propose que le projet de loi , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today to begin the debate at second reading of Bill .
The amendments to Bill hold important consequences for our country, for the province of Quebec, and most significantly for the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, the people of the eastern James Bay and southern Hudson Bay region of northern Quebec.
Bill helps settle long-standing differences between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, resolving disputes. Perhaps most importantly, the bill sets the stage for a revitalized relationship between the federal government and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.
I will explain the provisions of this legislation and provide some detail of how Bill C-28 will encourage greater prosperity, social development and self-determination for the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. First, let me take this opportunity to tell the House a little about these people and how we have moved forward to this important step here today.
On February 21 of last year, I was in Mistissini, Quebec to sign the new relationship agreement with the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. Mistissini is located about 850 kilometres due north of here, in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful natural surroundings anywhere in the world.
Mistissini is one of nine Cree communities in northern Quebec. Some 30 years ago, residents of these communities expressed their deep disagreement with plans by the Government of Quebec to build and expand hydroelectric developments on their traditional lands.
The Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the Inuit of Nunavik thought this project, one of the most ambitious civil works projects ever considered in Canada, threatened their traditional way of life. To address the concerns expressed by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the Inuit of Nunavik, the Quebec and Canadian governments entered into negotiations with those peoples.
The result of these negotiations was the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement. Signed in 1975, the agreement is the first modern treaty reached in Canada, resolving land claims that date back to the late 1800s. It also accommodated the interests of the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the Inuit of Nunavik on the development of natural resources on their traditional lands. In 1978, the Naskapi people of the region reached a similar accord, the northeastern Quebec agreement.
Together, these two agreements facilitated development of hydroelectric dams and related infrastructure in northern Quebec and ushered in an era of unprecedented economic development, not just in the James Bay region but throughout northern Quebec. At the same time, the agreements established new governance regimes to manage the delivery of social services to Cree communities in the region and administer the growing relationship between Cree authorities and provincial and federal governments.
There was one problem, though. These agreements were struck without the benefit of a coherent policy backdrop, such as the comprehensive claims policy and the inherent right policy, which we have today, and without detailed implementation plans, essential components of the claims process that negotiators, policy-makers and legislators rely on today.
Because the agreements lacked the precision we now expect from such accords, challenges arose. The parties to the agreements, the federal government, the provincial government, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, the Inuit of Nunavik and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach encountered substantial difficulties interpreting and then acting upon obligations outlined in the agreements.
In 1984, the Government of Canada adopted the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. The act is the first piece of self-government legislation adopted in our country. It was an obligation under the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and under the northeastern Quebec agreement. The landmark law set up a system of land management and recognized the authority of local Cree and Naskapi governments to make bylaws to protect the environment, manage natural resources and provide health services to band members. Provisions of the act also enabled the federal government to further address the needs of the Cree Eeyou Istchee and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach through government programs, sectoral funding agreements and joint action with the government of Quebec.
Despite these constructive efforts, the Government of Canada continued to bear the brunt of criticism for its alleged failure to implement its obligations under the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and the northeastern Quebec agreement in an adequate and timely manner.
However, in 2002, a new dawn began to break in the relationship between the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the provincial and federal governments. In February of that year, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and the government of Quebec signed the “Paix des braves”. Under the terms of this agreement the Cree of Eeyou Istchee agreed to assume major provincial obligations with regard to socio-economic development and community infrastructure in Cree communities.
In exchange, the government of Quebec made three commitments: first, to pay $3.5 billion over 50 years to a new Cree development corporation; second, to provide ongoing funding for Cree health, policing and justice regimes; and third, to share with Cree communities the revenues and contracting and employment opportunities generated by natural resources development on traditional Cree lands.
Cree leaders then approached the Government of Canada and proposed a similar arrangement to resolve their outstanding differences. After close to six years of rigorous study, consultation, negotiation and ratification, we signed the agreement concerning a new relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, a landmark accord that does what its title suggests; it establishes a new relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.
I was deeply honoured to participate in that signing ceremony in Mistissini in February 2008. I was proud to join hundreds of residents and more than a dozen current and former elected leaders of the region's nine Cree communities to celebrate the beginning of a revitalized relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.
Today, more than a year after that memorable event, we are gathered here in this House to consider Bill and enshrine in Canadian law a crucial part of the new relationship agreement between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. But what is in that agreement, and by extension, in the bill?
With regard to its second goal, funding and ongoing financing, the new relationship agreement calls for the federal government to provide $1.4 billion in compensation to the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. This funding is divided into three parcels. The first portion is a cash payment of $1.1 billion. These funds have been transferred when the agreement was signed and put an end to significant lawsuits initiated by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee against the federal government.
The federal government will provide the Cree Regional Authority with an additional $100 million within 30 days of Bill , this bill, receiving royal assent. A third payment of $200 million will be made within 30 days of royal assent being given to a future bill that sanctions a distinctive Cree Nation government.
Equipped with this new funding and ongoing financing, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee are poised to take on a number of essential regional functions, including policing, sanitation, firefighting services and several vital economic development initiatives such as job training, recruitment and placement.
This is where Bill comes in. The Cree Regional Authority must be granted the legal authority to carry out these functions. Accordingly, Bill C-28 amends the Cree-Naskapi of Quebec Act to provide the Cree Regional Authority with by-law making powers, similar to those now enjoyed by the eight local Cree governments.
As its name suggests, the Cree Regional Authority is the governing body that regulates affairs throughout the entire region, and Bill provides the Cree Regional Authority with powers that truly correspond with its title. The bill also incorporates a ninth Cree band, the Oujé-Bougoumou, and brings it under the jurisdiction of this regional governing body.
These forward-thinking provisions dovetail perfectly with the third goal of the new relationship agreement, modernization of Cree governance. Upon passage of Bill , the agreement pledges the Government of Canada to work with the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, to continue to transform their current governance regime. This modernization process will involve development of a Cree constitution and establishment of a Cree Nation government.
Indeed, Bill serves as a stepping stone for the Cree of Eeyou Istchee as they continue their journey toward genuine, full-fledged self-government. Through the agreements they have concluded with the governments of Canada and Quebec, they have shown their willingness to take greater control of their lives, establish high quality social services in their communities, safeguard their culture and chart a clear, self-sufficient course for their future. In doing so, the Cree of Eeyou Istchee have earned the respect and admiration of all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.
At the same time, the names of distinguished Cree leaders have earned an honoured place in the history of our country. Grand Chief Billy Diamond signed the James Bay and Northern Quebec agreement and then used the agreement as a springboard to launch his people along the road to greater economic prosperity, social development and cultural preservation.
Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come fought to ensure that his people were assured a fair share of the wealth generated by the natural resources found on Cree lands.
Grand Chief Ted Moses helped develop and then sign La Paix des Braves with the government of Quebec, and was a powerful force in enabling his people to gain formal recognition as a consultative, non-government organization at the United Nations.
Now, as a signatory of the agreement, current Grand Chief Matthew Mukash takes his rightful place alongside these great Canadian leaders. I salute Grand Chief Mukash for his inspired leadership in shepherding the agreement through to ratification, and thank him for the enormous contribution he has made, not only to the life of his community but also to the prosperity and vitality of our country.
I also take this opportunity to salute Bill Namagoose, the chief negotiator of the Grand Council of the Crees, and Raymond Chrétien, the chief negotiator for the Government of Canada. These wise, skilful and patient men played indispensable roles in helping us strike an agreement and forge this new relationship. Simply put, without their diligent effort, firm commitment and determined leadership, an agreement would not have been reached and Bill would not be before us here today.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the indispensable role played by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee themselves. During a referendum held to cast judgment on the agreement, they voted overwhelming in favour, some 90% of all ballots cast, and in doing so, expressed their deep faith in the value of and their firm desire to establish a revitalized relationship with the Government of Canada.
In the same spirit of optimism, partnership and trust clearly demonstrated by the Cree of Eeyou Istchee, I ask my colleagues to do their part.
I encourage my colleagues to adopt Bill and enshrine in the law of our land a vital element of the new relationship agreement. I encourage all members to play their part in revitalizing the relationship between the Government of Canada and the Eeyou Istchee, to play their part in helping usher in a new era in that people's distinguished history, an era of greater prosperity, self-determination, fulfillment and harmony for us all.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill of 1984. I want to thank the minister and the government for bringing this legislation forward in a rather expedited manner.
Essentially, this particular piece of legislation stems from land claims and the implementation of what we call modern-day treaties. The first such modern-day treaty was the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement of 1975, which I am going to speak about a little more as we move forward.
Negotiation and implementation has been difficult. It has been tough, time-consuming and burdensome, but these treaties have also been signs of hope, opportunity and promise. In 1975, the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement signalled a new time in the history of Canada and a new relationship with aboriginal peoples. However, even though it has been a new relationship and new processes have taken place, they have not been without their trials and tribulations.
Since 1975, there have been a number of comprehensive land claims signed in the country, in places such as the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Nunavut, Quebec and Labrador, with a broad range of aboriginal peoples and nations: the Teslin Tlingit, the Gwich'in, the Nisga'a and the Inuit, but unfortunately, to date, no comprehensive land claim specifically with the Métis people.
If we want to look at the implementation of these particular treaties, the aboriginal peoples across the country signed these treaties with a profound sense of importance. I want to sum up that profound sense of importance in a Cree prophesy:
Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Then will you find that money cannot be eaten.
In that particular prophesy, and because of the nature of land claims where aboriginal people had to give up lands or give up certain rights for money, the negotiations are profound, because they come with a certain sense of permanence as well. The sense among elders in the community that in fact we sometimes have no right to give up land, that we are caretakers and stewards of it, makes these particular negotiations ever more heartfelt.
I say that because when we get to the implementation there are often difficulties in terms of interpretation and consistency. We will often hear this phrase amongst aboriginal people: We have signed this agreement, the government has certain responsibilities, both the federal crown and the provincial crown, but the honour of the Crown, what the Crown has promised, is not being kept to; there is not a sincerity.
I can say that it is happening with the Nisga'a, with whom I have met. They say, “Listen, we signed an agreement, and it has taken now seven or eight years to negotiate other aspect of the agreement, such as the financial framework agreements.”
I talked to the Teslin Tlingit, and they talk about the fact that it has been now over a decade and some of the aspects of their comprehensive land claim, such as the devolution of justice and enforcement, has not happened.
I even talk about the Nunatsiavut government in Labrador. “Nunatsiavut” means “our beautiful land”. I know these people. I know them well. Many are relatives. They say that even since 2005 there have been problems with implementation.
It is in this broad context that I talk about Bill . I want to refer to Labrador specifically because I know it well. We have three land claims at various stages. I mentioned the Nunatsiavut government comprehensive land claim that was signed in 2005, which I was happy to be part of and was in this House when it was ratified.
There is also the Innu, which have signed a New Dawn agreement. They want to move forward to full ratification of their particular agreement because it creates some certainty for development, economic prosperity and social progression.
Of course, there is the Labrador Metis Nation, which I was president of for 11 years. It has had a claim with the government since 1990. It submitted additional information in 1996 and is still waiting for the Government of Canada to come to the table and negotiate outstanding issues.
Against this entire backdrop and in this context, we have Bill . As I mentioned, in 1975, there was the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement. It did not contain implementation plans, and this gave rise to a whole series of disputes about interpretation and litigation.
There was also the northeastern Quebec agreement with the Naskapi in 1978, and then in 1984, the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act was established, which arose out of the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement. The Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act has been termed Canada's first aboriginal self-government type of legislation. It provided for local governance for Cree bands on their own lands.
Within this debate are the precursors of what is happening in society today: the first modern land claim in 1975, and the first self-government type of agreement in 1984. Even though these agreements were signed, there were problems with implementation, and a series of court actions arose. To attempt to get some of these issues settled, there was an agreement with the Inuit and the Naskapi in 1990, but no agreement with the Cree of Eeyou Istchee.
In 1992, Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee signed the Canada—Oujé-Bougoumou agreement. In 2002, the Cree signed an agreement with the Province of Quebec, the Paix des Braves agreement, covering a period of 50 years and dealing with resource development, policing and compensation to allow certain resource developments to go forward. It also has within it a process, as I understand, to resolve outstanding issues.
Then, in 2008, there was a new relationship agreement, called the Chrétien-Namagoose agreement, between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee. This agreement was ratified by the Cree, as were the agreements referring to the Cree that I have already mentioned.
The people themselves were at the table. They looked at it, it was brought to their communities, and they ratified it. Many have termed it an out-of-court settlement; and in essence, it was. This new relationship agreement had a 20-year term, and there were a series of payments. The payments would amount to $1.4 billion in three separate stages.
I want to sum up with the words of the Cree-Naskapi Commission to describe to how this has unfolded over the last three decades. This comes from the chairman of the Cree-Naskapi Commission, which came out of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act of 1984:
The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement...(which did not include an implementation plan), was signed in 1975. During the thirty-three years since the signing there have been numerous disputes and frequent litigation concerning the obligations under, and the implementation of the agreement. This in turn has led to a difficult relationship between the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee and Canada and Quebec. Through the efforts of the Crees, Canada and Quebec, that has changed. The Agreement Concerning a New Relationship Between le Gouvernement du Québec and the Crees of Quebec...addressed outstanding issues between the Crees and Quebec [for a term of 50 years]. The Agreement Concerning a New Relationship Between the Government of Canada and the Crees of Eeyou Istchee of 2008 addressed in parallel fashion outstanding issues between the Crees and Canada. These agreements have been ratified by the Cree people as well as by Quebec and Canada. They represent a major achievement in resolving problems through negotiation.
[T]here is some evidence that the federal and Quebec governments have learned from the James Bay experience. Over most of the past thirty-plus years governments, through both their actions and their words appear to have regarded the Crees from what was essentially an adversarial perspective.... [T]he traditional structures and decision-making processes of government were ill-suited to negotiating much less implementing treaties and land claims settlements with First Nations.... [The] 1982 amendments to the constitution changed that.... Aboriginal and treaty rights (including land claims agreements) were moved beyond the scope of governments' ability to ignore or change them unilaterally. Now, as the Supreme Court said in Badger, “Treaties...create enforceable obligations...”.
On the signing of this new relationship agreement, the current Cree Grand Chief Mukash said, “It also sets in motion what is probably the most important initiative since 1975, the development of a new Cree government”.
The new relationship agreement set out a way of moving forward and called for a two-phased approach: commitments by Canada to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act of 1984, which we are talking about today, and the negotiation of Cree self-government agreements with a Cree constitution and their own powers.
Bill deals with the first of these undertakings and can be summarized under two headings: amendments to the Cree Regional Authority and the Oujé-Bougoumou amendments. I just want to run down what those would entail.
The proposed amendments regarding the Cree Regional Authority would allow the Cree Regional Authority, which is basically the administrative body of the Grand Council of the Crees: to act as a regional government on category IA lands, which are basically the lands that they own under the 1984 Cree-Naskapi act; to regulate essential sanitation services, housing and buildings used for the purposes of regional governance; to use, manage and administer moneys and other assets; to promote the general welfare of the members of the Cree bands; and to promote and preserve the cultural values and traditions of the members of the Cree bands.
In terms of the Oujé-Bougoumou amendments, the Crees of the Oujé-Bougoumou were not recognized in the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement as a distinct Cree band. The individual members of this community were listed on the band list of the Mistissini Cree Nation and have been beneficiaries under the agreement since its inception. Since 1975, the Crees of Oujé-Bougoumou have sought to be recognized as a distinct band under the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. The Government of Canada has committed to amend the agreement and the act to meet this objective.
The amendments in this bill deal with such issues as incorporation, transitional matters in relation to councils, boards of directors and bylaws, residence and occupation rights, right of access to land, exploration activities, tax exemptions and exemptions from seizure.
That outlines in broad strokes what Bill would do.
We have spoken with the government representatives about consultation. We have been assured by the government that it has carried out adequate and efficient consultation. We have also spoken with the Cree who were intimately involved in the drafting of Bill and who were a signatory, as well, to the new relationship agreement. We have talked with the Naskapis and they have assured us that they are comfortable with these particular amendments. We have talked as well with the Inuit.
We have also been given assurances that due to Bill , there would be no infringement on the rights and interests of other aboriginal peoples.
As such, I am delighted on behalf of the Liberal Party to support Bill . I want to commend the efforts of all those involved. At the end of the day, this is about helping people and supporting people in communities. I do not like to use the word “allowing” people to have self-government because it seems to be an oxymoron. People have self-government and had self-government.
The Crees of Eeyou Istchee had their own self-government. What we do now is recognize that in further processes under the new relationship agreement. As I understand it they are hoping to have an agreement within five years.As I understand it, they are hoping to have an agreement within five years. That is an admirable timeframe given that some land claims and self-government negotiations have gone on for three decades, and many would say for a century. The Nisga'a often say they started their land claim back in the late 19th century.
This legislation is a move in the right direction, and I am happy to support it. It is good to see the full involvement of aboriginal people in the drafting of this piece of legislation. It sets an example that when aboriginal people are involved in the drafting of legislation that impacts them, things go much more smoothly.
Mr. Speaker, first, I would appreciate it if you could let me know when I have one minute left, because I think I could go on for at least 25 to 30 minutes. Since I only have 20 minutes, I will try to be brief.
I want to salute the students of the Polyvalente Natagan, located in the community of Barraute, in my riding. They are here today as part of a visit to Parliament Hill. I salute them. I am going to give them a brief geography and history lesson, and I hope that it will be part of their June exam.
We are witnessing a historic moment here, and I think it is important to mention it. I would like to pay tribute to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, who worked on this project, and also to Matthew Mukash, Grand Chief and President of the Grand Council of the Crees, to Ashley Iserhoff, Deputy Grand Chief and Vice-President of the Grand Council of the Crees, to Roderick Pachano, authorized representative of the Chisasibi Cree nation, to Losty Mamianskum of the Whapmagoostui First Nation, to Rodney Mark of the Wemindji Cree nation, to Lloyd Mayappo of the Eastmain band, to Steve Diamond of the Waskaganish Cree nation, to Josie Jimiken of the Nemaska Cree nation, to John Kitchen of the Waswanipi band, to John Longchap of the Mistissini Cree nation, and to Louise Wapachee, authorized representative of the Oujé-Bougoumou Eenuch Association.
These people represent hundreds of Cree who signed a critically important agreement that led to Bill . In this agreement, which I have here, it is clearly mentioned that a bill—and that is Bill —would propose amendments to the government and to the Parliament of Canada, within 18 months of the coming into force of the agreement, which was signed on February 21, 2008.
It is now very important, not to say urgent, that we respect the signatures that appear on this document. This is why the government had to introduce a bill in this House to ratify the agreement. I am telling the students that this agreement must be ratified. It covers a huge territory in northern Quebec, north of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, on the edge of James Bay. That territory surrounds all the hydroelectric dams that Quebec wants to build. Therefore, it is a very important agreement that will help the Cree fulfill their desire to achieve self-governance.
It is important that I indicate that the Bloc Québécois will support this very important bill. The Bloc Québécois recognizes the right of the aboriginal peoples to self-government. This agreement gives effect to that right for the Cree nation. Obviously the bill does not solve all the problems. I think many of us would quickly vote for a bill if that were all it took to end poverty, alcoholism, diabetes and serious crime in isolated communities. Unfortunately, things do not always work as we would like. Some of the more frequent problems in aboriginal communities are inherent in living in what we call remote communities. It is important that we realize, that we sit down and negotiate with the aboriginal people, because one day we will have to understand that we are living on aboriginal land. Even this Parliament, in Ottawa, is on aboriginal land, Algonquin land.
We will have to understand that one day, and agree to negotiate and share this land with the aboriginal communities.
The Bloc Québécois recognizes that the aboriginal peoples are distinct peoples with a right to their cultures, their languages, and their customs and traditions, and with the right to determine for themselves how to develop their own identity.
This bill is a step in that direction, in my opinion, and that is why I have recommended that my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois not only support the bill, but do so as quickly as possible, to expedite the implementation of the bill. I therefore hope that our Senate colleagues will give it speedy consideration so that Royal Assent can be given before the June recess.
Madam Speaker, before you took the chair, I said I would like you inform me when I have one minute left, or else I would have enough to say to fill at least half an hour or three quarters of an hour. I am not sure that some of my colleagues would appreciate it if I took part of the afternoon to talk about the importance of this bill, which has a direct impact on the aboriginal people in a region that certainly needs the agreements that will result from these bills.
It is rare for us to be able to say that the government has acted in concert with the Cree communities. In this case, it must be said. In fact, unstinting work has been done by the Grand Council of the Crees, but I also think that there was work done jointly, not only with the Cree communities but also with the government of Quebec and with the communities concerned. What we must not forget is that this affects the Naskapi communities. In Kawawachikamach—and I am eager to see how that will be translated and typed—there is a Naskapi community on the border of Labrador and it is affected by this agreement.
I asked the Minister the question and I got the answer I expected. This kind of agreement will have to be made for the Naskapi nation because it is a question of the development and survival of the aboriginal nations, and in particular Kawawachikamach, a very isolated community north of Schefferville. I would add, for my students who will have to look on a map to see where that community is, it is in the extreme eastern point of Quebec where it meets Labrador. The Kawawachikamach nation is a very important part of this.
Let us remember that this bill flows from the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, which was signed in the 1970s. The Government of Quebec had made hydroelectricity a priority. As a result, it was necessary to divert rivers and construct hydroelectric dams. That produced the power stations known as La Grande-1, La Grande-2, La Grande-3, and now La Grande-4. They were influencing rivers that affected James Bay.
The problem was that nobody spoke with the Cree, who had been living on that land for thousands of years. There were lawsuits, injunctions and many legal proceedings before the government stopped and admitted that they were right in the middle of Cree ancestral land. They were obliged to sit down with them before planning to develop those hydroelectric dams. That led to the James Bay agreement that is now know as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
Nine years after that agreement was signed, the first settlement agreements were reached. The Government of Quebec was concerned because of the hydroelectric basins; but the federal government was also directly involved because of the ancestral lands and the land claims of the Cree people.
Bill is the result of the agreement between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee that was signed February 21, 2008. The terms of the agreement call for it to be implemented within 18 months, and, if I count properly, those 18 months have almost expired. That is one reason why the Bloc Québécois will support this bill without reservation and will do its utmost to see that it is adopted at all stages.
I want to explain how that process works for the benefit of my students. Once the bill has been adopted here, it must be sent to a committee for review. We agreed this morning at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development that this bill would be reviewed and adopted quickly so that it will come into force before the end of the session, or the beginning of September, at the latest. That is absolutely necessary. Large sums of money are at stake.
I can respond immediately to a question from my colleague from about the amounts involved. One billion and 50 million dollars will be distributed over a number of years. The parties agree that within 30 days of royal assent, $100 million will be distributed to the Cree communities involved. That is why the bill must be adopted. Within 30 days of royal assent, the government must pay out another $200 million, so that a total of $300 million will be distributed very quickly after royal assent. One may think that is a lot of money for the Cree, but keep in mind the development of the Oujé-Bougoumou community alone cost $110 million.
A huge number of things remain to be done, and major issues need to be settled. I repeat, money will not solve the problems of alcoholism, health issues, school drop-outs and crime in the communities. Money will probably help isolated communities to take control of their situation, provide broader access to water, get their schools working better. Aboriginal people absolutely must take over control of their lives. This funding will be used to train tomorrow's leaders of the Cree community. There are some leaders now but more are needed. This money will go to help the communities.
The communities are experiencing a phenomenal growth spurt. Their annual birth rate ranges between 3% and 5%. In our fine communities, everything is great. We get the necessary services, garbage is picked up, drinking water is available at the turn of a tap. In aboriginal communities, water pipes have to be installed, housing has to be put up on land that is very often not that easy to build on. The funds will go to help the Cree communities to take charge of their future.
Another important point: this bill, which confirms the agreement, will allow the Cree community to enact bylaws in areas that affect it directly, public health and safety, protection of the environment and prevention of pollution, as well as all other sectors that are administrative in character such as the administration of justice and economic and social development. Last year, the Cree-Naskapi Commission, which administers and oversees agreements between the Cree and the Naskapi, made recommendations to us and Bill , which I hope to see passed promptly by this House, will implement those recommendations.
There is also an agreement on what is termed the land. There are three categories, and I know this is highly complex, but there are Category I, II and lll lands. I could make a comparison with chicken grading. Those in what would correspond to Grade A, which is Category I, are the best, the closest to them. Then comes Category II, which are a bit further away, under provincial jurisdiction, for instance, and then Category III is Quebec crown land.
I have shortened my remarks so that I would not take up several more minutes of the members’ time. What I want to say is that an agreement has finally been reached with the Cree. We now have an Agreement Concerning a New Relationship between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and can proceed with the definition of the land categories. This is very important and even the very heart of the agreement. There is not just money involved. We will finally know that this parcel of land is category I and that one is category II.
I will provide an example. We have even agreed that category II lands will cover an area of 155,000 square kilometres. These lands will be administered by the Cree and the regional authority. This is Quebec land too and authority is shared. We still have to determine who can hunt and fish, identify ZECs or controlled harvesting zones, agree on how ZECs will be organized, who will have fishing licences, and when they can go fishing. These are the category II lands.
Category I lands are under federal jurisdiction and they too are also in part under Cree jurisdiction.
The Cree and Naskapi have exclusive rights—and this gets important—over Category III lands. These lands cover 911,000 square kilometres, which is hard to imagine but let us try. My riding is 152,000 square kilometres, so these lands are five or six times as large. This is a huge area over which the Cree and Naskapi—agreements still have to be signed but talking for the moment about the Cree—will have exclusive rights and where their communities will participate in the administration and development of the land.
In the category IA lands—because there are I, IA, IB lands—it gets very complex and I would therefore like to congratulate everyone who worked on this project for so long, both personally and on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. Speaking of land categories, negotiations are currently being held with the Innu and the same debates will arise.
It is the same with the Attikamek south of Lake St. John. The entire reservation stretching toward Lake St. John and even a bit beyond is Attikamek territory. Beside it are Innu lands. All these divisions and definitions of lands will be very important and might be used—as time will tell—with the communities and grand councils, such as the Grand Council of the Cree. The Grand Council of the Attikamek and the Grand Council of the Innu will also be affected.
If I have one wish, it is that some day—and I am sending my Algonquin friends a message here—the Anishnabe will also form a single Grand Council of the Algonquin Anishnabe so that they can pool their knowledge and efforts and ensure that the government stops—I am weighing my words—exploiting them and confining them to small areas of land. They are not even consulted in connection with hunting, fishing or mining.
Since you are indicating that I only have two minutes left, I will go a little faster. I am going to conclude by saying that this is a very important bill which is the result of a good consultation process—and I mean that—between the federal government and the nine Cree nations. I do not think I am wrong when I say that, based on the information that I received, the 10 nations—because a tenth one will soon be recognized—are very pleased with this agreement, and they hope that it will be conveyed and adopted through Bill , at the earliest opportunity.
Madam Speaker, usually, we are the ones who put questions to the minister, who then thanks us. This time, I am the one who is thanking the minister for his question.
We are still working very hard on this issue. For the benefit of my colleagues, I should point out that this issue—and specifically Bill —applies directly to my colleague's riding, namely . I am very involved in this issue, which is very important and which I have been following very closely for a number of years. Even when I was working as a lawyer, I would follow these negotiations with great interest.
I will respond to the minister by saying that he is absolutely right. There should be such aboriginal governments in place. Since my reelection in 2006, I have been the Bloc Québécois critic on aboriginal issues. The main problem that comes to my mind is the lack of continuity. At some point, we will have to sit down and ask ourselves whether aboriginal community chiefs should be elected for a period of four years, instead of two years. We are giving this some thought. Personally, I am thinking about this issue. There is a lack of continuity, and that is the first problem.
The second problem is that it is impossible to have seven Algonquin communities that barely speak to each other, if at all. Yet, they have the same problems. I know the Algonquin nation well, because almost all of its members live in my riding, with the exception of the members of the Kitigan Zibi community, located in Maniwaki, in the riding of Pontiac, which is represented by the . However, these ridings are all adjacent.
So, why not sit together, make the same claims, and perhaps meet with the government to negotiate a similar agreement? After all, it is not a bad agreement. It is true that some communities may have a bit of a problem with that. In order to get along, it is important to sit down and talk about the same claims. Currently, if a mining company wants to conduct mining exploration in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue territory, it must deal with five communities. Why not consult the tribal council of the Anishinabeg Algonquin nation? Right now, companies consult the Attikamek, and they will consult the Cree communities. I personally think that we will have to go in that direction, because there are too many important issues affecting these communities.
Madam Speaker, like my other colleagues in the House, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill . This is important legislation and I believe there will be agreement on all sides of the House to expedite it.
From the government's own briefing documents, I want to put this into context.
The Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act is considered to be the first aboriginal self-government legislation in Canada. It recognizes local aboriginal government and established a system of land management before the federal government's 1995 inherent right policy.
The act came into force in 1984 in fulfilment of the Government of Canada's obligations under two historic agreements: the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and the northeastern Quebec agreement.
The James Bay and northern Quebec agreement contains specific obligations in relation to the Cree Nation and the Inuit of northern Quebec. The northeastern Quebec agreement contains specific obligations in relation to the Naskapi Nation.
There is a lot more historical information but I want to get to the proposed amendments that are before the House. This is a very brief summary of them. The proposed amendments would carry out two main objectives: first, equip the Cree Regional Authority with additional responsibilities and powers, including bylaw-making powers, so that the authority is better able to receive and carry out certain specific responsibilities that were assumed by the federal government under the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement; and second, recognize the Crees of Oujé-Bougoumou as a separate band and local government under the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act.
I wanted to provide the House with that historical context because I also want to talk about the process.
It is important that the people who are actively involved in this be heard in the House through a member of Parliament, because, of course, community members do not have the right to speak in this place. Rather than my paraphrasing, I will use the words of some of the commissioners who came before committee on May 5. They talked a bit about the process and their support for this legislation and what else needs to be done.
We have before the committee Mr. Richard Saunders, the chair of the Cree-Naskapi Commission; Commissioner Robert Kanatewat, who is a Chisasibi on James Bay; and Philip Awashish, from the Mistissini of the Eeyou Istchee interior.
The commissioners came before committee because they wanted to talk about the Cree-Naskapi commissioner's report that appears biannually. Over a number of years, the commissioners, on behalf of their people, have raised the need for these amendments. We are talking about a 19 year process here.
Part of the reason that we are looking at these kinds of amendments is because when the initial agreement was signed in 1984 there was no parallel implementation plan and no requirement for an implementation plan in the legislation. Without that implementation plan, there were delays in moving forward on initiatives that would have benefited the Cree-Naskapi.
In a briefing note that was provided to committee by the commissioners, they talked about this implementation plan. They said:
Typically, the process of implementation, as in the case of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, has been that Parliament enacts legislation and its administration and implementation remains the responsibility of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
As a parenthesis here, I must say that the current Conservative government has inherited many of the problems that were seen under previous government regiments.
They go on in their briefing notes to say:
Throughout this traditional form of implementation, the Cree and Naskapi peoples are denied a meaningful role in the decision-making process even though they (the Cree and Naskapi) are most impacted by the application, administration and implementation of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. The conventional style of implementation is frequently insensitive to the actual needs and aspirations of the Cree and Naskapi peoples and has resulted in symbolic implementation that amounts to no real change in how decisions are made and in how things are done.
In the actual testimony before committee, when the chair of the commission was talking about this particular act and the proposed amendments and report, he said:
There's really not much disagreement on the part of anyone about that. It's really both a symbolic and housekeeping amendment and we're glad to see it. We would note, without being unduly cynical about processes, that this has been promised for the last 19 years and finally the amendment is here. Hallelujah!
That 19-year time frame reflects missed opportunities. It reflects the fact that governments over any number of years have disregarded the ongoing reports by the commissioners calling for these amendments.
The chair of the commission pointed out that this bill was largely a housekeeping bill and that there were other uncontested non-contentious amendments that were very necessary. The Cree is asking that the legislation be expedited and that the process that was used to get to these amendments, which has sped up over the last couple of years, be used to look at the rest of the non-contentious amendments so the peoples of that territory are not waiting 19, 20, 25 years for the next series of amendments that are largely housekeeping.
He goes on to talk about some of these other potential amendments. He says:
If I might just let me say where our concerns lie. This also reflects to some extent what the Cree leadership have told us many times. Recommendations for change to the act, housekeeping amendments, all sorts of things have been recommended, as I noted for 19 years some of them.
Some of these changes are things like referenda. He cites a particular instance:
If the Crees want to transfer a piece of land in a community to the Cree school board to build a Cree school on, they've got to have a referendum. Think about it. In your communities, how many folks would come out to vote on a referendum for the municipality to transfer a piece of land to the school board.
The Crees agree that in some cases a referendum is appropriate but they are saying that so many other levels of government do not require referenda to make decisions in their communities, nor do they have to meet the kinds of percentage levels that are required under the referendum parts of the original 1984 act. That is one housekeeping amendment that they are suggesting, and there are many more. Some are around how band council elections are conducted.
I would urge the current government to use the process that it has already put in place to get to these amendments to ensure we can expedite the next series of amendments.
While I am talking about that kind of process, I want to reference the United Nations declaration on indigenous rights, which talks about many different things, but in the context of this particular legislation before the House, it applies prior and informed consent and the right to make decisions on lands that are within the first nations' traditional territories. This legislation reflects that there is prior informed consent.
What we have heard from the commissioners and other representations is that the Cree-Naskapi and Oujé-Bougoumou feel that they have been included in the process that led up to this legislation and it does reflect the use of their own lands.
A number of members have talked about self-government. I want to use the words of the commissioners who appeared before the committee. They stated:
One of the things we've been pushing for years is the need to make the law accommodate and empower the Cree way of doing things, consistent with the charter and so on to make it a tool for the communities to use so that when the community decides to do something and it's a legitimate decision, then there is legislative capacity to give that effect and to protect it from attack from people who want to argue that the election was a day late and therefore it's invalid.
The problem is that very frequently the act doesn't sufficiently empower the communities. With all due respect, it's a great improvement over the Indian Act, but it suffers from some of the same straightjacket that the Indian Act has always imposed, and that's inevitable. Yes, it was written with negotiation but it was ultimately written by people who have written things like the Indian Act for years. There's a need to break out of that box and to make sure that traditional and customary law, to the extent possible.... And we all recognize the charter, the Criminal Code, and other instruments that we all respect and share, but within those contexts there's a need to make this act a tool of empowerment for the Cree community so they can get on with doing things.
In that context, the bill does not specifically deal with that. The next series of amendments that are required is to really take a look at implementing full self-government. As the commissioner pointed out, this is certainly within the context of the Canadian charter and other legislative frameworks, but what the Cree-Naskapi is asking for, not only asking for but is entitled to, is full self-government and a legitimate request that they be treated on a nation-to-nation basis.
We have heard from other nations that in the ongoing negotiations with the present government and previous governments, there has been a great deal of difficulty in recognizing that nation-to-nation status.
We heard this morning at committee from treaty one in the treaty land entitlement committee, that nation's nation status continues not to be recognized and, arguably, that we would see improved conditions in many first nations communities with that autonomy, that control over their own destiny, and so would look to the government to use this process that they have used to get to this new relationship agreement, to look at these amendments, because that could have a meaningful impact on communities.
I just want to touch for a moment on the new relationship agreement between the Government of Canada and the Cree of Eeyou Isctchee. This is a framework that was hammered out and part of the legislation today deals with a couple of elements in this framework agreement.
The dispute resolution process is not part of the legislation but I want to touch on it briefly because it is an important part. In other land claims implementation agreements, we have seen that the dispute resolution mechanism has not worked very effectively. Often the Government of Canada has simply stepped away or not consented to be involved in the dispute resolution if it does not see it as being to its benefit.
Under this new dispute resolution process, there will be a Cree-Canada standing liaison committee that will be the first place where disputes can be brought for resolution. I understand from the parties involved that they are optimistic that this will be much more successful in dispute resolution so that things do not get dragged out for decades before there is some conclusion to the differences in opinion. The Cree-Canada standing liaison committee is a first step. If that is not resolved, then there is an opportunity for mediation and then, ultimately, arbitration, although my understanding is that at the arbitration level the government must commit to going to arbitration if that is required.
I wanted to comment on that because it has been largely ineffective in other agreements. I look forward to seeing how this works. I am hopeful that this does expedite some of these claims and differences of opinion so that nations can get on with the kind of economic and social development that is so important for the lifeblood of their communities.
I want to touch on one other thing. Although it is outside the context of the act, it does bear raising attention. When the commissioners came before the committee on Tuesday, they raised a number of issues that they had raised during their appearances before the committee about two years ago, and housing continues to be an issue. As part of this current legislation, a substantial amount of money will go into the communities, but there is still an obligation on the government's part around housing.
I want to point out some of the differences in these communities. Part of it is that in other first nations communities people are leaving reserves. The commissioners were very careful to point out that this is actually not the case on the Cree territories. They are saying that the Cree has a 95% retention rate of their young people. The very success of those communities, economically, educationally and otherwise, is part of the pressure that is created on increased population growth.
This is about the fact that there is inadequate housing in the Cree communities. They wanted to point out that a template or a model that is used to create housing for some nations does not work in their territory because of the 95% retention rate. We have healthy, vibrant communities where young people want to stay, get their education and work. Therefore, we need policies that are not those template policies that are just applied across the board.
Quebec is looking for regional formulas that actually reflect the regional needs. I believe this legislation is an opportunity for us to raise some of these other issues and encourage the government to be proactive in working with the Cree communities in order to resolve some of these other issues.
The NDP is fully supportive of Bill and see it as something that can be used as an encouragement for other nations and for the Cree themselves in looking forward to some progress in some of those long outstanding areas.
Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to rise here today to take part in the debate on Bill .
I listened to the constructive comments made a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the hon. member for . It is nice to see such a constructive debate on a bill introduced by my hon. colleague, the , the hon. member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon. It is nice to see the work accomplished by my colleague, the minister, in this file. As we have just seen, the best compliments we can receive are those of the opposition. We have just heard some very constructive comments in that regard. He was also supported by the team from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, which I had the pleasure to serve, unfortunately not with the current minister, for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, I believe that this bill is the result of very hard work under the leadership of our minister.
Why is Bill so important? Because it amends the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. Consider, for instance, the James Bay Cree and the Naskapi in the communities of Schefferville. This legislation enshrines their rights in Canadian law through a new relationship, as we have just heard. It was negotiated and signed by representatives of the Government of Canada and the Cree of northern Quebec.
The agreement concerning a new relationship is not an ordinary political document; nor is it a measure aimed at correcting an oversight or eliminating a loophole in existing law. Neither is it a standard commercial contract to be put aside as soon as the ink is dry.
The agreement concerns a new relationship and it marks a real milestone in the history of our country. It settles long-standing disagreements between the federal government and the Cree of northern Quebec. It assigns federal responsibilities in key policy fields to the Cree regional administration. It makes available to all governments—federal, provincial and Cree—a clear, equitable and logical method of achieving the essential objective of ensuring that the Cree people of northern Quebec will have genuine self-government.
As a matter of fact, if it succeeds in these three important objectives, the agreement concerning this new relationship will have accomplished what we should expect, that is, the establishment of a solid base on which the Government of Canada and the Cree can build this new relationship.
This is a relationship based on principles such as equality, confidence and mutual respect, which integrates the Cree more closely into the economic and political life of Quebec. It is a relationship that takes us out of the courtrooms and lawyers' offices and brings us together so that we can devote our time and energy to something truly worthwhile, namely, working to develop aboriginal communities, to strengthen families and to build communities where education, housing, and occupational, recreational, community and economic activity can fully develop. Those are the noble objectives at the heart of this agreement concerning this new relationship.
What is more important is that it not only provides tangible benefits to all the parties; but it turns loose some powerful forces within first nations communities, because they have ambitions. I am thinking, as I mentioned, of the nine communities in northern Quebec that lie east of James Bay and south of Hudson Bay. I think, among others, of Joe Linklater, chief of the Gwitchin Vuntut First Nation in the Yukon, who has spoken forcefully of the continuing usefulness of the kind of treaty that we are discussing today and of its impact on first nations communities. Here is what he said last year in his testimony to a Senate committee: “I keep telling people that these agreements have not been negotiated to obtain resources for us; they are negotiated to give us the ability to take charge of our lives and to become self-reliant.”
He speaks of taking charge and becoming self-reliant. Those few words sum up exactly what the Cree of northern Quebec expect from this new relationship. That is precisely what Bill will help them to accomplish by putting into law certain aspects of the agreement on a new relationship.
The solid footing and permanence of an agreement like this, and by extension Bill , are no accident. They are the outcome of genuine consultations between federal government officials and the Cree communities, and between the Cree leaders and the people they represent. That means there were broad, far-reaching consultations at each stage of the process, from the negotiation of the agreement to the drafting of Bill C-28, including efforts to find new areas for collaboration.
This is what I mean by collaboration. The consultations started when negotiations began. They were not held at the upper level only, negotiator to negotiator. The leaders of the nine Cree communities in the region played an active role in the discussions about the main issues involved and in advising the negotiators on those issues.
The Cree leaders, with the negotiators, focused particularly on the question of governance. More specifically, they brought their experience and their perceptions to the negotiating process. They gave the managers of crucial community operations presentations on specific subjects and on important technical issues in connection with the agreement. In addition, the residents of the nine Cree communities were kept constantly up to date on the plans.
The virtually complete support given by the residents affected by the agreement is testimony to the value of those consultations. A majority of the Cree residents voted in a referendum and an overwhelming 90% majority of them voted in favour of the agreement. Today, it is clear to parliamentarians that the other party is in complete agreement with the kind of project developed by my colleague the .
This agreement is the product of meetings between the federal representatives and meetings with the Cree leaders during the preparation of the bill, to ensure that it reflects the intention of the negotiators and assigns responsibilities to the regional authority so it can take over certain federal jurisdictions. As a result, Bill offers a promise for the future.
I would like to add that this consultation-based approach has continued and is still going on today. The governments of Canada and Quebec, with the Crees, have established a number of discussion forums. Those forums offer the three governments a structured process for negotiating the possible transfer of additional federal and provincial powers to the Cree Regional Authority.
I am convinced that this process of consultation and open participation in the new framework that has been developed in the last two years, with a relationship based on goodwill and trust, offers a fine illustration of the collaboration that has developed between the Canadian government and the first nations communities in this country. These values, of equality, respect and trust, are what are needed to promote self-determination by aboriginal communities and their progress toward self-government.
In conclusion, I of course urge my colleagues to support this bill, on which there is broad consensus. Naturally there are other challenges, but by working together with the first nations, who are a force for change—and we need only think of all the young people in aboriginal communities who can make a contribution to our economy and our social, cultural and community development—our society will be able to make an investment and reap the fruits of that investment.
I will be happy to answer any questions about this speech.
Madam Speaker, I have always asked myself why there was a shortage of work in Abitibi-Témiscamingue and in the riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. If my NDP colleague came to work eagerly as he did in his youth, he performed many duties and that took work away from the people of Abitibi.
A bill has been tabled. Given the mindset of the Bloc and our vision of Québec in the recognition of first nations, the Bloc Québécois can only support this bill.
However, some recommendations should have been taken into consideration, which perhaps might have slightly delayed tabling the bill. On the other hand, that would have shortened the time for obtaining more complete approval. It would not have taken very much more time and it would have been a great deal more profitable.
The bill gives legal rights to the communities. It is all very well to recognize a Cree community and to say that it is the ninth community to become part of the James Bay agreement and the James Bay rights. It provides the power to regulate many things within its territory; but what, in fact, is its territory? We still have not given it a defined territory. I believe it would have been beneficial, in that respect, to define the territory belonging to this community so that it could really govern within that area.
One of the recommendations made by the Cree and Naskapi committee emphasized the urgency of making changes to the law. There are eight recommendations, including the need for revisions related to the Corbière decision, where it has an impact on the Cree and the Naskapi. The chronic need for improved housing is another priority that I have been highlighting for the past four years. In addition, we must act to ensure effective and uniform application of administrative regulations. First, there must be regulations. In that regard, we need to devise and approve an ethical framework and administrative regulations. It probably would have been wise to include a regulation immediately concerning the demands of the Cree of Washaw Sibi Eeyou, which is also a territory where new legislation is required. I have just included one of them. Why were there no negotiations for the other territory?
Canada, Quebec and the Cree Regional Authority must examine the provisions of the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement affecting Cree trappers. The three parties must sit down together. In and of itself, this option would not have justified delaying the bill. However, I believe that it could have been justified if only to provide the flexibility required to establish or provide what is required to exercise the legal authority that we are granting to the first nations. I hope this will not be a dead end. Making regulations is fine but what must the regulations cover? We may come up against a wall, a dead end.
Having said that, the Bloc members unanimously believe that, in the 21st century, all peoples should be autonomous and have the right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions. They have the right to direct the development of their own identity. The Cree and Naskapi nation, of which I am very proud, has proven that it is capable of doing this. Although incomplete and still to be rewritten, this bill deserves to be studied in committee and therefore the Bloc Québécois will support it.
In 2004, even before this government was elected, the leader of the Bloc Québécois said:
The peace of the braves agreement ratified by the Government of Quebec and representatives of the Cree nation has paved the way for this type of negotiation by demonstrating that major development projects must be negotiated with mutual interests in mind. The Bloc Québécois supports the first nations in their fight for emancipation. That is why we are asking Ottawa to follow this example to negotiate a similar agreement with the Cree.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind this House that in 1966-1967, René Lévesque himself conducted negotiations concerning the James Bay and northern Quebec territory, with both the Cree and the Inuit. Before the hydroelectric projects that were part of René Lévesque's vision for the development of Quebec and its hydroelectric power started, time ran out and the negotiations were not completed. The Cree were putting great pressure on Quebec in the United States, and an agreement had to be reached more quickly. Certainly, as a result, there were omissions that Bernard Landry, when he was premier of Quebec, was able to remedy to a large extent by signing the peace of the brave. The agreement was signed in February 2002. The federal government has needed to do something similar for some time.
Today, we have a bill that confirms this settlement. The bill grants the additional power to make regulations. The Cree nation of Oujé-Bougoumou is recognized, and I am very proud of this. As I said, to make regulations somewhere, there has to be a territory. When we do not have our own land, it is difficult to make any regulations at all.
There are three categories of land in James Bay. Category I land is where the Cree live. It is situated in and around the communities. Category IA land is under federal jurisdiction. Category IB is under Quebec’s jurisdiction, and the laws and regulations of the government of Quebec apply there. Category II land consists of about 155,000 square kilometres. Hunting, fishing, trapping and the development of tourism and forestry operations will be managed jointly by the Cree and the regional authorities. Category III land is public land of Quebec where the Cree and Naskapi have the exclusive right to exploit certain aquatic and animal species. This category consists of about 911,000 square kilometres where the communities share in the administration and development of the land.
The bill amends section 9 of the act. It contains new provisions that allow the Cree Regional Authority to make bylaws and adopt resolutions within Category IA and III lands, subject to certain provisos.
The new section 9.1 reads as follows:
A by-law of the Cree Regional Authority made under this Act may have application within the following territorial limits:
(b) Category III land situated within the perimeter of Category IA land and the ownership of which was ceded by letters patent or by any other method before November 11, 1975.
Then the new section 9.2 states:
A by-law of the Cree Regional Authority made under this Act may prohibit an activity.
The new section 9.3 states:
The Statutory Instruments Act does not apply to a by-law or resolution of the Cree Regional Authority made or adopted under this Act.
The bill goes on to describe the objects of the Cree Regional Authority:
(a) to act as a regional government authority on Category IA land;
(b) to regulate essential sanitation services — including water and sewer services, drainage and solid waste management — and housing situated on Category IA land and to regulate buildings used for the purposes of regional governance that are situated on those lands;
(c) to use, manage and administer moneys and other assets;
(d) to promote the general welfare of the members of the Cree bands;
(e) to promote and preserve the culture, values and traditions of the members of the Cree bands.
The Cree of Oujé-Bougoumou are very active and very proud people. They will make it their mission to promote their community and to exert the necessary pressure to get this agreement finalized and agree on the body of powers that will enable them to really achieve total self-government someday—and I wish that for them. Quebec's participation has been extremely constructive.
I would remind the House that in a press release dated June 21, 2004, the leader of the Bloc Québécois called on the federal government to immediately enter into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Cree Nation in order to reach an agreement similar to the peace of the braves. He was joined by Ted Moses, who was the Grand Chief of the Cree at the time. At the time, it was said that the peace of the braves—reached in 2002 between the Government of Quebec and representatives of the Cree Nation—is an excellent example of Quebec's approach and how Quebec has its own way of doing things.
The peace of the braves ratified by the Government of Quebec and representatives of the Cree Nation has paved the way for these kinds of negotiations and demonstrated that major development projects have to be negotiated with mutual interests in mind. The Bloc Québécois supports the first nations in their fight for emancipation. That is why we are asking Ottawa to follow this example—
That is what the government is doing today. In that regard, I do not see how we could oppose progress like this, as minimal as it may be. Not having full its full powers prevents and undermines a nation's rapid emancipation.
Ted Moses understands the spirit of this agreement very well. That is why, at this time, the Grand Chief describes his relationship with the Bloc Québécois and Quebec representatives as excellent. He hoped to see the same thing for all of Canada.
This morning, it was just terrible to hear the residents of Manitoba who appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Seeing the point these people are still at, even now in the 21st century, reinforces how proud I am to be a Quebecker and a friend of the first nations peoples of Quebec.