The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill , as reported (without amendment) from the committee.
Mr. Speaker, today is indeed a historic day for Canada, the Tlicho and the House. Today it is our solemn duty to consider the merits of Bill C-14 as we enter the final debate in the House on the Tlicho agreement. I am convinced that a close examination of the proposed legislation will reveal its numerous advantages for the Tlicho, for the north and for Canada.
I wish to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for their support and valuable insight, as the bill has worked its way through the House rather expeditiously. The legislation is a testament of what we can achieve together when we work in partnership.
On that note, I would also like to acknowledge the tireless efforts of all those who have been working with such unwavering determination to see the bill become a reality. We are honoured to have with us today the Tlicho leadership, elders, and members of the community who have worked so hard.
We have the Tlicho chiefs from all the Tlicho communities in the House today: Grand Chief Joe Rabesca, Chief Charlie Jim Nitsiza from Whati and his wife, Chief Archie Wetrade from Gameti and his spouse as well, Chief Joseph Judas from Wekweti and Chief Clifford Daniels from Behchoko. All these people have their spouses with them.
The Elders Advisory Council has also travelled to Ottawa for this historic day, representedd by Alexi Arrowmaker, Jimmy B. Rabesca, Joe Migwi and Harry Simpson. The Tlicho negotiators are here as well. They are John B. Zoe, Ted Blondin, Eddie Erasmus and James Wahshie. The legal counsel are Colin Salter and Bertha Rabesca-Zoe.
This is a delegation that deserves to be here and to see the benefits of their really hard work over the years and decades. A delegation of people whose support was crucial in getting to this point includes Violet Camsell-Blondin, Frances Erasmus, Georgina Franki and James Rabesca. All of these people demonstrated selfless dedication and perseverance in making the agreement possible. They spent a lot of time on the road away from their families and communities making. They did not consider it to be a sacrifice but rather a dedication in seeing a future for their people.
For more than 10 years the Tlicho, the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories have worked toward this agreement. The legislation before us today is a response to changing circumstances and challenging conditions. It represents nothing less than the inspiration of a proud and determined people committed to flourish in today's north and in Canada.
The enactment of Bill C-14, and the agreement that it enshrines, will not only foster greater economic and social development in the Tlicho communities, it will also allow us, as a country, to build on the great progress we have made in resolving aboriginal issues.
After all, this is one of the most prosperous and successful aboriginal communities in the north. The agreement defines and delineates Tlicho rights with respect to lands, resources and self-government. Indeed, many observers have stated publicly that the clarification of Tlicho rights may well be the single most advantageous aspect of the agreement.
This clarity will lead to substantial benefits for the Tlicho and for all Canadians. It was a truly visionary and forward thinking move that back in the 1960s, Tlicho leaders began a comprehensive process of consultation and negotiation upon recognizing the need to protect their traditional way of life and seeing the opportunity to benefit from modern enterprise.
Their objective, as captured by Chief Jimmy Bruneau, was to become strong like two people, to blend traditional beliefs with modern practices. During the past 10 years, the Tlicho people have realized Chief Bruneau's vision. They have moved decisively to protect their past and secure their future by following an approach based on traditional, and modern beliefs and practices.
After 16 years of being in the House, I am not prone to being nervous, but I am quite nervous today. I am a little intimidated because these are very powerful people and very powerful leaders from my riding. This is such an important piece of legislation that I am afraid to make a mistake.
To ensure the survival of their culture, the Tlicho people drafted and ratified a constitution that honours their language and customs. It is important to note that the Tlicho constitution states clearly that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to the Tlicho government thereby protecting the democratic rights and freedoms of those who reside on Tlicho lands. Non-Tlicho citizens, for instance, may be appointed or elected to serve in Tlicho institutions.
To foster economic and social prosperity, the Tlicho negotiated mutually beneficial agreements with private companies and public sector organizations. To facilitate greater cooperation with neighbouring aboriginal groups, the Tlicho finalized overlap agreements that have clarified land boundaries.
The fact that the Tlicho people are one of the most progressive aboriginal groups in Canada is linked to their consultative and collaborative abilities, their careful consideration of every voice, and their willingness to accept dissent yet still achieve consensus. I have personally watched the consultation process that they used in bringing all of their people along every step of the way. The way in which they engaged the elders to be informed and all of their citizens to be part of this was really quite an extraordinary piece of work in and of itself.
Enacting this piece of legislation could not be more timely because of the readiness of the Tlicho people to advance to true and complete self-government. The Tlicho people have amply demonstrated their ability to exercise the powers granted under Bill C-14 wisely. After all, the Tlicho have established and maintained a series of successful partnerships to deliver social services, develop economic opportunities, and build community infrastructure.
The Tlicho were the first aboriginal group in Canada to establish an independent school board, and today operate five schools with a high school graduation rate that has far exceeded expectations from just a decade ago.
Today they also run a seniors residence, and this residence is magic. It is a wonderful accommodation of what people need in terms of modern medical needs and care, and also traditional needs. They also have a day care centre and a prenatal group.
The Tlicho have collaborated on projects to improve physical infrastructure in the north. In addition to building and maintaining their own airport, the Tlicho people, in collaboration with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, established a run-of-the-river hydro generating station on the Snare River-Snare Cascades. Today the station generates approximately 7% of the region's electrical capacity.
The Tlicho people are involved in numerous ventures across a range of economic sectors such as tourism and mining. They secured impact benefit agreements with two diamond mining companies, Diavik and BHP Billiton. These agreements deliver significant benefits such as employment and contracting opportunities, along with training and scholarship programs.
To maximize the potential long term benefits of the diamond mines, the Tlicho partnered with ATCO Frontec to create Tlicho Logistics. This giant company supplies support services to mining projects and ensures that Tlicho employees receive on the job training in effective management and administration practices. With these skills, the Tlicho are more likely to succeed on future projects.
This focus on economic development has not diminished the Tlicho's strong connection to heritage. The trails of our ancestors program is but one small example. This annual 10 day canoe trip, led by Tlicho elders and leaders, enables up to 200 community members of all ages to fish, hunt, paddle, and camp together on traditional waterways and lands. The trip celebrates the spiritual bond with the land that has long been a central feature of Tlicho culture.
To guarantee that future generations can also connect with their traditional lands, the Tlicho people negotiated the agreement at the heart of Bill C-14. Under the agreement, the Tlicho will acquire approximately 39,000 square kilometres of territory, along with rights over subsurface resources. To manage this effectively, the Tlicho government will be created. Among other responsibilities, this government will manage resources and enact laws in areas such as aboriginal language and culture.
The roles and responsibilities of all elected officials are set out in the Tlicho constitution. The constitution includes a number of provisions to ensure that the Tlicho government is politically and financially accountable and that the rights and freedoms of all residents, including non-Tlicho citizens, are protected.
Along with these new powers, the Tlicho would assume several new responsibilities. Once Bill C-14 becomes law, for instance, the Indian Act would no longer apply to the Tlicho people. They would however be subject to all federal legislation of general application such as the Criminal Code. Like all Canadians, the Tlicho would continue to be subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Bill C-14 would have little effect on Canada's international legal obligations. As legal counsel for the Tlicho stated clearly to the committee reviewing the bill, “There is nothing in this agreement that interferes with Canada's jurisdiction to enter into international agreements”.
I am convinced that the agreement will soon have a significant and positive impact within Canada as the Tlicho realize the numerous advantages that self-government would make available. With an open, transparent and accountable government in place, the Tlicho would be better able to attract new investors and business partners, and foster economic growth.
They have done that without legislation already and Bill C-14 would empower that move even more. The Tlicho would be better able to design and deliver enhanced social services and improve the availability of safe and affordable housing. The Tlicho people would also be better able to develop a high quality education system that meets the needs of their communities.
Ultimately, as Tlicho communities grow stronger and more self-sufficient, all Canadians stand to benefit. Furthermore, the success of the Tlicho would be a success for Canada. The Tlicho would inspire other aboriginal communities to realize their own vision of self-government and prosperity.
Today we have an opportunity to send a clear message to all Canadians that the government is determined to work with aboriginal communities and enable them to reach their whole potential. The legislation before us today carries the principled and worthy aspirations of a people, and provides a road map for other first nations, Inuit, Metis and northerners to follow.
I hope that I can count on the support of my hon. colleagues to help us move the legislation to the Senate for final approval in order to give the Tlicho people the tools they need to build the future they deserve and desire.
Bill C-14 is an outstanding piece of work put together by the people from my territory and from their own territory. These people have a long history and an attachment to their land, and a vision for their people. This is what the real Canada is all about. Canada is about a place of equal opportunity for everyone. This legislation gives full expression to what the leadership has as a vision for its people.
I implore my hon. colleagues to support Bill C-14 and help us get it through so that we can have a full and complete cycle of Tlicho legislation in place.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-14, the Tlicho land claims and self-government act.
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like at the outset to join my colleagues in welcoming the Tlicho dignitaries to the House today. This is indeed a strong community, one with strong leadership. The Tlicho elders, their negotiators and council members under the leadership of Grand Chief Rabesca deserve our recognition today.
The questions which our party has spoken to with respect to this agreement concern themselves less with the future direction of the Tlicho people and more with the failure on the part of the Government of Canada to achieve with this treaty something which will be endurable and in the best interests of Canada.
I intend to place on the record particular concerns which we have, having recently come into possession of a copy of the cabinet framework within which this very agreement was negotiated. It is quite evident that the agreement as negotiated does not accord with the directions and approvals that were given by cabinet to the negotiators.
I intend to place some of that on the record in the course of my comments today. Members will see that in a number of very important respects, specifically the issues that our party has raised in the House of Commons previously, the cabinet which authorized the conduct of these negotiations was itself concerned about these very issues.
I think everyone is aware that I have had a lengthy history in this country as an outspoken advocate on fairness in the resolution of claims, both as a negotiator on the Sturgeon Lake tripartite settlement and also as a commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission where I served for some 10 years and assisted as a co-chair of that commission.
I have felt throughout that time that it is in Canada's best interests to resolve comprehensive claims and to achieve certainty through the negotiation of self-government agreements. I have also, however, for nearly 20 years been very outspoken about the need to resolve these issues and claims in a way that is in the best interests of Canada, and which ensures that Canada's international sovereignty is protected, and that our Constitution and charter are respected and that we have workable systems of government. Those are the very concerns which we have raised in the House and which I will speak to today.
Ultimately, we anticipate that the Tlicho legislation will clear Parliament because the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois are supportive of this legislation. Our party is the only party that has spoken in terms of the long term governability of this country and concerns that we have with the agreement.
It warrants emphasis that this may be the most significant Indian treaty negotiated in the past 100 years. It is the first modern treaty which combines both a comprehensive claim settlement and a self-government agreement. It will create a Tlicho government in the Northwest Territories. That government will have greater jurisdiction than a municipality. It will have greater jurisdiction than a province.
The lands now owned by the Tlicho under this agreement, assuming it is approved by the House, will be the largest aboriginal land holding in North America, consisting of lands approximately half the size of New Brunswick. The Tlicho people will receive approximately $150 million. The agreement also will define a precedent for negotiations with the other Dene first nations in the Northwest Territories, specifically the Sahtu, the Gwich'in, the Akaitcho, the Deh Cho and the Inuvialuit.
The Conservative Party's opposition to the Tlicho legislation, as I say, relates not to our concerns about the Tlicho themselves, but rather to Canada's failure in the negotiating process to protect Canada's best interests on these four points: first, incursions upon Canada's sovereignty and external relations; second, concerns regarding the failure to achieve public government in the Northwest Territories; third, the absence of finality; and fourth, jurisdictional overlap and confusion.
We have consistently voiced our concerns in a principled way, but last week I came into possession of a supporting document from an unexpected source, the 1995 cabinet approval which authorized the Tlicho negotiations. This document warrants emphasis because it speaks to the very concerns which the Conservative Party has raised about this agreement.
Let me first address the matter of Canadian sovereignty. The 1995 cabinet document, which authorized the commencement of the Tlicho negotiations and other inherent self-government negotiations, could not possibly be clearer. Item number 14, on matters not for negotiation, states that there are a number of subject matters that the federal government is not prepared to negotiate with aboriginal groups in the context of implementing the inherent right of self-government. These subject matters fall into two categories: first, powers relating to Canadian sovereignty, defence and external relations; and second, other national interest powers. It states that In these areas exclusive jurisdiction must remain with the federal government.
Moreover, it states that there are no compelling reasons for aboriginal governments of institutions to exercise powers in these areas which cannot be characterized as either integral to aboriginal culture or internal to aboriginal groups. Subject matters in this category would include international diplomatic relations and foreign policy.
This is a remarkable document. We have the very cabinet approval which initiated the negotiation of this agreement. It is a substantial document, 60 to 70 pages in length, well thought out and well crafted. It recommended that Canada not compromise its external relations or its international sovereignty in any way in any of these negotiations.
One thing is perfectly clear about this agreement; and that is, in item 7.13, Canada has negotiated very specifically with respect to international legal obligations. Included in the agreement is item 7.13.2, which has been spoken to earlier. It 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 minister has spoken publicly about this provision. My understanding of what he has said is not to worry about the provision because in effect Canada can do what it wants anyway. That is very interesting. However, that is not what the agreement says. Moreover, the agreement contains an arbitration provision.
If Canada can do whatever it wants at the end of the day, why does this complicated agreement entrench in the Canadian Constitution an arbitration provision that governs the relationship between the Tlicho people and the Government of Canada in respect of international matters?
Clearly what has happened is that the executive branch of the government has failed to adhere to the very terms of reference under which these negotiations were authorized, and it leads to undeniable questions. Will these benefits be extended to other aboriginal groups with which self-government negotiations are undertaken? It is worth recognizing that there will be self-government tables in 631 other situation. Are all these other communities to be accorded the same right? Are other Canadians to be accorded the same right? Will this country be governable in terms of its foreign relations and external relations and its international sovereignty in 100 years if this pattern is replicated? That is the first issue that this agreement raises.
The second matter which I wish to address relates to the very difficult question of public governance. Once again, the cabinet approval of 1995 is remarkable in its clarity. It states that in the federal government's view, the creation of separate aboriginal governments in the Northwest Territories is neither practical nor feasible, although the creation of an aboriginal institutional capacity to exercise certain authorities or govern its participation in public government may be negotiated. However, the primary approach should focus on providing aboriginal people with specific guarantees within public government institutions.
What the cabinet recommended and approved in 1995 was that the negotiations in the Northwest Territories should be conducted on the same basis as Nunavut. In Nunavut we have a public government. The different between a public government and what we have here is the difference between a government in which all citizens have the right to participate and have equal democratic status, on the one hand being a public government and a situation in which governance is based upon race and upon registration.
What happened in 1995 is the cabinet said not to go there, because the consequences were clear. We will not now have public government in the Northwest Territories in the way that cabinet recommended in 1995. Instead we will have a series of racially based states up the Mackenzie Valley in which the democratic status of individual Canadians depends upon their categorization under the Indian Act.
It is not only the Conservative Party that has recommended against this, it is the cabinet of the government in 1995 that said not to get into this kind of arrangement.
In other words, in the future in the Northwest Territories, as the government sees it, Canadian citizens will not enjoy the same democratic rights, depending upon whether they are an aboriginal person or a non-aboriginal person. In fact, an aboriginal person, such as a Métis, will not have the same democratic position as a citizen who is an Indian registered under the Indian Act.
The Tlicho government is exactly the kind of aboriginal government that the cabinet recommended against in 1995 and the difference is profound, as one can see in comparing what will happen in the Northwest Territories to what has happened in Nunavut.
Last week in the National Post the minister published a letter to the editor addressing this issue. He put forward the most remarkable proposition which I have heard in some time. He said that we should not worry about this issue because 90% of the people who comprised the local population were registered Indian citizens anyway”. That is a remarkable proposition. If that is the policy of the government with respect to democratic franchise and the advancement of the rights of Canadian citizens under the charter, then Canadians need to know. It is an incredible proposition. If it applied in this country reciprocally, we will have the sort of country in which I do not believe Canadians are interested.
All this gives rise to important charter issues. The government states that the charter applies to all Canadians and it applies to the Tlicho. Unfortunately, that response is superficial and it does not reflect a close analysis of the documents which are being approved by the House of Commons.
It ignores, firstly, the possible ramifications of section 25 of the Constitution which specifically says that the provisions of the charter do not apply to aboriginal self-government and to aboriginal Canadians in the same way that they apply to other citizens. There are differences. It also ignores the Tlicho people's own constitution, which has been created under this legislative framework, that establishes two official languages, for example, neither of which is the French language.
Most interestingly, if one examines the Tlicho constitution, one will see that decisions of the Tlicho government are not open to question or challenge in any judicial form. If the Canadian Charter does apply, that is a very remarkable application which has no other parallels in Canada of which I am aware. It is a prohibitive clause that says that government decisions cannot be taken to court.
That is what we are creating with this legislative framework. In response the government says that on a superficial basis the charter is respected because all Canadians live under the charter. The government is not looking specifically at what it is doing in this document.
The next matter in respect of which our party has spoken is the whole question of finality. I have said that the Tlicho people and the Tlicho negotiators deserve our admiration. They are credible people. They are conscientious. They have done a remarkable job in their negotiations. They have achieved a comprehensive claims settlement which is generous, and we make no criticism of the generosity of it. However, it is decidedly less final than other modern settlements. It can be, for example, compared with the Nisga'a treaty.
The Nisga'a agreement is a fair comparison because it was negotiated several years ago. The Nisga'a people signed off on their rights and entitlements under section 35 of the Constitution. They executed releases and indemnities. They ceded and surrendered their wider aboriginal title. They agreed after a transitional period to be subject to Canada income taxation.
None of those matters form part of the Tlicho agreement. One should examine other agreements such as the Labrador Inuit comprehensive claim settlement, which will be before the House after Christmas. It is an agreement that provides finality and certainty. Why does this one not? That is the question which we have raised in the House of Commons and at committee, and in respect of which we have not received an answer. There is in addition the clause contained in the agreement which allows matters of tax power, tax exemption, royalties and the like to be opened up in the future as well.
The fourth issue is the question of constitutional workability. No one need take my word on this. They need only refer to the independent examiner retained by the federal government who published the smart regulation report. This is a report of which the government is proud and of which it speaks often.
The smart regulation report says that the Northwest Territories at this point in terms of regulation is a spiderweb of complexity that it is essentially stands to threaten the Mackenzie Valley pipeline because there is a myriad of governments and legislation, federal, territorial, and aboriginal, and a myriad of boards and agencies. In that case it is will take the proponents of the pipeline over 2,000 approvals to build the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.
Now this agreement does absolutely nothing to simplify or clarify the complexity which the government has made out of the Northwest Territories. In fact, it adopts a model of federal aboriginal concurrence with Tlicho paramountcy, which will make the situation even more confusing. The provisions of this agreement are extraordinarily complex. They are sometimes inconsistent and they are extremely ambiguous in terms of the paramountcy provisions.
What is most concerning is we are taking a 208 page legal document and incorporating it into the Canadian Constitution as a treaty. The entire Canadian Constitution is only 50 pages in length. We are adopting a 208 page document, constitutionally entrenching it and doing it in a way that the Parliament of Canada can never amend it because it becomes a section 35 constitutionally entrenched document.
Other jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, have wisely said that this is not a prudent strategy. The point that I will make again is the 1995 cabinet approval says “don't do this” because we will be effectively be incorporating all the nuts and bolts of government into a constitutional document that cannot be amended.
Those are the reasons that our party has spoken against the agreement and the legislation. It is an important agreement and a precedent setting agreement for which we have grave concerns.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments which were very well thought out. I appreciate the loyal opposition party putting someone in that role who has had some experience in land claims and can do a detailed analysis of agreements.
Unfortunately, though, I do not think he has convinced us of the four points. I know these four points were brought up at the beginning of the debate. I also appreciate the fact that he brought new evidence today.
However I want to reiterate that there is not a problem with those points.
The first point had to do with this being the first time that two agreements have been combined. This is not the first time because the Nisga'a agreement combined both the self-government and the land claim agreement.
He made four major points on international trade. As it says in the agreement, the parties specifically consult if an international agreement will affect governments. Why would our government not want to consult if it would affect another government? We make the final decision. We do what we have to do. It certainly makes sense that land claims in this country, as the member will well know, set a new environment of negotiation, a new relationship between aboriginal people and other Canadian governments. Under those circumstances, it would only be polite to consult and do what we could if there were concerns we were not aware of.
The second major item was that a public government has to have Indian Act members. Frankly, I do not understand this concern. This is what happens in all the land claims agreements across the country. There are all sorts of both settled and unsettled land claims where first nation people have provisions specifically for them.
The third point is about the charter. It states right in the agreement that the charter applies and that if there is any discrepancy between the agreement and the Constitution, the agreement applies and the agreement states specifically that the charter applies. We have said that on numerous occasions.
In finality is not a new concept. If some other negotiated land claim settlement has a well worked out financial taxation provision, why would that not be accessible to the Tlicho? We do not want to have a checkerboard of different taxation regimes in the Northwest Territories, so why would they not all be the same if that is the best? That has been applied in Yukon and there has been no problem with that. Once again, this is not a new provision.
On constitutional workability, the hon. member says that it adds no clarity. First, thousands of decisions for pipelines have to go through all sorts of governments, municipal and first nation governments. In a country that allows people to have their say at a local level, why not? We cannot disband the thousands of municipalities or first nation governments and their ability to govern in their own area.
The hon. member says that there is nothing to clarify. We just had the supreme court reading on the Haida agreement on Queen Charlotte Islands which stated that government has to consult and take into consideration concerns when there is no agreement. Now that there will be an agreement here, it gives developers far more clarity on exactly what conditions they will fall under. The Haida agreement, which was settled a couple of weeks ago, makes the agreement even more instrumental in promoting development in the Northwest Territories and the Tlicho land claim.
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying just how proud I am to speak to the House today on a subject that I have heard debated for a number of years, and to realize what the Tlicho have accomplished.
It is therefore a pleasure to speak to the House and particularly to congratulate the political leaders of the Tlicho for their magnificent accomplishment. I would also like to congratulate the other parties. No negotiations are held in a vacuum. Other parties are always involved.
As far as comprehensive land claims or self-government are concerned, this social blueprint will mean an enormous advantage for the aboriginal people of the Northwest Territories.
I wish to assure the Tlicho people that the Bloc Québécois and I will continue to monitor the progress of implementing this agreement. I have seen too many clauses, unfortunately, included in agreements but not implemented as part of the social blueprint. I want the Tlicho to know that I will always be pleased to help ensure that what was in the agreement actually gets to their community.
I met with the Tlicho political leaders right after my election, to offer my support and that of my party. I wanted to find out what their vision of the situation was. Hon. members are no doubt aware of how open they are to discussion. They worked with us as they did with the others to ensure that everything turned out as planned.
They are making their dreams a reality. May those dreams be as wonderful as possible and may they bring the Tlicho everything they deserve, after all the years of discussion. I can understand their pride and their desire to get this settled. Anyone concerned with discussing a social blueprint for 15 or 20 or more years wants to see it realized.
They consulted with the entire population, both aboriginal and Canadian. They worked with the other nations to ensure each had its proper place. They were successful, in my opinion, at leaving other nations space, while gaining respect for themselves. They devoted over 10 years to realizing this social blueprint and they have informed everyone else about it in detail.
Thus, that is probably why there were so few opposing views expressed in committee; for the good and simple reason that the Tlicho had worked hard to provide information and convince people to give them a chance.
No aboriginal or Métis groups and no Canadian or governmental groups made any objection to the realization of this agreement during the committee's deliberations. Everyone worked together to make it possible for the Tlicho to celebrate their new vision of society this holiday season.
We have sensed a magnificent feeling of cooperation and understanding with the other people living in the same land. The wake-up call for governments came, we must remember, with the Calder case in 1973. That was when it was realized that recognition of aboriginal rights could affect the entire country. If the Calder case had accepted that definition of rights, it would have been an enormous social change. It was not for nothing that the federal government then began scrambling to invite the First Nations to sit down at the negotiating table and enter negotiations to settle these issues through agreements and not through the courts or any other avenues. Panic set in, and the trustee issued its first policy on land claims and rights for those nations where they had not been extinguished.
It is obvious that, for an aboriginal group, governance must follow its customs and its own issues. They must be adaptable. They need the other governments to understand that there may be certain things on which the Tlicho negotiators and the governments—because the others must take part, too—have negotiated together and reached an agreement. Thus, their pride is very understandable, because I, as a negotiator, would have liked to have negotiated such an agreement.
In 1982, during the repatriation of the Constitution, Mr. Trudeau decided to recognize aboriginal rights in section 35, which affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of aboriginal peoples of Canada including those acquired through land claims.
Since that time, the Supreme Court of Canada has evolved. I do not understand why the attempt is being made to keep aboriginals from developing. It is clear that there is an enormous amount of catching up to do in terms of rights, without which, the aboriginals will continue to be penalized.
Since 1973, 17 land claims have been settled, including 14 in the northern territories. The north is a favourable place for trying to reach interesting agreements for aboriginals.
In 1921, Tlicho Chief Monfwi was one of signatories of Treaty 11, the last in the series of numbered treaties. In 1990, after having studied the entire matter thoroughly based on other studies—such as the Penner report—the royal commission found that even the historical treaties needed to be renegotiated.
Thus, the Tlicho did exactly what people in aboriginal groups want to do. They corrected what had been done quickly and superficially. The desire was for aboriginals to continue to be subject to this type of utterly outdated treaty.
I think it is important to Canadians for aboriginals to be happy, proud and active in society in the future. Furthermore, the royal commission stipulated that the Government of Canada has a duty to ensure this.
Once again, I want to congratulate the Tlicho people and their Grand Chief, because they got their rights recognized through negotiation. We must congratulate ourselves that it is possible in a country like ours to sign agreements that allow us to recognize all the rights of aboriginals.
I thank them for the example they have given us. You probably remember other agreements or negotiations in Quebec when there were all kinds of disputes between Quebeckers, aboriginals and the entire population. However, everything went smoothly with the Tlicho. They managed to agree on something valid that will help them to be happy and to believe in the future of Canada.
Madam Speaker, on behalf of the NDP caucus I am very proud to rise today and speak in favour of Bill C-14. I am proud to be a part of this. I think I can speak for the entire NDP caucus when I say that we share the same commitment and sentiment toward having the bill expeditiously pass through the House and on to the Senate, because we are very committed to getting this whole process through as quickly as we can.
I would like to begin by offering my recognition of and my thanks and heartfelt congratulations to the Tlicho people for having achieved this monumental point in their history, the product of more than decade of consultations and negotiations. The agreement between the Tlicho and the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories is something for all of us here today to be proud of.
I would specifically like to recognize and pay tribute to a few people: Grand Chief Joe Rabesca, along with the chiefs from the various communities of the Tlicho territory, both his negotiating teams, with Mr. John B. Zoe, who was the chief negotiator, as well as Eddie Erasmus and James Washie, self-government specialists.
We believe that with the signing of this agreement we begin a new chapter in Canada's history today. I believe that with this agreement we are strengthening Canada's federation. We are in a way committing ourselves to a new north, one that represents the vision and the spirit of the people who live there. By doing so, I believe that we make our country stronger and better able to meet the challenges of the future.
This historic agreement is the first and the most comprehensive land claim and self-government agreement in the Northwest Territories. It can serve as a model, but not as a template, I caution, for other communities in Canada and in fact for other countries for implementing self-government, because this agreement defines rights and shows the world how diversity creates strength and how partnership builds on this model.
As a result of the agreement, the Tlicho will receive a block of land just slightly smaller than Switzerland. On this land the Tlicho will own the resources, which will give them the tools they need to strengthen their culture and their future. I believe that agreements such as this one provide the certainty and the security that all of us need to plan for ourselves and our future; certainty and predictable decision making that will interest investment and growth in the north.
I am very proud to be here as a member of Parliament, as a member of the New Democratic Party and as a Canadian. I am proud because the agreement represents what is best about Canada, I believe. We should and can lead the world in the recognition of aboriginal rights. In fact, we are the only country in the world to recognize those rights in our Constitution.
Our history and experience to date in recognizing and acknowledging aboriginal and treaty rights have been Canada's greatest failure and Canada's greatest shame. This is why I am proud to be able to stand in the House of Commons and celebrate with the Tlicho people; that for once, this one time, Canada is doing the right thing in recognizing aboriginal and treaty rights as they manifest themselves in this historic document and this bill today, which gives force to the Tlicho agreement.
Aboriginal and treaty rights are, I believe, an expression of Canadian values, and with this agreement we put these values into writing. We show how values that seem abstract and intangible can in fact make a difference, creating opportunity, prosperity, a stronger north and a stronger Tlicho people. The agreement will touch on all aspects of life. It is unique in that way. In addition to encouraging economic development and partnership, it also paves the way for new jobs and educational opportunities.
The Tlicho government will be able to put in place programs that promote the Tlicho language and the Tlicho way of life. I was pleased to see the strong support this agreement had within the Tlicho people and to see that in fact this agreement finds its origins in the best principles of democratic process.
Ninety-three per cent of all of eligible voters came out to have their say in this historic agreement. Of that 93%, 84% voted yes to the Tlicho agreement. We should have such voter turnout in the broader Canadian mainstream democratic process. To my mind, with no hesitation and no degree of uncertainty, we can say that the Tlicho people have spoken. They were consulted. They understood. They came out to vote. They exercised the democratic process. They have spoken.
It is our job now as members of Parliament in the House of Commons to give force and effect to that agreement and not stand in the way of it or block it in any unnecessary way. We must pass Bill C-14 so that the Tlicho agreement can come into full force and effect.
It is one of the ironies in Canada that it often takes us much longer to reconcile ourselves with the consequences of historic events than it takes for them to unfold in the first place. There are perhaps no people in Canada more painfully aware of this than the Tlicho Dene of the Northwest Territories.
The Tlicho, who number about 3,000, live in the four communities of Behcho Ko, Wha Ti, Gameti and Wekweti, Snare Lake, some of the oldest and most traditional aboriginal communities anywhere in Canada or in the north. They are also one of the most dangerously threatened aboriginal groups, having been devastated by disease from the outside world. By 1900, 1 in 10 Tlicho had died from measles. An influenza epidemic in 1928, and I quote one of the historical writers of the time, “left so many dead that in many camps there was no one left to bury them”. By 1940, many anthropologists felt that the Dogrib people could never survive, that they were on the road to extinction, an endangered species, so to speak.
The road back has been an arduous one and a journey of decades, but it has led to a settlement that sets proud new standards of aboriginal self-government, resource management and social services. In a nutshell, this agreement puts in force the conditions by which aboriginal peoples can control their own destiny.
I do not need to remind anyone of what we have heard in the House of Commons many times: that all the empirical evidence and all the studies indicate that successful economic development among first nation communities is directly proportional to their degree of self-governance, their degree of self-determination. Those are the successful models of the famous Harvard study by Stephen Cornell, who went all through the United States and showed which communities are making it and which are failing. The ones making it are the ones that have the highest degree of self-determination. That is what this act today and the Tlicho agreement give.
The first milestone on the road back from virtual extinction was the year 1970. It was then that the Trudeau government of the day approved in principle what one scientist had been calling the largest engineering venture ever undertaken by man, which was the construction of the Mackenzie Valley oil and gas pipeline. We know that the long term consequences of that pipeline were of great interest to people of the day, both in the north and in the south. There were great reservations about building this pipeline and about the effect it would have not only on the environment but in regard to the social and cultural impact on the people of the area.
There were many social concerns, of course, and at that time the Berger inquiry in 1975 led a royal commission into the proposed pipeline. After almost two years of hearings in every community along the proposed pipeline, Berger recommended a 10 year moratorium so that further environmental study could take place during the negotiation of native land claims as well.
It was Berger's point of view that northern aboriginal people, the Métis, first nations and Inuit, must become full and equal partners in any future development project and thereby reclaim former levels of aboriginal self-governance. I put it to everyone today that for 1975 this was radical thinking. This was an insight that was hard to sell and even more difficult for southerners to understand, but we can see now that there was great wisdom in what Berger wrote at that time. The moratorium was granted by the prime minister of the day, Pierre Trudeau, and the negotiations began in earnest. This, I argue, was the beginning of the road back.
At one time, really not that long ago, we talked about the northern trinity in northern Canada. The northern trinity meant that southern Canadians were the guardians of the north. The Hudson's Bay Company, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Christian churches constituted the northern trinity of southerners who were dictating how the north should develop and how it should unfold.
It really was not until the interest in the north generated by the Mackenzie Valley pipeline in that region finally broke this trinity that reason and logic and a different mindset in fact took over. That began the long and arduous process which has resulted in the coming to this debate in the House of Commons today at third reading a bill that will give manifestation to an agreement that represents a generation or more of historical progress, I would say, for aboriginal people in that region of Canada's north.
This treaty is the latest and perhaps the most innovative example of cooperation and consultation today among the three levels of government: territorial, federal and aboriginal. Many MPs here would be interested to know that the original claim that was contemplated was 230,000 square kilometres, roughly the size of the Yukon territory. This was the traditional territory called Monfwi gogwas ndeniitle and was first legally identified by Tlicho chief Monfwi at the Treaty 8 signing in 1921. This was the origin and the starting point for these long processes of negotiations.
In the final agreement, instead of the 230,000 square kilometres that constitute the traditional territory of the Tlicho people, we have ended up agreeing upon an area of roughly 39,000 square kilometres of land in fee simple title and providing $152 million of federal funding over 15 years. This land claim, with a land mass that is seven times the size of Prince Edward Island and, as I said earlier, roughly the size of Switzerland, includes the northern territory of Yellowknife between Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes, bordering Nunavut.
The agreement would mean that the Tlicho would hold complete surface and subsurface resource rights, full hunting and trapping rights and control over renewable and non-renewable resource harvesting, something that I personally celebrate. Being maybe one of the few people in Canada, other than those in this room, who has read the Indian Act, I am aware of how little access to resources was afforded to those aboriginal people under the Indian Act.
In fact, the only specific natural resources cited in the Indian Act for the use of Indians are gravel, clay, mud, sand and other worthless commodities. There is no mention in the Indian Act of oil, natural gas, diamonds, gold, pearls or rubies, any of the things we can think of that have of any value, or even trees or fish.
None of them are mentioned in the Indian Act. Indians are not allowed access to those things. They are allowed access to mud, gravel and clay, and then people in the south ask why these people do not exercise some entrepreneurship and go out and create small businesses. Out of what? Mud, gravel, clay or sand?
Are you signalling me, Madam Speaker?