotional debate about the merits and limitations of various proposals. The feedback generated during these sessions has had a profound impact on the Tlicho agreement. In fact, comments received led to several amendments. Eligibility and enrollment requirements were modified and the boundaries of the Wekeezhii management area were clarified.
Furthermore, opinions expressed during these meetings convinced Tlicho negotiators to undertake separate discussions with other overlapping aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories. The Tlicho recognized that their agreement would have a profound effect on these groups--
Mr. Speaker, the Tlicho recognized that their agreement would have a profound effect on these groups. To ensure that future relations among all aboriginal communities would be harmonious, the Tlicho began to negotiate overlap agreements with the Dehcho and the Akaitcho Treaty 8 Dene. By the fall of 2000 these discussions had yielded separate agreements with each group. In addition, overlap agreements were negotiated with the Sahtu Dene and Métis and the Gwich'in.
In March 2003, negotiators for all three parties initialed the Tlicho agreement triggering a formal ratification process. To ensure that all Tlicho citizens had an opportunity to study the agreement, the Tlicho produced a simple, clear and neutral language version of the agreement, known as Plainspeak. Copies of the 27 chapter Plainspeak document were distributed free of charge.
A three month period was set aside to ensure that all interested parties had a final opportunity to express their opinions. Question and answer sessions were held in all four Tlicho communities. A referendum date was set. Campaigns were designed and implemented to ensure a strong voter turnout.
The results of the vote were overwhelmingly positive. Eighty-four per cent of those who voted cast a vote in favour of this agreement.
As my hon. colleagues examine the merits of the agreement which is at the core of Bill C-14, I encourage them to consider its context in the rapidly evolving relationship between first nations, Inuit, Métis, northerners and other Canadians.
The Tlicho agreement proposes a new relationship between the Government of Canada and the Tlicho, a relationship based on mutual respect and recognition. The agreement assigns specific rights and responsibilities to the Tlicho and implements a new financial arrangement.
Under the agreement the Tlicho government and citizens will be subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Criminal Code, along with other federal legislation.
I am convinced that the Tlicho agreement will also enhance negotiations underway with other aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories. The agreement reinforces the value and relevance of the negotiation process. To quote from the Supreme Court of Canada:
|| Ultimately, it is through negotiated settlements, with good faith and give and take on all sides... that we will achieve... a basic purpose of section 35(1)--“the reconciliation of the pre-existence of aboriginal societies with the sovereignty of the Crown.” Let us face it, we are all here to stay.
The Tlicho agreement goes beyond mutual recognition and contemplates a new and respectful relationship between Canadians and first nations, Inuit, Métis and northerners. By supporting Bill C-14, the House sends a powerful message to aboriginal groups across the country, a message of recognition, a message of hope, a message of reconciliation.
I urge my hon. colleagues to approve this legislation without delay.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the previous speaker for talking about the bill but I have to ask him a question in regard to something he said about giving aboriginal people hope, et cetera.
Long before I came here in 1993, and in all the years since I have been here, we have talked on a number of occasions in the House and in other places about the absolutely terrible status of so many reserves. I am talking about all the terrible things, the poverty, the unemployment, the addictions, the suicides, the lack of education, the atrocities that are taking place on reserves, problems which have been brought to us by many grassroots natives. There is the corruption and mismanagement. All of these things still seem to exist. We have talked about it. We want to do something about it. We want to help the people who are suffering.
I have been in homes that look good from the highway but inside there is no running water, no rooms, no cabinets. They have not been finished on the inside; there is just a shell on the outside. I travelled the country for about two years and on many of these reserves I was in broken down trailers and broken down buses which families had tried to make into homes for their children. The suffering is tremendous. There is a lack of health care and lack of good water.
When the report came out about which country is the best to live in, I am proud to say that Canada won that hands down two or three times. Canada was number one. However, if Indian reserves had been factored in, we would rank 38th. Third world conditions exist and the corruption goes on.
If any government would know how to deal with corruption, we would think it would be the present government. How to put an end to it would be to get honest elections and so on. These problems still exist.
I am sure the member is aware of the atrocities that are taking place. Would he please tell me how this agreement or any agreement of this type is going to make those situations better? How is it going to improve the living conditions for the people living on these reserves who desperately need our help?
Mr. Speaker, I believe everyone in the House shares the belief that the government has the responsibility to negotiate and settle outstanding comprehensive claims according to the principles of both fairness and practicality.
The Conservative Party believes giving aboriginal governments the power to raise their own revenues will reduce the cycle of dependency and that the performance and accountability of aboriginal self-government is enhanced when those who receive services contribute to the cost of those services.
While I agree with the general intent of Bill C-14 in seeking to ratify agreements on land claims and establish aboriginal self-government for the Tlicho, I cannot support this legislation because of the way it has been drafted.
Self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada to ensure fairness and equality. Any settlement of comprehensive claims needs to be ratified on the basis of a clear framework balancing the rights of aboriginal claimants with those of Canada. Specifically, negotiated settlements need certainty and finality of terms, and need to be practical in their institutional structure so as not to impede or supercede how all residents of our nation are governed. Unfortunately, this bill fails to measure up to these principles.
The agreement here is precedent setting and will guide future claims, settlements and self-government provisions across the north. I hope government members will take the time to consider the impact that this legislation will have. If passed, the bill will create a new order of government for approximately 3,500 people residing within an area roughly measuring 39,000 square kilometres who will be governed by a distinct Tlicho constitution.
This legislation, if enacted, would compromise Canada's international sovereignty because it does not limit the Tlicho government's authority to enter into international, national, interprovincial, and interterritorial agreements. This is a clear and definite erosion of federal jurisdiction and governance authority, and could only lead to legal confusion and conflict in the future.
Just a quick glance at how this bill prescribes the hierarchy of authority is essentially a recipe for confusion. Article 7.7.2 through 7.7.4 lists governance authority in this order: federal legislation of general application, territorial legislation implementing Canadian international agreements, Tlicho laws, territorial legislation of general application and specific federal legislation relating to the Tlicho. In other words, Tlicho laws may take precedence over territorial laws and also over federal laws relating to the Tlicho.
This may sound like some sort of technical argument that only a constitutional lawyer would be interested in, but let us consider how this precedence of authority would function if it applied to any other level of government with which many Canadians are much more familiar. Would it make sense to give a municipality, like my home town of Lincoln, the authority to pass bylaws that supercede provincial and federal legislation? I know quite a few mayors and aldermen and maybe even a few residents in my riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook who might think this is a good idea at first glance, but only at first glance.
We have ended up with a patchwork of unworkable and conflicting legislation across Canada that makes no sense and is inconsistent with the governance structure established by the Canadian Constitution.
The Tlicho government has power to enact laws in relation to: fish harvest licensing; use of water for aquaculture and other activities; fish harvest limits; fish openings and fish gear; businesses, occupations and activities of a local nature on Tlicho lands; control or prohibition of transport, sale, possession, manufacture or use of weapons or dangerous goods; control or prohibition of transport, sale, possession, manufacture or use of intoxicants; use of Tlicho language and culture; traditional medicine; heritage resources; adoption in the Northwest Territories of Tlicho children; direct taxation of Tlicho citizens on Tlicho lands; and enforcement powers.
Assuming that similar self-government agreements are put in place across the rest of the Northwest Territories following this precedent, I wonder what responsibilities or powers the government plans on leaving for the territorial governments. In fact, the governance structure that this bill would establish is treading on a very dangerous line.
There are serious implications for the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Tlicho citizens. The agreement and the Tlicho constitution may speak of consistency with the charter, but at the same time the Tlicho constitution is quite clear in article 3.1 that the Tlicho constitution shall be “the Tlicho nation's highest law”. Unclear, inconsistent and unworkable are the best ways to characterize this legislation when it comes to the relationship between the Canadian Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Tlicho constitution.
The agreement itself outlines a racially based governance system. A new category of Canadians called “Tlicho citizens” is established and only a Tlicho citizen may be elected as the chief of the Tlicho community government. As well, at least 50% of the elected councillors must be Tlicho citizens.
This legislation sets up a racially segregated electoral system. Someone not defined as a Tlicho citizen under this agreement may live and participate in the community, but will not have the right to stand for election as chief. Does the government not see the basic problem with creating different levels of citizens? Not only would I argue that this is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I would argue that this is just plain wrong. It does not take a constitutional lawyer to see the basic injustices here.
Finally, despite the tremendous generosity in terms of the lands, moneys, resources and authority which are provided to the Tlicho, this agreement is not even final.
I would also like to mention something when it comes to our freedom of information. Under 2.12 “Disclosure of Information”, it states:
|| Subject to 2.12.3, but notwithstanding any other provision of the Agreement, neither government, including the Tlicho community governments, nor the Tlicho Government is required to disclose any information that is required or entitled to withhold under any legislation or Tlicho law relating to access to information or privacy.
What we have once again is a question about Tlicho laws. If the government requires information, will it have freedom of that information? That is not very clear.
Article 2.12.2 states:
|| Where government, including a Tlicho community government, or the Tlicho Government has a discretion to disclose any information, it shall take into account the objects of the Agreement in exercising that discretion.
Article 2.12.1 states:
|| --withhold under any legislation or Tlicho law relating to access to information or privacy.
That brings into question what exactly the requirements are when it comes to freedom of information and what will be possible.
We have a piece of legislation that establishes a racially based system of governance, erodes federal and territorial authority, and creates a framework of legal confusion that will probably make a few constitutional lawyers very wealthy. To cap it all off, the agreement with the Tlicho is left open ended so the matter is not really settled.
This agreement and legislation have obviously not been considered from the perspective of the interests of Canadians. There is no balance between the economic and social needs of the Tlicho with Canada's need for a workable and final agreement that establishes practical precedence. This bill has far too many holes in it to proceed. All the government will accomplish if this is pushed forward is decades of constitutional and legal uncertainty.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act
Before proceeding with my speech, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Calgary Northeast for placing their trust in me by re-electing me to represent them here in the House of Commons. They have my pledge that I will continue to work hard to ensure their views and their concerns are well represented in Ottawa. I thank the people of Calgary Northeast for placing their trust in me.
Under the agreement between the Tlicho people, the Government of Canada and the Northwest Territories the Tlicho First Nation will gain control of 39,000 square kilometres of land between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake. If we were to drive around the perimeter of it, it would take about an hour and a half. That is a sizable chunk of territory with a population of 3,500 people. It is certainly a lot of responsibility for that kind of territory.
No doubt there will be lots of activities coming up in the Northwest Territories. Certainly, within the framework where this particular chunk of land rests, that activity will include mining, fishing and who knows what else. Transportation will be key and it will certainly reflect on any kind of business activity that any other company or government will be engaged in in that territory.
I can see the need to actually make this self-government arrangement work to avoid continued jurisdictional entanglements in the future over what might happen there. Looking to the north, there is no doubt in my mind that the north holds so much promise and so much potential for not only those who live there but for the rest of the country. I would assume that the government on the other side would like to see that flow smoothly to allow people to do business in the north so that all may benefit from it.
This is perhaps one of the most significant agreements concluded by the Canadian government in recent years. Yet to my surprise it has received very little attention, especially when one considers that it has the potential to be both positive and negative to the long term interests of Canada.
I would like to talk about a couple of points, as I cannot talk on every issue that may have been addressed thus far. There are some that concern me as I look to what some of the provisions in this act actually wash out to be.
I am going to pick on the powers that have been granted to the Tlicho government to enact laws. I know this has been a subject of much debate when it comes to land claim settlements and even the activities that occur on various reserves throughout this nation. Even though the laws of Canada are said to apply to all jurisdictions on federal statutes, in fact, there is a big question mark as to whether they do or not.
I previously asked a question of one of the parliamentary secretaries about one of the reserves to the south.
I and my party would like to see this land claims settled but we want to see it done in a way that will be beneficial not only to those who occupy the land, but that it will contribute to the general well-being of the nation, and that those living on the land are subject to Canada's laws and have the same fair treatment as anyone else.
The parliamentary secretary made mention that reserves all enjoy the same treatment but I beg to differ with her. I have been on various reserves and, even though there has been no specific land claim arrangement, it has been instilled in their minds that they are an entity onto themselves, that the laws of Canada and the United States and the enforcement of those laws do not apply to them. For some unknown reason there has been so much political interference that the whole well-being of the people living on those reserves has been placed into question. In fact, some people have been placed in jeopardy.
The Liberals track record concerns me. It is not the fact that land claims are being completed. It is the fact that the Liberals' track record, when it comes to enforcing or applying laws evenly across the country, has been placed into question.
I want to point to one set of statements in reference to the powers given to the Tlicho government to enact laws. Two of those powers fall right into federal jurisdiction.
The first power is with regard to the control over the transport, sale, possession, manufacture or use of weapons or dangerous goods. We have laws in Canada that apply nationally. These laws regulate firearms and explosives. The Criminal Code is used if someone violates provisions within the code. Yet this is one area where the Tlicho government will be able to enact laws to possibly manufacture or use weapons or dangerous goods.
The second power is the control or prohibition of transport, sale, possession, manufacture or use of intoxicants. Authority has been granted to the Tlicho government to delve into these areas. It is not at all clear as to who will enforce what or, if there is an enforcement agency, where those who have been charged, convicted or whatever can appeal there case should they not be happy with what has gone on within their jurisdiction.
That again comes back to the point that the Tlicho government seems to have the ultimate say in all levels of authority within that new jurisdiction which the government wants to create. Where is the appeal process in this whole arrangement?
Finally, I would like to address the issue of access to information. Where do the rules of access to information apply, or do they? My impression from reading the bill is that it would be very difficult for me as a member of Parliament or someone else who has concern about what is happening in the proposed jurisdiction to access information that may deal specifically with that level of proposed government.
I want the House to know that I will not be supporting the legislation. I feel there must be additional debate and much more contribution issued when it comes to finalizing any self-government for the Tlicho people.
Madam Speaker, some citizens may have issue with the legislation and the more they research the legislation they might have more concerns.
The legislation dates back in reality to King George III's proclamation of 1763, 301 years ago almost to the day.
This comes back to the situation that is to be admired in our great country, that we will protect the rights of individuals, even those people who are not able to protect themselves. That is why I oppose the bill today.
The Constitution protects aboriginal rights and the decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada, specifically in 1997, have protected and reinforced the rights of aboriginals.
I would encourage any people who do take offence or do take major issue with the legislation to educate themselves regarding the history of aboriginal claims in this country. There are many resources on the Internet, for instance, where they can find that information.
We cannot ignore these rights as Canadians. We have to protect all citizens, no matter what status they have. I myself have argued before the courts in Alberta for aboriginal rights, as a litigator and a solicitor in the past, and I am very proud of that record.
I personally support the settlement of all outstanding claims for bands. I agree with the federal government that we must satisfy these claims. However, at what cost?
I do not support any agreement that takes the citizens of any area of Canada outside the jurisdiction of the Constitution or outside the jurisdiction of the charter. I do not support any agreement that usurps the authority of the federal government to negotiate with international governments as I believe this would lead to major distress and, unfortunately, disharmony in the country.
I believe we are setting a dangerous precedent. I would suggest that it can be effectively argued that all international agreements pursuant to this legislation would be affected by Tlicho citizens. As such, it is arguable that all international agreements would have to be ratified by the Tlicho band before we as a sovereign nation could enter into it. That I find greatly discomforting.
As I stated before, I am from northeastern Alberta. I am very proud to be from a constituency that has some 20% of its members as aboriginals and first nations. I am proud to have over 20 family members who have aboriginal status and are members of bands either treaty or status, especially under Treaty 8. I have hunted, trapped, played hockey and worked beside aboriginals since the 1970s in northeastern Alberta. These Canadians need to be respected and our agreements with these Canadians need to be respected as well.
We as Canadians should be embarrassed and ashamed that we, for the last 300 years, have not negotiated land treaties with them and that we have not reached an agreement up to this point. We should have resolved these issues hundreds of years ago before they became issues of topic today.
I, along with, I believe, all members of the Conservative caucus, respect the culture and diversity of the aboriginal peoples. My concern, quite frankly, is for the people of the Tlicho band. Will they be protected by the charter? Will we create more strife in the future in the community by creating two classes of citizens? Will all persons, regardless of sex, be protected?
Today we would be approving an agreement that would be a forever agreement. It would be forever for us but not necessarily forever for the Tlicho people. There would be no going back on the terms but it would allow, if there were negotiations with other bands in the Northwest Territories, the Tlicho people to get more in the future. It would allow them to renegotiate a final agreement.
Apparently this agreement deals with a final decision as far as the land goes but, in my opinion, it does not. Reading the legislation as a lawyer, I fail to see how this agreement can be a final agreement based on what I have read.
This is not an argument as to whether the agreement is fair or how much is paid. I do not believe that has substance. The people who have negotiated this agreement have certainly taken all the issues of negotiation into perspective and their position needs to be respected.
The Tlicho people need to be respected and protected. That is my concern. It is about the future. It is about harmony within the Tlicho area. It is about harmony for all future land claim agreements with first nations throughout the Northwest Territories and British Columbia.
Currently, we have 3,500 persons with Tlicho citizen status, but how many Tlicho citizens, as defined under the agreement, will there be in 100 years controlling an area the size of New Brunswick? I am not thinking about this for the benefit of other Canadians, only of the people who are from Tlicho ancestry. Some people will be treated one way and some people will be treated another way, both from the same ancestral area.
In my opinion the Government of Canada has a fiduciary obligation, a responsibility, to finalize all agreements with first nations, but not at the expense of other members of the band and not at the expense of those people and their rights under the charter or the continued harmony of all Canada in the future. Self-government is necessary. I think I speak for all of my colleagues that self-government is the best way that aboriginal peoples can move forward. It will be much better for the Tlicho people and much better for Canada's future.
I implore the government to go past today and not look at an immediate settlement to solve the problem so that the economy can keep rolling and they can move into an economic prosperity without taking into consideration all the ramifications in the future. I implore the government to look at the future for Canada, to look toward the future for the people of Tlicho of all different respects, whether they be Tlicho citizens or of Tlicho ancestry, and to ensure that they are protected fully and finally in all matters respecting the charter and that the Tlicho people and the area they will control, in essence the size of New Brunswick, will be under the charter and the constitution. I implore the government to make this a final agreement so there is no going back, there are no renegotiations and there is no continued strife for the people of Canada.
Finally, to protect our international sovereignty is absolutely crucial. As a country, we need to ensure that the federal government can continue to operate in such a manner as to bind the people of Canada on an international basis without needing to go to each and every band to have a ratification of treaties.
I would submit being Canadian means that some things cannot be negotiated away. In this case I would suggest that the charter and the Constitution and the rights under those two crucial pieces of paperwork are being negotiated away. I would suggest it is not the best thing for Canada or Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I would also like to add a few comments on the agreement.
I do not think there is any doubt on this side of the House that agreements that move the aboriginal peoples forward are all in good form for all Canadians. Self-awareness, respect for these peoples and a decreased dependency on the government is all good. Frankly, it is a bit insulting to us, when we want to improve on any agreement among all Canadians, that members on the opposite side of the House seem to imply that we are in some way against aboriginal peoples, which of course we are not.
It is great progress for all Canadians, but I think the agreement has gone slightly overboard. I have great concerns with some of the parts of this agreement, and I will speak to a few of those if I can.
One, which I am not sure has been mentioned earlier, is that it creates what seems to be a racially biased electoral system. It speaks in the agreement itself as well as in the Tlicho constitution of Tlicho citizens that 50% of the council has to be Tlicho citizens. We do not see that kind of government or structure anywhere else in Canada. I think this raises great concerns. As well, it appears that the agreement would give this group of people the right to negotiate its own international agreements.
I know there is a lot of detail and there is a lot of thought as to where this will take us in the future, but we cannot predict the future. I would like to ask the members opposite, how does this affect their rights to negotiate treaties with respect to fisheries? Can they produce arms and weapons and sell them globally? Will we be able to control those kinds of decisions if in fact they are made?
As well, the agreement itself, despite the hon. members opposite telling us that it is not, does in fact create jurisdictional confusion. In the constitution of the Tlicho communities themselves, it states, and section 3.1 of their constitution says quite clearly, “This constitution is Tlicho nations highest law”. I do not know what that means. Does that mean that they have to represent Canadian laws on a broader scale or do they just make up their own laws?
As well, if we want to challenge a Tlicho law, if I can read from their own constitution, it simply states here:
|| Any person directly affected by a Tåîchô law may challenge its validity. The body with jurisdiction to decide such a challenge has the jurisdiction to quash or limit the application of the Tåîchô law that is subject to thechallenge.
That is all good and it sounds like the same thing that happens across Canada. However, if we do not agree with a municipality's reason for a decision, we can take that to a higher court. According to the Tlicho constitution, we cannot do that. It says:
|| In the absence of a Tåîchô law providing for a challenge to the validity of a Tåîchô law, such a challenge shall be by way of an appeal to the Tåîchô Assembly.
This constitution does not give anybody the room to manoeuvre and I think it is frankly unconstitutional within the framework of Canada.
The last thing I would like to comment on is just the generalities of the agreement by itself. This is not a diversity which Canada honours and respects, the diversity of its multiculturalism; this is divisive.This is actually creating a number of different countries with their own governance and their own ability to set law and negotiate international treaties within this country.
I am from Cambridge, Ontario, and I am concerned where this kind of precedent will take us. In my community we have all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and a wonderful pluralism within it. Does it mean that in five or ten years we will end up with a whole bunch of little communities with their own sets of laws and their own court systems which nobody can influence? Before we go any further on this agreement, we should reflect on the realities that these questions still remain.
The fact is we do need to move forward for our aboriginal peoples. There is no question that they have been forgotten for the last decade by this government. However, we have gone overboard with this agreement. It should be a win-win for all parties. This is a win for the Tlicho people; this is not a win for Canada nor the future of Canada.
I would encourage the House to reconsider the agreement and come to the conclusions of what all the lateral implications will be. The government's knee jerk reaction to find a solution will put the future of Canada in jeopardy.
Madam Speaker, once again it is a pleasure to rise and talk on the issue, mainly as it pertains to the aboriginal people and the first nations people of our country. I have spent a couple of years in Parliament and I travelled the country and visited many reserves. I listened to many grassroots people and their concerns. This has been going on for years and years.
A moment ago one of the Liberal members said that we should see some of the quotes he had from us. Unfortunately, the only quote I can bring up from the Liberals is the constant repetition in the throne speeches from years and years about how disgraceful and deplorable the conditions were on the reserve and how the Liberal government was dedicated and promised to do something to fix it .
Now we have come all the way to the present Prime Minister. Guess what? He is another one of those leaders who has said that he is the right man for the job and that he will be dedicated fixing problem on the reserves. It is a continuous record. We have heard it over and over since 1993 and even before that. We have heard of all the things the Liberals would do, yet many of things that need to be done are very basic.
The Conservative Party believes in self-government and that it is a good thing. However, it has to occur within the Constitution of Canada, and I do not think anyone can argue that. We want to ensure that is the case with any settlement. We also believe that it must be structured to ensure that constitutional harmony is such that it does not impede on the governments of other parts of our great country, provincial and municipal government levels. We want things to be right.
The bottom line for me and many of the people who I have talked with is simply this. Will all the agreements that are to be made and all the settlements that will be completed be something that will help address the seriousness of unemployment and great poverty. Unemployment is up to 90% on some reserves. There is the serious situation of health hazards and drinking water that does not exist. Clean drinking water ought to be everywhere in Canada. It does not exist on many reserves.
It is possible to travel down one of the major highways in Alberta, pass through a reserve and see the housing. I had thought it was a pretty good deal that housing was going up on these reserves and that would help the situation a great deal. One time I stopped to visit on the reserve. I went into the houses in which the people were living. These houses were shells. There was no running water. There were no rooms. Blankets hung in the house to differentiate between rooms and give a little privacy. There was no finishing whatsoever on the inside of the house, but it looked good from the highway.
For many years I thought that we were moving right along until I started to get calls from people. They asked me to come and take a look at what was going on there. All they have ever asked for is to be treated fairly on their own reserves, but the corruption that exists is unbelievable. This is not on all reserves. Please do not think for a moment that I am saying that all reserves are that way because there are some really good reserves which are running effectively. However, there are many reserves that are not. Those are the grassroots natives that we hear from all across the country, who are constantly saying--
Madam Speaker, many people who live on the reserves, the grassroots natives, have contacted me and other members of the House of Commons complaining about corruption on their reserves and mismanagement. That is the word they used.
We know that some auditing has been going on. We know that third party management has moved into many reserves because of that. We know that is true because it happened in my riding on one of the major reserves.
All I am saying is that this has been going on for years and years, and that magic government over there keeps throwing in its throne speech that it is going to address these issues and put an end to poverty, unemployment, poor education and unhealthy status. Yet we can go into a reserve today or tomorrow, and I will guarantee that if we go to the right ones and look around we will find people living in shacks, living in broken down old buses, living in what we would not want to live in, no matter who we are or where we are from.
I do not think most of the people over there have ever walked in to find out what they are all about. They do not have the guts to do that. Instead they will stand in the House of Commons and talk about the wonderful things they are doing with an agreement like this. All I want to know is whether that agreement is going to help solve the problems that have been in existence for years and years. I will bet members a dime to a dollar that it will not, because they do not address those things from that point of view.
I said this in the committee last year when the previous Indian affairs minister, Mr. Nault, brought in legislation that was going to do everything. It does not matter what it was called. It was legislation that was about this thick. By the time they got done with it, they had amendments to that legislation that were about this thick. Good grief, if they have to amend a little piece of legislation like that with that number of amendments, there must be something wrong with the legislation. Where were these amendments coming from? They were being requested by grassroots natives all across the country who were trying to get it right.
When are we going to get it right? When is this country going to realize that we are one of the best, if not the best country, the number one country in which to live, but not on an Indian reserve. The United Nations itself has put out reports saying that if the reserves in Canada were factored in, we would rank about 38th.
All I want to know is whether we are bringing in treaty settlement agreements that are going to change that picture, where the equality all across the country is the same for everybody? Are our friends in the aboriginal communities going to have the same opportunities to employment, to education and to other opportunities because of these kinds of things, or are we going to keep plowing the same old field over and over?
If there is ever anything that needs recall, I will guarantee one thing, it is a corrupt government, and I mean corrupt. I would not want to confuse anybody about the word that I use.
There is no excuse that we live in Canada and those kinds of conditions exist on reserve. We should quit putting together legislation which one member had to get up and read over and over. Nobody could understand it because it probably took 12 lawyers to write it. It is not understood by the average person anywhere and it does not address the issues at all.
There is somebody mouthing off over there who probably has not been to a reserve. I would like to take him into one. I would like to take him right into the homes that I have been in to have a look for himself. Instead of mouthing off he ought to get out there and take a look. That is all they do over there. They are better at mouthing off than anything else. They should get out there and find out what is going on.
If they want to do something to help the situation, then they should start recognizing the problems. They should start recognizing the high rates of suicide as being very serious. They should start recognizing the undereducation that is going on. It is a very serious problem. They should start thinking about the high rate of medical drug addictions. It is extremely serious. The member has not been in there to see it, but I have. I have been there many times.
Hon. Sue Barnes: Do not tell me what I have done, because I have. You have not.
Mr. Myron Thompson: I am not talking about this member, I am talking about that member over there. I do not care what this one has done. If you ask me, it has not been much.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the Tlicho land claims and self-government bill. This is a historic piece of legislation and is deserving of some scrutiny by the House.
The Tlicho are the latest in the Northwest Territories to reach a land claims settlement but this is the first instance where self-government has been negotiated in an agreement at the same time. We have to be careful and take our time with this legislation. I will outline several areas where I find the bill to be deficient.
First, this is not a final agreement. The agreement contains a clause to reopen negotiations should other first nations in the Northwest Territories negotiate terms in their agreement that appear attractive to the Tlicho in the future. In this the agreement does not achieve a basic goal: to arrive at a final settlement.
Second, it would appear depending on how one interprets the text that the agreement recognizes the right of the Tlicho to enter into international agreements. It states right in the agreement that it does not limit the right of the Tlicho to enter into international, national, interprovincial and interterritorial agreements. It also requires the Government of Canada to consult with the Tlicho nation before entering into an international agreement that may affect the right of the Tlicho government, the Tlicho First Nation or Tlicho citizens.
I am concerned that this kind of language could be seen as being too broad and that it may put a restriction on what is an exclusively federal area of jurisdiction.
Third, the agreement creates a racially based electoral system which some will recall was the subject of a fierce debate in the House during the Nisga'a discussions.
Under this agreement a category of citizens called Tlicho citizens is created who are the only people who may be elected as chiefs. In addition 50% of elected councillors must come from this Tlicho citizens group. Some might argue that this is counter to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it is certainly something that might be open to a court challenge.
Last, the most fundamentally difficult problem with the agreement is the way in which it deals with jurisdictions. The agreement describes several different hierarchies to determine which legislation should prevail in the event of a conflict: federal legislation, territorial legislation, Tlicho law or the agreement itself. It is also not clear whether Tlicho citizens would have the protection of the charter in the event of a conflict with the Tlicho constitution.
As the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, there is another issue I would like to raise with respect to this agreement. It is the issue of matrimonial property. My colleague, the member for Portage—Lisgar, raised this in the previous Parliament when this legislation was Bill C-31. I would like to revisit some of the points he made for the record.
Let me quote from the interim report released by the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights in November 2003, entitled “A Hard Bed to Lie In: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve”. This is an issue we should not ignore. The Senate report stated:
|| I believe that one of the basic rights we should be able to enjoy is the right to call a place, a community or a structure “home”. Home is a place where we are safe and protected by family and friends. It is our private spot, where we can lock out the cares of the world and enjoy one another. It is also the place where, as a couple, when we plan a family, we know that this is the place where they will be safe, protected and loved. As a couple, you take a structure, and with personal touches from each of you, you make this your private world. You open your private world to family and friends, making them feel welcome when they visit you. However, make no mistake, this place is your private world.
|| Imagine the stress on a woman who knows that, if this loving relationship ends, then her world will crumble. Imagine the stress when this woman has children, and she knows, that not only she but also her children will soon have to leave the place she and they call home, and in some cases, must leave the community.
|| It is not an easy choice to decide that a relationship is not working and that the relationship must end. Normally, while there is a certain degree of animosity, most couples know that they must work out a mutually agreed upon arrangement for the deposition of property, including the home.
|| This would not appear to be the case for on-reserve women, as they hold no interest in the family home. There is no choice as to who has to move. It is the woman and, in most cases, it is the woman and her children. What a choice: be homeless or be in a loveless relationship, maybe an abusive relationship. Is that what Aboriginal women deserve? No, it is not. Is it humane? It is definitely not.
My concern and the concern of many members of my party is that the issues of matrimonial property are not properly, fully and fairly addressed in this agreement and that, if we proceed in this manner, there is the real possibility that we will perpetuate the circumstance. There is only one place in Canada where no such property rules exist and that is on reserves. It is important that we recognize this fact and commit ourselves to take every opportunity to correct the situation.
For those of us in opposition, it is not enough for us simply to oppose, especially in a minority Parliament. We must also put forward where we stand on issues such as this one. Allow me to make a few points about where a Conservative government would be with an issue like this.
The Conservative Party of Canada believes that self-government must occur within the context of the Constitution of Canada. Settlement of all outstanding comprehensive claims must be pursued on the basis of a clear framework which balances the rights of aboriginal claimants with those of Canada.
Self-government agreements must be structured so as to ensure constitutional harmony so as not to impede the overall governance of Canada. To ensure fairness and equality, a Conservative government would ensure that the principles of the charter applied to aboriginal self-government.
The Conservative Party of Canada believes in giving aboriginal governments the power to raise their own revenues. Aboriginal agreements reached with the federal government must represent a final agreement in the same manner as was achieved with the Nisga'a.
In closing, I believe that the underlying principles expressed are good ones. A comprehensive land claim settlement and self-government agreement in one document is a historic achievement, one which deserves credit for its good intentions.
Unfortunately, this agreement and the bill implementing it do not measure up to the standards that should be applied in such an important document. Again, here is why: The agreement is not final. The agreement does not fully respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor does it fully respect the overarching authority of the federal government in areas of its exclusive jurisdiction. It creates substantial jurisdictional confusion between federal, territorial and Tlicho legislation as to which takes precedence and in what situation.
I urge the government to consider the words of my colleagues, especially our critic, the member for Calgary Centre-North, with regard to this bill. Before something as important as this agreement gets cemented into place with the force of the Constitution behind it, we must be certain that we are in fact doing the right thing.
Madam Speaker, I would like to make a few comments with respect to Bill C-14 but before I do that I want to say how much I agree with the member for Wild Rose, who talked about the social problems of our native people in this country, the extreme poverty and drug problems. It has been going on for a long time. No government seems to be adequately dealing with it. The government has an opportunity now to deal with it.
The bill seems to have a lot of legalese in it. One member over here spent a great deal of time making us rather dizzy with some of the legal arguments as to why we should support the bill, but what it comes down to it there is nothing in the bill to solve the very serious problems that these people have. A lot of money has been spent by many governments and it is still going on. I think it is regrettable that we can stand here, debate these issues and not solve these problems.
Several other arguments have been raised as to why we in the Conservative Party are opposing the bill. One argument is that it is not a final agreement. It is quite remarkable that the agreement contains an article to reopen negotiations if another Northwest Territories aboriginal group negotiates terms that are attractive to the Tlicho in a future agreement. It fails to do what it is supposed to be doing, which is to create something that is final.
It is like no one thought about that. This other group thought about it but we did not think about it, so let us reopen the agreement. How silly. Why can we not have a final deal now? Why is that article in there? It is quite remarkable that clause is in there.
The second opposition we have to the bill is that it appears to recognize the right of the Tlicho people to enter into international agreements. I find that remarkable as well. This is Canada. Canada is supposed to be the one that negotiates international agreements, not a balkanization of this country, whether it is aboriginal or any other group. It is Canada that decides what the international agreements are supposed to be.
This agreement states that it does not limit the authority of the Tlicho nation to enter into international, national, interprovincial and interterritorial agreements. It further requires that the Government of Canada consult with the Tlicho nation before Canada enters into an international agreement that may affect the right of the Tlicho government, the Tlicho First Nation or a Tlicho citizen. Does a Tlicho citizen mean one person? Is that what that means? Surely to heaven we are not going to restrict ourselves to Canada making an agreement that one citizen can come forward and challenge the Canadian government. We will be in anarchy.
We on this side are saying that it is very broad language and puts a remarkable restriction on a power constitutionally reserved for the Canadian government. It would be quite a new change in the laws of this country if we were to allow one group to literally veto what a Canadian government is going to do.
The third argument of course is that it would create a racially based electoral system. The agreement would create a category of citizens called “Tlicho citizens”. They would be the only people who could be elected as chiefs. Further, 50% of the elected councillors must be Tlicho citizens. Surely this is contrary to the Canadian Bill of Rights.
The final argument that I wish to address in my comments is the one that alarms me the most. I referred to it in a question that I asked one of the government members. It has to do with clause 5 of Bill C-14.
Someone said that was not the right interpretation. I am reading it and it says that the agreement, or the bill or the regulations made under the bill will prevail over the provisions of any other act of Parliament, any ordinance of the Northwest Territories, any regulation made under any of these acts or ordinances or any Tlicho law. It is really amazing, this paramountcy section.
The government members have said that we are not reading it correctly. Well, that is what it says. In other words, I can only assume that the Tlicho nation can create its own criminal code. The Criminal Code of Canada does not apply if there is a criminal section set up under this agreement. It has paramountcy over the Criminal Code of Canada. It could even be suggested, although the government disagrees, that it takes paramountcy over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If I were one of the Tlicho citizens I would have grave concerns as to how laws might be passed that would take paramountcy over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Clause 5 will be a lawyer's dream. The courts will be so packed with constitutional cases for eons over this section alone, let alone all the other sections that are being referred to by my colleagues on this side.
The agreement describes three different hierarchies to determine which legislation is paramount in the event of conflict: federal legislation, territorial legislation, the Tlicho laws or the agreement. It is not clear whether the Tlicho citizens will have the benefit of protection under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the event of a conflict with the Tlicho constitution. That is the most serious issue.
The Liberal government, of course, has taken great pride in saying that it set up the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is directly contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why in the world anyone would want to support it, I do not know. It does not make sense to support legislation that will violate the rights of Canadian citizens. I would encourage all members, including members of the government, to oppose the legislation on that issue alone.
There is a final element of confusion. The agreement provides, in article 7.1, for a Tlicho constitution. Although the constitution does not--
Hon. Sue Barnes: The Tlicho. Learn how to say it.
Mr. David Tilson: I can be challenged on how I pronounce my words but I look forward to the member challenging me on what we are saying over here as to how the bill is so faulty. It has major drawbacks. The Liberals boast about how they will support the bill but they cannot give answers to all these issues.
The constitution does not form part of the agreement. The agreement states in article 7.1.2 that the protection under the Tlicho constitution shall be no less than the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and yet in article 7.1.4 the agreement prevails over the Tlicho constitution. However the constitution states that it prevails over everything else. It is like a big circle.
Those are my major arguments for not supporting the legislation. I cannot support the bill with clause 5, and I encourage all members of this place to vote against the bill.
Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of my colleagues and some of the comments of members on the government side. I also listened to the member for Calgary Centre-North, our critic for aboriginal affairs, who has done a good job in researching Bill C-14.
Like all matters dealing with aboriginal affairs, Bill C-14 is complicated and deserves intense and close study. This has nothing to do with an unwillingness on behalf of the Conservative Party to seek a final remedy for a number of first nations that are seeking land claims and treaties, but rather an attempt to bring some fairness to the issue.
Reference has been made to the Nisga'a treaty. I was aboriginal affairs critic at one time and supported the Nisga'a treaty. The treaty we have before us, as I have read it, is nothing like the Nisga'a treaty. They are totally separate issues.
I know some members of the House have taken exception to a number of issues in the treaty, such as the issue of paramountcy, which doe not particularly bother me as much as it may bother others. However I do find a number of other issues problematic, especially when it comes to international affairs. I have not heard a clear and concise explanation from the government side on them. They certainly deserve a much closer study and a much more introspective study by government members.
I would like to draw the House's attention to 7.13.2 which reads:
|| Prior to consenting to be bound by an international treaty that may affect a right of the Tlicho Government, the Tlicho First Nation or 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.
That makes common sense to me and I would see no problem with that. I would think that any first nation about to ratify an international treaty signed by the Government of Canada would want an opportunity to look at that treaty.
I will go a step further here and read 7.13.3 which states:
|| Where the Government of Canada informs the Tlicho Government that it considers that a law or other exercise of power of the Tlicho Government causes Canada to be unable to perform an international legal obligation, the Tlicho Government and the Government of Canada shall discuss remedial measures to enable Canada to perform the international legal obligation. Subject to 7.13.4, the Tlicho Government shall remedy the law or other exercise of power to the extent necessary to enable Canada to perform the international legal obligation.
Again, this makes common sense. The Tlicho people would amend their laws, which makes sense. However now we get to the crux of the problem.
The crux of the problem is really in 7.13.4 which states:
|| If the arbitrator, having taken into account all relevant considerations including any reservations and exceptions available to Canada, determines that the Tlicho Government law or other exercise of power causes Canada to be unable to perform the international legal obligation, the Tlicho Government shall remedy the law or other exercise of power to enable Canada to perform the internal legal obligation.
Under the legislation, what would stop the Tlicho government from selling bulk water? We have agreements among the provinces and the territories. We are not about to start exporting bulk water, although it does cross the border every day through municipal agreements along the border. We sell bottled water to the U.S. under our obligations under NAFTA and under the WTO.
Just imagine for a minute what would happen if the Tlicho First Nation decided to sell bulk water. There are all kinds of issues at stake. There are all kinds of bylaws that state that the Government of Canada shall not supercede the Tlicho ability to deal as an international body. Within a certain frame or guideline, I can agree with that. I have no difficulty with that.
I want to know some specifics. The government is very short on specifics, but very big on grandiose plans on how this is going to help first nations.
We have a great example. That is the Nisga'a agreement where the first nation has paramountcy on a number of issues that do not infringe upon the obligations of the sovereign state of Canada and the responsibilities of the federal government. There are dozens of examples, but it is very clearly written into the Nisga'a agreement. This language is not clear, final or definite when I read this proposed legislation.
What prevents the Tlicho people from deciding tomorrow, after the agreement is signed, that they wish to sell bulk water? As the agreement is written, there is anything in it to prevent that. That is one example.
This is pretty straightforward, responsible type of legislation that we would like to see governments bring forward. We have a number of first nations who have never signed treaties. Some of the Tlicho band are among those people.
This is about something called the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. It is about Arctic gas flowing through Tlicho land and an ulterior motive on behalf of the government. It is in such a hurry to exploit the resources of northern Canada, and by the way to exploit the resources and give nothing back to either three levels of government in northern Canada. It takes the lion's share of the profit and the Tlicho should recognize this, as well.
The government is not a beneficiary. It does not always act in the best interests of its clients, including Yukon, the NWT and Nunavut, let alone does it act in good faith when it deals with first nations.
There is a bottom line that we cannot ignore. The treaty, unlike almost any other treaty that I have had the experience of reading, does not deal with finality. It is not clear in its language and it opens the door internationally to a real serious problem. Part of that problem is about water, or could be.
If we look at article 2.2.9, it states:
|| Nothing in the Agreement shall be interpreted so as to limit or extend any authority of the Parties to negotiate and enter into international, national, interprovincial and inter-territorial agreements, but this does not prevent the Tlicho Government from entering into agreements--
I have heard a lot of language coming from the government benches that the opposition is not looking at the legislation with a clear mind and that we are attempting to be unfair in our deliberations. As an individual who has supported a lot of good legislation regarding first nations, this piece of legislation has a serious flaw in it. Until I hear the answer, not just the criticisms about what everyone else thinks about this but the answer to that specific part of the bill, then I am going to be very apprehensive in believing that this legislation is good for Canada and good for first nations.
Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today to speak to the bill. I have been listening with interest to the comments that some of the members on this side have been making. I think they are very valid and we are raising some very serious concerns.
I want to talk about two issues primarily that are so fundamental to a free and democratic society, one of those being access to information on the part of its citizens and the other is the principle of equality before the law of all citizens.
I want to focus on a particular article, 2.12, disclosure of information. Currently, we have access to information provisions in this country that allow individual citizens to access the information contained by government. It states:
|| Subject to 2.12.3, but notwithstanding any other provision of the Agreement, neither government, including the Tlicho community governments, nor the Tlicho Government is required to disclose any information that it is required or entitled to withhold under any legislation or Tlicho law relating to access to information or privacy.
Article 2.12.2 goes on:
|| Where government, including a Tlicho community government, or the Tlicho government has a discretion to disclose any information, it shall take into account the objects of the Agreement in exercising that discretion.
Finally, article 2.12.3 states:
|| Notwithstanding any legislation relating to access to information or privacy, government shall provide a Tlicho community government access to any information under its control, other than federal Cabinet documents or territorial Executive Council documents, that is required for the administration, by the Tlicho community government, of an interest listed in part 2 of the appendix to chapter 9 or a lease listed in part 3 of the appendix to chapter 9.
I raise that issue of access to information. We want to ensure that the citizens who are governed under this agreement are not subject to a lesser amount of access to important vital information than Canadian citizens are subject today. That is a concern because access to information is a cornerstone of a free and democratic society.
I also want to talk a bit about the principle of equality. That is a principle to which most of us on this side are committed to and to which those on the other side say they are committed. This overall agreement will create a racially segregated electoral system, which is clearly contrary to our charter of rights that we cherish.
Those who are Tlicho citizens acquire a very distinct status. They enjoy the electoral franchise as Tlicho citizens. They have all the rights and benefits of other Canadian citizens. They also maintain their identity as aboriginal people of Canada participating in and benefiting from any existing or future constitutional rights. They also receive all status Indian benefits and maintain their hunting, fishing and trapping rights under treaty.
I fear we are creating here a system of rights, competing rights and conflicting rights among various groups of Canadians. The principle of equality appears to be thrown out the window in an effort to reach this agreement.
As Canadians we are protected under the charter of rights. It is part of our Constitution and has been since 1982. It provides certain rights and guarantees to all Canadians. Some of those rights that we cherish are included under that charter. It is not clear to me, and it has been raised today by various members, that the charter will apply to these citizens.
It seems quite clear on its face that if we were to take some of the provisions of this agreement and pushed them onto an area such as Ottawa, or my riding where we had a segregated electoral system, Canadians would not appreciate that. However, under the guise of reaching an agreement, we have some onerous provisions.
The principles that we cherish in a free and democratic society, that are necessary to maintain a democracy, the principles of openness of government, and the principle of equality of all citizens before and under the law, I would urge all members to consider whether this bill is in keeping with those principles that we claim to hold so dear. When we look at some of the provisions here, that is not the case.
Other provisions have already been raised today. I want to touch on some other items. We can go through so much effort in the debate on this agreement and the cost of trying to reach an agreement, but when we finally achieve an agreement, it must be final. How can we subject Canadians from across this country to this type of debate and this type of effort that goes into reaching an agreement and not have a final agreement?
I fear that the government has put us in a situation where we will have to revisit this issue often. It sets a terrible precedent. Canadians would expect that this agreement would be final. Finality is an important part of any contract. We all want to know that we can rely on what we have entered into a year from now, 10 years from now and into the future. If we have an agreement that is not final, it does a disservice to the Tlicho people and to all Canadians.
The other item that has been mentioned, and I cannot understand why there has not been more opposition raised to it, is the right to enter into international agreements. We have seen some of the controversy on the other side when statements were made that some provinces could act on the international stage as a representative of Canada. We know that is not true. The Government of Canada speaks for Canada on international debate and international negotiations.
Have we opened the door now to a group of people within our country and have we given the opportunity now for them to speak to international agreements and international issues? In practice how would that be put in place?
We do not offer a seat for the provinces. Yet, we are now going to extend a seat in international agreements which is what the agreement says. This is a power that is constitutionally reserved for the federal government and we are going to open this up in this agreement.
I have already mentioned the electoral system. There has to be fundamental equality before the law. We have seen recent Supreme Court decisions affirming that every Canadian citizen has the right to vote. We have seen that even extending into our federal prison system.
To then suggest that only certain citizens in an area, these Tlicho citizens as they will be known, are entitled to be elected to certain positions is a clearly racially based system.
There is also concern in creating another tier of government. We have a municipal tier which ironically enough this government has promised time and time again to support and has been pulling the rug out from under our municipal governments. Now we see the government creating another tier.
Those are some of the issues that must be addressed.
Madam Speaker, this is Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act.
There have been a couple of important pieces of legislation that have been introduced into the 38th Parliament. One of them deals with the subject of child pornography, which I think is very important to Canadians. This too I believe is very important legislation, one that will have profound effects on Canadian society for many years to come. I am very pleased to speak to it, but I am somewhat concerned about matters that were raised in the debate by the member for Calgary Centre-North. Members will remember he raised a number of issues with respect to this agreement.
This is an agreement that comes before this chamber. We have every right to debate it, look at it and ensure that it is in the best interests of Canada, as well as in the best interests of the Tlicho people. I agree with the concept of native self-government. It is a good idea and it something that we should pursue. I believe, for a couple of reasons.
Members will remember that in the British North America Act, the federal government was given special responsibility with respect to Canada's natives. In the last 137 years it is fair to say that we have not done a good job of running the lives of Canada's aboriginal peoples. That alone commends the idea of native self-government to all Canadians. It is a good idea because it is fair and it is the right thing to do. Coupled with that is the fact that I do not believe as a society we have done a very good job trying to run their lives, nor should we have tried. That is the way the Constitution was originally written, so we must deal with it as we find it.
As well, I agree with the concept of native self-government because it is the fair thing to do if we look at the sweep of Canadian history. I appreciate the fact that there are many different first nation communities across the country. However, if we look at the history of modern Canada, we will see that at every stage of history of Canada the natives have played a vital part in the development of this half of the continent.
As we know, Canada occupies two million square miles of the northern half of North America. We are very fortunate people to have many natural resources and to have this land. It would not have been possible if we had not built up allies. As European settlements moved across the northern half of the continent, the allies we had with native communities were absolutely vital.
Members will remember the French regime. If we look at the history of Samuel de Champlain and the governors who followed him, it was absolutely vital for them to have their own community and society by building those allies with the natives who preceded them in Canada. The English colonies to the south were much more populace. They had more money and more resources at their disposal. Yet for several hundred years the French regime continued and prospered in Quebec and outside of Quebec, in part, because of the determination of the people themselves, their French allies and their native allies.
So, too, with the British regime. The British people found it expedient and to their best interests in a lightly populated country to make allies with native Canadians. Therefore, they are very much a part of the history.
For my own area of Niagara Falls, Major General Sir Isaac Brock reported back to then equivalent of the British war office, I suppose, as to what had happened in the war of 1812. He said that the victory of the British and the Canadians at Detroit had helped ensure that we would continue our independence in this part of the world. He said that it was absolutely essential and could not have been done without the support of his native allies.
In those instances in the history of Canada, our native allies were absolutely critical to the success of us being able to be a separate community on this part of the continent.
Also, if we look at the development of western Canada, British Columbia and the western provinces, we will find that all the way through, in a lightly populated part of the country, treaties were made with the local native groups to ensure that the Americans did not move into the Prairies, or into British Columbia or did not further expand Alaska--