The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to continue my comments in this debate. Just before question period, in the first part of my discussion, I was talking about one part of the bill that actually works quite well and would certainly be particularly good for Nunavut. However, let me take a few moments to speak about the Northwest Territories surface rights board act. There are some difficulties there.
I would like to reiterate that Canadians expect us to work together in this place. When amendments come forward, Canadians expect them all to be considered, regardless of where they come from, whether from the government or the opposition. Unfortunately, right across all the Conservative-dominated committees, without exception, they have all been rejected outright. That is sad for democracy, because here we have a bill that has been 15 years in the making and we have a real opportunity to make it not just a good bill but a perfect bill.
One of the big concerns I have is with the preamble, which says the Inuvialuit final agreement provides for a surface rights board, but it is not clear anywhere in the bill where that actually exists. It says it in the preamble, but not in the bill. That could be problematic going forward.
Additionally, there is no provision for a surface rights board in the Salt River First Nation treaty settlement agreement. Further complicating the issue is the unsettled land claims of the Dehcho and Akaitcho First Nations. What will happen is that all the lawyers will be in court some time soon after the act is implemented because there will be some confusion.
It is most unfortunate that we could have a perfect bill if the government had considered even some of our amendments. However, it would not do it. It would make mining more responsible in northern Ontario if some of our amendments had been accepted.
The other part of the bill that has me concerned is the whole concept of sustainable training. Education and skills development are critical in all of these large projects. I refer to northern Ontario and some of the issues that we have had in the Ring of Fire and some of the other mining developments that are struggling to go forward. Chiefs have been very clear to me that they do not want one-year or year-and-a-half construction jobs for people from their first nations, and then nothing and they are out in the cold. What they want is real training with real, long-term sustainable results for their people. That means things like people being trained as tradesmen and journeymen electricians, carpenters and plumbers.
They are concerned about what happens when the projects end, and almost all of these mining projects do end, whether in five years, 10 years or 20 years. They want to ensure that the people in their communities have the ability to be mobile, that they have skills they can use any place across Canada and can still, in essence, support their communities and come back and visit and perhaps live there full time some day.
As we heard in question period, we are talking about $8 billion of potential investment and some 4,500 new jobs. It is important that there be something in the bill concerning sustainable skills and skills development that really spells out what the responsibilities are.
The member for , in his comments, was very concerned that the NWT surface rights board act may have been rushed and that perhaps not enough time was taken to talk about it.
We put forward the amendments from witnesses to try to clear this whole thing up, and none of them were accepted, so while this bill would be a step forward, it could have been better. I keep on mentioning that because I would like to see us moving forward in the next couple of years, particularly when government bills come forward, to have the opportunity to bring forward amendments and have them considered in the light in which they are brought forward.
Mr. Speaker, today, we are debating Bill . This bill seeks to create a framework for determining how environmental assessments and project approval will be done in Nunavut given the new land use plans.
Through these amendments, the bill also seeks to improve the process and make it more efficient in order to support economic growth in northern Canada.
The bill involves two acts, and we are of the opinion that these two acts should have been examined separately. Including different implementation provisions in a single bill was clearly not the best thing to do. Unfortunately, the government decided otherwise, despite the fact that we proposed that the bill be divided in two.
The NDP supports consultation and consensus-based decision-making that respects the autonomy of the Government of Nunavut and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
However, we think that there should have been more consultation about the Northwest Territories surface rights board act. We will certainly continue to fight for the rights and interests of northern residents, and we will promote the sustainable development of northern communities.
I will now turn to some highlights of the two parts of the bill.
The first part of the bill, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, creates a framework for planning and project assessment in the territory. This part of the bill requires the Government of Canada and the Inuit to create a joint system to supervise resource management in Nunavut. It sets out an apparently simple and effective impact assessment process, particularly for small projects. The goal is to make investment in Nunavut more attractive and profitable in the future.
The bill calls for a regulatory framework that will be more effective and regular, with timelines for territorial planning and environmental assessment processes.
The bill also makes it possible for transboundary and trans-regional projects to be assessed by joint committees, and the environmental assessment criteria have been harmonized.
The bill includes provisions for new and better tools to ensure that investors respect the conditions set out by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. It sets out general and specific monitoring programs, which will authorize both governments to monitor the environmental, social and economic impacts of projects.
The bill also defines how, and by whom, land use plans will be prepared, amended, reviewed and implemented in Nunavut. This will improve the regulatory regime to give the people of Nunavut the power to decide how quickly and to what extent territorial lands and resources will be developed.
The second part of the bill pertains to the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, which will give the board the power to make orders regarding terms and conditions of access and compensation to be paid in respect of that access when the parties are unable to negotiate an agreement.
As such, it affects the entire Northwest Territories and implements provisions of land claim agreements. Only some of the land claim agreements in the territory contain a provision for a surface rights board.
There is no provision in the Salt River First Nation Treaty Settlement Agreement for the creation of a surface rights board. Furthermore, this issue also includes unresolved land claims.
Lastly, the bill would also make changes to the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act, the purpose of which is to fulfill the federal government's obligation under the Yukon umbrella final agreement to establish a dispute settlement process for parties that have land and surface interests.
This has a lot to do with disputes related to access to and use of first nations land in Yukon.
That said, this bill could stimulate the development of responsible mining projects in Nunavut, where one already exists. This is a good sign for Nunavut, which currently has some exciting mining potential. We are talking about $8 billion in investments, which could help create nearly 4,500 jobs. Nunavut's GDP has increased by 12% since 2010.
The bill sets out a framework for determining how environmental assessments will be carried out and how permits will be issued in Nunavut. This new regulatory regime will help maintain economic competitiveness through new mining investments and will also be there to ensure that projects go through a rigorous assessment process.
By promoting new investments in Nunavut, this bill will help ease the uncertainty in the industry. Furthermore, it will now officially be necessary to obtain environmental assessment approval before starting development work.
This bill could clarify the rules on land use and environmental assessments, particularly when the designated Inuit organization is given the power to authorize new land use plans. This is a crucial aspect to take into account when debating this bill. We must absolutely ensure that development in the north benefits residents in the north.
Some important questions remain. The bill includes regions where land claims are still in dispute, which could result in legal proceedings.
Furthermore, the creation of a surface rights board has raised some concerns in many cases. This was the case with the Gwich'in Tribal Council, whose chief has indicated that the Gwich'in were not able to participate in creating a surface rights board in any meaningful way, since they had to deal with changes in the region.
We presented 50 amendments to this bill at committee stage. Unfortunately, they were all rejected or deemed out of order. Quite simply, the Conservatives were not interested in the amendments we wanted made to the bill. The amendments were perfectly legitimate and based on requests from witnesses from the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tuungavik Inc., the NWT Association of communities, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Nunavut Chamber of Mines, and Alternatives North.
With those amendments, we tried to modify the provisions of the bill that enable the commission to prohibit access and that give it authority over lands subject to outstanding land claims.
Therefore, we support the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, which will apply part of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. However, we do not want to interfere in an agreement that the Government of Nunavut negotiated.
We also fear that the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act was drafted in haste. To compensate, we proposed numerous amendments to properly represent the witnesses' concerns. It was all to no avail because the Conservatives rejected every last one. I find it hard to believe that, out of 50 amendments, none of them had anything special to contribute to this bill.
So I would like to reiterate the fact that we support the consultations and consensus-based decision-making that respect the independence of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Having said that, we think more consultations on the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act should have been held in the context of this bill.
Mr. Speaker, as you have heard several times in the House today, the New Democratic Party is in support of this legislation. However, we think it is important to bring to the House the concerns raised by the many witnesses who came from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to express some concerns about the legislation. They took the time to make sound, genuine recommendations for improving the bill. Some of the issues were not resolved in the time for consultation. I would like to share some of those, as have some of my colleagues.
I will be sharing my time today with my colleague, the hon. member for .
The bill is a very important one. It is very important that all jurisdictions in Canada have a sound system for reviewing projects, for planning developments in their communities and for environmental impact assessments. This particular legislation has been long in coming, as my colleagues have pointed out. The agreement between the Crown and the people of Nunavut was signed in 1993. Yet here we are, two decades later, and this legislation is only now being brought forward. There have been successive governments in power that have dropped the ball. To the credit of the government, it has moved forward with the legislation. There has been a greater attempt at consultation, but clearly not enough.
Interestingly, in the bill there is reference to the duty to consult. I am not sure that some of my colleagues have raised this issue. In the bill, under part 1, which deals with the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, the minister is obligated to consult closely with the territorial minister, the designated Inuit organization, the commission and the board created under the bill on any amendments to the bill in the future. What is not made clear is whether the minister is obligated to do that consultation in advance of tabling the bill. There are a number of matters that merit improvement. Perhaps the government will listen to my hon. colleagues, who have suggested that it would be wise to have a review of this legislation sooner than 10 years from now so that we might address some of the factors that are missing, particularly in the second part of the bill dealing with surface rights in the Northwest Territories.
Part 1 of the bill deals with Nunavut planning and project assessment. Many of the mechanisms created in this legislation are already set out in the land claims agreement. That is the normal course of what has happened in the modern treaties. The step that was missing was that we needed the federal legislation to actually implement the intricacies of the systems for planning and assessment. To their credit, the people of Nunavut have been proceeding for 20 years to try to deal with these complicated matters without the legislative framework. Now we have a legislative framework.
As I mentioned, I had the privilege of sitting in on the committee for one day to replace one of my colleagues. I had an opportunity to talk with a number of the representatives from Nunavut and with other witnesses who have raised a number of concerns about the bill. They had a number of pragmatic, practical recommendations to improve the bill. Sad to say, none of the recommendations made to the committee, which we brought forward as proposed amendments, were accepted. I think that is most regrettable. It raises questions about how sincere was the consultation on the bill.
One thing I would like to bring attention to, which I am not sure anyone else has mentioned, is relevant to the issues that have arisen with the bill. There has been some suggestion, particularly by the member for , that concerns have been raised by the first nation peoples in the Northwest Territories that the part of the bill to do with the surface rights board is perhaps being rushed through too quickly, for a number of reasons.
Not all of the first nation final agreements include a surface rights board. In some cases they are saying they do not have any issues under the surface rights system, and they are asking, what is the rush? In other cases, some first nations have said that since they have not settled their land claims yet, they will likely litigate.
Therefore, there are a lot of questions about the rushing through and, again, the omnibus nature of it. The personalty of the government when it has dragged its heels seems to be to wrap it all up tight with a ribbon and table it in the House. In this case, these are two very distinct pieces of legislation that cover two distinct territories of our country. It is rather puzzling that it has forced these together.
The matter I want to raise is the series of legal actions, first filed by the Inuit of Nunavut, represented by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, against the Crown, in 2006. They filed that action, very regrettably, because negotiations had broken down on the duty of the federal Crown to actually deliver its side of that modern treaty. A big part of that was passing over the necessary finances for Nunavut to begin acting as a modern government. The action dealt with breaches of the agreement relating to core funding to establish systems of governance; failure of the Crown to act in a manner consistent with the honour of the Crown; and, contrary to the terms of the Nunavut final agreement, failure of the federal Crown to deliver its responsibilities.
Since 2003, proper and adequate funding has not been provided. It is interesting to hear the list of entities within the Nunavut government that the federal government was not supporting, which goes to the very matters under this legislation. It was failing to adequately fund the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the Nunavut Water Board, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal, and the hunters and trappers organizations.
In addition, the action alleged that the federal government was failing to deliver a general monitoring plan, which is required under the agreement. Last year, in June, the court held that in fact the government had erred in law and was required to provide that funding. Guess what happened? The government has appealed that matter. Therefore, instead of simply transferring over the dollars that it signed on to and is constitutionally obligated to transfer, it has simply taken Nunavut to court, again.
They have also alleged no co-operation in the development and implementation of adequate employment and training, which was obviously necessary in order to deliver the functions of all of these boards for planning and assessment. They also advised that there was no Inuit impact and benefit agreement entered into.
There has since been a land claims coalition created, which includes the various Nunavut entities and other governments that have been created under modern treaties. In fact, that coalition of people under modern treaties met in this area just last week and had discussions about the frustrations they are still facing, some progress they are making, and the successes and attributes of working together.
Therefore, the legal actions proceed. Most of their claims have yet to be resolved so they have to continue in the courts, at the same time that they were sitting down and trying to negotiate in good faith. To the credit of the people of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, they did sit down and try to find time, regardless of the lack of appropriate resources and expertise to help them in those negotiations.
It is my understanding that many of these same concerns have been raised regarding the content of Bill . The bill contains no duty or commitment to contribute the resources necessary to implement these selfsame commissions, boards and tribunals established under the first nation final agreements and self-government agreements.
As has been stated by my colleagues, many of the witnesses who came forward said they were delighted that this legislation is finally coming forward after 20 years but they had additional measures they need to make sure it will work properly. Those witnesses are the people who chair and participate on the boards, tribunals and commissions. Among the recommendations that they made are the very ones we brought to the attention of the House. They include the fact that legislation should include a requirement by the government to adequately finance these boards, commissions and tribunals.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill .
I took the time to listen to my colleagues' speeches today and to learn more about the details of this bill because I am not a member of the committee that studied it. I was really interested in the arguments made and the process followed by the committee following the appearance of witnesses and experts who came to comment on the bill.
Before I go into the details, I would like to mention that one of my colleagues caught my attention when they said that we must not forget that the realities in the north or in the regions are often very different than those in the south or in major centres. We often forget that. I represent a riding on Laval Island, the riding of Alfred-Pellan, which is often considered as a rather urban area because it is located in a major metropolitan area. Even though 90% of the riding is agricultural and very rural, we are part of the major metropolitan area.
We often forget that the reality in one part of the country is extremely different from that in another. Today, it is important to point that out and not to forget it. I have family in Canada's far north and in Hudson's Bay. Furthermore, one of my very closest collaborators, who I adore, will be moving to the Yukon in the next few weeks. I will be losing her, unfortunately, but I am very proud of her. She loves the Yukon, and I am happy for her and will take the opportunity to go visit her.
Before becoming an MP, I worked for Quebec's ministry of natural resources and wildlife in northern communities. I mainly worked with them on issues related to outfitters, forestry and anything related to the importance of adding value to and preserving these resources, which was extremely important to these communities. We have to make this the focal point of the bill.
We cannot forget that economic development and jobs in northern regions, in the territories—the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, for example—depend on natural resources. Natural resources are often the main economic driver in these communities. We need to take the time to sit down and underscore that. We also need to take the time to put good legislation into place to support northern development. We need to do a good job with our territorial legislation so that we can properly support these people and so that economic development does not happen at the expense of the environment or northern communities. It needs to happen in a way that is respectful of the people who live there.
We need to put the emphasis on respecting the people who live there. When this bill was studied in committee, the members of the official opposition took the time to listen to witnesses and experts who are directly affected by or who know the subject matter of Bill . We based our 50 amendments on their testimony because is it critical that we listen to those people. What is disappointing is that none of the opposition amendments were accepted.
In hindsight, I am not really surprised. Members of the opposition parties, and even the parties that are not recognized in the House, often talk about what happens and how we can react to the government's arrogance in response to opposition amendments or proposals. We are not surprised that these amendments were refused, but I am a bit surprised that the government does not take the time to listen to the witnesses and experts in committee. They are there in good faith, to share their concerns and to talk about how they view the situation because it affects them directly.
Witnesses and committees are there for a reason. Committees are there to hear from people and to make the best laws possible. That is an important point when it comes to Bill : have we come up with the best law possible?
For example, the hon. member for spoke a lot this morning about the amendments that were proposed. He wondered whether people were satisfied with the current version of Bill . No one seems very happy with the current version of the bill being presented at third reading. That is really sad because, by listening to what witnesses had to say in committee, we could have fine-tuned and improved this bill. As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to produce the best bills possible, and this bill is, once again, a bit off the mark. We could have produced something better. It is really sad.
Another one of my colleagues raised the fact that most of the first nations who were consulted said that they were not ready and that they needed more time to think about this bill and to see what types of amendments could be proposed. Unfortunately, this point of view was not taken into consideration either. That is also extremely sad. Not enough attention was paid to the witnesses and the first nations needed more time to examine Bill in order to ensure that the legislation was good for everyone.
Since I am talking about first nations, I cannot help but think of some of the other issues that we have dealt with recently that affect them. I am thinking, for example, of the Idle No More movement, which showed just how important it is to listen to all Canadians. It seems that, at times, the Conservatives are not doing that. We have said it before and we are saying it again, loud and clear. This movement is proof that the government is not listening to the problems of first nations. Bill could have been a good example of openness, transparency and co-operation with the first nations to help them understand that we are working with them.
When I think about first nations, I am thinking about the Shannen's Dream motion that we unanimously passed several months ago. It had to do with education for all first nations peoples. We all built that together, and we all agreed on it. We also could have used that kind of unity from all parties in the House for Bill , in order to work together here.
These little things make me hesitate a bit. I am a little sad to see that all these amendments were, unfortunately, rejected, but the NDP supports consultations and consensus-based decision-making that respect the independence of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
We in the official opposition are fans of consultation. I like it a lot, as several of my colleagues probably do, as well. I use that approach a lot in my riding. I use in on budgets, on various bills and on all issues affecting the Alfred-Pellan community. Listening to the public and consulting them as often as possible is an extremely important part of democracy.
To conclude, I would like to reiterate that the NDP will keep defending the rights and interests of northerners and promote the long-term prosperity of Canada's northern communities, from coast to coast to coast.
The communities are all different. I think we need to accept the differences of each and every one.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to address what I believe is in fact a very important bill, Bill , and the impact it is going to have, which I believe is quite significant.
Even though it has been made very clear this afternoon and this morning that the government should have been, and could have been, a lot more open-minded in listening to the amendments that were being proposed and in accepting amendments, I must say I did find it somewhat interesting. We have had a number of speakers address the issue. In the last series of questions, a Conservative member stood in her place and virtually read a statement. That statement was in defence of the government. No doubt she was doing a little bit of cherry-picking as she tried to explain why it is that a particular amendment did not meet the government's satisfaction and therefore the government did not accept it.
The point is that at the end of the day there was a significant number of amendments, more than 50 in total, that did not originate with the government. For whatever reasons, the government made the decision not to accept them.
Portions of the bill regarding Nunavut do not mirror the language in the land claim agreement. The Conservative government rejected any amendments put forward to rectify that particular issue. I think we could go on and on in regard to the number of amendments and to what degree the government was sympathetic to listening to what was being said in justification to those amendments.
The posed a question. It did not necessarily have to do with just Bill but with government legislation in general. What we see is that when a bill goes to committee, the government has virtually zero tolerance in terms of opposition amendments. It is almost as if the Conservatives perceive an amendment coming from the opposition as being something that is bad, and whether it makes sense or not, whether it makes the legislation better or not, they are obligated to vote against it.
It is interesting. I have had the opportunity to chat with some of my colleagues who have been around a bit longer than I have in the House, who were around when there was a Liberal government. We found that there were many opposition amendments, a significant percentage of them, that were not only accepted but were appreciated, because at the end of the day what we wanted to be able to achieve in government was healthier and stronger legislation. The then-government was more open to the type of amendments opposition members were making. That even includes amendments from the Reform Party, New Democrats and others.
That is an important point. Hopefully the government—not only in dealing with Bill , because it has already gone through that particular process—will listen to what is being said, not only by itself but also by members in opposition, and that it will be a little more sensitive to improving legislation by allowing even opposition amendments to pass through the system.
I wanted to be able to comment on Bill because I believe there are a lot of similarities to what has happened in the province of Manitoba, with what is happening in Bill and some of the issues related to natural resources and compensation, planning, our environment and so forth.
The province of Manitoba, like many other regions of our country, has vast spreads of land. We have first nations and others who have been there for a good number of years. Through that settlement, we can see that there has been some significant development. In Manitoba, for example, we had the northern flood agreement.
We talk about planning. Little planning was done back in the late sixties and early seventies and as a result some decisions were made too quickly and there were a number of consequences. Reserves, whether it was Split Lake, Nelson House or Norway House, were having issues in terms of compensation, relocation, things of that nature.
By not having agreements or legislation in place to protect some of those interests to ensure that more planning is done before some of this construction takes place results in paying more or relocating more. It demonstrates a lack of respect for those individuals both socially and economically.
That is why there is a great deal of sympathy. We should not take this for granted. First nations are suing the government because they feel the government did not necessarily compensate them, but too much water was diverted in terms of flooding in the city of Winnipeg and that water ultimately ended up in Lake Manitoba. This had a significant impact on reserves with respect to displacements and so forth. Now they are having to go to court.
It is critically important that we recognize the need to plan well in advance. Some settlements have been around for hundreds of years. With respect to natural resources, we owe it to those settlements and to our environment to go out of our way to protect where we can and try to marginalize the negative impacts.
A good example of that is in remote areas. Quite often there are no roads leading out of them so people have to fly out. These remote areas are quite pristine and beautiful to look at. They are quite impressive. We want to do what we can to preserve them, while looking at our natural resources. It is easy to understand why there is such a huge demand for economic development. There are phenomenal natural resources in those vast acres of land that generate wealth for individuals far beyond those who happen to live in the community.
Nunavut has a population of around 45,000 people. A significant amount of resources are developed in that territory. As a result, we need proper legislation in place that would protect those interests. All Canadians benefit immensely from the type of development that takes place in these communities, whether it is mining or other resources. The sky is the limit. If we do not do our due diligence and have the necessary infrastructure, and I am referring to environmental laws and strong regulations, then many mistakes will be made and some of those mistakes could be costly.
It does not take much to damage the environment and it could cost tens of millions of dollars because of one relatively small mistake. I listened to some of the discussions today at third reading and I am sensitive to the fact that maybe the committee should have done a little more. When I say “maybe”, I say that tongue in cheek. It should have done more.
The Liberal Party is going to be voting in favour of the legislation. That does not mean we believe the government has done a good job in getting the bill to this stage. It has come a long way in terms of process.
I have heard the New Democrats talking about the process, even periodically taking some shots at the former government. I tend to want to defend the former government. Whether it was Paul Martin, Jean Chrétien or Pierre Trudeau, they did a wonderful job in terms of the development in northern areas. In fact, it goes all the way back to Pierre Trudeau, who started the negotiations on the division of the Northwest Territories. The note that was provided to me said that it was in 1999 when Jean Chrétien did the final declaration, if I can put it that way, in Nunavut becoming a province. I recognize a lot of work and negotiations had to take place. Plebiscites were required. That is something we believe is absolutely essential in going forward. We need to work with the people who live in and call the north their home.
I reflect on individuals who I have met over the years. One of the most prominent individuals is a former speaker of the Manitoba legislature, George Hickes, a fabulous speaker. He was Manitoba's first elected speaker in the chamber. I had the opportunity as house leader to have many discussions with George, everything from his ability to jump out of boats and catch beluga whales to how important Nunavut was in terms of economic development, the opportunities that existed and the sense of pride he had in that territory. It made him feel good because many of his family and friends originated from that area. Nunavut is on the northern Manitoba border and Manitobans like to think there is, indeed, a special relationship between the territory and their province.
When we look at the territory, much like we think of northern Manitoba, the extraction of natural resources is a wonderful thing. It adds so much to the development of our great nation. What is also important for many of the people who call these communities home, which are scattered throughout Nunavut or the northern regions of the province, is not just natural resources being tapped into and taken south or circulated throughout the world, they want more in the development of their economy.
There are certain industries there that need to be encouraged and fostered. This is something the Liberal Party has talked about and wants to move forward. I could go back to my example of former speaker George Hickes of the Manitoba legislature and the beluga whales and the attraction that could potentially bring for tourism. There are polar bears and all sorts of wildlife that exist to potentially develop tourism.
It is interesting, on Baffin Island there were archeological digs. It was discovered that there had been individuals from Europe, landing and trading for centuries with the indigenous people in that area. One of those digs showed very clearly that it was well before the year 1400. These are the types of things that would attract tourists. The development of its infrastructure, housing and other types of commercial developments are really important.
When we talk to the local people who call these communities their home and who live up north, they want to see more development of their ports. By providing the development of ports, we would be providing more opportunities for economic activity. Not necessary just the type of activity I have referred to, but also natural resources. The potential for research and development is phenomenal up north.
Looking at what else we can do to further develop and encourage economic activity, most people might be surprised with some of the long-term population projections. We are not going into the hundreds of thousands. We are still talking about a relatively small, but wonderful population, which will likely grow 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 over the next number of years. A lot this will be determined by the economic development that takes place. Quite often, through economic development, more people are attracted to the area or more people are born in the area and want to stay there.
It is always encouraging when individuals make the commitment to go north, whether it is Yukon, the Northwest Territories or maybe other communities outside of Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, all of which are wonderful destinations, but these are big population bases.
It is critically important that we support this legislation going forward. We would be surprised at the number of Canadians who are familiar with the type of development taking place up north. We can rest assured they are concerned about that development and the impact it will have on the broader community.
I visit high schools, whether it is Maples Collegiate or Sisler High, and I have had the opportunity to talk to high school students over the years, as I am sure all of us have. I do not mean just those two schools. I could also include St. Johns and R.B. Russell. The point is, I have had the opportunity to talk to many young people who live in and these individuals care passionately about our environment.
When I was in high school, the environment was not really a hot topic of discussion. Today in our high schools throughout our country the environment is a hot topic.
When we want to deal with the issue of the environment, preserve and protect our environment up north, we look at the current infrastructure and the bureaucracy of the government. We need to recognize that we need to have a strong national role to protect and support our environment up north.
Our high school students and others, but I focus on the high schools students because of changing attitudes, recognize how important it is to improve legislation and our regulations so industry can be developed and natural resources can be tapped into in an appropriate fashion, which adds value to the communities there, first and foremost. It brings value to all Canadians in a very real, tangible way. These regulations and laws will protect and ensure there is an orderly flow of planning and our environment is being protected at the very least.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak to this important issue as represented by Bill .
Bill is not a small piece of legislation by any stretch of the imagination. I think there are upward of 170 pages. It deals with two very distinct matters, one involving Nunavut and the other involving the Northwest Territories.
There has been some concern raised, and frankly I think it well placed, that these two issues should be dealt with separately. They have sufficient magnitude in and of themselves and deal with similar yet very different issues and contexts. Therefore, the people of those regions, the people of Canada and the members of this House would have been better served had we had the opportunity to deal with these matters separately.
Having said that, I will begin by addressing each matter.
It has been said by many members of this caucus and other members of this House that matters of development in the north are very significant. The climate is changing, which is having an impact on the territories, on ice cover, on the seasonality of hunting and transportation and on the culture of many communities throughout this region. There is a great deal of work being done, but some would suggest that there is not enough work being done at this stage. However, we continue to push for the science to properly understand the environmental changes that are happening in the north as a result of climate change.
I was talking with a couple of scientists the other day who are studying fisheries under the ice to try to determine a baseline for existing species of sea life in order to discern the results of climate change, when the ice melts and there is increased marine traffic, which is happening, to hopefully know how to properly respond. There is also some research being done in Cambridge Bay where electronic monitoring devices have been placed under the water to better understand exactly what is happening as the environment continues to change.
The changing environment has a huge impact on the people who live in our north. It is creating great pressures not only in terms of the environment and the culture of the people but in terms of others wanting to exploit both the resources and possible transportation routes through the north. All of those pressures will create additional problems for that area, environmentally, culturally and otherwise.
Part 1 of the bill is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. It is a piece of legislation that would give some structure, some framing, to development issues and how they would carry forward when there are disputes and how they would be resolved. It has a lot to do with the whole science of land use planning. It is a matter that has been under some considerable discussion with the Government of Nunavut. They recognize that this is an important piece of legislation as they transition to their own independent government as a province. That work, that devolution, is still in the works. The land claim agreement was initially signed in 1993 and ratified in 1999, I believe. The next step is to negotiate those governance questions in terms of devolution of authority from the Crown. That is expected to take a number of years yet.
In the interim, I think it is fair to say that the Government of Nunavut has been very active in trying to get this type of legislation in place to set particular standards and a particular regime for land use planning and project assessment for now and in the future, until it turns over strictly to their authority.
The Nunavut planning and project assessment act would require that the Inuit and the Government of Canada establish a joint system to oversee the way resources are managed in that territory. This agreement would represent the last outstanding legislative obligation of the federal government related to the Nunavut land claims agreement established, as I indicated earlier, in 1993. It would also fulfill the first deliverable of the recently introduced action plan to improve the regulatory regimes of the north.
This provision of Bill , as it relates to the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, would also clearly spell out the roles, powers, functions and authorities of all parties, including how their members would be appointed. The parties include the Nunavut Planning Commission, or NCP; the Nunavut Impact Review Board, or NIRB; Inuit groups; and governments.
The proposed process for impact assessments would be streamlined and made more efficient, especially for smaller projects, which, it is hoped, would make investments in Nunavut more attractive and profitable, not only for come-from-away companies but for locally based operations. It would establish timelines for various decision-making points in the land use planning and environmental assessment processes to create a more efficient and predictable regulatory regime. trans-boundary and trans-regional projects would now be reviewed by joint panels. Environmental assessment requirements would also be harmonized. As necessary, enforcement provisions would establish new and more effective tools for ensuring that developers follow the terms and conditions set by the NIRB. It would also provide for the development of general and specific monitoring plans that would enable both governments to track the environmental, social and economic impacts of projects.
The bill would go further. It would define how and by whom land use plans would be prepared, amended, reviewed and implemented in Nunavut. It would define what kind and scope of activity would constitute the project. It is fair to say that these regulatory improvements are important steps toward providing Nunavut with decision-making power over the pace and magnitude of resource and land development in Nunavut.
What has already been said here today in debate is that we see this section of the bill as being something that has been sought after by the Government of Nunavut. We have certainly heard some concerns that some tweaking needs to be done. We hope that while the government was resistant to any amendments brought forward at committee, it will recognize that the bill is not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. It does set out some direction to achieve the outcome as required, so we will certainly be supporting this part of the bill.
I want to make it very clear that the NDP supports consultation and consensus-based decision-making that respects the autonomy of the governments of both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. We suggest that there should have been more consultation in play as it related to the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, which is part 2 of Bill.
Finally, I would underline that the NDP will continue to fight for the rights of northerners and for the long-term prosperity of northern communities.
Let me move now to part 2 of Bill C-47. Part 2 is the Northwest Territories surface rights board act. The bill proclaims to apply to all of the territory of the Northwest Territories, and the land claims there too. The problem is that not all of that territory is covered by land claims. Not all of the groups have, in fact, reached agreement with the Crown on land claims.
Section 26 of the bill implements section 26 of the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Final Agreement. It implements section 27 of the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement and section 6.6 of the Akaitcho land claims and self-government agreement. The preamble of the bill, interestingly enough, also says that the Inuvialuit final agreement provide for such a board. However, it is not clear where the legal provision is found for that agreement. Additionally, there is no provision for a surface rights board in the Salt River First Nations treaty agreement, further complicating the issue of the unsettled land claims for the Dehcho and Akaitcho first nations.
These are very sensitive issues. They do not appear to be issues that have been adequately recognized by the government. We are talking about great areas of land. The territories of the north are one-third the area of Canada. We are talking about huge expanses in the Northwest Territories, with a population of, I believe, 40,000 people. It is over a million square kilometres of area. It is a big territory. The ability to properly consult and engage with the population is significant.
Some witnesses suggested that there was no need for the establishment of this board at this particular time, that the matters that have been in dispute have been minimal and that the problems created by trying to impose a process on a territory where there are no land claims agreements is fraught with difficulty. We have heard government members stand up and say that we have to set out a process and try to avoid the possibility of disputes going into the courts. However, that is where they are headed if they continue to not recognize the rights of the first nations people who are in these territories, the Inuit. They have traditional rights and are demanding that those rights be recognized.
The Idle No More movement has raised the heads of people who have said to the Conservatives that they have a duty to consult with them as Canadians. They have a constitutional duty to consult with them as first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. If they continue to ignore the fact that they have those responsibilities, they will be moving forward in a manner that is not going to be conducive to the proper development of governance and the proper development of ownership and resource development. Certainly, I would suggest, that is in no one's interest.
We were disappointed. Fifty amendments were introduced by the opposition at committee, 47 by the official opposition and three by the Liberals. Those were amendments asked for by witnesses. The Conservatives talk about how they have engaged in fulsome consultation with the groups that would be affected. Yet while these groups recognized that this legislation, in its intent, was solid, there were changes necessary. As I have said in this House on many occasions, it is our responsibility to ensure that the legislation that leaves here is the best it can possibly be. It is one thing to get legislation through, but to get it changed is a whole different kettle of fish. It is extraordinarily difficult.
We have the situation, with respect to the Northwest Territories, that it is much further along in that whole devolution of governance process. It may not be that many more years before it will be able to correct the problems that have already been raised and the authority, as provided under this legislation, will pass to them in a few short years, perhaps, and then it will be able to correct those problems. That is not the case as it relates to the agreement for Nunavut. That is why the member for asked that one of the amendments be for a five-year review. It would be put in this legislation that in five years there would be a proper review to ensure that it was working.
I indicate again our respect for the governments of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut for making sure that development occurs in a manner they approve of and have control of. I urge all members, especially the Conservatives, to recognize our responsibility to recognize the rights of those governments.
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
The short title of Bill , is the Northern Jobs and Growth Act.
Having observed the government for nearly two long years now, I am skeptical, to say the least, when I see the words “jobs” and “growth” in the same sentence. This is a far cry from what the constituents of my riding and other ridings in Canada have seen since May 2, 2011. What they are seeing is an effective opposition that is always vigilant. We do not have any choice.
However, let us give the government the benefit of the doubt. The bill's intentions are certainly good, since they respond to many of the expectations of the public and stakeholders affected by this legislation. It is important to point that out. We will support the bill introduced by the on November 6, 2012. The bill brings together two acts, which I named earlier. However, these two acts should have been examined separately.
Ideally, we wanted the bill to be sent to committee so that amendments could be made based on the testimony heard. To our utter amazement, our 50 amendments were all rejected or deemed inadmissible by the Conservatives in committee. It's not a perfect world. This is proof positive that the Conservatives have no idea what a fair and democratic Parliament entails. Let us not talk about fairness. They do not know what that means.
Fifty amendments were proposed. They were all based on the requests of witnesses from the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Nunavut Chamber of Mines, and Alternatives North. This is yet more proof that the government does not listen to the public or to the various stakeholders from the communities involved.
Subsequently, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement provides that the Inuit and the Government of Canada establish a joint system, in partnership, to oversee how resources will be managed in the territory of Nunavut. The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act provides a legal framework for this, as does the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act, which was created in 1994 to fulfill an obligation of the Canadian government at the time resulting from the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement.
The board is a tribunal whose primary role is to resolve access disputes between those owning or having an interest in the surface of the land and others with access rights to the land. These disputes are primarily related to accessing or using Yukon first nation settlement land and, in certain circumstances, disputes involving access to or use of non-settlement land.
As I said, we will be supporting the bill. However, we also wanted to support consultation and decision-making based on a consensus that respects the autonomy of the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. This is a crucial part of any discussion about development, jobs and economic growth. We know that all the research done on minerals and the development of these areas represents the economy of the future. Since it is the economy of the future, we need to take these populations, their rights and their demands into account.
We based our amendments on important testimony we had heard. However, all of our amendments were rejected or deemed out of order in committee. This is unacceptable on the part of a government that claims to be democratic and that has been talking non-stop about jobs and growth since it won a majority on May 2, 2011.
Fortunately, on May 2, 2011, Canadians also elected a strong and effective opposition: the NDP. We will continue to work hard and defend the interests of all communities.
The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act has six components.
Part 1 confirms the establishment of the Nunavut planning commission and the Nunavut impact review board.
Part 2 defines how planning will be done in the territory.
Part 3 sets out the process by which the commission will examine repercussions. It will also examine specific project proposals and determine whether they conform to the land use plan.
Part 4 provides an opportunity for the board, with the support of government, to review and assess projects outside the Nunavut settlement area that may nevertheless have an adverse impact on the Nunavut settlement area.
Part 5 contains provisions for coordinating the activities of government institutions, the use of information, monitoring, the establishment and maintenance of public registries, grandfathering, and administrative matters.
These are all administrative, technical and sometimes complex measures. The population and the governments of these regions who will be affected by the application of these bills should be consulted.
That is why we wanted those 50 amendments. Even if the Conservatives had accepted only five amendments, that would have represented 10% of the total, which would surely have been a record.
I am shocked every time I see the definitions included in this bill. Every bill provides definitions, but in this bill there is a definition for wildlife area, critical habitat, wildlife sanctuary, migratory bird sanctuary, wetland of international importance, marine protected area, Canadian heritage river and a historic place designated under the Historical Resources Act.
It makes me crazy because the government botched a bill that eliminated protection for 98% of our navigable waters.
When we talk about the environment and such things as wildlife sanctuaries, we have to wonder what the government has in mind. We wonder how the government will define and apply these laws that protect important resources for the first nations living in those areas when the time comes to enforce them.
We wanted the government to consult more and to listen, but most of all we wanted the governments of those regions to be heard.
This will always be a disappointment because we live in a democratic society where we share information and help one another. However, often there is a total lack of any such process.
Fortunately, the NDP is here. We will continue to protect the rights and interests of northern residents and to promote sustainable prosperity for these northern communities. I have already spoken about the reasons for this. It is because the far north holds the key to the future. Wherever there is development and growth, my colleagues and I will be present to defend the interests of the people who live there. This will have an impact on all of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, today we are talking about Bill , which has to do with a part of Canada I have not yet visited. I hope to have the chance to visit northern Canada one day.
One of the main roles of government is to represent all Canadians, to make decisions in the interest of Canadians and to work to unite all Canadians. Today, we are seeing the difference between the official opposition, which rises to speak and is interested in northern perspectives, and the government, which remains silent and rises from time to time to read out a question written by the 's Office, without perhaps knowing what it is really about.
The first thing that I said today was that it is true that the bill as a whole is relatively good. However, it needed improvements that the government refused to make. We proposed about 55 amendments to the bill, having to do with transparency and consultations, but the government rejected them all. What reason did the government give? I really have no idea. Earlier today, a member tried to make a little public service announcement, but I do not really understand how that explained the rejection of those 55 amendments. I do not think it justified anything.
The economy in the northern regions is cyclical, which is why it often depends on mining development. We need to be aware of this reality. We also have to understand that the economic contribution of natural resources is often limited to where the mining companies are located. So the environmental issue is extremely important because people living in the north, in particular, live in much greater harmony with the environment. We have a lot to learn from how they live with the environment, from how they fish in the ocean and hunt.
The fact that the government just waived all the environmental regulations does not inspire confidence in the government's willingness to negotiate with the territories on mining or other projects. We should ask the government to respect the will of the people who live there. In fact, these territories are part of Canada, but the people who live there have to live with the consequences of pollution caused by mining projects.
For example, my colleague from mentioned the Giant Mine catastrophe in his speech. The government had to use taxpayers' money to deal with the environmental disaster caused by the dumping of 270,000 tonnes of arsenic into the ground. Therefore, it is important to point out that the bill could be improved in order to prevent the government from having to accept responsibility for cleaning up such environmental disasters with taxpayers' money.
Thus, we need serious and rigorous environmental assessments. We are saddling the next generation with a huge environmental debt. Canadians are truly ashamed of this government, which is an international embarrassment. I will come back to that later.
There is also the need for a long-term vision. When we develop natural resources, we should always take into consideration the fact that a mine will not operate forever. It is fine to pass bills that talk about development, but that is taking a short-term view. Do we really invest 100% in these communities? Will a bill that deals with negotiations for mining projects solve all the problems of the people living in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut? No.
For example, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is studying the fact that Canada will take over the chair of the Arctic Council in May 2013, which is only a few weeks away. A number of experts who appeared before the committee talked about the serious lack of port facilities, roads and railways. It is ridiculous.
The government can pat itself on the back and say that it is capable of negotiating with the territories, but that is completely ridiculous because they never do any work. We have very few if any deep-water ports. We do not have any decent roads or trains that go to the north, and people cannot even get food supplies.
In committee, one witness said that, if there were a crisis or a major storm, one of the municipalities would have to be completely evacuated because there would not be any food or medication. That is completely ridiculous. It is all well and good to talk about the government's good faith and its desire to negotiate for the good of the territories, but as long as the government is not making long-term investments or providing infrastructure that will help these communities to develop, nothing will change. These communities have been neglected for decades and now the government is waking up and saying that it might be a good idea to negotiate and do something. In my opinion, that is not how things work, and Canadians do not think so either.
Land claims are extremely important. The communities were abandoned by the Conservative and Liberal federal governments. They have been abandoned for years. The government is not creating any infrastructure and does not have a long-term plan. The Conservatives are relying on band-aid solutions. They are patchworking.
We support what the government is trying to do, but it could do more. A regulatory regime is all well and good, but we know that the government deregulates everything. The government's desire to negotiate to regulate something goes against its habits. The Conservatives are deregulating when it comes to the environment and the financial system, and now they are talking about regulating. In my opinion, that does not make sense. Either the government is acting in bad faith or it does not have any idea what it is doing.
I would also like to talk about the fact that a UN report was published today on poverty in Canada's northern communities, about the fact that these communities do not have access to food, that they live in poverty and that the government has completely forgotten them. I would like to remind hon. members of something: it is all well and good to negotiate with the territories, but this does not change anything. This should have been done about 20 years ago. Whether or not the communities agree to a pipeline or mining project is not the heart of the matter.
The heart of the matter is that the government neglected northern Canada and is now trying to put a small band-aid on a gaping wound. However, this does not hide the fact that the government has been neglecting infrastructure, food security and poverty in northern Canada and that it is still refusing to negotiate with aboriginal communities and the people living in Canada's north in order to resolve these problems.
I understand the purpose of this kind of bill. Regulations can enable northerners to make decisions and negotiate with the government. However, if the government does not negotiate in good faith, what is the point? If the government does not consult people, what is the point? Is this just an empty shell of a bill that the Conservatives hope will appease people? I would really like to know.
Today's UN report states that Canada has neglected the north. The Government of Canada neglected its own country. What do the Conservatives have to say about that? Today, not one of them has stood up and demanded that the government help northern communities. No member from Nunavut or Yukon has said anything in the House of Commons about what the territories need. Neither has the . I am sorry, but when negotiations are not conducted in good faith, there is no point.
We know all about the Conservatives' good faith in negotiations. They take the bosses' side, pass special laws and force workers back to work. They tell aboriginal communities that if they want to solve their problems, just talking amongst themselves should do the trick, but it will not. The government lacks both the leadership and the will to take care of Canada's north. It has no business saying that the opposition is scaring Canadians.
All we want the government to do is consult people and respect the rights of northern residents. I think that is pretty clear. Even the government has to admit that we are right about that.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill an act to enact the Nunavut planning and project assessment act and the Northwest Territories surface rights board act.
I am going to take a minute to take a personal detour, because someone might ask why the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is so interested in this act. The story for me begins 40 years ago. I almost hate to say that out loud. I was a young university graduate, and my first job was in Yellowknife where I had the privilege of working for the territorial government as the superintendent of treaty Indian band membership and the director of vital statistics. Suffice it to say I was way over my head for my age. I had worked in summer jobs as a health researcher and ended up in this very wonderful job in the Northwest Territories.
At that time, the Northwest Territories included Nunavut and was ruled by a commissioner appointed by the Prime Minister. It was just beginning the process of devolution and self-government. I have to say that any of us at that time would be surprised that we are still dealing with these issues 40 years later. Part of what is important about the bill is that it helps, despite its flaws, to bring us forward on those devolution questions that have certainly been dealt with the entire time of my working career.
I decided to go back to university for a graduate degree and started teaching. Then I was persuaded by a very persuasive member of Parliament to come to Ottawa for two years. I was a staff person here at the House of Commons for two years from 1981-83. I do not usually confess that. At that time it was my privilege to be attached as an NDP researcher to what was called the Indian self-government committee or the Penner committee. In that position, I was privileged to travel the entire country with the committee, listening to first nations talk about self-government and what would be needed, both in terms of laws and in terms of resources and development to achieve self-government.
Again, 30 years ago, those who participated in that commission would be very surprised that we would still be standing here talking about and dealing with the same issues, the same lack of resources and the same lack of respect for first nations self-government in this country. Yes, progress is a long road not yet finished.
After having spent two years in Ottawa, I returned to British Columbia because it is hard to keep a British Columbian in Ottawa for more than two years, and the weather outside certainly speaks to that again today. However, when I went back to British Columbia I was involved with a small non-government organization until the time I was elected to Parliament, called Pacific Peoples' Partnership. That non-government organization attempts to build relationships between indigenous people around the Pacific and first nations in Canada, because indigenous peoples all around the Pacific Rim face many of the same problems. Whether we are talking about Australia, New Zealand or Pacific islanders, many of the same problems exist in getting the outsiders, the colonists, to recognize rights and responsibilities they have to first nations.
One could say all of my life I have been involved as a supporter in these issues, not so directly as some of my colleagues here, like the member who spoke earlier, but certainly I remain very interested in these issues.
When I look at the bill, the first thing I would say is, having separated the two territories and having quite different issues, it is a surprise to find them jammed together into the same bill. That may be efficient for Conservative legislative purposes, but it is not efficient for consulting the public and for getting meaningful input from the communities and for separating out those important issues that need to be debated both here in Parliament and at the community level. We would have been far better served with two bills and with a separate consultation process at the local level for both of these bills.
I am also disappointed at the failure of the government to respond to the many amendments that were put forward. Members on the other side have referred to them as the opposition amendments. Yes, it is true we moved them in the House of Commons, but those amendments came from all across the north. They came from northern organizations, which pointed out significant flaws in this legislation, groups like the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., NWT Association of Communities, NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines and Alternatives North. That is where we got the ideas for these amendments, not things to hold up government business, not things we dreamt up by ourselves, but things that came about from listening to northerners about what needs to happen in the north.
It is hard to understand how many of these very practical solutions could be ignored or rejected by the government. There is an example in this bill of what happens when there is not adequate consultation and when opinions of northerners are not taken account. In 1994, the Yukon land claims agreement was implemented. Now we have amendments in this bill, thrown in with the other two territories, to correct the problems that have existed since 1994 in trying to bring about fulfillment of the federal government's obligations under the Yukon umbrella final agreement.
Why do we have those amendments in the bill? I would argue it is because at that time a different government, a Liberal government, also failed to listen to northerners about all the things that were necessary to implement full recognition of first nations land and treaty rights, and also the devolution of self-government into the territories.
The other reason that I remain interested in this as a member of Parliament is the fact that I have five first nations in my riding. I want to take a little detour into what is happening with land claims and with development issues for the first nations in my riding.
At the far western end of my riding is a first nation called Pacheedaht, led very ably by Chief Marvin McClurg. It is a relatively small first nation, with 259 members. They are in the process, under the B.C. Treaty Commission, of negotiating a settlement to their claims. They are at a common table with the Ditidaht First Nation with whom they share the Nuu-chah-nulth language and culture, but they are not part of the larger Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.
These two small first nations, with very limited resources, are attempting to work their way through this treaty process. They are now in stage four of the six-stage process. They are at the stage of negotiating an agreement in principle. They are focusing on things like parks and protected areas, and recognition of the rights of first nations to hunt and fish in those parks and protected areas. They are also focused on wildlife, migratory birds and fish.
The Pacheedaht, in the meantime, while they are negotiating what we hope will be a final agreement, have become very involved in forestry economic development initiatives. Right now they actually run a wood lot licence, in the San Juan River area, which is very close to their reserve.
The point I am making is that it is the first nations who have created the most jobs in that part of my riding. It is the first nations initiatives in forestry that have put people to work. It is not just first nations people but everybody in that end of my riding who have benefited from the recognition of giving back the woodlot to the Pacheedaht First Nation.
In what I would call the middle of my riding, we have three first nations who are working together in an alliance called the Te'Mexw Treaty Association. These three nations were all signatories to the Douglas Treaties, but they decided there would be a benefit for their nation in negotiating a comprehensive and modern treaty that dealt not just with land issues but with governance issues as well. These are first nations with somewhat larger resources, larger memberships, but, again, they do not really belong to any tribal council. They have come together with two first nations from outside my riding, the Malahat First Nation and the Nanoose First Nation, to form the Te'Mexw Treaty Association.
The largest of these is the T'Sou-ke Nation, located near what we in English call Sooke, led by Chief Gordon Planes. Again, while trying to negotiate a settlement and implement a treaty, they have embarked on a very interesting initiative in the T'Sou-ke First Nation. They had a visioning exercise with their leaders, and their leaders said they wanted to go back to the days when they were self-sufficient, independent and able to stand on their own. They have embarked on what I think is probably the largest solar power initiative in the province of British Columbia. They have proceeded to install solar power on the reserve and will eventually, and in not very much longer, take themselves off the grid and be producing their own power.
What they did in doing that was to train first nations people as solar technicians. They are now supplying services to the surrounding community and helping other people make that transition to renewable and sustainable energy. That is another very good example of what we have to learn in this process of recognizing first nations rights to self-government, and to land and resources, and how much all of our communities could benefit from that.
The third first nation in my riding is the Scia'new First Nation, led by Russell Chipps. They are very much involved in attempting to create employment on reserve by taking advantage of the rural economy around them, where many of the non-first nation people are involved in what we might call hobby farms. They are having trouble finding ways to process the products they are raising. Therefore, there is a very good partnership developing between the Scia'new First Nation and the municipality of Metchosin in an attempt to develop agricultural processing industries that will take things being raised on the hobby farms and make jobs on the reserve for both first nation and non-first nation people.
The fourth first nation in my riding, the Songhees First Nation, is the largest and is located very much in the city. It consists of 547 band members who, unfortunately, lost their long-term and very distinguished chief just less than a year ago.
Again, I want to talk about the vision they had. While trying to get a land claim solved and trying to get the resources they need, they have embarked upon the construction of a very large wellness centre. The wellness centre is going to focus on addiction treatments, recreation and all those things to help people recover, in the first nation, both their sense of selves and their sense of culture.
However, to finish the wellness centre, to finish those jobs in the Scia'new First Nation on the reserve and to finish those initiatives that the T'Sou-Ke has taken, they need to get a comprehensive treaty settlement underway.
We were very happy to see, last week, the announcement of an incremental or an interim treaty agreement that has transferred some land in the interim and some resources in the interim. Again, they are at stage four of the six-stage treaty process, but we have those interim transfers of land and resources.
One of the concerns in my riding has been about a very prominent site in the municipality of Esquimalt, a very prominent corner, where that land has now been transferred to the Songhees First Nation under the interim agreement.
I think it is important for people to realize that in the interim the resources that were transferred have been transferred in fee simple, and so the development that is bound to take place on that corner would be under the same zoning laws, the same regulations and, as any other landowner, they will pay municipal taxes and will receive municipal services.
However, once again it is an important spur to redevelopment of downtown Esquimalt, or the Esquimalt village as it is known, and this is being pursued by first nations under the interim agreement.
The last first nation in my riding is called Esquimalt First Nation, led by a chief I very much respect, Chief Andy Thomas. Esquimalt First Nation has decided not to be part of the treaty commission process. Instead, it has pointed to the Douglas Treaty, saying, “We already have a treaty and that treaty has been ignored”. There has been a failure. There was a failure, at the time, by the colonial government to survey the lands promised, to set aside those lands and to protect those treaty lands. Then, as time went on, those lands were alienated to third parties.
There was a second failure under the Douglas Treaty for the Esquimalt Nation, and that was a failure to pay any compensation when those lands were transferred to third parties.
Therefore, for Chief Thomas, the treaty process is not a new process but very much a question of unfinished business.
That brings me back to the bill we have in front of us today. What it is really dealing with is unfinished business, whether it is the Yukon land claims for which the final settlement needs some amendments, whether it is the Nunavut planning and project assessment act or the Northwest Territories surface rights board act.
Despite our concerns about the failures of the Conservatives to recognize the necessity for amendments to the bill, we will be supporting the bill, as we know that would mean a similar bill will eventually come back to the House of Commons and those 50 amendments will eventually be dealt with in this place. They are necessary to implement the treaty agreements; they are necessary to get on with the business of creating jobs and development for everyone in the north, not just first nations but all residents of the north. We know that when the north prospers, the rest of Canada will also prosper.
I am sad to say I look forward to the day when there is a different government that will bring in the bill and bring back the amendments, which will be a chance to listen to the voices of northerners and first nations people and actually accomplish their goals in the House of Commons.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member who spoke before me. I particularly liked his expression near the end of his last question about drive-by consultation. If the definition of Conservative consultation is lowering the window and asking what people think, then he is pretty well dead on the money.
I rise today to speak in support of Bill , an act to enact the Nunavut planning and project assessment act and the Northwest Territories surface rights board act and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts. The short title is the .
Why is the member of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador, from the great riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, speaking to a bill for the Northwest Territories? I feel that the Labrador part of my province has a lot in common with the Northwest Territories. Labrador is a relatively untamed land. Labrador is a vast land. Labrador is known as the big land. Labrador is rich in minerals, ore and precious metals. Labrador is under constant exploration and development. Labrador's environment is under constant pressure, be it from renewable hydro development or from new mines. We must be vigilant to ensure that there is balance between development and the impact on the environment. We must ensure that there is balance in everything. The north must also be vigilant.
This legislation is far from perfect. We wanted to amend the bill at committee with changes based on witness testimony, but all 50 opposition amendments were voted down. The Conservatives ruled the amendments out of order. There were 50 NDP amendments and three Liberal amendments. I will come back to that in just a moment.
The bill packages together two bills that should be considered separately. The first bill, the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, is pretty well a straightforward implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Simply put, it would improve regulatory regimes in the north. It would create a more efficient, more predictable regulatory regime. The roles, powers, functions and authorities of all parties, including how the members are appointed, would be clearly defined. These parties include the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, Inuit groups and governments.
The act requires that Inuit and the Government of Canada establish a joint system to oversee the way resources are managed in the territory. I like the sound of a joint system or joint management. There have been calls in recent years for joint management of the east coast fisheries, for example, but I will not get into that right now. Give me time.
The second part of the bill is the Northwest Territories surface rights board act, and it is more complicated. It would implement sections of three aboriginal land claims agreements, but the board would apply to all parts of the Northwest Territories. The board would receive applications from one or both parties to a dispute when a negotiated access agreement could not be reached. A panel of the board would then conduct a hearing and would determine the compensation, if there was to be compensation, and terms and conditions related to access. The board would then make an order containing the terms and conditions by which access could be exercised and any compensation payable for that access. When making its decision, the board would take into account market value, loss of use, effect on wildlife, damage, nuisance or inconvenience and cultural attachment.
The Mining Association of Canada welcomes this legislation, particularly the inclusion of the Nunavut planning and project assessment act. The association says that it would help spur more responsible mining projects in the territory, which currently has one operating mine. This legislation would result in a framework to determine how environmental assessment and permanent processes in Nunavut will proceed as new land use plans for the territory come forward, and they will most definitely come forward.
I have a quote from Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada:
The legislation comes at a critical time for Nunavut, with its promising mineral potential and opportunities for economic development never before seen in the territory's history.
Here is another quote from Mr. Gratton:
By providing clarity and certainty around the regulatory framework, this new legislation will help give industry the confidence it needs to move forward with development decisions.
The key word there is “confidence”. Over the next decade, the Mining Association of Canada estimates that new mine development across the north could bring more than $8 billion of investment to Nunavut. That could translate into some 4,500 new jobs and a significant increase in local business development.
Mining is the largest private sector contributor in the north, making up 29% of the gross domestic product of the Northwest Territories. However, mining is also a boom and bust industry. The people of Labrador would tell us that.
There are 45,000 northerners in the Northwest Territories. In Labrador, there are just over 26,000 people. They are both vast lands with few people, but we must ensure that the people benefit. We must ensure that the industries thrive. We must also ensure that the impact on the environment is minimal.
Mining has incredible ups and incredible downs, depending on the price of ore or on world markets. I mentioned earlier in my speech about the amendments we proposed to the bill, the 50 NDP amendments, the 50 suggestions from northerners, which were all voted down, each and every one, by the Conservatives.
The proposed amendments included having the bill reviewed after five years. The amendments included creating a participant funding process and having hearings of the various boards and commissions held in public. One amendment in particular tried to change the language around appointments to the boards, which held that representatives must have knowledge of the land, knowledge of the environment and traditional knowledge.
The great MP for , whom we heard earlier today, said that all representatives should meet all three requirements: knowledge of the land, knowledge of the environment and traditional knowledge. That did not happen. Those amendments were not adopted, despite the best efforts of the New Democrats, the opposition. However, we still support this legislation.
There are three points with which I want to wrap up.
Do I have one minute left, two minutes, Mr. Speaker?